Sunday, November 6, 2016

Professor Wang Gungwu

I have heard of Professor Wang Gungwu for a long time; I even had the opportunity to speak with him on a few occasions when we were both guests in some functions. However, it was not until April this year that I had the opportunity to pose a picture with him when he was speaking in a function at the National University of Singapore. He spoke for more than an hour on ASEAN. It was so insightful that even two University of Pennsylvania academics that I invited along were totally mesmerized. He literally dished out tons of facts and figures without the need for any notes! And look at the picture; Professor Wang is already 86 years old.  

Professor Wang is so renowned that it would be superfluous for me to say anything about his background. But I do take pride in the fact that he was once a professor at the University of Malaya, which is where I did my Bachelor in Engineering.


When I was languishing in Singapore’s Tan Tock Seng Hospital following an injury caused to my left foot by a reckless cab driver while I was crossing the road during a morning walk with my wife, a thoughtful friend Professor S Gopinathan brought Wang Gungwu’s Community and Nation for me to pass time. That was the first time I understood the depth of Wang Gungwu’s scholarship. He was part-author, part-editor in this book. Before reading this work of his, I thought I knew a great deal about the history of Chinese overseas.

How little I knew!

I recently stumbled upon another book by Wang Gungwu: China and the Chinese Overseas. I could hardly put it down!

If you think China is right about its 9-dash Line in the South China Sea, please take a read of this book. Incidentally, there is not even a single mention of this 9-dash Line in this book. I leave it to readers to form your own conclusion. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

From Cell Phones to Commercial Jets

I am a cheapskate when it comes to smartphones. In Melbourne, I signed up with Optus many years ago and since then have been given the opportunity to own the latest iPhone “FOC” each time I renew my contract.

iPhones are goldilocks to me; they are just right in everything. You don’t get unpleasant surprises.

But I spend quite a bit of time overseas. I am too lazy to keep changing SIM cards. I therefore equip myself with spare phones to house local SIMs. Alcatel sold by Australia Post was very affordable. It was very easy to use. But I soon I noticed that many SMS messages appeared only days later. That was bad; I decided to go slightly up-market and bought myself a Blackberry Z10 when I was in Singapore.

I used to be issued with BlackBerry in the mid-2000s. I could send and receive emails as long as there was signal. Typing was effortless. I could not do without it. But this Z10 was so different from the BlackBerry I knew. It must be the most “not-so-smart” smartphone in the market!

To perform a simple task, you have to swipe here and swipe there, all very confusing indeed! But what makes me hate the phone is this: for no reasons, its alarm would suddenly go off. (How would you feel, when it was 11:50pm, or 10 minutes before midnight, when it happened?) The reset was too complicated for me to handle. In the first place, who would make such a silly request? I definitely would not want to be woken up 10 minutes before midnight, would I?)

But I had to live with this silly BlackBerry when I was outside Australia.

Kaeden and Maxel recently followed us to spend this school break in Kuala Lumpur. Kaeden, who is now in Year 7, had been wanting to get a smartphone. He knew what he wanted; he chose a RM500 Oppo. I also asked my wife to get one, which she is finding WhatsApp useful. (Hitherto, she had been using a Samsung 2G phone, She said she only needed a simple phone to receive and make calls.)

I settled for a RM500 Lenovo model instead. What a mistake!

Both Oppo and Lenovo are made in China, but you can see a difference on closer look. The latter is like a Chery and the former, a Toyota. Lenovo is Chinese-owned; Oppo, I understand, is not. No wonder, notwithstanding the former’s IBM DNA!

With Oppo, the keypad is exact, whereas in the case of Lenovo, you need to have a strong finger to effect your command. The Lenovo homescreen is also too cheeena, at least in terms of colours. I should have listened to my grandson!

Just as I was still trying to make myself comfortable with my new Lenovo toy, I saw this Channel NewsAsia headline: Delayed take-off for China's own regional jet: China's homegrown ARJ21 jet has yet to fly any fare-paying passengers after initially scheduling its first commercial flight on Feb 28.

Was I surprised by the news?

Certainly not! Why? Because it is 100% Chinese!

China may have the Engineering “knowledge” to make Airbus 380, but it will still take many years before its ARJ21s are confidently used by non-Chinese airlines. China simply does not have the right quality, safety and taste culture ingrained in its society to make the likes of Boeing, Rolex, Mercedes, and what-have-you YET!

I hate to say this (and many of my friends will "kill" me for it too!): In respect of quality, safety and taste, Chinese still have a great deal to learn from their arch rival (or enemy). You know who they are, don't you? 

Monday, April 4, 2016

All These Dumb Developers!!!

There are many dumb developers in the Klang Valley. I don't have to leave my apartment far to spot them. The couple of them within walking distance more than qualify to receive my medal of ridicule.

Citta Mall is one of the first among them. Malaysian weather is so hot and humid, the complex is not air-conditioned, yet the place has not been designed for air flows. No wonder it is still more than half empty even though it has been around for many years already. The developer also doesn’t seem to understand the word “catchment”. It is not pedestrian friendly to the residents nearby, who are basically their market. The surroundings are full of potholes, wild grasses and dangerous culverts. The tunnel at the Ara Damansara-Saujana Resort looks like a dungeon. One with common sense would have caused the authority to clean up the place for it to stream visitors through. Someone told me that it is owned by Lee Ka Shing; can you believe that?

The new addition is Nova Saujana. The condominium looks impressive enough. Its ground level houses Hero Supermarket and a Chinese restaurant. There are still a few shoplots waiting to be tenanted. But OMG, how do you go there? The developer must be some kind of armchair entrepreneur. Or have they just depended on their more dumb planners and architects to tell them what to build?

The Saujana Resort or Ara Damansara precincts are their logical market catchment. But I won't risk my life to walk there. Sure, one can always drive there, but the one kilometre journey might take you more than half-an-hour, thanks to the gridlock traffic condition that you often see along this stretch of Subang airport road! Bodoh, really!

And a little down the road is Hijauan Saujana, a massive apartment complex which has just been completed. The only way in-and-out of the complex is through a dual carriage but single lane underpass that leads to the only thoroughfare in Suajana Resort. Can’t imagine the situation when the units are more taken up.

A little further is ‘Evolve”. It is still thinly occupied. Let’s wait until it is more occupied to see how it is going to screw up the narrow road that serves such a development! No wonder it is named ‘Evolve’!

But the ‘dumbest of all the dumbs’ honour should go to the mighty Sime Darby. Its Ara Damansara township offers the best ‘How Not To Build’ lesson in property development. Roads have been badly planned and you have pockets of commercial blocks here and there. Most have ended up as automotive service shops! And rubbish are piling up everywhere.

Maybe these developers did not have to use their own money. The money must have come easy from their “Ah Kongs”.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

KawanU: "Trusted, Reliable & Reputation" Bull-shit!!!

After returning from Melbourne last week, I found my 4-year-old Toshiba fridge in my Serai Suajana apartment not refrigerating at all. I approached a fridge dealer in SS2 for help; unfortunately he couldn’t give me any priority. Out of anxiousness, I surfed the net and came across this KawanU site.
"Trusted, Reliable & Reputation" Bull-shit!!!
It was impressive, except the English. One of its leaders read: Trusted, Realiable & Reputation, followed by “You can try our service, and we always strive to give our best service & solution. Our reputation on satisfied customer, which they willing to always introduce their friends & relative to us.

It was obviously cheeena English, but never mind; I gave the number a call.

Two men duly appeared. “Oh, I see the problem! We have to replace the heater. We have to cart it to our workshop. The heater would cost 399 and workmanship 80. A deposit of 100 is payable.”

They were taking my fridge and yet I had to pay a deposit of 100? Moreover, why should they take the heavy fridge just to replace an element?

Again, never mind lah, since this is what Malaysian tradies do in the country. What choice do I have?

A day later, the office called up. “Water has gone into your sensor; it will cost 121.” Again, what to do?

“We will deliver the fridge on Saturday morning,” the chap over the phone promised.

Came Saturday, no call whatsoever from KawanU. I tried at least 20 times to reach the mobile number that was given. I could only hear the standard “leave a message” voice mail.

I finally got through to them on Monday morning.

“Oh, sorry; someone passed away. We had no handphone to contact anyone.”

That’s the Malaysian way of doing “asset control”, I suppose. Never mind lah, since they had an unforeseen situation.

The fridge was finally delivered. On closer scrutiny, I found the freezer door could not close properly. Again never mind lah, since it is not a new fridge.

We went to the market to pick up fresh supplies – fish, meat, etc.

After a couple of hours, my wife noticed that the fish and meat were not freezing.

It WAS not working.

We called KawanU.

“We will check it out and come back to you in the afternoon.” This was the last time I heard from them.

Fish and meat could not wait; we went straight to pick up a new fridge.

So much for the type of reliable service KawanU is bragging about!

But I just cannot understand why Malaysia-made products do not last. I have a Maytag fridge in Melbourne. It has been with us for donkey years. I had to repair the thermostat once, but the repairman was very professional. He didn’t have to cart the fridge back. I remember it cost only A$150 for the whole job! It is still running strong now.

Don’t count on KawanU to repair your stuff! It is better to go to a dealer you know!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

What a relief; I got rid of my BM323i!!!

I finally got rid of my BM323i!

I sold my less-than-two-year-old 200A Benz last year to take over my son’s car, after seeing that he could not get rid of it at a decent price. It was bought tax-exempt in 2009. We thought the market value was about MYR125K. Alas, the highest offer we got was 90K. If we sold at that time, we had to pay excise duty of about 14K.

I decided to keep it myself. But it was a disaster from Day 1!

The air-conditioner was not working well, so was the cooler and the washer pump. A few thousands gone! Next we were advised the suspension had to be replaced, again a couple of thousands. Next the sensors, followed by ignition coil. I had to send it for “treatment” each time I came back to Kuala Lumpur. I even joked with the workshop owner William Ng that he had cast a spell on my car; it must visit him each time I was in town. (I decided not to go to Bavaria; they were just marking around each time the car was sent there for service. As a matter of fact, the car was all along maintained by Bavaria. How could they not detect all the impending faults? I have now come to understand that their service “consultants” are cons in the first place. Without computers to tell them, they are as blind as you and I in engineering matters!)

In that one year, I must have spent more than 20K to repair the car.

Chu, the dealer who bought my A200, could only offer 71K for the BM. With this I had to pay about 12.5K on excise and sales tax.

But I was most relieved! On taking delivery of the car, Chu gave me a lift to Cycle & Carriage to pick up a Benz C200 I had ordered. On the way, he noticed that the gear train was not smooth. Too bad, Chu; that’s your problem!

But BM is so popular; I suppose people buy it because many are “company” cars. BM appeals because their models look flashy. I will never buy one myself!

Yes, you can say Benz is old man’s car. If the batch can also be found for vehicles used in rough and tumble conditions, such as heavy trucks and commercial pick-ups, you can rest assured the engineering is first-class.

Try one yourself. Don’t go with the herd; be more discerning! 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

High IQ = Low Commonsense?

I used to hold many hitherto academically brilliant contemporaries in awe. I admired them for their ability to solve very complex scientific and mathematical problems and to cite facts and figures as though they are in their fingertips. Many still have such abilities, but they appear totally dumb dumb when it comes to common sense stuff.

One of them sees a conspiracy in every event that captures world headlines. He is certain that MH370 was hijacked by Americans and ISIS was the creation of the Americans. The world's financial system will soon undergo a global currency reset, again thanks to stupid American Dollar. Now the good Asian Elders who are the real owners of all the gold in Fort Knox, and hence been controlling all the “Global Collateral Accounts” for the past decades, are galloping to save the world. They are about to neutralise the evil and greedy Americans soon. And soon Obama will resign to give way to a new president and America is already called the Republic of the United States if America. So on and so forth!

If you goggled Global Currency Reset, or Global Collateral Accounts, or the Republic of the United States of America, you would see tonnes of articles on them. But none is from the mainstream sources - the Federal Reserve, any central bank, or any university. To him, the lack of such credentials simply goes to prove that his contentions are right. These people are trying to hide the truth from us!!! 

This friend of mine placed this wager with me three months ago. I would have to buy friends an MYR500 dinner if by 15 March 2016 one of these events took place: Global Currency Reset or Obama leaving the White House. If none of this happened, he would pay for the dinner instead. On 16 March, I wrote to him, not to claim the prize, but to try to shake him out of his dreams. And he literally replied to say that he had NOT lost. The Global Currency Reset was already in place and asked me to expect Obama’s resignation in a matter of days!

How can he believe in such nonsense? Mind boggling indeed!

This same friend of mine came years ago to tell me that he had been entrusted by a powerful party to cash out his USD97 billion bonds. Yes, USD97,000,000,000! He showed me the certificates. I had never seen one before, but the quality of the paper and the wording in the certificates certainly looked impressive. He said he would be rewarded with a percentage, which would run into hundreds of millions. I really didn’t understand what he was supposed to do to deserve this reward.

But I asked him, "Who are you to them for them to want to give you these many millions?" He never gave me an answer, but I supposed in him he must be saying this, “Let’s me show you!”

I don’t believe he has collected a single cent, let alone millions. But after squandering all his nest egg on this rainbow, until today he still believes that he failed because he couldn't come up with the last "bit" to make it work! 

My Indonesia-born son-in-law who runs a law firm in Melbourne told me that he was recently approached by a compatriot client to help authenticate billions worth of bond certificates that he had been entrusted to handle. I suppose this case is the same as my friend's. This is already twenty years later, yet the same myth still persists! (The client walked away disappointed, thinking that my son-in-law's incredulity was misplaced!)

There appears to be a common trait between this client of my son-in-law and my aforesaid friend. According to my son-in-law, this client is no bodoh stuff; apparently he is pretty outstanding academically. And he really believes in conspiracy theories!!! 

I can now perhaps put up this hypothesis: Inclination to believe in conspiracy theories is directly proportional to one’s IQ?

Is Global Currency Reset for real? For those who are interested, I suggest you read this book by Marcus Curtis. The Kindle edition cost only a couple of dollars.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Oath-taking in Kung-tze traditions

I was forwarded this article from Indonesia’s Jakarta Post. It shows the new speaker of the legislative council of North Sulawesi was taking his oath on Kung-tze’s (Confucious) Sishu Wujing (四书五经, Four Books, Five Scriptures). My friend was trying to say that Indonesians are now liberal and tolerant. 

I had the opportunity to be actively involved in the launching and running of two businesses (Shipping and Oil Palm Plantations) there between 2005 and 2010 (not to mention that my son-in-law is also an Indonesian, albeit principally of Chinese descent). The role required me to visit many parts of Indonesia. I must say indeed Indonesia has gone a long way and is now largely a very progressive country as far as religion and race relations are concerned. But this fact remains: mentality on religion and race is still very much parochial in nature. Like a dormant volcano, intolerance can erupt if the magma chamber is disturbed. And there are quite a number of magma chambers in Indonesia!

Indonesia is a big country. Its geography of 17,000 islands is mind-boggling and population of more than 250 million is ethnically and linguistically diverse (something 300 and 750 respectively).

I personally am of the opinion that at higher political levels, one should not try to accentuate his cultural identity. Moreover, Confucianism can hardly be said to be a religion. (The greatness of its philosophy is really another matter.) Wouldn’t the country’s Constitution be a more appropriate instrument for this new speaker to swear his allegiance on? (Has anyone heard of such a swearing-in ceremony in China, or Korea, or Japan, or Taiwan, where Kung-tze’s teachings are more “universally” revered?)