Monday, December 31, 2007

How to renew your road tax in 10 steps

I tried to renew the road tax for my car today. I went to the bank branch in Taipan USJ during the lunch break. The traffic congestion was horrible, as usual.

1. Enter bank. Take a number. There were very few customers.

2. Approach counter as my number was called.

3. Whip out my insurance cover note and tell the lady that I want to renew the road tax for my car.

4. Lady tells me that I should go to the bank branch where my loan account is, which is the Shah Alam branch.

5. Lady says that I can renew the road tax at the Taipan branch but it will take one week.
What?! And they can't courier the road tax sticker to me. I have to go back to the bank to collect it. Huh?!

6. Lady says if I go to the Shah Alam branch on Wednesday morning, I can get the road tax sticker back by 2PM on the same day. I have to pay 10 bucks for a runner to go to JPJ to do the processing.
What the?! If I renew from the Taipan branch, I have to pay another 10 bucks to courier the sticker back from the Shah Alam branch. *jaw drops, speechless*

7. Ask lady if I can also request for the vehicle registration card to be released to me. Lady says I have to go to the Shah Alam branch. And the bank retains it for the first two years, so I gotta wait another year.
*breathe, stay cool, be patient*

8. Finally decide it's easier to go to the Shah Alam branch and get it done with in one day rather than wait one whole week for the bank to do it for me. Besides, my road tax already expired (that's another story), so I need to renew it like, yesterday. Uh-huh. So, yea, this whole debacle is partly my fault.

9. Make mental note to ask more questions if ever getting another loan from this bank. There's no fine print. You just gotta dig the information out of the bank officers, assuming they know the procedure in the first place, and assuming you know what to ask. The car salesman said this bank is good, because they approve the loans fast. Yeah, right. Fast approval, but tedious road tax renewal procedure.

10. Walk out of bank and go for lunch. Thank God my car loan is not with the bank branch in Ampang or Port Klang.

I don't get it. Tell me I'm naive, but...

Why does the bank keep my vehicle registration card? Are they afraid I'm going to run away with it? Or commit some fraud with it? Doesn't the bank trust me? Or do they not trust the JPJ?

If I had the registration card, I could have renewed the road tax by myself at the nearby post office within 15 minutes.

In this day and age, when the records and documents are digital and we have e-government and e-this and e-that, why do I still need to pay a runner to do something that I can do faster and cheaper? It's not like I'm going out of my way to renew the road tax. I can just do it while going for lunch.

Oh yeah, Happy New Year to all of you loyal readers, anonymous and known, near and far.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Scenes from a Saturday afternoon

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Tap dance


I believe I can fly...

Don't bite



Smelly feet?

I've got da power

Mona Licia




Keep yer eyes on the ball



Time to go home


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"I believe I can fly" pic by PG
Dentyne pics by Christina
All others pics by me

Saturday, December 29, 2007

From the garden

Lots of chlorophyll and pigments... and post-processing

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Friday, December 28, 2007

Happy Birthday

She turned one today.

It seems like just yesterday when I brought her back from the showroom on that fateful evening of 28 December 2006...

...still wrapped in plastic... smelling "fresh" and new... with less than double digits on the odometer.

The feeling as I pulled away from the showroom was one of expectant excitement and nostalgic sadness.

Excited at the new possibilities and adventures that my new one could provide me.

Saddened by having to part with my old faithful that had served us well for so many years.

I've clocked 20,000 km in this first year. She's performed very well. There was some minor rattle from the door, but it was fixable. Her appetite is very modest. On a long haul journey, I've managed to hit about 700km on a full tank.

Let's see where we've been together... Penang once, Cameron Highlands twice, Ipoh twice, Port Dickson twice, Melaka once.

There were some anxious moments, as she got kissed on her behind twice within one month (some people find her too attractive). Thankfully the trauma was not major. She survived after a few hours of treatment in the outpatient clinic.

She's a tough one.

Here's to many more years to come.

But first I gotta pay off the dang bank loan.



Distant relative

Colours of the heart

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Another weird dream

I had a weird dream last night or this morning just before I woke up.

I normally don't remember my dreams, so this one has the unusual honour of sticking in my memory. Nevertheless, I only remember very sketchy bits.

I dreamt I was at Pulau Perhentian with a bunch of people whom I can't remember, except for Rudi. We decided to go diving, but I didn't have any equipment. We got on a boat and went to Tanjung Basi dive site. Or maybe it was Batu Nisan, I'm not sure. But it was somewhere off the Perhentian Besar island.

When we arrived at the dive site, we looked for the mooring line. We soon spotted it and Rudi dived in to retrieve it. There were some other boats with people nearby, but none of them were divers. They just looked at us and then went off. The next thing I remember, two guys with their wetsuits and full gear backrolled into the water from our boat.

Unfortunately I was just in my t-shirt and shorts and therefore could not dive. I do not know why I went out on a dive boat without any equipment whatsoever. The rest of us decided to leave the two guys floating in the water while we went to the nearest dive centre to rent equipment and tanks. I think we intended to return to the same site and join those two guys for a dive. As we sped off, the two guys were just floating there, looking lost. They did not descend for their dive. Again, I do not know why. I felt a bit bad for "abandoning" them there. I thought they might get run over by a passing boat if they continued to just float around like that.

And that's as much as I can remember.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


I know it's not so good to get into too melancholic a mood, but I was just thinking, more than half the world celebrates Christmas under the blazing sun or torrential rain. No winter or snow whatsoever. So our "traditional" Christmas is clearly set in a very Northern Hemisphere-ish Euro-American culture. Well, just a thought. But it would be nice if it snowed in KL though. I mean, maybe just once. Aye?

Overall, this year's Christmas has been good, although I did not get a Canon 40D. Either Santa Claus doesn't exist, or I've been a naughty boy. Yeah, right.

OK OK, let me get my perspective right: Christmas is about Jesus Christ, not about me.

I've been listening to Bebo Norman's Christmas album over the past two weeks, and I like Track #1 the most. It's "Come and Worship". I also like Track #2, "Born to Die." I think that sums up the message of Christmas.

And, as I dwell on some preliminary end-of-year reflections, I can only say that it has been a good year for me. Praise the Lord. However, I also realize that this year has been a time of deepest grief and anguish for some.

If I could live this year again, I wouldn't do anything differently, except perhaps I would make the time to do at least one dive trip. :P OK, even that's not such a big deal after all. I've found that the lack of nitrogen saturation in the bloodstream does not cause serious mental or physical impacts. I can live without it.

I also wonder if the world would have turned out different today if I had bought Canon instead of Nikon. Haha. Again, trivial issues, in comparison with the incomparably more important matters of life and death that have filled the pages over the past year. My heart is more deceitful than I realize...

I shall search my soul a little bit more in the coming days as the new year approaches.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas child

The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned...

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David's throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the LORD Almighty
will accomplish this.

Isaiah 9:2,6,7

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In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you."

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end."

"How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?"

The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God."

"I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left her.

Luke 2:26-38

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This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"—which means, "God with us."

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

Matthew 1:18-25

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In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
"Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Luke 2:1-20

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Sunday, December 23, 2007

Music of the soul

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Pictures from Anderson & Joanna's wedding 15.12.2007

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Creative Lighting

I recently figured out how to use the flash commander mode on my Nikon D80. This is a cool feature which allows the camera to control an off-camera flash wirelessly. Nikon calls this the Creative Lighting System. It opens up new possibilities for flash photography, as the flash does not have to be attached to the camera. I can fire or bounce the flash from the side or from behind the subject.

I first saw sifu Bernard do magic with his Canon fitted with a wireless flash commander. I'm not too sure, but I think the difference between Canon and Nikon is that Nikon has the commander built-in to the camera while the Canon requires an external commander to be attached to the flash hotshoe. And the Nikon commanders can control up to three sets of flashguns. Very cool.

Here's my initial attempts at using the remote flash...

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Old photos

I have a love-hate relationship with old photos.

Some old photos I love.

Some old photos I hate.

I love those old photos that remind me of a time when I was young and innocent. Haha. But seriously, they take me back to those happy moments in my life which have silently slipped away through the gaps in my memory, crowded out by the onslaught of today's information. I like to be reminded of my past, as it tells me a lot about who I am now. It is a good thing to remember the past. Many times in the Old Testament, the LORD God commanded the Israelites to remember what He had done for them, lest they become proud of their own effort.

But I hate those old photos that remind me of a time which I would rather forget. Perhaps "hate" is too strong a word, but at least it grabs your attention. I remember the days when ultra large spectacles were in fashion. I cringe when I see photos of myself wearing those spectacles with lenses as large as scuba diving masks. What were people thinking back then?! Some old photos bring back memories of embarrassing or painful moments that I'd rather leave in the trash bin of history. But can memories be erased just like that? Surely we grow through both the good and bad times. In fact, the "bad" times teach us more memorable lessons.

Here are some old photos that I love.

I wanted to be a rock star or a boxing promoter (Don King)

Cute huh?

Paternal grandmother

Maternal grandmother

My affinity for Toyota started young

Doing the waterfall thing with mom and dad

Perhaps I should have been an architect or engineer...

or a pilot...?

Yes, I should have been a pilot :P

Clueless and the Beach Boy

Out on a limb at the Singapore Botanic Gardens

Horse ride in Fraser's Hill

Jungle boy at Taman Negara

Cats have featured prominently in my life. This one in Temerloh, Pahang.

Another cat in Miri, Sarawak. I love cats, but the feeling is not always mutual. :P

On the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City, June 1987

Wrynose Pass, Lake District, England, June 1987

Warwick Castle

Heidelberg, Germany

You may say to yourself, "My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me." But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today. Deuteronomy 8:17-18

Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, "I find no pleasure in them"-... Ecclesiastes 12:1

Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12