Saturday, December 18, 2010

Wikileaks and the Hidden Force

The recent news about Wikileaks have made me realise that there is a more powerful force out there than the governments of the world. I'm not talking about the direct influence of government secrets nor the people conspiring to bring down Julian Assange (founder of Wikileaks). The force I am referring to is the people who threaten to bring down the most secured websites and financial systems that we once thought to be invincible.

When backers of Wikileaks threatened to bring down established sites like Twitter, Amazon, Visa, Mastercard and Paypal, my immediate reaction was, "Where did these people come from?!"

It's suddenly become like an episode of the X-Men movie - instead of a collision between the human world and the mutants; this is a collision between the governments of the world and the cyberworld.

I speak of this "force" with much respect, not because I support them, but because of what they are capable of doing, yet not done it. It only makes one wonder why? But since they have spoken, the threat is very telling about how vulnerable the internet really is. About how uncomfortable we should be now, considering the amount of information we've divulged in the internet over the years. These guys are not talking about some Mickey Mouse websites where we can dismiss easily. They are talking about websites that could trigger massive disruption to you and me and anyone who has a credit card; which is pretty much everyone in the world!

It did take a long while to exorcise the existence of this "force". Not even the hacking of the Pentagon by Chinese hackers has raised the alert of the cyber-Godfathers. Perhaps this in itself is the conspiracy to test the capability of the cyberworld.

Even if this was the intention, the revelation was very much different from the original. Instead, it was a revelation that governments are capable of acting as and when they want, even if it was within the ambit of law. This has also given traction to my believe that law can be simply tuned (or mistuned) to outlaw something or somebody that runs out of favour with the government.

If Newton's law of equilibrium were to apply, surely a hidden force must exist

Wikileaks have provided lots of evidence that the most powerful people in the world don't like seeing. The person who runs Wikileaks is only a journalist and an activist. This bloke is an ordinary folk like us and he is in trouble. How on earth an ordinary folk like us could match the forces that are coming against him? If Newton's law of equilibrium were to apply, surely a hidden force must exist.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Deluge of Snow in London

Frozen London on 2 December 2010. The office was eerily quiet. Many people were snowed in and couldn't get in to work. The Southbank gets a rare moment to itself - devoid of people, tourists and fast-pacing salarymen. A stunning backdrop in white punctuated by the rare sight of human lives dressed in black; the only time the colour of misery contrasts sharply with the colour of fantasy.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Birthday

I have turned a year wiser on Thursday. This was marked by a week of dinners and activities beginning last Saturday to this Saturday.

Last Saturday on 20th, Nina invited about 20 guests to celebrate my birthday and Aidil Adha with fellow Muslim Malaysians at her pad in Streatham. She specially cooked soft-shell crabs for me after asking what special meal I wanted for dinner. Felt really touched by the gesture as she refrained from cooking to the other guests until I arrived. Nina also made it excitingly special by uncorking a bottle of champagne to toast for me.

Soft shell crab

Nina's champagne

The next day on Sunday 21st, I treated myself to an early Christmas and birthday lunch with fellow colleagues and friends at Madsen, a Scandinavian restaurant at South Kensington. We experienced the traditional Danish way of celebrating Christmas with Dorte, a Danish colleague, explaining the order and significant of the dishes and drinks. What I understood from her is that Danish Christmas is a little bit like an extension version of the Chinese New Year, where people visit friends and family to eat, drink and get piss drunk for a week until New Year!
Dorte explaining the Danish Christmas traditions

Lunch at Madsen

On Monday 22nd, Petrina treated me to dinner at the Oxford and Cambridge Club at Pall Mall London. Petrina was from Jesus College, Cambridge and elevated her membership to the exclusive club for OxBridge Alumni. Dining there reminded me of formal halls; strict dress code and table manners. I wore a Wolfson College tie to enhance the "Cambridge" experience. Notable differences in the hall include diners as working professionals, not students in gowns and we are seated in round tables rather than the usual long rectangular Harry Potter dining tables. Just as formal halls, we started with a glass of sherry but didn't end with port though. We ordered cakes instead. I had foie gras with saute duck egg on brioche croute as starter and guinea fowl with grand marnier sauce and citrus fruits as main.

On Tuesday 23rd, I went to catch a live football match with Eskandar at Stamford Bridge, London. It was the Champions League where Chelsea was playing against MSK Zilina of Slovakia. Chelsea won 2-1. It was my first time seeing a football match live. Come to think of it, I have never seen a live football match in my life even in Malaysia! I'm a little bit late in this aspect of my life considering I have lived in England for more than four years now. But better late than never.

Chelsea vs MSK Zilina at Stamford Bridge

On 25th which was my birthday, I joined my colleagues and client for ice-skating at Canary Wharf. Skating in circle repetitively is boring if you already know how. So I interspersed skating with chatting with the Client and colleagues. It wasn't a big rink but it was well compensated by the great vibe in the area. If I fell flat on my bottom, I would see the rink surrounded by big banks and international companies like KPMG, HSBC and Barclays. Somehow skating in Canary Wharf provided a moment of inspiration. An hour of skating was more than enough. We adjourned for drinks at a nearby pub afterward. We couldn't have chosen a better one. The Fine Line seemed to be a favourite. It was teeming with bankers and salarymen from Canary Wharf.

Ice-skating at Canary Wharf

View when fall flat on the bottom

On Friday 26th I had drinks with my colleagues. The rule in the UK is that the birthday boy buys the cakes in the kitchen and continues with drinks outside. I hadn't had to stay long as I had to rush off for dinner with Noris who treated me to a sumptuous meal at Four Seasons. Half a duck and two main dishes between the two of us! It wasn't gluttony because we finished them all. He also presented me an Austin Reed wallet as birthday gift which was timely since the current one is wearing out.
Drinks with colleagues

Dinner at Four Seasons

This evening on 27th culminated the week of my birthday. I organised an Eritrean dinner at Adulis with 11 friends. Was extremely happy to find out that everyone enjoyed the Eritrean dining experience. It was something out of the ordinary. Despite temperatures falling below freezing in the whole of UK, they braved the treacherous weather to come for the dinner. For this I am extremely grateful. Fiona homebaked a blueberry and strawberry cheesecake which I enjoyed heaps. Irene and Noris shared a strawberry and chocolate cake. So there were two cakes to share around for dinner. A fortuitous encounter eating a combination of two cakes was more pleasant than I thought. They were so good people didn't hesitate packing the leftover slices. Received with many thanks presents from Fiona, Owen and wife, Eskandar, Vinita, Priti, Amy and Bakhtier.
Eritrean dinner at Adulis

Eritrean meal - meat and injera

Birthday cakes

Also many thanks to everyone especially daddy and mummy for your kind birthday wishes.

I would also like to regurgitate a Facebook wall message here:

Today 32 years ago the folks were looking down at the 7-month premature baby thinking what's he like when he grows up. I guess he's done pretty well with his friends. Thank you all for your wishes!!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Begging for Upbringing

I don't come from a posh family but my parents did teach me a thing or two about manners. I suppose this upbringing has enabled me to interact easily without the risk of making anyone upset.

Yesterday my six-year old friend in the house asked for a Christmas present in front of her nanny. "A, can you please get me this play house for Christmas, please please please?" she asked pointing to a Christmas gift brochure and showing a sad puppy face.

Little friend, Ka-Ya

Her nanny appeared shocked and immediately reprimanded her, "Excuse me! What did you say?!...Ka-Ya you are so rude, do you know that?! I am telling your mommy!" She was immediately summoned back to her room.

This is in striking contrast to what my Malaysian friend would do. She is a mom of three and would happily encourage the daughters to ask me buy them presents - Christmas, birthdays, scoring straight As in exams, etc etc. Whatever reason sells.

When I was young, this would have been disapproved by my parents. My brother and I were taught to work hard for something we want. Begging wasn't part of the lesson. We were brought up never to look a gift horse in the mouth let alone begging for one. It is one thing to announce birthdays and achievements but another to use them to beg for presents. And dare I ask what difference does it make as compared to the professional beggars in pasar malam? Both are beggars in training.

Professional beggar in pasar malam
(photo by sesku)

Recently I attended a birthday party. The event was in short supply of food when I arrived. There were still people arriving. Something had to be done so I volunteered to do a food run at a nearby supermarket. What took me by surprise wasn't the short supply of food but the manner in which I was asked to pay for the food I volunteered to buy. I was told, "Hey A, it's my birthday, why don't you treat this as my birthday present?" Alarm bells rung immediately. Something was very wrong.

Never mind this was on top of what I bought earlier to the house. That was altogether thirty bloody quid already to subsidise for someone else's party to look good. To put into perspective I would have happily spent thrice the amount and buy a separate gift on top of the food run if perhaps the request had been put nicely. But since it was asked upon me, I resented it.

My defense is simple and pardon me for being calculative. Will you in return give me a Christmas present? Will you in return buy me the new IPhone if I scored straight As in my professional exam? Will you in return spend 30 quid for a birthday present for me?

I am certainly perplexed if it's just me and my upbringing or the people whom I encountered happen to be different from the norm? Don't some people consider that the person they are begging from may have an untold difficulty too? Or are people like me supposed to be all graceful when being taken advantage of and accept it as a bloody fool? What about you? What do you think?

My Philosophy of Friendship

Friendship is an investment and I take my investments seriously.

Investment in friendship does not necessarily lead to spending money. However, on some occasions investing a little money to know the person better is a necessary evil.

In financial investment, things are straightforward. The good outcome is when you gain a profit and the bad outcome is when you lose money. It's a little different in friendship. The outcomes are assessed differently. I assess friendship by looking at the direction of the investment - is it one way or two?

One-way investments happen when someone becomes the absolute taker with no intentions of reciprocating in whatever circumstance. Unfortunately this type of people are a disappointment in friendship investment. These are people who will kick your face when you are down and knock you out when you are of no more benefit to them. Fortunately, this type of person is easily identified. Which is why I mentioned earlier that spending money to exorcise this type of person is a necessary evil. It is also a stop-loss in future investments. There is no room for such friendship in my portfolio of investment, so I get rid of them in a flash.

Two-way investments happen when there is a dynamic exchange of investments between both parties - mutual trust, respect, empathy and positive vibe with each other. Two-way investments are rare and far between. That is why, a good friendship is hard to come by.

Backed by this philosophy, I draw parallels to what I'm doing elsewhere in life. For example, I have started the cull in Facebook; trimming down from 683 "friends" to 400ish. Of this, only a select few are granted visibility. I am sure I too am assessed the same way by other people.

Monday, November 15, 2010

2011 London Tube Fares

The following is the approved Tube Fare for 2011 which I obtained from an "insider" who gave permission to share this out:

Off-Peak Price Cap
Zone 1-2: £6.60 (previous £5.60)
Zone 1-4: £7.30 (£6.30)

Peak Price Cap
Zone 1-2: £8.00 (£7.20)
Zone 1-3: Withdrawn (£8.60)
Zone 1-4: £10.00 (£10.00)

Bus Fares
Oyster Single: £1.30 (£1.20)
Oyster Cap: £4.00 (£3.90)
Cash: £2.20 (£2.00)

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Two and a half years after living in London and just across the road to the oldest commercial TV network in the UK, I went in to one of the studios on a priority ticket to see the live production of The Graham Norton Show. Ironically the chat show was a BBC production, a rival network to the ITV. But not much of a surprise with this sort of thing in the UK. Cross-fertilisation with rivals is commonplace here.

Graham Norton Show

Rihanna, Daniel Radcliffe, Colin Farell and Rhod Gilbert were present. Can't believe I met all of them in one night. I was particularly impressed with Daniel Radcliffe who rushed to the event from the movie premiere of his latest Harry Potter movie in the evening. He was shorter in real life than I thought! He shared that the craziest fans he had were from Japan. A Japanese fan gave him a rubber ear!

Rihanna announced her upcoming album "Loud" and sang the album's lead single "Only Girl" on stage to the rousing applause from us.

Certainly a memorable experience for me and hopefully the three of my friends.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Paris Marathon: Registration

I signed up for the Paris Marathon 2011 after failing in a bid for the London Marathon. The race cost me 90 inclusive of 10 insurance to get a full refund in case I pull out. This is the most expensive marathon I've paid to-date.

One of the requirements to run the Paris Marathon is to produce a medical certificate showing I'm fit to run 26.2 miles. It's the first time I ever needed to do that.

Today I had to rush back from work before five o'clock to go for a medical check up. Clinics here don't do 24 hours like kebab stalls. Doctors here only work on weekdays and till 6pm. So if anyone falls sick, it better be life-threatening in order to see a doctor in the hospital. Otherwise, see one on a weekday!

The checkup was simple but slightly humiliating. Not saying about nudity. Yes the normal heart rate checkup was done but what took me by surprise was the doctor asking me to do thirty squats with both arms stretched in front, in one minute. I felt like a school punishment because that was what my primary school teachers prescribed when we behaved like monkeys. So as I was doing the squats, I felt like back in SRK Bukit Bintang all over again.

It probably wouldn't be so strange if she did it with me like in a gym session. No, I take it back; it would be more strange! She was looking at me and I was looking at her while I counted the squats; just the two of us in a consultation room. Odd! Odd! Odd!

Squat like this

The initial reading was 120/63. A reading was taken immediately after the squats - 175/84. At this point, the doctor looked, shook her head and said, "Too high..tsk tsk tsk!" She laughed. Obviously she was trying to make me feel nervous. She took two more readings a few minutes apart. The readings were 150/74 and then 125/64.

"Ah! Good recovery. That's what I'm looking for. I'm happy to sign the form now", the doctor said, then penned her signature and put a stamp on the form.

After stepping out of the clinic, I looked at the name of the doctor. It read "Dr Lefeuvre". Sweet! A French! Now there's no way the French organisers are going to reject this!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Chilean miners - the miracle debate

Last week's international news were dominated by the successful rescue operation of 33 miners in Chile.

For some reasons, the operation has made me proud to be an Engineer and a Christian at the same time. Chileans are staunch Christians - Catholics to be exact. This catastrophe has tested anyone with a strong faith to the limit. The rescue operation lasted two months and would have debilitated the strongest of faith.

I have experience working with holes in the ground - from small trial holes to big tunnels. There are all sorts of complications associated to boring through vertically and horizontally e.g varied ground conditions, building settlements and cracks, unforeseen "craps" in the ground and equipment playing up. I was therefore biting nails when I read the Chileans were buried more than 700m below ground and the only way is to bore through 700m to get them out. I was doubtful anyone could survive the ordeal.

Working with tunnels and holes

To appreciate how deep 700m is, consider putting two Eiffel Towers on top of each other! And to understand the complication of boring at such depth, consider hammering down a 9" nail into the slender side of a plywood without breaking out from either side.

As an Engineer, I understand screw ups do happen at anytime even at the first 10m e.g deviation, hitting cavity or soft spots and groundwater pressure. I recently oversaw the boring of three tunnels the same size as the Chileans', with a total length of 200m. They took us three months to complete because of an unforeseen site condition. So, 700m would have its own set of problems. To compound the problem, 33 lives are under the machinery. Therefore, any collapse induced by the boring machines would have a devastating effect on the operation.

Long story short, two months later, the machine managed to get through 700m and exactly at the spot where the miners were trapped. Absolutely brilliant engineering!

The Chileans have a great ending to this story. They have prayed and their prayers answered. They set up camps around the site known as Camp Hope, and rightly so there was hope.

Yesterday morning there was a discussion in BBC about the Chilean miners. The discussion was more like a debate if this should be attributed to miracle or mere coincidence? How was it likely that 33 miners were trapped in a hole that didn't collapse with the surrounding ground?

A pastor said this could not be explained but convinced that this was certainly a miracle.

A human rights activist dismissed this possibility and said that it couldn't possibly be a miracle or divine intervention. He challenged that if there was a God, then where was He during the 2004 tsunami?

For me I respect both opinions but I would personally choose to think there was an element of divine intervention. Choosing to believe this doesn't in anyway downplay the established path of the rigour of science that helped rescue the miners. This is as good as drawing parallels to an HGV not reversing into me at site when I'm protected with concrete barriers, hard hat and with all the right PPEs.

Yes, there are two sides of the argument. Some will continue to use tsunami victims and trapped miners in China as anecdotal evidence that miracles cannot be supported and that they are purely psychological. The other side of the argument, as I feel is that these events are isolated but also relative in some ways. They made me realise that, "Bloody hell! The worst could have happened! Thank God it didn't!"

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Road pricing in the UK

Imagine one day, the North-South Expressway is toll-free. Imagine seamless travel from Bukit Kayu Hitam to Singapore without having to worry about Touch n Go credits. But also imagine the toll-free condition of the highway during festive and school holiday seasons...Read more.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Customer is always right

I never liked the customer service in London. Some shop assistants behave like I owe them a living. One day in a supermarket I asked for help to locate a cereal brand which I liked. Instead of explaining where to look for it, I was told that if I didn't see it, then it's sold out. The shop assistant didn't even bother checking if I knew where it was or that if it was really sold out.

Supermarket careless attitude towards customers

Another incident was dealing with a mobile network operator. Instead of resolving my problem with my voice call, the customer service officer had the gumption to ask why I didn't resort to texting instead!

With so much displeasure dealing with the people whom I owe a living, I decided to fight back. I decided to exercise my right as a consumer.

The first attempt was writing to the manager of the mobile network operator. I told the manager I was absolutely disgusted by the behaviour of his staff and that I was made to feel like I was in the wrong because of the way I used my phone. I received a call the following day with an apology. As a gesture of goodwill, the mobile operator awarded two months free line rental and a written apology in email and in text.

The second attempt was with EasyJet, the airline that inspired the founder of Air Asia. In my recent trip to Malaga, there was a 2.5-hour delay to flight departure. I was really unhappy when I nearly missed the car rental pickup because of the late arrival. I read EasyJet's policy and filed for an appropriate compensation. Anyone who's flown on no-frills would attest that it's easier to squeeze blood out of rock than for them to compensate passengers. I tried my luck and was delighted they responded with an apology and the amount we asked for.

The third attempt was my recent long-distance swim in the Thames. I bought a £325 high-performance wetsuit to swim in the competition. Everything went well until the last part when I tried removing the bib off my wetsuit. The adhesive held on to the wetsuit like a leech. And like a leech, it damaged the surface when I tried removing it from the wetsuit. That was exactly what happened to the wetsuit. A chunk of rubber was ripped out with the bib sticker leaving the neoprene exposed. I was horrified to see that happening to the new wetsuit. It's like driving your new car and being involved in a horrible accident on the same day!

Damage on wetsuit

I was really upset that I couldn't stop talking about it to my "supporters" and thinking about it the next few days. To put the matter to rest, I wrote in to the organiser and complained. I didn't expect a response but to my surprise the organiser admitted it was the bib sticker manufacturer's fault. She conceded I wasn't the first who complained. She offered to settle the complaint amicably by offering compensation in kind and fees for future races. I took account of the total compensation and it was well worth more than half the price of the wetsuit.

By now I would have given the impression that I complain a lot. But I would argue with that notion because I don't. I am a stickler for perfection. So I do commend and praise for good performance. This article proves just that. I have also commended the customer service officer for the car rental in Malaga who stayed back until 3am to sort out a car for me.

I have taken the position that I don't owe anyone a living because no one owes me one as well. Yes, customer is always right but most importantly, customer must do what is right.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


Recently I made a trip to southern Spain with three other friends - Noris, Eskandar and Nash. It was one of the most fun trips I had in Europe after my family's.

We had a bad start. The flight was delayed 2.5 hours, arriving at 2ish in the morning and nearly missing our car rental booking. We arrived at our hotels at 4am and took whatever rest we could before we hitting the roads.

What was thought to be a cursed start, never materialised. In fact, it was the start of a fantastic journey. Andalusia, I call it the magic of southern Spain.

I grew up learning about Andalusia in the history books. It was the starting point of Islamic civilisation in Europe. Christians, Muslims and Jews lived and celebrated the diversity of art, culture and power for seven centuries in Andalusia. This is no wonder Spain today has the most UNESCO world heritage sites after Italy. Many of them are in Andalusia.


With only five days to cover, we started at Malaga where we landed, drove to Granada, broke the journey at Jaen and Ubeda, before stopping over at Cordoba. We flew home from Malaga. We intended a relaxed trip. So we didn't try pushing to the west where Seville and Cadiz were. Both of these cities were highly recommended before we planned the itinerary. A relaxed trip it was, we managed to cover more places than we planned. Our ancillary trips include Marbella, where I bought a few HRC t-shirts for friends and I, and Torremolinos where the "sexy" beaches of southern Spain are.

The sun was shining everyday. Average temperature ranged early to mid-30 deg C everyday. We experienced 42deg C when we were in Granada. It was so hot it wore me down. It's like being in a sauna and you can't run away! Still it was a relieve from the miserable weather where we came from.
The number speaks for itself

The highlight of Granada was the Alhambra, palace of the Moorish rulers from mid 14th century. It is one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites in Andalusia and rightly so for a number of reasons. The intricate carvings of Arabic writings are echoed through the nook and cranny of the palace walls. It struck me standing in awe marveling the engineering and architectural splendour of the palace like the Vatican City of the Muslim world. Both are tourist sites but the difference is only one is functioning.

Alhambra courtyard

Fine carvings

We thought we have seen everything with the Alhambra until we arrived into Cordoba. Cordoba was like a country on its own. It didn't look Spanish. It ticked all the boxes of what I imagined Middle East to be like - palm trees, dessert-like, hot weather, exotic food and a little bit chaotic. Cordoba's answer to the Alhambra, is its Great Mosque. What is unique about the mosque is that it doubles as a Cathedral, called Our Lady of the Assumption. But it wasn't always like that. It was built and used as a mosque until the Spanish Reconquista (recapturing) of Cordoba about 300 years after it was built.

The Great Mosque (Mezquita)

Much thought was put into the building. The symmetrical design of the double arches were meant to provide an infinite sense of the mosque. The lower columns supporting the first layer of arches were designed smaller than second tier columns to accentuate a wider sense of space. The mihrab was constructed with 1.6tonnes of gold and was the highlight of the mosque. As beautiful as it was, then came the bombshell to put a Cathedral smack bang in the middle of the mosque. It was like sticking a knife right through the centre of a birthday cake and twisting it! The irony was converting it into a church was perhaps the best thing that happened to the mosque during the Spanish Inquisition where art, doctrines and culture from other faiths were destroyed.
Cathedral in the mezquita


A trip to southern Spain is not complete without a visit to the beaches. So we went to Marbella and Torremolinos to satiate our fascination with the sun, sea and sand. Marbella is "infested" with British tourists. Almost every corner we turned to is a British. You can easily spot one when they speak. Marbella does look like a posh beachside resort, and probably that explains why the only Hard Rock Cafe (known to be very selective) in southern Spain is located here.

There's just so much to talk about the trip which I didn't and couldn't possibly cover here - the food, flamenco, language, World Cup, warm people, hotels we stayed, museums, hospitality, surprises, stunning sceneries and friendship. That's just writing them but there's more traveling to do. We have Andalusia Part 2 where we will take on Seville and Cadiz. See you next year.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Salmon Fried Rice

I started making salmon fried rice since year 2000, inspired by the occasional visits to a Japanese buffet restaurant in KL.

I started with failure. The wok was burnt and the rice was soggy with uncooked salmon. It was a disaster. But it was failure that kept me perfecting this dish.

I experimented with different ingredients, different types of rice, different sauce, different sequence of putting the ingredients. I explored the science of taste and temperature.

This is the tenth year I am cooking salmon fried rice. I've lost count the times I've made this dish. But Blogger did give an account of me doing it in 2006.

Salmon Fried Rice

Last Friday was the latest. It was for Fatin and Hannanah's farewell. Their guests and them liked it. For the past gatherings and parties, people have liked it.

People have asked that I cook salmon fried rice again. Running friends request for it when I am back in KL. I guess it's safe to say salmon fried rice has become my signature dish.

This is the recipe (serves two):

1. Two Chinese rice bowls of refrigerated rice (preferably overnight using Japanese or fragrant Thai)
2. 200g of salmon fillet, cut to bite sizes
3. One teaspoon of ground pepper
4. Half tablespoon of fish sauce (alternatively you can use ikan bilis granules)
5. One egg (preferably organic)
6. One tablespoon of cooking oil (don't use low temperature oils like Olive)
7. Half bulb of garlic, chopped finely.
8. Half Chinese bowl of mixed vege (optional. I didn't put this but seems sensible for a healthy diet)
9. Salt to taste

1. Fried ikan bilis (small)

1. Heat cooking oil at medium fire
2. Fry chopped garlic until light brown
3. If using mixed vege, stir fry mixed vege at this stage
4. Stir in diced salmon. Salmon cooks and disintegrate easily, so stir until quarter cooked
5. Put in fish sauce and ground pepper. Fry until ingredients are well coated.
6. Put in chilled rice. Make sure lumpy rice are broken down in wok.
7. Break an egg into the rice and continue stirring. Egg will coat rice at medium heat. A way to see if you've done it right is by looking at the colour of the rice. If it's turned yellowish, you're there.
8. Increase fire at this stage so the egg will cook with the rice. Otherwise rice will turn soggy by the egg.
9. When the rice stopped looking soggy, turn fire down to low.
10. Add salt to taste and continue stirring.
11. Rice is ready to be served.

1. Before serving the rice, I recommend to garnish fried ikan bilis on the top. It will accentuate the taste and texture of the dish.
2. Will also go well with sambal ikan bilis
3. If you like eggs, it will also go well with a sunny side on the top!


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Prime Minister of Lithuania

Yesterday I attended a public lecture by the Prime Minister of Lithuania, Andrius Kubilius.

If you don't know where exactly is Lithuania, don't worry, I didn't know too when I first heard that he was coming to London. Lithuania is a country in Eastern Europe surrounded by Poland, Belarus and Latvia. It is one of the least known countries to me until I met the PM.

Lithuania's official vehicle in London

He gave a lecture on "Lithuania 2030". The title reminded me about our former PM's Vision 2020. Only thing this is a vision a decade later than ours. This is because Lithuania is still an infant, gaining independence only in 1990 from the Soviet Union. The country is barely a generation old!

Hearing from the PM himself, Lithuania is small in size, but packs a punch. Lithuania is registering the fastest growth in the Eastern European community, only second to Estonia.

One of the interesting facts presented by the PM was that Lithuania is a country that gave birth to 15 Nobel prize winners. These were mostly made up of Lithuanian Jews, which gave an interesting perspective of this country and the role it played in WWII and the Holocaust, if any. I shall look this up later.

The PM's presentation was done in an interesting and witty manner, interjecting with jokes in the slides. One of the funniest was when he juxtaposed Lithuania's economic performance in 2000 and 2010 under his leadership. He admitted jokingly that he didn't have a fantastic CV. He showed a slide of Lithuania's GDP of -1.7% in 2000 when he was at the helm of the country; 10 years later the GDP was -14.8% to which the audience burst into laughter.

The PM's track record in handling the economy

He quoted George Friedman that the balance of power within Europe will shift from the West to the East because of the dynamism in growth opportunities. He based this on the assumption that by 2030 the geopolitical geography will be very different in the following way:

1. EU will be consolidated and become more federal
2. EU-US free trade agreement will divide the innovative north and manufacturing south
3. The Baltics will catch up with the Nordics
4. Russia will have a lasting post imperial syndrome vs modernised European Russia
5. Belarus, Ukraine, Modova and Caucasus will transform as permanent gravitation to Europe.

Lithuania's calendar of dynamism. Basketball victory included! LOL

What took me by surprise was Lithuania's GDP drop by 15% also resulted in a drop in total nominal labour cost by 11%. The PM has admitted himself that many Lithuanians have fled the country in search of greener pastures. He himself took a pay cut of 40%!

I could draw parallels with Malaysia's problem of being stuck in a middle income trap, only difference is that our PM's salary has remained the same and increased with inflation. Malaysian engineers for example are not as fortunate. They earn the same salary as engineers twenty years ago! Lithuania is promoting world class standard workers for the price of third world wages. So if you want the same in Asia, look to Malaysia.

The PM was a Physicist before getting into politics 20 years ago

All in all, the PM's evening lecture was informative and presented in an entertaining way. Most importantly I have known so much more about this country than before and it has made me want to visit Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, one day.

I always feel grateful to be able to meet high-profile figures like this once in a while. Lest I forget, I should remind myself that this is one of the incentives of staying in this great city.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

First Hospital Visit

I was in the hospital yesterday.

It was the last resort because I couldn't remove a contact lens which was stucked and lost at the top side of the sclera. I knew I didn't drop it because I could nearly feel it lodged uncomfortably behind the eye lid.

I hurried out of the office and headed to the hospital across the road. At the reception, I was told the eye machine was not working. So I was sent away to another hospital.

I was referred to the Western Eye Hospital which was some 2.6km away from UCLH where I went. Once there I had to register as a new patient. I was told to wait for 20 minutes to be called. I was told a nurse would assess my eye condition before letting me see a doctor.

My name was called 20 minutes later. I told the nurse what happened. She rested me on the patient chair, took a torch light and inspected my eyes. She lifted the eye lid and asked me to look down.

"There, I think I saw it", the nurse said. She took a cotton bud and delicately removed the missing lens.

She displayed the lens on her index finger. "It's folded in half, that's why it got stucked. Do you feel okay now?" she checked.

I blinked awhile, closed my eyes and confirmed, "Yeah, a lot better."

The nurse dismissed me and said I was good to go. I didn't need to see a doctor.

She returned the lens and stubborn as I am, I wore it again and to be safe I did it in the hospital toilet. Thank God it didn't give me anymore problem.

I left the hospital and straight to the gym which I was already late by one and a half hours.

Monday, June 07, 2010

The Ampelmann

This is Ampelmann.

I have been meaning to write about the Ampelmann since returning from Berlin but thought the excitement to blog about it would fade away after awhile. It's been a month since I returned from Berlin and the image is still in my head. Like a virus in PC, it has refused to go. So I guess I must write about it to give it a final resting place.

The Ampelmann is the green man on the pedestrian light and represents a passing resemblance of the positive aspect of a failed East Germany social order.

When the Berlin Wall fell, East and West Germany were reunited. The status of the Ampelmann was suddenly thrown into uncertainty. The future of the Ampelmann was threatened.

There were calls for it to be taken out entirely not only because the Ampelmann represents the side of Germany many are not proud of but also because it didn't meet the road regulation standards of the new country.

However, the Ampelmann has acquired a cult status. There were cartoons of the Ampelmann. Teachers used the Ampelmann for children's road safety education. Publishers came out with Ampelmann bedtime stories. Kids loved the Ampelmann. This inadvertently made parents and adults love the Ampelmann too. East Germans were absolutely thrilled with the reunification but they didn't want to see the Ampelmann go.

This led the East Germans to launch a protest called the Ostalgie to bring the Ampelmann (and other East Germany icons) back. The protest was successful and the Ampelmann was saved.

Like all good bedtime stories, the Ampelmann lived happily ever after with his partner - the red man.