Saturday, July 02, 2011

“Injin Sigal”

Living in Kampong Aing aka the Water Village in the 1970s, shopping was very different. Instead of you going to the shop, the shop went to your doorstep. Literally! Most people I am sure have heard of the padian, ladies who paddled around Kampong Aing in small boats known as ‘jumpung’, selling foodstuff and groceries. This is a well known, often mentioned history of Kampong Aing.

A lesser known part of this shopping at your doorstep was the few chinese ‘merchants’ in small boats powered by low powered outboard engines peddling all sorts of clothing and shoes. You could here them coming with the loud noise yet you waited for ages for the boat to appear. Grunt like a tiger but slow as a snail. Remember those days the surroundings tend to be quieter.

With inadequate knowledge and almost non-existence of English vocabulary, I got to know the outboard engines were called ‘injin sigal’ and always linked to ‘slow like a tortoise’ engines. This stayed with me until recently. With hindsight, I should have known better. Like some strange sounding Brunei Malay words, it had a British origin. There are plenty examples of this. ‘Gostan’ which came from ‘go stern’, ‘paip jus’ from exhaust pipe, ‘obasir’ from obverseers are amongst these words.

So it is of no surprise ‘injin sigal’ has got British origin. The ‘sigal’ was in fact a low powered (10 horse power?) two stroke outboard engines named ‘British Seagull’. Now it makes sense where the ‘injin sigal’ originated. Surprisingly, this particular brand of engines is still in the market since the first models were rolled out in the 1930s. There are even groups keeping the memories of the British Seagull. More about this can be read here. 

The days of the ‘injin sigal’ in Kampong Aing are long gone. Now we have high powered, petrol guzzling outboard engines powered boats criss crossing the river. May be, as part of the effort in reducing our carbon footprint, we can reintroduce the ‘injin sigal’ to replace these high powered engines. At the very least, we will be transported back to the days when life was slower and more tranquil……

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Common sense….

I am on the last lap of my sojourn in this fast paced Red Dot. Time flies. It seemed only yesterday I sat down in the corner clueless, wondering what had I got myself into. Almost 12 months later, after all the up and down of so many challenges, one question keeps popping up in my mind and in my head. Not an easy question to answer. Not because it is a toughie. More because everything went so fast, it all seemed blurred.

What is the most valuable learning from my time here? I can think of a few. One I have written about earlier, the self-deception. Looking back, the most valuable is something we take for granted in our everyday life. We have been doing it since we became responsible adult, ‘akil baligh’. It’s about how we deal with problems. In facing a problem, the first thing we do is find the reasons for the problems. Then we look for ways to solve the problems. In deciding which solution to choose, we consider the available solutions from many angles. We weigh all the possibilities before coming to a conclusion on the best solution. Common sense isn’t it?

Surprise, surprise, policy analysis which the mere description scares many people is similar. Identify and define the problem. Determine the root causes. Design alternatives to mitigate the problem. Select criteria to assess the alternatives. Project the outcomes of each alternative under all the criteria. Then decide. Sounds familiar? Common sense isn’t it?

If it is common sense and we are so used to doing it, how come in many organisations policy analysis is taken lightly? May be its time for us to be our true self in our work.  Do the normal things we do in facing problems. May be, just may be, we can find better solutions in our policies.

All it takes is common sense…..

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Self Deception…..

A few years ago I was introduced to a book which I never bothered to read. Once I got the book in the mail, to the book shelves it went. Untouched, unread for years. A few months ago,  in a leadership group, the facilitator introduced the same book. Being a forgetful person, I did not even remember I had the same book lying on the boook shelves back home. I went out to buy the same book albeit it’s the new expanded edition. Guess what happened? This book suffered the same fate as the earlier edition. To the shelves it went. Well, this time it was a bit better. A couple of chapters were read. May be I was being influenced by the title ‘Self Deception – Getting out of the Box’ which I took literally to mean get it out of the box and to the shelves and equates it to act of reading the whole book.

A month or so ago, I was fortunate enough to sit in a talk on the same book. All I can say, it was one of the most rivetting talk I had the fortune to sit through.  If my memory serves me right, the trademark ‘yawn every five minutes’ was absent in the talk.

So what is this book all about? To quote the publisher’s website on this, the book is all about:

You often intuitively know what a right action toward another person is.
It's 4 am, my kid is crying...I'll go care for her.

An act contrary to what you feel you should do for another is called an act of "self-betrayal."
I'm tired - let Jill do it.

When you betray yourself, you begin to see the world in a way that justifies your self-betrayal.
I do everything I should do ... work hard, help in the house ... I'm a good husband.

When you see a self-justifying world, your view of reality becomes distorted - you begin to deceive yourself.
Jill is so lazy... insensitive... slacking off...

We call this "entering the box."

Over time, certain boxes become characteristic of you, and you carry them with you.
I'm fine ... all our problems are Jill's fault because she's lazy, insensitive...

By being in the box, you provoke others to be in the box.
(Jill's thoughts about you): He's so cold and dismissive...always blaming me ... what a jerk...

In the box, we invite mutual mistreatment and obtain mutual justification. We collude in giving each other reasons to stay in the box.

It’s all about ‘being in the box’ and the negative impact it brings. How do we get out of the box? Read the book, I guessed, it’s the best way to learn on how to get out of the box. For now, the following steps will be a good start:

  1. Don’t try to be perfect.  Do try to be better.
  2. Don’t use the vocabulary – “the box” and so on – with people who don’t already know it.  Do use the principles in your own life.
  3. Don’t look for others’ boxes.  Do look for your own.
  4. Don’t accuse others of being in the box.  Do try to stay out of the box yourself.
  5. Don’t give up on yourself when you discover you’ve been in the box.  Do keep trying.
  6. Don’t deny you’ve been in the box when you have been.  Do apologize, then just keep marching forward, trying to be more helpful to others in the future.
  7. Don’t focus on what others are doing wrong.  Do focus on what you can do right to help.
  8. Don’t worry whether others are helping you.  Do worry whether you are helping others.

Good luck and stay out of the box……

Nowadays, asking myself the question ‘Am I in the box?’ is a ritual ……..

Monday, June 06, 2011


Without realising it, this blog got its 10,000 hits sometime ago. A major milestone considering periods on ‘inactivity’ in the last few months.. It took a long time to reach. Over three years, if my memory serves me right. This blog went from a totally anonymous one to a semi anonymous. May be it will be a ‘not anonymous’ blog sometime in the future. Being anonymous had its advantages. You can say whatever you like. But then again, people can say you are being irresponsible, not transparent and not accountable, the hallmarks of good governance. It can be like what the Malay ‘peribahasa’ says ‘lontar bantu sembunyi tangan’. 

You can only remain anonymous to certain extend. From time to time, someone will figure out that the person  behind this blog is you, especially if the can add two and two together in the various entries.

A lot of things had happened since the beginning of this blog. Ideas came, ideas went and ideas dried up. It is not easy to get ideas what to write. I have full respect to the bloggers who managed to update their blogs everyday consistently.

Coming back to the ‘a lot of things had happened’ part, Brunei now can play football LEGALLY. Thanks to relentless and dedicated effort of those people who loved the sport, we are now back in the football family. We can now occupy and make full use of the ‘Goal Project’ building across the ICC. Looking beyond the surface of all the happenings in getting our beloved country back in the footballing world, Brunei is indeed a truly blessed country. Blessed in the sense we have perfect timing and able to ride the ‘political environment’ of FIFA. FIFA is at an all time low and it needs all the support it can get. One of the best way to get support is to be seen as ‘fair’ and ‘caring’. Giving the nod for Brunei to be back in the football family is such act. Well, this is just my postulation….

Nevertheless, job well done to the Normalisation Committee. Let’s play ball…….

Now Brunei can look forward to be co-host of the 2030 world cup if ASEAN wins the bid. Quite how 10 host countries takes 10 slots and participate in the world cup is another matter altogether….

Friday, April 08, 2011


Recently I was asked, as part of a class exercise, to use metaphor to describe the school in terms animals, type of food, season of the year and place. For each of these choices, I have to give a reason.
Animal? The lion came to mind immediately. Aggressive and daring. Turtle came a close second. Slow, cumbersome yet enduring and lovable.

Food? The spud sprang to mind. Reminded me of those spud eateries sprouting in Manchester. Spud aka potato is bland and tasteless. It needs to be spiced up before it became tasty. If you asked most students, most prefer not to go to school. They need all the push and incentives to make the school attractive.

Season? Winter is my season of choice. It’s dull yet hold the promise of breathtaking things especially when it snows.

Place? Bedroom stood out. Why bedroom? If a student goes to school, he or she can either dozes off bored stiff or be stirred up by the knowledge. Bedrooms have the same effect. A place to sleep as well as its where all the exciting, stimulating, thrilling, rousing stuff you can imagine.

In short, it’s our own choice to make it ‘bland’ or ‘spicy’. With the right ingredients, school can be very spicy indeed!

Aji No Moto (not related to Hello Moto of Motorola), aka Monosodium Glutamate can make food very tasty. Its been called the sixth taste. Despite this ability, overall, it had been linked to harmful effect. Keep your food MSG FREE….

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Happy New Year….

It’s the time of the year again. The time to look back and the time to look forward. New resolutions, lesson learned, assesment of achievements and plans for the future. All of us know the drill.

It’s also time for SALE and spend spend spend. Floods of money for most people especially the Government Servants who got their bonuses. To those unfortunate ones without bonuses we say hard luck and have a lot of strength. Seeing every other person waving their bonuses and spending it on their dream items is not easy. To those with the bonuses, remember the ‘hutangs’ or the money you may owe others. Pay up first before you spend.

To me, accidentally, two years in a row I ended up with a Mac product on the New Year’s Day. With some luck, it may turn out to be a hattrick next year. May be it will be an annual ritual. I know of some people who have the annual tradition of buying ‘luxury’ items. Definition of luxury items varies form person to person.

Why Mac? Why not other stuff? I was in the hardcore ‘against using Mac’ category only a year or so ago. Especially after the bad experience of owning a Mac Book a few years back. Even having a boss who is a hardcore Mac user did not have any impact.

Then the iPhone came into being. After many months of pondering, decided to jump into it despite clueless on how a Mac product works. To my surprise, it was ‘peanuts’ to use. Easy peasy. Super user friendly after getting through the first hurdle of syncing, apping, ituning etc. Top that with myriads of apps, some very useful, some utterly nonesene. In short, to me, the iPhone is a ‘game changer’; a life changer in fact. From that moment, swiping is part of my life. Everything on the iPhone involves swiping. All part of life is affected. From the mundane calendar and address book to prayer time and calorie counting.

Macbook is the obvious next step. For someone who has been using Windows, there was hesitancy in the migration to the Mac. Again, to my surprise, it was straightforward and uncomplicated. So here I am, a total Mac Convert. In my experience of using windows after converting to Mac, it was easy to convert to Mac but very difficult to revert back. Why? It’s not easy to describe and explain why. To use an analogy, it’s like trying to revert back to mental calculation after experiencing the use of calculators.
Happy New Year everyone… May this New Year bring happiness, good health, success and prosperity.  And off course new Mac products……

This posting is not sponsored by Apple or any other Mac related companies.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

That's Cricket.....

Cricket is a strange word to many people in the world. Kids may know cricket as  Jimmy the Cricket who accompanies Pinocchio, famously known for his growing nose, in his adventures.  Cricket the game is even stranger to many. Despite being the second most watched sports in the world after football / soccer, a lot of people don’t understand the game. Not many countries play the game at the highest level. The highest level being a Test Playing Nation. South Africa, India, Pakistan, England, New Zealand, Australia and the West Indies. Just in case you are particular with your geography, The West Indies is not one country, but a multinational team representing 15 English speaking Caribbean Countries.

I will not do cricket justice if I try to describe what cricket is. Event though I am a fan, especially when it involves England, I understands less than 50% of it! If you interested to know about cricket apart from most of the time it is being played ‘gentlemanly’ by 22 men or women in all whites with reddish streaks on the front part of their pants at the strategic areas appearing as the day goes by, you can read more about it in the forever reliable (not 100% trusted) Wikipedia. On the team attires, nowadays you get teams in multicoloured ‘pyjamas’ in almost all forms of cricket bar the Test.

Pondering on a recent remarked from  a friend was surprised to know I am a cricket fan, how did I become one? To support England is normal for most Bruneians. That’s not strange. Most of us support England in football. May be its because of our history closely linked to the United Kingdom. Bear in mind the administrative power of the UK is England. Nowadays slowly the powers are being devolved. That’s a story for another day when, if ever, I start writing about politics. Back to cricket. My love for cricket grew from my first summer in England, Ulu England to be precise, years ago. With the smell of fresh summer intertwined with the smell of ‘cow dung’ in the air, there I was watching my first game. Cricket is a game for the summer time. I can’t recall who was playing apart from one of the teams was my school’s team. But the sight of the summer day is still vivid in my mind.

From that day, my ‘love’ or rather fondness for cricket grew. Supporting the England team. Watching the live telecast on TV. Listening to the radio with headphones in the middle of the night when England is playing down under. Bear in mind those days, internet was still at infancy and only used by the military. So TV and radio was the source. Fans of cricket know the biggest rivalry in cricket is between England aka the Poms and Australia aka the Aussies (rather obvious). The rivalry is at the most when they are battling for the Ashes. If you are interested enough, you can read about the Ashes here.

From the time I started watching cricket up to as recent as 4 or 5 years back, the Aussies always thrashed the Poms. Only in the recent years the Poms got the upper hand. Right now, they are in the middle of the battle. Very intense, highly captivating. Glued me to the internet where I got a ‘free’ (illegal?) live streaming of the games. Or to my able phone for regular updates when I am on the move.

What intrigued me is how cricket, the supposedly gentlemanly game has adopted to the use of technology in disputed or bad umpiring calls. Well, the word gentleman conjured up the perception of resistance to change albeit in a polite way. Compared to football or soccer (as known in the USA), cricket has embraced new technology with open arms. Football on the other hand still resisting technology despite some admitting wrong decisions can affect the lives of many people. The famous Liverpool manager, Bill Shankly said football is more important than life and death. So why leave it solely to humans, who are prone to making mistakes? After all, football results had been known to caused deaths to the supporters.

In cricket, new technologies are embraced. Apart from the two umpires, they utiilise a third umpire who has access to myriads of technology. Hot Spot, Hawkeye (similar to the one use in tennis) and snick-o-meter are some of these. Google them up for details. Instead of slowing down the game, it made it more interesting especially for the spectators. Added suspense when a player or a team referred the decision to a the third umpire. Spicing up the excitement for us. May be football can learn from this and we will never again had the ‘did it cross the line or not’ aka the Russian linesman incidents.

Talking about technology, here is a funny yet inspiring story from the Daily Telegraph…

“….Sydneysiders finding it hard to be enthused by the fifth Test should draw inspiration from the great lengths Twitter cult hero @theashes is taking to get to the match. Not even a giant blizzard sweeping along the US east coast can prevent Theashes, a Massachusetts woman unwittingly bombarded by messages from cricket fans tweeting about the Ashes during the first Test, from seeing a match first hand. About 2900 flights have been grounded after snow blanketed cities from Philadelphia to Boston. The freeze saw the cancellation of buses and trains heading to New York, leaving Theashes stranded at home. ''Unless @qantas-airways can get me a flight tmrw, not coming,'' she tweeted in the early hours of yesterday morning. ''I hope I can work something out with @QantasAirways in the morning so I can still go.'' Fortunately for her, Australia's national carrier came to the fore yesterday. ''The trip is on! @QantasAirways got me a flight for tomorrow. I'll be in Sydney to @SeeAustralia on Thursday the 30th - in time for New Years……'

Moral of the story? Technology is a great tool but it is only a tool and not 100% foolproof. It can still deliver the wrong message to the wrong person, fortunately this time with a happy ending….

At the time of writing of this entry, England is well on the way of thrashing the Aussies in their own backyard and retaining the Ashes. Wonderful feeling with a tinge of regret. I would have been there, should have been there witnessing and be part of history. If only I had chosen to spent my sabbatical not here…..