Scary Wiper Scare & Brilliant Kapchai Ban Proposal

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(Things to keep an eye for – failing wipers. Image source: http://www.kempenfeltauto.com)

It has been raining cats and dogs lately…

It was raining heavily when I went to work one fine morning – I predicted an increased traffic jam due to the rain and a couple of morons speeding and changing lane without any indicators during the heavy rain. I switched on the wipers and immediately I noticed something not right. It was squeaking and as the wipers goes up and down, it started to bend considerably.

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All About Good Parenting Part 2

Read first All About Good Parenting Part 1 here

For the past few days, if you had not noticed, the weather had not been that good – the day had been rather hazy and the nights has been warm and very sweaty. Can you imagine – I was sweating profusely eventhough I was pouring buckets of cold water onto myself. It was that bad. And as if that was not enough, I caught cold and started to cough and it got worse day by day.

One day I woke up, feeling like someone was sitting on my chest and I could not breathe properly. The chest felt heavy and I did not have a good appetite in the morning as well. I went to see the doctor and after registration, I was waiting for the nurse to call me in to see the doctor.

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Ending The Year 2014 On A Positive Note!

2014 najib golf

(Not everyone can be the PM – very, very hard at “work” overseas in 2014. Some had said that there is nothing wrong for a leader to take a break. Well, that is correct but not when the country is seeing one of the worst floods around. The big mamma still on holiday, its so seems – no one had seen her wading through the high water in downtown Kota Bahru. Image source)

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Smoke Gets In My Eyes, Again!

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(The hotspots in Indonesia is a yearly affair and it some how had become “tolerable” when by right it should not be the case. The above when Singapore faced the worst from the slash & burn activities in Indonesia. Image source: http://marufish.com)

At the beginning of last week, this was reported on the state of haze in Malaysia:-

Malaysian authorities declared a state of emergency Sunday in a southern district where a smoky haze blamed on Indonesian forest fires has triggered one of the country’s worst pollution levels in years.

The worst of the smog has shifted from Singapore to southernmost Malaysia, where noxious fumes have drifted across the sea this past week from Indonesia’s Sumatra island. The Malaysian government’s index for air pollution reached a measurement of 746 early Sunday in the southern district of Muar. It was far above the threshold of 300 for hazardous air quality.

Authorities were issuing instructions for Muar’s residents to remain indoors and for schools to close, Environment Minister G. Palanivel said in a statement on his Facebook page. The district has about 250,000 people, several of whom posted photographs on Twitter showing bridges and buildings enveloped in smog that slashed visibility to barely hundreds of meters (feet).

(Source)

And since then, some schools in the Klang Valley were closed for a couple of days (my son certainly was not complaining though) with all of us breathing in and out some of the very unhealthy air todate – some spiked more than 400 on the API reading. But thanks to (man made? or perhaps God taking pity on some of us) heavy rain last week and recent days, API readings have gone down to less dangerous levels and things seemed to have come down to a more normal levels (although last Sunday the haze was back). But hopefully despite the clear skies, we will not be forgetting the culprits who caused some of the worse air pollution over some states in Malaysia last week or keeping our silence on preventing similar occurrence in the coming years.

For start, the Indonesian Government have (once again) blamed (and listed) the “Malaysian” firms involved in the opening burning in Sumatra and on paper, the Malaysian Government have asked for proof and urged prosecution against the wrongdoers but it is a big question on whether the Indonesians would be willing to do that. We are talking big players here and a very aggressive prosecution on something that could be tough to prove (as to who started the fire) could back-fire big time – big players may pull out and huge investments may drop. Think about it – if they could prosecute the culprits, they would have done so a long time ago and that would have been the end of the yearly man-made deadly haze, right?

Interestingly whilst this is still being debated between the Governments, the Malaysian firms having plantation interests in Indonesia have come out emphasizing on their zero burn policy and flatly denied that they were the culprits behind the massive haze over Malaysia & Singapore – they are putting the blame on the locals who determined to do it the easy way. That sounds reasonable but is it?

The standard response has been to blame local communities and smallholders in Sumatra for the clear-cutting and slash-and-burn tactics. It is easy to blame the small guys/local farmers/local communities, etc when they are unable to respond in the media.

Yet, an overlay map of Sumatra shows that there is a close correlation between the hotspots (where the burning is taking place) and the concession areas for oil palm plantations and timber.

So, the large companies then engage some of these local communities to clear the land for them – sort of like outsourcing the land-clearing. And then these local communities do it in the easiest or cheapest way possible. Moreover, the local people often do not have the expertise for replanting, which the large companies possess. But because it is the local communities doing the clearing, the large companies are able to wash their hands and pass the buck to the local communities.

(Source)

And it gets worse if these allegations are true:-

The whole world knows, and has for years, that the haze is not just the product of ‘burning-off’ by a ragtag bunch of small farmers, but wholesale illegal clearance of what’s left of Sumatra’s peat forests by the managements of massive palm-oil plantations.

And that many of these environmental vandals are so-called government-linked corporations which the respective ruling regimes involved are coy about naming because they and their cronies are the principal beneficiaries.

(Source)

In the end, it goes back to the issue of enforcement and the deploying the best method for clearing the land for plantation.

The issue is serious (at least for me) when you have small kids and old people at home and they start to have breathing difficulties and there is nothing much we could do about it. Mind you, 2 people died from all the haze in Malaysia, courtesy of the idiots in Indonesia taking short cuts to clear the land. One of their Ministers even had the cheek to say that the Singaporeans are acting childish on this (some politicians will remain a moron to the core no matter which country they are from). Perhaps some of you may not have small kids and old people to take care of but then what about your own health concerns in the long run? How long you think you can survive wearing mask when you go out? Don’t you get frustrated, angry and sick at the same? What about the negative impact to the country’s economy especially in the tourism sector – how many tourists you think will be willing to take a long stroll outside if the haze is thick and sickening?  In the end, will the slash & burn buggers compensate for these losses – both the economic and personal losses?

00-ria-novosti-infographics-be-200chs-amphibious-firefighting-aircraft-2010

(If there is fire and it cannot be done with simple tools, it is time to look at a more powerful one. One such tool would be the fire-fighting aircraft like the one made by Russia above – it is more effective once coupled with the traditional fire-fighting techniques on the ground. Image source: http://02varvara.wordpress.com)

The “problem” with the problem is that everyone knows what need to be done. The mysterious part would be on the Governments with all its might, expertise and will-power seems to be powerless when this happens on a yearly basis and one need to ask why the might of the law and almost unlimited resources of the Government have not been used to the fullest scale? Sucking up to the slash & burn offenders does has its limits. Instead of being reactive to the problem, why not be proactive instead? After all, trans boundary air pollution is not something one can hide under the blue carpet.

Enforcement aspect aside (it is all talk and no action here for donkey odd years), let’s start with a beef-up the fire services with a specialize team on the forest & peat fires with superior technology (like early warning systems), tools (such fire-fighting planes) and man-power all paid in advance on a yearly basis from a centralised fund (all donated graciously from all plantation owners)? Why not use the satellite imaginary system to pin-point the start of the peat and use the information to coordinate fire-fighting and enforcement on a more aggressive manner? It can be done if this need to be done.

But before that, the Indonesia Government should start with ratifying the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution is an environmental agreement established in 2002 between all ASEAN nations to reduce haze pollution in Southeast Asia. There should not be any more excuses from the Indonesians, now that the source of the haze is clearly is self made and is in their own back yard.

Time to breathe in and breathe out before the next round of haze is back

2012 Updates: Solar Flares

Some “2012” updates for your weekend reading…

[youtube=http://youtu.be/30TXQkNBB9k]

(Solar storm is a serious threat around 2012. Both NASA and ESA confirmed the next huge solar storm between September 2012 and May 2013. We all heard about the big one in 1859 and it looks like we are not far away from another one coming our way. Source: Youtube)

From Survive2012:-

Lawrence E Joseph, Patrick Geryl and myself would probably be the 2012 catastrophists that have reached the most people. Something we all proclaim is that our Sun is the most likely source of a 2012 disaster:

We each understand that a solar storm could wipe out power grids and potentially melt down nuclear facilities, leading to many millions of lost lives. That late 2012/ early 2013 is probably the peak of this solar cycle fits well with all three theories.

They further argue this based on these facts:-

Our Solar System is at its “solar max”, meaning the Sun is expected to have a change in magnetism and ultimately will trigger a chain reaction throughout the entire Solar System. Every 11 years we play ‘Russian roulette’ with the sun, and sooner or later we are going to lose that bet. According to scientists, we are in the middle of an 11,500 year cycle of when the ice age returns. It was approximately 11,500 years ago that the world saw its last ice age, starting off with a polar shift. Earth doesn’t have to flip an entire 180 to truly throw off the balance of the Eco-systems and have some devastating effects on the way we live life.

They are predicting long term black out. And as we know that modern life without power (coupled with cascading impact on other areas like water distribution sewage system, banking, etc) even for a couple of days would be a disaster (this in addition to the fact that solar storms produce massive amounts of electromagnetic radiation). Imagine the effect over a couple of months or even years:-

NASA-funded study by the National Academy of Sciences entitled Severe Space Weather Events—Understanding Societal and Economic Impacts. In the 132-page report, experts detailed what might happen to our modern, high-tech society in the event of a “super solar flare” followed by an extreme geomagnetic storm. They found that almost nothing is immune from space weather—not even the water in your bathroom.

The problem begins with the electric power grid. “Electric power is modern society’s cornerstone technology on which virtually all other infrastructures and services depend,” the report notes. Yet it is particularly vulnerable to bad space weather. Ground currents induced during geomagnetic storms can actually melt the copper windings of transformers at the heart of many power distribution systems.

Power outages would be accompanied by radio blackouts and satellite malfunctions; telecommunications, GPS navigation, banking and finance, and transportation would all be affected. Some problems would correct themselves with the fading of the storm: radio and GPS transmissions could come back online fairly quickly.

Other problems would be lasting: a burnt-out multi-ton transformer, for instance, can take weeks or months to repair. The total economic impact in the first year alone could reach $2 trillion, some 20 times greater than the costs of a Hurricane Katrina.

(Source)

Of course in the US, NASA is not sitting on their laurels, waiting for a disaster to happen:-

Reliable forecasting is the key. If utility and satellite operators know a storm is coming, they can take measures to reduce damage—e.g., disconnecting wires, shielding vulnerable electronics, powering down critical hardware. A few hours without power is better than a few weeks.

NASA has deployed a fleet of spacecraft to study the sun and its eruptions. The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), the twin STEREO probes, ACE, Wind and others are on duty 24/7. NASA physicists use data from these missions to understand the underlying physics of flares and geomagnetic storms; personnel at NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center use the findings, in turn, to hone their forecasts.

But that is in the US. What about Malaysia? How prepared we are to deal with solar storm that may (or may not) hit us unannounced this year? I am not sure if you remembered the major power outage that shut down the national grid for 14 hours in 1996?

It was bad because it happened on a weekend but things went to bad to worse in days. First, we had no electricity which was not so bad because we were staying in an apartment which situated on a hill – so it was not that warm during the night. We could not watch the TV for days but we used that time to catch up on our studies. Then we realized that we had no running water and that took days for the water supply to be back in stages (long after electricity supply was back to normal). I still remember me and my brother hauling buckets of water up 5 floors to our apartment several times when the water truck came visiting us on the second day. I even had to use the toilet and take shower at office for couple of days before we had sense of normality. Guess what is going to happen if the same happens and we are out of electricity and water for months?

A major power blackout in Malaysia is not something new – we had it in 1992, 1996, 2003 and 2005. Some say that it is an act of “sabotage” to allow IPPs to come into the picture with favorable deal but then again, it may not be so. It could mean that the current power generation is simply incapable to cope with the growing demand for more power or we have not taken all the necessary precaution to prevent a major national power blackout.

HOURS after a power failure yesterday, Malaysia’s monopoly power distributor Tenaga Nasional cited a technical fault as the reason for the blackout but said it was baffled as to why it occurred. The three-hour cut in power plunged many buildings in Kuala Lumpur and three southern states in the peninsula into semi-darkness. It was the country’s most widespread power failure since 1996.

When the main busbar malfunctioned, a standby busbar was to have taken over its functions, ensuring smooth transmission of power. But even the backup busbar failed, leaving officials puzzled. There were concerns about whether employees had slipped on maintenance, and Energy Minister Lim Keng Yaik said: ‘We have to find out if there was human error or maintenance not up to the mark.

Tenaga Nasional was ordered to ensure the failure was never repeated. But yesterday it did happen again, though not for long. Datuk Abdul Hadi said, adding that Tenaga Nasional was unhappy it took so long to restore power.

(Source)

The above happened in 2005 and 7 years later, I am sure that Tenaga would have taken even more precautionary steps to prevent another national blackout. It has been some time since we had any major power outage but we should not disregard that we may face a record sized solar storm this year.

The way I see it, the future of our civilization as we know it may head to one of these 2 directions – it will either end abruptly as early as 2012 as mentioned in the Holy Scriptures (or as predicated by the Mayans) or nothing major happens in 2012 and the future will come to a point where the civilization will become so advanced that humans start exploring the universe on a larger scale on warp capable space ships (like in the TV series, Star Trek)

I am hoping for the latter but still we should not ever ignore the possibility of the former and predictions and analysis that comes with it. Happy Tamil New Year.

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Brisbane Flood

Click here for more stunning, interesting photos

(An aerial view of the submerged runway at Rockhampton airport on January 6, 2011 in Rockhampton, Australia – Photo by Jonathan Wood/Getty Images)

The last time I saw something similar is when I was flying over from Dubai and we had to stop at Dhaka on transit. Bangladesh had seen one of the worst monsoon season just couple of days earlier and as we neared the capital, all we could see is brown, murky water.

There were patches of land, occasionally on the sea of water and there was people, cattle and everything that the people managed to save in time on this small patches of land. In fact, there was way too much water all around us, I thought we just going to pass over the airport. At the end, we did land but I realized that the airport is only part of the land that was not flooded.

We were even surprised to see a long line of passengers waiting for the plane – some even boarded with wet clothes and bags and a sad face that explains it all – leaving the loved ones with an uncertain future whilst they fly away from the flooded city. Due to the worsening flood, we did not wait for long and soon we were back on air, leaving the flooded country with a sense of relief.

Brisbane fared slightly worse with the runaway sticking up like a sore thumb but things are still bad over there with 200,000 people affected. Back at home, we have not been doing too good either.

Hell is here

(It is so dry here – Image source: http://digital-desert.com)

It was almost 9.15 pm when I reached home, tired and weak.

I have been having “dry” coughs ever since I returned from the Pangkor trip. So the drive home was not pleasant as it used to be. It strains me even more to navigate through the traffic.

I reached home and was hungry – good thing was my wife made cooked up a hearty dinner. I noticed my son was playing in the living room, without his shirt on. He was feeling warm despite sitting down under the fan. I opted not to play with him – I did not want him to contract the dry coughs as well. Besides, I have not taken my bath. Still coughing, I made myself up to the master bedroom, getting ready for a “cool” bath. The bedroom was warm but the bathroom was warmer.

I touched the wall of the bathroom and it was hot. It was as if someone had placed a large fire behind the wall and the fire was getting hotter. I switched on the tap, hoping for cool shower but was disappointed when it was nothing but a mild “air suam” (almost a warm water).

When I stopped the shower, I started to sweat. I was still feeling hot when I walked down after my “shower”. The temperature on outside the house at night was thankfully low – there was a slight cool breeze in between. But despite this, there was no sign of the interior of the house getting cooler.

I am praying for heavy rain soon.

By the way, this is a relieve – Datuk Seri Nizar Jamaluddin whose position as the legitimate Menteri Besar has been re-affirmed by the recent High Court ruling, have suspended the State Secretary and the State Legal Advisor – the key characters in the on-going turmoil in Perak.

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