Saturday, June 07, 2008

Sipadan Mabul

Sipadan Water Village, which is ironically on Mabul Island


Sipadan Island

More pictures:

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

p/s I'm not a lawyer, but I think Malaysia won Sipadan from Indonesia for pretty much the same reasons that Malaysia lost Pedra Branca to Singapore.

Oceans will part...

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Up up and away

I was amazed at the long queues of cars radiating from every petrol station that I passed by this evening. Obviously the drivers were rushing to fill up their tanks while the petrol price still remained at RM1.92 per litre. In true Malaysian fashion, the news/rumours of the price increase of petrol was spread via email and sms since early afternoon. It later transpired that the PM had made an announcement in the evening that the petrol price would increase to RM2.70 at midnight. That's a 40% jump.

What I don't understand is why people would go through all the hassle just to save a few bucks. I mean, it looked like some of those drivers would have to wait at least half an hour before they could even enter the petrol station. My tank was 90% full so I didn't bother to top up the last 10% just to save a few Ringgit.

I figured that even if I filled up a tankful of petrol, I would save about RM30, and just for this one time only. From tomorrow onwards every full tank of petrol would cost me at least RM100. It would be a slightly different story if I were a truck driver with a 200 litre tank. But still, I would save only this one time.

I really don't mind paying market prices for petrol. Let it be RM4.00 per litre. If it's market price, it could go up, and it could go down. What I have a problem with is paying an artificially inflated price for my car, just because the entire auto industry in Malaysia is subsidizing Proton. I don't have any personal vendetta against Proton but I do have objections to our gomen's policies.

In Thailand the petrol is more expensive, but the cars are relatively cheaper. That means that consumers have a real choice of vehicle ownership and usage. It's good, because people can afford to buy a car and not feel bad if they don't use it everyday. Lower cost of ownership, higher cost of operation. That's OK, because then it encourages the use of public transport during weekday commuter rush hours, but still leaves the car owner the choice to drive during off-peak hours.

In Malaysia cars are ridiculously expensive, and public transport is inadequate, so the car owner feels compelled to maximize the utility of their car. In the past, the subsidized petrol offset the high price of car ownership. High cost of ownership, low cost of operation. But now with the fuel subsidies being gradually lifted, we are hit on both sides. High cost of ownership, and high cost of operation. It sucks. Here I am paying RM80,000 for a Toyota Vios when it should only cost RM60,000. And now the petrol price is going up to match market rates. On top of that, the public transport is still unsatisfactory.

My bottomline is: If the government wants to remove the petrol subsidies, it should also remove the Proton and local auto industry subsidies. If the government wants to help the lower income group, it should tax the expensive cars and subsidize the public transport, motorbikes and small cars regardless of the make or model, i.e. not only Proton.

I blame Dr Mahathir for much of this mess. Firstly, his grandiose vision of industrialization has led us up this dead end road called Proton. Secondly, his handpicked successor seems to be unable or unwilling to tackle the root problems of the economy. And don't forget that it was under Dr M and Dr Ling Liong Sik that KL's Light Rail Transit system was established -- a system consisting of three different companies operating totally different and mutually incompatible hardware, separate ticketing and train stations that do not integrate. So you can see now why we're stuck, since these disparate LRT systems are literally cast in concrete.

The Malaysian economy is riddled with systemic inefficiencies. Many of these stem from abuses and misuses of the NEP. Which means that overcoming our handicaps will be doubly or triply difficult.
Not impossible, just more difficult. Don't we all love challenges? We also take heart in the fact that there is no perfect economic system on Earth, since we humans are inherently imperfect. Since I am part of the problem, I should then be part of the solution. Forget about saving a few Ringgit worth of petrol tonight. Look at the bigger picture.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Tagged again

Aduh, aku dah kena tag lagi. This time by Charis.

I'm a *ahem* nice guy, so I shall play along. :)

1. What time do you usually wake up?

Depends on what time I go to sleep and for what purpose I have to wake up. It can be any time between 4:45AM and 11:30AM. Usually around 8.

2. What’s the first thing you do?

Hit the snooze button, unless there's a gorgeous sunrise photo opportunity.

3. Breakfast?

My breakfast tends to coincide with lunch.

4. Do you go to work/school?

I try to...

5. Do you like it?

Yes, sort of, more or less.

6. If you stay at home, what do you do all day?

Review my photos, view other people's photos, nap, mop the floor, sort my credit card statements, try to read, think about washing the car, stare at guppies in the basin, play a CD, etc.

7. When’s lunch and what are you eating?

Any one-hour block between 12PM and 2PM. I eat anything as long as it is not an endangered species.

8. What time do you get home from work/school?

Between 6:30PM and 8:30PM depending on atmospheric precipitation conditions and road traffic.

9. What do you do?

I help people comply with environmental legislation and not destroy the Earth.

10. Dinner: When and what?

Why so many questions about food? I'm not a fussy eater. I just eat. Any time between 6PM and 12AM.

11. What do you do to unwind?

Reply tags on my blog.
I used to climb some mountains. Now I climb hills.
Jump into the sea.
Listen to music.
Play the piano, although that might stress out people around me.
Read other people's blogs.
Read/browse through books.
Review photos.
Take photos.
Wander around.

12. What's your favourite part of the day?

Sunset. And sunrise when I happen to get up early.

13. Who's your favourite person(s) to interact with?


14. When's bedtime?

Usually later than I would like it to be. A good indication is after I brush my teeth.

15. Who's bedtime with?

Er, my pillow?

Monday, June 02, 2008

Sermons for my soul

This verse has been darting in and out of my mind over the past months...

"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." Phil. 1:21

The meaning has only recently been sinking in really deep, despite the fact that I've heard it repeated countless times over the years. Maybe it's because I wasn't really fully alive, and I wasn't 100% switched on to life. My body was here, but I was stuck somewhere else. But that's another story for another day. :)

The key to unlocking my heart, mind and soul to this verse was when I heard Stuart Briscoe speak at PJEFC one evening in April.

Stuart said that this verse is talking about is a win-win situation in life. What Stuart said somehow rang a bell in me. No matter what happens, I will only stand to gain since my life is lived in and for Christ. If I live, I live for Christ. If I die, I go to be with Christ. Now, what a positive dilemma, isn't it?

Contrast that with the oft quoted dilemma by Shakespeare's Hamlet, "To be or not to be, that is the Question."

Stuart explained that what Shakespeare was referring to was the despair and hopelessness of someone who didn't want to continue living because life was dreadful, and yet couldn't bear to kill himself because he didn't know where he would end up on that one-way journey to the next life. He wanted to escape this life, yet could not bear the risk of the unknown. What a sad state of affairs.

But we don't have to despair. Just think about it. What is the worst that could happen to you? Even if you dropped dead tonight?

"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." (read Phil 1:20-26 for context)

Life is worth living, because there is something worth dying for.

Woohoo! I'm famous!

Yeah, right.

Well, you can check this out. It's the NST feature of my recent Reef Check survey at Tioman. There are some factual errors in the article, like, I am mis-identified as Richard Tan in the photo. But it's OK. :)