Monday, January 19, 2015

Weeding Revisited

Weeding... I have not been weeding my garden regularly these last few years. I would do it when I couldn't stand the sight of the weeds especially when they were long and stood out like sore thumbs but there was no concerted effort to really get rid of them. As a result my yard would only look neat after a mow.

Getting rid of the weeds required a lot of effort as I have rediscovered. I was painfully aware how the years of neglect had allowed the the different weeds to spread their roots.

Well three months have passed. The skin of my thumbs and index fingers are hardened by the constant friction of pulling the weeds, making sure their roots came out too. Last year too, some signs of athritis began to show. The tell tale signs of knobbly fingers have begun to appear.

The first month of weeding netted piles of unwanted grass. It was a lot of hard work. It is always impossible to get rid of all the weeds. Life is like that too. One can likened bad habits to weeds (or not too). Bad habits can never quite go away too. You can correct and try to change them, or even try to get rid of them but they always come back. What we can do is like managing the weeds. The carpet grass if given a little help eventually will grow thick enough to squeeze out the weeds. Eventually you will still find the weeds tucked between the carpet grass, with a yellowy tinge from the lack of sun or looking scrawny but they'll still be there, waiting for the opportunity to break forth.

When we mow too, I realized, we can never cut the grass too short for the want of a flat, neat perfect kind of appearance. The grass must be allowed to keep a certain length to prevent the weeds from spreading. It brings to mind our efforts to raise perfect kids. I think many of us probably realised too that by trying too hard, many of our kids seem to lack that overall well-adjusted with little flaws here and there overall character. Weeds will always be there, no matter how hard one tries to get rid of them.

I shall try to keep the garden as weed free as possible. Consistent weeding will be required. I don't know if I have the time or the energy to persist but I will try. After all weeding is therapeutic as I have discovered too. The time spent draws me away from the incessant pull of the tablet. My mind goes free range when I weed too. And occasionally when I have company while I weed, it is also a time to simply just enjoy the company of another, be it in silence or chatter. We live in a world filled with too many planned activities and rushes... and one that is dictated by the whims of electronic gadgets.

Weeds... Just realised too weeds as I call them are grass too. They are just not the type of grass that I want.... just another personal preference. Same grass and of all things brought to mind the K-Pop singers hugging the girls. The bemusement and horror that came to mind. We are such sticklers to uniformity.... Adults bent on one tract expecting kids to be perfect (their version) when they themselves must have been less than perfect too at that age. One forgets the hormonal surges, the crushes that keep posters of their 'idols' on their room walls. The mind goes free range.... Maybe I should be kind to the weeds too... 8)

School is hectic but I am enjoying the work generally. Adapting to new tools and ways of doing things... It is also nice to be part of the agent of change too. Everyday poses new challenges. It may be tiring but so far I have found them to be challengingly fun.


Wednesday, January 7, 2015


When I was a kid I used to think my parents knew everything. Then the teenage years came and the 'I know all phase' began. Before long secondary school ended and university beckoned. There was so much to read and so little I knew. University was an eye opening experience. The internet age followed soon after and so much information suddenly became available. And it highlighted the fact that I know even less than I thought.

Books used to be what we depended on for knowledge and we set the contents of those books to be true, that they are correct and accurate. And that is how many of us treat the digital information that is stored in the web too. We deemed them to be true too like the books we are so familiar with. But it might not be so....

I have learned that actually what is deemed as true may not be totally so. Facts.... they remain that until a point when error is pointed out. Knowldege is fluid. The wealth of knowledge that we have, I feel, is shaped and formed by the environment.

In the beginning it was the primitive environment which gave shape to knowledge. Knowledge was quite basic, I guess. How to start a fire, hunt a wild animal for food, skin it, etc, etc. Then as the environment became more sophisticated, knowldege took on a more refined form too... different ways to start a fire, various materials that aid combustion, multiple tools to hunt animals, curing skin, making intricate designs out of them.... in short knowledge undergoes changes too along the way. It is fluid.

Sometimes fluidity means add-ons.... a rewrite or even a rehash. Other times it means a total write off. It is rendered useless and new information replaces the outdated one. Point is it is constantly changing. And perhaps because of this particular nature that knowledge, it is also a tool for power. It can be used to control, mould and shape, enhance a status, subdue, subjugate and even cripple. Even a taboo is knowledge and we know how taboos can be used to stop actions, practices.

Fluid... Life is a cycle. That itself, I think points towards an untold fluidity that perhaps many of us might be afraid to face sometimes. I just read that the Church of England is fast tracking those with management skills upward... to stem the decline of membership. The hunt is on for the talented ones, those with the right knowledge (read as skills too) to be singled out for roles which will arrest the tide.

From brawn to brain... We have seen that evolution in our lifetime. Might or brute strength used to be the only path to power. Then brain came into the picture. For over 200,000 years life was basically ruled by the might of brute strength. But in the last 5000 years, we have seen brute strength giving way to a more refined yet more devastating aspect... Might driven by brain. And amazing changes have taken place in this short span of time.

As we seek to be more knowledgeable, as we embark on new adventures into the unknown..... I guess that's where we need the wisdom to differentiate. These are probably the most challenging and exciting times in our midst..... Yet wisdom is lacking. But sometimes I think the powers that are don't want us to be any wiser too. Enough to be useful but not too much to question.

Ramblings during the week when school is delayed because flood waters caused so much devastation in many states of the country.


Thursday, January 1, 2015

Welcome 2015

Another year gone by. Feels like it was a daze. Spent the last two weeks of the 2014, clearing up stuff at work and doing repairs. My Moto-Saw, Rotary Tool, drill and all the other tools came out to play. Did stuff which I normally don't do or would be too lazy to begin. But I learned plenty in the process.

Tools are important. The right tool affects the ability to get things done, qualilty of finishing and speed of work. Without the right tools many of the tasks would have either not been possible or taken a very long time to complete. Quality of work would have been greatly affected too.

That's life too. We need the right tools to get by and get ahead. EQ, IQ.... The right amount of each is needed. For some, the privilege of pedigree birth gives a distinct advantage over the rest. This has often made me wonder whether life is really fair. One who is born in a family with wealth or even just relative wealth immediately has a headstart. On the other spectrum, one born in the third world country into great poverty would most probably be destined to roam the bush or the slums to which he was born. The abject poverty would make it an gargantuan uphill task to get out of the cycle. Likely that he'll be stuck there. The unfair advantage always exists.

Year end flood. Another plane crashed. I was struck by the number of seven helicopters available during the early days of the flood. Only seven. A plane crashed and multiple governments came out with pledges to do all they can. I wonder too how much it'll cost. I don't know what the exact amount is but the cost for the of MH370 is running into the hundreds..... and that's in millions. And still counting too...

I had an interesting conversation with someone on the last day of the year too. She talked about how the king has directed that flood mitigation projects be carried out in her village in Thailand. During our conversation which crossed many boundaries, I asked her if the monarchy was really needed. I said history has recorded that the lavish lifestyle of King Vajiravudh was one of the reasons for the creation of constitutional monarchy in the country which brought about the 1932 Revolution. The maintenance and running of the monarchy.... It costs money which is borne by the taxpayers. So do we need the monarchy? Her answer was yes because she said the present king is a wise man. But it remains to be seen whether his heir apparent can fit into his father's shoes. Our conversation soon drifted to other things.

A new year. My kids said it is just another day. I tend to agree with them. I asked them to stay up with me to herald in the new year. But they were in their room before the clock struck 12. I fell asleep too. They were right. It is just another day. Heralding the new year becomes meaningful, I think mostly in a social context. I read about how an old friend would make a trip to Singapore to greet the New Year for the last 10 years. Many people I know would spend the last hour at church for Watch Night Service. New Year celebraion is always done in groups. It's more fun, I think.

I stopped making resolutions years ago. Instead of making resolutions which I will break anyway, I went on an ad hoc approach and try to maintain whatever I have decided to do for as long as possible.... and pick up from where I failed each time I fail.

Maybe we celebrate New Year cos we have been conditioned to want new things. New clothes even when the old ones are still perfectly good? New cars cos they give one new prestige? New gadgets cos they promise more features? New friends cos they show our social prowess? New places to visit cos they allow us to highlight on Facebook?

Yet newness is not about all those too. New is about rejuvanation too. The new comes to enhance. It replaces the old. The old has to make place for the new to take over. The cycle is repeated..... new will turn to old too. Compassion, generosity, humility, kindness are needed to make life more meaningful.

Many say 2014 has been a difficult year. Was it? Or it's just another year.... one of many years. Anyway, 2015 is here. Happy New Year!


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Percy Jackson Series ... by Rick Riordan

I did 4 books in 3 days. Picked up the book cos my girl had been asking me when I was going to read them. Ancient Greek mythology given a modern twist. Enters Percy Jacksom, I supposed in the 21st century. Olympus has now moved to New York. The Greek go where the western world goes. Greek gods are western.... ang mohs. Lol!

Percy has his sidekicks too, of course. Stories with heroes will never be complete without their sidekicks. They change a little with every book but the main ones remain Annabeth and Glover. They travel in style too, with the help of magic... the three sisters with one eye.

I refreshed a lot of my rusty knowledgw about the ancient Greek Gods. Am reminded of words like Titan, Kronos... a nudge that etymology of words can actually be very fun. The Big Three... Zeus, Poseidon and Hades versus Kronos, the Titan.

And so as the wars are waged between the supposedly good and evil, I was transported into a fantasy world where Percy Jackson, a half-blood inherits his father's power in the water. No story is complete without greed for power, treachery and a little love. A story which reflects life .... well, I guess that will always be the selling point.

I read in between weeding. I read while waiting for people. I read before I went to sleep..... when I woke up. I read during toilet breaks, and while waiting at the supermarket.... The smartphone made it very easy to start, continue and resume. It's with me most of the time....

At the end of every book, Percy emerges triumphant. However, triumph was never total... can't win all. Life doesn't work that way in real life too. I did not finish books 5 and 6 yet. Might or might not complete them... Will see.

It was fun reading the books. A little magic always makes reading fun. We are all in a quest for that little magic in our lives too. If one wants to learn about the Greek gods, this series is a sure winner. It's fun. It's gripping....

Ah... I did read some books after all, this year. 8)


Monday, December 8, 2014

Sabai Dee Cafe

Sabai Dee Cafe... Of late there have been a mushrooming of eating places. This is one of the newer places and it is hidden from plain sight. It is located along one of the bund roads in the middle of the party fields in Jitra. Easiest way to get there... Get off the North-South Expressway at Darulaman Exit. Turn right and go a short distance. Make sure to watch out for a small road on your right, soon after you drive down the flyover. Turn into that road and the cafe is around a kilometre down the narrow dirt road. Bear in mind that the road leading to the cafe is a very tight squeeze for two cars.
We were not sure of going as it had been raining. However the sky cleared up somewhat and we decided to give it a go. It was a 2 kids and 3 adults affair. However, the sky darkened soon after we arrived and it started pouring.

This was just before the 'cats and dog's decided to make their entrance! Ambience is nice...setting is idyllic. It's a quaint little place! After the waiter took our orders we had a little time to snap these...

All around, little pockets of dining places were created for diners. They're quiet and peaceful. But I'm quite sure the mozzies will be hovering around, little vampires waiting to fill up. I like the plants though. They really make the place very beautiful.

We had no chance to sit out as the evening was totally washed out by the torrential rain which came. The cafe operators had put up bamboo blinds for an eventuality like this but we still had to bear with rain splattering into the dining area. And that sort of tropical rain made many tables unusable....

We didn't order any of the traditional spicy Thai food because of the kids. So, no tomyam for us. Instead we had the waiter's recommendations. They were okay. Portions were generous enough.

We left by 7.30 pm but the sky was quite dark by then. It was still raining when we left. And oh yes... The narrow road was rather dark. I guess it is okay to say that an occasional worry about the canal running beside the road did cross our minds too as we made our way out.

Overall, I think this is a nice place to have dinner... For the food, ambience and experience.


Monday, November 3, 2014

Gulai Tujuh Kawah

Passed by this place many times over the years. Was always taken up by the name plus the restaurant looks inviting. Kawah in the Malay Language means crater. A wok is like a crater. So Gulai Tujuh Kawah means Seven Big Woks of curries. This restaurant is situated along the road to Gunung...the same road where you will find Pantai Johor. But there is no beach anywhere nearby. Nor is there a gunung unless you count this solitary limestone crop.... Of course in the olden days, this crop must have looked really high...
That's Gunung.. You'll find the Science Centre, Paddy Museum and the Aquatic Centre all in the viccinity. It is also quite a scenic place, green and golden paddy fields, depending on the time of the year. And not forgetting occasional floodings which turn the whole area into a sea of sorts.
Think this is why the restaurant is called Gulai Tujuh Kawah... Seven 'craters' of soups and gulai, including 'kari itik'. You will be spoilt for choice. Thought this was quite quaint. If one is looking for good and nice traditional Malay food, I think this place deserves a second look.... well, maybe even third. You get all kinds of food here; ulam, ikan bendang, all kinds of grilled stuff (meat and veg) and even pulut. I tried the mango pulut taken with santan, simply rich. During the durian season, you get (yup) durians with the glutinuous rice, sinfully rich with santan.
The place was quite empty when we arrived but packed when we finished our meal. Noticed too that the owner had put in this windows of light in the attap roof. I think it's a cool idea. Not only does it save electricity cost but it provides a nice ambience.

It was a Wednesday when I went and there was the 'kenduri bubur' which was green bean soup. I tried a bowl of that too and it was nice. It had enough of everything and the corn added to it gave it a nice taste. It is quite a nice feeling to experience the genorisity of a restaurant which seem to put in the same effort into food that they serve as kenduri. This one gets a big thumbs up from me. I also had an interesting conversation with the proprietor who was nice and affable. We talked about how the quest of knowledge should cross different cultures and also education.
I like Malay food, especially the kampung cooking. Here, the food is not bad. I like the kambing bakar which is cooked in the tandoor oven. I have been there twice and will probably go back there again. The price is reasonable, the decor has a rustic feel which is quite nice. The place is also cool. Definitely one of the makan places to consider if you don't mind the drive since the place is quite out of the way from town.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Volleyball 2014

I supposed volleyball is a game which can be considered a game I picked up seriously in adulthood. I have always enjoyed games. Over the years, I actually became quite good in the game. Being a badminton player and also endowed with good arm strength gave me an advantage of powerful serves. It used to be the only thing I could contribute to the team. I would go in for the service and be promptly replaced after that. But even then, service was more of brute strength without the finesse of control.

But over the years too, due to the encouragement and support of friends I improved. My friends put up with my very basic skills and tolerated the mistakes I made in the game. Not wanting to disappoint them, I bought a ball and dug against the wall. And there was one year when guidance from a young friend honed my digging skills. I continued to improve.

The teachers have their own sporting event and that became my bench mark. I took part as and when I could. There were some years when we participated and other years when we would just not. One thing though, coming together was always nice. Over the years too, I learned many lessons of life from there. Some of us have been playing together for a long time. Friendships grew.

I think it is probable that many find it hard to imagine why a bunch of ladies, ranging from 24 to 50 plus; in this age where we seem to do everything we can to keep our skin blemish free, go under the hot 3.30 afternoon sun, disregarding the tan which will definitely occur to play an outdoor game of volleyball. The same group too would brave the evening thunderstorm and resume play after the rain had stopped. Or dealing with the bruises, cuts and muscular pains during and after the game. Many of our spouses just cannot understand why we 'torture' ourselves too.

Yet for the many of us who are reaching our 50s, we have been pleasantly surprised by what we still find ourselves able to do. And that is why I believe sports is good. It builds resilience. It teaches a thing or two about life. It enables us to allow the kid in us to come out and play. In a game like volleyball, it is about being a team player too. No one player should be jaded. We cover and bear each other's mistakes. We encourage and pick each other up. We play the roles assigned to our best ability. And learn to grit our teeth and plod on when the going gets tough.... together. And we learn to take the mistakes one member makes as a team.

I think many of us, as we grow older, we tend to have a mindset how we should 'behave', that we should behave our age.... We should not. Mindsets should not be static. Retesting old limits, setting new ones and testing them... All these are good for us, regardless of our age. It keeps us young in the mind and heart. It teaches us a thing or two about being flexible and malleable. It is actually lifelong learning at its best.

One week being out of school has its merits too. I think schools should encourage teachers to continue to be involved in 'co-curricular' activities too. It makes us better teachers cos staying just within the walls of a classroom sometimes is sterile too. Academic prowess is mainly theory with no practice. It puts ideas into our heads with no practice. And sometimes it makes us behave as though as we know everything. We don't.

I am glad I still can play. I am playing my best volleyball. I am learning new skills which I never imagined possible. My friend says the same too. Ageing is no excuse for not learning.... There will no doubt be physical limitations which only the young can break but there are always new things for each of us too.

We won but the highlights of this season... I met up with a young lady I used to carry when she was a toddler. Her mother was one of the people who watched out for me as a rookie teacher. She is my equal now. Leya, as she is fondly known to us.... Without volleyball, it would not have been possible to reconnect. Another highlight... I can still pack power in my serve. I served a couple of aces which made a difference to the outcome. Plus, I can finally feel the game. My team mates no longer need to cover my mistakes. I can hold my own.... and cover my team mates too. But the best of it all remain this... the people I met. The stories and struggles that some have gone through, of grit and resilience, they remain the most priceless.