Thursday, December 30, 2010


just saw it on the late news. the vehicle number plates MCA 1 & MCA 2 have been successfully tendered for RM300k & RM100K respectively, awarded to a private company in Johor.

it's unbelieveable how much one is prepared to lavish on a few pieces of plastic, attached to the front & back of a depreciating asset. wait, can you call something an asset when its value drops by at least 10%  the moment it leaves the showroom, & guaranteed to plummet thereafter? is it not bizarre that the plates themselves could cost more the vehicles?

there must be innumerable ways this amount of money can be put to better use, esp in this season of goodwill. schoolbags for students, meals for the starving, shelters for the destitute, even life-saving surgeries for the needy.

but i doubt if this trend will end anytime soon, whether conditions are austere or not. willing buyer, willing seller, the economists will say. we have short memories & the recent financial turmoils seemed distant.

on another note, congrats to the malaysian football team for winning the AFF cup. they played well & thoroughly deserved the accolades that will surely be proclaimed in this morning's media.

but another public holiday?

sounds more & more like a season of extravagance.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

NZ #6 : coromandel's train & waterworks

all this time there was nothing really for the boy to look forward to, so we decided to spend 2 nites in whitianga in the coromandel peninsula (see map of north island in previous post) to give him a treat.

the 1st stop was the only narrow-gauge railway train still operational in NZ. (narrow gauge of 15ins allows for sharper curves)
**image from Driving Creek Railways website : barry himself driving the train**

actual view from inside the train.

this train/tracks were originally built by teacher-turned-potter barry brickell to transport clay from volcanic rocks from the hills to his pottery, & also gold when it was discovered here. part of the hill is fortified with beer bottles consumed by the workers during construction of the railway.

because the hill is too steep for train to ascend directly, the rail has several reversal points where the train changes direction in a zig-zag manner upwards.
one of the 5 reversal points.....

and the same reversal point from another view

the top station is sometimes called the Eyeful Tower (get it?) & this is the view.....

the Driving Creek Railways has become such an attraction that nowadays it carries more tourists than raw materials.

the next stop is the Waterworks theme park. it's not a theme park by way of rides, games & parades, but rather an educational park explaining the origins, uses & conservation of water.

like how water is used to drive a wheel to operate farm machines....

like how to operate a water pump like the old days...

but it's not like it's just all learning & no play. there are other activities to keep the kids happy....

trying to negotiate loops with a steady hand

doing a flying-fox-type swing
ET go home...incidentally, both the kids' initials are the same - ET.
but this is definitely their favourite.....firing water cannons

tomorrow, we go on our last leg of the vacation - hobbiton & lake roturua.

Friday, December 24, 2010

just the way you are

i heard this song the radio today. it's been playing for some months now, but when it came on air this morning, it sets me thinking. it's bruno marrs' just the way you are. the chorus goes like this....

When I see your face,
There's not a thing that I would change,
Cause you're amazing,
Just the way you are.

And when you smile,
The whole world stops and stares for awhile,
Cause girl you're amazing,
Just the way you are.

this reminds me of the other song by billy joel, similarly titled just the way you are :

I said I love you, and that's forever,
And this I promise from the heart,
I couldn't love you, any better,
I love you just the way you are.

the coincidence is that both these songwriters are guys & this relates well with the observation that when a man marries, he expects the wife to remain the way she is (but often she doesn't!) & when a woman marries, she expects the hubby to change (but he, too, often doesn't!!!).

i first met my wife on christmas day 24 years ago. looking back, she's definitely changed over the years, more so over the last decade or so. i can't pinpoint the reason for the change, but it's possible that's just the way she actually is, only that i was too much in love to notice.

but i did promise that i'd love her, for better or for worse, & this vow is still binding. happy anniversary, dear & beloved wife, & blessed christmas everyone!!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

NZ #5 : 90-mile beach & cape reinga

just to put things in perspective, this is the north island...

& this is the top half...

from paihia, we drove northeastwards pass kaitia towards cape reinga. on the eastern coast of this peninsula is the so-called 90-mile beach, although it's actually 60 miles long.
it's a white sand beach & bus/4-wheel drive tours go on the whole length of the beach.

cars are discouraged from doing this as there's a risk they may get stuck in the sand.

we drove up to the firm sand & took a few shots. here, you can see tyre tracks in the foreground where vehicles have travelled before us. 

then went on our way northwards to cape reinga. it's a hilly road & can give one the impression that the car will go off the cliff.

after parking the car, a short winding path leads to the lighthouse.

"reinga" in maori means "underworld" & refers to the Māori belief that the cape is the point where the spirits of the dead leap off the cliff to enter the underworld to return to their traditional homeland of Hawaiiki-a-nui.

they also believe that where the warm tasman sea meets the cold pacific ocean, called "the meeting place", waves of unsettled waters seen off the cape...

.....mark the union of a male & female sea, the whirlpools where the currents clash signifying new life.(a good illustration for our educators to teach sex reproductive education, don't you think?)

we thought we would do sandboarding on the way back but it was just too warm & dry, & the kids didn't think getting sand all over was a good idea.

so we gave it a miss.

tomorrow, we check-out & head south for the coromandel peninsula - for some kiddy attraction. (see map, black arrow)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

NZ #4 : whangarei & paihia

whangarei (pronounced fang-aray) wasn't a planned stop. we just wanted to refuel & happened to pass by the tourist information centre. we were told there was a waterfall & a few decent beaches nearby. the lady was really friendly - providing local maps & tips. you know NZ is serious about tourism because these centres are open 7 days a week, & up to 8pm on weekends.

this wasn't a spectacular waterfall but i took the opportunity to try out the new camera.

my untrained eyes couldn't really differentiate if this was taken with a good camera or not. maybe it's because i'm just a beginner.

at the nearby matapouri beach, the waves were moderately strong. & the kids really enjoyed running with them.

there was a little boy playing by the beach & as i was snapping away, he approached me, curious at what i was doing. i couldn't help posting this. his mother, a local resident, says the beach is awesome all through the year.

by the time we reached paihia, 200km north of auckland, it was already 6pm but the day was still bright. we checked into our pre-booked 2-bedroomed apartment with full kitchen facilities, before checking out the town to get groceries. the tourist info centre was still opened.

finally, settled in for a self-prepared dinner of pizza, garlic bread, meat pies, coleslaw & soup.

tomorrow, we go on the 90-mile beach.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

NZ #3: start of the road trip

i called up several car rentals in auckland a day before the road trip & settled for a family sedan. this one offered free pick-up & drop-off as part of their service. when i went to collect the car, it was a 7-yr-old nissan sunny, which looked more like a sentra. after driving for 7 days & 2000km in it, it turned out to be a well-maintained set of wheels. without fail, whether cold or not, the engine roared to life with just one turn of the ignition. everytime.

we drove north towards whangarei. we had to pass thru a tunnel on the only tolled road in the north island. they don't have barriers or toll booths like in m'sia. we pass thru like everyone else & we can choose to pay at a machine by a rest area or even pay online. the vehicles are caught on camera & we have 5 days to pay the toll. how convenient is that??

besides bungy jump, you know you are in NZ when you see this...

together with sheep, they are estimated to number 30m, compared to 4m people.

along the way, we dropped by a honey factory. the boy was fascinated by the live bees behind a glass screen....

we thought the manuka honey was reasonably priced. NZD12.95 for a 500g bottle.
in fact, we stopped by this same shop on the return trip to get more honey & have something we didn't try the 1st time....
macadamia honey ice-cream.

Friday, December 17, 2010

NZ #2: city of sails

that's what they call auckland. because there's a harbour with lots of boats.

other than that, it's much like any other. the main street is preparing for christmas,

there are street performers....

& people are quite friendly.

but i find it refreshing that people can just proclaim the Word openly on the streets.....

& you definitely know you are in NZ because this is bungy country. like you get on this 3-seater...

which is attached to 2 elastic ropes...

then, they release the catch & it's up, up & away....

and no, i didn't.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

NZ #1: the vacation that almost wasn't

this is what i did in preparation:

1) bought air-tickets 10 months early - there was a MAS promotion & we grabbed them, literally!

2) having ample time before the trip, we changed currency whenever the rate was favourable.

3) asked around/checked blogs on travel tips; since this was going to be free & easy, i had to plan the destinations & duration of stay within the time-frame of the vacation.

4) check-out the accomodation & car rental rates for best offer. i paid online for the apartment on the 1st & last day of the trip. for the rest, i booked as i went along so that our travel route can remain flexible. in NZ itself, the free AA accomodation guide was fantastic & most have freephone numbers.

5) since i was going to drive, made sure my m'sian driving licence was valid & my own GPS was loaded with NZ maps. you could rent a GPS with the car rental for NZD12 a day, but why pay extra?

6) bought travel insurance  for a hundred ringgit plus per family, just to cover the unexpected.

7) as it was summer, brought sunscreen lotion & shades.

this is what i should have done:

1) as peak tourist period only starts in 2nd half of december, after the school term ends, should have gone to car rental personally to choose the vehicle. instead, i booked thru the phone & they could only confirm the class of car, eg. family sedan, either nissan or toyota. i had expected a toyota corolla but got a nissan sentra instead. although it was a 7-yr car, it was very well-maintained. they even offered free pick-up & drop-off within the city.

2) i underestimated the size of NZ. although i had not planned on going to south island, the north island was still huge!! we covered 2000km within 7 days & even then, only visited half of the island. in the end, 3 days in auckland was probably a day too many.

finally, we almost have to cancel. 3 days before we were due to leave, we were told one of the girls in the boy's cello class had chicken pox. a day before departure, the boy had a slight fever & he developed little skin lesions over his neck. without hesitation, i started him on zovirax, just in case it's early chicken pox. the lesions weren't typical pox & besides, i think he already had chicken pox before.

our options were either we cancelled the trip or i go with the daughter while the wife stay back with the boy.

as it turned out, he got better the next day & the skin lesions, whatever they were, subsided. i had planned to complete the 5-day course of zovirax anyway except that, while filling out the arrival forms on the plane, there was a question on bringing in medicines into NZ. in case i needed to explain it & the custom people got overly suspicious about harbouring dangerous viruses, i decided to discard the zovirax. as it turned out, those guys didn't even bothered looking into the bag.

NZ, here we come.....

**image : a crimson flower from the pohutukawa tree aka NZ christmas tree because the flowers tend to blossom in dec**

Sunday, December 05, 2010


now, that's one name you'll almost never hear about in NZ. it's a little sea-side town on the north-east of the north island. it's a starting point for those planning for the 90-mile beach.

the view is great, the apartment is marvellous.

tomorrow we go on a drive to the 90-mile beach. at the end of this is cape reinga, where the waters of the tasman sea & pacific ocean meet.

should be fun.

PS wish you all were here!!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010


we're off for our year-end vacation & will be back on 12th dec.

think hobbits.

Monday, November 29, 2010

houseman glut

that was the front-page headline in saturday's Star. read here

those within the medical fraternity have already known for some time that the rate at which the government is trying to achieve the magical figure of 1 doctor for every 600 people is just too fast & too furious.

establishing private medical schools at an average rate of 1-2 a year for the last 10 years has obviously lowered the qualifying requirement of the students since these schools, currently 17 in all,  require numbers to be profitable. & where are they going to get competent academics to teach the students? manipal, monash & newcastle may benefit from their collaboration with the respective home universities.

my colleague Dr L is assoc prof in one of the public medical universities in the klang valley. in his ward, there are 2 housemen for every patient & as many as 5 can go missing at any time & no one will notice the difference!! remember, it's our tax money that's paying their rm4000 monthly salaries!!

during a particular clinical teaching session, some were asked to describe how they'd catheterise a patient, ie. pass a rubber tube to help the patient pass urine. none of the housemen could give the right answer & the worse part was that none seemed interested to want to learn the proper way to do it.

when my peers were housemen, we were criticised for being young & inexperienced; apparently, you could add indifference to that list now.

at this rate, it's only going to get worse. 

& that's putting it mildly.

Friday, November 26, 2010

today is black friday

when the colour black is used to describe something, it's usually not good.

like black widow, the female spider that eats up its male partner after mating.

or, black death, the bubonic plague epidemic that wiped out half of europe's population in 1350.

or, black money, a scam where con artists attempt to fraudulently obtain money from a greedy victim by persuading him/her that  piles of banknote-sized paper in an envelope is really money which has been dyed black (e.g. to avoid detection by customs).

or, black monday, 19 oct 1987 when the american stock exchange lost 22% in a single day. that event marked the beginning of a global stock market decline, making Black Monday one of the most notorious days in recent financial history.

or, black friday. in september 24, 1869 there was a financial panic in the United States caused by two speculators’ efforts to corner the gold market.

but today, the friday after thanksgiving day in the US is also called black friday, a name originally given by the Philadelphia Police Department in 1966. "Black Friday" officially opens the Christmas shopping season and it usually brings massive traffic jams and over-crowded sidewalks as the downtown stores are mobbed from opening to closing.

over the years, the importance of the consumer spending during this period has become important to the sale figures for the retailers, & crucially adds to the bottom-line. it could turn a lacklustre loss-making year into one with bulging profits. hence, the terms "in the red" & "in the black."

however, black friday is only applicable in the US. over here, every & any occasion can be used as gimmick sales - new year sale, mid-year sale, year-end sale, opening sale, renovation sale, stock-clearing sale, closing-down sale.....

the list is endless.

Friday, November 19, 2010

raw nerve

someone sent this to me & i thought it struck a really raw nerve.

"You cannot legislate the poor into freedom by legislating the wealthy out of freedom. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that my dear friend, is about the end of any nation. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it."
 Dr. Adrian Rogers, 1931

thanks CT, for the email.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

she's back......!

the girl came back from cambodia yesterday. since i finished work a bit early today, i took a "short drive" down to the Little Red Dot to catch up with her.

we just had enough time for a steak dinner....

and some ice-cream after that.

& i told her - i missed her when she was away.

Friday, November 12, 2010

flown the nest....literally.

except for class trips, the girl has never gone on vacation without us & neither have we gone away without the kids.

so, it was a totally new experience that she went on an overseas trip with her schoolmates today. i posted on this earlier this year. (read here)

as concerned parents, it's difficult to let the young ones go but we consoled ourselves that this would put her in good stead when she eventually leaves for varsity in 3 years' time. moving around with her group of schoolmates, i know she will not be alone & more importantly, she's God's child & will be under His care.

what did get me worried (a bit) was that when i tried to call the hotel reception in siem reap, the guy could hardly understand me & i don't think i speak bad english either. this is supposedly a 4* international hotel in the town centre.

we do really look forward to her return next week.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

full circle

my 1st camera was a canon SLR which was purchased in the 80s.

it served me very well till the affordable compact aim-&-shoot cameras made their debut in the late 80s. after that, i had a olympus digital camera which developed a problem with the shuuter-release button while on vacation. the dealer told me it was cheaper to get a new one than to repair it. i then got a lumix which i still use & i liked it for the 10X zoom. read here.

then i caught the bug - the dSLR bug. so, after months of mulling over the nikon D90, i took the plunge & joined the crowd. but it wasn't the D90 i got.

yeah, it's got zillions of pixels, image-stabilizer & superb image processing but personally, as far as photography is concerned, i have turned a full circle.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010


that word generally gives a good impression. like someone specially recruited from another country,  who is well-schooled, highly-qualified, an expert in a chosen field of profession & certainly generously remunerated. like a CEO of a well-run corporation.

but that has not been my experience with those i've encountered of late. i considered them expatriates only because they are foreigners & are paid better than the locals. however, the similarity to my earlier description ends there.

their attitude to work is generally lackadaisical, they shun responsibilities, teamwork is an alien concept (pun definitely intended) to them & they are certainly not top performers in their chosen field of work.

unfortunately, they are here to stay, just like their fellow workers who are in construction, cleaning & domestic help services. as long as there remains a void left by the locals who seek their fortune elsewhere, as long as there is a desperate demand for their substandard services, they will continue to torture be around for some time to come.

so, i grit my teeth & try to bear with it.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

pound of flesh

i would say, it's been a difficult year for the girl. away from home, living with friends & not family, taking bus to school & trying to cope with a  high-strung education system.

given the trying circumstances, i think she's done remarkably well & she knows that, too. that's why she's come out with her year-end wish list. starting with this pair of nike sneakers....

the list includes a swatch & some clothes. i jokingly told her it's that time of the year again to take that pound of flesh from me.

seriously, i shouldn't complain. there's still no sign of an iPhone, iPad or dSLR on that list.


If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! matt 7:11

Thursday, November 04, 2010


no, i'm not going to write up about the political kind currently going on in galas & batu sapi.

i'm referring to the upcoming elections in church for officer-bearers for next year. quite unlike the political manoeuvering that will culminate in the polls tomorrow, the one in church is very much more sedate. no, none of that name-calling, back-stabbing & character assasination stuff for the nominees. in fact, it's just the opposite - we have difficulty getting leaders to rise up to serve in the various ministries.

that's probably because we have a unique problem - there is a whole generation of 25-45 year-olds that virtually doesn't exist. most of the current office-bearers are above 45 & almost all have served several terms already. some have expressed intention to step down but there's just few people in their 30s & early 40s to take over.

until such time when this generation of young people aged 25 & below is groomed to to fill existing shoes, we'll just have to make do with what we have. i've been privately expressing my own opinion, sometimes rather bluntly, concerning people who should be standing up to be counted instead of being just pew-warmers & space-fillers.

Someone Up There must have heard me because the potential leaders i mentioned eventually accepted nomination for the various posts. while i was wondering at this turn of events, whether i may have spoken harshly too soon, or have failed to see the hands of God at work, i found out the bitter truth in these words :

Fools find no pleasure in understanding
but delight in airing their own opinions.
prov 18:2

i now bow my head in shame.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

near-perfect weekend

no doctors i know ever relish doing on-call on weekends, regardless of remuneration. myself included.

but although my time is largely determined by the whims and fancies severity of the patients' illnesses & i can't get away from that, it doesn't stop me from making a wish-list of a perfect weekend on-call :

1) all clinical work completed by evening;
2) no need to be called out to hospital after 12 midnite;
3) uninterrupted sleep till the next morning;
4) able to attend church on sunday morning;
5) have dinner with the family AND.....
6) get to watch all the important Premier League games!!

last weekend, i only missed out on one dinner with the family. can't really ask for more!

**after some thought, i realised the term "perfect weekend on-call" probably doesn't exist - can spending time on-call in hospital over a weekend be considered perfect??**

Sunday, October 31, 2010


we all know about the tragic accident involving a bus near genting just last week. 7 killed & 17 others injured, including the driver. today, he admitted to not even possessing a valid driving licence while adding that the brakes on the bus weren't working. it wouldn't surprise me that all fingers will now be pointed at the bus owners. why did they employ a driver without a licence & why did they use a bus with faulty brakes?

you could say it's bad luck. 13 years driving without a licence & if it weren't for a bus with faulty brakes going down a slope, he'd still be driving a bus with someone you know or love in it. or, you yourself could have been in it.

a lot of things around us would have passed by unnoticed if it weren't for a twist in events.

if the cost overruns of the PKFZ weren't discovered, we would not have known about the shady land deals & other financial irregularities, costing the public billions of ringgit.

if it weren't for the financial crisis of 2007/8, bernie madoff would still be happily ripping millions off innocent investors with his ponzi schemes.

however, herein lies the difference...

from his hospital bed, the injured bus driver has publicly apologised for his transgression. he will probably be charged for dangerous driving, driving without a valid licence & perhaps even manslaughter, punishable by a jail term if found guilty.

madoff also made a public apology in court before he was sentenced to a 150-year imprisonment last year.

however, the perpetrators of the PKFZ fiasco have neither apologised for misleading the govt nor expressed remorse for squandering public funds. they are still walking free.

In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them for the eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good. deut 32:35, prov 15:3

Monday, October 25, 2010

dǎo gào

that's mandarin for "to pray."

i was examining a patient last nite for surgery today. she has terminal cancer but looked surprisingly cheerful. while explaining what she would undergo, i noticed she has a bible by her bedside. i asked her if she was a believer, to which she replied she was. then unwittingly, i asked if i could say a prayer for her before the operation, to which she happily consented.

that's when i realised she is mandarin-educated & i've never gone beyond a smattering of mandarin in my everyday life. i decided to call up the mandarin-church pastor to ask for some pointers & interpretation. as i recited the prayer with him, he mentioned that i was not all that ready but i told him i just needed to do it.

so, i've never dǎo gào till today. & it wasn't fluent, some words had the wrong intonation but it was obvious she was pleased that i managed to say a few words of encouragement for her. that's the least i could do for someone who seemed to face her future with the confidence of God.

after surgery, my parting words to her was zǎo rì  kāng fù.*

*speedy recovery

Thursday, October 21, 2010

green cars

before i bought my current altis this year, i had seriously considered a hybrid car. despite a 50% reduction on import & excise tax, i decided that the toyota prius at RM175K & honda hybrid at RM129K were both still overpriced.

the recent budget has proposed a complete abolition of these taxes beginning next year, thereby reducing the price of these green cars to RM128K & RM100K, respectively. i'm already thinking maybe i'll change in a year or two. although i may be unconsciously reducing carbon output, i'm more aware of the fuel savings involved. after all, don't expect the price of petrol to remain unchanged in the long term & all indications are that it'll go up rather than down.

however, at above RM100k, these green cars are still beyond the reach of the masses. i guess this is where proton will join the hybrid bandwagon. Onn Yeoh, in an article in today's Sun paper, suggests the government do more for the environment, by lowering road taxes for these cars & offer special parking in the city. i wonder how the petroleum companies will respond to this proposal, considering these cars consume significantly less fuel.

my colleague Dr L won't be too happy, though. he just got a Prius in June.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


in sept, i made the decision to lead the worship, for the 1st time, at today's service.

for a start, i have to choose a sunday where my Care Group can support me as musicians & back-up singers. actually, it's odd i just mentioned that, because in my CG, only i can play the guitar & another, the piano. since, i'm leading, i won't play, so it's just down to the piano. i wanted it solely to be the CG's effort.

after that, i needed to select the songs that i'm familiar with, because other than the pianist, the rest of us (myself included!) are largely tone-deaf!

then, there must be a time for all of us to avail ourselves for practice, which was narrowed down to yesterday afternoon.

so, why did i take it upon myself to go through these aggravations?

well, i've been asked to worship-lead several times before some years back, but each time, i've turned it down, giving various excuses. then when i re-read the gospel where the angel appeared before Mary to foretell the virgin birth of Christ, all she said was:

"I am the Lord's servant, may it be to me as you have said."  luke1:38

if she, though not yet married to Joseph, was willing to shoulder the heavy responsibility of carrying Jesus, i reasoned that leading worship would be also a responsibility a (true) servant of the Lord would not chicken out from refuse. for the record, it went much better than expected. was it because my prayer went like this...

"even though we may not sing with the voices of angels, we praise from our hearts & may it be a sweet, sweet sound to Your ear?" 

When you feel impelled to help fill a need, when you are inwardly driven to serve – listen to those thoughts. You don’t want to miss God’s call. (Cindy Hess Kasper)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

euthanasia (or be careful what you ask for!)

Last night my wife and I were sitting in the living room chatting about things and life.

Then we talked about living and dying.

I said to her, “Dear, if ever I end up in a vegetative state when you are alive, please never let me go on like that, being totally dependent on machines and liquids from a bottle. If you see me in that state, I want you to disconnect all the contraptions that keep me alive. I'd much rather die.”

Up went my wife from the sofa, with this lingering look of admiration towards me.

She then proceeded to disconnect the TV, the Cable, the satellite dish, the DVD player, the computer, the cell phone, the hi-fi, the IPod and the Xbox, and then went to the fridge and threw away all my beer!!

thanks, YO, for the email.

instead of thinking of dying, why don't we make our lives count by pledging our organs instead? read here for a quick Q&A on organ donation. even better, sign up online at the National Transplant Resource Centre website.

for the record, i've been on their donors' list since 2001. hope to get someone off dialysis, ventricular assist device or gain sight when my number finally comes up.

what about you?