Stupidity will kill you quicker than the doctors will

Facebook can reveal a lot about your friends.

Like the fact many of them are ardent believers in quackery.

Here’s a tip: when someone puts up a link from a site like, you know that person is someone you could possibly sell impossible cures or conspiracy theories to.

Case in point was when a friend mentioned someone having cancer. Then all the quack-believers came out, advocating for natural cures.

None of the natural cure champions had actually had cancer or known someone personally who had recovered merely from natural cures.

We do however have one famous case of a guy who tried to cure cancer with natural means, putting off potentially life-saving surgery. His name is Steve Jobs.

Who also happens to be dead now, just FYI.

The quacks of course insist it was the surgery that killed him when it is likely that if he hadn’t put off the surgery, he might have stuck around a little longer to keep wearing his trademark turtlenecks.

Incompetent and profit-crazy doctors do exist, yes. But the majority of them took the Hippocratic Oath with the genuine desire to save lives.

Take it from me, if you want solutions for your health talk to actual professionals. Don’t listen to that well-meaning friend who will try to convince you to switch to a raw food diet or take some miracle supplement.

Go to your friends for support and comfort through health trials. Just don’t go to them for health advice.


They have to be hungry

(This post is for Suanie, one of my favourite people ever, who told me to update my dying blog already)

A friend lost a colleague…who quit after just 3 days.

The job was ‘too hard’, said the now ex-colleague.

You would think the job entailed hard labour, depressing conditions and the like.

The thing is, the job wasn’t all that hard for what the person was getting. I know people with a similar job that get paid less than what he was making.

It was a desk job that required skills at organising and fostering community. No, it is not an easy job especially if you’re new at it.

But to quit after 3 days? Really?

I keep hearing stories like this. People not showing up for interviews. New hires walking out right after lunch.

I think they were probably just not ‘hungry’ enough.

Here’s the deal: if you’re not hungry enough for something, you don’t really want it.

And hunger is also something you can see. It is not the same as enthusiasm. Fake enthusiasm masks lack of hunger. Real hunger doesn’t necessarily show itself overtly and some people just like to play it cool, you know.

Sometimes you have to ask yourself, too. Are you hungry for this (your job/your relationship/your project)? Does it keep you up at night? Do you think about it often? Dream about it? Does it make you feel? Do your friends have to tell you to shut up about it?

If none of what I said rings true with you, then you’re just not hungry.

Though I do think some kids these days are spoiled by never having to learn what it meant to really be hungry.  As in ‘it’s World War II and we have to dig up the tapioca or we’ll starve’ hungry.

Too many fresh grads come into the working world expecting fat paycheques for very little work.

Sorry, kiddos. The world doesn’t work that way. Unless you’re in  banking or finance, entry-level salaries in most fields are a pittance. Expect the first few years of your working life to be about barely surviving on a pittance.

Suck it up. Life is hard, unfair and often a crapshoot. Nobody owes you a living; you have to make one with hard work.

And before you throw in the towel at the new job, give it at least a month. Ask for help. Be willing to meet the challenge.

But if your boss puts the moves on you or your job involves things you didn’t sign up for like forging signatures and covering up for cheating colleagues, say Hasta La Vista post-haste. Life is too short to waste it on assholes.


The little Fonepad that could

So I got myself a new phone. Meet the ASUS Fonepad, everybody. A 7-inch tablet that runs Android Jellybean, lets me make calls and costs less than RM900.

I won’t lie: the main reason I got it was because it is comparatively cheap for a smartphone. And there are many things I could live without but a phone that isn’t a smartphone? Heck, no.

Let me explain. I used to be a tech journo and reviewing shiny, expensive things was what I did for a living. Now I may not specialise in tech anymore but I still rely very much on the Internet and various gadgetry to get my work done.

For the full spec list, check out the official Asus webpage:

The good stuff

Did I already mention it’s cheap? If you buy it from this little shop called Directd, you can get it for RM699. The official retail price is RM850 – not at all a bad price, either.

It’s pretty light and has a purty IPS screen. Not gorilla glass unfortunately so it WILL scratch if you’re not careful.

The battery life is pretty good on this thing. If you only do light surfing, Whatsapping and texts, the phone can last a whole day. Otherwise, video, games, reading will still wear it out only after 5-6 hours. If you use the ultra-saving power mode, you could probably stretch it to 7 hours. Not bad, OK?

It comes with some Asus software preinstalled to manage files, backup apps and 5GB of cloud storage. My favourite bit is that it comes with the Kindle and Zinio apps preinstalled though I  found the former to be a bit sluggish compared to its iOS equivalent.

As I like to read in bed before I sleep, I find the screen brightness and clarity of the text of my ebooks to be pretty good. The lightness of the device makes it comfortable to hold and at 340g, not much heavier than a thick paperback novel.

The not-so-good stuff

Asus won’t let you register its warranty online unlike most of its other stuff. Which is a damn shame.

Also, if you get a faulty unit, you have to request a one-to-one replacement from where you got it. If they refuse, you have to march to the nearest Asus service centre, get a letter from them and then make the retailer give you a new unit.

Not that Asus service is bad at all – when my laptop had power issues within its first year of warranty, I got handed a new laptop charger and battery, no questions asked.

It also uses a single-core Intel Atom processor so it won’t handle graphics-intensive games like Galaxy on Fire. Certain apps will lag a little and the 8GB internal space feels rather restrictive, even with the microSD expansion card as you can’t move apps on the SD card as yet.

Also for the Android tinkerers – there aren’t any good ROMs for it yet and it does not support OTG. It is also not running the latest version of Android though it is on Jellybean.

Android apps are still rather mediocre compared to the selection in Apple’s app store but if your needs are simple, then you’ll be happy enough.

There aren’t a lot of cases or screen protectors for the device as yet and the official Asus Versa Sleeve for it is sold separately and NOT cheap at RM129.

So should you buy it?

If you’re the type who would use a tablet more than you would make calls, I’d say go for it. It’s one less thing to carry around and you won’t need to have two separate data plans for your tablet and phone.

Since I’m living in a country where being mugged is a very real fear, at least I have the comfort of knowing that if someone steals this it won’t burn a hole in my wallet to replace it.

The Samsung Tab 8.0 is another phablet to consider but at nearly RM1.7k, it costs double what I paid for the Fonepad. Ditto the Galaxy Note II.

If you just want a tablet, I tell people to get an iPad for the better app choice/variety. But as far as phablets/phone hybrids go, Android still wins where price is the most important concern.

Where I got it:

Directd (Look for a bigass Samsung signboard)

No 64, Jalan SS15/4B Subang Jaya,Selangor 47500.

Shop Location GPS Coordinates :N 03 04.582′ E 101 35.316′

Call 0356211355 or text 0196910000

open daily 10.30 am to 11.30 pm

So, you want to be a popular columnist

Here is my big confession: there really is a ‘trick’ to getting stuff you write to be liked/emailed/circulated.

In my case, I have a whole bag of tricks which I am glad to share with all you columnist wannabes.

(Disclaimer: Following this guide is not a guarantee that you too, like me, will be dubbed Malaysia’s liberal equivalent to Anne Coulter.)

1. Write to be read.
Oh, thanks, Captain Obvious, I can hear you say. But some people who have spent decades in journalism have yet to understand those four words.

It is not about showing off your expertise in quantum mechanics or abusing the thesaurus. Writing to be read means simply to write in a way that makes what you have to say accessible. Don’t make your readers struggle to understand your points.

2. The title does matter
A snappy headline sometimes makes all the difference between your column being the very first thing the reader latches onto or being passed over for that fascinating expose about KFC.

I know my columns will have to compete with all the other articles on the site so I make an effort to keep my headlines short and punchy. Give them a reason to click on your link.

3. Know your audience
A paper in academic journal and a column in a national news site are going to need different approaches. Your fellow academicians may understand what you mean by autarky and mercantilism but the average layperson won’t.

Learn when not to use jargon or at least make the effort to explain terms not commonly used by the man on the street.

In the case of TMI, I know most TMI readers check out the site at work or while commuting. So I keep my articles short so they can quickly skim through the article and determine if it is worth reading. If I bore them before they even get past the first paragraph, they will find something else to do. Like forward cat pictures to colleagues.

4. Write with conviction

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”

― John C. Maxwell

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

― Maya Angelou

Whatever stand you make in your column, stand by it. Make people believe you are invested in what you write. To get people to think, it is far easier to win them over by first getting them to feel.

You can win over more people with your heart than you can with your mind. Sincerity and authenticity go further on paper than authoritativeness and being pedantic. (Note: I know it’s not fair but that’s how the world works, bub)

It is not easy to acquire smarts but you can, with imagination, learn empathy. Intelligence or academic expertise takes years to improve, but empathy takes only imagination and a willingness to explore what it means to walk in another person’s shoes.

5. Be gracious
Make the effort to thank people for sharing your links. If you are active on social media, engage your audience, be open, engaging and understand that your column is a starting point to conversation. Let it be a beginning to dialogue, an invitation to debate.

Your column is not a tablet on Mount Sinai from which you proclaim, “I am right, you are wrong, listen to me!”

Sometimes all it takes for your column to ‘ignite’ is for one person of influence to link to it. But it is far more gratifying if you connect with so many people that they, in turn, help connect you to others.

You do not win the war just by creating shareable content. Understand that your readers, not your talent, make you.

6. And etc.
Some people (unlike me) write so well that people can’t help but want to share whatever they write. Everyone else (like me) need to put in the extra effort.

I know I am not the best writer. I am not very talented. I do not have much of a vocabulary. I have neither intellectual rigour, nor artful wordplay. But I do the very best I can with the very little I have. And that, my friends, is something anyone can do.

May the pen and the world be kind.

You don’t have to listen to me

The best thing about Twitter: interaction.

The worst thing about Twitter: interaction.

Because I am on Twitter, people think that it is perfectly OK to do the virtual equivalent of spitting in my face.

Like this one dude who was catty enough to Tweet the following:

“alamak ada org naik darah, give way pls, coz kalau dia marah, people gotta “listen”.

Of course I could make merry of the fact that he Tweets like a 15-year-old girl, but that would be too easy.

The thing is I don’t always ignore my haters. While I don’t bother reading the comments on my column (I like keeping my braincells, thanks), I do take note of the @replies I get. Because sometimes my detractors do have points and I respect their freedom to disagree with my sometimes controversial/annoying opinions.

Also, sometimes it makes great fodder for my weekly column.

The way my detractor goes about it, it’s as though I scream to an audience of bound captives, forcing them to listen to me.

And the thing about my anger is, the angrier I am, the more impassioned my writing. The more I feel, the more it comes out in my words.

If I care enough to be incredibly angry about something, then it is probably worth writing about. So maybe my secret superpower is that the angrier I get, the more articulate I am.


The thing is, I would like people to be decent human beings when they interact on Twitter. To be polite to people even when they disagree with them. To be angry about issues, to hate injustice and wrong instead of hating on people just because they can.

But that’s like wishing on a star, right?

So basically I’m saying, it’s cool to disagree with me. But it ain’t cool to be a dick, know what I’m saying?

Especially if you Tweet like a 15-year-old girl, bub. Unless of course, you are a 15-year-old girl. (Then Tweet all you like, sweetie! Someday you’ll grow up and learn to spell!)


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Things I learned by 35

Another birthday, another milestone. Some women get a little sad about reaching this age and not being married/having kids yet. And I confess I did get a little bit mopey about it…last month.

But the day’s arrived and funny enough, I just feel really calm.

Since it’s my birthday, here are some things I learned that might help some of you out, whatever age you may be.

1. Be yourself. In this world, people are looking for authenticity, people who are ‘real’. But at the same time, sometimes at work, you will need to put on a ‘persona’. Think of it as a suit of armour that you don for the battleship of work. Understand that this persona is not you but a means of coping with work. You may be a bit of a slob and fart joke enthusiast but that might not be what you want to show off at work.

Just remember to take the persona off and let people see the real you.

2. Learn how to make and keep friends. If you just can’t find people to hang out with, ask yourself: Are you doing enough as a friend? I confess to learning this the hard way. Woke up one morning and the only birthday message I got was from my dentist. Boo hoo. The simplest way of getting friends is being a friend. Really.

3. If you are always sick and having to take medical leave at work, your body is telling you quite plainly to quit. Either your job is too taxing on you physically or you are really, really unhappy. No job is worth the physical toll.

4. If you ever have to choose between keeping your health or your job, get rid of the job.

5. It’s not always about you. Remember the universe does not revolve around you and your misery. Sometimes if things are getting you down, maybe you just need to find something bigger than yourself. A cause. A project. A pet, even.

6. Life is too short for excuses. If you really want something, go all the way. Don’t just talk about things: make them happen. It is OK to clean the house every week instead of every day if it means you will have time to work on that novel/play/song/podcast.

Think about the legacy you will leave behind. Do you really want it to be “the chick who obsessively swept her floor everyday” rather than “the chick who wrote that really good book?”

7. If you’re suicidal and feel like there is no reason for you to go on living…find help. It’s as easy as going to HKL, going to the GP and telling them that’s how you feel. You’ll be referred to a psychiatrist…but the waiting list might be as long as 2 weeks. But until then, persevere. As a survivor of depression and someone who’s had many friends clinically depressed/suicidal, I know it can be hard. But when you can no longer help yourself, accept that you need help. It is there for you if you just reach out for it.

8. Everyone has their own cup of sorrow – big or small, it still brings them pain. So be kind, be compassionate and try to find the best in people. Though it is perfectly fine to ignore people being utter and total wankers.

9. Find something you’re good at. Find something you love doing. If they’re the same thing, then you’re lucky. If they’re not, use the first to support the other.

10. Sometimes, it is just nice to treat yourself to a solo meal at a place you really like. If you can’t enjoy your own company, why expect other people to? Being alone doesn’t mean being lonely. Treasure your solitude and your own companionship.

Yes, not exactly world-changing wisdom. But the best I can think of right now.

But if I had to sum them all up…Life is too short for regrets. Live so you will regret nothing. And love.



Please, try to understand us

Many of you Malaysians over in the Peninsula get quite offended when I quite bluntly tell you: “You don’t get it.” When it comes to Sabah, I mean.

Flag of the Malaysian state Sabah. Based on a ...
Sabah state flag (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The truth is, you don’t. I am not saying it as an insult so those offended people in the corner over there, have a cookie and don’t take it personally.

Now, let me educate you a little.

Some of you compare Sabahan anger over some PKR rep unilaterally bestowing the title ‘Huguan Siou’ on Anwar Ibrahim to the furore over using “Allah”.

They are not the same thing.

Declaring Anwar ‘Huguan Siou’ is the equivalent of naming a foreign worker Sultan of Johor.

Or giving Justin Bieber a British knighthood.

‘Huguan Siou’ directly translated means ‘brave leader’. In the old days, a ‘Huguan Siou’ was the leader of a tribe’s warriors (pangazou), chosen by consensus and after much deliberation.

Those were the days when the tribes were constantly at war and headhunting was still practised. The Huguan Siou could not just be any man: On his shoulders lay the safety and the survival of the clan.

Over time, the tribes eventually became the collective we know now as KDM or Kadazan/Dusun/Murut formed by the three main tribes. The Kadazan Dusun Cultural Association (KDCA) is now the keeper and bestower of the title of Huguan Siou.

It is not a title given out lightly, or one that can be bought or sold, like Datukships in this country.

The first KDCA-selected Huguan Siou was the late Tun Fuad Stephens, Sabah’s first chief minister, who had been instrumental in the state becoming part of Malaysia.

He had an interesting lineage: he was half-British and half-Kadazan on his father’s side and half-Japanese and half-British on his mother’s. To top it all off, he was Muslim but chose not to abandon his father’s surname when he converted.

Stephens was living proof that Huguan Siou is not about racial purity, nor was it about faith. It was about leadership. And he had proven himself, many times over. No Sabah leader has yet managed to win over both the largely Christian KDM natives while also being accepted by the Muslim Sabahans that included the Bajaus, Suluk and small minorities among the KDM.

Then came Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan. He defied Berjaya and Haris Salleh’s excesses, choosing to run as an Independent candidate in Tambunan.

“Against all odds and despite massive threats, insinuations and “vote-buying” through on-the-spot approval of development projects and other private amenities, incumbent Datuk Seri Panglima Joseph Pairin Kitingan retained his State Assembly seat with an overwhelming majority of 3,048 votes.” – (Source: The Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) website)

He went on to form PBS, helming it to victory in four elections. BN for years tried to paint him as anti-Muslim, as well as trying to stir up racial and religious sentiment in the state. It was unacceptable to the federal government that a non-Muslim could defy the status quo and helm the state.

But then 1994 happened and the great frog exodus occured, when Pairin was betrayed by his own men in PBS. He has never recovered, eventually ‘surrendering’ and returning to the BN fold. And I fear his courage and will to fight has been sapped by years of enduring BN’s attacks on his leadership.

Dear Jonathan Yasin: You so easily confer ‘Huguan Siou’ to the man who was rumoured to have been behind the ‘frog’ incident? You happily give one of our highest honours to a man who turned a blind eye to Sabah’s poverty and hardships all the years he was still with BN?

But I don’t blame Anwar. It’s not like he asked for the title.

Still, PKR has to stop pretending it understands the state. This latest incident just proves it doesn’t. Work with local parties, stop fighting with them for seats.

The locals will not forget you made Azmin Ali Sabah PKR chief for a while.

You complain we treat you like outsiders, but the truth is it takes a local to ‘get’ how complicated we are. It is a different world in Sabah and unless someone is willing to spend years in the state, (which Azmin clearly wasn’t willing to do considering how little time he spent there), West Malaysian politicians can never hope to get traction.

Sabah and Sarawak, by the terms of the Malaysia agreement, have autonomous rights that make each state the equivalent of the whole Peninsula. We are not just ‘other states’.

We are equal but not the same. There are rights that we have, traditions that we keep that we ask you politely to respect or at least, allow us to explain to you.

It is obvious that PKR has a lot of listening to do.





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From a hater of my ‘We are all pendatang, Dr M’ column

I don’t usually publicise the fan/hatemail I get but this is special case.

It’s funny he calls me an ungrateful Malay because…Aku bukan Melayu-lah, tolol. Aku orang Sabah, faham? Tulis email pun macam budak baru masuk tadika.

Name: saiful
Email: [email protected]
Message: FUCK U ERNA

Time: Sunday January 27, 2013 at 1:02 am
IP Address:
Contact Form URL:
Sent by an unverified visitor to your site.

I only write, because you read

Gratitude Dime
Gratitude Dime (Photo credit: InaFrenzy)

Dear all,

I’m frankly overwhelmed by the response to “We are all pendatang, Dr M”.

Thank you for sharing it, the feedback and kind words.

It gives me hope to know that many people share my sentiments. Like how it is a great injustice that many who deserve citizenships are denied them while the powers that be give them away in exchange for votes.

My TMI column is over 2 years old now. It was a secret childhood dream of mine to have my very own column in a national paper someday. So that sort of came true.

It’s all Amir Muhammad’s fault for me wanting to grow up and write columns like his NST ones. Or maybe I’ll blame A.Asohan for my wanting to write about tech as well as he did. Thanks to him and Chong See Ming, I had my first byline in The Star’s In.Tech.

I just need to tell you that if it wasn’t for your support, I probably would have given up and, who knows, tried to make a go at IT again.

While we may not always agree on things/issues, I’m always glad for feedback, criticism when it is warranted and honest engagement about the things we all care about.

Like education, human rights, politics and children running around unattended in restaurants.

I’m also glad for social media because it lets me engage with the people I write for even if the occasional troll shows up for the party.

But I have one caveat: I will write about the things that I think warrant writing about. I don’t write to make you love me or earn your praise – even if flattery can be nice, I won’t deny.

And sometimes I’ll say things that have been said before (like this column).

That’s because, as my friend Calvin says, some things bear repeating.

I repeat again, I am so grateful to you for still reading my column even when I occasionally (or mostly, who knows) suck.

Here’s to a better Malaysia. For all of us.





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