December 2002 Archives

Changing the world

I'm a sucker for romantic one liners. Last night i heard a great one:

"You want to change the world? Change mine." Robert Redford says to Lena Olin in "Havana".

Havana Movie Poster

Gosh. What a line. The movie sucked big time, but oh, what a LINE!

Malaysia's Unrest

Breakfast tables are exciting places for debate. Having just awoken from a restful lumber, your mind is fresh, and made fresher still by the consumption of food early in the day. Its easy to think, easier still to argue and a very engaging time to get involved.

Over breakfast this morning, the topic of discussion was Malaysian politics. On one side we had Azahan, a good friend and a staunch supporter of the political opposition in Malaysia. Or maybe, it may be more accurate to label him an opposer of the ruling Barisan Nasional.

On the other side, we had me. A critic of all sides, but a believer in "practical politics" - whatever gets the job done works for me. As you can imagine, the discussion soon veered into the ever-so-touchy issue of the Internal Security Act (ISA) and the state of the Malaysian judiciary.

Azahan argued that the ISA has undermined the legitimacy of the Malaysian judiciary. To some extent, he's right: after all, the ISA is an extra-judiciary tool and, in theory, it exists to balance the need for national security without the high burden-of-proof courts normally demand. With the legitimacy of the judiciary removed, the future of the country is at risk. If you can't trust the courts, or rely on the judiciary for protection and fair play, the nation will cease to function.

I argued, that the "future" Azahan was speaking about is already here. The ISA has been around for decades. The judiciary has been bypassed for years on issues labeled "national security". In reality, the ISA has become a political tool serving political agendas; overly vocal opposition politicians are particularly wary. Yet, Malaysia is relatively peaceful, secure and properous. We are not an Indonesia with its massive racial unrest. We are not a Singapore that has recently been found out as an economic one-trick pony. We haven't had the massive political violence suffered by the Philippines. Malaysia has been hailed a model Muslim country, and is arguably the jewel of ASEAN.

Azahan: the "bleak future" that you were speaking of is happening right now. Where are the problems you anticipated? Why hasn't the country "broken down" yet?

Its a paradox. The leadership of the Malaysian government has been called a dictatorship by some. You would imagine that a dictatorship would lead to turmoil and national unrest at a large scale. See Nigeria. See Burma. See parts of drug-imbued Latin America. But you don't see that here in Malaysia. Could it be that the government isn't nearly as bad? Could it be that Malaysia has been fortunate enough to find that necessary balance that has eluded so many others?

Broken promises

I would say that i'm an honest man. Not a saint, no where near perfect, but fair and honest as far as an average person can be. I try my best to tell the truth; i see no point in lying except when it serves the "greater good" (subjective i know, but inevitable). I always keep my promises. I don't give them out cheaply, but when i've promised to do something (or not to do something), i keep to my word.

Just like everyone else, i'm prone to errors in judgement. But i would like to think that these errors are unintentional and without malice. If i've wronged someone, its most likely because i'm stupid rather than because i wanted to hurt the person. This even applies to the people i don't like; "treat your friends well, your enemies better" is something that seems to make a lot of twisted sense.

And more than anything else, i wish that everyone would treat me in the same way. I try to be to others as i would wish them be to me. But the second part of that equation doesn't seem to work very well. But that's ok. I hate to complain. Don't mistake this as a complaint.

Top 10 Malaysian Issues of 2003

Malaysiakini recently published an article listing Malaysia's Top 10 issues for 2002. Reading it reminded me of what this country has gone through over the past year, some things that i had forgotten but should have remembered.

Looking back always has the effect of making me look forward, wondering about what the future holds. 2003 is but around the corner.

http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/200212250018708.php

Christmas Greetings

Merry Christmas to all! Its a time for sharing and thoughtful reflection. Let's not waste it...

Does anyone know why no one says, "Happy Christmas"?

Snowflake
Merry Christmas!

Unappreciative

I've got a problem: i can't seem to appreciate my holidays. I work hard the whole year. I hardly take a day off, there's just so much to do. And at the end of the year, the company forces me to use up my annual leave. If i don't, then i can't carry it forward to the next year, and its wasted.

Sitting at home today, and thinking about how i'll have to twiddle my thumbs for another 10 days, it makes me wonder whether i would have been better off giving up those holidays and going to office anyway.

I just don't know what to do while on holiday. I sleep all day, then i awake, itching to do something, finding nothing, i try to sleep some more or watch the tv. But i can only do so much of that before i begin crawling up the walls. So i go out. Drive around for a bit before i get bored out of my mind, come home with a few DVDs i bought along the way, watch more tv, play some computer games, get bored again and stare at the ceiling, lying on bed.

Its like this every year. I need to find something to do, or somewhere to go. Fast.

An innocent lost

A friend of mine recently visited a hospital for charity. The focus of the visit was the childrens' ward. There, she handed out teddy bears to sick children, some of whom were terminally ill. These kids were between 6 and 9 years old. They were suffering from a wide range of diseases - those who were dying, had various forms of cancer.

God gives and God takes. That's the way we live this life, and its something that we have to understand. But what strikes me as being very sad is that these kids don't know that they are dying. Most are too young to even appreciate the concept. Whether this is a blessing or a curse, i do not know. But i can imagine looking into the eyes of their parents - they very well know their children will not be with them much longer. Its one thing to lose your child suddenly: there is often very little time to contemplate the sudden loss. But to see it coming from months if not years away... the agony and emotional suffering these parents are going through is probably something that we wouldn't want to wish on our worst enemies.

Spare a moment on Christmas eve to pause and give a prayer for these innocent souls. Then, spare another for their parents and family. For some, it isn't going to be a Merry Christmas.

When the ex becomes a mrs.

She was my first love. I had girlfriends before her but i only experienced love when i met her. It was an exhilarating feeling, it made me giddy and there was a bond between us that made us act and think as partners, friends and lovers. They say that you never truly forget your first love. I attest to the truth of this claim.

Its not important how we separated after more than 3 years together. The only thing that is important is that we did, and it saddened me to no end when it happened. That was a long time ago, we've both moved on with our lives but we've always been friends, always keeping touch with the other, lending a helping hand whenever needed, being the voice of reason for each other when chaos threatened to take over.

When she called to tell me that she was getting engaged on Christmas day, with the wedding sometime next April, i went silent. She thought i had hung up, i was so quiet. In those few seconds, a million emotions surged through me and it took a moment to keep them in check. I congratulated her and wished her well. Truly, i was happy for her - she's been waiting for this day a long time, and now that it was finally here, i knew how much it meant to her.

But, i was sad for myself. It felt as though i was losing a part of myself in an irrevocable manner. I have no illusions - when we separated, i knew that we would never be together again. She's just that type of person, and so am i. And still, hearing the news... i'm not sure i have enough words to describe how i felt at that moment besides a feeling of pure sadness. The last time i felt myself moved that way was when my beloved grandmother passed on. That time, i couldn't stop crying for days and it was as though part of me had died too; she was like a second mother to me, sometimes there for me even when no one else was.

This time, the ex is going to be a mrs. I promised her i would witness her wedding; she really wants me to be there. I suspect, even after all these years, i am still as important to her as she is to me. So i will be there, come the ides of March. And part of me will die once more.

Postcards from Sabah Series

Didn't have much time to go sightseeing in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. Therefore, i didn't get a chance to take many pictures of this beautiful state. But the Postcards from Sabah series has been published in Visuals. The first of the series can be found here.

Back from away

Arrived home today from my business jaunt in Sarawak and Kuching. It was a wonderful experience, not only for the ton of seafood i consumed (had prawns, fish and oysters every night for dinner), but because of the people i met. Sarawakians are, without a doubt as God is my witness, the most friendly people in Malaysia - and i've been everywhere these past months, so i do have some idea about this. With every other group of trainees that i've had the pleasure to meet, it was just business. Right after training, everyone would go their separate ways. Professionals meet, do their thing, and professionals leave with a hand shake.

But with the dealers i met in Sarawak - the best way i can describe it is that they treated us like their guests. No, not just guests but VIP guests. Every night was a cullinary delight, their treat. Every day after training, they would be a different group who would spend some of their personal time to take us around town to see the sights. And when it was time to leave, there were those who took the trouble to send us to the airport and see us off, wishing our swift return in the future. Amazing. It made the trip that much more enjoyable, and memorable. My hat go off to them with my most gracious appreciation.

Perceptions of age

When two people are attracted to each other, does age become a factor of consideration?

I've always been the guy in a relationship - no, really, i'm not kidding. And its always seemed that i've been older than the person i'm with, or at least, even if she is older, the difference is never more than a year. Is this a coincidence, or do women purposely look for relationships with older men?

From my own perspective, i honestly believe that i have no real preference when it comes to age. It just so happens that the women who have given me the time of day have just about always been younger.

I've been told that a woman tends to be attracted to older, more mature men then herself. Something about it being related to the basic instinct of protection - feminists would disagree, but its entirely possible that an older man is sought for his greater experience, his ability to guide and provide mature support that a younger man may not be able to provide. (If this is true) The woman needs to feel secure in her belief that her mate can protect her, and that may be perceived to be unlikely if the man is younger, inexperienced and requires heaps of guidance himself (this does not mean that older men are faultless, but i think you get the idea).

Many women have told me this: they don't want to feel like they are "the mother to their husbands".

Thus, with this in mind, does age make a difference?

Racial truths

I believe in racial equality. I believe that discrimination based on colour and creed is wrong; the human race has evolved into distinct races, categories if you will, based on geography, history and environment. But these evolutionary truths does not condemn any particular race to a particular destiny. Not only do i believe these things are true, but i WANT to believe that it is true. To think that a society can and should be divided based on their history, their birth and their origins is simply unacceptable.

But what if my beliefs are wrong? What if this world was divided across racial lines? What if the truth was that your birth determined your place in this world, meaning that for every person, there was a predetermined "place". What if all the "progress" that the human race has made so far in the fight for racial equality has only produced lip service and the rare exceptions. What if bigotry, racism and the self-belief that everyone has their "place" is the rule?

Its a scary thought to consider these what ifs. And scarier still as i've begin to realize that they could be closer to the truth than the intellectualism of pole-length "what ifs". Could it be that we, myself included, have deluded ourselves into believing that the human race has progressed, truly progressed, in terms of racial equality? Or worse yet, is it even possible that we have made ourselves believe that racial equality is a desirable goal when, in fact, it isn't?

Notice that it is racial equality that is the issue. Not racial harmony, as we may have that. Not racial awareness, as we may have that. Not racial integration, as we are increasingly achieving that.

Postcards from Kuching Series

The first installment of the Postcards from Kuching Series is available in Visuals.

A direct flight from Kuala Lumpur to Kuching would have only taken 1 hr 45 min. But i had to take a transit flight to Singapore first as there were no available direct flights today. *sigh* Was stuck in the train, airport, airplanes, and taxis (in that order) for half the day. Left home at 5 am and arrived in my hotel, Crowne Plaza Riverside, at 11 am. Thank God i'm young. Long journeys have yet to wear me down.

Away in East Malaysia

Its time to travel again for business. This time the Land of the Hornbill, Sarawak before moving on the Sabah a few days later.

It should be an interesting trip. I've never been to East Malaysia before so whatever happens it promises to be an experience to remembers. I'll be taking loads of pics, the best of which i'll publish in Visuals.

Shopping with women

I won't presume that all women are the same. Maybe its just my luck but my experiences of going shopping with women have always been similar:

1. She'll say that "it'll only be an hour" and end up spending 4 hours.
2. She'll go to every shop in sight looking for that pair of shoes/jeans/etc. Often even shops that don't sell shoes/jeans/etc.
3. She'll go to 10 shops, walk a gazillion miles, and then buy from the first shop she visited 20 hours ago.
4. She'll ask me what i think about what she's trying on and always disagree with my answer regardless of whether i say yes or no.
5. She'll only feel good about what she's bought after another woman has praised it (my opinion doesn't count so why bother asking me in the first place??)

Hahahah... my mom, sisters, girlfriends, friends - they are all the same when it comes to shopping. It CAN'T be a coincidence, right? Are ALL women like this?

What an adventure!

Note the time of this entry: 9.25 am. That's what time i made it into office today. Why am i so late? (i should be here by 8 am every morning).

The LRT got screwed up.

KL's Light Rail Transit (LRT) is used by possibly 100,000 people every single day as their main means of commuting to work. So when something bad happens, it tends to mess up a LOT of things.

Apparently, there was some problem with the track from Masjid Jamek to Kampung Baru, forcing its closure for repairs. That meant that only one track would be available to handle all the incoming AND outgoing traffic. Its already busy enough with two tracks handling the traffic, but when its only one track... then the delays can cause horrendous congestions at the stations. People were jam packed together like sardines. I had at least two hands on my ass, and my own arm was pressed against a woman's... *ahem*... chest. There really was no two ways about it. It was crazy as people rushed forward each time a train arrived and tried to squeeze in.

Packed like sardines
Sardines anyone?

The delay cost me more than an hour. 100,000 people use the service. Therefore, 100,000 hours of productivity lost. On average, each hour costs RM$20. Total cost to the KL economy = RM$20 million. And for all we know, it could just be a screw loose somewhere.

December Blog of the Month

December's Blog of the Month is "oneword".

Maybe it doesn't take much to impress me, but this has got to be one of the most innovative ways in which the Internet has been used to provoke thought and stimulate the creative juices. It is amazing what an open mind and 60 seconds can create. This site proves this belief.

"simple. you'll see one word at the top of the following page.
you have sixty seconds to write about it.

as soon as you click 'go' the page will load with the cursor in place.

don't think. just write."

You have to try it to believe it. Don't take my word for it. Just write it.

A virtual friendship

Dear {a friend},

You want to have a lot of friends but you don't want to put up too much effort in maintaining the friendship? That seems a bit contradictory at first glance, but having thought about it a bit, i think a virtual friendship is the only way that you could probably pull this off successfully. The thing about a virtual friendship is that its ethereal by nature, and thus can be as real or unreal as you want. It can be extended, expanded or terminated without much thought or difficulty any which way. You don't really know who is on the other end, and you can be anyone you want without really being you. The question then is: if its ethereal, if its "virtual", how can it be real? Is it truly a friendship?

Behind walls
Eyes behind virtual lines

The birth of Visuals

A new section of the Volume of Interactions was launched today: VISUALS.

Lately, i've been dabbling in some photography. It struck me that the photos i've been taking are parts of my interaction with the world, just as much as anything else i do in this life. Sharing my thoughts through writing and through images would not be that much different. That principle gave me cause for action and led to the creation of Visuals.

I hope the photos there will help provoke as much thought and emotion in those who view them as it did me, the person who took them.

* The design for Visuals was inspired by a.lifeuncommon.org, the VOI Blog of the Month for November 2002.

A cousin's wedding

My cousin, Yin Kuan, got married on Sunday to a lucky bloke named Ding. In the morning, the family went to her house for the traditional Chinese Tea Ceremony. I thought it was going to be a stuffy, formal affair where the new couple would politely introduce themselves to every member of the family while offering a cup of tea. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was much more than that.

The husband
Ding has no idea what's in store for him...

The fun started when Ding was invited to bring his bride down from her room. As part of the custom, he found his way blocked by her best friends who were jealously guarding the stairway. They told him (and his friends) that he would have to prove his love to get by them. The first test was to choose between two cups: one with salt water and the other with sugar water. He would have to drink down one.

A different Raya

Its almost the same every year. Morning prayers at the mosque, a light breakfast at home, the asking of forgiveness from my parents and lunch at the relatives'. The only difference this year is that its the first Raya without my grandmother. She passed away earlier this year.

Instead of having lunch at her house as is the custom, we were greeted by an empty house. None of the children had wanted to buy the house, and everyone was too nostalgic to sell it or stay in it. Weeds had over-run most of the beautiful flowers nenek ("grandmother") had so proud of. There was a thin layer of dust over everything. So how did i spend my Raya day? I cleaned my grandmother's house.

Mom and me
My mother and me

Mowed the grass, swept and moped the floor, and dust the carpets. It was hilarious. There we were: mom, my sisters and i (dad was in Australia) in our baju raya, sweating away, cleaning my grandmother's house. But it was extremely rewarding in a way - i could almost feel nenek's presence that day, and that's about as good a Raya gift that i could ask for.

The family sans dad
The family all dressed up on Raya (minus dad who's in Australia)

Eid Mubarak

My name is Aizuddin Danian Izham Cheong, and i would like to take this opporunity to wish everyone a Selamat Hari Raya Eid'ul Fitri.

Please forgive me for any mistakes i may have made over the year; all that is bad has come from me, and all that is good has come from Allah. Alhamdulillah, by the grace of God we have come this far, and with His guidance, we will go further still.

Eid Mubarak
Eid Mubarak to all. Maaf Zahir Batin

Netscape reborn

The first Internet browser i ever used was Netscape Navigator. I think in those days it was still version 2 or 3. It was light years ahead of Internet Explorer in terms of functionality (IE was still version 1.0 at the time) and it was also far more stable. Using Netscape to surf the Net was not just cool but it was practical, and IE was looked down upon as the suffering little brother struggling to keep up.

But a lot can be done if your name is Bill Gates and have US$30 billion in your bank account. IE soon took over as the premier web browser and since IE version 4.0, i admit that it has deserved that title. Netscape Communicator was a usability disaster and its implementation of W3 standards was terribly inadequate (e.g. it screwed up the handling of CSS files in a big way).

Since then, IE is now 6.0 +, and while still the dominant browser around, it no longer has that innovative edge that won over previous Netscape users. Not to say that its bad in any way - its still the most stable, usable and complete browser out there. If you want to surf the Internet, it doesn't get much easier than IE. But maybe that's the problem - in trying to pander for the lowest common denominator, IE has begun to seem TOO simple.

I like to tinker with my gadgets, and i consider just about piece of technology i own a gadget, including my web browser. Recently i found a browser called Mozilla that allows me to tinker to my heart's content. If IE is a simple kitchen knife, then Mozilla is the ultimate Swiss Army knife.

Check out the tabs
Tabbing is a really cool feature. First appearing in Opera, Mozilla does it much better

Developed as an Open Source project (means that its free and readily customizable), its based on the original Netscape code and from my initial impressions, many of its features look and feel like Netscape. But look under the hood and you'll be amazed. All the bugs that Netscape suffered have been eliminated. Just about EVERYTHING is customizable from the way your bookmarks are displayed, to the skin, to the way certain type of files are read. If there was a manual for this thing, it would be hundreds of pages long. This is certainly web browsing taken to its next level: power to the end-user.

Its not for everyone. Even i'll probably not scratch more than 10-15% of its total features. But for anyone who wants a bit of adventure and excitement similar to what we experienced during the innovative days of the Browser Wars, Mozilla is it.

Download Mozilla (11MB)

Hari Raya nears

As Hari Raya approaches, there are notable signs in the body language of everyone around me that they have begun to wind down. There seems to be less activity in the office, people talk less, the meeting room is actually empty and the photocopy machine is idling cold. Its almost as though a switch was thrown on Monday, and all the brain cells, including my own, have just shut down. No one is interested in work, the only thing people are talking about are the holidays and their plans for Raya. Its so strange.

Is it just PETRONAS or is this a phenomenon mirrored everywhere?

Original thoughts

As i struggle through the last few assignments to complete my Masters degree, i reflect over the last 18 months of effort: 36 assignments, hundred of pages and 120,000 words written. Phew.

The largest difference i found in studying for my Masters as compared to an undergratuate degree is the expectation that is placed upon me by the examiners, the people who will look at my work and decide whether i should pass or not. During undergrad, i could get away by leeching off the thoughts and work of others, the faceless people of my textbooks. It was often little more than a synthesis of reading and reproducing an understanding of what had been read. For a Masters, that's part of what needs to be done, but in order to pass with merit, it has been expected of me to produce original thoughts and that's tough.

Its almost as though Masters students are expected to write a book that they can call their own, full of original ideas, not found elsewhere. If similarities exist with previously written texts, then i've still been expected to add my own unique twist to matters. Its not about reading, understanding and reproducing. Its about reading, understanding and ADDING to available human knowledge.

If its like this for my Masters, i wonder what it'll be like for my doctorate? I can't wait to find out. Just one more hurdle left to complete my formal education.

...Part of the problem

There are two sayings in the English language that was used at tonight's dinner table:

"If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem"

"You lose the right to complain if you refuse to help improve the situation"

(I have really strange dinner table conversations in my family, i know)

I suppose the truth of both should be taken with a grain of salt; they certainly don't apply in all situations, and using them to make generalizations is risky business. But when taken into perspective within a particular context, they do help you understand your position in the scheme of things. At best, putting yourself as the subject in both leads to self-enlightenment, at worst, it will at least cause you pause.

Personally, i can't stand people who complain, even when they have cause to do so, because more often than not, these are the people who do the least to improve matters. The people who do the most to solve a problem are those who identify the issue quickly and, instead of complaining, bitching and whining, make the best of the situation and, when they can, do their utmost to help.

As a case in point, Malaysian politics are full of people who complain but have no idea how to make things better. In fact, their so-called solutions to contemporary issues are so stupid, it can only make things worse. By all means, ask for reasons, ask to understand, and criticise constructively. But please don't complain.

Right of Marriage

Purely hypothetical situation (not related in any way to my personal life): the woman you want to marry is not approved of by your parents. Its not that they want you to marry someone else, or that they don't want you to get married, they just don't want you to marry THAT woman. What do you do?

Do you:

A. Say to hell with it, and marry her anyway, risking being cut off from your family.
B. Try to talk to them, try to convince them, try to coach the lady of your choice to win the hearts of your parents, BUT if they still say no, you go with option (A).
C. Try everything in option (B), but if they still say no, then you do your best to be honourable in the resulting break up.
D. Go along with your parents' advice without question.

Mitigating factors (all apply):

1. You like her, but your parents say that because they know you very well (since birth i suppose), they can see that in the long run she is not right for you.
2. Its also not her alone, but your parents also have issues with HER parents. They argue that marriage is just not between two people but also between two FAMILIES. Compatibility is important??

Taking these factors into consideration, what would YOU do?

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About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from December 2002 listed from newest to oldest.

November 2002 is the previous archive.

January 2003 is the next archive.

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