More curry, in a bread bowl

I’m still thinking of the curry Bert made which I enjoyed so much. This reminds me of the curry-in-a-bread-bowl available at Season Cafe, which has several outlets all over Johor Bahru.

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The photos of this chicken curry that had been happily devoured were taken at their Plaza Pelangi outlet. Curry goes so well not just with rice but with bread. Any bread, whether Indian bread like naan, chapati, parata, etc, or really any other bread. So, really, it’s the perfect dish to be served in a bread bowl. Usually it’s just the mushroom chowder soup of some sort that we see in a bread bowl, which happens to be available at Season Cafe as well.

It’s such an exquisite dish. So cute to look at, and so tasty. It’s simple but immense joy to have these two things together: thick delicious curry and white bread, in this case French-loaf style in taste. Comfort food at its most satisfying. My mouth is watering as I type this. I have to stop thinking about it and wait patiently till I next find myself at Season Cafe, which should be in the next few days. Looking forward to it.

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Day 36

happy meter: nostalgic

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Tan Hak Heng in Jawi

This brought a smile to my face when I saw it, walking along a road in Johor Bahru. A Chinese name written in Jawi script as well.

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What is Jawi? Wikipedia explains it:

Jawi (Jawi: جاوي‎ Jāwī; Pattani: Yawi; Acehnese: Jawoë) is an Arabic alphabet for writing the Malay language, Acehnese, Banjarese, Minangkabau, and several other languages in Southeast Asia.

Jawi is one of the two official scripts in Brunei, and is used as an alternate script in Malaysia. Usage wise, it was the standard script for the Malay language but has since been replaced by a Latin alphabet called Rumi, and Jawi has since been relegated to a script used for religious and cultural purposes. Day-to-day usage of Jawi is maintained in more conservative Malay-populated areas such as Kelantan in (northern) Malaysia and Pattani (in southern Thailand).

It interests me because I am learning Arabic, in weekly lessons, and as I learn every new word in the regular Roman script, I find myself looking for the word as spelt in the actual Arabic script. It’s not listed in the course I’m using, so I have to look for it online. And it has slowed down my learning quite a lot ever since I started doing this, because I’m basically learning to spell with a different script than the Roman letters I’m used to. The effort is worth it, though. It helps with making sure I get the correct pronunciation, I find.

And sometimes as I do that, I think of how wonderful it would be if the Malay language still solely uses Jawi, because I think it’s largely a lost art in many parts of the Malay-speaking world. In terms of everyday usage by the Malays, I mean. We already learned the Roman script in school to read and write English, so it would be nice to have ‘our own’ script for our Malay language, just like the Chinese has for their Mandarin language, and the Indians for their Tamil language, here in Singapore.

I regret not taking an interest to learn it from my late father, who was not only well-versed in writing Malay in Jawi script, but was skillful in Arabic calligraphy, so he wrote beautifully. He was very artistic. Whereas here I am, my writing so comically awful, as I practise writing in Arabic alphabets as I spell out the words I learn. I hope it will improve over time.

Looking at the name ‘Tan Hak Heng‘ in Jawi in the photos made me smile and laugh to myself because it reminded me of when I first tried to write my own name months ago. I was embarrassed to discover I got it so wrong, haha! Fortunately for us Malays in Singapore, our name in Jawi script is actually provided in our national Identity Card (which is pretty cool, actually), so I know the correct spelling.

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Day 35

happy meter: pleasantly surprised

A different kind of Satay

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I’m not vegetarian but I enjoy vegetarian options. In fact I think if I were to track what I eat on a daily basis, I’d probably find I don’t eat meat all that much. And I think it would be the same for most people, that they would find they don’t eat as much as they think they do.

I was digging through my freezer and found this. It turned out surprisingly tasty. Not bad at all, considering it’s one of those ‘mock meat‘ stuff. Some people go all ‘eww‘ when they hear that, soy protein etc, but we tend to gobble up stuff like hamburgers and chicken nuggets without a second thought, and actually that’s far more gross if you know and are bothered by how they’re made. For example, check out how ‘regular’ food like burgers, hot dogs and chicken nuggets are made in this YouTube video (about 2 minutes long) and this one (about 3 minutes). Or not, if you like to eat them and you want to continue liking to eat them, haha.

I had bought the vegetarian satay from Jusco supermarket in Johor Bahru. I hope the vegetarian corner of their frozen food section will make a comeback soon. It seems to be missing in action lately. I will definitely get us another pack or two of this if they are available again.

Satay are sticks of skewered and grilled meat, a dish originating from Indonesia, and also popular in Singapore, Malaysia and some other countries. In Singapore it is normally served with peanut sauce, cucumber and onion.

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Into the oven for just 10 to 15 minutes

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I just noticed this: “This product may contain traces of nuts, dairies, crustaceans, seeds and molluscs.” So it’s not 100% vegetarian, then, because of the crustaceans and molluscs? Then I realised there’s no ‘vegetarian‘ word on the packaging and therefore it never claimed to be vegetarian. On the other hand, it features the ‘Vegetarian Society Approved’ logo on the front part of the packaging. A quick check online turns out that this Society is from the U.K. and is the oldest vegetarian society in the world. And this product is indeed listed on their site as an approved product.

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Yummy with Thai chili sauce

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Day 28 of ‘100 Happy Days‘.

Happy meter: content

Magnums to drool over

I was shopping at Jusco supermarket in Johor Bahru and came across my favourite ice-cream on a stick, Magnum. I love Magnum. It’s so creamy and rich, truly delicious.

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In J.B. it’s so much cheaper than in Singapore. In the first picture above, I captured the special offer price of RM23.90 for TWO boxes of the mini ones. At a rounded off currency exchange of 2.5 to an SG dollar (actually as of writing now it’s more around 2.6) that’s only SG$9.56.

In Singapore, based on this flyer I found on singapore-promotions.com, a special offer price of those two boxes would be around SG$15. So that’s more than 50% more expensive! Of course bear in mind that different supermarkets in both Singapore and J.B. will feature different prices and at different times as well.

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Regular-sized Magnums come 3 in a box, at 90ml each.

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Whereas the Mini ones, are exactly half at 45ml. Perfect for those on a diet, or those who simply find it too rich and sinful. I tend to get these, as I find it satisfyingly big enough already.

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Naturally I have tried these two flavours as well and love them too.

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In unrelated news, well not really unrelated since I did drool and lust over him growing up, this is another Magnum I think of when I hear or see the name. Ooh yummy.

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Tom Selleck a.k.a. Magnum, P.I. Image from the Tumblr site ZestyBlog, via the Pinterest page Hollywoody. Click image to go to the latter.

A video of an episode found on YouTube thanks to user Michael Knight.

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This post is Day 15 of ‘100 Happy Days‘.

Happy meter: contented

Fake western accents

This video I came across on YouTube just cracked me up like crazy. A nicely done piece that I enjoyed, it’s made by the people behind The Ming Thing. The writing is clever and with good comedic timing, and the performance entertaining. To me these guys and girl from Malaysia should be on TV. I can’t wait to check out their other videos.

I don’t bat an eyelid at Asians I don’t know who happen to have western accents. For all I know, they were born and grew up in a western country, and thus their accent.

But the personal acquaintance or two who I met again after not seeing them for some time, who I suddenly realise now affected a western accent, well there’s a certain morbid fascination in that. You don’t really process quick enough whether it’s tragic or hilarious, so you can’t decide whether you need to hold back laughter, or refrain from staring at the person with your mouth open in genuine surprise, which would be just plain rude of course. In the end you just nod solemnly and look away, and maybe make excuses to get away.

Like indicated in the video, it’s never a foreign accent of another Asian country, because of course that’s eww, just another Asian country. It’s always western accents that these fools feel compelled to fake (American, English, Australian, etc). Sometimes, what adds to the hilarity is that the accents are mixed up, as if the person can’t decide whether he wants to pretend to be American or English, for example. More likely he’s just not aware he got them mixed up. Another source for helpless giggles, is when the command of the English language is really bad, but the western accent is still laboriously affected like his life depends on it.

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Related: Fake western accents. Part 2! (30 October 2013)

Reducing palm oil consumption

Since we were last hit with the haze in June, which I think was the worst ever in the many years of this annual (or near-annual?) problem, I’ve been meaning to look into palm oil, to see whether I should boycott it. It’s actually something that I’ve been vaguely wanting to eliminate from my life for some time.

Before the haze this year, it was mainly about wanting to cut down the amount of the unhealthy packaged processed food I eat, of which a huge amount is made with palm oil. The haze only served to greatly increase my dislike of the ingredient after I found out more and more about what it does to forests and wildlife, not to mention the communities who live in or near these forests. Laura from the blog Texas in Thames is also one of the people who have further sparked my interest, with her excellent post The Sky is Burning.

Well boycott sounds too dramatic a word, and besides it might not be totally possible as palm oil has really slicked itself deep into our lives; not just in food products but common toiletries as well. From greenpalm.org:

  • Palm oil can be found in a huge percentage of every day supermarket products. They can be found in one in two supermarket products, ranging from margarine, cereals, crisps, sweets and baked goods, to soaps, washing powders and cosmetics. Nevertheless you may never have heard of palm oil since it’s rarely listed as an ingredient on product labels, with the term ‘vegetable oil’ often being used instead. Palm oil can also be used in animal feedstuffs.

Well I already hate margarine and have avoided it for years. And as for potato chips (what we call crisps here), biscuits and sweets, I guess I’ll have to learn to make my own if I crave them that much. Can’t make my own washing powder though, haha.

So I can’t eliminate everything, but oh just a few things here and there. It’s really about reducing my consumption. Start with the things easy to quit and hopefully add more and more items over time. Baby steps. I don’t think I can suddenly quit products with palm oil totally cold turkey, like I how I quit smoking four years ago. I’ll have to approach it like I did other stuff I didn’t want to do out of sheer laziness and inconvenience, but forced myself to do anyway for a better me. Like exercise. I still just hate to exercise, but I have no choice but to continue working it into my life. I hate to exercise but I hated being fat even more.

And of course it doesn’t matter I’m just one person because I’m doing this for me, because it makes me happy. Hah.

But first, some interesting stuff I came across. (Unless otherwise indicated, all information are derived from the Wikipedia page on palm oil.)

What is Palm Oil? Uses and production

  • It is an edible vegetable oil and one of the few highly saturated vegetable fats.
  • Like all vegetable oils, palm oil does not contain cholesterol.
  • It is GMO-free (It is not derived from genetically modified organisms.)
  • It is a common cooking ingredient in the tropical belt of Africa, Southeast Asia and parts of Brazil. Its use in the commercial food industry in other parts of the world is buoyed by its lower cost and by the high oxidative stability (saturation) of the refined product when used for frying.
  • It can be used to produce biodiesel. It is often blended with other fuels to create palm oil biodiesel blends. The world’s largest palm oil biodiesel plant is the Finnish operated Neste Oil biodiesel plant right here in Singapore, which opened in 2011.
  • As of 2009, Indonesia was the largest producer of palm oil, surpassing Malaysia in 2006, producing more than 20.9 million tonnes.
  • As of 2011, Nigeria was the third-largest producer, with more than 2.5 million hectares under cultivation. Until 1934, Nigeria had been the world’s largest producer.
  • Colombia has now become the largest palm oil producer in the Americas, and 35% of its product is exported as biofuel. In 2006, an expansion is being funded, in part, by the United States Agency for International Development.

From the website Say No to Unsustainable Palm Oil:

In many countries, there is no law on the mandatory labelling of palm oil. Consequently, companies will usually hide palm oil under the name of ‘vegetable oil’, or over 170 other names! (See their list of the most common 30 names).

One argument is that we need palm oil in today’s society, and that palm oil is a key ingredient in many foods and body products. But what about 30 years ago? Back then, palm oil wasn’t used in nearly as many products as today (as seen in the graphs found at the bottom of their ‘Images‘ page), in fact, it was almost non-existant in much of the Western-world. So why does there need to be such a high demand for it in the modern world? We don’t need palm oil. There are many alternatives to palm oil, but unfortunately none as cheap and efficient, which is why companies are reluctant to switch.

Positive impact of Palm Oil

  • The palm oil industry has had both positive and negative impacts on workers, indigenous peoples and residents of palm oil-producing communities. Palm oil production provides employment opportunities, and has been shown to improve infrastructure, social services and reduce poverty.
  • Some social initiatives use palm oil cultivation as part of poverty alleviation strategies. Examples include the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation’s hybrid oil palm project in Western Kenya, which improves incomes and diets of local populations, and Malaysia’s Federal Land Development Authority and Federal Land Consolidation and Rehabilitation Authority, which both support rural development.

Negative impact of Palm Oil

  • In some cases, palm oil plantations have developed lands without consultation or compensation of the indigenous people occupying the land, resulting in social conflict.
  • Palm oil cultivation has been criticized for impacts on the natural environment including deforestation, loss of natural habitats, which has threatened critically endangered species such as the orangutan and Sumatran tiger.
  • Many palm oil plantations are built on top of existing peat bogs, and clearing the land for palm oil cultivation may contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Many processed foods contain palm oil as an ingredient. The USDA agricultural research service states that palm oil is not a healthy substitute for trans fats. Much of the palm oil that is consumed as food is to some degree oxidized rather than in the fresh state, and this oxidation appears to be responsible for the health risk associated with consuming palm oil.

And then there’s of course that sickening haze thing, as illustrated in the following images.

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Above: photos of the same location in Singapore in June 2013, from Wikipedia, by user ‘Wolcott’. Left: what a normal day looks like after the haze on 24th June. Right: Three days earlier. Click images to go to source.

How is the haze linked to Palm Oil?

The haze that we along with several other countries in the Southeast Asian region experienced, was caused by fires possibly set to clear patches of land for palm oil plantations. From Wikipedia’s page on the 2013 Southeast Asian haze:

  • NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites captured images of smoke from illegal wildfires on the Indonesian island of Sumatra blowing east toward southern Malaysia and Singapore, causing thick clouds of haze in the region.
  • Many of the hotspots are owned by palm oil companies or smallholder farmers who supply palm oil to these companies and use traditional slash-and-burn methods to clear their land for the next planting season.
  • Based on satellite detection of hotspots, the province of Riau in Sumatra has been found to contain over 88% of the hotspots that caused the worst haze over Singapore and Peninsular Malaysia since 1997. From 1 June to 24 June, NASA satellites have detected a total of more than 9,000 hotspots in Sumatra, and more than 8,000 of them were located in Riau.

A BBC article explains ‘slash-and-burn’:

  • This is where farmers cut down part of the vegetation on a patch of land and then set fire to the remainder. When started on peats, the fire is extremely difficult to control or stop. These fires produce a thick smog and release a huge volume of greenhouse gases.
  • Some farmers are clearing the forest to plant crops. But the big concern is that many of these fires may have been started to burn rain forest so big corporations can plant oil palm plantations.
  • Indonesia has named several firms, including Singapore and Malaysia-based palm oil companies, which it says may bear some responsibility for the fires. Many of those companies have denied any involvement and have accused the local farmers of starting the fires to clear the land.

What are some of the action taken?

  • In 1992, in response to concerns about deforestation, the Malaysian Government has pledged to limit the expansion of palm oil plantations by retaining a minimum of half the nation’s land as forest cover.
  • In 2004, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was formed to work with the palm oil industry.

Related links

Some articles and sites, both ‘for’ or ‘against’ Palm Oil.

Yuna

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Born on 14 November 1986, the singer and songwriter Yunalis Mat Zara’ai is more popularly known simply as Yuna. Photo by Irwandy Mazwir, and sourced from Wikipedia. Click to go to source.

Just read in Yahoo! News Singapore that Malaysian singer and songwriter Yuna sings the theme song for “The Croods”, the new animation from Dreamworks. The song called “Shine Your Way” is a duet with Adam Young, the American singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist behind the musical project called Owl City.

So happy for Yuna that she continues to go from strength to strength. She has been massively popular in the Malay music world for some years now, and deservedly so. She also writes and sings English songs, hauntingly beautiful ones, and so I’m glad for her that she continues to do well in the international scene as all. It’s even more remarkable when you consider that she does not write and sing mainstream pop. Shine Your Way is a huge departure from her ‘usual’ sound, which at times reminds me of giants like Sade and Tori Amos.

Yuna started out as a solo MySpace artist in 2006, singing in both English and Malay. She graduated with a law degree in 2009.

According to her Wiki page:

Yuna recently signed with Verve Music Group. Multiple Grammy-winning producer David Foster, who heads the creative operations of Verve, tweeted: “I’m really excited about the next hot artist to join Verve Music. Stay tuned and keep an eye out for Yuna in 2013“.

I love her voice. I’m not articulate so just the cliché ‘hauntingly beautiful’ keeps popping into my head when I think of her voice and style. Take her rendition of Nirvana’s rock classic “Come As You Are” in the video below. A live performance in the U.S. (Portland, Oregon) in 2011. Breathtaking.

One of my faves is still Someone Out Of Town

A more recent offering is Live Your Life. This link is for a video of a performance on Conan O’Brien’s talk show last year.

Happy Deepavali 2012

Deepavali, or Diwali, is one of the most important festivals for Hindus. It is also popularly known as the ‘festival of lights’.

A Deepavali light-up at Little India on Serangoon Road, Singapore. Photo by ‘Sengkang’, taken from Wikipedia. Click image to go to source.

Learn more about Deepavali in Singapore here at YourSingapore.com and here at Deepavali.net.

The video below is about an exhibition on the rich Indian cultural heritage, ongoing in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Seen via Krisaru.com.

‘Parents Handling LGBT Issues’ seminars in Malaysia

I’ve never particularly favoured V-necks over round-necks, and bags that look like man-purses can all be collected and burned in a bonfire while we all skip and dance around it for all I care. I’ve always found such bags girly LOL. But whoa, no more huggy and nipple-friendly T-shirts for me? Oh, the indignity!

Guy in a v-neck t. LOL. Source: sodahead.com. Click to go to source

Oh well, I’m not supposed to be cavorting around with my nips all pointy-tointy and threatening to poke holes through the fabric of my top in the first place, anyway. I learnt some time ago that apparently it’s more proper for them to be flattened LOL; for a guy to have on an undershirt as well. (This was fun to read).

Anyway, last Saturday the 15th, I was both tickled and alarmed to read in Singapore’s Straits Times, an article from the Agence France-Presse (AFP) with the title: KL seminars on how parents can spot gay children. The article states that in Malaysia, two teachers’ groups have held seminars to advise parents on supposedly tell-tale signs of homosexuality among young teenagers. Deputy Education Minister Puad Zarkashi was quoted telling AFP that:

Definitely we support the seminars, because it’s good for parents to be exposed to LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) symptoms. At least preventive action can be taken.

I’m assuming that “we” referred to the Education Ministry, the government.

An online article about the story can be found here at news.asiaone.com. Excerpt:

To the fury and disbelief of rights activists, the Malaysian government has endorsed a list of identifiable gay and lesbian traits for schools and parents to prevent the spread of what it perceives as a phenomenon among teenagers, especially students, media reports said.

The list, which was published by the Chinese-language Sin Chew Daily on Thursday, categorises lesbians as people who are attracted to women, who like to eat, sleep and hang out in the company of other women, and who have no affection for men.

The term ‘witch hunt’ came to mind when I read the first paragraph. Well as for gay men, the list includes:

Gay men have muscular bodies and like to show off by wearing V-neck and sleeveless clothes

They prefer tight and light-coloured clothing

They like to carry big handbags similar to those used by women

If that’s not funny enough, click here to read Malaysia’s The Star Online writer Wong Chun Wai’s humourous take ‘Oh dear, it fits me to a V, uh, T’.

Actually, I personally don’t have an issue with parents groups or teachers groups having seminars about how to spot potentially gay children, and what preventive action may be taken. I also personally find the very idea ignorant and stupid. However, it’s about their children, their families. As sorry as I feel for gay kids who have parents putting them through years of trauma trying to ‘change’ what they were born as, ultimately it’s a personal family matter and it’s their business what they choose to do about it.

What I felt sad and disturbed about, was that it was said to be endorsed by the government. I mean, it should not be surprising to anyone if the Malaysian government does not officially support the gay community (just like Singapore). However, there’s no need for them to officially support what can be considered an anti-gay event, either. Because obviously, that would only serve to validate hatred and attacks against gay people, who are also part of any nation, including Malaysia. Who deserve protection by the state as much as anybody else.

Anyway, I thought all that while bearing in mind the report that there was endorsement from the government. It had been reported there was endorsement. So naturally I feel confused when just now I’ve read this article on Malaysia’s The Star Online dated Sunday the 16th, titled ‘Ministry denies any part in guidelines to spot LGBT tendencies‘. Exerpts:

The Education Ministry says it has nothing to do with the reported guidelines for parents and teachers to spot lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) tendencies of their children and students.

In its official Facebook page yesterday, the ministry denied that it had endorsed the parenting seminar in Penang which reportedly distributed the guidelines.

In a three-paragraph statement, the ministry said it had also not endorsed any party to publish LGBT guidelines for circulation in schools, adding that the seminar was organised by “concerned NGOs”.

And also:

The so-called guidelines have drawn a lot of brickbats on the social media and exposed Malaysia to international ridicule on prominent foreign news sites.

Deputy Education Minister Dr Mohd Puad Zarkashi reiterated that the ministry was not aware of such guidelines and the matter must be clarified by the seminar organisers.

He also denied the ministry had supported the guidelines that were distributed during the event.

Ooohhh… heads are gonna roll, I guess!

I mean, who the heck spread the word and sounded off to the Agence France-Presse and other news agencies that Malaysia’s Education Ministry supported whatever guidelines? What actually happened? Which is fact and which is fiction?

Simon Cowell in round-neck t-shirts. Just because. LOL. Source: wetpaint.com. Click photo to go to source.

Malaysia’s Zalora ad looks the same as Italy’s Zalando.

I’ve been coming across this advertisement from online retailer Zalora when watching Malaysian TV recently. Above is a video featuring the three languages it’s produced in.

They are almost exactly the same as one from an Italian online retailer called Zalando, an advertisement I kept seeing on Italian TV when I was there for a couple of months earlier this year. It made me laugh, but like the first three times. After that it started to get tiresome LOL. But it was entertaining at least initially, and obviously memorable, because I immediately recalled it when I saw the Malaysian version. Below is the Zalando one.

Since even the company names are similar, I’m wondering if Zalora and Zalando are from the same group? On Wiki, Zalando’s origin is stated as Germany. I noted at the beginning of the first video that the ad agency of the Malaysian version is also from Germany, so maybe they share the same ad agency, or they are connected in some other way. Zalora doesn’t seem to have a Wikipedia page for now.

It was interesting and unexpectedly fun to see a TV ad I had enjoyed months ago in Italy, in Italian, now in Malay and English! Hah.