Thursday, July 31, 2008

Food Crisis and Brunei

During the Investiture Ceremony in conjunction of the 62nd birthday of His Majesty the Sultan dan Yang Di Pertuan Negara Brunei Darussalam, His Majesty the Sultan, in his titah, asked why Brunei had not been able to increase its self-sufficiency in its rice production. The 2007 statistic revealed that Brunei was only able to produce a mere 3% of its total rice consumption and the rest were imported. He mentioned that he had brought up this matter repeatedly in previous years, but it looked as if it fell on deaf ears.

During the Israk Mekraj celebration, His Majesty in his titah touched on the issue of self-sufficiency again. He even said that he would not stop stressing the need to increase Brunei's self-sufficiency, especially on rice production.

There was this well-written article on the feasibility of making Brunei self-sufficient on its food needs. The author may be right to argue that in the short run, the efforts to make Brunei self-sufficient would be a good interim solution, but it may not be so in the long run.

At work today, we talked about the local rice production. One of us was apparently told by his uncle that the Ban area in Mulaut was initially supposed to be used as a rice plantation area. Perhaps he was right. 'Ban' was not really a Malay word and it was perhaps a derivation from the English word 'bund' which meant an enclosure or a wall. As you may have figured out, the roads around the Ban area are labelled Ban 1, Ban 2 and so on. The roads might have been the walls of each rice planting plot. If you look carefully, the roads are actually raised from the ground level. As with any rice plantation area, it would have to be well irrigated. Water is essential as it provides a favorable environment for the rice strains being grown as well as discouraging the growth of many species of weeds (from Wikipedia). When the area was first developed, it was perhaps designed to be on a lower lying area and that was probably the reason why the area, which is now becoming a residential area, is always flooded whenever it rains. Perhaps over the years, people start to use the area as a residential area and houses were built. And during this period, the authority might have turned a blind eye and let houses to be built in an area designed for paddy plantation.

So can anyone actually check if this is correct?

The picture below is the satellite image of the Ban area in Mulaut. You could see the roads in the Ban area and the roads actually formed the borders of individual rectangles which were probably planned for the individual paddy fields.


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Bruneians and free stuff.....

Not long ago, there was this big talking point about the behaviour of a large group of Bruneians when free food were served when His Majesty the Sultan dan Di Pertuan Negara Brunei Darussalam met his subjects on the occasion of His Majesty's 62nd birthday. Many things have been said and even a video was made available on Youtube.





This morning, a more serious and tragic incident happened. There was one thing in common: free stuff. Apparently, some tickets were being distributed in a building in BSB for the Israk Mekraj gathering with Her Majesty the Raja Isteri and His Royal Highness the Pengiran Isteri at the Palace. In the ensuing chaos, a stampede happened, where reportedly some people, said to be elderly women, had died. A score of people had been admitted to the hospital, some seriously injured.

What have become to our people, the people who are well-known for their gracefulness and courtesy? Have we turned into a society that loses all manners of patience and civilisation for the sake of free items?

Following these two incidents, I hope the relevant authorities do something whenever something free is given out. I hope no more lives are lost.

Al-Fatihah.....

Another injury.....

Another day on the badminton court and I got another injury.

We had a friendly badminton match against a team of teachers from one of the schools in KB. During the last game of the match, I partnered my now-usual double partner, when I picked up a drop shot that one of the opponents had returned. My return was a bit too high and the player on the other side of the net hit my return with a smash. It happened so fast that I did not have time to cover my face with my racket or turn away as what I'd normally do nowadays since I seem to attract injuries. The shuttlecock must have been travelling with a speed and it hit me right above my left eye. I saw a white flash as I got hit and got blinded for a while. My left eye became red and the area where I was hit was starting to get swollen. I'd have continued playing but we trailed so far behind in that third set that it would be no much use to continue.

Fortunately, my face is not swollen; I got a cold softdrink can last night and applied it to the bit where I got hit and it seemed to have helped reduce the swelling. However, I felt like a vampire; I could not really get out in the sun as it would hurt my eye a bit.

Perhaps now I should consider wearing some eye protection while playing badminton. This was the fifth time that I got hit on my face by a flying shuttlecock.

Perhaps something like what Edgar Davids wore on the football pitch?


Or a pair of swimming google?



Or a pair of safety glasses?


Or perhaps my own prescription glasses?

Having said that, I would need something that I could fix securely as I move a lot while playing badminton and I would not want my eye protection to fly off in the middle of a rally.

Monday, July 28, 2008

New Arrival.....

Announcing the arrival of Fakhrusy Syakirin Brandon Lee. Fakhrusy Syakirin means 'the pride of the Grateful' (Kemegahan Orang-orang Yang Bersyukur).


He was born on 17 July and weighed 3.4kg. He shares his birthday with a cousin of his, who turned one last Thursday.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

My birthday presents....

This practical set of Casio watch and contact lenses is from two of my sisters...


This nice Ted Baker polo is from Dr. YCK and family...


This beautiful Selangor Pewter Card Holder is from RC...


This sporty set of Yonex shorts and towel is from a bunch of diver friends...


This delightful collection of chocolate and biscuits is from AL...

This colurful set of cloth (for Baju Melayu) and Samping is from Dr. A.

Thank you all for these lovely birthday presents!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Please stop distributing it....

Just last week, two Brunei-registered cars were involved in a horrific road accident in Limbang, where five people perished in the accident.

Over the following few days, a video, which had been taken by a passer-by just minutes after the accident, was in circulation here. It was reported that the video was even posted up onto YouTube. In the video, one could clearly see the victims being pulled out from the wreckage and two of them were still in the heavily-damaged car. At one point, one could see camera being pointed towards the victims as they laid motionless on the ground and in the car.

It is one thing that people drive slowly whenever an accident occurs, but it is another when they stop and take videos and pictures of the accident, and then distribute the videos and pictures to the general public. Have we turned into a society of heartless voyeurs? Have we turned into a society of sadists? Are we a society of freaks, who get high from other people's misfortune? Please spare a moment and a thought towards the victims and their families. Let them grieve privately and peacefully, without having to know that a video of their loved ones during their final hours of being alive is in circulation.

I urge whoever has this video in their inbox to stop circulating it and delete it.

Please take a moment to remember the deceased and hope that they all rest in peace. Al-Fatihah.

Friday, July 25, 2008

My birthday cakes......

This year, I received four birthday cakes; one from my staff, two from my family and one from my Bandar Weekend friend.

From my staff


The first cake from my family

From my Bandar Weekend Friend

The second cake from my family


Thank you all for all the lovely cakes!

I actually share my birthday with one of my nephews, so here we were cutting our cake.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

More birthday presents......

They don't seem to stop coming!!

I just got a set of birthday presents from some friends from work.





These items are going to be useful in my upcoming trip......

Many thanks to Kicks (of Sarawak), Kakarrot (of Japan), Prez (of the Philippines), Jester (of Manchester), Wonder Woman (of Seoul) and Noor (of Sydney).

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Weekend update....

It has been such a busy week.

Firstly, we welcome a new addition to the family; my seventh nephew (or the 20th 'anak buah'). He was finally born after keeping his mum in labour for more than 24 hours! As with the other anak buah, he has got our facial features. Close friends would know what I am talking about! Congrats to the Double F couple on the birth of your first child; hope this is the first of many!

Then Dad got admitted into the hospital. He had been complaining of back pain, which grew worse as the week wore on. After Friday prayer and lunch, he tried to get up from the chair, but he could not move. He was complaining of the pain being sharper than ever. I was at work and left work immediately. We then took the decision to take him to the hospital. He was x-rayed and observed under ultrasound, but all the tests were negative. He was discharged yesterday, but last night complained of the same pain and could not move much. We decided not to take him to hospital yet, but would try alternative medicine, such as chinese medicine.

My sister was admitted since Tuesday and only gave birth on Thursday. She is still at the hospital as she needed some blood transfusion as her blood haemoglobin was low. I volunteered to donate some blood yesterday to replenish the blood bank as my sister would have taken the whole content of the blood bank. That was the first time that I donated blood, so it was perhaps the start of my life-saving initiative, after failing to become a doctor! I also found out that my blood type was O-positive, so basically I could donate blood to anyone.

And by the way, it was not an iPhone, it was an iPod Touch. But still a nice toy to have!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The quirk about this public holiday...

Today is the 62nd birthday of His Majesty the Sultan and Dipertuan Negara Brunei Darussalam and it is a public holiday here in Brunei.

It must have been quite a weird past few days for those people working for the Government. Since Friday, they had an alternating off and on workday pattern. Weekends for the government staff consist of Friday and Sunday, so they have had this: Friday - off, Saturday - work, Sunday - off, Monday - work and Tuesday - off. Then they would work again on Wednesday and Thursday before their weekend starts again. It is not too bad for us, who are working in the private sector, we had our normal Saturday-Sunday weekend and the normal working days, punctuated with this public holiday.

During this public holiday, no one, including foreign workers who form a large proportion of contract workers in Brunei, is allowed to work. As a result, the town is full of them (no, I am not being xenophobic!). See this post in Shimworld as a proof.

Follow HM's birthday celebration here.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Badminton....

The badminton that some colleagues and I were organising came to an end last Thursday.

At the start of the final day of the tournament, RM was at the top of the league but had played all their matches. The nearest team, EC, was 19 points behind, with Combo a further 2 points behind. The team I was playing in, TM, was at the bottom of the league and would be facing the Combo team. Combo team had to win all 7 games in order to have a shot at winning the league. In the other match, EC and OM were taking turns to win the first four games of their match, so EC missed the chance to win the league. It was then upto Combo to decide the final league standing. Without trying to put the pressure on any of our players, we all decided that we would play normally and would not give any team any favour to win the league. The first four games ended with victories for the Combo team, so everyone was sure that the Combo team might win the league. Then the fifth game started; looking at the combination of the two opposing teams, many thought that Combo would win this game too. The game suddenly became the game to watch in the tournament. The first set was surprisingly won by the TM team. All eyes in the LLRC then turned to the game as people started to think that an upset might be on the cards. As it turned out, the second set was as intense and as exciting as the first one. One of the TM players had one of his best games and this surprised everyone. He managed to produce mesmerising shots and return all the difficult shots that the opponents gave him. In the end, the TM players won their game and stopped Combo from winning the league. I felt sorry for Prez who ended up losing in the game. The remaining two games did not matter by that point as the Challenge Trophy headed towards Seria to be kept by the RM team.

The closing ceremony and prize presentation followed after all the matches were completed. RM won the Premier league, followed by Combo, EC, OM and finally rooted at the bottom was TM. The tournament was a success, though it was tiring and exhausting. Despite the new format introduced this year, very little problems were encountered. Everyone involved in the organisation of the tournament gave his/her full commitment and it was rightly appreciated by the Sponsor of the tournament.

Now, it is time for me to take a short break from badminton......

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Apologies and farewells....

I apologise for the lack of posts in the past few days. I had been really busy; I had audits and various meetings at work and in the evening, I would be manning/playing in the badminton tournament which finally ended on Thursday.

BLNG subscribes to ISO-9001, the Quality Management System, and ISO-14000, the Environmental Management System. I, or rather the department that I am heading, was audited for both ISOs. For the ISO-14000, the audit was tough. The biggest issue that was raised was the chemical storage. I must admit that the way we keep our chemicals can be described as 'dangerous, embarrassing and way out of standard'. I was actually planning to look at the chemical storage in the final quarter of the year, but I had not realised that chemical storage fell into the ISO-14000. One of the other findings that I was happy to be raised was the current conditions of the lab. At the moment, there is already a project to look at building a new lab and to support that further, we welcome/need any help that auditors or visitors can give while visiting the lab. From some of the findings that were raised, I was wondering if the auditor stepped out of the scope of the audits, as I felt the findings were irrelevant to ISO-14000. The ISO-9001 audit went a bit better, though I was missing a few documents that I need on Monday as evidences to works that we have done.

It is also a time of transitions at work. We now have a new MD, the second Bruneian to hold such post. So far so good. The outgoing MD is currently here to bid his farewell. In fact, last night I was at a ceremony to bid farewell to the out-going MD and welcome the new MD. It was my first time to attend a function with many high-level people, some of them can be considered as the movers andshakers of Brunei. The Minister of Energy and the Minister of Finance II were there, and so were permanent secretaries from various ministries and members of the diplomatic corps. The only problem when you are single and attending such function is that you tend to be sitting alone with strangers and you perhaps talk for a while to your neighbours and then you wish the evening ends soon. I sat with a lady who looked a bit familiar, when I suddenly realised that she was actually the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Standard Chartered Bank Brunei. There was entertainment; Maria, one of the rising stars in the local music scene, was there to perform but she was apparently quite ill and it really showed. Another singer, called Fakhrul, was there, but I questioned his choice of Re-hab (by Amy Winehouse) in the presence of such distinguished audience. There will also be a farewell event to be held in BLNG on Monday to give chance to the rest of BLNG to bid farewell to the out-going MD and for him to say his final good bye to the company that he steered through some rough times in the past 3 years.

Another person that would leave the company is the Technical Manager, a favourite among the many of his staff and other departments too. He was seen as a people manager; he had the interest of his staff, locals or not, in his hearts. He helped many people, including myself, to reach for that extra mile at work. He was really approachable and he would not feel awkward speaking to anyone of whatever level from any department. He was also one of the people who brought the idea of holding the inter-function badminton tournament. The first time that I came to know him was a bit surreal. It was when we celebrated Prez's birthday and as with many birthday celebrations, it always turned out to be quite noisy and carzy. At that time, we were all laughing away as we gave Prez a very 'special' sash which he wore, when an unfamiliar face was seen lurking through the glass on the door, accompanied by the departing manager. It was then we realised that that was our new boss and we all thought that we could not have made a 'better' first impression, which was proven to be wrong as he turned one of the best technical managers that we had the chance to work under. One of the fond memories that I have of him was the sight of him dancing on the badminton courts whenever the players in his team won a point. I have spoken to many people and we all agreed that his departure would leave a big hole in the organisation and we would probably miss his ever presence and support. Emile's last day at work would be on the morning of Friday, 18 July.

Monday, July 7, 2008

The Treasure Hunt Reviewed....

On Sunday, together with three friends, I took part in the 12th NBT Treasure Hunt. It was flagged off and finished at the International Convention Centre. Almost 200 teams participated this year. The theme for this year was Safari. It was my fourth time taking part; while it was the sixth time for a friend and the second time for the other two.

The hunt was divided into a few legs. The first leg consisted of taking picture where one of us had to pose as a member of a tribe on a hunt, the second one posed as an animal being hunted and the other two were free to pose anything they liked. We were sent away to Taman Peranginan Tasik, right in the middle of Bandar Seri Begawan. For this task, we had to use props, so we went back to a friend's house to gather our props. We spent quite a lot of time, gathering our props and practising our pose; I thought it was quite unnecessary to spend almost an hour doing so. Another challenge followed after that at Tasik, before we proceded to Tungku Beach for another challenge, which turned out to be a task to gather rubbish from the beach. We still had some of the props that we used for the earlier challenge, so we dumped them into our bin bag, while we cheated a bit by crumpling pieces to newspaper to give it some volume.

From Tungku Beach we returned to ICC to collect the clues to answers that we needed to find from the many signboards along the allocated route. There were 25 questions to be answered and the questions took us along Jalan Berakas (towards Lambak Kanan), Jalan Pasir Berakas, the Batu Bersurat shopping area, Kg. Mata-mata, Jalan Gadong, Jalan Tutong, Seri Complex area and Jalan Muara. All the route, there were two more challenges which took us out of our car. One challenge was to identify the different animals from pictures and another was to count the number of living things on a piece of card in 20 seconds.

We were also asked to bring back three treasures which we had to work out from a set of clues. When all the questions were answered and the treasures were obtained, we returned to the ICC to hand in our answers and our treasures. At the ICC, we had another challenge where we had to identify the animals from the sound that they made.

The result came out almost three hours later. While waiting for the result, there were some games for the kids and a performance from the winner of the first series of Passport to Fame (P2F) reality television programme. After his performance, Zul F was announced as the Ambassador of Vios Brunei and he was also given a brand new Toyota Vios. Coincidentally, the winner of the second series of P2F which will begin soon will also receive a brand new Toyota Vios.

Our team number of 10, so we gave ourselves a cryptic name, X-cellent. That X was supposed to denote the Roman numeral for 10. From the 25 questions given, we got 24 out of 25 correct. We also brought the correct treasures. We were quite happy with this. However, the same could not be said for the challenges. For the photography challenge, we might have lost some marks in the creativity area. We also lost some points in another challenge at the Tasik. For the Eye Sore challenge, where we had to identify the animals from the pictures provided, we got 5 out of 10 correct. We answered ostrich for emu, bat for flying fox, wild hog for camel, antelope for impala and something else that I had forgotten. We were shown the picture of the head of an emu, but apparently you could differentiate an emu from an ostrich from the orientation of the hair on top of the head; a flying fox from a bat from the size of their ears, and an impala from an antelope from the twist on its horns. We could not even tell how the hooves of a camel would look like! How were supposed to know these things? None of us actually studied zoology and we were not exactly veterinarians. And the last time that we went to the zoo was probably when we were small kids. So how were we supposed to tell the differences from these animals? We also got some of the animal calls wrong.

We were quietly confident that we did rather well in the hunt. We could imagine our disappointment to be announced the eighth-placed winner. We scored a total of 142, from a possible 155. The competition was apparently quite tough this year. The final positions were perhaps determined by the challenges. I knew some teams who did well in the questions and treasure parts, but still came in lowly places. Lots of points were probably dropped in the challenges. There was only a difference of 7 points between the tenth-placed winner and the runner-up. Many teams were actually tied in the points.

I spoke to some people and mostly they felt that the Treasure Hunt should not have too many challenges. The hunt should have more questions and the questions need to be made more difficult. The general view was that the questions were too easy and that was probably the reason why many teams did well in the questions part, only to be beaten in the challenges.

Friday, July 4, 2008

My week thus far...

I am kinda glad the weekend is finally upon us.

It is the week when the badminton tournament that some colleagues and I are organising started. For the past five evening, I was at the venue from right after work until late in the evening. The matches would not finish until after 9pm. By the time I got home, it would be after 10pm. In the morning, it would be quite difficult to prise me from my bed.

I am the Captain of my team and I have got to admit that the team is not doing as well as we wanted it to be. We lost both our matches (each match consisted of seven double games), though the second loss was a narrow loss. In the first match we did not realise how the new scoring system would be determined by the combination of the right players. In the second match, we changed our strategy and we went for the kill in the earlier games, which worked. We won the first two games, before losing four of the remaining five matches. For both matches, I lost both games that I played well. I was annoyed and quite disappointed to have lost both games, which we could have won, if only we made less mistakes and did not allow the opponents to dictate the speed of the games. For the next two matches, I am contemplating of not playing. I will need to think our strategy so that we do not end up as the bottom team in the league table.

The weekend will be not a quiet one as well. I may have some rest tomorrow, but Sunday will be an early start for me as I, as well as three friends, will be taking part in the 12th NBT-organised Treasure Hunt. It will flag off at 6.15am, so we would have to be up in the wee hours of the morning.

Anyway, I will let you know how we do in the Treasure Hunt. Have a good and safe weekend. If you are travelling, please drive carefully. Fasten your seatbelts and refrain from speaking on the phone while driving.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Today in History....

Just a little history lesson today....

1900 - First zeppelin flight takes place on Lake Constance near Friedrichshafen, Germany.
1937 - Amelia Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan disappear over the Pacific Ocean while attempting to make the first equatorial round-the-world flight.
1962 - The first Wal-Mart store opens for business in Rogers, Arkansas.
1964 - President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits segregation in public places.
1966 - The French military explodes a nuclear test bomb codenamed Ald├ębaran in Mururoa, their first nuclear test in the Pacific.
1971 - Australian Evonne Goolagong becomes the first Aborigine to win the Wimbledon singles tennis title.
1976 - North and South Vietnam, divided since 1954, reunite to form the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

Also today in 1976, Bulgemeister was born at his family home in Kuala Belait, Brunei Darussalam. The twelfth child (out of eighteen children) of a couple, who happened to be single child of their parents, spent most of his childhood in Kuala Belait and completed his primary school education at Sekolah Rendah Kuala Belait. He had his secondary school education at Maktab Sains Paduka Seri Begawan Sultan, which was then followed with A-level at New College Cardiff. After graduating from Kingston University in 2001, he joined Brunei LNG and has been with BLNG ever since.

.............
I received endless birthday wishes and thank you all for them.
At the LLRC today, I had a surprise birthday cake given to me from all the staff from the lab, while almost everyone in the LLRC Hall sang me a birthday song. I am really touched with the gesture. Many thanks guys!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Time to review.....

Half of the year has just passed. I think it would be the right time to review the resolutions that I set myself with at the beginning of the year.

So here are the resolutions and my mid-year review:
1. I will post more regularly - yup, I'm doing that. Now I am averaging 20 posts per month. But mind you, I was posting more not just because of this, I just felt that I wanted to write more.
2. I will exercise more - yup, I'm now playing badminton on an extra day (Tuesday), in addition to the normal Monday, Wednesday and Friday sessions. However, I would like to do other things too. I am enjoying badminton too much that I just can't bring myself to do other things.
3. I will lose that extra weight that I gained when I was in Bintulu and that extra bit more - this is something I need to pay more attention to. I am not losing weight as much as I would like to. May be it's time to implement OMPD (one meal per day) regime?
4. I will improve my almost non-existent photography skills - I started to take phtography more seriously now, but I still lack that extra 'ommph' to take those stunning pictures. I still made some silly mistakes when I took pictures, but I hope I get better with more practice.

So do I have any other things that I want to add to the list above? Yeah, I do:
1. I will not procrastinate at work and will clear my 'things to do' tray by the end of the working week.
2. I will try to be less careless with my religious obligations.