As 2011 Approaches

Work-wise, 2010 has, as the preceding years have proved, to be a year of mixed fortunes. Bitter, sweet, bitter, sweet kind of year. It started off with my transfer to the drilling subsidiary from looking after offshore support vessels; initially as a representative in a 75/25 joint-venture company, where I was looked upon as an enemy spy, to a full-fledged employee of a 100 percent locally owned and operated drilling company (after we kicked out our former partner). In that sense, going from zilch to a full-understanding of drilling operations in less than three months, really wasn’t an easy path for me. I would say that I am now at 96 percent efficient at what I do, the other four is because I am the only person in my department that is doing what I am doing. I had my salary adjustment (though not to the level I had expected but I am not complaining). And I am earning the respect of both the offshore crew and onshore staff, as they now recognise the importance of what I do.

I also underwent several courses to enhance my knowledge (and up my value): I did two investigation courses, an auditor’s course, as well as a drilling course; chalking up course certificates as I go along. I have also identified several courses that I would like to attend in 2011. I hope the boss will let me attend them.

My health has been relatively good, except for the episode where I was interned at the National Heart Institute for a stress-induced Atrial Arrhythmia. Other than that my BP, heart condition, lipid and triglycerides count, Cholesterol level – are all within the normal range. Weight is what Wifey and I have been trying to reduce. So, on 1st October 2010, we started our diet which went well at first; commencing at 95.0 kilograms for me. At one point it went down to 93.1kg. But good offshore food shot that up to 96.4kg two weeks ago, and my last count today was at 95.8kg. Therefore, I am 0.8kg heavier than when I decided to go on a diet.

On the personal side, life gets better. I finally managed to buy a new car. So, we all travel in relatively more comfort than before. It costs me about 10 percent of my gross pay for its monthly installments, but hey! This is what life is all about. The better you earn, the more comfort you want. My daughter, Farhanah, did relatively well for her SPM examination last year, and is now attending college at a private university. I hope she will excel and make herself have the edge in the job market later on. My daughter, Fazira, earned 7As for her PMR examination, despite my thinking that she was going to fare badly. She will be moving in to stay with us and will be attending the school nearest to our house.

As I have always believed and maintained, the truth will prevail; and after a three-year exile from the family, my parents have finally found out the culprit behind the breakup of my previous marriages (as well as my brother’s), and Wifey has gained parents-in-law. I know my mother loves her very much, and that makes me happy. My parents will turn 72 in the first quarter of 2011, there isn’t much time left for us all to enjoy this long-overdue happiness. I, too, don’t think I have that many years to go before the curtain call. I just want to enjoy the rest of my life.

I would love to have done more dives in 2010, but work had demanded most of my spare time; and in my line of work, everything is so uncertain that it is difficult for me to plan ahead. Well, I could, but events could change that. Nevertheless, I had had some good dives in 2010, and managed to get Wifey her dive computer.

One of my photos was displayed at the National Arts Gallery. I never meant to take that photo; it was something I had snapped while waiting for my turn to take photos of the Pygmy Seahorse at Mabul. I’m glad I took that photo anyhow.

2011 I believe will be a more difficult year; thrift and prudence in spending would be wise. At the time of writing, the price of crude oil is at USD89.84, and by or before the end of 2011, it would be at USD103.00. There is hardly any new exploration; shallow water fields have all but dried up. Of the 4 wells that we have drilled at this one particular location, only one have shown to contain black gold while the rest contained water. Deepwater drilling is an expensive business, therefore production costs will shoot higher as concerns of crude supply shortage heightens. Never mind the sabre-rattling in the Korean peninsula; the global price of oil will shoot up.

So, no government, be it the present or the future (if there is going to be a change of government in the next general elections) will be able to subsidise fuel costs or keep price of goods down. It will be a global phenomenon. But, if you choose to believe in lies, be my guest.

Here is a summary of what had happen in 2010 for me:

January

Ushering in MMX
We ushered in MMX with the Usual Suspects

February

We ushered in the Chinese New Year
We ushered in the Chinese New Year

March

My photo that has made it to the National Arts Gallery
My photo that has made it to the National Arts Gallery

April

Visiting EWDP-B and EWDP-A
I did a pre-deployment safety survey at EWDP-A and EWDP-B

We went to dive Sipadan
We went with good friends to dive Sipadan

May

My brother-in-law, Shah, becomes a diver
My brother-in-law, Shah, becomes a diver

June

We went diving again in June
In June, we went to Tioman again, this time with my parents-in-law

July

Approaching PC-4
I went to inspect a sour field off Miri

And we went diving again
And went diving again

August

Berbuka at Raju's
Ramadhan came and several times we broke fast at Raju’s

Sahur Stallions
Ramadhan also meant joining my former batch mates for our annual sahur gathering

Berbuka Puasa at Tip Top
Ramadhan also meant food trips – and one of those was a day-trip to JB for berbuka at Tip Top

Berbuka at Savor Jaya
And another to Genting at Savor Jaya

September

Ramadhan al-Murtabak
And what is Ramadhan without the annual Ramadhan al-Murtabak dive trip?

The family
We celebrated Hari Raya as a family together at my parents’ place – albeit without Medina

Celebrating Hari Raya in Batu Pahat
We also celebrated Hari Raya in Batu Pahat

Aidil Diving
As with Ramadhan, what is Hari Raya without the annual Eid ul-Diving trip?

We attended Tan and Hosanna's reception
We also attended Tan’s and Hosanna’s wedding reception at Cyberview Lodge

Open House
We hosted our first Hari Raya Open House

October

We made our own lemang
We made our own lemang

Zaza and Kazu return
My lovely sister-in-law and her husband came back for a little over one week

Kazu diving
And Kazu discovered diving

Kids at Halloween
The kids enjoying Halloween

Our Halloween decor
Our Halloween decor

November

I went to EWDP-B on board the KM-1
I went on board our rig offshore Sabah

Cherating Beach
We also went to Cherating because I had to attend a seminar

Sara and Ben's wedding
And we attended my cousin Sara’s wedding

December

TJP 52 Gathering
My squad mates and I from Intake 52 had our gathering. 14 of 36 attended

My mom met my mom-in-law for the first time
My mom met my mom-in-law for the first time

Pyan's wedding
We attended a dear friend, Alfian’s wedding

Went offshore for an audit
I also had to go offshore for an audit

Conducting an investigation
I had to go offshore again the following week to conduct an investigation

Celebrating the December babies
And we celebrated the December babies at my parents’ place

In summary, 2010 was an okay year that saw my brother and I going back to the family’s fold, and my parents finally finding out who was behind the bad-mouthing of us.

I hope 2011 will be a better year.

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2011 EVERYONE

Running Off

Firstly I would like to take this opportunity to wish all Malaysians, and everyone else around the world a very Merry Christmas. Secondly, I would like to wish my son a happy 8th birthday, may all your long years to come bring you joy and happiness, wisdom and grit.

Running off” is an offshore term that refers to kicking someone out of employment, mainly because the person has very little care for the safety of others and not just himself, and for lazy bones. And the thing I hate most is having to run a person off the rig on Christmas Day. However, I guess in this case it would have been better for all had this person been run-off.

Part of his job as a is to perform the scheduled checks (weekly, monthly, quarterly) on all drilling equipment, including the derrick itself. Every other day, the derrickman is tasked with going up the derrick to check for loose bolts and nuts and other stuff, check on the grease nipples to ensure that all equipment is greased according to the given schedule. The Toolpusher is then tasked with making sure that these jobs are done accordingly. They are given a checklist of what needs to be checked and all they have to do is tick on the respective boxes and comment if needed.

This particular floorman on the other hand is known to be a lazy person, never goes up to check, but just ticks everything on the checklist and passes them off; that, in turn, pisses the Toolpusher off because when he goes up to check, there were things that were not done, especially in the higher parts of the derrick.

Enter me – the pain in the arse. I was told that this particular driller has very little regard for safety or his work. He was brought in by the previous OIM whom he had worked with. Every time he makes a mistake, he would blame others for it.

I climbed up the derrick, all the way to the crown block, and what did I see? The grease had an oxidized layer coating it. On the checklist it said that a new coat of grease had been applied. I checked for potential dropped objects and found several. I saw that the hydraulic hoses were rubbing against parts of the mast. Some fluorescent light casings were filled with water. So I made markings on the grease nipples, left a bucket of grease, quantity that wasn’t enough to cover even the crown block, went down and looked for the guy. He was on his lunch break.

When he came back, I went through the checklist with him and asked him if he had checked every single item on the list.

“Yeas, Bows, ah haeyve.” he replied in his thick southern USA accent.

I gave him another checklist and asked him to go all the way up and check again. He did not complain and went up. An hour later he came down, all items checked.

“Did you also grease up?” I asked.

“Yeas, Bows. Ah did. Used up owhl the greez in the bah-cat,” he replied.

“You covered the whole mast?” I asked again.

“Yeas, Bows,” he replied.

I put on my safety harness and asked him to climb the derrick once again with me. Once up there, I showed him the marked grease.

“You see this?” I asked him pointing to the grease.

“Ah down’t see nuthin’, Bows. Greez looks fahn to me,” he replied.

“Fucking liar,” I retorted. “Do you think I was born yesterday? That grease has an oxidized layer, you stupid fuck!”

As we progressed down the mast, I showed him all the weaknesses where he had ticked as “Pass” on the checklist. Once back on the rig floor, I said nothing to him, and went straight to the OIM’s office and told him what had happened. The OIM in turn called the Toolpusher who voiced his concern that the previous OIM had refused to run this guy (derrickman) off because of his close association with the guy.

Much later, I learnt that the OIM had called him in and told him to pack his stuff up to leave with the crew boat.

I don’t like making people lose their job; but if others might lose their life because of this guy, then it was a job I had to do.

Me, checking the Hawkjaw

Is It Good Now That Virtually Everyone Can Fly?

Some may remember this posting of mine some time back in April 2010. I have not flown on Air Asia since.

This now is the Christmas week, and all flights to Kota Kinabalu is full. I had to fly to Kota Kinabalu via Kuching today on Malaysia Airlines. As most would know, Malaysia Airlines has also entered the low fare warfare by allowing people to choose their flights according to how much the fare costs, but providing meals and other services as part of the package (you have to pay for everything extra on Air Asia). As a result, now everyone can fly on Malaysia Airlines as well. I suppose you can imagine the nightmare now.

My flight from Kuala Lumpur to Kuching was rather uneventful. I traveled Business Class, good meal, comfy seat, and upon arrival in Kuching, went to town to have lunch with my wife’s cousins. The second leg of my journey was where the nightmare happened.

I was booked on seat 15D. That is an aisle seat. As I approached my seat, I saw a man sitting in it, reading a newspaper. Next to him was a cow I assumed is his wife. The window seat was occupied by her massive handbag. I smiled to the man and said, “Excuse me, this is my seat.”

He looked at me blankly, then went back to reading his newspaper. Then the flight attendant came and asked me what was the matter. I showed her my boarding pass stub and pointed to her that my seat was being occupied. The flight attendant then asked the man to move back to his seat, which was the center seat, and his cow of a wife, the window seat. They reluctantly moved back to the respective seat, and soon after the plane took off, I fell asleep.

Some ten minutes later, I felt someone elbowing my ribs. It was the irritating man again. He, too, was asleep, but had his elbows take not just the space on the arm rest, but a quarter of my seat’s space. Mind you he’s a skinny bastard, and I was sure there was more than enough room for him to sit comfortably in his seat without having to intrude into my space. So, I nudged his elbow back. He didn’t even flinch.

Mealtime came and the flight attendant woke them both up. The man ate real quick, like that was his first meal of the day at 5pm. The cow that was probably his wife ate like a pig – literally, eating the fruits straight from the fruit tray pushed into her face. When she finished her drink, she stole her husband’s, causing the husband to repeatedly press the button to call the flight attendant, who was still busy serving others, for more drinks.

If you think that that was how gross they were, think again. As I ate my Tomyam Fish, the husband took out the plastic coffee stirrer and started sticking it into his ear, twirled it around, took it out to have a look, wiped it on the flight’s newspaper meant for other passengers to read as well, then stuck the damned thing back in.

And I was STILL EATING!

Then, he stuck the damned stirrer into the seat pocket! Just when I thought he was done with his antiques, HE STARTED TO PICK HIS NOSE AND FLICKED HIS FINGERS! I had had enough and told him off! Was he bothered? NO!!!! He just kept going! Then when the turbulence got worse, he gripped his guaranteed-sticky-with-booger fingers on the arm rest next to me!

Around 20 minutes later we landed. And the aircraft had to wait for the ground staff to ready the aerobridge. The lead attendant had already announced to the passengers that they should remain seated. Hell, no! This couple had to stand up and tried to remove their carry-on luggage from the overhead compartment – RIGHT ABOVE MY HEAD!. I had had enough this time:

DUDUK LA BODOH!

The flight attendant got up and looked my way. Then, a few more voices from the back seats were heard saying virtually the same thing to these idiots.

They sat quietly – and when I left my seat later, they were still seated.

Hell Express – Part 2

An earlier article on the same matter was written in 2007.

Sani Express accident in December 2009
Sani Express accident near Ipoh Selatan Toll Plaza in December 2009

Some time after 7.30pm, Sunday, 19th December 2010, my uncle and aunt drove back home towards Kuala Lipis on the Benta-Kuala Lipis road. After taking a bend, they noticed a little too late that there was a car ahead of them that was straddling the road after skidding. They hit the car, and in turn were hit by two other cars behind them. My uncle suffered a broken sternum and two of his ribs that punctured both his lungs, and caused his heart to swell to twice its normal size. He is now fighting for his life on a life-support machine in the Temerloh Hospital.

My aunt on the other hand, suffered only bruises and shock.

She wore a seat-belt, he did not.

That made the difference.

As we stood near his hospital bed, my Berry beeped and I saw a newsflash on the tour bus accident near Simpang Pulai that killed 27 people including 24 Thais and 3 Malaysians, and injured 10 other Thais on their way to the KL International Airport from the Cameron Highlands. Just when I thought that 15 dead near Pedas on 10-10-10 was bad, this had to be the worst.

The Pedas-Simpang Ampat bus that crashed on 10-10-10
The Pedas-Simpang Ampat bus that crashed on 10-10-10

A total of 1.27 million people die each year around the world due to road accidents. That comes down to 3500 average deaths per day and 150 average deaths per hour. Between 20 to 50 million people suffer from injuries as a result of road accidents. And 90% of these figures occur in low and middle income countries. In short, road accidents IS a pandemic, albeit one that is often ignored.

According to WHO’s Global Status Report on Road Safety published in 2009, deaths caused by road accidents by age around the world in 2004 are as follows:

Ages 0 – 4 years: rank #14 (#1 – perinatal causes)
Ages 5 – 14 years: rank #2 (#1 – lower respiratory infections)
Ages 15-29 years: rank #1
Ages 30-44 years: rank #3 (#1 – HIV/AIDS)
Ages 45-69 years: rank #8 (#1 – Ischaemic heart disease)
Ages 70 above : rank #20 (#1 – Ischaemic heart disease)

In total, road accidents rank 10th on the leading causes of deaths worldwide.

In Malaysia, out of a population of 27,730,000 in 2009, we had 6.527 road fatalities. In the same year, we had 17,626,411 registered vehicles on the road. In 2008, our fatality per 10,000 vehicles stand at slightly below 4 while the benchmark is 2 fatalities per 10,000 cars. In the same year, our deaths per 100,000 population is at 24 while the benchmark is 10 per 100,000.

In 2009 and 2010, special operations were conducted by various agencies especially during the festive seasons. In a particular study of commercial buses from 39 companies plying the southern highways, of 154 trips made, only 35% had two drivers for long trips. Many companies installed anti-glare films, had drivers wearing uniform, had fire extinguishers on board, and each driver had a rest after four hours of driving.

However, a high percentage of drivers did not use seat-belts although it is mandatory (I bet you did not know of this mandatory requirement), quite a large percentage also did not have seat-belts for drivers and passengers. Only 20% provided seat-belts for passengers.

Out of 50 samples, 47 were using handphone while driving, 8 were overtaking dangerously, 30 tailgated, 1 was sleepy, and 20 performed harsh braking.

Average speed of those samples was 114km/h, maximum speed was 134km/h when their maximum allowed speed on highways is 90km/h.

As I ponder on the needless and senseless deaths of the bus passengers, wondering when will the government finally say “enough is enough and not bow down to pressure from the Association of Bus Owners, an express bus that belongs to a company my father once chaired overtook me on the highway as I was doing 110km/h.

Another nut behind the wheel.

A Writer’s Blog

On the publication of her 78th book, Kathleen Norris said the following:

“All writing is difficult. The most you can hope for is a day when it goes reasonably easily. Plumbers don’t get plumber’s block, and doctors don’t get doctor’s block; why should writers be the only profession that gives a special name to the difficulty of working, and then expects sympathy for it?”

Easier said than done. The last time I actually wrote was almost a month ago, during the Eidul Adha celebration, about my experience of going for the Haj. Between then and now, I had millions of topics ranging from religion to politics to bitching about stuff, that went unwritten because a topic would simply be overtaken by events. And this would go on and on and on that I never got down to writing anything.

Now for the blame game. My job has taken much of my time that I would be so burnt out during my spare time that I no longer read. In the last three months, I had bought me no less than five books to read; and the only one I got to read was by Paulo Coelho which I never got to finish. The sub-plots were going round and round, and things got monotonous that I gave up reading the book. It is still on the towel hanger inside the bathroom. I went back to reading defense magazines while on the porcelain throne.

Work has definitely taken a lot of my time; trying to juggle the year-end matters – rig inspection offshore, daughter’s school transfer, having to go back to my wife’s hometown for some kenduri, rushing my car to the workshop, juggling finances etc. It has been a stressful December for me so far and not being able to go diving makes it worse; not that I could if I had the time because the monsoon is here and to go anywhere else would require me to request to go on leave.

Talking about leave, I had to take six days off from my balance of eleven days of annual leave as we are only allowed to carry forward five days from this year’s leave. I get 20 days annually but only managed to take five days leave this year. The other four days were the emergency leaves I had taken. I am supposed to have like four days of replacement leave when I had to work over weekends and public holidays but I cannot be bothered to request for those days as it is so difficult for me to get any leave as it is now. The only reason I get to go on leave at the end of this year is because my boss is going on leave as well.

Other than that, November and December have been rather wonderful. I attended a three-day seminar in Cherating followed by a drilling-related course here in KL. And my mother and mother-in-law met for the first time over lunch at my mother’s house. My daughter, Farhanah, has also turned 18 yesterday – and I hope now that she’s 18 she’d learn to be more responsible towards her studies (that’s probably what my parents had hoped for 26 years ago).

Gosh! Reading back, I don’t think any of the above makes any sense at all. I hope to be able to write again soon, and write better. Well, I hope I’d get to write again upon my return from offshore.