Sunday, October 31, 2010

Java Trip (I)

I did my (relatively short) Java trip from Oct 24 to Oct 29. Now, I will publish my travelogue, part-by-part, in this blog.

The Journey Begins

(shot with Lumix)

This picture, showing my backpack, was taken at Kuala Lumpur Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT). This bag had accompanied me for many years. It was very old and worn out. Originally, I wanted a new bag for my Java trip. However, partly due to the fact I wanted to save money, and partly because most backpacks in the market were without zipper – therefore couldn’t be locked – I decided to hold on to the ‘old faithful’. Anyway, this was likely my last trip with this bag. Will this also mark the end of my backpacking life?

At the boarding gate, I observed that most of the passengers were Indonesians. (Indonesian passport cover was green.) Java was not yet a popular destination among Malaysian tourists.

Eventually the plane left the terminal. Many passengers continued to use their mobile phones. I thought Malaysians were bad, but Indonesians were worse!

Two-and-a-half hours later, the plane landed at Surabaya’s Juanda Airport. At the Immigration checkpoint, three counters were opened – one for Indonesian passport, one for foreign passport, and one for visa-on-arrival. Apparently I queued at the second counter, but I saw Indonesians in front and behind me…

(shot with Lumix)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Update From Java

I am currently in a warnet, or warung Internet (Internet shop) in Java. Have visited two natural wonders of the island - Mount Bromo and Ijen Crater.

The air is choking in Java. Bad for my lungs...

I have been an unofficial translator for a few Western tourists. Indonesian and Malay are quite similar. Still, sometimes it takes a while to understand what the locals tell me. By the way, Javanese have their own language, which I don't understand at all.

Just read the news of volcano eruption in Central Java and tsunami in Sumatra. I am in East Java. I guess I am safe here...

Friday, October 22, 2010

Malaysian model vs. American model

On Oct 20, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak announced that Malacca had achieved the status of “developed state”. This means that, even though Malaysia as a whole was still a developing country, some states were already highly developed. Another state, Selangor, achieved this “status” several years ago. (By the way, Oct 20, 2010 is written in this country as 20-10-2010.)

Upon reading the news on the Web, I couldn’t help but wondered when Perak, where I grew up, would be a developed state too. My guess is not within the next 10 years. Selangor is the wealthiest state in Malaysia, while Perak is one of the poorest.

The disparity between Selangor and Perak underlies one fundamental flaw in the government structure. In Malaysia, most taxes go to the Federal Government, which then distributes the money to individual states. Sadly, the Federal Government has been practicing “favoritism” for the last few decades. Some states get more funding, while other are neglected.

By contrast, state, county and city governments in the United States have the power to collect taxes. For example, every working people pays two types of income tax – one to the Federal Government and the other to the state government. Sales tax also goes to the states. (Oregon has zero sales tax!) Hotel tax, I believe, is determined by the cities. When I was in California some years back, I moved from one hotel to another. Some cities set the hotel tax at 10%, while others had it at 15%.

The local governments will then use the money collected to fund their projects rather than waiting for handout from Washington. Of course, there are times when the states will still need Federal money. To its credit, Washington does not practice favoritism to the same level as Putrajaya. President Obama, a democrat, has been generously enough to support states run by republicans.

I would like to see state governments of Malaysia be empowered. But I am not optimistic this will happen…

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Apple Empire

In the last few years, Apple iPhone has swept the world by storm. Malaysian bloggers Witch and FoongPC are both staunch supporters of the Apple product.

But are you aware that before iPhone, the Web was “free”? Apple makes it less free. Now, we have to buy apps to run on iPhone. Worst, we can’t buy directly from the developers, but must go through iTune. Apple gets 30% from all the sales.

And, unlike Bill, Steve has never been known as a philanthropist.

Thursday, October 14, 2010






还有另一个事实,能说明中文教育的现况。问问身边的华裔中学生:华、巫、英三种语文,那一个是他们最有信心(most comfortable)的。这里所说的信心是指读、写、听、讲的能力,不是指SPM考优等;大家都知道中学五年纪的华文科特别难考。我很肯定大部分的华裔生都会回答说他们的中文最好。




Monday, October 11, 2010

Chopsticks and Spoon






A Taiwanese engineer who was in Kuala Lumpur recently asked me, “Do Chinese Malaysians use chopsticks?”

I replied, “Majority use spoon and fork for eating rice, but we still use chopsticks for noodle.”

I am among the minority who prefer chopsticks to spoon, even when eating rice. Nonetheless, when I eat out, if the restaurant does not provide chopsticks, I would still resort to spoon.

Heck, people still condemn me as a banana man!

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Light Pollution

When I was a kid, I liked to look at the sky at night. I gazed the moon and countless of stars…

Today, I still look at the night sky, but I see fewer stars… There are two possible explanations as to why I don’t see as many stars: First, my eyes have deteriorated over the years; and second, light pollution.

As a kid, I lived in a small town with little nightlife. Now, I live in a big city that never sleeps. Artificial light fills the horizon with orange haze, and blinds us in such a way that we no longer can see the Milky Way.

Today, if we want to see the long-forgotten starry sky, we need to go to less developed areas, or up a mountain. I wish I could do so, if only for a few nights…

For all the benefits of artificial light, we shouldn’t pretend that nothing is lost.

- National Geographic Magazine, Nov 2008 issue

Starless Sky

Monday, October 04, 2010

Playing with Focus

Teddy & Renee

One oft-used technique in portrait photography is to focus on the subject(s), but make the background out-of-focus. By ‘blurring’ the background, we make sure that the viewers will fix their eyes on the subject(s).

However, in shooting the picture shown above, I purposely did the reverse – focus and the soft toy and make the pretty model out-of-focus. But you probably need to enlarge the picture to see the difference. Ideally, I would like the model to be more blurry, but there were limitations to my gears.

Photography is about creativity. All rules can be broken…