Thursday, July 30, 2009

Manta Rays

I was reading through the July issue of National Geographic magazine yesterday and came across a short piece on Manta Rays in the Maldives. They have fin spans of up to 12 feet (4 metres) which is big, and arrive in Hanifaru Bay every year between the months of May and November. This is the time of year where millions of krill and other plankton are pushed into this area. The following pictures are amazing. Check them out...

Manta Rays feeding on plankton...

The huge mouth of the Manta Ray which it uses to suck in huge volumes of krill which stick to its fleshy inner mouth...

A number of Manta Rays embarking on a feeding spree in special formation.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


As I stuck up another picture on the wall yesterday, I stopped for a moment and thought of the joys of Blu-Tac which I have enjoyed throughout my life. Sometimes, banging a nail in a wall, buying a frame and hanging it neatly is just not possible. Neither does cellotape do a good job. Double-sided tape is too good and leaves a dirty, sticky, hard-to-scrub mark when you decide that what you had posted is now obsolete and needs a change.

Blu-Tac is the best material to stick things. I have stuck photographs, newspaper cut-outs and little reminders on walls (most notably, pictures of the great man, Roger Federer), I have attached a manual powerpoint to the side of the computer table, even hung a Manchester United towel on the wall above our TV using this remarkably flexible sticky substance. And it's generally easy to remove as well, leaving no unsightly residue behind.

It also comes in a variety of colours, not just blue. I am currently using White-Tac which is very nice and sticky, and easy to use over and over again. In the past I have not found pink, yellow and orange-Tac to be useful. Their stickiness fades quickly and it hardens onto the wall so that when you try to take something down, the corners get ripped and left behind on the wall!

I don't like the walls of my house to be full of pictures, photos, articles etc, but I do like a few nice family and religious pictures on show, and Blu-Tac, or the white version of it I am currently using, does the job nicely. So if you can't hack it, Blu-Tac it!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

KLCC Dunc and Rach

Rachel Carla Horne

Rachel is my dear little sister. (Sympathetic sigh) she's been waiting eagerly for this post. So now here it is. Get ready internet for my profile of this special sister of mine.

Rachel was born on 25th May, 1989. I remember my mum going off in the ambulance as I watched on from our living room window. Wait a minute, was that when mum was pregnant with Rach? Or was it with Gaz? Hmm, well it was one of them anyway! Rach was a little cutie as a child and is now a beautiful young lady.

We used to tease each other a lot, like all siblings do, but I think for the majority of the time, it was rach and I teamed up against poor Gaz!

Rach is very talented artistically and has (or did have) a beautiful piece of artwork on display in the family living room. Like me, she succeeded at art in school, although I've now gone way off the boil with advancing years. I hope she can stay creative in an arty way. She is also a fine photographer. I have to take my hat off to her and acknowledge in humble adoration, the stunning beauty of her pictures. If any of you thought I was good at taking photos, you need to see my sister's.

She is a virtuous young lady and is admired by many for her high standards, and although she has trials of great difficulty, she calmly gets through them and continues onwards.

I miss my little sister a lot and hope that one day we can meet again. And I'm sure if we do, there will be a lot of laughs, bearing in mind that our favourite TV show is the comedy that is Fawlty Towers. A line or two in quote always makes a bad day good! "Basil, there's a kipper sticking out of your jumper." And another one, "No need to mention the war...KORREEAANNN!!!" And finally, "Outboard motors.....(sobs) mean you're not an inspector? Not on their side?...Oh thank you!"

I'm sure that Rach will continue making strides forward in her life and live it in the best possible way. I love you Rach.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Felicia Michael

Felicia is the oldest sister among my wife's siblings. I briefly met her in Kuching in October 2003 while she was still schooling. Six years on she has graduated and now works hard in Kuching as a civil engineer.

She is very generous and helps out her sisters when they are in need.

Felicia is an avid reader, and loves nothing more than to settle down with a good book, and time permitting, read it from cover to cover. She completed my Dan Brown collection when she presented me with a copy of 'Deception Point' for Christmas 2008. I promptly read it within a week.

She enjoys calling and talking to Lauren, just like Florianna, and Lauren loves saying their names over and over again!

So this is Felicia - she may not be seen much by us, but she's very much in our thoughts.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Florina Urai Michael

Ok, part 4 in the family files coming up now.

Today I am writing about a very special sister-in-law. In fact, she is the first member of my wife's family who I became acquainted with, back in August of 2003. She was just 9 years old at the time as she came and sat down beside me in the church foyer. I began to speak to her and she asked me so many questions, good questions too. I was rather surprised. One particular question stands out in my memory. "Why do other Christians wear a cross?" "Why don't we?" I explained the answer to her, amazed that she was only 9 years old.

That first meeting was the start of a long friendship we have held since then. She was my favourite little girl in Kuching while I was a missionary there. I still remember bringing her biscuits and sweets each Sunday before her church meeting started. I really loved her and it was extremely hard for me when I was transferred to Ipoh in March 2004.

My family and I came back to visit Kuching in 2004 after my mission had finished, and I'm sure Urai knows how jealous I felt when she played with my sister the entire time we were at the beach!! Haha! Aaarrgghh!

Anyway, after 8 months being engaged to Fidelia, which 8 months drove me crazy, we finally got married on the 2nd May, 2006. Now that little girl who I loved on my mission, became my sister-in-law!

We go back a long way, me and Urai, and we still enjoy reminiscing about old times as well as building upon strong ties in the present, and generally having fun when we do get to see each other whether in Kuantan, or in KL. We love watching football together, and especially, above all else, we adore watching tennis be played the way it should be, by Roger Federer!!! C'mon Rog! She does also have a soft spot for Novak Djokovic. But I'm not sure if that's for the way he plays tennis, or his devastatingly good looks???!!! Cough cough...

Urai is very clever and beautiful, and I think with some good spiritual guidance she will turn out to be a very successful woman in the future, both economically and spiritually.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Gareth Thomas Horne

Gareth Thomas Horne is my younger brother who is generally noted for being born on Christmas Day of 1986. Growing up, my sister and I always used to be slightly jealous when on Christmas Day, he would receive 'double presents.' "But he has to wait all year for his," my mum would offer in his defence.

"Gaz," as we call him, is about a lot more than being born on a special date, though.

He was extremely shy up until his late teen years, when after finishing school, he started working at the Glenfield Co-op on the electrical department. This brought him out of his shell and prepared him well for his next task.

In December 2006, he began serving as a full-time representative for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, following in his brother's footsteps. He faithfully served in the London England Mission, returning home in January 2009.

One of the great times my brother and I had together was on the night of 26th May, 1999, in our living room. Gaz and I were in front of the TV watching Manchester United trail Bayern Munich by one goal to nil as stoppage time approached. We tried to console ourselves in admitting defeat, by insisting that Man. Utd had still done well to have already bagged two out of the three major trophies on offer. But in the next three craziest minutes of football ever, Man. Utd scored not just an equaliser, but a winner as well. Our house erupted twice amidst this madness as Gaz and I rejoiced in disbelief!

Gaz has recently been accepted into De Montfort University where he will study accounting. His great life continues to roll on!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A Soggy End to an Expensive Meal

Another rumble came from the depths below. Now it was getting serious. After the tiols of a frustratingly "itchy" baby (she couldn't stop scratching her head, face and legs), hunger had well and truly set in. The emptiness in my gut took courage when the recently-opened "Noodle Station" appeared on the horizon on the Ground Floor of East Coast Mall.

My daughter aged 18 months waddled in, all legs and arms, enthusiastic not so much for the food, but for the array of tables and chairs to climb on. We found a vacant spot and sitting down I motioned to pull my chair closer to the table, only to realise it was rooted to the ground. Looked like we would be dining 'on the edge' this lunchtime.

One of the waitresses was being egged on by her workmates but seemed childishly reluctant to come and serve us. So she just stood there and we sat there, waiting. Perhaps she didn't speak English. I beckoned to a waiter on the other side of the room and he immediately brought over the menus, and a baby chair which my daughter had spotted near the wall.

Having eaten at the Sarawak Kolo Mee restaurant in Singapore earlier this month, I'm afraid I was heavily biased throughout the duration of our stay at the Noodle Station here in Kuantan. In contrast to the astonishingly quick time it took for my food to reach my table in Singapore (less than a minute, no kidding), I had read through several articles in the newspaper by the time our dishes arrived here. And I'm sure my face must have been a picture as I peered down into the bowl set before me. Either they had left the remainder of my noodles stuck to the sides of the wok, or the bowl was hideously over-sized. And I'm sure I ordered soy sauce noodles, but I couldn't see the brown stuff anywhere.

Nevertheless, my wife and I tucked in to our dishes. In Singapore I had experienced somewhat of a mild sensory explosion of taste. As I twirled noodles around my fork here, and shovelled it into my mouth, the only noticeable taste was oil - and lots of it.

By this time my daughter had taken my wife's spoon and was busily helping herself to the soup, with the occasional bite from a plate of French Fries we had ordered for her.

As I finished the final mouthfuls of my meal, I soon discovered the missing soy sauce. The bottom of the bowl was drenched in a reservoir of black, oily soy sauce, accompanied by a laugh or two between my wife and I.

I was however, looking forward to the strawberry milkshake, which I had saved until now. It was rather flat and watery with strange bits in the bottom, and the liquid flow up the straw to my mouth seemed to be disrupted.

I was full, but being full with Kolo Mee in Singapore tasted a lot better!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Felicity Anai Michael

In the second part of the family series, I summarise my acquaintance with Felicity Anai, the fourth sister out of five in my wife's family.

It was back in 2003 in Kuching when I first briefly met her when she returned for a short holiday from her school in Genting. She studied at secondary school up there in that nice cool place where misty clouds pass by and the scorching heat of the sun rarely comes.

When I got married I honestly knew the least about Felicity; I had only quickly met her in 2003. But as I got to know her better since being married to her sister, I've struck up a good friendship with her. Like me, she's thin and extremely clever. Well, maybe I'm not so good on the second comparison!

Felicity gets on really well with our daughter, Lauren, who always calls for "Anai" when we talk about her. Felicity now lives in Puchong where she studies nearby in Shah Alam. She will be heading to Australia next year to further her studies.

Felicity and I enjoy studying the scriptures whenever we are together. She also likes to sing and dance like Florianna!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Florianna Lendai Michael

This is the first part in a series of blogs about my family members on both my side and my wife's side. Today we will briefly explore my acquaintance with a sister-in-law named Florianna Lendai Ak Michael Mulok.

Florianna is the third of five daughters of my wife's parents. I first met this young lady while I was serving my mission in Kuching, Malaysia, around August 2003. I enjoyed visiting their house where her younger sister Florina used to play with me (Florina was only 9 years old at the time) and sharing messages with them. We had good times at Siar beach as well, going there on an unworthy old bus, and returning to Kuching in their father's car. Florianna was sitting in the front while Elder Andersen and I had a sleeping Florina lying across us!

Florianna and I met up again on a couple of other occasions, most notably when I was getting engaged to her older sister, Fidelia in 2005, now my lovely wife!

While my wife and I have been living in Kuantan, Florianna has visited us a number of times from Batu Pahat where she is studying at university.

She loves to dance and sing, like me, but I'm nowhere near as good as her! Like me, she loves reading books and gets bad migraines!! I guess you could say we are 'migraine buddies'! (My mother knows all too much about that too!) Florianna also gives a real good pinch on the shoulder which when she executes it on me, I laugh as if joking, but boy it hurts!

Anyway, this is my sister-in-law Florianna, she's an interesting character, and I'm thrilled that through being married to Fidelia, I'm related to her!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Federer's Fabulous Fifteen

Here is the amazing Roger Federer with his 15 Grand Slam titles. The greatest tennis player in history with the trophies to show it.

The Crystal Mosque in Terengganu

Kuala Terengganu has its very own "Crystal Mosque" as it is called. The exterior is made of glass and shimmers in the sun, hence it being referred to as a 'crystal.' It's a beautiful structure and I've included some pictures below.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Glass Temple in Johor

The 87-year-old Arulmigu Sri Raja Kaliamman Temple in Johor is having a complete makeover. Temple President S. Sinathambhy began work on the temple a year ago and has so far calculated costs of around RM3million on the project which should finish by October 2009. He is hopeful that it will become a great tourist attraction and a boon for the area.
Some 300,000 individual pieces of glass, consisting of six colours (red, blue, yellow, green, purple and white) have been meticulously crafted and adorned throughout the temple. It is a fantastic sight, and when finished, will be Malaysia's first 'glass temple.' This will surely be worth a visit, so get the camera batteries fully charged and make a plan to head down to Jalan Tebrau, Johor. The official opening is set for October 25th, 2009.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps

Today we are swinging our minds back to the Beijing Olympic Games in China last year. The pinnacle of all sporting performances, Beijing provided us with two remarkable stories of a couple of marvellously talented athletes.

Firstly we review Jamaican sensation, Usain Bolt. He darted to victory in the showpiece 100 metres final in a new World Record time of 9.69 seconds. A remarkable feat, even more so when we see how he nonchalantly slowed down during the final 20 metres as he milked the thunderous cheers and applause.

Not satisfied with the 100 metres, he then went on to win the 200 metres, breaking the long-standing, widely-thought impossible-to-beat World Record of 19.32 seconds set years ago by American Michael Johnson. Usain Bolt shaved off two hundreds from the mark, and completed a wonderful hat-trick of gold medals by helping the Jamaican 4x100 metres sprint relay team to gold.

Michael Phelps provided a week of drama, excitement and pure brilliance in the Water Cube. He won a record haul of eight gold medals in a single Olympics, winning every single race he entered. Day after day, I watched him on the TV each morning, winning gold after gold, setting World Records galore. I found myself connected to him and I cheered him on feverishly to win.

Perhaps the most enduring image came during the 4x100 metres relay when he helped the USA to gold as his teammate just touched the wall a fraction of a second ahead of second place in one of the most dramatic of finishes to a swimming event. Erupting in pure emotion, he screamed for joy, fists clenched by the side of the pool, ecstatic that his and his teammates efforts had paid off with victory by the narrowest of margins. It was a moment that will live long in my memory, one of those unforgettable sporting moments that were just meant to be.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Federer's first five

Wimbledon 2003 Australian Open 2004

Wimbledon 2004

U.S. Open 2004 Wimbledon 2005

Malaysian Immigration Experiences

Well, I've had some interesting if contrasting experiences in two different Immigration complexes within the last week.

Firstly, I was moving through the new CIQ (Customs, Immigration and Quarantine) Complex in Johor Bahru last Friday on my way back from Singapore. Receiving only two days was a kick in the teeth, and the manner in which it was done was extremely rude and highly distasteful. After 6 hours on a bus to Singapore and with the prospect of another 6 hours back to Kuantan, a two-day chop was not at all pleasant, leaving a bad taste in the mouth and an evil thought in the mind.

Anyway, I made my way to the Kuantan Immigration Complex the following Monday, a day late, it then being the 6th July, so technically I had overstayed by a day. I had been preparing myself to explain to them what had happened and hope that they would be lenient. I fasted and prayed about it. When I arrived, a young Muslim woman neatly dressed with an accompanying 'tudung' (head cover) addressed me and took my passport while I filled out an extension form. Submitting the form I sat down and waited to be called up, sure that I would be asked why I've overstayed and resultingly be given a warning or something worse. As it is, that young officer was also surprised that I had only been given two days at the CIQ and explained that she would be giving me a 3-month chop free of charge. "This is what you deserve," she later told me.

How refreshing! What great service I encountered that day at the Kuantan Immigration Complex! And what a complete contrast to my earlier experience at the CIQ. I'm extremely thankful for the Immigration officers here in Kuantan, and their understanding of my situation. This is the sort of service that will take Malaysia forward and endear foreigners to its shores.

I'm learning that when something bad happens, it's generally a sign that God has something glorious in store for you if you endure well.

And that wasn't the end of this little episode of mine.

I had made a complaint on the internet to the Malaysian Government website about my experience at the CIQ in Johor Bahru. I received an email on Tuesday 7th July informing me that my complaint was being investigated. Then on Wednesday, the Kuantan Immigration called me in for an interview concerning my complaint. So on Thursday I arrived and was asked various questions about the nature of my complaint by that same Muslim woman who had been so generous earlier in the week. Once again, the service I received was excellent, and I now have the opportunity to gain a 6-month visa which she introduced to me after the interview.

So things went from awful to awesome during this last week. Life is a roller-coaster wherever you are, but mine has just done a loop-the-loop and I feel re-invigorated and satisfied once more.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Wimbledon Mens Singles Final 5th July, 2009

With Andy Roddick playing at his peak, Roger Federer still managed to cling on and fight his way into the history books. What a match! What a champion!

Roger Federer faced off against old foe Andy Roddick in the mens singles final at SW19 Sunday. It was Federer's seventh straight Wimbledon final - a record - and his 21st consecutive Grand Slam semi-final or better. Another record. A remarkable achievement, and this afternoon on Centre Court, dubbed his "day of destiny," he was chasing yet another record, the Holy Grail of tennis, a 15th Grand Slam title.
However, Andy Roddick, who had dispatched British hope Andy Murray in the last four, and had made two previous Wimbledon finals in 2004 and 2005, had other ideas. He had lost those two finals to Federer when the Swiss master was in his prime. But he was determined that this time would be different.
Under a new vigorous regime drilled by Larry Stefanki, Roddick is a new player, leaner and meaner than ever before. Federer, coming off the back of a maiden Roland Garros crown which had eluded him for so long, and which many had suggested was the missing piece of his Grand Slam jigsaw, was looking back to his best with clinical wins in the previous rounds over Ivo Karlovic and Tommy Haas. But it wasn't as plain sailing for Federer as on the seven previous occasions he has beaten Roddick in Grand Slam matchplay.
Federer was clearly nervous early on, and that was only amplified when pal "Pistol" Pete Sampras, 7-time Wimbledon champion and 14-time Grand Slam champion, made an unannounced entrance in the royal box a few minutes into the warm-up, having flown in earlier that morning. His presence alongside Bjorn Borg and Rod Laver, reminded us that this was a possibly historic day in mens tennis. These legends had gathered to witness somebody even greater than themselves take centre stage, and perhaps do what no man has ever done before.
Nerves seemed to be getting the better of Federer early on as he wasted four break point chances in the ninth game. Roddick held on and then broke Federer in the final game of the set when a forehand went tamely wide.
In the second set the Swiss sharpened up on his serve, but Roddick was unleashing thunderbolts of his own to take the set into a tiebreak. And it was looking as though it wasn't going to be Federer's day when he quickly found himself 6-2 down in the breaker, facing four set points for the American. But when Roddick needed his serve the most, it eluded him, and he appeared to cave in to the pressure of going two sets to love up on the Swiss.
Federer saved the first set point with a divine backhand clip cross-court, and then saved two more on his serve. At 6-5 Roddick had the court at his mercy but sent an easy volley wide. A Federer backhand passing shot was too hot for Roddick to handle, and on Federer's first set point of his own, the American contender sent a backhand into the tramline.
The momentum was shifting to the Swiss and, stunned from the last tiebreak, Roddick trudged to the wrong end of the court at the opening of the third set.
Federer was beginning to show glimpses of his brilliance, a magnificent cross-court forehand winner, and an ever-increasing aces column, taking him 5-4 up. But Roddick remained dominant on his serve to force another tiebreak. This time Federer raced into a 5-1 lead and clinched the set with a wide serve and easy forehand winner.
It was a glorious day for tennis - sun, blue skies and a breeze - no need for the new roof. In the third game a zephyr blew up a faceful of dust into Roddick's eyes, but in the very next game, the American kept his eye very much on the ball to break the Swiss after the no.2 seed failed to control a passing shot from Roddick at the net. Serving at 5-3 the no.6 seed won four points on the trot from 0-30 to send this thrilling fight into a deciding set.
Federer had the advantage of serving first, but had still failed to break the American's serve. In the second game, Roddick saved a 6th break point with more big serving. When the final set surpassed the 9-7 scoreline which had haunted Federer from last year's final, there was the feeling that this could go a long way. And on and on it went.
At 8-8, Federer had to dig deep from 15-40 to stay alive in the contest. A premature birth seemed to be on the cards for his wife, Mirka, but like her husband, she thankfully managed to hold on.
With nerve endings singed to dust, the set incredibly went to 14-14. Federer fired his 50th ace of the match in the 29th game, leaving Roddick to once again serve to stay in the championship. But his bruising serves were dying, his groundstrokes beginning to fade, and Federer took full advantage. The Swiss superstar earned a break point when at deuce, Roddick knocked a forehand long from mid-court. After four hours and fifteen minutes, Federer finally broke serve after 38 consecutive holds from Roddick, when the American again mis-hit a forehand long, and the battle was eventually over.
In the crowd were Michael Ballack, Sir Alex Ferguson, Russell Crowe, Woody Allen, Henry Kissinger and David Coulthard. Coulthard would have appreciated the speed of Roddick's bombs as they exploded off his racquet and homed in towards Federer. Sir Alex Ferguson would have loved the tense atmosphere and must have had a "squeaky bum" throughout. Russell Crowe would have admired these two gladiators locked in an epic battle. And Woody Allen couldn't have written a script so intriguing, so tense, so smeared with heartbreak, so wrapped in ultimate victory. And perhaps, just maybe, Pete Sampras was sitting there when Federer finally jumped in the air with joy, and thought to himself, "That's my boy."
Andy Roddick, rightly so, received a prolonged standing ovation, and Federer himself seemed to feel a little embarrassed holding the trophy, having won under such tight circumstances. He knows perfectly well how Roddick feels.
So, a 15th Grand Slam, surpassing Sampras' record haul, a 6th Wimbledon, surpassing Borg's five, and back to world number one. But what was most scary for the rest was when he concluded to Sue Barker in the aftermath of his historic triumph: "This doesn't mean I stop playing tennis."

This is a phrase that should send chills down the spines of every other Grand Slam hopeful for the foreseeable future.

For Federer now is in a league of his own.

Roger Federer

This blog is dedicated to the living legend of tennis, Roger Federer. The writer is an avid fan of sporting excellence, not just to be found in tennis, but in all sporting arenas around the globe. I hope to be able to help sports fans relive memories of tense, dramatic, epic events which live long in the memory. The first post will be coming soon...


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