Saturday, August 29, 2009

Electric Vehicle

Recently I published a post on hybrid vehicles. In this post I will blog about another (supposedly) green technology – electric vehicle, or EV.

Based on what I know, it is easier to make an EV than a hybrid vehicle such as Toyota Prius. China’s BYD and Chery have both marketed EV. Even Malaysia’s underperforming Proton has teamed up with Detroit Electric to make EV. We should see EV hitting Malaysian roads in the near future.

While the technology behind the EV isn’t exactly state-of-the-art, there are a few concerns:

  • How far can the EV go in one charge?
  • How long does it take to charge an EV?
  • Will we be able to charge our EV in hotels and shopping areas?

Take Mitsubishi’s iMiEV as example. With air-conditioner off, this mini electric car can go for 160km in a single charge – not enough to reach my hometown from Kuala Lumpur. Charging takes 14 hours at 110V or 7 hours at 220V. Mitsubishi does have ‘quick charge station’ which can charge the batteries to 80% in 30 minutes. However, I am not sure what it takes to install such quick chargers.

Whether an EV is good for the environment depends on where the electricity comes from. If the electricity is generated from coal, good luck.

So, will you buy a Proton EV when it is available?

Mitsubishi iMiEV


There is another category of EV which are also equipped with gasoline engines. These are called plug-in hybrid vehicles. China’s BYD has already rolled out plug-in hybrids, while GM and Toyota are planning theirs.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Welfare – Good or Bad?

I am reading the article US economic myths bite the dust written by Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington D.C. He writes:

As economist Paul Krugman noted after reading [a study on US economy]: “One more American myth bites the dust.” Indeed it has. And as both the authors of the paper and Krugman note, there is a plausible explanation for the US’s low score in the small business contest: our lack of national health insurance.

There are enough risks associated with choosing to start a business over being an employee, but the Europeans don’t have to worry that they will go bankrupt for lack of health insurance.

(SBW17, The Star, Aug 15, 2009)

Mark Weisbrot’s comments on the US small businesses deserve the attention of Malaysian government and, more so, the Singapore’s government. Lee Kuan Yew, the first prime minister of the city state – and now the Minister Mentor – has always scorned at the Western welfare states. He believes that welfare has made the Europeans lazy, and argues that Singapore should never follow the Western model.

Somehow, welfare is a double-edged sword. For those who are willing to take risk, it serves as a safety net. Europeans and Americans are more willing to start their own businesses because they know that should they fail, they can still survive on unemployment fund or other forms of welfare.

By comparison, Singapore has one of the lowest rates of entrepreneurial activities among the rich countries, and its people are risk-aversive. Even the poorer Malaysia has produced some famous entrepreneurs such as Genting’s Lim Goh Tong and AirAsia’s Tony Fernandes. Singapore’s most famous companies, such as Singapore Airlines, are mostly state-owned. Temasek Holdings, the republic’s sovereign wealth fund, has made one blunder after another.

Both Malaysia and Singapore should rethink their welfare policies. Welfare should be seen as a safety net and given to those who ‘deserve’ it. If well-implemented, such policies can encourage the people to take risk and ultimately lead to a more vibrant economy.

Heck, if Malaysian government provides decent safety net, I also want to be my own boss!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Beauty, the Guitar, and the Rail Tracks

I joined another model shooting recently. This time, the shooting took place at a disused railway station. The model was Agnes. Here you go…

The theme was ‘country style’, so the model wore jeans, boots, and had brought a guitar. She had long, beautiful hair, and the wind was doing us a favor

Different outfit…

More photos on my Flickr page.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Hayao Miyazaki’s Anime

Walt Disney has just released the English version of Ponyo, the latest animated movie by Japanese anime guru Hayao Miyazaki. The original Japanese version of the movie (崖の上のポニョ) was released in the Land of the Rising Sun last year.

I am a fan of Hayao Miyazaki. His works, such as Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away (千と千尋の神隠し,), are highly acclaimed in Asia. Somehow he has not been very successful in the American market. So far, the reviews of Ponyo by American movie critics have been mixed. Like all his earlier works, the pictures of Ponyo are hand-drawn, and 2-dimensional. In the era of computer-generated, 3D cartoons such as Shrek and Ice Age, Miyazaki’s anime seem to be too old-fashion, and decidedly simple.

But it is exactly because of the simplicity that I like Miyazaki’s works. If I want a 3D experience, I might as well watch a movie played by real actors/actresses!

I am running short of words to describe Miyazaki’s works, so I will quote those of Richard Corliss, Time Magazine’s writer: His films proceed at a dream walker’s pace. They are not dialogue-heavy; they’re image-buoyant.

Yes, they are image-buoyant, if you are observant enough. The anime master has always had an eye for details. For the reasons just described, I believe his films are more for adults.

Have you watched Hayao Miyazaki’s films? How do you find them?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Swiftlet Hotel

I would like to apologize for an error I made…

I published this photo in a post dated last June. I described this building, seen in a paddy field in Sekinchan, as the storage for rice. The same photo was also posted in a photography forum, where it was pointed out that this structure is meant for other purpose.

I re-visited Sekinchan in August – this time with Sinji. Upon checking with locals, I have confirmed that the structure in the middle of the paddy field is actually a swiftlet hotel, also known as swiftlet condo or swiftlet farmhouse.

What is a swiftlet hotel? Simply put, this is a structure used to farm bird’s nest. As we know, bird’s nest is a delicacy among the Chinese. With China’s economy booming, bird’s nest has become a big business. As a result, numerous swiftlet farmhouses have popped up in Malaysia and Indonesia.

I hope the farmers in Sekinchan will not dump rice plantation in favor of bird’s nest farming…

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Toyota Prius is coming to Malaysia

Toyota has decided to bring Prius, the world’s best selling gasoline-electric hybrid vehicle, into the Malaysian market. There is, however, much confusion among Malaysians over this novelty. Prius is actually the second hybrid vehicle sold here, after the Honda Civic Hybrid. There are, unfortunately, very few Civic Hybrids on Malaysian roads at the time of this writing.

On a Malaysia-based Internet forum, one member joked about the possible blunder of owning a Prius:

Oops, I can’t come to the party. I’ve forgotten to charge my car!

It should be noted that Prius is a hybrid vehicle, not an electric car. It still has a gasoline engine. It does, however, consume much less gasoline – perhaps by a third – as compared to a conventional vehicle with similar power. Since Prius is very fuel-efficient, it also emits less carbon dioxide, a major culprit of global warming.

You don’t charge Prius at home. The battery of the car is charged during everyday driving. The car also recovers the excess energy that would otherwise be lost during braking, and converts it into electricity. For this reason, hybrid vehicles are best for city driving, where traffic is stop and go.

Hybrid vehicles may be new to Malaysians, but they have been in Japan and the United States for quite a while. In fact, Prius has been the best-selling vehicle in Japan for three months straight.

How do hybrid vehicles compare to pure electric cars? We may be tempted to think that pure electric cars are better to the environment, as they do not rely on gasoline at all. However, bear in mind that the electricity in your home comes from power plants, which may not be so green after all. China is in a big push for pure electric cars, even though majority of the power plants in that country run on coal.

I can’t afford a Prius. But if you are rich, this green vehicle will give you a bragging right!

Sunday, August 16, 2009


Software piracy is rampant in Malaysia. Everyone just wants to have the best software. (Well, sort of.) Among photographers, the most popular companions are Photoshop CS and Photoshop Lightroom.

There are, however, some readers of this blog who reside in other countries, such as Kikey in UK and Zhu in Canada. Among those in Malaysia, Mei Ting is one who insists on genuine software.

I recently discovered a free photo editing software called Photoscape. Obviously, it is not as feature-rich as the expensive software from Adobe, but it is a decent alternative. Let’s see what we can do with Photoscape…

This is a picture of Changi Airport’s Budget Terminal in Singapore. I was in a rush when taking this picture and didn’t hold the camera horizontal. Or maybe I had weak hands…

I open this picture in Photoscape, and rotate it counter-clockwise by 2º. Now it looks much better…

Finally, I added some text to the picture. Here is the final result…

Thursday, August 13, 2009








Related post:
Minority Hui of China

Monday, August 10, 2009

Firefly vs. AirAsia

In my post dated July 29, 2009, I described my journey with Firefly, the self-styled “community airline”, from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore.

How does it compared to AirAsia, the other Malaysia-based budget airline?

In Klang Valley, Firefly operates out of Subang Airport. AirAsia operates out of Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT). Subang Airport is closer to the city, and that gives Firefly an edge.

Both airlines suffer the same flight delay problem. However, the ATR 72-500 aircrafts used by Firefly has a capacity for just 72 passengers. Checking-in and boarding are brisk. In fact, you probably can check in 45 minutes before scheduled departure and still make it.

I hadn’t got a ruler with me, but my feeling is that Firefly’s planes have slightly larger legroom. (Can anyone commend on this?) Not to be forgotten, Firefly serves drinks and snacks free of charge!

So, can we ditch AirAsia?

Not yet. The leader in South-east Asia’s budget market still wins in several areas. Airbus A320 jet planes in the fleet of AirAsia experience less shaking in the air when compared to the Firefly’s propeller planes. They are also slightly faster.

In fact, AirAsia and Firefly serve different markets. Firefly’s ATR 72-500 is probably not suitable for civilian flight over the South China Sea. On the other hand, AirAsia’s A320, with 180 seats, are too big for smaller markets such as Ipoh and Kuantan.

In short, both AirAsia and Firefly will co-exist, and we need both of them. As a person who grew up in Perak, I thank Firefly for linking the state with the Lion City.

P/S Firefly’s ATR 72-500 cruises at 8000 feet above sea level – great for shutterbugs who want to snap photos…

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Choosing Your Surgical Masks

The Influenza A (H1N1) situation is getting worse across the globe. In Malaysia alone the number of cases has breached the 1000 mark, and everyday there are new cases reported. Sooner or later we may need to live with surgical mask.

Several weeks ago I wore a surgical mask when traveling by train. I wanted to do my part in slowing down the spread of the disease. Somehow, it was difficult to breathe with the mask sticking on my face.

On July 25, I flew from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore. (Read my post here.) Then, I put on a mask made by another vendor. Breathing was no issue! How were the two types of masks different from one another?

The mask I used in the flight had a ‘metal arc’. This enabled it to stand away from my face, while at the same time provided a secure fit around the nose and mouth. Thus I was able to breath without difficulty. I can’t commend on the effectiveness, though.

If you plan to buy some surgical masks, choose carefully.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009


Malaysians are uneasy about demonstration.

On August 1, 2009, opposition parties of Malaysia held an anti-ISA protest in the nation’s capital. Average Malaysians were quick to denounce it. (ISA is a law which permits the government to detain, in most cases, political opponents without trial for up to two years.)

Personally, I believe demonstrations should be allowed, so long as they are peaceful and do not greatly interrupt the living of the public. Unfortunately, in countries with limited freedom such as Malaysia and China, the police often provoke the protesters by cracking down on them. In the end, angry protesters retaliate and turn unruly, and the government would say, “You see, I told you protest is bad.”

America is a country whereby demonstrations are deemed acceptable. In 1960s, hippies shocked Washington with their Make Love, Not War protests. During Bush’s years, anti-war activists rallied against the President in his ranch in Texas. The protest was led by Cindy Sheehan, a woman who lost his son in Iraq. I am sure many Malaysians supported the anti-war protest too. After all, didn’t we spot many car stickers which read Give Peace a Chance?

If you want true democracy, learn to tolerate demonstration. You can’t have freedom without chaos.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009



寫作最忌用詞的重復。英文報紙都有一套規矩:同一段新聞稿,多處提到『美國政府』,如果頭一段說The US Administration,第二段就必須改稱為The White House,第三段就要講Washington。其實三個名詞,指的是同一個權利中。為甚麼要變來變去?不是外國記者閑著沒事玩游戲,而是要在枯燥的文字裏追求靈活和彈性。

避免重復用詞的道理,我在中四時就知道,是英文老師教我們的。所以,如果我寫新加坡,第一段用Singapore,第二段就改為the Lion City,第三段又改稱the island republic。同樣的,Land of Smile可以取代Thailandthe Middle Kingdom取代China,及the Land of the Rising Sun取代Japan總而言之,減少重復使用相同的字眼。


Saturday, August 01, 2009


Even after doing it for many times, I still have a little bit of fear. But fear won’t stop me…

Blood donation!