Friday, March 14, 2008

ind(octrination)uction

malaysia is one of probably a few countries in the world that practises systematic propaganda. the others perhaps are DPRK, Sudan, Uganda, Zimbabwe and the Congo.

i'm going for a 2 week program in Pangkor, where pharmacists, dentists and doctors come together starting today for a Kursus Induksi Am dan Khusus Untuk Gred UD41. it basically means that we'll spend the entire day listening to lectures such as:

1. how many days leave, and how to apply, and what's the structure of your pay scale, and what's a golden handshake.
2. the inner workings of Parliament and how laws are passed.
3. the political parties in Malaysia and "comments" about the process.

maybe since we now have a new State Government they'll be asking us to support the Government!

off to the beach for two weeks - some swimming, running, reading will be fun! gosh... i still do have that road race on March 29! no chance for total relaxation huh?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Seven Sins

sins are mortal (threatens the soul with eternal damnation) or venial (less serious, but still quite bad), according to the Catholic Church.

the original offences and their punishments were:
PRIDE - Broken on the wheel
ENVY - Put in freezing water
GLUTTONY - Forced to eat rats, toads, and snakes
LUST - Smothered in fire and brimstone
WRATH - Dismembered alive
GREED - Put in cauldrons of boiling oil
SLOTH - Thrown in snake pits

dismembered alive? what the...? it turns out medieval Europa is better than Guantanamo Bay, with electrifying testicles.

gluttony just sounds like a routine episode of Fear Factor. snakes feature in two out of seven punishments - must have something to do with leg-less serpents crawling on their belly and eating dust being the very personification of Beelzebub and Co.

***

i can't decide on what i want to write about today, so i'll write about a janitor in the A+E Taiping. she's Mdm Letchumy, married with 3 kids. i suppose i try to remember people's names and a bit of bio, and i talk to a lot of people in my hospital. so one day we were talking about food, and i tell her i love rasam, an Indian spicy soup. she said one day she'll cook it for me, and i laughed and said okay.

that was last week, and suddenly yesterday she brings a plastic bag with 3 tupperwares - rice and prawns and fish and rasam and poppadam! to the A+E!

i was so touched, but it was a busy day and i could only eat it for dinner. and it was delicious! felt kinda guilty though - every day she must eat much less than this feast, but she cooks so much for me.

it's true then huh - sometimes the poorest people are the ones who give of themselves the most. i must do something more for her, more than just remember her name.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

it's over - now clean up your mess

now that the elections are over, i'm happy to let the political analysts deal with the aftermath - who won what, and what are the implications. i'm not too young to have opinions of my own (just that i promised not to post them here), and it's not that i'm not bothered (more below) - it's just that i'm interested in things that i CAN do.

and what i CAN do now is to issue the following statement:

make sure you clean up your mess, all of you. i don't care if you won or lost, red or blue, just get rid of all that garbage you paid people to hang up. and preferably recycle them please.

***

i actually had a number of serious people asking me to stand for an election, maybe even the next one. i know i know, don't laugh. the thought of Dr Khor for Taiping is a funny-haha one, albeit strangely flattering.

but i said not yet, because (and i think this is important, especially for all the younger folks) there are at least a million other ways you can serve the rakyat.

me? i'm going to study hard now, upgrade my knowledge, alleviate pain and suffering, cure diseases, save lives - all on a daily basis. THAT is my "serving the rakyat".

there are already plenty of virtuous and honorable men and women who are already fighting the cause of justice and equality in this country, and they need me to do my job well. and i will try the damnedest i can.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Yes, We Can

Obama in America is so popular and his message of change and hope and America Boleh so compelling, that a generation of young people are getting very involved with the political process and claiming ownership of the process.

where can we find someone like this guy? someone to make a viral video about, basically just words from one speech in New Hampshire, by guys like these, who just about gave me goosebumps even after the 12th listen:


"... in the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope."

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

and i didn't...

post anything about an election, just a newspaper article that i find amazing and proves that there can be hope for anything to happen:

a lady with polycystic kidney disease buys coffee at a Starbucks for many years. her kidney function deteriorates and eventually she needs to either have a transplant, or go on dialysis. and what happens? the barrista at the Starbucks, one of the favourite targets of anti-globalisation campaigners for their profit-oriented business, donates a kidney to her.

irony, hope, happiness - strange how a newspaper article does that to you, huh?

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/04/us/04barista.html?hp

Anatomy of an Election

too much has been written about our elections, and unfortunately i'm going to add my two cents worth:

WHY THE AMERICAN ELECTION IS DIFFERENT (AND THUS BETTER) THAN MALAYSIA'S
1. 4 year terms, no more than 2 terms per person - no accusations of dictatorship, and 8 years is enough time to effect any change you want, however long-term. no change in 4 years, you're probably not good enough. good programs after 8 years will automatically be continued by your successor, Democrat or Republican, because public opinion wants it.
2. fixed election dates every November every 4 years - no chance to "hold the Opposition in suspense" and a more structured campaigning period.
3. campaigning is largely issue-driven - except for the inevitable smearing campaigns, which feature all over the world. the difference is that America ACTUALLY talks about free trade and abortion and global security, whereas Malaysian politicians from both sides avoid issues and give stupid speeches attacking their opponents and point out their "report card of service" as though they are primary school children.

we'll have to live with this situation for a long long time. we need two large political parties in Malaysia, and i thought long and hard about the creation of a viable second Grand Alliance, but we have these problems:
1. LANGUAGE - no one candidate can use one single language to communicate with the country. Obama's rise and rise in America will never happen in Malaysia - it's like a prodigious Iban boy from Sarikei trying to convince a rural Malay farmer from Gua Musang to vote for him. America is a nation with more religions and races than Malaysia, yet does this effortlessly. i cannot think of any way to circumvent this in Malaysia.
2. RACE - it seems like we were more united under the British and the Japanese than now. the economic and social policies that recognise race as the first criteria are to blame, and they are many, and they vary in complexity, from simple awarding of taxi licenses to grander allocation of land titles. i recognise the primacy of the Malays - it's in the Constitution after all, but certainly not to the extent of wielding the Keris and baying for Chinese blood. the last time we had a parallel was in Rwanda when the Hutus and Tutsis fought. i also cannot see a way around this.
3. RELIGION - the dominant Malay party in the Opposition is PAS, who is committed to an Islamic State, something very difficult to achieve unless your country was overwhelmingly Muslim and the remainder of the population agrees to it. how religious can a State be anyway? even Saudi Arabia is more of a monarchy than a religious State, and they are modernising their Government anyway. it's unlikely PAS will give this up (it's in their Constitution), and given the religionisation of the whole world (meaning we're less identified by what colour our skin is, but by what religious scripture we read), few people will want to give it up in favour of secularism.

so you see, we're trapped. and i cannot see any way out. i'll not post any more about this whole charade.

Monday, March 03, 2008

BN candidate for Ipoh Timur

i was having dimsum in Ipoh yesterday (Sunday) morning with Kar Yee, in a super-packed restaurant. my first thoughts were about how some people would willingly stand in line for food, both in prosperous and in impoverished countries... sigh.

and then the BN candidate for Ipoh Timur decides to show up and gladhand everybody. we were sitting just next to the front door, and he came to us first. i had already seen his posters all over Ipoh, Ir Dr Liew Mun Hon, meaning he's an engineer and holds a PhD of some sort.

me: so where did you graduate from?
LMH: Melbourne.
me: no, i mean where's your PhD from?
LMH: it's in my CV (pointing at the brochure that was distributed, containing a quick CV and lots of pictures and newspaper articles).

and then he turned to leave and shake hands with the rest of the 200-odd people in the restaurant. what the? here's an interested voter with interested questions, and you'd rather shake hands with nameless and faceless uninterested breakfast-goers?

he just shook hands, and it wasn't even a double-handed clasp made popular by Bill Clinton, it was just a single-hand pump-and-thrust-and-release. with a smile of course, but no pleasantries like "how's the food?" or "how are you?" or "good morning". loser. even high school Head Prefects have more class than that.

CV
so we read his CV thoroughly, and it's basically like this:

Bachelor of Engineering (Hons) - Melbourne
Masters in Engineering Management - RMIT
PhD in Operations Research and Project Management - American University of Hawaii
Director of LIEW YIN YIN CONSTRUCTION Pte Ltd
Principal of KL PERUNDING
Director of LEMBAGA AIR PERAK (he put them all in capitals, don't ask me why)

INTELLECTUAL EXCHANGE
being dissatisfied with the initial exchange, i then stopped him on the way out:

me: i'm Dr Khor from Taiping (sorrysorrysorry, i don't usually tell people, i just had to get his attention). i've read your CV, and i'm curious how long you spent in America for your PhD?
LMH: it was a long-distance program (at least his English was passably good).
me: will your job as an MP interfere with your many responsibilities? (points to CV)
LMH: not unless i become a Minister. (wow, he's got ambition!)
me: oh, okay. so is your background in engineering helpful as Director of LAP?
LMH: (a momentary blank stare so i proceed to the next question)
me: so how'd you become Director of LAP? did you sit for an exam?
LMH: MCA appointed me.
me: oh, okay. are you also in charge of the supply of bottled water in Perak, like Cactus and Spritzer? (their factories are in Taiping, anyway, haha! this question is funny on so many levels)
LMH: no, i'm in charge of the water supply for the whole of Perak. (doesn't answer my question, if you note carefully)
me: good on you. so will there soon be a coherent National Water Policy to eliminate wastage, seeing as to how water, and not oil, will be the source of wars maybe 50 years into the future?
LMH: (another blank stare)
me: okay, lemme rephrase. there are maybe 14 Directors of State Water Boards in Malaysia, like Perak Director, Sabah Director, Johor Director, right? so do you have a national-level meeting where all the Directors come together and decide on important issues? (sorry, grammar doesn't matter much when you're trying to convey a concept; i know it should be Director of the Perak Water Board, or Perak's Director)
LMH: we can deal with that after the election. call me after the elections. here's my card (with only his landline numbers printed).

what an uninspiring Q&A session. my junior debaters can come up with smarter answers! i wasn't very impressed with the intellectual capacity of the man, esp since his opponent is a heavyweight.

OBSERVATIONS
1. he's a Civil Engineer by training, and owns TWO construction and civil engineering firms, and he's qualified to be Director of LAP for sure. but doesn't that also open up to doubts of corruption and opaque tender processes? even if he's totally clean (and he does seem like a cleancut, likeable and earnest guy), the doubts cast upon him may not be helpful in the long run. DOCTOR Liew, please think of resigning from LAP, if only to save yourself future trouble.

2. i used to know a Professor who got his PhD from American University of Hawaii, and he got into all sorts of personal and professional troubles. so i googled it up, and got these:

2.1 Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs initiated legal proceedings against Hassan Safavi, owner of American University of Hawaii, Inc, because of trust issues (http://hawaii.gov/dcca/areas/ocp/udgi/lawsuits/AUH/)
2.2 DCCA is granted a permanent and final injunction against AUH (http://hawaii.gov/dcca/areas/ocp/udgi/news/auh)
2.3 Casewatch.org writes about how Hassan Safavi basically operated an unlicensed, pay-for-degrees university (http://www.casewatch.org/ag/hi/auh.shtml)
2.4 the University Grants Commission in India believes that the AUH is illegally operating in India and is very concerned (http://www.ugc.ac.in/inside/malprac.html)
2.5 i am unable to locate any official AUH website, the best was a placeholder.

so this means that his PhD was obtained from a bogus unlicensed university which operates from India and is the subject of numerous lawsuits against itself and its founder. so it's either:
A. he was cheated, and remains oblivious, and now uses his PhD title fairly,
B. he was cheated, but he knows, and is using the PhD title unfairly, or
C. he wasn't cheated.

the implications are:
A. we should tell him and hope he does the honorable thing and retract the Doctor from his campaign, because his PhD while not bought, perhaps has little value.
B. we should tell him and hope he does the honorable thing and retract the Doctor from his campaign, because his PhD while not bought, perhaps has little value.
C. we should tell him and hope he does the honorable thing and retract the Doctor from his campaign, because his PhD while not bought, perhaps has little value.

MISTER Liew, i prefer Options A>B>C, for the future safety of my water supply.