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Watching the weather

I’m closely watching the weather forecasts for the Japanese cities of Oyama, Sendai and Sapporo.

Oyama

Oyama, Japan 25-29 January 2012

Sendai

Sendai, Japan 25-29 January 2012

Sapporo

Sapporo, Japan 25-29 January 2012

Dangerous grounds – the sequel

Seven days ago I wrote how my neighborhood playground had become dangerous at night, with electricity leaking on all three light poles on the grounds. The poles were live, leaking 121 volts, 110 volts and 82 volts AC. In addition, out of a total of 10 floodlights bolted at the top of the poles, 4 were not working.

Earlier today, arriving home from office, my son Adib informed me that in the afternoon he saw some people doing something to the lights, using a skylift.

The playground was brightly lit.

 

 

To see whether I had been successful in my official complaint to the local town council, Adib and I went to the grounds after our night Isha’ prayers at a neighborhood surau (musolla).

 

 

Adib sitting on one of the wooden benches.

Enough light to walk or jog on the pavements.

The first thing I noticed was that the playground was brightly lit. That was encouraging. Upon closer look, I was delighted to see that all 10 floodlights were blazing white, lighting up the grounds.

17 Jan 2012, 9:20 pm. Pole no. 1, 0.222 volts AC. Negligible.

 

Then we went to each pole and measured the current, as what we did seven nights ago. Adib held the red probe of the digital multimeter while I took photos. Again I was pleased – the leakages had gone, with the poles registering tiny 0.222 volts, 0.178 volts and 0.014 volts respectively.

 

17 Jan 2012, 9:35 pm. Pole no. 2, 0.178 volts AC. Also negligible.

17 Jan 2012, 9:37 pm. Pole no. 3, 0.014 volts AC. Almost nothing.

I could now close this issue. For the future I hope that the council could be more responsive in attending to complaints, especially those involving safety of the township’s residents. Ask your staff and contractors to put themselves in the shoes of the residents. Empathize. Feel the urgency. Feel the anxiety. Act without being told to. Then all of you would be spared our wrath. And you might even earn our respect.

Dangerous grounds

The neighborhood playground behind my house is turning into a community park. The grass is now green all over. The sharp laterite stones that used be all over the grounds have disappeared under the grass. Over the years the trees have grown, and when they flower they made the surroundings beautiful.

Ladies doing the taichi moves.

These ladies were on the playground almost every morning.

In the mornings the grounds’ concrete walking paths are filled with people sweating it out walking and jogging. Including myself. And the sepaktakraw and futsal courts are occupied with ladies doing taichi and dancercise to the beats of Chinese and contemporary music.

In the afternoons the children and teenagers come out to play. Even babies and toddlers are out and about accompanied by their babysitters and home helpers. The grownups also come out to laze around or simply sit on the timber benches.

To make the grounds safer at night, we had requested the local council to install lights. They did that.

The playground at night, lighted by floodlights high up the three poles.

Three metal poles with floodlights were installed. Things worked fine until about three months ago, when I noticed that the lights, all three of them, no longer worked.

Nothing seemed to happen to rectify the situation. So three weeks ago I phoned the council’s hotline and made a formal complaint. I gave them time, but nothing happened even after one week. So I phoned back. The hotline person told me they had forwarded the complaint to their engineering department. I asked her when could I expect the complaint to be attended to. She could not give me a date. Instead she suggested that I call the engineering department directly. Bl**dy he**. I was fuming. I then wrote an email to one of the councilors (Ahli Majlis), addressing it to the councilor’s official email address as written on the council’s website. I never got a reply. I did get an official computer-printed letter acknowledging my complaint though. But they took their sweet time on the complaint. Only yesterday something did happen and the lights came back on.

But danger lurks.

Yesterday morning when I did my morning jog I realized that the lights were still blazing at 7.30 am. I knew that the grounds’ lights were timed to switch on at 7.00 pm and switch off at 7.00 am.

Pole Number 1.

Pole Number 2.

Pole Number 3.

Pole Number 1. Only 1 out of 3 lights were OK.

Pole Number 2. Only 1 out of 3 lights was OK.

Pole Number 3. All 4 lights were OK.

So after my routines I went to one of the light poles, and gingerly touched the metal pole. I got shocked, literally. The feeling of an electric shock was unmistakeable . It felt like a 50 Hertz AC. I saw that the wiring cover near the bottom of the pole was partly open, and red wires were visible.

Pole Number 1's open cover. Very dangerous.

Another view of Pole Number 1's open cover. Very dangerous.

I went to the next pole. Another electric shock. Then to the last pole. Yet another electric shock.

I then walked home, took out my digital multimeter and DSLR camera, and returned to the playground. I went to the first pole, pushed the meter’s black probe through the grass into the soil and touched the red probe to the pole’s metal surface. The LCD read 98 volts AC. Took photos. Then I went to the second pole. 106 volts AC. Then to the third pole. 75 volts AC.

9 Jan 2012 07:47am. Pole 1's current leak. 98 volts AC.

9 Jan 2012 07:51am. Pole 2's current leak. 106 volts AC.

9 Jan 2012 07:55am. Pole 3's current leak. 75 volts AC.

No wonder I got the electric shock. The leakage currents flowing on the poles were at least 1/3 of Malaysia’s domestic voltage of 240 volts. This was not supposed to be happening.

In the afternoon I returned to the playground to check whether the lights were still on. They were off. For comparison, I took measurements on the three poles again. I got 0.20 volts, 0.25 volts and 0.06 volts respectively. That was a relief. With the lights off, there was no leakage current on the metal poles.

9 Jan 2012 2:33 pm. With the lights off, Pole Number 1's current leak was negligible. 0.20 volts AC.

9 Jan 2012 2:36 pm. With the lights off, Pole Number 2's current leak was negligible. 0.25 volts AC.

9 Jan 2012 2:37 pm. With the lights off, Pole Number 3's current leak was negligible. 0.06 volts AC.

Last night after coming back from the surau, I returned to the playground. The lights were on. OK. So they had corrected the timing of the lights. I wanted to see whether the electric leakages on the poles were still there. Unfortunately, they were. 121 volts, 110 volts and 82 volts. The figures were worse that the afternoon’s readings.

9 Jan 2012 10:13 pm. Pole 1's current leak. 121 volts AC. Worse than morning's reading.

9 Jan 2012 10:16 pm. Pole 1's current leak. 110 volts AC. Worse than morning's reading.

9 Jan 2012 10:18 pm. Pole 3's current leak. 82 volts AC. Worse than morning's reading.

I’m making another complaint to the council’s hotlines immediately after completing this post. And I’m going to tell them to see the pictures on this post, so that they can understand the danger the poles are posing to the unsuspecting public.

MPSJ hotline staff or management – if you’re reading this, please take immediate action. Please check and rectify the poles’ electrical wiring. Something is wrong there. Together, you and me can ensure that no one – toddler, child, teenager or even an adult, would be hurt or worse.

Kilo Tango Victor

October 1984. After several weeks of anticipation, that morning found me at the parking lots of Jandakot Airport outside Perth, Western Australia.

WIth Ford Telstar at Jandakot Airport, Perth.

I was in my final year at U.W.A., and my Control Systems lecturer Dr John Mills had offered his students free rides in his Cessna airplane. Jandakot,  a small-aircraft airport, was quite a distance away from Nedlands, the Perth suburb where I stayed. So I rented a car. A new Ford Telstar.

The aircraft, a Cessna 172 Skyhawk, was a propeller-driven single-engine four-seat plane. It was painted white with green and gold stripes along the fuselage. Green and Gold are the national colors of Australia. Patriotic without being overly loud. I liked it. And the registration number was VH-KTV. Sitting behind Dr Mills, I could clearly hear he talking with the tower – “…. Kilo Tango Victor…”

Since there were several of us the students, we had to take turns. It was a very welcome outing. For several hours we could forget that the finals were creeping nearer and nearer…

Kilo Tango Victor at Jandakot. Year 1999 picture from airliners.net

VH-KTV on the move at Jandakot. Year 2000 picture at airliners.net

Taxiing to the runway for take-off. October 1984.

Just after lifting off the runway at Jandakot.

From my back seat on the Cessna I could see the runway receding away after takeoff. Look carefully and we can see VH-KTV on the spine atop the fuselage towards the tail. Nowadays, in a commercial airliner, if I sit at the back, all I could see are the galleys and the toilets 🙂

Dr John Mills, left, in the pilot seat of his Cessna 172 Skyhawk VH-KTV. This was 1984, and the controls were all analog meters. The Cessna Skyhawk plane is very popular, even now it is still in production. Over 43,000 units has been produced since 1955. The current versions uses more advanced avionics, i.e. all digital LCD and stuff.

Rockingham and Garden Island, in the Indian Ocean south of Perth.

Lakes south of Perth. The city is barely visible at the top rightof this picture.

A Fabulous SS78 Reunion

Saturday 2 July 2011 was a very special day. In a single afternoon, I got to meet many of my long-lost high school friends whom I had thought had been lost through the dust of time. In fact, many of them found me, because I had trouble remembering after losing touch – sight and sound, for the past 34 years. The last time I saw most of them was at the end of 1976, when I was in Form 3 at Sekolah Menengah Sultan Sulaiman (SMSS), Kuala Terengganu. To them, please accept my heartfelt apology, for not recognizing you at first sight. But after a while talking to all of you, I had not felt that it really had been 34 years 🙂

The organizers of SS78 – the SMSS year 1978 alumni group had done a super fabulous job for the past many weeks. Tracking about 200 of SMSS’ year 1978 Form 5 students from all over Malaysia, getting us to commit to attend, and gathering 400 of us including our spouses, in the glittering banquet hall of Istana Melawati in Putrajaya outside Kuala Lumpur. In the royal presence of  the Malaysian King Seri Paduka Baginda Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin and the Queen Raja Permaisuri Agong Tuanku Nur Zahirah. A very special treatment from HRH to His fellow SS78 alumni.

This morning a picture of the event made its way in Page 2 of the weekend paper Mingguan Malaysia.

SS78 alumni Hi-Tea organizing committee with the Royal Hosts. Click picture for full 4,332 x 2,208 pixel picture (1.63 MB)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Invitation, front page

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My stories on Sekolah Menegah Sulaiman can be read here and here.

The Return to Serpentine

Serpentine Dam, Western Australia.

The first time I set my foot there was in January 1982, my fourth year in Perth, on my Yamaha RD250 bike.  I was returning to Perth via an inland road, after several unforgettable days of summer holidays lazing around, camping, fishing

January 1982 - Yamaha RD250 at Serpentine Dam, Western Australia

and crabbing in Mandurah, a Western Australian coastal town. The signboard on the main road looked interesting, so I rode my bike up to the dam. The place was nice, very good location for picnics and barbecues, but deserted. Maybe because it was mid-week. After taking several pictures, one of them shown here, I left the place and continued my way back to the city. The place faded into memory.

Nearly 28 years later in October 2009, while on a 4 days 3 nights‘ across

October 2009 - on the way to Serpentine Dam in a Baywater Hire Cars car

Australia journey on the Indian Pacific train from Sydney to Perth, I remembered about Serpentine Dam. On the third day after arriving in Perth, I  retraced history driving my rented car to Mandurah on the coastal road and then taking the inland road to Serpentine Dam. In 1982 I was alone, riding my bike through the wooded road up to the dam. In 2009, I was similarly alone, driving a Bayswater Hire Cars Toyota Corolla Seca Ascent through the same road.

I arrived there late afternoon on a Thursday. It was eerily quiet. No other people were around. I was alone there just like I was 28 years before. After nearly one hour taking hundreds of photos around the area, and not finding the exact place where I had parked my bike and took the photo in 1982, I was ready to return to Perth.

The barrier

But something caught my attention – a white barrier across a dirt path. I walked up to it, and beyond it I could see the unmistakeable spot of 28 years ago! The round-log fence, the blue lake waters, the island across the water.

I had traveled 11,000 km – 6,600 km by air from Kuala Lumpur to Sydney, and a further 4.400 km on the Indian Pacific from Sydney to Adelaide to Perth, to retrace a personal history. And I had made it.

October 2009. Same place, 28 years later.

It was a very emotional moment. My eyes welled. Crystals of tears formed and dropped to the red ground. It had been a long journey across space and time. Don’t know when would I pass this way again. Hopefully I would, and hopefully I would not be alone then, but with my loved ones sharing the quiet splendor of Serpentine Dam.

Amazing details when we look closer

Taken using a generic SLR film camera’s 38-76mm kit zoom lens reverse mounted on a DSLR camera body.

Speed and coffee

Speed.

To many in Malaysia it means parting with RM300.00 to pay the fine.

Elsewhere in the world some people take it at their own peril to feel wide awake, excited and chatty.

To me it means a nagging problem solved.

And I’m wide awake here at 4:00 am due to a concoction of another kind of more harmless speed.

Honda Accord's speed sensor

A faulty one might make you speed above the limit, as well incessantly nagging you with a yellow-colored engine alarm.

Malaysia's very own Kopi-O (black coffee)

For company and country

November 2010 was Amazing Thailand month for me. I spent 10 days in Bangkok. Quite a long stretch. But I did not get to see much of the city. It was hard work, 0900-1800 every day, except Sunday. This, coupled with the fact that the hotel was a good many kilometers outside the city, made me only see the city proper from the taxi – from the airport and back to the airport.

Then came December 2010. It was a hectic month. For  one week at the beginning of the month I and a colleague found ourselves in Busan, Korea. Our flight there was just several tense days after the North fatally shelled one of the South’s border islands, resulting in retaliatory shelling by the South, and the North counter-retaliating with threats of more on the way should the then coming South Korea-US military exercises were to proceed.

We did NOT want to go to Korea. We asked the boss’ views of the situation (read – please boss, tell us don’t go) , but the boss said “well, Busan is in the south of the country, quite far from the hot spot..should be OK”. Little comfort to us. The boss might have chosen to not remember that Incheon airport was effectively near the border with the North…

At KLIA airport we prayed hard that a miracle would happen – that Malaysia Airlines would cancel the flight on their own accord or upon advice by the government. But nothing of the sort materialized. Despite the tense situation between the two Koreas, the flight to Incheon was full.

Anyway, we made it to cold Incheon then to freezing and foggy Gimpo and finally arriving in Busan at the cold but still beautiful Haeundae Beach. Five days later we bundled ourselves on the earliest morning flight out of Busan to Incheon and 3 hours later were safely cocooned on Malaysia Airlines Airbus A330-300 back to Malaysia.

Scarcely one week home, I was out again – to Shenzhen, China, for another week. Similar to Bangkok and Busan, the Shenzhen trip was no joy. It was daily morning-till-night work.

It is now January 2011. And I had thought this would be a peaceful month where I could spend quality time with the family on terra firma here in Kuala Lumpur. But today I and another colleague were told that we were required to go to Vietnam later this month. For company and country….

Success

The thing I like about jogging around the perimeter of the neighborhood playground is that I can abort the jog anytime I want. If I so decide, I would only be at most 250 meters from the starting point.

The perimeter distance is 500 meters. I normally do 8 laps around the playground in 32 minutes. The speed is nothing to phone home about, it is just slightly higher than a fast walk. Nevertheless, that gives me 4 km of cardiovascular exercise every morning. The jog plus the cool down flexibility and strength routines afterward take a total of 45-50 minutes.

Even though every time is a struggle against self, it feels really good afterward. When I arrive at the office’s basement 2A car park 10 minutes before my flexible clock-in of 9.00 am, I can effortlessly walk the stairs 4 levels up to the elevator on Ground floor. In fact the feel good effect lasts for the whole day.

This routine is disrupted whenever I’m away on trips. No more playgrounds. But then there would be the hotel’s gymnasium or fitness center’s treadmills. I’m equally at home on those machines. I wish I had done this much earlier than when I started 17 months ago in June 2009.

But I suppose starting late is better than not starting at all. And I treat every day as a challenge. And I keep reminding myself of the pearls that a wise teacher once gave me – success is the progressive realization of worthwhile predetermined personal goals. And one of my goals is to consistently do the workouts so that I could reclaim the fitness of those many years ago, and in the process be at peace with myself, able to do all my duties, and still have reserve energy for the unforeseen….