Atchafalaya Swamp

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Post-Christmas Funk 2007

FUNK. IT MEANS "cowering with fear" or a "state of fright", or a feeling of dejection. Yes, that's right and I'm feeling dejected right now. No, I know it's the end of the year when we have a big Christmas party on the rig and everybody gets funky. That's not the funk I meant.

Please look at the sign above. I photographed it this morning just after some numbers in there had "changed". For you non-marine or offshore types out there (which is 99.9999 percent of the world's population anyway) the term LTA means hell of a lot. It stands for "lost time accident" and yes, as of today it is only Day 2. Two days ago the number atood at 1658 --meaning FOUR-AND-A-HALF YEARS since the rig had an accident.

Actually that's not true at all because the rig NEVER had an accident until the day before. Why? Because the rig is so new that there hasn't been an accident since it arrived here four-and-a-half years ago spanking brand new from Keppel-FELS shipyard in Singapore.

The day after Christmas I had just started to spud in a new well. It was five in the morning. This particular well had a rather peculiar charachteristic in that it spewed out lots excessive gumbo which required the crew to clean the lower decks often. Fire hoses were employed and one particular guy did not hold the nozzle of the fire hose steady. When the fire pumps kicked in the hose snaked and caused him to lose control . . . the net result being the nozzle firing the high pressure water with mud and debris . . . into his eye. We're not sure how he's doing yet because he was whisked to the medic's room and a chopper evacuated him two hours later. Our resident Liason Officer, a Major with the TNI Navy had to escort him on the chopper and to the hospital since both eyes were heavily bandaged.

He was operated yesterday and the word was his intra-occular functions remained intact. Probably to remove a blood clot or something.

The reason it's such a big deal because safety is a very serious issue with the oil companies and contractors. The safety record is tied into the contract and for the whole of 2008 the rest of the crew will have to pay the price of not getting any "safety bonuses". It's quite a bit and can amount to 10 - 20 percent of their annual income. I even had a cheap Motorola phone and a toolbox to take home last year. All because of a good safety track record.

Then there is the loss of prestige and reputation. Not to mention nosy investigators that will come in in the next few days to lecture us.

But I have a more serious concern. For the upcoming New Year's Party the client had earlier on insisted I "contribute". By this he meant illicit liquor. In previous blogs I mentioned that alcoholic drinks is strictly prohibited from any offshore installations. But this is a French company and they all like their tipple now and again. We'll, not just the French . . .

So I complied by smuggling a bottle of Pernod and Dewars' White Label past the boat security people. I was actually booked on the chopper but no way I can get whisky past aviation security. So I had to detour and take the long way by speedboat where the marine port people are a little more "friendly".

Then another asshole (someone like me) found an "electone singer". In Indonesia it usually meant lady pub singers that know how to work an organ and has a half-way decent voice but a more-than-decent body. She is scheduled to be smuggled to the rig on New Year's Eve.

A girl at the ready. Intoxicating liquids at the ready. Mat Salo's organ --er, camera --at the ready. With investigators coming and possibly doing a little spot-checking. Not too worry, it's well hidden along with other contraband that other service contractors had contributed. There's crates and crates of Anker Bir too . . .

Just let's hope the investigators and safety officers come after the holiday season is over.

Which reminds me . . . Folks, have a Happy New Year and may 2008 be good to you.

© 2007 MatSalo Images

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 . . .

Saturday, December 1, 2007

It's early in the morning . . .

(and in case you’re wondering, I’m not wondering what clothes to wear; same coveralls everyday lah)

BE FOREWARNED: This post is a rambling one and has no discernible beginning, middle or end. With a lot of typical embellishment and hypebole thrown in --but hey --artistic license right?

Got pretty confused as to the goings-on in Bolehland recently, so much to talk about and the pundits having beaten me to it. Just as I start a post about something, and no sooner someone comes out with a brilliant piece and the Delete keys get (over) used again. Well then, in this age of instant messaging and Punditry Inc. I’d better get used to it.

So I let blog commentators trigger me; and see where that takes me.

Case in point is the blog title above, triggered by Chegu's recent post on ‘Guitar God’ Eric Clapton. A raff of associations hit me especially that much abused karaoke fodder ‘Wonderful Tonight’. I remember being in a karaoke joint in Ho Chih Minh City a lifetime ago and the patrons in the adjacent booth, middle-aged and balding Saigon businessmen, were screaming “hotel, hotel!” Hotel? What hotel? This is a karaoke club lah. Aah, they were trying to coax a colleague sing that other much abused karaoke fodder ‘Hotel California’.

What? –Thick-in-the-middle, middle-aged and balding businessmen? And what about yours truly? Yeah, it happens only to the other guy. Right.

Then there was Bung Zawi who ‘suggested’ I host Daphne of Aphysia-Dyphasia on my rig, seeing she was curious in the first place. I started to reply in a comment but it got too long. So I decided to reproduce it here for the benefit of other curious folks.

I'd love to host visitors, but unfortunately it's not up to me, rigs are tightly guarded places. To get on a rig one needs to attend a 3-day approved HUET ('Hooyet') and Basic Sea Survival course with the Helicopter Underwater Escape Training entailing participants being strapped in a helicopter-type carcass and dunked.

Participants come dressed in coveralls. The crane lowers the 'heli' down until everything is submerged (you included, of course) 6 feet under. We're strapped in our seatbelts. Two divers are on standby in-case of difficulties and also to ensure no one cheats. The moment the water gets to your ears you take a deep breath. Five seconds later we're under. The heli rotates 180-degrees so now our feet are up and our heads are down. It's easy to get disoriented but because of training we know which door or window to grasp and kick out. Most people get claustrophobic and panic. It's got to be a controlled underwater exit or else everybody gets tangled and drowns while the damn thing is sinking! So grab on the door or window frame tight (10 seconds would have elapsed - I know it's short but believe me it feels like an eternity) because when you undo the buckle upside down your body floats up to the top of the chopper (in this case, the heli’s "floor"). Watch your colleagues exit, sometimes while disoriented they fail to see the door or window next to them. Kick or push out the window (with everything submerged, pressure has equalized) and the door or window easily falls away. Exit and swim to surface. Don’t worry, your natural buoyancy will also guide you up. But if you pull the cord that fires the pressurized cartridges that blow air in your life-jacket too quick (before surfacing) you fail. The idea is constant training makes you react in rational manner under pressure. But who knows how people react when shit actually hits the fan?

Do this two more times and then you get certified, and after passing a comprehensive medical exam you can now be eligible for a rig visit. This is overkill I know, but training does pay off. Just last a year a chopper carrying rig workers in Terengganu fell into the sea. Only the pilot was killed but the rest survived.

The HUET course needs to be done every three years. I did mine at a rather rigorous facility along with some Singapore’s Israeli-trained air force pilots in Loyang, Singapore. The whole she-bang (as a mandor I needed the extra courses) took five days which included advanced fire-fighting, CPR and all that good stuff.

The chopper thing in Singapore, although scary, pales in comparison to advanced fire-fighting training. Fire-fighters get all my respect. Imagine being in full fire-fighting gear (without a real fire it’s already like a sauna in there): helmet, full faced mask and an oxygen bottle that’s going to last me 15 minutes. The scenario is like this: On the word go I enter a building (in a totally blacked-out warehouse in Loyang stacked with containers). No flashlight. The idea is in a real-life situation there’s so much smoke it is pitch black. My goal is to enter into the container-mazes inside the dark warehouse, crawling makeshift tunnels to find a life-sized dummy and bring it out. We do this in pairs like in a buddy system. After a while you get disoriented and it didn’t help matters that my partner was the claustrophobic sort. At the ten minute mark with impediments, boxes, oil drums here and there, we knew we’re going to fail.

So I cheated. This is where being a smoker comes in handy. I told my buddy to turn the oxygen spigot off. “Screw this,” I said. “Else we’ll never find that blow-up doll”. I pulled my trusty Zippo and lo and behold, in another minute we found our target. Of course, near the exit we don our masks back on and the former Canadian Coast Guard instructor was suitably impressed. But when he checked our oxygen bottles he knew they were air still left in them when other teams usually finish off theirs. I could never look him in the eye after that.

The HUET in Loyang was another matter altogether. Now I was to rub shoulders with elite Israeli-trained crack fighter pilots. What these uber-kiasus didn’t know was I was a pretty decent swimmer. Back in the seventies I represented my school up to state level and even participated in National meets. 400m and 800m ‘kuak dada’ was my specialty. By Form Two I not only had the Bronze Medallion but also the higher Bronze Cross life saving certificates under my belt. To be a pool lifesaver you only need the ‘Medallion’ and I guarantee you only some of the 5-star hotels have these paper-qualified lifeguards.

Because of the kiasu factor in these swaggering SAF pilots, the instructor devised some pretty interesting scenarios for the ‘upside-down’ heli-training. So first we went through the usual as a warm up. These guys were looking at an overweight Melayu who kept sneaking off to smoke cigarettes. They looked at me with pity. Now the instructor added a twist just to see what these wannabees are made of. Instead of four exit points, there will be only one (the rest presumably jammed shut) and we won’t know which in advance. This is the best part: We will all be wearing blacked-out goggles!

Needless to say these super-fit kiasus didn’t even bat an eye-lid. And they looked at my sodden cotton coveralls with glee in their nice water-cum-fireproofed flight suits.

But the proof of pudding is in the eating and they deliberately entered the suspended heli-carcass first. Now they were three frogmen in the water in case serious rescue were required. I entered last. Seems those bastards knew before-hand which window was free so they sat nearest to it while I was furthest away. I suspect one of the frogmen tipped them off. No worries, I just needed to hold my breath longer and mentally mapped the exit. This is where my Bronze Cross training paid-off.

The Bronze Cross Life Savers Certificate is really quite challenging. It’s designed for a lifesaver to get in any closed-water situation (as opposed to open water – the seas, which requires further killer training) like lakes, rivers ponds and pull up to two victims to safety and demonstrate underwater combat skills. The combat skills is designed to knock your victims out, instead of your victim thrashing about that might pull you the lifesaver under -- now instead of just one, you have two casualties. So you knock them out cold first.

You must also tread water while performing mouth-to-mouth. The test is conducted at night and I did mine at Ipoh’s municipal pool. The water must be at least 12 feet deep. You face away from the pool, fully-clothed (baju Melayu in my case) and the instructor throws a ten-kilo brick wrapped in cloth to simulate a drowned victim lying at the bottom of a 12 feet pool. You hear the splash and you mentally map the supposed target. You turn around and the examiner gives you the thumbs up. Your fully-clothed partner is by the pool ready to jump and be ‘the victim’ to be resuscitated and towed for four lengths of the 50m pool (200m). The distance you assume where the brick went down is bout three-fourths of the pool, about the 35m mark. So you dive in, the clothes immediately clinging and offering resistance. Of course we also had our Fung Keong shoes on too. But those days I trained for at least 2 km everyday, so no sweat. About half-way, I jack-knifed in and if don’t bring up the brick-cloth up I would automatically fail. So you flail around the 10, 11, 12 feet depth area at the bottom desperately searching for the brick in the cold murky darkness. 30, 35, 45 seconds pass –yes, got it. Give a kick-up and surface. Thread water with the brick above the water to demonstrate superior water-threading skills. After a minute the instructor tells your partner-victim to jump in so you throw the brick away. Victim pretends to flail and you do some chop here and chop there and he relaxes. Pretend to mouth-to-mouth with your buck-toothed jerawat batu guy partner knowing full well that Michelle Yeoh is nearby in Convent Ipoh (a year younger than me) and would only be a star three decades on –but why am I telling you this? –and start towing.

Now back to Loyang. Black goggles on and the winch drops us in. The world goes dark. I hyperventilate. Everything is in my mental map now. Stay calm, don’t get disoriented. The damn thing turns over, and I count, “one thousand one, one thousand two . . .” I forced myself the urge to quickly undo the buckle. I think I overdid it. Because when I exited (feeling each window to find the opened one) the water felt calm meaning the three Chuck Yeager wannabees had already surfaced. Needless to say I whupped their ass. I was out last but the instructor gave me an approving look and clapped. The three frogmen too gave me a thumbs-up.

The 'winner' in this case is the one that gets out last. Because this is one instance where kiasu-ism defeats the purpose of a controlled exit. Apparently there was a tangle with the second and third SAF pilot. I'm glad to have stuck to my game plan and held out as long as I could. These kaisu buggers can only kill you. Fighter pilot or not.

I tell you man, It felt so great to one-up a Singie... Yeaaaah!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Price of Oil and Blogging

I apologize to visitors that have come to my site –only to be disappointed –or sometimes relieved (ha-ha) that no new posts are in the offing. This has to do with the price of oil. Seriously. As a driller I’ve been busy as hell. In my two decades of being in the oil patch there’s never been a time like the present –rig utilization at an all time high, with every Tom, Dick and Harry Company, drilling. Shortage of equipment and trained manpower are common themes pervading through oil companies (operators) and of course, us service companies too that serve the oil operators.

I’m supposed to work on a “6 x 3 rotation”, meaning six weeks to be spent on the field and three off. And it used to be that I am assigned to one project or rig only. Now I’m juggling two rigs and my rotations have gone haywire. This means more time on the rig and less time off. With US$100 per barrel oil, the oil companies are in a hurry to get it out of the ground. We in the “’bidness” don’t know how long this gravy train will last. So grab it while you can is our mantra. It’s no wonder then that ExxonMobil is not only the largest oil company in the world but also the world’s largest. Closer to home is the unprecedented record profits of Petroliam Nasional Berhad (PETRONAS). And calls by the common folks for PETRONAS to share its largesse to maintain subsidies so there won’t be another fuel hike.

To be frightfully honest, there’s no better time to be in the oil patch. For eight years I never saw a salary increase. This year alone we had two salary adjustments. This is to ensure loyalty. In my line of work I could easily don some competitor’s coveralls at a moments notice. I see myself no different than being a hooker; we sell our bodies and soul to the highest bidder. A non-oilfield friend once suggested that drilling professionals are like football players. Although flattering, I’m not about to kid myself. To be a football star you need skills. As drilling guys, we just know how to make holes. Even you can do it. I mean, come on –how much skill do you need to wield a cangkol to dig a hole in your backyard? The mechanics are the same only the scale differs.

Not only are we drilling more wells but we’re drilling it faster too, employing all kinds of snake-oil technologies. It used to be that in a six week period in the swamp, I can perhaps manage one to two 4000 meter wells. Now, three or four wells are increasingly common. Which means everything goes at a higher pace. So our recent salary adjustments do not really commensurate with the workload that has doubled or even tripled.

So that’s my excuse for not updating my blog. Not only that, being on a “floating prison cum rust bucket” we are at the mercy of our fragile satellite internet link. It’s a bit like your Astro dish. When there’s cloud cover, and there’s plenty of that this rainy season, there goes the link. And drilling faster wells also means the rig needs to be towed often. The last move was 96 kilometers and took a few days while I stewed and simmered in my bunk. But on arrival the modem went kaput and I had to wait for a replacement part. It’s not a regular modem mind you but something that looks like your Astro decoder. But now we have it back on. But this also means I have to cut back on my precious sleep since I’m not of the fairer sex, who I’m told are masters of multi-tasking. I can’t drill and blog at the same time. So I do it after hours. This means at odd hours in the night.

But these days I just prefer to go blog-hopping –tons of stuff out there. What more with recent events back home—what, two rallies in a space of a month? Whoa…

Do I hear change a’ comin’?

Friday, November 9, 2007

Robbing Peter to pay Paul

What did I tell ya?

Finally Pak Lah had the fuel hike issue addressed at the UMNO AGM yesterday. And his advisers had come up with a brilliant plan along the lines of "let's rompak Raju to pay Rahman..."

PL was quoted as saying: "... the present fuel subsidy scheme could not go on as it was costing the Government RM80bil a year".

Yeah, that's old news. So somebody has to pay. But how?

A new subsidy scheme is being looked into where the rich will pay more for fuel and the poor less.”


In my travels around the world I have yet to find a petrol station which discriminates on the basis of their customers tax bracket. Didn't know that a machine had already been invented for this.

But in Malaysia... semua boleh.

Read the original The Star's article
here and here.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Good News Before Election

Agi Idup Lagi Ngalaban
My spirit will be there
O' noble brothers and sisters
Be safe, act responsibly
And finally, be wary of agent provocateurs
Please visit Hantu Laut's blog and hear why it's prudent to be careful.
Good Luck, Godspeed, God Bless!

Malaysia's International Trade & Industry Minister Declares End of Year Cheer

Kenaikan harga petrol tidak jejas Malaysia

ZURICH: Harga petrol yang dijangka akan terus meningkat di pasaran dunia tidak akan menjejaskan daya saing sektor swasta dan industri di Malaysia kerana impak peningkatan kos akan turut dirasai di seluruh dunia, termasuk negara pesaing.Menteri Perdagangan Antarabangsa dan Industri Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz berkata kenaikan harga petrol mungkin tidak dapat dielakkan, namun beban kesannya terhadap Malaysia, yang mempunyai sumber bahan itu, tidak sehebat negara lain yang tidak mempunyai sumber komoditi terbabit dan terpaksa bergantung kepada sumber import sepenuhnya. - BERNAMA

"Increase in petrol prices will not affect Malaysia", Rafidah was quoted as saying.

Of course it would not affect Malaysia, especially Ministers in Malaysia. Any fool knows that. But what about the populace as a whole? I mean, the people, the M-A-J-O-R-I-T-Y?

Watch out folks, petrol prices will increase again very soon, only the impending GE is getting in the way. The government will not be able to sustain subsidies for 90-dollar oil forever.

My only request is, please-lah, don't lie to us by saying there won't be any price increases after the election.

Let's not pussyfoot. Tell it like it is. Better still, let's raise prices NOW. Before the GE.

Hah, amacam? Ada berani ka?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Some Good That Came Out This Lebaran . . .

FOR ALL THE SADNESS AND GRIEF that has visited us these past few weeks, especially in the holy month of Ramadhan, we finally have some things to smile about, to make us believe there is hope after all...

For the tireless efforts of Nurin Jazlin's uncle, Jasni Abdul Jalil in his blog, and not forgetting too the roles played by Malaysian uber bloggers like Nuraina Samad, Ahiruddin Atan, Farina, Tembam and others who finally brought Nurin Alert into reality. You can read the Star's report here.

On the local judicial front, my hats off to the Malaysian judiciary after awarding Ex-ISA detainee Abdul Malek Hussin RM2.5mil in a landmark decision. Kudo's to High Court Judge Hishamudin Mohd Yunos for not only dispensing justice but doing the right thing. Read all about it here.

PAC Chairman Datuk Shahrir Abdul Samad is still hard at it over the PKFZ RM4.7bil fiasco. This issue was first brought into the limelight by Captain (Rtd) Yusof Ahmad in his blog, The Ancient Mariner. Hopefully the dishonest politicians who squander taxpayers money will eventually be brought to book.

By way things are playing out, there is still hope . . . and my message to the perps who violated our beloved daughter Nurin . . . your days are numbered too!

Lebaran: A Photo-Blog

What I had for my first daylight morning meal in thirty days: Black coffee, nasi himpit, lemang and rendang, of course --noghori-style.

The Morning Eid Prayers - Scenes from my neighborhood mosque, Petaling Jaya

Gasp! Sermon delivered by Indonesian Pak Iqbal (Universiti Malaya's Islamic studies postgraduate candidate) .

Another gasp! Indonesian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi guest workers listening intently on the 1 Syawal sermon. What? Foreigners outnumbering locals? Well, most of the locals have balik kampong...

My two boys salaam-ing the bilal (yes, you got that right, another Indonesian UM Usuludin scholar) post prayers. The ustaz/bilal was summarily sent to KLIA LCT for his flight to Palembang via AirAsia to spend time with his family there...

Wo-hoo! I'm outta here!

Outside the mosque . . . guest workers mingling and planning the day's activities. I understand that KLCC is a favored destination . . .

My first stop --at my Mom's in SS3, Petaling Jaya. My brother-in-law Adrian (in purple) entertaining Fly FM's DJ Roshan...

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Lebaran Blog

Supplicants and Slackers; Saints and Sinners

My Surau: Scenes of 2nd Laskopek Pre-Terawih. It costs RM1600.00 to sponsor one of these. A glance at the notice board indicated quite a few "Who's Who" in Bolehland --GLC execs and movers and shakers --some of which the Yang Mulia have dubbed as riding in the Corridors of Power. And some riding roughshod over Bolehsian taxpayers?

My Surau: Scenes of Post-Terawih juadah Snacks and teh-tarik. Indo guest worker strolling by.

The Supplicants: O ye' you faithful

Mat Salo surreptitiously whips out his, err . . . camera to unsuspectingly record their ministrations. Quite a few of these ladies are Datin Seri's and probably esteemed spouses of "Bebudak Tingkat Ampat" - Hope they don't sue me!

Saint or Sinner? Oh, I know which camp I belong to . . . besides, you and I know it's a lot more fun!

To all of you who saw fit to have visited my irreverant sometimes (no, mostly) inconsequential blog, I say thank you. I would probably be off the 'net while I pay my solemn dues to the departed and the living.

For my Moslem friends, well wishers and detractors alike . . . If I have cause to offend you in some way, my apologies are in order. I would also like to wish you and your family a Selamat Hari Raya. And if you are driving far and wide back to whatever hole in the wall that you once hailed from, please be careful.

To the Indonesian diplomat's wife that was hauled in by Rela goons recently, I, Mat Salo, on behalf of clear-headed Bolehsians offer my sincere apologies. Goons are goons, and they're sub-humans anyway. No sane human being acts this way. Same goes to you, Pak Lubis, the UKM student. I know your authorities would never do the same to us. I know how most Bolehsians miss the point about how we are perceived as "arrogant". Rasa Sayange?

To Sheikh Muszaphar - I wish you well, Godspeed. A lot of hopes are riding on you up there amongst the Stars. Hey, I didn't know that you're a business partner of a buddy of mine...

To the parents of Nur Jazlin: Be strong and remember, millions of us are grieving too and will continue to grieve. She too is our daughter. The nation's. And please excuse the authorities' ineptititude. They sometimes get sidetracked chasing bloggers and "blowing" the whistle-blowers.

To Hui Yi: We love you! Your saga has united us - and shown what spirit the true peoples of this country has. It's beyond the color of our skin, the lines of our religion. We pray for you and you have given us much cause for hope.

Minal Aidin Wal Faidzin.

Mohon Ma'af Lahir & Bathin.

Selamat Menyambut Hari Raya Puasa I Syawal 1428 H

© 2007 Mat Salo Images

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

O' People of Burma, We Stand By You

A time in Rangoon

Lost Generation

August 8, 1998.

The battered Toyota taxi weaved along Pyay Road through a police checkpoint, the morning sun causing beads of sweat to appear on Zeyar’s wide forehead. He wiped his forehead with his sleeve, immediately regretted dirtying it --and rolled it up to hide the offending stain. The heat irritated him because the AC had broken down a long time ago. Like everything else in this junta nation, spares are difficult to come by. The police constable (or military, rather – in Myanmar everything is military), seeing the empty taxi, waved him through.

Zeyar was on his way to pick me up where I was staying at the Ramada Hotel by the airport.

I met Zeyar about a week ago outside Yangon International where I had just arrived from Bangkok, fresh from my triumph of getting a Myanmar work permit in a record time of four hours at the embassy in Bangkok. I didn’t even have to appear in person. The agent who collected my passport at the hotel suggested I try the newly-opened “Ancient Massage” near the corner across the hotel. That was the best way to pass the time, he said, so why not? Let him battle demonstrators at the embassy instead. Having a lithesome doe-eyed beauty (yes… that one --number 26) with flawless taut skin expertly knead my legs, shoulders, thighs . . . was definitely better than waiting in a snaking queue any day.

In yesterday’s Bangkok Post the big story was UN’s Special Representative to Myanmar, Tan Sri Razali Ismail being denied a visa. Even the cover letter from Kofi Annan did not sway the junta in Yangon into letting him visit Daw Suu Kii. Rumors of a ten-year anniversary to commemorate the ’88 uprising was rife and foreign NGO’s and observers were already warned not to attend or will face the consequences. The Generals had already fired the first salvo...

Exactly a decade earlier on 8 August 1988 --the day of infamy --students and citizens from all walks had gathered peacefully at the Sule Pagoda near the city center. What happened next was unthinkable. Without scant regard, troops had opened fire into the crowd --mowing down students, schoolchildren, pregnant women and monks with impunity. The carnage ran into the thousands. Some news report said there were more than 3000 dead. Some said 5000. Thus a decade later the junta was very careful not to have a repeat of this bloodshed. After all, the junta had recently opened its doors to foreign investment and the seeing of thousands of bodies of being carted away is not something the Generals ever want to see again. That was why I called Zeyar to take me to Sule Pagoda, the site of the bloodshed ten years ago, to pay homage to the dead but brave protestors.

After the massacre, the Junta had hit upon a brainwave. Who are the demonstrators? Why, mostly college students of course. Let the country cease to have students! Brilliant! Now why didn't we think of that earlier? And that’s exactly what the enlightened Generals did – shut down every institution of higher learning in Myanmar. And they have stayed shut ever since. I call the these young people Myanmar’s ‘lost generation’ –people who were denied an education because of an exaggerated government phobia. Living in the 21st century I almost didn’t think that such a thing could have happened. But it did.

8.8.88 was thus an unlucky day for the thousands of students, ordinary workers, schoolchildren, pregnant women and monks who chose to peacefully gather at Sule Pagoda; their dreams of a democratic Myanmar crushed, their lives lost in a hail of bullets. What where the Generals really thinking? Any feng shui master I meet from now on would be judged on how he answers to my question: Is 8-8-88 considered lucky?

When I opened the door to his taxi Zeyar looked troubled.

‘Mr. Salo, I don’t think it’s a good idea’.

‘Why, I’m just a tourist. OK, maybe not Sule Pagoda today but we go to Shwedagon. Don’t worry I give you special tip.’

At the mention of “tip”, I saw Zeyar soften a little. Shwedagon is Myanmar’s finest Pagoda, but I had other ideas in mind, I want to see Suu Kii’s house, peer through her gate. But I’m not telling Zeyar yet.

I sat at the back, smoking my Dunhill’s. At a traffic stop Zeyar turned his head to me.

‘The military intelligence, Mr. Salo, know already that foreigners have come into Yangon to show support for eight-eight-eighty eight. I also heard on the radio that some Thai and Malaysian activist have been caught at the airport for carrying leaflets . . . I also see more roadblocks put up . . . there is a planned demo this afternoon but I think it will not happen’.

I was disappointed upon hearing this. But further down the intersection of Pyay Road I saw an army tank. Another road-block was being assembled to protect the many foreign business premises along the wide avenue; my employers included. Zeyar pointed to the tank. ‘See Mr. Salo, I hope you have your passport with you because they maybe want to check ID in case we are stopped’.

As a rule I never carry my passport. A passport should only be shown at a country’s port of entry or disembarkation, but I didn’t tell Zeyar this.

‘Eh, Zeyar, you show me University of Yangon first?’


The area the university was in was what I presume to be the Yangon’s poshest district; wide shady streets and peach white bungalows along the ground's perimeter. The setting was quaint. It was scenes such as these that brought back nostalgic memories of my hometown of Seremban in Malaysia. Myanmar is still locked in the Sixties when the century was already drawing to a close. This is what I tell people when asked what Myanmar is like: A time that land forgot –if you remember what Klang and Seremban looked like in the Sixties –that is what Yangon is today. That’s what one party military rule does to you.

But the university was totally deserted. So it’s true then. Shrubs and opportunistic plants have rendered the once-pristine lawns turn into an eyesore. Creeper vines have taken over one side of a red building, presumably the bursar’s office.

‘So these students, Zeyar, what do they do now? They need jobs, right? For that you need some sort of paper.’

‘Actually Mr. Salo, the government gives them degrees so they can get employed.'

‘But how . . . there are no classes?’ The taxi had now stopped and as I looked closer, most of the windows in the buildings were broken.

Zeyar turns the engine off.

‘Believe it or not, once a year the universities are opened for exams. Since nobody go to class, so nobody learn anything so they let everybody pass so they can get jobs’.

‘My God,’ as I took another Dunhill from my duty-free pack, ‘so you mean to tell me the universities are opened just once every year, students take exams and they let everybody pass?’


A whole generation lost was the phrase that went to my mind.

Like all Myanmarese, Zeyar never ventures an opinion. He merely states facts, often in cynical harsh monotones. It must be honed-in to their heads to never speak their minds out. Lest they are spies out there so they might get arrested if they talk anything bad about their government.

Top down in my 4.0

In the taxi I told Zeyar to just go up the road. I had already cased the phone book at the Ramada and noted the Nobel Laureate’s address. And I knew it was just down the road from the university, at an intersection off the main road. Zeyar seemed to have read my mind.

‘Mr. Salo, you know we cannot enter the street where Daw Aung lives.’

‘Why not,’ I said. ‘I mean I just like to see the architecture of these old British-built houses. Almost similar to the bungalows we have in Malaysia . . . okay, just show me the street then.’

But as soon as we approached the junction that led into her street I asked Zeyar to stop. I got out of the taxi.

‘What are you doing Mr. Salo? –The police will catch you -‘

‘Just wait here ok?’

I quickly walked up the shady avenue. It had a very generous sidewalk. The bungalows here must have once housed Burma’s British colonial administrators. Some had swimming pools but all were now dry and have become refuse pits: broken branches, leaves, an upturned bicycle. I turned around to see Zeyar lean against the taxi, looking restless. Then I saw her house. Her gardens were huge and I stopped to admire the Flame of The Forest at the perimeter of her chain-link fence. When my dad was a Planter back in the Sixties, I too had once lived in fine bungalows with breezy corridors and wide banisters and a dog named Johnny. And I just particularly liked the tree‘s name . . . it just has a sexy ring to it. Flame of the Forest.

Her front gates, from what I gathered in the distance seemed to be made of solid iron and painted light green. It was still a further fifty yards ahead. I heard the clanging of the gate being opened. But there were no cars coming in or out.

“Arghh…” I flicked my cigarette. One of the military guards had noticed me. I can pretend to do . . . what? This was not a tourist area. I was the only one loitering in the street. Although he was now on the sidewalk in front of the gate and fifty yards was what separates us, the bullets in his rifle can definitely cause serious bodily harm, and I wasn’t about to argue with .22 caliber bullets. In short, I’m not going to hang around to find out. The guard had already thrown a menacing pointing finger at me.

As casually as I could muster, I turned around and came back in the direction I had come, my steps exaggeratedly unhurried. But now the taxi was nowhere to be seen. Shit!

I ran down towards the intersection and looked around the corner. Sure enough the taxi was parked under a tree by a large monsoon drain.

‘Zeyar, why didn’t you wait’, while I huffed and puffed to catch my breath, ‘like I asked you to?’

‘I told you no one is allowed to pass her street’, Zeyar said, a note of triumph in his voice, 'Lucky the police didn't chase you'.

Just then a curious thing happened. From her street emerged a sports car – we actually heard it before we saw it - a two-door coupe with its top down, dark blue and a very young male driver looking smug. Asshole. Not just any sports car but a left-hand-drive ‘99 Mustang four-point-oh. In the US, the latest models are always called “the following year’s" - the latest model produced in ’98 is thus called the ’99. The same it was with my US magazine subscription. (I receive my September Stereophile issues usually in July or August but never in September itself). .

We both turned our heads to admire the car – the rims must be at least twenty inches with a large block V-8 at the heart of pure American muscle.

‘Wow, how come this car is in Burma, Zeyar? That’s the latest Ford Mustang, just released in the States’, I said, exhaling a billowing smoke from my envious lips.

‘What‘s so strange Mr. Salo? That boy you see driving the car is one of the top General’s son. They control all business in Burma. Only children and family members of the junta are allowed to do business. I’m sure your company’s local agent has powerful military connections. . .’

I only know too well of the military connection. Fax machines are a “controlled item” in Myanmar. Just the other day my boss complained that he spent three thousand dollars just to get a fax machine set up in the office. Five hundred for the fax machine, five hundred to set up the line, one thousand for a permit from the Telecom ministry. And then there’s a three month wait. If you don't want to wait another thousand would get the service connected immediately.

Palace's Palatial Pleasures

That night my boss decided to show me Myanmar’s top “meat market”, the Palace. A female Australian engineer who was going to be part of my rig crew insisted on tagging along. She was perhaps barely twenty-five. The problem was she had been holed up in the hotel room for the past one week and mostly ignored by me and a Filipino engineer called Jorgen. It’s not that, but in a equal opportunity world we do not want to be construed as doing anything remotely sexist. So she said she was "bored out of her skull" and wanted to “go out with the boys”.

‘Sharon, I said, ‘our boss is going to bring us to a rather notorious joint. Err . . . It’s a fancy nightclub but really it’s a high-class state-sanctioned whorehouse . . . for top government people and expats. You sure you want to follow?’ And for added emphasis, 'really, for sure, really?'

‘Ummm, yes’, her, face lit at the prospect but me thinking her blond tresses would certainly look out of place at the club tonight. ‘I won’t get in the way I promise, I just want to come along to drink. I can’t be drinking beer from the mini-bar every night . . . it’s expensive for one, and where’s the fun in that? C'mon have mercy, Salo. '

‘We’ll . . . I won’t argue with that, Sharon. But promise me no regrets, eh?’

‘Don’t worry; pretend that I’m not even there.’

We first had a round of post-dinner drinks at the hotel lounge. When the girl went to the restroom I told my boss of her decision to tag along. My boss was of the “old school”, never giving a damn about 21st century workplace ethics or appropriate behavior with female underlings in the office. He was liable to pat a secretary’s rump if necessary or comment freely on the tea lady’s bosoms. My boss’ response was, “If she wants to follow let her come”.

In any oilfield town, or any town for that matter, chief amongst our duties (as oilmen, that is) was to visit the most happening place, usually a bar with the most exquisite women in it and disseminate the information gathered therein far and wide. This will also provide fodder for endless tales of bravado in trashy oilfield bars across Asia in years to come.

Jorgen and I looked forward to the evening in anticipation. I can see my Filipino colleague distractedly licking his lips while we were in the car. Sharon sat between us. Our boss sat up front with the driver. Sharon sensibly wore jeans and rather plain white blouse, the sleeves rolled up to expose her elbows. If her hair was shorter, she could pass as a guy almost because her chest was a bit flat.

The place was dark like most discos and night clubs are. It was actually much classier than I thought, with a Captain wearing a suit leading us to our table. The low wide velvety sofa engulfed us. There were a few couples on the dance floor under a solitary globe, bodies not moving in tune together giving it a surreal jerky atmosphere. The Captain asked what we wanted and drinks were ordered. It was time to develop a nice buzz in anticipation of sexually charged evening ahead. Want to see the girls now, Sir? The Captain asked. My boss casually flicked his hand and said, ‘later’. I can see the disappointment in Jorgen’s eyes as I believed he wanted to see them now. Yes, where were they? Perhaps cloistered in a room in the back somewhere?

The Twenty Dollar Siti Nurhaliza

The reason for the unnatural heightened sense of expectation was a story making the rounds called “Twenty Dollar Siti Nurhaliza”. The story was told by a Malaysian construction company executive whom we breakfasted with one morning. We both saw, from a distance one early morning, a young girl exiting the guy’s hotel room into a waiting taxi. She did look breathtakingly pretty but was painfully thin. The exec had boasted, in his excitement spluttering spittle and beans over our table, ‘Only in Myanmar can we get to sleep with Siti Nurhaliza look-a-likes for twenty dollars.’

So that night at the Palace, Jorgen’s thoughts were full of Filipina mini-serials starlets, mine consumed by . . . err I don’t remember –all which can be had for twenty dollars or less.

Actually that’s not true. The Palace being the classiest of the bordellos charges forty dollars at a minimum. Some go as high as three hundred dollars for the night. The girls are carefully selected and guaranteed clean by the military junta. The Palace is a controlled military facility designed for expatriates to channel their sexual needs in a responsible manner. At the very least we can credit the Generals' understanding of business wants and needs. ASEAN-style.

We ignored Sharon completely and drank while making small talk with the boss. The boss suddenly said, ‘Ok let’s get the Captain to bring them out’. Jorgen let out a palpable sigh of relief.

The girls would pass Jorgen first who was sitting to my boss’ left while I sat to his right. The Captain said there was more than twenty girls with a few “fresh ones from Mandalay”. A door at the end opened and soon a train of Burma's finest poured forth, walking awkwardly in heels, chests up, faces forced into a smile framed by too-generous lipsticks. Our pulse quickened. But it was so dark that we can’t quite clearly see their faces.

In order to see our prospects, each time the girl passes, the Captain would pull a mini flashlight to first train the light on her face, then her bosoms before finally settling on the hips. It very much reminded me of a meat market, which it was. If we like her all we have to do is take her hand and beckon her to sit with us. So twenty girls were flashed before us because our boss had instructed to “check out all first” before having them pass slowly the second time around.

Sharon seemed to take all this in quite in stride as she sat in the corner nursing her Gin and Tonic. I wondered if it was fun for her watching guys in their true element.

But something that happened next took me aback.

A girl stood towering over me and holding up the queue. My boss had a certain idea that I might like this one – and indeed her cleavage was phenomenal with all the right curves. But what my boss didn’t know was breasts never factored much in my equation. I was a modern male and equated flatter chests with higher IQ’s. I’m not anti-bimbo per se but honestly I prefer legs, and how a girl looks at me is important. Even if a girl can be had by paying, I subscribe to the theory that there must also be some sort of chemistry involved.

Anyway the girl’s crotch area was level with my boss’ face. She wore a dark colored blouse with some sequins and a short faux-leather skirts with legs stopping down to white stilettos. The next thing I knew my boss had put his hands under her skirt - using both hands grabbing her buttocks.

‘Mat Salo’, my boss with a leer in his eyes, said, ‘check it out --she’s not wearing panties’. This of course wasn’t true because he pushed her to me and picked my reluctant hand to join him feeling her buttocks. My fingers immediately got tangled in something. It was just his version of a rowdy macho-guy joke. I can't help but think what Sharon might make of this wanton display . . .

I quietly whispered to him, ‘Boss, if Sharon puts in a complaint of sexual discrimination -- Sheeat . . . we die, man’ (that’s why these days we can’t display images of naked women on company PC’s screen savers for fear of a sexual discrimination lawsuit).

My boss, his speech beginning to slur, ‘Goddamm Salo, this if Burrrmah. If she wants to, well, let her. Who cares?'

In the meantime I was obliged to entertain the girl that we both had pawed. The music changed into something soulful, and I felt the need to dance. I took her hand and we both headed to the dance floor.

I never noticed it earlier, but out of the shadows came two military guards. The girl said to me in very good English, ‘Don’t worry Mister Salo, this is normal. Army take care of your safety here’. But it was quite unnerving nonetheless to see two young commandos on the dance floor in full military dress looking over at us. They just stood there at the edge of the dance floor, immobile. Apparently they only step out of the shadows when foreigners get on the dance floor.

At the end of the Earth Wind and Fire’s ‘Boogie Wonderland’, I decided to get out of the spooky stare of my two minders and sit at a different table to chat with the girl. As she linked her arms in mine, she bent her long graceful neck to my shoulder and whispered, 'one hundred'. I put one finger up in a non-committal gesture of “maybe later”. What I really wanted was to pick her brains. She was a first year Economics student at the University of Rangoon she said, when the massacre happened. That was a decade ago and she must now be about twenty-eight. A bit too old for my taste, I thought. Plus she had hardly looked like Siti Nurhaliza. I looked across and was a bit disappointed that Jorgen had already secured his Filipina wet dream; a teenage version of Kris Aquino from what I could see.

My boss also had a girl draped across his lap. Only Sharon seemed to have shrunken into the folds of the sofa, alone and looking bored.

I looked at the girl, and tried in my best apologetic voice, ‘Sorry Miss, I hope you don’t mind.' She immediately sensed that I wasn’t interested in bedding her and she laid out an opened cupped hand. A tip was expected, of course.

I put in some kyat (pronounced chart) notes the equivalent of five dollars to thank her for her time.

I lay back in the sofa, slumped and wondered whether I should just call it a night soon. The answer came soon enough. I caught Sharon’s eyes across the room and nodded.


To show solidarity with the peoples of Myanmar please sign the on-line petition:

Hello, I thought you should know about this:

Burma is ruled by one of the most brutal military dictatorships in the world. For decades the Burmese regime has fought off pressure--imprisoning elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and democracy activists, wiping out thousands of villages, imposing forced labour, creating refugees- But last Tuesday Buddhist monks and nuns, revered in Burma, began marching and chanting prayers. The protests spread as hundreds of thousands of ordinary people and public figures joined in, finding the hope they'd lost. Now they're facing crackdown – so please, show your solidarity to this movement towards reconciliation and democracy and sign the emergency petition supporting the Burmese people -- it'll be delivered to United Nations Security Council members and international media all week:


In the past, Burma's military rulers have massacred the demonstrators and crushed democracy. The world must stand with the Burmese people at this time, to show the military rulers that the world will not tolerate repression and violence.
Right now, global leaders are gathering in New York for the annual United Nations summit. In speeches, press interviews but also in real actions, we need them to show Burma's military junta that the global community is willing to act in solidarity with the protesters.

Show your solidarity to this movement for peace and democracy and sign the emergency petition supporting the Burmese people. It'll be delivered to UN Security Council members and the UN press corps all week:


Thank you for your help!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Tagged 5 Benda: Skim versi 'pakmantelo' di era siber

Okay, I admit. I view TAG with the same derision as pakmantelo MLM schemes and ladies 'main kutu'. Okay, not with the same derision as old ladies 'main kutu'. My wife, mother, and mother-in-law would not take kindly to that statement as they are lovers and players of 'kutu'.

Tokasid, the person who tagged me, a fellow Taiping-ite like pakmantelo should've have known better about the dangers of MLM and its various ponzi pyramid schemes (who hasn't at least once in his life become a member of an MLM scheme? Come on --own up! I know I joined Amway just to buy stuff like car wash detergents and lens tissue for my 'specs). And as medical doctor tokasid should also know that this tagging business brings about undue stress to the participants. It might also unwittingly elevate blood pressure like mine did. But okay-lah, like they say, I should be a good sport.

Here goes junk and more junk that you don't need to know about Mat Salo.


Huh? I'd figured this tagging game was for the ladies. But wattahack, in case I turn into one, a bencong, I'm sure I'll be totting a Giamax or Bonia --the Italian inspiration, but made in Puchong. So what's wrong with that?

1. Condom for my customers. Not expensive ones, not du-lek like da apek pimp in Belakang Mati like to say. Just enough to get the job done.
2. K-J Jelly. Why? To "lubricate" matters --better than K-Y any day.
3. Some lozenges (Fisherman's Friend) and some sweets like Hacks. Some customers prefer 'air-con' you see.
4. Cigarrettes --not mine. I usually get my customers to buy them.
5. In The Arms of Melancholic Prostitutes, a Novel. Not by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, but the one by Mat Salo.


Again, I don't have a purse or a bum-bag like pasar malam traders like to wear. But just in case I had one:-

1. Name cards of Namewee. I mean, no offence but how do you pronounce it really?
2. Name cards of all MINDEF Agents and CONtractors in Mayshia. This is one hot meal ticket, folks. Too hot that it can actually get you blown to pieces.
3. Customers name cards who like to impress prostitutes like me. Ho-hum. Funny thing is, they never let you call them lest their wives know.
4. Visa and MC cards. Whom I wish to thank since their constant calls and repetitive reminders is what prompted to me to sell my ass in the first place.
5. Lipstick. Invented by ancient Mesopotamians 5000 years ago to make prostitutes' lips appear fuller and more enticing. Betcha didn't know that, didcha?


1. My King-Sized mattress. Expensive, but not as expensive as a Sealy. Can you imagine spending RM30K on a mattress? Outrageous. But the salesgirl whom we bought if from the shop in SS2 claimed it's comparable to a Sealy. Yeah, right. So we bought the Sealy lookalike and have loved it ever since. It's what we could afford anyway.
2. My 36" CRT Philips Widescreen TV. These were the days before plasma and LCD's. Being an humonguos old-fashioned CRT TV, you know how much the damn thing weigh my friend? 91 kilos. That's heavier than some of you (except for some chegu in Penang that I know). The wooden cabinet on which it stands is sagging. Why, oh why did I buy it? The excellent picture, of course.
3. My daughter's crib. It's a hand me down from her Form 2 brother which was further handed down to her 6-year-old brother. So you can imagine the state it was in. In anticipation of our long awaited Alesha Michelle, I spent two whole days in the sun painting the crib from blue to a girlish pink, risking heartburn and skin cancer (and suffering serious sunburn in the process) restoring it to its former glory.
4. My daughter, who is often in the crib. No explanations necessary. Aha, but she's not a thing, is she?
5. My bedside table. Where my I keep my favorite books, magazines and Nokia charger.

5 THINGS I WOULD LIKE TO DO. (If more, jangan la mare ye)

1. Spend more time with my kids. I don't care about quality, I just want more time!
2. Earn the respect of my father, who wished I was born a doctor. It's ok now, I gotta sis who is.
3. Learn ballroom dancing or perform the salsa with a partner, my wife preferably. Being a klutz, I'm just sooooo envious of people who can dance.
4. See more of this world (as if I haven't seen enough).
5. Learned to play music properly and learned to read notes.
6. Should've gone to either USC or UCLA film school. I fancy myself that I have what it takes to be a world-famous film director.
7. Be able to grow old long enough to give my daughter away...


1. Commiting khalwat with a 23-year-old lithsome, wholesome Engineer from Padang, West Sumatera who shares the work cabin with me. This is not a joke. BTW, for those in know, posa batal tak?
2. Wondering on how to pay back an extensive mortgage that I had just taken up in back home. This was from reading too many Azizi Ali books!
3. Kicking myself for missing Zohor prayers. I was 'too busy' doing this blog post. Err, also for those in the know, posa batal tak? (I suspect in conjunction with khalwat, sure batal one)
4. Drilling a well. Between items 3 and 4, was just summoned to the drill floor to intervene in a potential "hole" problems. Boy, don't we all have hole problems.
5. Pray that my skills as writer will improve, and be as witty and as funny as my blogger friends whom I envy oh so much.

Now that wasn't so bad was it?

Now the caveat is this: tagging ends here as a mark of respect to our daughter (she's our daughter --yours and mine - the Nation's ) Nurin and other victims of misfortune around the world in this holy month of Ramadhan Al-Mubarrak.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

By the Tongue, By The Sword, By The Dick: A Bugis Philosophy

IT SOUNDS A BIT CRUDE, I know, but this was exactly the theme of DPM Dato Sri Muhammad Najib Tun Razak’s acceptance speech when awarded the doctorate honoris causa (honorary degree) from Indonesia’s Hasanuddin University in Makassar, South Sulawesi Monday.

Najib, awarded the doctorate in Political Economy, was the 6th recipient in a convocation attended by Indonesia’s Vice-President and fellow Bugis Jusuf Kalla. Najib admitted that in preparing for the speech he was “coached” by Indonesian VP Jusuf Kalla on this seminal Bugis philosophy.

To the uninitiated, the Three Tips philosophy - tellu cappa in Bugis-speak (literally tiga ujung) - hence, three tips - is often quoted as a useful philosophy for solving disputes.

George Acciacoli, a noted Bugis scholar, writes that:

The three tips [tellu cappa'] encompass the tongue, the knife blade, and the penis. If a Bugis cannot integrate himself with the local leaders by diplomatic consultation (by the tip of his tongue), he may have to resort to armed battle (by the tip of his knife blade). But, best of all, he will be able truly to integrate himself in the new community by marrying one (or more) of the local women (by the tip of his penis).[1]

Interestingly the Sulawesi press made much of Najib’s genealogy as a descendant of Raja Gowa.

Najib – if the claim holds true - is therefore an Anak Raja Bugis.

The other famous Anak Raja Bugis is of course, Raja Petra Kamaruddin, owner of popular Malaysia’s website Malaysia-Today. Editorials and articles in Malaysia-Today are often critical of Najib.

The embattled Deputy Prime Minister is also implicated in the Altantunya murder by virtue of his association with close political adviser Abdul Razak Baginda. Abdul Razak is jointly charged with murder along with two bodyguards from Najib’s own personal security detail. Critics have questioned how an ordinary civilian like Abdul Razak was able to order “the hit”, thus giving rise to speculation and lending credence to conspiracy theorists.

Najib was also once scandalized by rumors of a romantic link with a popular local songstress. For the record, Datin Sri Rosmah is Najib’s second wife. Najib’s first marriage to Tengku Puteri Zainah Tengku Eskandar ended in divorce but the earlier union produced three children.

In light of Najib’s “Ladies Man” reputation, I wonder if it was appropriate for him to quote the Bugis Three Tips philosophy in his acceptance speech; particularly with regards to the tip-of-the penis, which I’m sure, many will find to be in very poor taste. Hopefully Najib had attended the event in a private capacity, and had not hurt the Malaysian taxpayers one bit by paying his own way to Makassar. If he flew by government private jet (read: rakyat's money), only to deliver a speech paying homage to the tip of the penis . . . well then, the rakyat has every right to be upset.

Fajar Online
also reported that during his short stay in Makassar, Najib officially inaugurated Malaysia’s Honorary Consulate and installed Hashim Kalla, Vice President’s Jusuf Kalla’s younger brother as the Honorary Consul. Makassar has a sizeable Malaysian population comprising mainly medical students from Hasanuddin University.

©Mat Salo 2007.


Source (1) http://wwwsshe.murdoch.edu.au/intersections/issue10/idrus.html#n49#n49 (Original Source: Fajar Online, South Sulawesi)

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Malaysia The Arrogant

© Gatra

On the cusp of turning 50, Malaysia rears its ugly, arrogant head

Sorry for being tardy in updating my blog. Have been a bit busy lately, and I'm sure, so have you. What with celebrating Merdeka and busy pondering over the bujet.

Working in Indonesia I had the unenviable task of fending off criticisms (and still coming in, I assure you) over the "Wasit Donald" incident. Just to refresh you a bit, Wasit (referee) Donald, the Indonesian karate referee who was ignominiously waylaid and beaten up by four plainclothes policemen outside the Allson Klana Resort in Nilai, Negri Sembilan a week before our so-called "50 th"
Merdeka celebrations.

This had created a furore of sorts in Indonesia.

And the cries of Ganyang Malaysia are still heard in some venerable hot spots across this vast archipelago of close to a quarter billion people.

Gatra, the influential weekly newsmagazine, chose to do a front cover piece on the relations between Indonesia and Malaysia in its latest September 6th edition.

Malaysians need to be reminded that Indonesia’s press is truly free, and they can choose to highlight whatever they like – no “4th Floor” pseudo-editors to whip the Malaysian press and shape the Nation’s news. Therefore it is prudent for Malaysia to mind their bigger tetangga.

Although the press in Malaysia chose not to carry news of Pak Lah’s personal telephone call to President SBY apologizing over the incident, that event was fortunately given a lot of prominence here. So was IGP Tan Sri Musa Hassan’s personal letter of apology (in English) read by Malaysia’s Ambassador to Indonesia Dato’ Zainal Abidin to Donald Kolopita at his bedside at Jakarta’s Pertamina hospital.

I say “fortunate” because perhaps the apology helped douse some of the raging fire of discontent of its citizens. However, some quarters here simply think that ‘Sorry, for the incident – we promise to investigate and deal with the culprits in accordance with Malaysian laws’ – simply isn’t enough. They want justice to be seen and done swiftly.

Even seating Indonesia's VP Yusuf Kalla (a Bugisman too, I might add) in the guest of honor position flanking PM Pak Lah and fellow DPM-cum-Bugisman at the recent Merdeka morning parade didn't help to cool things down. In fact, speculation abounds as to why SBY spurned the invitation to attend and sent his deputy instead was to placate his critics. But this could all be "spin", eh?

There were reports of Petronas petrol stations in Jakarta being blockaded although I can’t confirm this.

There were reports of marauding youths attempting to harass visiting Malaysian badminton players at a hotel in Surabaya.

In Bogor last week, three Malaysian Chinese were expelled for allegedly "working" in Indonesia, thus violating express conditions stipulated on their tourist visas. The knee jerk tit-for-tat response, I suppose.

I now carry my Indonesian Residency Permit (KITAS) on my person at all times if I happen to be in town. Even the once free-wheeling Mat Salo is getting paranoid.

(Like the rules arbritarily enforced on Indonesian guest workers at the whims and fancies of RELA personnel, pehaps carrying just the KITAS alone isn't enough. One can get detained for not carrying the passport AND the work permit too, for example.)

I was also alerted by my Indonesian friends and colleagues here on the sudden proliferation of emails telling other instances of abuses by Malaysian authorities (read: PDRM / RELA) meted on their citizens (especially bona fide Indonesian tourist's tales-of-woe) while visiting Malaysia.

In Tempo’s editorial - another popular and influential weekly newsmagazine -it even highlighted our penchant for calling them by the derogatory term Indon.

Just last week, about 50-stong GOLKAR’s Pemuda Pancasila (PP) - Komite Nasional Pemuda Indonesia (KNPI) - sort of their version of Malaysia’s infamous Pemuda UMNO's Gerak Gempur battalion (who, for some, have likened the group to thugs) descended upon Balikpapan’s Malaysia military attaché office to “demo” and hand over a memorandum. Fortunately, our liason officer here, a Mejar, and a close friend of mine, managed to persuade the protesters to calm down and accepted their memorandum with promises to hand the memo over to our embassy in Jakarta.

The Mejar lamented that I wasn't around to lend him moral support when his compound was besieged. On the drilling barge I was already held in a state of siege myself.

The next day, Balikpapan Post reported on the incident with the headline Arogansi Bukan Budan Melayu (Arrogance is not part of the Malay psyche).

Frankly, being the sole Malaysian in a floating barge surrounded by over 100 seething Indonesians makes me a wee bit jittery.

But really, I have no fear of what can personally befall me. I can deal with that. After all I have dealt with rebel leaders in war-torn Southern Sudan before. Back in ’98 I was chased by Burmese military policemen as I tried to enter the street where Nobel Laureate Daw Aung Sang Syu Kii lives (she was – and still is - under house arrest). I wanted to see what her house looked like. And did I tell you I once had the unfortunate experience of being an overnight guest in a US prison? But all that pales in comparison to the shame I’m feeling now. Shame is something hard for me to take. I’ll take fear over shame any day.

Oh, how can we, as Malaysians, have become so arrogant?

© Antara News Agency

© Antara News Agency

My heartfelt appreciation to fellow Malaysian bloggers Rocky Brew, Elizabeth Wong, Mob 1900, Tokasid and Nathaniel Tan for bringing the issue into the Malaysian conciousness. Please click on the respective links to their blogs for a more comprehensve view.

Finally I will leave you to ponder this Indonesian (written in English) blog that I happened to have chanced upon recently.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Hard to say I am sorry

You know, people say in politics you can spin anything. Not this time, eh Malaysia. It looks bad whichever angle you look at it. Come on.

Background story, read here.

How do you spin a news about policemen beating up a civilian (who is a foreigner) for no obvious reason?

This, of course does not mean we are saying that Indonesian police is better. But you know, with all the news we read about Malaysia, the economic successes (in relative comparison to Indonesia), we thought things would be better there than here. And many things are: Indonesian GNI per capita for example, is USD 1,280, while Malaysia is USD 4,970. Life expectancy at birth, Indonesia 68 years, Malaysia 74 years [1].

But apparently some things remain the same: Read the comments on Malaysia Today [2] regarding the news. We assume it is written mostly by Malaysians, and you'll see that despite the economy, some things just won't change. Like corrupt public officials. Or abusive policemen.

Some of the comments that attracted our attention (just in case it is censored later on by the Malaysian government):

"Bpk harus beri duit kopi dan polisi akan memberi persembahan lagu dan tarian "namawee".Semuanya salah bpk kerane tidak tahu budaya polisi Malaysia"

"The only difference between thugs/muggers and the PDRM is that the former is unlicensed, while the latter is free to hassle the general public. Infact, I truly believe in Malaysia, the PDRM is guilty of more crimes that the criminals. We were taught in school that actually a policeman's role is suppose to be preventive, but somehow that is not the case in Bolehland."

"Don't tell me these policemen thinking that this guy is a foreigner is a good game for robbing (policemen have been known to rob the illegals)"
"In Malaysia we are in constant fear of two groups of people, The Criminals and The Police."

"Years back, the Thomas Cup finals in Jakarta was marred by the unruly crowd. But today, Malaysia has sunk below Indonesia in fairplay & gamesmanship...and the Polis is implicated. IF the Govt. does not stop the rot (at 'the guardians of the law'), the country will be avoided by investors & tourists."

"If Anwar Ibrahim who was then the DPM can be beaten up by the police, who else cannot be beaten?"

We say no more.

Source:[1] World Bank Key Development & Statistics [2] Malaysia-today.net