Thursday, December 22, 2016

The worrying trend of road etiquette in Singapore

The number of serious accidents on Singapore roads is disturbing.

I commute between three cities – Melbourne is where I call “home”, Kuala Lumpur my “second home”, and Singapore is where I work.

Few observe traffic rules in Kuala Lumpur. The inclination is, when you see traffic light turning yellow, you depress your car’s accelerator harder. And don’t expect vehicles to stop for you if you are a pedestrian on zebra-crossings. You may be mad at being “locked” out by someone who double-park besides your car? Wait until you face with a triple-parking situation! And motorcycle riders are so suicidal in zig-zagging at high speed from everywhere. You must be an idiot to follow speed limits there; cars from the back will impatiently honk you to drop dead!

Being one who has been living in Melbourne for years, I have learned to respect the road rajas in Kuala Lumpur. In Melbourne, very rarely you experience situations where people don’t observe road rules or courtesies. So you can confidently step into the zebra-crossing box even though a vehicle is seemingly coming your way. HE OR SHE WILL STOP FOR YOU. Knowing that Malaysia has still light years to go in this respect, I act defensively in Kuala Lumpur. And I have yet to get into trouble with the road rajas there.

I had always assumed Singaporeans are the most law-abiding people on earth – until I was cut down by a cab driver while doing my morning walk one day. My wife and I had waited for the pedestrian crossing light to turn green before we stepped forward. But half way through and out of the blue, a cab driver sped straight onto me. I had to spend forty-eight days in hospital and undergo ten surgeries!

After the incident, I decided to become more observant. Oh no; many Singaporeans drivers are just as bad!

I stay at the Cairnhill area; the number of drivers who were trying to beat red lights around the area is simply beyond reasonableness! One day I telephoned a traffic police inspector to tell her that a small lorry was still trying to cross a certain busy thoroughfare even though his side of the light had already turned red for some good seconds. The inspector appreciated my informing her, but she said she just couldn’t do anything if I did not want make a formal police report.

I honestly think the traffic police have to revise their SOPs. An inquiry will definitely instill fear and eliminate thoughtlessness. This will go a long way to cultivate civic-consciousness and reduce pain, sufferings and death!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

A Misfortune Struck...

Not even in my wildest dream that this could happen to me. And it happened!

My wife and I were having our usual morning walk on August 7. It was a Sunday. The sky was bright and weather pleasant. We had to cross Scotts Road before we hit Cairnhill Road where our apartment is while we are Singapore. The traffic light was red when we reached the pedestrian crossing. When it turned green, we step forward. There was no sign of vehicle coming from the Cairnhill direction.

Half way through, I saw a vehicle speeding towards us. My wife was quick to reach the road divider. I was not hit head-on by the vehicle and landed on its bonnet before being bounced off to the road. It happened so fast, I couldn't remember exactly how it happened, but my left ankle was bleeding profusely.

The cab driver - totally expressionless - and me on the road!
It was a Comfort taxi. The driver did stop and come up of his vehicle. But he did not offer any help at all. The screen of my iPhone had shattered. One of the lady passer-by helped to take a couple of pictures and summoned help. An ambulance came; there was nothing in me to identify myself, since we didn't usually carry anything when we went for our walks. I was rushed to Tan Tock Seng Hospital.

I thought it was a small cut on my ankle. Little did I realise that my heel pad had been sheared off! That was the beginning of my nightmare - 48 days in the hospital and 10 surgeries. I don't want to remember the hellish time I spent in the hospital. Unfortunately, the reconstructive surgery to my heel pad did not work, although the fracture to my ankle did heal by itself.

But now I can only walk with a limp, not to mention the scars that are not left on my thigh and ankle.

For those who want to buy 4Ds

The ugly scars on my left thigh

I have to live with this?

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?) 

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Modern Cancer Hospital Guangzhou

I now see a daily dosage of advertisements from this hospital in the guise of testimonies from patients. You can’t possibly miss them; they are inserted between the breaking news of the day.

The first question that I ask is on the name. Is this a modern hospital for cancer? Or it is a hospital for modern cancer? This is just my tendency to split hair with many things that come out of China.

I see that the hospital is basically a commercial undertaking – a joint venture between Singapore and China investors. They even have offices in cities like Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Manila, etc to facilitate visitations.

If it is that good, do they have to advertise themselves in such a fashion?

I grew up with full faith in traditional Chinese medicine. When I was not well, Mother would take me to see Sin-seh[1] Lau, who looked very ancient to me at that time. He was kind and gentle. Mother would thank him with a small angpow. We would then head to the medical hall which we usually patronize to pick up the herbs.

The medicines were usually too bitter for youngsters like us; we usually gulped them down in one go, with fingers pressing hard against our nose. Later my second sister married into a family that ran a successful medical hall. Her husband soon started another one in town. Soon my eldest brother-in-law decided to work for him. When my second brother-in-law decided to call it quits, my eldest brother-in-law inherited his entire fit-out and inventory and relocate the business to a small town near Muar. He is still running the business now.

I remember when I was in Standard Four, I broke my leg. We were playing hide-and-see, I fell and an older boy in hot pursuit couldn’t stop in time and landed hard on my upper left ankle. I had to be immediately rushed to the local sin-seh who specialised in fractures. After making sure that the fractured parts had been correctly aligned, she tied bamboo strips around the affected area. Seeing that I was still not able to use it after a month or so, Mum sought out a “secret formula” from a fellow villager. It really did wonders. I was able to walk normally a day or two later!

Father had also kept a number of medical classics. Those by HuaTuo () and Li Shizhen (李时珍) were usually consulted.  And we literally believed all those tall tales carried in sword-fighting books – about heroes’ ability to achieve fantastic feats after accidentally consuming some outlandish flora and fauna.

However, as we entered into adulthood, we began to count more and more on western doctors. Notwithstanding, we would still stock some ginseng at home and my wife would from time to time steam it with chicken for everyone to take.

My faith in TCM began to take a beating after my visit to China as a tourist. We seemed to be taken to endless outlets that hawked Chinese traditional medicines in the most aggressive manner. Their effectiveness would usually be exaggerated beyond beliefs. The sales people donned themselves with white overalls. But they looked so sloppy!

The straw that broke the camel’s back was my visit to a hospital in Guangzhou where one of my former bosses was recommended to undergo a kidney transplant surgery. The surgeon, who was said to be a senior professor, did not impress me at all. The new kidney was rejected by the body ultimately.

Coming back to this Modern Cancer Hospital, all the testimonies are simply too glowing to be genuine; they must have been supplied by the hospital. (Their English speaks volumes!) I tried to surf for reviews; there were not many really. There was none from the mainstream medical profession.

They better be good, lest truth will catch up with them ultimately.

[1] Traditional Chinese medicine practitioner

Wednesday, February 17, 2016


Before I knew Rosa, who was my son’s research cohort in Toronto, I didn’t quite know that many Taiwanese were hostile of the island returning to the fold of the motherland. We are all descendants of Yellow Emperor, right? And after all, by that time (early 2000s), China had already expressed its preparedness to accommodate “one country, many systems” type of federation. My third brother Yew Sim went to Taiwan for his university education; it was in the early 1960s then. Taiwan was synonymous with Kuomintang and Chiang Kai-shek then. As a school boy, I always thought that they had a mission, i.e., to recapture the mainland. And why are they talking about independence now?

Oh, we don’t consider ourselves Chinese; as a matter of fact, my father hopes to see me marrying a Japanese!” This was more or less what Rosa told me!

Of course, it was not nice for me to ask her why. She was already a medical doctor doing her sub-fellowship at one of the top neurological science centres in the world. She was young, pretty and smart. “Maybe she had not met the right calibre Chinese,” I thought.

Let’s face it; we Chinese men are not a very appealing lot to many “sophisticated” western-educated ladies. As a matter of fact, one of my nieces who grew up in Melbourne has never thought of going out with an Asian! She is tall and beautiful. She says she finds Chinese men “boring’!

I have not given much thought to the subject until I read this book: Become “Japanese” – Colonial Taiwan and the Politics of Identity Formation by Leo T.S. Ching.

I won’t say the book is an easy read. The substance in its original form must have come from a literature review perhaps undertaken by the author when he was doing his graduate research. But I must say the book offers me a great deal of insights into what being Taiwanese is really all about.  
Now I can understand what Rosa has said and why Tsai Ing-wen, who won the recent presidential election with a huge majority, has chosen to thank, of all countries, US and Japan in her victory speech. Tsai, who is a former university professor, is the leader of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). Isn’t this the party of Chen Shui-bian, the disgraced ex-president of Taiwan?
DPP draws its support largely from the locally born Taiwanese, who form the majority of the population now! Kuomintang’s fraternizing with China is bad news to them now!
If I may paraphrase Ching: The early settlers (from South China, mainly Ming-nan Fujianese and Hakkas) did identify themselves very much as “Ming” Chinese. Unfortunately, under the Qing (Manchu) rule, they were left much to their own devices. The island was ceded to Japan in 1895 after China lost the Sino-Japanese War. The Republic of China (ROC) regained control of the island only in 1945. But much “damage” had already been done during after this 50 year “absence”. Even though the Taiwanese were not treated as equals, Japan did everything to “nipponise” Taiwanese whom the Japanese considered were so culturally inferior that they might need 80 years to make them “Japanese”. Much was also done by the colonial government to improve the island. At the outset of World War II, many Taiwanese, especially the elites, had already identified themselves as Japanese. Poverty and corruption were rampant in the mainland; on the other hand, everything seemed “perfect’ in Japan. Lee Teng Hui’s family were a case in point. The Stockholm syndrome[1] ran its course!
The return of Taiwan to ROC did not help much to reverse the course. After his defeat by Mao in 1949, Chiang Kai-sheik fled to Taiwan with some 2 million mainlanders. He ruled the island with an iron fist. The mainlanders did not speak the local Ming-nan dialect; there was simply little love between the two Han groups. When mainland China was still doing all the sloganeering, Taiwan was already becoming a new economic tiger. Contempt for the former was simply natural, hence the rise of DPP.
Come to think of it; if Yuan had ruled China long enough, would Chinese-ness be different? And didn’t Chinese wear pit-tails during the Machu rule?
Under a new environment, isn’t a fact that ethnocentrism will begin to fade with the emergence of second or third generations? Maybe the Jews are an exception - for obvious reasons.

[1] A phenomenon in which hostages become empathetic toward their captors to the point of defending and identifying themselves with the latter. Some of us may still remember the case of heiress Patricia Hearst’s abduction and indoctrination by the Symbionese Liberation Army and subsequent involvement in a bank robbery.  

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Is the heaven about to fall?

After seeing Machu Picchu with my own eyes, and despite the rhetoric by the local guide, I am pretty sure that it is much older than the 15th century built-date proclaimed by the Peru’s cultural and antiquity authorities.

Machu Picchu reminds me of the awesome Sphinx and the great Pyramids of Giza. We casual tourists were told that they were built circa 2,500 BC.

To me it is simply inconceivable that the Incas could have the know-how and resources to build such an outlandish estate on a mountain ridge almost 2,500 metres above sea level at that time. Ditto for the Egyptians on the Sphinx and the Great Pyramid – no matter how great or powerful Pharaoh Khafra was said to be at that time.

These two great wonders have one thing in common, i.e., nobody is able to convincingly explain how they were built. And when they were built! (By then, I had read somewhere – by a serious researcher – that the Pyramid was at least 6000 years old.)

To many people, there is only one answer: Aliens from outer space! But to me, if this was true, then these aliens would have to travel inter-galaxies to reach us. Surely what they had left behind would look much ‘modern’ than Burj Al Arab or Petronas Twin Towers, and not just megalithic ruins.

I don’t buy all these conventional theories or explanations at all.

A good friend, SS, who is a firm believer of UFOs and paranormal phenomena, suggested that I should read Preston Peet’s Ancient Aliens, Lost Civilizations, Astonishing Archaeology & Hidden History. With a click on one of’s weblinks, the Kindle edition of the book came straight to my iPad.

The book is basically a compilation of essays and papers written by others. While some of the articles are pretty good, many are hearsays. However, I did emerge somewhat enlightened that (a) these structures are about 10000 years old, and (b) there might already be a civilisation that had fantastic knowledge about monolithic works and transportation.

These wonders might have been built before the Ice Age!

One thing good about Kindle is that it also introduces books of related interests or topics to you. I was hungry for more and was attracted to one by Robert Schoch: Forgotten Civilization. Schoch is a PhD in Geophysics from Yale and has been credited with “re-dating” the Sphinx. He was also not convinced that those outlandish structures like Sphinx and Machu Picchu were built in the era pronounced by the mainstream archaeologists, whom he believes many are humbugs in the first place. He began his journey in Easter Island in the Pacific where the Moais still stood erect. He went on to talk nostalgically about his work on the Sphinx. After that it was Göbekli Tepe in Southeastern Turkey that he drew upon to argue his case.

To him, they were all built well before the Ice Age, and the evidences he offered were very compelling. But by whom? His conclusion: mankind was mostly wiped out by a great cosmic phenomenon, thanks to the not-so-eternal Sun. He cited research after research to prove his conclusion. The book is thick with physics, which is difficult for a layman like to retell.

Before this, I had always been a believer in Darwinism. Homo Sapiens were said to have evolved from Homo Erectus and they spread out from Africa some 40-60,000 years ago to populate the earth and men did not begin to “civilize” until a couple of thousands years ago. This might not be the case after all!

And while it is conventionally agreed that climate change is a major concern for mankind now, Schoch argues that scientists might just be barking up the wrong tree! Yes, global warming is to some extent caused by our exploitation of the earth's natural resources. His bigger fear, however, is that we might be going into the Sun’s next cosmic tantrum which, according to his estimate, might already be overdue!

Or have I fallen into the 齐人忧天 (Qi-ren Yu-tian, or heaven-is-about-to-fall) syndrome?

Sunday, February 7, 2016

A Ghost?

Notice any unusual image in the picture below?

We were in Peru's part of Amazonia on the eve of this new year. Our lodge Pasada is right in the thick of the forest.

The picture was captured by my son-in-law when we were walking back to our rooms after the modest celebration at the dining hall. It was past 10pm, if I remember correctly. Our rooms were at the far end of the corridor which was dimly lit.

Sensing something strange, Konfir decided to take a keener look at the picture he had taken. He decided to show it to us.

Near the left wall of the corridor, and on top of my grandson's head, there seems to be an image of a "being".

I personally don't believe in the existence of ghosts. But we definitely could recall that there was no one around that time, except three of us.

To be this is a case of an optical illusion. But some of our folks have insisted otherwise.

I leave the imagination to you!

In praise of Chinese idioms

I love Chinese idioms!

In usually four characters, they can comprehensively, but with great subtlety, sum up all you want to say on an issue. Unfortunately, I don’t know enough pinyin to go to the online sources to pick up the right characters. Moreover, my Mandarin is distorted by my Hokkien tongue. For “whiteness or ”, I might begin with “p”, since I was used to pronouncing it “pai”, when the “correct pinyin should be bai. Similarly, for (country or kingdom), my first instinct was to type kuo instead of guo. Now I have also to search in Xs, Qs and Zs, all very confusing to me. It would turn out to be a tedious exercise for me! Fortunately for me, time is not an issue. I have plenty of it to kill.

The 2.6 (or is it 4) billion saga is getting more or more ridiculous by the day. We were told all along that the donation had come from the late Saudi king, a story line that was even bought by the mighty (and supposedly thorough and objective) BBC. I woke up this morning to learn that the top man in the country’s legal system is now saying the donor is the late king’s son. Is this the same son whom SarawakReport had just claimed it was the recipient of a big kickback in this whole money trail?

Isn’t this another 牛头不对马嘴 (niú tóu bù duì mǎ zuǐ) clarification?  

To a simpleton like me, this is simply a plain act of 盗食公款 (dào shí gōngkuǎn) or privately pocketing a huge chunk of money that is the people's. The mechanics is pretty simple, but this cannot possibly happen unless the entire system is compromised, which unfortunately seems to be the case. You really have to take your hat off to the genius of that young man from Wharton!

Ali Baba’s windfall was soon explained as a donation from the Saudi king. (Who else can afford that sort of figure?) The donor is longer alive. Dead men cannot talk, can they?

Even if it was donation, I am pretty sure the recipient would have by now broken many laws of the land if he had not declared it in the first place.

Then the Saudi authorities are saying that it was not a donation per se; rather, it was a private investment. What sort of investment was that?

And not to be outdone, a TV talk show in Hong Kong speculates that this was a pure money laundering exercise. I say I donate to you and later you say you return to me. Doesn't everything become clean after that? Of course you have to believe that this is not a case of 盗食公款 to buy this conspiracy theory. But does a Saudi monarch need to “clean” his money?

Hence my 牛头不对马嘴 discourse.

Corruption and ex-marital sex (not the gay variety, though) are no big deals in certain cultures. Tony Pua and Lim Kit Siang can scream until the cows come home, but little will come out of it. We as a people have once again proved to a very tolerant lot. The character (guan; ranking government officials) has two “mouths” – some say, one for the public, and the other, for himself. They can also go about Zhǐ lù wéi mǎ (指鹿为马, insisting that a dear that was presented before them is a horse).

The authorities are saying that SarawakReport is creating false news to destabilize a legitimate government. Our AG who has cleared everybody was once a Federal Court judge. Even Tong Kooi Ong is now taking a back seat. Who are we the lesser mortals to question their learned conclusion?

Saturday, February 6, 2016

The Hidden Hand of CIA?

Usually I prefer to stay clear of politics, especially of the Malaysian variety - for obvious reasons, lah!

But we have been finding this flier sandwiched in our copy of The Age every morning. We had seen the advertisements many times elsewhere, but we just didn't quite bother, since there were so many of these performances coming from China nowadays.

To me, they obviously have very deep pockets!

What? No, they are not from China! It is funded by CIA!!! A friend exclaimed to me.

I took a harder look at the flyer; at bottom corner, it says: Presented by Falun Dafa Association of Australia, Victoria Branch Inc.

No wonder my friend says it is a CIA's sponsored do!

I know Falungong is very active in Melbourne. You could always spot an old lady or two meditating in front of China's consul-general's residence at Toorak once or twice a week. (My "taxi" service for my grand kids passes through the street a couple of times a day!) A banner Falun Dafa would be prominently hanged to announce their presence. They sit very upright and still, even if the weather is very foul, which happens often than not in Melbourne. You would take your hat off to them - unless you know what Falungong of Falun Dafa is all about!

Falungong in Helsinki
Falun is "Wheel of Fa" and Gung is "attainment in martial arts" or something like that. Fa is trickier to translate. It can mean law and order, but in this case, it carries a cult-like connotation, which to me is a little like "magical power". Readers may have heard of the Taiping Rebellion which took place between 1850 and 1864 in China. The leader was Hong Xiuquan who claimed that he was the younger brother of Jesus Christ. His was the heavenly kingdom he wanted for China.

I would equate the founder of Falun Dafa to be something like Hong Xiuquan, (Some readers who are sympathizers of this movement may take offence with my analogy, though.)

Falun Dafa is everywhere now. The above picture was taken by me in one of the parks in Helsinki and the picture below, in Vienna. The stuff that was displayed had only one common message: Anything Mainland China does is bad!

Falungong in Vienna
I am not a great fan of China Chinese. They still have a great deal to catch up if they want to be truly First-World. But I must say that the leaders there have certainly done much to make Chinese all over the world proud. They have transformed the country from dirt-poor to a generally prosperous society within a generation.

I am just wondering what this Falun Dafa has done to save the world?

Friday, February 5, 2016

Face-to-face with China's Madoff

Surely we still remember Bernie Madoff, America's fraudster who operated a Ponzi scheme that is considered the largest financial fraud in US history? 

China has its own Madoff as well and I have just met two of its key executives!

First read the following excerpt which I took from one of Bloomberg's recent reports:

"Chinese authorities have arrested 21 suspects linked to Ezubo and its parent company, Yucheng International Holdings Group, on charges of illegally collecting funds, having allegedly conned more than 50 billion RMB ($7.6 billion) from investors, according to the state news agency Xinhua.

"According to Xinhua, Ezubo attracted investors with promises of annual interest payments of 9-14.6 percent in return for funding leasing projects, but instead used the money paid in by new investors to pay off earlier ones, in what Xinhua described as a classic Ponzi scheme.

"Yong Lei, once the director of Ezubo's risk control department and now detained, was quoted by Xinhua as saying that "95 percent of Ezubo's investment projects were fake."
The company's executives also spent large sums on personal luxuries and high-risk junk securities, Xinhua reported.

"Ding Ning, 34, president of Yucheng and the founder of Ezubo, reportedly used investors' money to buy lavish gifts for Zhang Min, the company's president, including a residential property in Singapore worth 130 million RMB ($19.8 million) and a pink diamond ring worth 12 million RMB ($1.8 million).

"In addition, Xinhua said Ding paid huge salaries to the company's employees - the company paid 800 million RMB ($121.6 million) to employees in November 2015 alone - and insisted all secretarial staff wear designer outfits and expensive jewelry to burnish the company's image of profitability.

"But tightening cash flow and unusual transactions by Ezubo triggered an investigation by Chinese authorities in December, Xinhua reported. The investigation included the use of two excavators to recover more than 80 bags full of paper accounts that had been buried six meters underground by the Ezubo's executives."

Now my experience with these two high-ranking Yucheng executives:

Two months ago a good friend asked if I would like to discuss business opportunities with one of the wealthiest investment groups from China. Why not?

He duly turned up with four ladies one day. Two of them gave me their cards, which are as above. The other two were content to stay in the background. (I later understood that they were the bodyguards to the COO!)

Sun and Helen are beauties in their own right. Helen is the younger of the two and she is the "boss". Sun speaks English, but not Helen.

Really not much was exchanged; I could see that they were not very interested or curious in things. Seeing that I was basically dealing with dumb blondes, I was happy to show them the door after an hour or so. 

I now see that they are not dumb at all; maybe I was not the right target for them, that's all.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Internet Medicine

Internet Medicine

Day-in-day-out, you are bombarded – in your mailbox or WhatsApp – with health advisories by well-intentioned friends. Many are anxious to share new cures with you. But did they bother to check out before they hit the forward button? I suspect not many.

A case in point is a recent “sure can cure cancer” formula I received on WhatsApp. Apparently, pure potato juice can do the job. Why waste money on all other forms of treatment!

As usual, it started with the typical conspiracy theory rhetoric: the pharmaceutical giants do not want you to know this fact, blah, blah, blah. It went on to quote the findings of a Japanese-sounding researcher to lend authority to the formula.

Is he saying all the oncologists are all frauds?

No sooner, a response came through: My wife tried it. It didn’t work!

Out of curiosity, I surfed the Net to see if there is any truth in the claim.

No scientific evidence; more of a quackery is what I read.

This has also just come through:

Oh Zika (mosquito inflicted disease that is gripping South America today) is coming our way. We have dengue problem, right? Clove sticking on freshly-cut lemon halves will make the aedes mosquito go away.

Are you prepared to count on this advisory totally???

On the demise of a former lecturer...

My mobile’s WhatsApp beeped non-stop yesterday. One of our Class of 73’s lecturers had passed away. Our WhatsApp administrator asked if he should send a wreath on behalf of the class. Virtually everyone active in the loop responded with a resounding yes.

Would anyone say no? Obviously no, right? This is basic courtesy and decency!

During our time in Engineering at the University of Malaya, there was no streaming in the first two years. Everybody had to do the same subjects. It was only in Year 3 that we branched off into Civil, Electrical and Mechanical. Even then, there were a couple of common subjects, one of which is Engineering Management. It was taught by this lecturer.

This lecturer was himself an alumnus of the faculty; he might be one of the first to graduate from the faculty. He went on to become the dean during our final year.

Why then am I writing all this?

In life you had good teachers; you also had bad teachers. Many were also very ordinary. I can’t say this lecturer was exceptional; if I can remember correctly, he was only so-so as a teacher.

But the outpour surprised me!

I attribute this to a couple of symptoms.

One is old-aged born-again empathy. All of us are in the wrong half of our 60s. Many of us no longer have an office to go. We also don’t’ get to meet new faces. With the advent of social media like WhatsApp, we find reconnections with old friends and people we used to know as easy as ABC, especially we have so much time to kill. Ex-school and university mates are the best sources of our nostalgia and empathy. Urge to response becomes instantaneous.

Two is the herd or me-too mentality. You don’t want to feel left-out, or give others in the circle the impression that you are indifferent or don’t care. People might think that you are an ungrateful student, or one who is not aligned with the good values of the rest.

The second syndrome reminds me of how Kim Jong Un controls and minds and souls of the millions in North Korea. The way the masses there act in unison to “demonstrate” the outpour of their emotions is to many of us most incredible. But you can see for yourself they actually do so with great spontaneity. Pretension has evolved into part of their culture? If you don’t do it, you will be dead!

I am still not finished with my u-mates’ responses to this lecturer’s demise yet.

Our chat group’s administrator is also our class’s coordinator for our social events. Some requested that he helped to convey condolences to the lecturer’s family. He was quite blunt: I do it on behalf of the class; if you want separate messages, please do so yourself directly.

He couldn’t be more right in attitude!

Be that as it may, it is always good to offer one’s condolences to the family of the demised if you knew him or her. However, do ask ourselves this question: Is that family’s loss really a heartfelt experience to you? If the answer is no, then I suggest we don’t overboard to act like the masses in North Korea which, in my opinion, is really an act of pretension.

But to those who genuinely felt the loss of this teacher, let me say that this message of mine is not aimed at any of you!