Wednesday, 29 April 2009

One Month after Earth Hour 2009

On 28 March 2009, millions of people switched off their lights for one hour to make a stand against climate change.

Yesterday was one month since Earth Hour 2009. But has the momentous event achieved it's objectives?

Let me share with you the changes that took place in my company before and after the event.

A few days before Earth Hour 2009, an e-memo from the Chief Operating Officer was sent out to all staff informing that the company will be taking part in Earth Hour 2009. The e-memo reminded staff to switch off all lights and electrical appliances before leaving the office on Friday (Earth Hour was on a Saturday night).

On Monday morning, the building manager came to my department and spoke to my boss. Apparently my department has been identified as one of the departments whose lights was left switched on throughout the weekend. OMG !!!

I know who the culprit is, but I can't say ;-)

After investigating, the building management has now labelled all the switches on my floor and now they're able to detect who is the last person to leave the office and so on.

A couple of days ago, an e-memo was sent to all staff about conserving energy and to switch off all lights and electrical appliance when not in use.

Now there's a conscience effort to switch off lights in any unoccupied room. After 7.00pm they also switch off lights leading to the washroom. So most of the time I'll be groping in the dark and relying on light emitting from the 'Keluar' (Exit) sign to guide my way back from the washroom.

If Earth Hour never happened, my company would never have taken these efforts to inculcate a habit of conserving energy. And the lights in my department would be left switched on every weekend.

I think the efforts of WWF to promote Earth Hour are beginning to bear fruits. People are beginning to realise the importance of conserving energy and saving the environment.

Monday, 27 April 2009

Green Saturday

Last Saturday, Angie and I wanted to go hiking in Ah Pek Hill in Cheras. Unfortunately we couldn't find the hill and headed to Kuala Kubu Bahru (KKB) instead.

Soon we reached Chiling Falls, but we didn't want to go there because we've been there before.

So we drove a bit further after the entrance to Chiling Falls and saw three people emerging from a trail by the roadside. So we went to investigate.

We don't know the name of this place 'cause there was no signage at the entrance. And there was nobody around to ask.

As we began to explore the trail we saw many buterflies

and ferns too.

Soon we came to a hill and wondered what lay on the other side.

We saw a fork in the road.

Whenever I see a fork in the woods, it'll remind me of the Robert Frost poem titled The Road Not Taken. The last verse reads:

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -
took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference."

Now back to the story ...

The left fork looked like a continuation of the hiking trail. On the right was a clearing with a little hut beside a river. There were toilet cubicles on the other side of the river.

Toilet cubicles

We needed to take a leak, so we left our footwear by the riverbank and waded across.

The water was refreshing and cooling in the hot, humid afternoon. I regret not bringing a change of clothes; otherwise I'd have taken a deep in the cool, refreshing water.

After answering nature's call, lazing by the river and snapping a few pics, we continued our hike on the left trail.

After hiking for about 45 minutes, the trail looked like it's neverending. So we decided to turn back.

On the way back, Angie saw this beautiful formation on a leaf. I thought I could use the pic to write some motivational quotes by the side like this:

We then got into the car and headed home.

It was a pleasant Saturday spent on an unknown trail with Mother Nature.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Times the Bookshop & Income Tax

Last weekend I was rummaging through my book receipts, other receipts and insurance statements - it's the usual last minute rush to get my income tax done.

And amongst the pile of mail that was waiting to be opened, I discovered that Times the Bookshop has sent me a statement on all the purchases I've made in 2008.

The statement is approved by the Lembaga Hasil Dalam Negeri (Inland Revenue Board) for tax submission. How initiative is that!

Previously I was a member of Popular Bookstore for a couple of years and they never sent me any statement. I don't know about MPH and Kinokuniya, though.

I became a member of Times in mid-2008 because the bookshop is only a 10-minute walk from my office. This is convenient for me since I can take a short walk there during lunch to get my favourite magazine or to buy books.

Since becoming a member of Times, I've enjoy many privileges like receiving vouchers and buying books and magazines at 10% and 5% discount respectively. Popular members don't get magazines at 5% discount.

And now that Times have surprised me with this customer service initiative of theirs, I hope to remain a member for many years to come. Kudos to Times!

Friday, 17 April 2009

AirAsia - Cheap but Troublesome

I've been a fan of AirAsia since it started operations. However, my views of AirAsia has gone down the drain these couple of days.

Now don't get me wrong here. I adore AirAsia because it offers me an opportunity to fly cheaply and I think Tony Fernandes is one hell of an entrepreneur with strategy and foresight.

However ...

Story 1

My friend DM was down in KL recently. After KL, he was scheduled to continue his travel to Hong Kong, and I convinced him to use AirAsia, which he did.

After saying our goodbyes at the LCCT, I took the limo back to my apartment. Along the way, DM called to say that his flight got delayed. I was not surprised since it was raining cats and dogs.

When I reached my apartment, DM called again.

I was surprised to see his name blinking on my cellphone cause he was supposed to be on the flight by then.

"Wah ... so fast reach Hong Kong, ah ???" I thought.

Apparently after 10 minutes in the air, the pilot detected something wrong with the plane and turned back to LCCT !!!

DM told me it's the shortest flight he ever took in his life and I laughed at him. But despite DM kutuk-ing (condemning) AirAsia for its poor services and all, I still defended the airlines simply because it's a Malaysian airlines (not being disrespectful to the national carrier). Must fly the Malaysian flag mah ...

Yesterday, I had my dose of bad experience with AirAsia. Read Story 2.

Story 2

I was looking forward to my trip to Manado from 1 - 5 May. Angie and I had booked our flight way ahead in September last year for RM412 per person (including return Skybus from KL Sentral to the LCCT).

We already had a draft itinerary planned out to make use of the precious 5 days of glorious holidays. Our itinerary included snorkeling with the rich marine life of Bunaken Island and climbing Mount Lokon, which is a volcano!

However, yesterday I received an sms from AirAsia:

"Urgent! AirAsia flight AK432 from KUL (LCCT) to Manado on 01 May 09 is now cancel and moved to 02 May 09 (1550 hrs). We apologise for any inconvenience caused."

WTF !!!

First of all, 1 May is gone cause we'll only be leaving on 2 May. And with a flight at 3.50pm, we'll reach Manado late in the evening when it's already time to go to bed. So that's 2 whole days totally wasted!!!

For people like Angie and I who find it hard to take time off, this is ONE HELL OF A BAD NEWS !!!

Now since we've only got 3 days in Manado, it looks like we'll have to cancel our climbing escapade to Mount Lokon. What an utter disappointment !!!

When I told DM about this, he said, "I told you so".

He told me that apparently there's also a low-cost airlines in Europe called Ryanair that operates as shitty as AirAsia.

Today I received another sms from AirAsia:

"Urgent! AirAsia flight AK433 from Manado to KUL (LCCT) on 05 May 09 has been retimed later at 8.05pm (2005 hrs). We apologise for any inconvenience caused."

The original flight was supposed to be in the morning. But now since we'll be reaching LCCT late in the night, looks like I'll have to take leave the next day, which could be saved for other better things. One screw-up after the next !!!

I've never had an encounter as bad as this with AirAsia. And at publishing time, the airlines have not offered any compensation yet. But I hope they do cause they're gonna have many unhappy customers if they don't, especially those who have booked and paid for their hotel, tours, etc.

Damn you AirAsia !!!

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

I Wrote a Book!

Another one of my writing endeavour is out!

This time it's a children's book titled Great Expectations - Opening Up A Whole New World of Ambition.

The book contains 80 careers to help kids explore the wide world of careers. It was distributed at the Smart Kids Education Fair that was held at the Putra World Trade Centre last weekend.

I've laboured hard to finish this book and here it is:

The book contains interesting graphics printed on thick glossy paper. But I didn't design the pages; I only did the writing :-)

Can you find my name? :-)

Monday, 13 April 2009

Desperado & Stupido

This is a follow-up to the entry Am I That Unrecognisable?

I met TE briefly at a singles party. We never exchanged numbers after the event and that was that.

Six months later, my friend Ming Li whom I attended the singles party with, informed that TE wanted to invite the both of us for lunch. She also asked if it’s ok if she gave my number to TE who wanted to call me up personally to invite. I said ok.

The next day TE called and we chatted for about 10 minutes. He also asked me out for a drink the following day at Starbucks in Berjaya Times Square.

Fast-forward to the next day. A couple of hours before our meet-up at Starbucks, TE text me at the office.

“Julie, can I ask you a question? Or do you want me to ask you at Starbucks?”

“Go ahead, ask anything.”

“Julie, can you become my girlfriend?”

I was dumbfounded. Here was a guy whom I met briefly at a singles party, who didn’t bother to exchange numbers, who didn’t bother to make contact whatsoever for six months, and now here he is asking me to become his girlfriend after we chatted over the phone only once.

"Let’s discuss this at Starbucks," I said.

TE agree.

Now here's the best part of the story.

I arrived early at Starbucks and headed straight for the counter to get my drink. As I was paying for my drink, TE walked in. I waved and smiled at him. He looked at me and headed straight for the plush seats without even acknowledging me. I was bloody mad, and then I realised that he had forgotten how I looked like because we only met once 6 months ago at the singles party.

I got my drink and headed to where TE was sitting. The bloody bugger was texting on his mobile, probably wanted to tell me that he has arrived.

“Hey TE,” I said, “don’t you recognise me?”

TE looked up and the blood drained from his face - he knew he had made a big boo-boo.

Then TE had the bloody cheek to say that he saw me but he had to text his friend, which is a habit of his whenever he arrives at a certain place, or so he claims. WTF!

When I said, “Then how come you didn’t acknowledge me and went straight to the sofa?” TE was cornered; he kept quiet.

Then I told TE straight in the face, “You asked me to be your girlfriend and you don't even recognise me???!!!”

Just imagine asking somebody whom you’ve met only once, don’t know anything about and obviously can’t recognise, to become your girlfriend? In my books it’s clearly a case of desperado and stupido.

After a moment of silence when I allowed my blood pressure to subside, we started talking.

I learned that TE is in his mid-thirties and never had a steady girlfriend. He doesn’t have a proper job despite having a business degree from the United States and had a good job in the hotel industry there. His excuse was that he is looking for a job that will pay him equivalent to the job he had when he was in the United States.

Here is clearly another bum who makes you wonder why there are so many single ladies out there.

I told TE that we should remain friends but nothing more than that. I could tell that he was disappointed, but what do you expect me to do? Said 'yes' after what he did? TE contacted me a few times after that incident but I never responded. Good riddance to bad rubbish!

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

First Time at the Formula 1 Petronas Malaysian Grand Prix

Malaysia has hosted the Formula 1 Grand Prix since 1998. After 11 years, I finally attended my first F1 race last Sunday.

The road to the circuit was a slow crawl with so many cars and buses. Luckily DM and I were on a Harley, so we whizzed in and out of traffic like a breeze.

By the time we arrived at the circuit, it was already 4.30pm and the race started at 5.00pm. We parked the Harley in the motorcycle parking area and headed straight into the circuit area.

I was amazed at the number of people there. Recession? What recession? Tickets that costs minimum RM500 were full of people. But I read in the papers that there were only 80,000 spectators this year compare to 120,000 at last years race.

When the race started I realized that listening to the sound of a Formula 1 car live is one of the most exhilarating sounds of adrenaline rush ever.

Now let me share with you my experience about taking pictures of the F1 cars as they zoomed past at an average speed of 85 meters per second.

Because my camera was not a DSLR like DM’s,

I had to focus on a spot on the track and press the button half way down in ready mode. By listening to the approaching sound of the engine as an indicator, I pressed the button all the way down when the sound got nearer, with the hope that the image gets captured.

It was a whole load of tikam work and most of the time I got empty pics like this

Or ‘half cars’ like these

After many tries I managed to get some shots that looked like these

So not too bad lah.

Unfortunately the extremely loud sound of the cars caused the flash in my good old Canon PowerShot A80 camera to crack. As I was taking the pics, I could hear a crackling sound coming from my camera. I dismissed it as just a sound. Later when I couldn’t use the flash only did I realise what had happened. It was like breaking a wine glass with a high resonance frequency.

Next I’m going to bitch about the extremely poor service at the circuit.

DM and I had bought tickets for the Citrine seats 1 week prior to the race and we were allocated seat numbers.

However when we got there, the person-in-charge of crowd control (I’m going to refer to him as Mr Orange because his story does not end here) told us that it was free seating. WTF! The reason we paid so much for the tickets was because we wanted peace of mind that our seats were secured.

We had to jostle and finally found 2 empty seats which were surrounded by foreign students.

Where the hell do students get that kind of money for the tickets?

Soon the crowd got bigger and bigger and since everyone was standing up, we could not get a good angle to take pics. So we left our seats and headed right to the top of the row of seats and jostled in the crowd.

The crowd soon got so big that we got frustrated and we left the seating area to walk around the place.

As we were heading out of the place, I realised that Mr Orange just stood there and let every Tom, Dick and Harry walk in and plunk their arses wherever they wished. No wonder there were so many people in the Citrine seats that I thought the management had oversold the tickets.

I couldn’t stand such poor services that I walked up to Mr Orange and complained. We should not be paying such prices only to get such poor services. Mr Orange finally started controlling the crowd and directed some of them away.

Mr Orange directing traffic away after I complained about the poor crowd control.

DM said if we were to come back again next year, we’re gonna get Grandstand tickets so that we can get a good view of the drivers and their team in the paddock.

The price of food at the circuit was also super pricey.

Just imagine paying so much for something that will end up as shit. Just ta pau your own food in the bag lah. I know food and drinks are not allowed in the circuit. But what are they gonna do if I bring my own F&B? Arrest me?

The speakers were one of the most atrocious speakers I’ve ever seen/heard. The sound muffled so badly and the voice constantly broke up. It was like having a conversation with a friend on a bad cellphone line. It was so bad that I couldn’t hear a word being announced. I didn’t even know that it was Jaclyn Victor who sang the Negaraku until I read about it in the papers the next day. I thought they were playing a recorded song.

You’d also know by now that the race was cut short due to the heavy downpour. Well, by the time it was raining cats and dogs, the Citrine seats were leaking so terribly that many had to vacate their seats. I didn’t take a shot of the leaks cause my flash had broked by then.

Ok, so enough with the bitching.

To end this entry, here's a pic of the gloomy sky at the race. After this pic was taken, the heavens opened and it poured cats and dogs.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Am I That Unrecognisable?

Last Wednesday C asked me out for lunch. He’s an acquaintance whom I met a couple of years ago while hunting for a job. We’ve gone out for lunch a couple of times, and that’s about it.

On that day, C said he’ll text me when he arrive at the lobby of my office building.

When I got out of the lift, I could see C waiting a distance away looking at the lifts to see if I got off any of ‘em. I started walking towards him and about 10 metres away I waved and smiled at him.

He stared at me, blankly.

WTF! I looked like an idiot waving at somebody who couldn’t recognize me! I mean come on, this is not the first time I’m meeting this bloody bugger.

When I approached him, I said, “Hey C, it’s me la. Don’t you recognize me?”

With the blank look still on his face, C looked at me and said, “Oh …,” to acknowledge that his stupid neurons have finally registered my face.

“Sorry, I’ve got a lot on my mind la,” C said.

My mind was urging me to scream, “Hey idiot, if you have lots on your mind, then don’t ask me out for lunch. You ask me out and then you behave like you don't know me. Everybody also got lots on their mind la, not only you!”

But it’s the season of Lent, so I said, “Eh friend, next time acknowledge la,” albeit irritatingly.

C apologized after hearing the tone in my voice, but the damage has been done.

Maybe I should stop going out for lunches with this loser.

P/S If you think C is a loser, wait till you read about TE, in my next entry.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Travelling on Unpaid Leave

Did you read about CIMB offering their staff the option of taking unpaid leave as one of the bank's cost cutting measure? If you haven't, click here: Group to extend leave programme to all staff.

I wish my company would offer this option to its staff too. If given so, I would take all 6 months to travel the world. For money, I'll work as an au pair, pluck apples, teach English, or whatever to keep the dream alive.

Ever since the travel bug hit me, I've always yearned to travel the world. But being tied down to a full-time job doesn't offer me the freedom to do whatever I want, whenever. There's always a project coming up and all leave is frozen.

To go for a backpacking trip requires at least 2 weeks. And to get such a long leave approved is quite impossible in the company I work for, unless it's during the year-end festive season, which by the way, is one of the worst times to travel because it's the peak period in many countries and everything is costly and places crowded.

In my travels I've met many youths on long trips around the world. They are usually young and adventurous with the world at their feet. Many of them have just completed college or quit their jobs to pursue their dream of travelling the world.

When I meet people like them, I'll reminisce about my missed opportunity to travel after completing my tertiary education because of the perennial issue - lack of money. Moreover I could not find a travel buddy then (and even now!) because most of my friends were economically challenged like me.

Today I have the means and the guts to travel alone, but no time. How ironic can life get. I've done a fair bit of travel, but there's still many more places to visit and experience. But at this point in time, I can only wish ... for 6 months unpaid leave.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

California Fitness Lot 10 - Disappointing

Yesterday I went to the spanking new California Fitness at Lot 10 for the first time. After moving to its new premises from Menara Standard Chartered, I would expect the place to be better than before. But alas, this is not the case.

The new California Fitness at Lot 10 is a disappointment.

First of all, for folks like me who gets to Lot 10 by walking, there is no lift that takes you directly from the Ground Floor to the club on the 8th Floor.

I had to take the lift to the 7th Floor and then walk across the car park to take the escalator on the other side of the car park to the 8th Floor. I wouldn’t recommend using this way because it’s dangerous to walk across the car park, especially if you’re female.

My favourite way to get to the club is to take the escalators or elevators to the 4th Floor.

When you get to the 4th Floor, look for the escalator that is near London Weight Management and Cenosis.

When you reach this escalator, continue going up till you reach the 8th Floor and you'll see the club entrance on your left.

But if you're driving I don't think it would be difficult, as you can park on the 8th or 9th Floors, which is where the gym is.

Now let's get down to details.

Everything in the club, I repeat everything, has been scaled down. For example, the entire female changing room is now smaller compared to before. The number of lockers, shower cubicles, changing rooms and toilet cubicles have all have been reduced. The sauna room has also become smaller.

This is ok if there’re a small number of ladies around. But it can get pretty cramp during peak hours. And tempers can flare when everyone seem to be in your face everywhere you turn. For the first time ever as a member of California Fitness, I had to wait for my turn to use the changing room yesterday evening.

Previously when the club was in Menara Standard Chartered I could go to a little corner of the changing room, strip and put on my workout attire without anyone staring at my breasts. Now with a much smaller space I have to resort to using the changing rooms. I don't want other ladies comparing their breasts with mine.

Since the days of Menara Standard Chartered, there have been a number of locker break-ins. The management of the club then started encouraging its members to use the big silver locks, the ones where the key sticks inside the lock when it's unlocked.

The funny thing is that in this new place, the management have installed some lockers that can’t fit the big locks like mine. Are the management dumbbells or what? Pun intended.

When I found that my lock can't fit into the locker hole, I had to look for another locker that could fit my lock and shift all my stuff to that locker. So leceh.

I also bumped into Sergio, a fellow gym member yesterday. It was his third time there since the club relocated to Lot 10, and he too was disappointed with the new gym.

Previously in Menara Standard Chartered the guys used to have a spacious workout area with lots of machines to build a body like the Governor of California. I call it the Testosterone Zone.

Now all the machines and dumbbells have been cramped into a small space and these poor fellas have no freedom of movement.

If you want to pump iron during peak hours you might have to wait for a long time to be able to use the machines. Maybe that’s why they have installed internet terminals beside the Testosterone Zone – for people to kill time while waiting to use the machines. Oh yeah, did I mention that the internet access is also bloody slow?

Sergio also told me that the reason people were still members is because they have signed a one year or longer membership with the club. When their membership expires, there's a high possibility they might change clubs. Only time will tell if California Fitness at Lot 10 will lose its members in the long run.

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