Showing posts from August, 2006

More Questions Confusing Mankind

How come wrong numbers are never busy?Do people in Australia call the rest of the world "up over"?Does that screwdriver belong to Phillip?Can a stupid person be a smart-ass?Does killing time damage eternity?Why doesn't Tarzan have a beard?Why is it called lipstick if you can still move your lips?Why is it that night falls but day breaks?Why is the third hand on the watch called a second hand?Why is it that when you're driving and looking for an address, you turn down the volume on the radio?Why is lemon juice made with artificial flavor, and dishwashing liquid made with real lemons?Are part-time band leaders semi-conductors?Can you buy an entire chess set in a pawn-shop?Daylight savings time - why are they saving it and where do they keep it?Do jellyfish get gas from eating jellybeans?Do pilots take crash-courses?Do stars clean themselves with meteor showers?Do you think that when they asked George Washington for ID that he just whipped out a quarter?Have you ever im…

Scrabble in Brunei

One of the board games that we play at home is Scrabble. My six year old loved it, though he is more interested in keeping scores (we let him as it helps with his additions) and we play his tiles for him. To keep him happy keeping scores we let him win most of the time. According to my dad, he and my mom used to play it almost every evening when we were tiny little kids. In those days, remember, there was no television. I remembered the old set we had at home had some missing letters and these were replaced by cutouts from boxes thus enabling us to identify which letters they were. In 1975, I took part in a televised Scrabble competition and our school came second. That was the one and only time I think Scrabble competition was ever televised on RTB.

At the toys and games corner in all the Hua Ho department stores, I was surprised to see that there were many Scrabble versions and that it remained popular even in Brunei despite the expensive prices. In fact throughout the world, I read …

English is a stupid language?

I was looking at the entry to HND requirements and it stated that you must have 1 A Level in an English related subject and 4 O Levels. I don't know about you but I have met a number of people whose A level is in a non-English or non-related subject thereby closing to them the opportunity to study either a ITB or even at the local private institutions in Brunei. Twenty years ago, these people would have been able to go to England under government scholarships to do HND there. Heck, 20 years ago 2 A Level at Grade 'E's would enable you to get a scholarhsip to do a degree. Times certainly have changed but the English requirements have remained. Though English is not an easy subject.

Let's face it
English is a stupid language.
There is no egg in the eggplant
No ham in the hamburger
And neither pine nor apple in the pineapple.
English muffins were not invented in England
French fries were not invented in France.

We sometimes take English for granted
But if we examine its paradoxes …

Are Brunei drivers incourteous?

I wrote yesterday's piece about a hypothetical Brunei driver who did not want to stop at junctions because he is convinced that statistically more accidents happen at junctions and the less time he spends there, the less likely that he will have an accident. Of course by zooming straight without waiting for the lights will likely cause him to have an accident. I didn't realise that most commentators would pick on this.

Brunei drivers are interesting creatures. I have often met outsiders through the many conferences, seminars and meetings held in Brunei that they find Brunei drivers very courteous, they don't honk for instance. Brunei roads are very quiet despite the long delays due to traffic jams. Brunei drivers are very patient. Brunei drivers give way. I heard of one story where an Indonesian driver who drove in Brunei and when he returned back to Jakarta, he dare not drive there anymore because he is so used to the Brunei way of driving. This is not an isolated incident…

Why Brunei Can't....

Someone said to me that this blogsite is getting too serious and that he can't smile anymore when he is reading the articles. I have to agree. I think the topics lately have been a little too heavy for some. But today, I thought we will have some light hearted moments laughing at ourselves. If you don't understand no.3, just stick to no.1 and no.2.

1. Why Bruneians can't stop at junctions.

There was this Brunei driver who, when driving his car, would always accelerate hard before coming to any junction, whizz straight over it , then drive normally again (fast) once he'd got over it. One day, he took a passenger, who was understandably unnerved by his driving style, and asked him why he went so fast over junctions. The Brunei driver replied, "Well, statistically speaking, you are far more likely to have an accident at a junction, so I just make sure that I spend less time there."

So, now you know why Bruneians love to zoom through changing redlight at junctions.


Our New Solar System

I wrote the following piece and posted it on February 10th on my predecessor blogsite, (now renamed about the hooha about what constitutes a planet and at the bottom of the piece today, I included the updates from the recently concluded IAU (International Astronomical Union) meeting in Prague held last Thursday about our 'new' solar system:-

Are we about to lose a planet or gain one? The latest tingle on the science community is that the astronomers have apparently discovered a new body which is about 9 billion miles away from the sun which apparently is about 1/3 larger than the current smallest planet Pluto. Pluto is about 2,302 km in diameter compared to new body which is about 3,100 km diamater.

The question now seems to be is that whether the new body be called a planet in which case we will have now 10 planets orbiting the sun or should we drop Pluto as being a non-planet? The new body currently designated as UB313 has yet to be named. It ca…

Single parent or triple parent?

I stood in for my PS yesterday as he couldn't make it to be the guest of honour at one mosque's forum on a better family life (keluarga bahagia dan diberkati). The forum itself is run of the mill with the panelists advising the audience that couples should as usual be nice to each other, respect each other etc kind of thing. But during the Q&A sessions, out of the many, two questions stood out.

The first questioner was asking about the position of a colleague of his whose wife has just passed away leaving him with their two children ages 1 and 2. He wanted to know whether it is wise for this newly widowed husband to get married. He did not state the reasons but one can guess what the reasons are - physical, emotional etc. The answer given by the forum panelists were not very clear. All I got was at the end of the day, you have to decide for youselves. I am not sure whether that's the answer we were looking for but then I am not sure whether that was the right forum to …

The Muslim Calendar

For an Islamic country, surprisingly most Bruneians will have difficulty if we are asked what is the Islamic date today. I am proud to say that I can tell you what it is but then I have to confess, I check the calendar every morning so that I can put the correct dates on all the letters and memos that come my way for signature. A couple of months back I wrote two pieces on the origin of days' names, one based on the Gregorian calendar (today's calendar) and another on the origin of Islamic days' names. Today the post is about the origin of the months' names in the Muslim Calendar.

The Muslim Calendar, of course is based on the Arabic calendar, actually has all the names long before Islam. Most of the names of the months are actually based on the climate at the time or big event which took place. Today's calendar is about 11 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar which is based on the solar cycle, so months usualy shift. In the pre-Islamic days, the Arabic calendar…

Kampung Cowboy by Haryati

Rain, rain go away
Come back another again,
Little bebe wants to play

Rewind twenty years ago, when the air was less polluted & all the cars were labut by today’s standards, you might catch me singing this tune when I was stuck indoors. I was an active child running around outside my house without a care in the world except takut nampak spended! My siblings, cousins and me would play outside everyday before watching our favourite TV programs like Sesame Street, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, He-Man & She-Ra, My Little Pony and so on.

Fast forward to the present, I had difficulty buying a birthday gift for my sis. She’s not an outdoor type child thanks to cable TV. Technology has also advanced so much since the 80s. If she isn’t watching TV, she’d pop a vcd or dvd and watch some Korean or Japanese soap. And there’s also PS2. So what kind of gift do you buy for a kid like my sis? Scrap the Barbies and cooking sets, I wanted something more constructive. I do not want my sis to be part…

What images do we want to potray?

These comments were found on about Brunei. What a big difference in 3 years:

In August 2002 - Xinta wrote: Brunei's multi-million dollar playland complex with its free rides, sights and sounds. Early birds are attracted to the free rides, bathed in light and colour, which offer seats from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily. Popular with the elders is the ageless carousel. They mix with the kids riding a horse, a lion, a rooster and other animals as the music plays on and everybody merrily goes round. A mini train tours the complex and ends at the bump car rides. Along the way are the children's playgrounds with mazes and swings, mechanical rides, a kiddies train, a pirate ship, paddle boats, remote control boats and cars, high-tech rides, shooting gallery and pirates' den. The dinosaur's roar can scare the wits out of a youngster.

In October 2005 - Kokoryko wrote: Jerudong Park This is an attraction park, build for the Brunean 15 years ago; it was gratis until re…

Mushaf Nurul Iman - the Giant Brunei Quran

During the Thanksgiving Ceremony for His Majesty's Birthday last Thursday, His Majesty was presented with an extremely huge Quran weighing 225 kilograms (about 495 pounds for the metric-challenged readers). It took 6 men to carry the Quran into the Plenary Hall where the function was held and another 3 to put the Quran into the huge rihal (for keeping the Quran in place while reading it). I thought this was probably one of the largest if not the largest Quran in the world.

The Mushaf Nurul Iman as it was later known is apparently not the first of that size to be made. According to the accompanying guidebook that came with the Quran, it was the fifth that has been made. It was actually made by an Indonesian group (not sure what to call them), named Pondok Pesantren Al-Asyariyyah based in Wonosobo in Jawa Tengah. It was the idea of their imam Muntaha Al-Hafiz or better known as Mbah Mun who had since passed away. He died at the age of 93.

He had this idea of making huge Qurans and 4 w…

Making Brunei Competitive

An anonymous post on my entry Turning Brunei into a Nation of New Ideas noted that "... The Straits Times today (Sat 19 Aug) reported on the recent IPS-NTU report ranking economies on competitiveness. Out of 15 Asian economies, Brunei is in 14th place..."

Competitiveness is a word much bandied about in Brunei nowadays. That anonymous entry certainly thinks that competitiveness is something we Bruneians should be aware of and he or she is right - we should. How does one become competitive?

For this article, I looked at 3 possible answers - the first from my own academic notes, the second from a study commissioned by Brunei Economic Development Board and the third from Asia-Inc, the magazine, which focused on a cross section study of our own Bruneians in various fields.

In one of my crazy moments when I was studying for my Masters, I cross registered to the tough Sloan School at MIT in USA. The main reason was actually to study under Professor Dornbusch who was a very famous econ…

The Stone Age in Brunei

How long has Brunei been populated? By all reckonings Brunei's history goes as far back in time as we know it - even being mentioned in Chinese annals as far back as the 6th century. It wasn't until the 14th century when Awang Alak Betatar married a Johor Princess and became Sultan Muhammad Shah was our current sultanage lineage started and hence began the modern history of Brunei. We haven't even speculated who were the rulers of Brunei all those 900 years ago before Sultan Muhammad Shah came into power.

But Brunei has been peopled even way much earlier than the 6th Century. Sometime in 1971, the Brunei Muesums made a very startling discovery at Tanjung Batu beach at Muara. They have discovered that this area was once inhabited by primitive or stone age people. They discovered a stone implement which was later identified as an adze. According to the Brunei Museum Journal article (Brunei Museum Journal 1976), the discovery came as an 'archaeological shock' because n…

Turning Brunei into a Nation of New Ideas

"How can we turn Brunei into a nation of new ideas?" Dr. Saad Al-Harran, a UBD lecturer asked yesterday in the Borneo Bulletin and he continued "... As a newcomer to Brunei, I have observed that there are too many restaurants and catering services in practically every corner of the capital. Undoubtedly, restaurants provide us with delicious food to eat and enjoy, while at the same time it enables us to have the energy to be active citizens in the community. But to have too many restaurants competing with each other in a small market is something of a concern, that requires serious attention from the policymakers - especially those who want to have a solid foundation for small and medium enterprises (SME) to grow and progress ... "

"... A few have succeeded to open not only one but two or three restaurants because they provide quality food and services, such as play areas for children so as to make dining enjoyable. Meanwhile, others struggle because of the toug…

The History of Brunei Oil

Last Sunday, I was pleasantly surprised to find this book on display at Solitude at the Mall. I remembered this book vaguely some 30 years ago when my father bought it from the publisher, Brunei Museums. I could not find the book at my parents' house anymore, someone either pinched it or we could not find it among the many things being stored at my parents' house. Sometime last week, I saw it again for the first time since, displayed with many books on Brunei at the ICC for the Raja Payung Negara Exhibition. An evil thought did cross my mind of pinching the book but the angel in me told me that I will be able to find it sooner or later. And et voila! Solitude had about a dozen of the books at only $10 each.

What's so great about 'The Discovery and Development of the Seria Oilfield' written by GC Harper? Well, first of all, this the only book in existence that I know of describing events about how the Seria oilfield (our country's lifeline) was discovered and the…

$42,900 GDP per capita - are Bruneians now richer?

The Economic Planning and Development Department (JPKE) finally announced last Monday the much awaited ‘new’ GDP for Brunei. The last issue of the Brunei Economic Bulletin published by JPKE was for the 2nd quarter of 2005 which was released in December last year (all the Bulletins are available on bruneiresources website. I was told then that's why the 3rd and 4th quarters as well as the 2006 issues are on hold was that JPKE was revising certain figures. So now we know. The press release for the revised GDP is also available for downloading on the same site.

Brunei Darussalam’s GDP for 2005 is now B$15.9 billion which is revised from B$9.9 billion. So we have at a stroke raised our GDP by some B$6 billion. This makes our GDP per capita B$42,900 which should move us a few places up the GDP per capita world league table and probably (I could be wrong with my calculations here) should move us slightly ahead of Singapore. Someone commented yesterday on my Cbox, what does the revised fi…

The Gender Wars in Brunei (Revisited)

One Aaron Johns just recently commented on the The Gender Wars in Brunei entry which I posted a couple of weeks back. I thought his comment was very eloquent and gives a different perspective to the overall argument about the gender differences between men and women. Rather than leaving it in the comments box, I thought I will take it out and post it out here so that everyone can read this. Aaron Johns, if you please....

I apologize for this late comment. I only managed to read the readers' comments yesterday. The majority of the readers’ arguments and comments were very interesting. But I couldn't help but notice that none of the readers saw this issue of so-called gender wars as biological. Men and women are biologically different. One gender is not better than the other but it's just that - DIFFERENT.

A man's organs, senses and brain can handle certain tasks better. That's why some men are more dominant in some areas. The same also applies to women. For example, a…

What is there in Tutong?

Just under 50 years ago, there was no connecting road between Tutong and Seria. Seria in the early 1950s was just over 20 years old, it was a completely made up town and existed only to serve the fledgling oil industry which was found in 1929. Brunei in the early 1950s was also struggling to recover soon after the Japanese invasion and was just taking over its administration from the Australian led BMA (British Military Administration). There were only three trunk roads from Brunei Town by very early 1950s - one heading towards Berakas, the other one heading towards Muara and the other one heading towards Tutong. Most other roads are probably newly built in the last 20 years or so. Ask your parents.

So, the only way to get to Seria from Brunei Town was to go to Tutong and go all the way to the end of Tutong at Kuala Tutong (that's the road along Pantai Seri Kenangan), go for a few kilometers and you will reach the end of Jalan Kuala Tutong and there will be a ferry there to take yo…

I give up this Sunday

You can't take bottled water, you can't take your phone, you can't take your medications, sheesh... why the heck not. Ban everything. Not even your clothing. Think of how much savings airports will make. No more security guards and no more worries about anyone planting anything on any airplanes. The Ultimate Airline Security.

I give up. The world has gotten far too crazy for me. I can't get off it. I don't know how to get to the moon. Let me rest this Sunday.

Brunei Times, 13th August 2006

Airports step up security

THE arrival of Royal Brunei Airlines flight BI098 from London was delayed for more than an hour yesterday ``due to security reasons in London'' according to the RBA office.In light of heightened airline security around the world, RBA issued an advisory on security measures.Passengers were advised when passing through airport security to have their personal belongings in a single and ideally transparent plastic bag.T…

What's the weather like in Brunei?

Brunei's weather forecast for yesterday was occasional crossing of squally showers persist further offshore this morning and may spread to coastal and inland areas in early afternoon. Nevertheless, fair intervals and slightly hazy can be expected in between. For outlook to early Saturday morning, expected to remain unsettled with crossing of squally showers. The wind will be Southwesterly 10-30 km/h over land and 20-40 km/h at sea. Wind gusts of 50-70 km/h can be expected near squally showers. The condition of the sea is expected to be moderate to rough at 1.5-2.5 m and occasionally rise to 3.0 m near squally weather. The temperatue will be maximum of 31 deg C and a minimum of 23 deg C. If on RTB, the newscaster will end with Wallahualam Bisawab.

Surprisingly, in Brunei, I noticed that most of us are not really that much concerned about what the weather forecast is. Of course, golfers are a different bunch altogether. One group would excessively worry about it - worrying about thei…

The Golden Jubilee of Teacher Training in Brunei

Together with about a thousand guests at the Chancellor's Hall at UBD, we watched His Majesty signed the plaque to commemorate 50 years of teacher training in Brunei. The noble institution which started as Brunei Teacher Training Centre and today, as the Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Institute of Education has trained so many of our teachers and with them the future of Brunei Darussalam. I have said enough about the nobility of the profession when I posted an entry about Teachers in Brunei Society not that long ago. Of course His Majesty has said the same thing more eloquently yesterday. But one of the issue that he pointed out is the need to return the honour back to the teaching profession:

"...We must glorify it forever because teaching is not easy and not all can shoulder (the responsibilities that come with it). It is a difficult task and needs the right qualities and qualifications."

Another point raised in His Majesty's titah was the need to restructure the teachers&…

What happened to the Brunei Shipwreck?

If you remember, one of the most interesting discovery in recent times in Brunei was the Chinese junk wreck which sank some 40 kilometers off the shores of Brunei. This 1997 discovery of what is now known as the Brunei Shipwreck is probably one of the most important in Brunei's archaeological history. Some 13,000 artefacts recovered originated from Thailand, Vietnam and China showed just how successful and flourishing was the Brunei trade with the region some 500 years ago. The Brunei harbor was once one of the most active in the South China Sea, strategically located not far from the thriving commercial markets of Thailand, Vietnam and China.

The shipwreck was discovered by Elf Petroleum (now TotalFinaElf) on 24th May 1997 but excavations only started from May to August 1998 which brings more than 130 specialists from around the world. Most artefacts recovered and dated from late 15th to early 16th Century CE (Common Era). If you remember, this excavation work was shown on the Dis…

Brunei Darussalam Annual Report 2004

Since the early 1900s, the Brunei Government produced the Brunei Darussalam Annual Report. The report highlights the achievements of the country as well as the various happenings in Brunei during that one year. It functions as a diary of sorts as well as to provide statistics of that year. I did an entry once for the 1961-62 report when it outlined the developments before and after the rebellion.

In some years, the report did not get published. In some years, a few years worth of reports were crammed into one annual report. However since the mid 1990s, the report disappeared completely. I was told that the Information Department, the department which is now responsible for producing it, could not get updates from every government agencies that are supposed to provide them or something along that line. I thought the disappearance was very unfortunate as I lost track of what happened as well as it's very embarrasing as when we visit other countries we will be given those countries…