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Saturday, July 12, 2008

Home Made Jetties (Toh Tau)









This kind of jetty can only be found along smaller rivers in Sarawak now. This photo was taken recently in Bekenu. It reminds me of the jetty that my uncle had many years ago in Ah Nang Chong. We used to wash our clothes and bathe very safely on the platform drawing water from the river. Note that oil drums are used to make the floating pontoon. In the olden days we used logs we caught from the river. Very nostalgic scene.





In the upper reaches of a river a home can be built next to a river ford or karangan. A jetty would not be necessary.

But in the middle valley where the river is wide and the river deep like in Sibu a jetty is necessary.

A jetty or "toh tau" (head of a road) was built by the home owner who lived next to the river bank along the Rejang River. These little jetties were unmistakenly home-made and simple structures. They looked beautiful from afar and were the landmarks for the Foochows who travelled along the river. Some were so well made that they were the talk of the people and they lasted.

Jetties lasted in those days because the motor launches and pedal boats and even the motorised long boats and speed boats could not in any way create enough waves to break the jetties apart.

My grandmother's jetty was a popular one because many people would used it. They came from the villages beyond the river banks. Also, the Nan Chong Cooperative and another little sundry shop, which operated from one wing of my grandmother's house, were the main attractions for people to stop by or land at the jetty. All the jetties along the river would be named after the owners except a few more famous ones like Lee Hua Jetty, Kwong Hua Jetty, Twenty Four Acres (Nieh Si Gak),Hak Choon Huong,etc.

These jetties were built to make it easier for people using the motor launches to land or to get into them. Speed boats and long boats could be tied to them easily. Berthing by the jetties was simple and no charges were incurred. It was so neighbourly at that time.

The best time for me ever was two or three of those motor launches berthed together tied with red cloth and bantings. That was the mark of a Foochow wedding. The motor launches were ready to bring the parties to Sibu for a fine ceremony and banquet.

I used to remember all their names. But as so many years have passed, I have forgotten most of the names. I am wondering if any one has written down all the names. Furthermore these jetties have long gone. Washed away by the powerful express boats.

An extra-ordinary way of life has in a way been "washed away".

WORLD HOOP DAY 8-8-8

I have a big plan, a big dream and I need your help! So I am putting this out there to you and the Universe in the hopes that together we can make this happen.


Photo by LMNz


Dear Joy Giver,


Hooplovers.com and numerous local hoopers will be hosting Tokyo's World Hoop Day international celebration on August 8, 2008, in Yoyogi Park from 5pm onwards. A Sunset Hoop Matsuri.

The purpose of this event is to spread Peace, Joy & FREE Hoops to at risk youth. We are asking our friends for donations to assist us in making this happen. Our goal is to raise at least 300 000 yen to purchase 100 hulahoops that we will give to Second Harvest Japan who will then give the Hula Hoops to children in orphanages throughout Japan.

These children and many others can benefit greatly from owning a hoop. In addition to having fun, hooping is an expressive art that fuels creativity and left and right brain activity.

Our goal is to give away over 100 hoops to our participating underprivileged kids, and share the benefit of exercise and creative dance with a hoop.

Our event will take place in conjunction with World Hoop Day activities that will be happening around the globe on 8-8-08. For more information visit www.worldhoopday.com. We will also provide free use of hoops at the Yoyogi Park Sunset Hoop Matsuri.

With your generosity we can accomplish this gift for the less fortunate children of Japan. Thank you in advance for any contribution you can make, regardless of the amount. For more information please contact Deanne at hooplovers@gmail.com. Thanks for your time.


Sincerely,
Deanne Tonking
www.hooplovers.com

Biz Nites

As if we didn't already have enough fun stuff going on in our lives. We are going to be the door bitches at Monday night's Biz Nites event held at Tableaux in Daikanyama.

Here is the deal. Looks like a fabulously talented line up at a swish new location. Looking forward to seeing you there!

BiZ NITE, French Flavor at Daikanyama Tableaux. July 14th, 2008. 6 pm - late.

What is BiZ NITE?

Tokyo's fastest growing networking event for creative business people. It's a monthly event which features presentations, showcases, exhibitions, discussion panels, product launches and more from the creative industries in Tokyo. Each sphere of interest in the A-Z of creative industries has a Biz NITE nickname, for example photo biz, ad biz, art biz, DJ biz, design biz, eco biz, NPO biz, fashion biz, movie biz, music biz, net biz, sport biz, success biz, VJ biz, wellness biz. Every month the crowds get a little bigger, and more and more people are making it a regular feature on their monthly event calendar to meet with old friends, meet new ones and see a little of what's going in around the city.

When & Where is this monthly event held?

Biz Nites are held monthly at Daikanyama Tableaux on 7/14, 8/18, 9/8, and venue TBD on 10/20, 11/17, 12/15.

When is the next Biz NITE?

Monday 14 July at Daikanyama/Ebisu Tableaux, 18:00-23:00, with a ‘French Flavor’ to celebrate Bastille Day together.
The venue has a beautiful patio, great food and reasonably priced drinks. In addition to our regular content,
BiZ NITE will host presentations about contemporary French fashion and culture, and about French creative business people's activities in Japan.
We expect around 300 people to attend community presentations and get-togethers in three spaces throughout the venue.

How much?

Entry: Advance: 1000 yen / Door 1500 yen, (Please buy at least one drink) (To qualify for advance, please sign up as a member at biznites.ning.com)

The first 50 people at Biz Nite receive a Skype headset & calling card.

Who is presenting this month?

7/14 (Mon) ‘French Flavor’ BiZ NITE CONTENTS

18:00-22:30 Presentations & Discussions in Three Spaces:

Ad Biz: info soon

Art Biz:

1) “Dr Sketchy's Anti-Art School: an introduction to the divinely seedy underbelly of live sketching ala Burlesque style” with MC LadyElle [www.drsketchytokyo.com]
(Plus: 5 minute burlesque dance performance by burlesque dancer Cherry Typhoon of the Murasaki Baby Dolls at 10 pm)

2) "ICON 5: The NY Illustration Conference: A review, and an Introduction to the works of Andrea Innocent and Beck Wheeler",
a review presentation and slideshow by well-known Australian artists/illustrators/animators
Andrea Innocent (www.otoshimono.org) and Beck Wheeler (www.beckwheeler.net)

3) “Creative platforms to bring different art forms and audiences under the same umbrella” with 4th Skin Arts Network www.4thskin.com

Design Biz:

“WorkVitamins: Why creativity in the office just works” - Martin van der Linden (workvitamins.com, www.vanderarchitects.com)

Eco Biz: info soon

Fashion Biz:

Fashion Biz: “ID SHAPE: new solution for luxury packaging anti-counterfeiting from France” – Lucas Nanini (www.idshape.com)
Lucas Nanini

Movie Biz:

“Surfing DVD Release- Japan’s legendary surfers of the ‘70s enjoy a 2007 reunion in Micronesia” – Michio Degawa (http://www.kooks.jp)

Music Biz:

1) “Panel Discussion: Anime, Games and Urahara Fashion - How can Japanese Pop Culture Drive
Japanese Music Sales at Home and Overseas?" - Moderator & presenter: Nathan Reaven (www.hearjapan.com)

2) “The New French Music Scene – Preview of French Summer Festival Artists”- Sylvain Delange
(Bureau Export de la Musique Francaise a Tokyo, www.french-music.org/video)

Net Biz:

1) “New Contents Delivery and Gallery System”- Tan Tan (http://ikaros-plan.jugem.jp/ )

2) info soon

New in Japan Biz:

“Revolutionary New Instrument – Tenori-on” – K. Sugii (YAMAHA, www.yamaha.co.jp/tenori-on)

Performance BIz:

Performance Biz: “The making of ‘Tunnelvision’ DVD - Choreographed Performance Art in one of the biggest underground locations in the world,
Gaikaku Housuiro, broadcast on NHK” Monique van kerkhof (www.roboudendijk.com)

Photo Biz:

“Unknown France: A tour of the cheese and wine farms of rural France” by photographer, writer and editor, Miki Toyoda.

Sports Biz:

1) “Update on Hakuba MTB Jamboree 8/16-17” ( www.sweetriders.com)

2) “Reporting about Muay Thai Fight Events” – Chisa Yamane (www.jmc-gym.com)

VJ Biz: info soon

Wellness Biz:

’Awaken to New Dimensions’ - Introduction to insightful transformation techniques to tap into your inner balance
and potential through Art of Living“ with Marianne White & Keerthana Mariappan (www.artofliving.org)

22:00-23:30 LOUNGE DJs: James Carstensen (Tokyo Electro – Special French Music Mix), DJ Tawara (ultralounge)

See more information in Japanese and English at http://www.stereojapan.com/ and forum http://biznites.ning.com/

Friday, July 11, 2008

Vuitton Clutches

The other day, my mom surprised me with a Vuitton clutch. She exclaimed over the phone, about how pretty it was, with gold trimming and a little wristlet thing. I was excited because I love clutches and she made it sound gorgeous. I was a bit skeptical though when I found out that it was white with multicolored prints all over it. But then she said that the color was just what I needed to go with all my very dark colored clothes. Mom's know best, right?
My first reaction upon seeing this picture was.......oh no. It seems that no matter how they package the white canvas with the multicolored logos they will always appear somewhat tacky and fake to me. It must be because the one and only fake Vuitton I ever bought was also of this print and thus I shall always associate it with being fake. The mutlicolor logo also looks... toy like. Adding the gold trimming to this combination just didn't help.

I do LOVE the shape and design of the clutch though. It's just so cute and perfectly sized. I don't understand why they would not produce this in any other pattern! Maybe it is some marketing plot by the masterminds at LVMH to make consumers buy this clutch anyway because of the style and then hope that the pattern will grow on them!
I would much prefer a Vuitton clutch like these Vernis clutches. They are colorful yet sophisticated and tasteful. They even have straps to transform it into a shoulder bag! Classic and versatile. I wouldn't mind the red or the purple!

But alas, the prices of these clutch aren't exactly the same (the Vernis is more expensive!). Maybe the white canvas multicolor logo print would grow on me..........what do you reckon?

Image Source: E Luxury

Bed Rolls in the Early Days

This photo must have been taken by one of my father's photographer friends during a Sibu photographic society's trip to Belawai:he is reclining on his bed roll (Kayan mat,pillow and a blanket, and may be even a mosquito net). This bed roll at that time was considered a complete set for a man to bring along whenever he went for a trip or whenever he moved to a new job, especially in another town. This was taken about 1954 or thereabout.


Incidental
ly,this is
the upper deck
of a Chinese
motor launch.
If you have never
been inside one,this is a good picture. Passengers had to sit facing each other on
the hard wooden bench. Apparently my father had the whole bench to himself and had a good ride down the river as he was a voracious reader. His favourite magazine was "Chuen Chiew,Spring Autumn" a Chinese monthly magazine. Going to Belawai at that time would have taken a good whole day, arriving only a little before sunset.


Lat,our Malaysian National Treasure, and a cartoonist, has always touched people's hearts with his cartoons. This cartoon (I photographed it from his book) of his father taking his bedroll up to the bus is just so Malaysian. It naturally reminds me of all those by gone days before 1970's.





I hope my two illustrations would bring you some smiles today.

Can you last remember how a boy would make his first journey to stay in a boarding school in Sibu? His most important possession would have been his mat, his pillow and perhaps if he came from a fairly well off family, a thin mattress. What about adults who went on a week's trip by the sea? Apparently, a bedroll would be part of his camping equipment.

Today we have the state of the art of camping equipment:sleeping bag,tents, even motorised inflatable boats.

Also 40 years later,today, students who moved to boarding school actually could go with just a suitcase. Everything would be provided for. But Lat's cartoon remains dear to my heart for always.

And finally, I have a sad tale to tell too of life in those days. One sad wife had come running to her neighbour saying that her husband had left. A definite and all telling sign that he had moved on was her saying,"He had carried (niak) all his bed roll. The man and all his possession apparently would never come back again. By then almost everyone in earshot would have gathered around her,showing their sympathies.

Thus this experience of knowing of a desperate housewife in my neighbourhood was quite a trauma. It was so sad to see her waiting at the roadside to see if her man would come home. With or without a marriage certificate, when a man decided to take off with his bed roll,nothing much then could be done it seemed. Sibu in those days did not have the services of detectives to find a disappearing husband. Perhaps it was because all such a man had was his bed roll. She never remarried and some how or other she managed to bring up her children. Later on she moved away. In those days it was too risky just to "follow" a man. The Hokkien word was "twui" which is equivalent to "cohabit" of today.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

3 Days in Vienna

Continuing from Budapest, the next place we went to was Vienna.

The first (and very hot) day we went to the Belvedere, which like the other palaces, consists of a palace and a large garden. Unlike other palaces, Belvedere doesn't have the typical apartment tours but instead are art museums. We spent the afternoon walking leisurely in the meseums attempting to learn about the artwork.

Next, we saw the Hundertwasser Haus, which looks like a colourful building from a cartoon but was actually a block of council flats. This building was fun to look around and discover its quirks!

At night, we went to the Musikverein. There, we watched an orchestra perform music by Mozart. I was amazed by how many songs that I know or have heard before are by Mozart. There were also two opera singers who sang with some of the pieces, although I didn't enjoy those performances qutie as much since they didn't sing in English and I have no idea how to appreciate opera singing.

The next day we visited the Schonbrunn Palace. We thought this was the most impressive palace in Vienna, although we were definitely liked the back garden more (below.)

The main attraction of the garden was the Gloriette, which just looked like a very fancy ornament to the garden to us. And yes, we walked all the way up to see the Gloriette up close.

In the afternoon, we visited Stephansdom. After visiting many European churches, many of them have started to look very similar. But I really like and remember this one -the exterior and interior remain very old-looking and authentic. The inside of the church was dark and grey, and you could really appreciate the Gothetic style inside. It's honestly one of the few sightseeing churches that has made an impression on me.

On the last day, we visited the Hofburg Complex. There are a few exhibitions and tours inside, but the one we really liked was the Sisi Museum. After going through all the guided tours in the past few days, I feel like I've really learnt something about the history of Vienna -or at least the history of the Austrian Royal family!

For the rest of the afternoon before going to the airport, we decided to just chill in coffee shops and try the cakes Austria is so famous for: the Sachertorte and apple strudel. To be honest, the Sachertorte wasn't that great -it just tasted like a dry piece of chocolate cake. And while the apple strudel was tasty, we weren't all too impressed by it either, (probably because all the cakes were so hyped up that we had high expectations for them.)

Walking around Vienna, the general feeling I got was the Vienna was much more tourist-friendly and had a very holiday-feeling to it. Everything there felt very artistic, creative and cultured, although I'm sure that's just because we all already know that Vienna is the 'music capital of the world'.

Image Credit: the blog

OIl Lamps of Bygone days (Bedroom Lamps)




The fragrance of kerosene filled the air and it was time for children to go to sleep. Sleep was such a wonderful time and luxury. After a hard working day,sleep seemed to be a reward.

Incidentally,the small oil lamp, filled with a little bit of kerosene,has four important parts: the oil container which forms the base of the lamp,the metal part or cap to close the oil container is also the part where the wick is held. The wick is cotton and can be turned up and down by a little screw with a small handle.Extra wicks can always be bought for a few cents. Finally the little glass chimney protects the light from being blown out by wind. Sometimes the lamp has an optional back plate which can be bought for a few cents more. On the back plate you may find a painted picture of a beautiful Chinese lady or a beautiful Chinese scenery.

And in the semi darkness of an oil lamp the fairly cool room and a plank bed with rattan mat and two soft cotton filled pillows, sleep seemed to come easily. Grandmother would come by our rooms with her little oil lamp and commanded us to go sleep as we would have another good day to come. Life was simple and days and nights came and went with lots of happiness and calmness.

Today, sleep does not come easily. Older people suffer from insomnia. Working adults have sleep problems so bad they have to take sleeping pills. Children have sleeping disorders and many parents even seek doctors,bomohs (medicine men),pastors,temple priests,fortune tellers,to solve their sleeping problems. At bed times, modern day children and parents continue to have wars and psychologists have a field day writing about such problems in journals,books,or talking about them even in talk shows with Oprah Winfrey.

I will always treasure Grandma's caring words,"The little lamp will keep you company in the dark. Do not be afraid. Go to sleep."

And all too soon the cockerel would wake us all up to another glorious day.

(source of photo : http://lamplantern.com
CHINA WUHU HURRICANE LANTERN FACTORY www.lamplantern.com

China WuHu hurricane lantern factory with its authorities to deal in import & export business and as a bonded factory and is specialized in producing various kinds of hurricane lanterns LED lanterns,kerosene lantern,oil lamps and its parts for more than 60years.WANGGUANG,SUN SHINE and GREAT EAGLE brands hurricane lanterns,LED lanterns sell well in Southeast Asia,Middle East,Africa,Europe,North and South America.The annual export value is up to 4 million U.S.Dollars Providing high quality,best price and favourable services,we sincerely hope to establish direct business relations with clients both at home and abroad.




Note : I am by no means advertising for Wuhan Hurricane factory...it is just to add on to my posting on oil lamps. My grandmother's oil lamps were definitely from China in the 1960's. Nevertheless it is interesting to be able to establish such a connection via the Internet.

Genelia Desouza Photos Pics

Photo : Mischievous Beautiful Genelia Desouza Looks More Beautiful



PICS : Charming Beautiful Genelia Desouza


Beautiful Genelia d'souza wallpapers : She looks Serious in this Photo. Isn't it ?
And No way near to his role in Jaane tu Ya Jaane Na


Photo : Beautiful Genelia Desouza Wallpaper

Pic of Genelia Desouza as a Kid

From The Bottom Of My Hoot


Random Flickr owl

Would you be convinced to blog? Read on.....

Blogs Will Change Your Business


Look past the yakkers, hobbyists, and political mobs. Your customers and rivals are figuring blogs out. Our advice: Catch up...or catch you later

Editor's note: The May, 2005, cover story, "Blogs Will Change Your Business," continues to receive lots of attention online. But many of the details in the story are out of date. So we've called many of the original sources and asked readers to help provide fixes and updates. For the version of the story with 2008 annotations, please visit www.businessweek.com/go/08/blog.

Monday 9:30 a.m. It's time for a frank talk. And no, it can't wait. We know, we know: Most of you are sick to death of blogs. Don't even want to hear about these millions of online journals that link together into a vast network. And yes, there's plenty out there not to like. Self-obsession, politics of hate, and the same hunger for fame that has people lining up to trade punches on The Jerry Springer Show. Name just about anything that's sick in our society today, and it's on parade in the blogs. On lots of them, even the writing stinks.

Go ahead and bellyache about blogs. But you cannot afford to close your eyes to them, because they're simply the most explosive outbreak in the information world since the Internet itself. And they're going to shake up just about every business -- including yours. It doesn't matter whether you're shipping paper clips, pork bellies, or videos of Britney in a bikini, blogs are a phenomenon that you cannot ignore, postpone, or delegate. Given the changes barreling down upon us, blogs are not a business elective. They're a prerequisite. (And yes, that goes for us, too.)

There's a little problem, though. Many of you don't visit blogs -- or haven't since blogs became a sensation in last year's Presidential race. According to a Pew Research Center Survey, only 27% of Internet users in America now bother to read them. So we're going to take you into the world of blogs by delivering this story -- call it Blogs 101 for businesses -- in the style of a blog. We're even sprinkling it with links. These are underlined words that, when clicked, carry readers of this story's online version to another Web page. This all may make for a strange experience, but it's the closest we can come to reaching out from the page, grabbing you by the collar, and shaking you into action.

First, a few numbers. There are some 9 million blogs out there, with 40,000 new ones popping up each day. Some discuss poetry, others constitutional law. And, yes, many are plain silly. "Mommy tells me it may rain today. Oh Yucky Dee Doo," reads one April Posting. Let's assume that 99.9% are equally off point. So what? That leaves some 40 new ones every day that could be talking about your business, engaging your employees, or leaking those merger discussions you thought were hush-hush.

Give the paranoids their due. The overwhelming majority of the information the world spews out every day is digital -- photos from camera phones, PowerPoint presentations, government filings, billions and billions of e-mails, even digital phone messages. With a couple of clicks, every one of these items can be broadcast into the blogosphere by anyone with an Internet hookup -- or even a cell phone. If it's scandalous, a poisonous e-mail from a CEO, for example, or torture pictures from a prison camp, others link to it in a flash. And here's the killer: Blog posts linger on the Web forever.

Yet not all the news is scary. Ideas circulate as fast as scandal. Potential customers are out there, sniffing around for deals and partners. While you may be putting it off, you can bet that your competitors are exploring ways to harvest new ideas from blogs, sprinkle ads into them, and yes, find out what you and other competitors are up to.

More tomorrow.

Tuesday 6:35 a.m. How big are blogs? Try Johannes Gutenberg out for size. His printing press, unveiled in 1440, sparked a publishing boom and an information revolution. Some say it led to the Protestant Reformation and Western democracy. Along the way, societies established the rights and rules of the game for the privileged few who could afford to buy printing presses and grind forests into paper.

The printing press set the model for mass media. A lucky handful owns the publishing machinery and controls the information. Whether at newspapers or global manufacturing giants, they decide what the masses will learn. This elite still holds sway at most companies. You know them. They generally park in sheltered spaces, have longer rides on elevators, and avoid the cafeteria. They keep the secrets safe and coif the company's message. Then they distribute it -- usually on a need-to-know basis -- to customers, employees, investors, and the press.

That's the world of mass media, and the blogs are turning it on its head. Set up a free account at Blogger or other blog services, and you see right away that the cost of publishing has fallen practically to zero. Any dolt with a working computer and an Internet connection can become a blog publisher in the 10 minutes it takes to sign up.

Sure, most blogs are painfully primitive. That's not the point. They represent power. Look at it this way: In the age of mass media, publications like ours print the news. Sources try to get quoted, but the decision is ours. Ditto with letters to the editor. Now instead of just speaking through us, they can blog. And if they master the ins and outs of this new art -- like how to get other bloggers to link to them -- they reach a huge audience.

This is just the beginning. Many of the same folks who developed blogs are busy adding features so that bloggers can start up music and video channels and team up on editorial projects. The divide between the publishers and the public is collapsing. This turns mass media upside down. It creates media of the masses.

How does business change when everyone is a potential publisher? A vast new stretch of the information world opens up. For now, it's a digital hinterland. The laws and norms covering fairness, advertising, and libel? They don't exist, not yet anyway. But one thing is clear: Companies over the past few centuries have gotten used to shaping their message. Now they're losing control of it.

Want to get it back? You never will, not entirely. But for a look at what you're facing, come along for a tour of the blogosphere.

Wednesday 7:38 a.m. Hmm. How to start this post? Idle talk about the weather, or maybe that red wine with dinner last night? No. Let's dive right in: One misstep and the blog world can have its way with you -- even when the coolest, most tech-savvy companies are involved.

Google (GOOG ) is regarded as a secretive company. So in January, when a young programmer named Mark Jen started blogging about his first days in the Googleplex, folks in the 'sphere instantly linked to him. Jen certainly wasn't dealing out inside dirt. But he griped that Google's health plan was less generous than his former employer's -- Microsoft (MSFT ) -- and he argued, indignantly, that Google's free food was an enticement for employees to work past dinner.

Two weeks later, Google fired Jen. And that's when the 22-year-old became a big story. Google was blogbusted for overreacting and for sending an all-too-clear warning to the dozens of bloggers still at the company. A Google official says the company has lots of bloggers and just expects them to use common sense. For example, if it's something you wouldn't e-mail to a long list of strangers, don't blog it.

Jen clearly flunked that test. "As the media got hold of it, I was quickly educated," he says. He says he should have understood the company's goals and concerns better and been more sensitive to them. Still, his adventure turned him into an overnight celebrity. He was wooed by recruiters at Amazon.com (AMZN ), Microsoft, and Yahoo! (YHOO ) A month later, Jen landed a job at Plaxo, an Internet contact-management company. A key part of his job, says a company spokesperson, is to help coordinate Plaxo's blogging efforts -- a pillar of Plaxo's promotional strategy. So what got him fired turned out to be his trump card. Plaxo, like many other companies, is now drawing up norms for blogging behavior, so that employees know what's in bounds, and what's not.

2:22 p.m. It sounds like the joke answer on a multiple-choice exam. Name a leading company in blog communications: General Motors?

That's right. For a company that's slipping in the auto biz, GM is showing a surprisingly nimble touch with blogs. GM uses them on occasion to steer past its own PR department and the mainstream press.

In January, Vice-Chairman Bob Lutz launched his own FastLane Blog. Bloggers applauded, and car buffs flooded Lutz with suggestions and complaints. Lutz posted lots of barbs from outsiders and won points for balanced responses. Like his answer to criticisms of new Pontiacs: "Did you take a look at seat tailoring? Carpet fits?...hood gaps, hem flanges? We used to be bad at those, too."

But Lutz is only part of GM's blog strategy. In April the company yanked $10 million in advertising from the Los Angeles Times and demanded that the Times make retractions. Journalists asked GM for specific complaints, and the car company held off. It said it wanted to work quietly with the Times and not battle it out in the press.

How to get the word out through a back channel? GM directed journalists to a blog, AutomoBear.com, that detailed GM's beef. (It had to do with a comparison between two cars, which GM thought was unfair.) Both GM and Miro Pacic, the blogger at AutomoBear, say that GM provided Pacic with information but that no money passed hands.

Fair enough. But even if GM doesn't pay for positive coverage in blogs, just consider the possibilities in this new footloose media world. There's little to stop companies from quietly buying bloggers' support, or even starting unbranded blogs of their own to promote their products -- or to tar the competition. This raises all kinds of questions about the ever-shrinking wall between advertising and editorial. We'll cover that later, when we get to the blogs' impact on our own business -- the media.

Thursday 8:56 a.m. It's the latest wrinkle on Descartes. I blog therefore I... consult. An entire industry is rising up to guide companies into this frightening new realm. And the consultants establish their brands and reps with their blogs.

Perhaps the biggest is Steve Rubel. A year ago, the exec at the PR firm CooperKatz & Co. started his blog, Micro Persuasion. He was already pushing such clients as WeatherBug and the Association of National Advertisers into the blog world. Then early one Sunday morning, as he recalls it, "my wife was sleeping, and I was sitting in the living room, laptop on my lap, and thinking if I am talking to clients and reading these blogs, I should jump in." When launching his site, he had the smarts to contact big shots such as Dan Gillmor, who was a leading blogger and tech reporter with the San Jose Mercury News. Gillmor linked to Rubel's site, and his traffic took off. It was great for his brand, and it also gave Rubel a blogger's education. "I became a living guinea pig for what I preach," he says.

Now Rubel is positioned as an all-knowing Thumper in a forest of clueless Bambis. The first job, he says, is to monitor the blogs to see what people are saying about your company. (An entire industry is growing to sell that service. Even IBM's (IBM ) banging at the door.) Next step: Damage-control strategies. How to respond when blogs attack. He says companies have to learn to track what blogs are talking about, pinpoint influential bloggers, and figure out how to buttonhole them, privately and publicly.

He gives the example of Netflix (NFLX ). When a fan blog called Hacking Netflix asked the company for info and interviews last year, Netflix turned it down. How could they make time for all the bloggers? Predictably, the blogger, Mike Kaltschnee, aired the exchange, and Netflix faced a storm of public criticism. Now Netflix feeds info to Kaltschnee, and he passes along what he's hearing from the fans. Sounds like he's half journalist, half consultant -- though he insists Netflix doesn't pay him.

Friday 10:46 a.m. The question came up at a panel discussion last week: Any chance that a blog bubble could pop? The answer is really easy: no.

At least not an investment bubble. Venture firms financed only $60 million in blog startups last year, according to industry tracker VentureOne. Chump change compared to the $19.9 billion that poured into dot-coms in 1999. The difference is that while dot-coms promised to make loads of money, blogs flex their power mostly by disrupting the status quo.

The bigger point, which is blindingly obvious when you think about it, is that the dot-com era was powered by companies -- complete with programmers, marketing budgets, Aeron chairs, and burn rates. The masses of bloggers, by contrast, are normal folks with computers: no budget, no business plan, no burn rate, and -- that's right -- no bubble.

The role of the blog startups is to build tools for this grassroots uprising. Six Apart, a four-year-old San Francisco company, leads in blog software. Technorati and PubSub Concepts are battling it out in blog search. The founders all insist that they plan to remain independent. But if recent history is any guide, most of them will wind up in the bellies of the blog-minded Internet giants -- led by Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft. The latest to disappear was Flickr. A photo-sharing service that spread madly across the blog world, 13-month-old Flickr was still running its software in its beta, or testing, phase when it was acquired by Yahoo in March for an undisclosed sum. Caterina Fake, Flickr's co-founder, wrote about the deal in her blog the day it happened: "Don't forget to breathe. It's not the end, it's the beginning."

Monday 10:23 a.m. If this were a true blog, that last post would have generated a mountain of comments over the weekend, most of them with the same question: If there's no clear business model, why are the Internet giants so bent on getting a foothold in blogs? Look at it from their point of view. A vibrant community that has doubled in size in the past eight months is teeming with potential customers and has a mother lode of data to mine. "Blogs are what's causing the Web to grow," says Jason Goldman. He's project manager at Google's Blogger, the world's biggest service to set people up as bloggers.

David Sifry looks at it a bit differently. He's a serial entrepreneur and founder of Technorati , the blog search engine.

For Sifry, it's not the growth of the same Web, but an entirely new one. It's wrapped up far more in people's day-to-day lives. It's connected to time. The way he describes it, the Web we've come to know is mostly a collection of documents. A library. These documents don't change much. Try Googling Donald Trump, and you're more likely to find his Web page than a discussion of his appearance last night on The Apprentice.

Blogs are different. They evolve with every posting, each one tied to a moment. So if a company can track millions of blogs simultaneously, it gets a heat map of what a growing part of the world is thinking about, minute by minute. E-mail has carried on billions of conversations over the past decade. But those exchanges were private. Most blogs are open to the world. As the bloggers read each other, comment, and link from one page to the next, they create a global conversation.

Picture the blog world as the biggest coffeehouse on Earth. Hunched over their laptops at one table sit six or seven experts in nanotechnology. Right across from them are teenage goths dressed in black and thoroughly pierced. Not too many links between those two tables. But the café goes on and on. Saudi women here, Labradoodle lovers there, a huge table of people fooling around with cell phones. Those are the mobile-photo crowd, busily sending camera-phone pictures up to their blogs.

The racket is deafening. But there's loads of valuable information floating around this cafe. Technorati, PubSub, and others provide the tools to listen. While the traditional Web catalogs what we have learned, the blogs track what's on our minds.

Why does this matter? Think of the implications for businesses of getting an up-to-the-minute read on what the world is thinking. Already, studios are using blogs to see which movies are generating buzz. Advertisers are tracking responses to their campaigns. "I'm amazed people don't get it yet," says Jeff Weiner, Yahoo's senior vice-president who heads up search. "Never in the history of market research has there been a tool like this."

Tuesday 9:12 p.m. Back to that coffeehouse. Sitting at one large table is a collection of some of the most gifted geeks you can imagine. These folks built the blogosphere. And they're using it to link with each other. They share ideas, test them, and get them up and running in a hurry. Many of them transform the network itself, making it more muscular -- and disruptive.

The innovation that sends blogs zinging into the mainstream is RSS, or Really Simple Syndication. Five years ago, a blogger named Dave Winer, working with software originally developed by Netscape, created an easy-to-use system to turn blogs, or even specific postings, into Web feeds. With this system, a user could subscribe to certain blogs, or to key words, and then have all the relevant items land at a single destination. These personalized Web pages bring together the music and video the user signs up for, in addition to news. They're called "aggregators." For now, only about 5% of Internet users have set them up. But that number's sure to rise as Yahoo and Microsoft plug them.

In time, aggregators could turn the Web on its head. Why? They discourage surfing as users increasingly just wait for interesting items to drop onto their page or e-mailbox. Internet advertising, which traditionally counts on page views and clicks, could be thrown for a loop. Already Yahoo is packaging ads on the feeds. Google is testing the waters.

But here's the really insidious part. If you set up your own aggregator page, such as my.yahoo.com, and subscribe to feeds, you soon discover that blog and mainstream postings mingle side by side. Feeds zip through the walls between blogs and the rest of the information world. Blog posts are becoming just part of the mix, swimming on the same page with the Associated Press, and yes, BusinessWeek.

Winer also ushered in a second tech breakthrough, podcasting. A back-and-forth between Winer and Adam Curry, a blogger and former MTV host, led last year to a system that easily distributes audio files. Looking for National Public Radio's On the Media or the latest ska compilations from a disk jockey in Trinidad? Sign up on a Web page, and the program gets automatically delivered to you -- as an audio feed. Last summer, Curry created software called iPodder so these MP3s could hitch a ride on an iPod (AAPL ). That was the birth of podcasting: radio programming whenever and wherever you want it. Since then, some 5,000 podcasting shows have sprouted up. They cover everything from yoga to the blues.

It's an overnight sensation. Before podcasting, only about 150 people a month bothered to download the audio files of Morning Stories, a show on Boston's public station WGBH. After the station switched to podcasting in October? Eighty thousand. Chalk it up to the bloggers. They pushed podcasting to their own circles, and it grew from there.

11:48 p.m. One more idea. Think of TiVo, (TIVO ) think of the iPod. When you're using one of them, do you consider the company that provides the programming? CBS, for example? Not much. You're putting together your own package. The pieces come from lots of companies and artists. Often you don't even know where.

Aggregators do the same job for the Net. So, just like the record companies, which have figured out how to market bits and pieces of their albums as standalone songs and ringtones, the rest of the media and entertainment world is going to have to think small. Content, whether it's news or a Hollywood movie, is going to travel in bite-size nuggets. The challenge, for bloggers and giants alike, is to brand those nuggets and devise ways to sell them or wrap them in advertising.

Wednesday 6:31 a.m. A prediction: Mainstream media companies will master blogs as an advertising tool and take over vast commercial stretches of the blogosphere. Over the next five years, this could well divide winners and losers in media. And in the process, mainstream media will start to look more and more like -- you guessed it -- blogs. Clay Shirky, a Web expert at New York University, calls it "an absorption process where the thing doing the absorbing changes."

Take a look at blog advertising today, and it's hard to see a glittering future. Sure, enterprising bloggers make room on their pages for Google-generated ads, known as AdSense, and earn some pocket change. Some blog entrepreneurs, such as Nick Denton, publisher of New York's Gawker Media, sell ads for everything from Nike to Absolut Vodka (FO ). Popular blogs can land sponsorship deals for as much as $25,000 per month, say consultants. O.K. money for an entrepreneur, but a rounding error in the ad industry.

Blog power simply doesn't translate yet into big bucks. For now, it's running mostly on people's passion to communicate -- especially in developing markets. Consider Hossein Derakhshan. He's a 28-year-old Iranian blogger based in Toronto. He has thousands of readers, and politicians respond to his postings -- even as the Iranian government frantically tries to shut down the servers hosting his blog. Yet Derakhshan can't yet cash on his fame. "Google doesn't have AdSense service in Persian yet," he says.

Still, blogs could end up providing the perfect response to mass media's core concern: the splintering of its audience. Advertisers desperate to reach us need to tap niches (because we get together only once a year to watch the Super Bowl). By piggybacking on blogs, they can start working that vast blogocafé, table by table. Smart ones will get feedback, links to individuals -- and their friends. That's every marketer's dream.

The big companies have what the bloggers lack. Scale, relations with advertisers, and large sales forces. They can use these forces to sell across all media, from general audience to bloggy niches. Already, Yahoo and Microsoft have been investing heavily to position themselves for niche advertising. And in February, the New York Times (NYT ) laid down $410 million for About Inc., a collection of 500 specialized Web sites that smell strongly of blogs. "What's to stop them from turning those 500 sites into 5,000?" says Dave Morgan, founder of TACODA Systems, an Internet advertising company.

Thursday 9 a.m. Hate to get wiggy here. But if the blogs eventually swallow up ad revenue, what's going to happen to us?

Yes, we, too, are under the gun. MSM, the bloggers call us. Mainstream media. And many of them delight in uncovering our errors, knocking us off that big pedestal we've occupied since the the first broadsheets started circulating.

We have to master the world of blogs, too. This isn't because they're taking away ad revenue, at least not yet, but because they represent millions of eyewitnesses armed with computers spread around the world. They are potential competitors -- or editorial resources.

Blog reporters showed their value following the Asian tsunami in December. Thousands of them posted pictures, video footage, and articles about the disaster long before the first accredited journalists showed up. MSNBC, which ran hours of tsunami footage on its Web site, has since opened an entire page devoted to citizens' journalism.

Dan Gillmor, who quit his San Jose newspaper job, is lining up investors for a new type of media company, Grassroots Media. He's interested in elements of an online journalism business in Korea, called OhmyNews. It mingles articles from 50 staff journalists with reports e-mailed and text-messaged in from thousands of citizen reporters. OhmyNews says it has been profitable for a year and a half and expects revenue this year of $10 million. "I keep hoping that all of the new conversational forms will augment the existing one," Gillmor says.

11:57 p.m. Thinking out of the box here for a minute. What would this article look like if it were a real blog, and not just this glossy simulacrum?

Think of the way we produce stories here. It's a closed process. We come up with an idea. We read, we discuss in-house, and then we interview all sorts of experts and take their pictures. We urge them not to spill the beans about what we're working on. It's a secret. Finally, we write. Then the story goes through lots and lots of editing. And when the proofreaders have had their last look, someone presses the button and we launch a finished product on the world.

If this were a real blog, we probably would have posted our story pitch on Day One, before we did any reporting. In the blog world, a host of experts (including many of the same ones we called for this story) would weigh in, telling us what's wrong, what we're overlooking. In many ways, it's a similar editorial process. But it takes place in the open. It's a discussion.

Why draw this comparison? In a world chock-full of citizen publishers, we mainstream types control an ever-smaller chunk of human knowledge. Some of us will work to draw in more of what the bloggers know, vetting it, editing it, and packaging it into our closed productions. But here's betting that we also forge ahead in the open world. The measure of success in that world is not a finished product. The winners will be those who host the very best conversations.

Friday 11 a.m. So why not start here? We've done our research on blogs, made our dire pronouncements. Pretty soon, someone in production will press the button. But this story should go on, as a conversation. And it will, starting on Apr. 22. We're launching our own blog to cover the business drama ahead, as blogging spreads into companies and redefines media. The blog's name? Blogspotting.net. See you there.



By Stephen Baker and Heather Green


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Three Wheeled Pedal Cart



Photo by Sarawakiana. May 2008. Sibu.

The people of Sibu should be very proud of this 50's innovation. This is a three wheeled pedal cart or trolley which many men made a living from. And I am sure it has helped many to see better days.

It is used to deliver goods of all kinds. While trishaws (also three wheeled) transport human beings, this special vehicle devlivers everything that can go on it. It only needs the leg power of a strong man. When I was younger I used to see even a pig being delivered by this kind of cart!! The most popular usage of this vehicle is for the delivery of electrical goods. But it can also be used as a fun vehicle. Several of my friends could use it and see the sights in the town especially in the evenings!! But it does need a strong person to pedal it.

With prices of fuel going sky high this Sibu made vehicle may make a comeback.

If you look carefully the back part is the hind part of a bicycle and that is welded to a trolley sitting on two wheels in the front. There are even ledges for some people to sit. So goods and humans can go together.

Made in Sibu!! Wonderful idea!!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Hooping Up High



I recently did an interactive performance at the Mado Lounge in Roppongi hills for Guy Perryman's Sky High Party. The party peeps got into the hoop groove and Isaac Shultz of Brilliant World Tokyo was there to capture some of the light show, laughs and hooping hips.

Love the footage he took, at one point it looks like my LED hoop is swirling around one of the Tokyo skyscrapers.

Chinese Checkers



I have always wanted a picture of my family playing Chinese Checkers painted by one of my daughters. But someone has painted this beautiful picture already.


In the 60's and 70's Sibu was often under curfew because of the political upheavals of the time. And being young and active then and having a lot of time in our hands we would have been very bored if we did not have Chinese Checkers to play . Although we also have other card games and toys to amuse us Chinese Checkers remained our favourite.
















When it comes to imagination,I am just wondering why we never thought of this giant Chinese Checkers for our playgrounds. Now so many years later the Americans invented it.




(see also description below)


We played Chinese Checkers during the long curfew days of Emergency during the 60's and 70's in Sibu. And many of us could spend hours just trying to beat one another. Some times in the thick of the game we could not even hear our mother calling us for dinner.

It was also admirable when someone had a personal set of his own. Even though the box was always cardboard and the checkers coming from China, we were always careful when we played and the box sometimes would last. Many of us have been keeping our sets for more than 30 years!!

As students we also played Chinese Checkers in competitions organised by schools, unions, and even churches.

Good parents liked to teach their children to play the game so that they could learn to concentrate on a simple game, and strategise. So one can usually find a box of Chinese Checkers in a Foochow home. I wonder if De Bono always won in Chinese Checkesr Games. What about Bill Clinton? Would Chinese Checkers be too boring for him?

Furthermore,this game also taught us how to be good losers, good winners and even good on lookers. It also taught us to be patient. What was very pleasant was when an opponent would suggest a move so that the game would not jam. Today whenever I get stuck in a traffic game I always think of someone coming to move a silly marble(vehicle) out of the route so that we could move on. That is just being wishful. Many adults still park three cars side by side (triple parking) so that their kids could get into their car in the afternoon school jam. Their big cars still jam up the traffic. These parents remind me of the days when we had players who only wanted to win by hook or by crook.

Have you ever been cheated by a friend who would deliberately roll a few of your marbles away by distracting you to look at something else?

Of course we did come across players who would cheat. But then winning was not everything. We also had people who stole our marbles. Well they were forgiven. Mother always said that we could also buy extra marbles. But we can never buy trust.

Here's a nice description from Wikipedia, in case you do not know how to play it.

Chinese checkers or Chinese chequers is a board game that can be played by two to six people. It is a variant of Halma; the objective of the game is to place one's pieces in the corner opposite their starting position of a pitted hexagram by single moves or jumps over other pieces.

The Chinese checkers board has 121 holes or indentations arranged to form a six-pointed star much like a regular hexagram, with ten such spots within each triangular star-point of the hexagram, and 61 within its hexagon. The game pieces are usually six sets of colored pieces (typically marbles), ten of each color. Each set of ten pieces begins placed in the spots of one of the star-points. Play rotates amongst contestants in fixed order, each player making one move before the next player. A move advances a piece towards a opposite corner, either to an adjacent spot or, by a “jump” over an opponents piece, to a spot two places removed. The objective of the game is to place one's pieces in the corner opposite their starting position of a pitted hexagram by single moves or jumps over other pieces.

Despite being called “Chinese checkers”, this game does not actually originate from China or elsewhere in Asia, nor is it a variation on checkers. The game itself was invented in Germany in 1893 under the name “Stern-Halma”, as a variation on the older American game of Halma. The “Stern” (German for star) refers to the star-shape of the board (in contrast with the square board of Halma). The name “Chinese checkers” originated in the United States, when an American tried to make the game sound more exotic.

(The game was mostly introduced to Chinese-speaking regions by the Japanese.

Source : Wikipedia.


(description of Giant Chinese Checkers...)

Enlarge ImageGiant Chinese Checkers
#W15656
Price: $99.95

Prices are in US Dollars

Great for the gym or outdoors! This huge Chinese Checkers set keeps the fun going for hours. The object of the game is to place one player’s pieces in the corner opposite their starting position by moving them through jumps over opponents’ pieces. Includes 24 soft, 6 1/2"H cone-shaped nylon “pieces”, 8 each in red, green, blue, purple, yellow, and orange, and a durable 82" x 82" vinyl mat with colorful board game design.



Unusual Way of Repairing Roads in Sibu




This photo by Philip Hii shows an amazing attempt of Sibu road builders to control the sinking of a small road. The round holes were made by the piling of bakau at equi-distance from each other. It looks like a piece of art.

Belian Road, Chung Hua Road,Bukit Assek Road for example,were actually heavily piled with bakau when they were first built and later during the repairs. But the roads continued to sink until today.

I am wondering what engineering miracle can take place to contain the great challenge of road building in peat swamps.

HTC Diamond

Despite the upcoming launch of the new 3G iphone, July 11th, last week I decided to make the jump and got myself a HTC Diamond phone instead. Even though the idea of the iphone, combining a 3G phone, storage and an ipod all in one, sounds extremely appealing, in the end I decided that the iphone (even the second 3G generation) was too common and too bulky. The design is just not exactly the sleek and cool or girly and cute style that I like. I considered waiting for the NEXT generation of iphone, which is reputedly smaller than the original, but my disintegrating Nokia 6280, with its expanded battery and barely attached back cover wouldn't allow me to wait.

And so I walked into the store thinking to get a very sophisticated but cute and girly pink Blackberry. Even if I'm too cheap to get the full plan, it would look so adorable! Unfortunately, it appears that the pink Blackberry has not landed in Hong Kong yet (and I don't plan to join Verizon just for it) and they only had it in grey or black- boring. For a moment, I considered getting the grey one. But unfamiliar to the whole Blackberry craze in the US and clueless about phone functions beyond making a call, my mom was disapproving. "Why would you get that? It looks like a phone from 10 years ago."

She thought I should get one that was trendy and hip- like the one they were show casing in the glass case- the HTC Diamond (the store we were at just happened to be promoting it). I was hesitant at first. Since I've owned a phone 10 years ago, I've been a Nokia fan. They are always reliable and durable (to be fair, my Nokia 6280 has suffered through countless drops onto concrete surfaces in the last two years and a case of waterlog before coming to this state of disintegration). I was only willing to consider switching to the iphone or the Blackberry in the first place because they were just as reputable (kind of). And I've never even heard of the HTC before!

I wasn't sure about the durability and reliability of HTC (I eventually found out that it was from Taiwan). But then my mom stepped in, again proving that she is much more open minded and young about modern technology than I was. She said that I was probably only going to use the phone for two years anyway, and so I should just stop over thinking and get the model that I liked regardless of brand and durability.

Admittedly, the design is beautiful. It is small, sleek and shiny, with very cool smooth angles on the back cover giving it that diamond touch. They also very neatly fitten in a pen slot in this sleek design and it stays put magnetically. Very cool. The specs are quite good too. It is basically a touch screen PDA, with wifi and all the little PDA features like calendar, email, music, photos etc all on a very prettily designed interactive windows program that is very easy to use. Seriously. I am technically challenged and even I figured it out. There is 4GB of internal memory, so you can fit everything in. It also has a 3.2 pixel built in camera with auto focus, which is awesome, since even my very first digital camera only had 3.2 pixels. It works in North America, Europe, Australasia and Asia (including Japan and Korea) - just not South America. Supposedly it has GPS too, but I have no idea how it works. I figured since I don’t even have an internet plan for my phone the GPS feature will just go undiscovered. And this is the general gist of the HTC Diamond as I understand it. I’m no expert, so I could be wrong. For more accurate details, check out their website.

From all this, it appears that the HTC Diamond trumps the iphone, Blackberry and even the Samsung Armani (I briefly considered it since it was the same price, but it is a Korean brand phone that doesn’t work in Korea and thus I rejected it. There was also some other things not so good about the specs, though I must say the case it comes with is very nice) phone. In reality though, it doesn’t work quite like a dream. After almost a week of use, here are some things I found wrong with it

  • Even though the camera is 3.2 pixels, the pictures taken indoors tend to be yellowish and not very flattering for anyone. Seriously. Very yellowish. Outdoors, it’s not bad. But over all that autofocus thing means it takes a few seconds to actually take a picture. Not exactly snap.
  • There are a lot of functions, but it takes a while to get from one place to another. Either the touch screen is not very sensitive or it is very slow (probably a bit of both). It needs more RAM. In this aspect, the iphone is much faster.
  • Another thing is that people don’t seem to be hearing me very well these days. I used to talk to people when I’m walking around all the time and they hear me fine. Now I can hear them perfectly fine but they can’t hear me!
  • Another major thing and I’m not sure if it is only me, for two days, my phone would suddenly just switch off with no trigger and I can’t turn it on! I had to take the battery out and then turn it on again to get it to work. This is a major concern. But it hasn’t happened for 2 days now and I’m hoping that it was only an aberration. I think I’ve gone over my 7 day trial period, so I can’t exchange for a new one. And besides, I’m already out of the country……… fingers crossed!
Overall, I wouldn’t really recommend anyone buying the HTC Diamond, even though I’m an owner. I mean, besides those things I mentioned, it works fine. I haven’t personally tried out the music playing (because I haven’t gotten around to figuring out how to connect it with my computer yet- busy busy these days…), but I assume it works fine too. Still, as you can tell, they still have a way to go to perfecting this model. Once they do though, the HTC Diamond would be perfect!

*Update*

Thanks Kate. After playing around for a while, I finally figured out how to adjust the brightness/color contrast of the photos, and now the pictures look much better! Now all they need is a flash!

Image Source: Apple, HTC and Blackberry

Bukit Lima Swimming Pool






Memories of the Bukit Lima Swimming Pool started before Malaysia in fact.

As children we became very excited when we heard about the possibility of having a swimming pool!! Most of us had been swimming in the fierce Rejang River without fear.
The idea of having proper instruction in swimming was in fact so wonderful. And then cycling the 8 km to the pool at Bukit Lima would be no problem for us!!

When the pool was newly opened we went to the pool at least twice a week and that was a bonus for many of us because our parents were quite open minded. We learned to swim well but as girls we did not form a good team and then Sibu did well by sending only boys to competitions. Perhaps we girls were not really committed swimmers or we could not go every day.

Then the British Army,during the Confrontation, conquered the pool for a while,so many of us girls did not dare to go to the pool too often, unless we had adults accompanying us. It was good that my parents could agree to take us swimming.

I also remember one particular year when a good friend of mine wanted to be a beautiful bride. By then I was already a trained teacher. We swam every day so that her waist line could go down by an inch every day. She did it. She has always been a disciplined dieter and slimmer. Today she is still as beautiful as ever. I can not forget her determination. To have beauty,one must have a very strenuous regime. It is true. I love to sit and write. So my waist line just improves (plus)all the time. :) :)

I also remember that the swimming pool was a place for the local people to spend some time to bring their newly engaged partner to see the sights. Sometimes many new couples would also "pato" or date in the lovely surroundings. While many unattached girls would be soaking themselves in the water, these couples would be soaking themselves in their new sea of love. A popular tune at that time was "Come with me....to the sea....to the sea of love..."

My friends and I used to laugh because we soaked ourselves too much in the Bukit Lima Pool, we did not know what it was like to be in the sea of love. Many of my friends actually married late. Some never married. My sister and her friends who are still single number more than 20. They are all good single ladies.

Back to the great boys who swam and got their gold medals. They were good and very determined. But they also had very good coaches like Mr. Hii Hieng Cheong. Another contributing factor was the support given by the community elders who saw to it that they were motivated and well financed.

In ancient days artists,scholars and musicians needed palace support without which they could never become well known. Today it is still very true in most cases. It would really be hard for any one from the fringes of the society to make it to the top unless they are "discovered" by a miracle.

The Swimming Pool did give many Sibu people a lot of pleasure.

Blacksmiths of Sibu - All Gone Now








There were a few blacksmiths in Sibu in the 50's and 60's. They did not make horseshoes and there were no horses in Sibu. They also were not exactly found in Blacksmith Road. These black and white photos were taken by Philip Hii in the 60's. So we are very fortunate to have them.

They were small operators and used a lot of charcoal fire. They mostly made changkuls, parangs ,hoes, huge hammers and even the kitchen choppers. Sometimes they would repair engines of bygone days.

One interesting article they made was the ring for stoves. Another was the base for the charcoal stoves. I am sure they also made the various farm implements.

It is a pity we do not have a good record of their life and work.

Lesong or Mortar and Pestle



This is my own photo of M and P with pounded ginger in it. For people with butterfingers like me, a simple M and P is more practical than a blender or food processor because it is quite an intricate business to wash all the small parts.





Photo from http://importfood.com

The mortar and pestle set is the ancient and traditional forerunner of the food processor, blender,juicer and similar home appliances. It must have been originated from the Stone Age when man started to pound large pieces of food to help in their chewing and biting of food.

But the M and P will always be a simple but the best appliance for the discerning housewife.

One can always tell how carefully a housewife prepares her meals in mid morning by the hoise she makes with the mortar and pestle.

Once a long time ago , in London, I heard a neighbour complain that I made too much noise with my lesong. After I gave her a portion of my evening meal,she understood immediately how we Malaysians prepare our meals. From then on, she would be curious what I could pound for my cooking.

I also taught her the Foochow way of smashing garlic or ginger with a Chinese chopper. That was also the way I introduced kung fu to her, how we Chinese would use almost anything as a weapon of defence. We shared a lot of laughter in the kitchen.

Later an Indonesian lady joined us and she told us that in her country it was very important for girls to learn to pound their onions,ginger and garlic very finely. This would ascertain a good smooth marriage.

Malaysians like to pound their dried shrimps,anchovies, and all the other spices well so that they are almost invisible in the soup,sauce or stew. This is considered very refine. However many people still continue to use the mortar and pestle even when they can afford to buy the best of food processors. They always say that by using the M and P,their food tastes more "authentic".

The father of Po the Panda is a chicken who serves noodles and there is a secret in the secret recipe. It makes me smile. And I love to see the way Shifu and Panda fight each other with chopsticks to get their dumplings. Brilliant ideas!! Excellent moves!!

Well, I don't think I will let go of my M and P. I simply love the sound of stone hitting against stone in the kitchen. It's a happy contented sound. Nourishing to the soul.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

2 Days in Budapest

I figured I ought to see more of Europe before graduating so last week, I travelled with another friend to Budapest and Vienna (another post.) The great thing about Budapest was that everything was so affordable there! One doesn't have to think too much before buying something since everything seemed relatively cheap. Here are the sights we visited:

After spending 3 hours at the main train station, waiting to buy train tickets to Vienna, we visited the Buda Castle...
... and Fishermen's Bastion. To be honest, when we saw these two sights up close, we didn't think they looked that impressive, especially since there wasn't any signs to explain the sights. There was an exhibition/ museum inside the Castle, but it didn't sound that attractive so we didn't go in.

But these two spots are on top of a hill so it was a terrific spot to get a great view of Budapest.

The next day, we took a sightseeing hop on hop off bus to get around the sites. If you go to Budapest and want a convenient way to get to the sites, try the service. It's affordable and convenient, making the whole sightseeing experience very relaxing and simple.

From afar, the Castle looked very pretty.

The Parliament is one of the must-see sights, although we didn't actually go in. It's one of the most impressive buildings in Budapest and again, looks great from across the island.

Afterwards, we visited St. Stephan Balisica.

Then we took a guided tour inside the Opera House. The tour was interesting, with the tour guide describing the history of the Opera House with funny stories. It was very gold and shiny inside, together with paintings and statues.

Finally, we visited Heroes' Square, which is suppsedly a must-see sight. To be honest, it just looked like a normal square, ie. empty space with statues to us.

Budapest is definitely a great place to visit for a very short amount of time and low budget. It's a good choice if you want to see Central Europe. Overall, it was fun and interesting to walk around casually in Budapest, but frankly, the sightseeing spots weren't as well 'put-together' (ie. as tourist-friendly) relative to other countries'.

Image Credit: this blog

Shake It Off


This brings streaming tears of pure hoop joy to my eyes and heart!
Just to be in the presence of such a beautifully graceful woman such as Ann at Hoop Camp later this year is going to bring me to my knees with awe struck gratitude.
I feel like I might possibly be the luckiest woman alive to be given such endless opportunities to fulfill my dreams!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Haute Couture F/W08 II

Christian Dior
After a few of you mentioned how much you loved the Dior haute couture collection in your comments from the last post, I checked it out and agreed with you all -the Dior F/W08 haute couture collection is indeed fabulous! For the past few seasons, the collections have all sort of blended together and all I could remember about them are huge, colourful, extravagant dresses.


But this season, the silhouettes and use of different fabrics have really added something extra to the outfits. I LOVE the juxtaposition of the textures: strong, structured and solid on top, and soft, feminine and flowing at the bottom.

These are such a modern and gorgeous twist to the typical dress-suit and lunch suit.

And even more dress suits for the ladies-who-lunch. I don't believe I've like lunch suits this much before!

This is one of the few times I can actually say I like the use of animal prints -it's so elegant and untrashy. And even though I imagine it wouldn't be comfortable wearing a see through skirt, I love this interpretation of the LBD.

Such ladylike dresses. Imagine riding and getting off horse carriages in these dresses -ok, maybe I've just been visiting too many palaces in my recent travelling.

Gorgeous, GORGEOUS party dresses. In my dreams of attending formal parties, I will be wearing these dresses this season.
There were a few really extravagant big white dresses (-presumably wedding gowns for the rich and fabulous) and this one was my favourite. It's like a fusion of the long, slim dress and the big, puffy dress. Loves it!

It's not Dior haute couture by John Galliano without an art piece-looking dress.
Valentino
OK, I was going to write more about Valentino, but the fabulousness of the Dior collection totally distracted me and used up my enthusiasm for this season's haute couture collection. That said, the new eggy and space age shapes used by Alessandra Facchinetti really added a dose of youth to Valentino's feminine, romantic dresses.

Image Credit: http://www.style.com/
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