Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Federer's touch of class

Day 1 at the U.S. Open saw Lleyton Hewitt exit at the expense of Paul-Henri Mathieu of France in a five set fight. Robin Soderling, the 5th seed, also endured a five set battle whilst Roddick and Davydenko also made it through.

But it was the night session that really spruced up the crowd. Roger Federer enjoyed a relaxed win over Brian Dabul, but one point will live long in the memory. If anybody thought that his stunning bewteen-the-legs winner against Joker-vic in last year's semi-final was possibly a wild fluke, they were most definitely silenced this morning.

The Swiss Master, at the net after hitting a slice forehand to the corner, soon found himself running back past the baseline chasing a lob from Dabul. With astounding hand-eye co-ordination and dexterity, he pulled off a remarkably difficult 'between-the-legs' (or should I say "tree-trunks") volley which sailed over the net and down the line for a winner, leaving a bewildered Dabul shrugging his shoulders in a helpless gesture to the crowd.

The difficulty in even making contact with the ball in this situation is high, never mind managing to hit it between your legs, missing your legs with the racquet, achieving a clean hit on the ball. If that were it, that feat in itself would be quite remarkable. But Federer managed to hit the ball between his legs with his back to the court, just over the net, and inside the right tramline for a winner. Twice in two years - twice in two attempts! No fluke!

I really enjoyed the great commentary on Starsports, they described in great detail the various shots and strategies, but the best line of commentary came in one of the plethora of lines about Roger Federer. In describing the fact that Federer has the ideal body for prolonged tennis fitness, the voice offered: "If you look at his legs, he's got some real tree-trunks!" I loved that line! He does have some good calves, I must say. Thanks commentary team for the awesome coverage!

This is not quite the best angle, but I believe these are the 'tree-trunks' in question!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Federer in his prime

U.S. Open 2010 - The Draw

The Draw

The draw for the U.S. Open 2010 Grand Slam has been conducted. Top seed Rafael Nadal has been paired in the same half as Britain's Andy Murray whilst Roger Federer, the 2nd seed and five-time champion from 2004-2008, joins Novak Djokovic in the other half. That will be great news for Federer, who has struggled in recent times against Nadal and Murray but has basically owned Djokovic.

Potential Stumbling Blocks

Rafa Nadal has a pretty good section of the draw. He lies in the same quarter as Fernando Verdasco, though Verdasco is in wretched form coming in to the U.S. Open and I honestly don't see him reaching the quarter final stage. This is where my tip of the tournament comes in - David Nalbandian. He is the 31st seed. I think he could take care of Verdasco and then easily overcome Ferrer/Gulbis to set up a quarter final showdown with Nadal. Should Nadal manage to win, he is likely to face either Murray or Berdych in the semis. And that's where the first real threat to Murray's challenge will come from - the beast Tomas Berdych. As we saw at Wimbledon, he is capable of beating the very best players.

On the other side of the draw, Roger Federer is on a quarter final collision course with Robin Soderling, who beat him at that stage at the French Open earlier this year. Soderling is one of the most improved players on tour and Federer will have to be at the top of his game by that stage if he is to progress deeper through the draw. Novak Djokovic, the 3rd seed, seems to have a much trickier route to the latter stages with a potential 4th round tie against either Marcos Baghdatis or Mardy Fish (two of the form players from Cincinnati), followed by a possible quarter final with either Roddick or Davydenko. Should the Serb come through those testers, he is most likely to be met by the Swiss 16-time Grand Slam champion in the semis.

Surprise Packages

I really feel good about David Nalbandian. He went on a sensational 12-match winning streak through the hard court tournaments leading up to this event, and seems to be back to his best when he was in the world's top ten and challenging the best players in the world. I think he has a lovely section of the draw and could realistically get through to a tasty quarter final with Nadal. And if he can pull off a shock by claiming Nadal's scalp, he may just have the momentum and confidence to go on to the final.

The only other surprise I can see is Tomas Berdych. He should sail straight through to a quarter final with Murray. I'm sure he would have great incentive to beat the Scot as Nadal would likely be his opponent in the semis, where revenge for his Wimbledon final defeat would be on Big Tom's mind.


Roger Federer is in great form coming in to this one. I think the key for his success here will be how he returns serve. In the past he has had the irritating tendency to just slice his returns half way up the court, leaving his opponents an easy put-away, time and time again. If he can read serve well and get some good deep returns in, he has every chance of lifting the title again. I would put Federer in the final to play against either Berdych or Nalbandian. Yes, I think Nadal just hasn't got what it takes to win the U.S. Open, and Murray's serve is far too susceptible to break-down when the pressure is on, and boy can Berdych exert pressure!

So Federer to win with some sharp tennis and good returning.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Our trusty old Daihatsu Charade car

Our Daihatsu Charade is not exactly photogenic. It is decades old. But it has four wheels (two of which at the rear, are fairly new) and moves. This car has been ours for four years since Fie passed her driving test. We paid RM5,500 for it and considering that price and the duration of time it has been in our use, we got a pretty good deal. The air-cond doesn't work so we just wind down the windows and experience natural fresh air as we cruise along the roads of Kuantan. It does get a little hot and sticky when stuck at a red light but we're not complaining. After all, we were extremely fortunate that we had a friend who helped us find this car in the first place. And we never live in the fear of it being stolen!

In due time, our trusty old car will be replaced with a newer, cooler model, but in these first years of our marriage when money was tight, it has served us well and got us to all the places we have needed to be. So here is a little tribute to our black Daihatsu Charade. A good and faithful servant indeed!

Somehow, this car keeps working!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Bird House in Kuantan

So our friend Raymond took us to his bird house in Air Putih here in Kuantan on Sunday afternoon. I have heard of bird houses before but as yet have never had the pleasure of entering one. Apparently they are dark and smelly and very, very loud. I read an article in the newspaper last year about the uproar that has resulted in a bird house in Melaka. The owners of nearby shops and houses were complaining heavily over the noise being emitted from the bird house. It had become a nuisance indeed.

However, as we sat comfortably in the car on the way to Raymond's bird house here in Kuantan, I was excited as you always are when doing something for the first time. The sense of exploration is a great asset we as humans have. Raymond's bird house is located above a shop. You would never have guessed it was a bird house from the outside:
Not a sound, or a bird, in sight!

Raymond unlocked a door which led up a dirty flight of stairs to another locked door. A small device sat on a shelf by one wall:

The volume controls.

Speakers in the bird house above are connected to this machine which blast out the noise of birds chirping, to attract swiftlets to the den. Yes, the birds in mention here are swiftlets. Swiftlets are attracted to the bird house by the shrill sound of their call being blared out into the skies by these machines. There is one just down the road from our house. No matter what time of the day I could always hear the loud singing of birds - then Raymond informed me on what it really was.

The final set of stairs leading to the top floor were pitch black as Abigail, our other friend, closed the other door shut. And then we heard it - the swiftlet caller's sound started out faint and distant, but as we entered the cavern above it was much louder than I had ever imagined it would be, a piercing din which rebounded constantly off my eardrums.

The actual bird house was dark apart from one light against the back wall which illuminated silhouettes of the swiftlets as they randomly flew around our heads amidst the deafening song of the bird. Raymond just walked further in to the place, seemingly oblivious of the low-flying swiftlets. I followed suit, not worrying anymore about what would happen should a swiftlet crash right into my face!

He pointed out the work of the swiftlets in his house. A great wooden grid lies on the ceiling and this is where the work is done. When birds find a partner for mating, they begin work on an amazing nest on the wooden grid, made entirely from their saliva.

These swiftlets are busy building their own nests from their own saliva so that they can have their own offspring together. Strands of their gummy saliva hardens when in contact with air, forming these nests which the Chinese love to consume in Birds Nest Soup. When the nest is finished, it will be removed, cleaned and sold to restaurants or international traders doing business with clients from mainland China.

A single gap in the roof allows the swiftlet call to be sent out, and brings the swiftlets in, in the allure of finding a mate. While we were there we noticed a small swiftlet struggling on the floor. Raymond explained to us that it had probably fallen out of its nest and probably doesn't yet know how to fly. If we were to touch it in an attempt to help, the mother would immediately disregard it as she sensed it had been in contact with a human. So we had to leave the baby bird on the floor, hoping its mother would soon discover it.

The temperature and air humidity must be monitored closely to maximise the breeding swiftlets in the bird house, resulting in an increased quantity of nests to sell.

It was an interesting experience and I was able to learn knowledge that I hadn't known beforehand. People make a lot of money out of bird houses and swiftlet farming, and it is an intriguing process indeed.

As we left the den upstairs we descended once more into the darkened staircase, glad to see the daylight spilling through the door at the bottom of the stairs. The shrill screaming sound of the swiftlet caller disappeared and we walked back out into the hot Malaysian sun where not a sound was heard on this beautiful Sunday afternoon.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A&W Kuantan

One lunchtime we went to A&W here in Kuantan with my brother, Gareth. It wasn't so much the food that caught our attention, as the children's playground section upstairs. I must admit, we did have a devilishly good time playing with Lauren after our meal.

Gaz's burger almost came up after coming head first down the slide!

"I'm the king of the castle!"

Gaz tried again - the burger stayed down!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Federer's Legacy Needs No More Confirmation

I just watched Roger Federer happily oblige to swap shirts, a la football players at a final whistle, with his beaten opponent Philip Kohlschreiber after their 3rd round match early today. I remember Novak Joker-vic doing a shirt exchange with someone earlier this year and what a lovely sight it is - two players appreciative of each other.

I realise that I may have been a little hard on Andy "never-win-a-major" Murray yesterday in my comments about him. Oh well. Welcome to the world of professional sportsmen and women. Everything they do and say is scrutinised closely and blown out of all proportions all of the time. It just comes with being in the spotlight. Apparently Federer was finished on 13 Slams - one short of Sampras - after the 2009 Australian Open in which he lost an intense five set battle to Rafael Nadal. His tearful breakdown almost convinced me he was over, and triggered a media wave of confirmations that his career was over. Yes, even Federer has had to deal with scrutiny and criticism.

I doubt whether Federer's level of play has declined. Certainly his air of invincibility is not as impenetrable as it once was, but that's more to do with his rivals' rise than his fall. Others are catching up but the King has not finished yet.

In fact, it just goes to show that Federer needs no more confirmation that he's the greatest player to ever pick up a racquet. He doesn't need to beat Nadal one more time in a Grand Slam final just to prove that he can beat him and to show he's the greatest. Actually, that would be a great insult to the players who are beginning to challenge at the major tournaments - Djokovic, Murray, Soderling, Berdych, Del Potro. Federer has had really tight matches against Berdych, Del Potro, Roddick, Djokovic and Murray in recent times. Why people are obsessed with him having to beat a cripple who can't go through a single year without having time on the sick-bed with poorly knees, is beyond me. There are plenty of other threats to Roger besides the bulging Spaniard.

The Swiss Master wants 20 Grand Slams, and one a year for the next four years would do it. This reasonable and realistically achievable goal is within his sights. What we have learned is to never write off Roger Federer. Not only is he an exceptional tennis player with extraordinary gifts, he is a good man on and off the court, and as the cliche goes, "what goes around, comes around", surely he would be the most deserving of any in winning more Grand Slam titles in the years to come.

Monday, August 16, 2010


The Plan

1. easy access to KL and quicker
- non-stop ride or maybe few stops
- avoid congestion near KL
- shorter travel time

2. save money on petrol, buses
- increasing petrol price for personal car
- buses are slower and stuck in congestion near KL
- more affordable

3. expanded work horizons
- have an option of working in KL
- be able to earn more money
- find higher-paid jobs, advance in company

4. increase in visitors to Kuantan
- people in KL will have an alternative route of transportation to Kuantan
- foreign visitors will have an easy option to discover Kuantan
- the east coast region won't seem so far away

5. better for the environment
- save fuel
- less air pollution
- carbon footprint


A proposed train line linking Kuantan with KL will offer many advantages to the people of KL and Kuantan, foreign visitors, and the environment.
[24 words]

1st point:

The train line would primarily offer easy access to KL. A non-stop ride would take a maximum of two hours with perhaps a few stops at prominent towns along the way. Such a line would also avoid congestion around KL, making a stress-free journey to the capital. A shorter travel time of two hours will be appealing to those in a rush or even those who are travelling at their leisure.
[73 words]

2nd point:

Generally we either travel to KL by our own car or by public bus. With the implementation of a new train line, commuters will enjoy savings on petrol and bus ticket prices. As the price of petrol continues to increase, it becomes more necessary to travel in groups so that the cost of fuel is spread equally. Certainly travel by train would dramatically reduce spending. An added advantage of using the train over the bus is the fact that buses often get stuck in traffic jams, especially around KL. Travelling by train induces no such congestion. All in all, the train holds the benefit that it will be considerably more affordable than going by car or bus, therefore allowing more people from Kuantan and surrounding areas to visit KL.
[129 words]

3rd point:

KL is 300 kilometres from Kuantan which equates to around a 3-4 hour drive. With a new train line connecting the two locations, those 3-4 hours will be slashed to two. A faster journey to the capital will expand the work horizons of a number of Kuantan folk. Young, single entrepreneurs will find it a pleasure to work or expand their business in KL, where a better market and more money is available, thus enhancing their selling power and productivity. Others will have the option of travelling to KL for work at the start of the week, and returning to Kuantan for the weekends.
[104 words]

4th point:

Visitors to Malaysia, as in any country, need to enjoy easy access to destinations through advanced transportation. A train line would provide such tourists an additional travel option to discover Kuantan. Such enhanced infrastructure and development will trigger the arrival of many more foreigners. The people of both KL and Kuantan will have an alternative route across the country, making access easier, and the possibility of expanding businesses brighter. Simultaneously, the east coast of Malaysia won't seem so far away and will not be perceived as an isolated place which is tricky to reach.
[94 words]

5th point:

Finally, in addition to benefiting people, a train line could also bring a better picture of health to the environment. With fewer cars on the road, the demand for fuel would decline slightly. As an effect of this, air pollution caused by emissions from exhaust pipes would also decrease, lessening the continued onslaught of the ozone layer with carbon dioxide. Indeed, reducing our dependency on fuel is important in looking after our planet. Taking these steps will help each individual minimise the burden of their carbon footprint.
[87 words]


A train line joining Kuantan with KL will bring benefits to both cities as KL looks to consolidate its standing and Kuantan seeks expansion. With greater infrastructure and a public transport system, Malaysia will be doing its part in preserving the environment and enhancing the lives of those who use the train line.
[53 words]

Total words: {564}

This is a sample essay for Form 4-6 which can be used for Form 1-3 by reducing the number of main points to 3 instead of 5.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Time with Gaz

My brother Gareth spent six weeks with us from June-July this year. Here are some pictorial memories:

A hot afternoon in the car takes its toll

Goofing around with badminton racquets

I like this picture of me and my brother

Gaz helping Lauren with her writing

On the way to somewhere I can't remember

Lauren's cheeky pose at the digi shop

A lunch at Pizza Hut in Berjaya Megamall, Kuantan

A train ride with Lauren

We had some lovely roti naan and tandoori chicken at the Taj Restoran opposite Mydin in Kuantan. Later we bought toilet rolls from Mydin for the highly amusing Crap Paper Competition later that night.

Mummy and Lauren walk away from a meal at A&W

With Abigail on a Sunday afternoon

Gareth found a new hobby!

Lauren was sad that Gaz was playing with her barbie dolls - she couldn't get a look-in!

On the balcony

Love my new haircut shaved by Gaz!

Sharing a light moment

An even lighter moment!

Here are our 'Bruce Forsyth' impressions

And the real Bruce Forsyth:


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