Bill Gates Giving Away His $$$?

junk_mail_mailbox What a load of rubbish! This email is more ‘$#&%’ than ‘$$$’!

This is a bloody hoax. And it is, as it had been circulating around the internet for a good 10 years or more.

It is so very annoying. Bill Gates giving away his fortune? If that is true, he would now probably be sleeping in the streets or under some bridge. I am very sure many of you have received an email that looks like the one shown below.


Dear Friends,

Please do not take this for a junk letter. Bill Gates is sharing his fortune. If you ignore this you will repent later. Microsoft and AOL are now the largest Internet comp ani es and in an effort to make sure that Internet Explorer remains the most widely used program, Microsoft and AOL are running an e-mail beta test.

When you forward this e-mail to friends, Microsoft can and will track it (if you are a Microsoft Windows user) for a two week time period.

For every person that you forward this e-mail to, Microsoft will pay you $245.00, for every person that you sent it to that forwards it on, Microsoft will pay you $243.00 and for every third person that receives it, you will be paid $241.00. Within two weeks!, Microsoft will contact you for your address and then send you a cheque.


There may be some variations in the above version, but the stories are fundamentally similar. I admit to having fallen victim to this notorious hoax many years ago, but who can blame a 13-year-old who had just gotten his first computer? The problem is that many a times I usually receive this email from friends who usually belong (apparently) to the right portion of a intelligence distribution curve.

There are people who are supposedly mature (and intelligent) enough yet fail to understand that in there is no free lunch in this world.

Even if Bill Gates did intend to pay that amount of money for every email sent and received, there are some nagging issues as to why this fact cannot possibly hold water:

1. The world population currently stands at close to 7 billion people. The global average internet penetration rate, as of March 2009 is 23.8 percent (, and that accounts for some 1.6 billion people. If 2 in every 10 persons of these1.6 billion people forward the email to an additional 5 persons (they usually forward to everyone in their address books anyway), that accounts for some 320,000,000 persons forward that email to 5 times that amount, assuming that every one of these 5 persons are unique. This is further compounded by the fact that this email has been (and still is) in circulation for more than a decade, almost guaranteeing that every single internet-user on earth has seen this email at least once. If say, a ‘modest’ number of people, 50 million, for instance, actually did receive a check of USD 200  from Bill Gates for forwarding this mail in the time-span of 1 year, that makes a total of 10 billion dollars to give away every year, and that is a huge chunk of Microsoft’s annual revenues. This is also one reason why Ponzi schemes eventually fail.

2. The second reason is a total no-brainer: Isn’t it easier to just give it away the good old-fashioned way? For that reason, there is the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Simple and convenient, and it certainly beats forwarding spam and wasting server resources.

Identifying Spam

Spam is relatively easy to identify. More often that not, spam is often characterized by three common traits:

  1. Email that you don’t want (d-uh).
  2. Usually ends with a note encouraging it’s circulation, either with a ‘bad luck’ note (like saying that you’ll die tomorrow if you don’t forward the mail) or with one promising reward (as in the example above).
  3. Email from an unknown sender, or from a person not known personally by you.

It always pays to have good email habits. What then do you do when you encounter spam? My uncle’s 3-step ‘Guaranteed-To-Eliminate-Spam’ technique would suit most people. The steps are:

  1. Open mail.
  2. Read (Optional: Have a good laugh).
  3. Delete.

Additionally, be careful with whom you share your email with. If you have to provide your email address, like signing up for email newsletters, make sure there is an option to unsubscribe in the future.

Thou Shall Not Forward Spam…

If there was room for another commandment, it ought to a top reason for making frequent trips to the confessional. Churches and places of worship around the world would be packed with ‘sinners’ and the religious would be droning on and on with their sermons as to why spam is ‘evil’.

But spam is evil.

I have had to deal with enough spam to make it my full-time job.

Forwarding emails indiscriminately  makes your inbox a highly susceptible target of spammers as the chain of email addresses usually accumulated as inline text can be harvested by unscrupulous individuals for marketing (or rather, spamming) purposes.

Don’t want to see spam? Then think before you hit that forward button.

Additional Reading:



Shooting Spree at the Waterfront

On the 28th of May 2009, three suspicious-looking persons were seen walking up and down the Kuching waterfront shooting away at people, newspaper stands, hotdog vendors and even at little old ladies.

What were you thinking?

lumix_resized00018 The Kuching waterfront today

It was a great evening for a photo-shoot, so I packed up my photo gear, and with the company of my two ‘accomplices’ (my siblings actually), each armed with a camera, we had a splendid time learning ‘real’ photography, which was nothing like shooting indiscriminately at all things around. The photos bearing this site’s watermark were captured using the Lumix DMC LX-3, unless otherwise specified. In this post, I promise you, there will be more pictures, and less talking, so happy viewing!

VBrookeKuching Kuching in the olden days


The Tua Pek Kong temple


The Kuching Hilton. In the foreground is the James Brooke Bistro.



HarbourView Hotel, just behind the temple. To the right is the Cineplex building.


lumix_resized00008The Waterfront. To the left is Riverbank Suites, just opposite of Riverside Majestic and adjacent to Hotel Margherita.



One of the numerous riverboat ‘taxis’ that will take you across the river for less than MYR 1.00 each way.


lumix_resized00020 Sarawak River Cruise with the new state legislative council building in the background.


lumix_resized00025Kuching CBD.



I don’t know what this is, but it has been here for as long as I can remember…should check it out one day.


lumix_resized00046Observation tower at the waterfront.




State legislative building seen from afar.



The Astana, which was built in 1870 by the second white Rajah Charles Brooke, as a bridal gift for his wife.


nikon_resized00016 The Astana. This photo was taken with my Nikon Coolpix P5000.


lumix_resized00068Silhouette of river banks. Shot against the sunset. Seen here is the Sarawak River.


The waterfront at dusk. Photo captured with the P5000.

 lumix_resized00049  The Old Courthouse of Kuching. A must-see for visitors and tourists.


Thanks for viewing!

-Lionel Lam


Of Slums and Poems.

Of Slums and Poems

The Sunday Post 26, October 2008 (with permission of the author) 

By Dunstan Chan

“Maybe the thing that makes Kuching lovable is not that tangible. It is the relaxed ambience and quiet charm of a contented city where people of different races and religions live harmoniously together. Such a nebulous attribute is not easy to put down into words in a brochure. Kuching has to be experienced.”



Pictured above is the Kibera slum, Nairobi, Kenya, the second largest slum in Africa.

“Take me to the slums area.”
“Slums?” said I, taken aback.
Perhaps it was my tone and my facial expression that prompted Rita to go on to explain somewhat patronizingly.
“Yes, slums, you know what they are, the poor area where the poor people and squatters live.”
I could see that the other passengers in my car were also giving me looks tinged with pity for not knowing that famous (or infamous) bane of Asian cities.

Yes, I know what slums are. I have been to some of the major cities of Asia. Heck, I have even visited Tondo and Smokey Mountain of Manila to know exactly what she meant. Yes, slums, I have seen them. I have smelt them.

Smokey Mountain was a rubbish dump for Manila in the District of Tondo. The 2 million ton garbage heap attracted a huge squatter community who scavenged the garbage for their livelihood.

No, my bewilderment was due the foreignness of the concept of “slums” in Kuching. Having settled comfortably in Kuching for some time now, the image of that crowded unsanitary habitat with all its unpleasantness seemed to have faded from my mind.

I was taking a group of journalists from the Commonwealth Journalist Association on a whirlwind tour of Kuching. Rita, who hailed from India but settled in Britain, went on to explain that it is her practice whenever she visits a big city to make a point of visiting the poor areas as well as the affluent areas. “It gives me a better feel of the city.” She said.

So I drove around Kuching for a good three hours to give them an impressionistic view of the city. All I can say is that they loved the city and to the person said that they want to come back for a holiday with their families. And I don’t think they were just being polite.

Ironically, sometime ago I was talking with some friends about the attractions of Kuching and if we were to promote it as a place to visit what would we say about it. For a while we fell into the trap of many a tourism writer who succumbed to the formulaic description of the tourist attractions of a place. We talked about pristine beaches, crystal clear water, vibrant nightlife, and shopping, all predictable stuff. However, using that standard yardstick and comparing to our neighbours, Kuching really doesn’t have too much to shout about. We don’t have the powdery white sand of Boracay of the Philippines, the crystal clear waters of Sabah, the wild nightlife of Bangkok and our shopping complexes are dwarfed by mega malls of the other Asian cities.

Indeed, in pitching Kuching as the typical tropical postcard type of tourist destination can yield embarrassing results as reality does not match up to the hype. Some years ago I received a call from one of the hotels in Damai beach. Among its guests was a honeymoon couple from America who wanted to learn SCUBA diving. I met the charming young newly weds. They were both good swimmers, the husband being a lifeguard. I asked them why they chose to come to Kuching to do their diving. They said that they came across an advertisement about “the pristine underwater marine life and untouched coral reefs” here. Those who are familiar with the underwater world would know that Kuching resides somewhere at the bottom rung of the world ranking of good dive spots. While other dive sites boast of underwater visibility of 30 to 100 feet, here off Kuching, we count ourselves lucky if we can see up to fifteen feet.

Fortunately the couple had not done any diving and thus did not know any better. And the novel experience of swimming underwater made their experience around the islands off Kuching a happy one. Seeing their keenness I recommended that they visit Sipadan, that world famous diving paradise (I am not exaggerating) in Sabah. Of course they were totally blown away by their experience there.

A few weeks later I received an email from them “. . . thank you so much for introducing us to this totally new and exquisitely beautiful experience. Our time in Sipadan was absolutely brilliant and will remain a most memorable holiday.” I noted that they pointedly avoided making any mention of diving in Kuching.

The point I am making is that sometimes we tend to focus on the usual run-of-the-mill tourism products — spectacular scenery, sea and beaches, nightlife and shopping, etc. and thus totally miss what is our forte.

When I asked my visitors from Uganda, Mauritius, Britain and Bangladesh what they like about Kuching they did not specify anything in particular, though they were highly impressed by the cleanliness of the city, the well preserved historic buildings and the places of worship.

“In my country we also have such historical buildings from the colonial era but they are mostly in a rather dilapidated condition,” said one of them. We were standing in front of the old Court House, looking across the river to Fort Margarita. Then someone said, “It is not just the buildings I like, it is the feel of the city.”

Maybe the thing that makes Kuching lovable is not that tangible. It is the relaxed ambience and quiet charm of a contented city where people of different races and religions live harmoniously together. Such a nebulous attribute is not easy to put down into words in a brochure. Kuching has to be experienced.

After the futile search for slums, we ended up near the Astana on the north bank of the Kuching River. From there, the city with the smooth flowing river in the foreground looked beautiful.
“Are there many poems written about this river?” asked one of them. I think that is a question which is pregnant with meaning. Maybe sometimes we just forget to count our blessings.

The writer can be contacted at


Uncle Dunstan, thanks for letting me post your article here. –Lionel