Thursday, November 30, 2006

Atakoy, Istanbul.

Am posting this from the meeting facilities of Polat Rennaisance Istanbul. Wireless connection still dodgy, once that is sorted maybe I will post some pictures. The Hotel's wireless access is USD 15 per day, thats almost RM 50 which is almost what I am paying monthly for my broad band access at home. Anyway, Istanbul is expensive. More expensive than Greece or even London. Even though the exchange rate in UK is higher, you get more value per unit currency. I am no economist but that's my impression anyway. Public toliets alone cost 1 YTL (new Turkish Lira), about RM2.73, coat check is 5 YTL and a 5 KM taxi ride is about 12 YTL.

English is not as widely spoken as I expected. Most hotel staff does not speak English. I get by through writing down destinations and pointing to what I need. They are friendly though. Security everywhere is tight. To get into a supermarket, you will be checked through a metal or weapons detector.

This time of year, Istanbul is cold, dark and the atmosphere is foreboding. Summer time should be better I guess, as they do have a nice coastline with smatterings of old structures.

Police presence is very high. At least two policemen every hundred meters or so. Turns out the Pope is visiting this predominantly Muslim country and there are riots shown on TV though I have not seen any in the vicinity of Bakirkoy or Aksaray, the places where I am. Walking is not encouraged, I was asked by a policemen to take the bus or taxi instead when all I wanted to do was walk along the coast to take pictures of some ships.

Perhaps my view of this ancient city will change after the tour provided by our host over this weekend.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Mas cutting costs ?

On the recent flight into Istanbul, MAS cost cutting measures is clearly visible, especially in terms of food. No more peanuts to go with the welcoming orange juice. No choice for juice either. Only water or orange juice. The accompaniment that comes with brunch and lunch is the same, the vegetable is the same and the fruits for dessert is the same. Pumpkin, cucumber, tomatoes, melon, apple and was it a (1) grape ? Anyway, as consolation, I think the air host and hostess now does not differentiate between mat salleh and asian/locals as they were wont to do. Hey, they are even nice to me and smiles at my query. (Sorry Jag, kalau ko baca ni, tapi kenyataannya, especially flight to London, kalau mat salleh, bukan main lebar dia punya senyum....)

Could be my imagination but the movie selection also seems to have been drastically reduced. Rest assured though, I will still make MAS my preferred choice of air transport, if not for anything then to do my bit to uphold the pride of the nation.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Taking to the skies.

Will be flying off to Istanbul tomorrow. Insyallah, will return on 11 December 2006. Hopefully theres cheap fast internet access at the place I am staying. Oh, please do not call my mobile, sms instead as the roaming charges are real killers.

Stabbed in the Back.

I will start todays rant by admitting that perhaps this incident is my fault. My fault for failing to be a good judge of character and my fault for believing and trusting too much. One of my principles have been this, if I were to help, offer assistance or do something for others, deep down in my heart I tell myself to never ask for anything in return. Why ? Because I believe in karma, what goes around comes around. I let god do the payback, if any. Another reason is that I have always felt that in some weird ways, though hard, my life have been blessed, so when opportunity arises, I strive to do good for others. This has got to change. From now onwards, I will ask for something in return and that request is PLEASE DON'T STAB ME IN THE BACK.

The person in question came into my circle of close friends. Friends with whom (I thought...) everything could be shared and discussed. Friends whom I thought should be protected and nurtured. Alas, I was wrong.

All this while I had been giving what I can. In this case, I provided oral and written recommendation so this person can get a new job after being asked to leave from the previous one. I place my reputation at stake for the sake of a friend. I did not ask for anything in return then, nor now.

All seems well and dandy. Untill a couple of years later, I was in a rut. I did not ask for money, I did not ask for time nor task to be done. What I merely asked for is an ear to hear my woes and to seek the opinion of a "close friend" in my hour of need. What I got instead was "you are not the person I used to know", "I am busy"...

WTF was that ? My request for an explanation was not entertained. I felt as if I was judged by this "close friend" without my charges ever being brought to my attention. I was down, and while down was further trampled by a person I assumed was a friend. It is definitely one of the worst feeling I ever experienced. If this person is an enemy or at least someone out of the circle I would have understood. My take is that since this person got the new better paying job, arrogance set in. Perhaps this person have also accrued new friends in the process and just can't make time for old ones like me.

I keep trying to understand and forgive. So far I have not been successful. I hope that this person does not cross my path again.

Anyway, life goes on. It just made me more wary and less trusting. Please don't get me wrong if I appeared aloof and disinterested, I have just been through a rough patch and the wound is not yet healed.

Photo by my daughter, conveys the mood I guess.

Friday, November 24, 2006


In this bright Friday morning, my thoughts were taken to friends who have passed on. Al-Fatihah for Arwah Azam who was gone more than 10 years ago. How time flies, seems like only yesterday we were together.

Azam hails from Kampung Pandan, the son of a taxi driver. He is the kindest amongst us and I miss his accommodating ways. We first met when both of us were taking our modular course in ALAM. He is from a batch senior than me. This goes on through the years as our career progression dictates. We got close, so much so that each others family treats us like their own son. Sadly, though kind, pious, soft spoken and hard working, Azam does not do too well in his studies. So much so that he even became a taxi driver for while. At the insistence of friends he resumed his sailing career and aimed to take the Home Master exams instead of pursuing a Master of Foreign Going ship.

To get cash (his sponsorship, was no more by then), he sailed as an able bodied seamen. It was during this time that Allah took him away. It is ironic, how it was at this time, when he seems to have everything planned for his future that he is gone. He was engaged, scheduled to go through the exams and then get married and settle down.

He drowned, falling off a pilot ladder that he was testing. This happened in broad daylight off Singapore. His remains was found two or three days later.

The most painful part for me was visiting his family, years later. No words were said, his mom just rushed to the door and hugged me with tears streaming from her eyes. I was overwhelmed, I visited after a few years thinking that the pain would have healed, not for a parent losing a child I suppose....

Semoga Allah mencucuri rahmat dan menempatkan engkau ditempat orang-orang yang diberkati, Amin.


The photobook was delivered yesterday. Wrapped in layers of cardboard, bubble wrap and paper not to mention the plastic courier envelope. Good effort to ensure that the book is not bent or anything. From ordering to delivery took about 4 days. Not bad for a Malaysian company.
The quality of paper and prints were excellent. This is definitely a great idea as more and more people are using digital cameras. Rather than manage 4R prints like I used to do, archive all your shots and once you think you have enough material, have it printed in book form such as this. I chose the A3 size which fits about 200 photos. In my case the photos were made up of those from as far back as 1999 [hmm remember space 1999 ? Maya is my favourite character....].
This of course depends on the layout and size of photo you choose to print, you can put in caption too. Say, if you want full page spread on every page then it will take 80 photos. The initial price includes 40 pages with additional pages available as option. My only gripe is that, they should offer hard cover which will make the book look better and lasts longer. As it is, its just like a catalogue.
As the ad says, A3 Photobook = RM260, the squel of delights = priceless.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Motor Bike.

My involvement on two wheel motorised transport mode came about out of the stress and frustration of having to face the maddening KL traffic day in and day out. Not to mention ever rising fuel costs. One day, I decided that I have had enough of this and start exploring available transport options. Car pooling is out as my hours are erratic at best and I am not too keen on having to put up a happy face for my fellow car poolers. I am not a morning person you see....

LRT is also not that desirable as the station is neither here nor there in terms of distance from my house. I am doubtful on the safety of my car if parked daily at the station. As much as I would love to walk to the station, KL is not Cardiff. Its humid and hot, the thought of being sweaty and crammed in a steel tube like sardines is not a pleasant one.

Cycling I would gladly do, but it is more than 20km, the routes are chockful of zipping cars, lorries and buses. No, too risky....

Final option, motorbike. I have never in my life ridden a bike before, well perhaps once but both the bike and me ended up in a ditch somewhere. Therefore, first step is to get a license. Was thinking of just getting a B250 but the driving instructor advised against that and recommended for me to take the B full instead, adding more money of course. He was good and especially patient in teaching me to ride. Thank you Haji Yusof of Kampung Baru. The worst part of getting the license is the mandatory 6 hours lecture. Its a total wate of time. I was expecting to be taught the technique of motor biking or doing emergency repairs or such things. Instead the whole 6 hours we were bombarded with statistics of motorcycling accidents, why its two wheels makes it the most vulnerable on the road, over and over again. Totally unlike the syllabus of the UK or US which I read through while doing research on getting a license. Anyway, finally got my license and start looking for a bike. As much as I would have liked at least a 600cc naked bike, it is not something that I could afford.

Again Haji Yusof recommended getting a scooter as he says that its only for going to and from work anyway. I was not too keen on the idea, the word scooter itself sound soooooo lame. But, being realistic, I bought the Modenas Elegan 150CC. It was just launched and had some good reviews. It was a good comfortable bike, untill, by chance I saw the Aprilia Sport City 200CC at a roadshow. The 150CC of the Elegan felt inadequate, sold it off and got the Aprilia. Bigger CC with narrower profile making it easier to weave in and out of the gridlock of Jalan Tun Razak. Had been using it for more than a year now. Anddddd the 200CC is beginning to feel inadequate, luckily there are no better scooter out there... Perhaps the newly launched Aprilia MANA (no kidding, its really the name of this new automatic bike) 850CC.

Anyway, it has been a worthwhile effort. My stress level has gone down considerably. My fuel costs have also gone down from RM60 to RM12 weekly. To those who are thinking of making such a move, overcome your fear, get a license and get proper protective gear. Its worth it.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Photographer Son.

Photo taken by my son. This is on the way to Taiping. As a father, it gives me a warm fuzzy feeling seeing my son having the same interest as me. He is only eight, yet he takes pleasure in handling a huge DSLR, much to the chagrin of my wife who is concerned that he may damage the equipment. Understandably it is an expensive piece of equipment, but this is another risk that I took. To trust his frail hands in order to develop his interests.

My son taking a photo of his own reflection with a camera that is bigger than his head.

Rainy days.

The rainy days are here again and it just have to coincide with the time office workers go home. Got drenched yesterday. Then again there's beauty too.

The Manual Bike.

Special thanks would have to go to JN Mak for introducing this sport to me. It began with him selling his Mongoose aluminium single suspension bike to me. He took me into the palm plantations in Bukit Raja and made me cycle up and down hills till my butt is numb, then he tells me that you are not supposed to rest your weight on your butt 100% while riding. This is one guy who believes in teaching by doing and he is good at it. Not just for MTB but for work and life. Thank you Mr. Mak.
What made me fall instantly in love with mountain biking is the fact that it offers me the kind of solitude which I enjoyed and treasured while doing the 12 - 4 at sea. Similar to enjoying your own company on the bridge in open sea, here the sea is replaced with green trees and forest. Just you, the bike with background music provided by nature. Of course this could only be achieved if you go riding alone. Which is quite a risky thing to do. I do it anyway and the risk is what I am willing to pay for my moment of solitude.
From the Mongoose, again through the influence of Mr. Mak (who has 6 mountain bikes, a folding bike, a folding canoe, two kayak, a 4WD, boat engines and numerous outdoorsy things), I moved up to full suspension. Initially bought the Specialised which doen't feel quite right for me. Added some money and got this Santa Cruz Superlight instead. Excellent bike, then again fully kitted it could get me half a Kancil....
Sadly, have not been cycling for the past year or so. The best I could do was 20 minutes stint with the Mongoose on a trainer. My favourite playground, the rubber plantation behind Subang Airport is getting smaller by the day. There are less forested areas to be explored in the vicinity of KL/PJ, and to drive so far out just does not seem worth it.
Perhaps I will get back in the swing of things soon.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Stills from Linggi.

Went back to Linggi recently. These images reminds me of time past and the fun that I had with them. How time seems to fly and bring about changes with it. Even the formidable latex pressing machine is now useless... Not even to press juice out of sugar cane like we used to do during past Ramadan. Of course, we thoroughly washed them first and make sure the smell of latex is all gone.

The slingshot, used to torture birds, squirrels and small animals. Now my aunt use it to target stray cows entering her property. My son has taken a liking to them but I limit him to using it only here in Linggi in the wide open spaces. Imagine the damage he could do in a terraced housing estate in PJ.

Third (un)paid job.

This is another job secured by a friend. A bowling tournament held in Kuala Lumpur. Great bunch of people who enjoyed having their photos taken. I really had fun watching their antics. This is one of the teams doing their introductory routine.

The tournament itself comsists of numerous teams from all over Malaysia. I was surprised at the composition of representation. They all had fun anyway.

I just love this shot of one of the contestant doing his victory dance. No flash was used. If only I had the 85mm f1.4 with me, I could have gotten better shots.

This is one of my favourite portraits. So natural, fun, thematic and expresses the bond that this team has.

Second paid job.

The second job is more commercial in nature. I was recommended by Jamie. The company wanted to have photos of their cranes with the KLCC as a background for their 2007 calendar. They were also insistent that the photos should only be taken when the sky is clear. We ended up having to do the shoot at about 0700hrs. after the daily shower subsided. It was wet and muddy and my shoes were all mucky with splashes of mud on my black pants.

It is a tricky situation as I do not have the proper lens. The best I could do was this skewed crane image. They were happy to use it, I just wonder if its because of the minimal carges imposed or if they just wanted "a" picture. Anyway, I got paid and they get their pictures even though I am not too pleased with my output this time.

The complex machinery in close up. They also wanted to show the machine in action. Apparently it sprays cement mixture into bored holes used as base for whatever it is they are constructing. It definitely is not pleasant risking having my camera coated in fine mist of cement but we faced up to the challenge.

One of the workers, holding of all things the bud of a lotus. Where the heck could that come from ?

Hmmm, maybe they will send me a couple of the calendars.

First paid job.

Through sheer luck and good friends I was paid to photograph an event in Langat. The nice Datuk & Datin held a reunion cum anniversary party. Actually I went just to accompany a friend, as luck would have it, their hired photog failed to turn up. Since I have my equipment with me...

The place was fabulously set by Din, Fazley and his gang. There are live fishes in the table center piece. We all prayed that it would remain alive at least until the party is half way through.

To the couple, may you have a long, prosperous and happy life ahead.

Greek dinner.

Its lunch time and I am still stuck at the office waiting for a call that never came. Was poring over my archives and found these photos of a Greek dinner that I had on the island of Cephalonia.

The starter is stuffed vine leaves served with sour cream, olives and a drizzle of olive oil. The vine leaves were stuffed with sticky rice. As plain as rice can be, the taste flavoured only by the sour, sweet and slightly bitter preserved leaves used as the wrapping.

The appetiser is grilled vegetables. Zucchini, bell peppers, mushrooms and eggplants. Again such common vegetables simply grilled with olive oil sprinkled with ground black pepper and sea salt. Simply divine. The sweetest bell pepper I have ever tasted.

Ahh, the main course of grilled seabass with herb rice and garden vegetable. The Greeks use the freshest fish. Though I keep thinking of kicap and cili api while partaking this meal.

Dessert is a sinfully sweet Cephalonian almond cake drowned in honey with a side of home made vanilla ice cream. Excellent accompanied by fresly brewed coffee.

This meal took a good 2 hours to complete. The Greeks take their meal time seriously and make sure that the guests enjoy the experience thoroughly, not just the food but the ambiance and more importantly the conversation that goes with it.

The view above is what I see while having dinner. A lovely sunset accompanied with soft cool breeze over the bay.