Thursday, September 30, 2010

Review Thursday: Under The Dome by Stephen King

Under The Dome
by Stephen King
Paperback: 880 pages
Publisher: Pocket; Reprint edition (July 6, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1439149038
ISBN-13: 978-1439149034
Price: RM45.90

I adored Christine, The Shining, Firestarter, Misery, Salem's Lot, The Running Man and Thinner but Pet Sematary, The Talisman, and It just didn't feel right to me. If you have enjoyed King's last few books, you'll probably like this one too. I didn't.

Under The Dome is the story of a village cut off from the rest of the world by an invisible forcefield. Think pudding bowl over the town. As the air runs out, the people become more and more frantic. Worse, there's a killer on the loose.

King writes as if he's describing a film to a blind person. When I got to page 250, I still wasn't invested in the characters. Worse, the "mystery" was crystal clear. I flipped to the end, read the last 5 pages, and won't be bothering to read the middle bits.

The other thing about this book is the length: 880 pages. Unfortunately King doesn't use the extra space to add character depth, mystery or anything useful. It's just horribly long. A good editor would cut this book in half and improve it immeasurably.

If you like horror but can't be bothered to wade through this one, wait for the film. If you're not in Malaysia, you can buy this pretty much everywhere, including Amazon and Amazon UK.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

COT: Boris Is Hiding

I am not here, these are not my paws, you can't see me, I'm invisible....

cats on Tuesday For more cats, check out Gattina's Cats on Tuesday.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Cats Receive A Gift

An admirer sent the cats some gourmet cat food.

Au loved the gravy
Target liked the chunks
Boris thought it was all nice
And Au gave it 4 paws up.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Living In Malaysia: Call Me Aunty And Die

In Malaysia it is proper to call older people Uncle and Aunty.  This is because age is hugely important in Asia. The older you are, the more respect you're entitled to. 

I'm 44 now so I'm beginning to get quite a bit of it.  As I'm half Dutch and half Scots, this doesn't sit easily with me.  I'm extremely informal plus my automatic reaction is, we're not related, so why call me that?

Luckily Malaysians are a pretty easy going bunch and there are some alternatives.

For example, the first time I went to our local wet market and Chinese vegetable girl greeted me with a, "Hello Aunty!  Whatcha want?" I gave her a steely look and said, "Aunty?!" in mock outraged tones.

She gave me a thoughtful stare back and said, "How about Sister?"  Now that I can live with because ah moi means sister in Hakka and Cantonese.  It can also be used in the sense of hey-babe-how's-it-hanging but that's another story....

The best one for getting around the Aunty/Uncle/respectful title thing is the Malay vegetable lady.  She just calls everyone Darling.  "Hello, darling?  What do you want, darling?  See you later, darling!"  This is her stall, and she's the lady on the left.

I'm kind of extra glad for darling vegetable lady's idiosyncrasy because the equivalent of ah moi or aunty in Malay is kak meaning older sister.  But as kak in Dutch means shit, I just can't warm up to that expression.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Repost Friday: Scoop

Monday was the 3rd anniversary of Scoop's death.  I didn't say anything at the time because I still miss my old fuzzy a lot.

I miss the way Scoop curled up in the crook of my arm in his best Doughnut Impression.

I miss the way Scoop shouted MEOW RAUUUUW to announce he was back from his walk.

I loved his corkscrew tail that made him such an icon of the kampung kuching, the Malaysian kitty.

I loved the way he was so kind to Au when he was a tiny baby cat.

I even miss the way Scoop used to try and shout me out of bed at 3AM, and the way he's stand just behind the door and pop his head round for each shout, so that my Ammunition Pillow sailed harmlessly past him. 

Scoop was a great cat.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Review Thursday: May Day For Justice - Free Book

May Day for Justice: The Lord President's Version
By Tun Mohamed Salleh Abas
Hardcover: 353 pages
Publisher: Magnus Books (1989)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 9839631004
ISBN-13: 978-9839631005

I first bought this when I arrived in Malaysia 14 years ago because it is the first hand account by the former Lord President of the Supreme Court of Malaysia of how he was ousted by the then Prime Minster Mahathir in 1988.

It's a fantastic story that explains how a fight within a political party was taken to court, and ended up changing the balance between the judiciary and parliament in Malaysia.

This book covers the time when many politicians and lawyers jailed citing security issues, and newspapers were closed for 5 months citing the same reasons. 

If you want to understand how modern Malaysia works, then read this book.  And if you've too little time to read the whole thing, but want some background, check out the executive summary.

My copy was borrowed and never returned, but there's a free version online here, or you can invest in a copy from Amazon.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Monday, September 20, 2010


Boris is still living with us in our front garden.  He's very happy and very fat.

Boris was either lost, abandoned or dumped a year ago in our neighbourhood.  I got to know him, got him neutered, and found him a forever home.  Sadly his new people thought him too noisy and greedy so I took him back.

He's now had his shots too, and is ready to find a real forever home.  Boris is probably around 3 years old, which makes it tougher to place him than a kitten but he tonnes of personality.  Boris looooves people.  He purrs all the time, adores cuddles, and likes nothing better than being fussed over. He is also super clean.

I've turned down a few offers because Boris has some rather specific needs.

Boris wants to be an outdoor cat with indoor privileges - so no apartments or home on busy roads.
Boris does eat A LOT.  So reckon a fullsized tin of cat food every two days as well as four handfuls of cat biscuits.
Boris does talk a lot.  I like it, because I like to chat.  Also he's not a whiner, he just likes to hang out and chat.

If you know of someone suitable, pass the word? 

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Living In Malaysia: The Wet Market

The wet market is a Malaysian/South East Asian term for early morning market. These markets are a gorgeous mess of stalls selling fruit, veg, flowers, fish, meat, eggs, soya cakes, and so on.

Wet markets don't look pretty. Everything is just thrown onto slabs so you can see what's what. They're noisy, and overcrowded. Many are also grubby. It's not uncommon to see flies, cockroaches and other pests.

City wet markets open at about 630AM. They close officially around 11AM - although there's usually not much left apart from some flowers and fruit after 9AM because it gets too hot in tropical Malaysia to leave food lying about.

I buy tins, cheese, and dried food at the supermarket, but for meat and fresh veg, I go to the wet market.

Wet markets may look grubby to the Western eye but a vast number of minimarkets and supermarkets have work shops that look exactly the same. Plus, their plastic wrapped meat is probably a day old - at least! When you buy at the wet market, you know that chicken/fish/pork or whatever was alive and kicking a few hours ago. 

Mind you, I make a point of NOT taking overseas visitors to the wet market until the last day of their visit.

The pictures are my favourite pork and chicken stalls.  It probably won't surprise you that these are also Au's favourites!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Repost Friday:

Dog Talk is out in The Star Weekender tomorrow.  Print version only so it's not online.  This post was first put up Tuesday, July 17, 2007.  Snowball and Snowflake are still happy and healthy and wrestling!

Cats On Tuesday: Wrestling Match

This is Snowball wrestling with his sister Snowflake.

snowball and snowflake
Snowball and Snowflake live in our local aquarium shop.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Review Thursday: Free Ebook New Malaysian Essays 3

Today is Malaysia Day, the anniversary of the day Malaya, North Borneo, Sarawak, and Singapore joined to form Malaysia in 1963.

In order to celebrate, Amir Muhammad, the head of the Matahari Books publishing house, is giving away NEW MALAYSIAN ESSAYS 3 in an ebook format.

This is not a review as I haven't had a chance to read or download it yet.  But it promises to be well worth reading because the writers are known to discuss life in Malaysia in a very frank and open way - so open and so frank that Amir and his friends often find their works banned or censored.

The advance notice blurb says, "Take notes while Wong Chin Huat teaches you how to become a good demonstrator; take in the conflicted sweep of post-1969 cultural policy with Simon Soon; take a tour of the non-heterosexist nation that Clarissa Lee imagines from Merdeka to the present; and take stock of the situation of Peninsular Malaysia's indigenous people with Mor Ajani. We end with Sumitra Visvanathan inviting us to take refugees into our definition of what 'Malaysia, Truly Asia' could possibly be."

You can get it here.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Monday, September 13, 2010

Target Speaks About Bed

Hello?  Are you there?  Hi!  Target here.  Maybe you can't hear me properly because I'm purring very loudly.  I'm furry excited to be blogging again.  After the first time I blogged, Au got all jealous so I quit for a while.  But now mummycat is blogging about us kitties on Mondays too, I get to speak too.

Today I want to talk about one of my favourite places: bed.

I sleep on mummycat's pillow efurry night.  In the morning after we have breakfast, I sometimes nip back into bed for half an hour before going to the office.  I am a Management Cat so I'm allowed to go in late.

At night when T-man goes upstairs I go with him.  T-man whips the sheets in the air so I can jump underneath and be a covert kitty.  Then I wrestle T-man's hands and put on the bitey through the sheets.  It's great fun. I shall ask mummycat to take a picture of that.

I can hear the rattle of kitty crunchies.  That means it's breakfast time.  Gotta go!  Bye!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Living In Malaysia: Hari Raya

Hari Raya, the holiday at the end of Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month, started yesterday.  In Malaysia it's called Hari Raya but in most other places they say Eid ul-Fitr which is Arabic for end of Ramadan.

Apart from the prayers, it's a time where people visit their family and friends, eat too much, and generally have a good time.  Traditionally, you must also ask forgiveness from everyone so you can start the new year afresh.

There are 2 customs here in Malaysia that I haven't seen in Indonesia and my brother hasn't seen in Saudi Arabia.

First, there are fireworks and firecrackers going off all over the place.  I asked one of my pals why they were setting off bangers, and he said it was for good luck.  Now this is a Chinese New Year custom that started when villagers in old China chased away an evil monster called the Nien with firecrackers.  Today the bangs commemorate this and chase away bad luck and evil spirits in general.

Second, people hand out ang pows, little envelopes filled with money.  This is also a Chinese New Year custom.  However, the Chinese ang pows packets are red (because red is lucky and also the monster Nien was afraid of red) whereas the Muslim ang pow is green which symbolises paradise, and/or blue which is also auspicious.

Au and Target celebrated yesterday with a hole rost chikkun. But that's purely a family affair.

PS the card at the top is from Greetings 123. The ang pow packet below is an old one I picked up from somewhere.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Repost Friday: Can Cats See Colour?

This was first posted on Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Cats On Tuesday: Can Cats See Colour?

While people used to believe that all animals are colour-blind, modern studies show this is untrue.

Cats’ retinae have an arrangement of rods and cones just as ours do.

However, scientists point out that the number of these suggests cats are pretty good about colour in general but not quite as good as we are at distinguishing subtleties.

I wonder what numbers Scoop and Au would see in these Ishihara dots?

If your colour vision is perfect you should see 56, 45, 29, 25, 8, and 6.

If you see a lot of dots instead, take a look at Ishiwara Test for Colour Blindness and check out Wikipedia's article on Colour Blindness too.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Review Thursday: Business Stripped Bare

Business Stripped Bare: Adventures of a Global Entrepreneur
By Richard Branson
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Virgin Books (February 5, 2009)
ISBN-10: 0753519690
ISBN-13: 978-0753519691

Richard Branson is pretty rare in that he runs a super successful business empire, projects a very "man of the people" image, and at the same time hogs the limelight with various stunts.  Remember his hot air balloon journey?  And that bet with Tony Fernandez from Air Asia where the one whose team loses in the Formula 1 races will dress up as an airline stewardess on the winner's airline?

For me there's no doubt Branson is one of the world's premium branding experts.  So I was excited that the cover promises Branson "share(s) the inside track on his life in business and reveals the incredible truth about his most risky, brilliant and audacious deals."

Well it does and it doesn't.  This is not a how-to book.  It's more a personal memoir with little asides on business philosophy. 

Branson recounts how he built up Virgin Air, why he splits all his businesses into tiny fragments, and gives lots of background as to how he overcame various problems while building up his 8 billion dollar empire. He also comments on the financial crisis that started in 2008, and gives a business man's opinion of how that might have been better managed.

This book is interesting, and worth a read.  However,  I won't say it's the best book on branding ever.  The best book on branding I ever read was Corporate Warriors written by Douglas K. Ramsey.  It detailed famous brand wars, and was riveting.  Unfortunately I lent it to someone in Indonesia, and the bugger never gave it back.  And now it's out of print. 

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

COT: Awards and Table Top Fuzzy

I crawled under the coffee table and took this picture of Au. I love the way his white furry tummy splashes all over the place.

As you can see by the way he's looking at the other servant, Au thinks this is nuts.

Maybe he's right...

Also, drum-roll please because we got these awards from Dennis the Vizsla. As you're all huggable and sweet bloggers, consider yourself tagged and awarded.

cats on Tuesday For more cats, check out Gattina's Cats on Tuesday.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Monday Writers Craft Online: Ventures New

I started this Monday post 40 weeks ago as a 6 part series.  It's been fun but from next Monday onwards I will be blogging about my man-cats Au and Target - with guest appearances from Boris who lives in our front garden.

I am making the change because I've got another book coming out: Mystery of the Demon Caves.  It's a kids book set in Sarawak, Borneo.  I'm going to be busy promoting it, and so I"m moving to more cat posts because I find them relaxing.

When Demon Caves hits the bookshops, I'll blog about it more.  Wish me luck! 

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Living In Malaysia: That Family Feeling

4 years ago our friend Bob decided we should have a charity football sweeps-take in the pub.  We hooked up with one of the local orphanages, and a bunch of us have continued to support them ever since.  

What I find interesting are that many kids in Malaysian orphanages are not orphans. 

In most cases mum was abandoned by the father.  So the kid is packed off to the orphanage, the mum works, and when the kid becomes a teen, he or she moves back in with mummy and becomes a latch-key kid.  There are a handful of widowers who are in that same position. 

Other kids come from a broken home where one parent has disappeared and the other has remarried to a new partner can't be bothered with the "baggage" from a previous marriage. 

Then there are kids who are dumped because they are "unlucky".  They may be born on their mum's birthday, dad's birthday, or some other superstitious thing.  Kids can also be "unlucky" if they have a birthmark, a squint etc. 

Kids around the world are dumped for odd reasons.  But seeing what I do, I can't stand people who wax lyrical about how wonderfully strong Asian family values are compared to our supposedly wicked Western ways. 

I find myself getting all hot and bothered, and before I can bite my tongue, I snap: "Been to your local orphanage recently?" 

Friday, September 03, 2010

Repost Friday: Crammed In Kitty

Katz Tales will be out in The Star Weekender tomorrow.  Print version only so you have to buy the paper!

This was first posted on Saturday, July 07, 2007.

Crammed In Kitty

Scoop stuffed into the cupboardThere is plenty of space for all of us in our home but instead of taking advantage of our huge bed or the big rug in the hall, our junior cat Au is fast asleep inside his cardboard box while his senior colleague Scoop has elected to force himself into a cupboard filled to the brim with old newspapers.

Cats just love being crammed in tight spaces!

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Review Thursday: A Malaysian Journey by Rehman Rashid

A Malaysian Journey
By Rehman Rashid
Paperback: 295 pages
Publisher: RAHMAN RASHID (first edition 1993)
ISBN-10: 9839981919
ISBN-13: 978-9839981919
Selling Price: RM 59.90

This is not a new book, but I reread it last week and thought it deserves a mention for being one of the best books describing modern Malaysia.

Rehman Rashid grew up in post World War II Malaysia, when the country was newly independent. A scientist by training, and a journo by trade, Rehman explains how the country changed during the years Dr Mahathir was prime minister.

Rashid chronicles the effects of the New Economic Policy (a set positive discrimination laws that favours Malays over other Malaysian ethnic groups), the curtailing of press freedom, the politicising of Islam, and other hot topics.

It's all set in the context of a trip Rashid took through Malaysia, so you get the benefit of a travelogue as well as a personal (spiritual) journey, and political commentary.

Some Malaysians hate this book and say it's terribly biased; others say it explains exactly how non-Malays of Rashid's age think.

Few can argue about the style though.  This book is beautifully written, and is already considered a modern classic.

If you're not in Asia, Check out Amazon, and second hand online traders like Abe Books.