Monday, June 30, 2008

Busy fortnight ahead

It's going to be a busy fortnight for me.

Running from today until 10th July is the BLNG & Refinery Inter-function Badminton Tournament. The tournament was officially opened this afternoon by the Managing Director, Hj Salleh Bostamam. This is the third of such tournament, being organised by the Technical Function. This year the organising committee is led by Kicks. My team played today against the Engineering team, where we lost with a score of 17-11. I (just barely) lost my mens' double match, where we lost in the third set. It was really frustrating to lose the match, after playing well in the second set where we rallied to win the set after trailing during much of the set. The TM Rider team will play the RM Spartan on Wednesday; coincidentally RM Spartan beat the OM All Stars team by the same margin. Follow the tournament here.

The 12th NBT Treasure Hunt will take place this Sunday (6th July). This is the forth time that I am taking part in the Treasure Hunt. This year, the team consists of three members from last year and another from two years ago. My team is looking to better our third position which we won for the past two years. The final round of the HSBC-organised Tri-Extreme Challenge will also happen on the same day and I know a friend who won the second place last year will be participating in the final round of the Tri-Extreme, so it would be one competition less :)

I was away from work last week and as a result, the pending work pile in my office is getting higher by the day. I really need to pull my socks up and start to reduce the height of the pile. It is also the mid-year point, where review of task and target with the staff needs to be done. I am also scheduled to conduct an internal audit, which would be my first one ever. And the department that I am in is also going to be audited soon, so preparation work need to start soon.

And in a couple of days' time, there is a small matter of something happening that I need to worry about...!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Cinema Idiots

Why do idiots still insist on going to the cinema and spoiling it for people around them?

I was at the cinema last night watching Get Smart and sat next to this particularly large-sized man. As soon as I sat, there was this strong smell of hair gel that came through from this guy. So I thought I would have to sit through this. Anyway, as the movie started, he started to narrate the movie for the benefit of people around him, which included, whom I presumed, his friends. He must have probably watched this movie. He even remembered some lines in the movie, especially the funny ones. At one point during the movie, I could hear him snoring quite loudly. When eventually he woke up, he proceeded to tell his friends about his snoozing and he seemed to be quite proud about it. He also accepted some phone calls and spoke loudly. At the half-point mark, he left the cinema. It was peaceful and quiet until he came back towards the end of the movie, to continue talking to his friends and on the phone. The man's behaviour totally spoilt the cinematic experience for me. People like this should be forever banned from cinemas.

Anyway, Get Smart was based on the 60's series of the same name. The movie is about this secret government agent, called CONTROL (thought it was capitalised, CONTROL was not an acronym and did not stand for anything), which was looking at any incredible terror threats to the United States. Max Smart was an analyst who aspired to become a field agent. After the revelation that the identities of all field agents had been compromised, Smart was thrusted to the limelight, where he partnered another agent for an assignment to capture an arms trader. Steve Carell was as straight forward as he could get and Anne Hathaway could not be any hotter; but sadly, the same cannot be said about their chemistry. Do you know that the Rock used his real name in the credit of the movie? The movie's humour was mostly slapstick and can be quite dry at times. It was a good movie to watch if you need to wind down after a tiring and stressful week at work. It does not require much of the brain's grey matter to think.

There were some funny bits, but they lost their humour as they had been shown in the trailers. Why do movie distributors put all the funny bits into the trailers?

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Euro 2008: The Final

So I got most of my predictions wrong (well, at least one of them is still in).....

Spain would love to shake off that underachiver title and end a forty-year wait for a major title. Having last won a major title (the European Cup) in 1964, Spain has been a consistent under-performer in subsequent World Cups and European Cups, having to bow out in the tournaments usually in the earlier rounds. Spain is one of the three nations that won all three group matches (the other being Croatia and the Netherlands). In the Quarter final, Spain met the old horses of Italian football whom they struggled to beat, having to rely on their keeper to save two Italian penalties and Fabregas to score the decisive penalty kick. They met the much-fancied Russian team in the semi-final, the only repeat of a group stage match where the Spanish beat the Russians with a convincing 4-1. Many thought that Russia would provide a much sterner and more difficult opposition, but Spain steam-rolled past the tired Russian players. Spain will heavily rely on their English Premier League contingent to deliver the goods. The likes of Torres, Fabregas and Alonso will play the main roles in the Spanish side. Casillas will remain their tower of strength at the back. Spain will definitely miss their top scorer, David Villa, who is almost sure to miss the final through an injury.

Germany turned out to be the surprise package in this tournament. Being unfancied even before the tournament started, Germany ended the group stages below Croatia to meet Portugal in the quarter final. It was a match many predicted to be an easy ride for the Portuguese, but experience mattered at the end of the match when Germany beat Portugal 3-2. In the semi-final against Turkey, many neutral fans rooted for Turkey and the match turned out to be the match of the tournament. Three goals in the final quarter of the match finally gave Germany the berth in the Final of Euro 2008. Germany will depend heavily on its attacking front, led by their talisman, Ballack, who seems to be doing rather well playing for his country than for his club. Germany would need to bolster up its defence and if Lehmann plays, lets just hope that he does not make any mistakes!

I think Spain will win Euro 2008, but it will not be easy for the Spanish. The match will probably be the match of the tournament, where the young ambitious Spanish team will tear the older, but wiser and more experienced German team apart in the end. But expect blood to be spilled and perhaps one or two red cards shown.....

Viva Espana!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The One With....

This episode of Friends was one of the favourite episodes for many fans of Friends. This was when Rachel found out that Ross had fancied her since high school.

Monday, June 23, 2008

What happened?

A while ago, I watched The Happening, the latest offering from Indian-born director M. Night Shyamalan. M. Night Shyamalan was the same director that brought us Signs, Unbreakable, The Village, Sixth Sense and the less-memorable Lady In The Water.

The movie tells the story of the outbreak of a pandemic where humans would commit suicide upon contact with a mysterious substance. The pandemic first broke out in New York City and it slowly spread across the North East Coast of the US of America. The main character, played by Mark Wahlberg, led a group that consisted of his estranged wife, a best friend and his daughter to escape New York City. And what's next.... go see the movie yourself....

So what did I think of the movie? It, being a product of M Night Shyamalan, was enough to make me want to see the movie. It was quite rather disappointed with the movie. I thought the story was weak at some points. The momentum, which was slow to gather at the start of the movie, was suddenly lost towards the end. There were no nail-biting moments, no sitting on the seat's edge moments. I thought the end did not tell the story completely. Towards the end of the movie I kept hoping that the movie would not end there without any twist that M Night Shyamalan was famous for. Unfortunately, it ended quite abruptly.

After the dismal display of his last film, Lady In The Water, one could not fail to think that probably M Night Shyamalan might have lost his touch. His golden touch that synonymous with compelling storylines and high quality direction.

Will I watch his future films? I don't know. I would probably check film critics' reviews before watching them. The reviews for The Happening are mostly negative. The following paragraph was extracted from the Wikipedia page of The Happening.

"Kirk Honeycutt of The Hollywood Reporter said the film lacked "cinematic intrigue and nail-biting tension" and that "the central menace ... does not pan out as any kind of Friday night entertainment. Variety's Justin Chang thought the story "... covers territory already over-tilled by countless disaster epics and zombie movies, offering little in the way of suspense, visceral kicks or narrative vitality to warrant the retread." Mick LaSelle at San Francisco Chronicle felt the film was entertaining but not scary. He commented on Shyamalan's writing, saying "... instead of letting his idea breathe and develop and see where it might go, he jumps all over it and prematurely shapes it into a story." Time's Richard Corliss saw the film as "dispiriting indication that writer-director M. Night Shyamalan has lost the touch" Chicago Tribune's Michael Phillips thought the film had workable premise, but found the characters "gasbags or forgetful" Joe Morgenstern of Wall Street Journal said the film was "woeful clunker of a paranoid thriller" and described it as "befuddling infelicities, insistent banalities, shambling pace and pervasive ineptitude".

M. Night Shyamalan has this habit of appearing in his own film. If you watched this already, in which scene did he appear? I did not see him anywhere, but my guess was probably when the train got stopped in the small town.

Saturday, June 21, 2008


I am currently away for a holiday with almost half of my family.

I am not sure if I will be able to blog, so expect some interruptions with blog posting. However, I have pre-written some posts which will be published at pre-determined time and date.

Have a good day and see you soon!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Euro 2008: The Quarter Finals

The group stage of Euro 2008 was completed and the eight teams that qualify to the Quarter Finals are (winner and runner-up respectively) Portugal and Turkey from Group A, Croatia and Germany from Group B, Netherlands and Italy from Group C, and Spain and Russia from Group D.

The Quarter FInals will be played over the next four days and will feature:
Quarter Final 1: Portugal vs Germany - Portugal will probably win this.
Quarter FInal 2: Croatia vs Turkey - Croatia will win probably win this, but Turkey may be the Greece of Euro 2008.
Quarter Final 3: Netherlands vs Russia - Netherlands will win this.
Quarter Final 4: Spain vs Italy - Italy may spring a surprise this time, but Spain will probably win this.

I know that I am not that good at predicting. I wrongly predicted that Czech Republic and Romania would be in the Quarter Finals. Lets hope my predictions are correct this time.

Wouldn't it be nice to see Portugal play Croatia in the Semi Final? Wouldn't it be mouthwatering to see Spain and Netherlands vying for the other Euro 2008 Final berth?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Smoking.... again

I wrote two posts (here and here) on the recent enforcement of the 2005 Tobacco Act, which meant, among other things, smoking in public places are now prohibited. Both posts attracted comments which basically could not agree with my opinions, as well the government's move to ban smoking. On top of that, there have been numerous letters to the newspapers on this subject, again disagreeing with the smoking ban.

One person left a comment that the rules were made by people who earned more and thus would not feel the pinch from slowing of business as smokers shy away from restaurants. Another commented that as one gets more educated, the narrower his/her mind gets. It was probably directed to the many professionals who were involved to enforce this Tobacco Act.

I find it incredulous that these comments and letters were wrote 'in support' of smokers, who felt that their apparent 'rights' to smoke had been violated. I shook my head in disbelief as I read the comments and letters, as I felt that the gravity of smoking to smokers and no-smokers alike were not fully understood. It goes beyond economic matter. One's health is not something that can be measured by money. The government is enforcing the Tobacco Act not to 'kill' businesses in Brunei; rather it was trying not to kill its citizen. Yes, there are other causes of death in Brunei; other diseases and traffic accident kill. But the government is doing its best to reduce death caused by non-smoking related causes.

According to the Health Information Booklet 2006, issued by Brunei's Ministry of Health, cancer, heart-related diseases, bronchitis and asthma are among the top six causes of death in Brunei in 2006. Trachea, bronchus and lung cancers were the most common cause of death among the cancer patients. The diseases mentioned are known to be caused by smoking. According to the statistics from the Ministry of Health, more than 40,000 out of Brunei's population of almost 400,000 (in 2006) are smokers. That is a staggering 10 percent of Brunei's population! An unbelivable 17.5 percent of Brunei's 15 year-old and above are smokers.

In today's newspaper, the author of the letter pointed out that non-smokers were also paying customers at restaurants and they need to be paid more attention as there were more non-smokers than smokers. They would rather see the restaurants to improve the quality of food and its services. I could not agree more.

If you're still not convinced, go here for the effects of smoking to our health.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

New Fuel Directive

It has been reported that from 19th June 2008, the price of petrol being sold for foreign-registered cars would be different to that sold to Bruneian cars. For foreign-registered cards, the price of a litre of Premium 97 would be B$1.18 (BND0.53 for locally-registered cars) and B$1.13 for a litre of diesel (B$0.31 for locally-registered cars). This move was made to ease the Government's burden on fuel subsidy which reached the record B$202 million mark last year. The prices for Premium 97 and diesel for foreign-registered are said to be 'the commercial rates', i.e. their price if subsidy was not paid for by the government. Purchase of petrol can only be made from some appointed filling stations.

Almost two weeks ago, Malaysia reduced the fuel subsidy, thus increasing the price of petrol. As a result of this, the foreign outflow from fuel sales has steeply increased. Diesel sales to foreign-registered cars increased by as much as 66%, while that for Premium 97 increased by 36%.

Apart from the increase in the purchase of subsidised fuel to foreign cars, an increase in the attempt to smuggle of fuel was also observed.

Lately, most vehicles used for smuggling fuel across the borders are Brunei-registered vehicles. Hopefully the relevant authorities are taking appropriate actions to reduce the smuggling attempt by these Brunei-registered vehicles, as they are not subjected to these fuel purchase restrictions.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Another song

Someone pointed out that Father and Son, sung by Yusof Islam, in my last post is not exactly a song that a son would dedicate to a father. He might be right.

So here's one song that became my ring tone......

Do you know that it's really difficult to find a song for fathers?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Fathers' Day

Here's wishing all fathers out there, a very Happy Fathers' Day.

I know that for many, we do not express our love, gratitude and appreciation to our fathers as much as we do to our mothers. Fathers are not any less important to us than our mothers. My mum passed away almost two years ago and my dad is now my only link to my past. He is the one that I look up to for advice; the one that I look up to for approval; the one that I look up to as my tower of strength; the one that I look up to for inspiration; the one that I look up to at times of need and the one that I am afraid to look up to when I have not been good.

And this is something special for Bapa....

I remember saying/writing somewhere that I realised that I do not have that many pictures with my dad. I also said that I wanted to correct that and take many pictures with him. So far, I have to admit that I have not been able to take as much as I would love to.

So when was the last time you told your dad that you loved him? I know I have not said it aloud to him a lot; I tend to say it in my prayers and in whispers.

I love you, dad! And thanks for everything. Hope you enjoy your vacation.

Euro 2008: The Story So Far.....

After the completion of Round 2 matches of the Group Stage, it has become quite clear now who is progressing into the Quarter Finals Stage and who would have to pack up and enjoy the summer earlier than the others....

In Group A, Portugal now tops the table with 6 points, while Czech Republic and Turkey each have 3 points, and Switzerland have got no points yet. The final matches of Group A would be Turkey against Czech Republic and Portugal against co-host Switzerland. It looks like Portugal will progress into the next round as Group A winners. Who will accompany the Portugese? It's going to be a close game; the Czechs were not convincing enough against the Portuguese in their last game and Turkey seems to have gone from strenth to strengh. The outright winner from this game will determine who would go into the Quarter Finals stage. If the game ends up as a draw, extra time and penalty shoot-out will determine the winner. However, I think the Czezhs may pip the Turks for the second spot from Group A.

In Group B, Croatia now sits at the top of the table with 6 points, Germany is second with 3 points and Austria and Poland have one point each. In the final round of matches in Group B, Austria will play Germany and Poland will play Croatia. Croatia and Germany will probably proceed into the Quarter Finals. It is quite difficult to see either Poland or Austria to beat their respective opponents to change the table standing at the end of the Group Stage.

Netherlands now tops Group C table and will definitely proceed into the Quarter Final as the winner of the Group. Romania sits second with 2 points and both last World Cup finalists, France and Italy, have 1 point each. The next round of matches will see the Dutch play the Romanians, while the Italians and the French will stage the 're-enactment' of the 2006 World Cup final match, minus Zinedine Zidane. There are many probability for this group. Netherlands might want to eliminate Italy and France totally from Euro 2008 and may let Romania wins their match. But it will raise questions, such as match fixing. The Dutch can, of course, field a much weaker side as they may want to rest their star players and it is ok to do so. Italy may not want to lose face as it is the World Champions, so they would want to win the game. France, being a former World Champions, may feel the same too. As much as the match is mouth-watering to all football fans alike, it may even turn into a snoozefest. The Italy-France game may well end up as a draw. If that happens and even if Romania loses (but by not more than 3 goals), Romania will join Netherlands from Group C. However, this is still too close to call.

In Group D, Spain sits at the top with 6 points, both Sweden and Russia have 3 points and the defending European Champions, Greece, have no points and now eliminated from Euro 2008. The next matches for this group will see Spain plays Greece and Sweden and Russia will battle for the second spot in Group D's table. Spain almost definitely proceeds into the Quarter Finals stage. The match between Sweden and Russia is another match too close to call; the winner of the match will join the Spainards going into the next stage. If the match is a draw, Russia will have to pack for home. However, I think Sweden will join Spain from Group D.

So my predictions for the Quarter Finals matches:
Portugal vs Germany - one to watch-out for, but Portugal will win.
Croatia vs Czech Republic - another match that can go either way, but Croatia should win this.
Netherlands vs Sweden - unless Netherlands continues its habit of failing in the later stages, Netherlands should win this.
Spain vs Romania (?) - Spain will win this.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Smoking ban and its aftermath...

Since the enforcement of the Tobacco Act in Brunei on 1 June, there have been mixed public reactions.

Most people welcome the idea of breathing smoke-free air. Now, restaurants have much fresher air in the restaurants. There is now no need to survey a restaurant if there are smokers around, or to move seats as your neighbours smoke.

There are however some places that seem to be quieter. There is this famous eating place in Gadong that would usually become busy on a Saturday afternoon, but now it becomes really quiet. This restaurant that have sishas in its menu have recently reported a drop of as much as 50% of its business as shisha snokers get turned away.

There was a letter to the local paper, presumably from a smoker, that said that the smokers felt as if they were being treated as second-class citizen and penalised for smoking.

But hang on, smoking has been proven medically to cause illness and even death. So what the government does is trying to help promote healthy lifestyles and reduce the consequences of smoking, to smokers and non-smokers alike.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Will he leave?

The speculation that Cristiano Ronaldo will be leaving Manchester United has been going around the papers since Manchester United won England's Barclays Premier League last month. The speculation became more rife as Ronaldo himself refused to dismiss the rumours. At that time, he indicated that he was happy to be at Old Trafford, but hinted that he would love to play in Spain. He also said that he would be making his decisions after the European Champions League final which Manchester United won. Strangely enough, Ronaldo did not speak to any England-based papers; rather the alleged interviews with Ronaldo where he expressed his desire to play in Spain were carried out by Spanish and Brazilian papers. He currently has a contract with Manchester United which would see him at the club until 2012.

So should he leave?

No, because his departure would leave a big hole in the Manchester United, which is now shaping up to be one of the greatest Manchester United team; one which would rival the Treble-winning team of 1999 and one which is compared to the Busby Babes. There is no denying the contributions, that he made, especially in 2007-2008 season, were significant. To score 42 goals in a season is an achievement, but to score that number of goals for an outfield player is even an greater accomplishment. His presence alone is enough to shake even the most formidable defence. He could single-handedly liven up an otherwise dull match. His dribbling and ball control are sights for sore eyes. It is believed that Ronaldo is yet to reach his full potential, something that he would achieve by staying at Manchester United. It was widely acknowledged that Ronaldo owes it to Manchester United which plucked him from relative obscurity of Sporting Clube de Portugal in 2003.

Yes, because, if he continues to behave in this way, dropping hints that he wants to leave, he is getting too big for Manchester United. Sir Alex Ferguson has always said that there is no player bigger than Manchester United. In the past few years, some of the big name players left Manchester United as they fell out with Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United; famous ones were Jaap Stam, David Beckham, Ruud van Nistlerooy and Roy Keane (though it was not publicly acknowledged that it was the case for Roy Keane). Ronaldo has been courting controversy by his refusal to deny the transfer rumours and his failure to commit himself to Manchester United.

On Monday, Manchester United filed a formal complaint to FIFA on Real Madrid's conduct. Read about it here. Real Madrid alleged that Manchester United had no evidence that Real was trying to lure Cristiano Ronaldo away from United. Read about it here.

If he stays, it would be a great news. If he leaves, it would be a great loss; but not unfillable....

Monday, June 9, 2008

The King reigns again

The King of Clay Courts, Rafael Nadal, won his fourth consecutive French Open Men's Singles Final, equalling the similar record held by Bjorn Borg when he won in 1978-1981. Probably the best clay court specialist ever, Nadal, who just turned 22 at the start of this year's French Open, beat Roger Federer 6-1, 6-3, 6-0. The score betrayed the fact that Roger Federer is currently the no. 1-ranked player. More astonishing is the fact that it was the third consecutive victory of Rafael Nadal over Roger Federer at the French Open Men's Singles final. The French Open title remains the one that Roger Federer has not won to complete his Grand Slam collection; he has won twelve Grand Slam singles titles (three Australian Open, five Wimbledon, four US Open).

The match was one of the rarest matches that involved Roger Federer losing a set by 6-0; the last time that happened was at Queens in 1999. Nadal could not have started the game better. Federer provided some resistance in the second set, with some flashes of brilliance thrown in. Alas, he lost the second set before surrendering the third set completely.

Being only 22, this year's Men Single's may not be Nadal's last. He will probably surpass Bjorn Borg's record of winning a total of six French Open titles. (In 1968, the French Championship become an Open tournament; pre-1968, a Max Decugis won 8 Men's Single titles). However, the French Open remains the one Grand Slam title that he has won. He lost the last two Wimbledon Men's Singles Finals to, who else but, Roger Federer! Lets hope Nadal goes the whole distance this year!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Euro 2008

Last night, Euro 2008 started with a lavish opening ceremony and followed by the first match of the tournament between one of the co-hosts, Switzerland, and Chezch Republic. The Swiss lost the match one-nil, to a goal from Vaclav Sverkos. They also had two legitimate penalty appeals turned down by the Italian referee. In the other match from Group A, Portugal beat Turkey 2-0, with goals from Pepe and Raul Meireles.

Tonight, the other co-host, Austria, willl take on Croatia and Germany will paly Poland.

My favourite team, England, failed to qualify for the Euro 2008. I will still follow Euro 2008, but probably less religiously. I would think most of the big guns in Europe, i.e. Italy, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Portugal, would go a long way in this tournament. I'll probably support Portugal this time around.

For some unfortunate reason, viewers in Brunei will not be able to follow Euro 2008 via terrestrial television. RTB was not successful to secure the right to show the matches on free to air basis. That probably meant that RTB wanted to show the matches without the viewers having to pay for it. Unlikely, ESPN or Star Sports, which subscribers have to pay via Kristal Astro services, RTB is a terrestrial television service and it does not charge any subscription fee or TV license and neither it shows advertisement on air. If RTB were to pay for the license for Euro 2008, I would imagine it would try to obtain sponsorship from the many private companies in Brunei. With the absence of Euro 2008 from RTB, that would also mean we would not be able to see Hj Malik Hj Awg Tengah (allegedly one of the top scorers in a previous World Cup!)! Read more about it here.

Bruneian viewers still can follow Euro 2008 via ESPN and Star Sports on Kristal Astro.

The official Euro 2008 website is here.

Oh, by the way the Men Single's Final of the French Open is playing now and I am rooting for Nadal to win his forth straight French Open title. Sorry Jest!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Sex and The City: The Movie

Oh, I actually wanted to talk about Sex and The City: The Movie in the last post, but somehow I got carried away (get it? Carried away..... Carrie Bradshaw..... Sex and the City...., oh never mind!) and talked about movie censorship and piracy instead!

Anyway, here's the trailer for Sex and The City: The Movie....

I have always watched Sex and The City: The TV Series and was actually looking forward to watch the Movie, but yeah, it is not shown in Brunei. So I'd have to wait for the DVD comes out in 2-3 months' time, but it's gonna be a *cough* pirated copy. I probably will not mind getting an original DVD copy of this movie. Any die-hard fan of SATC would probably do that too.

As with the movie, the TV series was never shown on Brunei tv. It was available through the Astro service, via HBO. But the episodes sometimes got cut too much and you would be left wondering what happened during the scene that they cut off. There was also this subscription TV service, called Kristal, which offered HBO. However, the slot where SATC was normally shown on Astro's HBO would be substituted with other tv programmes, such as concerts or 'the making of..' series.

I have not, and probably will not, read any reviews of the movie. I do not want to know if it was good or bad. I would not want my eventual viewing of the movie to be spoilt if the review was bad; or I would not want to be disappointed if the review was good.

As this movie is an adaptation from a tv series, I do not expect anything spectacular. There have been many tv series which have been adapted into movies and they turned out to be quite bad. Remember The Avenger, The Saint or Hulk? There are exceptions, of course. An example is Mission Impossible. Some tv shows are meant for small screens only and they should be left as they are. I do hope that some executives at Warner Bros are not thinking of making a movie version of Friends. The ending was as nice as it got and it did not need to be continued in a movie.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Movie: Censorship and Piracy

It's been a week since Sex and the City: The Movie premiered worldwide. Worldwide, except Brunei, that is. When the news of the movie being made came out many years ago, I could only wish that it would be played in Brunei, though I knew that it would be impossible. True enough, SATC: The Movie became one of the casualties of Brunei's strict censorship laws. Any movies with strong sexual and non-Islamic religious contents cannot be screened in Brunei, so the Da Vinci Code, Constantine, the Passion of the Christ, Basic Instinct and Brokeback Mountain are among the movies that never made it to Brunei's silver screens. Having said that, there is no known movie rating system in Brunei. One of my friend's father used to sit in the Censorship Board. The Board would view the movie and then they would give it thumbs up or down. Click here for a copy of Chapter 69 (no kidding!) of Laws of Brunei: Censorship of Films and Public Entertainments Act.

Funnily enough, these movies can be obtained in DVD/VCD formats as they are sold openly in Brunei. Mind you, majority of DVD/VCDs are pirated copies and they are imported in Brunei. And them being pirated, they are not subjected to the Censorship Board treatment. Thus, one may find just about any movie sold. Not just the older movies, but the newer ones too. However, the newer ones are normally the movie, as shown at the cinema, shot with a video camera. Sometimes you might see people in the cinema and hear people laughing and chatting away, with occasional rings of the mobile phones. If I really want to watch a movie that is not shown in Brunei or one that I've missed at the cinema, I normally avoid these video camera-shot copies. Better copies with clear picture and sound normally come out 2-3 months after their general release. There are also copies meant for reviewers or promotion, but these copies would have warnings across the screen every 10 minutes or so.

Speaking of pirated movies, there was this recent news that 100% of movies sold in Brunei are pirated! However, it's not just movies, but computer software too. Just go to this shop in Gadong; it is a pirate's heaven! Pirated copies of movies, tv series, box sets, music and computer software are sold openly here. Well, in most CD/DVD shops actually. There was this time when Brunei was pressured by international laws to clean up on piracy in Brunei and that time most CD/DVD shops were empty as all the pirated CDs, DVDs and VCDs were removed from the shelves. When the supposedly cleaning up campaign was over, the pirated CDs, DVDs and VCDs mysteriously appeared!

Back to the Censorship Board. Apparently if an artist were to perform publicly in Brunei, the artist would be required to provide to the Censorship Board the script, the songs, the sample of the artist's and accompanying dancers' clothings and anything related to the performance. The Board has the right to change or alter the performance, if it was deemed to be unsuitable to be performed.

I know there were many people who went away during the last long weekend just to watch Sex and The City: the Movie. Lucky people!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Kicks Got His Presents!

Following Kicks' birthday last week, we gave him his presents today.

As Kicks is an avid sportsman, we got him a waterbag. He definitely would not have any problems choosing between taking a camera or water for a long walk, as now he could bring both.

We also got him some chocolate bars. Each bar had its own in-joke reference. There was also this squashed-up Kinder Surprise egg (it had "Humpy Dumpy sat on a wall...."; the writer was probably dyslexic).

We got him this nice card.... Incidentally, the guy on the card looked like one of the expat guys at work....

The inside of the card, with the now-customary additional decors from Kakkarrot.

Kicks looked really happy, showing off his manly card and a rather (in)appropriate bar of chocolate.

Kicks' birthday card collection that goes as far back as 2005. We were not too sure though how long the 2008 card would remain displayed.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Another badminton-related injury....

But this one is not inflicted on me; rather I inflicted it onto my fellow player.

In the past year, I had my fair share of badminton-related injuries. I was hit by my regular doubles partner at that time with a broken badminton racquet as we both went for the same shot and it left me with some scars. There have been numerous times when I was hit by shuttlecocks; one hit me right on my eye, which prevented me from wearing contact lenses for more than a week. I even got hit by a flying badminton racquet as I sat on the courtside. The racquet flew off from the grip of the player and the flying racquet hit me on my head. Luckily no visible injury; though I was swearing under the breath as the player apologised profusely. Some people said that I was a magnet to badminton-related injuries and sometimes I think they were right!

Anyway, this evening I was playing with Fiqi when one of our opponents returned this shot, which could be described as 'half-court ball' or 'bola tanggung'. So we both went for it and as I swung my racquet, I heard a bang as our racquets collided. My first instinct was to check my racquet, so I was glad that it was alright. Only when we restarted the game, my doubles partner whispered that I had hit his thumb. Sure enough, when he showed me his thumb, it had turned red and swollen. Its size was twice that the other thumb. After the game, he got some cold drinks and used it to reduce the swelling. We continued to play and even had a few more games after that.

The injury proved it again that communication while playing doubles is really important. Badminton is not a sport for sissies; dangers are lurking everywhere. A swing of the racquet could leave a nasty mark or bruise on your body and can even cause serious injury. So if your doubles partner is one who always go for the ball, moves around too much or swings the racquet as if it is a baseball bat, my advice is to get out of his way and let him play single! One could fall awkwardly while playing and I have heard that some people snapped their achilles tendons. I hope the injury that Fiqi got is not too serious. I hope that the thumb get better before the Company's Badminton Tournament to be held at the end of the month.

So Fiqi, I am really sorry about that.....

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

No smoking please...

Sunday, 1 March, marked the day when Brunei officially enforced the Tobacco Act of 2005.

Among the restrictions under the Tobacco Act of 2005 are:
  • The import or sale of cigarette packs which contained less than 20 cigarette sticks is prohibited. Failure to comply will result in a fine of $10,000 or six months' jail.
  • The use of cigarette pack dispensing machines is forbidden.
  • Advertisements of tobacco products in any form, such as ashtrays or posters which contained brand names of these products is illegal.
  • Retailers selling to those under the age of 18 are liable to a fine of $5,000 and the minor purchasing the product can be fined $10,000 or serve a six month jail term.
  • A licence is mandatory for the import and sale of tobacco products under the Tobacco Laws 2007. An annual fee of $2,500 is required to attain the licence. Any violation of the Tobacco Order 2005 or the Tobacco Laws 2007 will result in the suspension or cancellation of the retailer's or importer's licence.
  • Smoking in public places/transport or an assembly where there are more than 2 persons are prohibited.
  • Only one pack of each brand/variety is allowed to be displayed; the rest have to be hidden away from view.

It has been reported that among the majority of smokers in Brunei are under-aged smokers. Hopefully, with the full implementation of this Act, the number of under-aged smokers can be significantly reduced.

I also hope to see that public places now become smoke-free. Despite the introduction of earlier laws, which were not strcitly enforced, patrons of restaurants, and visitors, and sometimes patients, in the hospitals smoked freely, without any regards to people surrounding them. They could argue that it was within their rights to smoke, but it was even our greater rights to breath air which was free of expired and acrid smoke. And do you know that non-smokers are at equal risk of getting cigarette-related illness as smokers, just by inhalation of the expired air from the smokers?

So what else can we do to reduce the number of smokers in Brunei? The Government should increase the duty of the cigarettes. The price of a pack of cigarettes in Brunei is relatively lower than many other countries. This particular brand of cigarette costs BND4 in Brunei, while in Singapore it costs BND10. The extra money gained from the cigarette duty can be used into improving healthcare system in Brunei. Think about it this way, the money that get used to treat smokers with cigarette-related illness can be used to treat other patients with diseases which are not brought about by their lifestyles.

The authority should also follow what other countries are doing. They should put graphic, and often scary, image of the damage brought about by smoking on the cigarette packs. Putting a simple message on the packs may not help much, but putting those images might help to drive the message more strongly.

I read recently that the Health Authority in the United Kingdom is pondering on the plan to ban any logo on cigarette packs. It would mean that cigarettes will be sold in plain black and white packs. Read about it here.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Don't waste fuel...

Do you know that the Government spent B$202 million last year on fuel subsidy? Do you know what the Government could have spent the money on, if it was not used to subsidise fuel?

Lets take a look at how subsidy works. The price of one litre of Premium 97 fuel at the petrol station is B$0.53. The cost of producing one litre of Premium 97 is 53% more than its retail price. Similarly, the price of one litre of diesel is a mere B$0.31, while it costs 72% more to produce it. And there are over 100,000 vehicles in Brunei at the moment and add to that the large number of foreign-registered vehicles that ply the Brunei roads. Do your arithmetic and please start to appreciate the benefit of living in Brunei.

In the nearest neighbouring country, the cost of one litre of Premium petrol is B$0.86 and diesel is B$0.72.

So what should we do to help lessen the burden on the Government? For a start, we should perhaps drive less. We could car pool to work for instance. Instead of using motor power, perhaps we could use pedal power. And pedalling to work can be a good exercise too.

Practice good driving habits and avoid driving aggresively. We could reduce fuel consumption by following these tips:
  • When you're driving on highways, stick to the speed limit. As well as being a safer speed, slowing by 10mph saves B$0.70 on fuel for every 10 miles.
  • Switch off your air con and open your air vents. Air conditioning increases fuel consumption.
  • Avoid sharp braking and accelerating. You'll save as much as 30% on fuel costs.
  • If your car has a 'cruise control' setting, use it on long journeys. It'll help you save on fuel.
  • Make sure your tyres are pumped up to the correct level. Driving with soft tyres can add up to 2% to your fuel bills.
  • Consider a car's fuel economy before you buy.
  • When your air filters get dirty they can seriously reduce your fuel economy. Remove them as soon as they get dirty. They're inexpensive and easy to change if you have your car's handbook. Or just take your car to a workshop.
Because of the relatively cheaper fuel here, there have been many cases of fuel smuggling into neighbouring countries. Most people would modify the car tanks, making them larger, so that they can bring more fuel out. However, there was this case recently where the authority found that this smuggler had laid a 7-km pipe to move the fuel across the border. It was a pretty dangerous thing to do. The pipe could have caught fire or the pipe could leak, thus polluting the environment.

I am not being xenophobic, but when the fuel are smuggled out of the country, the subsidy would actually benefit people over the border. The Petroleum Unit introduced some fuel purchasing restrictions to foreign-registered vehicles. These vehicles are only allowed to purchase B$10-worth of Premium 97 or B$6-worth of diesel. But the Government still have to pay for the subsidy.

Perhaps, the Government should follow what the Malaysian Government is introducing soon; selling fuel at non-subsidised price to foreign-registered vehicles. Read here for more info.

So should the government reduce the subsidy and make us pay more for the fuel? Apparent--ly not, if you read this.