Saturday, January 31, 2009

Federal Territory Day: the story behind the flag

It’s the 1st of February and the time of year when KLites celebrate the Hari Wilayah Persekutuan. This is the day when Kuala Lumpur was officially announced as a Federal Territory in 1974.

Since then, the KL FT has got two new sister cities of its own: the Labuan FT, and more recently the Putrajaya FT.

To mark this day the authorities, as usual, would hold a month long celebration with numerous events that would last the whole month of February. Various shows, concerts, state dinners, games and sporting events are being lined up.

And one thing for sure, the flags shall be flown, too – in abundance. Now, this part of the celebration is something else. For the KL flag has some meaning and is of significance to me personally. This is because the Kuala Lumpur Wilayah Persekutuan flag was designed by my brother, Azmi.

Mie is the undisputed artist in the family. He was always drawing and sketching and winning arts and logo design competitions since his school days. So we were not surprised when he chose to do architecture at UTM after completing school.

Mie started out his career as an assistant architect in DBKL back in the 1980s. It was during his stint there that he produced and submitted a total of fifteen designs for a new KL flag to the DBKL management (detail descriptions here). Four of his designs were shortlisted and forwarded to the then Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad for final selection.

The PM eventually approved one of his designs for the new KL flag. And so, on the night of 14th May 1990, in commemoration of DBKL’s 100 years as a local authority, KL Mayor Tan Sri Elyas Omar officially received the flag that Mie designed from the Yang DiPertuan Agong Sultan Azlan Shah for DBKL’s official use from then on.

Following on from this success, Mie was then also directed by the Mayor himself to design a new logo for DBKL. So, the next time you see one of those logos with the tiger head flanked by hibiscus cuttings, take a closer look. It was designed by my brother.

A young Mie holding open his newly designed KL flag (pic from Bulletin DBKL, 1991)

The DBKL logo

Putrajaya Critical Mass Ride

Last night I had my first taste of a Critical Mass ride. The Putrajaya Critical Mass, to be exact.

I had heard about it from friends and I had read about it, too. But this was the real thing.

Critical Mass is a monthly mass bike ride (on the last Friday of every month) which promotes cycling as a fun and healthy alternative to driving. It is also about asserting cyclists' right to the road. The idea was said to have started in San Francisco in 1992 and since then it has quickly spread to cities all over the world. It now takes place in over 300 cities worldwide!

Critical Mass rides are self-organized. It is an expression of self-confidence and a celebration of joy in cycling which arises from within the cycling community itself.

Critical Mass rides (as expected) vary in from one city to another in terms of frequency and number of participants. But one common distinguishing character perhaps is the pride in being independent and somewhat anti-establishment. This is not to say that the participants are a bunch of anarchies. At least not the ones I saw in Putrajaya.

Critical Mass therefore is more of an idea, and a movement, translated into an event.

Sixteen years after it started in downtown San Francisco and 300 cities later, we can now ride in Putrajaya, Malaysia.

As a town planner working in Putrajaya, I’m chuffed.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Rider's log No. 47

Photo "dipinjam" dari blog Pak Adib

Date: 24 January 2009 (Saturday)

Set off/finish time: ~ 8.15am - 11.00am

Total duration: 2 hour 45 minutes

Starting point: Taman Warisan Pertanian (TWP), Putrajaya

Route taken: TWP, Oval Road, Taman Wetlands, wetland, Prime Minister’s Residence, KSN’s Residence, Kelab Tasik Putrajaya, Istana Selangor, MOF, and back to TWP.

Distance covered: ~ 20 km

Trail condition: Rough trail (unpaved), promenade pavement (concrete imprint) + road

General notes:

I’ve always wanted to ride in the wetlands of Putrajaya. It is, after all, the largest constructed wetland in the tropics! It was painstakingly built by planting thousands and thousands of wetland plants brought in from many parts of Malaysia.

Secondly, the wetlands – besides playing the role of filtering river water before it enters the Putrajaya Lake waterbody – is also meant as an amenity to be enjoyed by its residence. This is in line with our planning concept of “city in the garden” and “bringing nature to the people”.

I was not disappointed. It was the best ride I’ve experienced to date since starting to ride my mtb a year ago. The feel of the rough track, the (little) dirt, the lovely scenery and the fresh air were worth the hot ride under the sun.

This was just a section of the wetland that we went. There are other parts waiting to be explored and I look forward to those too.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Obama's first fumble in office?

Barack Obama has had to be sworn in as US president for the second time in two days. Apparently the US President – thought to be one of the most gifted orators to grace the White House – does have the butterflies after all.

But of course, being the most powerful person on earth, he won’t ever have to worry about getting the stick. Nope. The blame goes to Chief Justice John Roberts who was said to have “flubbed” while administering the oath during Tuesday's ceremony.

But I like the excuse given by the Chief Justice as to why a second swearing-in was necessary. It was mainly "out of the abundance of caution” he reasoned.

Now, that’s a lawyer for you…or more like loyar buruk?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Liverpool should stay cool

I usually look forward to my Sunday morning papers. On most weekends, I would be out and about well before 7.00 am to buy breakfast, fill up the petrol tank and then pick up the customary New Sunday Times and Berita Minggu from the local store.

But today was different. I wasn't that eager to get into my car and drive out for the papers. If not for the fact that Emak wanted her roti canai for breakfast, I could have just continued dozing.

The reason? Upon completing my solat suboh, a quick check on my PDA showed that Man United had scored a last gasp of a goal (in the 90th minute) against Bolton last night. And with that, they are now top of the table in the EPL. Ahead of Liverpool by a point.

With Liverpool not playing until Tuesday morning (Malaysia time) that will be reason enough for Man U fanatics to gloat and brag.

But not to worry. What Liverpool have to do now is just stay cool and stay focused on the coming match against another arch rival Everton in the local derby this Tuesday.

Forget Fergie's mind games. Just keep plodding along nicely and this might just be our year.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Rider's log No. 44 - With the Bike Gang

The PERs team in front of Selera Putra by the Putrajaya Lake (photo dicilok dari PERs blog)

Date: 10 January 2009 (Saturday)

Set off/finish time: ~ 8.30am - 11.15am

Total duration: 2 hour 45 minutes

Starting point: Taman Warisan Pertanian (TWP), Putrajaya

Route taken: TWP, Cruise Tasik Jetty, Selera Putra, Millennium Monument, Maritime Centre, Pullman Hotel, Pusat Sukan Air Presint 6, PICC, the dam crossing, Precinct 18 promenade, Taman Warsian Pertanian and back to TWP.

Distance covered: ~ 24 km

Trail condition: Promenade pavement (concrete imprint) + road

General notes:

First ride for the new year 2009. And this is also the first ride after almost 2 months of break. Yup, two months! I’ve thought of loads of excuses to give for this, but in the end I thought none is worth mentioning.

This is also the first time I’m riding in a group. A big group. Previously it was always the ‘lone ranger’ approach, or with another partner at the most.

And what a group this was. Led by the affable and super cool Kol. Azudin, this group will go on a trip to the end of the world if he so orders.

The members come in all shapes and sizes and background. They have a professor, medical doctors, a Japanese expat, and today, just to complete the list, a gutsy 12 year girl who had no problem whatsoever covering the whole distance.

Since I have been having a lengthy break, the long distance and the two uphill treks (as expected) took its toll on my middle-aged body. To top it up, I had a fall too.

So this morning when I woke up my whole body was screaming in pain. My knees were bruised and my back was painful and stiff as a result of the fall.

That’s the price to pay when you lay off for too long.

But what an experience it was. The antics that we created, we were like naughty school kids playing truant – or shall I say middle-aged Mat rempits?

Thank you to Kol. Azudin and gang for the experience. Looking forward to the next ride.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Menara Condong Telok Intan

The view from inside the tower looking out. Also visible is the bell of the clock

Not many heritage buildings in Malaysia can claim to be totally locally-influenced in terms of design. Many buildings which get recognition and put under conservation programs are British-influenced.

The Menara Condong in Telok Intan is one exception.

Okay, it is not local as in Malay/Nusantara design-oriented. But it sure is not western-influenced. It looks like being inspired by a pagoda.

The tower is 85 feet tall and was built in 1885 which makes it a grand 124 year old structure!

Its original function was as a water tower to store water for use during drought periods. But it also had a clock (which functions well till today) and thus was more popularly known back then as Jam Tinggi.

With Telok Intan being located by the mighty Sungai Perak, the tower witnessed numerous flooding whenever Sungai Perak burst its banks. These flooding took its toll on the tower and led it to become tilted over the years.

During the Japanese occupation, the tower was used by the Japanese Army as a watch tower. Today (according to the officer manning the entrance) the tower is under the jurisdiction of Jabatan Muzium dan Antikuiti with maintenance undertaken by Majlis Daerah Hilir Perak. It is the icon of Telok Intan and fully recognized as a tourist attraction.

Whenever you drive through Telok Intan, don’t forget to stop by and go up the tower. Enjoy it while it’s still there.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Un-Happy New Year

While people the world over rejoice at the coming of a new year, at least 300 Palestinians, including dozens of innocent civilians, have been killed and about 1,600 injured by Israeli attacks in the Gaza Strip.

That is the cost (thus far) of the Israeli warplane and helicopter gunship attacks on Gaza.

But the figure could well increase. For Israel's military have been moving soldiers, tanks and armoured personnel carriers to Gaza's edge raising concerns that the aerial assault will be followed by a ground offensive.

Yes. The Palestinians are at the whims and fancies of the Israeli regime. The lost of Palestinian lives, it seems, means nothing whatsoever. They are as cheap – if not cheaper – than the price of a goat.

Sure, the Palestinians fire rockets into southern Israel. But then what do you expect of a people who have been driven off their homeland to create that new state of Israel, and then subjected to constant persecution and tight control all their lives?

And what is the odd one or two miserly missiles into Israel, as compared to the firepower and high-handed bullying that have been continuously ‘meted out’ to the Palestinians?

Israelis love to remind the world of the Holocaust that they suffered during the World War II. Ironically, now, it is they who are driving another people off their ancestral farmland, diverting water sources, bombarding their homes bringing death and destruction.

All, without a hint of neither guilt nor remorse. How easy they forget.

But who do we turn to? The OIC is muted. The Arab nations are still squabbling as to how to react.

The US? Well, the deafening silence of President-elect Obama says it all, doesn’t it? Looks like its business as usual on the international front for the US. “Change we can believe in”? I doubt it. I’m having second thoughts, and feeling rather gloomy on this first day of 2009.

Nevertheless, have a good day everyone.