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.

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 very amplitude 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 clichĂ© 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!!