25 October 2015

The Coolest Guy

The arrow pointing to The Coolest Guy
This little panel is technically called the guidance controller.
It is used to arm the "upper modes" or preselected altitudes, tracks, runway approaches, navigational modes and various other autopilot functions for hands-off flying.
A closer look at the panel, just above the captain's finger will reveal a button etched as PFD with a little green backlit arrow. In the picture, the arrow is backlit in the direction of the right-hand seated pilot or the aircraft captain. Jabbing the button will change the backlit arrow to the left-hand seated pilot, moi. Jab it again and the reversion occurs. Simply speaking, the arrow indicates which pilot's Primary Flight Display's references are being used to arm and capture the autopilot parameters for automated flight, navigation and corrections thereto.
In our offshore world, we take turns flying the aircraft. If the captain flies outbound to the rigs or barges as the flight detail for the day may be, then the co-pilot customarily gets to fly inbound and executes the approach to the heliport. This builds proficiency and hands-on hours for the co-pilot, as well as provides for a fair distribution of the workload.

Clockwise from bottom left: Clarity Aloft, David Clarke, Bose and Zulu Lightspeed. Courtesy of the web, and moi.
It was my first flight with an Argentinian Captain, Alfredo. He is husky voiced, and bears his own style in the cockpit, wearing the Clarity Aloft headset instead of the company-issued David Clark or the status symbols of Bose or Zulu Lightspeed, and graduated Ray Bans, making him look as if he were not wearing a headset at all. He works out religiously, attested to by the veins popping out of his biceps, showcased by his tight jeans and S sized company Polo T-shirt. As Goldmember would say, "Yesh. Toight. Like a toiger." Captain Alfredo is cool. You get it.
We flew outbound, with light banter and my headset filled with an accent akin to a male version of Sofia Vergara. 20 miles before the rig location I made the all-stations descent call and requested for the local weather at the rig. It was all clockwork, all routine. The aircraft seemed to be amicably cooperative.
On the rig, the nice Captain volunteered to get on the deck and supervise the passenger disembarkation and embarkation. Customarily, when it is the Captain's landing at the deck, he also does the take-off because the visible obstacles such as cranes or flues or masts, are on his side. As such, the co-pilot would have to get on deck and do the work. Some nice lads, such as Captain Alfredo is, take it upon themselves to get on deck, as they see that even though it is the Captain's take-off, there will be an in-flight handover to the co-pilot to fly home.
While Captain Alfredo was on deck, I did the paperwork. I calculated the take-off weight, entered the flight times and prepared the Flight Management System and navigation inputs for the ride home. With all the homebound passengers on board, the Captain hopped in and we lifted off uneventfully. As the aircraft was climbing steadily to 4000 feet, he confirmed that I was ready to assume control of the aircraft, and he jabbed the PFD button.
Now who's the Coolest Guy?
The green arrow pointed my way for all of half a second and then it jumped back to point towards the right. We looked at each other for a minute. Then he raised his index finger at me to gesture "Un minuto" and depressed the PFD button again to effect the PFD switchover to my side. Again, the left green arrow only engaged for a second before the right green arrow resumed referring to the Captain's PFD.
Captain Alfredo took an audibly deep breath which fed through his Clarity Alofts into my David-Clarks.
"Jeffrey, what does that green arrow indicate?"
"It indicates that the guidance controller has been handed over to me for autopilot selections sir."
Captain Alfredo turned in his harness to face me fully. "That is not correct. Try again. What does that green arrow indicate?"
I was wondering what technical language to use. "It indicates that both FMS systems feed the on-side pilot's PFD for autopilot purposes?"
With his graduated lenses hiding all emotion, Captain Alfredo shook his head and pouted his disapproval. "One last chance Jeffrey. Tell me the truth. Either you know or you don't know the correct answer."
I decided to play along and admitted my ignorance.

"Since you do not know the correct answer, listen carefully to me and never forget this." I nodded compliantly. "The green arrow indicates the location of the coolest guy in the cockpit. Flying out here I was the coolest guy. I thought that flying back, I would let you be the coolest guy, but somehow it cannot happen. You cannot be the coolest guy. I tried hard, but I am sorry, I just am the coolest guy all the time."

I digested this slowly and deliberately. I knew he had set me up for this, dismissing the actual answer to dub himself as The Coolest Guy.

Actually, there is a much deeper implication to this than the premise thus presented.

The Captain can only remain The Coolest Guy with a malfunctioning aircraft.

18 July 2015

Oxfords Not Brogues

Eggsy, this country is going to SHITE!!!!!!!!
It's been a long long time since I have been here.

My absence has not been due to idleness. Nor was it a demise on anyone's part....unless it is my faith in leadership of course.
Last month, some ninety days after I submitted the answers to a questionnaire, the training captain finally had the time to peruse my answer and in exasperation that I could not yet understand, withdrew my line proficiency status. Well, the grapevine had it that the clients were curious about our landing fuel state and wondered why we had ample fuel consistently after every return to base. I became the first experiment to identify the prevailing fuel calculation by way of a scenario pop quiz to be written and submitted, and I had in a spell of blind-sidedness, under duress from tinnitus owing to a profanity-spewing menopausal right-hand-seat fellow screaming at me during my FAMs, inversed the formula and then glory be!! did they come down hard on me. As the scramble to identify whose fault it was that a non-novice to offshore flying could miscalculate so gloriously grew in urgency, I was placed on the training managers' remedies. It wasn't pretty, but I pulled through. Hence my absence.
And in the meantime, we have had to suffer indignity after indignity of failed leadership in media exposes amidst a personal scuffle between a former and serving Prime Minister.
The worst precipitation of this leadership event-horizon came in the form of the Low Yatt Plaza brawl and its attendant copycat crimes buoyant in its wake. I am appalled that any social experiment or mobilisation exercise would be at the cost of blood upon the fabric of our society. What makes it worse, is the disregard for humanity that such sleight of hand incurs. This isn't the first nor will it be the last time for flashpoints, as hate crimes have been with us a while now. The impunity thereof, is telling. If I were to place my trust in social media alone, I am worried that the hatemongers have outbred the peacemakers. There are so many of them under the employment of ill-intended NGOs, and my beef is that our taxes are funding such hatred. What a bunch of masochists we must be that we pay so much to be flogged with regular social scourges such as this.
I cannot harbour this rivalry of Cain. I am a racist of sorts, most assuredly, but I am a racist in humour. There are racial and cultural stereotypes that form a lose and disputable ethnic set of properties for each one of us, at which we can learn to laugh at ourselves with the next bloke in a massive icebreaker, or carry it as an indelible insult like a permanent chip on our shoulders.

Just as we love picking the least sonorous amongst us to be semi-permanently assigned the karaoke microphone for comic relief, I have been dragged in kicking and screaming to represent my squadron in the annual heated sepak takraw tournament, kononnya Cina tak boleh main sepak takraw la tu. And while it was in my case evidently true judging from the resounding laughter at my martial-arts kicks in the court, I will never forget the supportive cheering each time I kicked the rattan ball across the net, and the wild congratulations when my team actually won. Heck, way back, my Non-Commissioned Officers who tortured me well and good in the Royal Military College would yell all forms of racial slurs at me and my other friends till we weren't sure whether we should just surrender and laugh out loud to our peril, or surrender to the desire to hurl what horrid breakfasts we had as we floundered out of breath at the obstacle course.
"Woi Melayu pemalas, panjat tali pun tak boleh ke?!!!" they would erroneously bellow at me, themselves being Malay seeming to be irrelevant to their agenda.
"Saya Cina staf!!!!"
"Busuk punya Cina, berak tak basuh! Cepat panjat tali, jangan buang masa jurulatih ni. Bukan adik adik saya kamu ni semua!"
And then as they whipped us with their whistle lanyards to hasten us, all my upper body strength faltered as I struggled to contain my laughter and shimmy up the rope at the same time.
But the days where our racial tendencies were merely for a good neighbourly laugh have suffered a tragic demise. We have lost the openness of being able to call each other by race with a lame insult and walk home together arms across the other's shoulder with no bitterness. The loss of being able to be secure in our collective inadequacies, is to be disabled towards fortifying each other. Repeatedly, the contra-rotating seeds of suspicion and entitlement have been sown to deeply fragment our society, and create the perception of the haves and have-nots along lines where they do not exist, to blind us to the actual areas where the haves stand apart from the have-nots. Add to this tinderbox the agents of anarchy, and there we get 13 July 2015. 

With this disquieting aura veiling the passing week, I proceeded offshore on Hari Raya pertama to FSO Bunga Kertas, then to Tinggi Alpha with a final pick up from Bekok Charlie. The ship was festive, with every light on the deck, the masts, the exhaust stack and the helideck turned up to full brightness, while the rigs looked for all the world like oil lamps. The Helideck Landing Officers handed us doggie bags of my favourite goodies: lemang with serunding, saffron rice with chicken and beef rendang. In all these, were glimmers of hope.
Seligi Alpha. Should we sing, "warm smell of pelitas, rising up through the air"?
Which brings me to a bone I have to pick with a certain sector of our populace who with smug perpetuity go mantric about how in their states exist inter-religious and inter-racial harmony so unlike what we have this side of the South China Sea. We should all be careful about speaking prematurely about racial and religious harmony. What you think is a reflection of idyllic harmony is but the sheen of the sea without ripples, the dead calm of a boat that has not faced the tempest.

You cannot afford such naivety to blindside you to the fact that there is a difference between tolerance untested and integration fought for. The apparition of a breakdown in racial harmony is on the other hand the struggle for sensibility and inclusivity. Amidst what many believe to be covertly state-acquiesced flashpoints, the true face of what Malaysians are comes forth. There will be the agents of evil squared off against the people who will not see their friends clobbered streetside just on the basis of their skin colour. This pays logic to the fact that peace is not simply the absence of conflict. Indeed we are awake to the sower of weeds amongst the wheat, and we toil that the wheat never gets choked by the evil planted amongst us.

Rowan Gorilla II jack-up rig alongside FOIS Tembikai and Rescue Boat
As regards the hatemongers they are a lot who are oblivious over how the Creator will call them away from this life, and are preparing for it to be a most unsavoury farewell. Of course, the Universal Law of Depravity sees to it that a disproportionate number of evildoers live far better lives, rife with temporal reward, than the lesser numbers of field workers, who endeavour toward and pay the price for peace. Yet, I believe that the least we could do before all eventualities are summed up and concluded, is to forge goodwill, so that should grand misfortune and celestial cock-up have it that our deaths be excruciating, remarks may be passed that we deserve better.

There is no good in allowing hatemongers take centre stage, even, nay, especially if they are state-sponsored. There are none of us who should count the bloodying of a face we know not, as a victory. We are all a part of this teeming social fabric. I rather we were a tapestry than crimson bandages.

Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri, maaf zahir dan batin.

05 May 2015

From The Frying Pan Onto The Griddle

Capt Latt Armeda
Meet my friend, Capt Latt Armeda. He has flown in quite a few places, from Iraq to Bahrain after the United States, and is now amongst us in the company. We often talk at length when our rosters overlap, and it is good to see the United States through the eyes of someone who has served under the military in various parts of the world. As with anyone, from whichever country, who takes pains to step outside his comfort zone, psychologically as well as geographically, fences are dissolved when this happens, and our chats are always refreshing. He is a big fellow, and there are ample cartoon references when we are seen walking together.
Capt Abel Alvarez, with SFO Jay Kumar and Capt Latt
We also have Abel Alvarez, from Spain, who has taught me a few tricks on the aircraft, and we have had a few chats over the history of Spain, her wars with Britain and how she minimised the scourges of WWII.
Senior First Officer Ugo. Never call him Boss.
The new company is a place full of different faces. There are foreign pilots from America, Spain, Italy, the Emirates, Colombia and the UK amongst others. The conversation is always varied, and there are many conspiracy theories being trashed about at any one time over coffee. Then there is SFO Ugo from Italy. Yes, I have heard ribbings and jokes over this too, but cultural ignorance fatally mistaken for humour runs the risk of falling flat on the comedian's face because from each of these persons I have learned of individual struggles to travel anywhere to earn a buck and fend for a family in the carving of better opportunities and futures for their children. In the end, when the coffee cup has been drained, we are all simply tired daddies trying the best we can for the ones we love.
The contenders gathering at the starting line called Intersection Bravo
The regimen of flying in the new place is tighter than in the old place. I find keeping up my cycling programme ever the harder, as snatching time in the morning is just impossible when the first wave mustering is 0630H. You may land and be lucky to be on split duties and skip home for a nap or no mind-load to deal with till the next reporting time at 1400H, or be plain blessed and find that there is no second wave for you at 1400H. Routinely though, your second wave waits for you at 1045H even as you prepare the trim sheet and manifest load at 0630H. Yes, a 1045H second wave means you are back at 1400H or sorts, and the rest of the day is either standby or go home. Still, wait as I may till 1745H, I cannot muster the courage to try cycling under the relentlessly scorching heat of the past three months to date. My prayers are sometimes answered when I get a few days of consecutive mustering times at 0930H. I get to sleep an extra 45 minutes compared to most mornings by waking up at 0615H, starting the ride at 0715H to return by 0830H for a rushed shower before shooting off to work by 0900H.

The mega structured Guntung Delta complex
The past three months have been good months to fly with the prevailing North-Easterly winds giving me ample opportunity to sharpen my approaches using this aircraft. This week, the winds have died down, to pick up feebly from headings exceeding 100 degrees. The aircraft captains have taken over the approaches, and I get to kick back a little and catch up on other aspects of the aircraft, such as reading, which is subservient to Newton's first law of motion.

Angsi Alpha as viewed from the deck of the Tender 10 barge
I have settled down a bit more, in the cockpit, and have begun carrying coffee in a flask to sip between radio calls and entries into the navigation log. The door slots accommodate less than the EC225's but I will have to make do. While the cockpit doesn't feel particularly small, it really is compared to the old French bird, and you will find it to be so when you have things to carry with you. The door pocket will not take a David Clark headset bag; in fact it cannot take any regular bag. Relegating a bag behind the collective control also means it is not rapidly accessible in flight, but I have learned to make do with a smaller bag crammed into the door pocket and have maximised the creature comforts of a smaller cockpit by not taking the kitchen sink along with me.

Have I walked out of the frying pan into the fire?

Not entirely. All employees, and I suppose this applies to any profession, must concede that there is no such thing as a perfect company. Every single one of them has their own brand of politics, and the further the distance an employee keeps from this fatiguing embroilment, the lower the frustration floor. That is the first pillar of truth that must be swallowed. The second, invariably, is that HR is the virally malignant department of any company hell bent of fixing what isn't broken. By both extrapolating as well as interpolating between these pillars, we can either tie our hammocks for a rest or yank the roof upon ourselves as did Samson after his crew cut grew out.

I am just going to have to bite down here till captaincy comes, because I just can't hop companies again at my age. It is not easy absorbing bitch-screaming at maximum amplitude with my already strained tympanic membranes.

14 January 2015

Je Ne Suis Pas Major Zaidi

I knew Major Zaidi as an unassuming young officer in Butterworth. I used to see him pop into the bar at the officers' mess to tapau chilled canned drinks on his way between places. Prior my event with the then Major Fajim Juffa, pilots not from my generation, more so the post-communism era fighter jocks, would not give me a second glance save to ascertain if I was worth being ragged, and upon perceiving my grey hair, would quickly move quietly on with their business. With the sight of the squadron insignia of a helicopter pilot on my flying suit sleeve, the fighter boys deemed me beneath worthiness of a conversation.
I therefore do not know enough about Major Zaidi to say anything enlightening about the unwarranted glare of the public eye his court martial has garnered. I cannot fathom what brought matters this far dragged out into the distance. It should not have happened, not to a fellow officer. And no longer being in service, I should not know. It is always a sad event when an officer, especially one whose rank would make him an Executive Officer of the squadron, a potential squadron commander and eligible for the rank of Leftenant Colonel in his youth when we chopper boys past our prime are trying to assassinate each other for that same rank, is faced with a court martial.
A court martial is a sign of shit having hit the fan. Either what was a minor offense was not met with admission of guilt on the part of the accused and he elected to prove a point via a court martial, or the offense was of such gravity that no summary dealing via trial by subordinate commander is allowed, so that sweeping the dust under the carpet cannot happen.
I am horrified to see that everyone on fb and the alternative media portals have resounded in such an obscene baying over how it is a crime to tell the truth in Malaysia because it will make you a victim of a corrupt government. If you really want to call a spade a spade, then what earth-shaking, ground-breaking or life-altering "truth" is it that Major Zaidi brought to the table that had not already been known and debated to death other than for getting a Division 1 military officer to flog this indelible ink dead horse? The self-righteous alternative media portray Major Zaidi as the hero that the country needs, and that we should all stand by him. In clichéd cyber trending, fb profile pictures now have been changed to bear the banner that reads Je Suis Major Zaidi. Yet, every rebuttal I have placed in alternative media to straighten the lopsided picture frames has not been published. Not that it matters to me, but it is telling about their selective treatment of how some truths are more truthful than others.
However, this is not about Major Zaidi. It is about ignoring the relevant items which would nullify the governmental-injustice-poster-boy aura that has been conjured to legitimise what in fact is little more than a red herring. It concerns the politicising of a court martial, which does not fall under the normal rules that civilians assume to understand. The vitriol splashed upon the pages of the alternative news portals has little to do with concern over injustice. Rather, it is the manifestation of a mass hysterical fist-shaking at the military establishment which is perceived, but not verified in any way, as being an extension of a government we feel, for whatever reason we breed and fester, as ill-deserving of the mandate to rule, corrupt to the core and impervious to whatever criticism we hurl at it.
The rules as of 31 years ago when I signed up for service were made clear, that under no circumstance could I organise a press conference. Were I standing at a terrorist attack site while shopping and accosted by the paparazzi for comment, I would be liable to be charged for contravening Armed Forces Council Instructions for not clearing with MINDEF PR before opening my opinionated mouth, though I believe circumstantially nobody in the armed forces would do it. But the rule still stands, even if I weren't prosecuted.
Now this is altogether several shades different from organising a press conference to air one's convictions over a perceived miscarriage of justice. This takes knowing full well what the rules say. It takes a subsequent electing to disregard those rules, for whatever reason. It also means either taking cognisance that there will be repercussions and being ready for those consequences, or worse, presuming that such consequences will die a natural death before their reverberations are audible.
A soldier cannot have an amnesiac lapse towards the principle of service before self. The military will not tolerate it any more than it will tolerate insubordination. Courts martial of the past dealing with insubordination have always ended with the accused losing his wager. The gravity of such an offense only gains mass as its committal tracks up the ranks, seeing that from commissioning as a Second Leftenant, officers must observe and enforce military law. Breaches of said law voids a soldier of whatever traits and qualities that made him a soldier in the first place. What may those be? First and foremost, it is the surrender of personal liberties. Following these will come the pledge of allegiance to King and Country, reticence and securing the nation's secrets in conjunction with her interests. This is a soldier's life. He is subject to civil law, but over and above that, not subsequently or consequently, military law. Transgressing military law never makes a hero out of an offender.
The court martial was never about the truth that Major Zaidi intended to spill. Besides the fact that many voters already reported the same, two other service personnel from Butterworth base also made police reports in conjunction with the adulterated indelible ink, but they were not charged with any offense. Therefore the court was about transgressing rules wilfully.
Consider this: a fighter pilot with all the right tactical qualifications is assigned the task of taking out a vital point, let's say, a power plant tucked away in the hills. It is to be conducted by night and with night vision goggles. At tea time, this fighter jock has an epiphany that so strikes his conscience that he decides to get dressed in full ceremonial regalia adorned with all his gallantry medals and collar decorations and calls a press conference to report that an underhand plot is afoot to destabilise another state. Would any of this constitute a national warrior? Many, many more deeds of courage go unsung actually.
A court martial is quite different from a civil sitting. Forgive me for using "we" by force of habit, but we do not have the luxury of being so large in number that the President of the Court and the accused are unacquainted from Adam. Indeed, we are intertwined. This can be useful, in that we know the character of the man whose fate we are presiding over. There is something rather special about soldiers. We know each other's worst secrets. We consider some of those amongst us as individuals we wouldn't trust the sanctity of our granny's knickers with. Yet because he is a soldier, we would brawl in the streets to protect or avenge him. We will have his back. And sometimes, we draw the line. Because much as we do not want the worst to befall one of us, there is something much larger we are duty bound to preserve. That in this instance, is the fitness of an officer to continue to keep his commission in service to His Majesty.
I will likely never know what could have led to all this. After all, the truth is the first casualty of war. None of us know if Major Zaidi in fact did meet with his Commanding Officer and was advised on other means of dealing with his grievances as an officer. He may have been trivialised and could not accept that his passions did not warrant the pursuit he deemed them fit for. None of us have found his courage questionable. However, our virtually scantily understood lives in the officer's corps in lame attempt at living as a organisation that should be beyond reproach amidst all the other injuries it has had to suffer thus far has been further tormented by the very people and parties who have publicly claimed to be defending a man of integrity while glossing over the fact that his integrity is not in question. Attention has been diverted from the fact that while we are a part of you, we must also stand apart from you as we serve an interest that will almost always be in conflict with our own, but we have not the liberty to take our grievances to the street.
Let the truth be told, that the military justice system is fair. It places no stock in fanfare or dramatics. If a senior officer is facing a court martial for striking a junior officer for instance, his sentiments or his temperament at the time of the incident, or provocation on the part of the junior officer does not alter the fact that an offence has been committed. The question of "guilt" then is strictly over whether he committed the offense or not, full stop, where striking (ill treatment of) a junior officer is an offence under the Armed Forces Act 1972.
Furthermore, in case it has eluded all and sundry, a soldier should be vigilant towards anyone, individual or group, who would so manipulate his grievances to drive him to choose against his fellow soldiers. This very method of picking on the already agonised in defeat to convince him that he is a victim of a corrupt and repressive government was used on us in the infancy of this nation for recruitment in a war that lasted 40-odd years in our jungles and terrorism in our streets and villages. Really, if anyone were interested in Major Zaidi's welfare and future, they would help him move on rather than reinforce his frustrations into irreversible bitterness. He deserves a fresh start or else he risks turning out like the many petulant others who have not got their way, left with little but an oversized axe to grind.
Therefore, without a foundation of good service in His Majesty's Armed Forces, public comments on this court martial which ignore the surrender of an individual's liberties when signing up to serve King and country, do little more than reflect ignorance over the uncompromising intricacies of military conduct. They do not enlighten anyone on military justice, nor serve the future interests of Major Zaidi.
I say with regret and with honesty, that I am not Major Zaidi. And neither are many amongst you.


It is now the second week of the new year.
Leading up to Christmas, I was placed on a rush order of training programmes, starting with the AW139 Simulator training at PWNE Subang, followed by the type technical examination, then my recurrent aircrew medical check at Twin Towers and ending with the BOSET which entailed of course, HUET. Altogether, not accounting for ground school, that was two-and-a-half weeks in the city.

XL Xmas tree at the Holiday Villa's lobby
It was back to Subang Jaya's Holiday Villa for my 8 days of simulator training at PWN Excellence. I'm sorry. I cannot unearth the meaning of that baffling acronym and I am certain it is in Italian. I heard the W is for Westland, as in Agusta-Westland 139.
Having spent two weeks in the Villa earlier during ground school at Agusta Westland Academy at Sapura Kencana's Hangar, I was quite at home and looking forward to the makcik's nasi lemak just across the junction from the villa. I must admit that this was the beginning of my winter weight gain, and my later return to Kerteh during the worst of the monsoon did not spell a rapid return to my pre-Christmas mass. Being surrounded by all the delights of the Klang Valley's delicacies, I made it a very festive Yuletide indeed.
But now, it was time to take a mighty leap into the dark of the simulator cockpit and see who would emerge victorious, moi or the nasty computer-aided aircraft simile.
I was at the gate of the simulator premises, within the perimeter fence of RMAF Subang, at 0500H. It was beginning to look like a parade joke. I was alone there, at the dead end of the road, face illuminated by the lights of my Elantra's instrument cluster, but no sign of anyone who would show up to open the gate. I was to learn over the next number of days, that the provost only opened up between 0530H and 0600H. To be fair, the provost changeover meant handing-over/taking-over briefs and guard dismounts. But the arrangement of my simulator slots by PWNE vis-à-vis gate opening times and the terse instructor assigned to me set the stage for pre-flight tension in my mind, which, as it was, already lumbered under performance anxiety over flying the new bird.
This is what pilots call the torture chamber. Pic from PWNE's website
My first three days in this beast tore my self esteem to shreds. I could barely hover, and my over-corrections were so laboured that I longed for an hour's Thai massage every day to assuage my sore muscles from my neck down to my feet arches. My 68-year old Italian instructor mocked my agonised grimaces and body posture in twisted struggle against the controls on all three axes, dragging my self-esteem to the basement of utter remorse.
I returned home to the villa at the end of the third day in no mood for a conversation with anyone. I was crushed by mental fatigue over summoning all I had gained over 21 years of helicopter flying seemingly gone to dust.
The fourth day, and my session started at 1200H to 1400H. I woke up at late morning and went deliberately early to the simulator centre. I was delighted to find that at 1100H, lunch was served for an eighteen ringgit fee, so I sat in the crew room slowly stuffing my face whilst watching a mindless documentary on the telly. My instructor turned up at 1130H for our pre-flight brief and we stepped into the torture chamber.
I was surprised to find the cursed contraption somewhat compliant to my control inputs this time around. My instructor began progressing me rapidly through the exercises, throwing tail rotor control failures and instrument approaches at me, and the two-hour session was concluded before I knew it. I suppose it wasn't just the simulator that had mellowed towards me. My instructor too, took on a change in personality. The post-flight brief this time shifted away from announcing the next sortie's schedule and ridding himself of me, to explaining the differences in go-around criteria between a precision approach and non-precision approach. I decided not to rock the boat by over-thinking this one. The remaining 5 days in the simulator were more enjoyable, with me looking forward to the next session and ultimately, the end of the course, with my instructor cheerfully saying, "Captain Jeffrey. You are still with us at the end of this course. Congratulations!!"

I'll just take it that it was a good thing.

Much relieved, I headed back to the villa to ponder the upcoming events. I was even feeling like my personal storm clouds were dissipating. My buoyant attitude was just my way of psyching up for the Type Technical exam coming up in haste at 1400H. I hit the showers and headed for the Malaysian Aviation Academy, confident that Garmin would get me there well before time.

There was a festive air at the examinations hall, as there were many acquaintances and friends taking DCA exams that were lined up for the day. The aviation community, it ironically appeared, was growing ever smaller even as it expanded. I made some new friends, and even discovered that my reputation had preceded me, undisputedly manifest when, after I introduced myself to a private pilot, he remarked, "So you're the one the other guys were talking about...." Thanks Colonel Fajim!
This is Christmas?
I endured the examination by sheer relief of discovering my preparations were adequate in averting blanking out when looking at the exam paper. Everything looked like I had read about it somewhere, and in due time I handed over my papers, knowing I could do no more about the inevitable outcome two weeks down the line.
A room, and a view!
I had three more days at the villa before having to pack up and move over to The Concorde, sitting in the heart of the city, and closer to my next training centre, Consist College, Ampang for Basic Offshore Safety Induction and Emergency Training. It was time to face my demons awaiting me in the form of another torture chamber: the helicopter simulator meant for HUET. I was in for a surprise after the first few lectures, because the instructors inspired such confidence in me that I was no longer morbidly afraid of underwater escape. Once they showed me that I could breathe using the apparatus, I was no longer frantic. I realised that apart from my perennial fear of water, my last HUET in 2011 saw me panic when my Emergency Breathing System failed and I took water into my lungs, leading to this sense of dread I felt when faced with HUET. Now that it was somewhat rationalised, I think that demon has been rebuked.
A Helicopter Underwater Escape Training simulator. Pic courtesy of TSTC's website.
The sea survival module ended on 24 Dec 2014. My arms were worn from the furious rowing during the human raft training. Being the only pilot in the course, whenever the instructors asked, "Who will jump into the pool first for winching?" or "Who wants to try this first?", there was this unanimous chant and turning of eyes and index fingers towards me phrased with "The captain will jump first!"

High waters
My return home was virtually uneventful, save for a hint of the horror of what hit Kuala Krai and Gua Musang reflected in the streams that had long burst their banks making the new highway home from Jabor look like a causeway.

Curtains drew to a dismal close on 2014.

26 November 2014

Let The Games Begin!

I had expected some amount of fanfare and swashbuckling antics as I entered my new phase of flying life a hop across the fence, being a marketable 1200-hours offshore pilot, but it turned out to be more of squirming and struggling over my misunderstood medical status for a season yet before the ball finally began rolling this month.

It began, with the much anticipated ground school in the Agusta Westland Malaysia Academy at the Sapura Hangar in Subang, once known as D'Nest Hangar. The joining instructions I received had the name as Agusta Westland Training Academy AWTA, and I chuckled that none of the Malaysian staff had advised against such an acronym. However, later on in the course, it was referred to as AWM, Agusta Westland Malaysia Academy.
I remembered the D'Nest hangar well, having taken my Bell206B Type Rating under Sabah Air in situ. I remembered the canteen, and the level of security in the area had now been tightened up to reflect the presence of some very costly aircraft including the famous one that serves as alternative media fodder, the Airbus ACJ319. For clarity and as an aide memoir to alternative media bashings, here is an image I gleaned from bigdogdotcom.
Pretty bird, this one.
The Agusta Academy ran a tight ship. Classes began on time at 0830H, and I suspect that this had to do with the fact that the other 6 coursemates I had were all foreigners, the lineup of which with the right rhythm and tune sounded vaguely familiar at this end of the year. There were two Indonesians, two French guys, two Australians and the sole Malaysian was me.
In the reading sense, Greg and Ben, from Oz
I may have been lucky with all this. The whole bunch was an incorrigible lot, with all the racist jokes and slurs thrown in for good measure, keeping boredom well at bay in spite of how information-laden our lectures were. I have since been re-educated into seeing that around the world, from Europe to Down Under, we all have derogatory jokes about our neighbours, whether across the gutter or across the national boundaries, and there was a time when these jokes were cracked in good humour without invoking racial sensitivities. But here, we had enough humour to move within a trust that nobody was out to get anybody. There was not a single coffee break where we were not yakking over the very good but insufficient brew and nyonya cakes, enjoyed during the only fully-waking moments of our course. Being the only local, I had my ten cents worth doing the Gordon Ramsay, discussing the cakes' names and contents as I chewed into them, to the amusement and approval of the Caucasians. The Indonesians of course, just spent their energies eating as they were well familiar with our food. They were stationed up in Kota Bharu anyways.
And I love how just a spattering of five foreign words can build bridges that endured two weeks. On the very first coffee break I marched briskly along with Pierre (oh can it ever get more French than that?), hoping for the first cuppa as I was so caffeine depleted. I lost out of course to the taller Pierre, who being the first to grab the flask, was so Continentally polite as to offer to fill my cup for me. When I quipped, "Merci beacoup", he gasped, jaw-dropped. "You speak French?"
While I confessed that I most certainly did not, my avid attention to Inspector Clouseau helped me get by in Marseilles, and once again in the company of this Gallic pair. Chacha (as in Shasha, not the ballroom dance) was quick to quiz me on which was the first non-French city that the contestants in the Paris-Dakkar Rally barged into after crossing from Africa. Yes, Marseilles. While Pierre was reticent about his French pride, Chacha made it clear that I had not enjoyed the more pristine and civilised portions of his country. I did agree, especially as I had missed out on fine wine counties by being planted in immigrant-infested Marseilles where seeking kebabs and coffee gave me the creeps.
The debonaire Pierre, and behind him the ever delightfully salacious Chacha
On the first day, the chief lecturer Rajoo was gracious enough to end the class early at 1530H, taking into account that jet lag must have overwhelmed the Caucasian half of the attendees. In fact, I began to believe that jet lag was contagious. Over the days I grew sleepier and sleepier in class. There was a point where mints were of no help. Reaching for coffee would hold me up for 5 minutes, just enough for the preamble of the new chapter and insistent slumber during the content proper. The daily grind of early mornings to beat the jam in pursuit of the queue for security passes and back at day's end to return them merely added to the unpleasantries of  crawling through interminable jams incurring a toll on my wakefulness. The weekend and its late mornings did help revive me for the following three days of the second week terminating in a depressingly tricky written examination.
On the examinations day, we were set to join another class of students in the exam hall. It was peculiar being placed alongside the uncreased faces of youth with an invisible line running down the middle of the hall past which we seasoned aviation dogs sat, almost certain the young chaps would outscore us. Save that is, for the Aussies who were already current on the Agusta 109, thereby being familiar with the manufacturer's design architecture and philosophies. Along with their youth were the typical manifestations of examinationitis that only the young exhibit: parade-dressing pencils along the desk, chewing gum and sweets, sharpening pencils at the last minute....sigh. The older ones were resigned to whatever the examiners told us, and we knew nothing we did at this hour would save us from our irreversible fate. One by defeated one, we called in a reluctant truce.
We were instructed to wait in the canteen after we finished our exams to wait for those of us valiantly scribbling to the final seconds of the exam period and to adjourn once everyone had conceded defeat, together to the classroom to receive our results. I took comfort in a hot cup of coffee with a generous dose of condensed milk.
A woebegone Pierre joined me at the table for coffee. "You know," he said ruefully. "Before the exam I would have been happy to get 85 percent. But now I am thinking, if I get 75 percent, I would be very happy!!" Right, and he as a Heli Union candidate had to sit for the 100 questions, while I faced 60, and yet I felt exactly as he did.
Anyway, it was the last day. A half hour later we were gathered in the classroom, and a beaming Rajoo came in with our results. Nobody looked at anyone else's results. But without question everybody passed, evidenced by the handout of graduation certificates. At this stage of the game, that was all that mattered.
Photography sessions were spartanly unceremonious. The cameraman was an accosted technical student armed with almost everyone's cellphones.
It is almost with certainty that I felt nobody would use any of the exchanged e-mail addresses to write to each other. It is wafer-thin enough a commitment to keep afloat even with our workmates let alone people whom we know will be inundated with the scourges of everyday worklife, me included. It was with this thought that I decided to lead all 6 of them on a merry treacle chase through the Friday mosque jams to a dingy mamak shop in TTDI Jaya, intending for a true-blue Indian food shop with delectable dishes but it had vanished in my many years of absence from their patronage. So Restoran Subhani it was in lieu. And to my surprise, this joint was scalp-sweatingly good!
This round of indulgent consumption they did appreciate after having "ain't nothing but maggoty bread for ten stinkin' days". Our goodbyes thereafter were brief.
And thus passed my two weeks of ground school in Agusta Westland Training Academy, Subang. I can only conclude that with their current stock of lecturers, being counted amongst the brotherhood of AW Academies is well deserved. My coursemates will agree most heartily.

08 September 2014

It Is To Drown With My Hands Bound In Vines

Operating theatres are cold. My blood  pressure had shot up to 170, and my anesthetist wanted my ECG taken to determine if surgery was still a go. As I lay down virtually chilling in the ward awaiting her verdict, my overseeing nurse came to check on my pressure. It was dwindling, now at 165. After three more periodic checks I was wheeled in with the ECG printout clamped to the clipboard at my footboard. Then came the anesthetist, marching briskly with her air of seniority and experience.
"Your ECG is fine, so I will proceed ya. I am Dr Ang, I am  your anesthetist." She paused for effect. I already knew anesthetists were real doctors but often were mistaken for common nurses and sometimes had baggage with that lack of recognition. So as not to waste her introduction of distinction, I cheerfully said, "Good morning doctor!!!"
With her satisfaction intact, then came the litany of questions, over my allergies, if I had been under surgery before, if I had asthma, diabetes, delivered a baby, et cetera et cetera, all to which I said, "No, doctor."
"I am going to put a needle into your hand," then she turned to the male nurse, where is that one with the yellow end? No, it's just that I like the one with the yellow end. Right. My anesthetist has a colour fetish in needles. Then back to me she said, " Through this, I will give you your anesthetics."
She did her work almost painlessly, which is a first ever for me because I hate needles and most medical practitioners find it difficult to harness onto any of my veins, even for a blood test. I was then left to my devices till Dr Ravi came in, dressed in scrubs, and we greeted each other. He assured me not to worry as this procedure would leave very little post surgery pain. I wondered then, had my meek as a lamb to the slaughter face turned into my OMG I am gonna die bleeding face?
Then the moment came. I was wheeled into the operating theatre. I anticipated the theatrical countdown to my loss of consciousness, just as they were with George Clooney. Instead, a mask was put over me. I could hear the anesthetist and the nurses chattering. In hardly three seconds, it hit me. I said aloud, "Wow, this feels like taking down a litre of tequila in two seconds!!" And then, I was blissfully out.

I probably looked like this during the op. But less pretty. Pic courtesy of medical websites.
I knew I had come to when I was being wheeled back to the ward. My throat hurt like I had just finished my hundredth act in a circus as a sword swallower. I desperately wanted to ask for my phone, but the nurses ignored me altogether. The only companionship I had was the automated blood pressure device inflating flirtatiously around my arm every five minutes. I realised that I could hear the nurses' gossip. I had rejoined the living world, although everything had an mp3-like quality to it. 
As  soon as I was discharged, I predictably headed straight for food. Belly filled, I pondered the next two days to obtaining the verdict over the biopsy. It was first to drive back to Kerteh and do the necessary at the company admin, then drive down again on Thursday, one night prior my follow up.
Brenda suggested being early for my appointment.

When my name was called, we both went in. I tried scanning Dr Ravi's countenance for any tell, but he kept the poker face up till we were both seated. He began with, "The good news is.....". We remained politely quiet while he went through the diagnosis, heaving many sighs of internal relief that it was not naso-pharyngeal cancer. It was instead, enlarged adenoids caused by reflux or infection, and could be controlled by diet and medication. He showed me by way of scope, the grommets inserted into the eardrum incisions. Follow-up to examine the healing of my eardrums was set for 25th September. Yes, and with the compliments of the good doctor, I was gifted with a Medic-TV styled video recording of the surgery and biopsy. What else could I ask for? We have since watched that video, and it has the effect of making the girls' eyes tearful, in an "ouch" way.
That there, is what a grommet looks like, sitting in the eardrum
It was still early in the day and the worst of it was behind us. Rowena was with us all the while, and she was in on the facts of my surgery but not the biopsy. By the time we were done with the hospital, she knew what the biopsy could have meant. However, it was time to now let Ethan and Ellen know.
We went on a wild drive down to Nilai to get Ethan first, then to get Ellen before heading to Jaya One. Lunch was all the time Ellen could spare as she was in the middle of her exams, as was Ethan, save his test papers were better spaced out. We trudged to Brussels Café for an indulgent round of pasta, bratwurst in bacon, Hoegaarden and Magners, and family talk over the significant events of the week. There was some amount of indignation over not being informed, but the hindsight of being made to worry only of it came to having to worry was acknowledged. All in all it was good, on all fronts.
Yes, I am grateful that this episode did not turn out to be life-altering. I was stopped at the sooty gates and told to go back for another shot at living, likely because my personal lake of brimstone had not been remodeled to fit my calibre. I am glad nobody has to shoulder a yoke owing to my physical failings. I cannot yet fathom the forbearance and tenacity of those who have to live with cancer or the pained courage of those who love them and care for them, wrung from their guts day after living day.
I understand that in my absence from flight while awaiting my conversion to the new aircraft, friend and foe alike have been discussing my condition with surgically precise facts gleaned from goodness knows where over the operations area radio. As the news recirculates, there will be friends who will be overjoyed and relieved that not another one of their workmates and buddies yielded to the time bomb that the Big C is, especially those friends who have faced it. There will likewise, be those who feel that my sickness and the remedies I had to take were a matter of bad corporate timing. Inasmuch as I could not help the day and the manner in which this visited me, I suppose they cannot help their responses to my experience or the decisions I had to make. I alone am answerable as caretaker of my body, and other than for me, only Brenda faces the implications of suffering with the frailties of my ageing.
But having dodged the bullet, I will be greedy, and ask that He speed up the healing in my eardrums. I want to be up in the air as soon as He can allow it.

07 September 2014

Hello Darkness My Old Friend

It was the feeling of being submerged, of looking at the world from behind the anechoic glass plate of an aquarium that was slowly driving me to fear and despair. In my ever fore fronted sarcasm, I would have thought being unable to hear would contribute to my peace of mind as a husband. Instead, the deepening sense of isolation from her and those who matter to me made me worry that I was no longer a part of their world.
It was a long week over the Aidil Fitri holidays. My stuffy nose did not want to relent to antihistamines, while all it normally took me to self medicate and cure was a few rounds of vitamin C. I must have contracted a belligerent strain of the influenza virus from that car salesman, and what possessed me to seek his guidance around a car the likes of the Veloster I cannot now adequately justify. My head soon filled with fluid, and flying became physically painful on the eardrums. I know about the rule concerning flying under the influenza, but for all the years I had in the Nuri, it was never a worry as I could Valsalva my way out of it. What was different this time was, the Valsalva was completely dysfunctional. Which perplexed me beyond the point of anxiety.
It was also just about this time that I had to report to the new company's headquarters for an induction session and documentary registration. The pre-employment process involved an aircrew medical check-up at Twin Towers, which meant that I would fall under the scrutiny of the rather meticulous Dr Dalbir. I was nervous about the audiometry, as that was his pet area of concern.

True enough, even I could tell that the audiogram would show worse results than those of my previous visits. The doctor tsk-tsked at me and told me that my hearing had become worse than ever. I was thinking yeah, of course, I've got glue ear, but I knew better than to start anything with an aviation doctor. I watched in curiosity as he scratched out a remark on the audiogram. He turned to me and then said, as sober as any judge, "See an ENT specialist. As soon as possible. There might be something in there that's causing problems."

It took me a few more days after settling in to look up the list of panel hospitals and make enquiries over which of those had an ENT specialist. I thought Sime Darby would be alright; decently located and surrounded by reputable restaurants. If I was diagnosed with anything scary, at least I would have a place for a last supper.

Sigh. I do so hate hospitals.

It was Monday, and I was already tense from enduring a traffic jam just 5km long but enough to have consumed 45 minutes. I was not late for my appointment, but I had not reckoned the jam would be so sticky. Like my Eustachian tubes, yeah.

Dr Ravi was what any teenage girl would want in a man. Professional, new-age-cutesy and with a good tableside manner. Bald and tall, he greeted me cordially and motioned for me to be seated. I tried to provide him as comprehensive a preamble as possible, but he gazed at me without so much as a nod. Before I could reach halfway into my bulleted narrative, he summoned me into what looked like a barber's chair facing a display which made the home theatre enthusiast in me perk up. Then he used the optic probe first in my right ear, then my left. It was evident that my middle ears were completely filled with fluid. He described the fluid level behind my eardrums, and I too could see what looked like a front-loader's water line amidst much cilia and a few specks of wax. Then in went the probe through my nostrils. I was surprised at how painless it was. The LCD display continued showing what looked like the tunnel chase scene in Initial D, except this was into my nose. Then the probe stopped moving. I could hear Dr Ravi thinking certain Greek words belonging to Archimedes' infamous nude outburst.

Then he spoke. I too, could see that there was something not quite congruent with the many cross-sections of the ear I had studied the preceding week. "There is a mass, something there, blocking your Eustachian tubes. That is why your Eustachian tubes are not draining when you swallow." With such words and an image coming together, I felt a chill creep into my chest. Oh, I thought. This is how I get told I have cancer.

The probe was put away and as Dr Ravi walked to his chair, I did to mine. I sat stoically while he spoke. "As far as your fluid behind the eardrum is concerned, it cannot drain. We have to do surgery. As you could see, the tubes are blocked by that mass of tissue. I will cut into the eardrum, and draw out the fluid. Then I will put in a grommet, but for a year no swimming! Then as far as that mass is concerned, it's a biopsy. Do you have Chinese blood?"

I nodded wordlessly. "Well, if you have Chinese blood chances are that you have naso-pharyngeal cancer. If you are Indian, there is no chance of it." I sat there thinking, do I get saved by pledging allegiance to one side of my genealogy?

"When do you want to do it?" The doctor's voice reeled me back from my Lizzy McGuire moment.

"Soonest". The doctor busied himself with his calendar and a few brief phone calls. He grinned, like all this meant business as usual to him.

"Tomorrow come in at 0930. No food or drink after midnight tonight. See you Mr Jeffrey."

03 September 2014

The Lure Of Watches

The AVI-8

It is now three months since I bought my AVI-8 Hawker Harrier watch from Zalora, and I must confess that this timepiece has grown on me. Watches are a perennial obsession with me, although nothing will cut it like the prohibitive but utterly seductive Rolex GMTII. That, to me is the ultimate aviator's watch.
It is undeniable that watches are a must have accessory for a man to own and having the right one is very crucial. The wrong selection of watch as the finishing touch to your dress-up ensemble can definitely lacklustre both your outfit and character as it indirectly serves to impress those whom you encounter, whatever the purpose may be. Whether you are at work, formal occasions or even a casual day out during the weekends, men should always sport the right watch to provide the desired impression.
They are so darling aren't they?

There are three main considerations a man must weigh when making this significant purchase. The first is to determine whether it fits your lifestyle and this means can it be worn to work, formal events, sports activities and other specific functions. A man who is constantly beating deadlines, meeting clients and attending events should definitely buy a more sophisticated type of watch such as the stainless steel, gold or silver plated one. However, a guy who is active and has a job as a gym instructor or fitness consultant should opt for a sporty looking watch, for example, G-Shock watches, or the leather or resin based designs to reflect a hardier, more casual lifestyle. Alternatively, rather than have just one watch to rule them all, you could also purchase a few different designs and match it to the dictates of the situation and occasion.
The Ultimate--courtesy of ablogtowatch
The next thing you should factor in is whether the watch you are aiming to buy is water resistant. As some watches are tad expensive, it is very important to purchase watches which are water resistant while you’re forking out the dough. This is due to the reason that the environment you work and play in may involve exposure to the elements, or being occasionally submerged, or simply the act of washing your hands will bring your timepiece into contact with water. Of course, watches also incorporate varying degrees of water resistance, so perusing those specifications will help you decide on how much cash you want to part with for the marriage of lifestyle to waterproofing which in this day and age, is an imperative.
There are other considerations that can go into your trophy watch. The selection of models with sub-dials and snazzy coloured straps will help round off your formal edges, and present a more carefree side to you. While the universal appeal of the masculine steel or leather bracelet secures the completion of any suit or apparel line-up, there are times that you may not want to be so formidable. A date with your significant other or others, or a weekend with your inner circle of friends would be such a time (forgive the pun) when a more stylish watch will soften your approachability. My pet peeve though is,  be sure to know the functions of those sub-dials lest it appear that you are a wannabe with cash to toss.

A Handsome Englishman--James McAbe's website
Swing by Zalora then and browse their extensive website. There may be a watch or a few watches that may call out your name. However, pay attention to the remaining stock of the objects of your desire. I have seen my favorite AVI-8 dwindle to just one model remaining, which says that sales are brisk and time.....waits for no man.

14 August 2014

Jump De Broom

The final fortnight running to 1st August has been amongst the hardest of recent times, yet the most anticipated.
In order to make my exit from my previous company, I have had to break into my EPF coffer to pay off my outstanding bonds, crippling any daydream I harboured of buying a house as opposed to paying Kerteh's astronomical rent, for at least another three years. That was no tiny sum, and alternatively could have provided a cute set of wheels for either one of my college-going kids.
I was miffed that anyone would hold over my head the threat to cut my salary if I did not settle my outstanding bonds in two weeks, when I had made it clear in writing, that I would settle my bonds well before my last day of work. Cut my salary?? Really? I would have opted for that if I could as it stood as a cheaper option than paying my bonds.

But there you go. Human Resources devoid of people skills. The trouble with this breed of burros is that they never face their just desserts within a time frame that I would call a recital of poetic justice. On my final day, I returned my David Clark headset to the Deputy Chief pilot. Publications had already been returned to the training office. I even returned the Doc Marten boots back to admin. I signed the checklist and headed to my parked car, feeling cleaner than I had in many months.
It was odd, though, getting out of this blue flying suit which had been my second skin for three years. I could not muster any nostalgia or any tinge of loss. Perhaps I had not been here long enough. Or perhaps I was being driven out by matters that left no space for being sentimental.
This should be a wild and exciting time for me. But in my heart I am anything but wild with excitement. I am in fact, horrified at the extent to which my countrymen have allowed unjustifiable hatred to breed.

The Gaza conflict has attracted so much stirring of divisive hatred that a teacher has called for the incineration of a student who "liked" Israel on facebook.

I will not speak of the conflict. I am not informed enough to make any judgment over an area rife with sensitivities that hail back several centuries. All that time has not brought any party closer to a resolution. I believe that this world will spin to its death without such a resolution providing for inasmuch as a decade of peace benefiting Palestine, or Israel. I am not going to court overreaching my finite understanding and abilities by exhibiting pseudo-intellectualism in an argument which even the conflicting factions do not wish to compromise over.

I abhor all crimes against humanity. There can be no justification for the manipulation of the defenseless in securing of our own selfish gains, and that applies to any state, any government, any group or individual. It is typically Malaysian of us to feel for the women and children as well as the wasted lives of young men, of Palestine, as we have basked beneath a conflict-free sun for decades.

What makes me wonder is, can I make such a legitimate claim of being on the side of the oppressed, to champion the cause of the downtrodden, to "love" the victims of war, when I would administer the very means by which such victims are made, upon my own student?

Amongst the facebook respondents to the post on this matter, one even wished upon the infidels of this nation, that ISIS would swarm upon us and give us what we deserve.  Is this the kind of religious fervour that festers in the hearts of my fellow Malaysians? Justice is served at the end of a bayonet and the violation of women?

I shudder to think of the type of indoctrination that goes into the moulding of a mind such as that of the teacher serving in Taman Tasek Mutiara, or the raving lunacy of the facebook respondent. Surely worse is to befall the one who so malformed their minds, and beyond that, warped their souls.

We are not aiding anyone by stirring up such a frenzy as to exert physical violence on people who work and/or eat at fast-food joints just because we spread and repost the idea that these corporate bodies are channeling all profits to an aggressor nation. The truth behind this pseudo-intelligence has already been proven as grossly inaccurate

McDonalds workers are just ordinary Malaysians in search of a meagre wage, whether in the city, suburbs or places such as rural Dungun, Kerteh and Kemaman.

Whom have you really injured as you harass, torment, abuse and spit at based on their work premise or uniform? Have you elevated yourself above those whom you proclaim you seek to exhort to justice? Not by a camel's hair, you have not.

The state I eke a living in is a troubled one. My blogposts have been few and far between since March this year because of cable thieves. Gone the telephone cable, gone too, the internet service. It takes no less than three weeks for restoration. And the cable thieves strike within a week after, or when a long weekend of outstation shopping is on the cards, whichever is the sooner. The financing of substance abuse by means such as these is rampant along with domestic break-ins. Think of this: my spouse is guilty of parting with a few bucks towards a grotty 16-year old lad, visibly a vagrant and an addict, while making a purchase at the drive-thru of McDonalds!

Would that the venue of your self-justified protests been the receiving end of better efforts to control the brokenness of spirit that fuels substance abuse, universal justice may have been better served I trust. A 16-year old man can be trained for higher ambitions, or in the least to feed himself. He and the myriads like him have sufficient years ahead, and in the springtime of their bodies, can be productive in the making of better bread than the kind they beg for. Mohandas Gandhi once said, "If God were to return to earth again, it would be best if He came to us as bread." Perhaps we need to rethink what manner of God we really intend to serve before we take to the streets and harass those who have little choice over their means of income.

It is bad enough that we are allowing a decaying education system whose implementation cannot match its proclaimed goals, to flood the labour market with unemployable and uncompetitive youth. Why have some of us elected to aggrieve those who cannot get their dream jobs with protests that do not feed their loved ones?

Tread carefully lest you become indistinguishable from the aggressors we equally loathe.

Some of you were my friends.