Sunday, March 30, 2008

Cherry blossom season is here

Cherry blossoms flowered in Tokyo and two other prefectures in Japan last week. It signals the arrival of spring in Japan.

Without a doubt, spring is my favourite season in Japan. I like the cool, fresh, air. And I just love the smell of spring – the smell of an enchanting array of spring flowers, hmmmm…

But then autumn, too, has its own surreal beauty. And summer is full of zest and energy. And winter…oh, I give up. Each season has its own uniqueness. I love them all!

Back to cherry blossoms.

This year cherry blossoms, or sakura in Japanese, opened slightly earlier in Tokyo, in Shizuoka prefecture and in the southern prefecture of Kumamoto. You can read the report here.

I also wrote about the tradition of hanami (flower watching) in spring of last year. You can read it here.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Master your law, Sakinah

“Law classes? Urghhh…I hate them”. I can just hear my daughter, Sakinah spewing out those words.

Sakinah is at the Sultan Azlan Shah Polytechnic studying her favored course, accountancy.

Last semester she did me proud by landing herself the Dean’s Award. But if she really aims to be a professional accountant, the good grades should continue, I told her. And that means having to master her law – a subject every one of her friend loves to hate, it seems.

Auntie, Cik Da, an accountant lecturer herself, has already warned that if there was one subject which does the most damage to accountancy students’ results, it is law.

This need not be so, she explained. The trick is not to let yourself be influenced by many around you into thinking that law is a subject designed only to be loathed and despised, if nothing else. You know, much like Additional Mathematics during secondary school days.

But for those who put in some honest effort to master it, they will be well and truly rewarded. Yes, much like what Additional Mathematics lovers get during secondary school days!

So Sakinah, don’t shy away from your law classes. Get hold of those Companies Act 1965, Registration of Businesses Act 1956, and keep slogging. I challenge you!

You won’t regret it, I promise.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

F1: Come on McLaren Mercedes!

McLaren's new mean machine, the MP4-23

The 2008 F1 Grand Prix season kicks off tomorrow with the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.

And guess what, Lewis Hamilton starts from where he left last season: right there among the leaders, already challenging for the championship.

Yes, in today’s final qualifying round in Melbourne, the 23 year old Briton won pole position for tomorrow’s race. His team mate, Kovalainen, was in third place.

After an upheaval year last season due to the spying scandal, it is heartening to see McLaren continuing to give Ferrari a run for their money.

The Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) is supposed to represent the interests of motoring organisations and act professionally to govern motor sports worldwide. But they went overboard when they harshly penalized McLaren for the alleged spying. If you ask me, it was a pure, naked display of power by those in authority pursuing a personal vendetta against Ron Dennis, the Mclaren boss, rather than having the interests of the sport in mind.

In the aftermath, poor McLaren was penalized to the tune of $100 million and robbed of all their contractors’ championship points.

So you can see why I am really happy to see McLaren getting off on the right footing this season.

After Australia, next up is our very own Malaysian Grand Prix on 23 March 2008. The venue: Sepang International Circuit (SIC), the very first of Formula One's new breed of ultra-modern, high-tech tracks.

Bring on Ferrari.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

A truimph for democracy

The 12th General Election is over. As the dust starts to settle after bruising battles among the political parties, a new political landscape emerges in Malaysia.

Yes, the voters have spoken with their votes. And were we in for some shocks.

Whilst retaining Kelantan -- quite easily it seems, the opposition also managed to secure four other states for good measure. I'll bet even the BA bigwigs were pleasantly surprised for that.

The BN would no doubt be licking their wounds. Some soul searching is in order. And heads will role, no doubt.

But have no fear Malaysians. Take it positively. Look at the wider picture.

For in a sense, the voting in of a stronger opposition will make the Government more accountable and transparent. It would force the Government to be more in touch with the realities facing common folks like you and I. The rakyat.

Now, surely this couldn't be that bad, is it?

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Yankees go home!

Un-popular owners

The BBC has reported that Liverpool's owners have been given a £400m take-it-or-leave-it offer from Dubai International Capital to buy the club.

Despite denials, the truth is the Americans George Gillett and Tom Hicks have all along been in talks with DIC, the Government-run Dubai investment fund, to sell the club.

An offer of £400m has been made by DIC.

Yet, the greedy Americans are still holding out in the hope that more would be put on the table for them. Talk about being greedy capitalists!

This has prompted the DIC big guns to comment that it's not easy to make a deal with the Americans because “they are in dreamland about valuations."

Gillett and Hicks have owned Liverpool for barely a year and they have done enough damages already. They undermined the manager’s position by openly talking to a possible replacement manager. This has no doubt affected the club's performance on field. And they have saddled the club with more debts after their refinancing package in January.

Yet, even in retreat, they are still trying to milk the most out of their one year’s plundering of the club.

Take your money and go you greedy Americans.

Your coming to Anfield has been a black period in the history of this special club.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Cycling: the adventure continues

Merida Matts SUB 40D

The pic above shows my new bike. Yes, just bought it a week ago.

So far, it has followed me everywhere daily. I put it in the trunk of my car and take it out when time, and weather, permits me to ride it.

To say that she's the new love of my life would be putting it a bit too strong. Besides, somehow I think it wouldn't go down too well with the Mem Besar.

So far I have gone on three rides with her, all right after work. I shall write about our little escapades together.

For now, I shall just give an intro to my 'cycling career'.

I started learning to ride when I was about 4 or 5 I think in Kampong Kepayang (where else), my maternal grandmother's place.

I remember there were two bikes at her house. One belonged to Tok Hussein which he used to ride to the mosque and around the kampong. This was an old Raleigh with a horizontal bar right across the frame (guy's bike).

The other was a normal (ladies bike) which was often used by my Makngah, I think. And this was the one which my brothers and I used to fight over to ride. After fighting off my brothers Mi and Man, I'd spend long happy hours riding around the kampong, excited at the new-found freedom that the bike afforded me. Sometimes, if I was feeling generous, I'd give them a ride.

When I studied in England I never went into cycling. The weather was to cold and windy for that. I kid you not. The windswept coast of Blackpool is not a place you'd want to cycle, especially during winter when the Irish Sea slams the town with rain and storms.

But when I furthered my studies in Japan I had the chance to renew my 'romance' with bikes, so to speak.

Japan is very bike friendly. But Tsukuba City, the place where my family and I stayed, was super-friendly. For, Tsukuba is a new town with properly laid out roads, as well as, pedestrian and cycling paths. Its heavan for cyclists.

The conducive environment means that people here cycle wherever and whenever they can. Professors, housewives, students, they all do it without any qualms whatsoever.

I remember after sending Sakinah and Syafiq to youchien (Japanese kindergarten) I would park my car at our home and rush to classes on a red bike. It was so easy. It was a breeze, literally, what with the cold, fresh morning air brushing against my face.

The quality in design of facilities and landscape treatment of course makes it a joy to ride. This is what we need more in Malaysia given our hot and humid climate. The other thing is of course a well-planned, integrated system which is barrier-free.

Let's hope more townships in Malaysia will be planned to be cyclists-friendly.

In the mean time, enjoy some photos of bike-friendly Tsukuba.

Tsukuba City Central Library is located along the main cycling route

Central Library bicycle parking area

Flea market on main cycling route

Bollards and proper crossing system

Maps along the routes

Crossing system