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Showing posts from April, 2006

Does oil come in barrels?

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One of the interesting thing you find about Bruneians is that a lot of us don't know much about oil which is the lifeline of this country. Practically everything we touch in Brunei owes its existence to oil. And yet there is so much about the oil industry that we don't know. All we know now is that the world oil price is about US$70 per barrel. And yet ask this question - how do we export oil? It's priced in barrels. So, do we still use barrels to store oil and export it?

It is true that previously oil is stored in classic wooden barrels. In America, back in 1859, customers paid by the barrel, but there was no standard size. Different oil buyers would get different amounts when they filled up from the stock tank at the well. The barrel most commonly used for oil was 40 gallons, the same size as a whiskey barrel. As production increased, a standardized oil barrel became more important, both for businessmen and for government tax collectors. Some wells were putting out more t…

Questions Confusing Mankind

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1. Who was the first person to look at a cow and say, "I think I'll squeeze these dangly things here, and drink whatever comes out?"

2. Who was the first person to say "See that chicken there....I'm gonna eat the next thing that comes outta it's butt."

3. Why do toasters always have a setting that burns the toast to a horrible crisp, which no decent human being would eat?

4. Why is there a light in the fridge and not in the freezer?

5. If Jimmy cracks corn and no one cares, why is there a song about him?

6. Can a hearse carrying a corpse drive in the carpool lane?

7. If the professor on Gilligan's Island can make a radio out of coconut, why can't he fix a hole in a boat?

8. Why do people point to their wrist when asking for the time, but don't point to their crotch when they ask where the bathroom is?

9. Why does your OB-GYN leave the room when you get undressed if they are going to look up there anyway?

10. Why does Goofy stand erect while Pluto rem…

So, you want to complain about public services?

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My golf partner, Mr. K* had an accident when he wanted to join me to do some golf drives at a driving range a few evenings ago. Apparently his right back tyre suddenly blew up and he couldn't control the car and hit the crash barriers. It was raining heavily too. When he filed the report at our friendly law enforcement agency, he was advised not to say anything about the tyre as he was told that will complicate investigations and sufficient for him just to mention he skidded on the road. I am not so sure whether I follow the logic of this one but whatever it is, those people receiving the reports do not seem to like having to do additional work over and beyond of what they are already doing.

One of the biggest problems facing the Brunei Public Service or indeed any public service in the world is attitude. We civil servants sometimes failed to realise that we will not be sitting where we are if it was not for the public. No matter how high ranking or low ranking we are - from the Pe…

24 phrases of wisdom

1. If you're too open minded, your brains will fall out.
2. Age is a very high price to pay for maturity.
3. Artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity.
4. If you must choose between two evils, pick the one you've never tried before.
5. My idea of housework is to sweep the room with a glance.
6. Not one shred of evidence supports the notion that life is serious.
7. It is easier to get forgiveness than permission.
8. For every action, there is an equal and opposite government program.
9. If you look like your passport picture, you probably need the trip.
10. Bills travel through the mail at twice the speed of checks.
11. A conscience is what hurts when all your other parts feel so good.
12. Eat well, stay fit, die anyway.
13. Men are from earth. Women are from earth. Deal with it.
14. No husband has ever been shot while doing the dishes.
15. A balanced diet is a cookie in each hand.
16. Middle age is when broadness of the mind and narrowness of the waist change places.
17. Oppor…

Nothing Is Certain In Life

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Eugene O'Kelly died last September. Who was he? When he died, he was the CEO of KPMG, a US$4 billion company with 20,000 employees and one of America's and in fact the World's Big 4 accounting firms. He enjoyed great power and was held in great respect and prestige. He was told by his doctor in May 2005 that he had brain cancer and will not live to make it to September. During the 100 days he had left, he decided to write a book. In his book "Chasing Daylight" (Publisher McGraw-Hill, 2006) he described the last days of his life. He said that during the first decade of his working life climbing up the ladder at KPMG, he and his wife rarely took a vacation. During the last decade, he only managed to have 2 workday lunches with his wife. Imagine that. His committments in his diary is at least a year ahead. But all that stopped when the doctor told him the news.

There are two things we can take here. The first is not to take life for granted. Take your loved ones out.…

Movie Censors

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I forgot to mention yesterday when I blogged about HBO's 'Constantine' movie that countries can control what movies are being shown in their own territory even though it is broadcast via satellite. In Brunei, that authority is under the Broadcasting Act and the assigned Director of Broadcasting will tell the local provider that certain movies are not to be shown. So during that time, the local provider can ask HBO for a different movie to be beamed down to one particular locality but the rest of the region can watch the original broadcast.

So when LSM mentioned that in his comments, I forgot to indicate that possibility in my blog. When I used to be the regulator, I would get an advanced copy of the coming month listing of all the programs and their write ups. I remembered at first I used to read the listings myself as I was interested in what programs are coming but the listings and the explanations do come in several volumes, so not long after that, I had to pass that to …

The Wild - Sequel to Madagascar?

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I took my wife and 6 year old son to watch 'The Wild' at the Mall yesterday. It's a story about zoo animals going to the wild. It has a lion and a giraffe as its main characters and they go on this boat with a bunch of other animals to an island in Africa. Sounds familiar? Yup, it's exactly like 'Madagascar'. For anyone who has not watched it but has watched 'Magadascar', save your dosh. It ain't worth it. But then, what do I know. Go and spend your $6 and find out for yourself.

The other thing I don't like about watching that movie was not the movie itself. The subtitles in Malay and Chinese were huge. I have been noticing that of movies on Brunei screens. Do we really need them? And with the technologies available to us, why do these subtitles look just like they were with the 1950s movies? I don't know about the chinese subtitles but the Malay one was terrible. I think whoever is the distributor might as well as save your money doing subti…

Food is an Interesting Topic

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I was surprised to see my name being mentioned twice in BB this week - one for attending an IT sales seminar and the other for meeting a foreign delegation. My office did not issue the news releases, it was done by the other parties. Sometimes I forget my official position. The one thing one realised after a while is having to be very careful what one does and where one goes. I used to be able to walk around malls in simple clothes - a pair of slippers, t-shirts and sports pants and my favourite food are obtained at the Indian run eating houses especially the curry ones. I haven't been to one in ages. Man! I missed those days. Seriously.

Food is an interesting topic. When I first started blogging on spaces.msn I used to upload photos of the interesting food I come across. I hardly mention it nowadays cause I don't really go near food places and when I do, it tends to be the same boring places such as Li Gong Restaurant at the Empire etc. In Brunei, our restaurants are really fa…

Yayasan SHHB

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Yesterday was the 4th Friday in a row I have played golf on the nearby Golf Club. It was a bit upmarket as I played with the Chairman of the Club and the other two colleagues of mine were almost professional players. The one thing I realised is that the more I played, the worse I get. Must be pure psychology or something. I think it's the more things I know phenomena. You can't help it. Beginners are always given free advices by the more experienced players. And these advices piled up. I think that's what happened today, too many advices - my brain got confused. And that's the other thing about golfers. Blame everything else but the golfer's skills.

I don't want to talk too much about golf. What happened was in the afternoon, I went with my 6 year old son to Yayasan in Bandar. It has been a while since we last went there. During the last month we were practically barricaded indoors at home what with the bird flu scare and the hand foot and mouth diseases. Mingli…

How many children does the Prophet has?

Yesterday afternoon was our agency's celebrations of Prophet Muhammad SAW Maulid celebrations. The speaker started by asking how many children does the Prophet has? I have to admit I was a little bit lost. I know he has a couple of daughters and a couple of sons who died in their infancy but I don't know the exact number. The speaker threw the question open to the audience and there was no brave person answering that question. That was in fact one of the points raised by the speaker was just how little we know of someone who is a very significant figure such as the Prophet and yet we know more about today's pop stars and idols of today. Most people were able to answer whether Mawi AF was married or not. (By the way, the answer is 6 children - 4 daughters: Zainab, Ruqayah, Umi Kalthum and Fatimah and 2 sons: Qassim and Abdullah).

My wife came home the other day after chatting with the other mothers while waiting for their children to come out of the classes. One of the teach…

Wanderer in Brunei Darussalam

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I found a new book on Brunei about two weekends ago at one of the Indian run book/stationery store at Supasave Gadong. It was indeed a rare event as I went there to have a quick look at some golf magazines and this book seemed to fly out of the shelf to me. I have always been in the lookout for Brunei books and have bought practically all there is that are available out there.

The book is entitled "Wanderer in Brunei Darussalam" written by Pengembara which is the pseudonym of CH Gallop who lived in Brunei for about 30 years. The book is printed last year by Marshall Cavendish Editions. It actually contains selected articles written daily by the author for Borneo Bulletin sometime in 1991 and 1993. It's a fairly thin book, only about 112 pages long. CH Gallop was a Principal at Sufri Bolkiah English School in Tutong and then became an Inspector (Nazir) for about 28 years. Educated at the London University, he later obtained a Masters degree in Malay Literature from Univers…

What? Me, an electricity and water meter reader?

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I was chatting with one of my gym mates at JPMC Gym last Sunday. He used to work at the Empire Hotel but now runs his own workshop. He was telling me how most motorcar workshops in Brunei have of late gone very quiet. Apparently Bruneians who used to go to car workshops to do minor repairs and servicings and other things needed for cars have stopped going to workshops. The concensus among workshop owners is that the current crackdown on electricity bills recalcitrants have apparently affected the spending power of Bruneians. They are now putting off going to motorcar workshops foregoing servicings and other minor works. It's interesting to note the multiplier effect of one policy change. I just wonder which other sectors are affected.

What electrical department has been doing is forcing Bruneians to confront the one thing they have been putting off - not paying their electricity bills. Paying electricity bills have been a low priority all this while but now has become a high priori…

Medical Tests

Two children were sitting outside the RIPAS Hospital.
One of them was crying very loudly. 2nd Child: Why are you crying?
1st Child: I came here for blood test.
2nd Child: So? Are you afraid?
1st Child: No. Not that. For the blood test, they cut my finger.
At this, the second one started crying.
The first one was astonished.
1st Child: Why are you crying now?
2nd Child: I have come for my urine test!

Live on Radio

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My agency is preparing its corporate video and I was having a discussion with the filming house that was preparing it. As usual, there was a national broadcasting agency's person with them moonlighting as their script writer. I have always wondered just how many of them moonlight, you see quite a number of them filming weddings etc. I used to moonlight too at the broadcasting agency many years ago as an English radio newsreader in the early 1990s.

In my days, the pay was not that great. They paid me $20 for one session. Admittedly that was only for about 15 to 20 minutes of reading the news. But that did not take into account the 1 hour that I have to be there earlier checking the news and also making sure that the editing is up to scratch (plus a few weeks of unpaid training time). I can assure you that sometimes I was embarrased to read the news out loud as the grammar was all funny. I studied English Literature up to A Level, so I would say my English was slightly advanced compa…

Does the bloody thing work?

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Nobodies to Somebodies

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Someone asked me once - how did you get promoted? That's what my colleagues would say - soalan cepu emas - the million dollar question. I can think of some reasons. But honestly speaking the real answer to that is I have no idea. I have always been quietly doing my work and minding my own business when things just popped out of the blue. Don't get me wrong. I am grateful for my promotion, it does provide me and my family that extra comfort in life, and for me to indulge in my hobby of buying model airplanes and books. Of course, there are times when I would gladly trade it in for the annonymity, the calm and tranquility that I used to enjoy before my appointment.

Does luck have anything to do with it? Perhaps. But when you think about it, luck is when opportunity meets preparedness. You have to have the opportunity but at the same time you would have to be prepared. It's like surfing - you have to be ready with your surfboard at the right place and when the big wave comes, …

Reasons why the English Language is Hard to Learn

The bandage was wound around the wound. The farm was used to produce produce. The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse. We must polish the Polish furniture. He could lead if he would get the lead out. The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert. Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present. A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum. When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes. I did not object to the object. The insurance was invalid for the invalid. There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row. They were too close to the door to close it. The buck does funny things when the does are present. A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line. To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow. The wind was too strong to wind the sail. After a number of injections my jaw got number. Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear. I had to subject the subj…

The Humble Headwear

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When I was in Surabaya, I went to one of the crafts shop thinking of buying our Malay songkoks. For the non-Malay readers, songkoks actually come in a number of colours, shapes and sizes. Sizes obviouslylah. Some of us are small heads and some of you are big heads (figuratively as well as in reality). Colours too. Generally most songkoks are black, but Bruneians have come up with more colourful concepts such as brown, green, blue and occassionally red and yellow. Some are made of suede, some animal skins and fur (I used to have a very hairy white one made out of sheep skin and fur I think) again with its own distinctive colours. Songkoks can also be the hard type and the foldable type and the inside can be made out of newspaper or plastic or whatever else they put inside.

Some have different types. The Brunei ones generally are either flat, or bergunung or tinggi or berlis (has laces). Flat is the normal one about 4 inches in height, the bergunung or bertingkat one has a slight hump an…

Love, Lust and Marriage

LOVE - When your eyes meet across a crowded room.
LUST - When your tongues meet across a crowded room.
MARRIAGE - When you try to lose your spouse in a crowded room.

LOVE - When *ntercourse is called "making love."'
LUST - When *ntercourse is called "scr*wing."
MARRIAGE - When *ntercourse is a town in Pennsylvania.

LOVE - When you argue over how many children to have.
LUST - When you argue over who gets the wet spot.
MARRIAGE - When you argue over whose idea it was to have kids.

LOVE - When you share everything you own.
LUST - When you steal everything they own.
MARRIAGE - When the bank owns everything.

LOVE - When it doesn't matter if you don't climax.
LUST - When the relationship is over if you don't climax.
MARRIAGE - When ... uh ... what's a climax?

LOVE - When you phone each other just to say, "Hi."
LUST - When you phone each other to pick a hotel room.
MARRIAGE - When you phone each other to bitch about work.

LOVE - When you write poems about your…

The Day Off

So you want the day off. You think a day is not too much. Let's take a look at what you are really asking for.

There are only 365 days per year available for work.

There are 52 weeks per year in which you already have two days off per week, leaving 261 days available for work.

Since you work only 8 hours a day and spend 16 hours each day away from work, you have used up 170 days, leaving only 91 days available.

You spend 30 minutes each day on coffee break, that accounts for 23 days each year, leaving only 68 days available.

With a one hour lunch period each day, you have used up another 46 days, leaving only 22 days available for work.

You normally spend two days per year on sick leave. This leaves you only 20 days available for work.

We offer five holidays per year, so your available working time is down to 15 days.

We generously give you 14 days vacation per year which leaves one day available for work and there is absolutely no way are you going to take that day off.

www.bruneiresources.com

Let me brag about www.bruneiresources.com for a while. One of the many verbal comments (you have to trust me on this) is that the website BRUNEIresources.com is an interesting website. Interesting is really an interesting word. I am not so sure whether to take it as a compliment or otherwise. I have yet to come across people who actually said the website is good or it provides fulfilment to their life. Anything other than 'interesting' would be nice to hear. Alright, alright, I don't want to sound as if I am fishing for compliments here.

As a one-man website and hence the website owner, designer, administrator, developer, typist, programmer as well as its sole content provider, I actually received a number of emails from students and other interested parties about Brunei. There was this one time, someone from India wanted to sell jewelleries to our biggest boss and was asking whether I could help him (plus a commission too!). I told him to contact our High Commission in Ind…

Special Prayer For Selected Occassion

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Dear God, I beg you to..

give me the wisdom
to understand
my boss.

Give me the love
to forgive him.

Give me the patience
to understand
his actions.

But dear God,
don't present me strength.

Because if you give
me strength...

I will break his skull!!

Being a Good Copier

Satu daerah satu industri (SDSI) is the latest buzzword in Malaysia. I saw it on TV3 last night. It sounded so grand and so exciting and as if it's the latest in-thing. To Malaysians, it maybe but to people living in Thailand, this so called latest promo is old hat. The Thais had been promoting their one tambon one product (OTOP) for the last few years. So, what's new?

Someone says copying is the best form of flattery and in this particular context, it makes much sense. You don't really have to come out with new ideas. Do what has been successful elsewhere and do it better. You will come out on top. The Japanese in the 1950s were copiers. They copied everything and before they make them better, they just copy them. But look where they are now.

I remember Pehin Aziz, the former Minister of Education when he was the Minister of Communications. He said to me, at that time I was still a very junior officer, why reinvent the wheel? The wheel is already there. What we have to do i…

I Did All That?

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Last Friday, I went back to the fairways for the first time in about 17 years. I lost about 6 balls which is not too bad. This Friday, I took Mr. K* with me. He has been on the driving range for the past few nights. I know he is reading this blog so I am not going to count the number of balls he lost (hint ... he,he, much more than my first attempt last week - way way much more!) I did not do that much better either as I forgot to mention also that our balls loved to visit parts of the golf course seldom visited by other golfers. So in all, it was a fairly scenic tour of the side fencing, lakesides, water drainage etc. I thought I will share the following jokes for all the golfers out there:-

After a particularly poor game of golf, a popular club member skipped the clubhouse and started to go home. As he was walking to the parking lot to get his car, a policeman stopped him and asked, "Did you tee off on the sixteenth hole about twenty minutes ago?"

"Yes," the golfer…

Tourism Strategy

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Our neighbouring country is extremely clear with what it wants. This year it targets some 100,000 tourists from the Middle East to come to Singapore. They have seen the effect in Kuala Lumpur where literally from July to September, it is almost impossible to get a hotel room. All the hotels will be filled with Middle Eastern people who thronged to the shopping malls, the restaurants, the entertainment places and such like. It's just amazing to see the number of hijab wearing ladies at Bukit Bintang area. So the Singapore government made it a point to get some of these people to come to Singapore. They are also targeting their Singapore Big Sale to be at about the same time.

In Brunei, I am not sure who we are targeting. Let me see. We don't want the backpackers because apparently we think they don't bring in much money. We don't seem to be targeting the golf tourists or the shoppers. We are no longer targeting the theme park adventurers as our beloved JP is in a serious…

Brunei Government Bonds Sukuk Al-Ijarah (Update)

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I thought I will give a little bit on update of the first ever issuance of the Brunei Government Islamic Bond - Sukuk Al-Ijarah. The first ever Brunei Government bond issuance of B$150 million was a total success and issued at 3.4%. The total bids were oversubscribed by about tens of millions of dollars.

Having an official rate will now make life easier for other agencies and companies in Brunei to fix their rates. This is one of the first aims of the government in launching the sukuk. Unlike other governments whose aim to raise bonds is to use the money, the Brunei Government does not need such money especially with oil prices now at US$67 a barrel and having healthy sums in our reserves. As we build up our expertise and also build our yield curve and the public's expectations, we can slowly build up our own capital market. That's something we need to do very quickly so that our private sector will be able to issue their own papers and debt notes in the future. This will enabl…

Management of Umrah

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I don't remember when you were younger - in those days, there was uncertainty when the hajj flight is going to take place. There would be like rumours what the flight dates were and how you have to be prepared. Most see it as the trials and tribulations of going to hajj. It would not be the same if the flights are confirmed and there was no uncertainty. You take the fun out of it. Umrah in those days were unheard of. Nobody goes on umrah. My brother went in the late 1970s with a friend of his and it would be almost a decade later before any of us actually went again.

My parents and my sister recently signed up with a particularly well known travel and umrah agent h*h for their umrah. I thought it was an interesting experience on their part. First of all, they did not know when the flight will take place. After that, not only did not know when the flight will take place, they did not even know if the flight will ever take place - apparently the Saudis have not extended out umrah vis…

Excuses, Excuses

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Have you even been in a situation where you so desperately wish something would happen so that you can escape? I know during school days, that would be when the teacher started calling on everyone to answer questions etc and I did not the answers to the questions. I would be so desperate for time and that's when the watch seemed to be slowing down. At that point in time I would really really be praying for a miracle. Of course, nowadays at work too, when you are so under pressure to complete something and you can't and you know the boss will be calling for you anytime.

I once worked for a Deputy Minister who is known for his temper and he assigned a particularly tough piece of project that had to be completed as he had to submit that to the highest authority. I was struggling with it as I have really no idea how to begin, let alone how to complete it. This, they did not teach me in my two masters courses. All I had was scribbles and notes all over the place - in my laptop, my d…

Kaplan and the Balance Scorecard

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I was one of about 40 people at Li Gong Restaurant at the Empire lucky to be listening to a luncheon talk given by the guru of balanced score card, Robert S Kaplan yesterday afternoon. Kaplan is here in Brunei Darussalam and his one day conference which will be held tomorrow at the ICC entitled "Managing for Results: Using Balanced Scorecard to Achieve Better Performance and Good Governance in the Public Sector" a sellout even at $1,200 a person. According to the blurb, the conference supposedly will 'help delegates understand how to meet the needs of diverse constituents; hear how other leaders in government implement change to manage constrained financial and human resources; and master strategy alignment, execution and sustainability to drive performance and governance in organisations." Sounds a mouthful but it is Robert Kaplan.

For the uninitiated, who is he? Aside from being a Professor at Harvard Business School, he is co-developer of the BSC approach. This re…

Managers and Clerks

Yesterday, I blogged about Permanent Secretaries. Today I will blog on the more mundane job but as equally important jobs that we do on a daily basis. When you were younger, your parents must have hoped and prayed that you become a manager or the equivalent of one at some point in your career. I think that's pretty much standard Asian thinking. Managers are good and anything less than one is not good.

However if one was to study the origin of the two words - managers and clerks and other jobs in between, you would rather not be a manager. The word Manager originally means "a horse trainer who used his hand" for manage is from the Italian word "managiare" (to train horses) which is based on the Latin word "mano" for hand. A manager in its early form is not the manager we envisaged today. The job title transformed over the years from looking after horses into looking after offices and from using your hands into using your head.

But the word clerk on the o…