Monday, August 30, 2010

Post My Rides...

This is a brief recollection of the cars that have been part of my life.


I was in Form 4 when I was first given a taste of driving. It was a Perdana Automatic. Biasalah, forward, reverse, kiri, kanan dalam taman perumahan. Maybe because my family's a bit strict when it comes to discipline and studies that I view driving as a means of escape, because from that moment on, I took every chance I could get to drive.

I had my chance when I was in Form 5 when I got my L license. Now, L means shit, but to me, it meant I am, theoretically, capable of driving. So "my" first car was a Proton Saga Megavalve hatchback.

Registration number CAH 45. It was actually my auntie's car by that time as she bought it over from my mom. Her whole family commutes often between KL and Johor, so this car was left quite often in my porch.

And what did I do with my new-found, albeit illegal and immoral, freedom? Bawak pergi tuisyen Bahasa Malaysia dengan saudara Bharat Joshi. Then to the mamaks, normally Sri Melur USJ 12. Sometimes I would take it a bit further out for a round of Counter-Strike at a CC in SS 15.

At that time I was in no position to pass opinion on handling, or comfort. All I know was that the car had four wheels, can seat four, and can be driven by any idiot - like me.

I guess my auntie suspected me of joy-riding the car because she keeps wondering why her mileage keeps on increasing. I usually answered that I helped her warm up the engine since she left the car for so long, which actually doesn't make sense. Jadi, sempena hari raya, saya mohon ampun.


I was actually quite crazy and rebellious enough to insist on taking my license as soon as I could. Since my birthday's in September, it meant that when I took the test at Metro Driving Academy Kg. Subang, it was just a few weeks before SPM. Semangat bawak buku Sure Skor (or one of those small books with summarized notes).

I didn't get a car immediately after getting my license. Lepas SPM, kerja melepak sampai lewat malam aja di pusat snuker dan kafe siber di SS 15. I usually ride the bus, Metrobus. On many occasion, I was fortunate enough to be allowed to drive the 1st-gen Honda CRV that my family had.

At that time, we were all into some form of hip-hop. And driving a 4WD (no matter if it's a Honda), was very urban (in my mind, at least). Official soundtrack: 2Pac & Naughty by Nature on repeat.

Bila fikir balik, memang agak poyo.
But I had a lot of fun with this car. It was big, which meant it could fit a whole lot of car-less teenage kids eager for a night out in town. There was a time when I carried 7 people in there, with one kid hanging out in the boot.

My First Car

Despite my rebellious streak in Form 5, I did manage to do well in my SPM. Malas ar cerita berapa nanti ingat aku ni nerd laks. So my parents, being the lovely folks that they are, and probably secretly as a way of thanking me for not insisting on studying overseas, decided to get me a car.

At that time, there weren't that many choices. And for boys, the Proton Satria's usually a pretty safe bet. But I didn't want some lame-ass cockle-doo 1.3 (which was what they have in the showrooms). I found out that there was a 1.6 version of the Satria which has been discontinued.

So I got mine at the 1st second-hand car dealership we stopped along Jalan Ampang, I think. Test drive consisted of me driving the car around the office building. My parents signed the papers, and off I went with my new car.

A few months later, I joined UiTM. Time tuh, kalau bawak kereta dalam kampus, kira cukup gempak la. This is UiTM, remember. I stayed in the hostel for the 1st semester, and there was plenty of riding around town doing nothing moments with a bunch of crazy ass friends.

Budak-budak perempuan pun takder kereta time tuh. So you can be quite a hero (or a deuschbag...) by "helping" them around campus. The Satria 1.6XLI with plate no. WGX 1544 was a familiar sight around campus, I think.

Anyway, the car itself was powerful, but drank petrol like it's nobody's business. It probably didn't help that I pushed the car too often. But I love it. I spent my first PTPTN loan (hah, pengakuan) on getting this car a kick-ass Sony stereo with new speakers and twitters. Time tuh, beli dan pasang dekat Brothers. Manalah kita pandai sangat.

With illegal downloads just starting to mushroom on "broadband", I had a blast playing my compilations. I probably annoyed the hell out of my buddy, Ahmad Faiz (who knew we'd still be riding around until today?), but who cares. Nak naik kereta aku, dengar lah music aku.

My 2nd Car - Honda Jazz 1.4 iDSI

I don't know why, but I was damn enthusiastic about studying law when I first joined the faculty. So I got pretty good results for my pre-law program. At that time, the Satria was starting to cost a bomb to maintain (or so I keep on insisting to my parents...sneaky bastard).

I kept harping on them for a new car. You see, I get bored easily, and it's the same with cars. After 3 semesters, everyone's started driving some variation of the Proton - Wira, Satria etc. So I wanted something else, and the 3 straight Dean's List Award was a strong bargaining chip.

It was funny how we got the Jazz (it wasn't my 1st choice, actually). My father was asleep one afternoon. I cornered my mom while she was reading the newspaper. Without my dad, my mom's a pretty easy target for mental manipulation. She came across the ad for the New Jazz (at that time). She said it looked nice. I saw the opportunity, so I said, why don't we have a look.

At that time, there was a Honda showroom at Taipan USJ. Secara kebetulan rasanya mood mak aku baik, kereta Jazz yang ada berkilat, dan salesgirl (namanya Anita) sangat efektif. Then and there, she booked the car, rationalizing that we're going to share it (muahahaha...).

I managed to get the earlier generation Honda Jazz 1.4 iDSI with a built-in stereo. This was the model that you should get if you wanted to buy Gen 1 Honda Jazz. My sister later got a Jazz too, but hers were plagued with a lot of issues.

I love my Honda. Honestly, I never thought I would. But it was such a competent little monster, and it looked great too (walaupun tak macho...but I was never playing the macho game anyway), especially after I spent a bomb kitting it out in Mugen bodykit and new 17-inch rims.

The stereo was good, and that's important because I love my music in my cars. The handling was neat. And it was very cost-effective too, in terms of fuel consumption and maintenance (since nothing broke throughout my ownership of the car). The power delivery was weird because it was using a CVT gearbox (no actual cogs, just rubber-bands), but I can't praise this car enough.

Maybe I love this car more than I should because it also coincided with some great memories of life as a university student. I started my degree program, I realized it was pretty pointless to be so serious about studies, so I let loose a bit. I was more than happy to trade-off my Dean's List for the experiences I had. Duit PTPTN banyak habis atas kereta ni.

My 3rd Car - BMW E46

Naturally, after close to 3 years of using the Jazz, I got a little bit itchy. At the time, my dad was using an E200 while my mom has a BMW E46 which she didn't use much. They wanted a BMW 5 series E60, and they needed to make a decision soon because the 520i was going to be discontinued soon.

I saw my chance (aku rasa cam aku ni evil dalam cerita ni...muahahah). I offered to give my car to our company's GM, who was looking for a new car to replace her Proton. And I would then "borrow" my mom's BMW. Brilliant, right?

The BMW brought with it a whole new set of dimension to my lifestyle. Suffice to say, it was a bit of an embarrassment to be driving a 3 series to UiTM. Pak Guards would make some snide remarks.

Anyway, the car itself was a gem. It was genuine driving machine. After losing out the Satria and getting the Jazz, I had turned a bit mellow, as a driver. But with the Beemer, I found my mojo. Because my family's not really into performance cars then, the Beemer, despite only being a 2.0, was considered quick by our standard.

The handling was, and still is the best, I've driven to date. I think the E46's cabin was the last great BMW cabin. From the E60 5 series to the E96 series, they seem to have been a bit bland. It was a great car to drive, a great car to have fun in.

But I messed it up. Honestly, I did, although it was an accident that led to the mess. It was just a minor fender bender (not my fault) with a MBSJ lorry who backed up without looking. But I used it as an excuse to go and "PIMP MY RIDE".

I modified the car's exterior with some AC SusahNakEja bodykit and repainting the whole car Ferrari Red. It was the stupidest mistake I've ever made. The job wasn't well executed, and after re-assembly, the car doesn't feel like it's my car. To top it all off, I crashed the car into the deepest pothole along Jalan Maarof after attending Kursus Kahwin, causing damage that was never really fixed until the day I sold it off.

This was the car that thought me never to modify a good thing. Ever. But the 3 series held with it some great memories as it was the car I had during my final year at Law School and which I kept owning for another 9 months after I graduated. That car was my Batmobile then - maklumlah, sewa apartment sendiri (dok sorang ye), so merayau ajalah kerja.

My 4th Car - Nissan Murano 2.5

And then it was time for me to get married. It was 2007. I wasn't quite sure that the E46 would survive married life - it's air-conditioning was broken, there were parts that were literally hanging off the car.

I had made some money from the stock market, selling unit trust, my share in a failed restaurant venture and some other means. So I decided that I would, for the 1st time, decide on my own a car that I would get.

Honestly, when I went to the Naza showroom, I wanted to get the Nizzan 350z. It was at the same price point as the Murano. But then, a new sporty two-seater wouldn't really play well with my in-laws and new family now would it? (See, I'm a chess player when it comes to mind games).

And so I bought the big, white, 2WD Japan Spec Nissan Murano. I didn't realize at that time how many people actually admired the car. I thought I was one of the few who knew about the car and how beautiful it looked on the road. Apparently, no. A lot of chicks seem to dig it, which is kind of weird at the time because I bought it to project the image of a family man.

I had the car about 3-4 months before I got married. It was also the same time I joined Maxis as a graduate trainee/management associate. This car carried with it some great memories too. Like it was the 1st car Dani rode in.

For such a big car, the Murano was pleasantly easy to drive. Typical of Japanes cars then, its steering was a bit light, and dead on high speed, but it was hard to find fault with the overall package of the car. Power wasn't spectacular, but then again, you're driving a mini-truck. Which is why it's one of the most practical cars I've had.

It marries superb build quality, with durability (I tend to find, rather than avoid, potholes before my LASIK), and great presence on the road. I've always had a soft spot for 4WD (remember the Honda CRV story?), so I was very comfortable with the Murano. It was also very practical, and is a great highway cruiser.

I'm going to miss it...

My 5th Car - Suzuki Swift

The Murano was great, but we needed something small and nippy (and more importantly, fuel efficient) to drive around town. At that time, my new wife was still using her Kancil manual. In fact, when we first got married, I would drive the Kancil to the Taman Jaya LRT station to get to KLCC. So if anyone of you claim that I've never driven a Kancil, kiss my arse.

Tapi kesian tengok Rinie bawak manual. Not only that, the car looked like crap. So we went shopping for a car. It was a great moment for us as a couple because it was the first car we bought together.

The Swift is one of those little gems that constantly surprises you. I fell in love with the car as soon as I drove it. The simplicity in its execution, the whole "solid" feel of the black interior, the free-revving engine, and of course, its BMW-like handling made this a preferred mode of transport for us. I still think its a bit overpriced for the room it offers, but anyone who has their hearts set on it, I'd advise them to just go get one.

Rinie had Dani, and she stopped working. Then, we all moved to Shah Alam with my parents. There were basically too many cars in the porch, too little utilization. I was basically paying monthly for an extra run about, so I made the hard decision to sell off the Swift after just one year of having it. It's not a reflection on the car, just a simple economics decision that has to be made.

My 6th Car - ???

I just sold off my Murano, and just finished paying the insurance for a new car. It's nothing spectacular, just a natural evolution of my car ownership experience. Just for the record, we've gotten a Honda Stream RSZ for the family, so I don't need a big 4WD...for now.

Next year, who knows.


I've been very fortunate to have had these cars, and the pleasure of driving a few others as well. As a car nut, I feel very grateful for all these opportunities in life. I just hope that my sharing is not misconstrued as showing-off. I know plenty of people with better rides than me, and I also know a lot (too many) who hasn't had a chance to even drive a car. Insyaallaah, we all have our place in this world.

But anyway, here's my rankings of all the rides based on something beyond speed, handling etc. It's just my ranking of the best driving experience I've had.

1. Honda Jazz 1.4 iDSI - my most complete car at that time
2. Nissan Murano 2.5 - big, stylish and practical
3. Suzuki Swift - brilliant little pocket dynamite
4. BMW E46 - would have been no.1 if it weren't for self-caused issues
5. Satria 1.6 XLi - plenty of flaws mechanically, but thanks for the great memories
6. Proton Saga Megavalve - I love it just like you love your first sexual partner no matter how uncomforable and awkward it was.

Friday, August 20, 2010

How Berjiwa Rakyat?

1. On my way to Friday prayers, I was suddenly surrounded by 3-4 traffic policemen in their flashy big bikes aggressively shepherding cars to make way for what is ANOTHER V.I.P.

2. Suffice to say, it almost cause a bit of an accident in front of me as 4 lanes were suddenly being made into 1 by one lone macho policeman.

3. The VIP was royalty, probably the HM The King himself as there were more policemen escorting him than there are patrolling the whole of Subang Jaya.

4. It got me thinking to this conversation I had with a friend of mine somewhere in Johor recently.

5. Every time this big shot politician (very big shot) comes to town, there will be an order to patch up all roads that he will pass by so that it'll be smooth as silk.

6. Apparently this is not uncommon. It's not a directive from the politician himself, but as usual, when there's big gun coming to town, the locals would pull out all the stops.

7. I bet it's the same whenever politicians go on the ground - the grass would be cut, the clogged drain would be cleared, the stench from abandoned dumpsite covered up...even flood prone riverbanks would be dug deeper.

8. My question is, since no high ranking politician or VIPs ever have to fill up petrol, buy groceries, get stuck in traffic jam, start a business, renew their passports, get a maid and all the other things we middle-income folks have to go through, how could they ever understand what the rakyat is actually facing?

9. They don't send their kids to local school, and obviously local universities. They don't worry about unreliable Internet connection. They will very seldom run the risk of being mugged or robbed of their vehicle. They HAVE never bought tickets to ride the LRT or better yet, KTM Komuter. Apa lagi? Banyak lagi....

10. I'm not saying politicians should live like us. But maybe, sometimes, they should just keep the police escorts at home, and try being stuck in peak hour traffic along the Federal Highway. Then they'll start wrecking their brains out trying to solve our issues - one real problem at a time.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Fixing Our Economy - Talent

1. There has been a lot of talk about keeping talent here in Malaysia. Unfortunately, there seems to be less focus on what these talents would do.

2. I realize there's a missing link in our discussion of increasing and retaining the talent pool.

3. There's an assumption that as long as we can increase the number and retain the majority of these talented individuals, our economy would improve.

4. Perhaps I am stupid for thinking that where and what these talents would do is as important as keeping them.

5. Any investment, whether in talent or infrastructure, must bring about the most maximum impact it can give. And I think the way we structure and treat our talent has not given the most maximum impact for the benefit of the rakyat.

6. The brightest most talented students are picked and given scholarships by the Government, GLCs, and big corporations. These graduates would later be absorbed into some behemoth institution, further giving these institutions a bigger chunk of the talent pool.

7. And what do these bright individuals do that deserves the RM 1 million (eg: scholarship of engineering students in US) assistance using the rakyat's money and is the rakyat reaping the benefits?

8. On the surface, it may look as though we are. These individuals are paid at 20-30% premium over average market rate for graduates which makes them a high earner paying more taxes and spending more on the economy (house, holiday...). More importantly, it seems, they add value to the firm or corporation or agency where they work, which in turns make bigger profit thus making the company bigger, stronger and further stimulating the economy.

9. But are they really contributing more bang-per-buck this way? The cyclical nature, the spread of wealth, looks very linear, very simplified. Government gives you money to become smarter, you come back and serve the government or GLC you're paid a bit more, so you spend a bit more, thus stimulating other sectors, allowing these companies to make a bit more money, which would in turn go back to the government.

10. What if there's a way to amplify the impact our investment on our talented students will have on the nation's economy?

11. The way we're doing this at this moment has left us with a highly talented pool of WORKERS - not innovators, not trailblazers, and not entrepreneurs. It may sound fine, but the reality is that our continued production of workers has left us vulnerable once again as other poorer nations increase their own talent pool at a lower cost than ours.

12. Not only that, we fail to see that producing talented workers for the SERVICE INDUSTRY will not benefit us in the long run. Engineers no longer create, or innovate, instead they become analysts or marketers. We have more lawyers now than ever, when what we should focus on is simplifying legislation so that we don't need to depend on lawyers. We produce doctors, but not scientists that can do research and development. We have IT graduates that takes pride in maintaining SAP systems, but not tech-wiz that can actually come up with a new SAP.

13. Andy Grove, of Intel fame, wrote what I thought was a brilliant piece maybe a few months back about the perils of thinking that we can be innovators without being producers. He said that America's increasing reliance on overseas production, with the supposed caveat that they keep the innovation portion alive, is actually harming the future of their economy. He said that by moving production to lower cost nations, the impetus and technological capability to innovate on production resides with the manufacturer. The only way forward is for America to continue becoming a manufacturer of products at a cost of reduced profitability but with long term economic security in mind.

14. The same thinking must be applied in whatever discussion we have about our talent pool.

15. We need our bright graduates to be encouraged to become innovators and entrepreneurs. We need them to produce Made in Malaysia goods so that the actual technological know-how to innovate resides with us. We need them to spur a whole new idea of SMEs. In the US of A, bright students are always thinking of creating a start-up. Here in Malaysia, they all want to work for Khazanah or Petronas. Something's wrong with this picture.

16. We should continue giving them scholarships, but what if we change a bit the terms. Anyone who while studying or within any moment of serving their scholarship that can come up with a valid business proposal or creative invention should be allowed a sabbatical to flesh out their ideas, and not only that, they should be given access to credit facilities at favorable terms.

17. Anyone who turn in a positive cash flow position within 2 years and employs 10 or more Malaysians are exempted from further serving their scholarship. Further credit facilities should be extended to these individuals. In fact, the Government should set up a investment fund that specifically invests in these companies in exchange of an equity stake which shall be divested upon initial public offering (which must be a part of their terms of incorporation upon fulfillment of all regulatory requirements).

18. These graduates, if successful, not only create wealth for themselves but also other Malaysians with more room for growth than staid mega corporations. They are also obliged to return back the favor to the economy by adding liquidity and options to our stock market.

19. These initiatives could also work for research and development efforts. The measurement could be in terms of the number of patents filed or the impact such innovation has on its respective field. It doesn't have to be all profit oriented.

20. Maybe the government already has some of this measure, but I can certainly bet they haven't thought of incorporating it into their talent pool discussion.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Observing Ramadhan

1. It's funny how the usually less pious folks get all worked up for Ramadhan, while the pious ones remain pretty cool.

2. You know, sending all these messages spreading the holiness of Ramadhan, while at the same time lamenting that they'll not be clubbing for a month. Telling how Ramadhan is visiting with his friends, when you're still talking about having casual sex.

3. Or spending the entire day making a big fuss over buka puasa and not eating. Or making a big deal over completing a day of fasting.

4. I guess it's like the World Cup. Some non-football fans get all worked up once every four years, when actually they can't tell the difference between a sweeper and a winger, or they can't watch a game for the full 90 minutes without switching to Glee or Benci Bilang Cinta, or thinking that any game with a 0-0 scoreline is a bore.

5. The more I look at it, the more I realize Ramadhan is like the World Cup for a significant number of Muslims - an event of such a nature that they'll feel left out if they don't become a part of. You realize during the World Cup the sudden surge in interest on football, like it's the in thing to be interested in.

6. Therefore, people overcompensate. Suddenly 21 rakaat for terawikh is more than acceptable, when before 2 for Friday Prayers is too taxing. Like suddenly wearing Holland's jersey, when before you thought that football jerseys are for rempits.

7. The weird part is how people really get into the Ramadhan culture, without actually delving into the Ramadhan spirit. How many would want to bet (totally un-Ramadhan like) that there's more people at the Pasar Ramadhan than they are in the mosque for terawikh?

8. Anyway, I'm not judging. I'm not saying that's bad or wrong. It's an observation.

9. In fact, I'm the first to admit that sometimes I feel a bit like a fraud during Ramadhan.

10. The difference is I realize that I am, and I keep my mouth shut.

11. Bad Muslim? Maybe, and I'm working on it. Hypocrite? I don't think so.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Halal Or Not?

1. Jabatan Kemajuan Islam Malaysia or JAKIM for short has been in the news quite a bit this year.

2. Maybe the pent-up frustration of playing second fiddle to Khairy's Halal Development Corporation during Pak Lah Islam Hadhari's tenure has led to JAKIM's very prominent role this year.

3. Just recently they started asking Muslims to be aware and avoid hotels that doesn't have the Halal Certificate for its kitchen for Berbuka Puasa.

4. I read yesterday's piece on mStar (the Star's sunday Malay tabloid) on JAKIM's inspection and certification process. Suffice to say I've got a feeling your roadside warung would be declared as non-Halal going by the standard JAKIM's going by.

5. They may have the best of intentions, but the reality is that their certification goes beyond what we understand of what constitutes halal. It is not as simple as serving pork or the food having alcohol. Maybe what we (or I) understand is not good enough.

6. The problem is not in them certifying it with such strict compliance of what is more likely a man-made interpretation of Islamic principles. The truth is that Halal certification means the food or premise has far exceeded the minimum standard for safe consumption.

7. The problem lies in the impression JAKIM gives of those that does not have its certificate. Through its words and actions, JAKIM has basically hinted that non-certified food or premise is HARAM and cannot be consumed or visited or used by Muslims.

8. It is akin to me saying that if you don't drive a Mercedez, then you're breaking the law.

9. This is a fundamentally flawed impression given to consumers, who through lack of knowledge or ignorance, have chosen to leave the process of thought at the hands of religious officials.

10. The truth is that getting a HALAL certificate is VOLUNTARY. It is an option.

11. The lack of one does not automatically makes the premise or the food as HARAM. You don't see any qualms from Muslims being served with food from dirty unkempt cook working in a dirty premise that doesn't have the halal logo. But when a clean restaurant or hotel does not have it, we all go bonkers.

12. And from JAKIM's website, they have now asked all hotels that does not have HALAL certificate to stop advertising their buka puasa buffet as Buffet Ramadhan, saying that it'll cause us Muslims to be confused. Don't tell me JAKIM, apparently toothless, now has the privilege to OWN the term Ramadhan?

13. So what if we believe that the premise is halal, even though it doesn't have a Halal cert? Does having a Halal cert automatically makes the food halal and vice versa? My house's kitchen is not certified HALAL, but during open house hundreds of people come and eat there - does it make them any less Muslim, and my food any less halal?

14. I am not against certification. I am against voluntary certification being made to be involuntary, as if without it you're breaking God's law.

15. People must recognize and be educated on the difference between being CERTIFIED HALAL and Halal as a concept. It's fundamentally two different things.