Atchafalaya Swamp

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Friends in High Places

INSTEAD OF FEELING the need for speed, like my hyper six-year-old often does (he has actually completed PS2's Need For Speed:Carbon, no kidding), I too feel the need . . . to trumpet a few things.

Mat Salo indeed has friends (not too many) and foes (plenty - just check out the politicians) in high places and this is a good time as any to give them their due. I'm not even going to bother checking with them if this is a good idea, because hey - that's what friends are for, right?

Today on perusing TheStar's Biz Section (Maybank Appoints New CFO) I was pleasantly surprised to read that a batchmate of mine, Beghat (nickname on account of his rather stupenduos male-centric accessory), was appointed the second-most powerful position in Maybank. No shit, Sherlock.

So I sent him an sms which goes like this: Hey Beghat.. Congrats & I hope I'm not the last to wish you. Woi! Now can u pls get your housing loan ppl to get off my back?
Comes in handy to have a buddy up there, I guess.
But the good Lato' Haji had the cheek to reply: thanks bro', but when you sold me those fotos back in kolek how come you never give me discount? And for the final nail in the coffin, signed off with a heh-heh.

An explanation is in order. I have been into photography ever since I was in Form One and it fell on me to catalog a piece of my batch's history and also to profit from it. So I'm the nerd with camera slung around the neck and was charging 20 sens (1975 dollars) for a 3R copy. And that was just for the black and white ones! I developed and printed them myself at the club's darkroom below the stairs near the science lab. The camera, all manual shit with no auto-anything was of course the club's property, along with the developer fluid, enlarger and photographic paper. For color prints I have it sent across to Yong's Photo down on Kuala Kangsar's main street where I would apply the appropriate mark-up to my fellow victims. At the end of the day, that was what the good Dato' remembered.

The bloody profiteering.

And the bloody profiteering is why The Bank has posted record profits --- and why its employees are now busily picketing with round badges over their breasts crying, "Thief!"

Anyway here's a photo of MBB's Number Two as a thirteen year-old preserved for posterity by yours truly.

©Mat Salo 1975

Payback time, eh Lato'? No man, am real proud of you, dude!

Actually I was into photography way longer than that (but why I'm still taking crap photos is anybody's guess). It all started in primary school when I was classmates with Mr. Heng FM whose dad owned the Film Star Photo Studios on Jalan Trus, Johor Bahru. As a ten-year old boy I was impressed that FM had a professional dad who photographed Ministers and Sultans.

Which brings me my next story, FM himself.

Couple of months back FM was also featured in The Star in his capacity as Managing Director of an SME IT company called Ceedtec in Penang, poised on the brink of greatness, MESDAQ and all that.

As per normal trumpet procedure, Mat Salo was the first to have caught this scintillitating item and had forwarded it to my primary school STAR2 JB e-groups where FM was forced to answer some uncomfortable questions.

For many years FM worked in the 'kilang sector' and while with HP had a big hand in putting cameras into phones. But it surprised me to know that FM, being unworthy of his dear father's profession? - shoots only with a compact camera? What-the-f%&*? An Olympus I think. Hard to believe he hasn't got an SLR when Heng Sr. was probably the most respected photographer back in the wild and swingin' JB Seventies.

At press time FM is actively enganging an "ODM Partner" (whatever that means) and having talks with "VC's" (Venture Capiltalists). Anyway, seriously, I do wish him luck. I hope to cash in if his tech company hits the jackpot. And do remember, you read it here first!

And my final story is about a guy, also from way back in JB who has now, some speculate, succumbed to the Dark Side*. Zikri is the guy in blue.

©US Department of Energy - Argonne National Labs

Zikri Yusof, PhD., is an "Accelerator Physicist" at US's prestigious Argonne National Labs near Chicago, Illinois. In our "JB" e-groups, Z, like his illustrious English College schoolmate FM before him, also had to answer lots of uncomfortable questions - namely from nincompoops like me. Z's breakthrough has directly impacted our lives by making more efficent x-ray machines using less energy.

Who knows, this Towering Malaysian might perhaps one day win a Nobel.

If that happens I can then smugly say, hey, I know that dude!

Please read Argonne's Press Release

And if you're like me, who never paid much attention to secondary school physics, I asked some rather silly questions because the press release was sheer gobbledygook. So Z was forced to email us a detailed explanation which I shall reproduce below in its entirety.

Since several of you have expressed some curiosity regarding the nature of this work, I will spend a few minutes describing what it is, and how, in fact, the advancement here could actually have an impact on a lot of people, beyond just the immediate application to high energy physics.

The whole idea here is to make a better accelerating structure to accelerate charged particles, in this case, electrons. Our current technology uses copper cavities to do that. However, we can only put so much gradient inside this cavity before we destroy it (roughly 30-60 MV/m). So in order to accelerate particles to higher and higher energies (such as the one about to be turned on at CERN), the accelerator facility needs to be longer and longer so that we can stack more and more of these copper accelerating structures to get to the energy that we want. Unfortunately, this also means that such facility will be horrendously more expensive. The proposed International Linear Collider, which will be about 40 km long, is estimated to be about US$10-15 billion! At some point, we just can no longer build such monsters.

Thus, several groups around the world have been working on new acceleration schemes to make smaller structures able to produce higher accelerating gradients than the conventional ones. Our group, the Argonne Wakefield Accelerator, is one of them.

The physics here is actually quite simple [emphasis mine]. Imagine you have a boat moving on water. What you see behind the boat is a wake left behind that was generated by the boat. The larger and faster the boat, the larger is this water wake.

In our case, the boat is a bunch of electrons, and the "water", which is the medium that the wake is generated in, is a dielectric (insulating ceramic) hollow tube, and the wake field itself is the electric field. We can generate an accelerating mechanism in 2 ways:

1.We pass a large bunch of charge (we call this the drive beam) through our dielectric tube. It creates a large wake field. Then before that wake field decays away, if we pass a small bunch of charge at just the right moment, it will experience an acceleration through the tube. This second bunch is the bunch that you want to accelerate (we call this the witness bunch since it is "witnessing" the wake field). This is like a transformer ratio – large current, low voltage being equal to low current, high voltage, with the power being the same. In our case, it is large charge, low gradient going to low charge, high gradient. The drive bunch has a high charge, creating all the wake field, and this causes a witness beam of low charge to be accelerated by a large gradient.

2.But that’s not the only means of doing this. Since the wake generated is nothing more than a classical wave, we know that classical wave can add constructively. So, if we smart enough, we can make use of that. And we do! If, after the first drive bunch has passed though, if we can add a SECOND drive bunch just at the right time, the wake field generated by the second will ADD to the wake field generated by the first, thus creating an even larger wake! What if we have 4 drive beams, 8 drive beams, 16 drive beams, 32 drive beams… etc.? You can already see that if we can have a "bunch train" of drive beams spaced just right, we can create quite a large wake to accelerate the witness beam.

As you can imagine, the construction and the details in producing all this aren’t trivial. That’s why it took the group almost 20 years just to get to that 100 MV/m milestone. We’re hoping that since we now understand things more (and we also know what dielectric to use), the next series of progress won’t take as long.

Oh, how does this impact you? If everything works, it means that we can produce a cheap, compact accelerator. Accelerators are used in a lot of things, including to generate x-rays. There are medical accelerators to generate x-rays already in used in hospitals and doctors’ offices. In principle, this technique can create more compact, cheaper medical x-rays for not just diagnostics, but treatment as well.

Whoa! I’ve written way too much and have probably put all of you to sleep! Still, I’m sure you can understand by now the excitement surrounding this, and why I think this is quite fascinating.
Take care!


Damn, Z. Whatever. Now people... do you find this fascinating? Especially about the "physics is simple part"?

Anyway, heartiest congratulations to my friends Beghat, FM and Z.

And about the "embellishments" in this blog . . . all this is in jest, eh buddies?


Uh-uh, got another one to make. An addendum. Because as soon as I posted this one up another interesting snippet came up in The Star today. This involves blood, my kah-zen, Man, the 'white sheep' of the family. No need to tell you who the 'baa baa blackie' is, eh?

This last-in-the-minute-past-deadline-post does the title justice - Friends in High Places - literally.

Anyway, Man, or referred to in The Star's story as Mejar Azman Jantan, is the first to fly the 'Ferrari of fighter jets' - the Sukhoi SU-30MKM - training with the famed Russian Knights since last July in Moscow. The reason he appeared in today's Star was because he did some aerobatic display at yesterday's LIMA in Langkawi. The paper quoted him as saying:

"...the Sukhoi could stall in midair while making swift turns, noting that it could also bank 90 degrees in the air and tail-slide down at ease.

“Apart from making flat spins like a falling leaf, the aircraft can also do a fantastic spin role on slow speed, dropping from 270 knots to 50 knots in less than five seconds,” he said.

Mejar Azman said the RMAF was looking for young and talented Malaysians to become pilots.

“Hopefully, by Lima 2009, we could have our own aerobatic team using all 18 Sukhoi aircraft,” he said.

Ea-sy kah-zen... gotta run that one by our current DPM first.

Anyway Man was already making news even from the late 80's when Mat Salo was busy scrubbing the deck of junk 25-year floating rust bucket. He did the family proud and even managed to further cement Mat Salo's reputation as the 'blackie'.

Man who had then just graduated from the Royal Military College (RMC) became the first ever Malaysian to be inducted into the famed Colorado Springs US Air Force Academy. The mother of all Top Gun schools which has produced 34 astronauts, famous Vietnam POW's and a host of US generals. There were Malaysians before him who went into West Point and the Naval Academy in Maryland but USAF? Not yet laar...

The USAF's is not only a military boot camp but a top-notch 4-year engineering undergraduate institution as well. Let's look at what it takes to get into one:

All qualified candidates may apply for nomination by either of their state’s two U.S. senators, their U.S. congressional representative, or the vice president of the United States. Children of armed forces personnel (on active duty or retired) may apply for nomination by the president of the United States. Nominations are also available to qualified enlisted members of the Air Force and Air Force Reserve. Qualified children of Medal of Honor winners . . . [as quoted in MSN's Encarta ]

Ok, Man, proud of you, 'cuz. I look at it this way, without white there can be no black. Without evil there can be no good. So it takes all kinds . . .


Zawi said...

mat salo,
I find everything that u blog to be very fascinating except for the font size which is killing me. You know when you cross the 45 yrs line, the first thing God did is to slowly take away your eyesight so that you will see less evil. So due to that, despite using 250 powered reading glasses I still want to beg you to use larger fonts. Afterall blogging space is still free.
Awang Goneng's GUIT was printed in small fonts too but Kak Teh told us it was the publisher who tried to skimp on space so that they can still sell GUIT at below RM40 (10 sen shy)to Malaysians and still make a small profit margin. At least they have an excuse. What excuse have you?

cakapaje said...

Salam bro,

Hmm...you are indeed a fascinating man! But I do have to agree with Pak Zawi up there bro. The parts where I have to cringe my eyes are those italics.

Hantu Laut said...

Mat Salo,

Great story.I have to agree with Zawi and Cakapaje you have to do something with the fond, even with my reading glasses, it doesn't help, the italics are worse.

Mat Salo said...

Messrs. Hantu Lautan, Shahrir Talk Only No Action & Bung Zawi Klante:

Sirs: I appreciate you pointing the font thingy out. Perhaps I got my browswer blown to 100 percent. I hope by upping the font to 'normal' would make it easier on the eyes! Thanks and appreciate you enjoying the story!

Err.. got a little addendum to make. Cousin of mine came up in the Star today!

jaflam said...

MS, it’s always great to see old friends made it to the top and remained humble. Unfortunately I have seen on many occasions people changed with the positions and success - they became too elitist and sombong to old friends ... poor chap.

By the way MS, I have arranged for a Bloggers Tea Session with Kak Teh and Awang Goneng as follows .

Date : Sunday 9 Dec 2007
Time : 4.00 PM
Venue : Kinokuniya Bookstore, Coffee Shop @ KLCC

All blogger friends are kindly invited & bring your GUiT copy.

Regards : Jaflam + Kak Teh

Kerp (Ph.D) said...

you can never fail to impress me la bro. to brush shoulders with the top-ranked people is one thing. but being a personal and childhood buddy to these same people is another matter all together. you know whats even better bro, its when their feet are still firmly on the ground.

*your friend appeared on tele some weeks back. his feet was never firmly on the ground but people still look down on him. see if you could guess who this fella is. clue- an instant Ph.D receiver.

haha...jokes aside, i wish i could thank you personally la brader. i sure hope to be in for a surprise come tuesday.

Mat Salo said...

Bang Jaflam.. am proud of your efforts in promoting this book. It is indeed a classic! I hope to make it there, Insya'Allah.

Kerpie! If anything, I find you to be the person with feet most firmly planted on the ground, dude. And don't let any asshole tell you otherwise. Banyak orang tak senang, jealous kot?

Eh, apa ada next Tuesday? I hope to be in for a surprise too... ;)

Kerp (Ph.D) said...

i hear ya, bro. yg peliknya ada jugak p*****k yg tak senang dgn org atas wheelchair. will always keep that in mind.

so still keeping me guessing huh? been leaving a few comments on other blogs about your home-coming and got no feedback from you. sure am lookin forward to next week...haha..

Mior Azhar said...

Bro Mat:
I'm amaze that you still keep in touch with kawan2 masa sekolah. I'm too lazy to do that. But I think I must rekindle the silaturrahim again. At last count, I'm in contact with two old kaki. And only so very recent... terserempak last raya.
And you coming for the GUIT book signing? Waah must bring camera la nih...

bakaq a.k.a. ~penarik beca said...

Hebat-hebatnya kawan-kawan hang, Mat! i wonder how it feels to have this kutu as your friend...

On the brighter side, at least the whole world knows you have no problem to accept a kutu as a friend...

Looking forward to see a famous writer by the name of Mat Salo bila hang dah pencen jadi orang minyak..

Zawi said...

mat salo,
Now for some real comment. I agree fully with Jaflam, there are friends like that who wouldnt even return a call but instead will make a miss call inspite of making it to the top. He wouldnt even bother to attend classmate get together to fete old teachers after a lapse of almost 38 yrs. He changed from a very friendly guy to such a person. Lonely is the life of such a person when there are so many friends that can be rediscovered.

Zabs said...

Salam MS,
Friends or relatives in high places ni, mungkin nice to talk only lah. Nak harap apa-apa tak janjilahkan.
Saya pun ada jugalah satu dua kenalan di high places ni. One of them is my brother-in-law, who is the former PAT, and another,a friend whom I used to give tuition to, during his secondary school, who is now, one of the NS EXCO members.
Tapi kedua-duanya, macam dulu juga, tetapi takdalah nak ambil kesempatan.

Kata Tak Nak said...

You sure do keep in touch with old friends don't you. Can your physic's friend invent a wish machine. There are a few people I would like to turn into monkeys.

I like the part about the senario where we have an aerobatic team in 2009 made up of Sukhoi pilots. He did mention Sukhoi pilots but not Sukhoi planes. So could it be that they are planning of refurbishing Tebuans, remember them?

Mat Salo said...

Bro Kerpie.. I won't keep you guessing no more. My maxis 012 is 'on'. That much I can say. Which means, Insyal'Allah we'll catch up soon!

Bro' Mior.. Please do attempt to bersillaturrhami with old buddies. I still keep in touch with my primary school buddies. These days with the internet there's just no excuse. Insya'allah I hope to be there, and of course with my camera too!

Bang Bakaaq.. Alahai. I'm also a kutu, so what's wrong berse-kutu bersama? Thanks for coming, Bang,

Bung Zawi.. You're right, Sir. There's plenty of people like that but fortunately most of the ones I know are not. 1 or 2 adalah, that's normal.

I personally judge people by how they treat the "lesser hamba Allah's". This is what makes me respect him or her. Of course, it's normal human nature to "suck ass" so these would never make it into my circle... Heh. I too know of persons who are very senior citizens but with no friends. Only sycophants. A sad and lonely exstence indeed. By God's grace I hope not to end up like that ... Amen.

Pak Zabs.. betul tu Pak. Good to cerita2 but in reality I don't want any favors. Sekadar berteman cukup laa. Difficult to find people who don't change once they've made it to the top. All the more reason to honor big shots who still bother to return sms-es. And boleh ajak ber-majlis. This defines their charachter.

Chegu KTN.. Sorry teacher, that kind of machine to turn people into monkees has not been invented yet. But why bother? Can dah ada high-ranking member of the Assoc. of VIP son-in-laws? Tak payah turn-turn dah...

Sepupu saya tuh Chegu dok merapu jer. Nak impress DPM kpt? Ca-ri ma-kaaaan... Nanti jumpaq masa Raya Aji aku tenyeh sket...

IBU said...

Hey.... we know someone in common lah! Mr Heng!!! Err.. the father. He used to shoot photos for my school's official functions too (the all girls boarding down south). Especially the ones graced by Her Royal Highness. The photos during my era were sold starting fr 25cents per piece 'normal size' (berapa R ni?) in my school then.

And heh... ur primary school was just opposite mine! Hahaha...

What a small world.

Daphne Ling said...

Hi Abang Mat,

Wahlau...You remember waaaay back...

After reading back and forth, I can't decide if you're kutuking these people or praising them...;)

Hmmm...I wonder how many of my friends now will become somebody famous one day...

Mat Salo said...

Ibu.. eh-eh.. and I thought you were going to have a procedure tomorrow! Hope all goes well ya, and accept Allah decisions whichever way it goes. HE knows best.

What? SIGS? And did you go to STF after? Alaamak small world. Mind if I ask when? I know you don't want to say.. coz' it'll reveal more than you like, right? Ha-ha. Ya lah, the same Heng (the dad) of Film Star photo studios. I bet semua sekolah dia 'kao tim'.. Any way I got to thank him for turning me to photography..

Daphe- Kutok? Where goottt? Aiya.. but with me always a fine line between praise and kutok. Same like love and hate. Tanya lah those couple yang bercinta.. heh.

Eh, Daph. What you mean? You already famous laaar!

But today (ahem,ahem) I met some real famous people and I was the (uninvited) Pak Sebok Photographer. It was with (I'm name-dropping here) Kak Teh and her hubby Awang Goneng at his book signing at Kornikuniya KLCC just this afternoon. Wow! I sent some pictures to Elviza for her to blog. Aaar ini baru famous!

Daphne Ling said...

Hi Abang Mat,

Oooh...Kak Teh is in town! Cool...Lar...

I'm coming down to KL next week, and thought of going to MRT, tapi 1) Segan, 2) No time, 3) Friend coming along, who also segan...

But it would be great to meet some bloggers face-to-face...=)

I was reading this post, then I told my mum, "Lar ni, he kutuk people or praise, I also dunno"...

Mum said: "Your friends, you ask me?"


As for me, I famous for 2 things, you know...

1) Thick skin...
2) Big mouth...

Muahaha...Nobody can beat that!


J.T. said...


I remember those black and white photos costing a hefty 20 sen. I did not even dare ask daddy for a few more cents to upgrade to colour. Those were the days. All my class photographs, from Std 1 to Std 6, were in black and white. I began "seeing colour" in my photo albums when I started secondary school. :D

Now, let's see ... do I know anyone famous? Actually, lots of them ... mostly bloggers whom I have not met yet I've had the opportunity to correspond with. They are the ones that affect some kind of change in the community - through active participation in anyway they can. It is an honour to know them.

Rita Ho said...

Hi MS ... Again, I enjoyed reading what you wrote and the delightful banter with your friends. So entertaining! Being a keen sailor I got excited about the physics analogy of boat and wave but unfortunately, the rest too deep for my otak. Blush.

It's wonderful that you kept in touch with your school mates all this while. People we know during childhood are the best because in friendships at that age, there is no malice, rivalry or politics. I caught up with several classmates I haven't seen for over 30 years when I balik kampung earlier this year. It was great! Some of the stuff we remembered of each other were amazing.

I have served many famous folks but none of them know me. It's OK. Wait till I sell my first film script ... Haha!

Zawi said...

mat salo,
Tompang lalu, nak cakap ngan Daphne Ling.
It was my first time at Kak Ton's MRT. Pi Bani was there too with Raden Galoh, Acciccatura and Elviza. Mula mula malu malu juga but the hosts were the best of hosts and soon you feel at home in their home. I went right into their kitchen under the pretext of taking the used bowls but really to see how much more stock of mee they have. They have alot as they expected many bloggers would come. The next time you are in KL do go to her place near the PKNS hockey pitch in Kelana Jaya. From there use your nose to smell the mee rebus that will lead you to her place. Failing that ask mat salo to take you there. Don't ask kerp cos he has only a single seater wheel chair.

Mat Salo said...

Daphe - I hope you will have already read Pak Zawi'reply below.

Seem's like some thing 'tak betul' here. Hmmm. You said you are 1)thick skin 2) big mouth so where compatible with 'SEGAN-SEGAN' maaa... Just come laa next time ok? EVERYBODY is SO looking forward to meet you laar..

J.T., I hope you don't think I am one of those you described as "affect some kind of change in the community". Ha-ha. I'm definitely a NOBODY. But people like Daphne, Pi Bani, Dalilah, Nuraina, Tok Mummy, Elviza, Galadriel etc are at the cutting-edge of the local blog 'sorority' with their highlighting of social causes. They have my utmost respect.

I am honored to have met them too. But I will be more honored if you can blanja me when you come back!

Rita - you know what? I envy you. I have always dreamt of writing scripts myself. In fact while in college (trinity.edu), my arts dept. had an excellent drama program (Jaclyn Smith was a famous graduate) so I even enrolled for some Intro 101-type courses like Acting and Directing. But my parents would have killed me, but that's what my heart had wanted.

Any you -wow - getting to do what I can only dream of. I really hope for your success so one day I can blog and say, 'Hey-- I know that gal!'. :)

Bung Zawi - Ha-ha, 'single-seater' wheelchair., Ada ke 'two-seater'?

tokasid said...

Salam Pak Mat Salo:

I read this while in Luxor but was unable to leave any comment at that time( what with those Belly dancers around.LOL!)

I too have problems with friends in high places. I tend to get distanced from them,on my own accord. Most of them had become YBs and now they have their own cicle of 'friends', which is so different with us, friends of the good old days. When we were students and have nothing except that friendship bond.

I have seen many other friends who still stick with these YBs and in the end they get distanced too. And some will say: Kawan lama pun dia tak boleh tolong ke? or "Dulu dia roomate aku, skrg jumpa pun buat tak kenal saja".

These are the reasons why I personally distanced myself from them in high places.

And it was nice to know you attended the GUIT gathering on Sunday. Cemburu aku bro!

Elviza said...

Heh, you can write a better tributes lah my friend.

And most importantly, the no.2 man in Maybank is a friend of yours. HA HA HA HA HA (I am having the last laugh).

Brace yourself for a personal phone call from me!!!!

J.T. said...


I hope a dessert plate of onde-onde suffices. :D

Jamal said...

Lama tak nampak bro? Apsal tak masuk forum? Dulu kata sebab cc. Now dot com pun tak nampak.....ada yg nak kene baling dgn D3 ni...muahahahaha...Nice story bro.

Salam Aidil Adha....

Daphne Ling said...

Oh Abang Mat,

Hilang mana ni?

Kerp (Ph.D) said...

ha ah la, apa crit? senyap je...

line tak clear ke?

mantanfwi said...

howdy bro, i was on an ego trip when i accidentally landed on your blog (dull day at the office; too many paper works when the weather is bad, can you believe that i actually googled for my own name...). Lo and behold, cousin of mine punching away at the keyboard and producing thoughtful remarks and comments along the way...way to go bro...

Anyway, thanks for those lengthy and kind words bout me...but the part bout being the white sheep... Being a black sheep is easier to manage because even though you are clean ppl still look at you as if you are dirty but then again if you want to be dirty you can do so without fear or fervour coz guess what, you are already dirtied up... BUT being a white sheep...ppl look at you in light of day and see pureness but then again when there are smudges its so much easier to see and after a while if you do not tend to those white woolens of yours IT will get dirty and when it does, every one will see it clearly. And then there are times when you want to or need to get dirty, you gotta be very careful to scrub out the smudges and dirts so as to cover your ass and still look as the white sheep ppl know you as...

Kind of rambling but just my 2 cents bro... As for me being Su-30MKM pilot, its an honor bestowed upon me by the powers that be. However its also a huge burden placed on my shoulder as it is the trust and responsibility given to me and entrusted by my fellow malaysians... Our joy and pride as a Su-30MKM operator is the pride and joy of all malaysian as well.

Keep in contact bro...lama tak jumpa...

Mat Salo said...

Cousin mantanwfi... Alamak! Bro', Abang kantoi!