Sunday, February 28, 2010

Krispy Creme Doughnuts

Big Apple, J.Co, Dunkin' Donuts.... donuts are quite popular here by the looks of it. This is the latest of the donuts that I've tried.
Krispy Creme Mug
Krispy Creme at Berjaya Times Square. It's an American franchise. Americans claim donuts originated from America. But some say, donuts came from Holland and Germany. Krispy Creme has been around for more than 60 years; in America, I mean.
Krispy Creme Doughnuts
Like most donuts outlets these days, you can watch your donuts being made from scratch. It's kinda fun watching it the first time... But like so many things in life, one kinda gets used to such first experiences, even when they are supposed to be nice ones. Life is like that. The first time is always the most fun. That's why being a kid is supposed to be more fun; they have a lot of first everything. It's harder to keep that as we grow older. Expectations go up and you get dulled by the trappings of life.
Krispy Creme
The array of trays with their offering. Again after so many donut experiences, the wow factor was somewhat diminished.
Krispy Creme
We each tried one. Mine was Vanilla flavoured. Gal had her usual strawberry related one. Other Half's was cappuchino flavoured while Son had chocolate. Of course all of them had fanciful names like Cappucino Franc, Chocolate Cake, Vanilla Cake and Firecracker Red. Each is priced at RM2.80. But it's the drinks which were expensive; RM8.50 for a Passionlicious and RM7.50 for a cup of coffee. My donut was way too sweet; enough to induce diabetes I should think! LOL! I think one really needs to have a real sweet tooth for this.

So Krispy Creme... sure, my donut was 'crispy' enough but I think I'd think twice about coming back for seconds. I prefer Big Apple's to this one. It's lighter and not so sweet. But for those with sweet inclinations, this might get them a little excited. And the young people... probably hip enough place to hang out.

But for the opportunity to try this... I am still thankful and glad. Makes sense to me now... this verse.. be thankful always.. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Of LRT and KL... A Weekend Away

This is another weekend away... the furthest down south we've ventured this year.
Marriot Putrajaya
It's KL this time; Putrajaya to be more exact, at the Marriot. Huge place but nice! Some people liken it to Saddam Hussein's palace. LOL! They have a nice golf course... not that I play. Nice pool area too. Lil One had a whale of a time there. But the bro has grown 'old' before his time. He preferred to sit beside the pool and read his papers.

The hotel was okay. But being 5-star doesn't mean they provide all the toiletries now; no toothbrush (means no toothpaste also) or comb. And no Earl Grey or other more fanciful brands of brews supposedly befitting of a 5-star. Anyway, this is our first time putting up a night in our country's administrative center. But we took the opportunity to go into the city; to Low Yat and Berjaya Times Square. Low Yat was more packed than Berjaya, gadgets' galores.
Kelana Jaya
We took the 'trains' (as how my Lil One calls them) into the city. For my Lil One, nothing beats the train rides. So we did all the 3 lines (Kelana Jaya , KL Monorail and Ampang). Kelana Jaya and Ampang are new names. Confusing... we have a penchant for changing names. At her age, getting on the 'trains' is very fun. But it will pass soon. Kids! They make us do things very often we will not do on our own. Would have been more comfortable to just drive there actually.

It's been quite a while since I went on the LRT. And I must say I feel it didn't feel quite somewhat like before. Maybe I am starting to swing towards being a creature of comfort.... The stations seem run down. I saw cobwebs hanging above on the ceilings and the stations felt kinda dreary. Some of the trains were also rather warm. And I wonder why the 3 lines are not integrated. You actually have to walk out from one station to another to continue your ride on another line. One actually gets really sticky in this sweltering heat of ours.
KL Sentral
And try walking to KL Sentral... the air is horrendous. The buses wait outside with their engines idling. It's DEFINITELY unhealthy. Definitely not an incentive to use this form of public transportation. It's so different than Singapore's MRT. The stations are clean, cheery and comfortable. Connecting rides are basically quite without much fuss. And somehow the city air even felt cleaner.

This time around, somehow this part of KL struck to us as being run down too, like the rapid transit system. From the LRT lines, we saw rubbish everywhere. Pavements were uneven, tiles missing, it's like we built massive structures but forgot to maintain them properly. Add that to all the roadside vendors we see, this part of KL seems to feel like the slums.

Anyway, I had the opportunity of going back to SS2, my haunting place during my uni days. Roads still felt the same. Buildings too. We went back to one of our favourite makan shops.... that's when I noticed that most of the stalls there now are operated by migrant workers.
yin yong,SS2
But I still had my 'yin-yong' cooked the way it is cooked here, with the crispy beehoon. I miss this quite a lot in Alor Setar. Anyway, it was nice to go drive around this familiar place. We even managed to get some books and walked around a bit despite the heavy downpour. 8)

And btw, Celcom Broadband was bad at the Marriot in the early part of the evening, congestion really shows. Line kept dropping and even at HSDPA, pages took an awfully long time to load. It only got better as the night progressed.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Enter the Teacher's Uniform Again...

Was asked yesterday by a colleague to buy cloth for the teacher's uniform. I just made one last year and spent almost RM100 for it. And we're asked yet again to make another one!

I mind being asked to make. It's money which I think is ill-afforded. Clothes is not something I spend lavishly on. The money is better utilized on gadgets and my children's education fund. After all, it's not that easy for my kids to get into the government aided institutions or secure a scholarship.

And no where does the General Orders say the teaching fraternity has to wear uniforms. Yet such kinds of things are imposed on us, kinda like the retirement and farewell thing that we had to go through recently. For not complying sometimes we have to bear the brunt of 'persecution' which comes in various forms. That's how the system is... it's not about whether you conduct your core duties, it's about complying to such kinds of buttering up, looking good, etc, etc....

On the same note, I notice a spate of camps going on for my students. The crazy thing is 3/4 of the class would be away for camps on a school day, while the remaining 1/4 will be in class. It's a good excuse to give free time to the remaining students. So, when kids say they have nothing to do at school, very often it actually is true.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

'An Qing Ban'...After School Care

After School Care centers have already been sprouting like mushroom after rain these last few years, mainly for the Chinese; but going by the way usually things go, I suppose it's just a matter of time before the other races catches up too...

These usually cater for primary school kids. A kid finishes school and is sent to the center. Transport is usually arranged. Once there, they makes sure he bathes and takes his lunch. Then it's getting down to homework. Chinese school kids have lots of homework. So teachers are provided to help them complete the homework. This is followed by tea and a little rest and it's back to the piles of homework. The parents pick their kids up by 6 or 7 p.m. and take them home. Most of them want that 'quality time' with their kids when they take them home. They don't want to be saddled with coaching their kids or sitting with them to complete their school work. Often, time is so rushed that the teachers will just write the answers for the kids to answer. So much for figuring things out... rote learning at its best. The cycle is repeated everyday for the rest of the schooling year. And many of them go for tuitions at night too.

I think most kids stop being kids when they entered Std 1. Is there any other better way? Kinda meaningless, isn't it? Me??? I do my own an qing ban with my primary going kid...

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

An Evening At Lumut Beach

.. to build sandcastle.
Lumut
This was my sis-in-law's idea; one which the kids truly enjoy. And the enjoyment lasted longer than usual cos this is the time of the year when the sun stays up longer. So they played on the little stretch of beach (which belonged to the Orient Star Hotel) while we looked around.
Lumut
This was the first day of CNY and was also Valentine's Day. People at my age cannot be blamed for forgetting that love was in the air. Took me a while to register as I stared at the tables with all the "RESERVED" signs.
Lumut
But further down, this old block of houses still stand. Derelict buildings they are now, where monkeys play..... and for those looking for clandestine meeting spots. Free some more. Someone should have thought of converting this building into a tourist spot then leave them to the ravages of nature. The road leads to the former district hospital. I like this hospital a lot cos it's on the hill. When you come out of the outpatient clinics, a breathtaking view of the sea greets you. I supposed the Mat Sallehs must have thought it a good location for convalescence. It is now a naval hospital.... hospital for the young and fit.
Lumut,old windmill
The first sight that greeted us was this actually... the old windmill. I was a little excited when I saw it. Disappointing, though! The whole area was littered with rubbish. We used to play here a lot whenever dad took us here in the evenings. The windmill is all rusty and not working now. We seem to be building new things without realizing the need to preserve a bit of our heritage. Old things no class I supposed.... And Malaysian mentality of rubbish throwing... the world is our rubbish dump.
Lumut
Broken pavement... infrastructure in a state of disrepair. We keep building... then we we let it fall into this state. Kinda sad, huh?
But this is the second year in a row, Daughter had a sandcastle building fix... 8)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Growing Old...

I am coming to the phase of my life where caring for my parents is something I've to think of. You know, parents were our world when we were growing up. We looked to them for everything where our security is concerned. It's hard to imagine where I'll be without mine.

Then as we sprout our wings we begin to move on into our own world, parents move into the background.... and that's when sometimes battles of wills take place. Parents will always be parents and sometimes they find it hard to let go.

These are my observations from around... A rich and titled elderly lady, living alone with her maid and driver. Her husband recently passed on. None of her children made it home for his funeral. They are all overseas! She now lives alone with her maid and driver.

Then there is this old man who makes do with the charity of his neighbours for his needs. Yet another elderly man who lives with his children but was asked to stay outside the apartment while the children went to work - so that he would not soil the house. But he has passed on.... mercifully for him??

Gone are my childhood days when parents expected to stay with their children. I talked to the father of an old friend who has settled overseas. He said with a wisp of regret that he sent his daughter overseas to study. He sees her less often than he would like. "What is the point?" he said...

Then we met up with an old friend of ours who studied in the States and I always wondered why he didn't follow suit. His answer, his family is here. It's his duty to be there for his parents. It's kinda heartening... and every CNY I hear of him faithfully taking his dad to visit his diminishing number of friends....

Living with our parents (in-laws) can be full of problems.... differences, yet without them most of us would not be where we are. And without us, old age for them is also hard.

My parents are growing old. So many things which I never once gave thought to regarding their ability to do things for themselves, I find myself seeing. I see them getting alarmed over the littlest emergencies sometimes. I see the limitations posed by the inevitable onslaught of growing old... and I sense their apprehensions. Yet living with the children is also fraught with problems... parents can be difficult too sometimes but something that we ought to bear with.

I see a friend who has faithfully cared for her aged parents. One has passed on. The other still needs full care. She has been there, faithfully seeing to their needs, giving them the best care. I think her parents are blessed. I wonder too whether I'd be able to do that. Other Half's grandma lived with my in-laws all her life.... how was that possible? She never complains. She kept herself busy with church work for as long as she could. It made it easier for everyone. Also a daughter who was ever willing to contribute financially for a maid. It took everyone's effort to make it work; those around and away!

Life... is a constant moving on till the end of our days when God calls us home. But as a parent, I think I would want my children around me as I move into my twilight years. Yet I know the choice is not mine entirely to make.... anyway this is only one facet of many. Read this here for another take on this.

Monday, February 22, 2010

SRJK (C) Kok Min, Sitiawan

Some of my present friends would probably be surprised that this 'banana' (yours truly) also attended a Chinese school. Well, I spent 5 years in SRJK (C) Kok Min Afternoon School. In Std 5, I stopped cos it was my Ujian Penilaian year. That was way before the introduction of UPSR. Std 6 used to be a fun year cos we would have a whole year of fun and learning.... with no major exam hanging over our heads.
SRJK (C) Kok Min,Kg Koh
Anyway, afternoon Chinese school meant another 2 and a half hours of instruction in Chinese after normal school which ended at 1.00 p.m. We'd have all the subjects except Maths and Science.

This school was another place which featured regularly in my life during my primary school days. Because of its proximity to our houses, it also ended up as our playground. It was where I learned to cycle and ride the motorbike. Dad taught Mom to drive there a couple of times but she never did get her license. Dad didn't think it necessary.
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My badminton skills were honed here but the outdoor court has made way for this structure. School holidays would mean showing up at the court at the break of dawn for badminton; as early as 6.30 a.m. most mornings during weekends and hols. We actually got ourselves up at such unearthly hour to play. I hardly hear of kids doing that these days; they prefer to sleep. Sometimes for the fun of it, we'd light candles around the court. I'd play with my bros and neighbourhood kids till it became too hot; usually by 9 a.m. We'd scrooge to share to buy the shuttles. In the evenings, I'd sometimes get to play with my dad and his friends. And when their group stopped playing, we had our own group. This went on till my secondary days.

Right in front of the old court used to stand this monkey bar with 2 big trees on each side. That was where we would play 'catch-catch' during recess... us girls had no reservations clambering right up to the top of the tree! We were really tomboyish! It was one of the games which we really enjoyed. That, apart from the game of hide and seek which we also used to play around the school. There were plenty of nooks and corners to hide.
SRJK (C) Kok Min,Kg Koh
The school now has 2 indoor badminton courts. This New Year I went back there (as in last new year too) to play badminton with our old friends (Sam, WJ and their kids); that was just 2 days before Grandma passed away. We did the same last year too. This is the only recognizable building to me. The old wooden block was where our classes used to be.

The field opposite the block is where we'd play kites during the kite season. The big field gave us lots of space to play. Top spinning session would sometimes find us playing tops along the corridor of the blocks. My earliest memory of play there was when we first moved to the area. My dad had bought us this toy tractor that could push sand... we took it to the long jump pit to see if it could really do it. I think I was around 6 or 7 then.

Fond memories here and I actually have quite a lot of them. More of play than learning Mandarin. I remember writing hanyu pinyin for most of the characters. We had a strict teacher but we didn't take it too seriously. But most of us who went there came out of it being able to speak Mandarin. Some of us could actually read quite well. But school was something we enjoyed cos we got to play with friends.

Schools those days were were more than schools. They were also community centres. The compound was opened for the neighbourhood kids to use. These days, they are gated because of vandalism. Anyway, this is Kok Min, my lesser alma mater.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Midnight Curry Mee..

Some say this is the best place for curry mee. This is located in Pekan Cina. Take a drive there and you won't miss it. It's located in the alley where the morning market is.
Alor Setar,Curry Mee,Midnight
This is dining @ midnight (into the wee hours of the morning) and the food of choice here is the curry mee. It opens at 11.00 pm and ends at 5.30 a.m. the following morning. This was before CNY.... we hardly go out for late night suppers now... too bushed and somehow the metabolism rate just doesn't seem to be able to keep up if we keep stuffing ourselves before we go to sleep. We were there at 10++ and the stall was already up.
Alor Setar,Curry Mee,Midnigh
I guess this is what makes it nice. The extras that you can add to your mee (or meehoon). They have quite a lot of other goodies you can throw into your curry mee.
Alor Setar,Curry Mee,Midnigh
While we were there, I noticed that there was no short of patrons. This is what some Alor Setarians do at night... eat curry mee into the wee hours of the morning, alfresco style.. LOL! Actually sometimes, one can smell the curry being prepared as early as 9 p.m. quite a distance away.
Alor Setar,Curry Mee,Midnigh
What do I think of the curry? Okay-lah but not to the point of must have for me. Nice enough but not one which I'll deprive myself of my beauty sleep cos it's just way too late for me. Still, it's worth a try... curry mee @ midnight in Alor Setar!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Traditions of the Father...

... we're mainly patriarchal. Hardly do we hear the phrase 'traditions of the mothers'. In almost every known culture, a child is named after the father, or rather he takes on the father's family name. A father is supposed to be the head of a family...

We were taking my son for a haircut earlier... at an Indian barber, incidentally. It's been years since his last haircut at the shop. When he was in Primary school, I would cut his hair but as he moved on to Sec School, Other Half would do it for him. It's hard to find Chinese young men at the Indian barber anymore and there was none out of the 7 people who were there waiting for their haircut except Other Half and Son.

I think one reason being, while it's the traditions of the fathers that we claim we follow, it's actually the ways of the mothers which are being carried out. Look at how many boys end up in hair salons these days. Used to be dads who will take the sons for their haircuts. But these days, it's the mom who does so... Moms don't go to the barber, they go to the hairstylists who operate the salons... so when they take their sons for a haircut, it's only natural that they take them to a place they're familiar with... and the boys are imbued with the 'girlie' ways. LOL!

So we now have boys who are at home at hair salons cos they've been conditioned by their moms.... so from the hair salon, they learned about dyeing the hair, styling it, facial, manicure and pedicure.... in short pick up all those lady pursuits. We have within this gen, the term Metroman. Look at the gen of men before this. Most of them would balk at all these save for perhaps dyeing their hair black, their original colour.... Now I hear of young men balking at the idea of having an Indian barber cut... for the worry that their 'lovely' (LOL) hair would suffer indignance at the rough snip or shave of the hairtrimmer shavers handled by these non-feminine hands... And guys actually look rather 'pretty' these days if I may add... (whatever happened to handsome)

Traditions of the fathers... it's more theory than practice now as mothers assume not only the role of mothering but fathering as well..... It used to be fathers do boy stuff with their sons and mothers did the girl stuff with their daughters.... These days, mothers do all stuff with their children! LOL! Is that healthy? I doubt it. Fathers have their roles but they just don't seem to be playing them as they should as their wives become more 'capable'. So the ma becomes the Jack (should it be Jane?) of all trades while dad hides behind the veils of 'busyness' and 'quality time' while being demoted to just being a figurehead or the one who brings in the dough....As a result, indecisive sons unsure of their responsibilities as men, young men becoming effeminate?? I think we've broken out of an old cycle and started on a new one. Just my 2 sen of ramblings.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Executive Orders by Tom Clancy

This is a familiar author. Used to read every book he wrote... Hunt For Red October, Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger, Red Storm Rising, The Sum of All Fears... may have missed out one or two more. I like conspiracy, espionage with a little techie stuff thrown in. Got hooked after the Hunt For Red October (that was eons ago) and I hunted down all his subsequent books.

Then as I got busier, I read less. Recently after Other Half finished this book, I decided to give it a go. It's a really long book but still quite nice. Add that to the recent demise, reading is a good way to deal with a loss, at least for me.

Jack Ryan, the hero from his earlier books is now the President of United States. Ryan assumes presidency when the President dies in a terrorist attack. Soon after, a chain of events began to unravel. Then there is the 'mad' Iranian leader who annexed Iraq and then employed biological warfare in the form of an Ebola plague in the US. Also, an attempt was made on Ryan's life by a mole planted in the Security Detail.

Clancy is a rather idealistic author, one that espouses patriotism in its truest sense. Jack Ryan's character continues in that vein of idealism... one of the reasons why I like his books, I guess. I'm a hopeless idealist too.. 8)

But the book is really long. The first half of the book mainly provided the background to the plot; keeps you waiting for the 'big' thing. Things only started to heat up in the second half. So I 'cheated'. Skipped to the end and then back tracked again from where I left off in the process skipping some of the parts on desert and naval warfares. This one is for those die hard techie espionage fans with loads of patience. Book number 6 for this year! LOL! I shall have to readjust the target for this year....

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Grandma's Legacy

Ah Ma's funeral was this afternoon. Again many people showed up. Because of CNY many who have left home were back. Even some of our own friends came. But because of CNY too, many of those who would have come could not come because they were away. But given the short notice, the attendance was really an encouragement. There weren't enough seats for all!

I had the opportunity to talk to a couple around my age. I noticed that they seemed to be hanging around the house for quite some time. Curiosity got to me, hence my conversation with them. You see, a good 60 years or more separate Grandma and them. Turned out she used to preach to them in their youth group. They were on their way home to JB. They heard and came to pay their last respects. Said Grandma was a lady who lived her life for God. And that she was a woman true to her faith.

And during yesterday's Wake, I had a better glimpse into her past. She was a godly lady. Everyone acknowledged that, even the non-Christians. She lived her life with her eyes fixed to Heaven and as such her life was a testimony to that. Never one to complain, she always had something good to say about those around her. Come to think of it, I've never heard her complaining of anything either. If anything, she always asked us whether we were going to church, how we were coping... and she always had reasons to give thanks or encourage us.

I remember when she was getting rather forgetful, she would always ask us whether she could make us a cup of Milo, on our visits home... and she'd keep repeating that. My father-in-law used to tell her to stop, thinking that I would be irritated but I always thought it was kinda sweet of her. That was her.... always looking out for others' well-being. And at one stage even when she could not recognize us, she would still pray for us for our well-being and also each time before we were to begin our journey home. And God always seemed to answer her prayers.

One of my first conversations with her... she told me her life in China, of the 4 seasons and how they had to change the type of clothing for each season. She said, she was blessed to come to Malaya. It's a land of sun and shine.... to her this is the best place for her and she is thankful to God for bringing her here.

This morning too, we expected less people but again many were left standing...
17February2010
I can only think of her passing on.. the timing couldn't have been better. We actually hardly get to be under the same roof at the same time. Yet because it was CNY, all of us were around. The great grandkids were around too. And she went, with her great grandkids playing around her and the rest of the family watching on. Her other son had come just a couple of hours before that. Just before she left, when her breathing became shallower, we called for her church members. And they came, gathered around her, prayed for her and sang her favourite hymns and songs.

We got to celebrate CNY too... saw some friends and all that. And I even met so many of my teachers whom I've not seen for so many years. They came to pay their last respects. Awesome! We were planning to leave on the 3rd day. But on the 2nd day, she left us. Arrangements were quickly made. In moving on, God's grace continued to be with us through her. As in when family members gather, opportunities are created for bridges to be strengthened. She continued to bless us even in passing...

And I was looking at the sky this morning... the last few days had been scorchingly hot. Yet, as we held the service the clouds gathered. It was warm but not uncomfortable for us. The sun came out again when we were at the cemetery, hot but not scorchingly so. And in the afternoon, after the coffin had been cemented, it rained. Healing from the rain, showers of blessings.... and that would be so her. 8)
2 Timothy 4:7
I think the blessings that come the way of our lives, it's God's grace through her faithfulness. I know she prayed for all of us, everyday of her life. I know she loved God first and foremost. He was always first in her life. And I know she kept going strong for God until her last legs. And God remained faithful to her... that's her legacy.

Update 19/02/10: Found this piece written by Ing. And what she wrote is what was echoed a lot during the Wake.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

This Chinese New Year...

..will probably go down as one we'll remember. There's the CNY celebrations. CNY fell on a Sunday. So that meant we were able to meet up old friends at church service. Then there was Valentine's Day which is kinda subdued for me... guess my time with this particular celebration is over and this.... And the final event, Other Half's grandma (my kids' great grandma) passed away a couple of hours ago. We've just finished with the arrangements. Funeral is in a day's time.

She turned 104 this lunar year. Always a God fearing woman, even her passing on was blessed. She went peacefully with her family members around. Even her younger son came in the afternoon, his trip unplanned. And because he came back, a few relatives came for a visit too.

So, in a way, we'll be celebrating her life in tomorrow's funeral. She was quite a remarkable woman. Brought up in an orphanage in China, widowed at the age of 29 in Malaya by Japanese brutality, she single-handedly brought up her 4 kids. She remained generous to the people around her, driven by her faith and hope in God. Her generosity despite of her own hard life is one of those things remarkable about her. She was still preaching into her late 70s and early 80s. We celebrated her 100th birthday with a big bash in 2006. Many of her former students came and shared about her goodness to them. And they came from everywhere..... a testimony of her life.

And in the last 9 years, God was good to her. After a fall, Nam came into our lives. She has been good to Ah Ma... loving her despite her failed memory and in the last few years, faithfully getting her to exercise and caring for her basic needs. It touches me so to see her breaking down into tears when she realised that Ah Ma would leave us when the signs started appearing earlier in the evening. God has been very good to us through Nam. We always hear of problems with maids... she was a blessing to us!

Ah Ma is in heaven now, with God's chosen. She has run the good race and fought the good fight and now heaven beckons....

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Kitchen Readings...

Year of the Tiger is finally in. Had a tiring time. Will talk about that later. This was written a couple of days ago. I finished this book this last Wednesday.

This is again something different from my usual diet of reading.... just realize that my books are more diverse now. For the better, I hope. Anyway, this is by Michael Cleverly and Bob Braudis. Learned something new... gonzo journalism. Never heard of this till I read this book.

The whole book centers around Hunter S. Thompson, basically the guy who pioneered the gonzo style of journalism. This book is a narrative, done by his buddies who were also his neighbours to remember him in their way.

Like many geniuses, he led a tortured life. Somehow you get the impression that substance abuse was how he induced those remarkable work of his. Do geniuses find it difficult to live normally, hence their tortured existence? I am reminded of composers like Bach and Mozart and of those child prodigies who mess up big time where their personal lives are concerned. Or could it be the blowing away of their lives bring forth that stroke of genius. Is it so difficult to strike a balance?

The writer seems to romanticize the rampant use of firearms, dope and all kinds of silly stunts. At many points, I get the impression that Hunter is a guy who lived recklessly. He seemed dependent on his dope and alcohol, needed it. In the end, he took his own life after his health deteriorated.

So, 5th book.... and it's only February still! I've outdone myself! And believe me, a lot of the reading time is done during what I call my in-between time. Was at the gym for an hour plus the other day and it was almost a solid hour of reading while working on the treadmill and exercyle machine, stopping only at the weight machines. This actually beats badminton cos I can multitask. Reading doesn't really eat into my other time. And the Ipod makes it such a breeze. LOL!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Chinese New Year...

I join yet another exodus that has been a yearly ritual for the last 19 years, except for one year. Home is still CTA1.

I do get get stressed up a bit... there'll be the travelling, stuff to get and also my parents' house to clean. But I guess I should be thankful that I don't have to clutter my head with what to cook and all that. But what I miss is my side of family gathering.... my parents are at my sis' this year. My bro and his family hopefully will make it. Other than that, hopefully we'll be able to meet up with old school friends.

Anyway, CNY this year... will still be a reunion of sorts in a way, cos our boy will meeting up with us after a month of SUSOM. It's a coming home for him in a way. He's spent the last few days in KL with his uncle and aunty; sort of an exposure of sorts about colleges and the working world.

Friday, February 12, 2010

U For Undertow by Sue Grafton

I finished this in 2 days last week, right after I finished The Rise of the Fourth Reich.

My 4th book for the year. Light and easy reading. A lot of flashback employed by the author, from the present to the heady hippie days of the 60s. They had so many other names for it.... flower generation, summer of love. Though many were passionate about peace, I think it was also used by many others to lead that sort of crazy hippie life that only a young person would subject themselves too.... (there are exceptions of course).

The novel is about how privilege kids tend to get themselves into all these crazy pursuits compounded by the angst of teenage years. But privileged kids have their parents to bail them out. I guess maybe that's why even though well-to-do kids tend to do less well than their less-well-to-do counterparts, they somehow still do okay in life but with a arrogance that comes their downfall at the same time. They think money and influence can buy their way through... again nothing new. The same is probably happening around us...

Anyway, throw in an unsolved murder and colour up the novel with the hippie days craziness, I'd say they give the novel quite an interesting bend cos for people like me who did not live through that period, the vivid descriptions help to give an idea..... I'd give this a book a 7 out of 10.

And I've been busy getting books for the upcoming break.... yoohoo!!! I've Tom Clancy, Frederick Forsythe and some other old favourite authors of mine. Plus another book from Thomas which I hope to finish. 8)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Restoran Dee Dee Thai...

The newest Thai restaurant in town. Newly 'minted' and located just diagonally opposite to Putra Medical Centre, near Star City, this was yesterday evening...
Thai Restaurant,Alor Setar
My friend and I brought our kids there at my suggestion, and I met another friend there also. Printed on the wall, opening hours is 6.00 p.m for the evening crowd. Lunch I think is from 11.00 a.m. to 2.00 p.m.
Thai Restaurant,Alor Setar
We got there at 6.10 p.m. and were the first to walk in an empty restaurant. First impression was good!
Thai Restaurant,Alor Setar
Service was prompt....waitresses quite good looking. 8) But that's where the good impression ended. We asked for a moment to check out the menu. By the time we ordered another table filled up. Soon a small crowd built up. In Alor Setar, a new restaurant should be exciting enough.
Thai Restaurant,Alor Setar
We waited.... and waited. Meanwhile, flies were buzzing around. They should do something about those pesky creatures. Our drinks came and the only thorn in our company complained that there was way too much ice in them. Pineapple juice tasted authentic enough but the ice diluted the taste, much to my chagrin.
Deep fried minced shrimp,Alor Setar
Then... more waiting before this came; Deep Fried Minced Shrimp. They're not too bad. You eat with the plum sauce, tasted like there is a little lime in it as well. And we waited a while more for the rice. When it came, it dawned on us that we had to wait cos the rice had just cooked. They haven't got the timing quite right yet...
Fried Baby Coconut with Asparagus,Alor Setar
The rest of the dishes came soon enough.... this is the Fried Baby Coconut with Asparagus. It's a bit sweet but appetizing enough.
Claypot Prawn with Tang Hoon,Alor Setar
Then the Claypot Prawn with Tang Hoon came. I am a sucker for tang hoon but the portions were way too little. There were 2 big but not-so-fresh prawns which were sliced into 2. It's CNY season. Prawns cost an arm and a leg now. But this dish has its own unique flavour. It's a little wet at the bottom, unlike the drier feel of the fried tang hoon at 5 Utara in Jitra.

We ate... and waited for our pat-phek catfish. It still didn't appear by the time we sapu all the plates clean. I went to pay the bill and apparently they were just about to cook it.... must've been one slippery catfish. I cancelled my order as I was already running short of time cos I was expecting Jov who was coming to help Lil One with her work.

All the teething pains aside... their food is actually not too bad. Both my friend and I are itching to go back to try their Claypot Duck Feet.... LOL! And also some real spicy Thai food. With the kids around, we went for the 'bland' dishes. Anyway, Red Thai Village now has competition in Alor Setar; of the same comfy kinda dining. And hopefully too Dee Dee would buck up the next round, else it would be hard to want to go back for another visit.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Dinner at Jln Putera...

Jalan Putera is well-known for its hawker fare. You can find quite a number of hawker centres with quite nice food along the road, especially the section nearer to Masjid Zahir and Star City... Anyway this was after the hike up Pokok Sena.
kuih kak
Dining is alfresco, the Malaysian kind, complete with the blood suckers buzzing around! But because we were still reeking with the stuff that we sprayed to keep the mozzies off for the hike, they sort of steered clear. LOL! Anyway, we thought it'd be a nice experience for our very seldom exposed to such kind of place lil one... This is one of the 2 kuih-kak stalls. I ordered one to share with Other Half. Okay-lah.
wantan mee stall
It's this wantan mee at this stall that was surprisingly nice. Dining was under a big tree with the sky as our roof.
wantan mee
This is the type of wantan mee that is nicer if you pack it home and let the gravy soak into the mee. If you eat it there, it's a little hard. There are a few other places which serve such kinds of wantan mee, one being the shop in Taman Berjaya and the other, a stall under the flyover leading to Taman Saga. As you can see, the day was getting really dark by the time my order came. But we enjoyed this, just the the same.
kuih stall,jln putera
This kuih stall is the rave for those who seek after them at night. Been there for as long as I can remember and people are usually there before the stall waiting. Some of the kuihs are actually quite nice. I've not bought for a long time. Must remember to go back and get some after CNY.
karipap
My boy simply loves this karipap, straight from the fryer, hot and crispy. The oil is of course a little overused; so we only indulge in these once in a while. This karipap is thinly crusted and is crunchy to bite with a slightly spicy potato filling.

This hawker place is also a place where you can find quite a few things at night.. CDs, DVDs and at this time of the year, firecrackers. We used to come here a lot early during our stay in Alor Setar for the cheap mee.... pure carbo fried with lard. Those days, it was 50 sen for a serving. Cheap food on a tight budget.... we survived! 8)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Up the hill...

Been almost a year since our last hike up the 8888 hills of Pokok Sena... but since we did not have anything in particular planned out last Saturday, we decided to pay our favourite hiking haunt a visit... Anyway, we thought it would be good for our lil one. Many kids find themselves in unfamiliar territories when it comes to such activities these days... in part because time for physical games and activities has been sucked up by the all-important and pervasive tuition.

I try to think back of my childhood and the things I remember are all those related to play and games. I used to follow my dad for tuitions - he was a good teacher but the memories etched in my mind are that of the times he took us to places like Lumut and challenging us to a race (our little legs could never quite catch up back then), trips to Simpang Tiga to visit grandma followed by a stop at the konlo mee shop, evening badminton with him and his friends. And also, how Audrey, Jean, Victor, Ko-Lyn and I used to play hide-n-seek before tuition at Ko-Lyn's place.... hiding on the roof, drain.... those are the memories I carry with me.... not much of the tuition. Then the afternoon Chinese school where we'd play 'ah-chi-lok' swinging from the monkey bar and all the way up (and down) the two trees beside the monkey bars. Those things I remember.....

I wonder what memories our kids will remember of their childhood..... theirs is a hard pressed gen, life evolving around tuition. Perhaps like the rise of the hippie culture of the 60s after post World War II which required lots of discipline and hard work (with great obsession), the generation that followed went the opposite direction.... and 'hell' did break lose with all the dope and the misunderstood mix of Eastern and Western philosophies. Sometimes, I feel we parents have lost the balance some where.... but that's just my opinion.
hiking,hill,pokok sena
It was just the 3 of us but we met familiar faces at the foot of the hill. Lil One sobbed half the hike up. She was apprehensive about the tiring trip up but in the end, I think she found it rather easy. All the squash and swimming have paid off, I would say... her fitness level is definitely way up. 8) She'd probably be faster than me in a couple more runs...
hiking,hill,pokok sena
The hill at this time of the year is like summer and spring lumped together. It's so hot that the trees are actually getting to be quite bare of leaves and the footpaths, layered with dried leaves; which can be quite slippery. But while we were there, I noticed that the leaves were slightly wet. It had rained..... it's been so hot that lots of vegetation is drying up. Regular gym visits and swims have also made the trek up rather relaxing for me. 8)
Photobucket
The journey home was interesting because of the changing skyscape. The sky was a golden hue just as we passed Pokok Sena town. The sky is always more colourful at this time of the year.... evenings and mornings now made up of vivid colours.
Photobucket
Five minutes down the road, and the sun had turned red; the clouds making it look like as though it was playing a game of hide and seek. The sky was really fun to watch cos you'd see cracks appearing in the cloud and suddenly rays of sunlight would burst forth. Then as suddenly as they appear, these cracks would seal themselves up and you're left with the gray again.
muffins
We had dinner at the stalls and was followed by this. We dropped by to collect some CNY goodies (pies and my favourite 'SCS' butter cake) and Ah Ho was baking this.... muffins, with jam inside and cinnamon sugar toppings at Other Half's suggestion. He had gotten her the recipe for this from the net. Because it's vegetable oil that is used, they're not buttery like the usual butter cupcakes that we're so used to...

Tis a blessing to be her friend, definitely... 8) My stomach says so.... LOL! And while we were there, it rained cats and dogs, the first in many weeks! Showers of blessing!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Dinner...

... at Ah Ho's last Friday.
Chicken Chop
Everyone is busy at this time of the year... getting ready for Chinese New Year. But it still didn't stop Ah Ho from organizing another dinner get-together; that despite she not having any help at the moment. This was a western... chicken chop with mutton sausages.
Mutton Sausages
It was a small group but as usual, food was good. The gravy for the chicken chop doubled up as soup for me too. And I got to ta-pau the rest home. 8) Food always tastes better in good company...
Chinese Sausages
These are Chinese sausages... they are homemade. George and Ah Ho have this gadget made from parts of an old ice-kacang grinder to pump the marinated meat into the tubes. I had fun the week before, turning the handles to stuff the meat into the intestines; so did my lil one when I dropped her off there while I went for a wake. These sausages definitely beat the commercially made ones; very, very little preservatives and lots and lots of wine to preserve and minus the ever sinister red colouring, hence the fragrant smell when you steam it. 8)

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Rise of the Fourth Reich by Jim Marrs

Interesting book this one... but not your regular fix of fictions.... and it took me super long to finish it, almost a month. In between I read Sold about Zana Muhsen. This makes it 3 books so far for 2010. Not too bad, considering I told myself I would read at least one book a month. 8) First Reich - the Roman Empire, Second Reich - the period created by Bismarck, Third Reich - Hitler's Germany. The Fourth Reich here is supposed to refer to America, where a lot of Nazi science and ideology fled to in the aftermath of the collapse of the Third Reich.

If you buy all those conspiracy theories about everything, this one will go down well. It talks about the conspiracy that goes on to control the world throughout history. Guess what, Communism was actually supported by American industrialists like the Rothschilds, Rockefellers, etc... Then when they found it too hot to handle, they supported the National Socialism in Germany. The Nazis! Hitler's Germany plunged Europe into her darkest moment in modern history. The bankers, industrialists, weapons producers - all of them made a killing while lives were lost in the battle fields all over the world. These industrialists had their feet planted on both sides of the conflict. So, regardless of who won, they didn't lose! They still laughed all the way to their banks, fattened by the slaughter made possible by the weapons they financed!

Interesting to note that there is a belief that Hitler's goons set the Reichstag (Parliament building) on fire in 1933. Germany at that time was rich, cultured and peaceful. But that event set off another chain of events... and the 'Enabling Act' was passed to deal with the communist threat. Hitler became the Fuehrer and the rest is history. Now if you compare that to the 'cowhead' and 'torching of churches' incidents in Malaysia, there might be lessons for us in this sort of modus operandi. Incite hatred, bring forth deep seated fears that our way of life is being threatened, and suddenly everyone clamours to give up their personal freedom and rights...

Also, conspiracies after conspiracies... from space exploration to the water we drink to the transformation from homeopathy to allopathy, the dumbing down of us and our children by our education system.... seems to me like there're plenty of them. All the maneuvering for wealth and power. Plus selection and continuity of the superior race, annihilation of the weaker races and those perceived as threats. Every country has those bigots. We are no exception too. If Americans have the white supremacist thing, we have our own ketuanan concept. Same indignancies... lots of stuff in the book is believable cos it's the same thing that fuels all those bigotries and push for power - greed!

I'd give this a read....opens our minds up to possibilities and also not to be so naive. Money and power rule and there are many who will go great extents to achieve both.

And by now, my Ipod Touch is worth every single sen that I paid for it.... which gives me excuse enough to get an Ipad...LOL!

Friday, February 5, 2010

A different sort of instruction..

I taught Jovaynne for 5 years.... and for this short break while waiting for her results she volunteered to coach my gal in Mandarin and I get to tag along, meaning I get taught also. Never too old to learn from anyone. 8) It's a new experience, but something I will cherish, nevertheless.

It's nice to know that someone whose progress I've followed and had a hand in has come of age, grown and growing in stature. 8) So, here I am, a teacher being taught by my student now... a different sort of instruction, one that is helping me move along in my Mandarin. LOL! And oh yes! The few occasional badminton games which we still squeeze in here and there plus the makan-makan time. I count my blessings and these are among them...

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Retirement...

Today another boss retires... I've witnessed a few; including colleagues.

Do all bosses deserve grand send-offs? It doesn't seem to matter whether you've been a good boss. Cos in the end, an unbelievably glossy picture will still be painted, even though sometimes you feel it's like a script from a make-believe fantasy, one that makes you squirm in your chair when you listen to it. But most of us will say the most unbelievable things... sugar coated. Makes you wonder how believable they are during normal times...

Heads are important. An impotent head will render policies and institutions useless. There are good heads... there are bad heads. But in the end, both get the same send-off. You actually get rewarded for not doing your job. Great, isn't it?

And yesterday too, a colleague who applied to teach Form 6 found out that her application has not been successful. Of four who applied, 2 were given. One deserves it but the other... a 'sleeper' in class, one whose classes the students say they don't comprehend her teaching... well she's moving on... up, I mean. And my definitely more competent-than-this-particular-teacher colleague? She is staying put. No upward movement for her.

I dread to think how the F6 students will 'benefit' from the 'sleeper' teacher. Bosses... they are the ones who, to a large extent determine who gets to go where.... and these days so many factors come to play first... kulit-fication, bodek-fication, connection among others, heading the list first.

We're a compromised fraternity....

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Sports...What Do They Actually Want?

This is supposed the time of the year when Sports Day is being carried out... that was until a sudden directive from the Education Department yesterday to postpone it to May; even though some schools have carried it out. (See how insignificant sports is these days, this is only the 6th week of schooling and for some, the sports season is already over) Apparently some of them had gone for a study tour in Australia, and were impressed by how sports is run there... the details given to us are sketchy.

Anyway, we've been told to push our sports later so as to give more time for students to get trained. That is so us, now. Instant reaction without much thought. Sports is dead in most schools, except for sports school like BJSS.

Picture this... sports practice. Students are warned that if they don't come, punishment will be meted; i.e. run round the field, caning, fines, etc. So, students show up. They are asked to run round the field once and sent home. That is how some sports practices are run now. And some teachers go for practice in their stilettos with attires to match.... looking ridiculously out of place. There are now very few teachers who were once athletes themselves during their school days.

And it's appalling how few teachers actually know how to teach proper techniques of throws, jumps, even baton passing! This despite PE being a core subject at teachers' trainee courses.

Once upon a time, they used to take in those with sports inclination for the teaching profession. Then they switch policies and took in those who had no where to go... And when the teaching profession got a boost of 'better' service terms, the teaching courses suddenly became quite difficult to get in universities. However, years of emphasis of cramming to score at the expense of games and other co-curricular activities took its toll... Not forgetting too the teaching profession generally is no longer appealing for those who are more talented...

In my last few years, I've come across trainee teachers who sit in the classes and teach, sleep with their saliva drooling down in the staff room, etc, etc.. There are still some exceptional ones but these are generally far and few.

So Sports Day to be delayed so as to give students more time to be trained.... I think it can be a good thing. But the system is too rife with the shortcomings of our own doing to have it actually work.

And the biggest joke is probably this.... the MOE has slashed more than RM4.5 million from the annual MSSM budget. This year we're only given RM1.5 million for the running of games and sports. Last year's budget was RM6 million! You can read more here and here. Many games and sports events are being cancelled! And the biggest joke is even squash has also been axed. We've the World No.1 women player, Nicol David and it is being axed. LOL! Most of the Under-15 events are also in the same situation. Talk about training the next gen of athletes, or even a holistic education...

As a friend of ours was saying... sometimes it's hard to justify why our kids need to go to school when they feel they don't need to. School sometimes seems to do the harm that it's supposed to overcome in the first place... we continue to be dumbed down by poor leadership, planning, double standards, lopsided assessments, excessive paperwork.... and increasingly, uninspiring people.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Fried Porridge @ Fong Ting Siew, Serdang

This was something new to us... fried porridge at Serdang, near Kulim. We were meandering our way home after Taiping through the Federal Route decided to give this a try....
fried porridge
The exact location of the shop...
fried porridge
This is the shop.... it's hard not to miss it cos it's just beside the road.
fried porridge
And as were waiting for our orders, I saw this on the wall... all the 'famous' people who have eaten here and also the newspaper cuttings, their accolades. We waited for our food in anticipation.
Fong Ting Siew,fried porridge
This is the 'fried' porridge. It doesn't look appetizing, does it? Anyway, we dug in. The first mouthful was kinda spicy. Then all the flavours start to find their way thru. We could tell that a lot of dried shrimps are used... the fried dried shrimp signature smell was there. There're also plenty of bacon, strips of meat, spring onion... it's a different porridge experience... 8)
Fong Ting Siew,ribs
Ribs with shredded ginger and other stuff... the meat was a little over fried, I think. But still, they were tender enough.
Fong Ting Siew,3 Flavoured Fish
The fish that we had... by the time this came, we knew we had over ordered. This is small time Serdang, where portions are generally still quite big. We also ordered a plate of veg to go with the porridge...
Serdang
My little girl was surprised to see this...
Cotton tree,serdang
She didn't know that cotton grows on trees... and she was quite amazed to see this cotton pods growing on the trees. LOL!
Cotton
And her Papa went around collecting a small bagful for her to take home to show her friends...