Sunday, May 31, 2009

A message of Pentecost

Pentecost is one of the major celebrations in the liturgical calendar. Today the priest adapted a story from "The Arabian Nights" and I thought it was a nice one to share:

"Once lived a poor man who believed in his dreams. He prayed to God that one day he will be lifted out of poverty. One night he dreamed that a man came and told him, "Your fortune is in a box in a big house; go and find it."

Believing in his dream but not knowing where to start, he told everyone of his dream. Everyone laughed at him.

Once he chatted up a policeman on the street. The police too laughed and poked fun at him saying, "Once I had a dream too. A man told me to find my fortune beneath a scarecrow. Yeah right! How can you believe in dreams! Silly you!"

The man realised that the policeman had just described the scarecrow in his farm and returned home. He removed the scarecrow and started digging the ground. There it was a box containing a chest full of money. His life changed forever."

There is the message and there is the noise. With faith and hope, God will lead us to his voice. Nice one.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The town of F*cking

When I received an email that there's a small town in Austria called "Fucking", I thought it was an internet joke.

Then I typed in the word "Fucking, Europe" into Google Map to verify. To my surprise, there was a result shown and it was in Austria!

I continued reading about the place in Wikipedia. Apparently, this place has been a hit with tourist and that stolen roads signs has become a major problem for the town!

There was also a joke about the place in Youtube.

What are people residing in this town called? This is really one of the strangest things I've read.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


I am no angel. That's the first point I must make clear.

When other people make mistakes I rarely get angry. That's because I make a lot of mistakes myself and expect the same patience to be granted to me.

I've never been more vocal than now since living in the UK. Everyone in this country is entitled to their opinions.

Freedom of speech and democracy thrive in this country. I guess this very attribute has built my confidence to agree as well as to disagree. People agree to disagree in this country and that's what I love about living in the UK.

However, recent events have compelled me to scream out in anger about how frustratingly idiotic people can be.

I respect it when people disagree with me as much as people respect me when I do the same. However, I find it difficult to accept when a disagreement is loosely argued with no convincing fact whatsoever.

Take for example, when I was pushing my bike to the bike rack two days ago, a lady knocked onto me from behind. She screamed, "F***!" I looked behind and there was this pair of eyes from hell staring at me. You could see there was so much anger in them they could've burnt me alive!

I kept quiet and continued pushing the bike forward. The lady raised her voice, "Not even a f**king apology?!"

I stopped, turned around and asked, "Excuse me, how can I knock you if you're behind me? And I was pushing my bike forward!"

The lady stood dumbfounded for a while trying to make sense of what I said (and probably never expected a Chinese fella to retort) and then went away mumbling profanities. Out of a sudden, she blurted, "Let God judge!"

I shrugged my shoulder and was like, okay, whatever.

In Brighton, there was a mother and a toddler. The toddler was probably 3 years old. We were in a bus and seated near each other. I have been observing the toddler throwing food at a passenger in front and screaming in excitement. She was doing that for five minutes but the old lady in front couldn't be bothered. The mother didn't apprehend the child too.

When the toddler bent in front and started screaming down at the old lady, the lady turned back and put the index finger at her lips and did a "shhh" at the toddler. You would think, alright, nothing wrong with that. I would have done the same and maybe done it much earlier.

Suddenly the mother screamed out, "Excuse me!", she repeated to get the old lady's attention, "Excuse me! How dare you!" The lady was trying to explain to the mother that the child was disturbing her and pointed at the fragments of food she threw at her. The old lady apologised nonetheless.

Even though it was none of my business, other passengers and I who saw the incident shook our heads in disbelief. I was probably looking at the most idiotic mother and spoilt child in the world!

At work I delegated a task via email to a person and as usual with a deadline. Three hours later, the person came to my workstation and told me that it was rude to put a deadline to her task. The argument was that a deadline would put unnecessary stress onto her and that I should've believed that she would deliver the work for me on time.

Thinking that the issue was resolved, she escalated the matter to the manager without my knowing. The manager spoke to me and concurred that I've done the right thing. In a joking manner, the manager assuaged the situation with a banter to her, "Of course a deadline is important! Especially in this project! Without a deadline, nobody will have a bloody clue when to deliver the games!"

In Malaysia, a conversation was recorded between a rude customer and a customer service officer of a paid TV company. My thoughts in a nutshell of what I mean by dealing with idiots:

**There are two more parts if you're interested.**

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Trip to Brighton

The weather was good and the sun was strong. I just came back from a day trip to Brighton. After bathing, I am still smelling like suntan lotion! I think I have applied too much of it. I do like the smell of suntan lotion, so it's okay. I should declare this as the new fragrance for the season.

Brighton was packed today

Enforcement officers in beachwear??

I have always wanted to go to Brighton because it was highly recommended to me. Brighton to me is not a big city. I reached the place in the afternoon but managed to cover the place in less than 3 hours by foot.

Brighton to most tourist is an entertainment beachfront on the southern coast of England. The iconic Brighton Pier coins this description.
Brighton Pier
Volk's electric train, first in the world

Brighton has the bohemian atmosphere and is a well known magnet for the queer culture. It is the home of LGBT*. Being the number one gay resort in the UK, Brighton is host to one of the very few official nudist beaches in the country.
Royal Pavilion

One of the things which I dislike about Brighton is also its strength - the beach. The beach is made up of pebbles rather than sand. It was very difficult for me to walk on. The only advantge I see with this, is that nothing will come in between your foot , swimsuit or bottom ,or it will hurt like mad!
The pebble beach

It doesn't take much to cover most of the places in Brighton unless you're a shopaholic. On a glorious day like today, Brighton looks like a fantastic place for work and play. If you're a naturist, all the better!

However, the English weather is a killjoy. I can imagine Brighton to be the most dreadful place to be in, working or playing, during the winter months. It's like striking a jackpot and then realising it's just a dream. Too good for looks, too cold for play.

With the surplus of time I had, I bought a day bus pass to travel out of Brighton. I went eastwards to Eastbourne and covered a few more beachfronts. I attempted to go westwards to Shoreham but it was already too late for that. Traveling out made me discover the splendid coastal make up of the area and that Brighton is still the best.

At certain areas like Saltdean, the beachfront was plain mud. To be fair, Saltdean also offered one of the most stunning views of the surrounding cliffs. Hopping out of Brighton was an enriching experience.
Stunning view of cliffs and rock climbing spot in Saltdean

I have also discovered places for rock climbing and learn what some locals do on a good day but too cold to swim in the sea. They either walk their children, dogs, or go nude in the sun in a secluded spot at the cliffs.

*LGBT = lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender

Saturday, May 23, 2009

New bike

After reading several reviews and one from Joan, I am convinced that a mountain bike will work better for me than a folding one.

Today I bought the CBR Canyon race series mountain bike. This has set me back £150 but still cheaper than its initial price tag of £250. I had a bargain. Best of all it came with a bike pump and a lock.

It wasn't easy coming to this decision. I had all the while wanted to get a new bike but riding a new bike in London is like putting a bone in front of a Rottweiler and expecting it not to be stolen.

I have heard and seen expensive bikes being stolen almost every month! The thieves here know no boundaries of whose bike to steal. Even "celebrities" like David Cameron, who's the leader of the Conservative party in the UK, had had his bike stolen twice! So what makes me any special to be immune from such risk?

So I was initially tempted to get a folding bike. After all, it was all I needed.

I could fold and stow the bike under my desk at work or put it in the trolley for groceries like what some people are doing.

After weighing the option of a folding bike, I took a look at the benefits of a bigger bike. I was tempted by the longer rides a bigger bike could do than a folding one. I have signed up as a waiting list candidate representing my company for the London-Brighton bike ride in June. And more recently I am thinking about doing the London Bikeathon as well. With these events on the horizon, I could only justify buying a bigger wheel bike.

London is a little "rough". So getting a road bike is not suitable too. That is why I have opted for anything between a hybrid and a racing mountain bike.

Even though I am not planning to do any stunt with my bike, I am confident it can take the abuse. It was made for that.

The one I bought is an aluminium beast. It comes with dual suspension and twin disc brakes, all the stuff that will protect the bike and the biker's bottom from breaking apart while riding over potholes and down steep kerbs as well as the rough treatment of others at the cycle rack.

However there are disadvantages with a bigger bike. I see it as a concern. I would now run the risk of having it stolen much easier because this means I must park my bike in the public. And because security is a concern, I would have to invest in better and bigger locks. This means more money to spend!

I hope my new bike will not be stolen too soon. I still have my old bike. She is still the old faithful and has served me well for three years now. I will not get rid of her. I'm very grateful to her and she is still beautiful in my eyes.

New and old

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Get behind me, coffee!

Coffee is the most nasty thing people can do to their bodies.

My coffee intake was as little as three cups a year before I came to the UK. Since then, I have been drinking coffee to survive anything - sports, work and travel.

Now I can down four cups a day. I am officially an addict.

Aware of this shameful fact, I started cutting down on caffeine two months ago. I began by resisting the coffee temptation whenever I am sleepy. I gradually cut down on coffee and disciplined myself to only drink a cup of coffee after lunch.

Now I can live without coffee. I found that the effective way to do that is to break out from work whenever I'm sleepy. Sometimes I hold out a conversation with my manager on the series of questions I have gathered from start. But still the most effective way is to be able to talk to the scariest personality in the office. I will not sleep after that.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Ebay is rubbish

Have you ever needed something as much as you hated it?

What about medication? What about sitting for an exam?

Now, what about trading with Ebay?

I have been using Ebay since 2002 in Malaysia to get some good bargains. I've also used it to offload stuff that I no longer use and made good money from the service.

I'm using Ebay even more now that I've moved to the UK.

Ebay has grown from a humble online auction site into a giant conduit of trade now. Ebay has produced many self-made millionaire entrepreneurs from online trading. I would like to be one some day but at the rate things are going, it may take 250 years!

I noticed in my last 15 transactions, trading in Ebay is becoming more and more expensive. As a seller, I am charged an insertion fee to list an item. Once an item is sold, I am charged a final value fee. When the buyer pays with Paypal, I am charged a fee again. To send the item to the buyer, I have to pay the postage.

By the time an item is sold, 16% is sliced off your selling price just on fees alone. 20% with delivery. Take for example, I sold an equipment recently and this is how much was left from the sales:

Selling price: £27.98
Cost: -£19.00
Listing fee: -£0.50
Final value fee: -£3.21
Paypal fee: -£1.15
Postage: - £2.36

Profit: £2.26 (8% margin)

If you look carefully, I can very well make a loss had I made a sale of only £25.

Because of the exorbitant fees, sellers are now pricing their items more intelligently to include these hidden cost. With such "intelligence" behind, they have also risked pricing themselves out of the market. This means less attractive to buy from Ebay than from online stores!

Recently, I was looking to get the new Garmin Forerunner 405CX watch. It was selling for £241. It wasn't cheap at all! I could have bought it for £209 at the London Marathon sales!

According to the seller, the price was inclusive of postage for £28. Then I started questioning the rationale behind the price. What was this seller sending me with £28 postage fee?! A golden calf from Australia?! It's just rubbish!

If only some big names can compete directly with Ebay, I will be the first to vote with my feet! The problem is, there isn't any. Yahoo Auction is dead.

There is still hope though. I have started paying attention to Gumtree. Gumtree is the UK alternative to Ebay. It is more powerful than Ebay. Not only can sellers and buyers trade there, they can also use the site as an online community classifieds. In fact, that's where I found the place I'm currently living!

Selling things in Gumtree doesn't entail any fee. It is a medium for buyers and sellers to transact and agree on a method of payment. However, this lack of control can also be a bad thing. Without a governing body, abuse can happen more rampantly by those who are intent of doing so.

Of course, at the grand scheme of things, one can only question how frequent could these dodgy transactions happen anyway. Besides, common sense must prevail when we're trading online. If I can be so dumb to be fleeced in Gumtree, I can be just as dumb to be fleeced in Ebay in the same way.

If there is a risk in achieving 20% savings in sales by trading in Gumtree, I think can live with it. What I cannot live with is parting 20% of my sales to an institution that gets it payment from the effort of others and does nothing except providing a few kilobytes of virtual space to list an item. Ebay is just rubbish.

Monday, May 11, 2009

I won, my foot!

Today I won a camera. A compact 10MP digital camera - the Lumix DMC-FS5.

I am a sucker for competitions. When my office ran a design competition two months ago, I jumped at it.

The idea of my design didn't come immediately. It came during one of my marathon trainings. I quickly drew it up on a piece of paper upon reaching home and later transferred it into a design template, which was a pair of feet. We were asked to use the pair of feet and come out with a design related to Project O.

When I submitted my design, I didn't expect much from it. After all, there were many other submissions from the office. One of my colleagues even submitted three entries when he saw that I submitted mine. No, he's not Singaporean. I didn't say twenty! When the coordinator asked if I would like to do the same to increase my chances, I declined.

I begged to differ on such philosophy. I do not believe in producing two or ten good enough designs. I just need to produce the best design. So I stayed on with one entry. Other colleagues pressed on with multiple entries.

And it came with a 4GB memory card and three years extended warranty!

Today the results were announced. My pair of feet came out as the winning design. I won the top prize.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Shakespearean bug

It's spring and it's good weather. I have caught the Shakespearean bug.

I was in the open day of the Shakespeare's Globe three weeks ago. The public was treated to a day of Shakespearean activities like costumes, play, exploration and appreciation of the sonnet, music, workshop, competitions as well as a chance to perform a sonnet at the Globe stage.

The Globe

At the open day a world record to have the most people reciting sonnet 29 was also attempted . Four of us who went took part in it. We were filmed in costumes.

The Silly-world record attempt

Since then I have grown to appreciate Shakespeare's works and booked tickets to see his plays at The Globe. I went to see Romeo and Juliet yesterday and liked it so much that I kept thinking of one particular sonnet.
Romeo and Juliet

This morning I woke up to the sonnet and its profound meanings that left a deep impression on me. Somehow what I remembered came out to be different from the real sonnet.

The version that I kept remembering was:

"For such great hatred has devoured your most loved possession, that love itself has killed them in the end!"

But the original was:

"See, what a scourge is laid upon your hate, that heaven finds means to kill your joys with love."

Even though the essence and the meaning didn't veer off too far, still there must be something not right with me for I want to talk in a language which is not an everyday spoken language!

Ah! For I shall seal this mouth of outrage for a while, until I clear these ambiguities, and know their spring, their head, their true descent!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Trip to Lake District

I was in Lake District during the bank holiday. There were five of us.

A spectacular view of Lake District

We left London on the Friday evening. The journey took us 7 hours to reach Hawkshead, which was the first stop in our trip. Hawkshead is one of the villages in Lake D.


I was the only one with a UK driving license, so I had to drive all the way there. I was knackered by the time I arrived into Lake D.

But I was lucky to have four very creative passengers who kept me awake throughout the 480km drive.

At one occasion, a car swerved to our direction. I was really lucky to be wide awake at the time and managed to react quickly. The crazy car skidded and spun 360 degrees and fell behind us. We escaped unscathed. I looked at the rear mirror and saw the traffic behind us was brought to a standstill. I believe the driver cheated death since there was no news of an accident on the motorway that we traveled on, the next day when I read the papers.

I knew something far worse could have happened. I kept praying after that thanking God for our lives!

I was so wide awake after that but you wouldn't believe it that all of us played word games until we reached our destination!

We could immediately feel the difference in air quality when we stepped out of the car. The air was so much fresher and lighter.

There are many villages in Lake D just like how Cameron Highlands would have Ringlet, Tanah Rata and Brinchang. The big names in Lake District are like Windermere, Coniston, Ullswater and Derwent Water. These are names of the lakes in Lake D.
Black slug on the walking trail

We did plenty of walking thanks to good weather in the days we were there. The walking routes were not far but took us hours to reach. A typical 2-mile route took us nearly 2 hours to reach because of the difficult terrain.

Wet and muddy trail

Grizedale Forest

We drove to our destinations in most parts of our trip. We covered and saw more places, like Windermere, Derwent Water and Coniston by doing that as compared to cycling, which was recommended to us earlier.

And talking about cycling, it was such a coincidence we bumped into a group of Malaysians while returning from our walking route. One of them was my Samad-Subang acquaintance! How likely was that? And they were cycling in Lake D! This is either a small world or there are just too many Malaysians in the UK!
Eddie was cycling with another group of Malaysians when we bumped into him

The vast expanse of grassland dotted by sheeps, lambs and cattles reminded me of the suburbs in Australia. I had a mental snapshot of the the calm and serenity of the place. This is probably what I'll fall back on when I'm down and sad.

There were plenty to offer in Lake D. One of the major attractions was the world of Beatrix Potter, author of children stories like Peter Rabbit.

Beatrix Potter

Then there's Coniston Water famous for Donald Campbell's attempt to break the speedboat world record that ended tragically.

We moved on to Keswick on the second part of our trip. Keswick is located some 32km northwest of Hawkshead. We based ourselves in Keswick to do the more challenging walking routes and simply to explore other parts of Lake D.


We did the walking route in Derwent Water which was just a short drive from Keswick. The walk required us to ascend a part of the hill nearby called the Cat Bell. The steep ascend has proven too much for two in the group. We later aborted our plan for Cat Bell and spent more time at the lake instead.
Three-quarter up Cat Bell overlooking Derwent Water

Pencils came from here

Four days in Lake D was just about right to explore the place even though more days would have been better. I'm glad we left on the fourth day because it started pouring when we left. It was another 7 hours drive back to London.

It was a relief to arrive into London safely after such a long drive. No sleepy drivers swerving into our lane this time. Ever since arriving back into London, I have been sneezing and having running nose non-stop. The body must have been trying to re-adapt to the nasty air in this city!

Friday, May 01, 2009

Yes! A pig flu!

Hope this will cheer you up.

A few of us were discussing over lunch about the seriousness of the swine flu. At one point Sue who was seated behind me asked "What exactly is a swine flu?"

I interjected "A pig flu!"

Jim seated nearby exclaimed "I knew they could!"

There was a momentary pause. Then laughters.