Monday, August 31, 2009

Bulan Merdeka...

Okay... it's coming to a close.. this Bulan Kemerdekaan thingy. Only apt I put it down in my national language.... we had a school thing on it yesterday, with less than half of the students.

Tanggal 31 Ogos, genaplah 52 tahun! Merdekanya negara kita dari belenggu penjajah. Lahirlah Malaya...

Kemudian, 16 September 1963, Sabah dan Sarawak menjadi pelengkap Malaysia. Singapura kekal sejenak tetapi keluar 2 tahun kemudian, melakar masa depan sendiri...

Bulan Merdeka... Bukankah lebih sesuai jika kita namakan Bulan Malaysia agar ia lebih bermakna kepada segenap lapisan masyarakat dan bukan sahaja buat mereka yang ada di Semenanjung sahaja... tetapi hakikatnya masyarakat di seberang Lautan China Selatan memang dipinggirkan sejak dari lahirnya Malaysia.

Kini, slogan 1Malaysia... lahirnya dari cita-cita politik. Tetapi SATU apakah yang dimaksudkan oleh slogan ini? SATU di hati? SATU segala-galanya? Atau SATU mengikut keperluan dan kepentingan sahaja? .. as and when required??

Satu Malaysia...terlintas di fikiran etnik-etnik di Sabah dan Sarawak yang masih lagi jauh terpinggir; suku Penan misalnya mengalami krisis kebuluran kerana jambatan penyambung hayat mereka telah diputuskan oleh syarikat balak. Dilakukan tanpa mengira kesan kemanusiaan kepada mereka ini yang tempat tinggal mereka terletak jauh di pendalaman. Manakah keprihatinan yang dilaung-laungkan? Adakah kita berSATU mendalami krisis mereka kini?

Ini di Malaysia dan bukan di Padang Pasir Sahara. Ini Malaysia, buminya kaya dengan segala sumber. Tetapi manusianya masih lagi menghadapi krisis kebuluran yang pada dasarnya boleh dielakkan!

52 tahun! Kalau dikirakan jangka hayat manusia, sudah dikira matang dan boleh membezakan yang patut dari yang tidak patut, yang benar dari yang palsu sebab menjelang masa itu, manusia sudah sepatutnya lebih sedar hasil dari segala pengalaman pahit manisnya. Sepatutnya sudah mula mengaplikasikan pengetahuan yang diperolehi dari pengalamannya... tetapi dari bibit kejadian kebelakangan ini, nampaknya kita masih lagi dibelenggui oleh kesempitan minda dan kerakusan manusia.

52 tahun... di manakah Malaysia? Dari banyak segi, di sebelah Semenanjung, rasanya masih lagi seperti Malaya. Integrasi Semenanjung dengan negeri-negeri yang terpisah oleh Laut China Selatan, masih lagi jauh dari yang ideal. Yang dirasakan mungkin kemelut dari sini makin hari makin dekat di sana. Gejala-gejala yang memisahkan dan yang mengasingkan, yang lahirnya dari realpolitik di sini, makin hari makin menular di sana.

52 tahun...banyak isu dalam kancah politiknya kini menjadi tatapan dunia. Dari perbicaraan melibatkan kematian seorang wanita Mongolia ke kematian Teoh Beng Hock hinggalah ke isu Kartika dengan arak.... dan cuma beberapa hari yang lalu, perarakan memprotes pembinaan kuil yang menunjukkan Malaysia yang semakin hilang arah nampaknya....

52 tahun..... adakah kita bebas sepenuhnya dari belenggu penjajah? Atau adakah kita sekarang sudah didominasikan oleh bentuk penjajahan yang baru? Rupanya berbeza tetapi modus operandi-nya sama.... pecah dan perintah. Bersatu kita teguh, bercerai kita roboh. Ada banyak intipati yang boleh menjadi pengajaran kepada kita semua di sini dalam pepatah orang tua-tua ini. Selamat Hari Merdeka.. semoga tahun-tahun yang datang akan lebih baik dari kemelut sekarang..

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Back to school...

It's something that I don't look forward to this round... back to the flu front. And today my colleague beside me coughed the whole morning...

Sat for my PTK exam during the hols too. The paper has changed again. It gives a feeling that those people up there don't really quite know what the best assessment is. Anyway, this time around there were no more essays to write. It was a 3-hour paper the last time... all essays!

This recent PTK paper was a one hour paper - 40 questions, all objective. I don't know how answering 40 objective questions are going to determine whether we are competent. Questions sounded like the Pendidikan Moral type... half the time I didn't know what I was doing! So I guess I won't fit the bill of a cekap fler, and hence should be reflected by the lack of cekap-ness in my work.

Anyway, the system doesn't quite reward the best people. Neither does it promote the most capable person. The teaching service is like politics... just like the rest of the civil service. Pay rise such as the one determined by the PTK does not reflect your ability to teach or how good you are at your work. Neither is promotion based on your true ability. Patronage of race and cronyism is how people are moved up! ... again a reflection of our political system. And our political scene is kinda sickening at the moment.

I'll digress...
canteen,table,skirting
I was at SRK Iskandar during the hols too because of my gal's theory exam. Was horrified to see that the skirtings around the canteen tables were growing fungus! The table tops covered by linoleum were also dirty. Imagine! Kids eat on those tables! Our perennial love-affair with 'skirts'.
table,skirting,field,open
And as I was leaving the school, I saw two tables on the astaka (pavilion).... they too had skirtings. The floor was wet from the rain. Out in the open, exposed to the rain and shine, I dread to think how dirty those pieces of clothes are. The skirt malaise is one that every school seems to be infected with now! Sometimes I wish we'd be more sensible and practical.
SRK Iskandar
As I walked to my car, I couldn't help but notice the idiom on the stairs... If truly, the more you read, the wiser you become, surely the wisdom gained would have made them realize that skirtings if put up must be washed ever so often; and that the canteen is hardly a suitable place for such decos due to cleanliness and health reasons. SRK Iskandar is a boys school! Everywhere I see feminine touches... So will it be surprising if such boys grow up with a feminine bend also?
corridors,KSAH
The gals and I went over to KSAH (Kolej Sultan Abdul Hamid) after that to pick TH up. Love this shot of their corridors. You only get such kinds of corridors in old schools. Thick walls.... and pillars! These days schools have walls on one brick thick, the narrower length one, of course.
KSAH
While waiting, we wandered around the school a bit. They use biometric thumb scanning for authentication of attendance at school... everywhere, you'd see such boxes, mostly under lock and key since it was hols. But I read somewhere that biometric authentication via thumb prints is on its way out... to be replaced by vein scanning. Technology changes ever so fast.....
KSAH
And this.. I saw this at outside the building which housed their Prefects' Room and the store. This must be old. Looked like some kiln of some sort... You only get those kind of labels from machines made so long ago. It sat outside the corridor, which is such a waste cos they should restore it and put it in their gallery. It's old enough to be a museum piece.
KSAH
We played our own version of volleyball with a beach ball Ling dug out from the boot of her car after we were done with the wandering around the school. Under this tree! Love the old huge trees they have all over the school. The 4 of us, one aunty, 2 young adults and one little gal, threw, dug, caught and played ball till TH finished his class. My lil gal had a whale of a time and wondered aloud when we could do it again!

Anyway, today school is back on. I'm back in a place with the same setting... curtains hanging everywhere, collecting dust, tables with long and short skirts, unwashed since the day they were hung up since the beginning of the year... the same show, the same 'merumahkan sekolah' thingy. Sometimes I think we take this.. Sekolahku, Rumahku too far.

And today... it's this merdeka celebration thingy going on at school. More than two thirds of my class students are not at school. The rain is beating outside.... and somehow, dampening the mood to celebrate....

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Holiday Ramblings...

Yup! Finally my two kids tinkered. I took out my Kodak camera which had gone kaput and enticed my 2 kids to take it apart. The initial response was less than warm. So I started the ball rolling, and before long, I had Daughter's attention. Son came to have a look after a while. He soon warmed up to the task at hand.
Kodak in pieces
This was the end product after some initial hiccups. The inset was how it looked like in one piece. And it's not going back to being in that state again. The whole session was quite interesting. So, my kids tinkered a bit during the hols. LOL!
stone,animal zoo,bonsai,dogs,garden
We were basically stuck in AS as Daughter had her theory exam while Son has his trials looming. But we met up with my MIL and a group of senior citizens.. made up of my ex-teachers and also church members from back home. We met up with them at Lye Huat Garden and followed them for almost the rest of their tour.
stone,wood,garden,bonsai
There were 2 busloads of them, game to start their journey in the really wee hours of the morning and bumping from one place to another for the next 24 hours. LOL!
paddy,museum,alor setar
The Paddy Museum was the next stop. Many of them commented that it was well worth the visit to see the revolving huge mural. This is one the few tourist attractions here that we are proud of. After the short visit to the museum, we stopped by Gunung Keriang for the crystals... but the ladies were not that into crystals.

What caught their attention was a stall selling some spicy paste... I think it was tomyam. The stall owner was one happy lady that day cos she practically sold everything in her stall! Add that to the herd mentality at work... it was a sure sell formula! That's the onslaught of almost 2 busloads of ladies... there were only a handful of men, you see. Don't know why the menfolks didn't join their wives!

After that Other Half and I took 10 (chosen ones, LOL!) out for lunch at Huatang. We had to rope in the girls (Ling & Siah) to provide temporary taxi service. They came all the way to the Paddy Museum to get the extra passengers. 8)

It was nice to be belanja our teachers and some of my friends' mothers (and father). We hardly get such opportunities. Many of them had a hand in my growing up years and they were people whom I looked up to.
mahathir,birth,house,born
Our final stop with them was Tun Dr. Mahathir's father's house. It's the house where he was born. I've never been inside all our years of living here. So this was a first for both of us. Everyone wanted to see how it looked like inside and the thing that caused some excitement was his 'bridal chamber'. There were photos of both of he and his wife when they were really young... they were a handsome couple!

The weather held for them for that one day... it rained the day before and it rained the day after and the day after..... God was good!
Photobucket
And on Friday, we drove all the way to SP, with a cake to celebrate Praba's birthday! The boys couldn't join us as they had a crash course in Physics with TP. So, it was an all gals troupe (Nancy, Ling, Siah and Daughter) who went. In the rain we went and we really caught them by surprise! Came back to Alor Setar and met up with our menfolks for a fish head curry dinner at Orkid Tropika Cafe.

Well these were some of the highlights of the hols.. add that to Siah's birthday, I'd say it was quite a good hols....

Friday, August 28, 2009

Another Place for Beef Kway Teow

This is another place we stumbled upon on our Friday morning breakfast...
Photobucket
The stall is at Yu Yi. It's located along Jalan Putra, next to Sentosa Hotel. Nancy and I were quite excited when we were discovered that there was a gu-bak kway teow th'ng stall. There aren't many places offering this fare in Alor Setar. This is the third place I know of; after Xantana (not sure whether they are still selling it) and Viet Cafe.
Photobucket
I had actually ordered something else but because I wanted to try, I got Nancy to agree to share a bowl.
Photobucket
From the looks of it, it was actually quite inviting. But after tasting, we found the meat and all the other stuff to be too soft.... from being boiled too long. So, there was not much real chewing to be done.

Yu Yi has quite a few other stalls operating. There was the 'tju-char', wan-tan mee which is nicer if you pack home... something about letting the mee simmer in the gravy and being softened first, chicken rice and apom, I think.

The 'tju-char' also serves lunch at reasonable prices. We sometimes go there for lunch. Price is reasonable and the food not too bad.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Lepak... The New Way!

I'm not much your conventional lepak (yup this word is in Urban Dictionary..LOL!) fan. But of late, I must admit that I do participate in some form of lepak... the digital kind. I've become one of those people who can't do without a Net connection. Conversations with friends far and near is a norm now. It's not your regular lepak-ing over a cup of coffee at a kopitiam or one of the joints in town but thru the cables and wires... sometimes even thru the waves in the air. But it's not a 100% lepak in the sense cos it's mostly done in-between tasks. Of course, I think research is underway into how this new lepak culture is eating into productivity time. And multi-tasking is no good for us, I read recently. Aiyo!

I used talk with friends mostly over Skype but somehow since FaceBook became the flavour of the moment... I've also jumped onto that bandwagon. It has found me many old friends. I'm ecstatic to be able to reconnect with friends near and far. Interaction with my kids' friends has also taken on this dimension. I now have 'conversations' with them via FB, online and offline.

Interactions between the adults and kids used to take place when they go to each other's house or at church... for those who don't have the latter, the interaction was kinda limited. These days.. I even know what they have for lunch before their parents do!

As for me, it's usually lepak cum some other task. We drop notes here and there, exchange info of the latest gossip, tag each other, throw our thoughts, share our hobbies and exploits, ooh and aah over the littlest of things, laugh over jokes.. And my horizon just keeps expanding... I think my mom and dad will probably not comprehend all these.

Yet... in all these, I see the good for the old, for my parents' generation. This form of communication is actually rather liberating in the sense that you can reach out and be reached at whims. They could be so in touch with their children and grandchildren... distance not a problem.

And being social creatures as well as having a lot of time on our hands and also sometimes not much to do, I think this cyber lepak-ing is good for many groups of people. The fun part is the interaction continues even after you have signed off... cos you can pick it up from where you left.

So this new way of lepak.. it actually has it many good points. But like the 2 sides of a coin, there are also the cons we have to look at. But with some discipline I'd say there are many plus points. For parents.. get on, try it out.. it'll also help you understand your children's worlds. For the older gen, it's great to stay connected after the line dancing, tai-chis, kopitiam sessions.... or in the dead of the night, when you sometimes find the need to 'talk', the lines are opened, channels running.... it keeps the mind active too... perhaps we may need bigger screens for our failing eyesights, and more comfy chairs but it's well worth it. Everyone needs to lepak every now and then.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Making An Honest Living..

They say it's more difficult to make an honest living these days... and I think I agree to some extent.

I'm going to talk about liquor. Liquor has been hogging the headlines... first the confiscation of the beer at Shah Alam and then the now famous issue of Kartika and her insistence to be whip in public. It was to be the first time such punishment to be executed in Malaysia... alcohol can put us on the world news...BBC, CNN .... top stories some more. BTW she also made it to the frontpage of the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times, a feat which very few of our corporate figureheads have been able to equal.

Anyway, kopitiams sometimes sell liquor. Everyone knows liquor tax is high. That makes it expensive. But people are still willing to pay to drink... But if you are an honest liquor salesman, it's going to be hard to make a living. Cos liquor is expensive. What we don't know is, liquor lari cukai have made their way in, just like rokok lari cukai. So, if you are an honest liquor salesman, you don't deal with liquor lari cukai, those kopitiams will not be making any purchases from you cos they can always buy the liquor lari cukai. Your cari makan days as a liquor salesman is over. Same goes for the honest cigarette salesman.

If you are an honest contractor looking for a tender, you can never look beyond small jobs. For big jobs come with big bags... for you to fill with gifts to the people you owe favours for securing those tenders. You've got to pay to secure those tenders... everyone is doing it. If you don't, then it's hard to move on. So, honest living again seems out of the question if you are looking into securing big jobs. That's what most people think.

Making an honest living? How to when we have people like Khir Toyo who shows the way to mansions fit for kings and queens from fairy land? And they tell you that it's from their honest living. So, the small people learn from the big fish... at the same time mutualism thrives.... I give you patronage, you give me your undying loyalty.

Buying a choice lot in a new project is another example. When you want to purchase one, inadvertently you will be told that they are sold out... BUT if you are willing to pay extra a few ten thousands... then a lot will become available. There is no transparency here.... you just have to take their words for it. So developers can always make a quick buck just by holding back the choice lots for those who don't mind forking the extra for it...

Read this report from The Star. Kelantan State Secretary Datuk Mohd Aiseri Alias said the survey conducted by Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) showed that 30.5% of the students interviewed were willing to accept bribes if they had the power and the opportunity. This not new stuff... it's been there all along. Now they're just publishing what has been happening all these while.

The joke is on us... we seem to be getting more pious... but more are willing to accept bribes... Honesty??? It seems so yesterday. Where have the good people gone?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

And you think the mobile phone keeps your secret

Mobile phones are useful and have even become lifelines to many people these days. Many people feel that they cannot go anywhere without their mobiles. Many feel 'incomplete' if they leave home without it.

Strange how we've been conditioned to think like this. Other Half and I took Daughter for a drive in the small kampung and bund roads of Pendang, Tanah Merah, Bukit Raya and some other places which I've forgotten their names a couple of days ago.... I told him I used to travel those kinds of roads when I would go to schools in those kind localities for work-related-duties. And those days, I didn't have that incomplete feeling even though I did not have the mobile. I didn't think that I needed the mobile to feel safe... even on the small kampung roads... cos there was no mobile.

These days, most of us have this must-be-connected feeling all the time and to feel safe. I have also changed... See how easy it is for us to be conditioned. But I belong to a generation used to not having the mobile... I can still go out without my mobile and not be really bothered by it. I wonder whether my kids' gen can do without their mobiles at all.

But that feeling of needing-to-be-connected (also via the Net) has also enabled us to be tracked in ways never imagined before. I am reminded of these verses from Revelation 13:16-17, "He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name.

The computer chip is one advancement that has made all these possible. An implant of a tiny RFID chip would make all of us very 'trackable'. Mobile phones have chips. And the day will come when the implant of this chip in humans will be a requirement. Who knows? Maybe pandemics will be a reason for it to be made mandatory. You can't buy or sell without the chip... the mark.

All of us know how difficult it is to get people to comply to self-quarantines. Just look at the current H1N1 scenario. True, there is fear, but there is also this group of nonchalant people (and also the unknowing people)... And it is this minority who will most probably finally make the majority push for something like the RFID... cos this chip can be used to monitor movements of people. And quarantines can be imposed... all their activities can be blocked; the authorities can locate you in a jiffy..... If you build up enough fear, people will agree to this sort of monitoring... all for the good of the greater mankind.

Anyway, back to the mobile phone. I came across this post in one of my wanderings around the net... it's an interesting article. Provides you with insights of what is available and also the possibilities. Read it at
http://humanityinmotion.blogspot.com/2009/08/sexy-spy-is-your-cell-phone.html. According to this article, your phone can be used to listen to what you say even when it is turned off. Techonology is pervasive. I think many of us don't quite grasp its full pervasiveness yet. SMSes can be tracked once a stealth software is installed into it. And you won't even know what hit you!

I find it believable cos I've heard hear says where authorities suddenly showed up and asked questions related to some SMSes received or sent out. So, is it surprising that Osama bin Laden has gone back to using human runners to send his orders and get news? He trusts his lieutenants more cos there is such a feeling called loyalty in a human. You can't trust an electronic gadget to keep its silence because it has no loyalty.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Microsculpting and Tinkering...

For a change I'm going to focus on the marvellous and wonderful things that we, humans are capable of.. sometimes despite a disability.
willard wigan
Enter the world of Willard Wigan. Ever heard of micro sculpting? Can you imagine a sculpture on a pinhead or in a needle hole? They're so tiny that you need to use a microscope to see it! Marvellous pieces of art he's come up with! You've got to see it to believe. BTW, he's dyslexic!

This is a video with him describing his work. It's worth a watch!

And this guy.. Gever Tulley. I like his style... he started a summer school called The Tinkering School. The things that he encourages and allows kids to do at his summer school; most of us would balk or flip over.. play with fire, give them a pocket knife to own, throw a spear, deconstruct appliances (in other words, take apart he appliances at home), break the copyright laws....for digital media, drive a car for the under-aged kid.... but I think kids learn better from first hand experience.

They are life's lessons. Do we allow our children to tinker? Hardly, right? Kids today are too busy cramming theories. I've got friends with grown up kids who still holler for their parents to go change a blown light.... and the distance that separates them??? It's a couple of hundred kilometres. Learning by tinkering... growing up, that's what we used to do when we had so much time to play (as in real play and not the computer games). Kinda different what our kids go through, right? I'm going to start with my kids.....

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Siah turned 21...

One by one they are growing up... this one can start voting in the coming election! And this was our 'belated' celebration... again at Huatang. Her mom and I went to 'tiam-chai' a few days earlier. We decided to try some of the dishes that we saw other diners having the last time we were there.
Photobucket
Lobster salad... the gals' father said, it's such a waste to use a lobster for this. But still, it was a good experience for all of us. Hard to tell whether we got all the lobster meat cos when it's prepared this way, pieces can actually go sesat. I remember finding prawns in my lobster order at Damiral's Grill last time.
Photobucket
This soup was simply delicious... filled with 'rich' stuff but light on the stomach. Makes you want to have some more!
Photobucket
Some 'boat' dish... meat rolls in a huge sea cucumber; artistically arranged into a dragon boat. The head is carved from yam. Because the sea cucumber was so huge, we were quite full by the time we were done. Right at the 'sea' where the tip of the paddles are, the enoki mushroom stuffed in another type of mushroom are wedged between the yam oars. The very thinly sliced cucumber gives an impression of the bobbing waves. The purple cabbage symbolizes the breaking waves, I supposed. This one needs lots of preparation.
Photobucket
Steamed fish... creamy and nice. Very nice texture. Tasted almost like the cod.
Photobucket
Ordered this for the vegetable but the girls nibbled so much of the yam that Ling said her stomach was shaping up.... 6 packs. LOL! I like yam... so this is one of my favourites. Haven't had this for a long time.
Photobucket
Desert in individual servings... pomelo, passion fruit, dragon fruit, mango, 'tadpole eggs', strawberry, kiwi and don't-know-what some more inside it. Daughter decided to skip the 'tadpole eggs' after being told that she'll be 'laying' frogs.. ha! ha! It's so easy to 'bluff' a kid and she's still one.
Photobucket
Dinner was great and we were stuffed full. Siah is officially 21.. bye-bye kiddo years, hello adult world! Here's to a bright and prosperous future....

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Kerja Kursus in the Malaysian Education System

This is a continuation of my ramblings from my earlier post, Missionary School Model for 1Malaysia.... in a couple of days, marks for all these practicals should be submitted. Coursework done for the year for the SPM kids!

Coursework... The last decade or so have seen more coursework being introduced in schools to make our assessment more complete or holistic. It was also introduced to reduce the dependence on written exams. In our present system a student's future hang on to just one exam; which means that if he happens to be sick during the public exam, the 2 years spent in preparation will be kinda wasted. So, we try to balance up... at least it looks good in theory. But it has become an arbitrary, artificial system of evaluation imposed by the ministry with little thought as to what the schools and teachers can do.

Coursework... they are highly unreliable in our context. Right now at Upper Secondary, they have coursework for Biology, Physics, Chemistry, Pendidikan Islam (PAFA), Pendidikan Moral, Pendidikan Seni, English and BM (Oral)... but they are basically quite meaningless cos students don't do any real work. Most of the stuff they submit are copied or done for them. You see, teachers have to make sure the students do their coursework.. I've seen teachers making the recalcitrant students sit and copy notes prepared for them. It's mostly copy, copy and more copying. And for the more initiative, they will Google and plagiarised... all cut and paste. Teachers don't really bother. Most did bother in the beginning but the constant barrage of 'must pass the candidates' from higher up have all but ensure that whatever little credibility in this form of assesment is all gone.

Then the folio for Pendidikan Moral... they're all quite fake-ish. Oral for English, on the other hand doesn't quite test the speaking abilities cos students don't make much effort or bother sometimes. Sometimes, teachers have to prepare the stimuli just so that they have something to talk about. PEKA (Bio, Physic, Chemistry) basically test your ability to 'reproduce'... many students just copy from their senior or reference books. It's the same for History and Geography at Lower Secondary. These subjects are supposed to involve some field work... but often times, because the students are not bothered and teachers are warned not to 'fail' them, copying becomes the norm as it's the easiest way to complete a task.

For Pendidikan Seni, it's well known that students sometimes pay professionals to do their art work. And nothing is done to 'disqualify' their work from the exam. In fact, they get good grades some more! Teachers have very little autonomy to disqualify them here as orders from higher up insist that the students be passed. The grades do not reflect real work... a whole generation brought up on compromise, plagiarising, copying....

So, tell me! What skills do they learn from course work? We teach them that it's okay to copy, acceptable to fake things, that everyone is doing it.... take the easiest way out. There is actually very little control on the 'cheating' that takes place in all these kerja kursus.

Coursework... probably the one good thing they are good for is they are good at generating the economy. Cos the one place that students seem to definitely head are the shops for binding, nice covers and all those set to impress.. the superficial. The content after all has been tried, tested and graded. Not theirs but of those before them... continued deception, sanctioned by our education system. Now tell me... isn't that also happening in our Malaysia Boleh? Reading the spat between Ong and Tiong implies that so many things are wrong also with MCA. In BN, they are all actually 'brethrens' of the same minds....literally. Really depressing, ain't it? It all begins with the little seed call 'compromise'.

So you see, we still need those one-off exams such as SPM and STPM. They still have their roles to play... cos after all the artificial evaluation and work done, we still need to fall back on exam grades. It's still a more reliable yardstick (despite standards being pulled down).

Friday, August 21, 2009

Mid Term Break

This is one break that I look forward to with a huge relief, not so much of the usual exuberance that comes with the break... More of relief! Cos I don't have to be surrounded by people half my day! This round of flu has made me highly sensitive to coughs, sniffles and flushed faces. Teaching has suddenly become rather dangerous! I have become sensitive to the people who cough or 'sniff' around me! There are a few teachers from the confirmed mortality list and who knows how many other deaths were tipped over by the this virus?

The most recent case to have made the headline.. a Maths and Science teacher, Chai Mee Feng from SMK USJ 12. May she R.I.P. A seemingly healthy and fit 39-year-old teacher. Developed fever and flu, one week later, she had severe pneumonia and multiple organs failure. The authority say she didn't die of H1N1. And if you read this blog post, which I assume is one of her students, they have another teacher by the name of Ms Chow in the ICU. It seems there's another teacher under quarantine.

I don't see the school admin watching out for our welfare.... Don't know what to believe anymore. One day the mortality rate, highlighted translated to a high percentage.. then a couple of days later (after Kit Siang highlighted and questioned it) the number of deaths started to drop but the number of reported confirmed cases begin to rise. At this rate, our mortality rate will surely come down... doing of our own undoing?

But this looks set to stay.... going to be around for a while this flu thing. The spread is too far and wide. And the measures are rather slip shod. A lot of flip-flops too.. one minute, they accuse docs who used the Rapid Test Kit as profit minded. Next minute the DG of Health says the use the Rapid Test Kits is 70 - 90% accurate... but Professor of Medicine and Infectious Diseases Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman of Universiti Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC), says it only detects 25% of the cases, thereby creating a sense of false security.

This is the time, perhaps we should let the professionals do the running.. not politicians who don't do their homework very well. I could go on to the Fluhalt (generic Tamiflu) which is being used... which the Minister now says should be sold at RM80 per box. The generic company which produces this started charging almost double when the situation got worse... Social responsibility??? What's that? Those private docs who bought it at that price now have to bear the loss... Word on the ground gave the impression that the Flu Halt were going for RM150... more expensive than Tamiflu, the original oseltamivir.

Masks in school... don't think so they do much good. Kids' hands are just too itchy and the mask feels uncomfortable on their faces. And they're uncomfortable.

This was 2 nights ago. I took out a bag of 3-ply masks. Daughter was immediately fascinated by it... and I guess she wanted to try. The novelty of something new I supposed. And being the diplomatic lil gal she is, she told me she wanted to learn how to use it... I said okay and promptly fastened one onto her face.

Before the first minute was over, she was already tugging at it. At the end of the first 5 minutes, she wanted to take it off. I told her she had to learn to get used to it as I heard her school had made school masks mandatory. She went down to get me a cup of water... but when she came up, she was already in tears... from the discomfort of the mask and because I refused to let her take it out! Aiyo! How do you keep the mask on the children's faces? So, for children, we have to physically separate them... right now, the authorities and kiasu parents are doing a horrible job of it!

Anyway, I quote this...
Dr Adeeba also said that face masks were not useful in preventing the spread of the virus but what was important was to practise personal hygiene and observe the quarantine period.

She cited a report by the Centre for Disease Control in Atlanta which says mask-use by either infected patients or health-care personnel does not prevent the transmission of viruses.

"While the mask is effective in preventing those already infected with the virus from spreading it, it actually does nothing to prevent healthy people from getting the disease," said the report.

For the past 2 weeks, I've started 'yelling' at my students who were coughing to wear masks in class... and if they refused to comply I threatened to send them out of my class into the corridors. And I've also started telling my students to distant themselves... not that I succeed each time! *sigh* Plus I seem to be disinfecting my hands all the time at work also....

So, this mid term break is a real welcomed break... fasting begins during the break too! Hopefully people won't be falling sick! Selamat berpuasa....

An update... (25/08/08) From The Star, Ms Chai's death was reported by the Minister of Health and he said she was from a high risk group. I looked at her photos from her students' blogs... either she must have gained lots of weight before she died or everyone of us is also obese. Plus the daily updates from the MOH's own web (for 24/08) page also did not indicate any other underlying probs. And I wonder too how transparent the gahmen has been with the reporting. And today's news too.. the police pooh-poohed the content of the surat layang about the misconducts of a MACC superior in the Teoh Beng Hock case. Tell me..... they grilled him like 'crazy' over RM2500 (was it for the purchase of flags) but treat someone with the RM20 over million mansion with such respect that they find no fault.... something is very wrong. And this is probably just the tip of the iceberg... dig deeper, there will probably be more worms... lots of stinking worms.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Breakfast in Changlun

Would you make a 40 minute drive just for breakfast? That's just one way. By the time we got back, it was lunch time. Well, that is what we did... 3 of us last Saturday morning.

Karyn was home over the weekend. And she's one who would be 'crazy' to suggest that. Of course, she'd have to find people equally crazy to follow... and she found willing partners-in-food-hunting in Mei Yan and me.
konlo mee,changlun
This is the shop.. Changlun Seafood Restaurant. By the looks of it, it should be a seafood restaurant at night. What did we drive all the way there for? 'Konlo' mee. She 'swears' that it's a really plain, simple but nice konlo mee. Verdict? I enjoyed it... has this nice taste. Okay... location. Take the right turn at the Changlun town traffic light. The shop is at the far end corner of the shop houses on your right. Opposite is a row of fruit stalls. Won't be difficult to find.
konlo mee,changlun
This is the konlo mee... you'll have to take your chopsticks (and spoon) and give it a good stir to mix the sauce and chilli up. I noticed that everyone around me was doing that! The shredded chicken goes nicely with the mee. It's quite nice. The konlo mee comes with a small bowl of soup with a generous portion of wantan.
Fruits,stalls,changlun
Spot anything odd? This was after makan. We stopped by this stall which was diagonally across the mee shop to get some fruits; bananas mainly as there were so many nice ones hanging around.
Pomelo,Changlun
This was another stop for pomelos, but at one of the many stalls by the North-South Highway. We got some as well...

It was a nice hang-out time... good to this every now and then. De-stress, catch-up, do what 'ladies' do best... yak, yak, and 'shop' - even though it was just fruit shopping. So, if you are bored or crazy enough to try this, by all means do so. This is Alor Setar, where we still try to enjoy it's idyllic pace but it also seems to be more and more fleeting these days...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

H1N1 and School Exams...

You know why H1N1 is having a field day in many schools? Cos it's exam season at school now. Internal exams, mind you. Not the public ones! Student presents flu-like-symptoms; fever, cough, running nose, sore throat. Now what is he supposed to do in this H1N1 season? The DG of Health has said... best to take 7 days off so that others don't get infected. Stay away from others! But do you think this sick fler can do that? Nah!!

What do you think the school heads are telling the students? "Fever also must come school because it's exam. If you don't come, you'll get a zero!" So, students get worried. They go see the doc, take their medicine, suppressed the fever and go to school and infect their classmates. I had a class this morning and coughing and sniffing among students were going off like a symphony! All because the Headmaster and Principals say they must go or else. Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education cannot work hand in hand!

You tell me.. we all crazy or not. If this had been a more virulent strain of virus... most of us would be dead. And exams won't matter to dead people. I wonder whether these HMs and Principals would continue to go to work if they have a fever. And many of them have underlying problems too.

Last week, a teacher in a neighbouring school died and it kinda shook many of us up. He had fever the week before. It subsided and he went to his school's motivational camp to give a talk on his subject. Two days later he was dead... the private hospital he went, but never even managed to get diagnosed, ruled that it was probably a heart attack. Now, this was one of the guru cemerlang... highly in demand for talks at this time of the year... SPM is around the corner. He had been very busy going around. Did H1N1 had something to do with his death? I don't know. But all we know is he had fever and some of the students and teachers who were in contact with him at the motivational camp he attended a couple of days before he passed away have also developed fevers. I think he underestimated what the flu might pushed his body to react.... May he R.I.P.

Later in the day, I read in Malaysiakini that a teacher had died in a prominent school in Subang Jaya. At least the parents are demanding for explanation.... despite denials from the school and all that! Just take a look at measures at schools... they are shockingly lacking; from hygiene to lack of concern from the admin.

Well, this virus kinda punishes your body heavily... you don't get enough rest, I guess it could do you in. Lately, people have been paying more attention to deaths.... not that deaths don't happen everyday. But all of a sudden, everyone is more interested why a person died.... and if fever had something to do with it... then everyone gets more worried. But it still doesn't make them do the sensible thing. Strange isn't it? To be fearful and yet not able to do the right thing? Kinda reminds me of those people who spout holy stuff from their mouths all the time but cannot live up to their 'spoutings'.

It's natural to die... but to die from something preventable like flu... to die because of the incompetence and idiocy of the people who are supposed to know how to make the right decisions.... well, that's stupid right?

So, HMs and H1N1... you see another set of idiocy... It doesn't end there cos when it gets down to the parents, they are also unable to do the sensible thing. They send their children to school in their state of unwell, fever suppressed by panadol to sit for their exams cos they don't want their children to get zero... another set of idiocy.

Then there is another set of parents whose children are sick... they say their children want to go to school... they cannot stop them... two sets of idiocy here; both the parents and kids. Kids; understandable cos they don't think quite straight. Parents don't seem to see that their kids don't think straight these days. I think parents treat kids too much like adults now.... letting them make decisions which they are not ready to make. Between desires and the sensible thing.... which one will a kid gravitate towards?

I'll digress and talk about another set of idiocy.. school trips and camps. Is it wise to have it now? I think not. But there are many who feel that the camps should run as usual... in-house training run as usual... all the congregation of people. Trips too... you put everyone together and infection will spread... again no brainer. Again another set of idiocy.

See? We are all idiots! Idiots cos the sensible and right thing is so clear to see yet we don't have it in us to see to it! The undoing will be our own doing!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Don't Hide Behind the Mouse or Keyboard.

... but can hide behind parties? That's what Hishamuddin says in The Star. Action will be taken against those who incite hatred or insult any race or religion or the monarchy. There goes again... more words. Coming from him who once wielded the you know what... I dunno.

It would have been better if this had been said by someone else who has never had to do things along the line that he did... maybe then there'll be more credibility and hope. Politics make us all damned fools. Straight politicians are a rarity... not that there aren't any. There are a few young hopefuls I see. I hope they stay that way. Then maybe, there'll be better things in store for us all... the anak Malaysia.

Just for the records... anyway, another milestone maybe, race to be dropped from official forms. Should have been dropped long ago... Filling in forms without having to write in Malay, Chinese, Indian... hmmm... that would be one small step forward.

And the DG of Health went on air today to clear some issues... go read it here.

Monday, August 17, 2009

H1N1: Our Percentage Is Falling....

I thought I'd better jot this down before I forget. As of today 65 deaths out of 4225 confirmed cases. Just did a quick calculation... mortality rate is now 1.5%, down from the earlier 1.7%. Don't know also whether the upcoming by-election has a hand in this? Come election, gahmen solves everything...

Should this new figure be a cause for celebration? Possibly 80 000 people infected but falling death rates. Our statistics will be catching up (down) with the world statistics soon. Who knows, maybe even get to Hong Kong's 0.3%?

Ever since Lim Kit Siang highlighted this figure thingy, the percentage has been inching downwards.... he sure managed to get the Ministry of Health to buck up... either that or our data is not accurate! Some people say all H1N1 related deaths are reported (but our Ministry trying to give a very telus impression). But this is Bolehland. You figure out!

And finally, today the free 3-ply masks arrived at my school for the staff. BTW, our morning assemblies still run as usual. I guess there are some of us who feel that 'lumping' the kids together even with the flu outbreak is too important to give it a miss. Duh! Any brains in it, I wonder.. Virus transmits in groups... assembly is not exactly a smart thing to do. Or they think they can do a hit and run thing... quick assembly, virus no chance to transmit. No brainer!

Update 19/08/09.... read this for the latest mortality rate which is said to be 0.007%. Am curious to know how this figure is arrived at?

PPSMI's Soft Landing..

Soft landing... from NST This is the most confusing soft landing. The scrapping of PPSMI will start in stages, beginning in 2012 for Year One, Year Four, Form One and Form Four. Form Six and matriculation students are not involved.

Okay, so if you are in Year 5 in 2012, does that mean that you still have the option of learning Maths and Science in English? Then in 2014, when this batch moves up to Form 1, they switch to BM. This is followed by 5 years of instruction in BM and if they choose to do Form 6, it's back to English! This has got to be the craziest thing I've ever heard. I wonder whether we can find another country with a swing like ours.

Our kids hang like a yo-yo and is bounced around. Some of them are going to end up quite confused... either that or they're going to be great at doing translation job in future.

The MOE should realize by now that is actually quite a large group who wants the medium of instruction for these 2 subjects to be in English. Else, you won't have schools like SK Bukit Damansara and SMK Sri Hartama trying to hold their EGMs to voice out their desire for the continuance of PPSMI. And the school authorities actually locked them out because they did not want the EGM to take place. Aren't parents stakeholders too? And if they are, why isn't the Government listening to them also?

There are other schools as well like SMK St Francis, SMK Gajah Berang, SMK Tinggi St David, SMK Canossa Convent, SMK Infant Jesus Convent, SM Catholic, SMJK Tinggi Cina, AM Yok Bin, SMK Tun Tuah, SM Pulau Sebang, Sekolah Tinggi Methodist Melaka and SMK (P) Methodist Melaka who want to convene their respective EGM regarding this matter. Who says the majority want PPSMI to be reverted? The silent majority is now trying to speak out and the Government is trying to silent them by locking them out of the schools.

Why can't the Government just liberalize the education sector... let the parents have a choice. Let those schools who want to continue in English, carry on. If the vernacular schools insist on their mother tongues, then let them continue. Let there be a choice.

In a couple of years, we'll know what the people really want cos by virtue of the demand and supply, schools that do not cater to the needs will just fade away. I fail to understand why the Government insists on being so rigid in this matter. Liberalization of the choice of the language of instruction should be the way to go! It's not going to make the young ones less Malaysian than they are now. We're already in a sorry state cos even the Government is not consistent....

...soft landing. Yeah! Right! More like a merry-go-round a bush; a confusing one that is and that sadly is the Malaysian Way.

Update 18th August: Finally, from the NST, some more clarification on the soft landing... we sure are going to get truly confused kids.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

What Does H1N1 Tell Us About Our Leaders?

You know in a time of crisis that we are faced with now... one of the things which would make a big difference would be the type of leadership we have.... at every level. So far, this is what I see.
  1. Our leaders say the development of human capital is the way forward. What about preserving the human capital we already have? Many doctors, nurses, lab staff, hospital assistants are already stretched to the limit in this current H1N1 epidemic. I find it surprising that not all the staff are given the N95 masks to wear. The 3-ply mask is what's being used mostly as they also are short of the N95 masks. I find it appalling that the heads don't watch out for the welfare of these frontliners. If these frontline workers were to be incapacitated, then the rest of us would be at the mercy of any advancing diseases.
  2. Hospital staff are stretched to the limit. Many of them are working longer hours than usual. Soon, many will be without adequate rest which will lower their immune system. These people need to be taken care of. Hire more contract doctors if necessary. Postpone all elective surgeries and other appointments which can wait and channel the docs from the other disciplines to helping their overworked colleagues, especially those in the Medical and Pediatrics. We cannot afford to have them succumb to the disease. Yet such concerted efforts are lacking in many of the hospitals.
  3. Leaders in the hospital show no seriousness in overcoming the current pandemic. Family members, from young and old walk in and out of the isolation wards. No effort is put into stopping them. Very minimal effort also to get the message across to these kampung folks the gravity of the problem. Everyone wants to play the nice guy. So, rules are bent even when it is detrimental to the public's health. It's as though they are expecting divine protection on all these visitors. Again poor leadership!
  4. I find it disappointing that a week plus after the statement that some RM2.6 million had been set outside for the purchase of thermometers and masks for schools, we still have not seen them. Most schools are still without adequate protection. And the Education Director General said that students were supposed to wear masks starting from the 11th of August, according to this report from the NST. Why is it taking such a long time for this to be implemented? Temperature taking? I don't see it happening where I am yet.
  5. Then the leaders inform the public that anti-virals have been made available to the GPs and private hospitals. The real situation is right now even if you have the money, getting a ready supply of the anti-virals would prove to be a tricky affair. It's still best to take your chances at the General Hospitals if you are made really ill by the H1N1.
  6. Meanwhile the figures continue to rise for infection and mortality. Instead of organizing political ceramahs, these leaders should be going into the kampungs to giving ceramahs on the importance of practising good hygiene, the dangers of the disease, etc, etc.... Yet we have UMNO trying to organize a 10 000 gathering in Johor... their time and resources would well be used to educate the public on the dangers of this flu.
  7. Passing the buck... leaders are quick to claim credit for the good things and also grabbing what they can for themselves and their cronies. Yet in this crisis, I see a lot of passing the blame. They say the medical practicioners are at fault... how can you blame a Medical Officer for missing out on some of the cases if it's the 150th patient he's seeing and going without sleep the night before because he had been working the whole night? What has the 'leadership' done to reduce these overworked docs?
  8. You get the impression that the leaders don't know what actually is going on and they seem to be shooting blanks. For example, the DPM said they are considering announcing the hotspots for infection... and a day later he said it wasn't such a good idea. Do their homework first. What hotspot? The whole country is the hotspot. What they do best now is talk and more talk and even more talk? RM3 million has been disbursed for masks, he said. Well, I haven't seen them in my school yet. And neither my son's. Sometimes, I don't know whether they are telling the truth. There are thousands of schools in the country. Who is to know which school has been given masks? Accountability, integrity, honesty... among the mark of good leaders somehow seem to be missing.
  9. Then the couldn't-care-the-least attitude by some of the docs... many from the other departments prefer not to answer to the 'call-of-duty' as it will also expose them to the hazards of the flu. Many rather be the proverbial ostriches and remain in their corners.... the call the serve is greatly diminished in many younger docs now. Why not? Our education system is to be blamed. Moral absolutes have been bent for years and they are the products of that system.
Failed leadership.. that seems to be what we're experiencing for the past years. Decisive, good and strong leadership is something that is so sorely missed right now when we are faced with this tiny viruses which seem to have a mind of their own. If it's a man, you can organize a rally or demo or ceramah to push your agenda. With this virus... tough luck!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Hock Hin Leong 'Restaurant'...

Another one of our Friday forays in search of food.... 5 kids (actually, 2 young adults, 2 teenagers and 1 kid is a more accurate description) and Mol, Nancy, her Other Half and me. At Hock Hin Leong...
restaurant
... or that's what I think the name of this joint is. Couldn't see any signboard outside. This joint is off Jalan Gangsa, opposite Venlin Cafe (where you can get ang-jiu mee suah), near the traffic lights with Pizza Hut. It's on the opposite end of Pizza Hut. It was on Mol's suggestion that we ended up here. She was gushing about how good the food there was.
restaurant
I figured the name of the place must be Hock Hin Leong because of a little signage on the fridge. People don't name their fridges, do they?

We were told that the place usually closes early.... by 2.30 pm. The place was full of people when when we ordered our food. So it was only natural that I thought the food would be good. Otherwise, why so many people?
food
Anyway, this was the fare. Their best dishes are mostly black in colour, it seems. The fried taugeh (bean sprouts) was from another stall. We took one steamed stingray, fried fish (supposedly made up of mixed fish), stir fried squid in black sauce and a tiny bowl of soup. Out of these, the only one that was nice was the steamed stingray. Daughter seemed to like it a lot.

The fried (mixed) fish was too black for us to identify what pieces we were putting into our mouths. Siah's first piece was an eyeball. The young flers all have an aversion to all the exotic parts of the fish. LOL! For me, I found the taste and smell of the spices such as garlic and ginger overwhelming. I think they mask the taste of the main ingredient. So, in the end, diners will find it nice because spices are generally appetizing.

The squid was rubbery and bitter. It probably has something to do with the dark soya sauce used... the bitter after taste wasn't too appetizing. I 'downed' it with lots of garlic and chilli in more garlic and soya sauce.

Personally, I'd give this place a pass. But since so many people seem to like the food. I guess maybe their style of cooking does not go well with my palate. Price wise, I think it's not value for money. The 3 dishes came up to RM96... and those were not even the 'expensive-type' of fish. So plus drinks, the bill came up to around RM120 for 9 of us. Definitely on the high side where Alor Setar is concerned for a meal like this.
chopsticks
And one more thing... they use these disposable chopsticks... Siah couldn't make herself use it cos we read articles such as this. Anyway, mine came with three sticks!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Fiction This Is

In a lab, hidden away from the prowling eyes and probing hands, you could feel an air of excitement. An old virus had been discovered, a lethal one that is. In its heyday, which was almost 100 years ago, it wiped out almost 1/5 of the world population. But the virus mysteriously disappeared after it was done creating havoc. Already there were whispers in the corridors how it could be harnessed as a 'soft' biological warfare. Choose a few spots and release them and modern travel would do the rest. The details were slowly shaping up...

Plans and studies started hatching as soon as word got out that the virus could be manipulated. Health systems could be stretched to the limit, diverting the attention of governments to a national health disaster. And if they control the companies which can provide a cure or even relief, then they'd have plenty of funds to continue with their work. It's a way of bleeding the countries dry and filling up their coffers.

The police and armed forces could be brought to their knees... slowly. Some will recover but many will succumb. It takes years to train a soldier, they reckon. And they could wait. Many planes will not leave the ground for there'll not be enough pilots. Pilots take even longer to train. In the event of an invading army, it'll make things easier as resistance would be less. And this would cost much less than if whole wars were fought conventionally. The same virus after all did turn the tide of one of the great wars to the alliance of Triple Entente.

Or just plain and simple... tinker with its genetic make-up and cut down on its virulence. Just enough to make people really sick. But in the process, kill a couple here and there... those who are weak to begin with anyway. The world's population is burgeoning anyway. What would the loss of such lives be? Modern technology can also be harnessed to spread fear... news mongering can be taken to new heights. FB, MSN, Skype... the internet would do it no sweat for them.

WHO? No prob. They already have their people sitting there. And if one round is not enough, they can still play around with the DNA and keep coming out with more subtypes. The drug companies they own would make a big killing... the governments of the country would never know what hit them! There would be some countries who will try to make their own antidotes, but they control the information.

The prospects were attractive. The excitement of just the thought of prospects was palpable........the mind just working overtime at this point!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

H1N1: School Closure A Last Option...

This is from today's NST... Anyway, picture this.

Sick people waiting for up to 7 hours before being seen by the hospital assistant (HA) or doctors. The docs, nurses, hospital staff, hospital cleaners are too swamped right now... The same patient, after being seen, goes back with the medication. Next day, the patient goes back because the fever is still high. This time, he waits another 6 hours to be admitted... because the queue is long and there seems a shortage of beds. Rooms meant for 4 patients now are filled up by 8. And there are lots of hearsays going around.

And where do most of the infections take place now? One of the places is the school. We're seeing a domino effect.... one student after another, one class after another... and it's compounded by the exam season. The UPSR and PMR trial exams... soon to be followed by the SPM and STPM..... so students are compelled to go to schools, therefore compounding the problem. The virus is having a field day in a field made available by institutionalization.

I've been seeing so many of my students falling sick these past 2 weeks. It does seem so out of control and worrying. They have brought the virus home. I supposed in the next 2 weeks we're going to hear more cases involving the family members...... and this is only from my perspective.... from a small school in the suburbs of Alor Setar. In Labuan, the Health Director says 90% of those infected were students. Well, this is now... in a week or so, it'll be a different group.

A lot of talk about telling people not to capitalize on the current epidemic.. masks going at super-inflated prices, digital thermometers now gone up another notch too, old stocks of anti-virals given an extension of shelf-life... human nature is such that they will capitalize.. no point telling them not to.

So, school closure a last option... there should have been a closure, perhaps at the beginning. Maybe not nation-wide but state by state... school by school just did not do much good. But it is always easier to reflect on hindsight. We always lack the courage to take the drastic measure upfront because of so many reasons. Decisive leadership is something that is very lacking now. The Minister says schools can only be closed if too many students or teachers get the infection... wonder whether the Minister realize also that there are many teachers who have underlying health problems.. and also those who are beyond their first trimester of pregnancy.

Anyway, check this blog if you want to know what is happening around the schools in the country where H1N1 is concerned. It probably contains more info than your mainstream media. By the way you may want to also check this out; from BERNAMA. You'd wonder where our news editors put their brains. Propaganda spin doctors work too when there is pandemic!

Right now, it feels like the virus is on a rampage. True, 98% of the people do recover without the need of hospitalization.... but you wonder how much under-reporting takes place, because this is Bolehland we're talking about. Report too many deaths and the economy might be affected. It all boils down to $$$. Everything can be compromised... just take a read of the PKFZ fiasco.... Ministers, leader of the backbenchers club, MPs... from the left hand to the right hand... and they make it sound so okay. So, take a moment to wonder, would you trust them to do the right things?

My two sen of ramblings... At lunch time today, announcement of another 7 fatalities... that makes it 51 now. BTW, they say it takes 3 weeks for herd immunity to start and 3 to 6 months for this flu to peak. Our Culture Minister also says not to have an alarmist approach to this whole flu thing. Then I'd like him to make visits to the hospitals to see the situation.

Kuala Kedah Marina

One of our walkabouts.... and this was in Kuala Kedah, at the Marina.

And what a white elephant it is. Completed in 2003, it cost RM23 million. Then the roof leaked and they needed about RM7 million to repair it. So from sporting the castle towers it now looks like this... zinc roof!
Photobucket
Zinc roof to cover the majestic towers which were leaking. Raindrops turning into music notes on the zinc roof? Originally the repair bill was supposed to be a couple more millions. Makes me wonder how that couple millions only gave rise to the zinc roofing. Supposed to be a yacht club but not a single yacht was in sight. Colourful fishing boats and dinghies though, dotted the villages fronting this majestic castle. We saw a lone guard at this English-looking castle when we walked the 'beach' beside it.

Not just that, this project probably also created an ecological disaster too. It seemed the place used to be covered with a mangrove swamp. But I didn't see a single mangrove tree. Guess all the mangrove trees must have all been cleared up to make way for the never-did-berth-yachts.
Photobucket
What we saw was muddy sea water....plenty of it. The waves rolling in were brown in colour. Mangrove trees serve a purpose. To break the waves so that the water is not muddy. In Kg Sitiawan, Perak, where is also a mangrove swamp, the river water is still clear enough for you to see fish swimming in it.
Photobucket
Look at the layer of mud.. and there are no mangrove roots to break the waves. And this is the only clear stream of water in the whole area. Separated from the rolling waves by a stretch of muddy 'beach', the water ran slowly. See? No waves rolling on muddy area, clear water! But it will be engulfed by the brown murky water once the tide comes in. What could have been a nice place is now dirty looking... from the plane, our country looks like it's surrounded by brown water.
Photobucket
But George managed to locate this big 'fler' while we tried to walk down the once upon a time mangrove swamp. Cockle! One of my favourites. But we decided to leave this fler in that little clear 'stream' that cut through the muddy shore... I've not seen cockles this big for quite some time. Nancy got all excited after this discovery and started digging the mud only to have her leg sink into a thick layer of mud... LOL!

This is hardly a suitable place for a yacht club... it's easy to see. The winds are kinda strong, the water muddy.... the siltation would keep it too shallow for a yacht club. So, how was this project allowed to proceed? No EIA reports? No rehabilitation? Taxpayers money, all gone down the sea, through the Kuala Kedah river mouth!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Idiocy Arising From H1N1

38 deaths with 2253 number of cases (yesterday's data at 12 p.m.).... that's the number to crunch for today. And if I do my arithmetic, that means a 1.7% mortality rate. The Spanish Flu had a 2.5%, I think. And with that also it took 50 - 100 million lives. Is that figure big enough? Well, WHO says the worldwide mortality rate stands at 0.7% at last check. Which means that ours is more than double the world body's. Singapore has almost the same number of infections like us but with only 9 deaths, which translates a rather low rate. So what is wrong with our statistics? We over reporting or under reporting? Our health care system not up to par?

And the gahmen keeps saying they have it under control. Information comes sporadically from either the Health Minister... whom some are saying he's very 'soi'(unlucky) and the DG of Health. Not much from the docs on the ground. We surely must be adding on to the world's percentage. And this adds to more paranoia. And we are also denying those who truly need the medical care the attention they need because the hospital waiting rooms are now full of people with influenza-like-illness (ILI). Chaos is indeed reigning cos the hospitals are swamped with people with flu-like-symptoms. *sigh* And the poor staff are all overworked!

In the news today, the PM says they are going to launch full scale education of the public.... when the spread is now swinging ahead full steam. It's a bit late now but I guess something is better than nothing. The PM should visit the GH(s) to gauge the situation...

And schools... let me begin with the ghost called Kiasu (Hokkien for afraid to lose out) who prowl the corridors. You see Kiasu is found in the parents and teachers. Kiasu parents send their sick children to school to sit for the exam. When you explain to them that their kids are infectious, they tell you the exam is very important. As though they can tell the virus what not to do. So their kids go to school because they feel their kids seem to be able to cope with the disease. Even if it's not H1N1, good practice should be the way to go.... but we have this tidak apa attitude.

The idiocy stemming from this... they forget that there are kids who might have underlying problems at school. They forget that there are kids with grandfathers and grandmothers at home who are susceptible to the disease. They forget that there are kids with family members with other underlying problems. No! These Kiasu(s) don't give a second thought to all these. All that matter is their kid can go for the exams/tests!

Then teachers tell the sick children.... "Come to school, take the exam. You can go back immediately after the exam." I wonder whether the school has this special ability to stop the virus from finding new hosts. Idiocy arising from H1N1... parents and teachers. Hello! Don't these people read the WHO recommendations... and that the kids are infectious for up to 8 days! In Singapore, they automatically hand you a 7 day leave if you balik from overseas or exhibit any symptoms! That's how serious they take this pandemic! We treat this pandemic as if we are taking a stroll in the park. We don't bat our eyelids when 10 month old babies die because of the flu, or 20 year old seemingly healthy college kid is found dead in his hostel because of the flu. It's a good opportunity to teach social responsibility... not just I want.. I want mentality. But we don't bother...

Kiasu is followed by another ghost called Kiasi (afraid to die). You see this Kiasi Ghost will take the sick child straight to the doctor after the exam to be treated for the fever which of course will naturally rise after a couple of hours of exam (when the fever is suppressed by the medicine)... body already stressed by virus... stress some more by the exam. Then the Kiasi will ask the doc, "Doc, you think my child can go for her exam?". Doc says better rest.. Then the Kiasi says.. "But exam very important. Maybe I send her and pick her up immediately." And the school complies, even encourages it.... sick children come to school, other children become sick. If that is not another idiocy... then what is! Exams won't matter to dead children, you know!

Civil society?? Still some way to go! Kiasu, Kiasi.... we used to laugh at the Singaporeans. We are no better than them! Look at their figures.. only 9 dead compared to ours. And their infection started way earlier than ours... H1N1... It has really shown us what idiots we can be! I am ranting and raving a lot on this, I know.. but really beh tahan at our lack of responsibility and the lack of social responsibility!

Anyway read this pekeliling from the Pengarah Kesihatan.... arahan dan nasihat sudah diberikan tetapi nampaknya ramai yang tidak kisah! And they don't want to close schools cos ini akan menganggu proses pengajaran & pembelajaran. Look what the Mumbai authorities did. Read here. Even the ghost of Kiasu is in our gahmen. Let's hope Kiasi come visiting next. Then maybe they'll start thinking about closing the schools to break the cycle of infection. Thankfully, H1N1 has not been that virulent.

There are plenty more idiocies... demands that workers be paid full if they fall sick. Small industries cannot afford that. Banks whose workers want to don masks but not allowed by the management because it is seen to drive the customers away. I supposed they think their staff should gadai kesihatan (nyawa) for them.

Oh ya! Sick secondary kids skip school but then go for tuition. Why? Cos school can afford to miss but tuition cannot. So, in the end, H1N1 becomes an excuse not to go to school, just a mere excuse cos they still go around not giving two hoots whether they infect others. It gets a little depressing seeing all these from us, the so-called civil society!

A little social responsibility from everyone... that would probably work well... think a little more for those around you; that also would probably work.

Update 14/08... this is from The Star. The mortality rate stands at 0.1%, says the Minister of Health. How did the people at the Ministry come up with that? Isn't 0.1% the mortality rate of normal flu? Did the statistics improve so much in the last two days? Did we have a huge spike in the number of infected in the past 2 days? Or this is just.... Malaysia Boleh at work? Anyway, check out the comparison of mortality rates in our neighbouring countries.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

New KFC and Pizza Hut

...side by side they sit on Jln Limbung Kapal. Went there for breakfast on Friday morning. We were sort of chased there by the rain... it rained all kinds of cats and dogs that day! The place provided convenient parking and ample space! Would be good if some of that rain could go to Sarawak... they started their water rationing already in some areas.
Photobucket
Place was big. This is the 5th KFC in Alor Setar, I think. I could be wrong.. there could be more. It was spankingly new... Pizza Hut and KFC side by side in a building built specially for this new concept. Used to be where the old cinema was...

Lil Gal was attracted the the new play area... but I said no since this is flu season. We ordered our breakfast stuff.. they're all the same. I took their Nasi Lemak which was a disappointment cos the nasi tak lemak and the sambal was too salty. The anchovies were rather hard. If you want good nasi lemak, go to the food court in Alor Setar Mall. For RM1.50, you get tastier nasi lemak that is lemak. Some more nicely packed. I usually go for it whenever I go to Alor Setar Mall, which is not very often, fortunately.

The rest of the food stuff... well, this is KFC. Standard fast food fare.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Why H1N1 cannot be contained?

In the first place, should H1N1 be contained? Should it be allowed to run its course? .... since many people laugh it off as just another harmless flu.

Well, schools are hotbeds for infections, and a very conducive one, if I may add. Confined and cooped up together for more than 6 hours together, it's not hard to see how infectious diseases can have a field day. Everyone rubbing shoulder (as in literally) to spread the disease! And kids are least likely to stay clear of each other.

So in a pandemic such as the one we're in.. our educational institutions would be the hotbeds for them to spread. Alor Setar has not been spared from the H1N1 spread too. The hospitals are full... the clinics too. People are worried. I am too. This wave of infection came about after the higher institutions closed due to H1N1. And the fully infectious people were sent home, back to their kampungs. The virus travelled with them. That helped sped up the infection rate. What were the people up there thinking?

Plus at some schools the measures just don't quite measure up. Students who are sick are not checked for their temperatures... the MOE's promise of gadgets to check temperatures still has not materialized. In some cases, the sick students are just left to mingle with the well ones. Masks are encouraged in some schools but students are not taught how to use them properly... in the end, the masks become a source of infection as well; as happened during the SARS outbreak. And you cannot expect small kids to use the masks and not be scratching their noses. Somehow the nose seems to itch a lot when you don a mask.

In my school, the absenteeism rate has been quite high... add that to the fact that the recalcitrant students are taking this opportunity to skip school, it's hard to know the actual figure. But going by just where I am and also those schools that I know of... I'd say many people are sick. I've not seen so many students falling sick at one time.

And how to contain too also when parents are more concerned about their children sitting for their tests (it's test season now). So, those with sick children let their children go to school. You know what they say... never mind, send them for the exam then we take them back. Even when their children are sick, education comes first! Can you beat that? Another Malaysia Boleh! We 'perah' our kids to the limit also? I find it so prevalent in my gal's school. Exams are like do or die thing. We are selfish cos we do not think that our children may cause other kids to fall very sick.....

So, those who are not sick catch the infection from the sick ones. The teachers also sow ignorance... cos they ask the sick kids to come to school to take their exams; how to contain? The vicious cycle perpetuates itself because of our kiasu-ness; all for the fear of missing out tests, that their kids are losing out. Wonder, wonder.... but while wondering I've decided to take my lil one out from school for a while. It's a difficult decision as it will affect her overall position... and she'll probably drop to a worse class.

And the increasing death toll (the DG says that is also expected to rise given the high number of those down with pneumonia in ICUs all over the country) does seem to paint a rather worrying picture. Today it stands at 32. Of course there are other diseases which kill but right now this cloud seems bigger. And also natural disasters. The Typhoon Marakot in Taiwan in one blow buried more than 500 under a mudslide. More lives lost there in couple of minutes than a month of H1N1!

Anyway, H1N1 can't be contained as long as we have this tidak-apa attitude. Either that or we wait for the virus to run its course... that's from my narrow viewpoint! BTW, the Chinese government says if there is a second wave, it'll most likely hit next August. Beats me how they came up with that assumption. Maybe they know something we don't.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Restoran Bahtera Nelayan

This was a Saturday morning foray with George... we went to a couple of places and Restoran Bahtera Nelayan was one of them. It was opened in May this year. And a week ago, they just had an official ceremony there. It seems this place was built 7 years ago at the cost of RM6 million. It is now run by the Fisheries Association. There were shoplots in the adjacent block but they were all empty. The covered space would be great for skating.. 8)
Photobucket
Tucked in an obscure corner of Kg Kelonchor in Kubang Rotan, it requires a little effort to get there. The road leading to the restaurant is built on a bund and is rather narrow. There are also no street lights which means that it can be quite a challenge trying to manouver your way there at night. A wrong turn of your steering wheel might land your car on either side of the road... which is a slight drop.
Photobucket
The place is scenic enough but like most of our mangrove swamps, you can see rubbish everywhere. That is our Malaysian trademark, sad to say. They actually built this walkway which leads you to the river but beware not to pull your hands along the railing as the wood chips might find their way into your hand. The bridge looked hastily built, though; according to friend, like it's not made to last.
Photobucket
We enjoyed watching these 'red crabs'. There were very beautiful. Other Half tried to catch one but they disappeared down their holes as soon as he feet landed on the ground! LOL! Nancy wanted to take the rubbish scoop to scoop them up! Also a no go! Okay, next... the food!
Photobucket
Talked to the waitress what their special dishes were. Mee udang is one of them. I've tried the mee udang from Teluk Kumbar in Penang and also some other places... This one boleh tahanlah. It's a bit too sugar sweet though.
Photobucket
We ordered a ikan jenahak... asked them to cook curry with the fish head. This is a forgettable dish. The curry was very bland and tasted watery. Maybe because the fish head was not big enough.
Photobucket
We asked them to grill the rest of the fish, plain. It was okay. You can't go very wrong with grilled fresh fish. Daughter enjoyed the fish quite a bit.
Photobucket
Anyway, it was nice to sit in an idyllic setting and while away your time while watching boats of different sizes chug past, leaving in their wakes, ripples of water which swooshed their way into the mangrove swamp. Also, the tide was coming in; you could see the water line rising and what little mangrove swamp being swallowed up.

But given the location and also that the food was so-so, it would take some effort for us to go back there again. They have a set table kinda thing at RM350 for 7 people but going through the menu, I find it rather expensive cos for that kind of price, I can go to any of the restaurants in town and get a very good seafood meal; same price for more people. So, if I were to come back here, it'd be more for the nature experience than the food.

And oh! BTW, this is perhaps one of those RM6 million structures where their toilets don't work. You can spend that much building it but not make sure the toilets work... so if you do go, make sure your bladder is well emptied first.