198 Stand up and be counted

So, Malaysians, ever wonder whose town/city is larger the other? Find the need to know whether your town is livelier than your friend(s)? I came across this list of Malaysian cities and towns listed according to previous censuses and population estimations. The cities in bold are generally metropolitants, i.e. combining several townships, sururban areas, and any kampungs that happen to fall within the municipality.

This list is only the top 30 largest cities/towns in terms of population in 2008. Unfortunately, but not overly surprisingly, Kangar remains the only state capital which is not in the top 30.

It's rather interesting in some ways, being a little strange that JB - Singapore are grouped together as a single conurbation. But then again, being separated by a thin strip of sea, gives you the bragging rights to be considered the same urban area, like other cross-border cities, such as (prior to 1997) Hong Kong - Shenzen.

The Kuala Lumpur Metropolitan area covers the bulk of the Klang Valley, as far north as Rawang, Klang to the west, Puchong & Kajang- Sg. Chua to south and Gombak - Ampang to the east. If you Petaling Jaya / Subang Jaya / Cheras people are upset about your towns being counted as KL, don't fret, you can slog it out amongst yourselves because there's another list just for you at the end of this post. Penangites, the same applies for you, since the Seberang Prai towns and places like Air Itam and Jelutong are included under Penang.

Ryan, you must be happy, since Chukai stands at number 29, and it is nice to see that most Sarawakian and Sabahan towns stand proudly in the top 30 with 6-digit populations, with the Crown Jewels of Borneo, the Cat City (the city so big such that two mayors are required) and KK in 5th and 6th respectively. Ah, yes, Seremban, just below Sandakan, I'm half-inclined to think that the included the orang-utans in Sepilok to bring the numbers up, but I digress.

Kangar is at number 62 with a population of 64 807. Go figures.

197 Cartographamania

A self coined word, for obsessive-complusiveness with regards to maps: After all that ranting and raving about how inaccurate maps are, I decided to create my own maps. These are the maps that I'll be bringing to KT.

The official Kuala Terengganu maps for the Redang trip.

So if we ever get lost, touchwood, these will save us. But don't count on that happening, I've studied the maps far too many times.

196 Excerpts

Passengers Alight Return Bus at Pudu Raya
KUALA LUMPUR, June 22 - It has been made known that the people going to Pulau Redang on the 8th of July will be departing from Hentian Putra, and returning to Kuala Lumpur on the 12th of July at Pudu Raya. In a statement released by Ryan, whose cousin had bought the return tickets to Kuala Lumpur, he wishes that the other people going to Redang take note of the place of arrival, and plan their travels back to their respective homes accordingly. However, he failed to provide details on the departure and arrival time. Speculators believe that it is highly probable that the bus will depart Terengganu in the morning, and they are awaiting confirmation from the source. Passengers are reminded to inform their parents/guardians/LRT operators/goldfish of this new piece of information to avoid any misunderstanding.
Traffic Volume Decrease: Petrol Prices or Euro 2008?
DAMANSARA, June 23 - Many local Malaysians newspapers have reported decreased traffic volume heading in and out of the Kuala Lumpur city centre, even during the peak hours, in the last week. Although reporters and politicians have attributed this to the 40% price hike in petrol, effective earlier this month, local researchers beg to differ. Scientists from the Damansara Utama Medical Base in collaboration with the Sri Hartamas Institute of Technology conducted a study on the effects of the recent 2008 European Championship, usually shortened to Euro 2008, on the general Malaysian population.
In a report that is due to be published after the researchers cheer on their favourite team in the Final, one of the few more apparent effects of the Euro craze is a decrease in work attendance, and a decrease is the usage of cars. According to a groggy-eyed Professor Noh Ai Der, men, who make up a substantial percentage of the Malaysian workforce have been staying up to 5 am to watch every tantalising second of the games, live and exclusive from Austria and Switzerland on television. With only less than 3 hours of sleep for, at the very worst, a few consecutive nights in a row, these less-than-alert drivers have decided to do the responsible thing, and avoid driving to work. He adds that, it may not even be altruism that propels this act, and that it may be simply an act of self-preservation, that is, to avoid being hit and/or injured and/or killed by another driver who fell asleep on the wheel.
A field observation showed that those who decided to not skip work, crowded bus stops and LRT stations in hope of being able to catch forty winks on their commute heading to their workplaces. But, they were bitterly disappointed, as they were shoved and stepped constantly by other like-minded workers, and reached their offices worse off than when they got out of bed. A DUMB researcher, who declined to be named but wished to say that he was a Spanish supporter, cited that almost 50% of the 200 Malaysian men surveyed who previously drove to work gave the Euro as an excuse for taking the public transport to work and that 90% of them were supporters of Spain. However, he didn't deny the possibilty that the increased petrol price tainted the survey a little, since no question related to it was included in the survey form.
While sceptics are trying to disprove the DUMB - SHIT report on the the Euro, by planning to monitor the traffic volume after the Euro has ended, the conflict arising from the difference of opinions is quite reminiscent of rivalries between conflicting football teams. Certainly, this is one time the Beautiful Game and the Beautiful Mind have come together to create an interesting result.

195 You've got to be choking...

Actually, I'm not, and there's no need to administer the Heimlich Maneuver (which sounds more like a German Shepherd trick jump through a hoop in a dog show).

Woofen! Woofen!

But, there's still reason to gag, and come close to choking, because I've just discovered that they're some lesser known medical conditions, that the common man may be afflicted with. The following chart shows the ways these wonderful but rather malignant diseases manifest themselves in my ever demonstrative stick figures.

Lesson learnt: Durian and alcohol don't mix, even in print

PS: Can someone, anyone, please tell me why alcohol and durian can't mix. It kills me not to know what could have nearly killed me. Just don't ask how that incident happened.

194 Rectangles, once again

Ah, yes, these late night posts: Well, if you were wondering, one of the reasons for people blogging at the oddest hours of day is because they're waiting for something that happens even later that night, like Euro 2008, or Tiger Woods being forced to play an 18-hole playoff with Rocco Mediate (previously ranked a 100-something in the world). But that's my reason, at least.

So, to the main post...

(a mysterious narrator's voice is heard)

Previously on Scribbles...

The readers were given a problem. A problem titled "Rectangles and Integers". They had to prove a strange property regarding this basic quadrilateral, and it this was the challenge:

Prove that a large rectangle, consisting of smaller rectangles, all with the property of having either an integer width or height, also have this property.

(opening credits roll)




OK, seriously, that's very TV series cliche, but I couldn't help myself.
So, now on to the proof. It's surprisingly rather simple. Shade all the rectangles with integer width with one colour, (say white) and integer height with another, (say black). But leave a strip of the other colour along the the integer side. For instance, a rectangle with an integer width (white) will have a strip of black along the side that is the width, and vice versa, (see figure below). For any combination of black and white rectangles, one will be able to trace a line over a single colour (either black or white, or both) using the area of the rectangles and/or the strips. The reason why they are strips is because, going along vertical sides does not contribute to the displacement in that direction, since the strip is always perpendicular to the direction of displacement. But for any given rectangle, there will always be a single colour path.
The example below shows the proof for a rectangle with an integer width, note how an path is drawn using merely white coloured rectangles and strips. That's it for this mathematical problem. Case closed.

193 The States of the Mind

This post has got nothing to do with psychology, psychoanalysis, psychiatry, an old horror movie or a bad Ashley Simpson song. In fact, it's not even scientific. It's just a 10 - minute memory test, OK, maybe a little geography and/or general knowledge might be helpful, but for people on this side of the world, it's mostly a plain old memory test. The challenge: do what Ross of Friends couldn't do in an episode of the popular sitcom. The task: To name all the 50 states of the U, S and A in 10-minutes.

It's easier than, perhaps, naming all the states of Mexico, (though, there a few familiar names like Tabasco and Chihuahua), or counties of England but harder than naming all the capitals of the 13 states of Malaysia, or the provinces of Australia. Naming the 50 states may take up a bit of time looking up an atlas, and trying to associate the names of the states with familiar people, like, say, David Archuleta's home state, Utah, or David Cook's (Missouri) if you're more of a fan of his. It may even be educational in some way after you're familiar with the names. For instance, after learning the states up, you may have a better idea of whether MIT is in the East or West coast, or somewhere in the middle, and that Kentucky is more than a fast food franchise selling fried birds.


One of my attempts at trying to name the 50 states by hand. I got 49/50, damn you Arkansas!
Now, for The Game. Type the name of the 50 states, in any particular order in the box. The timer will start once you start once you start typing, there is no need to press "Enter" once you type the name, it will automatically accept your answer, IF it is correct. Your answers so far will accumulate below the box for your reference. You have 10 minutes to name as many states as possible... and no cheating.


192 Maps

Albert Korzybski once said, "The map is not the territory". Well, it's a quote on semantics, and of how language relates to the object itself. Like how the word "chair" denotes a piece of furniture you sit on, but doesn't exactly describe everything about any particular chair, based on the analogy that a map doesn't exactly describe a place. But, he may not have meant for that to be taken literally, but in this post, I will show how real maps are not the territory, and show that too many maps may spoil the broth for the cartographically challenged.

Now, I want to know how to get from the bus terminal to the Syahbandar Jetty in Kuala Terengganu. There's only one map that reads JETTY, and I'm not even sure whether that's the Syahbandar Jetty, or the jetty to some fisherman's house, or the place to get a good bargain on sotong for that matter.

Exhibit A: A map provided on some hotel's website

Much to my unhappiness, the bus station shown on the map is not the Terminal Bas Baru MPKT, the one that we're alighting at. The MPKT terminal is on Jalan Masjid Abidin (Jalan Masjid, on this map), and neither bus stations indicated on the map are located along that road. And, I later found out that this map is the most inaccurate, due to the difference in the positions of certain landmarks.

Exhibit B: A map from a travel brochure

Note the differences between Exhibit A and B. Firstly, the position of the Tourist Information Centre and the Istana Maziah are different. In A, the both are to the east of Jalan Tok Lam, and in B, they are to the west. There's an unaccounted Jalan Paya Bunga in exhibit B, and there's no jetty marked in B. We can assume that the unnamed road directly west of the Bus Station is Jalan Masjid Abidin, since it matches the orientation of the "Jalan Masjid" in A and has a landmark marked Abidin mosque along that road. To convince myself that B is more accurate than A, I had to find another map.

Exhibit C: Yet another map of Kuala Terengganu

The location of most landmarks match comparing B and C, i.e the General Post Office, Bukit Puteri, Istana Maziah and Masjid Abidin, although some squinting is required. So, map B/C can be accurately used for determining the positions of landmarks. But still there's no good information regarding the jetty. So, I Googled Syahbandar Jetty, and guess what? No maps, but some sketchy directions, such as next to the Central Market, and opposite the Post Office. Putting all the information from the three maps together, we now know that map A is more or less correct about the location of the Syahbandar Jetty, based on the position of the landmarks on maps B and C. There's one more thing left to do, plan the route by searching for the fastest way from point A to point B, and luckily there's Google Maps, the most accurate road map along with scale to see whether walking is possible (the roads in these three are too small, and inaccurate for my liking). But there's a problem:

Exhibit D: Google Maps

Google Maps doesn't indicate landmarks at all, just roads, so I need to place all the landmarks onto the blank areas on that map. And to make matters worse, all of a sudden, there are a dozen other roads unaccounted for in the Google Map, based on all the other maps... and the road orientation differs a lot when the maps were simplified for the tourist. We know that the Bus Station is somewhere between Jalan Tok Lam and Jalan Masjid Abidin, but exactly where? My guess is that it's somewhere between Jalan Sultan Sulaiman and Jalan Syed Hussin. The Syahbandar Jetty is somewhere along Jalan Sultan Zainal Abidin, on the left side of the intersection between Jalan Masjid Abidin and Jalan Sultan Zainal Abidin, directly opposite the Post Office, and to the right of the Central Market, making it a walk of about 300 - 400 metres, north along Jalan Masjid Abidin. All that, after taking almost an hour finding and analysing four separate maps. But seriously, people, a 400 metre cab ride?

PS: I must admit, I'm a little obsessive - compulsive when it comes to maps. I'm apologise for that.

191 There's nothing worse...

... than getting woken up at 5 am by a power cut. Sometimes, it's the Tenaga Nasional's fault, but that usually happens at other less, ungodly times of the day. When that happens, some people get the pleasure of calling up TNB to vent their irritation at... not me, for one. But there are other times when some other less common, but significantly less mundane causes for an electrical power outage, like when a squirrel commits suicide by gnawing on power lines, or what happened this morning...

What happened? Some idiot of a Malaysian driver swerved after going round a corner (with a traffic light), and flipped onto its side... and, while doing that, he took the liberty to crash the car into power cable pole, snapping an electrical cable, and cutting off power to the entire block of houses. While anybody rudely awakened by the power outage and/or the din he created would have wished him dead, or at the very least severely injured, he survived the crash with some bruises only. So, the TNB foreman and workers had to wake up earlier than usual on that fine morning, along with about 100 other people, simply because one guy had to crash into a power line pole, instead of the lamp posts that other drunk/crazy/reckless drivers have crashed into. (you won't believe the number of fallen lamp posts I had around my area)
In other local news, you won't imagine the erm... liquids... that come out of Malaysian taps. It's frowned upon by most cultures to leave a tub of strange-coloured liquid in the bathroom, so I had to collect a sample in a bottle before the "liquid" was tossed into the drain.

Dibawakan khas kepada anda oleh Jabatan Bekalan Air berdekatan tempat anda. 20 m^3 pertama dibekalkan percuma*

Just so that you know, I nearly bathed with that "liquid", but it was a little bit of playfulness, i.e. watching air bubbles escape from a shower head placed underwater that saved me from having immersed myself in that. I let the sample stand for a couple of days and I just took this photo of the bottle containing the sample

Significantly less Chinese Tea-ish than when it was first extracted, since some of the stuff is now at the bottom

If I could get my hands on some alum, I really want to see how much stuff is actually in that water. I heard that dried papaya sap works too, but I'll need to find a papaya tree and someone willing to let me treat their papaya tree like a rubber tree. It's scary thinking that sometimes we could be drinking that when we eat at hawker stalls. (Don't worry, the water I drink at home is filtered, and boiled, and filtered again).

*Hanya dijanjikan di negeri Selangor sahaja, tertakluk kepada pentadbiran Pakatan Rakyat

Caption translation: Specially brought to you by a Water Supply Department close to you. The first 20 m^3 is free*

*Only promised in the State of Selangor, depending on the administration of the Pakatan Rakyat.

190 Redang Plans Part 4

This is the final “Re-“ post, because it happens to be the 100th post of this nature consecutively. There won’t be a restriction of post titles beginning with “Re-“ after this unless I decide to impose another game in naming posts. But I digress…

Any 100th post of any kind must be of some very special significance, and I have booked this post to be of the (hopefully) final post as regards the Redang transportation plans. So, here it goes:

Part 1 – Kuala Lumpur – Kuala Terengganu

We will be departing from Kuala Lumpur at 2230 hours (10.30 pm) on the 7th of July 2008, from Hentian Putra. I have bought 8 tickets on Sunday, for a Transnasional bus, departing from the place and time as stated above. The seating arrangements are as follows: 4 pairs of seats, top deck, in the middle. Here are the details again:

Where: Hentian Putra, (Opposite PWTC), at the intersection of Jln. Putra and Jln. Tun Ismail. It is within walking distance of the PWTC LRT station, and the Mall. Meet me in the foyer near the ticket counters. Please make sure you know where it is BEFORE the 7th of July.

When: The bus departs at 2230 hours, 7th of July. Please be there by 2200 hours, and I’m not quoting this with Punctuality Correction. The estimated time of arrival in Kuala Terengganu is 0530 hours, 8th of July.

How: Transnasional bus. The details of the bus are not yet known, since will only be informed once I present the tickets at the counter on the day itself… and the tickets are RM 29.60 each, but I’d be more than happy to take RM 30.

Why: Sam, I know you don’t like Transnasional, but Ryan convinced me otherwise.

Part 2 – Kuala Terengganu – Redang

We will be getting to Redang, by boat from the Syahbandar Jetty, in central Kuala Terengganu. I have directions to that place; which is within walking distance from the bus terminal in KT. I’ll have to confirm its location once we reach KT, and after that we can go have breakfast, since Ryan can already smell the roti canai. The boat leaves at 0830 hours, so we have a 3-hour window in KT… and I have to buy the KT – Chukai tickets too, for the 11th of July, to Ryan’s place.

Part 3 – Redang – Chukai

No specific details regarding this part of the journey, since it’s dependent on the availability of ferries back to the mainland (1100 and 1530 hours) and the bus schedule. Think delays and Murphy’s Law…

Part 4 – Chukai – Kuala Lumpur

Ryan’s mum is buying these tickets, so it’s the least of my worries, and don’t worry, Chris, we’ll get to Kuala Lumpur on time.

189 Receipt

There are, generally, two types of letters that arrive in the mail:

  1. Letters that you weren't expecting
  2. Letters you were expecting

...and these two categories can be divided into another two subcategories:

  1. Good/important news
  2. Bad news/unimportant stuff

Letters type 1.1 would be, most notably my ASEAN Undergraduate scholarship letter, and maybe my NTU admissions letter.

Letters type 1.2 and type 2.2 are mostly bills, traffic summons, and little pamplets advertising a sale at the shop around the corner, which I have yet to receive this year, (yeah, $22 a month letters are type 2.2, which most of us happily ignore until Mrs. New comes chasing).

But, the most painful letters are type 2.1, because you wait for them hoping that they don't get lost in the mail, and trust the Malaysian postal service to make it even more exciting. Oh, what is wrong with these post office workers, they can't figure out that 1912, Seremban, Jln. X, Tmn. Y, Negeri Sembilan is a printing error, and are unable to send it anyway. And, now there's the SOLAR letter, yippee... I have to check the mailbox everyday, hoping it didn't MIA.

188 Reciprocity

There are good songs, and there are meaningful songs. But, there are those rare songs which fall in the intersection of the two sets... and this is one of them. Presenting "Here In My Home" by the Malaysian Artistes For Unity (MAFU):

MAFU is, as you will or have seen from the video, is a collaboration of Malaysian singers, producers, businessmen, footballers, and there's a florist, too, I was told, coming together to produce a song and a video to promote unity in Malaysia. I have, and am obliged, to tell you that this group is non-partisan, non-profit, and politically independent group, i.e. not associated to the Barisan Nasional, Pakatan Rakyat or any other persons (including ex-PMs), and is not spreading their manifestos in any way, and not trying to make any money out of (the already burdened with increased petrol price) Malaysians. And it's a great song too... now, if only they adopt it as one of those songs schoolchildren sing during the Merdeka month. I'm, honestly, getting tired of "Keranamu Malaysia".
PS: Their website is www.malaysianartistesforunity.info. Go check it out for song downloads, and other interesting things about the group. Oh, and it's well humoured too.

187 Rectangles

I felt bad leaving you people with nothing to read, so I decided to throw in a little problem for you to solve in the meantime. This problem is known as the Integers and Rectangles Problem.

Integers & Rectangles

A large rectangle is made out of smaller rectangles of different lengths and breadth. However, all the small rectangles either have an integer length or breadth, (or both). For example, one possible rectangle may be 3 cm x 2.4 cm, or perhaps 4.1 cm x 2 cm, or even 3 cm x 1 cm. Your problem is this:

Prove that the large rectangle (made from the smaller rectangles) also have this property, i.e. integer length or breadth.

186 Rest but Rest Assured...

So, I'm going on a short hiatus (that has already started) from blogging, since I've been blogging too hard, if that's even possible, and need to take my mind off it to concentrate on more pertinent stuff, like finalising the Redang Plans. So, my next post will be the (probably) finalised Redang schedule, once I confirm a few more aspects. Till then, have great early mornings watching Euro 2008...

185 Reduce each damaged pen...

On a very strange whim, I decided to do the crossword puzzle in The Star Variety section, and after hours battling clues like the one in the title, I completed the quick puzzle, and halfway through the cryptic one. And I just about given up, because it's taking my life away, so to speak. So, yeah, now I'm so tired out from racking my brain, that I can't blog anymore. That Cryptic Crossword, grr... it's a killer to the uninitiated, but I'm proud I could do at least half of it. Here's how the clues work:
"Reduce each damaged pen"
Indicator word - Damaged (anagram)
Definition clue - Reduce
Logic - Anagramming "Each" + Pen = Cheapen = Reduce
I took me a while to solve that, and then there was the "c" clue from another word.
But, if you find this nerve-racking, please, never start on a crossword puzzle.

PS: I have never done The Star Crossword ever in my life before, until today... only the Sudokus, and even those are a little challenging.

184 Refuse

I'll keep this short, since I'm not really in the mood to write on anything in particular, but I have a feeling that it's going to be rather long:
The Internet, is, if I'm not mistaken, filled with rubbish that we don't really need to have to sift through, this line included. There are over 100 million pages on the internet, and I daresay, only slightly less than a million pages are worth reading, or in any way, informative. The rest of it are social networking sites, corporate pages, advertisements, businesses, personal pages, frauds, scams, pornography, fansites and websites pretending to be informative. And, hence you end up wasting time, learning stuff you don't need to know, and even spending money you didn't have to spend. While it's a great way to pass away the free time, it's lousy way of increasing productivity, and highly distracting, since it encourages digression from the main objective. It's sort of like going to Ikea, where you go to buy, say only a replacement light bulb, and you end up also purchasing a host of other things that look very interesting and rather useful, such as toys, batteries, clocks, electric mixers, small objects, tea lamps and storage containers.
The interlinking of one useless, but temporarily interesting page, to other equally useless but interesting page makes the surfing the Interweb feels like shopping for accessories (I'm not female, and the time spent doing this baffles me) , where there's just so many choices, all of which equally pretty at that point in time and space. But all that really doesn't matter so much anymore once you get home... That's just a lot of time spent going around trying to educate oneself, regarding a particular topic, that, goodness knows when, it will be useful again.
So, yes, what I'm saying is that the wonders of the Internet is basically the granting of the ability to a whole lot of monkeys to post their thoughts, intelligent or otherwise, for the whole world to see.. Humans, and their infinite stupidity (don't blame me, blame Einstein), have allowed some of their nonsense to go out to the world. So, one stupid act, say, the rubbish we get on Youtube, is sensationalised to all the other smart Alecs who want to watch a stupid act, and we all rejoice in the stupidity of one of our kind. It's like laughing at a person who had been tripped, only the audience is so much wider. The humour in life is required, but the trouble, humiliation and utter lack of judgement the viewer and the entertainer had to go through is unnecessary.
In addition, we also get a whole lot of fun reading the banalities of another person's life, as interesting as that event may seem to them. But, think about it, as much as it's interesting to hear, beyond the monitor, it's just a bit more information you didn't need to know. Like celebrity gossip, or political scandals, we function just perfectly without having to know all that stuff. Ultimately, they're simply useless bytes of data, that could have been better spent, for perhaps, planning the day, remembering where you left your car keys or coming up with a revolutionary idea that will actually help yourself and others.
If only there's an intelligibility sift on the Interweb, and a minimum substance quota for ideas posted online, there will be at least one more happy person surfing the web

183 Reducing Mileage

I spent slightly less than an hour of my life looking for old Readers' Digest issues to search for this article that I remembered from a few months back... and I took the liberty to rearrange the magazines back in chronological order, so yeah, I realised I'm a bit obsessive-compulsive when it comes to book arrangements. Must have picked up from the days spent in the library.
Anyway, back to the main point. The article I was looking for is titled "Easy Does It : Star of The Slow Lane", and it's about how to reduce your car mileage, i.e the amount of petrol the car guzzles up per kilometre. Yes, I'm trying to help you drivers out there to save petrol, in light of the recent crazy price increase. So, here's how Physics can save you some money:
  • Reduce the car's mass. It's rather obvious, isn't it? F = ma [F = force required by engine, m = mass of vehicle and contents, a = acceleration]. The more mass there is in the car, the more force is required to get going. So, throw out all that unnecessary add-ons, that TV, the unused third row of seats, sub-woofers, roof racks, junk in the trunk, and as I heard on the radio, those 300 useless one cent coins, and that nagging woman (implying: don't bring unnecessary passengers, no offence, ladies). But please, don't toss the safety belts.
  • Don't rev your engine. I don't know why people must do it at traffic lights, but just take note: revving your engine is a waste of petrol, wrecks your engine and irritates people like me. So, don't do it please, the few drops you have used would be able to get you to the next traffic light.
  • Don't "tekan" so hard. Just push gently on your pedal when you are at beginning to move or just completed a turn. There's no point accelerating that much, it's not going to do you any good, since you're going to have to stop again somewhere, unless, of course, you're in a big hurry. Even if you are, studies show that you only gain 75 seconds from a 30 minute journey doing this. So, why bother?
  • Use every bit of momentum that your car possesses while approaching a traffic light or a corner. The idea is this: take your foot of the gas pedal, and let the combination of momentum and friction take you to the junction, without having to step on the brake pedal. Braking is a waste of the kinetic energy that the engine has supplied you, so don't brake unnecessarily.
  • Drive smoothly, and don't go over the speed limit. Going at high speeds increase the amount of drag and friction the car experiences, and overcoming them is actually a waste of petrol... and when you're at high speeds, you're bound to have to brake rather hard, and yet another great waste of kinetic energy.
  • Use potential energy to your advantage, especially in a town like Seremban, where there are far too many hills. If you know you're approaching a downwards slope, let go of the gas pedal, and let the potential energy take you down, and when you reach the bottom of the hill, don't brake just yet, let it take you as far as it can, until the car is too slow.
  • If you're waiting for someone for more than 3 minutes, please turn off the engine. An idling engine is a parasite that eats up petrol without doing anything. But, since the Malaysian weather can be unforgiving, try winding down your windows if you're in a shady place or waiting in the later part of the evening. If it's really, really hot, just get out of the car, and find some place where you can wait more comfortably. Unless you're illegally parked, that is.
  • Check your tyres. Bare and/or under/overinflated tyres has less grip, and requires more force to start moving, stop or go round bends. It's simple circular motion Physics. Not to mention, it's dangerous too.
  • Wait in a queue on neutral. Don't put the car on "Drive", which will require you to step on the brake, implying that the engine is supplying thrust. If it is inching traffic (like in a traffic jam, or at a toll), put the car on"Drive" but don't step on the gas pedal, the car can move on its own, although a little slower.

It's really not that hard to follow all these rules. I tried it out last night, and it went quite well for me, with the added bonus that I felt happy that I'm doing my part for my family and the environment. It really is killing two birds with one stone. So, do try these practises for yourself, I trust that these really do work, since I trust the Physics and the logic of it all.

182 Recommended Reading

As I have previously mentioned, I have been spending quite some time reading horror fiction, and it's time to unveil the 5 best horror stories I have read so far. It's merely my opinion, so if you don't really like them after wasting 15 - 30 minutes in reading each one, my apologies in advance:
  1. The Night Wire by H. F. Arnold
  2. The Horla by Guy de Maupassant (Malaysians: Yes, it was the guy who wrote "The Necklace" )
  3. The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
  4. O Come Little Children by Chet Williamson (the story is under copyright)
  5. The Pedicab by Donald R. Burleson (under copyright)

Other notable reads:

  1. The Ghost and the Bone Setter by Joseph Sheridan le Fanu
  2. Shadows Cast Behind by Otto E. A. Schmidt (under copyright)
  3. The Grey Room by Stefan Grabinski (under copyright)
  4. The Terrible Old Man by H. P. Lovecraft
  5. The Raven (it's a long poem), The Premature Burial and The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe. "The Tell-Tale Heart" is one of sentimental value because I wrote a loose drama adaption of this story for my School Drama Team.

...and this is the greatest local horror story, and will be unrivalled for its brutality for quite some time.

181 Refilling & Refueling

Here's a ridiculously obvious observation:

The one thing that can get every Malaysian scrambling on to the streets at any given time of the day, is a fuel price hike. That, and maybe the imminent threat of a natural disaster, but that has not proven yet, and I hope it will never ever be. Even the National Day Parade doesn't get so much attention.
So here's what happens when the price of fuel is about to go up. Everyone gets into their motored vehicles, drive to a petrol station, and fill their tanks to the brim, and that includes forcing it to the max. Hence, the focal point of attention at this juncture is the petrol station that fulfills the following criteria, in descending priority:
  1. You MUST get there by midnight
  2. Hasn't run out or pretending to run out of petrol
  3. Has the relatively shortest queue, but be prepared. All the queues will look frustratingly long, and will most definitely have caused the worst jam of the month, unless the town/city was struck by a flash flood within the last 30 days
  4. Close to home, but that isn't an issue if the ones that are close cause a traffic jam that already clogged up the whole neighbourhood. Also, try one that you somehow know has less people and/or one that is really somewhere that no one goes to on a good day of you know any.
  5. Has enough kiosks to fulfill the needs of a lot of desperate people, and/or nice attendants who help the poor men and women who already waited 30 minutes to get there

NB: Doesn't apply for foreign-registered vehicles.

We, Malaysians, have to admit that we are as kiasu as the people of the island that just acquired sovereignty of an even smaller island. I am sure if someone offers free rice at any given place in Malaysia, everyone within a 100 km radius will be there... and it also applies to any other controlled item.
Tell me, why in the world did we build the Petronas Twin Towers? ... and admit it, is the one thing that irks you the most while driving is to have some smart Alec cut into the lane in front of you? Do you tailgate the car in front of you while waiting in a queue, be it for a tollbooth, traffic lights, or waiting at overcrowded petrol stations? And lastly, when the price of petrol is about to go up, who goes to the petrol station, and fill up the car with petrol, and when its full, we still must put in a little bit more? Yes, we are as kiasu as our neighbours, as much as we hate to admit it, so quit the name-calling. It's hypocritical.
But then again, RM 30 is a lot of money, isn't it? But the only thing we can do is compren, just like our neighbours do, too. Hmm... the two countries do have a lot more in common than we want to believe.

180 Really Big Numbers

Let's take a break from my anecdotes from the North, and celebrate the wonders of the number 180. An 180, as it's typically used in everyday speech means "a complete reversal", from the mathematical properties of the number.

180 is a special number in many ways:

  • Since its the angle of any point on a straight line, which gave it the name, "the straight angle".

  • Anything rotated by 180 degrees on any axis is completely inverted, and hence the meaning "complete reversal".

  • It's equivalent to pi radiants, where the ratio of the radius of that arc to the length of the arc is the famous irrational number, 3.14159...

  • The sum of the internal angles of a triangle, the most basic polygon in Euclidian geometry.

  • It is divisible by the first 6 natural numbers, and all but two of the first 10 natural numbers, making it the smallest number that has this property.

  • It's the sum of both six and eight consecutive primes, (19 + 23 + 29 + 31 +37 + 41) and (11 + 13 + 17 +19 + 23 + 29 + 31 +37).

  • The number of degrees Farenheit between the boiling point and melting point of water.

But let's not concentrate on merely one number. Since the topic of some really large numbers have been cropping up around me recently, let's explore some of the lesser known names of large numbers. The name of large numbers after a million basically change every 3 zeros, or the 10^3 factor of the previous number name. For example:

10^6 is a million, 10^9 is a billion, and 10^12 is a trillion, notice the ascending prefixes, i.e. mil- (one), bi- (two), and tri- (three), the desingnation is such that, for 10^n, the prefix= (n/3) - 1.

After that, there's quadrillion (10^15), quintillion (10^18), sextillion (10^21), septillion (10^24), octillion (10^27), nonillion (10^30), decillion (10^33), undecillion (10^36) ... novemdecillion (10^60), vigintillion (10^63), unvigintillion (10^66), ... novemvigintillion (10^90), trigintillion (10^93), untrigintillion (10^96)...

The largest designated number name is the googolplex. A googolplex was originally defined as a "1 followed by as many zeros you can write until you get tired". After that, the definition was formalised to mean a "1 with a googol zeros after it", but there's no number of any objects in this known universe that matches this number. But, what's a googol? A googol is defined as 10^100, and that became the well-known name of an internet search engine. By the way, it was a 9-year old who made the names up. Go figures!

Other strange names that have been used to describe large numbers, with no particular real number definitions are umpteen, gazillion, zillion, bajillion, and googlion (or something like that, pronounced go-gee-li-on, by Ben Stiller). One notable thing I must point out is that the googlion is, as defined by Ben Stiller, the a 1 followed by a googlion zeros. Other than the fact that it's very unhelpful, there can be no number that fulfills this condition (i.e n = 10^n) other than infinity. So, there it is, the impossible number... but very large, to say the least. (no pun intented)

PS: ...and speaking of really large numbers, the petrol price just went up again to RM 2.70, from RM 1.92, i.e a 78 cents increase or about a 40% hike. Now, those are some more practical but less interesting and welcoming large numbers.

179 Remember, people...

This is an utterly random act of kindness in the form of a public service announcement to all of you readers who own, or have family members who own, any form of transportation that have more than three wheels, and have back seats:
Put on your safety belts eventhough you are sitting in the back seats. If they don't happen to have any, get some installed... And don't tell me that it's not a punishable offence until August (for Malaysians, of course, but there's nothing RM 100 can't do).
And I'm not being sarcastic, as much as the first paragraph seems to suggest otherwise. It's for your own good unless you want to hit the seat in front of you with a force of 10 kN (killer-newtons, yes, I know, bad joke), or you were able to install airbags behind the front seats. I did the math on the way back from Kedah, the physics and numbers don't lie. Try it yourself, if you have a calculator with you.
F = (mv) / t [ m = your mass , v = velocity of car prior to impact, t = impact time, about 0.1 -0.2 seconds]
So, yes, buckle up at the back, please. It's for your own good.
PS: 10 kN is approximately equal to 1 tonne of mass.

178 Returning Home Part 2

Warning: OK, people, if you hate your Tingkatan 4 Sejarah, Chapter 3, don't read this post. If you don't know what I'm talking about, but hate anything to do with History, this warning also applies. Otherwise, continue reading...
My return to my birthstate after many years has brought me to a new place, Lembah Bujang. If that name seems vaguely familiar, it's because you know it from the History textbook. Home to a civilisation that predates the Malacca Sultanate, Lembah Bujang is an archeological site which has uncovered many relics of the Peninsular's ancient past. A visit to Merbok River Valley, near Sungai Petani, produced these photos.

The Museum is located at the site of one of the largest "Candi" (pronounced chandee, not candy), at Bukit Batu Pahat, Merbok, which is well-known for being the site of one of the largest Candi, the aptly named Candi Bukit Batu Pahat, along with three other reconstructed candis, the Candi Pengkalan Bujang, Candi Kampung Pendiat and Candi Bendang Dalam.

Photo montage of Candi Bukit Batu Pahat
The Candi Bukit Batu Pahat, dedicated to the Lord Shiva, a Hindu God, has a base made from granite, and in and around it, there are 66 pillar bases, where wooden pillars that support the roof used to be. The pillars have long rotted away, but the bases still remain at the edge of the candi. They are the square blocks you can see in the photos.

Ornately carved pillar base

Also note that the candi is divided into two main parts, the vimana and the mandapa. The mandapa is the outer and lower portion, where the visitors generally stand, while the vimana, the raised inner portion is where the religious statues are kept. This can also be seen in the next photo:

Photo Montage of Candi Pendiat

Candi Pendiat has the shape of the typical Hindu candi, the outer mandapa, where the stairs are, and the the inner vimana, which is raised to display the religious icons. The distinct redness is due to the fact that the bricks are made from laterite, the red soil commonly found thoughout Malaysia. Compare this with the shape of the Candi Pengkalan Bujang, which is a Buddhist candi.

Photo Montage of Candi Pengkalan Bujang

The Candi Pengkalan Bujang has a cruciform shape, i.e. it's in the shape of a cross. The middle of the temple is hollow, and it's believed to contain a stupa with a domed roof, a place where Buddhist relics are kept, supported by the find of a host of Buddhist relics near the site. It's made from bricks with a chiselled granite base. And lastly, there's the Candi Bendang Dalam:

Photo Montage of Candi Bendang Dalam

Candi Bendang Dalam is yet another example of the typical Hindu Candi, with the classic vimana-mandapa structure. Constructed with a myriad of materials, including granite, laterite bricks and river rocks, this Candi is another significant find, due to its size and the large number of artifacts dating back to the 12 th century, showing proof of trade in the region that stretches as far as the Middle East.

More stories and photos from the north are to come, so stick around!

177 Returning Home Part 1

When people ask the question, "Which part of Malaysia do I come from?", my first answer would be Seremban, Negeri Sembilan, and I will have to add (especially to Singaporeans) that it's a town about 60 kilometres south of Kuala Lumpur. But almost none will go on to ask and find out that my birthplace and home for a number of years is Alor Star, Kedah.
For those who are not well-versed with the states of Malaysia, Kedah is a state in the Northwest portion of the Peninsular Malaysia, taking up a significant portion of the Malaysia - Thailand Border. But most importantly of all, it's the state known for being almost entirely covered with one thing, paddy fields. (and more recently, it has been found, PAS supporters). It's known as the Ricebowl of Malaysia, and aptly named so, since it produces more than half of the country's staple grain. Lately, there's been quite a buzz about a particular place near Alor Star, Kedah by the city slickers of the South. So, I went to check it out last weekend, after hearing much praise about a painting from the aunties and uncles. Having stayed in Kedah before too, my mum gets a lot of comments about the place. It was supposedly "very real", and "very beautiful", and being recently built, I have never been there before, back during the times I was there. So, since we were around the area, and that's a rarity nowadays, why not?
Puncak Gunung Keriang: The Paddy Fields Panorama. Click to enlarge, because it's very, very long
So, what's the hype about? It's what you see in the picture above. The actual mural is painted on the walls of a dome, i.e in a circular room. The walls are concave, creating an illusion of perspective, and making it look like you're really in a high place, looking at the paddy fields around you. The "observation deck" is a circular stage, with seats lining the outer edge that revolves very slowly. Well, it's a let down from all the hype that you hear from those who have been there. It's reminiscent of a very good version of one of those paintings we used to do when we were in Primary School. And I hate ART! Very "real", since the painting extends to three dimensional onto the floor, with plastic model trees and plants. However, it isn't breathtaking or sublime, just very normal, and definitely doesn't beat the real view. But, credit to the artist(s) for the hard work.
That's just my opinion, at least... but that might be because the "others" have never since so many paddy fields in their lives. As for me, let's just say I do tell people I've seen paddy fields, and touched a ripe paddy plant before, and also, watched the paddy fields turn from brown to green to golden.
The picture above is a compound picture, created from 8 different photographs, photoshopped together. I've tried my best to make it look as nice as possible, since the room was quite big, full of people, the lighting differed from place to place, and I was in a hurry to take the photographs. But I've tried my best to convey the picture to you.
PS: Paddy from the stalk doesn't taste very nice, because of the bitter part, called the "hampa" in Malay, which has to be separated during harvesting. I know, I've tasted it before, out of curiosity.