Saturday, May 31, 2008

I read this post by Mr. Brunei Resources and I thought I had to find this video.

So here it is....

So does the Royal Marines really think we, Malays, are terrorists? Malays do not just refer to people of Malaysia, but to just about everyone in the Malay Archipelago. And most Malays are Muslims, so do they think that Malay = Muslim = terrorist? Just look to the Middle East and I am not talking about the Arabs, but look at the Israeli soldiers. Their actions towards the Palestinians are bothering terrorism, aren't they?

However anyway, the Royal Marines apologised for the video and have now withdrawn the video from its website. Read the report here.

Long weekend

Today marks the 47th Anniversary of the formation of the Royal Brunei Malay Regiment, which is now known as Royal Brunei Armed Forces. That means it is a long weekend!

The quirky thing about this long weekend is, depending on who you work for, your long weekend may not quite the same as your spouse's. For those working for the government, where the normal working days are Monday to Thursday and Saturday, their long weekend begun on Friday, as their long weekend consists of Friday, Saturday and Sunday. For those working in the private sector, like myself, where our normal working days are Monday to Friday, our long weekend has only just started, as the long weekends consist of Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Monday is our company's holiday in lieu of Saturday. There are also some people who work a five-and-a-half-day week and their long weekend consists of Saturday and Sunday.

Apart from the Jerudong International School and the Panaga School (and perhaps some other private schools), school days follow the government working days, i.e. Monday to Thursday and Saturday. So their long weekend runs from Friday to Sunday.

If both the husband and wife work for the government and the children go to schools that follow the government working days, it would not pose any problem, as they all have the same long weekend.

However, if, let say, the husband works for a private company, then he would have different long weekend from everyone else in the family. I would imagine it would be quite difficult to make plans to spend the long weekend with the whole family. Either one of the husband-and-wife would probably need to take an extra day off work. For those working for the government, taking a day off may not be quite easy. Because of the restrictions with taking day off where one would have to wait for a month to have lapsed before taking another set of off days, it would make better sense for the one working for the private company to take the day off.

I would actually prefer it if the company that I work for changes the in lieu rule. If a public holiday falls on a Saturday, the company should bring the company holiday forward to the preceeding Friday. It would allow everyone to have the same long weekend. This would make it much easier to plan for the long weekend and it would allow the family to spend time together more effectively. Petronas actually does this and everyone is a winner.

So what do you think?


Friday, May 30, 2008

Happy Birthday Kicks!

Here's wishing Kicks a very happy birthday, which falls today. Have an enjoyable one.

So can we expect to hear the wedding bells this year?

P.s. drop us some hints what you want for your birthday! I really can't be bothered to be more subtle!

Thursday, May 29, 2008


At the end of the month, I am saying good bye to my Singapore Airlines' PPS Club membership....

I do not feel that I have reaped the full benefits of the PPS Club membership. More than half of the past year was spent working away in Bintulu, which meant that my travelling was pretty much limited. Since I have not collected enough airmiles to retain the PPS Club membership, I am now reduced to the Elite Silver tier. There goes the source of amusement for the Lunchgang. No more PPS-related jokes then!

Within the next year, I need to collect enough airmiles to keep this Elite Silver card, or else I am reduced further to the basic-entry level with the blue-coloured card!

I guess I have to change the header image too....!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

MCL: Treatment in Brunei

This is a continuation to earlier posts MCL and MCL: Further Diagnosis.

All tests were negative and it was a slightly better news in a while. This meant that the cancer had not spread anywhere else and the chance of full recovery was increased.

My treatment was then planned; I would have to go through a series of chemotherapy, with the last one to be of a very high strength. I was also told that, because of the strength of the drugs to be used, there was a high probability that I might not be able to bear any children, so I was advised to consider storing some sperm samples. As I was the only known case of MCL in Brunei ever, I was to be sent to Singapore to further consultation at the National Cancer Centre of the National University Hospital, Singapore. It was also where I was to see a doctor about storing my sperm samples.

My family initially resisted the idea of chemotherapy. They asked me to consider alternative medicine, such as traditional, herbal or homeopathy. I was never a fan of alternative medicine; the conventional, hospital-based medical care had proven itself and I was adamant that I would not go away from it. After one very teary talk with my family, I made it clear to them that my intention was to get better and hospital-based medical care was my only choice. I also told them that if I were to try alternative medicine, I would do it alongside the hospital treatment.

With me being diagnosed with MCL, it obviously brought changes to the family. I invited a good friend of mine, who had recovered from lung cancer, to come to the house. He shared his story with the family, telling them how his family's life was changed. Their diet changed. Their view of life changed. Their way of life changed. He also shared the sacrifices that his family had to do; everyone in the family turned vegetarian. He also said that, regardless of our faith, religious obligation should never be forgotten. At the end, he told us that tender loving care and moral support were very important to the cancer patient. I was grateful of this friend, TFM, whom I still keep in touch with even though he had left the company as he retired a few years ago.

It was a while before I left for the second opinion consultation with the National Cancer Centre of the National University Hospital in Singapore. I had returned to work, though I was allowed to take as much time as I needed. I just felt that I needed to bring some normality back into my life. Support from my friends and colleagues was tremendous and it made it easier to return to work. Obviously everyone was concerned that I might aggravate the condition that I was having, but they were not letting their concern show. I was not treated any much different or special than before, not that I wanted them to. I also started to do some sports, playing badminton with friends and running on the beach, as I was told to keep fit before starting the chemotherapy treatment.

On one Wednesday afternoon, I received a phone call from the doctor, who had been looking after me, that an appointment had been set up with the specialist in Singapore on the following Friday, so I would have to leave the very next day.....

Monday, May 26, 2008

During the weekend, I.....

.... watched Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls on Saturday evening. Without trying to give away too much of the movie, I found myself scratching my head somewhere in the middle of the movie. I thought the storyline was a bit too far fetched. Asking Harrison Ford who is in his 60's to be Indiana Jones might be a bit too much. I hope that Shia LaBeouf (he of Transformers fame) takes the role of Indiana Jones in the future. Why him? You just have to watch the movie to find out! I give this movie a 5 out of 10.

.... participated in the First Brunei Climbathon which took place at Tasek Lama in Bandar. On the climbathon part, I finished the course in about 50 minutes. That was twice as long as the first-place winner! The hardest bit was the so-called the Valley of Death, where one would have to go down right to the bottom of the hill and then climb on the next slope which was quite steep. Most of us stopped after a few steps uphill; it was very difficult and it was really hard on the knees and ankles. However, on the organisation (or perhaps the lack of), the organisers would really have to improve in the future.

Goodie bag was supposed to be collected on Friday at 2.30pm. When some friends arrived at the Tasek at the said time, the organisers were nowhere to be seen. When they eventually arrived, the goodies had not been put into the goodie bags. There was one particular item that was not included in the goodie bag; the number bibs. We were asked to collect them on the day of the event.

The first thing that we had to do when we arrived at the Tasek on Sunday morning was to queue for the number bibs. By the time we arrived, the queue was long and it took us half an hour to reach the desk. We got more frustrated as we found out that there was no separate queues for the different categories. At the registration table, the name list would get passed from one person to another as they tried to locate the runner's name. They would then have to go through the pile of numbers to find the runner's number. Since we were given two number bibs, one for the front and the other for the back, you would think that they were kept together. Wrong! The number bibs were separated so they would have to go through the pile again to find the second bib. Considering the amount of time that it took them to sort out the number bibs, it would have made sense that they had given them away when we collected the goodie bag on Friday.

As we got our number bibs, we were given this plastic bag containing a bottle of water, a pack of Milo drink and a pot of instant noodle (don't ask me why; I don't think we were supposed to eat it while running!). We had to refuse ours as it would be silly to carry them around while running through the jungle.

Because of the distribution of the number bibs, the flag-off got delayed for an hour. In the program, it was said that the different categories would be flagged off at different intervals. On the day, all the men, and similarly for the women, were flagged off at the same time. If you were serious runners and eyeing for the top prizes, it would mean that you would have to go through all the other runners in the boys', veterans' and fun runners' categories. That would have slowed you down significantly. And the path along the route was narrow, so overtaking could get a bit difficult.

The flag-off was not done before some performances. It would have been better if the performances were done during or after the race. It was made worse as the MC spent more than 10 minutes going through a long list of do's and don'ts. While she was doing this, you could hear the runners grumbling and wanting to get the race started. Many runners, who had warmed up for the race, had to repeat the whole thing again as they cooled down while the MC was humouring us with the do's and don'ts. One of the don'ts was that no one was allowed to help a fellow runner who stopped for whatever reasons; the penalty would be disqualification for both the helper and helpee. So if someone was dying of heart attack or being attacked by a wild animal, we were not supposed to stop and help!

Throughout the course, we were supposed to collect different coloured ribbons to indicate that we had gone through all the checkpoints and we were not taking shortcuts. The ribbons were loose pieces, so all the way you could see pieces of ribbons strewn around as runners had dropped them. At one checkpoint, I overheard the person who was giving away the ribbon telling his colleague that he was running out of the ribbons. I did not know if it was true, but imagine getting to that checkpoint, told that all the ribbon were gone and arrived at the finishing line only to be disqualified as you did not have the complete set of ribbons. Not good.

We were told that there would be one water station, but it was not to be seen at all. Not even a single drop of water was seen given away. And we were also told that there would be no water provided at the finishing line. We were expected to buy our water from the stall that they had put up. They should have given the water and the Milo pack at the end of the race, not at the beginning. For us who parked a good 10-minutes walk away and left our money in the car, we could not be bothered to go to our cars for our cash. Luckily there was this Milo van which gave away free cups of Milo, but it did not last for too long.

As we reached the finish line, we were told to hand in the complete set of ribbons, only to arrive at the registration table and told that it was only important if you finished in the prize-winnning positions. So we were turned away, while the MC was cheering the other runners as they crossed the line and reminding them to hand-in their ribbons.

The Climbathon was pushed back for more than one month from the original date, but it seemed that extra one month could not stop from the organisers not getting it right.

More story about the Climbathon here.

.... helped out as the Company took part in the Energy Fair at the Taman. Together with two of my staff, we conducted liquid nitrogen shows for the visitors. I could not really gauge the reaction of the visitors, I really hoped that they understood what I was saying! I tend to speak quickly when I get nervous and there were some confused looks in the crowd! Because of the delay with the Climbathon, I turned up late for the Energy Fair, so late that one of my staff actually told me that she felt as if she was being stood up and dumped!

I have no pictures to show; I will ask around if anyone got any pictures to share.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Champions of Europe!

Champions of Europe 2008

The Manchester United's starting eleven

They've done it again!

Manchester United wins the UEFA Champions League final in Moscow, beating Chelsea 6-5 on penalty. The score tied at 1-1 after 120 minutes of play. Cristiano Ronaldo scored a beautiful header and Frank Lampard equalised for Chelsea at the stroke of half time. In a game of four halves, Manchester United dominated in the first half of normal regulation time, only to be bossed around by Chelsea in the second half. Both teams had enough opportunity to win the game early on, but a mixture of luck, wonderful goalkeeping and woodwork kept the score 1-1, before penalty shoot-out was required. A few ugly scenes took place, which saw eight yellow cards to brandished (four for each side) and Didier Drogba ordered off the pitch to have an early bath.

Cristiano Ronaldo missed his penalty kick and it was left to John Terry to score the final Chelsea's penalty to win the title. He kicked wide and the penalty shoot-out proceeded to sudden-death penalty kicks. Manchester United converted their two penalty kicks, until Edwin van der Sar saved Nicolas Anelka's penalty kick to be Manchester United's hero.

The hero of the night saving Nicolas Anelka's penalty kick,
which won the title for Manchester United.

The trophy was collected appropriately by Ryan Giggs and the captain of the evening's Manchester United team, Rio Ferdinand. The team was led by Sir Bobby Charlton, whose colourful history with Manchester United goes as far back as the 1950's. It was a nice gesture to see Manchester United formed a guard of honour for Chelsea as they went to pick up their losers' medals, but the gesture was not reciprocated.

Glory, Glory Man United! Champions of England! Champions of Europe!!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Champions League Final 2008: Glory beckons for Man Utd?

Later, in the wee hours of Thursday in Brunei (in the evening in Moscow), Manchester United, crowned the Champions of the Barclays Premiership League 2007/2008 for the tenth time in 16 years, will be playing Chelsea in the first ever all-English Champions League final. Manchester United will be gunning for its third European title, after winning it for the first time in 1968 and part of the Treble in 1999.

There are only two players in the current Manchester United squad who were part of the Treble-winning squad. Ryan Giggs played in the final at the Nou Camp in Barcelona, while Paul Scholes was suspended for that game. Sir Alex Ferguson has said that Paul Scholes would be one of the first players to be included in the final. If, or rather when, Ryan Giggs plays for the final later, he would set the record for the most appearance by a Manchester United player. He equalled Sir Bobby CHarlton's 758 appearances during the last game of the Barclays Premier League 2007/2008 season away at JJB Stadium of Wigan Athletics. At least two other players had played in a Champions League final; Edwin van der Sar played and won with Ajax Amsterdam in 1995 and Patrice Evra played but lost with Monaco in 2004.

So, come on, bring on Moscow! Glory, Glory Man United!

For all the Red Devils out there....

And here's to remind us of the last Manchester United appearance in the Champions League final. The video never fail to give me goosebumps, especially when the baby-faced assassin scored that winning goal....

Follow the match and read the match reports here.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

MCL: Further Diagnosis

My last post, entitled MCL, has apparently caused a good friend of mine, who is now in the UK, to be unnecessarily worried. He was one of the many people who were there for me, giving me moral and spiritual support. I am thankful and very grateful to him and all the others for their support.

Anyway, don't worry Jest! We were talking about this at work a while ago and Kakkarot suggested that I blog about this. And thanks for your sms.

The blog about my experience with MCL will come in many parts. I would probably punctuate it with non-MCL-related posts. Anyway, many thanks for reading the blog.

MCL ... continued

As I had travelled to Bandar to see the Doctor when he dropped the bombshell that I had lymphoma, I decided to tell the family about it that evening. As soon as I finished telling them, I could hear someone sobbing beside me and some people hugged me tightly. Tears flowed freely that evening. I had never seen my elder brother cry before, but that evening I saw him cried. My sisters who worked on the evening shift came home right away, upon hearing the news. I had sms'ed my friends about the news and my phone never stopped getting messages of support.

The next day, accompanied by more than half of my family, I went to see a more senior Doctor. I had done the CT scan the day before and I was told that the scan did not show that the cancer had spread to other parts of my body, so he concluded that the cancer was still in Stage 1 and my survival rate was said to be quite good.

From that point, I was passed on to the Oncology team of RIPAS Hospital. During one of the consultations with the team, I was informed that the seriousness of mantle cell lymphoma. MCL occurs to less than 1 person per million population and it is considered to be one of the most serious type of lymphoma. There is no known cause of MCL and the rate of recovery is given from 'average' to 'slim'. If one is to be cured from MCL, it could come back and when it comes back, it comes back even worse. And the life expectancy of a cured MCL patient is given from 8 to 10 years. No known of MCL cases had been reported in Brunei and I could possibly the first ever MCL patient in Brunei; one record that I would rather not have. At one point, the team needed to know if the cancer had spread to my bone marrow so I had to undergo this procedure when a needle was used to pierce through my bone to extract some bone marrow samples. It was a nasty procedure and it would require the doctor to really push a needle though the flesh and the bone which was hard and painful. A doctor friend of mine was supposed to do this procedure and she requested to be excused as she could not bear doing this painful procedure to someone she knew. The procedure was done under local anaesthetic, so I could not feel much during the procedure, but it started to hurt when the effect of the anaesthetic had worn off. Again, the result from the bone marrow was negative.

As more tests returned negative or inconclusive results and this being the first known case of MCL in Brunei, doubts started to creep in. Could something be wrong? Could the pathologist who examined the surgically-removed lumps make a mistake? Was it possible that I might have a les serious type of lymphoma? However, at that time, I was determined to get better, so I left the doctors to do what they were paid to do; to cure.

Monday, May 19, 2008


It was almost four years ago now that I was told that I would be dying within a year.

It all started when I discovered some lumps in my neck. I thought nothing of them, until a month later I noticed that they did not go away. They actually grew in size a bit. I asked some of my doctor friends for advice and I was asked to see a doctor pronto. Being employed by Shell, I first visited the Panaga Health Centre. I could still remember the worried look on the doctor's face. Some of my blood was taken for test and I was also referred to the Surgical Clinic of KB Hospital. From KB Hospital, I was then referred to the Surgical Clinic of RIPAS Hospital in Bandar and eventually to the Oral and maxillofacial surgical, or OMF, Clinic at the Specialists' Clinic in Bandar. After being passed from one clinic to another, I realised the gravity of the condition and I quietly hoped that it was not too serious. While being referred to the OMF Clinic, I was subjected to various test. More blood samples were taken and they all returned no conclusive result. At one point, I was subjected to the fine needle aspiration cytology (FNAC) treatment, where a fine needle was used to extract some cells from the lumps. It was a very painful treatment, my fist became white as I clenched it too hard. I was lucky that Cookie was working at the Clinic at that time and I was glad that she was there to hold my hands as I was undergoing the treatment. Even tests on the extracted cells from the lumps proved to be inconclusive. It was later decided that I would have to go under the surgeons' knives to remove the lumps and test them.

All the while, I had been seeing the doctor without telling my family. I did not want to worry them unneccesarily, so you could imagine their shock when I told my family that I would be operated on to remove the lumps. The day of the operation arrived and I was apparently in the operating theatre for four hours and the anaesthesia knocked me out for the whole night. Going under the anaesthesia was such a surreal experience. I did not feel as if I lost those four hours and it felt as if I blinked my eyes and the whole thing was done. I remember being woken up by my parents and my sister in the recovery room and I fell asleep almost immediately after that. From the surgery, I had a tube attached from the neck and the tube was connected to a container, which collected any blood front the wound.

I was asked to come back a week later, so I came alone as I presumed that it was a follow-up visit after the surgery. It was then that I was told that I had lymphoma, mantle cell lymphoma to be exact. I felt my life came screeching to a halt and all my strength and energy had been sapped away from my body. I felt weak and I could not think much. I remember the doctor telling me that if I would need to get some treatment very soon; he told me that if I left it untreated I could die within a year.....

Read about mantle cell lymphoma here.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

KL - Hotel Part II

For the second part of my trip to KL, I moved to Novotel Hydro Majestic Kuala Lumpur. I wanted to be closer to the Petronas Twin Towers, where I had a meeting with our consultants on Friday.

The hotel is a new hotel, but the building is not. The building was previously used by another hotel and was renovated before it was named Novotel Hydro Majestic. The sign of age was clearly seen; the room layout was outdated. The toilet was not as nice and the bedlinen was not as luxurious as the one at the Gardens Hotel and Residences. There was no LCD tv either. I asked the girl who checked me in if she knew why the hotel was called Novotel Hydro Majestic. Apparently she was as clueless as the many guests who had asked her many times. One of the pluses of the hotel is its proximity to the major shopping areas of KL. The Suria KLCC, the Pavilion and Bukit Bintang shopping area are all within walking distance from this hotel.

I also tried out the fish food spa, which is now gaining popularity in this region (Brunei excluded). I was there with a female colleague and her coursemate. The first 5 minutes or so of the treatment would be punctuated with squeals from the patrons as the fish nibbled on the dead skin of our feet. You could really feel as if the fish were tickling and 'sucking' on your skin as they nibbled away on the dead skin. It took a while to get used to the sensation and you really have to distract your mind to something else to actually enjoy the treatment. It might also help if you do not think too much about Jaws or Piranha! At the end, it felt as if you had pins and needles when the fish were left to do their job. Our feet felt smoother, though I thought it was due to the fact that we soaked our feet in the water for half an hour. More info on the fish spa here and here.

I saw this card at Carls Jr. Burgers and could not help but chuckling to myself.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

KL - Taxi

If you are travelling to KL and plan to use the taxi a lot, make sure you know which type of taxi to use. There are of course other types of public transport, but they are quite difficult to use as the different transport systems (LRT, Monorail, Putra, etc) are not really integrated with each other. It can be quite difficult to transfer from one system to another, even though they are within the same vicinity.

So far in this trip, I have enough experience of taking taxi to actually share these tips with you. The place where I am attending the course is a good 20km away from Kuala Lumpur; it is actually located in Shah Alam, the capital of the state of Selangor.

On the first day, I asked the Hotel's Concierge to get me a taxi. Instead of the normal red-colour taxi, I got this rebadged Kia Carens taxi. On top of it was a label 'Executive Taxi'. I did not have a good feeling about it, but I was already late and could not afford to be choosy. I also thought that it would be embarrassing to bail out and ask for the normal taxi. As soon I board the taxi, I noticed that the flagdown rate was RM6! I could not remember if flagdown rate was that expensive, so I looked around for the fare notice. To my astonishment, it stated that the flagdown rate is RM6 for the first 1km and every subsequent 100m would cost 20cents. At the end, when I arrived at my destination the total taxi fare was RM50!

The next day, I did a little experiment. Instead of taking a taxi from the hotel, I walked a bit to the entrance of the mall, which is attached to the hotel. From there, I took the normal red-cloured taxi. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the flagdown rate was RM2 for the first 2km and 10cents for every subsequent 150m. At the start of the taxi ride, the taxi driver asked for some extra charge and we agreed that I'd pay RM30 or whatever it said by the meter if it was higher than RM30. At the end, when I arrived, the meter charge was RM18 and I think the driver was a bit embarrassed to ask for RM30, that he actually asked for RM25.

There is also this other type of taxi called the Premier taxi. I used it before once during my last trip to KL. The flagdown rate and every subsequent 100m were cheaper than those for Executive taxi, but more expensive than those for the normal red-coloured taxi. These taxis are either Proton Perdana or the bigger-sized and apparently environmentally-friendly taxis.

When you fly into KLIA and take the Airport Express Train to KL Sentral, I'd suggest that you take the prepaid budget taxi and get a coupon from the counter. Premier Taxis are also available, but they are obviously more expensive than the budget onea and they are not really better cars. The budget taxi saves you the trouble of looking for a taxi and haggling for the taxi fare.

It is also quite important to make sure that the taxi driver knows the location of your intended destination. This morning, I spent an hour in a taxi as the taxi driver lost his way towards the training place. We ended making some detour to other parts of the state of Selangor! And it could eventually become more costly!

When you are out and about in the evenings, it is important to remember that for some reasons the meters on the taxis seem to inoperable. The taxi drivers are the taxi meter and they would actually tell you the fare beforehand. And when they do that, they tend to charge unbelievably sky-high rate. There was once a taxi driver who wanted to charge me RM10 for a taxi ride from Bukit Bintang to KLCC, where it would normally cost RM4 in average.

Read this for the 5 things you need to know about KL taxi drivers.

Monday, May 12, 2008

KL: the Hotel

Here are some pictures of the hotel where I am staying at during this trip to KL. I am staying at the Gardens Hotel and Residences in Midvalley; a hotel which was opened just a few months ago. The hotel room is really nice, though it is a bit smaller to the ones at Nikko Hotel. This hotel is very accessible to the shopping area; just downstairs is the Gardens Shopping Complex, a more upmarketing shopping mall, and nearby is the Midvalley Megamall. Because of the more upmarket nature of the Gardens, it is less crowded than the Megamall.

Oh, just have a look at this taxi that I took yesterday......

Champions! Champions!

Manchester United retained the Barclays Premier League Trophy for the tenth time, since its inauguration 16 years ago.

Manchester United won 2-0 against Wigan Athletics at the JJB Stadium. Cristiano Ronaldo scored from the penalty spot, while Ryan Giggs, the one player to play in all Manchester United's 10 Premiership-winning campaigns, scored a fitting second goal towards the end of the game. The result between Chelsea-Bolton Wanderers game became irrelavant as Manchester United did what they had to do; to better Chelsea's result.

At the end of the season, Manchester United topped the table, two points clear of Chelsea.

Now, it's time to bring back the European Cup! Bring on Moscow!

All pictures were taken from and

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mothers' Day

To all the mothers out there, here's one for you.

You're our heroes; thanks for everything. Enjoy the day.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Back.... and off again!

Spent the last few days in Hong Kong. Hong Kong was an absolute shoppers' paradise; if you loved Singapore or KL, you would definitely love Hong Kong too. Electrical items and designer goods were cheaper here. For Muslim visitors, food may be a problem though. So you should either bring in instant noodles or bread to HK. I saw this Indian restaurant declaring on its window that Halal food was available upon request!

I did not splurge out on unnecessary items; no impulse purchases this time. Tho I was really tempted to get myself the new Nikon D300, the new Sony MP3/Vid player and a new watch. But alas good common sense prevailed!

Oh, do you know that today marks the 90-day countdown to the 2008 Olympics that Beijing is hosting?

As soon as I finished unpacking my stuff from HK, I had to start to pack for another trip. I will be away until next Saturday for a course. So this blog will go on a hiatus again.

See you soon!

And yeah, one last thing. I hope this time tomorrow, Manchester United is declared the Barclays Premiership League 2007/2008 Champions! Glory, Glory Man United!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008


I am taking a well-deserved break from today until Saturday. I need a break from work and a break from the crazy world of Zoom!. Do you know this is my first holiday in 2008?

Therefore, there may not be posts for the next few days. I hope normal blogging service resumes when I am back on Saturday. I will see you then...

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Zoom! Continued....

Considering the new offers that BMobile is having for Zoom!, which are considereably better than the one that I signed up for when it was first launched, I made an inquiry to 177 (BMobile Call Centre). My only question was if it was possible to switch from the limited $45 per month package to the unlimited package. The limited $45 monthly package would eventually cost $85 per month, as the free data access is 2Gb; beyond that each Mb is charged at $0.20 and the extra data access charge is capped at $40.

The answer that I was given was..... no! He said that since we signed up for the first package, we are not allowed to change the package at all. But hang on, that package was the only package available at the time of signing up. BMobile only introduced the other packages as the result of DST offering much better packages with GO! Broadband. It is a good customer PR if they allow their first customers to change to the better packages. I could not help feeling that we are not treated fairly.

The BMobile staff at the other end of the line even had the audacity to suggest that I sign up to this unlimited package on top of what I have already. Did he think that I was stupid enough to fall into that? I am not that happy with what they have currently and he suggested that I signed up for another account.

I am really tempted to start another blog site to gather the other disgruntled Zoom! customers. Let me know if I can get you to support this. Voices are heard louder in numbers.

Read about another frustrated customer here.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Thank You and Good Bye!

On Thursday, we had a farewell dinner for TSC who left BLNG upon his retirement. He joined BLNG in 1973 and went through many colourful chapters of BLNG's history.

No farewell dinner would be complete without presentation of souvenirs. TM personally gave TSC a satellite map of Brunei. We have a bigger-sized version in the lab and whenever we had a visitor, TSC never failed to stop in front of the map. He would show the visitor the locations of BLNG Plant, his house and the visitor's hotel. TM thought that it would be the perfect gift for TSC. TM also presented a handmade pure silver 'manggis' (mangosteen), which was a Brunei's local handicraft, on behalf of everyone in TM.

On behalf of the Lab, I presented TSC with a framed, mini-sized Kain Jong Sarat, a handwoven piece of cloth, interwoven with gold threads.

As a surprise, we put together a book containing pictures of TSC at work, which went back as far as 1980! The book also contained many well wishes from his staff, TM, one of his former bosses and colleagues. Even more special, there were messages from his wife and brother.

At the end of the gift presentation, TSC made a heartfelt and emotional speech and there were several occasions where he paused, presumably to stop himself from shedding a few tears.

The next day, we had our Away Day. We had several discussions in which everyone contributed in making sure that his/her voice was heard.

On behalf of the Lab, let me convey our appreciation to TSC on his many years of loyal service to BLNG and the Lab. The lab will not be the same place without you. And enjoy your retirement.

Also, many thanks to the Diamond in the Rough for organising these two events. They were successfully organised, amidst my constant needs for perfection!!

And TM has announced that he has found a job in the Netherlands and he would leave BLNG in the summer, but not before the inter-function badminton tournament.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

The truth about Zoom!

Just a little post to show you how Zoom! performs in KB.

Screenshot of the modem's statistic:

Despite in the HSDPA coverage, my max download speed (with bittorrenting in the background) was 328kbps, but I'd normally get something like 20-30kbps constantly.

I also did the speed test via I did them at the same time with zero activity in the background.

Espeed (512kbps)

Zoom! (max advertised download speed of 3.6Mbps - with the first generation modem).

Saturday, May 3, 2008

GO! and Zoom! Price War: The Reaction

DST launched its mobile broadband service, which offered upto 7.2Mbps download speed. It is using USB stick-like modem which is slimmer than Zoom!'s-cabled modem. The price plans are competitive and it does not keep you tied to a particular period of time. Well, there are such plans if you want to and it comes with free laptops. Speaking of laptops, GO! is offering much better-specced laptops. The top two laptops on offer are Dell XPS and a MacBook.

I went to the DST Roadshow and had a taste of what GO! can offer. It looked impressive; streaming was flawless. I did some speedtests and it consistently gave at least 2Mbps returns, which was still far less than the touted max download speed of 7.2Mbps. One of the technician said that during the launch they were observing 6Mbps, which was not surprising as you would want to show that on the day of the launch, wouldn't you? However, I was told that 3.5G coverage is only available around Brunei Muara district. There are plans to upgrade the 3G covergae in KB, but that will come by the end of the year and depend on the available fund. So at the end, GO! and Zoom! are offering the same specification for KB then.

Since the launch of GO! Broadband a few days ago, B Mobile has advertised quite a lot to counter-offer DST's GO! offer. It has now reduced the rate, bettered the package and now offered much better laptops. Now it is offering Asus EEE (at one time, my item of desire), HP Compaq and soon a MacBook.

I have a few grievances about Zoom!. I am still quite disappointed with the coverage of its HSDPA network. I have used Zoom! in many places; at home in KB, at work in Lumut and at a friend's place in Kianggeh. I am quite disappointed to note that I could only get the HSDPA coverage in Mumong. I'd think being in Bandar, I'd get HSDPA coverage too, but nope! Nada! I have been monitoring the stats on the modem and all I got in average was 300kbps. Isn't espeed much faster than that? I remember that it once hit 1.2Mbps, but it lasted for a max of one minute only. And BMobile announced that they increased the download speed to a max of 7.2Mbps, but it seems to be useless too. For one thing, the modem is specced to do a max download speed of 3.6Mbps. And yeah, the speed has not changed much either. And the laptop they offered now and then? We got this Dell Vostro laptop which is as sexy as a wheelbarrow, compared to the now-offered Asus EEE or soon-to-be-offered MacBook. Since we were among the early customers of BMobile and supported them from the beginning of Zoom!'s introduction, will we be given the chance to upgrade our laptops to the better ones? And how about the rate reduction now offered? Will we be refunded on our prepaid monthly rates?

You might argue that we should have waited for DST's GO!. At the time of Zoom!'s launch, there was no indication of whatsoever that B-Mobile was going to better their package. No mention of better laptops. And DST announced GO! launch a bit too late, when most people have gone for Zoom!. And I would not have thought that B-mobile would have improved their offer if it weren't for GO!'s better offer. And as for me, espeed went awol for almost a week! I could not live without internet!

Come on B-Mobile! Do the right thing... Allow us to get the better laptops and give us the faster-specced modem!

Post blog write-up comment:
I went to the Consumers' Fair and made some enquiries to Zoom! sales representatives. Apparently the 3.6Mbps modem given out to the early subscribers will be replaced with one that can do 7.2Mbps, but they were not sure if it was going to be free. There is no chance of getting the better laptops.

Also, now Zoom! has introduced a new price plan. Now there is an unlimited price plan at $60. There is no word of this to be given to the early subscribers who paid $45 per month for a 48-month contract in advance. With the old plan, the free data volume is 2Gb and after the usage of the free data volume, every 1MB would be charged $0.50. The bill is capped at $85, so this would translate that unlimited access would be $85. Now that my fellow Zoomers and I are using unlimited Zoom!, will we be given the chance of getting the unlimited $60 per month price plan?

Also, now the contract period has been reduced to 30 months; we all signed up for 48 months. So can we break the contract after 30 months too? 4-year contract is considered long for an IT-related contract.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Morning drive

This morning, as I was driving to work, I caught up with this sports car which ran at about 100kmph. I waited for about 2 minutes and he was not going any faster. So I thought I might overtake him. As I overtook him, I noticed he was going faster. When I returned to my lane, instinctively I sped off. I noticed that the guy was going faster too and he finally caught up with me. When he was behind me, he was practically all over me; if I had braked suddenly, he would have crashed into me. When we caught up with slower traffic, he overtook me and the slower cars in front of me, despite the on-coming traffic getting much closer. I noticed that he was overtaking more cars at the front, as if to tell us that he could drive faster than anyone else.

The old Bulgemeister would probably chase the car and race him off. I decided to let the guy sped off into the distance; I gave him the satisfaction of 'winning' the race. Well, he probably thought going faster and overtaking like maniacs added a few extra centimeters to his dick!