Thursday, August 30, 2007

Blipvert Update

Blipvert #1

The 3-day Merdeka weekend officially starts for me in a few hours. Everyone in the office is looking forward to it i.e. not really taking anything major on so they could have the weekend free.

Planning to go home to my parents house tonight before deciding whether to go out a watch the Merdeka eve countdown festivities at Dataran Merdeka tonight or go and watch the Merdeka Day parade at the same venue on the following day. Being that this year is the 50th anniversary of Malaysia’s independence, being able to participate in either event would be a significant event that the family can share. At least we can say in years to come that we were there to celebrate when Malaysia turned 50.

A lot has gone through in the past 50 years and we all should take stock in the journey that has brought Malaysia to what it is today. It is also a time to look forward to what we as a nation need to bring the country to the next level. I’m excited every time I think about it and if I’m lucky, I might even be able to watch the next time Malaysia adds another 50 years to her independence.

Blipvert #2

A colleague of mine almost became the victim to a credit card scam. I have heard about it but this was the first time I actually witness it with my own eyes.

He got a call from someone who told him that she was from the credit card service center. She told my colleague that she was calling him to check his credit status and wanted to verify that they have the correct credit card number on record. She proceeded to give my colleague the first 4 digits of the credit card number that they have on record and asked him to verify. The strange thing was the 4 digits were wrong so my colleague give her the first 4 digits of his card. She then gave the second 4 digits which were correct and then asked for the next block of 4 digits from my colleague.

At that point, my colleague realized that something was fishy about the call. He asked the female caller again if she was calling from the bank to which she answered no. When he asked her why the bank doesn’t have his credit card info on file, she quickly apologized for calling him and hung up. Had he not become wise to the fact that there was something wrong with the whole thing, he could have easily given his credit card number along with the authorization code over the phone to a total stranger. I was in the office when he got the call and I could hardly believe that it was happening. I wonder how many people have been conned this way?

According to my colleague, the caller was a Malay female with a nice sounding voice. The way she talked sounded professional as if coming from a real service desk up to the point when she hung up. Since the bank that issues your credit cards already have your credit card number on file and would communicate directly to you via mail, there is never a valid reason for someone to call you up on the phone to verify your credit card number. So if you are a credit card holder, be wary of such calls.

Blipvert #3

I am about to make a decision involving my retirement fund.

I was approached by the son of one my acquaintance who is a full time agent for Public Mutual selling unit trusts. I’ve always be intrigued with the idea of investing in unit trust since I can actually make use of the money currently locked up in EPF to better use. Quite a few agents have approached me in the past about it but for one reason or another it was never the right time for me to start. I guess seeing my first 6 figure number for an amount of money that actually belonged to me was the main motivation for me to start now. After 11 years of working, I feel that it was time for me to make use of what I already accumulated in EPF to plan for a bigger nest egg when I retire.

We spent some time discussing the options and the packages that I could invest in. As with many unit trust agents, they try to butter you up to get you to buy what they want you to buy. Instead of falling into that trap, I simply told him to cut the bull and tell me which unit trusts he buys and I will buy those. To me, if the agent is not confident enough to buy his own product, why would I want to risk my own money buying it. In the end we narrow it down to 2 unit trust packages and another that I would be buying as well later in the year when I have more cash. I asked that I get some time to think about it over the weekend before signing all the required forms next week.

Being able to be financially independent by the time I retire is a goal of mine. I have seen how hard my parents have to work even after they have retired to make sure that everything was paid off. No doubt that they were earning less than I do now but they also didn’t have the financial opportunities that I have today. It would be silly for me not to take the opportunity when it comes my way.

Blipvert #4

I have another alumni dinner coming up after Hari Raya Puasa this year. Since I’ve already worn all mine and my father’s batik shirts for various alumni functions, it was time for me to get a new batik shirt made. I’ve decide to go ahead and purchase the material that the alumni sells to make the official alumni batik shirt since I don’t already have one. I should have done this earlier since it would have saved the trouble of having to decide which batik shirt to wear to my alumni functions.

I’ll be sending it to the family tailor this weekend where the whole family have been sending our shirts and baju Melayu to be made for the past 15 years. The tailor practically knows every thing about us and has detailed records of how our body measurements have changed across the years. Of course this meant that he could easily get away ribbing me when I sent in my cream colored material to be made into my Hari Raya baju Melayu this year. One look at it and he declared that he would make sure that it was made well so it could be my “baju nikah” as well! Of course, every time someone said that particular “N word” directed to me when my mum is within hearing distance it would indubitably result in her asking the person who said it to pray hard for me that it will happen soon.

It was cute the first few times she does that but it gets really old really fast.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Workout Progress - Aug '07

August was a good workout month for me. Knowing that the gym that I signed up with will finally open at the end of the month motivated me to stay with my workout schedule. I guess partly that I wanted to be better conditioned when I do start to work with the gym equipment and, if I am to be brutally honest as well, to look half way in decent shape so I won’t suffer from locker room anxiety. I know … that’s just shallow but being a person with my body issues, every little I can do to make me feel less self conscious about myself helps. In hind sight, I should have not made too big of a big deal about it after all since in reality not everyone who joined the gym I go to looked like they have just walked out from a fitness magazine page.

Since the gym opened, I have clocked in about 5 hrs of work out time in 2 visit and planning to clock in another 2 hours tonight. I admit that it does seem a bit excessive considering that I’ve never been in a gym before and that I have only done 1 hour work outs previously. I totally blame the novelty factor for the fact that I simply cannot keep track of the time when I’m in the gym. Everything is still new and exciting for me which makes it the more easy to overdo things. I really have to watch myself so I don’t go and do something stupid like pushing myself until I hurt something.

Since I have not started my sessions with PT, my current workout routine is 10 minutes stretching, 20 minutes of stationary bike, 20 minutes on treadmill, 50 minutes on weight stack machines, 10 minutes on treadmill again as cardio cool down before ending with 10 minutes of stretching. I try to work out different groups of muscles in the 50 minutes that I use the weight stack machines per workout. To simplify things I divide my workout into upper and lower body groups and work them in alternate gym visits. The only exception to the rule is that abs gets a workout every visit since that is the thing that I want to improve most. Of course the extended gym time on Sunday means that I do a full body workout instead of just the target muscle group.
Diet plan in Aug :

Breakfast (8 am)
- 1 banana
- 1 cup fat free yogurt
Brunch (10 am)
- 1/2 serving of plan fried rice with tempeh goreng or greens
- 1 hardboiled egg (alternate working days – 2 whole eggs total per week)
- 1 serving of fruits
Lunch (12 pm)
- 1 Spirulina cereal 3 in 1 mix.
Snacks (4 pm)
- 1 Nature Valley Roasted Almond Granola bar
- Japanese Green Tea
Dinner (7 pm) – non workout days (Tues/Sat)
- buy something roughly less than 300kcal (usually either 3 pieces of kuih, plain tosai, bread or the like)

Workout Days (M/W/Thurs/F: 8 – 10 pm, Sun: 10am – 4 pm)
Pre workout
- Balance Liquid L-Carnitine – 10ml
- EAS Creatine Powder – 10mg
- 1 Banana
Post workout
- tomato juice immediately after workout
- EAS Myoplex Deluxe Protein Shake 1 hr after workout as dinner
- something roughly less than 300kcal

Supplements :
Balance Liquid L-Carnitine – 10ml per day
EAS Creatine Powder – 10mg per day
EAS Myoplex Deluxe Protein Shake – ½ serving post workout
21st Century’s HerbalLipo Tea – 1 serving per week day
GNC L-Lysine – 1 tablet per day
GNC MegaMen Dietary Supplement – 1 tablet per day

I’ve dropped bread from my daily breakfast list to reduce the amount of carbohydrates that I’m consuming. It took me a while to get used to just having fruit and yogurt for breakfast but I’m dealing with it. One thing that I have noticed from following this diet plan since Jan is that I am feeling perpetually hungry. It is worse after each workout where I come out of the gym feeling like I can eat a whole horse. It takes all my will power to stay on the plan and not over consume. Thankfully, if I ever think of gorging myself on something, I just need to remind myself that I need to walk briskly on the treadmill at speeds of 5 km/hr for 20 minutes to burn off just 176 calories. That would surely scare me back to my diet plan.
Did another InBody Check on my first gym visit to compare against the last one that I did back in March and to get a baseline reading to compare against future checks after I started using the gym. Every thing looks good and I did shed 6.3% of body fat since I started this journey so that is encouraging as I strive to shed an additional 10% from the Jan ’07 baseline. I just to tell myself that this is a journey that I started myself to see how far I can go and this is only beginning.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Survived First Day at the Gym

After waiting for months after signing up for my gym membership, the California Fitness gym opened at Sunway Pyramid this past weekend. I went to the soft launch on Saturday to check out the facilities. Had a walkthrough around the area with one of the PTs to get orientated with the exercise areas and the available equipment. The other reason that I went there on Saturday was to pickup my gym membership card. I had not planned to start working out on Saturday so I left the launch at around 4 pm with plans to comeback the following morning.

I reached the gym at about 10am the following day. After checking in at reception, I went to the PT station where I was told that I was suppose to get a call from my assigned PT before starting my training with him. Since they have not assigned one for me yet, I was on my own for the day to try out the equipment. After stowing my gear in the locker room, I started first at the stretching area since I guess that was the best thing to do since I have never been to a gym before.

The stretching area on the second floor had a few machines with fairly clear instructions for unsupervised newbies like me to figure out how to use them. The stretching exercises include those for the lower back, shoulders, hamstring and gluteus among others. After going through the stretching routine, I decided to so 20 minutes on the stationary bikes and another 20 minutes brisk walking on the treadmill. I would have jogged instead of walking if I better hand and feet coordination but I had to make do with walking 5 km/h instead.

After the cardio workout, I decided to go down to the first floor there the exercise machines were to try to figure out how to use them. I decided to skip the free weights exercise area, which was on the same floor, since I don’t have anyone to supervise me there. I guess once I’m better conditioned for them and found someone to be a spotter for me there then I will try out the free weight area. The exercise machines were laid out in a logical flow on the floor. Machines that worked the same muscle groups were group together so you can go through a circuit without having to travel far from one machine to another.

The machines were clearly marked for which muscle group it works on and the instructions on how to use them were fairly simple to follow for most. Some needed to be figured out for a bit before it made sense but those machines were exception to the rule. Since I was on my own, I decided to go through what I thought would make sense by working out the whole body. I limited myself to mid number of repetition and intensity just so I don’t overdo it the first time out. Once I start working with a PT, I hope to be able to know how to use the machines properly and up the intensity for both reps and load.

After spending almost 2 hours on the exercise floor, I decided that I had done enough for the day and went back up to the second floor to finish off the day with another round of cardio. 20 minutes on the stationary bike and another 20 minutes of the treadmill before I finish off with a circuit on the stretching machine. By the time I was done, I had spent almost 3 hours working out on my first day which was a bit excessive but totally me. I found out that I could easily lose track of time at the gym if I don’t watch out for it. That would be something to look out for during future visits.

Spent some time winding down in the dry room sauna which was quite nice as the crowd was a bit thin and I mostly had the whole sauna for myself. There was also a steam room next to the sauna but it was closed for cleaning when I thought that I wanted to try it after the sauna. Both sauna and steam room was located in the shower areas where they had quite a number of shower cubicles fully stocked with body gel, shampoo and conditioners leaving me only needing to bring my own facial cleanser. I’ve always had reservation about public showers but thankfully this was not the case today.

Toweled off and got dressed to leave the gym at about 4pm. Had a very late lunch since I was totally famished since the only thing I had before going to the gym was only bananas and yogurt for breakfast. Had a nap to recover after it before waking up for an early dinner. I’m still a bit sore for the workout as I write this entry out but I’m still feeling pumped up after it. This was a realization of a plan put in place months ago and I for one am excited to start this new milestone in my life.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Blipvert Roundup

Blipvert #1

Finally managed to finish “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” last weekend after borrowing it from my sister for the past 3 weeks. I usually take much less time finishing Harry Potter books, the last one took me only 2 days to finish reading, but just couldn’t get the time in read it in one sitting. I guess in a way it was good that I didn’t go through it as fast as the other installments since it gave me a chance to reflect on the links that this last installment had with the preceding books. I found myself looking back at the other books to see if anything that was in this last book had been forewarned before.

My verdict … I liked it. Even with so many long time characters dying in the story, it was a fitting way to close out the series. The translation of prose to film will be quite interesting to see especially when it comes to which parts of the story that will get the chop in the film treatment. If there was anything that I felt a little hesitant about from the book, I have to say that it would be the epilogue chapter at the end of the book. I can appreciate why it was put there especially from the point of view of the fans who have been following the characters in the past 7 books but it did make the ending slightly sappy.

It’s time to move on to a different book to read.

Blipvert #2

The California Fitness gym branch at Sunway Pyramid is finally opening this week. I saw the banner that they put up at the gym area the last time I was there that said that the soft launch was scheduled for 25th Aug and the grand opening sometime early Sept. Could not see the reception area setup yet when I was there as the area was still boarded up. I’m still waiting for someone from their sales team to call me to personally inform me about the launch since that was what they said they would do when the date came. I think they still have my number as I do get SMS msg from them about the other promotions that they are currently running.

I’m looking forward to start working out at the gym after signing up for their gym membership back in Feb. I still need to meet up with the personal trainer that I will be assigned to so we can hash our schedules and routine. I’ve already paid up for 24 sessions with a personal trainer which should take me through the first 3 months of my workouts if I schedule 2 sessions with PT per week. It wasn’t cheap to do so but I’m hoping that the dividends of working with a PT will offset my initial investment. I’m expecting to tone up, get some definition going and help lower my blood pressure levels from my workout sessions with the help of my PT.

Looking at my schedule now, I might be at the gym between 8-10pm on my workout days. Looking forward to that.

Blipvert #3

Had another WooHoo! moment at the office today.

I was sent a Visual Basic script that was used in one of our customer sites in India that was supposed to be used in other sites in Asia. The original charter was that the tool was to be used as it was written by someone who has already left the company and did not leave any documentation for the tool. When I ran the tool in my test environment, I discovered several items that could be modified in the script. It wasn’t a showstopper if those modification was not made but it would mean that the resulting output file needed to be manually modified before it is in the final usable form. Since there was no one who was interested to modify the script, I decided to take a look at the innards of the tool to see if those modifications can be done easily.

I am not a programmer by trade and the last time I actually did any coding work was back in college 11 years ago. I have never done any Visual Basic stuff and could not even tell you how the syntax should be like even if my life depended on it. Somehow, I was able to look at the script and figure out what it was doing by following the logic that was quite well structured in the tool. After overcoming my initial feeling that I would be overwhelmed by it, I was able to quickly see where everything fitted and where the modification had to be made to generate the output that I wanted in the format that the tools was suppose to deliver. I was even able to add new conditions which reflected the recent changes to the tool environment as well as replacing hard coded constants with variables that look up the required values from the registry so the tool would be more robust. Tested the tool successfully and it is now on it’s way to be used in our customer sites in Asia.

Not too shabby for someone who has never done any coding before. It may be just a glorified exercise in code reuse but I’ll celebrate my own successes, even small ones, whenever I can.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Weekend Graduation

Last Saturday, I got roped in to accompany my mother to my youngest brother’s diploma convocation ceremony at Putrajaya International Convention Center. My father was suppose to go with her but his production schedule in Terengganu clashed with the convocation date so my mum was left with an extra invite to the event. So instead of wasting the other invite, I decide to go with them and keep my mum company during the function. First stop for us however was a shopping detour as my brother had delayed buying a dress shirt for his graduation suit until the night before the ceremony. Good thing that he was able to find a shirt and tie that he liked at Sunway Pyramid or else we would have to go around for a bit to find his shirt.

Saturday morning started really early as in 5 am early in the morning! The 3 of us had to leave Selayang by 6am to reach Putrajaya by 7:30am which was when the graduating students were requested to assembled. I can’t imagine how early the day would have started for people who lived further than us which I imagine would be there as well. A quick breakfast of coffee and donuts, we were on our way after making sure that my brother had everything he needed for the ceremony. He and my mum had already attended the convocation rehearsals the day before so they already had a checklist of items to bring.

Traffic was not as bad as it could have been and for an added treat, we took the SMART tunnel route to Putrajaya. It was a treat for me as I have never been through it before and I can finally check that off the list of things to do in KL. The tunnel was totally deserted that early in the morning so the journey was smooth sailing until we came out the other end near Sg. Besi air field. At RM 2 per toll entry, I wondered why more people did not use the tunnel considering the traffic we say on the other end traveling towards Sg. Besi highway.

We reached the PICC on schedule and proceeded to the meeting area at the ground floor lobby where my brother waited for some of his diploma course mates. I noticed that most of the people graduating that day choose to wear a suit and tie ensemble under their graduation robes rather than the more traditional Baju Melayu and Samping set. According to my brother they were given the choice to select either unlike the time I graduated from KPP where we were only allow to attend our convo in a black Baju Melayu and Samping attire. I guess that it made sense to do so then as we also did not have to wear graduation gowns and mortarboards in that ceremony. Come to think of it, the ceremony that I went to then wasn’t technically a graduation ceremony as I had 2 years still to complete after leaving KPP.

At about 8:30am, all guest were escorted by the graduating student to take their seats at the plenary hall. Our seats were way up on the 3 or 4th level so it was quite a ways up. The advantage of that was that it gave me a chance so see the layout of PICC for myself having only been on the lower grounds on my previous visits. The topmost floor where our seats were offered a great view of Putrajaya and the surrounding area. It was a pity that the sky was a bit overcast on that day or else I think we might even be able to see the towers in KL from where we were standing. From where we stood, we could also see the spot where they were setting up for the fireworks for the International Fireworks Festival that was starting later during that day. At first we were considering to come back after dark to see the fireworks there but decided against as we weren’t too keen to be stuck in the jam coming back afterwards.

Once we were in our seats in the assigned area, the ceremony begun with the graduates procession to their seating area followed by the college staff and dignitaries. There were close to 2000 graduates receiving their graduation letters for both diploma and degree programs on that day. Even with the shorten speeches from the top people from the college, the whole event took almost 4 hours to complete. This was a far cry from my KPP ceremony that took only about 2 hours if I recalled correctly. I guess my degree graduation at UW-Madison might take as long considering we had a big class the year I graduated. I’m just guessing since I did not attend my own graduation ceremony since I was too busy recovering for a bout of partying the night before.

I guess technically, I have not gone through a graduation ceremony myself. I was quite surprised at the amount of protocols surrounding the ceremony which I assumed was actually less then the more established local universities since they convocation ceremony dragged on over a few days. One that stood out for me was that there was not to be any clapping from the audience until the end of the ceremony when all the graduates received their graduation papers which I thought was a bit strange. I’m guessing that it made sense seeing that no one expected the audience to clap for every graduate that they called up individually to the stage. Audiences were also reminded to remain in their seats during the whole ceremony which quite a few choose to ignore causing some level of distractions during the event. Good thing that they were strict about not letting any children into the hall or else it could be worse.

Having sat in the auditorium for almost 4 hours, we both came out needed a bio break and refreshments. Being only able to get one of the two since the food were all taken by people who choose to leave the hall earlier than the should have, we decide to go down to the lobby to meet up with my brother instead to plan where we were to have lunch. He was already there trying to get flowers for his girlfriend who was also graduating in the same ceremony. Say what you may, the people selling those flower bouquets and graduation teddys even with the inflated prices did really brisk business on that day. My brother was just too late seeing that much of the offerings have been sold out so he had to settle for an overpriced bouquet of chocolates.

Then there was the picture taking sessions. Being someone who prefers being behind the camera rather than in front of one, I don’t really understand the need to taking numerous pictures of yourself for any occasion. I was standing there watching this one family taking pictures individually with the graduating person and then proceeded to take group photos with him. All in all they must have taken almost 70 pictures (I was bored enough waiting for my brother to finish with his friends to count it) of the same person at the same location. I guess so people really want to capture the moment on camera but the thought of taking that many pictures just sent me shuddering. I think I only took 1 picture at my KPP ceremony with my then girlfriend and it was just only because she wanted it.

When my brother finally got done with his pictures and friends, we decide to get a late lunch at the Alamanda food court before going back home at about 4pm. It was a really long day and I was really looking forward to end it without any more delay. I don’t think that I would want to sit through something like that again anytime soon if I can avoid it. Still it was not all a waste as I did manage to finish reading my copy of the last Harry Potter book while waiting for the event to finish. I guess it beats just lounging around the house aimlessly.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Is The Grass Truly Greener Out There?

Received a call out of the blue from a job recruitment agency consultant today. Normally I would politely say that I was not really interested and ended the call as quickly as I can mainly because I am not a big fan of unsolicited calls on my mobile. This time, however, I was a bit bored (keboringan tahap cipan as a friend might put it) being the only one left at the office and I was curious where this caller got my contact number as I do not remember giving it out to any job recruitment agencies. It turned out that she had a copy of my CV from about 10 years ago and was cold calling people on her list to see if they might be interested in the position that she had to fill.

10 years ago !!! I vaguely remembered getting a call from this particular recruitment agency offering me a position either to work for a company in the Middle East on contract or a permanent position at an overseas petroleum-based company in then the newly opened Cyberjaya. At the time, I was just starting at my current company so the offers were both very enticing but in the end I decided to decline both in favor of staying on to build my legacy in the company that already recruited me while I was in the States. In hindsight, things might have turned very differently had I taken either offer that I had back then.

The reason that the consultant called me now is to see if I would be interested to explore opportunities in the position that she had on hand. Since she was working from a CV that is already 10 years old, the positions that she asked me to consider were not exactly relevant to my working experience now. We then got to talking about my current job responsibilities and the skill sets that I have acquired since the last time I updated my CV. From her, I found out that my current pay is above average for a technical person of my job scope but was below average for the management tasks that I also perform for the company.

After working for close to 11 years with the same company, I have to admit that it is hard for me to think about leaving it for another job. For one, I have a 2 month notice period that I have to give my boss should I decide to leave since my position in the organization is categorized as critical and need to go through a through handover process before they would let me go. The other being my current pay and benefits package is a bit on the high side comparative to someone in the same technical level as me in the outside job market. I guess that I could jump into the management track but I would miss being in a tech role with all the familiarity I have associated with it.

One thing that has happened to me after being in the same company all these years is that I have been exposed to all facets of the IT infrastructure support field. I have had my finger in so many different pies in the past that I have accumulated enough exposure and experience to be somewhat of a jack of all trades in my organization. Try as I might to deny it, I have become the go to guy when my boss needs an overview of a problem and how the components of our organization might be mustered to resolve it. I like to think that I am more of a troubleshooter, the guy quietly surveying all to look for patterns that might point to a required solution but would not necessarily be the one designing or implementing the solution.

Currently I am in a regional role that support users in Asia Pacific which gives me international exposure as well as recognition from the people in our HQ in US. My work day starts when the people in Australia start work up until the last person in our supported office in India leaves. It’s challenging work and at times feels overwhelming but at the same time quite exciting for me. It would be hard for me to leave that behind. I also know that I am being groomed to take over from my boss when he retires in a few years time. I still have a ways to go to be ready for it but it is a tangible goal that I could comfortably reach in the foreseeable future. Hopefully that would bring with it a better compensation package that what I am getting now.

Leaving my current company for a new one would not be something that I can take lightly. A better compensation and benefits package would not be the only things that I would need to take into consideration. As I grow older, I need to look at how the new job would give me the financial and personal stability that I am already accustomed to. I used to think that I stayed in my current company out of a warped sense of loyalty to them but after the experience of being outsourced, I realize that was no longer the reason. I stayed with them because I get want I want from them. The minute that they no longer serve my wants and needs then there would not be any reason for me to stay. In the same vein, a new job need to fulfill the same wants and needs or else it would not make sense to change jobs just for the sake of changing.

I would be lying if I said that I don’t envy those who would change jobs for higher paying jobs each time or those who get contract jobs that pay a 5 digit salary every month. Having more money in my bank account would always be welcomed but I don’t think that I would be able to cope with the uncertainties of having something so unsecured (at least in my view). I crave, no, demand stability in life and not being able to rely on job stability would seriously cause major inconvenience. I would be lost and afraid that I may not recover fast enough to be a productive component of the organization. In short, I just a big wuss when it comes to the thought of changing jobs.

Regardless, that fact should not deter me from updating my CV with all the job accomplishments that I have gone through in the past 10 years. It would be nice to have a record of it and if it opened new avenues that I would feel more comfortable to explore then I would consider it as a bonus. After more than 10 years since I last wrote a CV, I need to now go and check out if the old ways of writing CVs that I learnt before still applies now.

Worse than having an outdated CV is having a badly written one !

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Blipvert Roundup

Blipvert #1

Had an early dinner at Dome, KLCC last weekend when I discovered a new favorite thing to order there. Usually I would always order their Cajun Chicken Sandwich but this time around I was a bit more in the mood for pasta and ordered the Aglio e Olio Pasta instead. Turned out it was an inspired choice as it was simply delectable with just the right amount of kick from the chili flakes and garlic. While it’s among the simplest pasta dressing to make, not many places does it justice especially when they skimp at getting the best extra virgin olive oil for the dressing. There is no way to hide the fact that you’re using the cheap stuff in Aglio e Olio Pasta as the olive oil is the main ingredient that flavors the pasta.

I’ll definitely order it again next time I’m there to see if they are any consistent with it. With my current diet, Aglio e Olio Pasta seemed to be the only choice that doesn’t leave me rolling in guilt when I order it.

Blipvert #2

I sent E a text message last week to check if he was still using the last mobile phone number that I got from him. Good thing I did as he was just about to change his number again after leaving the law firm that he was a partner in for a new job. Turns out that his new job is in the Subang area which is not that far from where I work. He is also considering to move his wife and kids with him to Subang Jaya sometime next year so he doesn’t need to commute from Subang to Seremban everyday like he does now. I told him that now that he is closer to where I was there is no reason for us not to get together soon to catch up.

I have to be honest and admit that there was a part of me that just went wild with excitement knowing that he is so close again. Even after all this years, he still affects me that way.

Blipvert #3

I guess that the general elections would be held fairly soon.

How else would you explain the large sign board proclaiming my apartment area as being in the area of a certain political party coming up almost over night at the entrance to my apartments? Given that the other camp of the political equation has supporter bases at the apartment buildings directly opposite mine, it could get interesting as the election date comes nearer.

Blipvert #4

After being foiled again by bad batteries the last time I wanted to use my mum’s camera, I’ve decided to get my own camera the next time I get my yearly bonus hopefully towards the end of the year. I have my eyes set to the Sony DCS T100 camera as I was thinking of getting one that is more of a point and shoot camera and more conveniently sized so I could keep it in my pockets on the ready for the candid shot opportunities. The Sony DSLRs, while do take very good pictures in the hands of those who know how to use it, seemed to bulky and complex for a beginner like me to use.

Maybe when I’m more confident of my photographer’s eyes, I’ll consider trading up to a DSLR camera.

Blipvert #5

I have inavertedly created a Facebook account.

I got an invitation in my email account to join as a friend for a person that I thought worked in my project group. The name was close enough that I didn’t think much about creating the login and to check out her Facebook entry. It turned out that the invitation email was not from the person that I thought it was. Instead it was from some girl that I met once while I was on vacation a few years ago. We met, I was on vacation and she was on a business trip, and we had a meal together once. After returning to KL, we exchanged text messages a couple of times and that was as far as it went. We kind of drifted apart after that first few weeks and I have totally forgotten about it until last week when she wrote to me after I joined her friend list by mistake.

While it might be flattering to know that she still remembers me after all this time, I can’t help but feel a wee bit creeped out that she was able to track me down and now asking for a photo of me.

Update : Now she’s sending me compatibility quizzes to answer. This is a bit too needy than I would like it.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Post Alumni Dinner Write-up

The dinner didn’t start too well for me last night.

The invitation stated that guest should be arriving beginning at 7pm but at 6 pm I was still stuck at the office trying to square away the last things that I had to do for the day. I had called my friend who will be going to the dinner with me to confirm that he will be coming to pick me up at 7:30pm so I was really running out of time. Rushed back as fast as I could and took a quick shower before getting dressed in my borrowed batik shirt by 7:45pm. There was no sight yet of my ride so I gave him a call to check out what was happening. Turned out that he got stuck in traffic and had only reached home from work. He was in the middle of getting ready and would call me when he reached my apartment.

It would be close to 8:30 pm when he reached my place and we left in a hurry hoping that we would not be too late for the function. It was lucky that my friend had been to the Putrajaya International Convention Center many times before so he knew the way. If it was up to me to navigate the way then we night not even be able to find the place. Being that it was my first time being in Putrajaya, I had to stop my worrying for a while to take in the impressive layout out there which reminded me of Washington DC that I’ve seen in pictures. Unfortunately we were already running late so there was not time to take the scenic route.

We finally reached the PICC at about 9pm and luckily able to find a parking spot not far from the lobby entrance. When we got down the escalators to the convention floor, we met one of my table mates who happened to be one of the dinner committee members. He helped us find our table since we did not get to see the seating chart. Of course getting escorted in by a committee when the function was already under way meant we looked like a late comer VIP being showed to their table. Trust me to always be the one who was not only fashionable late but has to make the grandest entrance possible.

The guys at table that night was mostly those that I have stayed in touch with so we didn’t really have a lot to catch up with other than recent developments. We talked for a bit while waiting for the boring speeches to be over and done with. One advantage of coming later was that I skipped all the VIP speeches that would normally drone on for at least an hour at the beginning of the function. Unfortunately coming later also meant that I missed out on the starters that they served during the speeches. Good thing that food was served not too long after I came.

Food wasn’t anything to shout about. It was a nasi minyak set with all the trimmings all served in one go to each tables. Since I was watching what I take for dinner, I only had half serving of rice with a small piece of beef rendang and loads of the mix veg dish that they served. We caught up with everyone’s latest news while dinner which was good since we don’t really get to call up each other very often. When it came to my news, first thing that they noticed was the weight that I’ve lost recently (yay!) which I have to admit was a ego booster for me considering that half the people at my table were the jocks at school back then who have now let their bodies go to pot.

They had the Kombo RTM band playing during dinner which was OK considering most of the songs were oldies. One thing about these alumni gatherings is that almost no one was paying attention to the band as everyone was focused on catching up with each other. A few of us were mingling around from table to table trying to find people that we remembered from our time at school. Since there were 3 alumni’s there at the dinner, this was not an easy task but thankfully they put different colored napkins on each alumni tables so we knew which table were boys from our school. Saw some of the seniors that I knew from my monthly alumni gatherings as well as a few of my juniors who have all grown out of the gawky teenager phase I last saw them in.

I also got to see a few of my teachers. Some didn’t really remember me since I wasn’t that good in their classes especially all my Math teachers who were all there that night. Others recognized me immediately on sight because I stood out in their classes the year I was there. My old Form 5 class teacher, who was practically our adopted mother for our class that year, immediately asked if I was already married since it was the same question she asked every time I see her in these function. She said that every time she asked me that question, she is hoping that I would finally give her a different than I always do. I was also touched that my old English teacher asked me if I was still writing and if I ever finished the screenplay that I always talked about in her English class. I actually forgotten about that but I did tell her I eventually did write a screenplay but not for the story that we used to discuss about all those years ago.

As the night continued, we were also on the look out for the people from our batch from the STAR and STF schools. One of my friends in particular had got the news that his old girlfriend was coming to the dinner and he wanted to see if he could still recognize her after 17 years. Dragging me along to be his wingman, we went around to see if any of the STF girls looked remotely recognizable but of course this was next to impossible for us. For one thing, the last time we saw the STF girls from our batch, they were just girls who are now grown women who would definitely looked way different from they were 17 years ago. The other thing hindering us was that I was not the best person at remembering name and faces especially when the STF girls that we knew weren’t really on my high priority list back then for obvious reasons. Despite his efforts, my friend went home empty handed that night especially after we were told that the girls from our batch did not attend the dinner.

M. Nasir came on stage towards the end of the night and I’m guessing that he doesn’t get to perform at alumni dinner very often. It was slightly funny seeing him trying to work the crowd when all they were interested in was to talk to each other. Fortunately for him, the crowd warmed up to him especially when he started to sing his older songs which some of use remembered singing to when we were at school. I wondered if anyone warned him about how difficult the crowd would be. Those of us who are the products of boarding school might be able to imaging how the crowd was once they really got started. Suddenly all the titles and age difference went out the door and there we were sing along at the top of our voices like a bunch of 17 year old at a concert. It was good to know that the habit of reverting back being like the boys we were at 17 during alumni gatherings were not exclusive to my school’s alumni!

The night ended with the tradition of us taking pictures of ourselves with the dinner backdrop to commemorate the occasion. I had brought the camera that I borrowed from my mum but the batteries that I had in it went dead even after I charged it so I went away without being able to take any pictures myself. We stayed around to mingle a little more at the souvenirs stand before finally going our separate ways sometime around midnight. As I went past all the lighted buildings at the main Putrajaya road, I keep thinking about the fun night that I just had and how just by the act of being together with good friends can easily cheer a person up. I was also thinking that I would definitely want to come back to Putrajaya at night once I have my own camera to capture the architecturally interesting buildings that they have all lighted up there.

All it all, it was an evening well spent.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Alumni Dinner

Going to the alumni dinner tonight to celebrate my secondary school's 50th anniversary. Will blog about it afterwards.
Event: MAJLIS MAKAN MALAM PERDANA - Perintis Kecemerlangan Warisan Kegemilangan

Date: 9 August 2007 (Thursday)
Time: 7.00pm-11:00pm
Venue: Putrajaya Convention Center, Putrajaya

Royal Guest:
KDYTM Tengku Puan Pahang, Tunku Hajjah Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah Sultan Iskandar Al-Haj (SKTF Patron)

Guests of Honor:
YAB DPM Dato' Seri Najib Tun Abdul Razak and wife Dato' Seri Rosmah Mansor

VVIP Guests:
Dato' Seri Hishamuddin Tun Hussein + Datin,
Datuk Rais Yatim + Datin
Datuk Abd Aziz Shamsudin + Datin
Tan Sri Isa Samad

Alumni Presidents:
Datuk Dr Awang Adek (STAR) + Datin
Datuk Dr Abd Latif Ahmad (SDAR) + Datin
Puan Mariamah Mohamed (STF) + Spouse

MMMP Chairman: Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahya (STAR)

Entertainer: M Nasir

Dress Code: Baju Kurung/Kebaya (Ladies), Batik Shirt (Gents)

Corporate Table Price: RM5000/table of 10
Alumni Table Price: RM2000/table of 10

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Lunch at Restoran Peranakan House, PJ

I almost never go out for lunch during the work week with the exception of Fridays when I have to go for lunch near the mosque where I do my Friday prayers. Most of the time, it’s just me and a mug of hot 3 in 1 instant cereal mix in the office. Once in a blue moon, when we have an occasion to celebrate, I do get to go out for lunch with the whole team that I’m working with here. We had one of those occasion on Tuesday when we had a farewell lunch to one of our team who will be leaving the company for what he hopes would be greener pastures.

Restoran Peranakan House (No. 4, Jln SS 23/11, Taman SEA, 47400 Petaling Jaya, Selangor. Tel : 03 7804 2778) was one of those quaint gems tucked away in nondescript neighborhoods just waiting to be discovered for the first time. To get to the place, look out for the huge Hong Leong Bank sign on your left as you travel on the LDP highway towards Taman Tun a little ways past the Kelana Jaya Putra LRT station. Turn left into the shop lots area till you reach the traffic light before turning right into another shop lot block. Round the block and you should be able spot their signboard on the road that runs parallel to the street that you entered before. Parking seems to be OK when we came for lunch but we could have been just lucky on that day.

Upon entering the establishment, one would definitely notice how homely the surroundings felt. I appreciate the lack of clutter that this place had relative to other Nyonya cuisine restaurants that I have been to. The focus here was clearly to the quality of the food and less towards the need to provide ambiance for dining. The lunch crowd that was there while we were having our lunch there was quite thin but I attribute it more to the fact that only people in the know would venture out here to this restaurant. It was nice to be able to eat at a place where we could have a decent conversation without having to raise our voices to be heard.

While service was prompt and attentive, the floor staff could have been a wee bit friendlier in terms of appearance. Being able to gauge what the diners might be interested to have and giving recommendation of house specialties would be helpful to diners who were clearly on their first visit to the restaurant. Thankfully most of us were familiar with the type of food so the menu did not become too intimidating to order from. The restaurant did have a good variety of items on the menu ranging from meats, seafood and vegetables. With the 8 of us there we decided to get white rice with Pong Teh Chicken, Baba Chicken Curry, Paku Belacan, Mango Kerabu, Honey Sotong and Braised Nyonya Beancurd. For drinks, we all decided on Fresh Watermelon juice as recommended by our waiter.

We didn’t really have to wait long before rice was served with the Paku Belacan dish that was the first to arrive. Paku Belacan is basically wild fern shoots cooked with fermented prawn paste and chilies. The dish was surprisingly good as it combined just the right amount of belacan and chilies that did not overwhelm the fresh taste of perfectly cooked wild fern shoots. The ferns had a nice bite to them but not to the point that it was too fibrous to truly enjoy. The clean taste of this dish went down well with the white rice and set my expectations of what to come.

Next arriving to our table was the Pong Teh Chicken which I have never had before. Cooked in it’s special blend of ingredients, the flesh of the chicken literally flaked away on my fork and each morsel was saturated with the taste of sauce. Despite appearance, it did not look as salty as I would have imagined it since soy sauce seems to be one of the major ingredients in the dish. I would imagine that the dish would have been slow cooked to get the tastes and texture of this wonderful chicken dish. Unfortunately for the Baba Chicken Curry that arrived about the same time in the former dish, the Pong Teh Chicken totally outshined it. Most of us at the table was raving more about the Pong Teh Chicken than the slightly underwhelming curry dish. Having been so used to the Indian style of curries, the less fiery Baba Chicken Curry was a bit too understated for my taste.

The Honey Sotong was quite fun in terms of taste and texture. The thin slivers of fresh squid was dipped in batter and then deep fried to a crunchy consistency before being tossed in a light honey and line sauce. The sweet and sour taste worked well with the squid especially when there was really every little oily aftertaste left after the deep frying process. Tasting much lighter that once would expect a fried dish to be, the Honey Sotong was quickly dispensed with by our clearly appreciative group. Best thing was that since they were quite light of the sauce, the crispy squid stayed crispy till the last bit was taken even when after it was tossed in the honey and lime dressing.

The Kerabu Mango would have been more a success if they would have used a slightly younger mango than the one that they used on the day we went for lunch there. A good Kerabu Mango should be crunchy, subtle tasting but with a bit of a taste kick from pounded bird’s eye chili and peanuts. The one we had could have been improved by having a little more crunchy mango and a little bit more heat from the chilies. The Braised Nyonya Beancurd on the other hand was quite a bit of a let down after the other dishes. It didn’t taste distinctly enough from the others to let it stay in our mind. It was still serviceable beancurd dish to order to round out the meal selection but the one that we had was the least memorable of all the dishes that we had today.

The total bill for our lunch including watermelon juice for the 8 of us came up to a surprisingly cheap RM134. Each item was in the range of between RM 11 – RM 18 price range. I would guess that our meal would be a lot more expensive if we had ordered whole fish and/or prawns. Looking at the pricelist, most of the dishes we saw on the menu were very good value for money. The large order portions were good enough to feed 8 people and that added to the good value. It is always a good day when you find a place that would not do huge damage to you wallet for a good meal. The Restoran Peranakan House is once of those hard to find places that give you good value and great food under the same roof.

I would definitely come back to this restaurant with friends so they can discover this gem of an eatery as well.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Odds and Ends

Blipvert #1

For the past week, I have been mistaken as a Nepali a total number of 3 times as I walked the road that I usually use to go to work. I guess that it might be due to the fact that there seems to be an increase of new Nepali migrant workers setting up house near my apartment. I have been mistaken for Chinese more than a few times, as a East Malaysian due to my name and as a Latino almost every other day while I was studying in the US but this is the first time that someone has mistaken me as a Nepali.

Sounds exotic but I have to wonder why.

Blipvert #2

Been reading the new Harry Potter book this past week and am really liking it. Could not read as fast as I would like to but I’m getting there. Bloodbath aside, the book really does feel like a farewell chapter of the saga. It would be interesting to see which parts of the book will get filmed and which won’t. I’ve already started to imagine how the story might be in my mind especially in this installment as most chapters lend themselves really well to being translated into screenplay. Can hardly wait to see it!

Blipvert #3

A new project was sent across the table to me this week. I don’t really have the lead the project this time but I do need to be the lead subject matter expert for the project. The thing is that the project involves something that I have never even worked on before much less be a subject matter expert of. I guess it would be a challenge for me to pickup the necessary skills to lead the implementation team but I try to think of myself as willing to raise the occasion come what may. Better to try and fail so I can learn from my mistakes than to not try at all.

The project will be based in Cyberjaya, though. Trying to get there on time for meetings would be a b*tch and would be even worse if I need to be stationed there for any extended periods of time. It’s times like this that I wished that I had taken that driving license.

Blipvert #4

I was watching an episode of “How I Met Your Mother” on Astro (I’ve got time!) last week and ended up sobbing my eyes out at the end of the episode.

It was the one about the lead character meeting someone at a wedding party and they decided to just hookup without any obligations to meeting up later or even give each other their names. At first I was thinking that it was a good story point .. never seen done before so it sounded fresh. I don’t know if it was because of the Ray Charles song they played at the end or if it was because the sentiments resonated loudly within me but I ended up trying to stop the brimming tears in my eyes.

I do cry at movies and if it was an extra special episode that someone dies on TV but this has to be the first time I ever cried while watching a silly sitcom show.

Till today I am still left wondering what was that all about.

Blipvert #5

Looking forward to my alumni grand dinner this coming Thursday night. Our school is celebrating our 50th anniversary along with 2 other boarding schools so the dinner would be for ex-students for all 3 schools. I’ve paid up for my portion of the table and even borrowed my dad’s batik shirt to wear to the dinner since I already wore all my batik shirts in other alumni functions. Since the dinner would be in Putrajaya, I had to make arrangement to get a ride from one of my friends who would also be attending the dinner. If all goes well, I should all set for the dinner but nobody knows if anything will crop up at the last minute.

Looking forward for it actually to catch up with all friends. I wonder if my old girlfriend from our sister boarding school would turn up. That would be a surprise!.

Blipvert #6

I am actually writing this blog entry at the OldTown Kopitiam café in Cyberjaya after my project meeting. This is the first time I have been in this neck of the wood and I have expected it to me more impressive than this. I guess that I was expecting too much and that the area has not been fully developed yet.

I wonder if the place does grow on you once you start to work here.

Blipvert #7

I have a sinking feeling that I have been making someone I know unhappy lately. It’s not that I have been purposely ignoring that person but sometimes I just feel like I don’t have enough hours in the day to put into the effort of keeping in touch. That doesn’t excuse the way that I have been treating that person so I do really feel that I’m at fault here. If it is any consolation, there is not a day goes by that I don’t listen to our song and think of the person.

Out of sight doesn’t necessarily mean out of mind.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

CD Review: "Call Me Irresponsible" by Michael Bublé

I have to be honest and admit that I didn’t really like Michael Bublé’s “Call Me Irresponsible” the first time I listened to it. I had bought it mainly for the 1st single released from it that I really liked and to complete my collection of his CD releases. After listening to the last track for the first time, I decided to give it another spin to try to figure out what prompted my initial reaction. After the heights reached by his previous effort “It’s Time”, I was very much surprised by my first impression on the new CD. It was while I listened to it on the second time around when suddenly something clicked and the magic that is Bublé’s dulcet tones came back to be renewed another day, for me at least, with his new CD release.

“The Best Is Yet To Come” starts off in acapella mode before going into the more familiar big band sound that we have been predisposed to expect from the artist. While nothing new is presented here, the track echoes back to his previous albums allowing the listener a familiar point to begin the journey for better things as promised. The more up tempo “It Had Better Be Tonight (Meglio Stasera)” that followed was definitely as good as advertised proudly in the opening number. The heavily Latin influenced sounds on this track was a perfect example of the thing that sets this album noticeably apart from his previous efforts which may explained my initial reaction.

The sultry anthem to illicit affairs “Me and Mrs. Jones” was a by the numbers rendition of the original but with a helpful dollop of the patented Michael Bublé charm and cheekiness. It was both intimate and haunting to listen to which continued into “I’m Your Man” where Bublé returned to form as the formidable crooner that he is well known for. Sounding very confident in the delivery, the song showcased his vocal stylings beautifully.

“Comin’ Home Baby” featuring Boys II Men in a duet put Michael on slightly new territory relative to what we have heard form him before. The up tempo R&B tune was quite a refreshing entry at this point of the CD and the collaboration between Bublé and Boys II Men gelled together very well despite the differences in the genres that they normally operate in. After the renewed shot of energy, the CD turns introspective with “Lost”, one of the two original songs penned by Bublé, Jann Arden and Alan Chang. It’s comforting and lyrical song to appreciate with thoughts of love ones in the listener’s mind.

“Call Me Irresponsible” was quite fun and catchy to listen to. Bublé infused just the right amount of charisma and swagger when he delivered the words that I can’t help being charmed by. In my mind, this song would definitely be a great make up song if ever I would need one (for whatever reasons of course). Ivan Lins collaborated with the artist on a Italian basso nova reimagining of Eric Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight”. Taking the familiar and turning it on it’s head is a trademark of Bublé and for this track, the effort produced an interesting offering to the listener.

“Everything” was the main reason I bought the album and rightly so as it was hands down the most catchy song that we have heard from this artist ever. The second of two original songs penned by Bublé, Alan Chang and Amy Foster-Gillies, the lyrically poetic song with it’s pop jazz sensibility rocketed this track up the charts and straight into his fans play lists. It would be interesting how would Bublé top this delectable song in his future albums. The swing-influenced “I’ve Got The World On A String” had the unenviable position of having to follow such a memorable song on the album. While the song itself was quite serviceable, it was slight overshadowed by the more remarkable song we heard before it.

Bublé’s take on the familiar “Always On My Mind” was both sweeter and more haunting to listen to relative to the versions sung by Elvis Presley and Willie Nelson. A definitely winning track could easily stand along side the originals as a fresh interpretation of the song. The decision to add a gospel choir to back up Bublé in the next track, “That’s Life”, was a stroke of genius as it made the song much bigger sounding one than the original as sung by Sinatra. Helped by his own addition of winning charm and confident swagger to the words made the song easily stood out among the list of tracks in terms of memorable beats on the CD.

Both “Dream” and the closing bonus track “L-O-V-E” sounded a bit rote as both did not diverge much from the original. “Dream” showcased again Bublé’s skills as a memorable crooner for this generation and made a fitting bookend to the album’s first track. “L-O-V-E” was fun to listen to but did not really break any new ground in terms of presentation.

The spread of genres and interpretations attempted by Michael Bublé in this his third studio effort was quite impressive to listened to. Despite my first reaction to the album, I found myself liking it more and more with each new listening. While some could say that it was disappointingly similar to his previous album, it was the type of sound that Bublé does best and his fans love him for. With a winning singles like “Lost”, “Always On My Mind” and especially the gem of the CD, “Everything”, Michael Bublé’s “Call Me Irresponsible” CD is nigh irresistible to his fans and listener who enjoys the genre.