Friday, July 31, 2009

Parliamentary Debate 2009.. National Level

Had to opportunity to watch from close-up, as in from the vantage point with the debaters, the recently concluded national level English Parliamentary Debate for the Piala Tan Sri Datuk Seri Panglima Dr. Abdul Rahman Arshad this year cos Kedah was the host and I was involved... Opportunities like this come once in a long while... there are after all 14 'states' to rotate.

At the preliminary rounds, it was still easy to tell the teams apart.. the good ones from the mediocre. At this level, I was expecting a more level playing ground but it's not so. One could still predict which teams would make it to the finals... In a field with so many players, actually only very few teams measure up. The 'cream' is always a small percentage and it is shown to be true here too in a field made up of the best from all the states cos the best of the best still are few. There's still the top of the cream to go... 8)

This is a combination of clips of what took place during the entire event. The event was graced by Tan Seri Panglima Dr. Abdul Rahman Arshad himself... and one of the things which he said, "knowledge needs to be acquired, not something you wait your turn for." And that we need to keep ourselves current to remain relevant. He was speaking off the cuff.... an old man he may be but his words ring so true.

The finals was between Perak and Negeri Sembilan.... Convent Ipoh vs KGV Seremban; all-girls team against an all boys. The Motion: This House Believes That Change is Not Progress. The girls won. It was quite obvious that they were better prepared by the time their second speaker took stage. They were more focused and convinced through facts which showed good research. The guys tried to win by 'twisting' the the little facts that they had, plus they seemed so awestruck by Obama. Their arguments were mainly centred around him! It was quite obvious that they had not done their homework very thoroughly. Such a pity cos I felt the motion was actually for them, being in the opposition.

Increasingly, I notice that boys tend to suffer more from overconfidence and that their team work is not as cohesive as the girls'. Girls are more focused, boys seem to feel that they are in control when they feel they are at an advantageous position, which they very often actually aren't. Their teamwork wasn't so good... maybe it has to do with the boys not having better honed communicative skills, which means they don't communicate that well with each other to build that sort of team work... or just each one wanted to outshine each other. Could be one or all these reasons... or could be girls are simply getting better now.

Today's educational system seems to suit the girls more. The boys are on the losing end. The discipline and rigours required seem a little harder coming to them as they seem, still, to be stuck in that 'caveman-era-mindset'. A caveman thrives more on instinct than on intelligence.... he reacts rather than take action. And it has this domino effect cos once a 'caveman' shows up in one member, the rest of the 'cavemen' will also show up in his team members... and because of that, the primitive mind takes over while the intelligent one shuts down... this is what I think I am seeing in many of the boys I teach now... and also a bit of it in today's debate. The caveman has the conviction and confidence but lacks the ability to apply... and the girls seem to be doing better at adapting and applying in this area. Changes in the society has brought progress to the girls! LOL!

But today's experience is refreshing to see cos it indicates that we still have such young people who can be pitted against each other, articulate their views and square it out within the short time. And since I felt it was too good of an opportunity to miss, I took Son and TH along. Sanctioned 'skip-school'.

The JPN should have invited more students to watch the debate right from the preliminary rounds to the finals... it would have been a good learning experience. Debates in halls void of 'outsiders' save for the debators and officials were missed opportunities for our students. Such kind of activities which stimulate the intellect would be good exposure to the students. Such a pity!

For those who want to know the past winners, etc... Andrew Loh has a good set of records. Check it out.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Application of Knowledge.. what is that?

You wonder whether our kids are learning or memorizing... they go on cramming binges and come out of those binges regurgitating the things they memorize... but not knowing how to make sense or see the light over simple things in life, in short apply.

This was in class with 17-year-olds who take Bio, Physics and Chem... somehow our discussion sesat to this. We were talking about migrant workers. Why they came.. etc, etc. So, we talked about poverty. I asked them this... how is the food of the rich and poor different? I had some interesting answers.. high cholesterol and healthy food for the rich... poor people, hmmm poor food-lah! Then I asked them whether or not there is any difference in terms of the physical build between the migrant workers and themselves? Most of them pointed out that they're taller and the migrant workers were generally of smaller build. I asked what could possibly contribute to that where food is concerned. Again.. more interesting answers... ginseng, healthy food....

I rephrased my question... which class of food contributes to the difference in height/growth? The answers... bones, hormones. Bones for food... hmmph! maybe we should blend bones and make it into some juice and drink it. The calcium would be good to help us grow more bones, I supposed. Or drink growth hormones so that we grow taller....

Okay, so we can ingest the bones and hormones so that we can grow. Ginseng too, if I may add. I pointed out that in Biology there learn of the different classes of food... which class... no answer! In the end when I asked them whether protein could be that class which promotes growth and allow the bones to grow so that they can grow tall would be it?? They all nodded enthusiastically! Ah! Enlightenment finally! Ignorant no more, they saw the light! Just as the poor teacher was feeling the hopelessness!!! And they've been learning about the different classes of food since Std 2! *ketuk kepala*

Which brings me back to the original discussion. Rich people can afford meat, poor people can't. Our diets consist of generous portions of meat, people in Bangladesh, Myanmar, Vietnam, Indonesia don't eat that much meat. I wanted them to be able to see that.. that the knowledge from their other subjects actually helps them write better and more interesting essays. Unfortunately, students today don't write... they memorize and regurgitate. As a result, they have this writing angst for factual and argumentative essays. Only a small number dare and are able to write such essays. The rest go with descriptive and narrative types. Memorize a couple and then modify and adapt them to the one-liners questions given. Not much thought or reflection needed.

Earlier in the discussion, I had asked them to compare themselves to their grandparents and how the improvement in their standard of living has enabled them to grow taller and bigger... like the Japanese and Koreans.

Knowledge... and application.. two different cups of tea. Knowledge without the ability to apply is basically useless. Like the vomit which we regurgitate... it has this unpleasant properties and is basically useless. Like the stomach which probably only absorbs a little nutrients before the food is expelled, the learning that takes place... only a little is absorbed. The rest all comes out as vomit.... but you still get the A, since something does stay in! It's like being bulimic... you still get nourished somewhat but not enough for you to thrive.

The joy of learning got lost in the chase for A(s)... demands of the society, failings of the education system, distractions, lack of creative teachers, failing ethics..... the list of what ails us is long. Change we must!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

My Long Suffering SE C905

It went back to the repair shop again. This 7 month-old phone of mine has been in for repairs twice. And the total time that it had stayed in the shop during the duration has exceeded a month!

This time it went in because the speaker malfunctioned... I had to go back twice. Grrr.... really buang my masa. Computerization does not mean that there is more efficiency. Still boils down to the human operators! Apparently the flex-cable-ribbon (??) went kaput and had to be replaced. And the ribbon only has a 3-month warranty they told me! So the one-year warranty thingy is actually a limited warranty (or no warranty). I was told to pay RM30 when I sent it back again... plus they couldn't figure out why there's still a problem, so they had to ask the boss. What efficiency, huh? Look very cekap, sitting at the computer typing out my phone serial number to check but in the end, the repairs not fully completed also don't know.

But I've been having problems with it since I got it back the first time. The screen colour runs sometimes... it turns green. They say they'd seen to that which is not quite true cos the screen still 'freezes'. The bounce in the 'down' button went kaput too, the first month itself. The first time I sent it for repairs, the bounce came back, but only for 2 weeks. Then it went dead again.

This time, the bounce has come back. I shall keep my fingers crossed and hope that it doesn't go dead cos it's really difficult to press when there is spring in the button.

As for the charges, I gave them (in a nice and polite way) a piece of my mind... from lousy service to hiding certain info from the customers. The lady did look a little sheepish when I said, it's kinda silly to hold our phones so long and tell us that they've sent it to Penang when they're just buying time (to create this sense of awayness) and that repairs are done by themselves in the same building... which brings to question the validity of the warranty that comes with each set. Anyway, in the end I didn't have to pay....

I've actually been very tempted to trade in my phone... but since it's just a waste of $$$ to do that, I'll hang on to it until the warranty expires. I should be jumping with rage over this thing... but nah! It's just not worth the jumping up and down. It has given me something to write about...

Anyway... buyers beware. Buying a phone in Sentosa has its pitfalls. I think it is actually quite possible for them to actually assemble a phone and pass it for a new one.... it's not difficult to be unscrupulous and customers who are ignorant like us can get taken for a ride quite easily.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Dinner at Huatang

Dinner at Huatang, located next to SMK Convent... to celebrate Ling's birthday. And a nice dinner it was... the place is big and spacious, parking no problem. Parking is still not much of a problem in Alor Setar still.
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There were 10 of us... for a dinner which could have easily fed more. 8)
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Starter dish was yummy... and by the time we were done with it, we were actually quite filled.
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Scallops and brocolli. This is one simple dish but sweet and succulent. Enjoyed the scallop but liked the brocolli cos they were moist and soft and drip of the sweetness of the scallops too.
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Duck and chicken... always best friends... even on a dinner plate. LOL! Duck was okay. Some of us felt it was rather tough. I think I enjoyed the jellyfish more than the meat.
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One of my all time favourites... steamed cod fish. This is a super expensive fish cos they have to be imported. But I understand from where they come from, it's used for fish and chips. I like the lemak taste and smooth feel.
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Crab rice... the rice was really sweet from the drippings from the crabs. I saw other tables being served lobsters... didn't know that they have it here. Next round, maybe.
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After dinner... it was back to the Loh's house for cheese cake, baked by Siah. That's the bro putting up the candles... don't bother counting cos he forgot his sis' age and aged her by a lot.
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The 'Australian cats' watched on while Siah tried to execute the perfect cut with the knife... if you dip the knife into hot water, you'll get a perfect line when you cut the cheese cake, no crumbs, clean cut... If you cut macam biasa, the line will be jagged and you'll get lotsa crumbs.
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And the these cute 'doggies' convened a meeting among themselves to see how they could herald the new birthday year for the birthday gal...

Twas a good night out with friends... something to be thankful for, gathering of family and friends with good food to compliment some more... maybe next time, a little wine, now that all the kids are grown up..8)

Monday, July 27, 2009

Teacher Talk... Part 1

Got this from one of the articles that I was reading. It seems teachers in Malaysia use up to 17% of their time on class control. Some countries use only 10% of the time. 17%... and that got me thinking. I think the percentage could be higher than 17%. You see, in many of the classes where I am, market atmosphere prevails. There have been occasions when I've stormed into a class to tell them to shut up only to find sheepishly that there was a teacher in it. These days, I'm wiser, I look first... but that too, I've to look carefully, for like the market, there is movement everywhere and it's sometimes difficult to tell the teacher apart from the student. Sad state schools are in!

There are in-service courses which are shams. Used to be they would at least be some covert operations to cover the 'wrongs' up. These days, they are not really bothered. There are courses where the speakers/moderators don't turn up. And teachers who get called for such courses sit and while their time away... while their classes at school are taken over by relief teachers. And the joke is, certificates of participation are sent to the respective teachers in their schools. Nothing taught, nothing learned but there is a cert to show participation. Recently there was one such course. Integrity... what on earth is that?

Extra classes.. extra classes are now a must. Keeping up with the Joneses, you could say. When are they conducted? Some schools do it at ungodly hours; in the wee hours of the morning. Some like mine incorporate them into the time-table... first period of the day. Admit failure even before we begin teaching. Teachers are a inept lot! Administrators want to show that they're doing something when they're not... show off... in every sense of the word. If they do care.. then go in the classes known with discipline problems... teach! I had a boss who did that once... and I've only admiration for her integrity and good ethics towards her job. But good people like this don't last long... she didn't even extend her service even when she could have... BTW, just for the sake of appearance, the boss even had the cheek to say that if the teacher has too many real teaching periods, just photostat the questions and leave it with the students for them to do... teacher can go eat in the canteen. Why have the classes then?

Classroom fans break down... for months they remain unrepaired. Teachers teach in our sweltering heat. Students sweat it out! Yet the school authorities cannot find the willpower and money to repair them. But money to paint the floor, touch up areas where VIP might tread and see... 'mou-ngan-tai'! Priorities all skewed!

PPSMI equipment continue to be eyesores in the classrooms. Security boxes, uninterrupted power supply boxes sit there gathering dust and cobweb... most of them not even used once. Equipment which never saw any productivity in their short lifespan... accountability non existent. Audit? What is that? Have not heard of any heads rolling because equipment never saw any action....

And this boils down to.... yup! The heads... Heads who should be getting their hands dirty and checking to make sure that accountability stands, that the best interest of the kids are looked after.. but instead, they opt to pay attention to facades negating the content. The result from the years of compromising quality and integrity by appointing people whose conscience seems to malfunction ever so often and conveniently cos showing off is the aim is so clear for all to see! Such is the state of our kepala(s)... getting fat salaries, akin to gaji buta. The system really buta...

I guess this the the product of Malaysia Boleh!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

School stories....

A 16-year-old starts to skip school.... The funny thing is he sends his bro to school on his bike every morning and then makes a U-turn after dropping the younger bro off. He heads straight home and straight into his bed. Sleeps thru half the morning. Missed many days of school this way; school had to send letter of warning. Parents called. They say they can't do anything. And, this juvenile claims he gets dizzy and feels like vomiting if he doesn't get his beauty sleep. Parents say they can't do anything about it! Ask school to 'help'. School tells him not to go back after sending his bro...

The Prescription: we told him he could go to the Bilik Sakit and sleep until puas... which he did. And after that, he'd saunter into the class (when he is ready).

What do you think? If I were him, I think I'd be big-headed! I supposed some feel this is an act of a masyarakat penyayang. But I also think this is reinforcing in this juvenile, the lack of accountability and responsibility to himself. We go all out to jaga him... keep him in the system.... cos we think he'll come around. We work around him, not teach him to work within the social norms. And he's learning that if he insists and play his cards right, he can get away with his wants.

I think he's staying up too late... which is what many kids do these days. And kids today have many distractions too and it's not just the tv. Hanging out, mobile chats, online gaming.... everything that eats into their sleep, hence the grogginess the next morning. Parents probably know... but parents say they are helpless. How I know??? Cos I've been down this road... discipline, accountability... values hard to learn what more keep. And it's also hard on the parents. With work and other demands, most parents are too pressured and tired to discipline their children. Disciplining a child takes time and effort. Sadly, many parents don't have the time or are basically have too many other commitments and demands on their hands. Demands of today's life.

Accountability and responsibility to himself and the people around him.. I think we are getting too soft. We think that by being nice is a better way. So much so that even when they are not being accountable, we still accommodate.

Meantime, this particular 'juve'... I think if this goes on a bit more.. he'll be truly sesat. I think teenage years are dangerous times in one's life now... the danger comes from the lack of discipline and realization. And institutions like schools which once instilled discipline today are not as effective any more. Our hands are too tied by rules, rights, etc. We accommodate, we don't confront and overcome the problem! Accommodating seems easier... but I think it's crap. We should never accommodate such things.... principles seems damned these days... frontward and backward we bend, sideways too I feel, thinking that we'll win these juveniles over some day... I think we do win some over... but we lose even more too!

Yasmin Ahmad Passes On...

A sad day... cos she's one of those directors I really admire and look up to. I think her vision of Malaysia is as Malaysian as anyone can get. She has this way of looking at things and putting them together that it strikes a chord in our hearts. She tells the truth the way she sees it, plain and simple. Prod us to think about it. This piece that she did for the Singapore government is most poignant. She will be missed!

Truly a sad day for us.... May she rests in peace.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Flip Flop

Can you hear the sound of flip flop, down the corridors of the school blocks? Where our children are 'institutionalized' because there is a prescribed curriculum that they must follow? Flip-flop-flip-flop-flip-flop... and not a beat is missed.... the flipping and flopping continues...

Flip flops... it's a casual footwear. In some countries they call it slip slop, chappal and even thongs.... Nah! don't go thinking about G-strings and all that. 8) Even by the sound of it, you get the impression that it's something that's, well casual and gives an impression of lackadaisical attitude from the sounds that emanate from the wearer's feet...

When I was about to enter the job market eons ago, one of the things I did was to read up on the do(s) and the don't(s) of attending a job interview. And one of the don't(s) was do not drag your heel when you walk. It also meant do not make too much noise when you walk. Cos it implies that the wearer is lazy, etc, etc....

Flip flops... it's hard not to make much sounds when you walk in them cos they're loose on your feet. With just a strap for it to hang onto your feet, the flip flop will hit the sole of your feet as you lift your legs up in your strides... slapping your sole. So, flip-flop, flip-flop. And if you are that sort of person who drags your heels when you walk, then the sounds are amplified. With other shoes, you usually get one sound... from the dragging of your heels. Our flip flop policy.. double jeopardy for our kids.... no mastery of language, no mastery to deliver the content even in BM.

And flip flops also don't offer much protection from the natural elements too. But they're ideally suited for certain places such as the beach... for fun and play. It's not your all terrain kind of footwear. Our kids are only good enough for the local market... that also albeit lots of complaints from the prospective employees.

So, the flip flop of PPSMI... our kids don't have much to hang on to. As it is, we don't have much protection from the onslaught of globalization. The only way we can stand out (and be counted) would have been to take the bull by its horn - face globalization headlong - with skills in hand to compete. But our gahmen decided to flip flop the issue.... now we've this comical situation of kids getting to secondary school switching to BM from English... then if they continue to Form 6 or Matriculation, switch back again to English... flip flop.

But I guess, maybe this flip flop decision is also to shore up support. Keep the majority who also happen to be in the rural areas ignorant so that they can be more easily convinced to vote certain parties (people). You see, English is not only the language of science and technology or business. Let me borrow, Buzz Lightyear's signature call.... it's also a door 'to infinity and beyond.' And that means a creation of a thinking population. Thinking population is not good for corrupt leaders cos they are not easily fooled.

So, flip-flop, flip-flop, flip-flop.... down it goes, the corridors which takes us to the classrooms of our kids. And as the flip flop beats on the sole of the feet and the corridors, our kids future too take a beating... Flip flop...

Friday, July 24, 2009

A Trip to The Muzium Negara

This was during our last trip to KL in June this year... Daughter followed us. When we asked her whether she wanted to go to the museum, she enthusiastically said yes. Which parents won't be just as enthusiastic about an educational trip when the child is, huh??? *grins* With Son, it would be difficult to elicit any response with eagerness save for a flat 'yes'!
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So, Muzium Negara we went. It's been more than 10 years since our last visit there with Son. Getting there took a little effort as we have lost feel of the roads in KL after such a long hiatus. The place was just opening when we got there. Got our tickets.. RM2 for adults and free for those below 12. Cheap!
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They have 4 galleries... I enjoyed the first three. The early history was quite fun as lots of the stuff that I taught Son and his friends are still fresh in my memory. Malaysian history actually has quite an uncomplicated timeline... it just kinda moved from one stage to another... Malacca, Portuguese, Dutch and English eras... so not very difficult to understand if there is interest.
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The last one... Malaysia Kini / Malaysia Today (pun intended) felt kinda propaganda-ish. Anyway, these are also 2 of the online media which are critical of the gahmen. LOL! The study of history shows that when a kingdom is at its nascent state, there is less opposition. Everyone works for a common goal. You are more likely to have common ideals then.

But when power is entrenched, those who hold the power will start to strengthen their grip through various means.... and that also usually marked the beginning of their downfall cos greed by then would play a big role... which give birth to corrupt practices, less than ideal values, etc, etc.
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And this.... I wrote about Hang Tuah and his friends some time back.. I thought it used to be outside the museum.

History is actually an interesting subject. There are so many perspectives one can take about an issue or event. But sadly, history as a subject is not liked by students. And our Malaysian history too has been re-written in a propaganda-ish form.... Because of that, very often we cannot confront our past (and present) mistakes or admit our wrongs. History is supposed to make us better... make us insaf.... but instead, it sometimes sow seeds of hatred and mistrust instead.

Anyway, the museum was a nice trip. We were glad that we could squeeze in the visit despite the little time that we had. It was well worth the detour. Spending the extra time in the malls would not have given me this much satisfaction.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Sitiawan's Taman Paya Bakau

... or the 'monkey place' as the children would call it. It's full name is too much of a mouthful for them to handle.
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Took my kids and nephew there for another look-see. My last trip was a couple of months back and construction and painting were still underway then. There were still some work going on, mainly repairs of the street lights.
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This was the first sight that greeted us. So human-like in their behaviour, these monkeys!
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The mangrove swamp... though muddy and dirty, is a haven for creatures; water and land alike.
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Life thrives here! There were swirls of fish in the muddy water! I saw some kids fishing there. Been a long while since I did that!
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There is a short canopy walk there. It's our first time on it. Nephew has been to the park before but dared not walk on the canopy walk... this time I supposed since Daughter went on, he had to also. 8) Kids need other kids to spur them. Adults too!
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From where the canopy walk ends or begins... depends on which side you started! 8)
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You can walk through the swamp on walkways such as these. Because they are relatively new, they're quite nice still. Only thing is the rubbish everywhere... partly by man and animal. The monkeys rummaged through the rubbish bins for 'food' and throw their contents everywhere, quite a sore to the eyes!
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That's the ma and daughter testing out the feel of the river water. Should be salty cos the sea is really close by; plus my feet were so sticky after that. A dip in the sea water leaves us sticky even after we are dry... that's what I remember from my sea swimming days. Son refused to cos he says it's dirty! Our kids are too clean for their own good, sometimes.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Up, up and away??

Brace yourself... more hikes coming our way. For days now the papers have been using these phrases a lot... the tariffs may rise. Numbing us down first before firing the salvos. Using psychology to soften the 'anger' that will arise from the rise. When the fuel prices were way up high the other time, the tariffs went up too.. when fuel prices went down... did the tariffs go down? Anyway, if the hike materializes, brace yourself for more hikes.

Meantime, TNB employees benefits have been skyrocketing. It went up by more than 80%! And the CFO had a 100% salary increase. Who pays? The people. We are at the mercy of Tenaga. And Tenaga says there are at the mercies of the IPPs... but as a consumer, I only know this... I paid, then paid more and seems like I may pay more again.

The gahmen is probably testing the waters now... see people's reactions. Fishing for reaction... if silence, then probably they'll increase. If people protest too much, then maybe this exercise will also benefit them in the sense they become the knight in the shining armour for the people.... BTW, Khazanah has a big say in Tenaga I think... so Tenaga technically also belongs to the gahmen. Aiyo! The small pawns in the chess game always kena... when the economy is good... life is slightly better for us but hugely better for those with connections.... when the economy sputters and coughs and life becomes a struggle for your average Fikri, Mullen, Daris and Raju, it's still hugely better for those well-connected flers. Either way, we are screwed!

With the MACC fiasco, one does get kinda despondent. The mockery that has been made and displayed. Stooping so low, taking the people for idiots.... now, more than ever there is a need for the winds of change to blow. Now, more than ever too, we've to watch out for those in power bent on staying in power... desperate people do desperate things....

Footnote (23/07/09): The Cabinet decided to act sensible and not raise the tariffs til end of the year. They've decided play knight in the shining armour. What with the Teoh Beng Hock issue... Royal Commission to be set up. But going by the last 2 Commissions, findings may not stop the exoneration of the guilty ones... and today's paper on the profit of TNB.. it went up 3 times! Still, they want to perah the people's money.... Incidentally, end of the year... watch out of toll rates increase!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Public Holiday Well Spent

Yesterday was Israk and Mikraj PH for Kedah. I had a packed day. After a heavy breakfast we headed to the Parsonage to help with the move of the Church Office.

By the time, we (Other Half and Daughter included) arrived at the Parsonage, it was already brimming with people and the lorry was there. The move was underway. When we walked into the Parsonage, much of the stuff had been cleared.

Ah Ho cooked lunch for all those who helped.. and of course lunch tasted good to hungry stomachs after a a good workout.

In the afternoon, I had another session of durians under the tree with friends, followed by tea at Old Town with another 3 friends for a session of catching up. I've not got together with them for some time... so it was a good get together. By the time we were done, it was already evening... rushed home and it was time for lessons. Quite zonked out by the time the night was over but well worth it.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Tea Time By the Roadside

Having a cuppa by the roadside is a common sight in Malaysia. You go everywhere and you will see all the makeshift 'teh tarik' stalls.

This was my friend's idea of roadside tea time on a rather nice cloudy afternoon.
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Durians by the roadside, with a view some more. This Pak Haji's durian stall is worth a visit if you are durian fan. According to friend, his durians mostly very bagus. It's located right opposite Uncle John's Kopitiam, along Jln Gangsa. You can't miss it. 8)

Some people say, eating durians by the roadside are always the best... cos the durian seller has to choose his best durians. If durians rosak, can change some more! 8) And of course, the view also. On a cool afternoon, it's always nice to be sitting out under the tree. We're not the only ones with that sort of idea.
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Siah, the ma and I finished 4 durians, all of which were very good. And the price? RM12! Durians are cheap this season and the good ones are just starting to come into market. The Pak Haji has also brought water for washing for those who want to eat at the stall.
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And since durian is supposed to be a heaty fruit, it made sense to stop by this stall for a cooling drink. The stall is just a kilometer or so down the road. One coconut is RM2.30. Quite decent don't you think.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Of Aunties, Uncles and Volleyball....

On Thursday, a friend called me up and said she had read about some volleyball tournament during the weekend. She had called up to ask whether we could take part even though it was past the closing date. And oh ya! Did I forget to mention that she said we were a ladies' team. She was told that they could accommodate us and the teams can be a mix of men and ladies.

So she proceeded to get the players. I was the first to say okay. But I felt it might be difficult to get the minimum 6 as there was so little time. The matches were to be held the following morning. Then again, with a bunch of die hards like us, we managed to get 5 and 2 spouses. 8)
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This was yesterday! When Kim and I got there, this sign was hanging at the gate. Oops! Young Malaysians... I think we hardly qualify. The oldest among us is past her 50s. The youngest is just shy of 40, with the rest of us all sporting the figure 4 ahead of the next number. But oh well! We could still be young at heart! LOL!
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It was raining as I changed into my shoes... well, outdoor volleyball, rain or shine, the game continues... unless it rains cats and dogs! And we were 'siao' enough to brave the rain.

Then the next bomb shell... the rest of the teams were all guys... with teams made up of young guys from the Kolej Perubatan and school kids. We took comfort that there were 2 teams made up of senior men... Calling our team "Out-of-the-Line' in Mandarin, we were really standing out like sore thumbs in a field of the XX-es.

But then, since we were already there, we thought we might as well carry on. Waited for more than 2 hours for our games... the rain came, went, came... followed by the sun... interesting weather you could say.

We finally played... the first team we played were school kids... they looked like 15-17 year-olds. How can a bunch of aunties and uncles compete against young and lithe kids??? But we were still foolhardy... even though we knew we were like a herd of cows waiting to be slaughtered.... BTW, look at No. 8 play. Aunties also can do that!

In we went... and played... expecting to lose.. but we played our best. The youths must have been quite confident.. after all, the net was set at the guys' level which meant that we were kinda short in front of it. Spiking was out of the question... not that we were that great spikers! But after a few points, the kids were looking kinda jaded cos these aunties with the help of the two heroes were able to return ball for ball... we ding-donged throughout the game.
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Everyone expected us to be easy meat... we lost... 19-21, 18-21! But looking at the score, I think they must have felt really bad. Later we played another game with a group of men too.. oldies like us.. we lost too. But considering we were a bunch of aunties (and 2 men), with a total age of 300 years for 7 players... being able to hold out against the stronger sex was a good feeling.

On a weekend which saw us braving the rain, forgoing the usual Friday stuff that we do for a crazy swing at our youth... it wasn't too bad. Years from now, I guess most of us will look back and remember this, one, crazy weekend, of pitting ourselves against all odds and coming out of it not too badly scathed! LOL!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Seeds We Sow...

... and we are now reaping the fruits. Seeds are small... but the fruits from those seeds are usually many hundred times bigger than their origins. And that is exactly what is happening to Malaysia now. Small evils becoming big evils...

We are always talking about benchmarking... so here's a few questions to ponder.
  1. Is the civil service more corrupt now?
  2. Do we have more integrity in our public and private lives now?
  3. What is the perception of the public towards our police?
  4. What do you think is the most likely answer if we ask about the independence of our judiciary?
  5. Is the government today considered by the majority as a clean government?
  6. Are our politicians trustworthy?
  7. Do you think there is abuse of power at every level of the civil service?
  8. Do you think the authorities act in a very high handed manner often?
  9. Do you think our civil servants are people with good integrity and morals?
For too long, we've closed an eye, okayed questionable morals and practices, allowed the rot to set in, compromised on what is right and just. And the little evils that we have been condoning are today hastening to become big evils. Pacts made with the little devils are bearing fruits for their master.... huge fruits!

We justify everything.. then we proclaim it in righteous voices they are 'right'. Take a look at this. Guess what a bunch of journalist for a supposedly religious-based magazine did? They went undercover, purportedly to uncover, again purported conversions... but what they did next was totally unacceptable. They partook of the Holy Communion and then spat it out, photographed it and published it in their magazine. Going undercover for a story... that's fine. But taking it a couple of steps further like this? It tells me that these journalist are willing to stoop low enough to sell their own souls too for I am sure their faith would not have condoned such behaviour. The Editor, journalists... they peddled their souls to sell their papers.. all done in the name of their faith. Emotions stoked, magazines sell like goreng pisang... $$$$ made and power base built!

Then the 30% fare increase.... am still trying to make sense of it. I hear TNB will be raising its tarriffs soon too... they say it's gas prices this time. Anyway, they'll be another round of price increase soon after... everyone has to make a living! If we're not careful, we'll become Zimbabwe sooner than we realize it. Seeds of greed....

And oh ya! While we are this, there's this guy who seems to imply that Teoh Beng Hock's death shouldn't be a big issue. What's one death? No big deal even with the shroud of mystery surrounding it.. a shroud that might involve gahmen agencies... seeds of injustice bearing fruit now?

The seeds we sow... look around us. What kinds of seeds are we sowing? Cos if it's integrity we sow then integrity we'll get, honesty we sow then honesty we get. But if it's greed we sow, then all other little hells will break lose... greed causes us to go down those rotten paths like murder, lying, cheating, abuse, bullying - the anak-pinak of greed goes down to the cucu-cicit quite easily and readily.

As in the case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.. when Jekyll gave in to his carnal wishes, he finally lost himself to Hyde... the power, strength, youthful vigour in Hyde was too much to resist and Jekyll succumbed. And the evil that perpetuated from Hyde was terrible.. the whole of London lived in fear. But Jekyll lost everything in the end, including his life.

I guess such kind of ending would make the Devil most happy... cos he would gain an extra follower in his fiery kingdom for his pleasure - watching this wretched soul writhe in pain, thirst and hunger. Very apt don't you think? In life, the wretched one makes others suffer and watches on and gloats... In the world to come, his 'master' would watch him suffer with pleasure too. What goes around will come around....

Friday, July 17, 2009

In Memoriam: Teoh Beng Hock

He would have remained a relative unknown to people like me if not for what happened to him. Though a political secretary to DAP to Selangor executive council member, Ean Yong Hian Wah, he was just a name... that was until today.

A young man full of life, about to get married.... took his own life? Fell from the roof? And of all places from a building housing the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) with a well-known fact that he had been in there for interrogation.

What is the general perception of MACC? Not much needs to said what's on most people's minds. New in name, but same in practice as its predecessor. Its boss is the father of a certain young MAS pilot who was caught with some porn stuff in his computer.. but as of today, there is still no news about his disciplinary action. And today too... this leaves a huge question mark on the 100 days of our PM also.

It's difficult to blame us, common folks if we feel that those who walk the corridors of power are behaving more and more like gods. Have they no conscience? Do they not believe that they'll have to answer to a higher authority some day?

That reminds me.. you know there is this lesson that they always drum into our heads... you cannot make a pact with the devil cos no matter what he promises you or how much he wants to give to you... the end result - you still lose your soul. Maybe Nik Aziz understands something that many people don't see.

My heart aches for the living left behind by Beng Hock.. for his fiancee who will now not be known as Mrs. Teoh, for the grief in his mother's heart, the pain in each of his family members.... and the void left in the hearts of those who knew him.... and an unborn child who will not know his father...

And like 'similar' cases, his reports would take ages, denials from the authorities would be the norm... they would make sure that he is forgotten, pushed to the recesses of the people's minds... The PM says they'll probe... the police says no foul play. What kind of probe will it be? And Nazri the Minister in the PM's Dept said... don't blame the MACC. Come on, Teoh was last seen alive on the MACC premise, and more info is coming out about his long and abusive interrogation... we've politicians with huge palaces and why don't they investigate them like that too... now they're implying he committed suicide? Even if he did, weren't they the ones responsible? Either way, they are supposed to be screwed.. but they are not!

Viet Cafe.. New Cafe in Town

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This is the latest cafe in town.. Viet Cafe. It's been opened only a week. It's located in the compound of the car dealership, Asas Auto. Cook is a friend's brother. That's how I got to know about it. Didn't notice it earlier even though I pass the place everyday cos this place has 'housed' a few eatery, the last being a Malay food joint. One tends to be blind to such things...
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This is the traditional Vietnamese Roll, with its transparent skin. Siah said this one requires one to acquire the taste for it. But I think it's okay. The sauce goes well with it. You have to look out for it cos it's a little unobtrusive. Parking is a little complicated as the compound is rather small. But you can park at the adjacent empty lot. And if that is full, you can always park further down the road. 8)
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This is rice with stir fried beef. I like anything with beef. But this particular dish is quite appetizing because the rice is also lightly fried in egg and probably garlic. Gives it that nice smell. This is Siah's order and she says the rice is good enough to eat by itself.
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Huan's order... Thai Fried Rice. We could smell the food as soon as the plate landed on the table. Also nice but it's not something I would order since I wanted something different. I ta-pau one of the same back for Son. A little info about the cook. He's worked before in a hotel and also for a couple of years in a Vietnamese restaurant overseas. His food is quite pleasing on the palate.
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Another version of Vietnamese Spring Rolls... this one is deep fried. All 3 of us like this. I also ta-pau one back and Other Half sapu all finish. Overall, I think the food here is not too bad. It's different cos it's probably the first Vietnamese restaurant. I am always looking out for something new... so this new place fits the bill quite nicely for me.
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Last but not least of the orders... gu-bak kway teow! I'm a sucker for beef soup kway-teow. When I heard that the Cafe serves that, I immediately made up m mind to pay it a visit. The soup is rather light... beef smell is not strong. But I supposed that also helps in making the food quite light on the stomach. 8)

I'm happy that Alor Setar is getting another restaurant serving food other than just the usual. I'd definitely be going back to try their Vietnamese coffee... saw one other patron ordering it and I thought it looked rather quaint, waiting for the coffee to drip slowly into the glass below.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

FaceBook... Is it a good thing??

I am on FaceBook (FB) and so are countless numbers of my friends. Ever since I jumped onto the bandwagon, I've been able to reconnect with so many old friends, much to my joy. It's always nice to have good old friends popping up in our lives every now and then! One of my life's joys. And these days, it enables me 'know' what's going on in their lives.

So, FB is good... but is it all good? For the above reason, I'd give a resounding yay! But looking at how the young people use it, I get the feeling that they project their emo-ness way too much. Perhaps that is the way they fish for remarks and feedbacks. A whole new generation is growing up through more of a sanitized and digital interaction rather than face-to-face one. And I wonder whether we'll be getting a gen who might not be comfortable with real communication in a face-to-face situation. Or whether they are capable of true empathy and understanding for others. Screen interaction after all is done behind the the screen with a keyboard. What you see may not be what you get.

Already researchers are questioning the jumping onto the 'digital protests' of treatment on people like Aung Sung Su Kyi. Some wonder whether clicking a support or writing a supporting comment makes them feel good.. I don't know. I tend to think that if one is not passionate about a cause, he'll not give a second look.

But coming back to interaction on FB... such kinds of interactions don't quite need you to be giving full attention too, cos you can be multitasking while FBing... which might create in real life this same surreal feeling...

And on FB too, it's mostly about me and me and more me. Some studies have labelled this as infantilizing of the mind. You know how we labelled the Terrible Twos.. A Terrible Two's needs must be met immediately... and everything is about them! Anyway, it results in selfish and attention deficient people which translates to short attention spans, sensationalism, inability to empathize and a shaky sense of identity.

So, is FB good? Guess like everything else, there are the pros and cons.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Capping SPM subjects...

.. at 10 so they say and it's official; with a caveat. Those who take Pendidikan Islam will be allowed 11, at least for another year before they too will see it being capped at 10. The 6 core subjects remain. That means a pure Science students will have the option of only one extra subject after taking into considerations Bio, Physics, Chem and Add Maths. So probably we'll be seeing the demise of many of the Elective subjects in time to come!

Would this create a level playing ground for all the students? I doubt it. First the quality of the 'A' in our SPM is still in doubt. In fact we'd be getting more students with straight A(s). Only difference is now they will be capped at 10. And it becomes more difficult to tell the really good ones apart cos they'll fade into the sea of straight A(s). In the end, this might promote mediocrity.

Hearsays have it that the MOE is considering introducing A+, A- and A2... something like that. So instead of having a two-tiered A, there'll be 3. Why don't they simplify things and just have a simple grading system? In the mean time, have more stringent criteria. But some quarters are saying this will not happen cos a particular group of students will be affected... crutch mentality still persist here.

Capping the number of subjects is actually a good thing cos it might mean less stress on a student. Parents won't pressure their kids to take more subjects. Students might actually not be so stressed out. Some time may actually be freed for them to pursue interests outside the curriculum, if they don't use it up on the computer. Their insane existence might actually become quite sane. 8) All quite attractive prospects.

Incidentally, in this ever changing education landscape of our country... History looks set on being reintroduced as a subject to the primary kids again. Once upon a time, long, long time ago, I learned it in Primary School. Then by the time I was done with my Primary schooling, it morphed a couple of times. Alam dan Manusia... a few morphs later, it went off the radar. Now, it's coming back.

And I thought the general consensus is the kids have too many papers to handle as it is... yet we are still adding on. What is important at Primary level would the the reading, speaking and writing skills. Those flers up in the MOE should start thinking of working from those 3 skills and incorporating Science, Maths, History, etc.. into the learning of the 3 skills. Teach them to fish instead of giving the kids the fish. Anyway, I have digressed.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Nasi Lemak Ong..

This is another popular makan place... you can tell by the long queue during lunch time. Nasi Lemak Ong is no stranger to many Alor Setarians.
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It used to be located behind Wisma Sentosa some years back.
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This is it's location now, at Fresh Cafe. At night, Fresh Cafe is also well-known for its tomyam. Anyway, Nasi Lemak Ong's popularity can be gauged by how the outstation Alor Setarians gush about it.
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I went there with friends for a take-away recently. The signature queue is still there. By the time we had packed our food, the queue had gone even longer! Notice the poster? That's from Astro. This nasi lemak joint has been featured on Astro Food Channel!
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And patrons are spoilt for choices here... from huge prawns to deep-fried ikan keli (catfish)..
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..and beef, mutton curry... you'll have difficulty choosing. Rice (either white or lemak) is served on banana leaves which gives it a nice smell.

It's open every day for lunch except Wednesdays...

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Age of Innocence Gone...

On Saturday, my lil gal, being helpful, 'rearranged' her papa's home office. That was when she came upon 2 letters she wrote to the Tooth Fairy last year. This is the first one...
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Anyway, what transpired between father and daughter after she found the letters... BTW, her tooth was also intact...

With surprise and traces of disappointment she told her papa... "That's the letter I wrote to the Tooth Fairy!" The papa was momentarily speechless but quickly mumbled something about the Tooth Fairy leaving the letters there. But this gal of mine was not fooled. She had made her own conclusion.

"There is no Tooth Fairy. Papa is the Tooth Fairy." With that another chapter of her kiddy years has come to a close.... one segment of her age of innocence coming to a close. 8(

And later in the evening, as we were on our way out for dinner... she said this to us... "I told my friends about the Tooth Fairy. And now it's not true!" It was said with a tinge of chagrin and 'shame'.... We used to place some money whenever she lost a teeth and it was something that she really looked forward to. We did that to Son too until he outgrew it. In those days, we had the RM1 'gold' coin and it was much more fun!

This is how the 2 letters came about. Other Half and I were supposed to conduct the exchange... tooth for money but fell asleep and did not manage to change her tooth for the usual RM2. We got up early the next morning... remembered, tried to exchange but she was faster. She had gotten up, all excited and headed straight to the chair where she had placed her 'fallen' tooth, expecting to find the usual RM2. She was really crestfallen that morning... and on that evening itself, wrote 2 letters... The second one was for good measure, just in case the Tooth Fairy could not understand English... so my 7-year-old dug out her newly learned skills from school and wrote this... in 3 languages! LOL!
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It was so cute that we kept both her letters... and on Saturday she found them. All this while, she thought the Tooth Fairy had her letters... for the following morning, she would happily tell us that the Tooth Fairy had left RM2 for her.

Our little girl is growing up.... the lands of fairies and magic are slowly being replaced by the worries of life; school, exams, friends... the list will grow by the year as the magic and wonderment of childhood fades into the background. Kinda sad for us in a way....

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Chronicles of a Saturday School Day

Saturday Replacement School again! Yesterday's was to replace the holidays we are about to take for Hari Raya Puasa. We've been having lots of these.... the replacement school days on Saturdays. We had 2 (I think) to replace the extended holidays taken for Chinese New Year earlier. You see when the Ministry accommodates one group, they have to start accommodating all. In this increasingly more open and connected society of ours, it's hard not to be consistent cos everyone will bising... and then they start digging in the closet when they are unhappy...

So, there I was, stuck in school on a morning.... when I'd rather be elsewhere. I could name a few; my comfy bed, the paddy fields, the market, breakfast in town... anywhere except school. But I had to drag myself up from my bed in the morning.... 8(

So, how was school? First thing in the morning, the Muslim students were herded to the open hall for a ceramah. I pity them cos they had to sit through more than 2 hours of 'ear-bombing'. The few non-Muslim students sat in the Moral Room... presumably thinking through their moral values. It's usually like this... separate 'programmes'.. No! I mean programme for one group, sit-around for another. You tell, me, how can we ever integrate when the school consciously 'dis-integrate'.

Two hours and a recess later, the Form 3(s) and Form 5(s) were herded to different places again... for more ceramahs.. this time academic-related ones... the integrated type. You tell me, why have Saturday school when classes don't quite run? My son always tells me that they are bored to death whenever they have to sit through a ceramah... can be on issues like drugs, smoking, how to study smart. But after a certain time, no amount of talking actually registers. The mind gets saturated. Studies show we can concentrate for about 40 minutes. Studies also show that boys find it difficult to sit still for so long cos biologically they are not made to do that. Once upon a time, the menfolks were hunters.. and hunters don't sit down. They run around chasing their hunt for the day... go read up about the corpus callosum and the role it plays in the differences between the male and female traits.

We talk about churning out 'smart' students but I wonder whether what we're doing is working smart (for ourselves) or dumbing down our students.

The Forms 1, 2 and 4, classes were supposed to run as usual after recess. Here lies another problem, more than half the school is absent.... Saturday school! Might as well work our term holidays around the festivals rather than have all this. A waste of time and resources....

Saturday, July 11, 2009

WMCAS Website...

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This is what Other Half and I have been up to for the past week or so. Setting up our church website with a blog incorporated.. He did all the layout stuff while I worked on the input and content. We've learned about Joomla, Fantastico. And an old friend gave a lending hand by directing us to what to use. I am still amazed by how connected we have all become through applications like FB and our ACS Forum cos it was through these two that we've reconnected after so many years. And an old friendship like that has come back to assist us this time around!

Anyway, now I am learning from him the layout part. Earlier on, my job was to fill up the pages and write... But the learning curve becomes much less steeper when there is someone to teach. 8) The site is up and running now. It still needs some work but we'll have to wait for approval from above. 8)

It's been kinda fun... in a way, us working together for this. Anyway, it took a while for this to come to fruition. We were sitting on it for quite a while because of my apprehension that we may not be able to find people to help maintain it. But in the end, we decided that it has to start, we have to give it a try. So, Other Half got the domain name and paid up all the necessary fees....

So, here it is... finally, the WMCAS Website!

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Demise of PPSMI..

I can actually try to look at the bigger picture about this whole issue... but the wastage and flip flop manner in which our gahmen carries itself does make one wonder whether this reversal is a populist decision. By Muhyiddin's (MOE) own admission, only 19.2% of secondary teachers and 9.96% primary teachers teaching Maths and Science are proficient in English shows very glaringly how inept the MOE has been in tackling the problem of delivery and also what I think is the main problem... the competency of teachers.

I am sure studies conducted also do not take into consideration students' attitude towards their own education these days. For many of my students, I would say that it doesn't quite matter what the medium of instruction is. You can teach in Swahili cos they're basically just not bothered. And such students are the majority today. But for the better students, Math and Science in English had actually done them good.

But the MOE think that with more contact hours in English and the introduction of literature and drama, grammar, composition would make a difference. Or the hiring more retired English teachers for that matter. They should have hired competent retired teachers to teach Math and Science in Primary School at the start of the PPSMI. That would have probably made a world of difference.

And now the Deputy PM says the achievements of students in Maths and Science has seen a decline ever since the use of English as a medium of instruction. Passing percentage has remained almost he same. There is no drastic drop or rise... so if at the global stage our standing has dropped something like 10 places, I don't think English as the medium of instruction is the issue. Why can't the people up there just see the root of the problem... our schools today are staffed by incompetent teachers... not from the language point of view..... I am tempted to go into the synonyms of stupid.... idiots... morons... imbeciles.... to describe our politicians.... But for now the, ignorance will suffice! Either that or they're just simply ostriches who refused to take their heads out of the sand!

I taught (and am still at it) English in rural and suburban schools before the pre-PPSMI and during PPSMI. I could see improvement in my Form 1 students this year. They are supposed to have been taught completely in English. They're grasp of language is even better than my Form 2. But now, because Manek Urai is just around the corner and also some other reasons, we'll never quite know whether coming to a middle ground might have been better for the country in the longer run.

English.. it's a language we need to master. We were on par once upon a time. Then we lost that edge and started languishing. And then the effort to try put back a little of that shine from the past.... before we can even actually see results, it's taken off again. I am not saying that Maths and Science should be taught in English.... maybe if they remove PPSMI but truly want to upgrade our English... make a pass in English compulsory in SPM, perhaps? The Minister says they are mulling that... but knowing how they bow to pressure groups, that may just be a statement to justify and appease.

The gahmen says English is important... even acknowledges it... but the things they do don't seem to be able to arrest its decline. Maybe it's time they turn their attention to competency of teachers.... yet another product of mediocrity in the years of NEP.

Hawker food at Taman Lum Sum

This is one place which I would go with Ling and Siah... yup, come to think of it, each time I've gone there, it's with them... 8)
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This 'shack' is tucked away in the middle of the housing estate, it's quite difficult to find if you don't know the area well. I used to get sesat here until Son started going for tuition there. But it's quite a popular haunt.
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The laksa stall is the one inside... Lean Huat. The one on the left is the fried kway teow stall.
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This is what most people go for.. the laksa. Instead of going all the way to Simpang Kuala for the laksa, this one is not too bad.
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But I go for this... the fried kway teow and ice kacang. The fried kway teow is not too bad. One of those places to find kway teow in the afternoons in Alor Setar. Pity they don't fry it with cockles, though.

Food is cheap here. RM10 was enough for the 3 of us... 2 laksa(s), 1 fried kway teow, 2 glasses of drinks and 1 ice-kacang. Had change left over some more. 8) But for those not from the area, I guess it would take a little searching to find the place.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

We're Reverting...PPSMI No More!

As expected... it's back to BM as the medium of instruction. It's supposed to start from 2012. Is it good? Frankly speaking, I don't know. The medium of instruction is just one of the many problems plaguing our education system. If anything, the MOE should also tackle the problem of teacher competency. But I supposed if you look at it from the competency angle, at least the not so competent teachers now do not have to deal with the problem of language competency. It was double jeopardy for this group of teachers before this.

So what does it mean... printers are going to make another killing. RM5 billion down the drain. And probably another step backward? Reintroduction of literature as a subject... and grammar and composition? Will that help? Where are they going to find the time to slot those new subjects into the timetable? More English teachers.... We weren't any better with English as the medium of instruction. Would we do better with BM as the medium of instruction? If a teacher cannot solve a Mathematical question, it doesn't matter whether the medium of instruction is in English or BM or any other language for that matter. For too long, our schools have been staffed by mediocre or less than mediocre teachers.... do something about that! Only then harp about the medium of instruction...

The gahmen should consider the reintroduction of English medium schools. Let the parents choose. Yet they have not mentioned that. It's like they want everyone to be in the doldrums together. You know, if I cannot master English, you shouldn't master it too well kinda mentality. National unity through BM as the language of instruction. National unity is more than just language.

So, it's back to being the froggy under the coconut shell?? I dunno! But tis a sad day indeed... Malaysia the new yo-yo-land. Reversal of policies without much thought.... to win in Manek Urai perhaps??? Where are our visionaries??? It's still all about a populist thingy....

And meanwhile... read this.. You can ROFL if you need to. From an institution of higher learning.. our English standard is already very 'cham'... reversal of policy will only make it more 'cham'.

4th UiTM INTERNATIONAL SPORTS FIESTA
19 – 23 November 2009 FUTSAL-RUGBY 7- TENPIN BOWLING-BADMINTON


Dear Sport Friends,

Regarding about the global issue H1N1 happens around the world, sadly to be informing that our UiTM International Sports Fiesta will be postponing to 19-23 November 2009.

For all teams which have been confirm to participate in our events, we have to say sorry for this announcements and our Ministry of Higher Education and Ministry of Health also advise to us to change the date for this current situation.

By the date have been confirm incoming this November hopefully your teams still can participate in our event and don’t hesitate to contact us for further information.

And again, we would like to say sorry about the date change for the sake of our health among us.

See you in this November at UiTM Malaysia!!

Regards,

Mr. Mustaza Ahmad
Director
Sports Centre
Universiti Teknologi MARA
Malaysia

Eating Together...

This was a week or so ago.... I went out with Son, Siah and Ling for dinner at Lot 7, which is opposite PMC. In the recent months, Lot 7 has been given a second lease of life cos of the 'redevelopment' of the area, mainly spearheaded by the expansion of PMC. So, the area has become more 'lively' now.
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It was a time of indulging... of bak-kut-teh, chicken chop, cockles, la-la, Hokkien Mee, satay. Food seemed a lot but the gals said it was just right for them. Guess I was a rather full cos I had to stuffed in more of the bak-kut-teh. Son said his stomach would have room for the bak-kut-teh after his chicken chop and satay... Conclusion: never take words given on an empty stomach. They tend to be overly optimistic about their own ability to stomach the food!

And this is another round of makan... not of the sort above, but something very Malaysian of nature. 8) Yesterday night...
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This makan together was for... durians! Durians are aplenty now... This came all the way from Bukit Mertajam, brought to be shared with us by durian buffs. This particular one is huge! And they're even joking about bringing a mini lorry load the next round. LOL!
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The King of Fruits is a great re-connector. It brings people together to enjoy it. So, we sampled all the different durians, entertained by Prince, a one-year-old really cute mixed-Maltese puppy which has just come by air from a land far away!

The durians were good. And there were so many of them to sample! It was a good thing that I did not take dinner and had just come back from my games. Other Half was a good sport and came along. He's not your regular durian fan, you see. But in the end, he obliged and stuffed down a few ulas.
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And oh yes! Good durians also deserve appreciation and admiration... this is a photo shoot of the humongous durian above! I think I've not eaten so many ulas of durians in one night like this for quite a long time.

But all in all, it was a night to be remembered.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

PLKN... Mixed Reactions

The dust is finally settling.... but the reactions have been colourful.

My own boy's mood shifted from %$@!& to acceptance within a rather short time. Probably eased by the fact that many of his friends were in the same boat. Funny how we always feel better once we find out that there are many in the same predicament...

My own students' reactions were also contrasting. One girl cried upon finding out that she had been selected... her eyes were all red when she came into class. I wonder how the tahniah message from PLKN fits in here..LOL! She remained surly and sad for the rest of the day...

Some were not happy but were resigned to it. Some immediately made plans to find their connections so that they get to choose where and with whom they go for their NS. This is definitely Malaysia Boleh spirit. At such a young age, these kids already learn the usefulness of connections and do not hesitate to use it.

And then there are just some who are disappointed that they were not chosen. From this group, there are those who wonder whether they can put in their application for a place. I think the gahmen should consider making considerations for such keen flers. I wonder whether they fill up the places left empty by those who defer..

And we have another group is not very bothered cos they know they'll be getting their deferment. Those in this group have already made plans to further their studies in private colleges. These are the 'don't-want-to-waste-time' group. They want and can't wait to finish their studies.

PLKN.... I had a friend whose daughter cried when she was selected because she didn't want to go. But she went just the same. She cried again when it was time for the NS to end. The second time was because she didn't want it to end. LOL! It wasn't that bad after all!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Invest in what you know...

This is what Warren Buffet lived by.... invest in what you know. And at a time when the world was all about the dotcom success, he stayed away because he said he did not understand its dynamics. So, when the dotcom bubble burst in the 90s, he was not one of those casualties... Good advice; invest in what you know.

My idea of good investments.. these are few from many.

Family. They are pillars of our society. There are our pillars. Who do you call when you are in trouble? Yup! Your family! If the fabric of families start to tear, I guess the society would too. It already is. More single moms/dads. More children out wedlock. More teenage parents. We're so technologically superior compared to the previous generation but the values somehow have gone into regression. Family members drift apart now... children abandon parents, parents abandon children. And the permissiveness of the society also sees more and more opting for the open lifestyle.... live together, no ties.... but these days... it's a real challenge. To build a family, too many of everything and too little of time.

Children. They are our future. Kids are a joy to have... But they are major responsibilities.. Time is something we have very little with them. And before we know it, they're all grown up. They are our hope.. we pass our batons to them. But these days... with everyone so busy, we see so little of each other. It used to be only the dads were busy... these days, the moms are too and the children sometimes lead a life more packed than their parents. We squeeze in as many cramming sessions as possible to ensure that they enter the best schools, the best universities.... Korea and Japan have taken it to new heights but I think we're not that far behind. So, where are our kids heading??

Education is the greatest eradicator of many things... ignorance, poverty just to name a few. Invest in a good education. This is sadly lost on the younger generation now. But if you picked any one of them and asked them, they'd probably agree with you that education is a good investment. However, when it comes down to actually getting down to it.... they're quite lost. Education is not just about the A(s). It's also about the skills you pick up along the way... it's also about the values as well. It's about lifelong learning... the love for knowledge, the quest for betterment... But in the chase for the academic glory, most of these are pushed in to the background... sometimes you see a bit of them, other times they just fade away, overshadowed by the A(s)....

Faith. They are the lighthouse of our lives, without which we'll be lost. Faith is also like that little compass that points us to the right direction; it steers us back onto the path when we go sesat. And heaven is where our treasures are laid.

But today, there're two extremes which we're seeing... on one end we've droves of people abandoning it, believing in their own sufficiency.On the other hand, we see those who seem more pious but are so bogged down by their hypocrisy.

But I believe investing in faith is investing in eternity.. this is perhaps the most important investment of all cos investing in the soul is the surest thing of all.

So, investment... a good investment is investing in what you know. And I believe these are good investments.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Speech Day or Hari Anugerah Cemerlang..

Definition of cemerlang ... above par excellence. Hari Anugerah Cemerlang used to have a plain sounding name... Speech Day. It's a day where students who have excelled in different fields are given their due recognition. And if you are one of the award winners called up to the stage on that day, you'd be filled with pride... cos you know that you've done well for the year, be it academic or non-academic. Bottom line is the award puts you in a select group. Hence, if you are a multiple winner, you are truly a cemerlang fler.

But cemerlang today rings hollow. Some students get called up to receive prizes for good grades in monthly tests. Some get called up for good grades in the final-year exams while some get called up for good grades in public exams like PMR and SPM. All the tests and exams are regressing in quality.

Anyway, the quality keeps regressing cos we measure ourselves against ourselves; not by the global yardstick. We are only good enough to be the jaguh kampung because our yardstick is the kampung yardstick. And then we pull wool over our own eyes and mendabik dada at the same time, proclaiming to the world, our world class standard. What an eye wash!

Hari Anugerah Cemerlang has become a day to strut your decorations and trimmings. It's not really about the achievements of the students. Schools spend huge amounts for curtains which are used so rarely, decorations which sometimes are used only once, etc. There'd be a planting, painting and cleaning frenzy. Though sometimes, I think these can actually be good. We seem to need a reason to spruce things up cos we seem to lack that inertia to move without that outside stimulus. The ability to plod on in these areas seem a little lacking.

But often, lots of money and time are wasted on them to make a big impression on the people who come. The priorities seem senget. And because the audience is also made up of Heads or Reps from other schools, these administrators go back to their respective schools with goals to better what they've seen since the Big Boss is also there. It's also about making an impression. And this keeping up with the Jones' mentality bring rise a mentality of outward appearance superceding values and ethics. So, sometimes I think Hari Anugerah Cemerlang has lost its true essence of rewarding and giving recognition to the students so that others are encouraged to follow suit. It has become a venue to strut and show off what school heads are capable of showing off. This, I think is a malaise plaguing many schools today. Priorities in the wrong place....

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Missionary School Model for 1Malaysia

After Najib visited his alma mater (St John, KL), this is the latest spin.... Missionary School as Role Model for 1Malaysia.

I don't think we need the missionary school model... what we need is the right values and attitude. What made the missionary schools excellent were those. The Principal, teachers and staff had the right values and attitude. It wasn't the school... it was the people who made the difference. People with the right commitment and conscience.

The Christian missionaries came from afar and dedicated their lives to giving an education. Sure, their motivation was to win souls for their God but they went around it, at least their actions were more right than wrong. Their heart was one of service to others; not self above others. They considered their work a means to honour their God, bring glory to His name. And they served, taught to the best that they could, according to the Scriptures. And I'm sure most agree that their legacy does bring honour to the God they serve, as much as some may not want to admit it.

What is wrong with our education system today then? We're back to the same bush again you see. It's back to values and attitude. You have too many Principals who got their principles wrong. They look at leadership as not of their service to others but how others should serve them... kowtow to them... show their power so to say. Good heads with the right ingredients are hard to come by. Incompetent heads bent on polishing butts are aplenty...

The heads themselves try to squirm their way out of responsibilities if they could. They would have classes to teach in the master timetable but it that is only for the records. In reality, somebody else would be teaching those classes. And they take opportunity to be away from school for as long as possible, when given a chance. Discipline is lacking now because Heads do not enforce it. As they say, the rot always starts from the Head. And then they go on this frenzy of creating programmes, so that they have something to show for. Extra classes, beautifying the school... all these have underlying motives.

And very much like UMNO, religion is a means to an end... cos their own lives don't reflect the faith they proclaim. No faith would condone laziness or bias. Yet, I open my ears and too many deragoratory remarks fly out with no remorse.

Bias... many teachers are racists. They tell their students not to interact with other races, they teach kids of their own race to 'hate' the other races... it's done subtly and openly. They tell students certain races are lazy... etc, etc.. My teachers never did that. They taught us to embrace differences. True there were racial undercurrents even during my student days but those remained undercurrents. Teachers never encouraged them. They taught us as should. Teachers today are like politicians.... they sing different tunes with different groups.

Teachers of yesteryears did not teach us to cheat or lie. These days, it's a disease spreading right from the very top to the bottom. We cheat when we create files which don't tell the truth. And we pass that on to the students when they do their coursework. We do not teach them to face the consequences of their own actions. We teach them, everything can be sorted out; doesn't matter whether it is through the right or wrong way. Ever wonder why our police force is perceived to be more corrupted... it starts from school...

We are more interested in the superficial rather than substance. You see, the superficial can be seen... substance is mostly felt, not seen. You can make a huge impression with the superficial. And that.. sadly, is what's happening in school. It's all about making an impression; cos that's the key to moving up...

And the education system... we have kerja kursus which are mainly copied work... I'd probably need lots of space just to ramble about it.

So, I beg to differ with the PM.. it's not missionary school models we need. It's getting back onto the right moral absolutes' path which is needed.

And how did we get here? NEP... quota system. The quota system coupled with UMNO's desire to remain in power made right the wrongs. They kept a section of the population shackled to the belief that they were inferior and needed assistance, and that the other races were out to 'eat' them up. Well, the crutch has debilitated not only them but everyone else too! Cos, the wrongs they generated out of it.. the cheating, lying, deceit, etc., etc... have crept into every aspect of our lives and entrenched themselves there. To get rid of them.... God help us! Cos we need not only a paradigm shift but a cleansing of the soul as well.

BTW, I am a product of a missionary school. I have high regards for my teachers and utmost respect for them. Today's students don't say so for the majority of their teachers.... speaks volumes, doesn't it?

Friday, July 3, 2009

Changes afoot???

New JPA Scholarship based on meritocracy... but no clear cut about whether the existing one which is based more on racial prerequisites will become a separate scheme or be totally scrapped to be replaced by this new proposal.

No more 30% quota Bumi holdings for equity holdings... basically we do not have much of a choice here. We are inching towards the state of a failed nation. Years of mismanagement, sanctioned pillage and plundering have contributed to that. To continue the quota system would probably drive out whatever reputable investment left in our country. There may be a feeling of wealth here but if you crunch the figures you will find out that the purchasing power has been diminishing somewhat over the years. Just compare the increase in the prices of cars to our salaries. You will find that the increase in the car price outstrips the increase in pay.

Najib does not have much choice actually. FDIs are dropping and other neigbouring countries seem set to lure in more. Our investors, on the other hand are uprooting and 'fleeing'. FDI for 2008 was RM46 billion. But for this year, the figure till May is only a paltry RM4.2 billion, barely 10% of last year's total; and with only 7 more months to tally up. Like it or not, we have to compete. And our investors don't like 30% quota requirements. So unless we want to insulate ourselves, we have no choice but to comply.

The quota system has been like a motor neurone disease... it slowly causes the nerve cells to degenerate and the result is fatal. Look at our educational institutions... it's been on a slide ever since we practised NEP in earnest. Malaise, incompetence, inefficiency plagues our ivory towers. An example. UM's other twin (NUS) has gone northward... UM, the older twin went on a downward spiral. Our best and brightest have been exiting the country for years; to which some will say good riddance since those who exited are mainly non-Bumis.

In the last couple of days, these announcements seem to offer hope that maybe, the gahmen, UMNO namely, has finally made moves to shed their divide and rule practice. Or it could just be a cosmetic ruse to win hearts back to BN. But for the sake of the country, I hope not. The only way forward is to rebuild our country on principles of moral absolutes. Crutches don't help; they incapacitate in the long run. The law of nature sees to that. A man, if we put him on a wheelchair will lose his ability to walk in the long run as his muscles will waste away. Use crutches, and a whole segment of the society loses their ability to compete! That is what is happening in our country now... and with it, the erosion of ethics and values.

So, I'll be waiting and looking at whether all these measures are for real or just another political ploy to win votes.... this is after all Malaysia and there is always more than what meets the eye.

Next on my wish list.. to make our civil service reflect our racial composition in a truer sense... at this moment, walk into any gahmen department, and the sea of faces will be of the same race. Too much of the same is also killing the quality of service rendered by our civil service. Most will agree that the level of commitment shown by our civil servants lacks those of their earlier counterparts. The same goes for the armed forces... let the other races share the burden of safeguarding the country... if everything is fair, every race will want to participate.