Thursday, April 28, 2011

To have a smartphone or not to have smartphone?

The other day I heard a news report about representative from the telecommunication industry commenting that many Malaysians still do not own a smartphone. I was wondering if that person really realised the possible reasons of many Malaysians have yet to own a smartphone. A typical Malaysian like yours truly have several reasons for not owning one.

First the cost of buying a smartphone is extremely prohibitive. Next would be the high the telco charges, especially for the usage of 3G/4G and/or WIFI services. Finally, a smartphone like the iPhone would need applications that don't come cheap, let alone free of charge. Not to mention, possible other hidden charges not listed when a purchase of a smartphone and accompanying call/data plan are being made.

Although I am not very tech-savvy, I do like to own one of those smartphones to experience first hand what it is like to own one. But I don't think I would own one any time soon as I don't have the money to commit myself to owning a smartphone. Unless circumstances forced me to do so; but I could forsee that it will not happen in this near future yet.   

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Review: In Liberal Doses by Marina Mahathir

Title: In Liberal Doses
Author: Marina Mahathir
Year: 1997
ISBN: 983-99507-7-0

In Liberal Doses by Marina Mahathir is a collection of articles written by Marina for the column 'Musings' in The Star, a local English daily in Malaysia from 1991 to 1997. This book discusses a wide range of issues related to Malaysian life - On Being Malaysian, Marina vs the Censors, Malaysia's Social Values, Malaysian Looks at the World, Talking to Young People, Women in Malaysia and AIDS.

Marina being the daughter to the then Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad embodies the liberal voice of a true Malaysian on many issues affecting the Malaysian society. The articles featured in this book illustrated hopes and ideals Marina has envisioned for this beloved country for it to achieve the Vision 2020 goals, when Malaysia will become a developed country.

Reading this book was an extremely eye-opening experience for me. The issues that were highlighted by Marina all those years ago has become still the same issues that ordinary Malaysians need to grapple with today. Those issues were relevant when they were highlighted then, and they ARE STILL very relevant to be addressed in this day of age even when dissemination of information can be done in a blink of an eye.

Although the Malaysian society has come very far to where it is today, however, the issues highlighted in this book are far from being resolved. Many of these issues have remained extremely tricky to be completely resolved as there are many factors to be considered, due to the fact Malaysia is multi-racial country. Marina offered a fresh perspective and insight when discussing the above-mentioned issues, and this would encourage the reader, especially when he or she is a Malaysian to ponder how those issues have affected them in any way at all.

I would give this book a double thumbs-up for its excellent manner of compilation when discussing the highlighted issues. As Marina is a prolific writer and highly accomplished book publisher, these articles were written in an interesting and straightforward manner, minus the confusing jargons that are often used when discussing those issues. She is still writing articles for the 'Musings' column in the The Star newspaper and I am still reading it on a regular basis.

If Marina intends to release another similar kind of book, I would want to be the first in the line to acquire it. She is one of the very few Malaysians who writes extremely well and very eloquently too.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Going gaga over Justin Bieber? Not me!

Just the Way You Are (2-Track)

Justin Bieber, the Canadian teen singing sensation who found his fame on You Tube not too long ago was in Kuala Lumpur performing to a sell out concert last Thursday. As he is only 17 years old, naturally kids below 18 years of age would go overly gaga on this teen singing sensation. However, this oldie here isn't amused with the Bieber fever phenomenon currently happening around the world. And she wonders why what the fuss is all about.

No doubt Justin Bieber is talented and sings pretty good songs that are selling well. Also with acting and film credits to his name. He is good looking for his generation of "Bieliebers" but not exactly drop dead gorgeous. I found there are no valid reasons for one to go overly gaga over this singer. Enjoying the songs Justin Bieber has released and the acting stints he has made thus far is good enough.

I remembered those days while growing up in the 1980s and 1990s where teens then would just go overly gaga on New Kids on the Block (NKOTB as they were better known) and girls especially would swoon over Tommy Page, a supposedly drop dead gorgeous singer. But I would just shrugged my shoulders and just enjoyed the songs they used to sing when being played on the radio or when my brother would play the cassette tape over and over at home and in the car.

I'm not afraid to admit I did went gaga over a singer many years ago. No, it's not a male singer but a female singer by the name of Gloria Estefan. I used to be obsessed to listening to her songs all day long without getting sick of them. And yes, I did attend TWO of her live concerts, once in Kuala Lumpur and the other in Perth, Australia. It was wonderful experience attending those live concerts as you would be swept away by the feverish pitch of the excitement that often comes with these live concerts.

As much as I liked Gloria Estefan then, my gaga-ness never went over the edge as my parents often kept it in check. I loved her songs to the extent I have an almost complete collections of her songs in the form of CDs. Back then, the Internet wasn't as a big thing as now, so having those CDs was the in-thing to do and a privillege.

I still enjoy Gloria Estefan's songs but I have gotten over my gaga-ness on her. I have diversified my music taste to many other singers as I grow older, but I don't think I would ever go gaga over any of them like I was when I was younger. I would just sit back and enjoy as well as appreciate the good and great songs being released by new and talented singers these days. Right now, I'm very much into Bruno Mars' Just The Way You Are and Marry You, Train's Hey Soul Sister and If It's Love and Michael Bublé's Haven't Met You Yet.

And am very much hoping these songs would perk up my days, especially now that I am an extremely struggling writer trying to make ends meet...

Hey Soul Sister

Monday, April 18, 2011

Review Life's Like That: Scenes from Malaysian Life by Lydia Teh

Life's Like That - Scenes from Malaysian Life

Title: Life's Like That: Scenes from Malaysian Life
Author: Lydia Teh
Year: 2004
ISBN: 978-967-978-886-0

Life's Like That: Scenes from Malaysian Life by Lydia Teh is actually a prequel to her later book entitled Honk, If You're Malaysian. This book chronicled many of the typical idiosyncrasies in Malaysian life Teh has observed and witnessed throughout her life as young child right through the times she became a working adult, embraced married life and to the present time of her life of motherhood.

Her storytelling of Malaysian life complete with its complexities and contradictions was done in simple and straightforward manner, with self-deprecating humour and unpretentiousness. Teh captured the ordinariness and essence of the Malaysian life with such starkness that Malaysian readers would be able to identify with them very well. The different aspects of Malaysian life covered - family, pregnancies, babies, motherhood, hobbies, festivities, daily ablutions, pets and other calamities would make readers experience a roller coaster of emotions; the stories would make you want to cry and laugh at the same time, also even grin like a Cheshire cat at the wit and bracing honesty Teh has imbued in these stories throughout this book.

However, I would recommend to readers to read Honk, If You're Malaysian first before diving into this book. The reason is simple - Honk, If You're Malaysian introduces the Malaysian way of life that even a non-Malaysian reader could easily identify with the unique and colourful country Malaysia always is, and Life's Like That: Scenes from Malaysian Life deals the more complex and contradicting side of Malaysian life.

I recommend this book to anyone who love the humorous side of life, what more a multicultural one like the one Malaysia is; this book guarantees you will be having a stitch at the side from experiencing the roller coaster ride of emotions of reading this heart-warming book.        

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Review: Rio

Rio tells the story of a male Brazilian blue macaw who was snitched from his natural habitat when he was still a hatchling. He then was raised by Linda, a book store owner in a small town in Minnesota, and is named Blu. As Blu is completely domesticated, he has become the not-so-average male Brazilian blue macaw, and he does NOT know how to fly at all. That was until Linda had Tulio, an ornithologist from Rio de Janeiro visiting her book store and took notice of Blu.

Tulio tried to convince Linda bring Blu to Rio de Janeiro so that he could introduce Jewel, a female blue macaw, as blue macaws were unfortunately destined for extinction. Tulio's aim was to bring both Blu and Jewel together so that he could assist in reproducing and reviving the Blue macaw species in its natural habitat. Linda finally consented to it and followed Tulio to Rio de Janeiro.

An unexpected adventure begins when Linda and Blu arrived in Rio de Janeiro. A bunch of baddies were also after Blu and Jewel as they were also considered as an exotic species of macaw, other than being in danger of being extinction. Thus, began the adventure of a lifetime for both Linda and Blu, with the help of Tulio, they tried to save both Blu and Jewel from the baddies.

They finally succeeded in saving Blu and Jewel from the clutches of the baddies, but not without the usual antics that is typically found in animated movies. I find the story of Rio extremely entertaining and fun to watch, and is especially good for families with young children. Even adults like myself would find this movie amusing and enlightening, as it showed the very colourful and touristy side of Rio de Janeiro.

My verdict of this movie is very good, I would give it at least four thumbs-up and would recommend especially to people with young children to watch this movie. You will not be disappointed.  

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Stupidity + I don't care attitude = The ULTIMATE Malaysian third class mentality!

I had a matter to be settled at a public hospital two days ago. As Malaysian public hospitals are notorious for lack of parking lots, I had made sure I arrive very early so that I was able to park my car properly and not to be a nuisance to other people. But it was not the case two days ago.

When I returned to my car about an hour later after having the matter settled, I found my car was blocked by a triple-parked car. One look told me I needed to know, there was NO way I could manoeuvre my car without having it being scratched mercilessly by the car parked next to mine. As I was entering my car, the car owner who had blocked my car came to take something from his car, COMPLETELY OBLIVIOUS of the situation that was happening right in front of his eyes.

At the same time, the security guard employed to look after the parking lot came to "assist" any cars leaving the full-to-the-brim parking lot. His assistance was of NO help at all, in fact it was STUPIDITY to the boot. I may not be a driver with an excellent judgement but I know it's impossible to manoeuvre my small car out without any damage done to it simply because there was not enough space. That stupid security guard kept assuring me that I could clear the tight spot, and yeah only for me to hear a sickening crunch at the front passenger door.

That sickening crunch is the result of it all shown in the picture. As my car is still relatively new, slightly over a year old, you could imagine how I had felt when this happened. It was akin to someone taking the carving knife and slice a huge chunk of my heart out. I LOVE this car very much, it is an extension of my legs and to a certain extent my personality as well.   

I made an inquiry at a mechanic near my house and he said it would cost RM 250 to have the scratch touched up. For someone who is struggling to make ends meet, this would burn a HUMONGOUS hole into the pocket. Lucky for me, Dad has a mechanic friend who had managed to do it for free as a favour for him. The scratch is gone but the dent is still there as nothing much could be done about it. It serves as a nasty reminder as how some people's attitude can be OBNOXIOUS to the boot, and can make your life miserable without batting an eyelid, and don't even mention about a little courtesy and conscience in mind.

Gone are the days where people actually would mind their Ps and Qs when crossing other people's path, be it family, friends or strangers. Not to say there no more good people around, they still are, only that it is increasingly difficult to find them; it is akin to looking for a needle in the haystack...

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Does Malaysia really need nuclear power plants?

In the wake of the mega earthquake and monstrous tsunami that devastated northeastern Japan on March 11 2011, it also caused a nuclear fallout to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The successive days following the earthquake and tsunami saw four out of the six nuclear reactors at Fukushima Daiichi exploded and leaked out radioactive substances into the surrounding environment, prompting the Japanese government to issue advisory for affected residents to evacuate far away from the crippled nuclear power plant. And the Japanese authorities are racing against time to contain the nuclear contamination to the most minimum possible levels. No matter how efficient the Japanese authorities are, the radioactive contamination became a tremendous challenge and a national crisis.

Which brings me to the point - does Malaysia really need nuclear power plants for future power generation? From a layman's point of view, I would think that Malaysia should consider other sources of renewable energy for future power generation. Malaysia is actually blessed with plenty of natural sources of renewable energy, being located in a tropical region. Solar, wind and hydro energies could be utilised to complement the current fossil fuel power plants for power generation. I think that the utilisation of nuclear power plants should only be as the last resort when there are no more viable options for power generation.

In my humble opinion, renewable energy should be the way to go when seeking for alternatives to fossil fuel power generation. It is also because we need to ensure that the environment is taken into consideration in this matter. Using nuclear power plants means that there would radioactive waste to be managed. Radioactive waste could take aeons to bio-degrade and thus, would definitely affect many future generations of living things on the Earth.

Even developed countries that have vast experience in operating nuclear power plants face serious issues in managing them well, with Japan's current nuclear crisis as an excellent example. There were other serious nuclear crises, the notable one being in Chernobyl, Ukraine on April 26 1986. These nuclear accidents statistics could be found in International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reports.

As Malaysia is a small country, a nuclear crisis is an unimaginable nightmare if it does happen. The possibility of the whole country and even the ASEAN region being completely wiped out because of a nuclear crisis is really unthinkable. As a very concerned citizen of Malaysia I sincerely hope this does not happen if nuclear power plants are to be utilised for power generation in the future. The least we can do for Mother Nature is to give all the care we can to conserve and preserve it for the future generations of all living things, and not destroy to it.  


Monday, April 4, 2011

Review: Honk, If You're Malaysian by Lydia Teh

Honk! If You're Malaysian

Title: Honk, If You're Malaysian
Author: Lydia Teh
Year: 2007
ISBN: 983-3698-12-3

Honk, If You're Malaysian by Lydia Teh is a collection of idiosyncrasies of Malaysian life from the author's extensive observations over the years, working as an office secretary first and later a full-time homemaker. This book is in fact, a sequel to an earlier book released in 2004, entitled Life's Like That: Scenes from Malaysian Life.

This book tells the various aspects of Malaysian life and the quirky and out-of-the-ordinary situations happening to ordinary Malaysians. They are hilarious and most of us Malaysians would be able to relate to all those observations made by Teh in this book. For non-Malaysians, this book is an excellent introduction to the unique Malaysian aspects of life they might not be familiar with. It would help them understand and absorb the culture shock they might experience when arriving in Malaysia for the very first time.

Teh tells the various idiosyncrasies of Malaysians that often transcends the racial and cultural boundaries in a very enlightening and humourous manner, and that I, as a Malaysian cannot help but grin like a Cheshire cat when reading this book. As Malaysia is multi-racial country, these idiosyncrasies add more colour to the already colourful background and culture of the country.

Need I say more about this book? It is for those people who love to read about everyday humour of the normal man on the street and have a good chuckle about it. I am actually delighted to discover that there are good writers in English language in Malaysia. Lydia Teh is one of them, and I am very sure there are more of them out there waiting to be discovered.  

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Potato crisps - local versus imported

One pick-me-up snack I enjoy eating would be potato crisps. However, this snack could yield some surprises especially when you buy them in those stack up tall cans. I would prefer to buy locally manufactutred potato crisps in the stack up tall cans as they are much cheaper than the imported ones but they always leave me much to be desired. But I often find the crisps to be all crushed and smashed up, not neatly stacked up like I would have come to expect. Just looking at them all crushed and smashed up would have made me lost my desire to eat them but because I'd have bought them with my hard-earned money, I would eat them right to the last crumb so as to make sure they do not go to waste.

However, when buying imported potato crisps in the stack up tall cans, I would be pleased to see that the crisps aren't all crushed and smashed up. They would be in almost perfect condition as the day they were manufactured, packed and shipped to Malaysia. My ultimate favourite would be Lay's Stax, either the Original or Sour Cream and Onion varieties. But eating these crisps would mean I'd be ingested unwanted amounts of fats and sodium, thus, I have to control my excessive desire for eating them.

It makes me wonder why the quality control, especially where shipping and handling are concerned of the local manufacturers and retail outlets are abysmally poor. Why is there such a HUGE difference in the quality of the potato crisps when consumers like me buy them? is it because of the fact that the main difference is locally manufactured versus overseas manufactured? And also the fact the price to be paid is another factor to be considered?