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Showing posts from March, 2006

Permanent Secretaries

Someone asked if there is a 'Permanent Secretary' how come there is no 'Temporary' Secretary? And why do we have Permanent Secretary in the government when the other type of secretary is the Confidential Secretary? In the government payscale, that means a difference of about $15,000 a month between the two there. Nowadays another creature emerges in the Brunei Civil service - the Deputy Permanent Secretary, at first there was only a few in Foreign Affairs, but now every other ministry seems to have it. Not only do we have to live with Permanent Secretary, we have to live with his Deputy as well. Man!

First and foremost, Permanent Secretary is fairly common in the Commonwealth world, being the legacy of the British, who left quite a large number of things behind including their governmental system. In fact, when I was at Harvard, I and my fellow students from India were able to speak the same language and quote the same regulations! You will be surprised. Remember our ol…

I Love You (Without Breaking the Bank)

I took this from www.dummies.com (my apologies to dummies.com and I do hope that you go out and buy a dummies.com book) which I found useful for the cash strapped lover. Whether it's Valentine's Day or the anniversary of your first date, here are ten simple ideas for expressing your love . . . without taking out a bank loan!

Baking heart-shaped food items
Preparing a heart-shaped anything is a romantic gesture. Make heart-shaped pancakes for breakfast, heart-shaped crispy rice treats for a snack, or a heart-shaped pizza for dinner. You can also use a heart-shaped cookie cutter to cut the crust off sandwiches. How romantic — heart-shaped PBJs for that special someone!

You can bake a heart-shaped cake without any special pans. Just make a cake recipe for a double-layered cake. Bake one layer in an 8-inch round cake pan and the other layer in an 8-inch square cake pan. After the cake is cool, cut the round layer into half-circles. On a large serving platter or cookie sheet, place th…

Mobile Phones in Airplanes

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I read somewhere that the American airlines are thinking of allowing passengers talk on their cellphones while they are in flight. You know when I read that I was thinking that at last, someone realised that cellphones do not interfere with navigation systems of aeroplanes! So called safety experts had long worried that cellphones can do that. I will let you into a secret, many of us don't actually switch our cellphones off during flights. For us flying from Brunei, it does not really matter as once you are over open water, there is no network to be connected to but if it is on, you can be automatically linked once your plane flies over land again. I have often thought that it was a bit ridiculous with these multimillion dollar planes, something as small and ubiquitous as a cellphone could interfere with the navigation systems.

Though on the upside of it, having a ban on cellphones can be good too. People don't talk on the phone while they are in aeroplanes for instance. Unless…

The Mayonnaise Jar and the 2 Cups of Coffee

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A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he silently picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full.

They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full.

They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full.

The students responded with an unanimous "yes."

The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

"Now," said the professor as the laughter subsided, "I want you to re…

UBD Dresscodes

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I was reading Maurina's blog at wordpress about the posters on dress codes at UBD. That reminded me of my short UBD days. I was at UBD last year being one of the senior government officials forced to undertake a four month executive development program at UBD. The program is organised by the Public Service Department and carried out by FBEPS. Normally about 15 senior government officials (those hoping to be appointed as Heads of Government Departments) attend the annual EDP course. Failure to attend or complete the course will mean failure to be appointed to a Superscale (minimum $6,800 salary) position.

During that four month period at UBD, I must admit I enjoyed it tremendously. The course itself was humdrum and run of the mill kind of thing. I was better qualified (a Chartered Fellowship, 2 master degrees from an Ivy League) and have more experience than some of the lecturers, so I was not that terribly impressed by some of them. More than 2/3 of us have post graduate qualificat…

Golf Economics

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My 6 year old and I went to the Empire Driving Range yesterday afternoon. It was an extremely hot day and we looked like lobsters being baked. My son's face was flushed red and so was mine. But we had to go and do our drives. It was the first time in about 3 weeks that I actually went to the driving range and boy, did my balls go haywire. My son was trying out the new kids golf set that I got for him from Surabaya. He hit about 50 meters and mine I think at most went about 100 meters (those that actually went that far). Some of course went a few inches at most. We envied those golfers that managed 200+ meters.

During the intervals, cooling down when the last 10 balls only went a few inches, I was working out how much a driving range and a golf course actually makes. I worked out that a driving range is really a money making venture. When you think about it, a golf range comprise of about a couple of acres of land, lots of fourth hand golf balls, mats, and a roof. I mean that's …

The Legislative Council Sessions

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The Brunei Legislative Council (Legco) has completed its second meeting of the 2006 session. Our local newspaper has no doubt kept its part in making sure that the debates are well covered as well as entertaining readers in hinting at certain policies (for instance, saying policy of no salary rises, when there was no mention at all about no salary rises etc - there was a speech saying that the present amount was made up of certain rises but nothing in that speech indicating that there was no salary rises). All in all, it was an interesting session and befitting the more mature level of the Brunei society.

I was lucky to be sitting in during the last two days of the debates. If it was not for the Surabaya trip and my principal's sudden health problem, I would have sat throughout the entire 5 day session. But 2 out of 5 is as good as it gets. Actually members of the public could have come and see the debates for themselves. I thought that was a bit of wasted opportunity not to have u…

Inventors Get Nothing

I was reading last night or rather rereading one of Bill Bryson's books. I have lost count how many times I have read his books, I still find the books humourous and refeshing. I am also afraid to say that I am beginning to copy that style which is really really bad. Not that the style is bad but copying is and this is mostly psychological (you read a person's work over and over again, you can't help but get it into you) and not deliberate. His dry sense of humour is something that I would love to have.

Anyway, he was writing about America and in one particular chapter about the poor success of some Americans. Americans have invented many things but sometimes neglect to be able to cash in on that invention. The more recent ones include the poor sod who wrote the original Operating System (OS) for practically all the PCs used in the world. It was definitely not Bill Gates. I remembered in the early 1980s when PCs were just going to be the rage, IBM wanted an OS and Microsoft…

Cigarettes Lesson

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Cigarette factories are not places where most people got to visit often. I am not a smoker myself but I find cigarettes to be fascinating stuffs. Though admittedly there was a stage where one does try to experiment and during those times, one can discover a great many things. For instance, Japanese cigarettes are so tasteless that I don't even see the point of them having cigarettes at all. Whereas the Indonesians ones are so full of taste including having spices and all sorts of things in them that it is very difficult to keep in. Most others come in between.

During my Surabaya trip, we were taken to see the cigarettes factory at Soemporna. If you are a smoker, Soemporna produces about 8 different types of cigarettes. The most familiar is the A symbol and the Dji Sam Soe 234 logos. Just in case you are interested, the 8 are: Sampoerna A King (Filtered Kretek); Sampoerna A Mild (Filtered Kretek); Sampoerna A Mild Menthol (Filtered Kretek); Sampoerna Exclusive (Filtered); Sampoerna …

Tourist Attractions

I mentioned the Churchill Museum in one of my earlier spaces.msn blogs on tourism spots. I would just like to bring the subject up again as I received comments on how nice the aquarium was and apparently there used to be a snake exhibits as well. I don't remember the snakes at first but now that it was brought up, I do remember vaguely some form of exhibits on snakes and some reptiles too. Though my better half says they were never there.

This is where this bad memories come in. When you look back nostalgically, everything looked fine and grand in the old days. I don't remember how it was at the aquarium or the snake exhibits. I remember going there and it was nice and fun but you also have to take into account that in the old days, there wasn't anything else to see so there was nothing to compare that too. Honestly speaking, I thought the Churchill memorial was fun too especially the toy soldiers that Churchill played with. I remember longing to be able to touch them and p…

Long Walks at Airports

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The trudging long walk to Gate F60 at the Changi International Airport to get to the RBA airplane is a real pain. I must have gone over like 5 travellators and still see no sign of F60, it's like climbing up the first bukit at Shahbandar. You go up this hill and everytime you looked up, you still have not seen the top but when you do reach the top and then you looked back, you realised how far you really are. That's what F60 looked like.

All sorts of things come up to mind during that long walk. I remembered at Heathrow Airport, if your flight gate is a long walk, they actually tell you that you flight gate is a certain time distance away like half an hour walk or something. So you do know what you are getting yourself into. So that's something to mark down Changi Airport for not having that facility. Another thought was, is the distance of the flight gate proportionate to the amount of fees the airlines pay? If so, either RBA is getting broke and unable to pay the high fee…

Poverty and Power

Poverty, tenacity, inventiveness and ingenuity make an interesting combination and provides a number of people their meagre day to day living. In two days of staying at Surabaya, I have seen the various ways of making a living especially for those in the wrong end of the society's spectrum.

It started to rain yesterday when we were waiting for our car, other people started gathering at the foyer unable to get to their cars. And not a moment sooner, a bunch of kids turned up with umbrellas offering their umbrella services for whoever who wanted to use them for a small token fee. The rain was a bit sudden and surprisingly these kids have been ready for quite a while, otherwise they would not have turned up like ants when you unknowingly drop something sweet on the floor. Other ways of making money include the obvious selling newspapers and other what nots to drivers when their cars are stuck at the traffic lights; and helping to look after your cars when parked - a protection service…

European Invaders

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The Indonesians still have a thing against the European invaders. It must have been due to those Dutch people who used to be the overlords in Indonesia. A lot of monuments have been built all over Indonesia commemorating their struggles for independence. In surabaya the most famous was the Heroes Monument (Tugu Pahlawan) which is the most well known of all heroes' statutes all over the city. Surprisingly it is not as big as you thought or even not as ornate or decoratve as you expect it to be. Its simplicity says it all.

Another monument is the Red Bridge (Jembatan Merah) where apparently the bloodiest battle in the history of Indoesia took place - the Battle of Surabaya. Near the Red Bridge is the China Town where it is only open at night, during the daytime, it is a very busy trade area. The China Town surprisingly is known as Kembang Jepun in Surabaya which literally means Japan Blooming or if you want to be a bit insulting the Blooming Japanese, read in the spirit of anti-invad…

Are You Flying?

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When you are on a plane at night getting ready to land and the flight attendants announced that they will dim all the lights and request us to open all the blinds, have you ever wondered what those instructions are for? I have always been curious about as to why should the plane's interior lights be dimmed as I thought the brighter the plane, it would be fairly visible to everyone on the ground that there is a plane coming down and not just some red lights. And at the same time, if the lights are switched off, so why bother to open the blinds since the lights are not seen anyway.

I have asked a few flight attendants, I think the answer I get the most is that, that's the flight instructions and the regulations and we have to follow it. Not the best of all answers obviously. Yesterday I finally got an answer. I was sitting next to a German gentleman and he said that the reasons are a bit morbid. Both are to help passengers and rescurers should the plane crash on landing. By dimmi…

Responsible Lawmakers

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I was one of few lucky people invited to attend the first day of the new Brunei Legislative Council session. It was interesting as I have never attended one anywhere else in the world before. Though I have visited a few parliaments or the equivalent of our legislative council in other countries but not while they are in session. Today's ceremony was full of pomp and ceremony. I was quite surprised to see one of the ICC halls being converted into a parliamentary chamber. In fact nobody would have recognised that room as I remember that room very well, we held one of the ASEAN ministers meeting there. The transformation was like entering one of Star Trek's 3-D room where they have this virtual reality thing.

I remember in my political study days in UK, that the pomp and ceremony actually are part of the culture and work of the parliamentary process. It keeps the civility and the checks and balances. I remembered back then, around early 1980s, we had this fierce debate whether or …

Brunei's First Public Debts Through Sukuk Al-Ijarah

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The Brunei Government will have its first public debt very soon. The Finance Ministry officially launched the short term Brunei Dollar Islamic Bond Sukuk Al-Ijarah yesterday. The questions which a lot of people are asking - what is sukuk and why is the government issuing this?

To the completely uninitiated, a bond is basically an IOU note issued by the government which you buy and the government promises to pay you back after a specified period with an interest, or the government pays you a yearly interest or a combination of the two depending on the type of bond you buy. In the meantime the government uses your money for whatever purposes it wants to do. It may be used to balance the budget, to build new schools or whatever. This is essentially an overdraft by the government with only the trust of the government as its collateral. The interest which the government promises to pay depend on how much you trust the government. A poor and not so trusted government may have to pay higher …

What's in a Name?

I was passing by the Lambak Kanan area and I saw this brand new primary school called the Lambak Kanan Primary School Jalan 19. You probably thought that this is a temporary name. Nope, you are wrong. The name is emblazoned in front of the school gate with big bold brass lettering. So it is permanent. I cannot remember that many schools nowadays having names derived only from the places where they are located. Almost all schools and colleges in Brunei have fancy names. One of the few that I know of that is named after the place is the Berakas Secondary School. Apart from that practically every other ones have some royalty, religious figures or other VIP names in front of it.

Surprisingly, the newly opened Business School in the former UBD campus in Gadong also has no other name. The newly opened Form Sixth Centre in Lambak Kiri, Berakas also has no official name. I am not sure whether this is the latest trend or a deliberate policy by the Education Ministry not to provide names for sch…

The Government Employee

A Government Employee tired after surfing the internet and reading the day's blogs, sits in his office and out of boredom, decides to see what's in his old filing cabinet. He pokes through the contents and comes across an old brass lamp.

"This would look nice on my mantelpiece," he thinks, so he takes it home with him.

While polishing the lamp, a genie appears and grants him three wishes.

"I wish for an ice cold diet Pepsi right now!"

POOF!

A Pepsi appears before him on his desk, so he picks it up and guzzles it all at once.

Now that he can think more clearly, he states his second wish. "I wish to be on an island where beautiful nymphomaniacs reside."

POOF!

Suddenly he is on an island with gorgeous females eyeing him lustfully.

He then tells the genie his third and last wish: "I wish I'd never have to work ever again."

POOF!

He's back in his government office surfing the internet and reading the day's blogs.

Simple is Best

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I have often argued that simple is best. Too complicated sometimes put people off. By moving to this new blogsite I have decided to go back to simple stuff. Spaces@msn was going too complicated but here it is almost like back to nature.

And that goes the same with attracting people to Brunei. We have already mentioned a few ideas such as including changing of the guards at the Palace, our Royal Regalia Building and a few other things. It struck me of a few other things that I have seen in my extensive travel these last 40 years. I have seen places which tries to think big - Islamabad with its wide open avenues but absolutely no traffic and no airport too; some trying to accommodate too much history but with not much development; some doing all sorts of things to stave off the approaching depression etc. Yet the most charming tend to be those that did not really do much.

What is the tourist attraction of Geneva? Other than it being a beautiful city by the lake in Switzerland, there is no…

The Bad Brunei Bookshops

The Singapore Straits Times had an interesting article called the good bad books. The good bad books just mean books that are very poor in terms of accuracy of details but are just plain good reads. The most famous currently being the Da Vinci Code written by Dan Brown. A movie starring Tom Hanks is currently being produced but this is pending the outcome of the trial of the infringement copyright as another author had claimed that Dan Brown wrote Da Vinci Code based on his book The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail. I thought the book was an interesting read and since I don't know anything about the conspiracy theory with regard to that aspect of the religion, it was an eye opener. The Harry Potter books are also good. Some would argue that the Harry Potter series are included in this good bad books categories. To me, does it matter? What matters, is that the books sell.

So, is there a bad good book? Yes, according to the ST, though I won't repeat the lists here. I haven't rea…

How to Make a Woman Happy

HOW TO MAKE A WOMAN HAPPY

To make a woman happy..... A man only needs to be:
1. A friend
2. A companion
3. A lover
4. A brother
5. A father
6. A master
7. A chef
8. An electrician
9. A carpenter
10. A plumber
11. A mechanic
12. A decorator
13. A stylist
16. A psychologist
17. A pest exterminator
18. A psychiatrist
19. A healer
20. A good listener
21. An organizer
22. A good father
23. Very clean
24. Sympathetic
25. Athletic
26. Warm
27. Attentive
28. Gallant
29. Intelligent
30. Funny
31. Creative
32. Tender
33. Strong
34. Understanding
35. Tolerant
36. Prudent
37. Ambitious
38. Capable
39. Courageous
40. Determined
41. True
42. Dependable
43. Passionate

WITHOUT FORGETTING TO:
44. Give her compliments regularly
45. Love shopping
46. be honest
47. be very rich
48. Not stress her out
49. Not look at other girls

AND AT THE SAME TIME, YOU MUST ALSO:
50. Give her lots of attention, but expect little yourself
51. Give her lots of time, especially time for herself
52. Give her lots of space, never worrying about where she goes

IT IS VERY IMPORTA…

Airplane Security

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I will be leaving for Surabaya next week to attend a central bankers meeting. Central bankers love to have meetings. I noted that the agenda even though heavy with materials but was also heavy with social programmes (one that involves a stick and a tiny little ball which you play on acres of spaces). I think it's something to do with the fact that in most countries, central bankers are the highest earning people in the entire government infrastructure. Unfortunately, I am only representing the equivalent of our central bank, so we don't earn as much as in other countries.

Whenever I travel, what always tickle me will always be the security checks at the airports. It's not just our airports but airports all over the world, the security people have been briefed that nothing sharp should be carried on board. And this includes of all things, nail clippers, tiny little scissors, nail file and any other sharp stationeries. I have seen too many cases where all these have been conf…

Much Ado About Nothing

I never realised just how infuriarating spaces.msn has become of late. I am not sure whether it's because I have so much material or there is a conflict between spaces and mozilla or something. I have been looking to move out for quite a while. Maybe I should do so now. A couple of bloggers have persuaded me that spaces.msn is not the place to be in. One of my loyal commentator also noted his difficulty in making comments, maybe I will just take the plunge. Blogger, here we come!

Anything Mircosoft touches always become cursed somehow. In one of my earliest blogs I mentioned that I was once a subscriber to MSN when I was studying in the USA in the 1990s. Man, I can assure you JTB will beat MSN hands down when it comes to service. MSN tries very hard to be the in-thing but you can always sense the insincerity that they exude. Which is a pity because that's not what you want them to be. I remember during the Clinton reelection. I could not even log on after dialing hundreds of ti…