Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The essence of change

I was at an Armani Exchange store at the Pavilion a couple of weeks ago. Picked up some shirts and some jeans. Nice stuff all in all. But as I headed for the counter I asked for a shirt that a sales assistant had run off to get. The sales staff I spoke to then calls out across the room a name followed by ‘Hak Chai Wan Lei’… For those who are familiar with Cantonese, loosely translated it means the black guy is calling. I was taken aback and asked the store clerk to repeat what he had just said. He looked at me startled then muttered that he had told his colleague that the customer was looking for him. Haht as opposed to Hak….We’re dealing with phonetic translations here but the semantics are clear.

I am familiar with Cantonese and know what I heard. I am however prepared to give the clerk the benefit of the doubt. But, two things struck me. One, why do we regress to our ethnic tongues in public places in front of other people who are a part of that conversation? It is uncouth, boorish and downright uncivil. A call out in Bahasa Malaysia or even in English would have been more appropriate. The other thing I noted that day? That the entire store was manned only by ethnic Chinese. I could have walked into a store in Hong Kong or even mainland China for all the difference it made to the personnel I noted there.

The more we cry out for change, the deeper we need to look into the mirror. Our daily language is littered with ethnic derogatory terms (each of us Malaysians have terms for the ‘others’; as I said look in the mirror). This should stop. We see Malaysians congregating and employed (as witnessed at the AX store) predominantly along racial lines. In meetings we regress to our ethnic tongues whilst fully aware ‘others’ can’t understand us, in fact such regression oft times being with deliberate intent.

Yet we cry out at rallies (Bersih being the most recent) for equality. To be treated with respect and equanimity. But are not prepared to give the same… So the more we cry out for change, the more we personally resist it. Or perhaps it’s not really change we want…..

Because if it is, then we should be taking a long hard look at that mirror and judging ourselves first by the standards we expect of others…..That is where it has to begin...That would be the essence of change…

Friday, August 5, 2011

1 Dystopia

It is indeed interesting to note that we live in a nation not unlike Nazi Germany and the former Soviet Union. When all it takes is a phone call, an unverified complaint for the authorities to barge into your premises, invade your privacy, go through your personal belongings and generally subject you and your own to humiliation and degradation.

Have a think about that. For there are no lines here. It could happen to anyone. You have a disgruntled neighbor? Well all he has to do is pick up the phone and say there’s an unmarried muslim couple in your home and before he can put the phone down there’s a bunch of people at your door demanding entry and forcing themselves in if you refuse. While that neighbor watches smugly by.

All it takes is for some obnoxious teen whom you told off to call the authorities and report an illegal gathering either of people or beliefs and next thing you know there are police (either moral or legal; probably both) to kick your door in and arrest you.

We live in such conditions here in Malaysia, and it is appalling. The latest case of the joint raid by Jais and the Police is merely further evidence. That entire raid arose from, and this is as reported, an unverified complaint, a phone call. It is not a new reality for those who know. The rest of us just don’t give it much thought, couldn’t be bothered or are just unaware. Until of course it happens to them, when they are the next victims. Our civil liberties in terms of our privacy, whom we asscociate with, how and where we gather is virtually non-existent.

The parallels drawn with Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union were to highlight one major observation of those times. Aside from the semantics, the police state etc, the bulk of the people living in those dystopian, authoritarian regimes all shared one common emotion. Fear. Fear not of the authorities ( a given with the absolute authority of the state). Nay, added to that fear was fear of their neighbours. Fear that all it took to plunge their lives into misery was an unverified complaint, a phone call, to have the machinery of state breaking your doors down, invading your private property, going over your life with a fine tooth comb and possibly arresting you for various ‘offences’. And we have that here in Malaysia. Have a think about that ….….

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

HID lights

I don't know if anyone has been following the storm that's been brewing over HID lamps in recent days. I have been following the storm with interest because it primarily revolves around ignorance ( a pet peeve of mine) and a concern that with ignorance prejudice and bigotry will prevail. And a potential back lash...

This storm started with a piece in The Star on HID lights as retro fitted to cars in Malaysia. As one of many drivers who have been blinded I did agree with that article that something had to be done. But that does not involve banning the HID light.

Let me clarify. Firstly HID lights are in the colour temperature range of sunlight, where the eye works best at. We are equipped to see more and in better detail with greater clarity in sunlight or sunlight like conditions then under yellow light. Yellow light is around primarily through the limitations of technology. When Thomas Edison first invented the incandescent lamp, he had a filament (made of of carbon. The lamp since has seen virtually no change in it's physical structure until the advent of gas discharge lighting (which has NO filament).

Halogen lamps are an 'improved' version of the incandescent lamp in that they still have a filament but the lamp itself is filled with a 'Halogen' gas. This gas results in lamp that runs slightly brighter but still relatively inefficiently. Please see here for tech details Halogen_lamp.

HID lamps like all gas discharge lamps have no filament. In effect an electric arc is generated which ionises the gas within the lamp producing the light. Without getting too technical, in summary gas discharge lamps are far more efficient. How much more efficient? A typical Halogen lamp is rated at 55-60 watts. A HID lamp is typically just 35 watts. It produces as MUCH as or maybe just slightly more light then the halogen lamp for less power. This will directly translate into better fuel consumption, longer lasting alternator and batteries as the entire electrical system of a car is less heavily loaded ( a car's lighting system is it's heaviest electrical load).

So whither the problem? In a nutshell, headlight beam patterns. In countries like the UK there is a mandatory MOT test that cars have to undertake annually. One of the tests they do is a beam pattern test to determine if the light throw is acceptable and NOT hazardous to other road users. You see headlights have carefully designed housings, reflectors and lenses to ensure a beam pattern that throws itself on the road and NOT blind other road users on LOW or DIPPED beams. High beams do not have this control. The designs are so specific that the lamps are actually designed for either left or right hand drive roads/cars (please look here for travel advice under headlights Travel Advice

Any badly adjusted headlight (after an accident) for instance will blind an oncoming driver. The problem with HID kits that are retrofitted is this. THERE IS A DEVICE, IT'S JUST A SHROUD, IN FRONT OF THE BULB/LAMP THAT CONTROLS THE BEAM PATTERN OF THE LAMP ON THE LOW/DIPPED BEAM. The car accessory/mechanics shops here REMOVE THAT SHROUD. Why? Because a lot of drivers who have parted with their cash for these HID kits come back and complain that the lights aren't bright enough. So the shop boys in their infinite wisdom look at this innocuous looking shroud in front of the lamp and think hey it's blocking the bulb so if I remove it..... Then you have the problem as the lights then in effect operate on HIGH beams.

HID lights are good, they are better technology, are 'greener' as they are more efficient and will cause a reduction in accidents as they afford drivers better visibility. They just have to be installed properly and monitored. One solution, have the shops issue a certificate stating that a beam pattern test was undertaken (it's a simple enough procedure http://www.carinsurance.com/Articles/content169.aspx). The drivers carry the cert with them. If a check reveals an improperly installed system, fine the driver and the shop. RM10,000.00 sounds like a nice round deterrent figure :) to keep the shops in line and make them accountable.