Monday, October 30, 2006

Celebrate, do not tolerate

I was reading today’s national news paper and stumbled across a headline that spoke said something about how one of this nations political head thought that “tolerance and hard work” is the key to development.

This “tolerance” does not in any way imply respect, still less approval. Rather the opposite, it implies only a willingness to indulge – i.e. tolerate - something of which one disapproves like, for example, corruption, threats, and complacency.

The proponents of tolerance should understand from the start that they are on sufferance, or permission implied or given by a failure to prohibit. It is not a matter of the public not having objections to what they want to do, but rather of the public's objections not being so grave as to justify prohibition, still less persecution.

Ministers, are very foolish to push at a door which is far from wide open. Asians have a history of using the tolerance rhetoric but for leaders to assume that this will be the key to success is foolish. I am reminded of a lecture at the end of which I was frozen in awe when the speaker showed that beyond mere tolerance comes celebration. To celebrate differences whole heartedly as the key to nation building.
A multi cultural society is not peculiar to Malaysia, and is rather foolish to assume so. It is not enough for the ‘tolerator’ to make an effort to overcome prejudices, unless the tolerated also makes an effort to reciprocate. This message go out loud and clear: we need more than mere toleration. For is nation building is to it must be an exercise of celebration all both parties.

Is any one ready to drop their prejudices to celebrate?

Saturday, October 28, 2006

New Skill: Typing

I learnt a new skill… to type (yes you heard me right) correctly. Its not just about random key strokes. Believe me, now that I am getting it right, I can type way faster than I used to. I wish I had learnt this when I was slogging all those papers during my undergrad years, or when I was frantically trying to keep up with lectures (I typically type my notes cause it gives me greater flexibility)

It really is difficult to start. There’s that tingly feeling that your brain experiences when you take on a new task (I believe it’s the motor neurons going on over drive trying to form new connections – correct me if I am wrong). But, soon, the conscious typing becomes unconscious! And you can be on your way to burning the keyboard.

The diagram below is self explanatory. The keys are color coded so that you know which finger should be doing the jabbing on what key. All this finger business is tiring!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Poison Air over Kuala Lumpur

There is no double meaning behind that title. IT is what it is. The quality over Kuala Lumpur remains dirty. I guess gossip was right in saying that Malaysian would grab anything that is free. In this case, it is the free smog courtesy of Indonesia.

The media of Malaysia are starting to ignore the smog/haze. Last week, I read about the tourism minister getting upset over the fact that the Australian and most European consulates had issued travel advisories about visiting Malaysia. He was saying how angry he was for being singled out, when the situation was equally bad in Singapore and Brunei. But, what he did not say, is that the government of Singapore has been more proactive in protecting its visitors against the poison air. For example, health advisories and health screens were stepped up. The media in Singapore spoke about the impending danger of breathing the noxious air. As a middle class foreigner, I have not experienced any kind of concern expressed towards my health. All that had happened was the thumping health expense that’s now exceeded my budget thanks to demand-supply relationship of the cost of medical care.

A concerned Malaysian named S. C. Chea writes:

First of all I must say that it is unusual that all English newspapers here including yours have chosen the word "haze" to describe this unhealthy air that has been produced annually by Indonesia since the 90s and that flows across the Malacca Straits to pollute neighbouring countries. "Haze" should not be associated with air pollution. The proper word for it is "smog" which is really atmosphere with suspended micron-size particulates wheras haze is atmosphere with condensed water vapour which was commonly experienced at places like Templar's Park in the 50's, 60's and even in the early 70's.

Having said this, the other thing is that we seem to have accepted its annual occurrence as if the two seasons in this country are not the rainy season and dry season, but the rainy season and smoggy season, and it is alright with us. Come on, what is wrong with Malaysia and all of us? Let us make no bones about this. Indonesia is the culprit. No need to make excuses for her - she is poor, she has wide territories to govern blah, blah. Even the Director-General of Tourism Malaysia said that the situation is not alarming.

The health of this nation must not be negotiable. Indonesia is responsible for causing untold damage to the health of our children and feeble senior citizens whether it is Indonesians doing the burning or Malaysian companies in Indonesia doing it. It is coming from the soil of Indonesia wafting across the Straits to pollute our air.

This problem is exactly like nations sharing the same river system. The country on the upper reaches of the river polluting the river is deemed to have committed an act of war to the country on the lower reaches of the river. Trans-border pollution whether polluting the water of another nation or the air of another must never be tolerated or condoned. The most recent case is the chemical contamination of a river in northern China which also runs through Russia to the Baltic Sea. Here is a one-off case and yet China has to pay damages to Russia. In Malaysia's case it is an annual affair since the 90's and it is alright with us because compared with other places it
is not too bad! The mentality of all of us is nothing if not amazing. We shouldn't and mustn't accept that Indonesia is too poor to do anything about it. Being poor is no licence to commit such atrocities!

S.C. Cheah

Very rightly, s/he points out some interesting facts.

1. People in Malaysia are getting complaisant about the fact that they are being systematically poisoned yearly. People do not realize that the smog carries with it long term respiratory complications including the increased susceptibility to lunch cancer.

2. The Malaysian media is not doing enough as an independent body to highlight the smog.
3. There a lot of political finger pointing with no real action. I would have expected some senior delegate to be in Indonesia right now to discuss the end to this atrocity. But, nothing of that sort is happening. Even if it was, the media is not saying anything about it.
4. Polluting the air around your nation is an act of war. I wonder how Singapore will react if Malaysia was to poison their water will just a little bit or arsenic.
5. How differently would Malaysia and Brunai have reacted if it was Singapore and not Indonesia that was causing the smog (I will leave my allusion to your imagination)

Every one seems to think that the rain will clear the smog away. How foolish can some “educated” people in important positions get? Nothing is going to change unless you stop the root cause of the smog. The burning in Indonesia MUST STOP immediately.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Bloody F***in HAZE - Updated 10-Oct

I write this blog at a time when I hear the sweet sound of thunder and see the dark clouds gather outside the noon sky. The sight of lightning, out side my office window helped me bring a sigh of relief. But for how long? But, the sudden rain disappears as rapid as it came, only brining the dreaded smoke lower.

If you are not sure what I am talking about, or were wondering if I was paying homage to the rain god… that’s not it… The haze in Malaysia has been horrific. No one in the government seem to care, and excuses range from “its not all over Malaysia”, “its not all the time”, “we are doing something about it”, “it isn’t at a dangerous level yet”, to the plain denial of the issue. However, make no mistake about it, most parts of Malaysia (including KL) have been blanketed by dense smoke. Visibility is sometimes reduced to a mere 50 feet. My eyes turned red, with the veins almost popping out. A fake doctor (yes, there are those too) said that its called conjunctivitis.

The explanations given by the government (if at all), are unsatisfactory. The fingers keep pointing at tree burning Indonesians. However, unsaid is what the Malaysian government is prepared to do to protect both its citizens and its visitors. To date, I don’t see any advisory about how to protect your self, what you can do, and what specific steps are being taken by the government to ensure that the people in Malaysia are being taken care of.

One MP when asked the question if Malaysia was going to protest to the government of Indonesia replied that ‘Malaysia can respond in many ways’ and goes on to talk about it being necessary to act rather than talk. However, these words don’t ring right, cause talk is all that has happened so far.

The Indonesian government has said that there’s nothing it can do and has requested people to pray for rain. That really sums up the kind of learnt helplessness that’s evident in this region. No one seems to care to wear a mask, or protect themselves.

People in Malaysia have grown complaisant about what is happening to them. Choosing to cover their faces with a handkerchief or a tissue, is an exception than the norm. One guy in the LRT laughed at me for wearing a mask. I told him to f**k off and jump in the flames if he has nothing to do. Life seems to go on. The picture that has been painted is that the haze is here for now, it will clear soon, and then things will go back to normal. Some even make it seem like a seasonal thing. Advisories such as “stay indoors”, “don’t exert your body”, “drink lots of water” are meaning less when no concrete health measures are offered.

Fake psychologists, fake doctors, and fake ministers of parliament! I don’t care about them any more. This haze is man made. Its criminal. Old people are choking and people will die as a result of it. There are hundreds or more who are falling ill. Those in power seem to want to “wait” for the weather gods.

In the mean time, I have got conjunctivitis, asthma, and a headache. I really really want to leave Malaysia.
The Malaysian Department of Environment has promised to take open burning serious. It also has updates of the haze levels in different areas in Malaysia. This includes your unfriendly neighbor lighting up the garbage. Its been made technically illegal to openly burn stuff in Malaysia. But, who’s really enforcing that any way? Besides, this haze is not due to the little fires created by the friendly neighborhood pyromaniac, its caused by the systematic burning of plantation in part of the crop renewal cycle each year.

Major media is reporting that the "wind direction has changed and so the haze is clearing". That’s a f**ing retarded way of saying that we have swept it under the carpet for now. The damage is being done, the fires still continue, but the wind of course is taking the problem else where...
ENVIRONMENTAL POLLUTION Complaints pertaining to the environmental pollutions can be made via mail, phone-call or submitted directly to the relevant Department of Environment State Office's. DOE's HQ Control Room in Putrajaya operates from 7.00 a.m. to 11.30 p.m. daily inclusive of weekends and public holidays. Complaints can also be forwarded to:
Department of Environment Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment
Level 1 - 4, Podium 2 & 3,
Lot 4G3, Precint 4, Federal
Government Administrative Centre 62574
Hunting Line : 03-8871 2000 / 8871 2200
Complaints Line: 03-8889 1972
Fax: 03-8889 1973/75
JASLINE :1-800-88-2727

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Smokers 1 – Nonsmokers 2!

At least that’s what happened from my point of view!

Yesterday, as I comfortably sat down to slurp a bowl of noodles at the food court (called the “mamak” in Malaysia) before attending my first day of grad school, watching the beautiful ‘birds’ walk past, it became apparent that in Malaysia, smokers light up where ever they please with no regard to the non-smokers.

The warm evening soon turned bad when this women in her 30ies sat in the seat in front of me, quietly took out her reading glasses, her the days news papers, and her lovely pack of cigarettes. What happened next was something that was well practiced and unconscious. Paper unrolls, reading glasses are worn, fingers reach for cigarette ever so gently, and slowly inserts the precious stick in mouth. Wait… she realized that she was missing her lighter. She then reached over to her hand bag, searched frantically as though it was her heart-medicine, nearly knocking over her cup of tea in the process, and found her lighter. The cigarette got lit, and she kept puffing away.

I love smokers because when they smoke, they want to share the beautiful smoke with other people and in the process, they get so excited that they fail to ask if the other people around them actually want their little delights. This little lady was no different. She keep sending her puff straight at my face.

Those of you who know me, will know that, the sinus in my nose has a life of its own. It tends to get really pissed when there are air contaminants and reacts with very violent sneeze. This condition has been pretty horrid to the extent that OTC nasal medication doesn’t work for me any more.

My reaction to this woman who was smoking my face was:


The first time I did that, I covered my face with a handkerchief (yes I own one), stooped down, and apologized.

And then it struck me. I am going to make sure that the next time I sneeze, I was going to do it on her face, and I was not going to be sorry about it.

This is exactly what happened in the twenty seconds that followed

Me: “aaachhhooooooooooooommmmmmm” (note: direct at her face while watching all the saliva go from me to her in slowmo)

Woman: *stares at me* (she was probably thinking that I was the ugliest creature alive hehe)
20 seconds pass by...

Me: “aaaaacccchhhhhhhoooooooooooommm” (note: you guessed it. Direction = her face. Accompanied by the tiny droplets of saliva from my mouth all in slowmo. Reminds me of a scene from the matrix. Saliva goes by while everything goes to slowmo.)

Woman: (really pissed off sounding really angry) “Don’t you know how to sneeze with your mouth close or say sorry” (she stares at me)

Me: “aaaacchhhhoooooooooooommm” (again at her face and sounding very angry and really loud) “EXCUSE ME… BUT YOU DON’T SEEM TO CARE WHEN YOU BLOW YOUR SMOKE ON MY FACE AND YOU DO SEEM TO THINK YOU HAVE TO APOLOGISE FOR MAKING ME SMOKE YOUR CIGGERATE”

Woman: (looks totally pissed off and ready to rip me off to pieces) “Bh…..” (interupting her)


Woman: (getting red) “ghrr…” (as i interupt her yet again)

Me: (Pissed off but in a calm tone) “Just shut up. If you think you have the right to smoke in the air that I breath, then its just too bad. If you want me to stop sneezing on your face, then stop smoking on my face. Get a lawyer if you cant deal with it”…


She: (looking irritated I guess.. I wasent looking at her any more) *gets up and leaves*

Students around me: (probably nonsmokers too) *start clapping*

Me: (in Bahasa Malaysia) “Abang ahh.. lagi satu tea-o-lima-o-panas” (translated: Brother, one more hot lemon tea please)

I am not going to be nice about the smokers out there. Some of those who smoke in Asia take advantage of the fact that the non-smokers have been too nice to them. These smokers surround themselves with an air of invincibleness. As a citizen of the world it is my RIGHT to live in a clean environment. It is my right to be able to be at a public place and be assured of clean air. I will do WHAT EVER it take to protect that right.

I shall not be nice about the fact that money hungry law makers don’t care about the welfare of non-smokers. I shall not be nice about the fact that besides “increasing the price of cigarettes” (a strategy that doesn’t really stop people from smoking because people will pay what ever it takes to sooth their addiction to nicotine) and the odd “tak nak” (meaning: don’t want) billboards, no real legislation is carried out.

You will see people smoking inside police officers, at bus stops, at hospitals, at railway stations, at government agencies, and other places of public interest. No real law exists that bans the use of cigarettes in such public places.

I shall then take have my own way of dealing with smokers.

“Accchhhhoooooooooooommmmm” And its going to be on your face.

Loving it!

The Fake Psychologist continues to pub hop… opps class hop. This time I love what’s going on in class. First day of “semi-graduate-school” and am studying among lawyers, med doctors, psychologists, priests, and other super duper students! Comments, thoughts, opinions are flying around at free will! The class is charged and is being facilitated by a super cool lecturer! I am totally motivated now!

One tiny step in the grad school world, and perhaps one step closer towards becoming a real psychologist!

There’s still the concern of finances at the back of my mind, but I choose not to let it bug me for now. Not dead yet!

And this means that yours truly will have more tales from the darker side ;)