Friday, May 30, 2008

Parfum - Mitsouko

One of my favorite past-time and discipline while traveling is to get a bottle of parfum or some
dress accessories for my wife. It is small and occupy very little luggage space. So while I was going into Mongolia via Incheon Airport in Seoul, I just couldn't resist doing a spot of browsing and shopping at the world's No: 2 airport in the world. My layover at Incheon is about 10 - 14 hours each leg of the journey. Plenty of time. You may be asking why not another route. Yes, there is another by Air China but I will write on it at another time.
My wife's Mitsouko
While reading the Time magazine on the plane, I spotted an article from Karen Dubin and Karen Adams who have led 500,000 fragrance lovers in exploring the impact of perfume on themselves. Dubin, who owns too many scents to count highlights the six she can't live without: Mitsouko, Bois De Paradis, Ambre Sultan, New Haarlem, Poivre Piquant and Aimez-Moi. I took a shot of the article using my trusty Nokia E90, 3.2 MP camera.The article will go on record!! for my next reference / use.

I went checking on my return journey in Incheon. Guess what, these parfum are collectibles and not easy to find. I show all the names to different salesladies and fortunately or unfortunately only Mitsouko was found. The price tag: USD100 and the volume: 7.5ml / 0.25fl. oz. Just a spoonful!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Suitcases for Secure International Travel

Japanese custom officials at Narita planted 142g of cannabis worth USD10,000 (Star 29th May '08, W37) into a passenger suitcase four days ago. The drugs I presume is planted in Tokyo when the luggages came off the Cathay Pacific plane from Hong Kong.

This is indeed disconcerting eventhough it was a training run for their sniffer dogs and surprise, surprise this is not the first time. The public get to hear it only when there was a foul-up. It is a violation of individual rights. It was said that heads will roll.

I have doubts over the procedural control and the line of command of some of these division. Regular audits by independent bodies must be done. Internal control is not good enough. Though not association this case with other court cases but in the light of the drug case involving Raja Munirah in Japan this leave a bad taste in the mouth.

In my travels I am careful with check-in luggages. If possible I travel light and buy small souvenirs so that it can fit into my cabin bag. Some cautions:

1) Pack your own luggage. Then lock it.
2) Do not accept any packages from anybody.
3) Do not carry or help carry any luggages in the airport. The airport staff will help those who need it.
4) Do not help to check-in others' luggages under your name even if they plead with you in the check-in line esp. when you have only a cabin bag.
5) Use hard-shell oyster-suitcase. It is made of ABS polycarbonate. These have no pockets at the side, front and rear for any insertions. Otherwise make sure your the pocket uses 2 zipper tabs. The tabs must have a hole for the lock to go through. 'Lock' all pockets.

As for hand-carry luggages the above still applies but one can be flexible in the model of the suitcase as long as the three dimensions of the suitcase added together must not exceed 115cm. And finally always have the bag in front of you.

Rear Seat Belts

Come June '08 all cars registered after January 1995 are required to have rear seat belts. I am sure the intention is for all passengers to buckle up in a moving car. At the moment, 90% of the cars on the road in Malaysia are equipped with rear seat belts.

I have taken many guests from the west and advanced Asian countries. They will automatically buckle up. It is a sad state of affairs in Malaysia where there was not much education in this area. With education, legislation can be introduced and subsequently enforcement. Passengers are given 2 months to complied. So far Kenari and Kancil car owners have 3 years to fit them. As for cars registered before January 1995 the grace period to fit the cars was not revealed. The Road Transport Department says this move can saved up to 350 road deaths in Malaysia. I will venture to say many thousands will be saved from serious injury.

This will be good for those who want to buckle up esp. when using taxis. When using LCCT in my travels I will have to take one of the Iswara taxis to get home. These taxis have rear seat belts :-) but no buckle :-( One cannot buckle up. I am not sure if these were removed. Most time I have to move up to the front passenger seat incurring a strange and disapproving look from the driver. Mind you all Iswara taxis are required to have a 1.5 litre engine. They are fast on the highway and I do not want to be caught in an accident without a seat belt in that car.

There is still 2 more days to June. Will there be another postponement?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Ming Kee Bak Kut Teh - Old Town P. J.

I come to Ming Kee not for the bak kut teh but for its braised mushroom. Honestly, its the best. This place used to be my old hunting ground and I have been there numerous times. But too bad not the last 4 years ago. I love its earthy, natural and herbal taste. It is infused with 2 principal Chinese herbs. Transliterating from Cantonese, it is called 'sang tei' and 'mat tung'.

The thought of good braised mushrooms in Chinese herbs will always bring me back here. Alas, I was traveling too much the last 4 years. I learned from a chef that mushrooms need pre-cooking preparation. It has to be boiled in water for a while. This remove the stale and dry smell. It will be expanded to the right size. The mushroom looks taut and the texture appetizing. Oil must be added while boiling so that the mushroom will come out with an attractive sheen. The oil will make it feel smooth in the mouth. Do you remember the 'pan meen' noodles? The mushrooms are prepared the same way always taste good.

However, the mushrooms has lost its sheen (literally) two nights ago. It is flat and the herbs were indiscernible. It was a disappointing night. I am not too sure what happen!

There is another more famous bak kut teh around the corner called Heng Kee with this similar dish. I ate there on many occasions. The bak kut teh is good but not the mushrooms. However, it may be even steven if Ming Kee don't buck up.

Directions to Ming Kee: Turn into Jalan Othman. At traffic junction turn left into Jln Pasar (1/21). Find parking. The store is facing Public Bank.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Phad Thai

Next week I will be in Chiangmai and looking forward to it. The reason is it has been two years since my last trip up there. I used to travel to North Thailand since 1993. I was so enamored by the trips that in 1995, I spent time learning Thai for a year (twice a week) in New Town P.J. The native Thai teacher is married to a Malaysian.
In Suphanburi having noodles for lunch with my family
My first trip to Thailand was in1993. My wife and I landed in Don Muang airport and we made our way to Mor Chit (for travelers to the North) to board a bus to Chiangrai. We took lunch there. That was my first introduction of Thai food. I was amazed at the amount of sugar the locals used. It went into their noodles too. The other seasonings were nam pla (fish sauce), gluer (salt), phrik (chili powder) and finally manau (lime juice).
One of my favorite food or dessert was their kong warn. I love all of them. There were so many varieties. It comes with all type cereals, dried fruits, vegetables and starchy legumes. Then it was topped off with thick coconut milk. As for dessert all over the world it was very sweet. I love to indulge in it and often look forward to it as an antidote for being homesick.
However, there is one dish that I did not get use to. It is the Phad Thai (Thai fried noodles). Why? Too sweet! Too sour because of the lime juice and very spicy. I always tell the chau kong (shop owner) or the mae kar por kar (hawkers) from where I ordered my food, “Mai owl nam tharn (no sugar), mai owl manau (no lime juice) and mai owl phrik (no chilli). Time and time again it comes with all the three and in abundance. I gave up. Mind you it's not my language! I guess it will not be Phad Thai without those. These nationalistic Thai will not want to dilute their culture for some foreigner!
Hailing from Ipoh, I am used to having my Char Kuay Tiaw (Chaw Hor Fun – in Cantonese) plain. Just a few dashes of soya sauce. No sugar. No MSG. No lime juice. No chili paste. It’s the aroma that I crave for the most in Chaw Hor Fun. It is the chemistry that took place when the noodles (from Ipoh) went in a very hot wok esp. if it is over charcoal flame.
That reminds me to go back to Ipoh. It’s been 3 months!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

EPL Football Season is Over

At least in my estimation. EPL has concluded its season. So are most of the major leagues in Europe with the champions decided.

I am watching the Champions League Final now. Its 4:35am and I am feeling it. The 90 minutes period is over and it is entering the extra-time stage. There will be no sleep until about 5:15am, if there are no penalty kicks.

Chelsea is bidding for its first trophy in the Champions League and I hope they will succeed. Cech has been magnificent. So is Lampard. After facing a torrid first 15 minutes they have been on the ascendancy. ManU is in trouble and may not have the legs and the freshness to finish off their opponent. Their players all of a sudden is strangely jaded and they are fading. What will Ferguson do? Their movement is lethargic and they look lacking in focus.

The referee has been doing a great job moving the game and keeping everybody happy.

Despite willing Chelsea to win, it could be anybody's game. A moment of magic will turn the game either way. Lamps just hit the post!!

Just got to wait it out. Anelka just came on for Cole.

Post game notes: Congratulations ManU! You have crowned a great season with a coveted trophy. This will validate your claims to be one of the pinnacle clubs in Europe.

Vietnam Noodles

I have always wanted to conduct my friends to the world's capital for noodles. This place is in Ho Chi Minh City, the southern capital of Vietnam. Though a personal preference, I have persuasive reasons for coming to this conclusion.

The people there is generous, easy-going, free-spirited, capitalistic and fun-loving. Anything goes here as long as there is a profit to be made. Noodles shops are everywhere. When there, I could not resist the many varieties of noodles available.

With fertile fields ingredients for noddles like pho, hu tieu, bun, mi, vermicelli and banh are easily available. The most common ingredient would be rice and the most interesting would be tapioca flour. With the rich farmlands, there will be the chicken, pigs and cows. The long coastlines and the delta in the south has plenty to offer in terms of fishes, shellfishes, clams and snails.

The broth is generally made from bones of cows and chickens. The vegetable, herbs and spices used also wide-ranging and reflect what the land has to offer. In some meals in the Mekong Delta like the Hu Tieu My Tho, I have 6 - 8 different types of herbs and vegetables served to me raw. Take what you want and dump it into the bowl of noodles.

The most famous noodles will be Pho. It is rice noodles in clear beef broth. It has a distinctive and strong beefy taste and smell. It is served with any of these meat; chicken, beef and pork. You can have them almost anywhere and it comes out good. The cheaper version but equally tasty are those sold from the roadside with low tables and chairs. You can even stand and eat, buying them from hawkers. I recommend Pho 2000 near Ben Thanh Market.

My favourite has to be Bun Bo Hue. It is from the Central district of Hue. It is spicy beef broth with strong lemon grass aroma and taste. It comes with sliced beef and / or chunky pork trotters. I ate it in one of my trip to a western province about 2 hours from Ho Chi Minh City.

With tonnes of seafood Banh Canh Cua is my next foavourite. It is tapioca noodles with crab claw. The claw comes from the male crab as it is huge. The price of this is also expensive, USD3 per bowl.

Then there is the noodles from hell, Banh Canh Gio Heo or Pork Hock Noodles. 'Gio Heo' is pronounced like 'Your Hell'. Then there is the Phnom Penh noodles (Hu Tieu Nam Vang) with spare parts from pigs. If you don't like pork or the offals, you can ask for shrimps.

With AirAsia now flying to Ho Chi Minh City, I am sure many will be able to savour these wonderful noodles from the various Vietnamese restaurants and shops. Ban appetit!

Banh Canh Cua Gio Heo

Milk Fish (Bangus, Bandeng and Hilsa)

The silvery and shiny coat of the 'milk fish' is mesmerizing. This milk fish is known as 'bangus' in the Philippines. My first encounter with national fish of Philippines was in Iloilo. We went to the wet market and bought a few ½ kg size fishes. This fish not only looks good, it tasted good as the meat was fine / powdery when chewed. The action of chewing brought out the best it has to offer. It is rich and it taste perhaps ‘milky’. The challenge is to avoid the numerous tiny bones. However, we found out too late that there was a de-boned version.
The second time I have this fish was in Semarang, Indonesia. I was staying with this family in the hill resort of Boyolali. They served me fried de-boned bandeng. The more I eat, the more I want. It’s addictive. As I have found out it Iloilo, chewing it as long as possible brought out the best from the meat. On the way from the Semarang airport I bought ‘smoked bandeng’ off the shelves. However, the taste and the smell were disappointing. So far I have not had the steam, and baked version.
In January this year while in Dhaka, Bangladesh, I had 'hilsa' in a restaurant. It is a national fish here too. The fish has plenty of fat (omega oil) and was fried. It kind of cooked in its own fat. Once again it was tasty except for the bones. On this occasion I was careless and a bone found its way near the start of my throat. It was very uncomfortable with that foreign object pierced into the soft tissue. I tried swallowing balls after balls of rice to dislodge it but to no avail. Still smarting from my misadventure and on my way back to the hotel, I decided to take matters in my hands (literally). I stick my thumb and index finger in to remove that thorn in my flesh. Merciful I was successful. My two fingers were coated with blood from this exercise. The bone was 1 ½ cm long.
The Bangladeshi prefers hilsa from the river rather than from the sea

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Grilled Fish - Pelabuhan Ratu, Indonesia

The market for fish is huge. There is a big premium if the fish is fresh. Coastal fishermen that bring in their catch daily are in this category. I used to enjoy these fishes when I am back in Penang. The taste and texture of these fresh fishes are incredible. My wonderful mother-in-law will get them from the market and I will have a gala time feasting on red snapper, grouper and pomfret. Being Cantonese, my father educate me very early on the merits of fresh fish whether it is fresh water or from the sea. If you are in or near Pesta and Bayan Lepas you are in luck. Locals will tell you where to get to these markets.
Years ago a business friend who runs businesses in Indonesia and Philippines commented that if he could export the fresh fish from these archipelagic nations, he will be rich. So far he has not being able to figure out how to bring them home.
Last year I was in Pelabuhan Ratu, Java, Indonesia. It is about 4 ½ - 5 hours drive from Jakarta. Tourists go there for their live seafood. Lobsters, tuna and all types of live seafood are available. We bought a baby lobster, fishes, squid and prawns to be grilled over coconut husks fire.
The other archipelagic nation would be Philippines. The Filipinos love their food grilled over fire. I have lapu-lapu (grouper) in Central Mindanao. When it is fresh cooking it any which way is fine. The other fish will tuna. It comes in big. Almost the height of a adolescent. I have it near Cagayan de Oro, North Mindanao. Huge slices of the chunky meat will be marinated in their special marinate and grilled over fire. The meat flakes off. Peeled it off and eat it flake by flake! The meat is dry and rough tough. The trick is to have a strong marinate.
I will reserve my last comment for their ‘talakito’ or Great Trevally. The meat is succulent, moist and juicy. I think the reason is it was grilled over fire wrapped in banana leaves. It retains its sea taste and with the slight infusion of the green leaves it smells so natural. BTW that fish costs about USD13. I will always associate the Palawan island with the great 'talakito'.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Ikan Tapah (Helicopter Catfish)

Ask the seasoned anglers about Ikan Tapah and their eyes will sparkle. It is a dream to reel this river fish in. The bonus is the delicious meal that will follow. The price of having one for a meal in a restaurant is about RM100 per kg in KL. No wonder Myfoodtrips commented that was it a bit expensive (RM60) while having it in Restoran 166 at Gua Musang in December 2007.
Ikan Tapah or ‘Helicopter Catfish’ in the western world, is commonly known by its genus name ‘wallago attu’. I saw one in Aquaria, KLCC about 2 years ago when I took my son there for a visit. It weighed 35kg and according to the story it was rescued from the dinner table in a nick of time after being caught in a river in Pahang. Though injured it was nursed back to health.
This prticular fish is available in local restaurants like Fatty Tiger in Cheras, Fook Seng in Slim River and the fish head is available in Tuck Kee, Taman Bukit Maluri, Kepong. Call ahead to check on availability. For direction to Fook Seng check at Knit and Nibbles.
I once have it in a riverside village about 100km from Jambi, Sumatera, Indonesia. It was caught in a fish trap and the live fishes (each about 1 1/2 kg) was sold to us at RM4.00 per kg. Then they were prepared spicy, with sauce, sweet and sour and fried. The meat was firm and tasty and unlike those in aquaculture cages. It felt good to the tongue and smelt good to the nose as all wild river fishes should.

I hope to make it to Slim River soon to get myself acquainted with this fish again. Yummy!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Bright Lights Continue to Shine - Genting Highlands

In 1982 I moved to Taman Melawati, which is at the tail end of the Titiwangsa Range. One can’t help but become fascinated by the bright lights of Genting Highlands. On a clear night Genting looks like an array of jewels in the sky.
Last week I have one of the many short breaks with my family in Genting Highlands. The temperate weather allows one to walk around without the muggy heat following you like hungry mosquitoes. Everything is in its place. The place has everything. It is a very well-run and well-oiled business. Even the thousands of escalators are equipped riser brushes to prevent mishaps. You can't even find this safety feature in top shopping malls in KL.
What make it ticks so well? The reason I asked is because my son loves this place and has never decline an invitation to go up. He is a tough customer. He won’t move unless the benefits outweigh the ‘costs’. As the marketing people used to say get the kids you get the parents. Walk around this place, it is like a mini United Nations, albeit an Asian one. Even during weekdays the crowd is there.
Genting is famous in the annals of Malaysian corporate history. The struggle and success of its founder is well documented. Last year the founder, Tan Sri Lim Goh Tong was feted at his 90th birthday. In the 43 years Genting’s combined market capitalization has grown to a massive USD24.8 billion.
The occasion was featured prominently in the STAR newspaper. The family picture was in the front page. The son, Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay who succeeded his father in 2003, was reminiscing on his father's exploits. Very much in charge and only 53 years old it is considered a successful succession handover. This is especially so for a Chinese Family Business (CFB).
However, during that occasion the grandson, Justin Leong was given the bulk of the 'sound bites'. He has been put forward as the 3rd generation leader. He has gone to school in Harrow, London (Winston Churchill’s alma mater) and graduated from Oxford. He then worked as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs.
I thought it was a PR coup for Genting to line up three generations of human capital that will future-proof Genting. They have debunked the old Chinese saying about CFB, "fu bu guo san dai" (family business and wealth won't pass through the third generation). Or the Mexicans one, and crudely put, “Father-entrepreneur, son-playboy and grandson-beggar.”

The Genting succession was seamless. When the founder – entrepreneur passed away the following year there was hardly a murmur in the stock market as to Genting shares. The son – consolidator is a steady hand and a proven businessman. Further, the grandson is also stamping his mark. Not shy, outspoken and aggressive, he is the most visible and the face of the future for this conglomerate. What he will become is up to him to define. He has the world at his feet. He joined Genting at the age of 26, as the Head of Strategic Investments & Corporate Affairs. Within 3 years he has taken Genting into a dominant position in the UK gaming business ahead of other leading players around the world. Then the famous foray into Sentosa, Singapore costing them USD3.9 billion.
For deeper understanding read Jennifer Chiang’s paper comparing the very Asian CFB with the Western model. Also search Family Business Magazine and Family Business Institute websites.

Middle Age - Low Lights and Soft Music

I have preferred the loud and the bright since joining the teenage club. Then I noticed a subtle change. Whenever the chance presents, soft music low lights is the order of the day. But lately the clamor to control my environment is getting a bit more obsessive. The days of loud music and songs are gone. So is working and living with some kind of sound present in the background. Today, listening to some kind of sounds is more directed and intentional. When I am working from home I just want the working lights (if there is insufficient natural light), nothing else. If I need accompanying music it must be soft or baroque. I am changing. I am shifting into new preferences.
My teenage son is different. He is diametrically opposite to me on these two preferences. All lights are switched on when he is home. His recreation has to produce loud sounds from the square boxes. There is gaiety and fun. ??? Am I missing out? No! I have fair share. It’s just that I have changed!
Yes, I have complained and advised. Yes, he has toned down. He is a good teen. He knows what I want. He reads the weather pretty well for a teen. Only at times he forgets and that’s natural. Teens get amnesia now and then and the only antidote is the good old fashion reminders. But remember don’t get too upset and provocative. He learns tolerance, patience, compromise and sharing from those around him. This is life. Here as he watches and experiences, we impart values. Even a child has rights. Rights to receive love and fairness! However, I still get to veto especially when I have a heavy and busy day and coming home with frayed nerves. Use the veto sparingly, like a bank account. Liberal usage will cause the account to be overdrawn and of no value.
People change as their season of life change. These changes could be surfacing due to some psychological and physiological changes. Some say it the mid-life thing! Whatever! Looking at my present season I would like to embrace these new preferences. They enhance the quality of my life. I am producing more cerebral work. Intellectually I am moving a few notches higher and the skill and the ability to pause, reflect and to act greatly increased.
The next question is how to change gracefully and transit successfully without imposing and infringing on the rights of others? Recognizing and respecting the rights of others in our station of life whether it is in the small or large context is the beginning of having the freedom to change gracefully and successfully. This will allow the space and time to savor and observe the moment and the movement of changes in one’s life?
Photo: Pangandaran, Central Java off Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Choy Choy Bak Kut Teh - Old Klang Road

Life’s Lesson and Bak Kut Teh
Last night I took my former boss who is a HongKonger back to his hotel. I was driving along Old Klang Road and spotted my old favorite Bak Kut Teh restaurant, Choy Choy (Pass Tmn Desa traffic lights junction on your left, keep left and slow down to park.)
Do you want Bak Kuk Teh for supper?” I know he has a soft spot for this particular dish. Each restaurant has their own secret concoction of herbs and spices. The difference is in the degrees (heat/duration of cooking and quantity), literally and figuratively.
My wife and I used to patronize this place but it was 14 years ago. Then not a single blip on the radar. This is due to the arrival of our son. Life centered on him.
The chef has aged. He has grey hair, lots of them. The soup has turned darkish and ‘colloidish’. It was no longer the clear soup that I was used to. The taste is much more potent, stronger in its taste and aroma. I preferred the lighter version.
That sets me thinking, what has these 14 years done to him, besides the food and his physical features.
My former boss in one of his discourse (sometimes diatribe) has just lectured on the difference between ‘loving’ and ‘teaching’ in the context of family life. At 62, he discovered the difference and how to use these two judiciously. “Love the parents and teach the children and not the reverse.” And widening its usage, “Love the elderly and reserve the teaching to the young.
Photo: My son in Chanthaburi, East Thailand on 31st Dec, 2002.
I find this to be true. My parents need love. Sometimes when they are feeble and no longer as useful, dispensation of instructions and commands are common communications. They don't need these but love. As for my son, I think he needs more instruction. Instruction to live life not just to the fullest but in a fair, just and civil manner. Not that I don't give love to my son, in fact it radiates to him everyday. He knows it.
Fourteen years has gone. I asked myself the question, “Have I done enough ‘loving and ‘teaching’?” It is still not too late. Even the Bak Kut Teh seller got to change for his clientele. How much more for those who have loved ones, young and old!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Daun Misai Kucing / Cat's Whisker Leaves

Indonesia has one of the richest flora and fauna in the world. Its archipelago stretches from Aceh to Jayapura. Traveling between these east and west point is the same as the distance of Beijing from Kuala Lumpur.
For food Nasi Padang, Sundanese and the list goes on. Once I have a dish called, “Ayam Tangkap (literal translation – Chicken Caught)” in Aceh. The chicken is fried with curry leaves. It is not only the chicken (presumably free range chicken since it needs catching) that taste good but also the abundance of curry leaves cook together with this dish. The leaves still retains it dark green color and it is a great snack or side dish.
Going from leaves to herbs is logical as the country is blessed with an abundance of fertile land. One can literally plant anything. The oil palm conglomerates are making a beeline to Sumatera, Indonesia as costs of planting goes up in Malaysia. The costs of planting go down by 20 – 40%.
Back to herbs. In South East Asia we have our own “herbal” culture since time immemorial. One of the wonder herbs is “Kumis Kucing (Cat’s Whisker). In Malaysia it is known as “Misai Kucing". I will drink as many cups when in Indonesia. It is good for the kidneys. Dark coloured urine will turn almost colourless after a few cups of cat’s whisker leaves! Believe it or not!
I obtained my stash from Bogor free from a friend. The environment there is crisp and the air cool. The planter has been exporting this particular herb to a company in Germany dealing with homeopathic products for the last 20 years.
His herbs are fresh and the brew comes forth smooth to the tongue. Its vanilla-like aroma always renews my senses. Only when I run out of the Bogor herbs will I turn to the local variety under the brand name Pure Herb. It comes in sachet form and marketed by Diethelm. It costs almost a ringgit per sachet. As with process stuff it has not come close in terms of taste and aroma.
Read more from another of my post here.

Nike Free 5.0 - Genting Highlands

Nike Free 5.0
My old pair of Nike sneakers was thrown away a couple of months ago. It was a colorful pair and luminous at night. It was bought it in Macau 3 years ago. The soles decided to split company with the body! I suspect it was caused by my putting it into the washing machine for washing at least half a dozen times. So I have been hunting for a pair but never seem to find one I like. I realized that the success rate is highest when I am unhurried and on holidays. So last weekend, I made a connection with this pair when I have a quick getaway with my family at Genting’s First World Plaza.
Buying a pair of shoes is not just a fashion statement. It is all about comfort and the protection. Put a Nike on and one can literally walk and stand for hours without feeling strained around the hip and back. It has to be of the right color combination. The width especially the front half must not have a too tight a grip on the feet. Then the weight factor! It should be as light as a feather. Seemingly Nike Free 5.0 is a lightweight, highly flexible shoe to simulate the effects of barefoot running. And finally, the choice of the function/s: running, training or gym shoes. Due to lifestyle changes I preferred one that allow me to walk, hike and cycle. Just do it!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Small Business

Couple of days ago a friend from overseas asked me about investing in a business.
Here are the top ten on my list.
1) Can one commit the time? Half efforts will not do.
2) Determine what business. Get a mentor. Learn everything from the mentor/expert/website/books before starting the business. Acquired technical skills from our mentor. One may need 2-3 years to learn about the business before starting.
3) Location, location, location. No compromise. Do not start if location is not good.
4) Invest for the mid- to long-term. Saving some bucks now may require one to pay more later as the business grow and expansion is on the cards.
5) Be bold. Invest big and but make sure have enough to invest/re-invest when the business grows.
6) Exceed customer expectations all the time, one at a time.
7) Do not go into partnership if not ready. After all one may not need one as it is a small business. It can be emotionally draining.
8) Look after the business cash position. Control credit properly. Business/sales may be good but the gauge is, " Are the rental, salary and other overheads paid on time?"
9) Get good staff. Pay them competitively. Offer them a satisfying career.
10) Usually there are three components to business:
i) The operational staff: Business maintenance. Train them properly esp. the technical work, teach them good habits on the company.
ii) The management: Business preservation. Micro-managing, manage staff, customer-oriented.
iii) The entrepreneur: Business Generation. Marketing, leading, morale boosting, motivating, standard bearer.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Hook, Book, Look, Took

The performing artist must be able to hold the audience. But the one-man-show that can get the audience to eat from his/her hands is a rare breed. It is even more difficult if he has to sell his wares.

In the old days a Chinese gentleman is supposed to be a man of the letters and martial arts. Master Ho has his name in the Malaysia Book of Records. He pierces coconut with his index finger. He smashes it with his elbow.
It is indeed amazing that he can hold the crowd for over an hour keeping them interested and on their toes (literally) and managed to sell his medicated oil to the spectators not once but three times. He got more that 60 bottles sold at RM10 a bottle. The crowd swallowed it hook, line and sinker. Not bad for a nights’ work.
I learned many years ago of this phrase, “Hook, Book, Look, Took.” You bait them (hook), lead them to your pitch (book), persuade them to consider (took) and finally closed the deal (took).
How to keep the crowd glued to you?
1) Anticipated powerful and explosive finale.
2) Well choreographed routine
2) Humour
3) Crowd participation.
4) Dramatic music.
5) And of course oratorical skills
How to sell the wares?
1) Demonstrates efficacy on self.
2) Point out loyal customers coming back to buy more.
Photo: Master Ho Performing in Jonkers Street, Malacca

Meaty House German Roast Knuckle - Taipan, USJ

If you are craving for meat head straight to Meaty House at 37, Jalan USJ 10/1D, Taipan, USJ. On our way back from Melaka we stopped by here for a late lunch. We have 2 of their signature dishes, Baby Back Ribs and German Pork Knuckle. Be forewarned, this is no high class western restaurant. Forget about the ambiance. Just enjoy the food. It comes in big portions. The ribs are bit of a disappointment. Not exactly 100% tip-top. The meat was thin.

Photo: German Roast Knuckle
The knuckle was chunky and the exterior esp. the side receiving the most hear was roasted tough. But the inside was tender. Going through the tough portions will require strong jaws. You get tired. There was sauce/gravy accompanying this dish. But I recommend going natural. Enjoy the natural taste and also juices. This is my second time having knuckle in a week. It will be a long before I eat that again.
The other signature dish is assorted sausages. I regretted not having it. Looks good. On leaving we bought some bacon and ham.

Holiday Inn Melaka

We took a short and casual holiday in Melaka and stayed at the Holiday Inn. I remember the maxim, "The most spiritual to do when one is tired is to rest." It is highly recommended as it is only 6 months old. The sparkle, the polish and the newness is still there. The rest of the international hotels are at least 10 years old. We were at the 19th floor.

They are having an incredible offer. You use your Amex card to get 2 nights in a suite for the price of one. Being a suite you get a host of privileges, separate/private check-in, use of the Executive Lounge with free flow of drinks and snacks, 2 hours of free WiFi and drinks are free in the refrigerator. The service was swift and professional. The only way to keep customer's loyalty is to exceed their expectations all the time.

All in all it was a pleasant stay. The rest was sweet as the room has 'acres' of space. We were not hemmed in.

The city has some more added attractions like the river cruise and a revolving tower that takes you up to 80 m to get a good view of Melaka. Another feature is that as it moves up the platform revolves around. It is also one of the cleanest city in Malaysia. Keep it up.

Photo: Lounge Area

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Missing Numbers (Maths)

I was asked the other day on how to communicate the concept of 'Missing Numbers' to Primary 1 and 2 students. They are getting such questions in their school's exercises. By the end of Primary 1 students should understand this 'reversibility'.
For example:

3 + ____ = 9 and in different variants like ____ + 4 = 9.

Then how about the subtraction like, 7 - ____= 4.
Getting more challenging will be the 2-digits problems.
We know the answer by using the concept of simple algebra. But how are we going to explain to young children the logic.
It is good in maths to move the students from the concrete to the abstract.
After some research, I found that the following may be a good approach.

Help for Those Having Difficulties Locating Where They Park the Car

The advent of cellular phones with the camera function is a blessing to people like me. I am quite forgetful esp. in car parks of shopping malls. Car parks are usually dark, crowded with cars, having a basement and are enclosed. When will malls learn to provide better car parks!! What ever the cause, claustrophobia or agoraphobia, I have difficulty getting back to my car after finishing my business.

So I have make it a habit of photographing the signs on the pillars which indicates the floor, the sector as well as the area where my car is. Failing which I will show it to the security personnel. Never fails, though sometimes I feel like a cat making my territory by rubbing the body against the pillar. Or worse, like a dog sprinkling ....

Photos taken in 1 Utama at 2 weeks interval.

Friday, May 2, 2008

F4 Fish-Head Curry Restaurant - Subang Jaya Industries Park

House Hunting and Food Hunting

It was a day off. My wife and I were out house hunting/checking. Came over to Casa Subang in USJ 1. The apartments are in the process of being handover. Almost fully furnished brand new apts (1100 sq ft) with 3+1 rooms and 2 baths are going at RM1800 per month. 2+1 (680 sq ft) are going at RM1200. We found the furnishing and fixtures to be of the run of the mill standard. It is of moving in condition. You just need to fix the curtains.

It is mostly unoccupied at the moment. The pool looks good. However, the rest of the common facilities are so so. The exterior and corridors are average. You can't find anything that sparkles. The project was surrounded by warehouses and factories but it seems non-polluting in that they produces no polluting wastes into the waterways or the skies. All in all it will be good for students and couples. The location is good. Mydin, Giant, Summit, Segi College are very near. Further, you can do a lot of things and go to a lot of happening places without paying toll.

Thereafter we hop over to F4 Fish-Head Curry Restaurant at Jalan Subang 4, Subang Jaya Industries Park for lunch. We have stir-fried lettuce with garlic, curry fish head and German roast trotter. It costs us RM44.

Photo: German Roast Trotter and Curry Fish Head

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Drogba's Response from the Field

What a Champions League semi-final!! With the twists and the turn, I was kept at the edge of my seat till the final whistle. Chelsea had hacked it this time after losing 3 times at the semi-final stage the last 4 years. They are on the way to build their stature as one of the premier clubs in the world. The goals by Drogba were fired with such venom as though it was a 'brawling' response to Rafa.

They went in like a rocket, drilled direct, no bending just pure power. Pepe has no chance at all. He was too slow!

Now they will be challenging ManU. They have an equal chance in Moscow but in the EPL they have to wait for their arch foe to falter while keeping their act together.

What a tantalizing finale to the football season in England!