Saturday, April 30, 2005

SHORTCHANGED: They tried to pull a fast one on me!!

Also known as "Part two of WHY I HATE LAWYERS"

... So I got the balance of the purchase price at 330pm Friday. It looked a bit lower than expected; told Rahar I would go check my records when I get back.

Got back at around 9pm… and even as I showered my mind was busy planning what files to pull out, and how to figure out if the amount I’d received was correct.

Ok, so I get the files, and start plugging in numbers on a spreadsheet.

At first I thought my ex-employer had totally overcharged me on interest incurred while the sale/purchase was being executed, and composed a strongly-worded letter to the loan department asking for clarification.

But it did not seem right, so I checked the correspondence in my file AND the purchaser’s file, not sure what I was looking for. ..

Then I noticed something wrong in the letters from the lawyer: the amount they claimed to have paid my ex-employer to settle the loan was different depending if you read their letter sent in December 2004 or April 2005! The difference was almost RM3000 (in their favor, of course)!!

Apa lagi... redid the calculations in the spreadsheet, trying to capture all elements so that it would be very obvious where the discrepancy lay, then proceeded to compose a very ‘nice’ fax: finally faxed it over to them at 1149pm Friday night. Doesn’t matter if they only read it on Tuesday, at least that is outta the way.

I then composed another letter, this time to the Loan Department of my ex-employer, providing them a copy of my fax to the lawyer, and asking them to verify the amount they received. Unfortunately I do not have their fax#, so looks like first thing Tuesday morning I will be making my way to ‘work’ to deliver the letter by hand.

But you may be wondering just WHY this is getting me all pissed off: well, here’s the ultimate proof of the dishonesty, cunning and slyness of lawyers: I just figured out what that discrepancy is all about!

Get this: I actually did not need to engage Rahar and his firm to handle the sale; I could have ‘tumpang’ed the services of the purchaser’s lawyers, but I felt since Rahar's firm had handled the purchase of the house, it would be beneficial to have them handle the sale as well. So, when I went in to see what engaging them for this job would entail, I was provided an estimated bill of RM800. Since it seemed a reasonable price, I agreed to engage them.

A few months later, I was due to pay them for the services rendered: and they gave me an invoice for around RM3800! (actually, the additional amount is the EXACT amount of the discrepancy!!) Why the huge difference? Well, it seems that Rahar had neglected to include the legal fees relating to preparing/finalizing the Sale & Purchase agreement that fateful day in July when I agreed to have them handle my side of the sale!!!

Oh boy did I raise a stink about it (Sam, u remember me telling ya about this?)

I argued that it didn’t matter if it was an “estimated” bill: there was NO indication in the original quote that there were to be fees incurred in that line item. If I knew the fees would be that high, I would NOT have engaged them. Rahar argued that when we met, the purchase price was not yet decided so he didn’t put in the fee (which is a % of the price): bullsh*t, it had already been decided, and it was stated clearly ON THE ESTIMATED BILL!!

I said I was not paying the RM3000; Rahar said he would speak with his boss. He later said that his boss agreed to waive the fees. *Gee, how kind* I did not consider it a waiver: as far as I was concerned I was never under obligation to pay them that RM3000.

Fast forward to a few months later: an item in the news about how lawyers are not allowed to provide discounts on certain services rendered, including sale & purchase agreements. I figure whatever it is, good thing I’m done with all MY legal fees….

So, back to the "missing" RM3000:
...I wonder if this is the firm’s way of ‘silently’ charging me for those fees that were supposedly waived?

...Or maybe it’s Rahar’s way of making me pay for his mistake (if let’s say the RM3000 was deducted from his paycheck…)?

Either way, they have NO RIGHT to SHORTCHANGE me of the balance purchase price by LYING about the amount disbursed to my ex-employer.

I will not give way on this matter. They have no room to maneuver. They are in the wrong. I am gonna hound them until I get my money.


Friday, April 29, 2005

A rant on those forked-tongue creatures: Lawyers!

I really really really hate lawyers….

While I have only dealt with one firm, that has been more than enough to cement my absolute dislike and distrust of lawyers.

The balance of my ‘profit’ in selling off my house had been sitting in THEIR bank, gathering them FREE INTEREST, for months. Why? “Oh, I was told you were overseas, so we wait until you come back lah before we can pay out the balance.”

Three weeks later, it’s still sitting in their coffers…

To give him (let’s call him Rahar) a *bit* of credit, Rahar could not issue the $$ to me until the Real Property Gains Tax had been settled with LHDN… The thing is, I wanted to exercise my once-in-a-lifetime waiver of this tax, and Rahar had submitted the necessary paperwork. I’m guessing that LHDN took a look at the amount due, and decided that I didn’t know what I was talking about (which was true… I had no idea how much the tax was gonna be maaah), and sent ME an order to pay the tax, without any c.c to Rahar.

So, one of my first calls when I got back to KL earlier this month was to Rahar to ask if everything was settled, and didn’t he owe ME some money? According to Rahar, he had called LHDN many times to ask about the status of my case, but never got any reply (huh?? Hmmmmmm…). He seemed quite surprised when I told him I had received the pay order from LHDN, asked me to fax it to him so he could follow-up with LHDN. Along with the fax I told him to go ahead and pay the tax, andI’d keep my exemption for another time.

A week later, it took me having to call him again before I got him to say that he would go ahead and issue the cheque and make payment to LHDN.

About two weeks later I called to find out what was going on: “Oh, I memang nak ask the dispatch boy to go pick up the receipt tomorrow.” I was like “takkan it takes so long for LHDN to issue a receipt?!”, and he was all about kena tunggu cheque clear dulu… uhuh… for two weeks??!! and yeah I bet it really was a coincidence that I called the day before he was gonna get the receipt..

Anyway, so that was Monday. If Tuesday was when the receipt was gonna be picked up, Tuesday would ALSO be the day they start processing the cheque to be made out to me. So I told Rahar I’d be in the KLCC area on Tues and Wednesday, please make sure it’s ready by then for me to pick up.

No word from him… so I called on Wednesday, but he was away for the afternoon. Left a message saying I wanted to pick up my cheque the next day (Thursday).

No call back at all... (are you even surprised?)

So this morning, I called… can you guess what he said? “Yes, the cheque baru ready semalam, but you said you were only going to be in KL on Tuesday or Wednesday...”

Oh my goddddddd!! What is so difficult about calling me once the cheque is ready, just to inform me? Then I can say whether I will drop by and pick it up, or ask them to courier it to me! Geramnyeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So, Ladies & Gentlemen, at around 3pm today, the cheque should be in my hands… and I will be zipping off to deposit into my bank immediately! Unfortunately there is no way the cheque is going to clear by tomorrow, and it's a long weekend what with May Day and all, so I am still going to rugi quite a few days’ interest until the $$ finally gets where it should be! Nevermind... otherwise the $$ would stay even longer in their account generating free interest for them!! Thieves, that's what they are: thieves!

There isn’t much use complaining about it, is there?

After all, this is the same firm that accepted handover of the keys of this house, masa I was buying the house dulu, WITHOUT inspection of the premises as stipulated in the Sale & Purchase Agreement! So when I finally did get to the house, I found the kitchen window was open and cats had used the sink for their toilet!!!! And my complaint was pretty much brushed aside; all they were concerned with was paying the owners a.s.a.p., nothing to do with the integrity of the house being handed over.

This is one of those situations where my blood goes upstairs but realistically all I can do is vent here. :(

On a slightly positive note, I must say that there are two lawyer-type people within my ex-employer – one who has functioned as a mentor and sounding board; the other who is a living example of still being a unique individual within the usually stifling corporate world – who are exempt from my otherwise blanket curse on lawyers!

Have a good (long) weekend everybody!

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

swim / late / chubby / loo / hunt2pay / brickfields adventure / tennis!

Today was certainly an eventful day…

First, I went down to the pool for some swimming of sorts, equipped with the floating board thingy so I could just concentrate on feet vs hands (kinda). Of course, it was probably not a good time to go considering the nasty storm we had last night – I bet the pH of the pool was way out of whack. Then again, I wonder if it is ever ‘in whack’… I mean, it’s not like the maintenance of the place is tip-top… There was a semi-rotted leaf at the bottom of the pool: if it’s still there tomorrow that means they don’t even do a daily cleaning of the thing!!

Anyways, so I did about 30-40 mins of that… noticed that if I do just legs, doing the frog-type kick, I would drift to the right… meaning my left leg was kickingmore forcefully than my right. Tried to correct it, but succeeded only if I concentrated really hard and had to kinda keep my entire body angled towards the left. Will have to explore a bit more what other idisyncracies my body exhibits!! :p

Later, headed to KLCC for a lunch date… and my ‘date’ was late!! The poor thing was stuck in a meeting till almost 1.30pm!! And we had plotted for us to meet at 1245… ugh…

… so there I was, waiting for her at this pizza place in KLCC, when a complete stranger came up to me, all smiling, and said, “Hi, haven’t seen you here for a while; a very long time actually,” and as I’m looking at her wondering who the hell she was, she continues “You’ve become quite chubby now.” I am like excuse me but am I supposed to know you?! “Oh, I’m the manager here, maybe you didn’t notice me, but I noticed you; you’re cute.” I am just rolling my eyes at this point thinking wow if you are trying to pick me up you are certainly sh*t out of luck! I gave her an earful about it being rude telling someone you don’t know how chubby they’ve become. You know how my face ‘transforms’ when I’m pissed off? Well, she got the full brunt of it. :p

After lunch, was gonna go over to BSN, but as I walked out of KLCC, it looked really nasty outside, and a few drops were starting to fall… so I decided to turn back, take the LRT to Ampang Park instead, and walk over to my travel agent to pick up my ticket. By the time I emerged at Ampang Park, it was raining cats and dogs!

I patted myself on the back for a good decision, and made my way to the travel agent, chatted with my ex-schoolmate (junior by 1 year) while my ticket got printed etc, then made my way back to KLCC. The rain had stopped by then, so off I went to BSN…

Actually I was there to figure out how to ‘order’ my new chip-based ATM card: it needs to be done thru the ATM, but I didn’t want to press the wrong button and end up having to pick up the new card from the boonies somewhere! But guess what, I may just have to do that anyway… So there I was, after having gotten instructions on how to choose the BSN HQ, looking at the screen, and wondering if I could find the BSN at Jalan Gasing PJ instead. So I hit cancel, went thru the whole sequence of buttons again then pressed ‘PJ1’ expecting that to be a zone, whereby the next screen would give me a choice of specific BSN branches… instead the machine kept processing the transaction and blinking at me.

And blinking

And blinking

So I hit cancel

No effect... it continued to blink

And blink

And blink

Ugh!! So I just stood there waiting for something to happen… and the machine spat out my card, and spat out a receipt saying ‘request denied’, and ‘transaction cancelled’ on the screen. Fine, I’ll just request to pick it up at HQ lah… reinserted the card, went thru the whole process again, only to be told that ‘request already made.’


So I had to go in, find someone who understood what my problem was, though according to him the system says I have not made a request yet?! The best he could do was track down ‘PJ1’ (which is in SHAH ALAM???!!), give me a phone number, and told me to call them within a week and see if they have my order, and ask them to send it to HQ instead.

Sigh… can’t you help out a bit more than that?? From the little I’ve seen of banks in the U.S., the officer would be working hard to fix the problem… here, as usual, you gotta do it all yourself… I predict that I will end up having to hunt for this Shah Alam branch in two weeks’ time to pick up the new card, whether or not I call up the number provided… ugh!!

Then… time for a loo break before I get the car and head back… thought I’d share this sign from the Isetan stall...

I’ve always been amused at the predatory nature of the toilet in the drawings, and since I had my phone with me, thought I’d take a pic of it to share:

So, exciting day almost over? NOPE!!

It was a chore and a half to pay for parking!! I parked near the escalators of Burger King, P2. Going down, saw long lines at the three autopay machines at P1...

..... and thought to myself: "well good thing I’m at P2..." yeah riiiiiiggghhhhtttt!!!

You know what’s coming right? Yep.... the two autopay machines at P2 weren’t working!!!

This one had a 'not working' sign plastered to the screen...

To be fair, one of them was being fixed lah... but still....

I didn’t feel like queueing, and since the car was relatively close to the lift@ Ramlee Mall, I decided to hike it thru the parking to the lift lobby. Only to find that that machine was also out of order. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr! I remembered seeing an autopay machine at the T1/T2 lifts, so hiked to the T1@P2, took the lift up to G (no autopay!!), walked to T2 and yessssssssssss there it was! And no queue!! Paid the exorbitant parking fee, made my way back to the car, battled the traffic to get to PJ…

Excitement not over yet!!

Took the Jalan Syed Putra route: jammed of course… thought I’d be ‘smart’ and take the ‘Mid Valley bypass’… except that since they opened the more direct route to Mid Valley, the access from Tmn Seputeh is now closed??!! Aaaarrrgggghhhhh!! Turned back, but turned too early, and found myself in Brickfields… Oh maaaaaan…. Kinda drove blind for a while until I recognised where I was and where I needed to be. Of course I was on the wrong lane, and I did the typical Malaysia thing of just cutting in right where the curve/turning is, to get to the road that then let me on to Jln Travers. Surprisingly I got no honks or signs of obvious dissatisfaction from the person whose lane I totally encroached – amazing!

So here I am at home… it’s aroung 630pm… will have to battle the (hopefully) tail end of traffic to get to TTDI for another tennis session. At least this day will end on a positive note: us sweaty gurls pigging out at some mamak! :D

NOTE@12 midnight : had SO much trouble getting the pictures done properly... ugh!! back from major oink-oink pig out session around 11pm, mandi, and now here I am finishing this up before bed.... yawwwwwwnnnnnn!!! g'nite all!

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Resumé ruminations

Ugh… It’s tough, creating a resumé almost from scratch…

At least it’s not totally from scratch… despite having my entire external drive wiped out by a cranky Mac laptop in the U.S., it turns out I did have a backup of most of the important files from Feb 2004. Yeah, that’s a long time ago, but it’s better than nothing!!!!

Why then do I consider current effort at resumé writing as something almost from scratch? Well, despite having worked for 9 years and having held 6 (or 8, depending how you look at it) different positions, resumés were not needed when transferring to another job! Here’s how many times I actually ‘tinkered’ with it:

created resumé for numerous job applications upon graduating in May 1995. Continued to tinker a bit in late 1995/early 1996 despite already being employed (I wanted out, what can I say….)

revisited (needed to add descriptions of the THREE different jobs I’d already been in), for a possible marketing post in a new joint-venture (didn’t happen).

provided information in a different format/template provided by McK upon starting that fateful ‘Study’.

What I need to do:
Add the three most recent positions held (Business Planner, Team Member in that Study, Team Member in the implementation of the Study recommendations).
Rewrite everything so that I describe my achievements, skills developed and level of proficiency, etc rather than just listing responsibilities.
Reformat to keep up with the times (related to the rewriting too)
Work on an attention-grabbing cover letter.

Why, you ask, am I bothering to do this if I don’t intend to work anytime soon?

Firstly, I need to do this while everything is relatively fresh lah!!
Secondly, there are two opportunities I’d like to explore a bit more before I decide yea or nay, and I feel I can’t even ‘open negotiations’ unless I at least have a resumé to pass on! One is related to a Management Consultant type of facilitator type thing, while the other is an IT-related consultant type thing (yes, I am being vague on purpose!).
Thirdly, once I do get around to applying for grad school, they will also be needing to see what I’ve done, so I might as well get it done now, and touch up later rather than do it all at once together with sitting for the GRE/GMAT and jumping through whatever hoops needed in the application process.

Wish me (good) luck!


Tuesday, April 19, 2005

… doing my bit to alleviate a pet peeve …

“What pet peeve?” you may ask… and for those who think they know me well will probably be asking “Which of your many pet peeves are we talking about here?”

It’s an issue already written about by Malapetaka: being shortchanged when you go to (usually) eating places, where they are out of 1 sen, and just shortchange you without any hesitation, and look at you like you are being a b*tch/*ssh*le if you insist on getting the exact change.

I must report on this, however: there was an exception recently, over at 1901@KLCC – they didn’t have the few sen so gave me 10sen instead. I smiled, and handed it back to them saying “Never mind, take it back,” because I really appreciated them NOT shortchanging me. In fact, this is the same establishment that, maybe a year ago, neither me nor the cashier had enough small change, and in the end I ‘owed’ them about 10sen. The cashier was like “Tak pe lah, kak,” but precisely because they weren’t hung up about it, I made it a point to return a few days later and hand over 10sen to (unfortunately a different) cashier, saying I owed them from a few days ago… of course, they thought I was one crazy woman, teehee! I bet no-one in their right minds would do what I did.. guess I’m in my left mind?? :p

Anyways… so any guesses as to what I did to alleviate this supposed shortage of 1 sen coins?

I suspect most people have some sort of container at home which they use as a receptacle for spare change. Some, like my family, actually have separate containers for the different coins. Over the years, we have accumulated A LOT of coins… while the 10, 20 and 50 sen tend to get reinserted into pockets and wallets, the 1 and 5 sen tend to just accumulate…. And of course, if every household has all these 1sen sitting there doing nothing, no wonder there is a ‘shortage’ of them!

A few days ago I was soooo geram seeing all those 1 sen sitting there doing nothing that I took ALL the 1 and 5 sen coins to be deposited. I meant to weigh them just to have an idea of how much I was banking in, but in the rush of getting to the bank, I forgot… A few years ago, I had already taken some of the 1 and 5 sen and put them back into circulation by depositing them at the bank – got Rm15 of free money. I wondered how much I’d get this time…

Here’s how much I put back into circulation:
1 x 10sen = 0.10 (a stray one that went in the wrong container!)
394 x 5 sen = 19.70
1327 x 1 sen = 13.27
… for a total of RM 33.07

I urge ya.. please make it a point not to hoard those coins… get those 1 sen into circulation today!!

Like a duck to water?

Yeah, that would be me driving in KL after 6 months: it’s as if I never left! No wonder while I was in the U.S: I felt soooo kekok the few times I drove... it probably wasn’t so much a matter of driving on the wrong side of the road in the wrong side of the car, and more like knowing deep inside that if I actually RELAXED and drove like normal I’d be incurring the wrath of the other road users!

Then again: in a few more years I may just feel at home on the road there.. My impression is that the standard of driving seems to have dropped since my younger days there: at that time (10-15 yrs ago) I felt the drivers were almost too courteous. Now, well, it seems as if there is a drift towards the Malaysian way of driving.

But then again… it does seem like Malaysia is backsliding even more downhill… I have a distinct feeling of being less safe than before… after all, when not only are there more incidents of road rage, but also more and more cases resulting in the death of one of the drivers, one can’t expect to feel too safe anymore! So, while I drive as aggressively as the next person on the road (or perhaps a bit more, heehe) I try hard to make sure I don’t instigate any problems with the other idiots on the road…

Overall, I do think the traffic situation seems to have improved in KL... of course, I suppose it helps that I don’t have to struggle through traffic to get to the center of town by 8am every weekday!! But still… the road in front of the apartment seems to be fine, even at 8 or 9am… before it would be pretty backed up…

I did have my doubts about traffic last night, tho… heading back from KLCC, taking Tun Razak south, on the flyover past Bulatan Kg Pandan: it was moving so slowly at 930pm!! Mystery finally solved: a minor accident between two cars and a motorcycle had occurred on the flyover, essentially reducing the two lanes to just one, caused the crawl… once we were past that spot, it was smooth sailing :) thank goodness! I would hate to think the rush hour traffic had not yet receeded by that time!

Talking about flyovers: waaah finally the flyover linking Jln Kg Pandan with the road heading to Tmn Maluri/Pandan Jaya is open. I guess that will temporarily ease the traffic congention there (until the volume of cars on the road increases lah), tho the bulatan area is still a huge construction zone… I wonder how that underground route that is to also serve as a floodwater conduit is gonna look like…

And one more note on roads: narrowly avoided a divider that’s been extended waaaay past its original length 6 months ago @ TTDI area on the way to BU. So dangerous! I suppose it’s still relatively new, and the road lines haven’t been repainted to reflect the new position of the lanes? So what’s happening at the moment is that as you go round the curve, and you are in the middle lane, whoops there it is! It actually encroaches onto the middle lane, cutting it in half! I’m guessing there have been many accidents, and countless near-misses there, especially at night!! Sooooo dangerous…

Sigh… Malaysia Boleh….

Monday, April 18, 2005

coffee and surfing

It is SO weird to be doing this again after almost six months...

Here I am in Starbucks KLCC, equipped with a coffee and a laptop, surfing on a nice broadband connection.

I REALLY miss broadband!!!

In my previous life, I was a regular pseudo-techno-geek. My haunts would be either Coffee Bean here in KLCC and at Ampang Point. In fact, I had my favourite table(s) to choose from over at Ampang Point, and would be there almost daily! There I'd be with laptop, webcam, mic/earphone PLUS insect repellent spray to ward off the mosquitoes! Most of the time, I'd be there till they drew the shutters down!

Have yet to visit the KLCC venue, but have been to the Ampang Point one twice already :) The great thing about being a regular, even tho I have not been around for 6 months, is that the "regular" staff still recognised me! They even immediately fixed me my regular drink... I didn't have the heart to tell them I wanted something OTHER than an ice vanilla latte regular skim milk :p

Of course, now, since I'm on a budget, I'm not going to fork out the RM30+ to be able to surf at my beloved beanie... so instead, right now I'm just gonna have to put up with ickky coffee from starbux while I take advantage of their free broadband service :D

Haven't visited the YahooGames sites for such a long time... so NOT worth it on dialup! May just do that... once I'm done with the many updates! Thus laptop has not been online for six months... how many security updates do you think Zone Alarm, AVG and microsoft have issued since then??

ok... me off to surf surf surf... yippie!!

Friday, April 15, 2005

Update: week of April 11 - 15 2005

It’s Friday!! So, what have I been doing this past week?

Well, went to the nearby Employee’s Provident Fund (EPF) office to make sure they send statements to the apartment instead of to my ex-office address… and was kinda ‘scared’ by the fact that I could use the myKad (new Malaysian identity card equipped with a smart chip) to print out the current year statement! Just plug it in, scan yr thumb, and it spits out the statement! It didn’t seem to do anything beyond that, though… I’d like to get reprints of missing statements of a few years ago: guess I still need to go to the counter for that.

Good news: Got the ‘proof’ of 1995 deductions from my ex-employer yesterday. Drafted a cover letter, put together all my attachment, got it all copied, and made my way to LHDN to drop it all off this morning. Let’s hope that with this, both our records tally!! (On an aside: one of the cool things about having a sitemeter is you get to see how people got to this blog page. One visitor I had was someone who did a google search in Japan with the key words “kelana jaya tax office,” where my blog came up 3rd in the list, and this person checked it out. So cool, in so many ways!!)

Had a fun time at Ladies’ Nite on Wednesday with Baby Angel.
Also made contact with a long-lost pal, whom we may meet up with next Wednesday for another session, whoohoo! :)

My days are also filling up with lunch dates with my ex-colleagues. While I enjoy getting together with them, I must say that I’m paying thru the nose for parking! Wonder if I should just take the LRT into town, or drive in but park somewhere that charges a flat rate? It’s so much more convenient to park in KLCC itself, tho I guess part of it is habit too… after all, I had a season parking pass for *how* many years?

So far, I’ve ventured to the swimming pool of the apartment just once. I have never been a big fan of swimming, but I know it’s one of the best no-impact cardiovascular workouts one can get. I’m probably going to hunt for the styrofoam board thingy so I can isolate/concentrate on legs or arms. Didn’t wear my goggles, and kinda suffered for it: I seemed to be peering at everything through a grey film for a while afterwards! The swimming cap didn’t wanna stay on, so I’m gonna have to deal with chlorine-tainted hair too. Ugh.

Last night was my first tennis session in a long long time. Considering the lack of practice, the extra weight, and the use of a strange racquet (left mine in the u.s.), I must say I think I did very well :) Unfortunately I mis-stepped and terple’ot my ankle and was limping around most of last nite & this morning :( seems much better now, thank goodness!

In my visits to KLCC this week, I managed to bump into quite a few of my ex-colleagues and acquaintances (and avoid many more of them too, teehee!!). It was nice to catch up with them all… but I’m happy to say I continue to NOT miss being part of that scene. If anything, I miss some of the people and interactions, but NOT the work, and accompanying frustration!

And on a related note: I’ve been informed of a job opportunity, contract basis, for the position of “Learning Coach” affiliated to one of the management consultant firms here. It’s tempting because they seem to need people with the skills I know I have; While it seems to pay good money, I know it will be quite intensive, and I’m just not sure if I wanna get back into work, and into that line, so soon. After all, the idea of furthering my studies in a creative line like Mass Communications or Advertising is currently very appealing… Gotta look at the cost, though… :(

Nothing exciting planned for the weekend… Will start shopping around seriously for my flight outta here… that’s right, I ain’t staying for long in KL/M’sia… while I can still afford it, I will be ronda-ing around the world… target = have ticket booked by this time next week!


Thursday, April 14, 2005

Example of inefficiency and lack of synergy

After two years, a toll-free number for motorists to call or sms with complaints about unscrupulous bus, lorry or taxi drivers has been scrapped.
(See NST small edition, main section Pg 10, 14th April 2005)


Because they are “unable to cope with the number of complaints,” said Baharom Mohamad, Chairman of the Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board (CVLB / LPKP).

I’m confused: it’s being scrapped because it’s working too well?

Baharom seemed to justify it all by adding “Furthermore, most of the calls are related to the Road Transport Department (RTD / JPJ) and the traffic police.” In fact, it seems JPJ will be launching a new hotline soon.


I can understand the CVLB’s reluctance to play the role of ‘postman’ where they have to channel almost 80% of the calls to JPJ and the traffic police. It makes sense for JPJ to run such a service. However, instead of scrapping the line, why don’t they just transfer ownership of the line from the CVLB to JPJ?

I can understand that JPJ would need the call center to be located where it wants, so that is a cost that is going to be incurred anyway.

But I can anticipate the following unnecessary expenditures:
1. printing and distribution of new stickers to be stuck onto the backs of busses, lorries & taxis (assuming the focus of the hotline will still be these three vehicles)
2. a campaign on tv/radio to increase people’s awareness of the new number, including handouts etc with the new information
Do they realize that this is all unnecessary: if the 400 calls a day received (compared to CVLB’s expectation of 150) are any indication, awareness of the number and service is already high.

Surely having JPJ take over an existing service makes much more sense than having to create a totally new service?


On a related note... how much you wanna bet that no-one is going to ensure that the old stickers on all the busses, lorries and taxis are taken down, to help reduce chances of the general public calling/smsing the ‘old’ number?

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

A Gathering of Magic in KL !?

Was flipping thru today’s newspapers, and discovered that there must be a pretty large Magic: The Gathering community of gamers here in KL: not only is there a sealed deck tournament coming up soon (April 23rd), but there will also be a pre-release tournament for the Saviours of Kamigawa (SoK) set on May 21 & 22!

The April 23rd thing is at the Comic Corner Tournament Center II in Subang Jaya (have NO idea where that is: anyone with a clue please tell me!), while the SoK event will be at the Cititel @ Mid Valley.

Okay, so I pretty much banned myself from playing during my last few months in the U.S. because I got waaaaaay too upset at the cards and how the games happened to play out. But... I am curious just how a tournament is conducted… for RM50 I’d get a ChK tournament pack and 2 BoK booster packs from which to create a deck… very tempting!!

For those who have no idea what I’m talking about…

The premise is that you are a wizard doing battle with other wizards, in a variety of different worlds. The cards in your deck represent spells that you cast: some of these summon creatures to do your bidding, while others could be enchantments to enhance yourself/creatures/environment, or wreak havoc on your opponents. Your ability to cast these spells is dependant on the amount of land/manna you have, for as a wizard you draw energy from the land to cast the spells. Thus, composition of the deck is important, requiring sufficient land plus the right amount of spells for attack and defense.

Among the reasons I really like this game is there are a variety of ways to compose your deck, pretty much tailored to your personality. Not surprisingly, I have a great affinity for the black deck, that is filled with vampires, bats, zombies and spells like ‘Terror’ that totally kills your opponents creatures. The land type for black is the swamp.

Other colors:
Red is fire&earth-based, and needs mountains to cast spells. The red deck is infamous for its direct damage spells, where one could perhaps kill off an opponent in one shot, if you had enough manna to draw upon, of course. Creatures featured prominently are trolls, dwarves and goblins.
Forests are the land required for green; elves are the main group of creatures, plus some pretty awesome spiders, while snakes seem to be the backbone of the green Kamigawa cards.
White, nemesis of black, is my least favourite color. Knights and clerics are their main creatures, I think, while the land required are the vast plains.
Blue: this is a frustrating color to play against. Drawing upon the power of the sea, there are some immense creatures of the deep to play around with, but the main thrust of this color is the variety of powerful spells literally at your fingertips.

While I was taught to play using ‘pure’ one-color decks, many colors actually complement each other and a well-built ‘red/black with a splash of green’ may have devastating results on an opponent!

Oh wow, this is pretty sad that I can actually ramble on quite a bit about this game… Kosh, there’s hope for us to start playing again, once I’m back in town ; )

(For more info, you could check out MtG’s website here).

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Aduuuuuuh, my feet hurt!!!!

Yesterday (Monday 11th April) was a pretty tame day, but got quite a few things crossed off my “To Do” list:

1. Talked to the person in payroll about LHDNM missing my early deductions, he said he should be able to get what I need copied and mailed by the end of the day! Wow, I’m impressed! Of course, it did not occur to me to tell him I’d willingly go pick it up, I’ll need to look out for it in the mail this week…

2. Visited BSN to solve the case of the mysterious RM13.60 charge: turned out to be the annual charge for ATM plus a new charge for sending me my monthly statements. Wish all my questions were as easily answered!

3. Picked up my watch from Mont Blanc – sent it in for a new battery: they also cleaned it up nicely – had quite a few years of crud accumulated on it, teehee!!

4. Found a decent photo album to continue my effort of transferring years’ worth of loose photos into albums. Last Saturday I did 1996-2003 and used up one album. Now I can tackle the one with most pix: 2004 had my Jan Oz trip, March u.s. trip, May visit to Singapore… I’ll feel so much better once that is done :)

Then, having time to kill if I wanted to time my arrival at the Tmn Jaya LRT station such that I could hitch a ride from mom, I decided to finally check out the reflexology place up in the top floor of KLCC. It would not be my first foot massage, but definitely my first reflexology session.

It was a pleasant 45mins, even though certain parts of my feet (supposedly correlating to the heart, colon, stomach, kidney) were quite painful! And in general, my right foot was in pain throughout compared to the left. The boy (from Bandung, Indon) was pleasant and softspoken, though I wonder how one can have such a job and not have it wreak havoc on your hands! I didn't know if tipping was expected, so I buat dunno aje lah... after all, RM50 for a 45 minute session is not cheap maaaaaaah!

Of course, whatever benefits from the entire session were minimized as I had to immediately make my way to the LRT, and proceed to stand for the 20mins or so of the journey to get to my stop! :p

After effects:
Some soreness got lah… but nothing bad… but upon getting out of bed this morning, which included of course putting full body weight onto my feet… ayoyo… very sore… but a nice kind of sore… after all, I *am* quite the sadist (or is it masochist? Both?), plus I know it’s good for me, so I will be going every week or so.

And for ‘homework,’ I am going to reacquaint myself with the reflexology walk over at Lake Gardens.

Here's to me doing stuff that I like, and feeling good about myself.


Sunday, April 10, 2005

Warning: this is a bitch and moan entry:

It gets really old really fast.

I know I’ve put on weight. In fact, I believe this is the heaviest I’ve ever been. What to do… I was pretty much house-bound for 6 months. It was cold. Prime hibernation weather. I enjoyed the food. I was in good company.

I’m well aware that I’ve put on weight, and I will be shedding the pounds while I’m here.

But whatever it is… why can’t people be just a little bit more considerate of my feelings?

I really did not need to have my father, when he first saw me after 6 months, had this disgusted look on his face and even as we were doing the stupid kiss cheek thing, say: “Mais, you’ve put on a lot of weight, eh? You better lose some of it, eh?” Yeah, really nice to see you too. All I did was smile with a bland look on my face… after all, it wouldn’t do to totally rip into him for being such an asshole, eh?

And what about when Allie joined me and my parents to say hi before kidnapping me for my first catch-up session, where my mother goes something like: “Well, here she is - all of her!” While Allie responded with “Wow, yeah, I can see that,” I know that she wouldn’t have said anything if not for the ‘opening’ provided by mommie dearest. Don’t dare say anything to my face, tapi nak cakap, so cari jalan cakap berlapis, eh?

Speaking about cakap berlapis - spare me the bloody euphemisms lah. One reason I refuse to go visit people at my ex-workplace is I know exactly what is going to happen. People who I don’t know well or even like anyway will want to come up to me and go “waaaaah, sihat nampak!” (literal translation: you look “healthy”). I already had to put up with such comments, and many more direct and blunt ones, during my last Managers Forum in September last year. Paps, you were with me at the time, I was upset but just had to grin and bear it, ingat tak? Do people not realize how hurtful such comments are? I would never ever do that to anyone because I know the effect of such comments on me. I wish most everyone else had half as much awareness and consideration of others’ feelings.

I’d already told my ex-officemates that “jgn terkejut, I dah bulat!”, so when I met up with S, L & M they were already ‘primed’, and those elbow-squeals conveyed the shock/surprise without offending (thanx, gurrrls!). Yesterday’s session with the tennis gang was also fine… after all, me and my ex-tennis partner had even exchanged ‘oink oink’ sms’es, and I’d said I desperately needed to start tennis up again…

But come on lah… takkan you need advance warning in order to be diplomatic? Takkan you tak boleh be considerate of people’s feelings at any given time?

Case in point: Today was another catch-up session, with a bunch of St Marians: and the person who should know better sees me walking thru the door and gasps: “Oh my god you’ve put on SO much weight!!!” When I ignored and pretended I didn’t hear, perhaps you thought you were being nicer by ‘covering up’ by using the stupid “waaah, you look happy” euphemism, but it only ended up being a double whammy.

You know what… if you can’t say anything nice, just say nothing at all (including body language!!). I really do not need you all bashing my sense of self-worth.

I’ll get myself healthier, fitter, trimmer, all at my own pace.

Get the hell out of my face.

LHDNM: Good news and bad news!

Yep, I was at the LHDNM (Income Tax) office @ Jalan Duta last Friday.

Good news: The visit was not as painful as expected.
Bad news: I still can’t cross this off my “To Do” list.

Here’s why:

Good news:
One of the many people I met was the same person who dealt with me last year, and she remembered having handled my case. She told me to “just ignore” the Borang B for the mysterious second account, to not even send it in, as she knows the account is (supposed to be) frozen. .
Bad news:
Doesn’t answer the question of how this second account was set up in the first place. I do mean to find out, but I’ll do that after the first tax deadline of 30th April. This will entail a journey of discovery: have no idea where the Kelana Jaya office is!

Good news:
For the first time in my history, LHDNM owes ME money! While being able to claim the cost of my dad’s hearing aid helps a bit by reducing my taxable income by RM1000, the main reason I’m not in the red with them is that my ex-employer deducted so much from my monthly paychecks past year. I guess I musta been bumped up into a higher deduction bracket or something.
Bad news:
I wonder when I am gonna see that RM1200…

Good news:
Having previously paid taxes owed up till 2002, according to my records at the time of my visit I only owed them for 2003.
Bad news:
According to their records, there was a discrepancy of RM600 or so. When I challenged that, I had to sit around and wait for yet another officer to ‘interview’ me.
>>>... but...
Good news:
After quite a bit of verbal foreplay, figured out that they are missing record of payment for Sept – December 1995 (my first few months of work), and the the discrepancy was only for RM140 or so. To fix it, all they need is proof that the deductions were submitted by the employer, then my account would be credited accordingly.
Bad news:
I need to contact payroll (left a message: he wasn’t around) to get them to furnish the evidence, then bring that to LHDNM, and personally hand it over to the person in charge. It’s labor intensive, but I don’t trust anybody to do this without screwing up…

So, I have just a bit more to go before I have the satisfaction of crossing LHDNM off my list:
1. actually submit my assessment form for 2004
2. get & pass on the Sept-Dec 1995 info
3. visit Kelana Jaya to find out more about the 'other account'

Here's hoping 1 & 2 are done by next week, and #3 by mid-May...

And for those who may be curious, here are some statistics of my visit:

Duration: 3 hours
(9am – 12 noon, most of which was spent waiting…)

No. of queue numbers: three
Different numbers issued for “assessment”, “collection” and “payment”

No. of people talked to: four
#1: Assessment: General
#2. Assessment: Interview
#3. Collection: General
#4. Collection: Interview

No. of floors visited : three
1 st: Assessment: General and Collection: General & Interview
6 th: Assessment: Interview
G: Payment

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Can you say “tooting your own horn”?

I absolutely HAD to share the contents of a letter my mom received from obviously very proud parents… Not that I’m going to end up getting hitched to some rich snot, but whenever my time does come I trust my parents will exercise restraint!!

Read on to see what I mean…

(names changed to protect privacy)

Dear (my mom),

With immense pleasure we inform you that our daughter Kamala’s wedding has been fixed with Pierre, son of Mdm Jeanette and Monsieur Marcel Pagnol of St Tropez, France. Monsieur Pagnol has business interests in France and Singapore. His younger brother is involved in the French arm of the business whereas Pierre is involved in the family loyalty card business in Singapore. Jeanette and Monsieur Pagnol divide their time between France and Singapore. Pierre has a younger sister, Isabelle, who is currently working in America. His paternal grandfather is an investment banker in Paris and his maternal uncle is (high ranked officer) of Air France in Cannes.

As you know, Kamala is pursuing a masters degreein neurophysiotherapy in USA. She will complete it by mid 2006. The wedding will be held subsequently in India.

We will inform you as soon as the dates are finalized. Please accept our warm invitation to attend the wedding.

With warm regards
(the mom and dad)

Wow... they must be oh so very proud that their daughter is marrying into money that they are trumpeting it to all their friends! … Can you say “tooting your own horn”?????!!!!

Friday, April 08, 2005

My first two days (daze?) in KL

Day One:

Dunno if I’m reading too much into it, but didn’t appreciate mom’s comment about “welcome back to reality” on the drive to the apartment.

Took a shower to wash the travel ickkyness off: helped just a little.

Greeted my dad, who’d just come back from his morning walk, who succeeded in saying exactly the wrong thing to me about my weight.

Ah yes, I see the interaction with parents is going to be just as before.

Tried to unpack my suitcase, but stuff in the closet had been rearranged, since “my” room is now the guest room (i.e. a drawer now dedicated to guest/brother) and had no immediate space for my stuff. Ended up going thru and selecting stuff to discard/ give away. Helped get some space, whoohoo!

At the same time: Made myself go through and file my six months worth of mail. I even made a ‘to do’ list as I came across things that needed follow-ups. Apart from Income Tax related matters, there were no real issues. Good, cos dealing with LHNDM is going to be enough of a hassle all by itself! Btw, did anyone else notice that they’ve added the “M” at the end? Just in case people were confused which country we were dealing with, izzit?

Through all this, was also busy with sms’es, and phone calls. Apart from ‘pleasure’ calls like the surprise call from my ex-tennis partner in Kuantan, was already on the phone to deal with my car insurance refund (might not get it) and of course with my lawyer concerning the house sale and all those loose ends that have yet to be tied up…

Took another shower in the evening, and felt MUCH better. I had somehow managed to stay up and awake all day, without that much trouble. Had a not very exciting Mee Goreng Mamak (whaddaya expect – dined at Shah’s Motel, not at an actual mamak place!) for dinner. Got back, crawled into bed, and musta immediately passed out cos next thing I know it’s 4:30am: that was a solid 7hr sleep! I then slept fitfully until around 7am.

Day Two:

Had my first glass of teh tarik at Ganesh. Not nice lah… will have to visit other mamaks to see whose tastes best ;- )

Took the LRT armed with a 12-pack of Krispy Kreme donuts and a box of Honey Nut Cheerios, and made my way to KLCC, for I already had my first lunch date with S, L & M (had to deliver those two items to S!)… This is only the first of MANY lunches I expect to have… so many people to catch up with maaaah! Just hope we don’t always end up at Chili’s tho! ;- )

Also got my Borang EA, which I need in order to complete my tax assessment for 2004. Once I got back, I started filling in the form. Ugh, why on earth did they have to totally reformat the entire thing? Have most of it filled out. Will be visiting Jalan Duta tomorrow, hopefully will be able to settle some of the outstanding issues then.

Called up Southern Bank to see if I can still redeem my credit card bonus points which had expired in Jan 2005. I wish they could just be like Citibank and not have the points expire… But anyway: there seemed to be no problem in using those expired points, tho I got the impression I had to redeem those points all at once.

Spent the rest of the afternoon looking through the redemption catalog, trying to figure out what to get: so many options, so few nice/needed things. In the end, I’ve settled on getting a seemingly tasteful little figurine for me – that will use up around 85% of the points. For the rest of the points, I’ve shortlisted my options to small glass tray, a scented candle, or a fun bowl that looks like a cow. We’ll see which it will be when I place my order tomorrow :- )

Now that THAT is out of the way, I have a similar exercise to conduct for my Citibank points pulak. It’s true, those points don’t expire… but since I have no income at the moment, it’s not worth it for me to maintain credit cards that have an annual fee (my SBB MC has no annual fee)… So I will be canceling them soon.. But gotta redeem as much as I can first lah. Pity they don’t have a hard copy catalog… for something like this, flipping through a physical catalog is so much more satisfying than using the online catalog!

Dinner with parents at Kiwi’s in Hartamas (my first time there). Interesting place with unusual menu items (venison seemed to feature prominently, and the featured special was baked escargot!). Had their “kiwi pie” made not of the kiwi bird, but of beef and mushrooms lah, teehee! It came with black pepper sauce on the side, and tasted very good.

Have been at the PC pretty much since we got back from dinner.

Hey, so I’m all caught up now, whoohooo!! Depending on how things go at the Income tax office tomorrow, I may find a need to bitch and moan about the experience… otherwise, I’ll probably not be blogging until Monday.

Till then, dear reader(s)… peace.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

I’m baaaaaack! (part two)

So there I was, in 30H, observing all these Mat and Minah Sallehs: this plane definitely is NOT going to Dubai! I didn’t recognize the language: sounded like German but it wasn’t. Turns out it was Swedish, they were Swedes, and the plane would be making its layover in Stockholm!

Oh maaaaan, that is one of the few times I regret not taking a window seat! We would be flying past Greenland, flying over Iceland… aaarrrggghhhh!! Territory I only have read about (more on this in a future blog), and what I read struck such a chord in me that I WILL visit someday… sigh…

So yeah, you may be wondering why I do not take window seats: From my many years of flying, I’ve come to the conclusion that the aisle seat is best for traveling long distances: then I dictate when I want to go to the loo or just walk around… otherwise I’d be stuck at the window, with the view but exercising great bladder contol and trying in vain to keep legs active! Bonus would be the rare occasion when the next two seats are empty – being able to stretch out across three seats makes such a difference in ability to and quality of sleep on these flights!

I checked out the inflight movies… and was delighted to see so many that I’d meant to catch but never did: National Treasure, Meet the Fockers, The Incredibles! But the sound sucked! Started with NT but couldn’t hear a thing; switched to MtF and watched it all the way although I missed quite a bit of the dialogue. Decided it was not worth it to catch the movies, and rummaged around their games section: They’ve changed/upgraded their inflight entertainment system, although as usual the economy class passengers get the short end of the stick. Couldn’t find Bejeweled anywhere, and there were no more Mario Brothers games, sob sob! But there WAS tetris (tho I somehow prefer playing that game on my phone, teeehee!), but I finally settled on a game Kosh had attempted to introduce me to, but we never played to completion because I didn’t want to do the math and the sound of the dice was really loud: Yahtzee. Yep – played that the way I’d play Bejeweled in previous flights – just about every waking minute (and there were plenty of those! Hardly slept at all…). Figured out best strategies and all – I even got as high as over 300 points!

So… back to the journey:

>>> Typical of Malaysians perhaps? What looked like a grandma, mother and very young baby decided not to follow their seat assignment in order to stay together, and put up such a fuss when the proper seat owner tried to claim his seat… in the end he agreed to give up his window seat for an aisle seat just in front of me… and then he was ‘rewarded’ by being bumped up to business class… ugh… why couldn’t that happen to me????

>>> When we were arriving in Stockholm, all I saw of the place was what I glimpsed out the window. Caught sight of what I first thought was a glacier, but on second thought it was probably a huge frozen lake. Oooof… in Urbana it was finally warmed up when I left, but that far north it was still that cold?? I wonder if their summers are moderate, or they too get baked… have to keep that in mind for whenever I get to visit properly…

>>> Was aghast at hearing English as she is Mangled by the air steward (and also the co-pilot, I think) making announcements over the PA system… Not only were most of the announcements made in a sing-song cadence, but the person kept running the words all together such that even I could hardly understand what was being said! On top of that there were the typical mistakes of wrongly-placed “s” (that’s mean…) and use of (we apologise for any inconvenient caused by the delay).

>>> “If you would like to see the areolas, you can see them on the left side of the plane” was a cryptic announcement made somewhere over Greenland (I think). Took me a while to decipher what it was all about: the aurora borealis!! Pity I was on the wrong side of the aircraft :- ( heck, we were probably well past the area by the time I figured it out :- p

Finally arrived at KLIA… whizzed past immigration (Gotta LOVE the “smart” passport!), bought the ERL ticket while waiting for luggage, passed Customs with no harassment, boarded the ERL, mom picked me up from Sentral, reached the apartment around 830am.


6 months of bank and credit card bills and statements and other miscellaneous mail waiting for me.

>>> Still have problems with the income tax people… omg I think the place is filled with idiots!! Looks like I will have to visit both Jalan Duta AND Kelana Jaya offices to solve “the mystery of the second tax account” once and for all!!

>>> Still have loose ends to tie up wrt the sale of my house… 8 months after the SPA was signed??!!! I’m surprised, and yet not surprised…

And to top it all of: the dysfunction of my family did not take long to start manifesting… ugh.
Overall… everything was pretty much as I expected it to be. Let’s hope I emerge from my time in Malaysia with my sanity intact!

I’m baaaaaack! (part one)

Leaving Champaign:
Got a ride to the airport after all, with a detour to Jarling’s Custard Cup… a treat of sorts since we were feeling down at my departure. Had some of that Choc Chip Cookie Dough Snowstorm there at the shop, enjoying the sunny day while remarking on how cookie dough didn’t seem to “fit” with the custard… then all too soon we had to head for the airport… Did the check-in thing, then hung out a little bit, but Kosh had to get back to work, so we did our goodbyes… went thru the security checkpoint and sat myself down and continued on the now mostly melted snowstorm… Felt slightly sick eating that snowstorm, though – I think it was the cookie dough itself that was questionable. So I ate/drank the custard and discarded the dough, teehee!

The plane was of a smaller type aircraft, with what I call 2 x 2 seating (i.e. you have seats AC DF only). I was assigned seat 13C… yikes, that was all the way to the back! Right next to the bathroom too (there was no 13D or F)! Ewwwww! Good thing it didn’t stink, and neither did anyone need to visit while I was its neighbour! Phew! Then again, the plane was barely a quarter filled… I wonder if the person who checked me in just decided it would be funny to put me by the loo?? Hmmmph!! Anyways: took off at 3pm, landed in Cincinnati ontime.

Getting to Newark…
… means leaving Cincinnati… and that flight was delayed by over 30 mins! Instead of leaving at 535pm, we must have left at 615pm or something… I was already doing the math: that would bring me to Newark at 8pm… and my flight out was at 10pm!! Cutting it a bit TOO close!! But nevermind, let’s just hope that the worst is over…


It was a totally full flight… and the person next to me smelt sooooo masam (sour); to give him some credit, I didn’t get assaulted by his odoriferous emanations until partway through the flight, when he started moving around, which I suppose sent the choke-gag-“aroma” my way… I could not place the smell: could be his clothes that smelt as if they’d been washed but not dried properly… or if it was just his B.O… but so yeah, that wasn’t too fun a ride…

Then I noticed that the plane was starting to fly in circles, when we were about 20mins or so from the airport… yep, it was in a holding pattern!! Newark was having air traffic backlog, so we had to sit tight until our plane was cleared to land… aaarrrrggghhhh!!

Tick tock tick tock!!

Miraculously, we weren’t on hold for too long,,, and made it to Newark just before 8pm… so I rush out of the plane, and head over to Baggage Claim… it seemed to take forever for my luggage to emerge (of course!), but I suppose it wasn’t all that long, cos I was doing a fast walk dragging two suitcases behind me trying to find the Malaysia Airlines counter…

Finally getting there… only to see what seemed like the entire planeful of people in a huge-ass queue that seemed to stretch out forever… my heart sank… starting to regret my earlier decision to challenge my tendency to build in so many buffers in timing such that I’d end up way too early to even check in sometimes…

The queue, even though it was long, moved relatively fast – yahoo!

And behind me were only 6 (yes, SIX) singles/couples also waiting to check-in… everyone else had been in front of me… heck, better being 7th-last than the absolute last person in the queue, eh?

While queueing, I wondered about when and how our luggage would be checked: in March 2004, when I was leaving from LAX, I had to go through this whole rigmarole with the TSA: queue at the TSA area first, hand off the bags to them unlocked, they’d go through it in a closed-off area, then lock it for ya (U trust them? Yeah, right!), and hand it over to another airport personnel who would then bring the luggage to another queue (comprising only of luggage), and the personnel would bring forth your bags to the check-in counter when it’s your turn. On one hand you have a pseudo personal bellhop, on the other hand you are not allowed to even touch the bags after that!

So here in Newark, from my vantage point of the queue, it didn’t seem like that was going on… Did they abolish that because it was a useless procedure? Or maybe Newark was less paranoid than LAX?

None of the above!

What I had to do was hand over my check-in luggage UNLOCKED to the MAS staff. The TSA people would subject it to a search if they felt like it, then lock it. One major loophole: your bags could travel halfway around the world unlocked (I think that happened to my bag). At least at LAX you still can make sure (via a proxy) that the bags are properly closed & locked! One way around this is to use bags with external padlocks: “TSA-Approved” padlocks. Although, again, there have been complaints from passengers that these “approved” locks are missing or broken when they claim their bags at their final destination.

I remember my early days of flying: we had all to go through a baggage screening before going to the check-in counter. This step was later abolished in the spirit of doing random checks/systematic screening behind the scenes instead, and all flyers heaved a collective sigh of relief. Now, it looks like this step is being re-implemented in the U.S., yet I’m sure it could be done a much less abrasive and invasive manner…

Anyway,,, so back to my check-in: Got my boarding pass, and was told that boarding would start at 1015pm. Huh? Aren’t we supposed to be in the air by then? Turns out the flight was been delayed: new departure time 11pm. Of course this was not indicated on any of the screens in the airport – only at the boarding gate itself. So in the end, it looks like I made the right choice of timing my flights. So no, I have not learnt my lesson, if there was one to be learnt, and I will look to more “cutting it close” connections in my future trips to cut down on wasted time in airports.

One last question before boarding: I remember on my way in to the u.s., watching that video on Immigration requirements, it was mentioned that on the way out we would need to “scan” our visas at a provided computerized booth: I think it was an attempt to track one’s length of stay? But I didn’t see anything like that anywhere… perhaps that was a new requirement that got scrapped, or the equipment is not ready yet? And perhaps because of that, there was a new requirement before boarding: showing your boarding pass AND identification, then go to another personnel who does the normal processing of boarding passes, then you get on the plane.

Ok, so I jump through those hoops too… find myself sitting in 30H, which is one of the first rows of seats for economy class – whooohooo!! I’ll be right in front of the queue to get outta the plane! A small thing to you, perhaps, but to me this is bliss!!

The plane taxis out… hurtles down the runway… lifts off… and no longer am I on U.S. soil…

Tune in for the conclusion of the flight to KL in Part Two!

Monday, April 04, 2005

to do list

Once I'm back in KL...

I'm lookin fwd to...

1. tennis (Zu/Oya - gotta borrow racket though... ok?)

2. roti canai (Raju, here I come!!)

3. TEH TARIK!! (the ONLY time I'll willingly take sweetened condensed milk!)

4. meeting up w ex-school mates on sunday 10th april (rick - this still on?)

5. roti bakar telur cheese (Spicy Kitchen @ Hartamas)

6. meeting up w ex-office mates (no date(s) set yet, but will happen for sure)

7. Nasi lemak, cheese naan (Sri Steven's @ Pandan Indah)

NOTE: food outweighs people - teehee!!

. . and have some chores to do / loose ends to tie up...

a. settle income tax (wonder how to tell them not to expect me to be filing for another year or so...?)

b. ex-employer: is housing loan settled?? what's the status?? sigh.

c. ex-employer: have you figured out how much I owe for the 50 weeks of employment i "owe"? the "estimated" amount you gave is not acceptable, but you've not replied my letter sent in November asking for clarification. sigh.


okay.... it's 930am... should start packing... shower... finish off this book before I leave... byeeeeeee!

SiteMeter, pope&schiavo, prep to return, fish

am experimenting with putting in a counter to track traffic... not that I expect this to be that busy a site, but am thinking of building a baseline so that if ever my "fame" takes off, I'll know... and if nothing else I can start experimenting with such free blog-related services :-)

ugh... MY own visits will of course get tracked too... yahoo, I'm my own first visitor :p

I don't like where the counter is at the moment (waaaaaaay down at the bottom of the page)... but then again I notice that the page already loads slower now... hmmm.... may experiment with other similar sites... if I feel like it...


the pope dies, finally....

it was really painful to see the old man in the last year or so... but I suppose the position is one held to death, even if the person is obviously not in good health, can barely talk and walk.... sigh...

I'm glad his time is finally up - get your rest, you've deserved it.

and another person whose time was up - or not - depending on who you believe/listen to/support : Terri Schiavo. Again, the news of her death was actually welcome, just to shut up the media frenzy! I didn't pay too much attention to the whole hoo-hah, but I do acknowledge that the entire situation is neither a pleasant nor easy one... I do however have a problem with so many outsiders poking their noses into a situation that should be limited to the immediate family - the decision to pull a feeding tube/plug off of a comatose/vegetative person is not one made lightly... no need to make it more difficult for the person(s) who need to make the decision....


and yes... these are my last few hours in Urbana... will be flying out at 3pm, changing flights in Cinncinnati, arriving in Newark around 730pm, and at 10pm flying to KUL via Dubai.

Hunted high and low for my Enrich card... couldn't find it... hmmm.... I *think* I pulled it out of my wallet when I made my booking for the flight back... or did I lose/misplace it much earlier, during my trip to the u.s.?

Either way, I *think* they already have my membership number in the system... I'd hate to have to send in my boarding pass as proof of the journey in order to get the miles logged into my account... :-(


and something to have you perhaps chuckling for the day:

(31st March: medical blooper calendar) Overheard while in line at a hospital cafeteria:
- "Is that flounder?"
- "No, that's fish."
- "What kind of fish is it?"
- "Fried."
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