Monday, December 24, 2012

This and that

It's been a very bad week for people who had prepared for the end of the world. They have to pick up where they left off. And, they need to now clear all the canned food and preserved food from their pantry.

That aside, I mourn the passing of Lim Keng Yaik. Malaysia has lost another good man. He will be missed.

Which leaves me to raise this feeling in the pit of my considerable stomach about the state of our fluency in the English language and, worse, the quality of thought processes.

I have just skimmed through a piece written by an academic at one of our local universities who wrote ponderously (or so, she must have thought) on Montesquieu and the doctrine of the separation of powers. 

Her grammar and syntax kept falling apart. I find that to be quite forgivable and tolerable because I, too, have learnt to lower my expectations as my work life progresses. In such situations, I merely speed up my skim-reading, you know, like a hydofoil increasing its velocity in choppy waters so as to raise the hull further from the surface water...oh, I'm sure you get it.

What I found difficult to pardon is that the piece, being a written contribution to an august journal of professional practitioners and peers, did not stray very far from its encyclopaedic roots. There was, after nearly 10 pages of excursus into the wherewithal of Montesquieu's thesis and its influence on politico-legal thought on it, nothing that the piece had to offer by way of pushing the envelope of the proposition further or offering a comparison between the adoption of the doctrine in various constitutional jurisdictions.

As William Shakespeare (Julius Caesar (I, ii, 140-141)) wrote, "The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars, but in ourselves..."

I really shouldn't have even tried to read that piece.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

B Ark candidates: Maths and Science in Malaysia

The Trends in Maths and Science Study 2011 (TIMSS 2011) has revealed that Malaysia's appalling academic showing in the field of Maths and Science is trending in the wrong direction.

This reminded me of a possible fate of Malaysians and the possible types of skill sets that Malaysians may end up being good at given this trend as indicated by the TIMSS 2011 survey.

The scenario may be played out as such-

“I mean, I couldn’t help noticing,” said Ford, also taking a sip, “the bodies. In the hold.”
“Bodies?” said the Captain in surprise.
Ford paused and thought to himself. Never take anything for granted, he thought. Could it be that the Captain doesn’t know he’s got fifteen million dead bodies on his ship?
The Captain was nodding cheerfully at him. He also appeared to be playing with a rubber duck.
Ford looked around. Number Two was staring at him in the mirror, but only for an instant: his eyes were constantly on the move. The first officer was just standing there holding the drinks tray and smiling benignly.
“Bodies?” said the Captain again.
Ford licked his lips.
“Yes,” he said, “All those dead telephone sanitizers and account executives, you know, down in the hold.”
The Captain stared at him. Suddenly he threw back his head and laughed.
“Oh they’re not dead,” he said, “Good Lord no, no they’re frozen. They’re going to be revived.”
Ford did something he very rarely did. He blinked.
Arthur seemed to come out of a trance.
“You mean you’ve got a hold full of frozen hairdressers?” he said.
“Oh yes,” said the Captain, “Millions of them. Hairdressers, tired TV producers, insurance salesmen, personnel officers, security guards, public relations executives, management consultants, you name them. We’re going to colonize another planet.”

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Local Councils and Resource Allocation

One of my favourite past times is to makan angin by taking drives to the fringes of the urban centres. To me, this is where the real Malaysians live. It is where the real Malaysia exists.

The obvious thing that one notices when driving away from the city centres or town centres is that the roads and road shoulders get progressively ramshackle and unkempt.

Rubbish is strewn and heaped in untidy piles. Undergrowth is rampant and way too wild. Stray dogs forage openly.

It is not a pretty sight.

But, this is where many, many Malaysians live; in the fringes of urban centres.

Why aren't Local Councils allocating more resources to maintain these fringe areas?

It is obvious that fringe areas are less densely populated. It is clear that this is where the working class Malaysians live. It is noticeable that these are localities where automotive chop shops, recycling yards, light industrial activities have found their place.

In short, these fringe areas do not contribute as much assessment as the buildings and structures in the urban centres.

That said, Local Councils cannot discriminate against fringe areas. This is irresponsible.

I am quite convinced that if Local Councils allocate more resources to maintain street lighting, collect rubbish more frequently, clean up the illegal rubbish heaps, cut the undergrowth and used mechanised sweepers to sweep away debris and loose gravel from road shoulders, residents in these fringe areas will see that being civic-minded is beneficial. 

This will create a virtuous cycle.

Local Councils must stop the discrimination of fringe areas in favour of urban centres.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


I read with great interest the latest blog post by etheorist here. The blogger wrote about the fixation many of us have with the accumulation of wealth and went on, wistfully, to reflect on the implications of this wealth-fixation of ours. The blogger raised much food for thought (if we have time for that).

I also read, with sadness, the Obituary of Datuk Khoo Eng Choo. Datuk Khoo was the leader of PriceWaterhouseCoopers in the 1990s together with YM Raja Arshad.

I didn't know Datuk Khoo personally nor have I ever worked with him.

The anecdotal information that I have suggests that Datuk Khoo and his team built the old PWC from the foundation and legacy left by the late Jaafar Hussein who had moved on to helm the Malayan Banking group and, later, became the Bank Negara Governor.

Datuk Khoo and Raja Arshad and the team they had built PWC's reputation and sealed its dominance of the accounting profession in Malaysia. 

To acquire market leadership in any field, in any market jurisdiction, requires great skill, care, industry and foresight. By all accounts Datuk Khoo had these qualities in abundance.

As any great leader will attest, the path to success is littered with injured egos and perceived unfair treatment by team members who were found wanting. I am certain that Datuk Khoo who is said to have possessed Napoleonesque qualities has his fair share of detractors.

This should not cloud his legacy and the achievements of the team that he led at PWC in the 1990s.

I hope that those who worked beside him will not consign him and his work to ignominy. 

Where etheorist's blog post and the matter of Datuk Khoo's legacy merges in my mind is the issue of what types of goals and values that we should have and what we want our offspring and successors to embrace.

I wish to hazard a proposition that perhaps a life well lived should, ideally, leave a zero sum legacy where people will say that in our lifetime we did not leave the world worse off that when we first arrived.

I would hazard a corollary proposition that if we were to be excessively exuberant during our lifetime, that excessive exuberance led to an improvement to the world that we lived in.

For, if we left the world a worse off place than it was when we first arrived, we would have committed a crime, or, as the people of faith calls it, a sin.

So, picking up on etheorist's thread, our industriousness in wealth accumulation should lead us to acquire and enjoy a comfortable and reasonable luxurious life of happiness and when the time comes for us to depart, we should only leave behind enough for our children to receive a decent education and an adequate stipend for them to get started on their life's journey.

Anything exceeding that should be bequeathed for the betterment of the community.

Those, I believe, are reasonable goals and values for each of us. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Tweet nonsense

To my great horror it appears that my twitter account has been hijacked. As such, I have decided to delete the twitter display in this blog.

It is a wake up call to realize just how vulnerable we can be in cyberspace.

There is hardly any difference between a cyber hijacking of a twitter account or any email account and being a victim of crime in the real world. The violation of the private space is equally outrageous and unacceptable.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


I have been rather conscious about the usage and abusage of the word "revert" in the many emails and correspondence that I receive.

Someone pointed me to a very interesting piece on this very matter of the usage and abusage of the word "revert" in the New York Times written by Ben Zimmer. You can access the piece here.

I am profiting from Mr Zimmer's industry in ferreting out the background, context and usage of the word.

It appears that the word "revert" is understood in the English-speaking world to mean "to go back" or "to return to the former condition"...except in South Asia and parts of Southeast Asia.

In South Asia and parts of Southeast Asia, the word "revert" is taken to mean, "to reply". 

As with all things English, I prefer to rely on the Oxford Dictionary which defines the word "revert" to mean "return to (a previous state, practice, topic, etc.)" which is not quite the same as "to reply" izzit?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Getting the right people

Yesterday, I was part of a meeting to pitch an investment to one of Malaysia's large public institutional funds. The top honcho for the fund is a consummate professional, which explains why the fund has widely and consistently regarded as one of Malaysia's finest examples of a well-managed fund. 

The subject matter was a mere drop in the ocean in the context of the total fund size that this institutional fund had in its portfolio. Yet, the man was familiar with the features of the proposal. The dimension of his office was breathtakingly modest. The decor was equally modest and slightly more worn than I had imagined it would be. 

Yet,this man headed a humongous fund. This is what trust or "amanah" means. 

Malaysia is lucky to have men like him. I wish there were more men like him. 

If men like him had been put in charge of government-funded projects and many GLCs, there will be hardly any ripple of disquiet or discontent from any quarter in Malaysia. 

In fact, the publicly-listed companies within this fund's stable has been widely regarded as "blue chip" in the investment community - steady price and good earnings year-on-year. 

Malaysia needs more good men like him. Malaysia needs less sycophantic executive-types whose eye is NEVER on the project paper assumptions but ALWAYS on the facial expression of the political patron. 

My basic point is this - there are many, many good and capable people who are highly qualified, who possess the correct skill sets for the various challenging tasks facing Malaysian statutory bodies and GLCs. 

The reason for many good men and women being overlooked or bypassed is that they are too busy worrying about getting the projects, the assumptions, the numbers, the team and the coordination done right that they do not put enough time into "sucking up" or "ampu". 

The political patrons often read the wrong signals. The good executives are overlooked because their brows are furrowed, they are less charming, slow to say the platitudes, they drum their fingers and fidget too much (because they want to get away from the small talk and get back to their desk to meet critical deadlines). These are not the attributes that appeal to the political patron. 

What the political patron gets suckered into is the absolute 24/7 availability of the poseur who looks every inch like the Wall Street or City of London go-getter. It's a facade that the political patron cannot see past. 

The poseur wins the day almost every time because he or she invests so much time with "office politics" and spends hardly any time poring over reports and dealing with project issues. Political patrons are high maintenance. 

This is the conundrum that we face in Malaysia. It probably happens elsewhere too. 

But, I don't care about elsewhere. I care about Malaysia. 

That is why I am happy to have met with one of the best chief executives of a Malaysian public institutional fund yesterday. Malaysia needs more men like him.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Gong Xi Fa Cai

To everyone celebrating the Chinese Lunar Dragon Year, I wish you Gong Xi Fa Cai.

To everyone else, I wish you Happy Holiday.

Those of you who are driving long distance, please take care to get rested from time to time.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Malaysia: Headlines for the wrong reasons

Much as I hate to say it, Bloomberg columnist, William Pesek has made a pertinent point in his latest piece on Malaysia.

Malaysia has been hitting the international headlines for the wrong reasons for some time now.

This grates on me like an itch that is buried in the subcutaneous layer. It's bad and self-wounding.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Where good ideas come from

I'd like to think that my mind has sufficient complex creativity with sparks flying in the way that Steven Johnson's YouTube displays below. But, in mock humility, I should say that I'm not so sure my mind is this good.

What about your mind?