Thursday, 29 November 2012

Asia New Star Model Search - Penang Finalists

Pick of Penang is delighted to have been invited recently by Iconic Model Management to be the official photographer for the Penang activities surrounding the Asia New Star Model Search.  This is a prestigious event which is ongoing throughout SE Asia, the finalists going on to the final in Seoul, South Korea, early next year.

Penang plays host to the Malaysia (Northern Region) leg of the event and over the last few weeks the contestants have been whittled down to 16 finalists (8 male / 8 female) who will go forward to the regional grand final at the luxurious and stylish 'G Hotel' in Penang (still a Pick of Penang 'Top Pick') on Wednesday 12 December with the event starting around 7pm.  The event has a number of sponsors including the Amber Chia Academy nationally and the '1st Avenue' mall and 'G Hotel' locally.  One of the judges will be my chum, the delightful and stunning Asia super-model, Amber Chia.

As part of the process Pick of Penang recently did a shoot of the 16 regional finalists for event publicity, one group of shots will also be used by the models themselves to garner support through Facebook with awards to be given to the two finalists (male / female) who prove to be most popular (the most 'Likes') through this extremely popular social network channel.  This particular album can be found here.  Those interested in actually voting for your model or models of choice can also do so here.  In addition, there is another album here which contains a number of shots from the Penang semi-final which took place at 1st Avenue recently.  Pick of Penang will of course be covering the regional final at G Hotel and an album will be published in due course.

Good luck to all the contestants, several of whom who have become good friends since I came to live in Penang, and congratulations in advance to all the staff at Amber Chia Academy / Iconic Model Management (Penang), especially Kelvin Khoo, Nelson Loh, Venice Chong and Nix Dominic Loh, for what I know will be an excellent final at the G Hotel.

Event: 9th Penang Island Jazz Festival

A reminder for those that may have missed it but the Penang Jazz Festival starts today.  4 days of great bands and great fun.  Full details available from the website.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Removal of site from links

This is an abridged version of an original post which has been amended solely because I am concerned about the quality and standards of this site and do not wish to see it cluttered with a 'tit-for-tat' response, the catalyst for which was the antics of one particular 'official' on an internet forum.  Some points however do still need to be made.

Historically I had been a very active member, and indeed strong supporter and promoter, of an entirely unofficial MM2H visa forum website.  Recently however the site has lost its attraction for me, largely because when I have directed readers there to obtain information, I have often had them contact me subsequently saying that information is very, VERY hard to find there, given that the answers are often spread across multiple threads and that there is often a need to wade through pages and pages of 'discussion' (which at times gets decidedly off-topic) in order to find the parts of the puzzle that are of interest to you.  There have also been instances where some of the information posted members has been speculative, misleading and or just plain wrong.   In addition, many of the posts made these days seem to be of questionable (at best) relevance to MM2H and the forum has become very 'cliquey' in nature IMO.  There have also been two recent admin changes; the removal of private messaging between members and dispensing with the facility to post 'reciprocal links', where members could post links to their own site (such as the one here) provided a reciprocal links to that forum was posted.  A few other more specific issues have also concerned me of late.

Users of forums fall into many 'categories' and you often get those who see such forums as 'theirs', their own personal chat channel, then there are those who are mischievous and meddlesome with regard to what other members do and others who seem to be on a mission to up their post count.  As can happen with any forum, personalities get involved and people can clash.  There's also at times a somewhat childish attitude towards initiatives that do not emanate from that forum.  One example is the somewhat sarcastic comment from a member towards the title of the social meetings (and very successful they are too!!!!) organised by The Expat Group.  Known as 'Mingles' the title attracted a snide dig, but is it any more absurd as a title for a social meet and greet than the forum's own 'Makan Meet-Ups'?  It's just a name, it doesn't matter, but it's the mentality that surrounds the vilification of things like this that increasingly grates on you after time, an attitude that is frankly somewhat pathetic.  The regularity of posts where the forum is seemingly being used as a substitute for a web search engine, with the posting of inane questions about all manner of topics (not related to the visa) for others to respond to (and where a simple search on Google would turn up the result in a few seconds), is also tiring.  Lazy, upping the post post count?  Who knows?  But it all adds to the detritus you need to sift through to find what you need.

The Site Admins (SA) there often make reference to the fact that the views of all members are to be respected.  That's fine and all very honourable.  In my experience though that 'respect' seems to be somewhat selectively applied.  Criticise SA though (or have it viewed that you might be by having the temerity to answer them back) and their 'respect' can promptly take second place to what I can only describe as temper-tantrum fuelled responses which get very personal, very quickly.

In a recent incident involving this 'user', following an entirely civil and respectful response to one SA, in a very bizarre turn, another SA quickly became quite obnoxious and confrontational, using (or is it abusing?) member information, to selectively spew a bunch of statistics, rather patronisingly seeming to imply that information helpfully post to their site in the past had required little typing on their site as it was a 'cut and paste' from here (where of course the articles write themselves!).  You would have thought a forum like this would be encouraging member contribution, especially that which provides information that might be of use to others.  Not so it seems.  It's all well and good promoting 'respect' but people need to practice what they preach!!

My main concern with this incident is the whole principle of the thing.  In my view this, and I stress I do consider it an abuse, of member information to which only SAs are privy was wholly uncalled for and entirely inappropriate. Should SAs wish to post such information, members should be asked BEFORE posting it.  Offering to to remove the information AFTER it has been posted is too late.  That the quoting of the stream of stats in this case actually proved nothing (given that the stats were not used in a comparative way against benchmark inputs from the general membership) is actually irrelevant, albeit at the time somewhat frustrating.  But then expecting that everyone who quotes stats has the brains to do so intelligently is probably asking too much.  Interestingly, three other members of that forum who I know personally also expressed concern at what they consider to be such an inappropriate use of member information.  Indeed, had the SA not behaved in such an appalling manner I would have likely simply ceased to be an active member of the forum, as it is the SA chose to become somewhat objectionable, getting all personal, and when that happens it should be expected that people might take exception to it and air their concerns in a manner and through a channel which is not subject to their censorship.

Equally disturbing to me of late was what I consider to be the 'hounding' of one member from the forums, a member who has contributed much to the site.  The 'incident' sparked off when one thread degenerated into to rather unpleasant exchanges between members about US foreign policy. What on EARTH has that got to do with MM2H?  One member, a US citizen, perhaps understandably, took some exception to this and voiced his arguments accordingly.  The result was some rather heated exchanges and as a result the US member has made it clear he no longer feels welcome at the site or inclined to post there.  I must admit I found this episode particularly distasteful (I have been told some other details about it that are even more distasteful) and another member that I have met up with socially since voiced the precise same concerns. This particular incident actually marked a significant turning point in my view of the site some time back.

So, the cards started to stack up.  To me, the respect that the SAs on that forum allude to is VERY selectively applied at times and I find the attitude and treatment some that people receive to be quite distasteful.  I would stress that many of the members there are in fact decent folks, helpful people (some of whom I know personally) who have provided a wealth of useful information, as I hope I have done in return. It's also clear that a sizeable part of the membership post very rarely to the site  - I couldn't help wondering why?  It's clearer now!  The somewhat cliquey nature of the forum also doesn't help.

As a topic, the visa and associated matters have a shelf life in terms of interest.  Once you have it there's little point in researching or discussing it further IMO.  Beyond the visa itself the forum is not a particularly useful site about life in Malaysia either, particularly with some of the drivel that some members seem happy to spout off about (vociferous and opinionated does not equal expert!!). It has spawned all manner of 'child-boards' and it IS now clearly about more than the visa but quite what that 'more' is remains unclear, there is a lack of direction and clarity, and for information about life in Malaysia there are sites that are far, far better. Most of the non-visa topics discussed on the forum (a lot of which do not even pertain to Malaysia) are of no interest to me at all and I have got nothing of use from the site for a long time.  I also have no interest in, or a need for, the social meetings or a recently started support group.

All of the above, the recent changes to the forum, the level of difficulty encountered when trying to find information, the wandering direction of it all and of course SA attitude and their particular brand of 'respect' has caused me to review my membership of the site and in doing so I concluded that it's a site with which I am no longer happy to be associated with and I feel that the advantages of membership are now greatly outweighed by the disadvantages.  As such I no longer feel happy to promote the site and it has been removed from my links.  As a 'Q&A' style of MM2H information source the site is there to use but I will leave it to readers to find the site themselves if they so wish.

There are other forums out there that also cover Malaysia / Far East / SE Asia and previously I was happy to maintain links to those sites and even refer people to their sites in articles.  Problem is it's not reciprocal.  The vast majority of sites and blogs that I come across are more than happy to contain links to other informative sites and promote them, providing as much assistance to readers as possible.  Not so with forums it seems and these sites are without doubt the most defensive of their 'turf'.  Is it revenue based?  Is it because the sites get so little activity that they are petrified that readers might be directed towards other informative sites and lose interest in theirs?  Who knows.  For site /blog owners with a significant readership the referrals from forums have a zero impact on site traffic, 1-2 hits a week versus 2-3,000 per day from other sources, so the reason to post on forums is certainly not to generate traffic, just to help others.  Forum admins / owners seem to favour protecting their turf over helping others though.  Thus, while I'd been happy to promote these sites it needs to work both ways but it doesn't.  So I took the decision to delete the links to these sites.  Fair's fair :)  However, I remain happy to maintain links to the sites that seem to operate an a more altruistic basis.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Restaurant: Passage through India - Hillside, Tg Tokong

Must admit I was quite sad when Karaikudi, a great Indian restaurant, closed down their Tanjung Bungah establishment which was located at 'Hillside', quite close to my home, leaving only their Georgetown premises open.  Karaikudi food I always found very good and reasonably priced and the restaurant being so local was great.

In keeping with the 'every cloud has a silver lining' idiom however, it IS pleasing to see that the recently vacated premises is being taken over by the 'Passage thru India' (PTI) chain, a company that is also very highly regarded for the quality of the food and the surroundings in its Malaysia-wide restaurants.

The refurb' still seems to be at the early stages but hopefully it will not be too long before the new restaurant opens.  Not only am I looking forward to having a PTI restaurant to try I'm also looking forward to being able to go for a good Indian meal on a Friday or Saturday night, without the need to venture into Georgetown, and when I fancy a change from the still excellent 'Sri Ananda Bahwan'

NB: This restaurant is now open - full review to follow.

Boon Siew Honda introduces the PCX 150cc

It's great to hear that Boon Siew Honda are releasing the superb 150 cc Honda PCX to their model line up in Malaysia.  This is a VERY popular bike in many parts of the world and can be seen in abundance on the roads in Thailand where it is a very popular rental bike.

The PCX boasts numerous hi-tec features including a 'programmed fuel injection' efficient engine and Honda's 'idling stop' function which allows the engine to cut off when at a stand-still, thereby conserving fuel, bursting back into life as soon as the throttle is opened. It also boasts the 'combined braking system' (where one leaver pull will apply the correct amount of front and back brake to help prevent rider-error lock ups), 14" aluminium wheels with tubeless tyres and a side-stand engine-cut switch which will prevent the bike from starting if the stand is down.  The fuel tank is 5.9 litres and the PCX also has a 25 litre luggage compartment which can accommodate a full face helmet or two open face.  From experience they are very comfortable to ride and the upgrade to the 150cc engine from the previous 125cc is a great benefit.  The only things I might consider adding to the bike would be a new, taller, screen, such as an Ermax or Givi (example here) and a Givi 340 top box.

An important factor for buyers of course is the fact that it IS Honda with the reputation for reliability.  The bike will be available in black metallic, grey metallic and a special edition red and white and is priced from RM 10,688 OTR with insurance and 2 years warranty.  The Honda PCX product detail page is here and there is quite a comprehensive review of the bike here.  Further press coverage of the bike can be found here and here along with a product video in Bahasa Malay here.  Finally, there is also a quite useful user comparison between the 125cc PCX and the only bike (other than the SYM VTS) that I was considering, the 135cc Yamaha Nouvo Elegance (now called the LC) here.

The Honda PCX 150, a very welcome addition to the Malaysian bike scene.