Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Brunei Stamp $5 Japanese Occupation 1942


Yesterday I mentioned one of the 4 Brunei stamps which I don't own and by the looks of it can never afford to own. The other Brunei stamp which I don't own include this Brunei $5 stamp overprinted during the Japanese Occupation.

This stamp is very rare and only appears every now and then. But whenever it comes it, the price tag is scary. This one is currently out on ebay at the starting price of US$1,199.95. I don't know how much this one is worth by the end of the auction. The catalogue value of this stamp is around B$4,000, so technically speaking anything less than US$2,700 is a bargain. Anyway as yesterday's I will just enjoy the graphic.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Brunei 6 cents stamp 1942


There are 4 stamps of Brunei which I have not owned. I owned every single stamp which has appeared in Brunei since 1895 with the exception of 4 stamps. The above is one of them.

The highest value stamps of Brunei are all during the Japanese occupation of Brunei. When the Japanese arrived in Brunei, they took over all the left over stamps and overprinted them. Some of the overprints were on stamps which were not many in quantity and hence the scarcity of the stamps.

This particular 6 cents stamp is quite rare. At the moment it is being auctioned on ebay with a starting price of US$729.25. I would like to own it but I am not at the moment in the mood of paying a $1000 for this stamp by the end of the acution. So I will just enjoy this graphic.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Sungai Kianggeh 1960s


With this postcard, we have left Jalan Chevalier. We are now on Sungai Kianggeh. But we can still see Brunei Hotel in the center of the postcard which marked the beginning of Jalan Chevalier. That landmark hotel is still visible as a modern hotel now in Brunei's capital city.

In this postcard, Sungai Kianggeh and Jalan Kianggeh has yet to be modernised. There is no grand footpath of today neither is there any sign of the tamu yet.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Jalan Chevalier 1960s


This is another of the old postcards which I recently acquired. This one is of Jalan Chevalier which is now renamed Jalan Pemancha. This actually is an extension of yesterday's postcard.

If you look closely, you can still see the two buildings which I mentioned yesterday but now they are towards the horizon. What you can is see now on the extreme left is the Brunei Hotel. Though the building is not as nice as it is now. But the famous Rex Bookstore is still there.

This small bookshop I remembered very well. When I was around 10 years old, I was caught by the Enid Blyton bug. This author writes many short novels about children like The Secret Seven or The Famous Five. Whenever my mum brings me here, I would buy like five to ten books, or whatever number of books I could get away with. The thing was there was no toy store when I was small. So I guess my parents allowed me to buy books as I did not remember buying any toys. So this postcard brings lots of memories flooding back to me.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Jalan Pemancha 1960s


I was going to continue my series on old Brunei money but yesterday the postman delivered a few surprises. It was a bunch of postcards which I bought a couple of weeks earlier of Brunei in the 1960s and 1970s.

This particular one is a little bit unrecognisable to our young Bruneians. This is Jalan Pemancha in the 1960s. It was not until the 1970s that this sight began changing. The building on the extreme left now housed the Coffee something bean shop and that building has converted from a two storey shophouse to a five storey building.

That colourful building in the middle or the one with the colourful wall design is the Boon Pang cinema. This is the second cinema built on that spot. The earlier one was built slightly further to the right. Of course that cinema is now gone and on it is now the current BIBD building.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Forbidden Track

Yesterday was the scariest ride I have ever been on in my life in Brunei. We were accompanying our Acting Minister to visit two works currently being undertaken by the Public Works Department for the Forestry Department which was to build a helipad and a suspended bridge and for the Youth and Sports Department which was to repair the Outward Bound facilities, both at Belalong.

Normally one will use a temuai, which is the very shallow perahu to get there. The temuai is scary enough as the boat sits very close hugging the river. There is not much room between you and the water and if everyone decided to turn to the right or to the left at the same time, you know the consequences. Cold water.

Anyway, in order to bring in the equipment to do the heavywork, the contractor had two options. One is to fly everything in which is expensive and not so easy to do given the narrowness of the river and the place to land everything. The other option is to bring everything overland. This is what he did. But he had to carve out a track out of nothing. This is the track that we decided to use instead of using the temuai. The track is made of earth and nothing else. If it rains, the track is virtually unusable. So it had to be dry before it can be used. The other thing is that once the work is completed, the jungle will take over the track completely. No further tracks will be allowed in so as to preserve the nature.

Here are some photos of the ride plus the group photo across the Ulu-Ulu Resort in Belalong.




Monday, June 22, 2009

Brunei $1 1935

In 1935, King George V was in reign. In fact in 1935, King George celebrated his Silver Jubilee. He was crowned King in 1910 when his father King Edward VII died.

This is the first Straits Settlement dollar which had the portrait of the King. Since the money was used throughout the Straits Settlements, it was also used in Brunei as part of the 1906 law. The most interesting thing about this $1 note is the colour. It is blue. It is from this colour that the blue $1 for Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei was derived from. Our $1 blue was derived from a 1935 decision by the Straits Settlement government.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Brunei $1 1925

People sometimes ask me whether I can do the old money series. I said why not? So, this week is the week beginning with the money that was used in Brunei after the First World War.

Brunei by 1906 stopped producing its own money. It relied extensively on the Straits Settlement Dollar which was issued through the SS Office in Singapore. So if you were living in Brunei then, and if you rich enough, then you will come across this $1 note. Mind you this $1 note was worth a lot then. Bruneians were still using 1/4 cent coins. So $1 must have been equivalent to a month wage to labourer.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Yayyyyyyyyyyy!

We don't often win much in football but not this time around. From Channelnewsasia.com:-

Football: Bruneians become first foreign side to win silverware in S'pore
By A S Dwight, TODAY | Posted: 20 June 2009 0630 hrs

SINGAPORE : DPMM made history on Friday night, becoming the first foreign club to win silverware in Singapore football when they beat SAFFC 4-3 on penalties in the 2009 League Cup Final in front of 5,320 fans at Jalan Besar Stadium.

The Brunei club's feat is even more remarkable considering this is only their first year in the S-League.

SAFFC, Singapore's most successful club with seven league titles in 13 seasons, took the lead in the sixth minute through captain Aleksandar Duric, who headed in an inch-perfect cross from Hafiz Osman.

Determined DPMM didn't let their heads drop and they stunned the Warriors just three minutes later when Croatian defender Rene Komar scored arguably the goal of the tournament.

Receiving the ball on the halfway line, Komar jinked past two Warriors and curled his left shoot shot past helpless keeper Shahril Jantan from well outside the SAFFC penalty area.

SAFFC upped the pressure late in the game and had the better chances, but Vjeran Simunic's men held firm as the match headed to a penalty shoot-out after extra-time.

With the shootout tied at 3-3, stand-in captain Rosmin Kamis fired home the winning penalty.

In the third-place playoff earlier on Friday, Home United beat Woodlands Wellington 4-1 in a penalty shootout, after the match ended 2-2 after extra-time. - TODAY

Friday, June 19, 2009

eXpensive Wedding!

I was intrigued to read of one letter to Brudirect on the cost of a wedding. The letter was written by a friend of a clerk who is getting married. His friend was worried that his parents wanted a normal wedding, all he wanted was a simple nikah ceremony. He could not afford the wedding as he is already paying for a car loan plus other loans.

This one is certainly a dilemma. My sister just got married recently, My better half and I decided to work out how much a wedding like that would have cost us if our son was to get married (hopefully not soon as I realised just how much you need to save up).

This is not complete nor accurate, I am just typing this off the top of my head. The ceremonies and estimate cost from the day you start to merisik to the muleh tiga hari:-

Merisik : $200 for the buka mulut ring. No cost for the ceremony as it is mostly between parents.

Bersuruh : $200 for the ring, if there is cincin tunang. About $200 for the ceremony as normally a medium size group would have gathered.

Bersuruh (return) : About $200 for the ceremony if the bride to be family decided to give all the permintaan in a formal ceremony. Otherwise this ceremony is not necessary.

Menghantar Berian : About $700 for the ceremony, $3.50 per head times about 200 people. The berian can be $10,000 and above total.

Nikah Ceremony : About $700 for the ceremony, $3.50 per head times about 200 people. Other cost - sedekah to jurunikah, sijil nikah plus other incidentals.

Bedak-bedak mandi : About $200 for immediate family's gathering, makan and all.

Berbedak : Usually dinner about $6 x 300 people = $1,800. Camps, chairs and tables depending on choice. The fancier square camps roughly about $200 each for about 40 people complete with chairs, so 300 people around $1,400. Hadiah to orang membedaki about $3 x 150 people. Sedekah to orang berzikir.

Berinai : Usually dinner about $6 x 200 people = $1,200. Camps normally charged once.

Majlis Persandingan : Usually lunch about $6 x 500 people or more depending on number of guests. $3,000 or $6,000. If at hotel, normally around $12,000. Camps again depending on type and quantity. Hadiah to given to guests, normally $1 to $5 each multiply by the number of guests. Sedekah to hadrah team, police etc.

Majlis Berambil-ambilan : Usually dinner about $6 x 300 people = $1,800.

Majlis Muleh Tiga Hari : Usually dinner about $6 x 100 people = $600

Of course, there is revenues too. People sedekah to you.

Take your pick which ones you want to avoid or the numbers you want to reduce. It can be costly.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

US Report on Human Trafficking in Brunei

On June 16th, USA's Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the annual publication of Trafficking in Persons Report. The U.S. Department of State is required by law to submit each year to the Congress a report on foreign governments’ efforts to eliminate severe forms of trafficking in persons. The report, the most comprehensive of its kind, this year assesses 175 countries. Countries are assigned ranks, based on standards set by the United States’ Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA). Here is what the USA report says about Brunei:-

Brunei is a destination country for men and women trafficked for the purpose of forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation. Brunei is mainly a destination country for men and women recruited from Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, the People’s Republic of China (PRC), and Thailand for domestic or low-skilled labor. A limited number of the 88,000 foreign workers in Brunei face poor labor conditions that amount to involuntary servitude.

There were credible reports of a limited number of nationals from Asian countries working for little or no pay for up to two years to pay back foreign recruitment agents. Many of the 25,000 female domestic workers in Brunei were required to work exceptionally long hours without being granted a day for rest, creating an environment highly conducive to involuntary servitude. There were isolated instances of women forced into prostitution in Brunei, and there were also isolated reports that women arrested for prostitution attested to having been victims of trafficking.

The Government of Brunei does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. While the government has laws to prosecute trafficking, it did not investigate, prosecute, or convict any offenders of trafficking during the reporting period. The government did not identify any victims of trafficking in 2008.

Recommendations for Brunei: Enforce the 2004 anti-trafficking in persons law by investigating and prosecuting sex trafficking and labor trafficking offenses and convicting and punishing trafficking offenders; adopt a proactive, comprehensive system to formally identify victims of trafficking among vulnerable groups such as foreign workers and foreign women and children in prostitution; train law enforcement, immigration, and prosecutors on the use of the anti-trafficking law; and implement a visible anti-trafficking awareness campaign directed at employers of foreign workers.

Prosecution
The government did not demonstrate significant antitrafficking law enforcement efforts during the reporting period. The Government of Brunei prohibits sex and labor trafficking in its Trafficking and Smuggling Persons Order of 2004, which prescribes penalties of up to 30 years’ imprisonment – penalties that are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious offenses; however, there have never been any prosecutions under this order.

There were no trafficking cases investigated by Brunei authorities during the reporting period, and there were no complaints or allegations of trafficking filed. Foreign workers’ complaints of exploitation, such as contract switching and non-payment of salaries, are usually tried under the Labor Act, which carries administrative penalties.

The Department of Labor regularly investigates foreign workers’ labor complaints such as job switching, salary deductions for recruitment fees, salary based on false promises, and high recruitment fees paid by the prospective employee – though it did not identify any cases of trafficking among them.

Protection
Brunei did not demonstrate significant efforts to protect and assist trafficking victims this year. While the Brunei Immigration Department questions foreign workers during immigration raids to identify possible trafficking victims, Brunei does not have a proactive, comprehensive system to formally identify victims of trafficking among vulnerable groups, such as foreign workers and foreign women and children in prostitution. Although immigration authorities actively identified violators of immigration law, the government did not identify any trafficking victims during the reporting period.

Although it is illegal for employers in Brunei to withhold wages of their domestic servants for more than 10 days, a few families are known to withhold wages to compensate for recruitment fees they are charged by overseas recruitment agencies. Most labor laws apply only to citizens of Brunei, and currently fail to protect skilled and unskilled foreign workers from exploitation. While there are no foreign NGOs or international organizations in Brunei to provide victim support, the embassies of several source countries provide shelter, mediation, and immigration support services to their nationals, in coordination with the Brunei government.

Prevention
Brunei demonstrated limited prevention efforts during the reporting period. In 2008, the Brunei police ran an internal workshop for members of the anti-vice unit on how to identify trafficking victims. Law enforcement officials participate in several regional training programs on trafficking. The government provides arrival briefings for foreign workers, inspects worker facilities, and runs a telephone hotline for worker complaints. It is an offense under the Labor Act for any local agency to charge foreign workers recruitment fees or to withhold a salary to recoup foreign worker processing fees.

Although the government forbade wage deductions to agencies or sponsors and mandated that employees receive their full salaries, foreign workers continued to pay high fees to overseas recruitment agents to obtain work in Brunei. During the reporting period, there were 135 complaints by foreign workers against employers who failed to pay salaries.

Seventeen of the complaints by domestic workers and 73 of the complaints by workers in other fields were resolved, largely through mediation; the remaining complaints are still under investigation. The Government of Brunei has not conducted public awareness campaign programs on trafficking. Brunei has not ratified the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.

Graying Hair

The other day, while waiting for my turn to speak in a meeting, I was looking round the room to my colleagues. Although most are on average about 45 above, I realised that most are showing graying hair or in our language memutih. At this age, not surprising really.

Then I came across this article on psychocentral about graying hair. According to this article, graying hair is not showing signs of age. It is showing signs of stress. According to the article, researchers have discovered that the kind of “genotoxic stress” that does damage to DNA depletes the melanocyte stem cells (MSCs) within hair follicles that are responsible for making those pigment-producing cells. Rather than dying off, when the going gets tough, those precious stem cells differentiate, forming fully mature melanocytes themselves. Anything that can limit the stress might stop the graying from happening, the researchers said.

Wah.... I guess if are showing signs of grey hair, you know what to do. Stop worrying or stressing yourself.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The IMF Report

My apologies for the regular readers for not posting anything lately. My sister got married over the weekend and as you know there were many functions which our family had to tend to and hence the lack of postings.

My colleague at MOF informed me that the International Monetary Fund had posted a PIN (Public Information Notice) about the recent Article IV consultation with Brunei. As a member of the IMF, the IMF will send a team to every member country to assess the soundness of the economy. The IMF called it the Article IV consultation as it is under Article IV of the IMF Agreement. Consultation is the nicer word for it. What IMF does is ask for relevant documents, statistics etc as well as interviews. They have their own set of data which they prepared in Washington and checked those against what you give them. Anyway, their assessment of the Brunei economy in my own summary is:

The IMF Executive Directors commended the government for our sound macroeconomic policies and prudent management of oil and gas resources which led to positive performance has led to a high standard of living and has provided Brunei with sizable fiscal and current account surpluses to help weather external shocks. Even though growth has slowed recently due to a decline in hydrocarbon production, economic activity is expected to increase gradually as production rebounds and supportive government spending comes on stream.

Long term challenges facing Brunei is to expand oil and gas reserves, diversify the production base by boosting private sector activity, and enhance fiscal management. Over the long term, continued restraint in budget formulation amidst volatile energy prices remains an appropriate strategy. The IMF recommended broadening the revenue and a gradual phasing out of generous government subsidies along with the creation of a more targeted social safety net. They also agreed that the peg to the Singapore dollar and the associated Currency Interchangeability Agreement continue to be sources of macroeconomic stability.

The IMF Directors also encouraged the acceleration of economic diversification and private sector job creation, in line with the priorities set out in their strategic development plans. They recommended greater private sector participation in areas currently dominated by the public sector, reduction in the large gap between public and private sector compensation packages, and removal of structural impediments to create an enabling environment for private sector development.

Anyway, that's how I summarise it. You can read the entire PIN for yourself with the statistics.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Brunei's Anti Corruption Bureau


I am looking through the Transparency International publication entitled the 2009 Global Corruption Barometer given to my by my colleague at Anti corruption Bureau. The report was recently highlighted in the local press about Brunei's position in the fight against corruption.

The interesting bit about this report is how the report was derived. For Brunei's case, 820 Bruneians were interviewed by phone. It was conducted by a Malaysian company called Merdeka Center. For statisticians, 820 is a significant number. Anything more than 30 and approaching about a 1,000 is always statistically significant and can be relied upon as long as the people chosen are chosen at random.

The interview was conducted between 20 to 25 February this year. The telephone interview is not uncommon. I looked through the entire list, there wee a few other countries which this method was used. Bosnia, Colombia, Greece, Israel, Malaysia (done by same company), Portugal, Spain and Thailand. Most others were done face to face. Afew used computer assisted web interviews and online survey. Hong Kong and Singapore were done using online via access panels. Not sure what that is.

The first table 'To what extent do you perceive the following institutions in this country to be affected by corruption? (1: Not All Corrupt, 5: Extremely Corrupt).' For Brunei, the scores are:

Political Parties 2.1
Parliament/Legislature 2.1
Business/Private Sector 2.7
Media 1.9
Public Officials/Civil Servants 2.6
Judiciary 2.0
Average Score 2.3

Table 2 'Which of these six sectors/organisations would you consider to be the most affected by corruption?' For Brunei, the scores are:

Political Parties 10%
Parliament/Legislature 3%
Business/Private Sector 44%
Media 4%
Public Officials/Civil Servants 33%
Judiciary 2.0 6%

Table 3 'In the past 12 months, have you or anyone living in your household paid a bribe in any form?' For Brunei, the score is 1%. Only Brunei and Japan scored 1%, Singapore scored 6% and Indonesia 29%.

Table 4 'How would you assess your current government's actions in the fight against corruption?' For Brunei, the scores are:

Ineffective 17%
Neither 5%
Effective 78%

Comparatively speaking BMR has done well against most of the other nations, developed or developing. Well done!

If you do want to know more about the anti corruption bureau, you can go to their very up to date website www.bmr.gov.bn and the director's personal blogs on www.anticorruptionwatch.blogspot.com or go to the Anti Corruption Brueau on facebook. And they are always available if you need to make any complaint about corruption.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Back to Business

My thanks to the espeed team yesterday. They came round for the second time, brought my new modem but unfortunately could not test it as it is not the modem but the line. Anyway, the espeed team contacted the line people and the line people came and fixed the line which apparently was broken. That got fixed and when I got home at 6, the modem and finally espeed worked. I was just wondering this would have been very wonderful almost eight weeks ago but I should not complain. I got my espeed. Thanks to Reeda for the intervention.

I am in a happy mood today and let me share with you one of the many things some of my friends have been sending me:-

+++++

One day, while a woodcutter was cutting a branch of a tree above a river, his axe fell into the river. When he cried out, the Lord appeared and asked, "Why are you crying?"

The woodcutter replied that his axe has fallen into water, and he needed the axe to make his living.

The Lord went down into the water and reappeared with a golden axe.

"Is this your axe?" the Lord asked.

The woodcutter replied, "No."

The Lord again went down and came up with a silver axe. "Is this your axe?" the Lord asked.

Again, the woodcutter replied, "No."

The Lord went down again and came up with an iron axe.

"Is this your axe?" the Lord asked.

The woodcutter replied, "Yes."

The Lord was pleased with the man's honesty and gave him all three axes to keep, and the woodcutter went home happy.

******

Some time later the woodcutter was walking with his wife along the riverbank, and his wife fell into the river.

When he cried out, the Lord again appeared and asked him, "Why are you crying?"

"Oh Lord, my wife has fallen into the water!"

The Lord went down into the water and came up with Jennifer Lopez.

"Is this your wife?" the Lord asked.

"Yes," cried the woodcutter.

The Lord was furious. "You lied! That is an untruth!"

The woodcutter replied, "Oh, forgive me, my Lord.. It is a misunderstanding.

You see, if I had said 'no' to Jennifer Lopez , You would have come up with Catherine Zeta-Jones. Then if I said 'no' to her, you would have come up with my wife. Had I then said 'yes,' you would have given me all three.

Lord, I am a poor man, and am not able to take care of all three wives, so THAT'S why I said yes to Jennifer Lopez."

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Work Smarter

Once upon a time a very strong woodcutter asked for a job in a timber merchant, and he got it.

The pay was really good and so were the work conditions. For that reason,the woodcutter was determined to do his best.

His boss gave him an axe and showed him the area where he was supposed to work. The first day, the woodcutter brought 18 trees.

"Congratulations," the boss said. "Go on that way!"

Very motivated for the boss' words, the woodcutter try harder the next day, but he only could bring 15 trees. The third day he try even harder, but he only could bring 10 trees. Day after day he was bringing less and less trees.

"I must be losing my strength", the woodcutter thought. He went to the boss and apologized, saying that he could not understand what was going on.

"When was the last time you sharpened your axe?" the boss asked.

"Sharpen? I had no time to sharpen my axe. I have been very busy trying to cut trees."

Our lives are like that. We sometimes get so busy that we don't take time to sharpen the axe.

In today's world, it seems that everyone is busier than ever, but less happy than ever. Why is that? Could it be that we have forgotten how to stay sharp?

There's nothing wrong with activity and hard work. But God doesn't want us to get so busy that we neglect the truly important things in life, like taking time to pray, to read.

We all need time to relax, to think and meditate, to learn and grow.

If we don't take time to sharpen the axe, we will become dull and lose our effectiveness.

So start today. Think about the ways by which you could do your job more effectively and add a lot of value to it.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

British Coin in Brunei

This is the British Trade Dollar coin. It is made out of pure silver and widely circulated in the region.

BUT, this is the most interesting 'but'. Did you know that this was also used in Brunei at the beginning of the 20th century? But did you know that it was banned in 1906 when the British Resident was first placed in Brunei? Did you also know that the Straits Settlement Government (the forerunner to today's Malaysia) also banned this coin even much earlier in 1903?

Interesting questions, right? Why in the world would the British Resident in Brunei banned this trade dollar coin isssued by the British? And for that matter why would the British government banned the coin from its colony at the Straits Settlements? This coin was minted by the British until 1937. So who was it that was using this coin if it was banned from Brunei and the Straits Settlements?

I wrote about this coin and many other foreign coins in Brunei in today's Brunei Times. Get the newspaper if you want to read about it. Or wait until next year when I compiled all this year's articles into Volume 3 of The Golden Warisan. Your choice.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

The Environment Day

Yesterday was Environment Day. The Friday sermon at the mosque yesterday was on environment, remember? Anyway, the Ministry is celebrating the World Environment Day today. What is World Environment Day?

World Environment Day (WED) was established by the UN General Assembly in 1972 to mark the opening of the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment.

Commemorated yearly on 5 June, WED is one of the principal vehicles through which the United Nations stimulates worldwide awareness of the environment and enhances political attention and action. The day's agenda is to:

1. Give a human face to environmental issues;
2. Empower people to become active agents of sustainable and equitable development;
3. Promote an understanding that communities are pivotal to changing attitudes towards environmental issues;
4. Advocate partnership which will ensure all nations and peoples enjoy a safer and more prosperous future.

The theme for WED 2009 is 'Your Planet Needs You-UNite to Combat Climate Change'. It reflects the urgency for nations to agree on a new deal at the crucial climate convention meeting in Copenhagen some 180 days later in the year, and the links with overcoming poverty and improved management of forests.

This year’s host is Mexico which reflects the growing role of the Latin American country in the fight against climate change, including its growing participation in the carbon markets.

Friday, June 05, 2009

e-speed? e-slow! e-notworking!

When I first started blogging 4 years ago, I promised myself I will not use the freedom to write anything that I wouldn't have like to read myself - I will not rant. I broke that rule once when I was so angry with the espeed sometime in September 2006 when I posted this.

About six weeks ago, my once reliable espeed went on the blink. Nothing I would do would stop that blinking light on the modem. I left it for a couple of days thinking it would right itself which it has from time to time. After about a week nothing happened. I called up the espeed people and they came after about a week. They told me that they can't check the modem because the phone line is not working. So I asked whether I should complain about the phone line, they say they'll do it. That was the last I heard from TelBru. So I do hope that someone from TelBru is reading this as I am getting a little bit fed up of trying to call you guys. I don't want to write another post like this.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

President Obama Speaks to the Muslim World

I received an email this morning from Shova Thapa, Cultural Affairs/Press/Webmaster of the Public Affairs Office of the US Embassy in Brunei with the following content:-

On June 4, President Obama will travel to Egypt for a historic speech in which he will seek to strengthen U.S. relations with the Arab world and the larger Muslim world. President Obama chose Egypt as the venue for the long-promised speech because the country "in many ways represents the heart of the Arab world," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said.

President Obama's speech will be an important part of his engagement with the Muslim world, which began in his inaugural and has continued through venues such as his interview with Al Arabiya, his Nowruz message, and his speech and town hall in Turkey.

The speech will outline his personal commitment to engagement, based upon mutual interests and mutual respect. He will discuss how the United States and Muslim communities around the world can bridge some of the differences that have divided them. He will review particular issues of concern, such as violent extremism and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And he will discuss new areas for partnership going forward that serve the mutual interests of our people.

For those of you interested to watch the speech, here is the latest info the Embassy has about international broadcasters’ plans to air the speech (which is scheduled to take place at 1310 Cairo time on June 4, or 6.10 pm Brunei time - today in the evening).

· CNN International plans to broadcast live

· BBC World (television and radio) plan to air the speech live

· Sky Television (UK-based) plans to broadcast live

· Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya plan to broadcast live

How to be seen

I found these ten tips from employers to employees on how to avoid getting laid off on Businessweek. The tips are not all relevant to the many Bruneians who are civil servants but they do provide tips on how to improve ourselves and how to be 'seen' or be more visible.

1. Remember: It's Not About You Right Now

Force yourself to focus with laser accuracy on your company's success, not your own. In challenging times, the last thing your employer wants is to cater to you and your fears. They want you to be a selfless, highly collaborative team player who meets and exceeds your commitments. Your presence can't be an energy drain or create work.

2. Become a Black Belt at Change

The most important skill to develop right now is finesse at navigating change. That means flexibility and open-mindedness. Accept whatever management throws your way. If they change direction (again), shuffle the product mix, add new goals, or refine strategy on the fly, say yes to all of it. Resisting change only makes life more difficult for management and for everyone.

This also applies to those things you took for granted. Accept that your expense budget and staff have been cut. Accept that you now have more work on your plate with the same (or fewer) resources than you had a year ago.

3. Everything Is Your Job

Demonstrate your commitment to the overall success of your team and your company by taking on tasks that fall outside your job responsibilities. Pitch in on packing up the trade-show booth. Manage your own schedule/address book/travel plans. Offer to take notes and follow up after every meeting.

Nothing is beneath you. The little things you do above and beyond your job description will serve you well when it's performance appraisal and/or downsizing time. Forget your fancy title, your impressive resume -- and your ego.

4. Walk Away from the Water Cooler

When straits are dire and headlines scary, the last thing your company needs is negative, gossipy employees who polarize colleagues into an us-vs.-them dynamic. Employers value passionate overachievers whose uplifting attitude contributes to a more energizing team culture. Whatever it takes, keep the negative mindset out of the office. This is your mantra: No complaining, no blaming! Dwell on what can be rather than what can't.

5. "Unwritten Rules" Are Now Engraved in Stone

Show up early, stay late. Everyone notices people who leave on the dot of 5 (or before) or take very long lunches or excessive coffee/smoking breaks. Don't get a reputation for being one of those people who takes forever to respond to an e-mail, voicemail, or a simple question. Vigilantly follow up on all assigned action items. Management is increasingly scrutinizing your every move.

6. Step Up -- and Wear Very Big Shoes

Don't wait for someone else to solve your problems. Your manager needs to hear how the organization can trim costs, manage the supply chain better, find a new client, improve processes, motivate the workforce, and deliver the next big thing. Observe what your competitors are trying and testing, read everything relentlessly, and ask people how you can improve what you do.

Your goal here is to make sure there'd be a gaping hole if you were no longer around. Make the choice every day to do work that really matters to the success of the team and the company. Put yourself in a position that is crucial to the success of a new initiative, or dig in to solve a vexing, long-neglected problem. Maintain a bias for action in every meeting.

7. Transparency Is Your New Trump Card

You must be totally transparent as to what you're working on and how it fits with management objectives. There can be no hiding, and no withholding information. If you don't have enough on your plate, say it. Ask to take on more -- or better yet, suggest projects you can spearhead that have killer ROI.

The more honest your superiors believe you are, the more likely they are to trust you and keep you close. Being authentic builds relationships, even more than just hard work. Stop hoping no one finds out who you are or what you really do all day. Let people in or they'll be showing you the door. Employers are likely to keep you around if they see you as a vital associate.

8. Make Friends in New Places

Human resources and finance are two departments that can have a significant impact on your career whether you realize it or not. They know a lot about you that can influence how you're perceived. Respect those folks, socialize with them, ask for their advice, and make sure you carefully do a little self-promotion. When cuts need to be made, you won't be an unknown quantity to them.

9. Start Tweeting or Start Packing

Look at the Millennials and see how they work, how they make decisions, and what technology and tools they use. No time for "I don't do Twitter or Facebook." Acquaint yourself with social networks, mobile applications, and commerce platforms to remain relevant. Let them intimidate you and you give your boss reasons to replace you with someone younger and more in the game. Ask a family member to help, take a course, read a book and dive in.

10. Fit Club

Healthy people tend to have better outlooks and are easier to be around. They take good care of themselves, which in turn earns them the respect of others. Fit people often set high standards for themselves both at work and at play. And they just have more stamina, so they tend not to get tired when on deadline, and they don't call in sick as much. They have incredible endurance when others are reaching for that 10th Coke (NYSE:KO - News) or itching to make that next trip to Starbucks (NasdaqGS:SBUX - News). They are also calmer and more productive. So get your sleep, eat well, exercise, stay hydrated, and avoid excessive caffeine and alcohol. This is an investment that will pay dividends for you and your employer. And yes, your employer does notice.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Cheer Up!

I know after a long weekend, it's a drag to get out of bed and to work this morning. Anyway, I spent the whole morning yesterday babysitting my little boy doing his homework. While he was doing it, I spent my time surfing the net. I found a couple of funny stories which I thought I will 'borrow' and placed here. They are good reads to cheer you up for this coming back to work day:-

+++++ STORY 1 +++++

The following letters are taken from an actual incident between a London hotel and one of its guests. The Hotel ended up submitting the letters to the London Sunday Times!

Dear Maid,

Please do not leave any more of those little bars of soap in my bathroom since I have brought my own bath-sized Dial. Please remove the six unopened little bars from the shelf under the medicine chest and another three in the shower soap dish. They are in my way.

Thank you,
S. Berman

____________________________________________________________________

Dear Room 635,

I am not your regular maid. She will be back tomorrow, Thursday, from her day off. I took the 3 hotel soaps out of the shower soap dish as you requested. The 6 bars on your shelf I took out of your way and put on top of your Kleenex dispenser in case you should change your mind. This leaves only the 3 bars I left today which my instructions from the management is to leave 3 soaps daily. I hope this is satisfactory.

Kathy,
Relief Maid

___________________________________________________________________

Dear Maid - I hope you are my regular maid.

Apparently Kathy did not tell you about my note to her concerning the little bars of soap. When I got back to my room this evening I found you had added 3 little Camays to the shelf under my medicine cabinet. I am going to be here in the hotel for two weeks and have brought my own bath-size Dial so I won't need those 6 little Camays which are on the shelf. They are in my way when shaving, brushing teeth, etc. Please remove them.

S. Berman

____________________________________________________________________

Dear Mr. Berman,

My day off was last Wed. so the relief maid left 3 hotel soaps which we are instructed by the management. I took the 6 soaps which were in your way on the shelf and put them in the soap dish where your Dial was. I put the Dial in the medicine cabinet for your convenience. I didn't remove the 3 complimentary soaps which are always placed inside the medicine cabinet for all new check-ins and which you did not object to when you checked in last Monday. Please let me know if I can of further assistance.

Your regular maid,
Dotty

____________________________________________________________________

Dear Mr. Berman,

The assistant manager, Mr. Kensedder, informed me this morning that you called him last evening and said you were unhappy with your maid service. I have assigned a new girl to your room. I hope you will accept my apologies for any past inconvenience. If you have any future complaints please contact me so I can give it my personal attention. Call extension 1108 between 8AM and 5PM. Thank you.

Elaine Carmen
Housekeeper

___________________________________________________________________

Dear Miss Carmen,

It is impossible to contact you by phone since I leave the hotel for business at 7:45 AM and don't get back before 5:30 or 6PM. That's the reason I called Mr. Kensedder last night. You were already off duty. I only asked Mr. Kensedder if he could do anything about those little bars of soap. The new maid you assigned me must have thought I was a new check-in today, since she left another 3 bars of hotel soap in my medicine cabinet along with her regular delivery of 3 bars on the bath-room shelf. In just 5 days here I have accumulated 24 little bars of soap. Why are you doing this to me?

S. Berman

___________________________________________________________________

Dear Mr. Berman,

Your maid, Kathy, has been instructed to stop delivering soap to your room and remove the extra soaps. If I can be of further assistance, please call extension 1108 between 8AM and 5PM.Thank you,

Elaine Carmen,
Housekeeper

___________________________________________________________________

Dear Mr. Kensedder,

My bath-size Dial is missing. Every bar of soap was taken from my room including my own bath-size Dial. I came in late last night and had to call the bellhop to bring me 4 little Cashmere Bouquets.

S. Berman

____________________________________________________________________

Dear Mr. Berman,

I have informed our housekeeper, Elaine Carmen, of your soap problem. I cannot understand why there was no soap in your room since our maids are instructed to leave 3 bars of soap each time they service a room. The situation will be rectified immediately. Please accept my apologies for the inconvenience.

Martin L. Kensedder
Assistant Manager

____________________________________________________________________

Dear Mrs. Carmen,

Who the hell left 54 little bars of Camay in my room? I came in last night and found 54 little bars of soap. I don't want 54 little bars of Camay. I want my one damn bar of bath-size Dial. Do you realize I have 54 bars of soap in here. All I want is my bath size Dial. Please give me back my bath-size Dial.

S. Berman

___________________________________________________________________

Dear Mr. Berman,

You complained of too much soap in your room so I had them removed. Then you complained to Mr. Kensedder that all your soap was missing so I personally returned them. The 24 Camays which had been taken and the 3 Camays you are supposed to receive daily. I don't know anything about the 4 Cashmere Bouquets. Obviously your maid, Kathy, did not know I had returned your soaps so she also brought 24 Camays plus the 3 daily Camays. I don't know where you got the idea this hotel issues bath-size Dial. I was able to locate some bath-size Ivory which I left in your room.

Elaine Carmen
Housekeeper

____________________________________________________________________

Dear Mrs. Carmen,

Just a short note to bring you up-to-date on my latest soap inventory. As of today I possess:

* On the shelf under medicine cabinet - 18 Camay in 4 stacks of 4 and 1 stack of 2.
* On the Kleenex dispenser - 11 Camay in 2 stacks of 4 and 1 stack of 3.
* On the bedroom dresser - 1 stack of 3 Cashmere Bouquet, - 1 stack of 4 hotel-size Ivory, and 8 Camay in 2 stacks of 4.
* Inside the medicine cabinet - 14 Camay in 3 stacks of 4 and 1 stack of 2.
* In the shower soap dish - 6 Camay, very moist.
* On the northeast corner of tub - 1 Cashmere Bouquet, slightly used.
* On the northwest corner of tub - 6 Camays in 2 stacks of 3.

Please ask Kathy when she services my room to make sure the stacks are neatly piled and dusted. Also, please advise her that stacks of more than 4 have a tendency to tip. May I suggest that my bedroom window sill is not in use and will make an excellent spot for future soap deliveries. One more item, I have purchased another bar of bath-sized Dial which I am keeping in the hotel vault in order to avoid further misunderstandings.

S. Berman

+++++ STORY 2 +++++

A farmer stopped by the local mechanic shop to have his truck fixed. They couldn't do it while he waited, so he said he didn't live far and would just walk home.

On the way home he stopped at the hardware store and bought a bucket and a gallon of paint. He then stopped by the feed store and picked up a couple of chickens and a goose. However, struggling outside the store he now had a problem - how to carry his entire purchases home.

While he was scratching his head he was approached by a little old lady who told him she was lost. She asked, "Can you tell me how to get to 1603 Mockingbird Lane?"

The farmer said, "Well, as a matter of fact, my farm is very close to that house I would walk you there but I can't carry this lot."

The old lady suggested, "Why don't you put the can of paint in the bucket. Carry the bucket in one hand, put a chicken under each arm and carry the goose in your other hand?"

"Why thank you very much," he said and proceeded to walk the old girl home.

On the way he says "Let's take my short cut and go down this alley. We'll be there in no time."

The little old lady looked him over cautiously then said, "I am a lonely widow without a husband to defend me. How do I know that when we get in the alley you won't hold me up against the wall, pull up my skirt, and have your way with me?"

The farmer said, "Holy smokes lady! I'm carrying a bucket, a gallon of paint, two chickens, and a goose. How in the world could I possibly hold you up against the wall and do that?"

The old lady replied, "Set the goose down, cover him with the bucket, put the paint on top of the bucket, and I'll hold the chickens."

+++++

Monday, June 01, 2009

Australian Scholarships Endeavour Awards

I received an email from the Australian High Commission which will be holding a briefing tomorrow about the Endeavour Awards, an Australian Government Scholarship Programme.

The Scholarships are a great opportunity for anyone wishing to study or gain professional experience abroad. The Australian High Commission is trying to reach students, young professionals, and government employees who are considering in service training, about these awards.

The briefing which will take place tommorrow, 2 June at 10am in the Mutiara Ballroom at the Sheraton Hotel.

If you need more information, contact Sarah Gallagher, the Public Affairs Officer of the Australian High Commission on telephone number 2229435 ext 221.

Inspirational Quotes

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