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Wannabie for The Wannabe

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There are bags & there are fannies! I’m so honoured for this privilege of being the bag ambassador of our homegrown, Greenroom 136, a funky waterproof bike bag that is named after my birding reputation as the Wannabe. Patrick Lim, (not my dad but a rather younger & more dashing version) the founder, had toyed with the idea of launching a series that serves commuters like us to protect our belongings from the sudden onset of rain & hail. When he did & came up with the range, I was so proud to advocate this range for him! And liking waterfalls is one of the reasons why I would prefer to use waterproof bags to hold my belongings when I cycle any day.

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Built in a tough 1000 denier Cordura outer shell, the Wannabie is a combination of solid vinyl and 420 denier ripstop, that would take whatever sprays the sky or FRU trucks throw at you. It’s especially handy for a quick grab of power gel stowed in one of its compartments with my phone in the main. Hanging on the handlebar of my Oriptimus Prime (my foldie that acts like a Transformer!), my Wannabie can pack in an emergency tool, additional blinkers in addition to my chunky Galaxy Note. The bag looks great on my classic foldie too!

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In July, I was charmed (conned) into cycling a 54km round journey to Chenderiang Falls by friends. We headed to Kampar & then cycled from the train station to the huge waterfalls, making plenty of stops as I pedalled along. I had a push from Ronnie on my uphill leg while CK took my panniers after I got too ambitious carrying rations……like toys for the waterfalls. 😀 Dr. Ang kept me company for 10km & then we reached the falls. The entire ride was hilarious when I accepted a ”˜tow’ from a motorcyclist, hand in hand, pulling me for 2km to the chargrin of the rest of the riders who were waiting for me at a junction only to hop off their foldies to take a stance ready to snap pictures of me getting a ”˜ride!’ Brilliant! He came back to offer me a huge durian later too! Perhaps Patrick could come up with surprise packs for offerings-of-such along my rides. I never know whom or what I could pick up next time…… 😀

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I made it……I made it….!

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Soaking is the order of the day after a hot ride…..

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Chenderiang Falls as seen from the PLUS NKVE (highway)

The fannies are great. I have the Manny reserved for when I bring my bigger camera. Anything can fail you but the bag that keeps your belongings safe, shouldn’t. 54km was my breakthrough on my foldie (minus 2km of being towed) & I believe in staying fit to let me enjoy all my outdoor pursuits anytime. And my Wannabie lived up to it. Get yours now!

Wannabie
I have a fanny, Whose name is Wannabie,
She’s none the ordinary,
But a brimful of joyous life and unpredictability.
Always the eager beaver to seize the mind,
Some know her as one kind, A wildchild none the other,
Always random that’s how we love her.
I have a fanny,
It’s my Wannabie!

Malaysia Day For The Malaysian In Me

The whirring sound of the helicopters woke me up at 7:20am, causing me to jump with a start to get dressed for the Malaysia Day parade at Merdeka Square. Made it to park underground at Dayabumi complex & surfaced right where the action was! The marchers & costumed paraders were standing in line with their respective props, mostly the national flag or what we call, Jalur Gemilang (Stripes of Splendour), to mark our Independence Day (31st August 1957 – from British colonisation) & Malaysia Day (16 September 1963 – the joining of Sabah & Sarawak with Peninsula Malaysia) with a combined celebration today due to the 31st being Hari Raya for the Muslims.

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Beautiful girls decked in colourful dresses & traditional costumes were all smiles when I extended my camera to them. Even the marchers who were at ease, managed to have fun. It amused me to see senior officials looking stern & stoic as they are put together with the rest of the people in costumes. Navigating through the costumed marchers just as the parade was beginning was quite an experience. I had to get ahead to watch the parade at the Square where the Sultan Abdul Samad Building sits. Uniformed personnel were on duty to manage the crowd & just as soon as I had found a comfortable spot to stake out, I sat on the ground in anticipation of the band of marchers to stride pass.

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Marchers shouting 1Malaysia!

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Prototype cars were on display!

The entire square was filled with people who wanted to be a part of the celebration & the sound system provided by the Ministry of Information did not disappoint. The camera crew put in place with cameras mounted on cranes provided live coverage on several giant screens on the Selangor Padang (field). Upbeat patriotic songs accompanied the marchers & musical bands from various units put on their best while they synchronously trooped to the middle of the square. The rhythm of the parade had set the mood for me, at least, being my first Independence Day celebration since I was born. The meaning of being the 5th generation of Nyonyas here in Kuala Lumpur has caused me to value my country & her nation. And just last night, Najib, our Prime Minister, had announced the abolishment of ISA (Internal Security Act) which allows anyone to be detained without trial, the repeal of the Printing Presses Act amongst others, much to the delight of those who had been fighting for these causes. Only when it is tabled in Parliament can we begin yet another celebration but until then, all it brings is just hope that the act would be followed through.

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Serious marchers & mainly uniformed personnel.

Nevertheless, I was glad. I wished Chien was still alive for me to tell him stories of my journey. Since I got back from Penang, I hadn’t stopped once to grieve. I want to write a tribute to him & accord him more than just a blogpost in my endless rantings & pitches. As my best friend, he deserves a page as he had written chapters in my life before he passed away on the 24th August 2011. I am still dealing with this loss & I’m sure his parents feel it most. Today, is a day I have been waiting for to celebrate being a Malaysian & Chien would have been happy to see me dedicate this day to be a part of history since Sept 16 was declared as a holiday in 2009. He had always been supportive of my ventures despite the mis-adventures I sometimes get into.

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Floats of sorts that whizzed pass!

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Our national hero, badminton world champion, Dato’ Lee Chong Wei!

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The musical band marches by….

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The shiny reflection of band members on a trombone.

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The trumpeteers about to blow!

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Traditional & tribal costumes from natives around Malaysia were dancing in the parade!

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And a true native dressed in bark!
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His head gear was made out of Argus Pheasant’s feathers!!!

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Clowning around….

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What was he folding???

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A balloon flower for this girl!

The field was abuzzed with dancers in colour-coordinated costumes & the inclined scaffold of steps for the human display at the edge of the Selangor Padang was truly a sight. They held pom-poms, danced & flipped their shirts to reveal different colours for the unison display. They waved their flags with fervour to infect the already happy crowd to celebrate the day. Though those of us on the ground had to be cordoned off from the street parade, I still felt a big part of the celebrations due to the music that reverberated the atmosphere. Having fun is an understatement. Flags & a special publication called Semarak Merdeka were distributed to the public while private companies gave out hand fans & reverse osmosis bottled water. The weather held up with blue skies after a bout of rain & haze in the last one week. It was almost perfect. Clowns were getting paid for twisting balloons to entertain little kids & everyone got to the street to take photos with the costumed dancers afterwards. Today marked the first celebration for West Malaysians to acknowledge Sept 16. The sun shone brightly, the weather held up. I live to see the day we recognise Malaysia as it became one with the Eastern states on this fateful day in history. Happy Malaysia Day, you!

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Malaysia Becomes ISOs First Asian Country Venue Host!

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Here we are again, the ISO Standards Meeting. This time, with my other Malaysian delegates, Syed Abdul Rahman, Lawrence Lee, Michael & William Tong & Khatijah Hashim!

Returning from shooting in the jungle, I had to set my gear in motion for the bi-annual ISO Standards meeting on 28 & 29 June 2011, the one that the Ministry of Tourism sent me to Orlando for in October 2009. That trip gave me a chance to visit my all-time fantasy land of Magic Kingdom where all dreams do come true & to meet my family in Charlotte, North Carolina. It was decided then, that Egypt being the first to bid, would get to host first, thus, the Ministry sent me to Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt last December of 2010 & finally got to be the first Asian country to host a Working Group meeting!

I met up with Wolfgang, Martin, Mark, Steffen, Julie & Trond the night before the meeting to let them savour the best of Malaysian’s hawker fare at Lot 10. They tried our authentic Hokkien Mee, Cantonese Fried Kuey Teow, Pork Satay, Herbal Drinks, Yong Tow Foo & some other stuff but I was too busy trying to take panorama pictures to note what other stuff they had ordered.

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The panorama feature is in the Scene mode of the Samsung NX100!

In their invitation card for the welcoming dinner, the dress code specified was either Formal or Batik so I brought them batik-shopping in Kuala Lumpur’s Golden Triangle! They were ever so enthusiastic to own a piece of our cultural heritage & the shopkeeper was so happy that he gave me silk handkerchief for bringing them there!

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Martin Denison tries on a silk batik while Trond & Steffen deliberate in the background.

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The gentlemen with their various try-outs!

In the day, for two consecutive days, the meeting proceeded as usual. Though not all the delegates were present, notably Deric Ellerby, my BSAC National Instructor who certified me as one in 1998.

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We convened at Renaissance Hotel.

Everyone got very excited as dinner time approached. Here we are, garbed in our batik!

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From left:- Steffen of Wales, Trond of Norway, Wolfgang of Italy, Mark of UK, yours truly, Peter of MSDA, Martin of Austria.

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Group photo before dinner.

All ready, we walked across from the hotel to Saloma Bistro right opposite, to the beating drumbeat of the kompang!

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The Ministry of Tourism put together an ensemble of cultural dances & the delegates had a great time participating on stage!

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Taken together with the Deputy Secretary General, Acting Director General, Director of the Industry Development Division of the Tourism Ministry.

The night ended with all smiles as the delegates prepared to return to their countries the following day. A few stayed on for the seminar at the dive expo & also for diving in our warm waters! Until the next meeting in December, I will continue to work with both Ministries for the development of the ISO Standards in Malaysia! 🙂

How to Get Paid As A Writer – Start By Blogging Properly

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It won’t make you rich but it would enrich you to create masterpieces that editors will call you when they know you have what they want – articles that would astound your readers, selling the magazines & making their advertisers happy. So have you got what it takes to become a writer? Here are tips to make you one even if you don’t think you are cut out for it:-

  • You are deemed a writer the moment you document your thoughts in a readable manner but what sets you apart as a good writer is how well you engage your readers, making up what I call ”˜your audience,’ to keep them glued to read what you have to say. Capturing their attention means you have gotten their interest & you have only so much time to keep them attentive. Once you understand the basic principles of engagement, you are on your way to becoming a better writer & get paid for it.
  • Make blogging your tool. This is what I would encourage you to do to hone your skills if you are a budding journalist or a poetic-scribbles aspirant. A full-fledged writer is one who can sell the art of literary creation to media, publications or portals.

Be an author of your subject.
If you want your blog to count for anything, then be an author of your chosen subject. This subject matter does not cover politics so if your niche is in spinning propaganda, the information detailed below does not apply to you because you are probably paid as a ghostwriter for spinning already. Get your friends who aspires to get published, to read this article.

What is writing?
Writing is not scribbles on paper or random thoughts on your word processor. It is a process of fact-finding, collating, research, documenting & deciphering the information at hand to create your own expression of that work. Sure, it’s not easy but it should not be difficult if you have passion for the subject. Blogging is a good way to stay in practice. It’s also a showcase of your work & personality. It’s an extension of your opinion on the world wide web. It’s to let your audience understand what you represent, who you are & what you stand for. What you put in your blog will determine the impression people will form about you, be it good or bad. The instance they do, you would be branded immediately so be aware of what you put on your blog so that it wouldn’t create the wrong impression if you seriously want to be considered as a writer. When you write for a publication, you represent the image of that company or establishment. To be held in high regard, your work has got to reflect that you are worthy of carrying that regard too. Companies wouldn’t pay you to represent them if you possess a blog that spews out profane references to anatomical parts of anyone’s mother or make any carnal suggestions to send someone somewhere. You are what you create & you can only spew out what you are full of.

Developing character, not ABCs….
Do you have enough respect for yourself to remain honourable & presentable as a creator of your literature? A good tree produces good fruits but a bad tree can’t. Neither can a good tree produce bad fruits. In my experience of being a writer & eventually an editor & publisher, I find the most desirable trait of a writer is his/her passion. Other than that, the most important aspect a writer should develop is themselves. What can you write when all you do in real life is maliciously slander, curse, criticise & judge others? The true nature of a person is found in the mental & moral qualities that they exude. Everything else is secondary because writing communicates your thoughts & even emotions to your readers if you care to be creatively expressive enough. If you haven’t learnt qualities of others in articles & findings that you read, then you should really be questioning yourself if you have anything that others would like to read about your work. There are writers, however, who thrive on writing criticisms & cynicisms but if you want to paid as a serious writer in publications, forget about these exceptions because they are not the rule.

How to write?
Since I’ve substituted the pen with the computer, I can hardly write singlehandedly with it. I use a magnificent journalling application called MacJournal. For today only, you get a 50% discount if you click on the banner on the right to purchase it at US$19.99. I got mine when it was US$39.99. Plan your article. Write your ideas down. Collate information. Build your plot. Stick to facts & accurate information. Accredit the right people with correct spelling of their names. Read & re-read your article many times & make sure it makes sense to you. Learn to edit yourself. Editors are anal. It takes one to know one. If you have to read tons of manuscripts each day & you catch grammatical mistakes in 9 out of 10 of them, you would be anal too!

The body of your article would have to be the meat that your audience have to chew on. How tasty it is in their mouths would depend on how creatively you put it. The stroke of the pen (keyboard, in my case) should wave electrical synapses to zap them with emotions & give them a reaction that you want. Otherwise, why would you spend your time writing if you are not going to have fun with them???

Develop Your Own Style
Your flair would come as you put your thoughts down naturally. This is why blogging will help you set the stage for it. How you express yourself, describe situations & define your characters will be indicative of the kind of writing that you have passion for. Be creative with words. I coin terms off the cuff to describe things not-yet-found in the dictionary, which I term, Pummkinology. My aim is to wowify (pummkinology) my audience with humour as I lead them through a voyage as if they were living it themselves. Develop substance. Keep your audience entertained. Even dumb blondes have an interesting perspective of life worthy to be told in their blogs.

Connect with your readers. Write as if you are writing to ONE person, irregardless of how many are reading it at the same time. Am I addressing you as a crowd? Or do I speak to you as if you are the only one here? You lose connection the moment you start your article/blog with ”˜Hi Everybody!” unless you are writing an email addressed to several people at once.

How to get published.
There’s nothing wrong with blogging as long as you keep your profession separate. Blogging tends to be informal & lighthearted, sort of like an insight to one’s life & thoughts through personal logs. To a writer, blogging cripples the use of Queen’s English, unless you choose to use it all the time, which means, strict adherence to proper grammar, punctuation, spelling & define all colloquial & slang. You would want your article to be understood across genres, generations & cultures of an English-speaking audience not just a select few. Notice I seldom write informally because I have audience from the world over stopping by to see what I’m up to & what marine creatures I’ve managed to haul up in my camera. Be remembered for something in your life.

Send your articles with a caveat to editors. Include pictures. There are dozens of writers who produce articles but what would make yours standout would be what I had described in paragraph one. The attention-grabber. And lots of pretty pictures. You skip that & you would have lost your pitch.

Mainstream media have editors who are twice your age, have worked through thousands of articles in their decades of experience & will not tolerate improper usage of the language. If you don’t capture their attention in the first 30 seconds, you are as good as gone. What is mainstream media? Not just the daily newspapers but the magazines that have been around from your mother’s time. These are success stories in the publishing world so if you want to carve a niche in any area, start with writing what your audience want to read about & get to know your editor’s style. I have several editors who would call on me (whatever time of day & night) whenever they need a story on a given area of my expertise. Develop that relationship. It helps you get ahead as a freelancer later.

Identify & Select Your Publications

  • Determine the type of publication – cars, fashion, business trends, travel, men’s, women’s, lifestyle, entertainment, luxury etc.
  • Read through them before you decide on which one you want your articles to be published in. If it’s a magazine with lousy English, your association with them will bring you ill repute too.
  • Understanding your audience – look through the publication & identify the style & theme. Gauge your audience’s genre. Identify with their needs. Connect.
  • Plan your pitch.
  • Write to the editor & send teaser shots of the subject you would like to submit. When they reply, send your pitch & then follow up.

Points to keep in mind

Editors may or may not read your email. I received an average of 100 emails per day, half of those I needed to reply immediately, with manuscripts, plans & projects under my nose to read, edit & send back for rewrites, just to give you an idea of what goes on in a publication. There’s no guarantee what you had sent will be accepted so be prepared to send to other publications too.

There are copyright issues to note & what you submit may not entitle you to publish in other publications or media. That’s why a blog is important to establish yourself & to document the work that you do.

The rewards are not measured by how much or how little you make as a writer but by how others see your work in print & recognise you for it. No matter what you write, as long as you stick to the principles of staying noble & true, you will impact lives.

Footnote:- I am in the midst of pitching my travels to magazines & writing advertorials for my sponsors, which is great & this article breaks my monotony of writing on the same subject. It’s my way of staying relevant in the business. Next in the pipeline, is how to overcome writer’s block.