Monday, 30 March 2009

Press Cutting

The Earth Hour is over now. What is left now is the conscience at the back of the minds for those who support this initiation and also the commitment to do our bits. As for me, I have my words heard and printed in today's Gulf News.

The reporter decided to put on the print the photograph in which I was backing the camera. I was chatting with a friend, Ahmed who came with his gorgeous girlfriend to join the crowd. So I was not on the spotlight. Ahmed's girlfriend (the girl standing between the A and R) and my Karrimor grey backpack are the ones shine in the limelight.

Reading on, I saw my details and words being printed. It is kind of weird feeling. I was a little shy, a little honoured and a little disbelief. Overall, I consider Kevin, the reporter, came out with about 80% accuracy in his story telling. It's a good job considering hardly any story is 100% accurate. If I were given a chance to amend a bit, I would remove the word 'extremely' since I have no recollection at all of using that word that night and also to replace the sentence 'my wife and children attended the similar event in Kuala Lumpur' with 'my wife and children switched off the lights and watched a movie in Klang'. That's the truth though it's a lot less favourable. Anyway, the man has to do with what he has to do in that nick of time, in the darkness, with the crowd and all the noises.

The full report can be read by clicking here.
Lastly, Kevin made a small error in his report. They were not candles that spelled EARTH HOUR. They were battery-operated miniature lights. Luckily, they didn't use candles, otherwise when it rained, the aliens would laugh at our snuffed candles.

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Earth Hour

I called home at about 4:30PM (Dubai time) to check on my wife and kids. I was imagining that they would in the dark in our home in Klang and I thought it would be good for story telling in their dark hour. Well, the story telling in the dark is a thing in the past, I guess. Not for my wife and kids as they were waiting outside the cinema for a movie show. They participated the Earth Hour by simply not being at home. Nevertheless, I did get a story from my son, Hadiff. This is how the story goes.

" Once upon a time, there was a cowboy. That's me! The cowboy lives with the king, that's papa and the queen, that's mama. The cowboy found a chicken (not hen, mind you) that lays egg. The egg becomes golden egg. So the king and the queen live happily ever after, thanks to the cowboy. The end. "

We asked him why his sister Aimi did not play any part of the story. He said cheekily, " Oh, she's just a cow ".

* * * * * * * * * *

A friend of mine thinks Earth Hour is nothing more than a cheap, feel good gimmick. He speaks his mind clearly in the FB. I guess he has seen enough to see another coming.

* * * * * * * * * *

Another friend of mine was too eager to get the Earth Hour started that she got herself ahead of time by 24 hours and thought she had missed it. Luckily, she expressed herself in FB and someone else pointed out to save her Earth Hour.

* * * * * * * * * *

We all have our different take over this matter. I was there at The Walk watching the event. A reporter from Gulf News asked me what I think about the event. I said, "it's for a good cause. It may be a gimmick, but it's a world wide gimmick that unites all those who are concerned in conserving the Earth. There are many children coming here tonight and this gives the parents something positive to talk about to their children". I am not sure what may come out if they ever decide to put my quote and photo on the paper tomorrow. We'll see.

So, Earth, if you're reading this, I hope you enjoy your happy hour as much as the people who love you.
By the way it rained in Dubai during the Earth Hour, at around 9PM.

Preparation before the Earth Hour - The big words 'EARTH HOUR' being laid on the beach

The sitting arrangement for some important earthlings during the Earth Hour

The sitting arrangement for the little earthlings who would be doing the colouring work

Voila! The big words 'EARTH HOUR' glow in the dark for aliens to see

Moments before the Earth Hour at The Walk

During the Earth Hour at The Walk - can you see the aliens living above us? Ha ha ha

Before the Earth Hour at Dubai Marina

During the Earth Hour at Dubai Marina - Any difference? You tell me...

The Emaratis sing in the dark

Others eat with and without the lights

It's better to be hopeful rather than be hopelessly ignorant, I think.

They don't give free things in Dubai that often but tonight I get free T-shirt and refreshments too.

Friday, 27 March 2009

The Super-sized Sea and Its Colour

I am supposed to do my usual evening swim today. As I look out at the horizon and assess the water, I decide to skip swimming today. The water is too rough and the weather is just too windy and cloudy. It is not bright enough to allow good visibility in the water. So I climb up Lucky and sit on it to watch the sea instead.

The sea is a fascinating and an intriguing scene to see. It gives me the chance to zoom out and see the big picture out of life. I scan through my mind to spot on the things that stir of late. At work, there is this loud Egyptian engineer who challenged my authority after I challenged his way of work. The confrontation was unpleasant and he really pissed me off. At home, my apartment is a mess. There is a pile of laundry waiting. There are so many things to be picked up on the floor and there is so much sand on my balcony after the last sand storm. I hate it when I have to tip toe in my own living quarter. There are my dying orchids. My age, how I have aged and the many undone items in the mental list. With the sea is in front of me and its vastness, my issues are now becoming too tiny to be mentioned.

In the mood of seeing the big picture with the sea in front of me, I have down-sized all the above issues and thought about the report I read recently in the news. The 'red tide' has hit the northern coast of UAE. It has been reported that a desalination plant in Ras Al Khaimah has been sealed off as a result of the spread of the 'red tide'. In this arid desert land, if we can't have water from the desalination plants over a long period of time, it can be a threat to life sustainability. Of course, the red tide is over now in Ras Al Khaimah and I see no sign of it from the waterfront of Dubai. It is a blessing but there is a need to know more and be aware of what might come to revisit our shore in the future. So I google for the answers for some questions that I have.

No matter how big you think are and how big your problems seem to be, you're still small next to the sea.

What is 'red tide'?
It is a naturally-occurring, higher-than-normal concentration of the microscopic algae Karenia brevis (formerly Gymnodinium breve). This organism produces a toxin that affects the central nervous system of fish so that they are paralyzed and cannot breathe. As a result, red tide blooms often result in dead fish washing up on Gulf beaches. When red tide algae reproduce in dense concentrations or "blooms," they are visible as discolored patches of ocean water, often reddish in color. "Red tide" is a colloquial term used to refer to a natural phenomenon known as a "harmful algal bloom" or "HAB". The term "red tide" is being phased out among researchers for the following reasons. The red tides are not necessarily red and many have no discolouration at all. They are unrelated to movements of the tides and a wide variety of algal species are known bloom-formers.

What can cause it?
Red tide is a natural phenomenon not caused by human beings. When temperature, salinity, and nutrients reach certain levels, a massive increase in Karenia brevis algae occurs. No one knows the exact combination of factors that causes red tide, but some experts believe high temperatures combined with a lack of wind and rainfall are usually at the root of red tide blooms.

Can we control it?
There are no known ways that humans can control it, but many scientists around the world are studying red tide at present.

How does it affect mankind?
It can cause eye and throat irritation due to the high concentrations of the algae. It's usually okay to eat fish, crabs and shrimp during a red tide bloom because the toxin is not absorbed into the fleshy tissues of these animals. Oysters and other shellfish such as clams, mussels, whelks and scallops can accumulate red tide toxins in their tissues. People that eat oysters or other shellfish containing red tide toxins may become seriously ill with neurotoxic shellfish poisoning (NSP). Once a red tide appears to be over, toxins can remain in the oysters for weeks to months. It has the potential to destroy the corals, reduce the fish population and cause losses to the fishermen.

Image from Google : An aeriel view of 'Red Tide' approaching the coastline

Image from Google : Another aeriel view of the 'Red Tide' attack

Image from Google : The red sea caused by the 'Red Tide' phenomenon

"No phenomenon is a phenomenon until it is an observed phenomenon" Niels Bohr.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Merci Beaucoup

I thought about today, weeks back. I made a simple plan. It is supposed to be special but I know it can be painful too. It is a special day since it has meaning and history. It is somewhat painful because I am expecting the annual burst of emotion and this time, I have to deal with it alone. There is no mother, siblings, wife and kids to take some loads off. The plan is to get busy and get back home tired. Being spent and drained, the ejaculated emotion should not get messy and should be somewhat manageable, I think.

So today I get myself a busy day at work. It's not difficult to get one these days. I call for a team meeting after work. Hence, it's not only busy but also a long day. There isn't much on the agenda actually. It is just that I, as self-centred as I can be, need the team to be with me. I smile shamelessly that I have the team with me, to sing for me and to slice and share the feel-good, candle less cake that is simply scribbled with "Just 36, a small number".

It's my birthday today. I am happy for the song and wishes. I am thankful that the Tiramisu tastes good. I am appreciative of the past and present. I am hopeful for the future. I owe it all to the Maker. Yet, I feel lonely in this crowd and so faraway. It feels faraway from where it all begins. It feels faraway from those I wish that they were to be here with me.

Nevertheless, thank you for this gift. With your will, I will try to be a better man in this given life.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Sunset in Springtime

The water is warmer now. The beach is revisited by the reckless residents. I am one of them with Lucky by my side. It has been my regimen on the days I am not working.

I swim in the open sea for about 30 minutes, braving the mild waves and stroking to cover the planned distance. I have to alter my head positioning in the freestyle stroke. Unlike swimming in a standard pool where there is a black line at the bottom for me to follow, I have to tilt my head higher to occasionally spot my marks. In this open water swimming, my marks are the tall buildings of Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR) on my left. The water is very salty. It is clear. Once I have seen a fish about 12 inches long that looks like a barracuda, supposedly a lonely barracuda, an outcast of its school. Most of the time there are small fish swimming away as I get closer. The sea bed is not as even as I thought. For safety reason, I always ensure that I see a clear bottom; but there are some parts that sink in almost suddenly, where I don't see the clear bottom. The clue to this, is the sudden creepy coldness that I feel before I realize being in this zone which I called the 'bed of bottomlessness'. My Nike goggle has been a great help. So far it hasn't allow a drop of water to seep in, so I can see and navigate better during the swim. Still, I am at the stage of seizing the contour of the sea bed of Jumeirah (in front of JBR) and familiarizing with the water conditions and its tidal timing, before I can proceed safely with 1 hour swim.

After the short swim, I change into my running short for 1 hour beach run. I run bare-footed. It beats all other running experience. The sand is so soft that the knees and ankles don't complain. Landing my feet on the sand over and over again, leaves my feet with the same sensation after a good feet massage. There is no blister, no damage to the nails and when I touch my heels, I am proud to tell that the callous is gone now. The only setback is at certain some part of the beach, there are scattered shells with sharp edges that sting, but it is not too bad.

It takes some time to dry myself up from the sweating after the run and to get rid of the sticking sand on my feet. It is the time to sit and see the sunset. The best sight of the sunset is brief but beautiful. Ca fait mon affaire.

Lucky is parked next to the red Jeep Wrangler - the meeting of the Jeeps in front of JBR

The sunset as reflected by Lucky

The sunset and its admirers

The sun is out of sight, hidden in the pocket of the peaceful horizon

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

2 in 1

I was tagged twice. The first time was on February 02 by an old friend and secondly on March 17 by a new friend. So this entry is about 16 dalil about Jumper which include his dreams in his life journey.

No 1 - The worth of 50 cents
I was born in Singapore and at the age of 6, I was supposed to die there. It was early in the morning. My father walked me to school. He tied a 50 cents coin at the edge of my handkerchief. He kissed me on the cheek and left to work. I had to wait for about 2 hours before the school started. So I was left alone to entertain myself in the school compound. I did the helicopter swing with my handkerchief. The knot loosened and the 50 cents coin took off. It was no where to be found. I panicked. I ran out of the school compound to get my father. I hoped he was still there waiting for the bus. I hoped that I could get another coin. Without the coin, there would be no Bubblegum after school (these were the days before Singapore banned on chewing gum). I ran across the street. I couldn't find him so I turned back. A car at high speed was supposed to ran over me but it stopped. I felt the wind at the back of my ears. I heard shouting and screeching. I continued running to reach the school compound. I didn't look back. I cried. It was not because of the serious near miss. I cried because I would miss the afternoon treat of Bubblegum. In the evening, a neighbour came to our house. She saw what happened in the morning and reported the details to my mother. She made a big deal of the whole thing. I psyched myself up for a good spank from my mother. After that nosy neighbour left, instead of getting the cane from the top of the cabinet, my mother went to the kitchen to make pulut kuning. As a child, I thought an angel had taken my 50 cents as a charge to protect me from the car and the cane.

No 2 - The temple
I love my mother. She taught me to read and write. I love my father. He taught me to ride a bicycle. I was a happy child thinking that I would always have them together for they have affected my life in different ways. But it was not meant to be for them to be together forever for me. The happiness in my childhood was gradually eroded with my parents' struggle to sustain their marriage. When they had their series of serious adults' disagreement and misalignment, I had my silence and sadness, mapped by the tears on my wet pillow. Then I started to realize that despite the love and shelter they provided, I couldn't count on them or anyone else for my own happiness. Overtime I have created a temple and a shield around it. This is my own happiness. The happiness may radiate beyond the shield but nothing can come in to ruin in. It is the core of my mental strength that has made me thick. By the way, my parents divorced when I was 15.

No 3 - The unforgettable moments
My worst living experience was when I had to look into my father's eyes to tell him that I would follow my mother on the day my parents split their way. I saw the hollow man who had lost everything. My younger brother and sister were too young to be asked. By default, they were with my mother. I knew my father had hoped that I would choose to live with him. But I didn't want to be separated from my siblings. It was a decision I have to make at the age of 15. Now I am blessed with intuition which allows me to be courageous in making any decision. It seems that there is nothing worse than the one I had made at the age of 15. My best living experience was when I cried thankfully when my daughter Aimi was born. She got stuck for nearly an hour and I was already thinking of losing her. She made it eventually and I was blessed to witness such turbulent and intense moment in the peaceful slow-paced Hospital Putrajaya.

No 4 - The magnet
I am inspired by others who push themselves to the extreme in difficult times. I am so easily attracted to them. On the other end, I am pissed off by ungrateful people who complain so loud and fashionably but never get things done. These are the people I repel.

No 5 - The love of unity
I like Geography. It made me realize we are all living in one big home - our home, no matter how different we can be. It is the strongest aspiration for unity. I hate politics. There is no sincerity in the games played by most politicians. It is a subject of manipulation. It's the leading devil that divides us.

No 6 - The phobia
I have never trusted anybody and anything on the road. I keep my distance and drive at a comfortable speed. I am not a risk taker when it comes to speed. I drive in full throttle only during emergencies and when I was late to work.

No 7 - The pet
I love cats. In my life I had lived with 3 cats, Baby, Belle and Bien. All of them had died and perhaps gone to heaven. I believe having a cat in the house brings good luck and protection. Would I have a cat in Dubai? Yes, I'd love to but at the moment I live in a furnished apartment. I worry that the cat would damage the things which are not mine. So currently I'm petless.

No 8 - The addiction
I drink milk every day. It is not only healthy, it is therapeutic too. I can feel it in my stomach. But I will suffer the symptoms of lactose intolerance if I consume more than 2 glasses (500ml) of milk in one go. I am addicted to the combination of coffee and milk.

No 9 - The music
I watch MTV at the age of 35! No I don't rewind much to the 80s and 90s though I am a big fan of REM and U2. I am well tuned to the current frequency that soaks me with the sound and music by Coldplay, Nickelback, Snow Patrol, Jason Mraz and even that gorgeous Katy Perry! I stay away from the music that is too loud and too trashy.

No 10 - The weather
I am cool under the hot sun. I can run, I can march, I can swim, I can simply do nothing for hours under the scorching sun. My body will sweat to cool me down like a reliable AC. I wouldn't mind getting my skin darker too. But anything below 20 degrees Celsius, will drive me crazy. There is no heating coil inside my body to generate internal heat to sustain low temperatures.

No 11 - The first few loves
My first love was the girl who liked to sit next to me in my kindergarten. She was the one who gave me the Bubblegum on the day I lost the 50 cents and almost lost my life. She was assigned as my dancing partner in our school concert. But it was a puppy love. When I was in primary school, I wrote to a girl a raya card which contained love at the elementary level. That was another puppy love that ended after she moved to another school. My first real love was when I was in the boarding school. I wrote my feelings for her in a series of love letter and got a series of reply. I like her smile and her innocent view of life. Then she became religious and started to rewrite her past. She changed and matured at the rate I was not able to cope and understand. She had become a woman and I was still a boy. One day she wrote asking me to decide on our affair as I had apparently become cold and distant. She didn't want me to keep her hanging on. This shook my shielded temple of happiness. My instinct decided to let her go, it's not meant to be.....

No 12 - The soul mate
My best friend is my wife. She has been a true friend before I actually fall in love with her. My shielded temple of happiness opened its gate and welcomed her. It's my destiny and it's written (ala the tale in Slumdog Millionaire) in my book that she's the one and it's meant to be, even though before we got married, we had lost contact and were apart for 7 years.

No 13 - The childhood dream
My childhood live in a tropical isolated island and live with a mermaid. This is inspired by the combination of Gulliver's Travel, Robinson Crusoe and Little Mermaid.

No 14 - Another dream
My teenage write like Ernest Hemingway.

No 15 - More dreams
My young man become a marathoner and a triathlete.

No 16 - The latest list
My young-at-heart scale up Mount Kilimanjaro and to witness the wildebeest migration in Africa, to dive in the Mediterranean, to run in Boston Marathon, to complete the Ironman race, to trek in Tasmania, to tour across North Africa from Egypt to Morocco, to retire in a small tropical island and hopefully, to die in Mecca.

Next, I am supposed to tag 16 people. I would like to tag the seven dwarfs, Snow White, Prince Charming, The Little Mermaid, Pinocchio, Cinderella, The Fairy God Mother, Aladdin, Peter Pan and Captain Hook. So please guys, list the 16 things we ought to know about you..or else you might be cursed or something.....I guess.

Monday, 16 March 2009

A Conference in Bangalore

Some of you might have heard or read this joke. I thought I have heard it before. But hearing my colleague, Sanjay telling it in his version with his Indian slang and spices, tilting head and enlarged eyeballs was as good as hearing it the first time. So this was how Sanjay presented the joke as I recalled it, more and less...

There was a conference in Bangalore, attended by all kinds of top engineers in the whole India. They discussed a hypothetical topic which is, if God is an engineer, what kind of engineer he could have been when he created human beings.

An electrical engineer was the first to say, "He must be an electrical engineer. Just look at the veins all over our body. They are like the electrical wires, which only electrical engineer could understand. So he must be an electrical engineer". His fellow electrical engineers clapped their hands to support.

One electronics engineer was next to add, "He must be an electrical engineer with good knowledge in electronics. Otherwise we are all blind and deaf without sensory and control devices to see, to hear, to smell, to feel and to react accordingly". This remark created a huge applause. The mutual respect among the electrical and electronics engineers was visible.

A mechanical engineer was all out to disagree. He reasoned that, "Human beings are active, reactive and can be pro-active. The human anatomy is supported by excellent motors work, powered by strong and complex structures of bones, joints and muscles. This is definitely the work of a mechanical engineer!!". The team of mechanical engineers were on their feet with their hands up in the air and making the wave of supporting sounds.

A chemical engineer got up from his seat and started his argument. "Ladies and gentlemen, this morning, we all had great breakfast of paratha, puri and masala dossey, veg and non veg, as we like. The food and water we consumed are all processed and converted to energy to make us do our things physically and mentally. Now tell me, who can handle a process better than we do?". There was a soundless moment of reflection. The chemical engineer sat down, satisfied.

It was not long enough that a civil engineer stood up to break the silence. He first mimicked the chemical engineer's word. "Ladies and gentlemen, this morning, I had 4 pieces of paratha with egg masala. The breakfast has been processed and now must find its way out. Now tell me, who can handle the drainage system and solid waste pipeline all the way to my manhole, as well as we do. So God is a civil engineer. Anyone has problem to deal with this?". Apparently, nobody.

When I was in the college filling up the enrolment form that required me to list my selection of engineering school. My first choice was chemical engineering, followed by electrical & electronics and material engineering. Civil Engineering was not in my list. I enrolled to the school of my first choice and did all my things. All this while I was rather ignorant about civil engineering. It is only when I set my feet in Dubai, I see the powerful contribution of civil engineering work that makes the right first impression, creates opportunities, accommodates the mass community and ensures sustainability. If only the prospect of their career can be as strong as what they have built and as sustainable as what they have contributed.

I dedicate this entry to the civil engineers and their constructions workers who had left Dubai after the completion of their projects. Some of them have to leave unexpectedly and unwillingly as their projects were cancelled or pushed back due to the lack of funding. Some of the lucky ones are here to stay and continue the legacy of their civil work in Dubai.

Image from Google - The aerial view around Burj Dubai under construction months ago

Image from Google - One of a civil engineer's duties is to ensure safety at sites

Image from Google - The less happening sight of a construction site now

The unhappy face of a construction worker probably worrying about the future of his family

(Photographed by Paul Keller in Flickr)

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Less is More

Lately, there is less colour in the early morning. The thick fog is the new variant of air that I breathe in for breakfast. I have to try harder to sniff the aroma of my coffee in such damp air. I have to contract my eyes trying to see more when the visibility is less and more people are at risk on the road. It is on the news that more lives are lost in the recent road accidents. The weather and the road with their sombre morning mood are less hyper when Lucky and I are both eager experiencing the road in Dubai.

Less colour, more white

In the afternoon there is less white in the sky. The clouds are fanned away from us. Dubai is progressing to regain its bright blue sky. There are still some white form in the sky, holding on, struggling against the current and turbulence above. They are thin but strong. I wonder for how long they are able to hold on. I am sure that soon I will see an absolute blue in the sky. But other things may come along. The morning fog, the sand storm and other spectacular surprises could change the colour of our days. There is no more certainty in anything. And by the way, I can't be so sure that I will not get dengue in Dubai. The mosquitoes are here, as Nyonya in Dubai has nagged her neighbours.

Less white, more blue

There is an exaggerated exodus reported in Dubai. It may not be literally true. But we have less people in Dubai now. At least I can tell that from the movers' activities at the lobby of my apartment. In two weeks time I have seen the piles of belongings in two separate occasions . The piles are signs of neighbours leaving the building and movers making money. The neighbours might leave Dubai to their home countries. Or they might just move to another building nearby available at lower rent. I didn't ask to be certain because they were not as nice as the neighbour who gave me Orked. The rent has gone down. The landlord gets less return from his property. The tenant gets more options. The table has turned. Life is fair.

Another neighbour leaving

Thursday, 5 March 2009


I have started the new season of my running. I have rested for almost 2 months and now I am back on my feet again, running. I have set to improve my training and diet. My target now is not to finish my next marathon; but to finish it below 4.5 hours. My next marathon will be the Dubai Marathon 2010. Yesterday, I was running the usual route in my neighbourhood. I stumbled upon the access block which has been gated and cordoned off due to construction work. Annoyed and irritated, I ran off track and found myself running on a pathway that led to the backyard of an apartment building. Surprisingly, the winding and shaded pathway is a pleasant detour. I will not run on it if they don't block my usual route.

No entry

A pleasant new found way

Since the first few weeks of my stay in Dubai, I have been dreaming of driving a Toyota FJ Cruiser. My neighbour has one, majestically white and elegantly parked. At one point I was almost certain that it would be the chosen one, my first option, my coveted prize.

The frontal view of my neighbour's Toyota FJ Cruiser

The rear view of my neighbour's Toyota FJ Cruiser

Today, I have come to my deadline to decide on the purchase of my car. Toyota FJ Cruiser has been my first option. However when I finalize my financial budget it turns out that if I were to own a brand new or even the 2007 make of it, I will exceed my budget on transportation. It is possible but with the shrinking of my savings and cutting of other expenses. The lesson that I learnt yesterday in my running sheds a ray of light into my decision making. Forget FJ and stick to the budget. That is the final verdict. So now, I have my affordable second best coming into my life, the Jeep Liberty Sport, 2007 make, V6, 3.7 liters, 6 cylinders, automatic, driven 29,000km and blue. I name it 'Lucky'. I hope Lucky will bring the pleasant surprise, to provide me with safe and joyful ride, to take me to places, on the road and off-road.

Side frontal view of Lucky

Lucky's rear view

We all have our eroding episodes of stumbling onto closed doors. We may have lost our hopes and dreams to get want we want. We have missed our chance to get our first option. We have lost and have to let go the coveted first prize. We have failed and got hurt in our first love. We have our many times of tears. But we are still here, no more crying but trying to let go and move on. So this is my running and driving stories, tied up together by the life's experience of losing an opportunity and finding another......