30 01 2010

“I AM LOSING it, son…” The other day I was communicating to my boy on the importance of remembering people’s names! Would you believe it I could hardly say out the names of 90 percent of the people or friends I recognised who I bumped into in the hospital… 😦

My Fifth-former junior got sick just after he was inaugurated as the Head Prefect in his school last Tuesday. So I took him to see the doctor that morning. As soon as we walked past the A(H1N1) screening counter at the main entrance, I said my “Salam” to a good old “Haji” male nurse friend of mine (but I forgot his name). A few more steps inside, another “Salam” to an ex-neighbour male nurse “Haji” (whose name I only recalled after a couple of hours!).

While waiting for my son’s number at the registration counter, I simply smiled at one old “Haji” who accompanied one of his grand-daughters (and I thought I knew the girl’s parents). Before my son was called in to see the good and friendly Myanmarese (Burmese) doctor (I forgot to ask for his name, too), I finally got to “Salam” with another ex-colleague whose name I remembered clearly in full, that time! πŸ™‚

While seated in front of the Pharmacy, I got into conversation for old time’s sake with yet another old acquaintance and the funny thing was I remembered all the guy’s office mates’ names but I completely forgot his own name. Being a ‘diplomatic’ fellow Asian, it’s kinda embarrassing to ask point-blank for his name when I’m supposed to know him so well! πŸ˜€

So I told my son that I would try (after such incidental ‘meetings’ with people of forgettable names) to look ’em up in the phone directory. Either that or to ask from other common friends for the names of those people which slipped my mind… funny slow way of going about it but that’s how I normally do it to remember their names again.

The fastest way of course is to ask for their phone numbers and type in their exact names right away on the spot without appearing to be rude for being so absent-minded! I knew I should’ve taken up intensive courses in ‘Memory Power’ or something similar… Hehehhehh πŸ˜›

Wise old men said that we should always avoid from eating ants-infested meals or drinks, head portions of fish or any animal foodstuff because it’s said that such things contribute to poor memory… I wouldn’t know but I know Fish Head Curry is one of my fave dishes! πŸ˜›

My teenaged son shrugged off my memory-loss issue by bragging that his name is uniquely different from other kids that most of his peers in his own school and students from other schools (especially the girls whose names are all the same, almost, he said) always remember it instantly.

Well lucky him to have been named by me, his memory lapse-prone father! πŸ™‚ Reminds me of a fish named Dory, a blue tang suffering from short-term memory loss in ‘Finding Nemo’… πŸ˜‰

P.S. I can’t help but admire His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam for such powerful memory to be able to remember the faces of most of His Majesty’s 400,000-odd subjects (including mine) plus hundreds more during international encounters. And His Majesty could probably memorise hundreds of names (if not thousands), with or without the help of aides and protocol officials.



From the outside looking in

30 01 2010

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN (BSB) Master Plan is being drawn up by an expert team of foreign consultants. Okay. So what else is new?

I went to Sibu last weekend and the Sarawak Port Town is thriving and much cleaner than a couple of years ago when I last stopped over there. I remember the last time I visited it, Sibu (a much smaller town than BSB in status but much bigger in population) proudly hosted an International Miss Tourism World Pageant! Fancy that… πŸ˜‰

Brunei Darussalam has successfully hosted this year’s regional travel industry players’ get-together, the ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF) this month. And the ancient yet modern Kampong Ayer as well as the country’s proud heritage of its Eco-Tourism spots took center stage in the eyes of foreign delegates.

I’ll be driving to Kota Kinabalu (KK), Sabah’s capital city, probably tomorrow en route to Penang on Monday since I prefer the direct flight from KK International Airport rather than having to transit in Kuala Lumpur. It’d also give me the opportunity to visit Sabahan friends and relatives as the popular expression in Malay goes: “Sambil menyelam, sambil minum air” (Whilst diving, taking in the water, too). πŸ™‚

Also, visiting KK can be an eye-opener for most Bruneians on how bustling the tourism industry seems to be taking off in Sabah these days. Not to mention the much-improved Master Plan of the city area. I doubt “Mat Salleh” master-planners deserved to be given due credits for the vastly-improved planning of the whole works which have rapidly taken place in KK in recent years… enough said.

Oh I get it… the idea of appointing an expert team of western consultants is for BSB to be on par with developed cities i.e. not to be compared with neighbouring ‘backward and typical Asian’ cities or ‘cowboy’ towns next door — fair enough. At the end of the day, simple but well-planned old-fashioned townships like Sibu, KK or even Miri for that matter rake in millions of tourism dollars. BSB is still a long, long way to getting there — in the Ivy League of such (minnows) tourist havens — and it’s a fact! Show me the billion-dollar mark for Brunei tourism and only then will I factually believe that foreign tourists in droves have arrived in the Abode of Peace… πŸ˜›

I still think that the larger masses of the Bruneian public need to be seriously engaged by the relevant authorities and city planners as important stakeholders in any final decision-making process. By larger masses, I mean not only limiting to 100 or a couple of hundred people! 😦

Back to the issue of BSB Master Plan, I gathered that several lucky authoritative senior government officials have been ‘sponsored’ by the winning ‘tenderers’ to go on junket trips for sightseeing/study tours of a few of the world’s most successful and beautifully-designed city landscapes. Well and good because that’s the best way to learn from world-class cities with great reputation and polished refinement to copycat 101.

Like the famous English saying goes: “The proof is in the pudding“. The rest of the success story (?) remains to be seen…

P.S. As it stands now, BSB is already one of the most livable capitals of the world — certainly not the top 10 but definitely hovering in the top 100, perhaps. So it’s just a matter of common sense to ‘Master Plan’ it the “Melayu Islam Beraja” (MIB) way taking into account our unique culture and naturally-green environment plus surplus budget to work with? Simply try to make day-to-day living as convenient as possible for the people and a cheaper cost of living, too.


Dr M the Brave Muslim Leader

20 01 2010

FOREVER THE OUTSPOKEN former Prime Minister of Malaysia Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has yet again boldly criticized the United States on a couple of issues affecting the Muslim world as was reported in the Star newspaper published in Kuala Lumpur:

Thursday January 21, 2010

KUALA LUMPUR: There is strong evidence that the Sept 11 attacks on the United States that killed nearly 3,000 could have been β€œstaged” as an excuse to mount attacks on the Muslim world, said Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

β€œI am not sure now that Muslim terrorists carried out these attacks. There is evidence that the attacks were staged.

β€œIf they can make Avatar, they can make anything,” the former prime minister told a press conference here yesterday after delivering his speech at the General Conference for the Support of Al-Quds to aid the Palestinians.

He said killing innocent people to provide an excuse for war was not new to the US.

β€œBut whether real or staged, the 9/11 attacks have served the United States and Western countries well. They have an excuse to mount attacks on the Muslim world,” he added.

Mahathir also criticised US President Barack Obama for failing to fulfil his promises concerning the country’s commitment in West Asia, including his promise to resolve the prevailing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

β€œI am a bit disappointed because so far none of his promises have been kept. He promised to get out from Afghanistan but he ended up sending more troops there instead.

β€œHe promised to close down Guantanamo but he has not closed down Guantanamo.

β€œIt is quite easy to promise during election time but you know there are forces in the United States which prevent the President from doing some things. One of the forces is the Jewish lobby, AIPAC,” he said.

On another issue, Dr Mahathir said he supported the plan to set up the inter-faith council as it could help promote effective understanding among religious groups in the country.

Such a council, he said, would provide a platform for people to talk about sensitive religious matters reasonably without taking it to the streets.

Earlier in his speech, Dr Mahathir spoke about the Palestinians’ claim on their land in West Asia which he said was based on legitimate grounds.

He said one of the greatest injustices done was to take Palestinian land to give to the Jews to create the state of Israel.

Later in Putrajaya, Dr Mahathir said the opinions of β€œpowerful nations” should not deter Malaysia from continuing with its effort to help Palestine.

He was speaking at a ceremony to hand over certificates of appreciation to nine Malaysians who were part of the Viva Palestina humanitarian aid convoy to Gaza.

On the above issues and on one of his recent Malay postings in his widely popular Chedet blog with regard to the highly-controversial and sensitive use of the word “Allah” by a Malaysian Christian Church, I fully agreed with him. The latter issue has sparked violence by Muslim fanatics who recently burnt down a few churches across West Malaysia. 😦


~Music to cheer up Haitians~

19 01 2010

PLK feat. Little River Band/Wyclef Jean/James Taylor/Michael Jackson

Hard work pays (albeit doom and gloom)

19 01 2010

THE JAPANESE WORK ethics were once legendary and much envied upon, particularly when the Land of the Rising Sun rose to become an economic powerhouse in the world within only a few decades since the 2nd World War ended.

The amazing economic miracle was pretty significant given that Japan was in almost total ruins at the end of the war in 1946. The atomic bombs which devastated both the capital Tokyo and the industrial city of Hiroshima then, coupled with the fact that the Japanese had no natural resources to depend on for its survival made it all the more remarkable an achievement. Much research and lots of studies had been done on what successful attributes had made Japan what it was many years ago.

Now, yet more researches and studies need to be done by economics experts on what had gone wrong in the Japanese economic success story which is facing an about-turn in recent times. The latest corporate failure to make global headlines is its national flag-carrier, the Japan Airlines (JAL) which has been declared bankrupt today! 😦

JAL declares itself bankrupt as Board resigns
By Doug Newhouse, 19 January 2010

As has been widely expected, Japan Airlines (JAL) today declared itself bankrupt, with all Board Members resigning and the Tokyo Stock Exchange announcing that the carrier will be delisted from the stock market on February 20, in what is one of the country’s biggest corporate failures in history.

More happily, the airline is to continue operating its services normally ahead of a government cash injection of $3.3bn as part of an ambitious restructuring programme under the supervision of the state-backed Enterprise Turnaround Initiative Corporation (ETIC).

As already reported, Kazuo Inamori has been appointed as the new Ceo at JAL. The 77-year-old honourary Chairman of Kyocera Electronics has agreed to head up the company after Haruka Nishimatsu made it known that he will resign as part of the restructuring.

JAL now has $16bn-worth of debts and has announced plans to cut a further 13,000 jobs and close up to 24 unprofitable domestic and international routes. The Japanese Government is continuing to support the airline’s cash flow in the interim period before the reorganisation, although its international and domestic routes are likely to be reduced significantly in the future. Not surprisingly, JAL’s share price has fallen through the floor, with its current value set out at no more than around $208m. Kazuo Inamori is said to be very experienced in rescuing debt-laden companies, although it is arguable whether he won’t mind some divine intervention in the short term [he is also an ordained Buddhist priest-Ed] .

JAL’s inflight duty free sales programme has hovered up and down around the $60m to $80m levels during the last three years and the airline also works in a separate joint venture boutique operation with the Narita Airport Authority (NAA), and DFS Group at Tokyo Narita International Airport.

COMMENT: How times change? In the past it would have been unthinkable for the Japanese Government to have allowed its national airline to go bankrupt in full view of the world. But this move says as much about the way that Japan is changing as it does about corporate vulnerability.

As some analysts have already remarked, no company is too big to go bankrupt anymore and most governments are simply unwilling, or unable (or both) to bail out national icons when they get into trouble.

The Japanese economy may well be doom and gloom these days but the never-say-die spirits of the ‘Nihon-jin’ will prove to be a critical success factor soon enough. I’ve seen first-hand how hardworking and disciplined the large majority of the Japanese population can be.

All the good people of Japan have to do is to re-adopt the cheerful slogan of “BANZAI!” (denoting a common term of congratulations in Japanese) and to do away with useless bottoms-up cheers of “KAMPAI”! (As in demoralizing booze-drunken culture…) πŸ˜‰

Being an extremist in foolish thoughts, it did cross my mind to think out loud now that our national carrier, Royal Brunei Airlines (RBA) is damn lucky to have the full backing and financial support of His Majesty’s Government to be kept afloat all these years in spite of downward slides in Returns on Investments (ROI). Would buying over JAL and a next to impossible merger with RBA be the most ludicrous idea of the ‘Deal of the Century’? ROFL πŸ˜€ {Just food for the Brunei Investment Agency (BIA) thought… πŸ˜›}


Age is just a number?

18 01 2010

ENTER THE NEW decade of 2010. Little do I realize that I’ll live to see five decades of this temporary world in a matter of few more years, Insya Allah (God Willing). Unbelievable but true fact of ageing! πŸ˜‰

Last Sunday, I treated my 15-year-old boy to the ‘Avatar’ movie at the Empire cineplex. He’d been too busy with schoolwork, tuition and social activities during the first couple of weeks into this new year to watch it earlier. My 11-year-old girl wasn’t too keen on James Cameron’s epic sci-fi drama and would rather watch Alvin and the Chipmunks ‘illicit’ DVD in the comfort of her home theater! πŸ™‚

So off I drove my son to ‘Pandora land of the Na’vi’. Since I watched Avatar at the end of last year in Q-lap cineplex, I told my ‘teenager BFF’ (I just figured out that BFF is short for Best Friend Forever! LOL) πŸ˜€ that I’d skip the Golden Globe award-winning movie and bought a ticket to “Old Dogs” instead, starring John Travolta and Robin Williams.

The once debonair and sleek hunk of Saturday Night Fever fame Travolta and funny guy Williams got this old (but young at heart) Lone Ranger in jeans and all-blue T-shirt and baseball cap into fits of laughter. The mismatched comedy pairing of John Travolta and Robin Williams wasn’t as hilariously-crazy as newly-crowned Hollywood funnymen of “Hangovers” (I can’t remember their names, though).

Funnily enough, “Old Dogs” the movie got me thinking, somewhat. There they are — two filthy rich and famous actors — driving home the point that 50-somethings buddies still live in a state of denial that they’re not getting any older! And it hit me right smack in my thick-skull head, too. I mean, hey! I’ll be like them in no time at all but I still wanna dress up like a ‘thirty-something guy’ or even a 20-year-old, if not younger! πŸ˜›

To cut my long story short, “Old Dogs” was 90 minutes of my lifetime that I’ll never ever get back again — but it’s worth my seven dollars plus caramel-flavored popcorn and a bottle of ‘Heaven Earth’ tea (for longevity?)… πŸ˜‰

While waiting outside for my son to finish his 3-hour long Avatar, I bumped into an old peer schoolmate of mine (who didn’t look her age, by the way) with her kids. She’s an avid golfer and a wealthy businesswoman in her own right plus she’s married to a rich contractor friend of mine. So that explains how she could always spend on her ‘youthful rejuvenation‘ always. πŸ˜‰

Not long after, as soon as I finished praying “Maghrib” in the cineplex “Surau” (prayer room), another old friend (a former superior at work) appeared out of the blue. I believe this ex-boss of mine is now of retirement age but his long unkempt (rocker-style) hair belied his true age… πŸ˜‰

My point is how prim and proper should we all age? It got me thinking seriously on the need for me to go for a complete ‘makeover‘! LOL πŸ˜€

Here’s what I should do (I thought there and then):

1. Start to grow an all-white beard ala Bollywood oldie Amitabh Bachhan (but mine would’ve to be longer by a fistful of it).
2. Start to wear an all-Muslim attire ala Al-Qaeda legend Osama bin Laden (minus the terrorist label).
3. Stop escaping into fantasy land of the Hollywood/Bollywood movies! LOL πŸ˜€

It’s a tall order but I gotta start somewhere, sometime, somehow… πŸ™‚


Love thy neighbour

17 01 2010

LITTLE WONDER THE Holy Qur’an made special mention of the importance of good neighborliness. Even in other holy books e.g. the Bible also taught Christians to “Love Thy Neighbor” and I think the Torah would teach the same thing although I am at a loss as to why Israel is so mean and cruel to its neighbor, the Palestine! 😦

I consider myself lucky to have neighbors (front, back, left, right) who aren’t as bad as Israel… πŸ˜‰ My cousin wasn’t so lucky, though. He and his wife had been granted a housing scheme land many years ago but until now they’re reluctant to build their dream home yet. Not because they don’t have the cash or anything but their neighbor just had the nerves to drive them crazy. It’s bad enough that their neighbor had encroached their ‘territorial demarcation line’ when the unfriendly neighbor first built their home. The inconsiderate neighbor even had the cheek to dump their rubbish when my cousin cleared his portion of the ‘Government-given’ land by throwing bricks and stones in front of him. Some people are that heartless! 😦

Last New Year’s Day, my front neighbor’s son got married and I readily let them make use of my house compound to set up wedding tents during their happiest moments. There’s this Malay expression: “Hari ini hari biskita, esok lusa mana tau hari kami lagi..” (meaning to say in English, “Today may be your day, tomorrow or some other days could be our turn…”). The Islamic religion even places greater relevance for a Muslim neighbor to attend whatever function at his neighbor’s home rather than a closest relative’s function which is further away if it so happens both separate events are held at the same time or on the same day. In short, a neighbor is much more important than my own next-of-kin, I think. πŸ™‚

When the Tsunami hit Aceh in Indonesia, Brunei Darussalam — as a close and good ASEAN neighboring nation — through the kind wisdom of His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Negara Brunei Darussalam rushed to its aid with full cooperation and generosity. His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah was one of the few leaders of any country to have personally visited the devastated Indonesian province to see for himself the extent of damages caused by the powerful Tsunami in 2006. Such a charismatic and caring Monarch! Such is Islamic beauty to have placed top priority to helping a neighbour in need… πŸ™‚

So the United States has proven to be the best neighboring country toward the island-nation of Haiti which is being devastated by a powerful earthquake now by sending US troops as well as medical and food supplies to the quake-torn nation in the Carribean. God bless America! πŸ˜‰