Thursday, December 31, 2009

Counting Out 2009..

In a couple of hours 2009 will be totally history. The year is not yet over and already I've gone back to school twice to supposedly prepare for the coming year. One for Staff Meeting and the other to register the students. Somehow, it now seems fashionable to 'register' all the students before the school starts. School starts almost a week before the hols end. Add that to some schools (Chinese ones) who run 2 weeks of the hols with extra classes, the kids actually get very little time off. Kiasu-sism is very much alive! The 2 days at school... let's put it this way. No difference if we didn't do it.

And next year they have some rather quirky 'rules'. We cannot mark the students' exercise books in the classroom unless they are marked on the students' tables. Teachers cannot wear slippers (agreed)! and T-shirts to school in the afternoons. No exceptions seemed to have been given. Sports? All I can say is the first rule will make it more difficult for some of us to make sure students do their work. I for one will not go round the class and mark the books at the students' tables cos that will break my back! Moreover, many of the students smell awful by mid day, especially the girls. It's enough to nauseate anyone!

I went back to school to find a promise on one of my duties renegaded. Reason given? In the words uttered to me??? ... We just need to tell you 'A' and you'll see that it's done to 'Z'. I don't take that as a compliment. Increasingly I find that it does not pay to be efficient. You get buried and suffocate. A 'problem' teacher is less likely to be given more responsibilities.

2010.... I told myself that I wasn't going to let things like this get me overworked. I am still going to try.... well that's one of the things that I've listed down for the coming year.

New years are there so that we can a chance to start over.... new leaf. But it seems like we've degenerated! I wonder whether this state of decay will only stop when there is nothing left to decay. So I wonder.... is this decay only uniquely happening at my work place... or it's a universal Bolehland malaise!

On a lighter note... we and some friends ushered in the last day 2009 early this morning with coffee, Irish Kiss, yu-char-kway, cheese and ham, yam kuih.... sat and bantered till the wee hours of the morning. Priceless, some of the remarks made and looks on the faces of the kids. The way we used to eat our food.. ever heard of using straw to drink the laksa soup and then eat the laksa straight from the plastic bags? Or holding ice balls in our hands and sucking away all the syrup? They actually found it 'yucky' from the looks on their faces... LOL! Son got some pointers on how to pack his things for his upcoming trip 'round' and out of the country too! My yu-char-kway coffee and Irish Kiss kept me awake till 3 a.m. cos Karyn put in 3 tablespoon of Nescafe instead of 3 teaspoons into it!

Anyway, here's to another year of rat race....

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Year That Is Coming To A Close...

One of the things that I didn't do this year is to paint (I mean touch up) the house. That has been one of the things that I would do almost every year. But a back problem was excuse enough also. 8) And time... I just didn't seem to have enough of it.

It's a year that started well... and though there were some disappointments along the way, there are many things which I should be thankful for. Life is usually a mix of ups and downs. That's what us mortals have to go through.. an imperfect world.

Idealism vs cynicism... the thought crossed my mind a couple of times. Growing up, I listened to people growing cynical around me, including those really close to me. I reminded myself back then that I would try to avoid the latter path. But have learned that it's hard to remain idealistic and gracious at the same time. Still, I think we need some degree of idealism with pragmatism. We have become way too permissive these days. Then again, that's just my perception. However, it's much easier to become a cynic cos then we get to blame everything on everyone else! Idealism brings disappointment though with a little pragmatism you might just keep things in a delicate balance.

But still the good stuffs remain these... good friends and family. But we sometimes lose some along the way; various reasons. Relationships can be stormy. I've also learned that no matter how close a person may be to us, like a kid caught for stealing, for his 'survival', trust will be broken. He will do whatever necessary, including 'selling us out'; lie. I don't think anyone of us is exempted from it. Think of Adam's first sin... it was a lie. Then blame! Adam blamed Eve. So, I guess it should not be surprising that people close to you do the same. We really need grace to go through life. I am reminded... to walk that narrow path, it's difficult. However, going separate ways, that is also part of life.

But if we pay attention, you will find that growing old means you become vulnerable. Youth comes with many follies. I guess that's why we all have to grow old.... cos if we don't, most of us will remain foolish and do foolish things. We need to grow old to feel our mortality. As heaven or hell beckons, then we'd reflect. It'd do us well to pay heed to the lessons in life but usually we don't. The trappings of our good life.... well, they trap us. You know, one of the things parents are supposed to teach their children is not to cheat. But what if the parents cheat so that their children can have a better life. Ironic!

But people still make my day. Was at the gym yesterday morning and a friend made through this blog and given some boost from an occasional meet-ups at the Club said he'll pass me some rolls which he says taste really good from further south. It brought a smile to my heart! 8)

Still, the hols were well spent! Time at the pool, mornings and nights at the squash court and now my Lil One can finally swim and play squash!!! Yay!!! And the best part I feel is because Other Half and I taught her ourselves, we actually spent quite a lot of time together! I started out the hols telling myself that I would spend some time coaching her in her BM and making sure she catches up.... did very little of that. Instead, we played! She read loads of story books though... none of which will help her in the school grades. I'll have to put in more time with her when the school reopens!

One phase with my boy over too. But he'll probably be sticking around for another 2 years. I know most parents are sending their kids off as soon as possible to ease them the pain of Form 6. But 2 more years at home will mean that he'll go out when he is readier, emotionally. I think that matters more. Also, it'll mean more time with us too.

Then the 4 wins from 3 sports - badminton, volleyball and squash. And did I forget to mention also, I won RM100 just before Christmas, winning a badminton doubles title. We made the news.... came out in The Star, Metro North section 29th December. There was even a photo! My gal was so proud of her mummy that she wants to frame the photo up! LOL! It's been a great year for games!

Sitting here and thinking about the year ahead... I am just thankful that I made it through this. I enter 2010 more wistful, maybe a little bit more cynical but still hopeful...

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Behind That Shiny Resume....

...Jottings of a Troubled College Student by Jasmine Yow. My 10th book for this hols! Finished it 2 days ago. It's a book that I've been looking for ever since I heard about it, in part because she is from my present kampung. Even asked my sis to try to get it in Singapore but was not successful. But this book literally 'dropped onto my lap'! The author came to church brought some of her books! 8) So I got one... signed by her some more.

It's not a very thick book but one that makes quite good reading. A sharing of the trials and difficulties faced by a high achieving student (her cobbled up resume is really impressive!) diagnosed as being bipolar with an eating problem. I think many of us can identify with her struggles. I can.

I like what she wrote in one entry. Let me quote ...."I want to inspire teachers to teach (pg7).... a good teacher can rise above the punishing system to deposit something valuable in each individual. He or she can show the students, this was how I lived. This is who I have become...... And then if you are fortunate, you meet a teacher who leaves an imprint, an indelible mark. A teacher who recognizes your potential and knows how to nurture it to its fullest....(pg 7)"

I think we teachers fall quite short of that very often. Teachers today are too busy trying to churn out results. What we do is to pump the students for results. Most of the time we negate character building. We fail to pause for those who need that personal touch cos personal touches mean time which we deem ill-afforded for pursuits which will not bear the kind of good results that will bring up a school's name. I remember my teachers... many of them left indelible marks in me. And I am indebted to them.

Behind That Shiny Resume is a good read because it reminds us too that faith in God helps us through those tough times. It's often that when we're down and out that God becomes truly real.

Another excerpt from pg 21... No one could really understand or see the severity of my confusion and fatigue, not even my parents........ "We didn't know. Or else we wouldn't have pushed you so hard."

I think the system has also trapped us parents. We push our kids towards academic excellence. It's the A(s) that matter. Even, us Christian parents. We are supposed to challenge our kids to lead their lives for God, prioritize God. Yet, we, Christian parents do this. If tuition (or exam the day after) and church clash... then tuition is more important. And we make some excuse that they're already attending youth meetings. So, it's okay! So is it no wonder that our Christian kids grow up no different than everyone else? It's like we want our kids to have their feet planted on 2 worlds... that's okay. But it feels like this present one we're in right now takes precedence and eternity is for insurance. We don't challenge our kids to live for their faith! We push them to be successful first then Christians second. It's not kids should not be pushed. Kids should be pushed...but they need to be shaped right: to embrace learning, not to fear failure, and to develop strength of character... (pg xii) The question is do we do that?

It takes courage to come out with the book. But I'm sure many will be blessed by it. I have.

Anyway, I thought I wasn't going to achieve the number 10, this being the last week of the year end hols. 10 was a crazy number to begin with. But I ended up having read more books in 6 weeks than a whole year put together! It was just a figure that I came up to justify the purchase of the Touch. But I am glad just the same cos this hols, the love for reading rekindled... I've got to definitely put it back on my next year's must do list. And rounding it up with this book kinda makes it apt.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Holiday Roundup...

This is probably the shortest hols I've ever had ... partly because Son ended his exam real late, which made Christmas seemed like it was rushing up to us far too quickly.

Visits from my sister's family and parents plus quick trips to a few places added to the whirls of existing activities. And this hols, we've been doing a great deal of physical activities with Daughter. She can finally swim and hit the squash ball fairly decently. The days just seem to fly by. I'm a shade or two darker too!

Christmas was busy... not because I was busy preparing stuff but more of visiting friends. There were rounds of makan - I think I had too many which resulted in a tummy upset. 8( Good food can be found everywhere. But good food with good company.... that's a blessing.

Son went yet for another year of caroling. My girl says another 3 years (actually it's 4) for her. Maybe next year we'll bring her for a few houses. Had a good Christmas Eve. Actually had time to wander around a bit this year. We had a record attendance for both our English and Mandarin services.... The Youth Group too had their biggest turnout. Apparently Son wrote and produced a good skit this year, I was told but I think the aunties are very often generous with their praises... there is a recording some where which I've yet to see. And he involved many of the younger kids... I think that is very good.

We could learn a thing or two from them. Dream dreams and have visions. On top of everything believe that God will work miracles. For too long, we are set in our little worlds, not daring to venture big where faith is concerned. Daughter had her church school Christmas celebrations earlier. This year, her cousin got to join her.
Christmas 09
This was Boxing Day... we had a popiah party with 5 families which later transpired into a minor cocktail affair after we were done with the popiah and hokkien mee. Cocktail ideas came from my Drinks and Cocktail App on my Ipod. LOL! The concoction turned out quite well. It was quite fun... table talk was more food talk! The enthusiasm was infectious.... a nice feel. Alex and George even got as far as making plans to meet for a future makan!

Well one more week left. Actually it's not much a week cos this week I've to go back to school for meetings and duties. Staff meeting is tomorrow. *sigh* I shall miss the morning squash and the occasional gym workouts. Also the swims. They'll continue when school starts but definitely at a much slower pace.

2010 is just around the corner. Ready or not for it, it'll descend on us. The number serves as a reminder that we are getting along in years... anyway, end of the year is also a time for reflection...

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo....

This one is by Stieg Larsson... also my 9th book for this hols. And it's also on the New York Times Best Sellers' List under Paperback Trade Fiction. At the time of this writing it sits at Number 1.

Set in Sweden, it seems to imply that Swedish men do not treat their women well. I've always read bits and pieces about the 'free' society over there. The novel also portrays the ugliness of human nature. Parents who are supposed to be nurturer and protector of their children abuse and 'abandon' them. Sweden is a wealthy country. So this abandonment is not out of poverty.

Anyway, the main character doesn't seem to be the 'girl with the dragon tattoo' but a man. And most of the male characters are weird or have sick inclinations. Monogamous, straight and normal relationships don't seem to be the norm. If that is anything to go by, this novel weaves casual and unusual sex as though it is something of a norm there. The story is interesting enough but it truly highlights the worst of human nature. With all the twists and intrigues plus weird sexual inclinations, it's no wonder that it's popular. And oh ya! The girl (who is supposed to be the heroine of the novel).... she was kinda left hanging, after falling for the main male character who seems to be a magnet for hapless and 'helpless' (but 'brainy') ladies. The male character is still portrayed as one where women find drawn to - good looks, charming.. that sort of thing! Not the other way round.

Sweden may be a rich country but the novel gives an impression of a morally decadent society.... with women still losing out and victims of some form of abuse in the hands of men.

The reason why this book ended up in my reading list is we overheard a Mat Salleh asking for the novel while at MPH a couple of weeks ago. The information gal could not locate the book even though it was sitting right near the entrance to the book store. Since the title sounded a little unusual, Other Half took fancy but I finished it before him. LOL!

But after this read, I think I'll put fiction on hold for a while. I still have a couple of books unread, mostly in in my Ipod. 9 books with one more week to go! The Ipod has served me well... 8)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Durian Dagger...

Was going through my pics and came across this. We did this not too long ago. Durians... This was together with friends...
durian drink
We learned that you can blend durian with some sugar, add ice and serve it cold. Another concoction and the drink actually tastes quite okay. This is Karyn's concoction but she was not there with us then.
durian dagger
Also this... I call it the durian dagger.

Good idea, isn't it? Makes opening durian a breeze and safe too. Minus one 'danger' from the knife that we usually use. The thorns are already bad enough to contend with....
This one is for the demo only. All in all it was a good durian night out. 8)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Deck the halls...

..with boughs of holly, fa-la-la-la-la-la-la.
Tis the season to be jolly.......

Blessed Christmas! No matter how things have turned out, no matter how tough the going gets sometimes, no matter how hopeless things may seem... this season is the season of hope.... and this lifts my spirits up.

Christmas! I thought I might somewhat not be in the mood for it. Yet, I find myself looking forward to Christmas Eve, to sitting down for dinner with friends at Ah Ho's place..... and leading up to today, having one of the kids tell me that I am missed.... heart warming! Came at a time when sometimes I feel that sometimes my efforts seem so futile. Yet after a day of hanging out, doing normal stuff - it felt good. Here's to a gal whom I hope a bright future awaits... a long way you've come!

Blessed Christmas to all who drop by!!! I'm off to the celebrations!!!! 8)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Restoran Kolam Ikan... Kulim

This was yesterday....
Restoran Kolam Ikan
.. and this is how I'll remember it - We were crazy enough to drive 2 hours to and another 2 hours back to have a one hour lunch.... think the round trip was over 300km. By the time I got back, it was already past 5 p.m.
Restoran Kolam Ikan
The last part of the journey was on a narrow dirt road, and not exactly even if I may add. I must admit that I was a little apprehensive. Ah Ho reminded me to keep my eyes on the road as I was telling my co-driver to take many pics. LOL! And to top it, my suspension was creaky.... and we drove worrying of incoming traffic. Many stretches were only wide enough for one car...
Restoran Kolam Ikan
And our destination was a shack overlooking ponds filled with fish in the middle of a dusun, oil palm plantation and secondary jungle. But it was a really idyllic kampung setting.
Our two celebrities waving to their fans looking at them... LOL! Being a long journey... yup, you guess right! Most of us had to search for the loo. Been a while since I used one like this, away from the house. But it's clean and quite modern, unlike those days of old in my grandma's house which had this pot of you know what under you when you squat to do your business. The constant smell would remind you of its content. Those were the days when night soil engineers had the unpleasant task of removing the contents of those pots in the wee hours.
cleaning eels
We were early cos we wanted to be the first to be served. So we wandered around. Saw this man cleaning what was to be part of our lunch in the nearby river with clear running water. With such water, who needs tap water? And the innards all get washed away, becoming food for some other water creatures downstream. I must say that I was tempted to jump in as well....8)
Restoran Kolam Ikan
The 'restaurant' is as simple as it can get. The floor is compacted dirt... kinda reminded me of the houses in Pekan Gurney when I was still a wee little kid. The place was empty when we arrived at 11.30 a.m. I am told that sometimes one has to wait for 2 hours to be served if one is late. It can get quite packed on public holidays, I am told.
fish lunch
And this was lunch... fish! All kinds of fresh water fish cooked in different ways. There's the patin fish), the white whisker catfish, tilapia and I forgot the other one. We ordered 4 different types cos the lady proprietor told us not to over order. I like her... she was quite frank and professional. Also we had one dish of fried veg.
Kung po eel
But we did add another dish later, eel cooked kung-pao style.. the one the man was cleaning in the river earlier on. The lady happily obliged, of course and the dish tasted quite nice. 6 of us (5 adults and one kid - my gal) sapu everything clean from the plates.
Restoran Kolam Ikan
This is from the dog's vantage point of the bridge across the clear stream. The shack behind is the restaurant.
Restoran Kolam Ikan
We also had the opportunity to see how our lunch was caught from the holding pond. Fish is as fresh as you can get them here. The lunch experience was a nice adventure. I wouldn't have gone if not for Danny to bring us in. And also like-minded 'siao' enough friends for company.
We detoured to the newer Tesco in SP on our way home. Out of curiousity I used the new Plus ticket... it's recyclable but I wonder whether they disinfect them at the end of each use...

Plus after I came back, I took a quick 40 winks and then I was off to Darulaman Golf Club for a badminton tourney.... came back, did another quick squash with Other Half and Son. Another full-full day..... LOL!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Help by Kathryn Stockket

When I started this book, I thought it was going to be a boring one as the early chapters were in thick negro English of the 60s and it took some getting used to... But by the time I got to the first third of the book, I began to enjoy it immensely as it provided me a perspective to our current day situation.

Set in one of the southern states, Mississippi, when America was at her crossroad where racial relations were concerned, I was glued to the book... which I read on my Touch incidentally..... The blacks were free people but America was still very much segregated; there was liberty but the restrained kind... liberty with hypocrisy, double standards, etc... aren't we in Malaysia familiar with those?

Hypocrisy cos that's how they manipulated their religion too.. yet it was faith too that enabled many of the blacks to remain sane (and perhaps forgiving). In one chapter, how one character commented that coloured people attended too much church.... yet they tried to raise funds to help poor starving African children. Double standards cos they had printed laws such as whites must marry whites.... Here, in our present, these still exist, sometimes our politicians announce their intent and contents of their minds through keris wielding show, sometimes through unwritten laws which state that a person born into certain faith has no choice to choose.... we force, too.

Anyway, the one thing that caught my interest was how 'helpless' the white women were... they had the 'nigras' to help them with the domestic tasks. Privileged white women had domestic help for their every whims and fancy, right down to the care of the young ones. Sounds kinda familiar too???

That was the 60s. Kinda like us now in Malaysia.... we have domestic help for everything. A whole generation of kids are being raised by hired domestic help... used to the the Indonesians but now we are getting those from Vietnam, China, Bangladesh, etc... Kids in the book grew up attached to their maids... calling them mama, crying out for them, having fond memories of them, sharing their secrets... Don't they have a familiar ring to our situation now too? Bibit equals to mama..... toddler has a colic, who do you think he'll run to? Mom, dad or the maid??? Your guess is as good as mine!

The stories of the maids in the book... I guess things have not changed so much also. There were good employers and bitchy ones... same now too. Who can forget the abuse cases highlighted by the media? Minimum wage, exploitation - makes me wonder if we in Malaysia are a little similar to what is portrayed in The Help. 1960 vs 2010... how much has changed? More sophisticated lifestyle but same crap!

But it's also nice to read about relationships which transcend skin colour.. it's such relationships that make progress in human rights possible.

Well, this is Book No 8. With two weeks left, I've some doubts that I can finish the 10 books I set for myself before school reopens unless I read like crazy. But I still have a few more books in my Touch.

Anyway, I like this book enough not to put it down cos I finished it in 3 days - in between entertaining family members and moving around a bit. The wonders of a Touch... I read while sitting in the bank, at the traffic lights, while waiting for my turns at the bill payment centres, having my hair done, in between games, while pedaling on the exercyle machine at the gym, at the car service centre... the only place I don't bring my Touch that I can think of right now is into the swimming pool. 8) See why I am still in love with my little Touch??? LOL!!!!

Incidentally, this is another best-seller. Not too bad considering this is the writer's first novel. It stayed for more than 30 weeks on the New York Times' best-seller list. Still there, the last I checked!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Congee @ New Secret Restaurant...

Been taking a break from blogging... couple of reasons. Too many things on my hands! ... in a happy way. People to entertain, places to go, games to play (and teach my gal) meet-ups, makan and more of it to come in the ensuing days. 8) And I've also been 'lazy' cos there are so many books I want to read and am reading. Right now in the midst of another really interesting book. Mind is stuffed with stuff to write but with so many books... it has to go on the afterburner first cos once school starts, might not have this luxury then. 8(

Anyway, thought I'd do another food post since tis the season for tucking in...
New Secret Restaurant
Discovered this place and we found the food a rather different experience. And what a name.. New Secret Restaurant. Anyway, we were on our way home from another Sitiawan trip. Only instead of stopping by Autocity, we decided to head for SP instead. This place is adjacent to the Village Mall near Tesco (the one nearer to the SP Northern Toll), same row as Chennai Curry House (was there again recently). Incidentally, I just found out that SP has 2 Tesco(s) on one road!
New Secret Restaurant,vegetables
Anyway, we sat down and a waitress promptly served us... the only problem was she was speaking so fast in Mandarin that we only caught a bit here and there. And Son despite being Chinese educated didn't help very much either. Anyway, in between some phrases here and there which I understood (and didn't understand) we just hentam-ed and ordered, boiled vegetable in some sauce and garlic oil with meat floss sprinkled on top being the first dish.
New Secret Restaurant,claybot congee
Then we discovered that the pots that everyone in the shop seemed to be digging into contained plain but tasty congee... I guess congee would be the proper term to describe since the content was rice gruel. But surprisingly this gooey gruel was not too bad. It tasted like it was boiled in some stock... probably chicken. In the cold north westerly wind that blows at this time of the year, I'd say the broth gave a rather warming effect to our bodies, kinda comforting, if I may add. I am going to bring my parents to this place at the very first opportunity.
New Secret Restaurant,claypot chicken
Apart from the vegetables, we ordered this claypot chicken... we ordered 2 versions actually, one cooked in wine and the other in dried chillies. The sauces of both complimented the congee very well. We ordered chicken cos the rest weren't too game for 'spring chicken' (read that as bull frog legs) and eel. I think they might have tasted quite nice.
Dollar signs
Incidentally, saw this really interesting pagar (fence and gate) when I was back home. Money gate and money fence... kinda reminds me of the bunga emas and the pohon pitis trees. LOL! And who lives here? I supposed moneyed people!

Update 24/12/2009:
There seems to be a branch of the same restaurant in Alor Setar, same signboard with same Chinese words but different Romanized words. It's located next to Xantana, opposite the Grand Crystal Hotel, near the Keat Hwa (H) primary school.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Time for yourself....

Came across it in my daily wanderings in the Net.
"The soul has an absolute, unforgiving need for regular excursions into enchantment. It requires them like the body needs food and the mind needs thought."--Thomas Moore
I remember as a kid, my mom was always there for us as we were growing up. The only time I can remember she not being there was when she was hospitalized. She was always there! She lived that period of her life (when we were still staying at home and growing up) for us, her kids! It was a lot!

I think all that sacrifice took a toll on her in her later life...and I sometimes feel crappy that I can't do the same for her. I can't really recall her having many interests... there was one point in her life in which she enjoyed baking...but now I realize that we probably had something to do with it. She liked plants.... that's about the only thing that we did not directly or indirectly benefit from. Everything else, I think we featured in them.

And until quite recently only, I understood how much we meant to her. Makes me kinda of a retard, huh? Parenting! Tis not easy! So much she gave, yet sometimes we still fail her. She has always been a no nonsense mom...and in many ways, my siblings and I feared her....a lot. But who we are today, we owe it to her. And time for herself.. to do the things she liked was not much of an option for her then.

Time for yourself..... I've been thinking lately. Family and's 'siao' expectations that we have. Hardly any time left for ourselves at the end of the day. Time for yourself, I think it is important... we lose a bit of ourselves bit by bit without realizing it. And sometimes, when the realization hit, we are often clueless at how to move on cos we become cemented to habits and ways which have become 'outdated' and are still eating into us; stealthily they creep in.

Anyway... I think some time off for yourself is good for the soul. Mom never really had that until these last few years. Time for things that interest you... away from the same, sometimes mundane things in life... or some time to reflect, without being stifled by the demands around us.....or just being able to be with friends and enjoy their company... or a getaway just you and your spouse, to rediscover that spark that you share. Simple things in life...... time for oneself just to be able to do all that! ... for that excursions into enchantment! Our soul needs that!

Biggest Loser...

Been following this latest Asian season off and on. While the show has been inspiring in getting overweight people to lose weight so that they can have a healthier life, there is one area which I find disturbing.

It's kinda sad that these days, some reality shows (I think The Biggest Loser also qualifies) have no place for the weakest link. At the end of the show it's still about the one who has it all. The weaker ones are removed. Only the strong (be it mentally or physically) remain. Growing up, when we went for our hikes during camps, we'd always be told that we're only as strong as our weakest link.... read that as always watch out for the weakest one in our group and help them along.

These days, reality shows keep reminding us that is not the way to go. The way to go is to cut down those who bog us down. Only the strong remain.

Also, we are bombarded everyday by some of the shows like the Idol series, that if we don't like a person's way of singing (or dancing) we tell them point blank... direct attack. Gone are the constructive criticisms... these days, it's all about giving it straight out.... tact is out? Or people are just too dumb to see how terrible they sing or dance but still feel they are good enough - hence the straight out comments.

Whatever the reason, I think compassion is a bit lacking....

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Fitness Craze...

...another fun stuff from the Ipod - upping our fitness level. They have these apps which keep reminding you the calories taken and lost through the various activities. And keeping tab becomes kinda educational and fun.

Add that to the flavour of the day on TV, The Biggest Loser series, and the fact that gyms are starting to sprout all over Alor Setar (and probably the whole world), I think the fitness craze is in. But games and some gym workouts have been keeping me 'gainfully' occupied during this round of Son's exam. It gave me something to do yet no need to wander too far away. Other Half has caught the fitness craze too. LOL!

And our gal finally can swim the length of the pool after two weeks of being 'squashed' for stamina at the squash court. 8) Other Half was saying maybe this one will transform our kid into a tougher kid for a change. Real physical games are good for kids. Not only they get to work out a good sweat but also good that they become good in something else other than the world of academia, which incidentally I feel is too much head knowledge with little apps. Majority of our kids play games on the computer. The exam has just ended for my boy and already he's started the computer games.

We have improved this hols, stemming from the fact that we play 3-4 times a week now. Even shopping trips don't seem so tiring on the legs now but that doesn't mean I've turned into a shopaholic. Shopping is still something I do out of necessity. But it's nice to see everyone in the family playing together. Not too bad of a holiday also in a way.

My tennis is also progressing fine though I still can't seem to get the stroke quite right. Needs more work. But I told myself when I signed up that I would keep an open mind about the game. And surprisingly, by doing so, I've actually found that it can be enjoyable. Of course having an encouraging coach and friends help a lot too. Played my 'first' game last week. Two against one and we, the newbies lost! LOL!

So, yup.. the fitness craze sort of set in this hols. And I'd say we're better for it. Days pass by faster and the time seems to fly by even faster. And I'm too tired to be bothered by the mundane as a result.

One thing I realize is this though.. I feel good challenging myself to learn (or master) a new skill. I still feel the wonderment and amazement that I can still do certain shots or improve on certain skills. And today too, I had my first golf swing... 2 swings actually. LOL! Siva's charity!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Passions of Kerala

passions of kerala,banana leaf rice
... actually it's an eating joint at the New World Park (NWP) makan place in Swatow Lane. Ended up at NWP cos we thought of trying some hawker fare. But when we got there, it was kinda dead. As we wondered around, we saw this joint.
banana leaf rice,passions of kerala
Decided to give it a try since we have not done banana leaf rice for quite a while. The name sounded rather quaint, I thought. And the place looked quite inviting from the outside. Actually it was one of the more inviting places there. For a Saturday, NWP felt rather quiet.
passions of kerala,banana leaf rice
There's not much choice on the menu. So we took the only rice set available on the menu - vegetarian banana leaf set. We also added mutton curry, chicken masala and fried squids. The boss who could speak Hokkien suggested that we also order fried egg for our gal.
passions of kerala,banana leaf rice
Food was simple, nothing fancy but tasted okay. The boss came and talked to us as we ate. There is another branch at Gelugor. The Gelugor branch has been operating for over 20 years. He reminds me of the old work ethics... they are hands on, always at work at their joints. There's still a personal touch - proprietor getting feedback from the customers. Today's younger owners.. they prefer to run things the franchise way.... you don't get much of the personal touch any more.
chicken masala
Anyway, we finished everything on our banana leaves; except for Lil Gal. But she also seemed to enjoy the vegetarian curry which was not so spicy. The food is not those super tasty kinds that one gets at Chennai Curry House in SP. This one is milder... but nice nevertheless. 8) Simple food is sometimes nicer than the fancy stuff.

Incidentally, the nice Christmas muffins which Other Half brought back the other night could be found at NWP. And oh ya! These days getting from one place to another in Penang has been made much easier by our Garmin.... the idiots that we've become 8(, following every single instruction that is belted out by the mechanical female sound coming out from it. It actually saved us lots of pusing around getting lost and all that....

Saturday, December 12, 2009

I, Alex Cross James Patterson and my 6th book for this hols... getting to my magic 10! Am already on my 7th. I, Alex Cross is on The New York Times' hardcover bestseller list at the moment. If I am not wrong, it's been sitting on the top spot for the last 2 weeks as of the time of this writing.

I've not picked up a book in this vein for some time. Used to read lots of John Grisham, Tom Clancy, Robin Cook and many other thriller/adventure novels. I stopped reading those kinds of books for many years cos I found 'quickies' easier meat. Moreover, they're all so thick and it wasn't convenient to bring the thick novels around. And also, the hectic schedule over the last 5 years where I've had tonnes of reading to do as I was coaching my son and his friends also meant that I had very little reading time left. Most of my free time would be spent reading up the subject matters and by the time I was done, I was mentally done also! This year I've reached the end of that particular road. 8) The burden is finally off and it feels most liberating! It's been trying and I'd say draining also cos it required lots of discipline and faith that God's grace will see me through... not just for them only!

Anyway, I, Alex Cross was quite easy reading. I finished the book in a day on my Ipod. Reason I could finish was I could carry it everywhere... so no time wasted at all. 8) Now see why I love my Touch? But I'm still of the opinion that kids should read books as in actually hold the real books and read. There are way too many distractions that can take their attention away from the 'book' in the Ipod; games would be Suspect No 1! An Iphone would make it even worse as they can go online and find even more distractions.

I, Alex Cross is a book that is tuned to the flavour of the day - conspiracy with a little kinky sex (as in to give more weight to the immunity people in power feel) and brutality thrown in. And to make it really interesting, the setting is Washington DC; where the power seats are. Seems to me like ever since 911, conspiracy dominates. But there are no gory graphic details... just mentions which makes it an okay read. The story line is good enough to keep me wanting to reach the end of the book. There are also efforts to highlight the value of family life...

Anyway, in a nutshell, I'd say this is another story of good triumphing over evil... small guy can still bring down the big bad guys. I supposed at least it gives some semblance of hope that good values still should still be our guiding principles... anyway, not my intention to go into the storyline but I'd recommend it a read for leisure.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Hell or di yu

On the last day of school a couple of weeks ago, a conversation with my colleagues drifted to 地狱 (di yu) or hell. My friends joked that hell would be a fun place since Marilyn Monroe and Michael Jackson will be there and it'd be interesting with all these colourful characters around to entertain everyone. We can drink and booze and merriment will be the key word. Then one of them said that when we 'conk' out, I'd be asking to borrow their hell notes since they label as 'the fear God type'. I took it in good humour their pokes at me but also told them that that is not my destination....

Anyway, I started asking them to educate me on what they perceived as hell... as usual, no answer. These days, I no longer am surprised that people actually understand very little of what they believe in... so I did the next best thing. I Googled it. LOL!

There are different levels (courts) of hell in Taoist belief. No exact figure is known though since different recounts gave different numbers. Each court (or level of hell) punishes different wrongs. The really harsh punishments are meted by the different fierce looking deities. This is like purgatory. You get punished or renewed till finally you get reincarnated.... either as an animal or a poor or sick person where you will continue to be punished. I get the impression that things don't get any better. So nothingness probably means release from the vicious cycle.

The punishment cycle doesn't seem to end until you reach tao... akin to the dharma decides the karma concept. And nothingness.... although it is said that the goal is to be an Ancestor (remember the Ancestors in Mulan?). Ancestors are supposed to do good for their descendents.... you'll understand better if you watch Mulan.

Anyway, the more I read the more confused I got cos it seems to imply that all the poor people around are bad (evil) incarnate. And if you are sick person, it means that you are being punished for your bad deeds in the life before. Does that mean that if you are rich, you were better in your previous life? Or are all rich people good? Gosh! The world then must be full of bad people cos out of the 6 billion people that means 1.4 billion people are reincarnate of bad selves. Poverty level is set at $1.25 (about RM4) a day. But of course if you in inflation and rise of energy costs, etc, etc... more than 1.4 billion would fall into this hardcore poor. That's more than 1 in 6 bad people. And if you use the same statistics to gauge the better people.... there are very few good people in this world which are reincarnate of their old good self. Confusing???

Anyway, if the reincarnation principle works, then the world should be rid of all the bad people by now since all the bad guys would either be too sick, poor or are somewhere waiting to be slaughtered or killed as food. And theoretically, the world as we know it now should be better than before.

Now, from a historical perspective, these terms - medium, shaman, oracle, emperor.... these are important people in the hierarchy of Taoism. Very often we hear of mediums being called to make divination between the dead and living. The shaman would travel into the after life to seek answers. The oracle speaks the words from the spirits. In Form 4, our kids learn about the oracle bones in the history... Through these oracles, stability is actually perpetuated cos all the edicts are supposed to be divine. Only the Emperor can communicate with the Tao. There, you have it. Legitimacy of the throne via heavenly endorsement. This is better than legitimizing your power via force. I suspect the thinkers of the day, came up with Taoism in part to create stability and legitimacy to their rule. But today, Taoism, Confuciusnism and Buddhism are so intertwined that I have problems trying to understand them individually.

Used to be just the oral traditions and books we depended on. The internet has opened up possibilities of knowledge... But beliefs are like harta pusaka. We seem to inherit it. We follow because it's our way of life, maybe the only life that we've known. Sometimes because it's more convenient. Could be to satisfy a conscience too. Sometimes we turn our back on it when its system of beliefs become too cumbersome. So, if it's into the streets of paved gold in heaven we are led, then well and good. But if it's the courts of punishments in di yu, then it'll be the beginning to no a long end... cos the punishment cycle ends when you reach tao and only then you cease to exist... the effort to be good is so that you will cease to exist. Doomed either way?

And to get out, one way is through your descendants' prayers.... salvation is dependent on your children and their children... This enforces filial piety. The thinkers of days of old were wise enough to realise that filial piety is something that must be demanded. I've come to realization that children very easily turn their backs on their parents these days... nothing new actually. It's easier these days because life is better and we seem more inclined towards ourselves.

But then too what about those ancestors that we left behind in China. There have no hope? By the second generation, ties become loose.... Or maybe, like one of my friends believe... we end (as in full stop, period) the day we kick the bucket. Anyway, hell bent... is that why we burn hell notes for our dead? Subconsciously many of us feel that hell is where we are heading..... ????

Me? I think I'll continue to leave my harta pusaka and hinge my hope in my faith. Heaven is a more comforting thought!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Toll Rates to Go Up In December..

I wrote this post sometime in the middle of the year as a reminder that the will eventually be another toll hike for the 5 major highways. The rates were supposed to be hiked from March 1 2009 for the North-South Expressway (up 5%), Sprint/Kerinchi/Damansara Link Highway (30-50sen more), Ampang Elevated Highway (50 sen), Sg Besi Highway (up 10sen) and New Pantai Expressway (40 sen). Anyway, December has arrived and so far still no news. Let's hope it remains this way!

The gahmen said the increase was supposed to be January 2008 but was postponed and that they had been paying compensation to the toll companies since then.Then a few days after the Works Minster announced the hike months ago, the PM did a flip flop and said it would be deferred till Dec. Reason was plain for everyone to see... by elections coming up, the Perak crisis had further dented BN's reputation in the eyes of many.

There have been calls that the gahmen acquire all minority shareholders of PLUS with a generous offer of 15 per cent premium at RM3.30 per share, costing RM5.2 billion, therefore ensuring that minority shareholders are protected. Khazanah has a 65% stake in PLUS Expressway Bhd... DAP said the highway can be toll free by 2016... so let's see how high the gahmen will let the toll go..

And by the way, electricity tariff is due to go up in 2010. And it's already been sent to the Cabinet for 'discussion' again. Was supposed to go up in Aug 2008, but again, the timing seemed bad. So the gahmen went against their earlier plan to raise the tariff... a respite since the rakyat is feeling the pinch of economic downturn.

Let's see what the new year will bring for us, the common folks... sugar is already on its way up, so soon after the Sugar King disposed of his title and Syed Mokhtar's company took over. When sugar goes up, another round of food hike is definitely to be expected! Wonder how come once Sugar King title changed hands, price also goes up! 1Malaysia kena!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

IDragon @ Queensbay Mall

This was a trip on impulse to buy books. And we had lunch at IDragon in Queensbay Mall. The Christmas deco is up at Queensbay and this year but I don't like the colour scheme - kinda dready; black and white overwhelming the traditional Christmas colours. The flavour of the day, I supposed, since the dreary world of the Cullens are dominating centre stage now.
Noticed they had chairs outside the restaurant too for people to wait. This must be a popular place. But it was quite empty when we were there.
jelly fish,chicken,rice,steamed
One of the first things which came... steamed chicken rice and jellyfish; the latter is a cold dish. The steamed chicken rice came first and the smell was quite good. We thought we were off to a good start. The jellyfish came next but it was a letdown. A little too oily and not really tasty.
Another cold dish - bamboo shoots. Nothing to shout about here. Presentation was good enough but taste wasn't that nice.
Braised pork which was not too bad. It went well with the dumplings. But one can only take so much meat.
The cute bite-sized dumplings.
The xiao lung pao or dumplings steamed with soup in it. This was okay. But it's not so nice once it's cold. This dish is meant to be taken hot. My lil one got slightly burnt by the hot soup and drained the pao of its soup onto the plate. LOL!
One of the two deserts we ordered - almond jelly with fruits. Almond always has a taste which I don't quite like but it was okay. Looks made it appetizing... 8)
This is mango pudding with pomelo and sago. The mango is blended with ice but there is a generous portion of sliced pieces too so that you have something to chew on with every bite. The tangy taste of pomelo gives this desert the ooomph. Sago also compliments this desert quite well.

Well, the bill for the 3 of us came up to RM130++ and I'd say this place is rather expensive. Their dishes are not what I'd rave about. Deserts were not too bad too but at that sort of price, it had better be. But still it was a good dining experience.

Books? We ended up buying only 3. LOL! 2 Max Lucado and one on Asterix. Jusco was having a good sale and we managed to get some stuff at bargain prices; which reminds me, if the price differs so much during sales-season, then it's really not worth buying anything during the off sales-season.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Third week into the hols...

Time flies. That's how the first 2 weeks have been like. Son sitting for his exams basically means that we're all tied to his schedule. We've been reduced to being drivers! But I remember a conversation which I had with a friend's niece sometime back. She was lamenting how much she missed driving her kids around for tuitions, etc, etc... LOL! I don't think I'll miss that! Anyway, in between driving him to and fro exams, we still managed to squeeze a little thrill here and there, one or two short excursions with the Lil One.

A lot of my time is spent at the squash court, gym and the pool. Add that to the tennis lessons which have been extended, I end my days quite tired. I'm off to Zzzzland the minute my head hits the pillow most of the nights. I am teaching my girl and a friend's son squash too. I enjoy playing with them and I guess they enjoy play with me since I can send nice shots for them to hit. 8) Well, my girl's ball sense is coming along. Can at least hit the ball against the wall repeatedly. Am trying to develop her game sense now. 8) In between her swimming, squash and books, she is rather occupied too!

Also had the most excruciating moment when my back 'froze' early in the hols. Went through half a morning incapacitated by an inflamed ligament... at my back. And for the first time, I was literally semi-immobilized by bolts of pain. It's a terrible feeling. Ligaments should best be left to heal by themselves. Any form of rubbing seems to aggravate ligament injuries. Anyway, I am reminded of the frailty of life.. of how we take our health for granted.

Son still has a week or so of exam time to go... Most likely no NS for now as his name did not appear in the first list. But he's still keen to go if he gets called up for the second batch. Noticed that there seems fewer people who got called this time. Are they reducing the number of intake? Anyway, it'll be a good time for him to seek God and ponder over his future. Maybe Jeremiah School? But he seems to have set his eyes on SUSOM..... and he's been given a place. Will see how things work out in the next couple of days. Moving on to 4th week... the hols are flying by too fast for my liking...8(

Monday, December 7, 2009

Online Social Networking and Its Pitfalls..

..and many there are. Used to be tabloids which laid bare all the sordid stuff. But these days, people themselves lay bare their closets for the world to see and read. Of course those cool 'sordid' details have not quite turned to skeleton yet, but we'll never know if some of the info they post now might one day turn out to be that skeleton. After all people make a lot of hoo-hahs even about Clinton's pot smoking days!

But discretion doesn't seem to be exercised in many cases. You can read all kinds stuff... from a guy who chronicled his drug habit, suicide online, videos of online gang rape, bedroom conquests.... it's just quite sickening. And many get caught up by this 15-minute of fame thing.

Many of our not so judicious young people put their private lives up for all to see - from their partying frenzy to private antics everywhere. I guess the future doesn't seem to feature much in their minds now cos it's kinda like going on a I want to enjoy my life the way I feel it and everyone else either just sing to my tune or don't at all. Somehow too, it feels to me like our Pendidikan Moral and Pendidikan Islam which are compulsory for all students for the years that they spend in school are not leaving an impact as hoped.

It's frightening how easily the young embrace such culture; with that kind of openness that announces their escapades, conquests and dares. And many of their friends embolden them by cheering them on. Folly at youth.... I'm beginning to understand better too what the Philosopher meant.

There seems to be a lack of netiquette education. What many of these young people seem to have failed to take note is digital information leaves trails. And these trails can be resurrected and embarrass us later in life. There are so many mirror sites that store the information. You think you've deleted one but if you dig long and hard enough, you might still find those things which you might want to be forgotten. There is a need to educate our young how much they can reveal about their personal lives to the world. More to safeguard their own future.

We used to do crazy stuff too in our youths... but the info on them was very localized and there weren't any trails, except in the memory of those who knew us well. But mostly, they get forgotten. Today FB and all the other social networking sites seems to do the job of keeping alive sordid details very well.

Youths need to be educated. Some sense of modesty still need to prevail here. Bare all for all to see... that's a dangerous thing to do.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Bahasa Mencerminkan....

This was quite a while ago. I was having a nap one evening when my phone rang. As soon as I picked up the phone, the voice over the other end greeted me with an Assalamuailakum... to which I replied yah! He repeated his greeting... and I said yah again! Still he continued with the same greeting... and this time I switched off my phone thinking that it was some prank call. The phone rang again.. it was the same number and I answered... the same guy... the same greeting first.. but this time he asked for me by name. I asked him to identify himself. He was someone from the Department but I didn't know him.

He immediately went into a tirade cos apparently to him I was supposed to send him some data. I am struck by how egoistic men in the gahmen offices can be. And also how their world is only one colour, one 'language'... one everything. And the way these men talked to ladies.. they probably expect ladies to cower and shake in fear each time they invoke some name of people in authority to back their demands and request. The language this particular officer used that evening... if really 'bahasa mencerminkan budaya/bangsa... then I'd say this... the way he talked, the way he greeted.. he's one uncouth fler; tidak mempunyai budaya.

What did his bahasa reflect about him? I think he sounded like a bully. He didn't realize that certain names are universal - Chinese can have 'English' names which are also used by Malays but obviously his world is kinda rigid. I think he's a male chauvinist cos I think if I were a man, he'd talk to me differently. Then when he realized that I wasn't Malay, he toned down a bit... does that mean Malay men think lesser of their women? Cos I get that impression quite often in my dealing with my students and some of my colleagues. Or is it just a male thingy??? The ego and need to show they are in control thingy?

Bahasa mencerminkan...... even in the young people's language today, I notice the free use of 4 letter words, swear words, words with negative meanings. I supposed it's no longer cool to use polite words. Bahasa mencerminkan.... well so many things, doesn't it? Our parents didn't teach us, our teachers didn't stress on the importance of good language, our friends' language taking root in us.... take your pick.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Christmas Muffins....

... Yuletide is in the air. 8)
Muffins get prettier these days too. Other Half came home with this a few nights ago and I must say the muffins look really pretty.
Christmas Cookies
And Christmas colours to match too. These days, cakes, cookies and muffins are all quite beautiful.
Christmas Cookies
My favourite is this little Santa Claus... but because they used so much red, this Santa didn't get eaten. I didn't eat any of the muffins either because chocolate flavoured ones aren't exactly my favourite. But still, they were nice enough to be admired. But these days, cake deco has become easier with all the ready-made stuff.

Ipod Touch... and Reading

... and this time it's mine. I 'fell in love' with the Touch... LOL! I was 'borrowing' Other Half's to read an e-book (Have A Little Faith by Mitch Albom) and I realized how much I missed reading. I truly enjoyed it so much that I finished the book in no time. And that is also one of the main reason why I have not been updating here... brain too tired. Did 5 books in 2 weeks! Haven't done a marathon like this for a long time....

Last week I decided then that I would get my own Ipod... a smaller capacity one; 8GB. Enough for me to read and fiddle around a bit. And I've done another 4 books! In slightly over a week. He Chose The Nails by Max Lucado and Twilight, New Moon and Breaking Dawn. Twilight, New Moon and Breaking Dawn need no introduction as they're best sellers and many young people I know seem to be swooning or drooling about one thing or the other from the books. My reason for reading them? I wanted to know why it's so popular. However, in my ignorance of the order of the series, I overlooked Eclipse. Anyway I'm giving that a miss. Have had enough of vampires and werewolves!

Harry Porter is mild compared to this vampire series. Are the books interesting to read? Yup! But deception, compromise, recklessness, endangerment, selfishness, I see all throughout the novel. In Breaking Dawn, we read about Bella using illegal means to get travel documents. Illegal is okay to the Cullens... kinda like the ends justify the means. The vampires are portrayed as good vampires but they kill without mercy too. Snarling, hissing.... these seem the cool words. Bella gave up her soul for immortality, to be with her Edward.. Vampires are looked upon as seraphs, angels.... Evil endeared.... entrapment in its finest form. If our life is to be used as comparison, I think many of the compromised values, morals, thoughts... they're are reflected in the novels. Decadence in a refined form!

Though I can appreciate some literary aspects of the story, I am also reminded that the occultic nature is made to sound so acceptable and right all throughout. To me this is a matter of concern as what we put into our minds do influence us. And for the young, it's just so easy to blur the lines. Even we adults blur the lines all the time to justify what we want.

I just realized my kid has gone through 2 major 'dark' series... Harry Porter and Twilight. Whatever happened to books which contain all things noble and honourable???? Those kinds of books don't seem to be making it to the best seller list these days.... *sigh* And such is the world that we are living in today.... compromises after compromises; the ends justify the means...

I guess maybe next will be a series on how Lucifer was just a misunderstood fallen angel..... and something endearing will pop out about him as well...

Anyway, I think I should read something else that will remind me the need to watch out for my soul... after all this dark matters. Anyway, another 5 more books and my Touch would be worth every sen that I spent on it... 8)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


...that's what parents are. Bumped into ex-neighbour recently. And when neighbours bump into each other, of course we'd talk about each other's kids since we watch them grow up, and sometimes even play with them.

So, as the conversation went in and out of that topic... I enthusiastically said, "Eh! Your gal has a bf ade?" Mother stared at me blankly. Father was just as clueless.

They asked me how I knew... I said, don't they read the blogs??? Oooops! Forgot! Could've kicked myself. I'm in the habit of following blogs.... most of those in my and the older generation don't. So I asked the sister who was also there but she made some excuses about not knowing and it being not accessible and all that... Aiya! I keep forgetting, parents today don't read about the happenings in their kids' lives digitally.

Kids also don't tell their parents what's happening most of the time. That hasn't change much. But in the old days, the siblings would serve as informants plus also the parents' friends. These days, siblings don't play much of an informant's role. Secret keeper more like it. And parents are too busy. Their friends are also too busy to notice!

Parents... if you are interested to know about what's happening in your kids' lives, spend some time following them digitally also.... Clueless is how I'll describe most parents now. Their kids announce events in their life to the whole world... the whole world knows but their parents remain ignorant in their own little cocoons. Aiyo!

Then over lunch yesterday. Bumped into friends. We had such a good laugh when Mom said she is often clueless about the relationship status of her son. But at least Dad keeps tab of his FB. So Dad tells Mom... Mom calls Son to enquire... at least one parent in the know. But this type of parents, at least where I am are still the minority.

Die, die also hers....

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