28 June 2007

The worst song ever heard

Someone once asked me what's the worst or meaningless song I have ever heard. A few immediately came to mind, such as The Safety Dance by Men Without Hats and Boom Boom Boom Boom by The Venga Boys. Until 2003.

That's when I heard "The Cheeky Song (Touch My Bum) by Cheeky Girls and subsequently the MTV video clip of the same. I thought human civilization is doomed.

Worse, the song was a hit amongst the younger lot. It went to #2 UK, #3 Ireland, #6 Japan, #6 China, #17 France, #19 Germany, #59 Australia. It was either never released in the USA or did Americans have good taste in music? The case of Melinda Doolittle proved they don't.

we are the cheeky girls
we are the cheeky girls
you are the cheeky boys
you are the cheeky boys

come and join the cheeky club
this is what you want
come and sing the cheeky song
our cheeky cheeky song

don't ask why
don't be shy
touch my bum
this is life

That was a sampling of the lyrics. Correction : Those are the lyrics. Just cut and paste ad nausem and you will get the whole song. Now tell me, what are they trying to tell us? What profound meanings are hidden in those words? Even The Safety Dance, boring as it is, told me something :

We can dance if we want to
We can leave your friends behind
'Cause your friends don't dance and if they don't dance
Well they're no friends of mine
I say, we can go where we want to
A place where they will never find
And we can act like we come from out of this world
Leave the real one far behind
And we can dance

And the video? I think it is more a soft porn video featuring young people and should be a hit amongst paedophiles.

The Cheeky Song will remain number 1 on my list of the worst songs ever heard, until the next one comes along, such as MJ's next single. :-)

21 June 2007

Life has no meaning... at least until 11th August 2007

11th August 2007. That's the date when the 2007-2008 English Premier League kicks off again.

But meanwhile, the TV seems extremely hollow and empty. Saturday and Sunday nights suddenly seem lifeless. Urgh... such is the pain of the off-season for soccer.

So I begin to take in other sports which I never had time to look at on the satellite TV...

Tennis: It is almost Wimbledon time, so the TV is showing reruns of classic matches featuring Borg, McEnroe, Lendl, Becker, Connors, Chris Evert, Navratilova et al. Gawd, did we really look like that in the late 70s and early 80s?

Golf : The US Open at Oakmont is a revelation. I never knew a golf course can be that tough. Even Tiger Woods have to shoot over par. Glad to see he did not win it for once or I would have swore off golf forever.

Formula One : I got turned off by F1 the day Schumarcher won his third title. Actually I turned off F1 the day Alain Prost retired. So it is good to see a rookie in the guise of Louis Hamilton giving Alonso the shivers. Go Hamilton Go!

Local soccer : Spare me the pain and laughter. You call that soccer? Soccer died the day Matlan Marjan got banished for fixing matches.

Spanish soccer : Someone please explain to me that how is it that Real Madrid, who ended the season on 76 points, which is precisely what Barcelona has, and Barcelona has a better goal difference that Real's by a whopping +19 goals, yet Real Madrid is the Spanish La Liga champions just because they have a better head-to-head record with Barcelona? What were the Spanish FA high on when they wrote the rules? Laser toner?

Tonight on TV I saw and heard how a Ferrari F430 look and sound like and how it handled on the road. I want one.

So, until 11th August 2007, when Liverpool, Possibly The Greatest Football Team In The Universe, plays away at Aston Villa, it is time to brush up on some reading again. The book? "David Beckham Went To Spain".

19 June 2007

"Life jacket will cost RM50 and please pay before the plane crashes"

During our flights to and back from Kuala Lumpur, I noticed something disturbing about the boarding procedure implemented by the low cost no-frills airline which I assume we all are familiar with.

In the past, this airline has practiced a boarding procedure seen in almost every airport in the world : Travellers with babies or young children, the elderly, the infirm etc will be given priority to board the plane first. Other passengers can only board after the above mentioned passengers have boarded the plane.

But during our flight to Kuala Lumpur, I found that this is no longer practiced. It is now a free-for-all, and everybody board at the same time. This airline also practices free seating, that is, you sit wherever you like. No seat numbering.

Now I find this new arrangement of free-for-all boarding very disturbing. Our flight was full, and I clearly can see quite a few parents are travelling with young children, ages 2 to 5. The parents looked worried because there's a fair bit of pushing and shoving as everybody try to rush to the front of the queue at the boarding gate. I also see a few senior citizens who may have difficulty walking very fast. Even I was worried and told my son microW to hold on to my hand tightly and I swore I will elbow anyone who tries to be a dickhead and hurt my kids with their pushing and shoving.

Then the boarding gate is opened. You should see the crazy scene. Passengers who previously appeared to be civilized human beings suddenly degenerated into pushing-shoving-rushing-running idiots heading towards the plane, all trying to get a choice seat. I see a kid trip and fall down on the pavement. I saw mayhem.

What did the airline ground crew do during all this? NOTHING.

Finally my wife, the kids and me got onto the plane, and obviously we cannot get any four-in-a-row seats so that the family can stay together. Since MrsW and my daughter have problem with flying in a plane, I had to ask some kind passengers to swap seats. (Note : I do it for the family's well being, not because I wanted the seats).

So is there any chance of the young, weak, elderly or infirm to board this airline's planes ahead of other passengers? Of course there is. You have to pay RM20.00 (US$5.50) per passenger for the privilege. Something that used to be free.

What this mean is that if you are traveling with your wife, 3 kids and two elderly grandparents, you have to pay an additional RM 140.00 (US$39) just to be able to board the plane first. For this they will put you in front of another boarding gate just next to the one for normal passengers, and you will definitely get to board first.

So what's wrong with that picture?

One, if you are indeed a family of seven, you are most probably not going to pay that obscene amount of money. But if you are an ordinary passenger, you are also most probably not going to pay that money too because then everyone else will laugh and say you are such an idiot standing in front of that gate, paying for something that anyone in their right minds will think is excessive.

This airline tried to promote this pay-and-board-first package as a status-symbol package but I dare to wager not 0.1% of their passengers ever utilized it because it made them look stupid. The marketing guy who thought this up should have been shot.

I know as a low cost no-frills airline, anything extra should cost money. The airline has to make a profit, after all. I don't mind paying for the obscene prices they charge for food and drinks during the flight or even their so called collectors' items souvenirs which are all probably manufactured in China and probably marked-up by 500% when it gets to the plane.

But I draw the line at abolishing the time-honoured boarding procedure for the young, weak and elderly because it made me feel that this airline is out to make money at any cost and if you pregnant wife ever fall down and loses her baby while boarding the plane with that horde of uncivilized maniacs, just because you did not pay the extra RM20.00, well it is just too bad.

This is unethical! To the CEO of this airline I ask : Has your riches blinded your eyes so much that you cannot tell what is common human decency anymore?

What's next? The stewardess telling us "Sir, we have an emergency. Your life jacket is under your seat, but if you want to use it you must pay us RM50.00 and please pay up before the plane crashes."?

Post note : This airline has lost me as a passenger. I swore that if ever I have to travel with the family again, I will fly Malaysian Airlines, even though the air fares will probably cost 50 to 100% more. I will do it to protect my family's well being, and will not support any company that has lost sight of human values and decency.

17 June 2007

Magical Mystery Tour : Kuala Lumpur 2007

The kids were complaining that they did not get to go to China with us in February, so we have to bring them to Kuala Lumpur during the mid year school holidays. Three months of planning, bookings, confirming, research, calculations and worrying went into it. All is set, and ready to go. The dates are from 26-5-2007 to 3-6-2007. Nothing can go wrong, right?

Right, not.

Friday 25-5-2007, 3.00 pm :
Someone from Fly Asian Express (FAX) called to tell me that my flight tomorrow from Lahad Datu to Kota Kinabalu (KK) has been canceled. Since I also have a connecting from Kota Kinabalu to Kuala Lumpur on Air Asia the next day, FAX has to get us to KK pronto : via an 8 hour cab ride over 540km. Great, just great. Luckily MrsW has the foresight to pack everything a week in advance so all we need to do is to hustle a little. No problem, right?

Right, not.

Friday 25-5-2007, 9.00 pm :
Lahad Datu airport. The FAX lady swear that there will be hotel accomodation provided when we arrive at KK at 5.00am in the morning, since our connecting flight will not happen until 1.00pm in the afternoon. Saw our assigned cab. It is a Proton Wira, which for my international friends info is the local version of the obsolete Mitsubishi Lancer. A wee bit cramp but what the heck, what else can go wrong? Thus begin our eight hour cab ride from hell.

Saturday 26-6-2007, 5.00 am :
Terminal Two, Kota kinabalu International Airport. The FAX staff there reneged on the hotel part of the deal, citing full occupancy as the reason. However, signs are telling me that they just think we are country bumpkins and will go away quietly. What they did not figure into their plan is a very sleep deprived wombat with a backache with similarly sleep deprived mama wombat and young wombats in tow, and 12 very sleep deprived CIMB bankers.

The bank officers raised hell over the no-hotel-cos-all-are-full story. Words flew. Denials. Accusations. Whatever. It ended with me, being extremely irritable by now, pointing my index finger in the face of the guy in charge that he can shove his job up where the sun don't shine and I am going to write a nice letter to his company's CEO detailing exactly what happened and carbon copies to all major national newspapers. Fifteen minutes later I got a full refund of our airfares. RM500's worth.

Saturday 26-5-2007, 2.00 pm:
The Air Asia Airbus hit an "undetectable down draft" (in pilot-speak) over Pahang and things were real scary for 2 minutes. The plane's engines sounded like they were shutting down. MrsW, who has a fear of flying, is bleached white. Things got better after that, except for a male passenger who was in the plane's toilet at that time. He had a very nasty bump on his head.

3.00 pm landing at LCCT of KLIA. Cab ride to our hotel in KL. This one's a Nissan Cefiro. After that cab ride from hell in Sabah, I insisted to get a premier grade cab. Screw the costs.

Bintang Warisan Hotel along Jalan Bukit Bintang. Three stars. It is a wonder how photos of hotels always look 5 stars on their web site but when you checked in and see the real thing.....

Sunday 27-5-2007, morning :
MicroWombie discovered that there's a monorail station near our hotel and insisted that we take a ride. So we spent an hour traveling the entire monorail route. MicroW who has never taken a train ride in his life is thrilled to bits.

My main marn Rkaru picked us up later to go to One Utama Mall, where we are supposed to have our "Kommies Meet IV". Stopped by the Istana (Royal Palace) on the way, to see the mounted guards.

One Utama... this place is BIG. Big enough to give Mid Valley Megamall an inferiority complex. Had our Kommies meet at the Burger King (their fries are very good). Only Dana & b/f, and SH Gan showed up. The rest cited family commitments etc and gave it a miss. Mamatd met me later alone because he got the time of the meet wrong. Oh well, at least it was something. Next time I will engineer another heart operation at the National Heart Institute. Attendance should sky rocket then. At least the kids finally met Dana the balloon lady, who they have heard so much about. Yes, she brought her balloons again, plus The Pump.

After the meet Rkaru left us alone to explore 1U. We do not even know where to start. The place is HUGE. Then Little Wombat located Anime Tech and went into a happy trance-like state. MrsW located the boutiques and developed similar reaction. MicroWombie walked into a shop and walked out with a new Nintendo Gameboy Advance SP. He swore he does not want anything else. Well, he does not want anything else, until tomorrow.

It was at 1U where I finally did something I swore I will not do on this vacation. I swore I will not buy any computer related stuff. Then I walked pass Mac Asia, and saw a white MacBook going for RM 5,000. I am in love.

I always wanted to buy a notebook computer. I already has an iMac at home, and I have been a Mac fanatic all my life. But I have always thought a Mac notebook is unnecessary and that I don't really need one. But the one I saw at Mac Asia is literally telling me "Please, buy me. I am trapped here. Buy me please!" So I asked the sales guy and to my dismay he said they are out of stock and need a week to deliver. I am not depressed. just disappointed.

And thus ended our day at 1U. The taxi ride back was non-metered, but at least the driver did not think we are from Botswana and wanted to charge us the moon.

Monday 28-5-2007 :
The day was planned for the assault of Sunway Lagoon, a water theme park abour 30 minutes ride from KL. However nature did not agree and started to rain in the morning, so the invasion plan was switched to the KLCC (Petronas Twin Towers) and the Aquaria. It was Monday so we could not go up the towers. Little Wombat wanted to visit the Petrosains Center, a science exhibition center but it was closed, being Monday. After hanging around the Suria KLCC mall a bit we set off for the Aquaria

The Aquaria tour was worth every single ringgit it's charging. The kids felt like they were under the ocean with so many species of fishes to view. There are sharks' grins that resemble MrsW on PMS... (MrsW : Watch it!)

It was during our time at the Aquaria that DSaint, a fellow Kommie found out from my text messages that I wanted to buy a Mac Book but could not get one. He called some numbers on his little black book and voila! He located a Mac outlet near KLCC that has stock of white Mac Books. After a few more phone calls from me to my credit card companies during which I found out that Citibank Visa sucked while RHB Visa is a gem, we went back to our hotel, me happy as can be, my furry paws clutching a brand new Mac Book.

MicroW and me were rather zonked out after all that walking during the day, so we decided that we will stay in our room that night to rest while MrsW and LW invade Sungai Wang Shopping Mall that night, supplementary credit cards in paws. What did they buy? Well, lets just say we went to KL with two pieces of luggage. We came home with five.

Tuesday 29-5-2007 :

The skies cleared up, so it is Sunway Lagoon day. The entrance fee cost me almost RM180 for four, and the place being water themed, did not worked out well for us. I don't swim and did not intend to put my BMI 31 tummy on show. MrsW is carrying a cold. LW did not bring her swim suit. Micro wanted to hit the dry theme park and have nothing to do with water.

In hindsight, we should not have included this place on our list, but mistake can happen. The afternoon was spent roaming Sunway Pyramid, a mall. The place has been around for sometime so everything felt a bit old.

The way back to the hotel took us through the new SMART tunnel, a new hole in the ground that can double as a highway shortcut and also a storm water diversion tunnel during flash floods. Not bad, for a lot of my tax ringgits. Little did we know that exactly one week later KL would hit hit by a flash flood.

Wednesday 30-5-2007 :
Today is Genting Highlands Day!

I have always wondered why on Earth Malaysia cannot produce any good Formula 1 driver. They should look at our cab drivers who ply the KL-Genting Highlands route. These 50 year old Ah Peks (Grandpas) can teach Louis Hamilton a thing or two about driving. The cab ride up was spent clutching at everything as the Ah Pek negotiated every corner and bend like they are nothing. I swore he may have even done it with his eyes closed.

Accommodation is at the First World Hotel, three stars, and they do mean three stars. They even used fluorescent lights for lighting in the rooms. At least the rooms are clean and neat. And with around 6000+ rooms, this place made me feel claustrophobic. There are people everywhere, and it is only Wednesday, not the weekend.

I lugged my Mac Book to Star Bucks to check my emails and there I was, in a sea of evil black/grey WinDOZE notebook PCs of the Darkside, alone stood my virgin white Mac Book of the Force. Glances were thrown my way, some with envy, some sneering. Gawd, it is a good day to be a rebel on Tatooine.

The afternoon was spent at the First World Plaza Indoor Theme Park. The kids really had a great time. MicroW alone did the bumper cars three times. MrsW, with her fear of heights, nevertheless did all the height related rides including the ferris wheel, her greatest fear. The Motion Master show was great. A short movie with simulated chair movements, with ingenius use of water sprays, air blasts and sound, MicroW really believed that the salivating T-Rex is going to eat him alive and there's a giant octupus under his chair clutching at his feet. By the way, that's our kids in the reindeer sleigh...

Food prices were crazy. A decent breakfast costs RM40+ for four, lunch RM60 to 70+, dinner close to RM100+. Was told a day later actually there are cheaper food outlets outside the plaza but only those in the know will go.

Thursday 31-5-2007 :
Still at Genting. Today it is the Outdoor Theme Park. The usual wallet busting entrance fees etc and the usual rides. The only thing I can say is I will never ever take another roller coaster ride in my life again. I rode one and found out that my own perceived fear of heights is very real. I started having this fear after 2002, when I had my heart-related operation. But on this coaster ride I discovered that I am scared stiff, when in the past I have stood on the top of tall buildings asking "Is that it?". Worse, it was only a family coaster ride called the Flying Dragon, not one of those upside-down-loop-the-loop death defying ones. (hangs head in shame...)

Nevertheless the kids had a great time. At RM200 entrance fee for four, they'd better.

Friday 1-6-2007 :
Today is time to leave Genting. Another undiscovered 50 year old F1 driver took us down and this one is Schumarcher, Alonso and Hamilton all rolled into one. MicroWombie, who in his life has no fear of anything, succumbed and threw up. I told the Ah Pek that I will give him a RM10 tip if he will just not exceed 120km per hour for the rest of the trip down.

Rest of the day is spent resting at the Radius International Hotel in anticipation of meeting up with my younger sister and her family the next day. Best of all, Radius International offers free wireless broadband and I was online in no time.

Bought three more replica watches that night : A Tag Heuer Carrera Automatic, a Rolex Explorer II and an Omega Seamaster Professional Planet Ocean. Yes, I am big on replica watches. I now have seven, one for everyday of the week. Someday I will blog about my collection.

Saturday 2-6-2007 :
Met up with my sis and her family and off we went to Mid Valley Megamall because I promised MicroW that I will set him loose in Toys R Us in compensation for yesterday horror cab ride. Off we went, MicroW found the Toys R Us and thought he is in toy heaven. After 2 hours of wanting to charge everything in the store to my credit card, he finally settled on a genuine licensed Spiderman-3 backpack, and he will be the only kindergarten kid in Lahad Datu to have one (at least for 6 months) and a metal die cast Transformer toy, whose name escaped me. RM89 for a kid's backpack and RM69 for a metal die cast toy 6 inches tall. The joys of being a father. (MicroW : Daddy, your toy cost RM5000!)

Since it is our last day in KL, I let loose the missus and daughter for one last shopping binge. I will need a good dose of asprin when my card statements come in June.

Sunday 3-6-2007 :
Day to go home. I managed to locate the Nissan Cefiro cab again, so the ride to KLIA won't be another F1 drive. Our flights to KK and Lahad Datu were delayed but at least there's no more mad overnight cab rides and unethical airline staffs.

So how did we do on this trip? We were tired, despite not being in a tour group (which would have been worse, health wise) but we did have a good time. Sure, the flight cancellations, the crazy cab drivers, and other minor stuff did happen but we were not affected much because we set out to enjoy ourselves on this vacation and I believe we achieved that. It is good to see the kids' eyes light up with wonder whenever they see or experience something new. After all, if you are born in Lahad Datu, anything will be new and a wonderful thing. The only thing is MrsW still has not conquered her fear of heights.

So thus ended another Wombats Magical Mystery Tour. The next one will probably be around mid or end 2008, and we may do the rest of West Malaysia, or Singapore or the Philippines.

And I promise I will not buy any computer related stuff.