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Concert Review: Suzanne Vega 3/8/18

I first saw Suzanne Vega in concert in London when I was 21. This time, in Melbourne at the Palais Theatre, I went with my daughter, who is right now of the same age, 21.  Life can have strange coincidences. Life too, as we all know, moves incredibly fast.

As for Suzanne Vega, she seems to have hardly aged, from a distance anyway. Her vibrant, smoky voice sounded the same and she connected with the audience, telling them ever so often about how she came about writing each song. She mentioned that “Gypsy”, a tuneful  number, filled with vulnerability, was mostly written when she was 18. She talked about influences on her music including Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and Peter Gabriel.

02691_show_landscape_large_01

She opened with Tom’s Diner, which immediately mesmerised the audience, followed by her hit “Luka”. She unwaveringly played songs from her albums “Solitude Standing” and “99.9 Fº”, as she said she would.

The louder numbers were from the “99.9 Fº” album, especially “Blood Makes Noise” which was interesting and, instead of Dylan going electric, was Vega going industrial.

After the encore,  she capped off this enjoyable concert with “Marlene on the Wall”, “Left of Center” and “Tom’s Diner”.

The audience loved it. But I was left wondering why she chose to focus on these 2 albums and left out significant songs like “The Queen and the Soldier”, “Caramel” and “Tired of  Sleeping” … but that, I suppose, is what artists do. They challenge you.

It was certainly good Suzanne Vega again. I hope I don’t have to wait till my grandchild is 21 though to see her again!

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Toilet Talk

I was boarding a Chiang Mai to Kuala Lumpur flight when I fell into a conversation with a woman behind me. She was Thai and married to a Malaysian. I asked what she thought of KL. She said she didn’t much like it as it was a just a big city like Bangkok. I understood perfectly as Chiang Mai, although it could be busy with traffic snarls and over-building, was not cut off from nature. It is only a short ride to lakes, waterfalls, paddy fields, pristine streams and temples built into caves. Then she said, “I don’t like the toilets. Dirty!”

It was all too true. Why are Malaysian toilets so dirty? It’s not because we sometimes use the bidet spray, for Chiang Mai toilets use them too. The toilets at KLIA can be appalling and a sad welcome for visitors to Malaysia. Why is it kept in such a bad state? Is it all the foreign workers here who can’t use the facilities properly? I doubt it for I recently ventured into a wine bar and found to toilets to be awful and not a foreign worker in sight.

Perhaps with the new government, attitudes might change. We can start making our country better in all aspects. 

It begins with those responsible for the toilets, whether it’s the operator of the mall, airport or shop. Then the users have to respect the facilities. Perhaps awards can be given for the best and worst toilets within a certain vicinity. Anyone like to start handing out these awards?

I’m not the first one to talk about our toilets:

https://thetravelmanuel.com/why-malaysia-has-the-worst-toilets-in-the-world/

https://www.thestar.com.my/opinion/letters/2016/02/22/the-shocking-state-of-our-public-toilets/

http://malaysiandigest.com/features/708295-are-m-sia-s-public-toilets-really-the-worst-in-the-world.html

All operators  need to follow a standard operating procedure (SOP) in maintaining clean toilets and up-lifting Malaysia’s poor image:

https://www.johnston.biz/tips-for-keeping-public-restrooms-clean/

https://www.quora.com/How-do-we-keep-public-toilets-clean

Perhaps regular inspections by the local authorities are needed. Perhaps they should fine those that have unsightly, dirty facilities.

I’m writing this at an upmarket cafe in an office building in Damansara Height. The ceiling above the urinals in the food court below had been demolished which means no downlight and so it was dark. Water pooled on the floor.

I just felt like fleeing from the place . . . and writing this blog.

Well, that’s enough of the toilet talk.

I now need to (sadly) go to the loo!

Fake news is dangerous.

Sometimes it’s carefully hidden so that it seems that it’s real.

Here’s a post that was recently shared.

“Good news:
All you Lipitor users rejoice!

Cholesterol is finally officially removed from Naughty List . . .

This means eggs, butter, full-fat dairy products, nuts, coconut oil and meat have now been classified as safe and have been officially removed from the nutrients of concern list . . . 

 

So you can stop trying to change your Cholesterol level. Studies prove beyond a doubt, cholesterol doesn’t cause heart disease and it won’t stop a heart attack.

The majority of people that have heart attacks have normal cholesterol levels . . .

 

Experts say that there is nothing like LDL or HDL . . .

Please share the recent facts about CHOLESTEROL”

The post then referenced a news story in The Washington Post.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/02/10/feds-poised-to-withdraw-longstanding-warnings-about-dietary-cholesterol/?utm_term=.1982832f86fa

By referencing a well-reputed news organisation, many of us might think that this fake news post, put up by some anonymous person, is actually the news story. Even if we didn’t think so, we might conclude that the fake news post is a summary of the news story.

The truth, however, is far from that.

The Washington Post news story actually says this:

“The nation’s top nutrition advisory panel has decided to drop its caution about eating cholesterol-laden food . . .

The finding follows an evolution of thinking among many nutritionists who now believe that, for healthy adults, eating foods high in cholesterol may not significantly affect the level of cholesterol in the blood or increase the risk of heart disease.

The greater danger in this regard, these experts believe, lies not in products such as eggs, shrimp or lobster, which are high in cholesterol, but in too many servings of foods heavy with saturated fats, such as fatty meats, whole milk, and butter.”

So the news story is that eating high cholesterol foods does not necessarily increase BLOOD cholesterol.

  1. It does NOT say that one should not be concerned about having high blood cholesterol.
  2. Nor does it declare that there is no difference between LDL and HDL.
  3. Nor does it say that high blood cholesterol doesn’t cause heart disease.
  4. Nor does it state anything about stopping the use of the drug Lipitor.

The fake news post is dangerous.

Some people may actually now follow this advise and stop taking the drug as prescribed by their doctors. Others may now indulge in foods high in saturated fats, thinking that this is now a healthy diet.

You may wonder who, or which parties, are putting out such fake news posts.

Could it perhaps be coming from the global dairy and meat industry?

One can only guess.

Fake News 101!

Fake news is dangerous.

Sometimes it’s carefully hidden so that it seems that it’s real.

Here’s a post that was recently shared.

“Good news:
All you Lipitor users rejoice!

Cholesterol is finally officially removed from Naughty List . . .

This means eggs, butter, full-fat dairy products, nuts, coconut oil and meat have now been classified as safe and have been officially removed from the nutrients of concern list . . . 

 

So you can stop trying to change your Cholesterol level. Studies prove beyond a doubt, cholesterol doesn’t cause heart disease and it won’t stop a heart attack.

The majority of people that have heart attacks have normal cholesterol levels . . .

 

Experts say that there is nothing like LDL or HDL . . .

Please share the recent facts about CHOLESTEROL”

The post then referenced a news story in The Washington Post.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/02/10/feds-poised-to-withdraw-longstanding-warnings-about-dietary-cholesterol/?utm_term=.1982832f86fa

By referencing a well-reputed news organisation, many of us might think that this fake news post, put up by some anonymous person, is actually the news story. Even if we didn’t think so, we might conclude that the fake news post is a summary of the news story.

The truth, however, is far from that.

bowl close up cooked cuisine
Photo by Dana Tentis on Pexels.com

The Washington Post news story actually says this:

“The nation’s top nutrition advisory panel has decided to drop its caution about eating cholesterol-laden food . . .

The finding follows an evolution of thinking among many nutritionists who now believe that, for healthy adults, eating foods high in cholesterol may not significantly affect the level of cholesterol in the blood or increase the risk of heart disease.

The greater danger in this regard, these experts believe, lies not in products such as eggs, shrimp or lobster, which are high in cholesterol, but in too many servings of foods heavy with saturated fats, such as fatty meats, whole milk, and butter.”

So the news story is that eating high cholesterol foods does not necessarily increase BLOOD cholesterol.

  1. It does NOT say that one should not be concerned about having high blood cholesterol.
  2. Nor does it declare that there is no difference between LDL and HDL.
  3. Nor does it say that high blood cholesterol doesn’t cause heart disease.
  4. Nor does it state anything about stopping the use of the drug Lipitor.

The fake news post is dangerous.

Some people may actually now follow this advise and stop taking the drug as prescribed by their doctors. Others may now indulge in foods high in saturated fats, thinking that this is now a healthy diet.

You may wonder who, or which parties, are putting out such fake news posts.

Could it perhaps be coming from the global dairy and meat industry?

One can only guess.

In a world riddled by fake news, we need to be so very careful. Our antenna, our feelers, need to be active, constantly hunting out those deceptive news stories. We need to teach ourselves how to weed out the fake stuff from genuine news items. We must never share something if we’re not 100% sure. In a world where we’re constantly scrolling and clicking, this can be difficult. But we must be even more discerning, more cautious than ever before.

We must teach ourselves Fake News 101!

Creative Writing Mind Map

Today, I’ll be coaching part of a creative writing course at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre as part of Bookfest@Malaysia 2018.

poster

 

As part of the course, we’ll be going through a mind map, which covers the many facets of writing. I’m sharing it here with you, even if you’re not attending the course, and I hope that you find it helpful in your own writing.

CW seminar 20Jan

Writing can be frustrating, it can also be tremendously fun. I hope you enjoy creating your own stories, as I do mine.

Creative Writing Course: 10-11 June 2018

I’ll be teaching part of the Bookfest@Malaysia creative writing course at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre.

My segment will be about Settings, Dialogue, Descriptions, Re-writing and Editing which will be on the afternoon of the last day.

Writing Workshop POS4-01

The other lectures will be Bernice Chauly, Kris Williamson and Sharon Bakar. So lots of variety and points of view for students to absorb, I’m sure it’ll be fun too.

At RM80 it’s a very reasonably priced.

So, see you there!

Book Talk: 9 June 2018

I’ll be giving a book talk at the Bookfest@Malaysia2018 at Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre. It’ll be at 5pm, right after I coach a Creative Writing Course.

I’ll be chatting about my novel Dark Demon Rising, the craft of writing, getting published, and any other stuff that comes to mind. I’m also happy to take questions from the audience.

Bookfest2018

The Bookfest was featured in The Star yesterday. There’ll be many other authors there too and I’m sure it’ll be most enjoyable.

Your First International Flight: A Step by Step Guide

I wrote this for someone going on their first international flight alone and so I thought I’d share it with you. What I found surprising was the number of steps involved, steps that we seasoned travellers take for granted but may not be obvious to a first timer. I do hope that you’ll pass it on to whoever might need it.

  1. BEFORE TRAVELLING
    1. Weeks before you travel, make sure your passport has at least 6 months validity from the date you arrive in the foreign country. Some countries require a Visa, so check if you need to apply for one. You should also obtain some foreign currency, checking to see where you can obtain the best rates. If you intend to use your ATM card overseas, you may need to tell the bank which country or countries you’re travelling to and dates you’ll be there.
    2. Pack your stuff. Learn to travel light. It makes travelling so much more bearable. Check the maximum weight for your check in baggage and don’t exceed it. You may have purchased the baggage weight or it maybe included free in your flight which may be 20kg or more. Make sure you pack your passport and a pen in your carry-on luggage or handbag. 
    3. You can check-in online if that’s available. Otherwise, don’t worry, as it can still be done at the airport.
    4. With your mobile phone, take a photo of (i) your flight details including the flight booking number (ii) the personal information page of your passport and (iii) any other important travel documents, such as a visa.
    5. Make arrangements to get to the airport on time. Make sure you’ll be going to the correct terminal. Some cities use different terminals for different airlines. Check the confirmation email from the airlines for terminal details. Set your alarm if you’re on a morning flight.
  1. ARRIVE EARLY
    1. Arrive early for your flight, especially if it’s your first time. Make sure you’re at the international terminal for an international flight. Get to the terminal at least 2 hours before an international flight. Some airports may require more than 2 hours so it’s worth checking before hand. Give yourself extra time during busy periods, such as holidays.
    2. Sometimes there’s security to get into the airport itself. So, go through Security if you have to. Make sure you put everything in your clothes pockets (wallet, phone etc) into your handbag / carry-on luggage. You may have to bring out your laptop and put in on a tray. Sometimes you may even have to take off your belt and/or shoes.
  1. DEPARTURE AREA & CHECK-IN
  1. Once in the airport Departure Area, check the flight information screen for your flight. Make sure you’re looking at flight departures rather than flight arrivals! Knowing your flight time you can easily find your flight if you’re confronted with a long list. It should tell you which row to go to to check-in or bag-drop. If there’s no screen, which may be the case for smaller airports, then wander down the check-in area and look for the check-in counter for the airlines you’re flying with. Always ask the airport staff if you’re unsure.
  2. Check-In/Bag-Drop Counters usually open 2-3 hours before your flight. (i) If you’ve checked-in online then go to the Bag Drop Counter. This is only for those who have checked in online. (ii) If you haven’t checked in on-line, then you can use one of the Check-In Machines (if they have one) which will issue you with a boarding pass and luggage tag and then proceed to the Bag Drop Counter. This is where having a photo of your flight details and booking number on your phone comes in handy as the machine will require this information. You may also need to scan your passport here. You can also go to the Check-In Counter which should be beside the Bag Drop Counter. Some airlines at certain airports may only have Check-In Machines so you’ll need to use them. If in doubt always ask the airport / flight staff.
  3. Once you’ve checked in, you’ll be given a boarding pass. Keep both you passport and boarding pass safe and easily accessible. 
  4. Transfers: If you have to get onto another flight after this one, make sure that (i) you have been given a 2nd boarding pass for this next flight and (ii) your check-in luggage will be sent to your final destination. If not, you may have to go through passport control at the next airport, collect your luggage and check-in again. Make sure you use the correct boarding pass for each flight!
  1. SECURITY & PASSPORT CONTROL 
  1. Next, you’ll head to through Security (see 2b above). You’ll need to show your passport and boarding pass to enter this area.
  2. After Security, you’ll go through Passport Control. Some counters may be for locals and some for foreigners. Again you’ll need to show your passport and boarding pass. At some airports there will be no immigration staff, so you will go through an electronic gate. In that case, just follow the instructions and watch those people ahead of you to see what they’re doing.
  3. At some airports, Passport Control comes before Security.
  1. DEPARTURE HALL
  1. After Passport Control, you are now in the Departure Hall. Check the screens to find out the Gate Number for your flight. 
  2. The Gate Number should also be on your boarding pass but not always. Check to make sure that the Gate Number on the boarding pass and on the screen are the same. If not, follow the one on the screen as sometimes the Gate Number is changed. If in doubt, always ask the airport staff.
  3. Your boarding pass and the screen should also tell you what time you need to be at the Gate. This Boarding Time will be much earlier than your flight. 
  4. Ensure that you get to the Gate before the Boarding Time. Be aware that in some large airports, the Gate may well be a long walk away or you may even have to catch a shuttle bus or airport train. So give yourself plenty of time.
  5. You may have some free time now to look at the shops or even have a meal. Ensure that you’re at the Gate before the Boarding Time. Check the screen again to ensure that Gate hasn’t been changed or the flight hasn’t been delayed and that there is a new Boarding Time.
  1. AT THE GATE
  1. Once at the Gate, check the signage to make sure that this gate is for your flight. You may again have to pass through Security. Find a seat and wait for boarding. This may take awhile as the plane may be late coming in or there may be other delays. But often, boarding takes place promptly. 
  2. You will have to show your passport and boarding pass to board the plane. Take note of your seat number on the boarding pass.
  3. First Class and Business Class board first. For Economy Class, sometimes, boarding proceeds by row numbers, so knowing your seat number may be important.
  1. ON THE PLANE 
  1. Once on the plane, the flight attendant should direct you as to which row you should go down to find your seat. 
  2. Once you’ve found your seat, take out the essentials you need for your flight. Make sure you have a pen, your mobile phone and boarding pass on you. Then place your cabin luggage in the overhead compartment or, if it’s small enough, under the seat in front of you. You may also want to lock your cabin luggage as thefts have occurred on flights.
  3. During the flight, the flight attendant will give out Arrival Cards for the country you’re getting off the flight. Some countries may also require a Customs Declaration card. Fill these accurately and truthfully. Some countries, like Malaysia, have no Arrival Cards. Using the photo of your passport on your phone, you can easily fill out the form. This means that if your passport is in your bag in the overhead compartment then you don’t need to grab it from there. Fill these in accurately and truthfully as early as you can so that you don’t have to worry about it later.
  1. AT THE DESTINATION AIRPORT (TRANSFERS)
  1. Once you arrive at the destination airport, and having checked that you’ve left nothing behind, exit the plane and follow the Transfers signage to the Departures Area. Follow the Domestic Transfers signage or International Transfers signage depending on whether you have a domestic of international transfer. You may have to go through Immigration and Security but these will be in a separate section for transfer passengers only. Next, check the screens to find out the Gate Number for your next flight. Your check-in baggage should be automatically transferred to your next flight. 
  2. If you have not been given the boarding pass for your next flight, go to the Transfers Desk to obtain your boarding pass or for more information. 
  3. Some airlines do not allow transfers. So you will need to to through arrivals (as in the section below), go through immigration, collect your baggage and then check-in again for your next flight.
  1. AT THE DESTINATION AIRPORT (ARRIVALS)
  1. Once you arrive at the destination airport, and having checked that you’ve left nothing behind, exit the plane and follow the line of passengers but always ensure you look for the appropriate signage. 
  2. If this airport is your destination, follow the Arrivals or Passport Control signage. Show your Passport and the filled-in Arrivals Card at the Passport Control counter. There will probably be different counters for locals and foreigners. The Immigration staff may need to take your photo or ask you to place your fingers on a machine to be scanned.
  3. After Passport Control, check the screens for your flight number to find out what Carousel you need to go to get your check-in luggage. Smaller airports may not have this, so proceed to the Carousel area to find the correct carousel.
  4. Collect your cabin luggage. You will now pass through Customs. If you have no goods to declare, follow the green “Nothing to Declare” line. Some airports will screen your luggage at Customs Control.
  5. Once you’re in the Arrivals area, you may wish to buy a local SIM card. Always keep your eye on your luggage as the Arrivals area can be a higher-risk theft location. If you need local currency then go to one of the Currency Exchange counters. Rates here may be expensive so you may not want to change a large amount.
  6. Follow the signs to your chosen mode of transport (taxis, buses, trains etc) to your hotel / accommodation. If you’re travelling by taxi, you should find out if it’s a fixed rate or metered. Avoid touts who may come up to you offer you a taxi. They are unlicensed and will cheat you. If you now have a local SIM card with data, you may also opt for a driver service such as Uber or Grab if it is available.

That’s it!

It’s rather detailed but a lot of it is common sense. Don’t worry about your first international flight. Stay focused and you’ll be fine.

Going through airports can be tedious but the rewards are new experiences in a new destination. So enjoy the journey!

“What a time to be alive!”

A college student messaged her father, “What a time to be alive!”

“I feel like weeping!” messages someone else.

To call it an historic moment might even be an understatement. 

After 61 years in power, what was once called the Alliance and, later, Barisan Nasional, has lost its political mandate. What is also incredible is that Tun Mahathir, Prime Minister for 22 years, has at 92 become the Prime Minister again, making him the oldest premier in the world. Pakatan Harapan, a political alliance formed just 3 years ago, now takes the helm of leading Malaysia.

When the euphoria has died down we may well ask: where can the country go from here? 

Can corruption be eradicated? Will money politics be stymied? Will Islamic fundamentalism be curtailed? Can the various races be brought closer again?

Other than those key issues, greater equality between rich and poor, better education, press freedom, independence of the judiciary and government accountability are principles which the new Mahathir government should champion.

For indeed the people have spoken. And they want change.

They want a new Malaysia.

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