Monday, May 25, 2009

Allow RTD to join fight against 'Mat Rempit'

THE proposal by the Road Transport Department to seek more stringent measures to deal with Mat Rempit (or road thugs as they are now known) should be looked into. After all, the menace has put the police at their wits' end, with even the top cop now contemplating rehabilitative measures instead.

For too long, the silent majority have had to endure the danger posed by these road thugs who have not only been immortalised in movies but were also taken on a skydiving trip to the North Pole to let them know that they can be useful citizens.

Judging from the newspaper reports over the past few weeks, it would appear that we may have been taken for a ride all this time. Perhaps it's time for us to stop bending backwards to accommodate such unruly behaviour. Maybe we should let the RTD join the fight and deal with the menace once and for all.

The proposal to seize the motorcycles of the road thugs and reducing the vehicles to scrap could prove to be more economically sensible than issuing summonses, especially if the income generated could be channelled to good use.

The authorities might even want to take this a step further by working with other licencing authorities and nail the menace at source by reprimanding the motor workshops responsible for modifying normal motorcycles into the mean machines.

The suggestion to have the road thugs do community service could just be the rehabilitation measure Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan was looking for weeks ago.

Cleaning clogged drains and scraping dried chewing gums off pavements have a way of instilling humility in many people. Perhaps it could do the same for the thugs who continue to insist on their need for speed.

Repeat offenders can be given the cane, in addition to the shame campaign, so that they are sorely but surely reminded of their misdeed each time they sit on their motorcycles and contemplate mischief.

Of course, it will also do the authorities a lot of good to examine why, with all the high-tech cameras mounted around the city, the road thug and snatch thief menace continues unabated.

While police vigilance cannot be expected round-the-clock, computers can record what the cameras view 24/7 -- unless of course, "cataracts" in the form of dirt, dust and grime have covered up these lenses.

And don't forget to deal with the advertisements that promote motorcycles based on their vroom factor alone.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The things we stomach at eateries

IF you have been eating street food long enough, you will no doubt have a fair number of horror stories to tell, with the severity of your experience depending largely on your luck, or perhaps, the lack of it.

I had just had another "unforgettable" experience while having breakfast at the stall near my house. When my two pieces of capati and a glass of Nescafe tarik arrived, I asked for sambal.

I was happily tucking in when the spoon scooped up something flat and black from the red paste of anchovies and chilli.

What looked like a piece of coconut shell the size of a 20-sen coin killed my appetite.

I paid the bill and showed the cashier the foreign ingredient in my sambal. The cashier called the cook who took a look and broke out laughing.

In halting Malay, he said that it was only a burnt piece of sambal that had been dislodged from the griddle, and added that it was edible.

Finding his explanation hard to swallow, I promptly passed him the stuff, said he could have it for lunch, and left.

When I related this to my friend, she said I was lucky. Her brother-in-law has weaned off chicken porridge for good after his regular morning stop at his favourite stall in Chow Kit.

"He felt something sinewy in his bite and when he took the thing out, it looked like a piece of cuttlefish tentacle. He thought nothing of the stuff, put it back into his mouth and continued eating.

"After all, some people do add dried cuttlefish to chicken porridge to enhance the taste, he reasoned. That morning the porridge did taste unusually good to him," she said.

"But as he continued, he noticed something bigger in the bowl, and promptly scooped it out -- it was a dead lizard, its tail missing."

My father-in-law is sharp when it comes to eating out. Open-sky policy is out for him after a bird's dropping missed his plate at an open-air foodcourt years ago.

Now he only eats at places that are brightly lit and have a roof. If he could, he would scrutinise the premises to appraise the general hygiene before even sitting down.

My mother-in-law is often exasperated with this routine and likened him to a health inspector. I am not complaining, though, since no lizard or bird droppings have turned up in my meal yet.

But I sometimes wonder how many of the eating places in the city will have passed my father-in-law's cursory scrutiny if indeed he was a health inspector. It doesn't take much training or common sense to know that grimy floors, dirty kitchens and smelly toilets spell trouble where food business has become a 24-hour activity.

How dirty eateries escape the attention of the authorities is best left to speculation but it is mind-boggling that we should have health warnings on cigarette packs and non-smoking signs everywhere but no indication of how people could report dirty eateries.

Have you seen a hotline number for complaints being made a mandatory part of a restaurant's menu?

As for the consumers, many don't seem to mind the occasional cockroach or rat scuttling across the floor or the strand of hair that turns up in their curries.

Some would dish out their wisdom on how to tackle the A (H1N1) flu while at the same time not even batting an eyelid at the dirty fingers or unkempt attire of the food handlers serving them.

Monday, May 11, 2009

So what's your child's ambition?

HAVE you asked your children what they want to be when they grow up? Yes, their ambitions. I have forgotten all about this ambition thing until my children's teacher asked me if I knew what their ambitions were. I said: "No, I didn't ask."

The last time I was subjected to the drill was during my first day at secondary school. I recalled the indignation written all over my form teacher's face when I told him I wanted to be a postman because I loved collecting stamps. Aghast, he said, he did not want to hear anymore of it. Any student good enough to be in his class was capable of much greater things in life, he declared, and promptly introduced me to the power of positive thinking.

However, several changes in ambitions later, I realised that it was an exercise in futility. Good as an icebreaker for conversations, asking about a child's ambition is certainly no fun for the poor kid who has to decide on an answer that could potentially classify him/her as achievers or non-achievers, or worse, good-for-nothings.

To be curious about a child's ambition is harmless, of course. The real danger is when the answer does not fit our expectations. In our enthusiasm to impart our adulthood's wisdom, we could divert the child from his/her true calling or capabilities with our own ideals.

Even if the answer meets our approval, how sure are we that it was what he or she really wanted and not because everyone else had the same idea? Or could it be a subconscious need to fulfil someone else's expectations, like their parents', for example?

I have seen harried parents shuttling children from one tuition centre to another, chasing paper qualifications and skills which they hoped would put their children ahead of the rat race and nearer to achieving their ambitions.

One teenager I met at an art class said she had ceased to complain and has complied with the wishes of her mother, a successful insurance agency manager, to attend self-defence, dancing, chess, piano, public speaking, and art sessions seven days a week, in addition to the regular tuition classes. I asked if she had time for other things. "No," she said, "but it beats staying home when all my friends were attending a class."

I suppose children living far from the city are luckier. At least, the kids in the kampung still have their freedom to live their lives as children and not live out their ambitious parents' dreams.

As for my teenage children, I don't mind if they cannot tell me what their ambitions are right now. As long as they grow up to be humble, kind, respectful and filial, half of their life's battle has already been won.

Monday, May 4, 2009

An indispensable window to today's world

I GOT acquainted with my first computer in the mid '80s. It was an Amstrad and it ran on tapes. It took ages to start up and was quite noisy too.

Later, I got an Apple IIe which had a small monitor that spewed green- coloured text.

It ran on two 51/4-inch disks and had a memory smaller than today's handphone.

And it was just as slow.

Then came the 31/2-inch disk revolution, and a couple of Windows later, a flurry of devices that were founded on the evolving computing technology.

Most of them were designed to either make you work more efficiently or improve your life, or both.

But many were just as exasperatingly unpredictable as their predecessors.

People in the publishing business, I believe, were among those who had experienced firsthand the technology changes.

I recall magazine designers who had scoffed at the desktop publishing system (DTP) when Ventura Publisher and Pagemaker were released.

Some refused to learn the new system, called it a fad and continued using the point chart and pica ruler.

Only those farsighted took the stride forward.

And when typesetting houses adopted full DTP use, the latter had the last laugh as their critics were either retired by technology, ended up becoming proof-readers, or forced to embrace the new system.

Technology has come quite far since the early days of the Beyond 2000 television series, especially where pointing you in the right direction is concerned.

Take for instance, the global positioning system (GPS) receiver that is fast becoming a status symbol of the tech savvy today.

Slightly bigger than your pager, this device, when switched on, seeks out the satellites above you and gets them to tell you exactly where you are on the ground.

Advanced models could even track you as you walk or run. Leave a breadcrumb on your trail and you will be able to find your way home if you got lost.

Even those born with the most impeccable sense of direction can benefit from the GPS receiver.

It also has a built-in mobile directory -- restaurants, petrol stations, hospitals or even the nearest police station can easily be located with just a tap on the touch screen.

Of course, the accuracy would depend on how well the maps are updated.

But save for the occasional dead ends and uncharted monsoon drains, you could still, with some common sense, make your way to unfamiliar destinations, like how I did recently when visiting SMK Bandar Sunway for the first time for the BSRA-NST Streets Family Day '09.

In fact, GPS technology is already used in most mobile phones and some receivers are already part of the accessories package for new cars.

Those who scoff at this are gently reminded to look at how the mobile phone has evolved.

From being a status symbol the size of a brick, it is a necessity today.

In future, it could even be the only thing you will ever need to carry around when leaving home.

Fears expressed by consumer associations that prolonged use of the mobile phone is detrimental to health have yet to be conclusively proven.

You only start losing your mind when you lose your phone and try to figure out the number to call home.