What will happen after we die?

No, I am not asking a religion question. Rather, it is a question of practical consequence. I sometimes wonder: What will eventually happen to our blogs after we die?

My hope is they will not be erased due to some inactivity policy by the blogging service providers. Hopefully, they will band together to make the World Wide Web the great archiver (memory, if you will) for eternity so that people from generations to come would still be able read what clever and stupid things we wrote.

We in Malaysia have just lost someone very unique who has touched us in some way in our lives. I, for one, would hate it if suddenly Yasmin — the Story Teller Part 1 or Part 2 would suddenly disappear just because she is not around anymore.

Farewell Yasmin Ahmad. You and your aspiration will live on forever in our hearts. We wish we could have had a longer journey with you

…I don’t really have a goal; goals are so overrated. If you set yourself on a goal too much you lose sight of the journey.
— Yasmin Ahmad

May God bless you.

Remember, remember, the sixteenth of September

What a mess Malaysia is in right now. Not as bad as some other countries but a mess nonetheless. Both within the ruling Barisan National (BN) coalition and the so-called “government in waiting” Pakatan Rakyat (PR) coalition. Especially so, I think, for PR, now that the much awaited but utterly disappointing September 16 deadline has passed. Anwar Ibrahim’s backpedaling and tantrums after the anti-climactic day has grown rather tiring.

To be honest, I was hoping for the big change, peaceful one, I must add, to happen. So much so that I wrote a Malay poem to that effect when I got really disappointed after reading about three people had been rounded up under the draconian Internal Security Act (ISA). As much that I find Raja Petra is rather a nuisance but come on. Teresa Kok for the alleged azan petition and a daily reporter that showed the true color of a bigot within UMNO? I have grown tired of Malaysia being divided along racial lines under the so-called “social contract” of yesteryears. I don’t think it can work forever. It will only breed silent bigotry and distrust from within these racial components.

I think it is fair to say that a lot of people has grown wearied and, even more importantly, worried. I don’t think massive racial upheaval will happen. Observing the latest development in the country, I cannot imagine racial unrest will originate from within PR fold. What worries me is the ultra-Malays from within UMNO who rally behind the like of Ahmad Ismail. Hopefully, the latest terrorism attack at Teresa Kok family home is an isolated incident and is not a start of something bigger.

Eid Mubarak and have a peaceful and wonderful gathering with friends and family.

If I become Prime Minister, first 20 liters of petrol will be free

Part of being parents during school break, my wife and I took a week long holiday so that we could take the kids to places. Today, we were so busy taking our kids to KLCC that we missed the petrol price hike announcement. After dropping the kids home, we went straight to Sunway Pyramid to run some errands for our new house. On the way there, there was some heavy traffic for a short while and we saw people queuing at a petrol station. There had to be a major announcement on petrol price hike, we thought to ourselves. But the worse had yet to come. As we return from Sunway Pyramid at around 9pm, we were caught in a massive traffic snarl. A trip that should have taken 15 minutes turned into an hour. We don’t know for sure because we took the exit towards Bandar Kinrara but we think that it could be caused by people queuing to buy petrol at petrol stations along the highway in Puchong.

Petrol price has gone up to RM2.70 from RM1.92. But diesel price has received a massive hike. It is now RM2.58 from RM1.58, a mere 12 cent less than the new price of petrol. You see, we bought a massive diesel people mover for our family last year (Ssang Yong Stavic, to be exact) thinking that diesel would save us some Ringgit Malaysia in the long run. Unfortunate, I guess our long run has just been cut short. With the given engine size, and the fact that the car will not qualify as a truck or a jeep (What is a jeep anyway? I thought it was a brand name like Colgate), it will not receive any of the cash rebates except for the puny RM200 discount on annual road tax. A full tank will cost that much from now on.

This morning, just after we had our roti canai at the Mamak stall, my wife and I laughed when saw the headline on an alternative tabloid that proclaimed that Anwar Ibrahim would reduce the price of petrol if (when?) he becomes the Prime Minister. We are not laughing now.

Using Google Apps for School Website

Our daughter enters standard two this year. During the PIBG (Parent-Teacher Association) Annual Meeting, my wife and I were lucky (or unlucky) enough to be elected into the association. Since then, we have had three monthly meetings already. One of the initiatives we want to do is to finally have the website portal for the school. Since I am too familiar already with services provided by Google, I proposed to evaluate what Google Apps has to offer. I signed up for Google Apps, tried it out and presented my findings at the third PIBG monthly meeting recently.

The neat thing about Google Apps is, off course, that it’s free. The only cost is for acquiring a domain name, which costs USD10/year when purchased from one of Google’s domain registration partners. This cost translates to about RM32/year. Once you have signed up, as a start, you are allowed to create up to 200 accounts for your Google Apps domain. You may request Google for more if you start to run out of user accounts.

The main applications for a school website provided by Google Apps are Google Pages and Google Sites. Although these two applications are similar, I believe Google Pages should be limited to “official”, i.e., highly controlled, web pages for the school while Google Sites can be used as collaborative pages, like wiki pages, for the various groups in the school. To allow someone to edit a Google Page page, she has to be the domain administrator which is a rather crude way of dealing with access control. As long as domain administrators are limited to a small group of “responsible” people, I guess this should be okay. But a more flexible access control mechanism would have been preferable. Pages on Google Sites are organized into, well, sites. There could be different collaborators for each sites. So, various groups in the school can be allocated different sites.

Other applications in the Google Apps suite are Google Calendar, GMail, Google Docs and personalizable Start Page, in order of importance to a school portal. Google Calendar is great in publishing school events. One or more calendars can be embedded easily into Google Pages or Google Sites. GMail is, of course, the most simple-looking and yet the most powerful web mail on Earth. Google Docs is great in creating quick shareable documents, spreadsheets and presentations. I don’t like the personalizable Start Page that much in the context of a school website.

One thing glaringly missing from Google Apps is discussion forum application. It’s not too hard to use Google Groups to provide discussion forums for the school but it would’ve been nice if it is integrated with Google Apps. That way, accounts (and other assets) created in the Google Apps domain can be readily used in Google Groups.

After my presentation on Google Apps, we seemed to get everybody’s agreement on Google Apps being a viable solution for the school website. A few days after the meeting, I signed up for another Google Apps and registered the domain name for the school. And, thus, the first hints of the school website has now materialized. It is still not in a presentable form yet, but we have got Google Calendar and Google Groups integrated with the website, which is hosted by Google Pages.

KL International Marathon 2008, I did it!

Okay, not the full marathon (42km). Not even half (21km). But 10km, M category — men open category. I finished 231st place. Not the greatest achievement. For that, however, I earned a medal and a certificate.The first 500 finishers received a medal.

I went there with my father-in-law, also running, and my wife, who co-piloted as I drove and later would look after our stuff and cheer us up as we run. Boy, was it a memorable experience.

This was my first attempt ever at running in an “official” marathon (my father-in-law has run a few). Even before setting our foot on Dataran Merdeka, some drama unfold on the road. We started off from our place at 5:30am and as we drove to Kuala Lumpur there was a lot of diversions already. And to make matter worst, we missed the crucial turning to Dataran Merdeka off Jalan Syed Putra and ended up near a Mamak stall at the Klang Bus Station. We could’ve just parked there and walked to Dataran Merdeka but the bus driver who we asked for direction didn’t tell us outright to just walk there! (Actually, come to think of it, he did mention he thought we wanted to walk there.)

Later as we drove on anxiously, we almost hit a thin yellow police line because it was almost impossible to see. We did a U-turn and after a few missteps here and there, when we were waiting for the half-marathoners to clear as they ran across Lebuh Ampang, my wife finally suggested we drop off there and she take the car to park somewhere. You see, it was already 15 minutes passed six. We were supposed to report for the 10km marathon at 6:30am and to be flagged off at 7am. So I thanked her so much for that suggestion. After about 10 minutes of walking, we reached Dataran Merdeka, reported ourselves and all set for the run. My wife parked the car at Renaissance Hotel about 2km away and she walked from there to Dataran Merdeka!

The run was a bit challenging for me as there was a few light slopes to climb. Also, I wasn’t sure whether going through the Adidas natural cooling system (water shower) mid-run was such a good idea. I finished the whole thing 2 minutes less than an hour according to the big clock on the tower at Bangunan Sultan Abdul Samad. My father-in-law took a bit longer to finish but still finished it within the qualifying time to earn himself a certificate.

After meeting some friends from the office who also ran the 10km run, having some drinks and snacks, the three of us walked our merry way back to Renaissance Hotel and off we went back home.

Next year, maybe I will go for the half marathon. Need to start my training soon…

Incredibly indelibly muddled thinking

The use of indelible ink during Malaysian election this year has been scrapped. Reportedly, some people have brought in this ink to mark unsuspecting village dwellers so that they would become disqualified to vote on the election day. I must say these crooks were brilliant. I didn’t think of it! It’s a case of not doing enough “what-ifs” scenarios on the Government part. There goes a RM2.4 mil plan for securing the voting process. Admittedly, this is not a big amount. But some people could get rich from this botched scheme. Oh, well. At least, we will return from the election poll stations without falsely believing that the mark on our fingers are the signs of transparent and secure election.

“Makcik, makcik sokong siapa?”

“Oh, Makcik sokong ________”

“Kalau macam itu, tanda jari Makcik untuk menunjukkan tanda Makcik sokong”

“Oh, boleh. Jari yang mana satu?”

“Jari yang itu”

“Smoking is not bad”

I thought the recent comment by Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat on preferring to field nonsmoking candidates for the next general election was pretty harmless. At most, it was a PAS internal political maneuvering. However, it could not stop Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz from replying with a rather irresponsible message that smoking wasn’t bad.

One does not have to go far to learn that smoking is harmful not just to the smokers but to the bystanders. One recent report confirms this beyond any doubt. Having smoking and nonsmoking sections in restaurants and coffee houses does not work. It is especially worse for the waiters in these places.

Many states in the US have already banned smoking in eating and other public places. Furthermore, most member countries of the EU have done or plan to do the same. Simply put, Malaysia should also follow suit.

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