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Did my good deed of the day. I helped Vinnod make up his mind about going through with naval officer training.
I noticed that he was looking at it from an opportunity-lost point of view and had not considered the opportunity-gain. He felt he would lose the chance of starting a career in music. His uncle, who is getting him into officer fast-track, doesn't approve of his choice and was so afraid of Vinnod dropping out that his fears were having the exact opposite effect. Here's basically how I reasoned it out.
You haven't considered that officer training means university. I'm not just thinking about the knowledge gained. At university, you'll learn how to think and to reason. That's the best thing in the world to have. And with it, you'll be able to do anything. More importantly, you'll be able to do far more with it than without. On top of that, university training doesn't take place on base. And nobody's going to bus you from campus to base every night. You'll be housed on campus. That's four years of freedom. Six if you do a post-grad. So the majority of your ten year naval contract will be spent out of the navy. Now how sweet is that?
Vinnod did the rest. He then convinced himself that he would come out a more "refined" person and, with a few shoulder bars, would gain respect from his family and girlfriend. He would also be educated for free. And that was the end of that.
The trouble with Jordan
This week, a USAID envoy was assassinated in Amman
, Jordan, in what one terrorist group has claimed is retaliation for US aggression in Afghanistan and Iraq. It was all very very tragic, really -- not a single report of the murder carried a photo of Jordan's Queen Raina.
Yes, that's a photo of Queen Raina of Jordan. And no, she's not wearing a burqa. That's because she is the new hotness of the middle-east. Being Palestinian herself, every story about I-P conflict should also carry a photo of her. Just in case Sharon or Arafat decide to give up fighting over land and fight over her.
But the trouble with Jordan isn't violent conflict or political upheavals. It's far more serious. You see, in Jordan there's a king. Yup, she's married. Hey George, try regime-changing Jordan. I think after millions of years of evolution, we deserve at least one good-looking head of state in the world.
Rate my entry
My PHP knowledge is too raw to do this but I still wish I could do a "rate my blog entry" script. It would be something like Greymatter's karma rating - an iconic one to five scale that would move up and down as the clicks are input. It's such a useful and effortless feedback tool that think it would go down big with all the non-Blogspot bloggers. So far no one on Hotscripts seems to have come up with something similar that I could hack. Darn.
(I had to take down an earlier post about Malaysia because the slant was a bit too negative.Sorry, Rob. But here's another post to replace that.)
The prime minister has warned recently warned Asian leaders that the next point of terrorist attack in Asia would be Malaysia
. Malaysia is the second largest muslim state in Asia after Indonesia and over the last few years muslim radicals have become rather prominent in the local news following the dramatic robbery of an army arms cache four years ago.
He's ordered more patrols of places frequented by tourists, this includes the KL Twin Towers which already does have uniformed patrols walking the shopping arcade. I asked David, a friend of mine who -- having a small ad agency of his own -- is well-networked, where large congregations of westerners might be found (besides embassies). "The Beach," he replied. The Beach is a club near the Twin Towers that's often packed and is popular with the locals as well.
I'll be headed for The Beach this weekend to interview westerners what they think of the prime minister's threat assessment and conducting impromptu surveys of the increased security, if there is any. The prime minister may order it, but in practice it will be extremely difficult to achieve because of manpower problems.
I was passing in the vicinity of the deputy prime minister's official residence six years ago when he was publicly arrested for having sex with women who were not his wife, two dogs, a rhino and a duck-billed platypus. I witnessed hordes of the deputy's supporters walking with force toward the parliamentary house and fire trucks that would later hose them down. And I didn't take a single photograph. That's not going to happen this time. I have a camera and I can whip out fake press passes and business cards.
Come on, bomb away, you terrorists. This blog is ready for ya!
End of the visit
I saw off Mitch and Rebeca at the train station to the airport. It was a fun four day visit but much much too short. Yesterday they met Shan, a Hindu friend of mine who brought them through Batu Caves and explained to Mitch about the Hindu culture and the Thaipusam festival. Rebeca knew a bit about it already, having once having been married to an Indian. Shan, however, was a bit over-enthusiastic and if I hadn't stopped him, he would have dragged us all kicking and screaming across two state lines on the tourist road-trip to hell. He hadn't noticed Mitch and Rebeca were a bit travel weary, having squeezed a week of both Hong Kong and Singapore before arriving in Malaysia. Being a big Star Wars fan (Mitch I mean), I half-expected Mitch to wave his hand to Shan and go "These are not the tourists you are looking for." Corny, but I would have laughed. I also laugh at Adam Sandler movies, God help me.
What we really should have done through the four days, which we finally did last night, was go pubbing and relax. And I'm glad I had the chance to do that. Beer is a good cure of the frazzled synapse. Hell, beer is a good cure for anything.
Mitch and Rebeca left for Taipei for three days with a layover in Hong Kong and they're probably reading this in Cairns, their last stop. They were supposed to fly to Bali, but they heeded the Canadian and US state department advice. If it were me, I would have gone to Bali. Right now there's nobody there, it's perfect - flights are plentiful and are probably discounted. And the Balinese would be so grateful, you'd get five-star service even in a backpacker guesthouse. Frankly, I think the Japanese did it. A bar blew up with 180 people dead and not one Japanese? They're the biggest travelling booze hounds in the world sucking down Kirin in every port. They beat even the English hands down and standing up. Now they've got the whole island to themselves. And it's not even World War II.
Anyway back to Mitch and Rebeca. Both of them work for the same tech company (he's in server support and she's in customer support), and over drinks they shared some awful stories about the shenanigans in their company which shall remain nameless except to say that they Employ Dhousands of Seople and they're currently considering changing their name to DilbertCo (stock trading symbol: DIRT). And I am going to recant their juiciest story - the one about the security technician, the cat, a bottle of whiskey and a copier machine - because I have no morals; I have no loyalty; I have no ethics; and I also have no recollection. That happens a lot when I drink. Or maybe it's just selective recall.
Yes, yes. Breathe a sigh of relief, Mitch, and count yourself lucky. By this point of reading, Mitch probably has rope burns around his beck and the words 'Cause For Dismissal' permanently tattooed on his foreheard. I'm just yanking your chain, Mitch. Go have a beer. And don't forget to make it a Kirin just in case. Sa-yo-na-ra!
Vinod, the weed smoker.
(The following is an interview I conducted last night simply because illicit sub-cultures is a topic that interests me.)
"It's free, you don't have to pay me," said Vinod as he handed me a chewing gum-sized cake of weed in a transparent plastic bag like the kind used to pack sweets in. It was real weed but it wasn't pure. There was even a bit of silver foil from the original cake stuck in it. This looks like the stuff I got in Bombay, I remarked. "No, what you get in India is hash. This is weed," he assured me.
Vinod, who is twenty and works at the internet caf� near my apartment, is going for an interview in three weeks time with the navy's officer cadet route and he admits he hasn't smoked in weeks to keep himself weed-sober. He also wasn't a pusher, he insists. "If I'm smoking, you can have whatever I smoke. And I never sell weed." And with that he redefined pushing as profit-making.
I'd asked him for the weed a couple weeks ago when we spoke about weed-smoking in Malaysia because I wanted another opportunity to bring the subject up so I could write about his experiences. But I didn't really need to. Having smoked since he was 16, he described himself as an avid smoker with a deep passion for it so much so that he spoke passionately about weed with me for an hour. As we consumed his packet of Dunhill lights outside the caf�, it began with a crash course in the difference between weed, hash ("It's more concentrated.") and hash oil and how they're made. He described how his friends and he would get a hotel room in a "nice four star hotel" so they could smoke in peace. The advantage was no one, not even the staff, would disturb them and they could leave without having the session traced back to them. The staff wouldn't find out about it until they were long gone. Smoking in someone's home was more dangerous since the smell would be a dead giveaway. And I got the impression that he thought it was nicer to smoke in a more posh environment.
The attraction for him is that weed relaxes him. When he smokes, he says, he laughs a lot. When I smoke, I said, I start insulting people. That's because you have a lot of anger in you, he explained, and when you smoke weed, your real personality comes out � which by his own inference made him a very happy jovial person. Vinod prefers smoking in a social setting because it also brings out the philosopher in him. "When you smoke, all kinds of ideas come out. When you smoke you become smarter. With some friends, we discuss great business ideas and how to make them work." It's simply unfortunate, he added, that the next day no one can remember much about the plans except that they did talk about something.
It didn't surprise me that weed smoking in Malaysia, where there is a death penalty for being caught carrying a sliver the size of what I had in my shirt pocket, was so well-exercised. It's considered a much more acceptable drug than Ecstacy which is always available in Malaysian clubs, especially at raves. At least among its users. Vinod ran a list of places by me that you could get weed at which was remarkable more for its length than its locations. There's always pushers because of the profit margins and also because of the gullibility of its users. "A friend of my girlfriend once tried to pay me RM50 for a RM2 packet of weed that I gave her."
"But I would never push it myself. I believe in karma and what goes around comes around. I don't want to be cursed by the family of the people I sell it to. When you go up to heaven and when God asks you, if there is a God, what you did and He says you pushed drugs," he makes a wrenching gesture toward his heart. "It's bad, very bad. I've seen pushers driving Mercedes Benzs and owning two three condominiums. But it fucks you up because you end up in jail, hanged or you're never allowed back into Malaysia again." Yet Vinod is hardly the sort that you could call 'a straight arrow that's slightly notched' having only just confessed to owning a stolen and very expensive mobile phone. It occurred to me that Vinod's moral code only went so far as getting caught and I told him so, yet he couldn't see as far as that. So I drew a parallel between his feelings about drug pushing and MacBeth, who was so consumed with guilt about the murders he committed that it ended up as his undoing, and Vinod's silence signaled an agreement.
Vinod's moralising the sale of drugs didn't strike me as false. But only that he has seen the worst effects of it. His admiration of those who sold and didn't touch their own product was very telling of his fear of the rub-off of the drug trade on the seller's personality. His story and his openess on a subject that's often seen as taboo is gratifying and I hope to ask him in greater detail about the process of exchange between those who sell -- and those who end up cursing them.
Mitch and Rebeca visit Malaysia
It's rare that people would travel so far from other countries just to visit another blogger. It engenders a great deal of trust, good judgement of character and a couple of screws loose. But there we have it. Mitch and Rebeca came to visit little old me from Ottawa on Saturday, over a year after I met Mitch
when he started reading my blog. They arrived on a bargain-basement multi-country ticket from Cathay Pacific. If you live in Ottawa keep your eyes peeled for these two (click on the image for a bigger picture). Call the cops if they go anywhere near a school. I mean, they just travelled thousands of miles to visit another blogger!
Seriously, they're really wonderfully nice people. We went up the KL Twin Towers skybridge yesterday and went to visit the Chinatown street market last night where, between me and Rebeca, half the vendors managed to send their kids to college.
Rebeca: Mitch, I need more money.
Mitch: WHIMPERS MORE
I also managed to forget my mobile phone at the security station under the Twin Towers. Hint: if you want to blow up the Twin Towers, just leave your explosives with the friendly security. You can even leave the wires out. They'll respect your privacy.
And funnily enough, it's true about Canadians. They do say 'Yaaaah' a lot.
Right response, wrong response*
At a Kenny Roger's Roasters
(tagline: "There ain't no chicken growed in Alabamy too small to serve ah customers!").
Me: Hey, there's a cockroach behind the orange juice dispenser!
Shift supervisor: Omigod! I hope you're alright, sir! That has never happened at this restaurant before, I swear on the life of my first-born son. Please accept our humblest apologies and this free life-time pass to eat at this restaurant forever. And if you want me to name my first-born after you, I'll be happy to do so!
Shift supervisor: Oh yeah. (SWAT!!!) So whaddaya wanna order?*Take a wild guess which one was offered to me today.
This story about bikini waxing
(and why am I reading a story about bikini waxing? because I was hoping for pictures) includes a mention about something called "pube dyeing parties" - but no details. Google
unfortunately don't share my interest in this most fascinating of subjects. Neither do the domain squatters
. Of all the things that teenage girls get into, THAT would top my list of must-sees. Er, I mean must-studys. I'm heavily into social sub-culture studies, didnjaknow? Especially if they involve dyes. So if you're holding a pube dyeing party, send me an invite. I will generously bring the dyes.
Life as it passes you
Last night I dreamt I met Bono at the entrance of an underground rail station in a tropical country during a sunny day. Except he wasn't glamorously dressed. He was in a colourful short-sleeve silk shirt with a leather belt and pleated khakis. He had his tinted wrap-around glasses but he also had greasy close-cropped blonde-red hair. He was with his family, two small kids and a wife whom I thought for some strange reason to be Linda Evangelista even though she's going out with the French goalkeeper. Whatever.
I recognised him and I asked for his autograph. He obliged and I got out my pen but I didn't have any paper so I used the back of one of my namecards. But every single one of them had notes on the back. While a crowd builds, I tried to find a clean one and I couldn't. For some strange reason, everyone was milling around to see if I could find a clean card rather than oggling Bono. Eventually, Bono got impatient, of course. And I had to use a half-filled card. He signs it and leaves and that's the end of my dream.
I think that's the story of my life. Stuff happens to me and I'm unprepared for it.
Good news, bad news
Good news is I sold the concept of the website I was working on for the film club on the strength of the front page and my description of the features. I couldn't demo them on my laptop since I don't have PHP installed on it. Bad news is the club committee is declining to pay me (they're claiming the defence of 'non-profit') - but I'll probably wrangle a lousy life-time membership from them. Good news is they'll publicise it on their newsletter to their couple hundred-odd members so my work will get known. Bad news is I'll probably spend ages teaching the committee how to use the Blogger system to update the pages and to use the new newsletter script I got for them. Good news is, I'll have the opportunity to introduce several people to blogging so at least I won't be the only (almost) thirty-something blogger in Malaysia.
Aside from that, good news is I'll soon be able to get ADSL at home. Residential broadband has finally arrived in Malaysia. It's going to cost me RM111 (USD$30) per month to keep the line and rent the modem. Without an income from web design, I'll have to fall back on freelance copywriting. And that's bad news.
Give and take, give and take.
Now you know I don't like those Friday Flatulence and Tuesday Tinkles mainly because I think anybody who participates in them is crying desperately for attention - as if having a blog wasn't already enough. And besides, some of those questions are so ridiculous you'd think either Beavis or Butthead were writing them. Uh-huh uh-huh.
So here's 100 things about me
1. Let's start easy. I can bend my little fingers all the way to the back of my hands.
2. Ew, what an image! Ok let's try this. The only dance step I don't look so ridiculous doing is the samba.
3. I have an obsessive personality and when I'm working on a code or a document, I never eat or drink anything for a whole day while working on it.
4. Ironically, my body never gets addicted to anything. I used to drink coffee every day for months, then I'd forget to drink coffee and stop cold. Then pick up again a year later.
5. Same thing with grass. I smoked so much of it for a year, I got a roller so I could make them faster without spilling any. Then I stopped, mostly because all my lunch money went with it.
6. I have "fountain of youth" genes. I look 18 even when I'm 30. Based on observation of relatives, I'll start to look 30 only when I'm almost 50.
7. I cry at movies sometimes. The good thing about movies is it's always dark and no one can see you do something embarrasing like that.
8. I speak with a weird American accent which I picked up as a toddler watching too much Sesame Street. Don't let your kids watch Sesame Street. It is evil.
9. I don't drink. At least not in public. When I drink I get these huge splotches on my face that makes everyone clear a ten yard circle around me like I've got the plague. I swear it's not contagious, dammit!
10. I can never resist the offer of a drink.
11. I'm not very popular at parties. Can you guess why?
12. I use a white iBook. My first Mac was 12 years ago - an old LC III which I paid too much for then later threw away when I upgraded to a PowerMac 6200. I began using Macs since I was introduced to them in journalism class in school. Moral of the day: don't take journalism classes - you'll end up with bad habits.
13. In school I was a hacker wannabe. Actually I was a hacker groupie and hung out with a group that used the free modem terminal in school to hack into BBSes.
14. Much earlier on, I was part of a school gang. Only because the leader took pity on me. Sheesh.
15. I never hurry. I'm so Arab that way.
16. Ironically, I'm impatient. I'm only in a hurry when OTHER people and OTHER things cause the wasting of my time.
17. Even more ironically, I can type at 60 words per minute. That's right, one word per second. Or more accurately, one-tenth of a word per millisecond. You get the idea.
18. I don't drive. I tried learning to drive once and during a class, I almost caused an accident at an intersection and I never drove since.
19. I have worn two silver studs in my left ear since forever. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Maybe because I watched too much Sesame Street as a child.
20. I am so demanding in a relationship. Don't ever go out with me. When I turn on my charm, you'll get sucked in.
21. I learned charm from a "How to seduce" book. I kid you not. But it works!
22. My first girlfriend was 15 years older than me. See I told you that book works.
23. She dumped me in two months when she couldn't stand the idea of her friends thinking she was desperate enough to go out with someone so young.
24. I hate confrontations. And break ups are tough on me.
25. I also don't believe in love. But I end up with women who more or less want that out of a relationship.
26. I have not been in a relationship in years because I hate to disappoint people. I also hate confrontations. Wait, I think I mentioned that one already.
27. In anything, I always want my way. Or else I'll I'll I'll POUT! Man, I pout something nasty.
28. I took Bible studies in school. I can now happily poke holes in the faith of Christians with the best of them.
29. I have a lousy sense of humour. Go ahead tell me a joke. See, I didn't laugh.
30. I kill cockroaches using spray mount (aerosol glue). No amount of evolution is going to stop them from being turned into glue statues.
31. I have never worked hard in any day of my life. Maybe that's why I can never hold down a job for long.
32. I can't commit. Maybe THAT'S why I can never hold down a job for long.
33. When I was studying in England, I looked up my old literature teacher from secondary school in Singapore who had moved to county near London. Then I went to her home and thanked her. She still remembered me.
34. I don't snore, but I talk in my sleep. That's when my conscience exposes itself and all the guilty feelings come out. I think I said 'I'm just using you for sex' or something when I was in bed with my last girlfriend. Maybe that's why...
35. I have never kept in touch with anyone from my childhood or from my school days. My childhood consists 80% of all my guilty feelings.
36. I think I have a younger sister and a younger brother. I can't remember. I don't keep in touch with them either.
37. Aw shit. So far this 100 Things idea makes me look like I'm a jerk. I better say something nice about myself. Wait, I AM A JERK so fuggit.
38. I'm very lazy. I'm so lazy that I'm having trouble making it to 100.