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Showing posts from May, 2009

Paquebot Post Office?

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I saw this old Brunei stamp on ebay. Do you know what's unusual about it?

What's unusual about it is the postmark. Postmarks are usually done at the post office where the letter is posted. If it is posted in Kuala Belait, it will be postmarked Kuala Belait. Tutong etc. Notice on this stamp, it says Paquebot. But we do not have a post office with the name of Paquebot. If you can find one, let me know. I will really be surprised.

Paquebot is an interesting concept. Here is the long version of how paquebot came about. You see, in the old days, the seven oceans were not so crowded by ships as they are today. If sailing ships spotted another sail on the horizon, they usually came close, unless the crew was afraid of pirates. Especially whaling ships were happy to see company on their oftentimes two year long whaling voyages. It was the only opportunity to get some news. A long boat was lowered, captains visited each other, often dined together, and sometime even the crew was allowed …

Sharing Information

These two entries are borrowed from my facebook friend:-

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A voyaging ship was wrecked during a storm at sea and only two of the men on it were able to swim to a small, desert like island.

The two survivors, not knowing what else to do, agreed that they had no other recourse but to pray to God.

However, to find out whose prayer was more powerful, they agreed to divide the territory between them and stay on opposite sides of the island.

The first thing they prayed for was food.

The next morning, the first man saw a fruit-bearing tree on his side of the land, and he was able to eat its fruit. The other man's parcel of land remained barren.

After a week, the first man was lonely and he decided to pray for a wife.

The next day, another ship was wrecked, and the only survivor was a woman who swam to his side of the land. On the other side of the island, there was nothing.

Soon the first man prayed for a house, clothes, more food.

The next day,like magic, all of these were given to him. Howev…

Don't Read and Drive

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Someone complained on brudirect's hys about a driver which he saw reading the Borneo Bulletin while driving. He was reading the newspaper while the car was in a traffic jam. I have seen this many times. I am very lucky not to have to drive to work and I have more time to see what others are doing. From what I have seen, texting on mobile phones I think is the number one no-no activity which is carried out the most. Next would be speaking on the phone. Third is reading newspapers or magazines. Yes, I have seen people reading magazines too. One of these days I ought to take my camera with me and take photos of these no-no activities.

Many of the readers who I saw would be reading it every so often even while the car was moving slowly. It is only when the car is moving fast that they stopped reading. Someone argued that they may as well read something as it is very boring being stuck in traffic jams. And that they would not cause major accidents.

Yes, true. However do not forget that t…

Football Talk

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Yesterday afternoon, at Jerudong, together with my deputy minister and deputy ps, we were watching our MOD football team playing a friendly against DPMM FC. The Crown Prince came later. To say it was a friendly probably is an understatement. No doubt our MOD football team is considered among the best, if not the best team among the ministries in Brunei, against DPMM FC, we were clearly out of our depth. So it wasn't a friendly, more like sparring partner ... and maybe even that was not accurate, we were the punching bag would be a more apt description.

We lost 6-0 I think. I lost count. And mind you this was DPMM FC's 3rd or 4th team. The reserves of the reserves. The first team and the reserves were in Singapore playing against the Super Reds. Imagine had this been the first team, the score could have been like rugby scores. Mind you, the DPMM FC management team, a couple of months ago thrashed us 11-0. I don't know why we keep playing against DPMM FC in whatever form.

Anyw…

Were we born yesterday?

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Jakarta Globe reported that National Police on Monday announced the arrest of a group of alleged con artists said to have scammed Rp 20 billion ($1.9 million) from a senior Brunei government official by impersonating a representative of a prominent Indonesian political party and asking for a donation.

The group, most of whom were from South Sulawesi, had been operating since 2006 and made their living by impersonating government officials.

They would make phone calls to their victims and ask them to deposit money into various bank accounts.

This is on top of the other news of Brunei ladies being used as drug couriers. I guess this particular lady has not paying attention to the news. We have already had a couple of Brunei ladies being detained. This one even has 4 kids. 4 kids? She is looking at 25 years in an Australian jail. What will happen to her kids?

The old English saying of 'one swallow does not make a summer' is apt. Two swallows slowly represent summer and these two stor…

A Depressed Day

I saw among my files yesterday were two letters given to me by my minister received from two brothers who were seeking his help in finding employment. The letters were form letters and I bet the two brothers must have sent them to anyone who they think can help them get employment. The letters listed identical jobs which they applied for which were if I am not mistaken for mandurs, office assistants, labourers etc.

They also listed their one and only qualification. Form 3 school leavers.

I looked at this two letters in despair. What can I do and more to the point how many of them are out there?

Many of the letters we get are from desperate individuals or families. Another was from an MOE staff whose house was run down and he is now staying at an MOE flat. The District Office has written to the Religious Council for assistance under the asnaf daif category whether they could help him repair his house. He wrote to us whether we could provide him housing in which case he said he does not h…

The 1000 Year Old Brunei Food

I wrote the following article for The Golden Legacy column on Brunei Times yesterday:-

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Like most countries around the world which has their own traditional dish, Brunei too has its own traditional dish. The ‘Ambuyat’ is one of Brunei’s well known traditional dish. It is certainly unique and one wonders how the dish came about.

Ambuyat is made from sago. Sago is derived or extracted from the trunk of the ‘Rumbia’ tree (scientific name, metroxylon), a family of palm trees found in Brunei and Borneo. Sago looks like white flour, but when mixed with hot water and stirred with the right consistency, that white flour will turn into a rather unique soft gum or starch.

Ambuyat is twirled around a pair of ‘candas’ which is a conjoined bamboo chop stick and dipped in a sauce known as ‘cacah’, before being swallowed by the diner. The dips are made from local fruits such as ‘binjai’ or ‘pidada’ or from fermented shrimps known locally as ‘cencalu’. Normally the dip is sour but chillies can b…

The 1,000 year old Brunei food

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Do you know what this guy is doing?

He is making sago by pressing on the cut rumbia tree trunks. Ambuyat is made from sago which is in powder form. To make sago, a rumbia tree is cut down. The trunks are cut into pieces and crushed. While crushing water is added to it. The remnants of the crushings are washed and when dried, sago will be obtained.

In the old days, crushing was done manually. This is what this guy is doing - crushing. In the old days too, the water added while crushing would be from the river and not treated water. I think the ambuyat from the sago in the old days would have much better character than today's bland transparent ambuyat. So many other ingredients were added to it.

If you visit the factory in Ukong, Tutong, today's process have changed tremendously. The tree trunks now go in a machine. All the crushings and treating are done mechanically and no human hands touched the sago until it is ready to be placed in plastics ready to be sold. Much has changed.

Who talkin' abouta sexa?

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I have to change the name of this blogsite. I can't keep up being informative but I will try to be remain entertaining, if that helps your day.

Yesterday, I overheard this joke while going round doing our rehearsals for HM's visit. One of my colleagues was telling us this story about Lee Kuan Yew. He was telling us that Lee Kuan Yew had 21 siblings. And Lee Kuan Yew was the 21st among all the siblings.

Curious, we asked him who the siblings were. My colleague with a straight face told us that the first one was called Lee Kuan A, the second one Lee Kuan B.... If you don't get that, don't bother to read the next one.

There was this story in America. A bus stops and two Italian men get on. They sit down and engage in an animated conversation. The lady sitting behind them ignores them at first, but her attention is galvanized when she hears one of the men say the following:

"Emma come first. Den I come. Den two asses come together. I come once-a-more. Two asses, they …

You Reap What You Sow

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If you plant honesty, You will reap trust
If you plant goodness, You will reap friends
If you plant humility, You will reap greatness
If you plant perseverance, You will reap victory
If you plant consideration, You will reap harmony
If you plant hard work, You will reap success
If you plant forgiveness, You will reap reconciliation
If you plant openness, You will reap intimacy
If you plant patience, You will reap improvements
If you plant faith, You will reap miracles
But If you plant dishonesty, You will reap distrust.

If you plant selfishness, You will reap loneliness
If you plant pride, You will reap destruction
If you plant envy, You will reap trouble
If you plant laziness, You will reap stagnation.
If you plant bitterness, You will reap isolation
If you plant greed, You will reap loss
If you plant gossip, You will reap enemies
If you plant worries, You will reap wrinkles
If you plant sin, You will reap guilt
So be careful what you plant now,
It will determine what you will reap tomorrow,
The seeds you…

You Get More of What You Have

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I found this interesting thoughts by Gretchin Rubins writing about The Happiness Project and I thought this is really good to be shared.

I find myself thinking about it in the happiness context, and I’ve often reflected that this statement sums up one of the cruel truths about happiness, and about human nature generally: you get more of what you have.

When you feel friendly, people want to be your friend. When you feel sexy, people are attracted to you. When you feel confident, others have confidence in you.

This truth is cruel because so often, you want others to give you what you feel you’re lacking. It’s when you’re feeling isolated and awkward that you want people to be friendly. When you’re feeling ugly, you want someone to tell you how sexy you are. When you’re feeling insecure, you wish someone would express confidence in you.

During my happiness project, I’ve been startled to discover the efficacy of the third of my Personal Commandments: Act the way I want to feel.

This commandmen…

Doctor's Misadvice

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I don't know where this doctor gets his degree from. But his advice does kinda make sense, no?

Q: Doctor, I've heard that cardiovascular exercise can prolong life. Is this true?
A: Your heart is only good for so many beats, and that's it... don't waste them on exercise. Everything wears out eventually. Speeding up your heart will not make you live longer; that's like saying you can extend the life of your car by driving it faster. Want to live longer? Take a nap.

Q: Should I cut down on meat and eat more fruits and vegetables?
A: You must grasp logistical efficiencies. What does a cow eat? Hay and corn. And what are these? Vegetables. So a steak is nothing more than an efficient mechanism of delivering vegetables to your system. Need grain? Eat chicken. Beef is also a good source of field grass (green leafy vegetable). And a pork chop can give you 100% of your recommended daily allowance of vegetable products.

Q: Should I reduce my alcohol intake?
A: No, not at all. Wine…

Go out to the world

The Crown Prince gave a good speech yesterday for the ITB graduation. For graduates, a graduation speech is something which you will quite remember, that is the last speech you will hear as a student. I was trawling on the internet for good graduation speeches, in America, graduation is called commencement, hence commencement speeches. Here is one which I found to be very good. Unfortunately the speech is very long and I will only include the last part which I thought will be good for students going to enter into the new working world. It was given by Richard Russo at a small Maine Colby College in 2006.

"If you're lucky, you may have more than one chance to get things right, but second and third chances, like second and third marriages, can be dicey propositions, and they don't come with guarantees. This much seems undeniable. When the truth is found to be lies, you're still screwed, even if you’re tenured in religious studies.

The question then is this: How does a per…

MOD Fear Factor Team

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After signing the contract for the Tutong District Masterplan yesterday, we headed towards Ukong. Ukong has a speciality which we feel can be developed further under the district masterplan. Ukong is the home to the only Ambulong Factory left in Brunei. Ambulong or sagu is the flour which we make our local delicay 'ambuyat' from. I have a whole bunch of photographs of the visit to the factory. But the most interesting was not the ambulong factory. The most interesting is the live creatures that lived in the trunk of the ambulong trees - drum rolls.......... the maggots!

These maggots known as Utod in Dusun language is edible. And of course no visit could be made to the factory without tasting the edible maggots would be complete. So the challenge to our team yesterday was who could eat these maggots.


The maggots lived in the tree trunk. So once the tree trunks are peeled, the maggots are exposed and can now be harvested.


The maggots are very fat. Their diet consist entirely of th…

The Lessons of Burnt Toasts

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I was feeling a bit peckish last night. So I thought I will toast two slices of bread for myself. I switched on the oven toaster and watched television while waiting. When I thought the bread was done, I went into the kitchen. I had a shock. There was so much smoke and my toast apparently went over from being toasted bread to being a candidate for winning the blackest burnt thing on earth.

I must admit it has been quite a while since I last touched the toaster myself being over dependent on my better half. I think I set the settings wrong. It is an oven toaster and it was capable of doing other things, other than just toasting bread. But I have to admit that even simple skills like that have deserted me on account that I hardly touched the dials. If I had, then I would have been able to do it so much easier.

There are other skills which we all lose as we either progressed in life or simply do not use anymore. My son talked about my driving sometimes when I misjudged the timing of the tr…

Don't Be Selfish

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Yesterday, we were at this ceremony in Danau. It was the laying of the pillar for a house for the 'daif' or the very poor and those who cannot afford to build a house. Together with my colleague at PMO, we chair this working committee building houses for the very poor paid for by the Baitul Mal fund of the Brunei Islamic Religious Council. Baitul Mal has funded a number of welfare projects but this is the first time that the fund is going on an institutionalised house buildings for the poor. The houses are built by our Public Works Department through private contractors tendering for the jobs.

A working group identifies those who belong to the 'daif' category. Most actually have their own houses and own land but can't afford to better their dilapidated houses. We try to repair these houses but where the repair costs are too expensive, then that house is demolished and a new one was built in its place. The newly built houses are made of concrete and cost around $40,0…

Quote of the week

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PLAN while others are playing.
STUDY while others are sleeping.
DECIDE while others are delaying.
PREPARE while others are daydreaming.
BEGIN while others are procrastinating.
WORK while others are wishing.
SAVE while others are wasting.
LISTEN while others are talking.
SMILE while others are frowning.
COMMEND while others are criticizing.
PERSIST while others are quitting.

William Arthur Ward

Thinking About Higher Education

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I was chatting with one of the senior officers yesterday morning. I saw his application to transfer one piece of his landholdings. I ask casually why he wanted to sell it. He said he needed it to cover the cost of sending his son studying abroad. That is indeed an expensive education.

When I told the story to my better half, she was saying just how much parents are sacrificing for their children without the children realising how much it is costing their parents. I looked at my 9 year old and wonder whether he too would realise just how expensive education would be in the future and whether or not it will be affordable then.

Up to the late 1980s, scholarships were widely and freely available. I remembered one of my very senior friends whom I met when I first arrived in England and I asked him what year he was in. He told me that he is still in first year and trying to find another place to study. He has been there for more than 4 years and he still has not completed his first degree. Th…

The Golden Warisan Volume 1 Final

It has been a tiring one week. Asia Printers printed all 500 copies of my book about two weeks ago but since I ask for laminated binding, that apparently took a while. I ask for the first 20 copies which I brought with me to Singapore as my gift to all the Singapore agencies which I visited. The remainder came out last week.

Since my printers only print, I have to do the marketing myself. So I have to find out who in Best Eastern and Bismi were the ones in charge of purchasing books and got the books to them. Hopefully the books are doing well. I don't get paid unless the books are purchased. I don't intend to make a profit, just enough to cover my printing cost. Any profit I make will go towards printing my next book. I realised the only way to make money from book writing is to print and sell a few thousand copies. Otherwise forget it. You will just be doing it like me - for fun and for experience.

My efforts to give away free books have not been successful. Like I said, Histo…

Let Your Boss Have First Say

You know when I am bereft of ideas to write in this blog - I always repost something from my friend's facebook notes:-

A sales rep, an administration clerk, and the manager are walking to lunch when they find an antique oil lamp. They rub it and a Genie comes out.

The Genie says, 'I'll give each of you just one wish.'

'Me first, me first!' says the admin clerk. 'I want to be in the Bahamas, driving a speedboat, without a care in the world.'

Puff! She's gone.

'Me next, me next!' says the sales rep. 'I want to be in Hawaii, relaxing on the beach with my personal masseuse, an endless supply of Pina Coladas and the love of my life.'

Puff! He's gone.

'OK, you're up,' the Genie says to the manager.

The manager says, 'I want those two back in the office after lunch.'

Moral of the story: Always let your boss have the first say.

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UPDATE ON THE GOLDEN WARISAN: So far I have requests from History Teachers from STPRI and Sharif…

H1N1

I admired the fast action by our medical and response team in isolating the 200 soldiers. Our response team has been ready since 2005 with avian flu. Previous bouts of pandemics have left us with better preparations.

Luckily too H1N1 can be cured with antiviral tamiflu. But I am sure that medical and our ndmc have got situation under control. I just want to congratulate and thank those involved fos their dedication.

What to do with your enemies?

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One of my facebook friends posted this story. It was too good to be left there without being shared:-

A kindergarten teacher has decided to let her class play a game.

The teacher told each child in the class to bring along a plastic bag containing a few potatoes.

Each potato will be given a name of a person that the child hates, so the number of potatoes that a child will put in his/her plastic bag will depend on the number of people he/she hates.

So when the day came, every child brought some potatoes with the name of the people he/she hated. Some had 2 potatoes; some 3 while some up to 5 potatoes.

The teacher then told the children to carry with them the potatoes in the plastic bag wherever they go (even to the toilet) for 1 week.

Days after days passed by, and the children started to complain due to the unpleasant smell let out by the rotten potatoes.

Besides, those having 5 potatoes also had to carry heavier bags. After 1 week, the children were relieved because the game had finally ende…

What I have learnt

My apologies to regular readers. Ever since my trip to Singapore and coming back and the publication of my book, The Golden Warisan, I have not had much time to devote to updating the blogsite.

The Singapore trip was very informative. A group of us went to visit the various agencies looking after planning and land issues in Singapore. Under the Singapore e-government projects, there are three information hubs which everyone in the Singapore government agencies can access to. The most important is the People Hub where the records of everyone in Singapore is stored. Data regarding personal information are kept there and Singaporeans as a rule do not have to fill in forms but merely indicating their IC, whatever system in the government service can already locate their full name and updated address. Similarly for issues with regard to land and planning, a Land Hub is used to keep records of land registers etc. The visit to Singapore was basically to see the Land Hub and also the various s…

The Golden Warisan PUBLISHED!

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In early March 2007, I was approached by The Brunei Times on the possibility of writing a weekly column for the newspaper. I went over to Wisma Haji Taha and discussed the matter with a consultant and the then Features Editor who was a former Malaysiakini.com editor. We talked about it and agreed that I should contribute a weekly article to be published in a column called Golden Legacy starting from the 24th March 2007 and that a week before that I should submit another article to be published in 'My Take' column, sort of an intro to the Golden Legacy articles.

More than 2 years down the road, I am still writing for that column. The column expanded in size from a two column half page to an entire half page and now shrinking a little bit as that page which used to be mine solely has expanded as well. The column moved from Saturday to Sunday. I underwent around 4 Features Editor since March 2007 so much so that it seemed that I am the permanent staff of BT and the editors are th…

Labour Day

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Today is May Day or Labour Day for a number of other countries. However like Brunei, there are a few other countries who do not observe Labour Day today. The Americans celebrate their Labour Day on the first Monday of September.

But the oberservation of the first ever Labour Day was on the first Monday in September is usually attributed to the Knights of Labor who held their first parade on September 5, 1882 in America. As the Industrial Revolution took hold of the nation, the average American in the late 1800s worked 12-hour days, seven days a week in order to make a basic living. Children were also working, as they provided cheap labor to employers and laws against child labor were not strongly enforced.

With the long hours and terrible working conditions, American unions became more prominent and voiced their demands for a better way of life. On Tuesday September 5, 1882, 10,000 workers marched from city hall to Union Square in New York City, holding the first-ever Labor Day parade. …