March 2008 Archives

Do ours work for us?

Found this incredibly useful website, theyworkforyou.com.

TheyWorkForYou.com is a non-partisan website run by a charity which aims to make it easy for people to keep tabs on their elected and unelected representatives in Parliament, and other assemblies.
A similar website for Malaysia's Parliament would help keep our politicians on their toes. They need to know that we're watching. And not just in a rhetorical sense of the word.

Glorious Newcastle!

The first back-to-back victory in months, an emphatic 1-4 win away to Tottenham no less, is a clear marker that the good times are set to return to Newcastle United.

Its been a torturous season for the Toon Army, and just as doubts began to creep in on the legitimacy of Kevin Keegan's "messiah" tag, he brings us a sparkling performance of undoubtable class, humbling the pretentious Spurs on their own patch of grass.

Its been a while since i watched a game from start to finish. WoW, nights out with a loved one, or vegging out with MTV with her, there has been very little chance to watch a full match of football. And i'm tremendously glad i didn't miss the performance last night: playing with a 3-pronged attack, with Owen deep in a forward role, supporting the two strikers, Martins and Viduka, Newcastle was a constant threat going forward. The passing was slick, on-the-ground, and very very fast. At times, it was like watching Arsenal play (minus the sublime accuracy).

Midfield was where Newcastle really shined, especially in the 2nd half. Nicky Butt totally dominated proceedings, and it was amazing how he seemed to be everywhere at once. Every time the ball was passed through midfield, it would invariably touch his feet. While his vision is limited (he isn't exactly the world's most creative player), his work-rate could not be questioned, and his successful tackles : fouls ratio would say heaps about what a great ball winner he was last night.

Defense was lethargic in the first half, and at times, Tottenham penetrated them all too easily. The Newcastle wingbacks, Beye and Enrique are not really defensive minded players, and got caught out of position often by Tottenham's wingers; the fact that one goal came out of this really makes me wonder why Ramos didn't stress the importance of winged attacks during the second half.

Man-of-the match: for me, it was Viduka. Some of the things he did smacked of total class. The fact that only a few paid off was probably due to his fellow forwards' lack of vision rather than any fault of his own. Clever flicks, very strong hold-up play (ala Shearer!), and a creative drive that led to many dangerous attacks, were the hallmarks of his play last night. That wonderful backflick to Owen for the 3rd goal, sealed the game at a time when Tottenham could still come back. The vision to see Owen steaming in behind him, and have the presence of mind to flick the ball back into his path -- thats the sort of stuff normally reserved for the Man Uniteds and Arsenals of the game.

Tremendous game, well worth the victory.

It looks over for Pak Lah

UMNO party elections are coming. Abdullah Badawi presided over a disasterous GE2008, not just for UMNO, the party for which he is President, but for BN, for which UMNO is its strongest force. Dr M hit the nail on the head when he said that if Abdullah Badawi claimed 100% credit for the success that was GE2004, then he should be 100% responsible for GE2008's showing too. This alone should have been a clear marker of what would be coming to pass (the not-so-subtle trumpeting of Abdul Razak's thumping constituent victory aside).

But the latest furor over the Menteri Besar post of Terengganu looks like another nail in the coffin. Long story short: Badawi said, "Idris Jusoh is our man", the ruler of Terengganu said, "But, he isn't mine" -- and taps Ahmad Said's shoulder in instead.

Badawi threatens with, "Its unconstitutional", the Ruler replies, "You don't have 2/3 majority of the parliament anymore, you can't touch me". Keeping the sultans in their place was easy with the axe of a lopsided Parliament, but not anymore.

In the end, there could only be one winner in this stand-off, and, again, as a marker of weakness, it was UMNO that had to bend over.

Badawi lost GE2008. It looks like he's lost a lot more than just an election. And, come December 08, he is likely to lose even more. An honorable man would do the honorable thing before that came to pass.

Yes We Can!

I first saw this music video several weeks ago, and i was stunned by how effective it was in mobilizing emotions. If only BN politicians could be so progressive...

will.i.am tells us in his own words why and how he wrote the song.

it was that speech...
like many great speeches...
that one moved me...
because words and ideas are powerful...

It made me think...
and realize that today we have "very few" leaders...
maybe none...

but that speech...

it inspired me...
it inspired me to look inside myself and outwards towards the world...
it inspired me to want to change myself to better the world...
and take a "leap" towards change...
and hope that others become inspired to do the same...
change themselves..
change their greed...
change their fears...
and if we "change that"
"then hey"..
we got something right...???...

This is the speech that inspired the song. Hard to find a better publich speaker since JFK. He is quite amazing. Many of Malaysia's tone-dead politicians could do well to learn how to speak as well as him, not just in form, but in substance. Enough talk about bleeding kerises, more talk about the issues, pls.

Government to listen to bloggers: who will speak?

Here's a little surprise (sarcasm intended), the Government is ready to listen to bloggers. As recent election results show, they are about 4 years too late. There is a lot of ground to catch up on if the Information Ministry wants to understand what blogging is, and how it has had a profound impact on the opinions of Malaysians.

"The alternative media, like bloggers, play a role in nation building. It is the most direct and simple channel for people to voice their opinions. Sometimes, they can bring about a negative effect but it is mostly positive."
A case of too little too late?

Perhaps not. But Shabery will need to play his cards very carefully. Consider the audience he is dealing with: bloggers are almost universally the children of Generation X parents (and the most influential among them in the Malaysian blogosphere, are GenX hardcores themselves!). Exposure to years of anti-establishment doubt, and the access to an unprecedented amount of information -- combined, these traits make for a very difficult buck to tame.

Bloggers, due to their nature i.e. unwilling to conform, ruled by the rules of the Internet where there are no rules, will immediately be suspicious of any overtures coming from the Government, especially after the events of GE2008. While the intentions of the Government may be sincere, there are probably very few who will trust them, much less agree to work with them (or for them). I think this is a key point the new minister of the Information Ministry must concede from the outset.

While some may see this as a challenge, i hope Shabery sees as an opportunity. If everyone expects you to continue using heavy handed tactics, surprise them with a soft touch. Granting immunity to blogging whistle blowers might be a start, dismissing ongoing legal action (which can be viewed as being politically motivated) against bloggers such as Bru is another. Its going to take action to convince the blogging community of the Government's sincerity, and nothing short of pulling the all the stops will ensure this.

At the end of the day, there will still be many bloggers who distrust the Government, and who will express themselves as such. Trying to get everyone on their side should not be the objective; the objective of the Information Ministry should be to create an environment where the Internet is used as a round-table -- a lot of negative politics/tactics on the Internet won the GenX/GenX+1 vote during GE2008, the Government needs to reverse this trend and bring the discussion back to the issues and policies (or lack thereof). Debate, respond, question -- basic political tools. Its time the Government realise that the Internet is the new medium for the exercise of these tools.

If the recent (and still ongoing) Democratic Party Presidential nominations are any example, the Internet is being used as a medium of instruction where voters go to learn about both parties, allowing them to make an informed decision.

If the informed decision does not favour the ruling party, then that is a consequence rather than a cause. Bloggers should be positioned as the latter rather than the former.

Air Asia: Everyone can be delayed

The title is perhaps a bit of an exaggeration, but i've flown with them 3 times, and the last 2 times have been absolute disasters.

The first time i flew with AA, they were just newly formed, way back then (2003?). Just a few routes, and flying out of KLIA still. Fernandez built a start-up mentality, and, for what its worth, it worked.

Service was good, fast and smart. Planes departed and arrived on schedule, the on-board service was fresh-faced and lively, and the low-low prices made everything just perfect.

Then came a trip to Bali a year ago. Delays, both from KL->Bali, but also from Bali->KL. Uninformed ground staff who couldn't provide a satisfactory answer for the delays, and who did nothing to soothe frayed nerves. The best they could tell me was, "The preceding flight was delayed, so all subsequent flights will be delayed too."

Perhaps there is a reason why other airlines don't bother trying to keep their flight turnarounds at the AA record of "25 minutes".

AirAsia's high frequency service ensures guest convenience is met. The airline practices a quick turnaround of 25 minutes, which is the fastest in the region, resulting in high aircraft utilization, lower costs and greater airline and staff productivity.
Simply because, there is no point trying to schedule around an "impossible" number. If 25 minutes is too short to ensure your planes fly on-time, why bother making that promise?

Human beings are silly, sometimes stupid, in their pleasure for punishment. Fast forward to 5 days ago. Trip to Jakarta. Outbound from LCCT (a traffic and security nightmare if there ever was one), delayed by 3 hours. Ground staff clueless on the reasons, no answers given.

While the delay was informed via a smartly worded SMS a day prior, it did nothing to allay my displeasure. Plans had been made for relatives to meet at the airport. These plans would now need to be delayed, forcing those same relatives to wait at the airport until 3am in the morning. When i bought the ticket, it was for a 9pm flight, not a 11.55pm flight (which actually left at 12.30am).

The return flight, just as bad. Scheduled to arrive in KL at 9.10pm, the plane finally touched down at 11.55pm. Ground crew at the LCCT was a complete cock-up once again. Luggage took more than 45 minutes to arrive at the conveyor. By the time i left the airport, it was closer to 1.30am. And a hectic work schedule beckoned the next day.

When i pay for a 9pm flight arrival, i expect a 9pm flight arrival. When your advertising says, "No frills", i don't expect that to mean, "No clue". When your tagline is, "Everyone gets to fly", it shouldn't mean, "The joke's on you, moron".

There was a reason why i flew with Air Asia a 2nd time. Now there is a reason why i won't ever fly with them again. A company that makes poor promises, is just a poor company.

A weekend of House

Medical dramas. You either hate them or you love 'em.

House, i think, pretends to be a medical drama, but really isn't. An escape to human behaviour where we all wish we could be? Perhaps, slightly more accurate.

Scuba, finally

After years of procrastination, i took the plunge (pun intended!) and signed-up for my PADI Open Water certification. Two weekends of class and pool training, then off to the deep blue sea!

I've attended guided dives in recent years, off the Great Barrier Reef, Australia and to the USS Liberty, off the coast of Bali. What's always struck me as amazing and wonderful is the ability to do something completely unnatural, and feel completely at home doing it.

Human beings were not meant to breathe underwater, but being able to do so, is spellbinding. Its a whole new world down there, and once i've had a chance to see it, i'm itching to get back.

I was told that scuba as a recreational sport has really picked up in Malaysia, on average a dozen new sign-ups a week from the shop in One Utama i visited. Considering the cost of the sport (and the burning new hole in my wallet), thats a very very brisk business. Weekend trips to Pulau Tenggol, Perhentian, Redang, Sipadan, etc costs RM800-RM2k per person, and its a continuously repeating business.

Economics aside, with a surge of new divers, i wonder whether conservation programs have been put in place by local authorities to safeguard our national underwater treasures? Looks like i'll find out soon enough.

An Internet GE2008

A lot has been said about the GE2008. Petaling Street was been afire with incoming pings over the last couple of weeks. One thing i noticed has been how, almost universally, bloggers are writing in support of the DAP, PAS, PKR, and very much anti-establishment.

You just have to wonder on the possibilities:

1. Do bloggers represent the sentiments of Malaysia's internet users? Or are they just the most vocal component?

2. What sort of influence do bloggers have on voters during polling day?

The answer to the first question is impossible to determine without a wide-ranging survey.

The answer to the second is, probably, quite considerable.

Is it a surprise that the states that BN lost also happen to be the most advanced, tech-wise, in the country? Its reasonable to assume that the 5 states which contribute 60% of the nation's GDP will also have the largest user base of Internet users in the country.

The Internet is nothing more than a giant repository of information. And, information, or rather, in this case, the access to information changes the way people think, influences them to make informed decisions.

The availability of anti-establishment information on the Internet (whether true or not, is another matter altogether) will have most definitely influenced the results on polling day. Malaysiakini, Malaysia Today, the influential and charismatic, Jeff Ooi -- are just a handful of examples of internet resources that are unbound by the traditional pressures faced by traditional, establishment-aligned media (read: newspapers, radio and TV).

The question, really, is not whether the Internet played a role in the "defeat" of BN this past election, the question should be, what was the quantum of influence? 2%? 5%? 10%? 15%? of the votes?

Only way of knowing with any degree of accuracy is a proper exit poll study, something i think that is either not done in Malaysia, or its results are simply not published (i think its the former, to be honest).

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About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from March 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

January 2007 is the previous archive.

April 2008 is the next archive.

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