Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Grilled, Baked...... Sports Day!

... that's how I feel tonight. Each year, prolonged exposure to the sun seem to turn me into a heat generating moving blob of protoplasm. Sports Day! This year the directive to us from up there is to change the name to Kejohanan Balapan & Padang (Track and Field). We used to just call it Kejohanan Olahraga (Sports).

Name change or no... if things are not properly done, they remain just a name change. The way we do things are slowly changing. These days, it's not about doing things the right way. It's more about doing it for the sake of doing. So, you get lines on the track being measured just with the feet instead of a measuring tape. I wonder how you can get the same measurement using your steps 4 times in a row. You get a lot of things done the agak-agak way. Sports is a science of precision, I thought. But it is not uncommon to see students doing the relay races without really knowing how to pass their batons correctly. You get events carried out over a period of days yet still find an athlete having to run more than one middle distance race in one morning.

Sports! It's a good thing for kids. You see those who otherwise don't shine much academically having their day on the field. They too get their moment of attention. But school administrations run sports as something to memenuhi syarat (fulfill a requirement). There are talented kids but their co-curriculum talents get buried deep under the curriculum chase. I think we operate on the premise of one type of intelligence now. Howard Gardner's proposal of multiple intelligences don't hold water in Bolehland.

Anyway, I'm glad for this event to be over... though I know once this is over, the next thing that will come our way would be all those extra classes. I'll rant about that another time.

Son is on his Easter break from NS, after just one week. His camp seems to have an okay camp commandant. At least from his first impression, they're trying to implement 1Malaysia, give fair chance to the kids to lead, etc. At another camp at Perlis it seems only Malays will (can) be appointed as group leaders, at the behest of the instructors. So, if I am one of the non-Malay kids attending my PLKN in such an environment, I'd probably be scarred and hate those people..... this is still racial Malaysia. You are 'doomed' by your race!.... at this supposedly emancipated time. We're no better than many of the scums of the world. I'd rant on this later.....

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Learning Languages

I was looking through Daughter's English and Bahasa Malaysia test papers.

In English, this is one of the questions..... What is the number of twenty three plus seventeen? It's English that's for sure but we seem to have lost something here. It feels more like Maths. Missing from the test paper are grammar based questions - singular/plural, tenses, verbs, nouns, pronouns, adjectives kinda stuff. As for the questions... my gal answered something like this The number forty. It's a 2-mark question and the teacher marked her wrong. Zero mark! Not even one mark for getting the addition correct!

Communicative English we teach, but many students cannot even communicate in them even after 10 years! PPSMI (Teaching of Maths and Science in English) helped a bit in upping the command but it's days are numbered! What little progressed will regress again.

In BM, they get questions like.... Ibu negara kita ialah _______. Makes me wonder whether they are testing knowledge or language. In SPM if you are tested on a topic like Water (Air), you have to write it from a factual point of view it seems. That means you define water, write about its importance, etc. You cannot write about water as an imagery. Eg, write about Water as a goddess who takes various forms. You will flunk. That's what I was told.

Language is a tool to knowledge. I see my 9-year-old girl memorizing Simpulan Bahasa. She has not even grasped the language, yet is already expected to know the more advance aspects of the language. It's the same for Chinese. Instead of drilling on the basics and building vocabulary in a fun way, the kids are forced to memorize. I find Chinese text books more interesting than BM, though. There are stories in them which are actually quite interesting. BM's passages seem to ramble on the mundane. But the standard is high.

I also am a little confused about why we're setting such high standards for certain languages at primary level. There aren't many fun things for the kids. Young kids learn better via their environment. But our texts and teaching don't seem to engage them that way... and after so many years teaching language I am still trying to figure out how to...

Monday, March 29, 2010

Of Time Capsule and PLKN

The initial weeks after the school hols always seem crazier and busier. These last 2 weeks are no exception.

My time also got lost in this... my new toy! My Mac Time Capsule! With a 1 terabyte of server quality storage to match! It's a wi-fi station too. Had some trouble getting it communicate with my MacBook initially. There are still some teething problems but I like the fact that I can do my backup minus the wires. And it looks cool too! All Mac stuff do! 8)
PLKN 2010
Son went off for his National Service today...took time off from work to send him off this morning. There was a markedly smaller crowd at the Stadium today. The other camps collected their trainees yesterday. Am I worried? A little but he has been moving around quite a bit and even to Cambodia in the last couple of months. Half the time we would not know where he was. That's also a lesson in trusting God too. I guess we're kinda getting used to having him away from home. The lil sis will miss him more than us, I think. Anyway, we get to visit him on weekends...

My thoughts on NS. I think he'll enjoy it. I hope he does. Most of my students do. Even my friends' kids who cry about not wanting to go end up crying not wanting to leave the camp at the end of their NS. Crazy, huh? I even have a friend who was so glad that I encouraged her son to go cos she said it was good for him and the family. At PLKN, these kids are taught to write home to their parents and express their appreciation! For her, that was priceless! Yup! For kids like mine who attend a Chinese school, this would be a good experience for him to be with the other races. It's an opportunity to learn to see others minus all the racial inhibitions and biasness which all of us carry.. assuming the trainers don't play the brainwashing game there like the BTN. And he gets 6 free meals plus some allowances too... 8)
PLKN 2010
He has friends who are deferring. Sometimes it's the parents who are more afraid... afraid to let their sons and daughters go... in part also because of the adverse news that we read. I look at it this way, it's something that they need to attend cos they've been called. You can't go through life paying your way out of every thing you don't like... it makes you 'buy-able' too in the end. Private colleges have been on a blitz to recruit students ever since the end of SPM. You have the early intake in January... some 'dodgers' sign up for the Jan intake. Then you have the March intake, right after the SPM result... that also served as a dodging excuse.

We're telling our boy that 2 years of Form 6 after his NS are also meant for him to discover himself. In a sense, it's a luxury we're affording him as we're not compelling him to finish ASAP; and support us.

It has become easier to let him go... at church yesterday, this was reminded to us... that we release our children... Am reminded of what the late Rev Hwa Chien said in one of his sermons long time ago... children are entrusted to us. There comes a time when a child must leave his parents... and we must be ready to let them go. Else we will shackle them down.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Earth Hour-ed....

Earth Hour 2010 in Malaysia came and went... I passed a couple of places in town on my way home at 8.45 p.m. and saw 2 establishments with their lights off. Didn't see many of the other outlets or homes answering the call of Earth Hour. The impression that one gets is that the awareness level is not that high where we are. Maybe people do know but they're just not bothered.

It creates awareness, no doubt. But I wonder how much of it will translate to action. Power generated needs to be used... so regardless of whether you switch on or off, that power that is generated would have used the necessary resources. What is needed is the willpower to do good for the environment... which actually means doing good to ourselves in the long run. And that has to come from the governments and industries.

Unfortunately, that is not so. How many of us use LED torch lights? LED torch lights are very energy efficient. Over the last couple of years, we noticed that the LED torch lights actually use less batteries. We could go almost 1 1/2 years on one single change of batteries. The normal bulb torch lights needs a battery change every 2-3 months. But surprisingly battery companies don't promote such kinds of torch lights very much... well, at least not in Malaysia. Batteries don't sell well on LED lights.. I guess it boils down to the profit... just as in forests are worth more dead than alive. The number of trees being felled in water catchment areas is worrying...

Another point... our national cars. Our national cars are not fuel efficient. A 1300cc Kembara for example has a similar (or perhaps higher) fuel consumption than some of the imported models with 2000cc. Yet the gahmen slaps high taxes on such imported cars in the name of protecting our local industries. Proton has been around for 20 over years. Yet its cars do not seem to have achieved that sort of standards. Protection hasn't pushed our 'local' car makers to strive for better quality.... the environment has to bear the pummeling as a result.

So, Earth Hour... it's good that awareness is created. But I wonder whether it's just a media blitzkrieg for its 'hip-ness'... continuous education to create awareness, government commitment, taxes and tariff at the right places for the right reasons, responsible industries; these are what's needed... I believe the technology is available to help conserve our resources but such technologies will spell less profit for many industries.... and because of that our environment is sacrificed. Oh well! I guess one day the Earth might just retaliate and give us a huge dose of our greed and irresponsibility... the signs are all there already.

As for me, I'll try to reduce the use of my air-cons by setting the timers to switch off earlier, change the way I drive so that I don't burn so much fuel, plan my errands, recycle the stuffs that are recyclable around the house, teach my children (and my students) not to be so wasteful... still my lifestyle contributes to the degradation or Mother Nature.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Gardens of the Sun.. Paul McAuley

My first sci-fi in a long time. Gardens of the Sun... For life to exist you need the basic stuff - food, air, shelter. And central to this equation is the role of plants! So Gardens of the Sun... brought me to an imaginary world that was simply quite awesome! My own imagination was also sent slightly into an overdrive 8)

This novel stokes imaginations of every conceivable kind... gene wizardry, space exploration and its colonization, the different branches of human beings, the wars, human quest for wealth, power and even immortality. Also on friendship, family and hope.... somehow epics will never be complete without hope.

Gardens of the Sun is one of those books I find difficult to put down; that despite it being long... I Googled and one of the book sites says it's 890-pages long. I can't tell the thickness on the Ipod, all you see is that 'progress line' which serves as an indicator how much of the book has been read.

In the novel another war had ended but persecution for the Outers (these are people who had been genetically tweaked to have special abilities to function better in different worlds) continue. The super power was The Greater Brazil. On the other end is The Pacific Community. Democracy is dead. Rule is by autocracy. And they have another pool of genetically tampered humans called the Outers. The Outers were being chased into the fringes of the Solar System due to a couple of reasons. But they are resourceful and have great abilities to adapt and rebuild.

I guess you could label this a current model of sci-fi for this generation... we've the Human Genome Project completed sometime ago, we now have research into GM food. Our existing technology can manipulate microorganisms like the bacteria to become nanorobots to build nanostructures. Space tourism might herald an age of space exploration by private entities... who knows what might lie ahead?

So, in the novel, the author invites us to immerse ourselves into a world where it is possible to draw resources from the library of gene pool, knowledge to start all these gardens to support human life. The obsession with the creation of such gardens (and also the central importance of plants to human life) as represented by 2 characters, Prof Dr Sri Owen-Hong and Avernus probably is the reason for the title of the novel.

The gardens are the biomes where life continues. And these gardens are constructed on Saturns, Uranus, Jupiter... and their moons and other far flung planets. When the settlers move into all those inhospitable and arid landscapes, the first thing they'd do would be to create those gardens... and the role of fullerenes are also highlighted. Fullerenes as in buckyballs; another one of the carbon allotropes. I read about its discovery over 2 decades ago in Popular Science... and then waited for the Chemistry textbooks to be updated.... I think if you check, they've not updated yet. That's just the science part.

In the study of a society there is always the social political aspect that makes us so human. The intrigues of politics are there; very similar to what has been and is still. The social aspect which I enjoy is how the writer weaves the complexities of human greed into those things we desire. And how in reading it, I am reminded of the explorations that took place in our written history of the early discoveries of new lands in the far east and west. How the gung-ho(ness) of those early travelers and settlers romanticized the chaos and lawlessness; also the roles of organized crime... remember how the early Chinese settlers had to bow to the Ghee Hin and the Hai San? In colonizing the asteroids, planets, the same traits are seen in the novel.... interesting parellelism. This is one book which would make good discussion material for students.

Reading this book is like reading into our past, a past which I do not belong to but only read from books, with a future scenario as the main setting. The storyline is the same though. It's quite a marvel to perceive the universe through the imagination (with lots of research definitely) of the author. Another weekend of lots of waiting for my kids for this and that... hence the time to read on time which otherwise would have been so wasted staring and counting molecules in the car. And so, I've reached No 10 for the year!!!!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Failing Eyes...

Right around the time you hit your big Four-Oh (40), you start to discover one day the need to squint your eyes just to be able to read the smaller prints. Then you start to adjust those printed material to a distance so that they are in focus. Over the next few years, the words will get blurrier.

That is one of the sure signs of the inevitable, we are growing old..... Where once the eyes might have problem making out the far, the near now becomes a problem. And when you finally cannot read your smses from your mobile, that means you are in need of a new pair of glasses.

I'm trying to fight this off for as long as possible but this is one battle I cannot win. It's a natural process. Two years ago my opto told me that I've perhaps another 2-3 years... sounds kinda terminal, huh? Well, the time seems to be rushing up to me now... 8(

Lately the words are getting blurrier... one of the tell-tale signs that I'm being gradually induced into the middle-age group, and the induction feels like it's coming to a complete cycle soon. It's like you are being slowly eased into the next phase... Not that I'd go sighing and whining about it. But as I look around... almost everyone I know is doing something to hide their age; dyeing their hair, surgical procedures to lift certain body parts... now some of my friends are asking whether they can LASIK long sightedness too (I think it's yup)... this is an age of augmenting, preserving via technology and lifestyle medicine.

Next visit to the opto will be to make a pair of bifocals.... maybe in another year's time?? Midway thru a-passing this world. Time to take stock, adjust my bearings... with each passing year, the temporariness of everything becomes more apparent. 'Failing eyes' I may be experiencing but it shouldn't blur my vision from what ought to be...

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Dinner @ Kaede Restaurant

This is one of my usual haunts for quite some time... the only proper Japanese restaurant in town; Kaede. It is located at Stesen Bas Baru (the row of shops at the Bulatan Teluk Wanjah). The bus station is no longer there, having been moved by the City Council to Shahab Perdana many years ago. But somehow we still refer to that area as the Stesen Bas Baru. There used to be another Japanese restaurant in Pekan Simpang Kuala but I think they've closed. Anyway, this is one place I'd go for dinner regularly.... I still prefer Asian to Western....
Kaede,Alor Setar
My Unagi ramen in light broth... thin version. I think I should have ordered my usual - salmon, tuna, cod bentos....
Kaede,Alor Setar
Other Half's ramen... fat version, sweet sour with a slightly sticky soup base. This is one of those very rare times when we ordered the ramen. I think we still have not totally acquired the taste for them. Still rice people, we are.
Kaede,Alor Setar
My girl's Gindara Box... one of my favourites actually. But since she wanted it, I decided to go for something different. This is cod fish. I always like the 'lemak' taste of it. And somehow, cooked this way always seem to make the rice more appetizing. I like Japanese style of food. Yesterday I had my own homemade version for dinner. Grilled bacon with onion and garlic topped with baby french beans in my tiny grill... with teriyaki sauce and pepper. Then served it on leftover rice from lunch steamed again. Simple meal, easy and quick to prepare.
Kaede,Alor Setar
This is the Chicken Bento... in teriyaki sauce. One reason why I like Japanese food is the way the food is lightly prepared with sauces. And even though they are 'dry', they always seem to go very well with the rice. The set comes with the usual miso soup.
Kaede,Alor Setar
I treated myself to a little of this... oysters! None of them likes it... less man more share. 8)
Kaede,Alor Setar
Also had this... the edamame or soy bean boiled in salt. Nice to eat as finger food.

Kaede's food is quite nice and very reasonable. They used to be located at the Sentosa Plaza along Jln Putra but those days, not very many people would go as it was hidden out of sight. They are doing a roaring business at their current place now. If you go past 7.00 p.m. the place is usually full. Best to go for early dinner. 8)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

My Parents Don't Understand Me...

Almost a year ago, I wrote on this, and half a year later an update...

My parents don't understand me... the journey of the recent years has been humbling but also a lesson into faith, hope and love. Faith that compels us to remain fast and firm, hope that things will change for the better and love to be long suffering. Am reminded of 1 Corinthians 13:13.

As the marginal man loses his marginality, light too dawns on him. And less and less he feels that we don't understand him. His own journey of being challenged in his own faith I hope is also preparing him to for the responsibilities of adulthood, but the remnants of the marginal man still rears his head though at a lesser frequency.

We've argued and fought and there were many unpleasant moments... there will continue to be some more of those I know but generally we seem to understand each other better. His SUSOM experience seemed to have helped him see things in a different light... his journey into his faith to search himself and allow God to work His ways. We are actually beginning to find his company quite pleasant more often. 8) Good influence, role models from the SU staffers; thank God for such people with a passion to shape and challenge the young people.

It's always hard to make a kid see that we love them, especially when we seem not to allow them to do the things that they want. Discipline is painful, on both parties I've learned. You can't really discipline without feeling the pain yourself. But it is necessary. Pain makes you feel the anguish often times... that's the perspective which I think our kids don't see very often.

My parents don't understand me... it seems to be coming to a close with one kid. Irrational arguments have become more rational... not all the time but there are more of it now. Marginalism is slowly being replaced by a new and hopefully surer identity of self and also of discipline.... In the last one and a half year, I'd say there's been more storms than the first 15 put together. But the metamorphosis is still ongoing...the butterfly not quite emerged yet... so, my parents don't understand me.... they don't call it growing pains for nothing. 8)

Oh yes! Read this study done on mice on what might also be effects of puberty on the adolescence.... LOL! Puberty does make us slightly more stupid it seems. And if you want your kids to do well, it seems also that you better make sure they learn as much as possible during the pre-puberty period. Else once puberty hits, they become 'dungu'-fied by the emo onslaught, amplified by the trimming of the excesses of the brain.. normalcy will only set in post-puberty. It's beginning to make sense, the craziness I see everyday at work, my teenage students...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Wohoo... 21 so far..

I've done 21 books on my Ipod since I got it late last Nov. Means I've read more than 21 books in the last 4 months, since there were some 'old-fashioned' can-hold-with-hands books that I read as well. 8) Now if only the Ipad becomes available here... *faster-faster come*

I know the exact number cos I haven't deleted the books I've read. As a matter of fact, I've categorized them neatly into Read and Not Read. So, as long as I still have space in my Ipod, I'll continue to store the books I've read in there. It's like my own little mini carry-on library. This is one of those 'happy' sparks at this dreary time; looming ahead are extra classes, extra dunno what some more.... depressing cos they're suggesting that it runs till 5 p.m.!

Anyway, back to my found-again old love. When I started reading again after the long hiatus, I actually found it difficult to remember the plot if I put the book away for too long. Very often, I'd be left trying to piece up what I've read.... many of my brain cells must be dying, I guess. But after 4 months, I find myself perking up to better retention.. 8) Maybe some of the dying brains cells are getting a second lease of life... LOL! Brain matter finally getting the exercise it needs. I'm trying to read as many genres as possible. And so far, I've enjoyed most of the books I picked up. I've forgotten how good reading can be.... being caught in the whirls that I'm in now. Sometimes a gadget that makes it convenient can make all the difference. Here's gunning for the remaining by year end (am shifting my target from 10 to 20 for the year! ... and maybe meet the overall target of 40 since the purchase of my Ipod)

Reading has filled up all those waiting time which makes me restless. No time to feel restless now. Meetings become more bearable... patience get a lifeline as a result. Multi-tasking at the gym has made time whiz past without me realizing. I do more workouts without realizing it. An hour can fly by cos I'd be engrossed with a book or articles on my Ipod while on the treadmill or exercycle. Waiting for late people has also been made more bearable.... And there're also the videos and audio stuff too...

I find myself looking forward to the next book to read these days.... so yeah! I'd rate my Ipod Touch my best buy for the last 6 months.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Blame Game...

Having a marginal man at home can be very tiring... the blame game is one of those games they seem to be playing whenever they don't get to do (have) the things they want. And it's a tiring game for the long suffering parents.

Blame game... it's one of those games you don't have to teach kids the rules. They're all naturals at it. It's one of the games they perfect without the need for coaching. But not one which we should encourage them to play well. Try get a kid up early (early by their definition is 9 a.m.) and they will blame the parents for not letting them sleep enough because they went to sleep at 2 a.m. You try telling them to sleep earlier and they'll blame you for not understanding that all their friends stay up that late. There's always something to blame...

You bug them to do their revision and they blame you for putting stress on them. I could go on and on but the blame game continues.... actually everyone of us play this game too.

Blame game usually begins with a volley of phrases like "You said..., You told me..., You don't understand..." Once you serve them, the blames go into play.... and it's a ball which carries many unpleasant things.

We play the blame game too, legacy of our growing up, of being human. And we still play it because of many reasons.... but all the reasons point to one same thing. We refuse to assume responsibility for our own actions... much easier to be the persecuted one, the lost one...

Blame game destroys relationships; they also destroy us. They shatter trust and break hearts. When you blame, your mind set is one that you've been wronged, cheated, led on, treated unfairly (which is the most common with the marginal man) etc, etc... It's difficult to change that sort of mindset once the ball is rolling.

We are often participants of this game... doing the serving and also the receiving. Not too long ago, I was on the receiving end... and yup, it kinda broke my heart. But with it too came the realization that it was time for me to move on.... for without any softening of the stance, the blame has too much potential to grow. But it taught me that I should try never to serve blames unless I want to destroy a relationship....

Many years ago, someone convinced us to use the services of a particular interior decorator... we lost quite a bit sum because that fler ran off with our money. It was a lot to us back then as we were just starting out. As much as I would like to blame this someone cos it shifts my own foolishness in trusting the guy (we were idiotic enough to believe his pleas that he needed some cash to get his thing going) and also losing our money on this someone, I refrained from ever verbalizing it to her in person. It wasn't easy and I'm no saint. Cos somehow, I know if the situation were reversed, we'd probably get an earful and be made to feel bad probably for a long, long time..... there have been times when I very much wanted to out of geramness...

How to get out from this blame cycle? Was listening to a speaker at church yesterday night... we are always reminded of the need to confess our sins to God, to assume responsibilities for our actions.... it's the same for this blame game; there's a need for us to resolve the matter, say sorry sometimes to end the game.

My boy got me on this blame game roll of thoughts recently... Boy! I didn't know that there are so many things that we, as parents can get blamed for... the marginal minds can be very creative and evasive. But then again, marginal or no, I guess there isn't much difference between us, the supposedly adults and them too..... my two sen today. Only difference is, I still have not given up on him yet.... blood still thicker... LOL! ... but getting more diluted too...

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Moving On..

Life is about moving on; from one experience to another, one event to the next, one phase to the next. But the funny thing is death is also about moving on; to hell or heaven or nothing. And it doesn't matter whether you believe in a God cos the thought of this future (heaven or hell or nothing) still governs the thoughts and actions of the present.

People move in and out of our lives for various reasons; moving into (out) a neighbourhood, marriages or births, new work place, common interest (differences), needs, etc, etc...

Moving on... they are many reasons for it. The four kids I took under my wings are moving on too. My own will still be hanging around a while more; which means I'll probably be going down that 'marginal' path more than I'd like to. So might another despite anxiety from the adults. One feels the need to get away, go for something 'easier' and to embrace the call of freedom while another literally got packed and sent away to somewhere 'safer' (from what I gather).

Ties are formed and ties are broken. Nothing is permanent. Blood is thicker than water... you wonder whether it's true. It's an imperfect world. We're imperfect people.

And now moving on from holiday mode to the work one... *sigh*

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Keeping Faith by Jodi Picoult

I finished this within quite a short time; a result of too many waiting instances from yesterday's post.... been doing that a lot these last few days. Had another long waiting session at one of the schools while Daughter took part in her first ever competition (there were so many students from all over).... some 'writing' competition. Many parents were milling around, waiting for their kids. I wanted to go sit in the mee shop; have a cuppa and read. Finally, out of kiasuness to the other parents, I joined their milling around and went to look for a class with a fan and sat riveted to my Ipod for more than an hour. And to think a year back, I thought reading was past me as I would always start a book but never got to finishing it cos I'd forget to bring it with me..

Keeping Faith.... this is one of those books which started off rather blandly for me but perked my interest as I went along. It centers around a little girl by the name of Faith who witnessed her father's infidelity break their family apart; it was the second time he did it to his wife. I'd rate the father as useless two-timer but it didn't mean he didn't love his kid. Having been traumatized by that, she started to confide with her imaginary guard. Turns out, she started reciting Bible verses which she had never been schooled in. God became a friend. And her friend was a She. Stigmata, miracles; these were some of the things which happen to and through her...

Like any parent, Mariah got worried and started consulting some psychiatrists. The little girl literally brought her grandma to life after being declared clinically dead. She drew attention from all kinds of people; news people, religious zealots, people seeking hope, the sick. Their house became a gathering of sorts. Then the father decided to seek custody and a hearing ensued.... more twists and turns after that.

I was done with my waiting duties by Friday afternoon but was too kan-cheong to know the ending. So I read at home... last half an hour of the book. 8)

Anyway, the journey of Faith can also be taken to represent the way we look at faith in our own lives... when all avenues seem exhausted one is left with one choice - to take that leap of faith. But I didn't quite enjoy the courtroom drama part; the hearing to determine who gets custody of Faith. It was too long and draggy but because it was pivotal to the story, had to plough through it.

The novel has quite a fascinating plot. I like the way the author weave the drama and the subtle comparisons to our lives. Keeping faith... that's what many of us need to do at many points of our lives. Keeping faith... not just only to our faiths but to what we hold dear. Nice one; my 9th and also 9th author for the year. Been doing books from different authors so far. Now back to my other 2 non digital books which seem to take forever to complete....

Friday, March 19, 2010

Irritating... but there're always bright spots

Someone told me that I must be angry with her and that's why I never returned her call. I did return her call but she didn't pick up her mobile... and I was too tired to follow it up after that... I passed the buck already, mah! On a bad day, I get annoyed on being told that...

Mobile phone can be a curse sometimes... people call, then expect you to call back, just because of CLIP. Then there are those who give you miss calls so that you'd call back and they save on theirs. Hmmmph! And also SMSes intrude your life at all hours and you are expected to answer to them... gets kinda irritating.

The mobile is something which I sometimes don't bother checking these days... At work, if there are calls, it means more work; relief classes to be exact. I don't carry my phone around the school quite often. Out of my working hours, if my kids call me, it's usually to ask... not of my well-being, but theirs. I find it irritating that a conversation with someone sometimes can be interrupted a couple of times by the mobile's incessant rings or that they deem it important to reply their smses right there. I think it's rude...

Also irritating... to spend one and a half hour waiting for a cheque of my own money to be made out to me at the bank after the counter transaction. I had just gone to another bank the day before and had to wait more than 20 minutes for the teller to update my account at the counter.... and they are all local banks. How to compete globally minus the gahmen crutches, these banks of ours?

And after coming out from the bank with my cheque.. my car battery died on me, in the middle of an afternoon hot enough to induce heat stroke! No choice! Had to wait in the El Nino induced heat for the battery man. My car battery finally went dead... after 5 years plus! LOL! Worth every sen I paid for it.

But through all those waiting, my Ipod came through for me.... waiting at the first bank and for the technician to come, I finished a quarter of the novel that I'm currently reading. It helped to take the mind of the scorching heat and time seemed to passed faster.

Irritated... people sms me and expect me to be free immediately. I've just realised that I oblige too easily... accomodating other people punya schedules when I happen to be engrossed with personal stuff. Must keep my mobile in the handbag next time...

But a bright spot...
BBQ
An unplanned get-together. The kids were 'partying' away with a mobile disco light thingy.... actually this was the light's dance floor rather than theirs. See how fixated they seem to be.. LOL! This was way out of my territory but the kids had a good time... in Padang Sera.
BBQ
Did this... more of a grilling session of the eating kind. 8) This was at the beginning of a half-night long of merry making, wine included. The kids waited around the table with empty plates and stomachs while we grilled their food. Give em' sausages and they'll tell you how super delicious the food is. LOL! Kids... they're easy to please. When they are hungry they'll eat. When they are full, they stop. Transparent... less complications. As that innocence is lost... a lot of conniving takes place sometimes. Life then becomes complicated.
BBQ
This was much later in the night... sausages left over. French beans on bacon - sinfully delicious! But the cholesterol levels must have shot up...... Our host and hostess were gracious and generous to a fault... lots of leftover, huge prawns, meat, scallops, etc... Other Half even had the privilege of sharing the food even though he wasn't there.... By the time we (me and my gal) got home, it was close to midnight. A girls' night out for Ma and Daughter.... 8)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

1Malaysia 2 standards...

Haven't done this for some time 8)
  1. Al-Islam journalists who went undercover, partook of the Holy Communion and then defiled it were let off. The AG would not press charges. So, is it fair to assume that the next time someone is caught defiling the mosque in this manner, they too would be let off? Justice has two measurements in Bolehland. PAS surprised me by coming out to say that action should be taken.... doing the right thing. It's hard to view the gahmen doing that.
  2. STPM and Matriculation.... external and internal exams; entrance to local unis. It's easier for Matriculation. STPM is mainly for the non Bumis, and they generally work harder for an exam which is definitely harder of the two. Mana itu 1Malaysia?
  3. 1Malaysia... 3 ladies got pregnant because of illicit sex. They got caned. Their partners don't know hilang where. Got babies but no fathers.... gives new meaning to immaculate conception. Takes 2 to make a baby but when it comes to punishing their sin, 2 standards. Same goes for the beer drinking incident. The lady kena again.
  4. Perkasa publication given license....looks so easy. Probably theirs is a fiber optic cable. Very smooth and good connection. Direct line. In Bolehland publications need permit/license. And if you publish something that offends some people, they're likely to be revoked. Would there be 1Standard here?
  5. 1Malaysia comes with its own clinics. Problem is the law has some guidelines pertaining clinics and prescription of meds and also the medical personnels. Now Hospital Assistants can run clinics and dispense... One factory came out and say since the law says they only need to accept MCs from medical practitioners, that kinda makes the MCs from 1Malaysia Clinics invalid... so they are not accepting them. Kinda funny, don't you think?
  6. 1Malaysia sounds so good that they've come up with so many 1names. Today's paper - 1Student, 1Sport. Sports as a subject?? I thought we have PE lessons - which I think are often sacrificed for other subjects. Anyway, 90 minutes to play a game of their choice... how to have 1000 students playing games at one time in one school? Even if the classes are staggered, most schools don't even have bathing facilities for 40 at one go. Maybe we should just allow mass bathing in the river or something like that... Education Minister says no need to go home to solve logistic problems. No brainer! Do we have the facilities even to let the kids bathe and change after a strenuous 90-min game? .... unless of course they also start to allow students to use the personal bathrooms of the Principals which are located right in their offices....
These are just few of many standards in 1Malaysia.... when it suits us. I hear there's Coke factory opening up in Nilai. Remember the boycott campaign not too long ago... anything with the slightest bit of Jewish connection?? I think Coke is related. I don't drink Coke much these days... not because of the boycott but more for health reasons. Aiya! We are so tak berprinsip people...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Podcasts.... so much 'funner'

... and I am finding podcasts to be very enlightening. Never found the time to listen or watch them.... until recently, thanks to my Ipod. On-the-go is the keyword here.

5 minutes here, 10 mins there... short video clips from TED, Discovery and so many others. And downloading via ITunes is a breeze. Was just listening to talks about sustainable fish farming, effects of placebo, Asperger Syndromme, the invention of the copier... not only informative but inspiring. The Ipod has been a very good companion to me.
Ipod Podcast
Been watching short documentaries about Victoria Falls, Easter Island on this "Coolest Stuff on the Planet" podcast. Really cool! There's even a video podcast on a how to of photography and audio podcasts about historical interests on my Ipod! Wonderful!!!

So apart from the books that I've been entertained with, this is an added bonus.... more than I had hoped for. I am finding more apps which are very useful to me as I move along, having a much easier time cos everything goes through App Store. And there are so many freebies, enough to keep one happily entertained. Apps are also cheap enough to convince you to pay for the real app.

I was just checking out the new MacBook too. It's been 2 years since I got mine and the specs have not changed really much. One of the things which has enamoured me to Apple is how they seem to sell their products based more on needs rather than just the perceived need for a new piece of hardware. Usually if it's a new piece of hardware they introduce, it comes with it a new way of doing things; I think this is a more responsible way of doing things.

With the PC, it's been a slow release of the different classes of processors, something new every year and with it they try to sell us the idea of how we would need that extra processing speed. It creates a culture of constant upgrades. We're convinced into believing that we need that extra power when we actually don't. Anyway, I've more or less left the "Dark Side' of computer hardware.... LOL! Where work is concerned, I have decided that I'll migrate over too; except for certain gahmen-related websites like the LPM which seem to only operate with IE!

Podcasts on Ipod... it does make 'funner' some of those days when you just want to watch something or listen to something a little different...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Odessa File by Frederick Forsyth

Blogging about the books I've read helps me keep track of my goal for the year. This is number 8. Have not picked up a Forsyth book for a long while. Wanted something to read while I was waiting and had nothing to do. Actually I am reading another book but since that other book is a real book and not a virtual one, I couldn't read it on the go. This was supposed to be the in-between read but I finished it first. Finished it just before the school hols.

The novel is bent along the historical thriller type; historical events and people are used in the main storyline. The author injected his version of thrill by souping it up with some fictitious events.

This one is about the Riga. It is located in Latvia and was one of the many concentration camps in Nazi Germany. Eduard Roschmann, portrayed as the Butcher of Riga in the book was the commandant and also the villain. He massacred tens of thousands of Jews in the ghettos of Riga. That's part of the Holocaust, where millions of Jews perished. As many of 11 million perished in Nazi Germany; 0f which 6 million were Jews... Anyway, the main character Miller, an Aryan German was the one who did all the 'witch-hunting' for his own 'race' who perpetrated the evil of Riga. The author added a personal twist to the reason for his hunt, which was quite easy to make out almost right from the start.

I googled Eduard Roschmann, the Butcher of Riga (in the novel) and yes, he was real. And he was commandant of the Camp. So were the atrocities he committed. He murdered in cold blood, sent thousands to their deaths via the many unthinkable methods the SS were famous for.

While not totally accurate, the book does contain quite a bit of historical facts. Hitler's Germany was cruel and heartless. Till today, I cannot quite understand how so many people can fall for the madness of one man. How so many could foolishly follow one mad man who was so cruel and stark raving mad. I've read The Day of the Jackal and a couple of others by the same writer long time ago. This book is just as gripping as the others, a nice read to pass time.

2 more books and I'd meet my target for the year...

Monday, March 15, 2010

Holidays...

As long as I am still stuck in the schools, I'd continue to clap my two hands with glee each time the term break comes. Mid first term break 2010... and no extra classes. Yooohoooo!!!!! Need to apply brake so that we don't break. Brief respite! LOL! And sometimes it's not the students whom we need a break from but the craziness that comes with this madhouse institution called school.

Many schools are holding extra classes... we always seem to be holding extra classes. Thankfully mine has not started yet. Actually they tried but there weren't many takers; and we could say no mainly because we're still running around like headless chickens since our last head went into the cold storage in February. 8)

Hols should be just that... a break from school! I hear in many schools extra classes started as early as February. Siao! And in this extremely hot spell that we've been experiencing, I can tell you, it's hard to stay alert after 1 p.m. The people up there should try going in to teach at 2.30 p.m. and see what I mean. And some schools start their extra classes at 3.30 p.m. and ends an hour or so later. No showering facilities and canteen food which really sucks... kids and teachers are squeezed for every drop....
Photobucket
Anyway, it's still early in the hols... I am also holding 'extra' classes for my girl and co. Shoot me also! LOL! We did a session on trees yesterday... how the tree rings tell us about their surroundings during their lifetime (you can only squeeze those stories out of trees you kill.... I mean, chop down). Anyway, we learn about lean and wet years, even possible fires and attacks of insects on the tree from the rings. There's this site with a nice illustration about it here (the site has been down for a couple of days but I managed to save the flash animation in my cache). We learn about how trees help to prevent global warming.... there's this silly cartoon from You Tube which my gal seems to think is real funny. Also of cows, flatulence and global warming... anyway here's an interesting page all about flatulence (it's known by it's other name, there... not too polite term, if I may add...LOL!)

While we were at it, we learned about the different parts of the trees.... and I found this book About Trees from Reading A-Z which I printed for them... and that was my version of an English lesson!

Nah! They won't be doing stuffs like that at school.... I told them to put a leaf in the freezer and see whether it freezes up... see it'll turn hard. Nope! The leaf became real soft and even though it remained green, the 'juice' that you squeeze from it is brown in colour.
Dee Dee
The hols is still young. George and Linda returned to China too yesterday. Had lunch with them before they left.
Dee Dee Alor Setar
Been going round town for makan sessions these last few days... There'll be visits the gym and pool for sure in the coming days. Son is away again... for SU Kedah Camp this time... Meanwhile, maybe there'll be some time squeezed in for shopping... Yup! Shopping! There are stuffs which I am in dire need of. 8) A week of respite.... the weather is cooling off a bit too these last couple of days, with the evening showers.

One week would come to an end rather quickly I should think... 8( Days always fly when you are doing stuff you like.... busy in a happy way!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Girls vs Boys...

Been busy these last couple of days... winding down of the first half of the semester, SPM results to analyze at school (and it's still not completed yet), my own boy's to deal with also, friends around for the week....

Back to boys vs girls... and the girls are winning. Girls scored 4.94 on the National Average Grade while boys scored 5.79 in this year's SPM... The lower grade indicates better performance. 9 is the maximum, indicating an F (Fail). This is the second year in a row the gals have trounced the boys... and it doesn't feel like it is relenting.

I teach boys and gals. And every year, I find more boys languishing more by the year. It's not they are getting dumber but the girls are just coping better with the current system. Our system has evolved into a system where academic results matter more than anything else. All students are supposed to be involved in co-curricular activities, but they don't seem to do much good to majority of the students. Sports, games are on the decline in most schools. Boys' upheaval in the crucial teen age years (15-17) seems more difficult to manage these days... reasoning just doesn't seem to work with marginal minds.

Which brings me back to the boys' performance in major public exams. Boys seem to be coping less well. This present system requires long hours of mugging and they seem to find it difficult to do just that. They are more boisterous, active and difficult to 'control'. All these can be positive energy but what we seem to be getting now is detrimental to themselves... generally.

And it doesn't help that there are tuitions... they benefit the girls more too I feel. Tuitions consolidate stuff for the girls. Used to be the boys would cope better with the 'logical' subjects. But these days, even if they do cope better, it's not going to make them do better than the girls cos the girls with their willingness to mug will consolidate their understanding into better scores. Boys lose again!

There was one year I had an all-girls' class for my F5 Science class. And that was the easiest year to teach. It was easier to get them to see the reason for most things... compliance was high.

I notice many boys tend to go 'sesat' around 15-16 years old. This is the time, when many of them will give us all sorts of problems. It usually takes about a year for them to come to their senses and by the time they do, they are already left quite far behind. The task of catching up becomes daunting and many give up.

Schools lack good male role models. Robust activities are needed for these kids to spend their energy but these days, it's getting less as the focus shifts to studies. Even here, our premier all-boys school don't do as well as the all-girls school. I used to think maybe it's just a local thing but the recent studies show it has become a general condition.

So boys and exams.... I think what we're facing now is what can be labelled as testosterone induced situation.... my experience from both spectrum.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Choices... post SPM

There's just so many of them. As of yesterday night, results had started trickling in to those who did well... the straight A+ scorers, they've been told. This year they added another level to the A grading... A+, A, A- (we have a 3-tier A). We really have a confusing grading system. So many tiers in an A, B, etc. I still get blur even though one of the extra beban I carry is the dealings with the SPM.

Yet SPM gets more attention even though it's not the last leg to university. The gahmen scholarships are geared more for SPM holders.... I think it's not fair. Scholarships should be for those who have gained entry to the uni and not for pre-uni studies, I feel. One would think that entrance to the uni would be a 'grander' thing. But in Bolehland we go for the lesser qualifications as the benchmark. You can only wonder at the reasons behind it. Can a student with 16A+ in SPM gain direct entry to universities like Yale, Harvard, ANU, NUS, LSE, Imperial, Tokyo??

So after SPM.... foundation programmes, A-Levels, STPM, various matriculation programmes dominate the list of choices. Every one of them except for STPM is a money spinner for the private institutions. And these days, there is a mad scramble for such courses... I think parents are more in the scramble than the kids. These last couple of months, I hear of parents being more 'kan-cheong' than their kids about signing up. Some cannot wait to get their kids to graduate ASAP. Some sign their kids up so that they can get deferment for their National Service. Some feel it's good to jump straight almost immediately after SPM because that would save time, etc, etc... reasons abound. Very few people talk about the need to allow their children to do some journey of discovery of themselves during the break while waiting for the results..... maybe work a little, go travelling, get some new experience, etc... Nope! These are wasteful pursuits.

Continuing Form 6 at home. Well, STPM seems to be the option for the non-moneyed ones... It's more difficult than the rest but this is the age where most of our kids are mollycoddled by their good life. STPM? Some parents say why put their children through such 'hardship'. But somehow I am reminded of the hardship that a butterfly must go through as it emerges from the pupae stage... lots of struggle and perhaps even some pain... only then the beautiful butterfly survives. I am also at this difficult crossroads.

Most kids look forward to leaving home after Form 5. Rare are the 'moneyed ones' who stay back. The longing to leave home is great... the pull of the friends and freedom is palpable.

Anyway, kids leaving home too young... I have my reservations. There are too many distractions. Too much pocket money. Too easy of a life. Life away from home, with money in the pocket - pubs, karaoke, clubbing... not exactly your cheap form of entertainment and also the company you keep. Used to be, we'd hang out just sitting or window shopping, or pak-tor in the library.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

For the non academically inclined...

School at this point is only for those who can cope with academic subjects. And if you happen to be a parent who is really concerned about your kids' school performance and he/she is not academically inclined, you'd be left wringing your hands in despair....

At this point of my life, my kids are still school-going, I think like most, I'd like them to do well in their studies. Doing well seems so important these days.

I've a couple of students in one of my Upper Form classes. They cannot read or write well. Academic curriculum seems wasted on them. The only reason they are in Upper Secondary is they managed to meet the minimum requirements. All it takes is just one pass in PMR; and that is quite easily achieved.

There are 60 objective questions in a paper, all he needs to do is just mark all 60 questions either all A, B, C or D. Assuming at least 15 questions will be either one of the 4, you will still get anywhere from 23 to 27 marks. And I think our current low standards would mean that he passes. And on he moves to Form 4.

These are kids with serious learning problems. They do not comprehend much. And some of them are small in size. They are more often than never, subjected to being bullied. These are kids more suited for skill studies but there doesn't seem to be any avenue for them. So, they become the teachers' problem. Our policy of making education available to all till the age of 17 is like the "No Child Left Behind" policy in the US is actually not serving the interest of this group. Parents prefer to leave their kids under our watch. But actually they don't learn much. And even in the US, educators are questioning the wisdom of this policy. Once upon a time, because there was no choice, they were thrusted into the job market. And somehow they survived.... some even doing really well.

It is a nightmare teaching in a class with a handful of students like this cos in the end, you will still have to just ignore them as the rest of the class will be able to handle more than them.

Teachers become flustered as they will appear to have 2 standards for one class. Students are often quick to capitalized on such situations. Chasing the students to complete an exercise thus become an exercise of futility because you know those students will not be able to complete them unless you sit beside each one of them individually... and that is just not possible. One could just go to the counsellors but they'll give you a whole list of psychological assessment jargons and we're no better than before that.

If we are not able to provide some form of skills training for such students, I feel it is better that they enter the job market and be trained in the skills of their own choice. Life sometimes is a better teacher than this institutionalized form of instruction.

One of the worse decisions the MOE made I think is the decision to kill of vocational schools as we knew it almost a decade ago.

Four(l) letter words...

They're just that... people who use four letter words think they are cool or they are just angry people all the time; or worse still their minds are only filled with foul thoughts. I notice there have been some readers who come in here. The reason why I've not made this blog by invitation only is this is my space to share my thoughts. While sometimes they may be far from perfect, or do not jive with some of those people who wander in, I do allow comments but those who use expletives, I'll delete. If you don't agree, then don't agree but refrain from expletives. If you for some reason lack the mental faculty to disagree lucidly, then don't comment. Read and take your thoughts with you.

Those who call themselves Anonymous comment anonymously for reasons; it's understandable. And they're welcomed to comment, as long as the language used is okay. You can event rant and rave. 8) But for those foul mouthed people who come in and comment interspersed with expletives, go take your comments elsewhere. If you can't and don't agree... then don't read. Go find some other things to read that jive in with your own thoughts.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Malaysian Newspapers...

They are bearers of news and info...

Was just looking some of the headlines.... Bodies Piling Up in Haiti; then the huge earthquake in Chile. Pictures and news in the media arouse emotions in us.

Then on another day, DPM: Nation Needs Talents to Drive Economy, I read with great skepticism. Sounded like another one of those right thing to say but not practiced kinda thing.... for a certain target audience only; investors, to placate a certain segment of the population.... Fact is our best still continue to flock out. Many reasons... but mainly it's cakap tak serupa bikin. Felt like I was reading another big crap. But these days, even the Malays with no connections get disillusioned. The pie is getting smaller.......

Foreign news on our papers are generally okay unless it touches on certain issues which we're pro to, e.g. if we report about Palestinian and the Jewish conflict, the Israelites will always be labelled pengganas. But suicide bombers (who also blow up lots of innocent bystanders) are labelled as pejuang berani mati.

Local news on the other hand makes me sick to the stomach sometimes; cos the reporting is never balanced. Newspapers often sound like propaganda machine. We don't seem to be making effort to provide reports and let the reader/audience make their own conclusions from the facts laid down.

I liken it to what's happening around me.... the ustaz(s) and ustazah(s) when they teach sometimes can be overhead teaching the students that when they go to a non-Muslim's house, they should not partake of any food as it is haram. So much for unity... before it has a chance, these kids have already been planted with suspicion... so much for 1Malaysia. But in front of us, they're really nice. Nice is only a mask.....
[060:008 Noble Quran Sher Ali] ALLAH forbids you not respecting those who have not fought against you on account of your religion, and who have not driven you out from your homes, that you be kind to them and deal equitably with them; surely, ALLAH loves those who are equitable
If I understand this well enough, the Quran says Muslims are allowed to eat the food prepared by any human being as long as it is clean, healthy and prepared with halal ingredients. Islam supposedly teaches people to be friendly to all people. But it's suspicion that is planted. These days I don't even want to offer any food to most of my Muslim colleagues... I get the feeling that they don't trust that I will make sure things are halal before offering to them...

Sometimes, my colleagues do not realize that I can listen into their lessons. And I find it repulsive to learn that they teach the students to be so narrow minded. Anyway, I am no Islamic scholar... I listen and then I go find out.

And of Christians or Jews having to convert when they marry a Muslim... don't Christians fall into the category of the People of the Book in the Quran. The Quran states clearly there is no need to convert. No papers ever write about such issues.... such issues can unite; which is a bad thing if the powers that are want us divided. Remember the British method, Divide & Rule? I think it's still being practiced; under a different guise and with lots of fear put in.

The media is supposed to educate and not poison... yet ours seem to gravitate towards the latter. I was just thinking... information is power. It was so easy to manipulate information before the age of internet. It still is but info seems to come in from every direction now, everyone can be a citizen journalist. Just look at our cowhead and church (Sikh temple and mosque) attacks. It's probably because info was disseminated at such dizzying speeds that it was actually hard to incite negative feelings and that most of us can make our own conclusions. What with RPK predicting some of events before they happened. Either he is a soothsayer or there is script to follow. But our main media... the standards are lopsided.

During the May 13th incident, the whole country was plunged into deep fear because it was impossible to know what happened exactly. And every story tended to take on a life of its own. And so, fear also became compounded. It was easy to manipulate in those days... still can manipulate but it's more possible to undo it in a short time.

News... info... they used to say that wealth is power. These days you need more than just wealth. You need to be able to control that flow of info... so our newspapers, right now I think they're not worth a read unless it's to improve your language. LOL!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Fundamentals of Buddhism..

Book number 7 for the year.

Part of my university course many years ago touched on religions and philosophy. I've always been fascinated by what makes us tick (or not). Though my reading is not as extensive as I'd hope, I've done a few; including the translation of the Quran by Pickthall which my roommate got for me for my 21st birthday!

Lat was my roommate and she has the longest name I know. S KPR Latha N. Each letter stands for a name. I used to be amazed by that. She was a final year Mechanical Engineering student; well read and a uni debater. We used to talk philosophy and life into the night and there were many of them during my first year 8). So, as I was looking through a list of ebooks, this caught my eye. Decided to give it a read. Took me quite a while!

The book is actually a compilation of 12 talks by Dr. Peter D. Santina on the basics of the Four Noble Truths, the Noble Eightfold Path, Karma, rebirth, dependent origination, the three universal charateristics and Five Aggregates.

While taking the Middle Path is advocated, I feel it also gives excuse for compromise, not necessarily positive ones. Changes in us are supposed to happen from outside to inside and finally through meditation you are supposed to become self-sufficient. Good conduct is supposed to earn your salvation. Actions are supposed to bring you into the next level of mental development and this is supposed to give rise to wisdom.

My understanding... people may have deified Siddharta Gautama but basically his teachings are what he said them to be... a way of life, philosophy about life. You go round pondering and meandering about the meaning of your existence. But in the end, life's cycles continue, suffering doesn't quite seem to cease, it only does when nothingness is achieved. Buddhism seems to be about self-sufficiency cos gods and demigods are subjected to the same cycles.... that should mean that Gautama has achieved nothingness. So why is he deified? Does that mean that when we offer prayers at the statue of Buddha, we are praying at nothingness?

The mind is supposed to control all. Yet man's first nature is always to do the opposite of right when their own comfort is threatened. A person steals... you ask him... yet almost always it is denial. I tend to think the human mind is corrupted. We need grace! Look at our kids. They need our grace all the time. If we leave it to their devices (mind), I dread to know what will be achieved.

Hope? So, what is there to stop me from doing what is morally unacceptable since I know that I can always seek redemption in my next life. And since I'd have no recollections of it, it's of no consequence really to my this life. While many find this to be the answer to the direction in their lives and I do agree with many of its philosophical approaches, it still doesn't answer many questions about the purpose of our existence or eternity.

The concept of eternity is replaced by a cycle that ends only when nothingness is achieved, then release from suffering... self, not self, mind... Life in itself is a suffering. The outlook does come across as pessimistic. Buddhist concept of hell and heaven is they are not eternal. Hope is nothingness. In Buddhism you are supposed to create your own nirvana.

Buddhism is not something I'm a stranger to, having grown up with the Buddhist cum Taoist rituals of my maternal grandparents. My neighbour used to take me to the temple when I was young. I used to see my aunties burn the joss sticks, watch the yearly offering rituals during CNY and other special times. But while I may agree to good morals advocated, there are some major areas which I find it does not address. And if heaven and hell are not eternal, then wouldn't the mortals and immortals continue to use this very reason for immoral behaviour???

Still, the book was an educational read, nevertheless...

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Teachers-to-be on ROS

ROS stands for Rancangan Orientasi Sekolah or Orientation Programme for Schools... we get 'em every year, these trainee teachers; for observation and as an exposure to teaching practice. They hang around in the school for 2 weeks, watch the going-ons...

These are from the confines of my small world...

The latest group here... all 6 of them doing English and going to continue their training in various unis in the UK. I was asked to mentor one. She's a nice enough girl. Good attitude, seemed willing to learn. But I was rather disappointed with her command of English. She's not your debater material, neither is she your poet wannabe. Her sentences are punctuated with errors and lacks confidence in delivery. She doesn't even read English novels! I told her that if she wants to be a good language teacher, she needs to improve her skills. She is going to UK for the next 3 years. I told her to grab the opportunity to mingle with the local community so that her spoken skills can improve and to travel a bit.... and read! That's the least I can do. *sigh*

In one of the classes, an English teacher had a spelling bee. Another different trainee teacher tried to answer... OPPORTUNITY became OPPU... that was as far as he got cos my colleague stopped him so as not to further embarrass him. The kid who attempted got it right. We cannot fault these trainee teachers. We should fault the selection process....

All these teachers-to-be whom they are sending into the profession; many of them don't seem to measure up. Language teachers who don't speak or write proper sentences. Reading one of their journals was enough to make me squirm inside. But they're actually nice 'kids'. They were arm-twisted to come back for today's cross-country and they did even though their ROS ended on Thurs....

Race which precludes ability; 2Malaysia in selecting teachers-to-be. If anything, teachers ought to come from the best, and race should not be a factor in the selection process. How can we expect to inspire the next generation with people who have never been truly excellent? What with things getting diluted along the way.... Another ROS group... I hope their time in UK would be an eye-opening experience, one which would propel them to try to be better than what they are now.

While still on the subject of teachers-to-be. Last Thursday, a new 'teacher' was sent to school. She was employed under the Skim Guru Sandaran Tidak Terlatih. She was trained as an Electrical Engineer from one of the better universities. I talked to her and I noticed that she is different, confident with a mind of her own. Later I saw her walking and again the impression that I got from the way she walked and carried herself was different from that I am used to seeing. This morning she came to talk to me... very happily she told me that she had been offered a job at Agilent Technologies with a good salary. They want her to start next week. I know that company. It's not easy to get in as you need to have good grades and they have a rigorous selection which involves a few levels.

I was happy for her... the teaching profession actually needs people like her. But people like her too would probably rot and get trapped in the show-and-tell mentality had she remained.

Friday, March 5, 2010

When work gets too personal...

One of the things which struck me is how the work places I've been lost their professionalism over the years. I was uncomfortable early on in my career to be asked to address an older lady as 'Kak'. To this day, I still don't unless in special circumstances, which is rare. I think, being professional we should just address each other by name.

If I call a person Kak (short for Kakak which means sister in Bahasa Malaysia), I supposed that means I have a hubungan akrab with her; unless it's just a lip service thingy like many things around us now. Recently I was told that because I carried out my task in a certain way, it affects the hubungan akrab that I have with this particular colleague. I immediately shot back and said we never had any hubungan akrab; working relationship yes, akrab definitely no.

Anyway, if I am akrab with a person, I would watch out for her well-being. If I know that she is not happy about certain developments, I would do my best to resolve the matter. If I am akrab to the person, I would sit down and try to find out what is making her unhappy and try to sort out the unhappiness. I'd reason with her, make her see the error of her ways. That's what akrab is... not just lip service!

If I call a person Kak, I won't mengumpat (bitch) behind her back. Neither would she me. If someone puts me in a negative light, she'd would stand up for me. She won't go and tambah minyak and crucify me by driving in the final nails. So, if a younger teacher calls me Kak, it'd mean I've to take her under my wings and guide her in the manner should... That I feel sometimes is a heavy burden to bear. So I usually tell the younger teachers to call me by name. We're colleagues anyway. And I'm no way offended cos I know if I do things for the right reasons, respect would be there. I don't have to demand it from them. Respect is earned... I think many of us have forgotten that. These days, we deem respect as a birthright or something owed to us because we've undergone certain passages of time.

If I call a person Kak, my relationship with her would go beyond the confines of the workplace. I'd take the trouble to check on her if she is not well and vice versa. I'd pay social visits or even just drop her a line or two when I think of her occasionally.

My 'Kak'... I have one. And yes, I love my own Kak. I have respect for her; and it's mutual. We do things differently but so far, after over 40 years, we still have a good personal and even working relationship (we work together on family problems). We correct each other, temper each other's frustrations, encourage, admonish each other. We have a far from perfect relationship but she'd fit the bill of a Kak.... not all this pseudo Kak(s) who sometimes can be rather venomous and self-serving.... or worse still expect you to follow them blindly. Ketuanan at work here also. These days, I notice to be a leader means you want people to kowtow and listen to you. They're not interested to work together.. they're more interested in doing things their way, even if it sometimes does not benefit the institution... It's not so much about doing things right any more, it's more about show than anything. Kinda disappointing. Mean what you say, say what you mean.

And if I call a person Kak, then I'd probably get too emo and expect more from her. And when she disappoints her own self-appointment, I'd get frustrated. It's better not to have those personal feelings. Personal feelings heightens expectations... and it goes both ways. It can be expectations for personal favours, etc, etc... which in the end can sometimes be bad.

So, I wish we'd just cut out this calling of Kak. Respect is mutual. I may respect you as being older (means if I am in the LRT and there is no empty seat, I'd still give mine to you) or your position, but it doesn't mean that I have to respect you as a person when hypocrisy is all I see.

Once upon a time, I had a boss who only seemed to know how masuk his own bakul and angkat tinggi-tinggi. He seemed nice enough as a person, but as a leader of an institution, he would not be missed. His presence actually did more harm cos he perpetuated bad practice. How do you respect one who makan gaji buta like that? Yet all around him sing praises of him... people seemed to be lying through their teeth. Well again, maybe that's the only version of truth they know cos they are like that too.... And guess what also, for mentioning such things, I'd be labelled as showing no respect... Can you hear the Woof! Woof! calls, beckoning our country?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Busy....

I wonder what I'll do with my time if I'm not busy... These days, I am so busy that often I don't have time to think. Yesterday... school ended at 2.50 p.m. Rushed home and sent my boy for his driving lesson. Started my home lesson with my girl and her friend at 3.30 p.m. I showed them the RayBan video to teach them about the chameleon. Last week we did metamorphosis of the mozzie. Some exercises and an essay later and 5.30 p.m. on the clock... I went to pick up a cake for friend's birthday from Sayang. Picked up Son at 6.30 p.m. Took both kids to meet up with friends for birthday dinner at 7.00 p.m, at Dee Dee Thai Restaurant .. Came home at 8.40 p.m. Sat down to do revision with Daughter. And the last activity for the day... squash from 9.50 p.m. to 10.20 p.m. Son played with his dad while I hit the wall on my own. One full day or not??? But not everyday is like that-lah. This happens to be my busiest day of the week.

I thought with Son's 'home-coaching' ending last year, I'd have more time in my hand. Nope! Most days are still mad rushes, juggling between work, kids, friends, church...

Work... right now, there're more downs than ups. Good head vs bad head thingy. Functional vs non-functional. Do we just stand aside and say nothing? Halal vs haram, all words of convenience, twist and turn to the direction you want. Just like our politics. Jump ship - and the holey-moley stuff would rear their ugly heads. God does not need such people to defend them. If anything, God is better off without them.

I've resumed lessons with Daughter this year... she's quite fun and easy to teach. It's a wonder how the lesser resistance can make such a difference; even pleasurable. This year too we got bitten by the 'Malaysia-trotting' bug, we've been on the road quite a lot. It's easy to remain enthusiastic because the Lil One is ever game. I've been with people with so many idiosyncracies that most of the time, in order to keep things fun and going, I let them have their way. It kinda takes some fun out of the things we do.

Swimming, squash, gym workouts hog my other free time. Badminton has taken a backseat... but I still play once a week. Have managed to go up Pokok Sena Hill once so far this year. Should go more often. It's good to go outdoors more. Watching those around me, I've realized that we sometimes become more set in our ways as we grow older... and that very often is not good for us. Being set... sometimes that in itself condemns us.

Busy? Is that good? I guess so. I don't know what I'll be doing if I am not busy. But being busy with only one thing may not be that good as I've observed. I look at my mom - her busyness was us. And when we left home, the void left behind was big.

Balance - family, job, friends, church. Faith is important. My job gives me my own financial independence and also challenges me to improve myself. Good friends are hard to come by... count them as blessings from above... You'd still be disappointed with some (and you'd also disappoint them) sometimes but accepting that differences do occur and the necessity to move on helps. So, being busy... guess that's good. 8)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Sports To Be Made Compulsory

Reported in The Star. Will we be able to pull this one off? Sports has been in the doldrums for so many years. Do we even have enough teachers to pull it off? Every teacher is supposed to be a PE teacher but I hardly see teachers in sports outfit at school these days. And PE lessons have been reduced to mainly football for boys (at my work place)... don't know about the girls cos I hardly get to see them play in the field. Once in a while perhaps hear music for aerobics. PE lessons are often 'free periods'. Free to do anything else except PE.

And it doesn't help when lady teachers themselves keep harping on the girls' attire or 'beat' them down verbally for the slightest sign of body showing. Girls are often made to feel ashamed of their bodies. They too give the impression that they feel girls are the cause of evils committed by men! In the end, the girls take a beating in their confidence. So is it no wonder that women have to be caned because they indulge in illicit sex and get pregnant. I thought it takes two to make a baby.

I think it's a good move to give sports its rightful place again. Sports provide an outlet for these energetic young. They provide opportunities for synergistic interactions and kairos moments; teacher-student, student-student and even teacher-teacher, in and beyond the walls of the school. And these help to instill respect, fair-play, discipline, commitment, etc in each kid. Learning at play... most effective.

Not every student is academically inclined. Sports will provide an alternative for such students to excel. But the overemphasis on academic achievements brought a death knell to sports. It became the sacrificial subject in the early years of such emphasis. In the last decade, it has deteriorated to its present stage.

The MOE is in the right direction in making sports compulsory. But it is also not consistent in sending out signals. This year alone, funding for MSSM has been cut from RM6 million to a mere RM1.5 million. In the process, many games and athletic events have been axed. I shall not speculate on the whys except, it seems to indicate that the plundering of our nation has finally affected the basic essential needed to build a dynamic and competitive society.

And the selection of teachers. Used to be one of the criteria they would look for in a teacher-to-be would be their sports abilities. These days, most of them don't play any games. Many even look unhealthy. So, how do we move when the 'movers and shakers' don't even play a game well? Are we going to start importing sports teachers from other countries as well?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

An Evening With Phua Seng Tiong

Have known about him for over 20 years; first as an undergrad in University Malaya. Attended his church at SS Methodist for a year before moving on to DUMC for my remaining time at UM. He came across as a strict disciplinarian even back then. He was one of the church leaders and taught well from the pulpit.

Over the years, I would hear about him; how he turned schools around as a Principal. He was one of the first Pengetua Cemerlang(s) in the country. When he was in SMK Jinjang, I had a colleague whose daughter taught in his school and she was full of praises for him.

He went on to serve full time after he retired from the civil service. Last year he was awarded the 2009 Tokoh Guru. And last Sunday, he was invited to speak in church . We asked him to stay back another day to have a session with the teachers from our church as well as the other churches, to share his wealth of experiences with us.

It was a good sharing from a man who lived up to his calling, first as a Christian, second as a teacher. I took down what I could from his sharing yesterday and put it up in my church blog here.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Tony Roma's @ CineLeisure, Mutiara Damansara

Another one of our food forays, this time during our recent KL trip.
Tony Roma
This latest one is western and at Tony Roma's, CineLeisure (eCurve). How did we end up there? Well, it was recommended by a school friend. That was our early dinner before we headed for home. We ordered their Roma Sampler (RM39.90) which consisted of an onion loaf, buffalo wings and slices of baked potatoes with cheese. The onion loaf (the one like a yam ring) was a new experience for me but one can only take that much of it before being overwhelmed by it. The onion loaf is actually like onion rings but presented in a circular loaf. The buffalo wings were quite nice. Overall taste - not bad.
Tony Roma
I ordered the 10z Ribeye Steak; that's the menu description; done medium with 2 side dishes; corn and ranched beans. A generous portion of butter accompanied the corn but somehow the butter didn't quite taste buttery enough for my liking. Friend said Wagyu steak would literally melt in your mouth. But I wasn't ready to spend that much on a slab of meat. You get Kobe beef from wagyu cattles also... that's why they cost a bomb!
Ribeye Steak
That's how the actual order looked like. The steak was okay but to claim that it's 'most flavourful? I think I need a bit more convincing. It's definitely better than most of the cheaper steaks I've tried but definitely not 2 times better... since it's almost 2 times the price. LOL!
Bountiful Ribs
Son ordered Ribs Sampler (RM60.90) with 2 side dishes, mashed potato and ranched beans.... the ribs were a little overdone I feel. Made them kinda chewy and tough. Can't go very wrong with beans and potatoes as side dishes.

When I checked the bill upon arriving home, I found out that we were supposed to be given 2 complimentary baguettes with a slob of butter. Guess what? We never got the bread. 8( That has left a bad impression on me cos there weren't that many patrons while we were there.... only a few tables were occupied.
Tony Roma,ECurve
Overall, I think the food is just not that spectacular. Perhaps I should compare it to TGIF since both restaurants are similar. There's similarity in the interior. But I think TGIF's food is a notch better. Other Half and I were thinking if we want really good ribs or steak, perhaps we should look for an individual proprietor restaurant; with food prepared by a real cook with passion for cooking. Tony Roma's, TGIF... they're basically franchise restaurants.

The early dinner lasted till we got home. Made it home to Alor Setar in 4 hours and 10 minutes. Wonders of modern travel. But then again, in China these days, you can be staying in a hotel 800 km away and the train only takes 2 hours to get you back to the hotel. We have no such trains, so still have to rely on our own set of wheels. Good experience nevertheless, Tony Roma's. Anyway, we've been on the road chalking up miles every fortnightly since the beginning of January; Ipoh, Cameron Highlands, Taiping, Kuala Kurau, Sitiawan, Putrajaya and KL.