Tuesday, September 30, 2008

When service becomes a disservice

Looking at our current political scenario, tis what's happening...ask the PM why he is staying on. I think among the answers he might give will be to serve the people. So what if a large segment of the people do not want him because he is not fit in their eyes? I guess that's when by staying on, service becomes a disservice. This is just one of many ways to look at it....bottom line probably comes back to this one thing - personal gain. Personal gain can be in many forms; be it monetary or non-monetary. The latter is more complicated as it may involve family and friends. For the PM, there are personal gains here to stay...face saving, family dependency - SIL stands to lose a lot, friends' prompting, etc...

But 'service becomes a disservice' is not just a problem confined to our politics. It's everywhere. It's found at work, play and even our worship places. It's as old as the human race cos of the underlying benefit.....personal gain.

In places of worship for example, what if a church leader delegates the tasks under him to just his family members and not any one else? The whole family is still performing a service to the church... but would that be considered a disservice as he has not ensured that training and exposure are given to the others...that others be given a chance to serve? In other situations, it would be nepotism. But I guess it may be difficult to argue.However, I would consider it a disservice because in wanting to 'train' their very own to continue to walk their faith, they fail to train up others to take over some day. If a shepherd concentrates only on just a few sheep in his flock, he'd still end up losing it all. In the pursuit of our goals in life, we often forget that every one of us has to leave this world. So one can either adopt an attitude of either grabbing everything for yourself or leaving behind a legacy that can continue for the benefits of those who come after. Of course the lines which separate this sometimes can be rather thin.

It's the same at work place...sometimes we get possessive over equipment and rooms which are entrusted to us. Because of that we disallow others from using them. In the end even though they are used by us, our colleagues and students miss out on what has been given to benefit all.

So service becoming a disservice...that's a thought which came to mind last Sunday. It's something I must remind myself...

Monday, September 29, 2008

Stories from the Classroom

After years of dealing with students, there are still things which can surprise me and this was one. Was in a class of low ability students, so I took a really simple passage to teach reading. It's difficult to imagine that after 6 years of primary schooling students basically are still very lost in the language. So, I have been doing reading...lotsa reading with them to be exact. I figure they are about 5 years behind when they come to Form 1. Anyway, this was the passage I gave them...A Robbery.
We read the story many times...I made them read after me...again and again. One needs to be really patient teaching these kids. If you ask them to read the passage even after a couple of times of reading after the teacher....they'd still mispronounce about 30-40% of the words. Anyway, as we read together, I'd pause to give meanings of perceived difficult words ... even translated the story. I felt quite good as the kids were really responsive. So, I went through the passage again for the final time... followed a by a short session where I rephrased the comprehension questions to which they answered really enthusiastically.

Feeling good, I told them to take out the exercise books and copy the short passage, to be followed by the questions and answers. Reinforcing the words and structures learnt for the day...Ah! I thought it was a good day.

Well, the copying of the passage went fine. It's the questions which threw me completely off... Instead of copying the questions from the passage that we'd been reading - A Robbery, a few of them copied the next page's questions. Aiyo! Tell me...what did I do wrong! I can only shake my head at the end of the lesson. When asked, guess what the replies from these said students were.... First there would be this 'hand-slapping-the-forehead' followed by this statement..."Alaa...lupa teacher!" What is there to forget? Basically there was no comprehension. And a 'tidak-apa' attitude. How to win them over to this divide of literacy?

And then when they get to Form 5 in four years' time, they're going to be going after products like this.... to help them pass their exams with flying colours. I don't know what is going to fly...one single red RM10 note or real flying colours...
You see, for RM10, you can get this product which is supposed to do all kinds of wonderful stuff to your brains. And my Form 5 students were buying this the same day I had the above lesson with my Form 1. 100 tablets at RM10 to make you a into a high achieving genius! Sold by a 'makcik' carrying a marketing basket sitting in the school canteen.... Any takers???

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Second Tesco in Alor Star

Saw this in town today...either I must have been rather oblivious or they have just put it up...This is at Bulatan Teluk Wanjah
Another TESCO, so soon after the first one opened this year. Alor Star must be giving really good returns to TESCO to consider a second so soon, considering the first TESCO just opened its doors in May.

So, we went to Stargate which is located just at the exit of the Alor Star Selatan Toll Exit... anyway, what a name to call it. There was a show by the same name on TV some time back...starring Richard Dean Anderson, the MacGyver guy.
Have not really looked around this area for some time. Construction of shoplots were underway. And saw this right at the entrance...
So guess, all those goods flying off the Mergong TESCO shelves must have convinced the investors that Alor Star is a place where they can do business. Would it be good to have 2 TESCO(s) so near each other....they're just along the same road. Dunno!

The Study of Rocks...for my young friend

This one is for an eight-year-old boy I know, the son of an old school friend of mine...who lives across the ocean, and with whom I occasionally have conversations. The latest of which on his bunny which applied lotion on his bed, of naps as punishments and his latest rock acquisition, a conichalchite. Seems it's related to copper arsenates...something like that. His rock knowledge is definitely more comprehensive than mine. Here's a pic of it..at least I know how it looks like now. 8) His mummy and I share a friendship that goes back to our childhood days!
But anyway, these few days, quite a few articles on rocks have come my way. It seems they have just discovered the oldest rock on Earth in Canada and it's 4.28 billion years old in the Nuvvuagittuq greenstone belt on the eastern shore of Hudson Bay in Northern Quebec. It contains amphibolite (volcanic deposits). (I don't know whether that is in your collection, E! Ask your mummy to read up and tell you more)

In another article, it seems that studying erratic boulders or big rocks is also one way of getting better statistics on mega-tsunamis. They found such rocks in the Krakatau tsunami of 1883 and the latest biggies lining the western shore of Tonga. From those rocks, scientists could estimate the height of the tsunami waves. Imagine a rock one million kg being hurled by the waves! The Krakatau tsunami waves were estimated to have been 35 metres high while the Tonga tsunami was believed to have hit eons ago as it is part of their folklore. See, I am getting more interested as I go along, my young friend. 8) Ask your mummy to read up more on the Tongan discovery and here...it's quite fascinating.

And in the Midwest, scientists are using the white stalagmites as a reference in their effort to predict the next big volcanic eruption. They are hoping to chronicle the history of the New Madrid Seismic Zone via the stalagmites. Such scientists are called isotope geochemists and they use really sophisticated techniques and equipment. You must be good in chemistry, though! Know your Periodic Table well..etc..

There you have...how an 8-year-old sparked some interest in me to read up on rocks. And I must say...they're actually quite interesting. Rocks have many stories to tell; if we know where to look for them and how to study them....pretty much like people, I should say. So today, I dedicate this to my young inquisitive friend....whose little bunny squished lotion all over his bed. 8)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Gotong-Royong at Church

Today we had a gotong-royong to clean the church. The main focus was the chairs....labelling and treating them. Labeling was done in a jiffy as there were quite a number of people to do it...all quite cekap.
Breakfast was provided. We'd have worked for free. But food is always welcomed cos it's always nice to eat with company. 8)
Treating the chairs. Basically we just sprayed the bottom with insect spray to get rid of possible weevils. The factory said there might still be some. ...this is one factory we shouldn't buy the chairs. For that price, since we have to spray it some more, might as well get from Carrefour. So since we want the chairs to last as long as possible, thought we'd rid them of the pests. The whole sanctuary smelled strongly of the insecticide for quite a while.
And since we were already at it...we also gave all the plastic chairs there a good wipe and also the floor a good clean-up.
Footprints on the tiles... 8) All in all it was a nice get-together. Was fun working together. Got some time to sembang-sembang and many hands do make light work.

One thing though...there was a lack of young people around.... the young people's presence was missed. I am told that they are very busy.. sigh! These days... when it comes to things like this, there're always tuitions and other stuff. I thought this make good service...it may not be 'glamourous' like doing all the more visible stuff (playing instruments, leading, etc) but they're are equally important. Without a clean place, where then will we worship?.... and I think we're very blessed to have a Property Chairman who is a very hands-on person.

Adeona - Tracking Lost Laptop

Adeona is purportedly the first Open Source system for tracking the location of your lost laptop. It was released in June this year under an open source license. Unlike other systems which require the owner of the lost laptop to log in to a central server this one allows the Internet to work as its homing beacon. It's written by researchers from Uni of Washington and Uni of San Diego.
Works on Windows, Macintosh and Linux. For Mac, it even snaps the photo of the perpetrator and send it to you. I've downloaded and installed. Still reading and digesting the FAQs.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The shame of ISA....

Remembering those who stand up and be counted... Some have been prisoners of conscience, some still are being incarcerated and some have died for the cause they hold to be true. But they share the same quality. They are the gems in humanity, the beacons for mankind.

Then there are the dark forces...the dictators, despots, tyrants, murderers...they inflict so much pain and bankrupt their nations. They strip bare the soul of their nations. They represent the worst in man. These are the ones who go down into history as those who have caused untold sufferings and deaths to those they were entrusted to govern.

Amnesty International has a comprehensive list of those who are persecuted....
We have our own list too..... sad to say. Remembering our very own who are incarcerated because they want a better Malaysia.....

A Change in the Primary Curriculum

From The Star, more details on the dates of implementation.

Finally a date is set for the implementation. By next year 500 schools will further be trying it out before full implementation in 2010. It's been on the cards for some time. Mainly for the Primary School, the method of assessment will see a change of sorts. Students will be assessed more on their school work than just the major public exams. I think this would be a good as it would make learning more fun and flexible. For too long, educators and parents have been so fixated at the number of A(s) that they forget the actual purpose of education. Students learn by rote without actually benefiting from the process of education.

There will be snags and also forms of abuse like everything else. Parents will constantly need to monitor their children's work and grades. If necessary, check with the school (teachers) and enquire about their children's performance. Also, parents will need to check with their children about the classroom based assessments to see whether they are properly carried out. There will be plenty of room for abuses here as there will be a tendency to just simply award marks without carrying out the actual assessments. Or equally bad, the students will get others to do their assignments. But if parents play an active role, it would minimize problems. Problem is sometimes parents are either too busy or just not aware.

In my opinion, the teaching profession has seen a large infusion of questionable practices in the last one decade. There are many reasons...the huge amount of unnecessary paper work, the failure of the vetting system, the lack of professionalism and ethics, quality of those selected to be trained as teachers, just to name a few.

But this most recent change will be good for the children. It will allow them some breathing space to explore beyond the set curriculum. Instead of content, skills will be the focus. It would be akin to teaching them how to fish rather than giving them the fish. At this age, the ability to memorize won't get you very far in the real world. After all, information is just a couple of pushes of buttons away....it's the skills which will see them through...social, communicative, awareness of their environment, reading, ability to analyze and act on the problems...in short be a problem solver not an 'instruction taker'. Anyway, hopefully it will bring fun back into the classrooms for the kids. I hate to see the enthusiasm of these kids doused by the time they get to Year 4 of 5. I hope my girl will benefit from this change.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

What do you do when your Streamyx connection is slow?

Streamyx line has not been exactly fast the last couple of months. Yesterday, my line was down the whole day. A call to their call centre told me that they were doing some upgrading work. Today the connection came back..there was no improvement in the speed despite the upgrading. Then as I was surfing just now, the line was disconnected. So I called the Centre again...they put me through the same stuff. Only thing was when the lady sounded a bit lost when I said I am on a Mac. LOL!

Anyway to cut the long story short, she reset my port...and now I am getting really good speed. I've not experience such speed for a long, long time. Let's hope it stays this way. I've been contemplating moving to mobile broadband more and more since the speed is quite acceptable and the mobility really is a plus point.

So how far did I walk?

So how far did I walk?
Day 1 - 16185 steps (roughly around 7.28 km)
I did better than the average 12000 steps a day by majority but still short of the Amish average.
Day 2 - 8197 steps (est 3.62 km)
The figure dropped drastically cos I spent a good part of the day sitting down at a meeting. 8(
Day 3 - 12345 steps (est 5.1 km)
Not a good day despite the fact that I played badminton. So exercise is necessary if I want to burn my calories...nice way of putting it rather than cut down on my food. Sigh!

This one is for before the welcomed one week break. Son has been asking for pancakes again, so I thought I'd do it since it's a one week Raya break next week. Looking forward to that. I think everyone is. Things always tend to get a bit 'draggy' towards the end of the year.
Just got myself some new cutters...rabbit and flower. So I made some rabbit-shaped bread and cheese and also used the same cutter on the pancakes for her to bring along.....and she asked me to take the photo to show Aunty PL. 8)

Anyway, the sandwich and pancakes turned out quite nicely. Got a wiener 'cutter' too but it didn't turn out too nicely. Probably the hand that used it punya pasal. Anyway, I hope the lil one will enjoy her food today.

And in the afternoon went looking for some more containers...ended up in Tupperware and got a nice one....same like Hijack Queen's. Then we (I've a friend who is equally siao about this) went to a shop selling all sorts of cake accessories and got some more stuff.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Another quickie meal... for dinner

This is dinner 2 days ago...'ngah-poh-kai-fan' .... everything steamed. What does it contain?? Rice, chicken, cauliflower, carrot, shallots and spring onions.

Chopped/Cut everything (except the rice, of course) and throw everything into the bowl when the rice is almost cooked and steam some more. I fried some shallots in olive oil and 2 tiny teaspoons of lard (courtesy of Nancy)...to give it that smell.. 8) Then pour it into the rice just before serving it. Lil gal likes the rice but not the spring onions. For some reason she just doesn't like spring onions! 8( Son as usual just grunts when asked whether he liked it. Teenagers!

For steaming I've this two-tier electric steamer which I find really useful. I used to cook quite a bit when we were just starting out. Then I got tired of it all and did a lot of takeaways. Now it's back to cooking again cos the little one seems to like it a lot. It's a cycle!!!! But it's fun doing it for the kids!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

How Far Do You Walk In A Day?

The Amish eat rich food but experience a lower level of obesity compared to the majority of us. So if you are Amish and eat fatty or sweet stuff, you'll most likely still be slim. Wanna know their secret? A lot of moving about! On the average it seems the Amish walk about 19000 steps a day as compared to the rest of us who do 12000. Add that to the other things they need to do like farming plus all the inconveniences of no electricity in their lives, they work a lot with their hands also.

Got me thinking... and yesterday evening I went to dig out my old pedometer which we got a year or two back. That time other half wanted to measure the distance he walked every day...so he got them. To be fair...he got one for himself and one for me. But I could only find one yesterday and it was flat. So after putting in a new battery, it was as good as new.
This how my pedometer looks like. First the number of steps you take. This figure was just for the early morning running around the kitchen getting breakfast ready. I shall see what the figure is like tonight.
Then the distance that you walk for the day. The running around only made up about 0.5 km.
And the estimated calories that you have burnt. Not very much as can be seen here. I am keeping in mind the 19 000 steps by the Amish.

Some more this is part of the breakfast that we got ourselves today at school...another half made up of different varieties went into our stomachs much earlier.... 8) How to keep the fat at bay??
So basically you are not doomed by your obese genes or diet only. You are doomed by your lifestyle. To all you who have a sedentary life...get out and start living...don't be glued to the screen only....

Monday, September 22, 2008

More Bento-ing...

This morning's fare..
Pancakes cut into small bite pieces with cookie cutters on picks for easy eating. Maple syrup is in the container...still waiting to get some proper sauce containers. Fish-shaped egg cut into half with a dash of salt for extra taste. A small sausage cut into bite sizes also on a pick and some seedless grapes and a cherry tomato to round everything up.

Today I decided to get up extra 10 minutes earlier, which meant pushing my waking up time to 6.00 a.m. This to reduce the frantic rush to get everything ready by 6.35 a.m. cos everyone will be down for breakfast before going off. Then I will go and change while the rest sit down and eat. A quick change into work clothes and I am back in the kitchen, to pack the food. Then a quick bite and off we go.

Then drop lil girl off....dawn is still breaking then...traffic is not so heavy. They grow up way too fast.
Then another quick stop to get 'makan' for school. It's puasa month now so canteen is closed. It's either bring food to school or go out in search of food. The latter means going out to town...means less time to finish off my stuff. So the former is a more attractive option for me usually, though we still go out occasionally. I could always pack for myself but sometimes for the sake of camaraderie....This is Hokkien Mee. Some say this place has one of the best Hokkien Mee in town. The soup really packs a punch! 8)
After the 'ta-pau' stop, another 20 minutes to work. I always try to make it a leisurely drive...time for a little reflection or just simply enjoying the silence or the radio...whichever catches my fancy for the day. Today's sun ... camera not canggih enough to capture its essence! Waiting for other half to get his DSLR... 8)
So there...my usual morning on a school day.

Update 1st October 2010
The best Hokkien Mee (at least to me) stall is no longer operating there. Went there this morning and found 3 new stalls operating there. Tried their lor-mee but it wasn't spectacular. Now to find out where the original Hokkiem Mee operator has gone.

Bread pudding

Made this after school yesterday.. lil gal has been crazy about 'Winnie-the-Pooh' bread (shaped from the bread mould) that we finished a loaf the day before. Made 'cinnamon + sugar + butter' bread for her. She was happily chomping away the ears, cheek, etc.... while muttering "Yummy! Yummy!" Aiyo! Like that appreciative how not to make some more for her?

So add that to the crust that I saved up from another day before that, I had one container full of bread. So at the suggestion of the Queen... this! My very first bread pudding!
Quite easy... just throw everything in together. Then I put it into the broiler and 20 minutes later, this came out. I put dashes of cinnamon sugar on it to give it that brown look. Lil gal seemed to have enjoyed it.... think she finished one whole row of it. Pinching bit by bit as she read 'King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table'. 8)

But suffice to say, managed to habis the pudding before the evening was over! So bolehlah!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The crap that we put up with...

As educators one of the things we have to put up with these days is absenteeism from school. Rules have it that after a certain number of days of being absent from school one can be expelled. In the meantime, the task falls on the class teacher and the PK HEM to try to salvage this oblivious student. Very often this would mean phone calls or visits to the said student.

But how do you get a student to come back to school if the parents are not playing their part? An example, a teacher arrives at the student's house at around lunch time to see the parent. He knocks on the door and is greeted by the father who is still clad in sarong and looking as though he has just awaken from his sleep, who then hastily mumbled something about hoping to be excused so that he can get dressed. And when you talk to him about his son/daughter being absent, he looks at you sheepishly...sometimes mumbling a silly excuse or something of no bearing.

Or have a 'waris' come and ask the school to take a student back with excuses like the student is an orphan or has no parents... asking us to pity him/her. There are many of this 'pity the child' pleas. The joke is...we pity the students but they can't really be bothered to do something for themselves. At that age, I guess they can't really think straight for themselves...

At the end of the day, I realized this...just as they are so many parents who truly care for their children's welfare, there are also equally many who just don't seem to care or don't know what they should do. So, many of the young people who could otherwise have had a better level of education end up with so little of what they are capable of. My two sen this morning!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Free Wifi for Penang...what about us??

Read this from The Star this morning. Known as Wireless@PENANG it is going to be set up at minimal cost to the State Government. Yesterday, our DPM and new Minister of Finance has just awarded Telekom Malaysia with a RM11.3 billion HSBB project. And at the award ceremony he said there would be no room for a second operator. Competition is not healthy? The same thing...the consumers lose out once more! Cos this is just another monopoly taking root.

Telekom's Streamyx at present is not really that good. Speeds are down. And in areas where there is a high density of users, lines are often times slow. One wonders whether they've given out more lines than what their infrastructure can handle.

So, it would be interesting to see whether the Penang model will work. If it does, then definitely they are doing something right which the Federal Government should emulate...not that they will but at least in this Bolehland, there is a real sense of Bolehness for a change.

Thursday evening out...

Been a while since the whole lot of us went out...ever since the girls went off to "studyland'. This is their first break since they started. And their ma also joined us this time. So there were 7 of us...the 2 ma(s), Ling, Siah, Huan, Dan, Aly. At Siah's suggestion we decided to make use of the offer that is on at the bowling center at Pacific. If you go before 8.00p.m. each game will cost RM3.50 instead of the usual 6 or 7 ringgit (can't remember the exact figure). The lanes were quite empty when we got there! No wonder the offer! It only started to fill up by 8.00 p.m.

Was quite fun as everyone of us played, including Lil Rainbow.

There have this gutter bumpers which can be pulled up on the lane to prevent the ball from rolling into the gutters. Believe me, without those bumpers, 10 out of 10 balls will roll into the gutter. We were given the lightest ball for her but still it was too heavy. In the end, she bowled with two hands. She must have enjoyed it cos she asked for another game after that. I said no cos I was worried it would strain her little hands too much. Anyway, she bowled 20 times in that one game. 8)

I had my first complete game, in fact I had two like everyone else except the little one, of course. Played better in this second game but the first 2 throws were by Lil Rainbow...
The older kids (and young adults) played this game before we headed for dinner. It was kinda funny watching them 'dance'.
Then it was off to dinner. Everyone was famished by then. And after dinner, we went for a little window shopping which by then Lil Rainbow was finding it difficult to keep her eyes opened.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Malaysian Politics...where are we heading?

One more blogger .. Kickdefella... has been arrested. I read his posts off and on. He is the guy who is embroiled with the 'fly the national upside down' thingy. Those in the power seem to think that is seditious!!

Then the swapping of portfolios between the DPM and PM. Now the DPM will be holding the Finance Ministry and the PM, Defence. What does this imply?? The precursor to bringing in the armed forces??

And Anwar is now deemed a threat to national security and economy. What has he done? I think there were many who did not really like him but the more silly things they do to him, the more people are seeing him being persecuted. Look at it this way...if the country is well run, would the people flock to the alternative? People start looking for the alternative when the present does not meet up to their expectations and needs.

While BN is touted as a coalition of parties, it behaves like a single party. The country has been divided ever since the British colonialists days. We were divided by race first and foremost and policies are formed and executed along that line. What is so wrong about being a single entity...different races but one single entity? What is so wrong about doing the right thing? Cos if we hang on to just doing the right thing....actually nothing should go wrong. Those who are helped deserve it, those who merit the rewards of their hard work...they also deserve it...but by all means, do what is right, not do based on prerequisites such as race or religion. Is there anything so wrong about that? Give to the people what is due to them...that is the mark of good leadership...

Martin Luther King Jr's .... I Have A Dream would be apt...
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
Oil prices is still heading southward...touching USD$90...but still no sign of the benefits trickling down to the people. Instead, we are told that Petronas will earn less. Sigh!
(Incidentally, if oil prices go down..then electricity tariff also should go down a bit...then Tenaga would also earn less!)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Creative Teacher..

Was asked to give a short talk during an in-house on Creativity in the Teaching and Learning Processes yesterday. Had initially said no as it was supposed to be held on a Saturday but good fortune wasn't smiling on me. I couldn't weave my way out of this one. So there I was, talking about creativity in teaching.. LOL! I think there are others better qualified. But I managed to wrangle an exchange out of my GK for something else. He! He! Anyway, it was a good experience to talk in front of my own colleagues for a change. And the best compliment came today when one of my colleagues came up to me and said she enjoyed my stories... "feeling bloated' now. ROFL!

I did most of the talking while another colleague came up with the activity - to build a structure with straws and tape that can hold the most number of bottles of mineral water. I think most had fun with this activity...
The winning entry... but I think they used more than the 2 packets of straws given to each group....
My group's....unfortunately we did not strengthen the structure's side...so the bottles came rolling down after someone touched it... too bad! But unlike others, ours were not like the others which were straws tied in a bundle. Ours were single straws bent into triangles and we joined all the triangles together. The platform could tahan quite a bit of weight but we forgot to reinforce the sides...hence the bottles went rolling over.
All in all it's a nice break from the usual stuff. So, am I a creative teacher...I'd like to think so but truth is there's still a lot for me to learn, improve on and explore....don't think it'll ever end.

Interesting times...

Anwar claims to have his 31 MPs who are willing to join his ship. The whole country is so taken up by this political sandiwara that is unfolding before our eyes... so much so that the implications of the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the difficulty faced by AIG in the US have not really sunken in. The world's biggest economy is sputtering and we are still trying to tie up our loose ends here..

Well, will Anwar be able to bring Malaysia to another level where at least there is some semblance of real justice, fairness, equality, transparency and integrity? Will racial politics be transformed into Malaysian politics? Will every citizen be colour blind? Are we seeing the last of communal politics? One can actually get giddy just thinking of the possibilities. I'd like to think so but it's still a long haul. Like I said in one of my earlier posts, I never imagined I'd see it in my lifetime but there seems to be hope now.

The seeds of mistrust that each race have for each other were sown eons ago and the roots are deep. Things are not going to change overnight but this change is necessary. For too long we've practised this double standard....really getting giddy reading all the news.

The gahmen is not walking their talk. 15th has come and gone. Still no review of oil prices. The collapse of Lehman brothers has sent prices of oil reeling below USD$95 per barrel. Still no announcement of price reduction for us. PM too busy trying to keep his ship from sinking so no time to look into this, I supposed.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Bento again...3

I think I should start having more organized titles like Hijack Queen with her Bento Mania. This is this morning's. The bread mould is not mine....belongs to a friend. So did a simple one for Daughter, fried it with garlic butter...with a 'egg-car' and marshmallows for dessert. Other half put in two champagne grapes as eyes later and I cut the eggs into half, just in case Lil Rainbow's monitor want to share her food today...
So there....

A Walk In the Ramadan Bazaar

The girls are around...so we decided to go cari-cari makan at one of the many Ramadan bazaars which have sprouted up all over town.
Off we went...I always like it when they are around cos I get chauffeured around. Can sit back and take in everything and be treated like a boss... LOL! They'll 'cekik' me if they read this. 8) But they're such nice girls... so probably won't-lah!
There was a small crowd when we got there at just before 5 p.m. The sun was beating down hard on us. By the time we got into the tents, we were already smelling like the food. Everywhere, you can smell food. These are random shots of the food there.
Long burger...guess if you have many mouths to feed it would make sense to have this one. Two choices available, chicken or beef. I got one too but forgot to ask them not to put chilli. But when I went into the kitchen, it was all gone. So, must have been okay, I guess.
Keropok lekor...thick and thin. I like the thick one cos it's rubbery. Makes it chewy. But your jaw does get a little tired after a while. 8) Still it's nice.
Pekasam pulut. I haven't eaten this for a long time. So I got myself a packet. Nothing like a traditional kampung food for a change sometimes. It wasn't too bad but the pulut really made me sleepy.
Interesting name .... I think after taking this one will be able to shift into different gears quite quickly. LOL!
Very colourful all these drinks and they are neatly tied up in plastic bags. Very easy to take home.
Prices in Alor Star still reasonable??? I think it's still probably cheaper than those of other bigger cities. Still can tahan.
But can also see that the place is not that crowded. Maybe because there are so many Ramadan Bazaars now or people are feeling the price increase crunch and are buying less. Whatever it is, I didn't get to eat my mee sup tulang cos the other stuff I bought turned out to be too 'spicy' for the little one. So she had that...some more after I asked for tambah daging in anticipation for a slurpy mee sup tulang time. Sigh!

Monday, September 15, 2008

A Few Good Men???

Seems we may after all have a few good men in the powers that are ... the Law Minister, the Info Minister and the Human Resource Minister are among the few....

Some say these are dangerous times. Changes are inevitable if we are to move ahead. Been reading all the different thoughts put forth by all sorts of people. There are those who seem to still be stuck in the mindset that things cannot and should not be changed...that the present generation still be 'made to pay' for something that they had no say or hand in. And today...for the first time in for as long as I can remember, a Minister (Zaid Ibrahim) resigns because of a stand.

But some say he is going because it's a more graceful exit. Some think he is doing it because he truly does not agree to the blatant use of our draconian law. There are others who say that he knows his time is up after his hand in the Tun Salleh Abbas ex-gratia payment....whatever it is at least he'll be remembered as one of the few good men...

Another morning..another Bento..

I could get used to this...but it is a real rush to get everything done with the limited time that I have in the morning as I have to leave the house early. Unless, of course, I get my sleepy head and weary body out of the bed even earlier... 8(
This is today's fare for daughter. Also packed for Son but instead of teddy bear rice, his was as a triangular shaped one. He didn't take the strawberries but replaced it with chocolate cookies.

The 'teddy bear rice' has other things stuffed inside...corn, carrot and fish sticks cut in smaller pieces. Eggs are fried with onions and bacon - the smell alone is quite appetizing. Had to remind my girl not to let the giraffe and chicken fruit picks go missing after she is done with the strawberries.

Yesterday, she ended up with the egg yolk of the 'rabbit-shaped' egg as one of her classmates asked for the egg. I think they traded food or something like that. The champagne grapes got 'plucked' by various hands... it seemed.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Bento today..

The bento for my girl this morning
Sandwich is ham with salad in between slices of bread fried with butter and garlic. Trying out my rabbit egg mould...pecah a bit but still okay. The grapes are champagne grapes. Ever since Tesco opened here, we've had a bit more choices where food is concerned. Don't have to make trips to Penang for a lot of stuff now. They are really small but lil girl likes. I put in the dried pineapple just for the colour.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Desperate Times, Desperate Measures...

Update 11.00 p.m.

Watch for yourself... who is he kidding?
Read Marina Mahathir's take here. And this one by PAS. And consider this, the police report lodged against the dentist was made by PAS. And Masjid Kinrara has come out to state that Teresa was not involved in the petition. He said one good thing though...we should de-racialised ourselves and be known as Malaysians. I am all for that....but did he truly mean it? BTW, just realised he looks like RPK - his ".........." twin???

Update 2.00 p.m.

Syed Albar said the journalist may be released today.

At 8.00 a.m

The events unfolding in the last 24 hours have been troubling... the arrest of RPK, the Sin Chew reporter, Tan Hoon Cheng and Teresa Kok .... and our dear PM not too long ago, said our journalist must report honestly, without fear to uphold justice and truth. Justice and truth seem kinda twisted now...

Instead of acting on the perpetrators, we go after the messengers. A repeat of Ops Lallang? Then we are a nation in distress. But it is at this time that all the more we have to keep a level head. The possibility of incitement as a desperate move to cling on is very great. Read Walski's take here. He has summed it up very well.

It's time our society moves on. Every faith espouses the principles of justice. Do justice not injustice!

BTW, oil prices is in the region of US$100 now. How come nobody seems to be managing the economy now? PM said two weeks ago that if prices stayed at US$109 (by October) prices would be further reduced by 15 sen. It's now less than that ceiling.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Crime hits home..

So how safe are our streets? The danger that lurks in our streets really hit home this weekend. On Thursday evening, a family friend of ours was robbed at the ATM machine. It was dusk and she was at the machine, withdrawing money. Unknown to her, a guy in helmet with his visor down was peering at her from the outside the glass enclosure, watching her move.

Then, he rushed in and grabbed the money she had just withdrawn from the machine. Instinctively she pulled back before realizing the danger, at which she promptly dropped the money onto the floor. That was when the horror began. Angry at the thought that she was making it difficult for him, he pulled out a 'parang' and slashed her on her hand.

Surgery was carried out today to repair the damage. Two muscles were completely severed, one partially. She's fortunate that it's not worse. But lives are disrupted...changed! The emotional effect and anguish on everyone....yet to actually settle in. Still we are thankful that the nerves were spared!

Question...it's one of the biggest banks (if not the biggest) in Malaysia. The ATM machines were in an enclosed area. I thought all banks are supposed to have guards....yet there didn't seem to be any guards around. Most other banks have guards at the withdrawal area. It was an audacious move on the part of the low life scumbag. The banks had CCTV.. but what is the point? It didn't prevent a crime. It's just another gadget which gave a false sense of security. Cos probably no one was manning it. They have to secure the ATM machines area and yet they have failed. Walk into most banks with cash less than 5K and many will refuse to bank it over the counter. So you are forced to use the machines in an insecure area. Has the bank been negligent? Can we ask for compensation? After all they charge us for everything!

Then the presence of our police. There have been so many reports that we are shorthanded in our police department. But lately, we hardly feel or see their presence. Under the previous police chief, there were patrol beats. What is the police doing to reduce the crime rate? Apparently a young woman was also raped in the same vicinity in the past week. Those police pondok(s) now sit empty. What is the point of having police if their presence is only felt after the incident took place. (Seems 8 police cars converged to the crime scene after all the drama ended!) A bit too late to make any difference. And the bank is in a 'high human traffic' area. Police said not to withdraw money at dusk...there were two other people in the bank enclosure at the same time! And if after office hours is not a good time...then close the banks??? I'd think keeping the streets safe would be what is necessary.

Less than 2 decades ago, when we first came to Alor Star, one of the things we marvelled was how safe it was. We were told that you could leave your engine running in your car and no one would take it. These days, you can sit in your car and the chances of you being robbed is a real possibility. What is happening to our streets? I thought things are supposed to improve....but the streets are not as safe as they used to be. What gives?

Going back to the kindy..

This week is UPSR week, so little girl has been off from school since Monday. Guess what she asked for! .... She wanted to go back to her nursery! So we asked Ah Ho whether it would be okay. Said yup and so for 4 days in a row, my lil girl relived her preschool years! Everyday she'd be looking forward to go again the next day. And on Wednesday, she said she would like to go again next year.

Here's a kid who can't wait to go back to her 'nursery' or school as she calls it. Surely there must be some pull factors. For a kid, I guess it's easy to identify them...it's a place of fun and probably to another extent, a place where they are loved. That's what the nursery has been. Learning was fun... the teachers were strict but I think they had lots of fun learning. Most of the kids could read very well by the time they left nursery... the 'head honcho' of the nursery is very committed to her cause and she leaves no stone unturned here. As a result, I'd say my girl reads better in English than even my secondary students.

Learning is interesting too.. it's Lantern Festival season now. Sometimes they would make moon cakes. The kids would proudly bring back the moon cakes they make. And they make lanterns. Every now and then, they'd come back with some interesting crafts that they'd make at school. As a result, my little one likes to do stuff with her hands.

Compare that to our regular schools. I think there is very little joy in learning. The fun has been taken out of the learning because of the overemphasis on one aspect of education. And parents, in the race to make sure their children are not left out of the rat race put their kids in tuition for cramming sessions. Anyway, It's nice to see her so excited and happy going to 'school' and be the 'tai-kar-cheh'. Makes her feel important that she is of help to the teachers.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Large Hadron Collider Successfully Fired Up

Read about the Large Hadron Collider last year when it was first switched on. The complex is in Europe, somewhere between France and Switzerland. It's a huge one! Photobucket Image Hosting
The Large Hadron Collider is basically a particle accelerator...my little knowledge of physics tells me that basically means hurtling particles (protons?) at great speeds and see what happens when they bang into each other. That's supposed to generate excitement among the engineers, physicists, scientists, etc, etc. And true enough, they celebrated with toasts of champagne. 8)

I am no Physics buff...but an article in the National Geographic (I think it was last year's) caught my eye because of the magnanimity of the project and also because it had the potential of creating tiny black holes. So remembered Stephen Hawking's radical theory regarding the black hole...that black holes do not consume every thing but instead release some form of mangled form of energy and matter. And now we have a machine which can create tiny black holes. How's that for progress? ... though there are some who say if the old theory is correct then, these tiny black holes may start the destruction of the world around it .... of course another group says not possible since black hole decays quite quickly.... see how theories are flung around here... actually no one really knows for sure, right?

Scientists are trying to create the Big Bang to learn more about our universe... this perhaps may prove another biggie in theoretical physics. Theoretical physics is a very abstract branch of physics, thinking into the possibilities and probable concepts .... truly a special breed of people - among them Isaac Newton, Oppenheimer, Stephen Hawking...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Egg Mould For My Bento

Finally got my egg mould. Friend ordered online, so I 'pacat' on her order. Just to try it out. The merchandise arrived this afternoon and I got it tonight. Immediately boiled 2 eggs to try it out. 2 of these moulds for RM12...that's RM6 a piece for two pieces of plastic! Siao moms! But the eggs will surely taste nicer to the kids. ROFL!
Photobucket Image Hosting
It worked like a charm. Was worried that the eggs might pecah as we have another friend who bought some moulds a week or two back who have tried on more than a dozen egg and all of them pecah. Followed the instructions from the Net...put in some salt as the eggs boiled. Then peel it while they're hot and put them into the mould. Finally, dump them into icy cold water. After a while....ta...daaaaa!! 2 odd but cute-looking eggs. Bigger eggs would have been nicer. As it was my Teddy was missing his ears and Kitty Cat's ears and nose were a bit cacat also.

Anyway, there were two kids around, so we gave them the eggs. True enough my gal said the egg was very nice. She took the Hello Kitty egg. Said she even licked all the yolk. LOL! Next week, I will let her take to school. Already she is excited about it. 8) Also got some animal picks to 'perk' the food presentation up.

Teaching of Science and Maths in English..time to ditch it?

This is from The NST...under Letters. It's by Khairy Jamaluddin, the PM's famous S-I-L. His points are well argued. TEACHING OF SCIENCE AND MATHS IN ENGLISH: It's high time we ditched this policy.
My take on the issue. In the early days of its implementation, we used to take the students' maths and science answer scripts and be aghast by the way they answered. Occasionally we'd get a good laugh because of the way they put the answers together. There were objections to the implementation but they weren't vehemently put up. Guess most saw the need and maybe also because we were also more secure with our own identity.

Politics aside...this policy was hastily executed. Not many in depth studies were carried out to see whether we were ready for it. But I guess it's not actually feasible to wait for readiness. Sometimes one has to take the bull by its horn....and overcome the problems as they come. Tun Mahathir probably saw something we don't.

The main problem (there are other problems too) with this programme right from the start and even now is probably the teachers. I've written about it here before. Over the years, due to the lack of emphasis on English, the standard of English has deteriorated to a laughable standard. One just has to read the Advertorial put up by University Tun Hussein Onn to get a grasp of the actual problem. So how can one expect the students who are taught by teachers who themselves do not have a proper grasp of the language to learn? Maths and Science in BM, were already hard enough for the students. With the exception of the Chinese vernacular schools who have somewhat managed to get a better grasp of the subjects (Math especially), the national school students actually have a dismal grasp...this is from a general perspective. This may has something to do with the attitude too but that is not the focus of this writing here.

Over the years, in the heat of nationalism and NEP, the quality of those trained to be teachers is in serious doubt. I used to have students who could barely speak English being picked to go for TESL courses. There are many others who would be better suited but these would usually be sidelined due to the nature of our politics. So we had this 'half-baked' students who eventually became 'slightly-more-half-baked teachers'; after spending 4 years in the uni; sent into our system. Is it any surprise that they then produce 'quarter-baked' students? And today you have English teachers grappling with basic grammar problems, the inability sometimes to differentiate between singular-plural, lack of vocabulary...the list goes on. These are something of a no-no for English teachers of yesteryears.

My cohort of Form 1 students this year has a deplorable command of English. They are actually worse than the previous years'. The standard of English among them has actually become worse....that despite more exposure to English from Math and Science. Something does not feel right. Language is supposed to be easier to master when we use it constantly..but the opposite seems to be happening. Surely that has to imply something.

English lessons are not properly conducted in the primary school, and also the secondary school. I teach English and most of the time I've had to resort to BM to explain. Why? Because I would draw blank looks! It's as though the students have developed a mental block when the language is used. How did such a block get there? Such is the state of our suburban and rural students. But as they start to adapt and train their ears to spoken English,they are beginning to see some light. There seems to be some understanding now. At this level, I should not be dealing with such basic problems. Yet that is the reality. I may be teaching 13 year-olds but truth be told, most of the time I feel I am doing really basic stuff with them. I teach my own 7 year old kid more complicated stuff! I can only come to the conclusion that the fault lies with us, teachers.

If we are taught by 'incompetent' teachers, how are we to produce competent students? If we are inspired by mediocre teachers, how are we to be world beaters?? Beats me how things are turning out cos we have better facilities and infrastructure...but everyone is complaining that our graduates are not marketable. What gives? And I am part of that system.

It's not just the quality of English teachers who are in question here. It's nearly the whole teaching fraternity. Teachers today are not an inquisitive lot. Neither are many into upgrading themselves intellectually. True there more taking their postgrad studies but this exercise does not seem to translate into 'better' teachers for the system. We are not doing better than before cos our end products (the students) just don't seem to measure up to the demands of the society. What gives? Teachers are supposed to be dynamic people... eccentricities, quirkiness etc, etc are also part and parcel.

While Khairy may argue his points well, he bypassed our education system. He comes from the privileged class... How can he fully know? Whole generations have lost out in terms of competitiveness because of the lack of a language. Problems....and we say ditch. The world is going to bypass us if we continue to be wishy washy. Fact - everyone acknowledges that English is the lingua franca of today's world. It's time we get down to work and stay working..not change at the first signs of problems.

It's going to take some time to see this work. If we abandon this now, we'll lose more of our competitiveness. We no longer have the advantage of cheap labour. Someday we're going to run out of oil. We have to start positioning ourselves to the other end of the production line, one based on service, intellectual property and human capital. How are we to develop our human capital if we keep backtracking?

To switch to English, the government spent more than RM3 billion. To revert to BM, we have to spend another huge amount. There are those who suggest that we focus more on language teaching and return to BM as the medium of instruction for Math and Science. I am a product of a transitional stage too...the transition was from English to BM as the medium of instruction. My teachers struggled with their BM but still they taught us well. They would stutter, get stuck...but lessons were generally conducted in BM. So, how is it that the first transitional stage went well? I can't see any other reason except the teachers. To a larger extent, the failure of PPSMI lies in a big part on the teachers....the quality of teachers. I will draw flaks if the teaching fraternity reads this....

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Church Dedication Presentation

As mentioned earlier, this time we decided to prepare the presentation with Keynote, part of the Apple iWork productivity suite. Had we used Flash, it would have taken a much longer time, but with Keynote, a simple and nice presentation could be completed within a couple of days. This is the first time we're using it. Basically the layout, ideas were done by other half. I was the face of the presentation since he was busy at work most of the time. Macam salesman...ha! ha! But we work well together...this time, son has also sort of joined the bandwagon.

My task was to put it on DVD. Tried using the iDVD. First render was okay but when I burned it onto the DVD, no sound came out. The video and audio file were separated after exporting from Keynote to Quick Time. Had to go on a quest to find out how to do it...so finally, after converting it into dv format using Quick Time and putting the sound and video together using iMovie, was able to put it on You Tube. So here it is.
Verdict on Apple iWork suite....it's a really user friendly package. Doesn't need much skill to put together a nice movie. 8)

Doing this has been a good experience. Learnt a couple of new things. Am quite bought over by Apple. May actually consider getting iMac in time to come since my MacBook does not have its own dedicated graphic card.

One thing though, am experiencing a little hangover from the intensity of the preparation...the hours in front of the computer looking, organizing and editing the photos.

But Keynote could do with some more enhancement...like maybe a timeline to synchronise the sound/audio with different slides...but it still beats PowerPoint hands down!

Gerakan Severes Ties With UMNO

Just for my records...this interesting development.

So what is happening...somebody trying to stir the hornet's nest? Sept 16 is approaching and some parties are getting jittery. We read of BN backbencher MPs being sent on a study tour, as though trying to thwart the act(s) of jumping ship. Some people questioned the logic of the trip since such kinds of trips are usually at its minimal during the Ramadan month.

Then this guy, Ahmad who has been really adamant about his stand. Reminders have been made for people, especially the Chinese not to hold protest over the tearing and stomping of Koh's photo...which is wise. Anyway, I think many people don't see the logic of doing a street protest. George Bush's picture and effigy get burned all the time. I think they have had worse treatment. If he were to jump each time, nuclear warheads would be flying! Best to leave this childish behaviour be.

Gerakan distancing itself away from UMNO is just a symbolic gesture. The political climate in Malaysia today is very different from what was a year ago. The balance of power hangs precariously for BN. Gerakan only holds 2 Parliament seats. But though it has a small presence, this is a time where every seat counts for either side. For our PM, this is indeed a Catch-22 situation.

Gerakan is already bleeding as it is. It has seen an exodus of its leaders...Datuk Lee Kah Choon (Deputy Secretary General), Datuk Rhina Bhar(VP and Wanita National Chairman), Datuk Tan Kee Kwong (FT Gerakan Chief), Datuk Toh Kin Woon. It's actually being swallowed by the changes taking place. What a real twist ... cos it was started as a multi-racial party, somewhat like PKR. Yet it has not really been able to live up to its own ideology.

For the people, at this point, best leave the outward show of emotions out. There will be people out to exploit the situation for themselves. Best to exercise prudence where this is concerned. Anyway, there's this line from one of my old favourites.....
This world is not my home,
I'm just a passing through,
My treasures are laid up,
Somewhere beyond the blue
We're all just a-passing through......all of us are pendatang(s)..... read this here from another perspective but the same thing.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Dedication Service

Finally it's over. Got up early as other half wanted to test out the presentation. This is the first time we're using Keynote, a presentation software which is part of iWork productivity suite. It runs on Mac. Will blog on that later. Now in the process of trying to burn it into a DVD.

Anyway, the first place went was Ah Ho's place for breakfast. The TRAC President, Rev Ong Hwai Teik was going to have his breakfast there after being picked from the airport.

Got there and Surprise! Surprise! Karyn was back. She had taken the night bus just so she can make it for the service! Had a quick breakfast. Pastor joined us. Then the Ngs came with the Pres and I was asked whether I wanted to follow to pick up the Bishop...so off I went. Other half had gone off to the new premise by then.

We got to there early and already there were quite a few people. This is the grand dame of the church...one of the founder members.
Some of the cards signed by friends, visitors and members. Oops! Come to think of it, I forgot to fill in one.
This is the message by the Bishop....handwriting experts say we can tell a person's personality through his writing. So what do you think?
The bulletin for the service...
The kids put up a puppet show....could see from their faces that they were really excited. My lil gal sang. And after the whole thing was over, I asked her whether it was fun. It was. She is a little shy.
After the service, we adjourned to Anggerik Restaurant for lunch. Our kids prefer to sit with their friends....the older bro with his and the little one with hers. LOL! When they were young, follow us like shadows only....
Don't have to worry about them not knowing how to take the food for themselves. In fact, they even know how to go cari extra rice when they didn't makan enough.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Down Memory Lane... Wesley Methodist Church Alor Star

The church has moved premise. Been working on the presentation for the Dedication...so the history is still fresh in my mind. Thought I might as well put it down here for records. Some of the photos are really fading away. I've touched them up a bit.
This is the original building which housed the Methodist Church when it first started in the 1940s. The Tamil and Chinese congregations were here first before the English one. And the first Pastor for the Chinese congregation was a lady by the name of Rev Madam Tan Phaik Geok. Rev H. Emerson Abram, a missionary pastor was the first resident pastor for the English speaking congregation in 1963. The first pastor was Rev Wong Onn Tow who would come once a week from Penang in 1962.
Construction on the present premise which we are leaving started in 1963. The land was purchased by the Tamil Methodist Church around 1949.
It was completed in 1965.
The Dedication service was conducted by the then Bishop F. Lundy a year after the completion of the building.
This shot was taken in 2006. It's a more comfortable place now, fully air-conditioned. We're leaving behind a premise which has been a place of fond memories.
And this will be our new home.

Die, die also hers....

It is mind boggling how selfish we can be at times these days... especially when it involves kids. I recently helped a friend's kid fi...