January 18, 2013

Passenger Seat Belts

It just doesn’t make sense to me why all the express buses are not equipped with seat belts for all passengers.

I, for one, would feel safer if the passanger seats are equipped with seat belts. I would put it on if it was available. I am sure many other passengers feel the same. As I am typing this blog on my Galaxy SII, I am sitting at the back most seat of the express bus. It really does feel like a real roller coaster. At least the roller coaster has the similar-to-seat-belt safety device.

I used to take the Plusliner buses between UTP and KL on Fridays and Sundays. But since the ETS train services began more than a year ago, I have stopped taking the bus because of the convenience of the electric training service. In addition to having more time to read and do useful things while in the train, I also get to meet people. For example I met several UTP colleagues in the train who I wouldn’t have met otherwise.

Anyway, since I started my attachment at a company in Penang, I have started taking the bus again. When I started in Penang, I started with taking the Airasia flights, but since I always decide last minute to buy the ticket, I end up spending about RM300 every weekend. With the express bus, I can buy the ticket on the spot. There are several buses running between Penang and KL every hour. It costs only about RM100 including cab fare or car park fee.

The problem with buses is that they drive very fast. Regardless which bus company I take, the situation is the same. In some instances, I felt like the bus was traveling well above 120 kph, hurtling through the busy highway. Going downhill after the tunnel just before Jelapang was extremely heart pounding. I’m not saying that I don’t drive fast, but a car is easier to maneuver and stop when the situation requires.

It’s difficult to tell bus companies to make their drivers drive slower following their highway-limit of 90kph. The police who enforce the traffic rules also don’t seem to bother. All buses in the country drive well above 100kph on the highway. I know because I drive on the highway between UTP and KL or Penang.

So at least if I have a seat belt to hold me to the seat in case of a minor accident, at the very least I will not be thrown out of the windows like what you have seen so many times happening on Malaysian roads. Many passengers lose their lives when the bus loses control. It would have been much less fatal if the passenger seat belts were made available and enforced, just like the passenger seat belts on cars. I hope most of you would agree.

That’s my 6 cents (sixth sense, get it!).
P/s: My first blog posted on mobile phone and while in a bus.

December 18, 2012

DiGi cancellation policy

In summary, this piece is about my extreme dissatisfaction with DiGi (mobile service provider), who has been keeping almost RM500 of my money since January this year (more than 9 months). Until today, after twice visiting their center and calling several times, I have not seen that money. Here’s what happened…

I had been using Celcom as service provider since forever (1999) until 2005 when I left for Japan. When I got back to Malaysia in 2008, I didn’t have a phone so I borrowed my wife’s Nokia 3210. That phone is legendary! She had had that phone since it was first launched, but around 2008 she got a new Nokia E66 and shelved the 3210. When I got back in 2008, I reapplied a new Celcom number and used her 3210. I had been using the phone until December 2011.

After getting a lot of “friendly” criticism from my colleagues in the office about my not-so-smart 3210 phone, I caved in. On 23rd December 2011, I went to the DiGi service center in SS2, Petaling Jaya to register for a new service. I decided against Celcom because of my unsatisfactory experience using Celcom broadband in our condo in TTDI.

Digi Service Center in SS2, Petaling Jaya (courtesy mypj.com.my)

I guess Celcom were a victim of their own success. Too many users use it in the condo and the nearby highly populated area causing the network to be congested especially during the peak time, 7pm – 12am. I’m just guessing the time period, but really the network was and still is not so good at night. So that was the main reason I chose DiGi as my first provider with data plan.

In addition, DiGi also offered a very good package (price wise, but not so good on network coverage), the so-called DG Smart Plan 68. RM48 per month for a 3GB data package plus voice call at RM0.15 per minute and SMS at RM0.10 per SMS. It was a very attractive package. The 3G service turned out to be much better than Celcom in my TTDI condo, even at night. I was very pleased.

I was also very happy with the Samsung Galaxy SII that came with the package. I had to pay RM1199 for the phone + RM500 deposit which will be used as prepaid amount for my next several months’ bills. The phone was retailed at RM1899, so it was a very good deal. Just one caveat; I had to sign a two-year contract.

The problem started the the following Monday when I went to my workplace in Tronoh, Perak. Before getting the contract, I had asked a colleague (you know who you are) about DiGi’s 3G coverage. He confidently informed me that 3G coverage was good in the office, but to my disappointment  I found out later that he was using a Blackberry and didn’t care for the 3G service. Damned BB! For my Android phone, without 3G it’s practically useless. I can read emails, but pretty much everything else is impossible to do. I wouldn’t be able to benefit from the 3G/month data plan either because I spend 5 days a week in Tronoh, and only weekends in TTDI.

After almost one month “suffering”, I decided that it’s better off to cancel the 3G contract and register for Celcom. Celcom has better 3G coverage in Tronoh. After reading the DiGi contract, I decided to pay the price different for the phone and whatever penalty that will be incurred. I went to the SS2 DiGi service center on 27 January 2012 to cancel the service. I was serviced by a guy with ID: GORDONSC. He was friendly.

He explained that the cancellation penalty was calculated as follows:

Total penalty = phone price difference * number of months left in contract / total number of contract months + RM100 penalty = ((RM1899-RM1199)*(23/24) + RM100 = RM770.83.

I explained that they still own me the RM500 deposit less one month bill, which is still almost RM500 because my first month’s bill was very minimal. GORDONSC explained to me that it’s the company’s policy that the deposit will be refunded later (best case 1 month, worst case 6 months) and I had to pay the RM770.83 penalty to cancel. I complied and paid in full. The copy of receipt below is evidence of that.

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After a few months (almost forgetting about it, if not for my wife who reminded me), I tried to call their 24-hour phone assistance at 016 2211 800. After several attempts, I never got to talk to anyone. There was no service selection that I could make on the automated system for “where’s my refund?” problem. I tried a few times but was never connected to a human being. Being only in TTDI on weekends, my opportunities to visit the service center is also limited.

On November 3rd (more than 9 months after cancellation), I visited the SS2 DiGi service center again to query about my refund. After almost 40 minutes waiting, I was finally served by a lady who at the end of the session told me her name as “Rashmi”.

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I started showing all the documents (including one below) and asked about the status of my refund. She went to the back room to find out more about the case, and re-emerged after more than 20 minutes. She said that her manager did receive an email from HQ about the cancellation but her boss was not in the office at the moment. I went on a Saturday. She said the manager will be back on Monday. There is nothing she could do at that time, she pressed.

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I then voiced my dissatisfaction that the money has not been returned to me after so long. I even reiterated that the person who helped with my cancellation (GORDONSC according to the cancellation receipt) said that the refund will be paid within six months at most and that it was unfair to me. Being a nice person that I am, I refrained from raising my voice. Now I wish I had.

She then said that she will talk to her manager on Monday and she will personally handle my case and will call me on Monday. I asked why she couldn’t just call the manager and ask. She refused to do so with all sorts of excuses. She kept saying that she promised to call me on Monday. Realizing that I was not going to get anything out of that situation, I accepted. However, I specifically asked her to keep calling me until I answer, I even gave her both my mobile numbers. just in case I were to be indisposed or anything like that. She obliged.

I asked her to give me a direct number that I can call. She gave me the general customer service number that I never was able to use. I informed her of that experience too using the phone service so I reminded her to call me on Monday. I believe I made it very clear that I expected her call.

Well, I’m the sucker I guess. The Rashmi never called that Monday or any day until now. It’s more than 6 weeks to today. And I’m not expecting to get her/their call anytime soon. I also never have the chance to go to the service center yet. I’m planning…but very difficult to find time.

So, I’m really pissed. Damned you Rashmi! Damned you DiGi!

February 18, 2011

Me, me, me and only me

I have met all sorts of drivers doing all sorts of things that are neither in the official driver’s guide of Malaysia nor in the right brain of a considerate and selfless man.

Malaysians are easily swayed by the surrounding. Tun Mahathir said it. “Melayu mudah lupa” (Malays forget easily). I am saying, Melayu mudah terpengaruh, lalu lupa asal usul (Malays easily swayed, thus forgetting their roots).

Have you noticed the following?

  1. When Malays speak in Malay language to Chinese (Malaysians), they use the word “gua” and “lu” instead of “saya” or “awak”. The whole tone of their Malay language adapt to the Chinese way of speaking Malay.
  2. When Malays speak to Indians (Malaysians), their Malay language becomes Indian Malay, with slightly longer pronunciation of vowels. I can swear that their heads wobble a bit. “Mamak, rootti telur satu!”
  3. When Malays speak to Indonesians, they speak Malaydonesian language. The language does not exist, but Malay folks go to that extreme to make their counterpart not feel awkward. I, too, when speaking to Indonesians automatically adjust my language to Malaydonesian. I can’t help it. It’s in my gene.

If you are not a Malay, then yes…fyi, that’s what we do. Accommodating others…we do it so often that it now becomes part of our self-instinct.

That’s what I call Malay hospitality. Or as the national airlines call it, MH is for Malaysian Hospitality. We give, and give and keep giving. There is no sign of abating.

From another perspective, you can say that we do not stand on our own two feet. We need other people to approve of what we are doing. Depends on how you see it.

If some other people still think that Malays are selfish, then I guess the only thing that we have left to do is to give our whole country away and live as foreigners in our own motherland. On that day, what we have given we will never get back.

No other people in the world are as accommodating as the Malays.

We Malays are easily affected by what goes on in our surrounding. Our accommodating attitudes are even affecting our other 1Malaysian brothers, Chinese and Indians. On the road, we follow the crowd, not the traffic laws.

Many don’t know what is right and what is wrong when it comes to driving. So we follow. It is so much ingrained in our culture that we instinctively believe that what the other guy does is the right one. So we follow.

We park on the roadside with yellow lines because there are many cars parked there.

We can stop anywhere on the road as long as we stay in the car. If the enforcement officer arrives on scene, we just drive away. We never think about the fact that the traffic congestion in the area is our doing. We are the cause of it. It’s always the other guy’s fault.

We park as close as possible to the entrance of a mosque or a museum or any public building, regardless whether or not the place is a designated parking bay. Typically the parking area is merely 10 meters away.

I would like to see cars parked right inside the mosque behind imam. Drive-in mosque? Drive-through museum? That’s an idea that might work very well in Malaysia.

We Malaysians are so very lazy to use our feet to walk even 20-30 meters. We would rather drive our car.

In the rain you will see many cars seemingly in trouble. That’s what the emergency lights (double blinking lights) are indicating, right? Wrong! Not on Malaysian roads. People turn on just any lights on their car at any time they please. Except when they are needed.

The emergency lights are for informing others to pay special attention to your vehicle (when it’s having problems).

We Malaysians use them to our individual advantage to make sure other drivers can see us in the rain, so that we don’t get hit from behind. It makes sense, but that’s not what it is designed for. It just creates more confusion to other drivers. We become very selfish individuals when we are behind the wheels…driving. We turn into a completely different person.

That’s not the end of it. Other drivers who know no better follow suit. Unfortunately, even when many people are doing something that is wrong, it does not make it right.

Headlights? This is the time when Malaysian drivers decide to be frugal of their battery utilization. Many do not turn on the lights even when visibility is very low. As long as they can see the road. My eyes are perfect. I don’t need the headlights.

Many do not think that maybe some other drivers cannot see them in that low-lighting condition. That’s the reason the motorcycle headlights are required to be kept on all the time. Remember why the regulation was revised? To make sure they are visible by other drivers.

Many Malaysian drivers perceive traffic rules as what seems to make sense to them, completely forgetting that rules are there so as to keep the general public safe and to optimize the whole traffic flow for all road users.

A few drivers hog the right lane as if it’s his grandfather’s private property. Driving at 110 kph might seem fast. But on a 110 kph highway, please stay on the left lane unless you are overtaking.

A few others merge into a road right in front of you as you are driving at 90kph. They just keep driving at 40 or 50kph and don’t even bother to speed up.

On a motorcycle, some parents feel the need to protect their head from injury by putting on the helmet. Very good citizen. But, they don’t make their young children riding pillion at the back put their helmet. We Malaysians are so selfish even when dealing with their own flesh and blood.

Now those are a lot of things that we are not making sense.

Don’t get me started on the left-lane culture. The right-most lane is designed for those going faster than the rest. It’s meant as a passing lane. This is true when there is hardly any car on the road.

When the number of cars starts to increase, the left lane becomes the fast lane.

When the left lane is starting to become congested, a new lane starts to appear…to the left of the left lane. Typically on the emergency lane.

In my opinion, the concept of emergency lane does not work in Malaysia because of the left-lane culture.

The emergency vehicles do not need to use the left lane when there is hardly any car on the road. They will need to use the emergency lane when the normal road lanes are congested. However, this is the time the left-lane culture congests the emergency lane, preventing the emergency lane from being used by the real user of the left lane.

The problem is that we do not think of others. We just want that guy in our shoes to get where he’s going fastest possible.

 

Me, me, me and only me

 

I have met all sorts of drivers doing all sorts of things that are neither in the official driver’s guide of Malaysia nor in the right brain of a considerate and selfless man.

 

Malaysians are easily swayed by the surrounding. Tun Mahathir said it. “Melayu mudah lupa” (Malays forget easily). I am saying, Melayu mudah terpengaruh, lalu lupa asal usul (Malays easily swayed, thus forgetting their roots).

 

Have you noticed the following?

1. When Malays speak in Malay language to Chinese (Malaysians), they use the word “gua” and “lu” instead of “saya” or “awak”. The whole tone of their Malay language adapt to the Chinese way of speaking Malay.

2. When Malays speak to Indians (Malaysians), their Malay language becomes Indian Malay, with slightly longer pronunciation of vowels. I can swear that their heads wobble a bit. “Mamak, rootti telur satu!”

3. When Malays speak to Indonesians, they speak Malaydonesian language. The language does not exist, but Malay folks go to that extreme to make their counterpart not feel awkward. I, too, when speaking to Indonesians automatically adjust my language to Malaydonesian. I can’t help it. It’s in my gene.

 

If you are not a Malay, then yes…fyi, that’s what we do. Accommodating others…we do it so often that it now becomes part of our self instinct.

 

That’s what I call Malay hospitality. Or as the national airlines call it, MH is for Malaysian Hospitality. We give, and give and keep giving. There is no sign of abating.

 

From another perspective, you can say that we do not stand on our own two feet. We need other people to approve of what we are doing. Depends on how you see it.

 

If some other people still think that Malays are selfish, then I guess the only thing that we have left to do is to give our whole country away and live as foreigners in our own motherland. On that day, what we have given we will never get back.

 

No other people in the world are as accommodating as the Malays.

 

We Malays are easily affected by what goes on in our surrounding. Our accommodating attitudes are even affecting our other 1Malaysian brothers, Chinese and Indians. On the road, we follow the crowd, not the traffic laws.

 

Many don’t know what is right and what is wrong when it comes to driving. So we follow. It is so much ingrained in our culture that we instinctively believe that what the other guy does is the right one. So we follow.

 

We park on the roadside with yellow lines because there are many cars parked there.

 

We can stop anywhere on the road as long as we stay in the car. If the enforcement officer arrives on scene, we just drive away. We never think about the fact that the traffic congestion in the area is our doing. We are the cause of it. It’s always the other guy’s fault.

 

We park as close as possible to the entrance of a mosque or a museum or any public building, regardless whether or not the place is a designated parking bay. Typically the parking area is merely 10 meters away.

 

I would like to see cars parked right inside the mosque behind imam. Drive-in mosque? Drive-through museum? That’s an idea that might work very well in Malaysia.

 

We Malaysians are so very lazy to use our feet to walk even 20-30 meters. We would rather drive our car.

 

In the rain you will see many cars seemingly in trouble. That’s what the emergency lights (double blinking lights) are indicating, right? Wrong! Not on Malaysian roads. People turn on just any lights on their car at any time they please. Except when they are needed.

 

The emergency lights are for informing others to pay special attention to your vehicle (when it’s having problems).

 

We Malaysians use them to our individual advantage to make sure other drivers can see us in the rain, so that we don’t get hit from behind. It makes sense, but that’s not what it is designed for. It just creates more confusion to other drivers. We become very selfish individuals when we are behind the wheels…driving. We turn into complete different people.

 

That’s not the end of it. Other drivers who know no better follow suits. Unfortunately, even when many people are doing something that is wrong, it does not make it right.

 

Headlights? This is the time when Malaysian drivers decide to be frugal of their battery utilization. Many do not turn on the lights even when visibility is very low. As long as they can see the road.

 

Many do not think that maybe some other drivers cannot see them in that lighting condition. That’s the reason the motorcycle headlights are required to be kept on all the time. Remember? To make sure they are visible by other drivers.

 

Many Malaysian drivers perceive traffic rules as what seems to make sense to them, completely forgetting that rules are there so as to keep the general public safe and optimize the whole traffic flow for all road users.

 

A few drivers hog the right lane as if it’s his grandfather’s private property. Driving at 110 kph might seem fast. But on a 110 kph highway, please stay on the left lane unless you are overtaking.

 

A few others merge into a road right in front of you as you are driving 90kph. They just keep driving at 60kph and don’t even bother to speed up.

 

On a motorcycle, some parents feel the need to protect their head from injury by putting on the helmet, without putting on the helmet for their young children riding pillion at the back. Selfish even with their own flesh and blood.

 

Now those are a lot of things that we are not making sense.

 

Don’t get me started on the left-lane culture. The right-most lane is designed for those going faster than the rest. It’s meant as a passing lane. This is true when there is hardly any car on the road.

 

When the number of cars starts to increase, the left lane becomes the fast lane.

 

When the left lane is starting to become congested, a new lane starts to appear…to the left of the left lane. Typically on the emergency lane.

 

In my opinion, the concept of emergency lane does not work in Malaysia because of the left-lane culture.

 

The emergency vehicles do not need to use the left lane when there is hardly any car on the road. They will need to use the emergency lane when the normal road lanes are congested. However, this is the time the left-lane culture congests the emergency lane, preventing the emergency lane from being used by the real user of the left lane.

 

The problem is that we do not think of others. We just want that guy in our shoes to get where he’s going fastest possible.

February 14, 2011

World History of Lies

Life in this world is not always black and white. It is full of gray and other shades of colors. Full of lies at the mainstream, governments and major news. Completely tak masuk akal.

In this insane world, right is not necessarily right or perceived as the truth. In the good version, right simply means what the majority (including you and me) think “IS” right. The bad version…right is what those in power (not including you and me) want those without power (you and me) to think is right.

Just like history. “History” does not refer to the actual turn of events in the past, but the turn of events according to the people who wrote the historical piece.

There, you see! The world today is mad.

All are lies in this world. Layers upon layers of unscrupulous misrepresentation of the truth. The massaged lies are perceived as the truths by the public.

Manipulation of history begins with “bad” news.

“News” is another word that is highly manipulated. Do you think the word news refer to what actually took place in the recent past?

Nooo….The actual fact is that news simply is “what the news writers want you to think happened”.

Here is an example.

When a brutal bombing and killing of a group of people in Palestine took place, the CNN reports “Top-ranked Al-Qaeda leaders killed in a US missile strike”. Al-Jazeera reports “Bride and groom among 20 died in a US missile strike of a Palestinian wedding ceremony” on the same incident.

News is the younger brother of history. Same blood, same DNA. Bad to the bone.

They are both corrupt and corrupting.

The only absolutely-true news, worthy of the prime time television or the front pages of the news prints is one that reports natural disasters or road accidents or strange things or events that those in power could not care less.

Unfortunately soo…

August 12, 2010

The new electric train for KL-Ipoh line

Every week I commute between Kuala Lumpur (KL) and Tronoh for work. My family is in KL, but because of work, I travel every Friday evening and either Sunday evening or early Monday morning, straight to work. Typical journey time: 2.5 hours.

I normally drive, but sometimes I take the public transport. Sometimes I take the express buses, but normally I would take the transit train between KL sentral and Batu Gajah, which is about 15 km from my office.

Intercity train transportation used to be not an option, but since the double-tracking project to upgrade the train line in the west coast of peninsular Malaysia completed (at least between KL and Ipoh anyway), train travel is very much better than it was before.

Thanks to Tun Dr Mahathir for envisioning it. The project itself costs a bom but I think it’s worth every cent.

Since last week I was considering to take leave on Friday this week. I don’t know why, but I felt like spending “puasa” with my family in KL a bit earlier. On the Sunday evening the week before, I went to Batu Gajah to buy some dates (kurma) for my sister-in-law who is currently studying in Korea, so I went to BG train station to check out the tickets. Her colleague just happened to visit her in Korea the following week.

Unfortunately, the ticket counter was closed. It only opens at 8:00 am until 6:00 pm Monday through Friday. It’s not open on weekends.

Well, fine. I wish the public transport in Malaysia were like that in Japan, but hey it’s much better today than a few years ago before I went to Japan for my PhD. Btw, that’s how I got to know a thing or two about “efficient public transportation”, while I was residing in Nara for 3.5 years.

So, on Monday afternoon this week, I decided to call KTM (the train company) phone booking center and made a booking for the train on Thursday evening and return to BG on Sunday evening. The operator informed me that the ticket must be collected by Thursday afternoon; a few hours before the scheduled train.

I used to buy train tickets through the onllne portal offered by KTM. It was not extremely efficient, but the website was convenient. I can just print the purchased tickets, without having to drive over 30km for the return trip between Tronoh and BG train station.

Even with my 12km/liter rather-fuel-efficient Honda accord which I brought back from Japan using student AP, that easily would cost me about RM1.85 /liter x (30 km / 12 km/liter) = RM4.60. Driving to the station is just not worth it. That’s why I always purchased online.

Unfortunately, currently KTM decided to upgrade their web portal so the online ticket is not available at least until the middle of September according to the website.

I just don’t understand why they have to close the online portal while doing the development. No other company in the world does that.

They should develop the new portal on a different platform while keeping the existing portal online. Only when the new portal completes then the migration should take place. That’s common sense.

It should not take more than a few hours to do the migration. Any IT guy should know that. I guess KTM is in the business of trains…not web portal. J That’s why they are taking more than a month to work on the upgrade, while I have to spend RM4.60 per trip to buy the ticket at the counter. It makes me wonder. This does not make sense. Only this part of this whole electric train story.

So, I had no choice but to drive again to the BG train station to collect the tickets that I had booked over the phone. During the lunch time today, I decided to drive from office to BG train station to get the ticket.

There were two ticket counters. Used to be just one counter. I normally go for the counter on the left. Today, the counter on the right has a sign that says “CURRENT BOOKING ONLY” in big black capital letters right next to the window. I had no idea that the new counter is meant for the KTM’s new ETS. I’m not really sure what the acronym stands for, but probably it’s Electric Train System.

I was surprised, but it was not a bad surprised. About a month before that, as I was getting off the KL-BG locomotive train at the BG station, I saw the new electric train making test rounds. I did not know when they were going to start operation.

So today as I was purchasing the ticket I thought, “they must have begun operation already”. I had no idea that the train was to begin operation this very day. I never bothered to ask.

Anyway, RM29 per trip for the new electric train is not much different from the RM21 second class ticket on the locomotive train which normally takes 2 hours and 45 minutes. Btw, the economy class ticket on the locomotive train is RM12 only. This ETS train will take 2 hours and 5 minutes according to the ticket attendant.

So I decided to buy the RM29 ticket for ETS. It would be my first time riding the ETS. There is only one type of ticket for the ETS train, unlike the 3-class tickets for the old locomotive trains.

At about 6:05 pm after work today, I left office with my car to the BG train station and parked the car at the station. As I went into the station, I saw a poster that announced ETS operation was to start operation on 12 August 2010. “Wow! I’m going to be riding the new electric train on the launching day. What a surprise.”

Now I’m in my 7A seat in coach A (the rear most car) at 8:44 pm blogging about my first ride on ETS. The screen shows the train speed is 142 km/hr, the normal cruising speed. I think it’s about to make the approach to the Kuala Lumpur station, one stop before the KL Sentral station….my destination.

Oopss my mistake…it’s just slowing down at the Batu Caves station. What? Batu Caves? Since when does this train pass by Batu Caves? Did I see wrong? I heard the Batu Caves line is now open…but this is a different line. Anyway, just a bit more to go before the KL Sentral.

The journey today was delayed by about 6-7 minutes. Two or three times the train stopped in the middle of the track. I was wondering why. At one of those unscheduled stops, the driver announced that they were waiting for some kind of right-of-way.

Okay, I’m gonna conclude now. In conclusion, I think KTM’s decision to upgrade its train fleet is a very good move. It would definitely encourage more usage of public transportation by the Malaysian population.

On the bright side, the train is a bit more informative. Proper announcement of the next station that it will stop, with automatic lady-voice announcement.

The TV screen by the exit door also displays the name of the station, the current time, as well as the current speed. The first time that I see it. I never saw the same thing in Japan.

We need to start being more like the Japanese, at least when it comes to the public transportation.

Tata…

July 2, 2010

Kenapa rakyat Malaysia kurang minat membaca?

I wrote this article in 2005 when I was doing my PhD. I decided to copy-paste it here because the contents are still relevant today.

English title: Why Malaysians have no interest in reading?

Saya tertarik untuk memberi pandangan saya selepas membaca artikel bertajuk “Dasar dikaji kurangkan kos buku” melalu Utusan Online pada 19 Mei 2005. Saya ingin memberi pandangan saya mengapa kurangnya minat membaca dikalangan rakyat Malaysia. Dengan mengetahu sebab-sebabnya, mungkin kita dapat memikirkan sama-sama cara-cara untuk meningkatkan minat membaca di kalangan rakyat Malaysia, terutamanya di kalangan remaja.

Saya pernah belajar di beberapa negara maju, termasuk A.S., Australia dan Jepun. Saya dapati, untuk menggalakkan budaya membaca, semua pihak perlu mengambil peranan.

Bukan hanya dengan mengurangkan harga buku, rakyat Malaysia akan berpusu-pusu ke kedai buku untuk membeli buku kerana harganya yang murah. Buku di negara barat tidak pula murah sangat.

Tapi memang saya akui, harga buku di Malaysia memang tidak berpatutan. Saya faham kenapa harga buku yang diimport dijual dengan harga yang begitu mahal, tapi saya sangat terperanjat bila melihat harga buku-buku tempatan juga tidak kurang mahalnya.

Cuba lihat sahaja harga buku yang terbaru diterbitkan berdasarkan pengalaman rakyat Malaysia kita yang menjelajah kutub selatan. Berapa keratkah rakyat Malaysia yang akan berpeluang membaca buku tersebut, dengan harga sebegitu? Tidakkah ianya berguna kepada pelajar-pelajar untuk menambah semangat mereka, untuk menjadi terbilang? Tepuk dada, tanya selera.

Beberapa faktor di bawah adalah mengundang kepada kurangnya minat membaca di kalangan rakyat Malaysia.

Faktor 1:

Kebanyakan kedai buku tempatan (kecil-kecilan), tidak kira di mana–stesen bas, di dalam Mall atau di tepi-tepi jalan–semuanya mengambil sikap menghalang pelanggan mereka daripada membaca buku atau majalah di kedai mereka.

Ada yang menampalkan amaran “Di larang membaca!”. Terutamanya jika pelanggan mereka adalah dari kalangan remaja, atau pelajar-pelajar sekolah. Mungkin pada anggapan mereka, pelanggan-pelanggan seperti ini tidak ada niat untuk membeli buku tersebut atau tidak mampu untuk membeli buku-buku atau majalah tersebut.

Kita perlu ingat, manusia belajar dari pengalaman. Kanak-kanak terutamanya akan lebih terpengaruh. Akibat di halau dari kedai buku seumpama itu, mereka akhirnya enggan untuk mengunjungi mana-mana kedai buku.

Jangan anggap perkara sebegini adalah remeh. Ianya salah satu faktor terbesar kenapa rakyat Malaysia tidak berjinak-jinak dengan buku. Di semua negara-negara maju, dari kedai seperti itulah remaja mula menjinakkan diri membelek buku dan akhirnya membeli kerana tertarik dengan apa yang mereka terbaca.

Kedai-kedai buku besar seperti Popular, Kinokuniya, MPH dan beberapa lagi, sebaliknya mengambil sikap yang berbeza. Mereka sebaliknya menyediakan tempat untuk pelanggan mereka duduk dan membaca. Sejak adanya kedai-kedai sebegini, saya kerap membeli buku-buku dan majalah.

Tetapi kebanyakan rakyat Malaysia yang tidak tinggal di bandar besar, mereka tidak berpeluang untuk mengunjungi kedai-kedai sebegini.

Faktor 2:

Perpustakaan di institusi-institusi pengajian tinggi di Malaysia kebanyakannya adalah tertutup kepada orang awam. Selalunya, hanya pelajar dan staff sahaja yang boleh menggunakan perpustakaan tersebut yang selalunya mempunyai koleksi buku yang begitu banyak.

Kerajaan membelanjakan wang yang begitu banyak untuk melengkapkan perpustakaan tersebut, tetapi kenapa hanya 1-2% sahaja rakyat yang layak menggunakannya? Ingin saya berkongsi pengalaman saya mengunjungi perpustakaan Universiti Malaya.

Setibanya di pintu masuk, saya perlu menggunakan kad ID untuk melepasi sistem keselamatan yang begitu canggih. Bila bertanyakan kepada pegawai keselamatan di situ, katanya saya perlu membayar sejumlah wang yang agak besar (tidak perlu saya nyatakan), hanya untuk memasuki perpustakaan tersebut kerana saya bukan pelajar atau staff Universiti Malaya.

Alangkah terkejutnya saya. Semasa belajar di negara barat, saya selalu mengunjungi perpustakaan di universiti-universiti lain, dan tidak pernah saya mengalami pengalaman seumpama itu.

Malah yang menyedihkan lagi, ianya berlaku di negara saya sendiri kepada rakyatnya sendiri.

Semoga dapat kita renungkan.

Daripada rakyat Malaysia yang minat membaca.
PS – Maafkan sekiranya Bahasa Malayu saya tidak begitu sempurna.

April 25, 2010

No liability

Have you ever read the writings on the back of the bus ticket stubs? I recently travelled on an express bus. The journey started at 9:30 pm and I arrived at the destination at about 4:00 am the following day. The journey was uneventful except for the speed at which the bus tumbled down the east-cost highway through Jeli-Gerik towns. Amazingly fast…

Anyway, this blog is not about the bus driver or the driving speed. Instead, I’m going to comment a bit on the “Syarat-Syarat“, or in English I think it means Terms & Conditions (T&C).

To avoid mistranslating the syarat-syarat, which is written in Bahasa Melayu, I will quote it as is, then translate the necessary parts for further discussion.

  1. Penumpang dikehendaki berada di terminal sekurang-kurangnya 20 minit sebelum masa berlepas.
  2. Tiket ini sah untuk perjalanan seperti yang tercatat sahaja. Sebarang pindaan akan dikehendaki caj penalti.
  3. Tiket yang dibeli tidak boleh dipulangkan kembali.
  4. Tiket ini hanya sah selepas dicetak oleh komputer atau ditandatangani oleh pegawai bertugas.
  5. Syarikat tidak akan bertanggungjawab ke atas keselamatan barang-barang yang dibawa penumpang. Berat barang-barang yang dibawa hendaklah tidak melebihi 15 kg.
  6. Syarikat berhak meminda jadual perjalanan dengan tidak terlebih dahulu memberitahu penumpang. Syarikat tidak memberi jaminan atas kelewatan perjalanan.
  7. Pengeluaran tiket ini tertakluk kepada syarat-syarat lain-lain yang ditetapkan oleh syarikat dari semasa ke semasa, samada tertulis atau tidak.

Terms 1-4 are normal. Nothing peculiar and therefore deserves no further attention. If you cannot understand Bahasa Melayu, I can provide the English translation upon request.

Items 5-7, on the other hand, deserves my “tak masuk akal” scrutiny.

Item 5 translates into “The company is not responsible for the safety of passenger’s luggage. A luggage cannot exceed 15 kg”

Well, this is quite normal everywhere else too. At public parking lots, the same clause is used as a disclaimer. It protects the operator from any liability. The bus company or the parking lot operator is free from any liability should the luggage go missing or break or should the vehicle go missing or broken into….or the radios get stolen.

This is a loophole that can be abused by the operators. What if, at the destination at 4:00 pm, I find out that my luggage which is stowed under the belly of the bus is not where it is supposed to be? Gone! Do I have the right to blame the bus operator? According to the Syarat-Syarat, the bus operator is not responsible. Does that piece of document hold in court? I wonder.

Term 6 is even more depressing as a passenger. It translates into “The company reserves the right to change the timetable without giving prior notification to the passengers. The company does not provide any guarantee of on-time departure/arrival“.

This is perfect for the bus operator. They have no obligation to follow the timetable. However, if the bus companies plan to operate for a long time it would be in their best interest to follow the timetable. However, 15-30 minute delay is rather common in the express bus departure time. All operator throughout the nation. Well, they can “change the time-table without notifying the passengers first” right? It’s in the T&C. So who are we to complain. We can just exercise our rights to choose other bus operators.

Adding more insult to injury, the last item (Term 7) is the mother of it all. In English, it means “The ticket issuance is subject to other terms and conditions that may be specified by the company from time to time, in writing or otherwise.

In layman’s terms, the bus company can “do whatever they please”. As they deem fit. They are the judge and the executioner. The question is again, does that small piece of document written on the back of the ticket stub hold in court?

If you’ve had the first-hand experience facing this legal issue, please share.

In summary, the Malaysian constitution does not seem to protect the individual citizens and customers, but instead it protects the big corporations that are making money from us.

November 21, 2009

“Hazard” in the rain

What about those drivers with the hazard lights flashing during the rain? What’s up with that?

Hazard lights are meant to be used only in emergency situations such as these.

  1. If your car breaks down and you are forced to park on the shoulder.
  2. If you are in an accident and your car is interrupting the flow of traffic.
  3. Basically when you find that your car is in a position to be a potential danger to another car and you need to draw attention to it.

The way I see it, these people are either of these two types.

The first type are those who think that the flashing light would make their vehicle more visible in the rain. They do not realize that the hazard light causes confusions to other road users. These people apparently think that they are smarter than everybody else.

The second type of road users turn on their hazard lights during the rain because others also do it. They are basically copycats. By definition, they are the “one who imitates or adopts the behavior or practices of another”, without knowing the logic behind it.

Serial killer copycats have reasons for doing what they do, albeit all of them are mentally sick. These copycat road users just follow blindly.

These are very bad type of people. They are the ones who contribute to the statistics of copycats. The more we have these copycats on the road, the more likely others who don’t know any better to think that they are supposed to turn on the flashing hazard lights during the rain.

What do you think we should do to teach these people? Any ideas?

November 5, 2009

Next R&R 86 km

When you are about to skip Tapah R&R (short form for rest and revive or simply a rest area) along the North South Expressway (PLUS Highway), wouldn’t you like to know how far is the next R&R so you can decide whether you need to take a break at Tapah or you can still drive to the next R&R?

No! Not according to the people who decide where to put up the sign that says “if you skip this R&R, you will have to drive 86 km to get to the next one”. They decided that the best place to put up such signboards is about half a kilometer after the R&R, not before.

Next time you drive along the highway, notice the signboard after each R&R rest areas. All of them (Tapah, Ayer Keroh, Sungai Perak, Rawang, Gunung Semanggol, etc.) have the next R&R distance signage put up at about 500 meter after the R&R exit.

They prefer to mock the highway users with “Haw haw!  (read like Jimbo Muntz in the Simpsons) serves you right! You should have stopped, bro! Now you’re gonna have to drive another 86 km to get your lunch and/or petrol”.

For a frequent commuter between KL and Tronoh like me, I know that after Tapah on a southbound journey, the next Ulu Bernam R&R is about 64 km. For any other Mat and Din or Chin and Yap, they could potentially be left stranded along the highway for not stopping to refuel at Tapah.

What a bummer would that be! Could that have been avoided? You betcha!

You would think that such a big highway operator like Projek Lebuhraya Utara Selatan Berhad (PLUS) whose annual profit exceeds RM 1 billion, would have smart enough advisers to advise them on simple things like this. Apparently not.

Their advisers just advise on when to revise the toll rate (read: when to hike the toll rate). And how much to revise. If the government decides not to revise, they advise on how much the government needs to pay them as compensation.

Any other “strange” signboards you have seen lately?

November 4, 2009

“Not my problem!”

This morning I was very upset to see a young mother throwing trash (some small pieces of papers) our of her car window while her husband was driving.

What makes it even more shocking is that such a nice lady would do such a shameful act. Even more shocking is that it happened merely 2 seconds after the car left their rented house.

It made me curious about what kind of person would do such a shocking thing. After catching up with the car, I recognized the driver as one of the post graduate students from Pakistan currently studying at the university where I work.

I don’t really know how the people in Pakistan behaves, but I would think that they’d think twice about doing a similar thing if they were in Singapore or in the US or Europe.

Let us not worry about whether they are foreigners or Malaysians.

I have seen many instances where Malaysians just simply jettisoned their trash out of a moving vehicle. Men and women are the same in this aspect.

This one instance a couple of months ago, I saw a very nice family traveling along the North South Expressway in their luxury multi-purpose vehicle.

As the father was driving, the mother slowly rolls down the automatic window and mindlessly discarded some plastic wrappers out of the vehicle. The plastic wrapper haphazardly flew into the air and fell on the road shoulder.

This incident was apparently observed by the young children in the MPV’s back seat. What kind of lesson are they teaching their children? What are WE teaching our children?

I’ve lived in many different countries during my student years including in the USA, in Japan and in Australia. I would not even think about discarding my trash in public spaces except in designated trash cans.

My experience taught me that kind of responsibility or self-control. I would feel ashamed of myself if I were to do that. I teach my wife the same. I hope my young child, currently about 1 year and 8 months, would learn from my example to be mindful of his acts.

The way I see it, people’s behavior is directly associated with their upbringing. People in the third world countries tend to think only of themselves and their own private properties.

That is why the people of the third-world mentality do not care about the things outside of their fences. In fact, they would not hesitate to pick up a piece of garbage from their yard (or from inside of their vehicle)  and throw outside of the fence (outside of the vehicle).

Malaysian’s mentality is obviously that of the third world. And we dare think we can be a developed country in 2020?

People in the first world think more of the world around them. I don’t see Americans throw rubbish out of their moving vehicles. Not Australians either. Most of their homes are not fenced, so obviously they cannot throw rubbish out of their yard. There is no such thing.

The Japanese homes are fenced, but still the areas outside of the fence are very well-cared for. Not even a piece of garbage can be found.

I have seen many times at the Japanese university where I studied, the employees collected trash as they walked in the morning to their office in the university compound.

I was surprised at first. It was more surprising because the guy was wearing a suit. After seeing it many times, I realize that it is in their nature to be caring about the public places.

People do that because they care about their surroundings. Everyone does their bits to make the place cleaner and better as a whole.

In Malaysia (a third world country??), what happens outside of my fence is “not my problem”. Instead of doing our bits to make our surrounding a better place, we expect others (i.e. the city council) to do the job for us.

Labor is still cheap in Malaysia, so we might still afford to allocate so much money to pay for such services. But until when? We need to instill these responsibilities in the young generation so they can teach their children.

What happens in my house is my problem. What happens outside of my house is also my responsibility.

It takes one man to change the world. Let that be you. If all of us do our part, the world we live in would be a better place. My neighborhood would be a better place. Malaysia would be a better country to live in.

Let us do our bits.

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