25 July 2014

This Means You

Aviation disasters always strike a raw nerve with me. Perhaps it is having seen so many of my friends go in that direction. Perhaps it is having tried to hunt down the missing pilots and passengers in utter hopelessness and having no answer to give to grieving families. Perhaps it's because I am part of the aviation family still.
 
MH 17 was no accident. What it was I cannot say. Missile systems have many safeguards against striking civilian aviation targets, therefore as with the preceding air disaster of MH370, there is little explanation so far over the logic of this mishap. Unless and until someone coughs up an admission, we are far from the light yet. This latest blow upon our solar plexus drives home that we have to admit, we are no longer alone, no longer exempt from vulnerability. 
 
Whatever the tone of this post may be, let it not be misconstrued sacrilegiously that MH17 is in any way comeuppance for our domestic misdeeds. She wasn't. She has nothing to do with it. She was an innocent  bystander with no interest in the power games played by larger entities who will not sully their hands to pick up the charred pieces of lives lost without justification.

While it seems impossible that every passenger on board was in line for canonisation without so much as one jerk amongst them, I do not believe that any of them were enemies of any state nor were they deserving of what no man has  the right to serve upon another living being. Yet we have lost them all. What lives we have lost and the tears we have shed, we should never visit upon another, not even in a wish. We must resolve, that some lines we must not cross. Some things must remain sacred.
 
Herein lies the problem.
 
You may seek to smite your enemy, but he will remain intact to hurl his round of obscenities and other projectiles at you. Those who lose their lives, who are maimed and hurt are not your enemy, but the people who have no part in your fight. We have been so preoccupied with name-calling and injuring the religious and racial sensitivities of those whom we meet on the street, that we have forgotten that there is a larger world of evil to stand against. As in other battles that target the innocent to incur psychological and physical damage, all hell let loose from both warring parties do little to the rabid hounds of war themselves, buttressed in their forts while the peasantry bear the scars not of their asking.
 
This is the best we can come up with??
A lion keeps control over his pride by hanging the threat of slaying his cubs over the heads of his lionesses. Is this premise familiar? Is this the only means of strength we can muster? We have witnessed all manner of supremacy organisations manouvre unchecked, unchallenged and unrebuked by the law. We breed bigotry without batting an eyelid. We flog the consciousness of the rakyat with words and actions that hurt and humiliate, leaving the outcome to the tenacity of their resilience, gazing upon the unruptured social fabric as evidence that we can get away with anything as we prepare for a second volley since nobody flinched. If we are not careful, our governance will be that of abusive parents and jilted lovers, not more.
 
Make no mistake, that evil will fester in any place given half a chance, for that is its very nature. I realise that there is no promised land upon the face of this earth save for the one we build with our own hands. But evil that so much as appears to have gained the acquiescence of the state, rapidly erodes public confidence. 
 
We have lost credibility to insist on the truth because we are guilty of our own grandiose cover-ups. We lose the rallying voice against human rights abuse because amongst our elect are those who abuse power, abuse subordinates and abuse privileges entrusted unto them. Worse, these  drama queens ruin the efforts of those who genuinely struggle, out of the spotlight to make things work for the common good of the common man. So let's save the sweat of embassy gate protests till our hypocrisy beacon is replaced by the light of the virtues we preach. 
 

A soup kitchen line-up. Courtesy Malay Mail Online

In the face of the real horror we are up against as a member country amongst a community of nations, what strengths have you bred at home to help us pull together as one Malaysian mass?
 
The goodwill that we see, the street saviours of the downtrodden and the destitute, the caretakers of the marginalised, whatever labels you condemn them with, are here assembled but our gathering is of no credit to you. Whatever good you see is not yours to reap for these are not the seeds you have sown. You're lucky because we are Malaysian!!!
 
We won't begrudge you the victory claims accruing to you over the accidental triumphs that come your way. Along those very lines, though, let us suggest what we have been saying for ages. Come and stand beside us. We will find a better way.

12 July 2014

The Deep Breath Before The Plunge

There remain precisely three weeks more that I remain here.
 
If I have remained relatively quiet, it is because I  am but holding my breath as I bear with aggravation and the restraining of profanity building like the waters behind a dam whenever I am yet again on the receiving end of  asinine remarks from wise-ass executive malingerers, charlatans and peacocks strutting along the corridors of the premises where I labour to make bread.
The perennial coastline of TCOT
I am entering into transition again, as I capriciously leap forward in search of greener pastures.
 
Let it be known though that I leave because I must.
A Floating Flare Boom
Would that I could linger here, basking beneath Newton's First Law Of Motion. After all, I am not really seeking a higher pay cheque, and though better remuneration is always welcome, it is not this  that draws me to submit my resume to the mercies of another company. The only ambition I harbor is to progress to captaincy of the aircraft. And therein lies the impetus to change.
A supply/rescue boat keeping vigilant for us at Tapis Bravo with Alpha in the background
So while I count the days remaining till I return these raggedy David-Clarks, I gaze out the left window knowing that this view will soon be set to change, in just three weeks.
 
I am familiar with change, though I do not welcome it. Such has been life as it unfolded for me from my very birth. Some changes, I had to initiate. This move is one of them.
Watching my friends from my future workplace making a left hand approach to Tapis Delta
Indeed, it is that very aforementioned restraint which is insolation to my literary juices, and with them the driving need to vent upon the pages of my blog.
 
There are some grievances that cannot be aired, mired in disappointment and the repeating of history in an alarming reminder that leaving military service does not secure that evil men are also left behind, especially when they keep turning up in your face like the clap.
 
Stacked five containers high she was!!!!
Therefore, I trust that as I watch the ships go by and keep chanting the approach callouts to the rigs as the prevailing winds now favour the captains' landings, I shall just tell myself, that I have but three weeks left. 

07 June 2014

The Sins Of Our Fathers

Of all the evils for which man has made himself responsible, none is so degrading, so shocking or so brutal as his abuse of the better half of humanity to me, the female sex, not the weaker sex. It is the nobler of the two, for it is even today the embodiment of sacrifice, silent suffering, humility, faith and knowledge.-Mohandas Gandhi.

And that is the essence of what we are actually witnessing in the ordeal of a 15 year old girl at the hands of 38 men on 20 May in Ketereh.
 
While we need laws to award punishments to reflect the gravity and irreparability of the crime, punishments in stand alone have not proven to stop rape. Neither will greater emphasis on religious studies in schools, in our homes, in our communities, of which our cups runneth over to inundation.
 
It is us, men, who have failed utterly.
 
We have failed to raise our sons to look upon women as our equals, and who often times prove that they are our better halves. You would not inflict such abuse on someone you respect.
 
We have failed to raise our sons to never, ever, under any circumstance, take what is not theirs. Doing so can never be right no matter what premise we conjure for ourselves.
 
So many ills can be traced to how we raise our sons. It is ridiculous for us to insist that our daughters say "no" when we do not raise our sons in the sensibility of self restraint nor to listen when someone's daughter says "no" to them.
 
We cannot demand adherence while we practice in divergence from what we espouse.

Therefore any law, any upbringing, any creed or view that does not pay with the ages of generations in raising sons with the right attitude towards women who remain our salvation in spite of all that we as men have made them suffer, will perpetuate this failure.
 
The only religion that will stop this and any evil, is the one written on our hearts, the only law we will not transgress is the law we learn from our fathers in how they have treated women-all women.
 
It stops when men say NO.
 
Really, it isn't them.
 
It's us.
 
 

04 June 2014

Not Quite Dead Yet

A fellow EC225 in holding pattern while we load up our passengers
Nay, I have not been granted easy passage through the Pearly Gates.
 
But OMG does Kerteh have such a thriving business in telephone cable thieves!!  Hardly a day passes without yards and yards of cable theft while the poor and only local Telekom technician files more police reports than time would allow for actual repairs. Therefore, from as far back as March, just about when MH370 went missing, so did any manner of stable internet connection through any measure of time, leading me to an escalated cellphone bill to the technical complaints line with Telekom's script-adherent customer service officers. I wish they would just hasten the installation of Unifi and kill this issue once and for all. And yes, one wonders wither our law enforcement?
Our waterborne neighbours
The months have passed as I in anguish have stayed vigil over a possible job change. The bated breath should serve me well when I renew my Helicopter Underwater Escape Training come November.
 
For now there is a chomping at the bit. The utter lack of propriety of people who ask confidential questions over how much I must pay for the dissolution of my outstanding bonds and how much is offered to me by the next company is nigh nauseating. It isn't as if they are paying my way out anyway.
 
For now I shall count the days.
 


26 March 2014

So Long, Ol' Gal


We may never uncover the manner of your passing.

But we know that your going has uncovered the face of the people who surround you.

For showing us who we really are, we have seen that in your final known moments that you have bequeathed unto us more than we are prepared for.

Till we meet at His feet, may you find green pastures and restful waters.

14 March 2014

Yeah? You And Whose Army?

I am loth to speak of the recent disappearance of MH370. The barrage of pseudo-intellectual drivel and vitriol shows to me once again, that we are simply not ready for public opinion serving as an influence towards government policy and practise. We have in overwhelming volume, public opinionatedness in guise of public opinion.
 
As we speak, much of the accusation has been proven wrong. Ravenous snarling at MAS for having sent families of the victims to India, engines that talked to ground stations 4 continuous hours after being declared as missing, taking the authorities to task for not deploying our submarines for search and rescue, after condemning them as being unable to submerege at at that,  dissing the Director General of the Department of Civil Aviation, and what have you amidst all that you have not, are acts of open burning amidst the haze of misinformation following a tragedy. The obscenity of ridicule makes evident that we live amongst way too many charlatans passing off as moulders of social and political thought.
 
Let me speak of Search And Rescue. Of the 18 years as an active duty pilot, one of the greatest consumers of my standby time was serving as SAR crew in various squadrons throughout the country.
 
I was a mere copilot not yet into my second year in my first flying squadron in Butterworth when dear Major David  ditched inadvertantly while attempting a night rescue at sea. His copilot, one of his crewmen and four combat rescue personnel were lost in the incident. That was my first direct involvement with search operations, and in the air force we have the wealth of experience we do not desire when it comes to SAR. Even one friend lost is a friend far too many to lose. The media frenzy and condemning of an aircraft that has saved countlessly more lives than it has been blamed for taking are just one of the many ills that accompany the territory we operate in as an air force. Throughout my remaining years, I gained greater familiarity with SAR through the various incidents we SAR pilots face, actual and in SAR exercises with neighbouring countries' military arms.
 
This was every day life in service, and now, in this civil incident, the rigours of what follows an air mishap is in the public's eye and many prove graceless in facing matters that they cannot grab and bend with their own hands because we have all become accustomed to being know-it-all critics even when it comes to events outside of our circle of experience. We have forgotten how to trust, to let someone else who has the burden of responsibility by office, to do his work while we wait. Too much conspiracy, too little faith, and the sinking inability to acknowldge the constricting finity of our personal prowess are rapidly eroding our civility.
 
A layman who has not been on a search operation cannot imagine the weight of the yoke that lays on the shoulders of the SAR Mission Coordinator nor the trickle down psychological burden on the minds and hearts of all those involved in the search. The first truth that all in the mission must acknowledge is that despite all that you possess and all that you can deploy and all that you think you may know, none of these that you put your trust in will guarantee results.
 
What will then? Persistence. Absolute and blind persistence, against all hope, against all the unwarranted and unfriendly words hurled at you as you return time after time at day's end empty handed, in searching and searching again, in the same area even, till something yields.
 
On that long and injurous road there will always be some wiseass trying to prove that he can do the job better than you. Shamans, bomohs, politicians, pilots and even senior officers who will try to commandeer the operations according to their unenlightened wisdom and "talk" with the SAR MC. Everyone wants success. But worse, everyone wants the bragging rights should such a sorrowful event break into sunny skies and tearful reunions, so as to say, " I told them to. I told you so."
 
SAR is not merely a jigsaw puzzle. It is a jigsaw of contradictory messages. That's actually common. Even in the most straightforward incidents of SAR, such as a fighter pilot eject shortly after departure, the muddle can get confusing. You can have an incident so close to home base, yet be so far from finding your friend in timely fashion so as to allow the abatement of anxiety before it cuts raw. Yet in these instances even, you will be the red carpet roll out for snake oil salesmen and witch doctors who will tell you they had a vision of an enormous hand reaching out from the sea to slap the aircraft into its deadly waters or into a mountain or wherever their infusions inspire them to make such wild claims.
 
The worst transgressions in SAR are interference and speculation. Just log on to facebook or the online news portals and watch the most irresponsible orgy of mudslinging imaginable amidst a time where sacredity, reverence and surrender should be the prime movers of what not to say rather than the airing of gracelessness that it has proven to be.
 
I do not know if reality tv is to blame for the current attitude I see with regard to the criticism of our leaders, however they may have been elected, but it does not paint a pretty picture of Joe Public nosing in where he cannot lend any improvement to the situation.
 
The truth is very simple, and I repeat, a layman who has not been on search operations has no idea of the enormity of the burden upon the SAR Mission Coordinator. None of you who fall into this category has any idea of the barrage of information and misinformation that has to be dealt with and verified before they are taken as leads along which to launch a search. None of you have any time frame estimation on these workings. You just think you have the right to know and to know yesterday. If anything is not forthcoming, you scoff at it as the witholding of information. In these circumstances, disseminating information that isn't verified is the worst thing thing to do, indeed smacks of utter irresponsibility. Better to hold fire till evidence vindicates the information. In this age of instant gratification, the idea of waiting for information may be utterly impalatable and alien, but wait you must. There is nobody's hand that you can force, and you cannot secure a better way forward should matters be in your hands anyway. Hence, the question is, you and whose army?
 
The individuals at the helm are not pulling things out of a hat. SAR Manuals have been promulgated and ratified, and upon DISTRESFA, the final stage of the SAR phases, adhered to. There are methods, search patterns, Most Probable Points to figure out, assignment of assests and what not, all of which have already been determined. Nobody is doing anything by memandai mandai. Interference and speculation not only disrupts the SMC's work, but serves to mask the emergence of truthful and valuable leads. He must follow through with his plans, and wait for results before reassessing the plan and formulating a new plan based on the latest data. The questions you think they have not considered have been pored over and over and yielded naught. Do not be so presumptuous as to think you are better than the trained professionals who are giving their all into a meaningful resolution to this void.
 
What we all need to learn is a bit of respect. You cannot get respect for your opinions with the way you insult the leadership of the day  based on information you neither have nor can verify. I really don't care about who it is who heads which ministry, but down on the ground is the working man and woman who are making sacrifces in the interest of matters bigger than you have the misfortune or gumption to handle. When the east coast towns went under the floods, these are the examples of the working people who went out dutifully to rescue flood victims to higher ground while their own homes were being ravaged by the wicked waters. Yet, there was no sparing of bloodletting on the social media.
 
In essence, you don't have to like the people who have to face the crowd, especially if you think he has not been legitimately elected, but taking a swipe at everyone because your personal preferences did not come to fruition in GE13 does not extend you the rights to tarring all and sundry with the same brush. In real life, rarely does the spokesman reflect the labour of the man at the end of the line anyhow. On closer look, in this national tragedy, I do not see the critics convincing anyone they can do a better job themselves should this cartload of misfortunes fall into their laps. The very brand of their criticism itself casts a long shadow on their capabilities were they to trade places with those who have to suddenly face this unprecedented dilemma of global proportions. And you would send offensive submarines out for search and rescue? Why on earth speak of things that you have already condemned as being incapable of submerging? So now they are deployable because it's the "current" thing to say? Make up your mind one way or the other, but this switching of sentiments proves you as being no better than the office bearers you seek to usurp. If all you can do is jeer at things you cannot rectify, exactly what does that make you? A better citizen?
 
Spare a thought for the many on the ground, in the air and on the waters who are attempting to literally spin gold out of straw. Spare us all the hypocrisy of calling for prayer with your right hand while you condemn the very avenue by which those prayers have a hope of being answered with your left.
 
That, or volunteer your eyes to the search parties.

21 January 2014

I'm Strong To The Finich, Cause I Eats Me Spinach

The monsoon has hushed. The winds remain mercifully cold even when the sun has shown the strength of his face through the fragments of cloud floating above the roaring seashore. I would not normally venture out on an audacious 30km ride after 0830H. However, as the cycling-inhibiting rains finally broke their sermonising through the nights and mornings, I have moved away from hibernation and into wondering where did that sun come from?
 
It has been a month since I have taken the time to idly lay my thoughts here. Perhaps it is because the month gone by does not show much in a dazzling light. Glaring perhaps. But dazzling, brill? Resoundingly not.
 
The turn of the year has not been encouraging of hope so much as it has been fostering of despair and rage. Whilst I loathe preaching, I cannot help but want to scream my head off at the thickening of scum that passes off for governance these days.
 
Christians, the most recent of bogeymen, continue to be oppressed under state-sponsored bigotry over a name, nay, a word that is manipulated in ever more grotesque machinations than I thought would come to pass in this, the land that I love. I grew up with constant bombardment all my school life, to convert into the chosen religion and later sidelined in my career over the colour of my skin and the faith I profess. I am not embittered by the lopsidedness of these social aberrations because the misrepresentations of these numerous miscreants never for a moment eclipsed the goodwill of the so very many who remain my brethren and beacons of the faith they answer to.
I do not have my finger on the pulse of all that moves in Middle Earth, having no Palantir to gaze into, but surely no real Christian would seek to convert you into us. To do so we would have failed in the first instance of our own creed: that we are to accept you and love you as you are.
 
God Himself never sought to change anyone, save for His messengers, and I suppose that was His way of preparing them to get shot in the due course of their respective tours of duty. Or maybe spend a few nights in the innards of a whale.
 
There is no club membership for passage into paradise that we would seek to increase. We are not trying to fill the last busload heaven bound and touting tickets for a price. Salvation does not lie in our hands. We cannot be saved from the infernal eternity or gain entry into heaven on our merit but on His mercies. At risk of sounding like a Christian/Catholic apologist, we are here not to change anyone into ourselves. We are here to live the way we shall, when His kingdom comes and all is made perfect. In short, we are to be a sign of the Life to come. Not to consume in flame then, but to be the light that others may find their own path to where they need to be.
 
We will fail at times. But we will make that journey even on clay-impeded limbs. Yea, we are called to spread the good news and all that, but there is a way to do it. Seeking to convert the inconvertible does not an evangelist make, any more than believing that God answers to a given religion. Wait....did you say He is Catholic?????!!!!! Okay....and He answers to a name?

Let's get real and be who we are. Be comfortable that we are different. Else what blandness with which we have been created, which lends no credit whatsoever to His creativity.
 
I have no inkling as to who mired us in this divisive diatribe, but whichever "side" he is from, he would be best handled with a millstone around his neck and cast into the sea.
 
We have to move away from suspicion as the forming fabric of our society. Forget the idea of hidden agenda, because any hidden agendum lies only in  the kind of mind that conceives the one and the same. The 70s cliché that the next war will not determine who is right, but who is left is indeed prophetic. And lest we forget, the assault against Christians is but the flavor of the season. Therefore we cannot succumb to slumber, for none are safe. We cannot say whom shall be next to be smitten with the axe held in the right hand whilst the left hand has rummaged into the coffers of our contributions.
 
 
I really do not know whether to laugh or to cry, or in surrender start with one to end in the other when I read against my better sense, the mainstream media. Can anyone convince himself that passing remarks about an edible gutter-grown weed would win him a cattle drove of believers? If you have election promises to fulfill, then call a spade a spade and stop disseminating Band-Aid fibs believing that such vacuous rostrum drivel will quell the storm that you have stirred by your own hand. Enough about blaming market forces over matters that are under your directive. We can accept that you must keep your word, and we understand that it now succumbs to the market force of the law of diminishing returns.

Hate crimes cannot be committed without endorsement. Have we not enough sponsors? Rattling the sabres of another May 13th inks no credence to your love for peace nor does it edify the faith that you claim to represent. You know as well as anyone in the street, that the success of such ethnic cleansing threat can only be secured by the reinforcement of offensive weapons en masse and with the blessings of those in whose possession they lie. There is no way that such courage comes from an epiphany in standalone form. A tree is recognised by its fruit. I do not see grapes cascading from thistles that adorn this political garden.

Where then shall we look for direction? Any suggestion by the children of this nation to better the way this home is run is met with the blackmail of how much worse they can make our lives. This renders this home as one run by abusive parents. Convince not yourselves that the line where love turns to loathing cannot be crossed merely on the status of paternity. The more often that line is crossed, the easier it is for love to turn to loathing, till love is no more and mere loathing remains. While orcs, Uruks and goblins roam freely and strike at will, even the kings of men have not stopped their advances over this land. In  the end, the direction of this nation lies with the choices we make as neighbours, you and I, as we watch the last of the institutions crumble beneath the mass of graft and inertia thereof.
 
There are years ahead that appear very very dim. The only light we have, my friends, is that which we light for each other.

Let's have an ale at The Prancing Pony!!

07 December 2013

Tempestuous


Moody Blues
The sea is restless. She heaves, she groans, she sighs temperamentally. Her swells rise to pensive peaks, then fall to inconsolable troughs. Then she begins again, as if in pursuit of an ever unanswerable question.
 
The winds are stronger. I hear of double digit wind speeds, coming from the North-East. I look at the velocity strip on my displays with mild suspicion, as I have to remove twenty, often thirty knots to the indicated air speed on any approach to a platform or deck so as to observe a decent closure rate to the waiting deck. Not two days ago, I executed a landing on FSO Abu, and her radio operator read out nonchalantly that the pitch and roll stood at 3 degrees. That's the maximum limitation for a landing upon any vessel for our operations.

As the prevailing winds favoured the left hand seat pilot, I placed the willing chopper on an alongside approach To FSO Abu's centrally located aft deck. FSO Abu is no yacht, and this was my first view of what such a large vessel looked like rolling at 3 degrees both port and starboard. The captain said it must have been due to the ship being demobilized, the reduced weight making it more susceptible to the sea state. On any other given day, you cannot tell that Abu is moving, till you look away from deck towards the superstructure and watch the horizon in the background rise and fall relatively like an Cartesian diver. I had the gait of a wino on deck, and as I waited for the passengers to board, I caught view of the undercarriage oleos compressing and extending against the deck netting. I appreciated the exacting specifications of the deck netting, being 20mm diameter, with a 200mm lattice mesh. Just thick enough to mildly chock the tyres, but with 2225 Newtons of tension at every 1.5 metres fastenings, not enough to snag upon the lift-off to a hover.

Picture gleaned off the web courtesy of MISC
The rigs have demobilised at random, the story being that the tempestuous seas have made it difficult for the food-laden supply boats to sail and berth in order deliver rations to the rigs. We seem to send less passengers than we retrieve, and it is no longer unusual to find that we are carrying a crate or two of condensed milk along with the luggage. Today, we received something unusual in the doggie bag from FSO Abu; Maggi instant noodles and mineral water. I mean, still in dry ration form in its packet. Gone the fried rice, beef rendang, the muffin or even the black bean bun at its most Spartan offerings from the rigs. This isn't a complaint, but after you have given the Helideck Officer the platform chit and you have relieved him of the doggie bag he proffers, you open it up expecting anything but this staring back at you.


Yeah??? You and whose army???
We are operating in one-kilometer visibility, with cloud base coming to 300 feet, arbitrarily at that. The canyon clouds of cumulonimbus that waited in defensive positions 30 miles from shore have assailed their fury upon the shoreline, unleashing their torrents tirelessly till spent breathless miles inland, swelling the rivers to the peril of all who are not on the sunset side of the Titiwangsa.

Coasting out via Lane 3 overlooking the TCOT
We are into the fourth day without mains water. We have seen the hoarders and the preppers in frenzied buying at the supermarkets. Courtesies have gone shallow, and the cars' headlights draw a long line like streetlamps all at the wrong height leading straight to the petrol kiosks. Our road away from Kerteh has been cut off at Kemaman and for all we know, the toll plaza at Jabor which was, could again be barred due to the waters. 

It's beginning to look a lot like what???
I do not compare myself to the many who have lost all that they have beneath the angry waters that seem to have nowhere to find a resting place. I do not know where their broken hearts will begin to step forward to splint the multiple fractures of their shattered lives. How deep the wounds of returning to a home that is all but gone, the cars that are rendered less than scrap metal, appliances that will serve their purpose no more. In view of how much has been lost, I wonder how the idea of banning vehicles past a convenient calendar date could ever have been proposed with any semblance of a conscience, let alone a clear one. For many even one of these items stands as a reminder of months of saving up, swept away without reason or ceremony.
 
I find it a very odd time for ministers and members of parliament to lay claim that matters would be so much worse for those so scourged were it not for their parent political party's intervention. How stark the difference to see one moment on broadcast, the utter destitution of those who would even seem forgotten by God, contrasted against those affluent who in vainglorious attempt at playing Him, strain their lungs to bellow in chauvinism about epidermal supremacy, buoyed upon the opulent infrastructure paid for by monies harvested from the blood, sweat and tears of the downtrodden.

How does the Speaker of Parliament decide, that such dire need does not warrant the declaration of an emergency in  order to render aid at utmost priority to those who merely want to live their lives, with or without such political glory-getting, on the unfathomable grounds that a 48-hour formality frame to table the motion was not observed by the member of parliament proposing said declaration. Surely the House has entertained the motions of fools over lesser things than these. Adding insult to injury with aplomb surely has to be the drama queen of Kinabatangan's rabid outburst at the Kuantan MP, and I dread to think that that time has not assured anyone of the last of his constituency's floods anyhow. To harvest airtime upon the backs of the downtrodden is far more obscene than poor taste at its most grotesque. In any other legitimate democracy surely this would not have been digestible.

I cannot claim that my opinion in this matter is humble by any yardstick, but it appears that these are the voices of those who have not suffered enough, not had enough taken away, not toiled enough. Had any of them walked even a fortnight as other mortals scratching up an honest day's wage, identifying readily with those whose time has come to wring their last drop of forbearance would be most natural. The lack of squaring up to adversity does not edify souls, and without delayed gratification in reaping the fruits of your own labour, you would not empathise with Lazarus, O Affluent One. Yet, retribution seems further delayed than their seemingly instant gratification would imply, considering the volume of vile rhetoric they spew in the nation's capitol building.
 
Delayed gratification. There's a thought isn't it? I too baulk at the idea of not being able to get what I want right away, but the reality of my means falling far short of my desires cuts me to where I belong. Indeed, delayed gratification is less than comforting.
 
However, I believe delayed retribution is far worse. Suddenly I feel rather sorry for the Affluent One.

What say you, Lazarus?

 

27 November 2013

Some Days Are Stone

video


First of all, please forgive the quality of the video. I don't know why that even after 2 hours of video uploading time, the video here is as great as VHS as viewed through frosted glass. I just thought it would be a change to share some footage of an orbit at a rig where our friends were carrying out a passenger drop-off and pick up. The other one below is one of me passing over FSO Bunga Kertas(Floating Storage and Offloading) or Bougainvillea.  We often land on FSO Bunga Kertas. Anyway, on with the matter at hand.

video
There are days when I get the feeling that the Fellow Upstairs has nodded off in the rising hours of the local sun. Yesterday was one such day. This seeming to be the incipient monsoon, and the fact that I was scheduled for the 0930 muster, egged me on to take an early morning ride to Kemasik and back. I dutifully roused myself from sleep, reverse-engineered myself into the cycling shorts and vest, then set out the gate with Colbie in compressed audio barking through the headlamp mp3 player. A left turn, past the hamlet of Kampung Cabang where I unsuccessfully cast my vote during the general election this mid-year and skimmed past the cow-pie punctuated windies to Kemasik. I struggled my way up the gradients, and kept my butt off the pogoing Selle as I came down at 53kmh, the wind roar rewarding my burning lungs with the mist-laden, chilled air from a very rainy night that rested over the winding streams of the back valleys of Kerteh. The air was so saturated that my rearview mirror clouded up as no matter how often I glove-polished it. I have not seen mornings such as these since Dorsett in winter.
 
At the end of the road where route T129 joins T13 I checked the time, and debated whether or not to press on to Air Jernih, making a neat 33km circuit for what it was worth on a morning after ten dull days into the cycling hiatus. It was 0745. I had about 6km to Air Jernih, and 16 km on the turnback therefrom. I could make it back home by 0845, with time for a second brewing of espresso. A right turn began the hot and heavy ascends over the rolling road towards Air Jernih, without the option of Milo at the roadside shack for replenishment of body fluids and sugar (!!) before panting my way home.
 
I made the turnback successfully at the canteen shack when I noticed something peculiar. This is never good news on a two-wheeler. Peculiar always spells disaster. The peculiarity at hand being, that I sensed that the directional control on the Apollo Exceed was getting iffy, but as I gazed down the steering stem, the front tyre looked as turgid as ever. The fact that I was huffing and puffing uphill may have masked the symptoms, but as the road leveled, I had to  conclude that if the front wasn't going flat, then the wandering front was because of a deflating rear tyre.
 
I had the dreaded feeling that my morning routine was going to be cruelly interrupted. I stifled the profanity which strained against my chinstrap, because it's bad enough having to apply novice tube-changing skills, but to have to do it on a tight schedule before a 0930 muster, at the roadside, knowing full well that mud and other FOD would get into the rims and undo my efforts was enough to strike my name off the canonisation nominal roll. I looked at the clock on the odometer. 0815-ish. I had best get to it. Things went not too annoyingly save for a hand pump tube that was too short to reach the presta valve, threatening to sever the valve where it joined the inner tube and certainly snap the valve tip. It has happened. I considered transmitting a PAN call to me better half, but I opted for the long and winding road so as not to have to unfurl the white flag. But lesser miracles did prevail, only to be thwarted when in my desperation I couldn't align the rear wheel back into the rear dropout. The tyre snagged against the brake pads. I was hard pressed for time, so just snapped the wheel in place with the v-brakes undone as I pedaled my way home drowning my frustration in James Blunt's music.
 
Thankfully I made the muster on time. Perhaps the Fellow Upstairs had blinked His eyes open before rolling over for an extended nap. That's why I made to work on time. The rest of the proceedings seemed to be uneventful. I prepped the multi-sector log, the platform chits and what have you. Departure was the captain's, and all three stops were my approaches. It was looking up, till the captain looked down at the instruments as I was executing a base turn to Tapis.
 
There was a red flashing light. There was a numeral value of zero to think about. An emergency was at hand. Spurious as it may have been, it still needed crew handling. It was not about panic. But when you see this, you start thinking, "C'mon!!!!!", in the voice of Ian Gomez's Andy Torres from Cougar Town. "C'mon"!! You have people to whatsapp in the evening, websites to look into, facebook to send snide remarks to, fish curry to drink down and spending the night without so much as a night stop kit on a rig isn't the evening you foresaw for yourself.
 
I concentrated on the approach while the captain flipped through the checklist. Our symptoms were not listed. We diagnosed collectively that this was spurious. Decisions were made following the diagnosis. I sat in the cockpit while he went down to oversee the passenger drop-off and pick up. Other than for that flashing caption, all else about the mammoiselle stood steady.
Plankton playing under the waters
I was the handling pilot en route back to Kerteh. The sun was blazing cheerfully through broken clouds. As the monsoon had not gained its full swing, the plankton had sunbathing schedules to jostle for. I am still in awe at this sight, as I never thought they would be visible to the naked eye. Sometimes marine scum can come close to looking like plankton when viewed from a distance, but having cruised close to the surface as their cheesy streaks tossed below the waves, you know that it's neither flotsam nor jetsam. This somewhat dismal evening the sight of plankton lines dancing just beneath the rippling crystalline sea surface like submerged cirro-stratus almost seemed consoling, encouraging even, that we were ever surely heading home. I gazed at their patterns lost in my many thoughts, till the next range call reeled me back to the necessary descent profiles as we adjusted for an approach to Kerteh.
 
A fishing boat harvesting in the rich waters
We all know that we can fall back on our training when the lights start to blink. But we hate having our routine interrupted. Most certainly we hate getting our feet wet.
 
And Fellow Upstairs. Wake up already okay?



06 November 2013

Rainbows Chasing



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The weeks have begun to roll into a borderless mass. I forget where the preceding  month ends and where the one I am in begins. It appears to me that time has passed like flipping pages consisting of flight routes and sector details, local instructions and operations meetings and days off that get consumed in the periodic punctuations of attending mass at church.
 
The mornings have grown darker. The sun has been veiled in thick clouds that descend to ground, an alarm buzzer that wakes me up to the patter of rain on the driveway and mornings wet from the afternoon before. Cycling is a rare and thereby celebratory event. This hobbit's breakfasts, second breakfasts, elevenses et al have placed upon him a growing girth that would make proud the stoutest grizzly in preparation for a very enduring winter. It is certain that the monsoon has arrived, albeit not it full fury. The certainty that the monsoon has begun its reign, pun inadvertent, is that the captains execute approaches less than half as frequently as copilots, and surely as anything else they like this development less than half as well as they should, seeing that they can gloat about their classic approaches a mere quarter of the time.
 
This year the monsoon foretold its arrival with frontal rains replete with lightning plunging in bright but noiseless bolts into the darkened sea. I wouldn't know if it was really noiseless or that we can't expect to hear anything above the double jeopardy of the aircraft noise and good insular headsets that carry the noise of radio chatter eclipsing every other sonic nuance in a flight time. Whichever way it went, the sight of lightning is most discomforting as nobody wants one of those on his tail as it heralds the loss of all directional devices such as compasses and radio magnetic indicators, and in the poor visibility which comes with bad weather, not knowing where we are headed.
 
Along with the gradual change in weather, the management  has done the routine thing by organising the "monsoon brief" which outlines the manner in which we are to conduct our flight operations during this rather testy time. Ticking off currency checklists on precision approaches and special visual arrivals in order to be sure that we can make it home in inclement weather, and if not, select an alternative place to set down, has become the season's in-thing.
 
It has been three continuous days of departing in bad weather and returning in the same. For now, the nasties sit in the 15-30 mile band offshore, but as I have been witness to, will gradually menace the areas closer to the rigs once they tire of taunting us too close to recovery. But we deal with this year in and year out. The business of drawing black gold out of mother earth is relentless. And right here where we dwell, all the more important it is to drill unabated to buffer our errors in governance.
 
The offshore theatre has been colourful of late. With the interplay of frontal rains and the sun's track across the meridian, we have often ended up being chased by rainbows. I can't place a smiley here in blogger, right? Last year at this time we were not flying much, with the EC225 being grounded. Today we contend with not just our competitor, but with guest operators from the Middle East.  They were signed up on a contract to fill in where our competitors across the tarmac couldn't in our technical absence. All this makes for a crowded indeed offshore airspace. For instance, it is becoming increasingly common to loiter a mile off from a rig while waiting for our competitors or guest alike to complete their drop-off/pick-up at the rigs of our destination. More mobile rigs and jack-ups have invaded the sea, crowding up the oil rig clusters encircling Kerteh's oil and gas epicentre. I suppose this is why there is always a shortage of helicopter pilots in the oil and gas industry; not just because it's a frenetic industry, but that the drilling points and the operations support barges keep increasing and adding to their existing numbers.
 
And with that, I believe, I am settled into this job at last.