What I’ve Been Up To (Part 2)…

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One of coolest things my wife and I did over the past month was attending the Mayday concert at Genting on 19th April. This was the second time that we’ve been to the Arena of Stars for a concert, the first time being a Jonathan Lee concert during my holidays last year. As with last year, our main consideration was finding any concert that was being held during the one month that we’d planned we would be in Malaysia. If we’d known that we would be in Malaysia longer, we would probably have opted for the Emil Chau concert later in May. As thirtysomethings, Emil Chau’s songs are a lot more familiar from our school days than us than those of Mayday, about whom we barely know anything.

As it turned out, we’re both glad we went to the Mayday concert instead. Both of us had never been to a real rock concert before this, and the electrifying energy of the performance, combined with the wildly enthusiastic response of the audience, turned it into a truly eye-opening experience. It’s a testament to how out of touch I am with the music scene that I didn’t realize that Mayday is probably the biggest rock act in the Chinese-speaking world today, though the many Mayday songs chosen by my nieces when my wife and I took them to a karaoke earlier that month gave me a clue as to how popular they. And yeah, you know that these guys are popular alright when every little gesture made by a band member is greeted by a earsplitting uproar.

Continue reading What I’ve Been Up To (Part 2)…

What I’ve Been Up To (Part 1)…

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I’ve gotten my Streamyx service up and running, so hopefully I can be online more now. To start with, this is what I’ve been gaming with for the past month. Since I expected to be in Malaysia on holiday for only a month, I knew it wasn’t feasible to bring back my main gaming PC all the way from the Solomon Islands. So in order not to become bored silly while on holiday, I bought a PSP. As my wife will readily attest, I’ve been making noises about buying one ever since it launched, but the higher price and the limited games library available then didn’t make it seem like a good buy until now.

The really funny thing is that while I originally intended to buy the PSP to play “deep” games that I’ve heard so much about, such as Monster Hunter and Armored Core: Formula Front, I actually ended up spending most of my time on it on more arcade-style action games like God of War, Wipeout Pulse and Tekken: Dark Ressurection. I have to admit that between the handheld format and the clunky English translations (and the severe lack of them in many places) I just couldn’t summon up enough enthusiasm to really understand how the deeper games work.

Continue reading What I’ve Been Up To (Part 1)…

Out of a Job

As I anticipated, I’m now out of a job. To simplify a complicated situation, the company I was working for in the Solomon Islands has been experiencing financial difficulty for the past two years. More ominously, for the past two months, expatriate employees going back to Malaysia for their annual leave have not been receiving their full salary payment before being asked to return to work in the Solomon Islands.

As the person holding the title of Financial Controller in the company, though without much the power that the title holds since I’m not a relative of the big boss, unlike many of the other managers there, I have been keenly disturbed by this and worried that the powers-that-be have not been willing to take the harsh measures necessary to return the company to a profitable status. Even before I left the Solomon Islands, I insisted that I would refuse to work unless I was paid in full. After some nasty telephone calls, I have now been fully paid and also instructed that I won’t need to return to work.

Don’t feel too bad for me though, since my wife and I have been planning to leave the company after just one more year of working there anyway. This just means that we’ll need to readjust to life in Malaysia one year earlier with a bit less money than we’d planned. I’m planning to take things easy for a while. Now that I think about it,I’ve been working outside Malaysia for nearly 10 years now, and even that was after just a year of working in Malaysia after spending nearly 3 years in France. After all this time spent overseas, readjusting to life will take some doing. Not only will I need to look for a job, I’ll actually need to buy a car, learn how to drive in the hectic streets of Kuala Lumpur (very different from the leisurely pace in Honiara) and yes, even set up some sort of broadband connection where I’m staying. Just about everything here is new to me!

Once my net access is up and running, I should be able to work on updating this blog on a more regular basis, beginning with some fun stuff that I’ve been up to during the past month.

Hiatus

I am travelling to Malaysia on Thursday and currently expect to spend one month there. Since my Internet access during this time will likely be intermittent, I will most probably not be able to update this blog very often.

Local Houses in Solomon Islands

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My wife got me to drive one of the local maids employed in the compound where we live so that we could go take photos of some of the local houses. We’ve already visited this area previously but we didn’t take any photos then, and since there is a slight possibility that we might not be returning to the Solomon Islands after we go back to Malaysia on Thursday, my wife especially wanted some photos as a memento.

This particular house is where Helen, a maid who has worked for us for many years now is currently renting. She is currently building her own house nearby, basically just appropriating the land without any formal paperwork, buying the building materials and having her family members help out with the construction. It’s haphazard, unregulated and messy, but that’s how things work in the Solomon Islands. It also contributes to the tribal tensions here in Honiara. Honiara is located on Guadalcanal Island, while Helen and everyone else who stays in this area are from Malaita Island. Complaints from Guales about Malaitans taking over their land and their attempts to form a militia to drive out the Malaitans were what prompted the Malaitans to mount a coup-d’état in 2000.

Continue reading Local Houses in Solomon Islands

Recent Interesting Science Articles (Mar’08)

Four articles this month, one on the extremely exciting findings by the Cassini-Huygens mission to Enceladus, one on a somewhat weird life form found inside the remains of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor and finally two somewhat similar cases of emerging risks to people with medical conditions, one due to the use of implanted medical devices and the other due to exploits on Internet web browsers.

The Cassini-Hugens mission to Enceladus, the sixth largest of Saturn’s moons, not only confirmed the presence of liquid water beneath the icy surface of the moon, but also discovered, from a sampling of the brew vented out by a geyser the spacecraft flew past, that the moon is extraordinarily active and contains a surprising mix of organic chemicals. As the press release notes, heat, water vapour and organic compounds are the basic building blocks for life. As a science geek, I’m also impressed by the technical achievement of flying so close by a small moon at extremely high speeds, successfully intersecting a venting geyser without crashing on the moon with the whole thing carefully planned and coordinated on Earth.

Continue reading Recent Interesting Science Articles (Mar’08)

Fitna: Is Islam a Violent Religion?

So this video has been spreading around the Internet with astonishing speed. What really surprised me was when one of my housemates here in the Solomon Islands wanted to show me this video, even though I don’t think that she’s normally very politically conscious. I’d already read about it in Jed Yoong’s blog and had a bit of a spat over it there, so my post here is something of an elaboration of what I’ve already posted as comments over there.

First of all, I think that the short film is woefully amateurish. Collating video footage of the gory aftermath of terrorist attacks interweaved with quotations from the Quran and speeches by firebrand Islamist leaders does not a solid argument make. It’s a blatant attempt to arouse an emotional reaction in viewers instead of attempting to advance a reasoned argument and as such isn’t really worth watching at all.

Second, even if we were to take the central premise of the film seriously, the correct question isn’t whether or not Islam is a violent religion, it’s whether or not Islam is any more violent than the other great religions. Christianity makes for a good point of comparison. It’s shares the same fundamental roots as Islam, and yet is mostly accepted around the world as a peaceful, safe and moderate religion nowadays.

Continue reading Fitna: Is Islam a Violent Religion?

The unexamined life is a life not worth living