Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Coffee or Tea, Sir?

My previous post, My Last Post for 2008, uploaded a few hours ago, was supposed to have been my last for this year.

However, a comment by a visitor and fellow-blogger,Ben, prompted me to post this one. He was referring to my plan to stop taking coffee come tomorrow. He said and I quote: "Why no more coffee? Can't be that bad for you, is it?" (Obviously he is a coffee fan.)

Well, you see brother, it's not just the coffee. With it goes the sugar and that's exactly what I'm trying to avoid. I'm a diabetic brother.

But that's not the only reason. I have with me a newspaper cutting with the heading: "What Can You Do To Prevent Bad Breath?" In it is listed 8 Dos & Don'ts - one of them being: Drink plenty of fluids and avoid coffee.

That's not the end of the story. I know that at least one church, the Seventh Day Adventist Church (SDA), forbids or at least does not encourage its members to drink coffee. The reason? Strictly health. Coffee has caffeine. It is for the same reason that SDA followers do not smoke. I am not a SDA church member but the point is: If a church deems it fit to include it in their Don'ts list, just imagine the harm that it may bring.

People at Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Starbucks, SF Coffee, etc may not like this. But this does not mean that I will not patronise them anymore. I will, especially Coffee Bean. The reason? They still serve tea. I can take tea without sugar but not coffee.

I have another press cutting which says: "Tea is good for the brain, slows down cell degeneration and keeps the mind sharp into old age, scientists in Singapore say after 4-year study."

When I'm at Coffee Bean and the others, of course I will take the opportunity to taste the mostly imported brands of tea. But when I'm at home, I drink Sabah Tea to support our local product. Or if I run out of Sabah Tea, then it would be Peninsular Malaysia-grown tea like Teh Boh or Lipton's. Charity begins at home.

Before I conclude, just a couple of jokes on coffee and tea. In the good old days of MAS and before the birth of Air Asia, coffee and tea were served even on domestic flights. Joke 1 - Air hostess: How would you like your tea served? Passenger: In a cup! Joke 2: Coffee or tea, sir? Passenger: Milo!

By the way, I'm at home and it's now 10.30pm, one-and-a-half hours away from 2009. My family members and in-laws are having Bar-B-Q. Once again, Happy and Prosperous New Year!

My Last Post for 2008

In a few hours' time from now, we will be saying goodbye to 2008 and welcome 2009.

I am not supposed to be posting anymore until tomorrow, 1st January 2009 - New Year, New Beginning. Also in line with my New Year Resolutions which, among others, will say at least One Post A Day for my Blog.

But it's also my New Year Resolutions which made me write this post which I didn't plan to. You see, one of my resolutions is no more coffee and sugar starting 2009!

I have an hour or so to play around with while waiting for my son to finish work. And what better place to pass the time than Coffee Beans at Wisma Merdeka which is just a stone throw from his office.

The smoking area of Coffeebeans on the pavement of Wisma Merdeka.

Yep, I am blogging to you from Coffee Beans - complete with my last cup of coffee for 2008 and hopefully the rest of my life. The place is almost full inside but the few tables outside (smoking zone) are surprisingly empty; considering that we are a few hours away from the New Year.

The empty seats on the pavement as I'm blogging after 4pm.

As I was walking to Coffee Beans from where my car was parked, I noticed that the streets are not as busy as other working days. This is not only because people are already busy getting ready for their New Year Bar-B-Q or whatever, but also because it's Sabahan civil servants' nature to give themselves half-day off on eves of festive holidays.

An almost deserted Pantai street after 4pm on New Year's eve.

A traffic-free street after 4pm on New Year's eve.

I see two young adults next table with laptops. Wonder if they are bloggers too. Places like Coffeebeans, Starbucks, SF Coffee or for that matter any place with wi-fi are sure hits with young people who are IT-savvy. What they do - blogging, gaming, e-mailing, chatting, live messeging, watching movies, or just showing off their new netbooks - doesn't matter. What seems to matter nowadays is to be seen to be IT-savvy in public places like these.

I plan to post again just before midnite to wish all my visitors a Happy New Year. But experience tells me better to do it earlier, just like texting or sms.Everyone tends to post or send sms when the clock strikes twelve to usher in the New Year and therefore the lines may be jammed.

So, here you are, to all my visitors and my fellow-bloggers from Guik.Net (From Sabah to the World) - here is wishing you a very very Happy, Prosperous and Blessed New Year 2009!!!

Hope to have you back visiting my blog soon. And if you don't see a new post each day, please feel free to 'tegur' (reprimand) me.

Cheers! (with my last cup of coffee).

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Have a Blessed Christmas

Just got home from the so-called 'Midnite Mass' or Christmas Vigil Mass at the Sacred Heart Cathedral in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia.

"So-called" because in my younger days the Holy Mass on Christmas Eve would really be held around midnight, or at least end when it was nearly midnight. But in more recent years, the 'midnite mass' seemed to have started earlier and earlier. But this was more for logistical reasons than anything else, bearing in mind the size of the crowd and traffic control and to make it easier for children and the elderly.

In the case of tonite, the Mass started at 9.00pm as scheduled and, despite the huge crowd, ended at around 10.30pm. A weekend Mass would normally last just slightly over an hour.

Just like other Christmas or Easter occassions, the parishioners strated entering the church (or rather cathedral) as early as 6.00pm, 3 hours before the Mass was to begin. By 7.00pm, the Cathedral was already almost full. How I wish they are equally faithful throughout the year, as pointed out from time to time by the priests themselves.

In order to keep the crowd entertained, the Children Liturgy staged a play at 7.15pm and it lasted for about half-an-hour. The Sacred Heart English Choir then sang from 8.00 to 8.45pm and won big rounds of applause from the congregation. Infact, celebrant Monsignor Primus Jouil at the end of the Mass requested the crowd to give another round of applause to the choir. This time it was thunderous.

Just like other Christmas and Easter occasions, the big crowd spilled out onto the church compound outside and closed-circuit television sets had to be installed to enable the late-comers to follow the proceedings inside. And, needless to say, after the Mass traffic control was a headache for the wardens. So what better way to pass time while waiting for the traffic congestion to ease than paying homage to the crib inside the Cathedral after the Mass. Many also took pictures for rememberance.

The St Simon Church in Likas, the Stella Maris Church in Tanjung Aru and the Church of Mary Immaculate in Luyang, all in Kota Kinabalu, were equally packed and over-flowed. The English Mass at St Simon started at 8pm while the Chinese Mass began at 8.30pm. Traditionally, the Archbishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sabah (formerly Bishop of Kota Kinabalu Diocese), the Rt Rev Datuk John Lee would say Chinese Mass at CMI on Christmas eve and at Sacred Heart English Mass on Christmas morning.

So, to conclude, I wish all my Christian friends and relatives, and of course you my visitors, wherever you are, a Blessed Christmas. I refuse to say Merry Christmas because that seems to imply that Christmas is a time for merry-making and nothing else. As it is, Christmas is already getting more and more commercialised, with the help of Santa Claus which is just a legend. As you open the newspapers lately, there are advertisements everywhere with headings like "Christmas Eve Dinner and Dance" or "Christmas Party with Live Band", as if these take precedence over going to church. And of course, you have the big Christmas Sales and Bargains since November!

May God bless all of us and safely usher us into another new year which is just days away.

(Picture: Pope Benedict XVI blessing children at Vatican on Christmas eve.)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Windfall for LPPB Staff

The almost 200 staff of the Sabah Housing and Town Development Authority (LPPB) received an early but timely Christmas and New Year present from their employer today. They will receive a 2-month extra 'bonus' soon. This was announced by LPPB general manager Jenar Lamdah at the annual gathering of the state government agency in Kota Kinabalu, state capital of Sabah today.
Jenar (2nd right) presents a souvenir to Hajiji. In the centre is Rubin.

The Guest-of-Honour at the inaugural gathering was the Sabah Minister for Local Government and Housing, Datuk Haji Hajiji Haji Noor who according to Jenar had approved the payment.
Maimunah receives her award from Hajiji. On the left is Ghulam.

"However, not every staff will get the 'bonus' based on their 2 months' basic salary. This is because it is a performance-based incentive rather than actual bonus," Jenar clarified.
LPPB Employee of the Year 2008 - Ahmad Shah.

The LPPB incentive payment is in addition to the one-month bonus announced by the Malaysian federal government and Sabah state government some months ago. However, the government bonus was paid in two instalments, with the 2nd half paid recently together with the civil servants' salaries for December.
Badariah receives her award from Hajiji. Others are (l-r) Ghulam & Rubin.

But that was not an incentive payment and every government officer gets one month's basic salary as bonus. This means that if a hard-working LPPB officer qualifies for two full-months' incentive, he would have altogether receive a total of 3 months' bonus this year alone. So for example if an LPPB officer's basic salary is $5,000, he would altogether get an additional $15,000. Not bad working for a government agency huh?
Nancy getting her award from the Minister. Others are (l-r) Ghulam, Rubin & Rosnani.

The Minister said he appoved LPPB's request for the incentive because the agency's new management managed to increase its profit for 2008 to almost 5-fold comapred to last year! In 2007, LPPB only made $3.1 million but this year the surplus jumped to$16.8 million.
Harry....Long service - 32 years. On the right is Rosnani.

Jenar attributed the major increase to, among others, agressive collection of arrears owed by tenants and buyers of LPPB's houses. There are two types of houses built by the government for the lower-income group - those for rent (at a low rate) and those for sale (at an affordable price). Jenar took over as General Manager of LPPB middle of this year and Hajiji said he was impressed, so far.

From Minister to Judin. On the left is Ghulam.

Also present at the gathering were Hajiji's assistant minister, Datuk Ghulam Khan; LPPB chairman, Datuk Rubin Balang; and Jenar's deputy, Hajjah Rosnani Hj Asmat. Hajjah Rosnani, LPPB's former Administration & Human Resource Manager, took over Jenar's former post as Deputy GM when the latter was promoted.

Dayang with her award. In the centre is Rubin.

Meanwhile, eight staff of LPPB were given the Excellent Service Award for 2008. They received their awards from the Minister. They were Ahmad Shah Yacob, Hajjah Maimunah Hj Daud, Judin Sitin, Badariah Tanakal, Dayang Asimah, Nancy Johnson, Harry Sibungkil, and Siti Mukini. Ahmad Shah, a Town & Regional Planning Officer, was also named the LPPB Employee of the Year 2008.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

No Datukship for Politicians

I know I have not been blogging for almost a month. I was taking a year-end break, so that come 1 Jan 2009 I would 'relaunch' my blog with new vigour as part of my New Year's Resolutions.

However, the frontpage headline story of today's Star, Malaysia's 'people's paper', caught my attention and I can't help but write something about it and hence this post.

The banner headline says "Datuk freeze" while the sub-heading is "Sultan: No awards for politicians this year". The 'Sultan' referred to is His Royal Highness the Sultan of Selangor, Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah (pic). For the benefit of my non-Malaysian readers, Selangor is one of the 13 States which make up Malaysia. Out of these States, only 9 have Rulers including Sultans (who take turn every 5 years to become the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong or King) while 4 are governed by the Yang Di-Pertua Negeri (Governor).

As the heading suggests, the Sultan in an unprecedented move is not going to award any Datukship (roughly equivalent to Sir in Britain) to any politician on his birthday next on Dec 11. The conferment of State awards (as opposed to Federal titles in the case of the King's birthday) has been a tradition by the Rulers and Governors and the King on their official birthdays. Although the awards are also given to non-politicians including foreigners (honourary titles), nonetheless politicians make up a large portion of the annual lists.

What also attracted my attention in today's Star was the fact that the frontpage story was written by the leading paper's editor Wong Chun Wai himself. Wong, himself a Datuk although he was too humble to add it to his name, was granted an exclusive interview by the Sultan. This speaks volume for the credibility of the story, the writer and the paper. Wong, to me at least, is one of Malaysia's most senior, if not the top, journalists and is influential. His weekly column, On The Beat, and his blog, attract huge following.

Now back to the story. Appearing alongside the frontpage story and below the headline is a quote together with the Sultan's picture. It goes like this: "There is no such thing as a quota for the MB or myself. We agree it should not be freely given to maintain its prestige."

Now let us relate this statement of the Sultan to my beloved home State, Sabah. It is an open secret that out of the 20-30 or so Datukship awarded annually, at least a few would fall under the Governor's 'quota' - meaning decided by the Governor himself while the rest would be the choice of the State Government or to be exact the Chief Minister. Normally, people who get their Datukship through the Governor direct would have slimmer chances if their 'applications' were to go through the Chief Minister. These 'privileged few' would normally not be politicians or veterans from the NGOs or industry captains who would qualify under the State Government's list. In other words, it is up to the Governor to give his 'quota' of the few Datukships each year to practically anybody, except criminals may be, but including businessmen from a neighbouring State who failed to become Datuks in their own State. It is, after all, his birthday.

But only a Sultan can make the kind of statement or decision as what the Selangor Sultan did. This is because the MB (Chief Minister) will have to listen to him for he is the Ruler of the State FOR LIFE unless he abdicates. He can sack the MB anytime if he wants to even if the MB's party controls the House (State Assembly). But not so in the case of a Governor as in the case of Sabah. Although officially the Governor is appointed by the King after consultation with the Prime Minister, the ruling party in the State through the Chief Minister technically makes the choice. The Sabah Governor is appointed for a four-year term and must not serve more than two terms. So, the Governor, though being No 1 in his State protocol-wise, normally listens to the Chief Minister unless he is nearing the end of his 2nd term or does not intent to serve more than one term. So, there is indeed a CM's quota and a Governor's quota in Sabah and most probably in the three other States with Governors as well.

Another quote from the Selangor Sultan which caught my attention and which I cannot agree more with is: "There will be no politicians - either from the past or present State government.

"The present state government is barely right months old. Even a pregnancy is nine months.

"I am sure there are deserving cases in the present state government but let us wait first. Let them focus on their work, not awards or rewards. Titles need not come with positions," he said.

The present Selangor state government of Pakatan Rakyat or People's Alliance comprising Keadilan, PAS and DAP defeated the UMNO-led BN which had ruled the state or for that matter Malaysia for half-a-century since the birth of the nation. The Menteri Besar or Chief Minister is from Keadilan or Justice Party led by Malaysian Opposition ledaer and former Deputy Premier Anwar Ibrahim.