Monday, May 31, 2010

Chicago Rib House....

This was one of our trips for more for 'makan' than anything else.
Chicago Rib House
Chicago Rib House... There was another branch at Juru Autocity but they have ceased operating there. This one is at Gurney Plaza, Penang Island. And since we were in a 'ribs' mood, Other Half and I decided to make the drive even though we were quite tired from the hot air balloon 'adventure' earlier in the morning.
Chicago Rib House
That's what the menu says... but I think 'Westerns' look more or less the same.
Chicago Rib House
This is complimentary appetizers from the house... fried 'battered' mushrooms. I didn't know they were giving away free appetizers for now. The mustard (and honey??) sauce enhances the taste of the mushroom. They were much better than the one that we had at Manhattan Fish & Co we had a couple of weeks back. I could at least 'taste' the mushroom under the coat of batter.
Chicago Rib House
Pina Colada... or strained pineapples. Also contains rum and cream of coconut. Not too bad.
Chicago Rib House
Also had this version of nuggets. They call it Tender Chicken Pieces, I think. Chicken pieces served in a glass. More of a novelty than anything. Tasted real...
Chicago Rib House
The reason for our trip.... St Louis Pork Ribs. We ordered a whole rack of it. Unlike beef, pork is usually more tender and absorbs the taste of the marinate. The side dish we chose was the coleslaw and mashed potato. The mashed was nice, it's buttery enough for that extra flavour. Coleslaw is just nice too... not overwhelmed by the dressing.
Chicago Rib House
BBQ Beef which all of us agreed was much better than the one we had at Tony Roma's @ The Curve. Beef tends to maintain its own smell and taste. And it's tougher. The fragrant rice which Son ordered was fluffy and appetizing. Fries were good but I'd have preferred to try their other side dishes.

Lunch was okay. We sapu bersih everything. One thing nice about this place is you can have pork and beef together.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Royal Kedah Inaugral Hot Air Balloon Festival 2010

Teethered Balloon Rides
We went back to Taman Jubli Emas for a second day! It was not quite planned and I guess that's where half the fun is. We did talk about it but I half expected Daughter to sleep through. Son had wanted to go to see the sunrise from City Point with his friends... He's been the sort who has difficulty waking up. So, when I heard his alarm clock go off at 5.30 a.m. I decided to make sure he got up.... Daughter soon got up as well and asked whether we were going. How to say no to a kid like her????

So we got all our stuff (read that as cameras) and went. Got there at 6.35 a.m. but already there were people. The guard was kind enough to let us drive right in... and guess what? At that unearthly hour (it's a Saturday morn) there were already people waiting. So, the Ma joined the line.... what wouldn't parents do for their kids, huh?
Royal Kedah International Hot Air Balloon Fest
There were already 7 people in front of me. So we waited and waited... for almost an hour before I could purchase the tickets. We were under the impression that they would start selling the tickets at 6.30 a.m. We were wrong! The line was real long and a lot of people were disappointed cos there were only 120 tickets available. And selling them didn't take very long. Each person was allowed a max of 4 tickets.... 30 people were all that was needed!
Hot Air Balloon Basket
In the meantime, Other Half wondered around the main field where they were setting up the balloons.
Photobucket
These trucks are mighty useful... they carry the balloons and their paraphernalias, act as weights so that the balloons don't fly off on their own, pick up the balloons from their drop zones.... real workhorse.
Royal Kedah International Hot Air Balloon Fest
This is the fan they use to inflate the balloon before heating it up. What they'd do would be use these super strong fans and inflate the balloons. Once the balloons are filled up, they'd fire up the heat. The rest is physics!
Hot Air Balloons
They were very kind to these photographers wannabes. An announcement was made that all those with 'real' cameras were allowed to wonder into the field where the balloons were being prepped to lift off. People like us who carry p&s cameras had no such privilege.

After we got the tickets, we had to wait for the skies to be cleared of air traffic (as in real planes) and for them to get ready. That took another hour. Punctuality is not their forte, that's for all to see.
Royal Kedah International Hot Air Balloon Fest
Then another hour before Other Half and Daughter lifted off.... for 3 minutes of a tethered balloon ride which took them up about 20 feet! 3 hours of waiting for 3 minutes of thrill. But our gal was a very happy girl. But at least they had erected a tent with chairs for the people waiting. People had to stand around to wait the day before.
Royal Kedah International Hot Air Balloon Fest
Then we went again at night for the 'night glow' display.... that despite the fact that the place was jammed with cars and we had to park more than a kilometer away from the park. Son and his friends joined us later. Again our little girl walked the distance with us. But the 'night glow' show was a disappointment. First the MC kept telling us the show would begin at 9 p.m. Well, the time came and went but there was nothing new... I mean, the balloons had been 'glowing' on and off the whole time we were there at the park! The musical fountain had a good sound system, though!
Royal Kedah International Hot Air Balloon Fest
Second, he would have done better if he had used the opportunity to give some information about hot air balloons. There seemed to be this intention to make the public stay back since Tunku Putri Intan Shafinaz was supposed to show up just before 9 p.m. She was slightly late. And they wanted the people to hang around to see her go up in the hot air balloon......

But on the whole it was still a positive experience for the people here who are starved for interesting events and activities. But sad to note that the rubbish mentality is very prevalent here. All over the park, people simply threw their rubbish on the ground.... we're not that civic still.

As for the organization of the event, I feel it's not well publicized. Even for those of us who went, we were in the dark as to what programme will be carried out. There are some posters in town but simply just not enough. The quality of emceeing leaves much to be desired too.

Friday, May 28, 2010

And hot air rises....

Balloon rides.... first in Alor Setar, I think. This is the Inaugral Royal Kedah International Hot Air Balloon Fest. It starts today... at Tmn Jubli Emas Kedah, Suka Menanti.
Hot Air Balloon
Dropped by after breakfast this morning but the place was already packed with people. The rides for this morn seemed sold out. For RM10, you get a 10 minute vertical ride up. Will update with photos later.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Thoughts on teaching...

High teaching standards would translate to good and effective education. But all over the world, many countries are lamenting the slide in education standards.

I think many of our schools here are rotting. The latest probe into gangsterism in a Rawang school is probably just a tip of the iceberg here. This is the school where a 14 year old girl was raped by her schoolmates. Isn't it a little strange that it needed the media to highlight this issue? What about the school authorities or state education department? Soon enough these gangsters-in-training will terrorize the society at large. Like everything else, gangsters, lawbreakers need to be trained and schools are now their training grounds...

I am always perplexed why many school authorities refuse to clamp down on underaged students riding motorcycles to schools. The school authority can always easily work together with the police on a regular basis to clamp down on such disregard for the law. But many schools close an eye because they say the students won't come to school if they are not allowed to ride the bikes.

Classes are noisy. Teachers seem to shouting over the din to make themselves heard. And it's not uncommon to see students walking around while teachers are teaching. I think we have many people not suited to be teachers in the profession now. New York Times has an interesting article; Building a Better Teacher. I agree with many of their points.

Discipline in class. I feel many teachers do not have the willpower enforce that. A former teacher of mine told me that 70% of the teaching task becomes easier the minute discipline is enforced. But discipline takes a lot of effort. One of the most difficult task yearly for me is getting the students to do their work. Language is about practice. And I find it appalling that I need to work on the handwriting, neatness and even simple things like writing the dates with 16-year-olds. They also have no habit of doing their corrections; something which I am very particular about. Very often I am left wringing my hands wondering whether it's the kids who have very little brain processing power or teachers who have failed to instill good habits...

So what I do is I usually spend the first 2-3 months making sure I go through every single student's exercise book.... this goes on throughout the year actually. Failure to comply would earn an immediate reprimand and an honoured seat on the floor beside my table. And they'd remain there until their corrections are done. I do not tolerate any indiscipline. It helps too now one of my bosses is a disciplinarian. If she happens to pass and students are on the floor, they'd be punished by her as well. And she's one lady whom there are terrified of. At the end of the day, the rod speaks louder than anything I know.

But it still requires a lot of double checking; and it is tiring. All these become compounded with all the chase for keceriaan or protocols. I find it a sheer waste of energy and time when they go all out to make a PIBG meeting look nice. Protocols? What use are they when our own students are rude and obnoxious? Forming a nice impression on some Pengarah who grace the event won't change the students' attitude. Making sure the teacher is effective in class does! But many of the heads are into former. We have our priorities all skewed up.

Working on their manners is another challenge. These are uncouth kids who have no qualms about standing up right in the middle of your sentence. They have no reservations too about asking to borrow stationery from their friends on top of their voices in the midst of a lesson or exercise. All these need tackling and they're more often than never, battles of wills.

Counsellors in schools are hardly of much use. Advice does not work on these kids. I know I may sound harsh but they seem to listen to the rod. Yet we are told not to cane. To a teenager, if they can circumvent you, they'd do it. A healthy dose of fear does more good than anything.

Teaching standards... I think many of our teachers will fail to measure up. Teaching is about impacting lives and imparting knowledge in the class. It's not about decorating the classes with lace or curtains; or holding a Speech Day or PIBG meeting with pomp and pageantry; leaving only superficial impressions. It's about the commitment to your vocation to teach, impart knowledge and life's experience.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Remarkable Creatures ....by Tracy Chevalier

I guess you can call this one of those semi-fiction books with a historical blast! The characters in the novel were real people. Mary Anning, Elizabeth Philpot... I checked them out. These days I have this habit of googling the stuff I read from books. No particular reasons except that they felt so real in the novels. Stories are reflections of the real world... and they provide insights to life as well.

Anyway, this book I like cos it's one of the few books I've read which brings a boring subject like paleontology to life. Gathering fossils is a painstakingly boring job. Mary Anning must have been a remarkable lady. The 19th century was still an age of prejudice for women. Coming from a working class, she self studied and collected many remarkable pre-historic creatures and ammonites. She collected fossils to sell... they needed the money.

I find it quite fascinating, these journeys of discoveries that both the characters (Mary and Elizabeth) made. The fossils may be quite glamourous to view but the search for them is long and ardous. It is not everyone's cup of tea, that's for sure. Only the truly remarkable ones make find after find. And women were inconsequential at that time, looked upon as something to be owned. Anyway, Anning discovered the first complete ichthyosaurus fossil... an amazing accomplishment given the lack of her education and being a common folk and all that.

The other character, Elizabeth Philpot is a spinster who moved from London to Lyme Regis in Dorset with her 2 other spinster sisters after their solicitor brother got married. She comes from a privileged class and therefore had a stipend to live on. She collected fossils as a hobby. But her status as a spinster was frowned upon by the society. Today, singlehood is a valid life choice.

Anyway, the 2 met and became fast friends apparently. Both are highly intelligent ladies but again because they were ladies they never did attain that sort of recognition which would have been accorded them had they been men.

I enjoyed this book immensely cos it's something totally different from the other books that I've read since I started my reading frenzy. It's heartening cos Mary and Elizabeth in their own ways transcended the shackles of the social prejudices and class. Had they been born in the later part of the 20th century, they'd have so much more opportunities to soar.

Also it's hard to imagine how ignorant men were just over a century ago; that people dared not question the idea of extinction.. as though God must have made a mistake in his creation and that particular creation was discarded. Or it was considered blasphemous to question anything that has been laid down by the clergy.... so to have two women who actually were intelligent enough to embrace an alternative view at a time when even the men found it difficult to do so is actually quite refreshing to read.

Another thing I like is the opportunity to be brought back into the straight laced British society of that era. To read and for a moment be brought back into a world of centuries past, through the narration of the story teller. For once a subdued kind of enjoyment which is also quite pleasurable, this being book number 23 for this year.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Of Civil Servants and Fake MCs...

LOL! As if they only suddenly realize this.. Fake and 'Fake' MCs...

Gahmen servants do other jobs outside... they work late, so next morning tired... take fake MC. I can't say much for other departments but I think within the school context, many of us take 'fake' but real MCs as well. And it's not because the teachers work late and feel tired the next day.

Tired from the unnecessary paper work, meetings, etc, etc. This is 5 months into the year. I've not taken any CRK or MCs but I am beginning to feel very tempted to. Reason being? Relief classes....and the other 'out-of-hours' (but they tell us it's within working hours) nonsense. Sometimes it cannot be helped that some teachers have to go out for meetings and all that. But quite a number are on MCs too.... and the joke is sometimes those who seem to take more MCs are still awarded the Anugerah Perkhidmatan Cemerlang (APC). And then the bosses themselves.... it would also help if they lead by example... I had a boss once who did that, take the relief and made sure the other bosses (who anyway had less teaching periods) did the same. But they tell us also that relief classes are part of our duties....

I don't know how long more I'll hold out before I succumb.... so many things can qualify for MCs, right? Right now, I have a thumping headache... maybe I should have taken an MC today and stayed at home instead of coming to school, and then be saddled with a relief class when I have 5 classes today and need to get my mid-term paper ready which I've had to wait and then when I got it, had to be reprinted cos it was printed wrongly..... Our admin people does not see it wise to invest in one of those photocopiers which can arrange the papers as well. Hundreds of man hours are wasted doing this clerical job every year! Instead they see it necessary to spend the money of frills...

This is my second relief this week.... and on Thursday, there's bound to be one more cos of the way my time-table is arranged. So I might end up with 28 periods for the week. My own 25 are all for English.... that's already heavy. But that's another grouse for which there are no ears which will listen. We have software to do the time-tabling now but the quality of the arrangement leaves much to be desired compared to those days when it was manually done.... this surely qualifies as one of the good ole days' stuff. So, plod until cannot tahan?... that makes 'fake' MCs kinda attractive, don't you think?

So fake MCs... more than meets the eye. It's also an indication of the failure to instill good ethics, conscience.... a generation mollycoddled, pampered and fed with the looking good on the outside culture.... My conscience is still pricking me but I feel less of its pricks with the fed up level increasing....

Monday, May 24, 2010

Shrek Forever After

We haven't done this together as a family for some time... catch a movie! Since Daughter finished her exam last Thursday, Other Half asked her whether she'd like to catch a movie... kids seldom say no to movies; especially when it's their kind of movie. So on Saturday, after Son came back from his driving refresher's course, we headed for the cinema.

I notice the kind of movies we go for these days have all been kids movies.... the latest one, Shrek Forever After is no exception. The only time you can catch me watching a movie from the beginning to the end these days is at the cinema.... Else I'd be fast forwarding or doing something else while the movie runs.... LOL!

Anyway, this is the last of the Shrek movies, so I was made to understand. I get lost in all the sequels after a while but my kids seem to able to remember the ones that they've watched. But, I enjoyed this round of Shrek, who seems to be facing his 'mid-life-crisis'. And so he wishes to go back to his good old days, when he was free of all cares and responsibilities; when he was a true ogre.

All that was needed is a villain and Rumpel filled that role in quite nicely. He gave Shrek a contract in which Shrek gets his wish but has to give him back something. The devious Rumpel asked for the day when Shrek was born. Silly Shrek (he's having midlife crisis remember?) gave it away cos he thought it would be harmless.

The bliss of freedom was short lived when Shrek realises that he will lose all that is important to him... in movies it's easier to have a happily ever after ending. And this is Shrek... though there have always been twists in Shrek movies, the ending is still usually happy. So after some (kid) heart stopping moments, Shrek finally got back to his true love again....

Mid life crisis given a 'Shrek-y' dimension..... kinda interesting. It's still entertaining to watch the Gingerbread Man who has to live a live of a 'gladiator' in this movie. Also of Puss-in-the-Boots who have gotten bloated with lots of TLC from Fiona. And the ever and incessant chatters of the Donkey. Kids like all these fairy tale characters... and they shriek in glee their antics. I found them entertaining too..... the parody.

Anyway, a movie outing for a family of four is not cheap these days. Plus pop-corn and drinks, a RM50 note wont' even cover! I remember those good old days when dad used to take my brother and me for midnight movies at Ficus Palace. Kids went in for 50 sen. Adults paid something like RM1.50. One of us would sit on dad's lap. Those midnight movies were treats to us. That's where I got my dose of Jackie Chan movies and Shaolin kungfu flicks. And we watched many of them as dad was a kungfu movie buff back in those days..... Half the fun was walking home after the movie, sometimes half groggy cos it would be close or past 1 a.m. It would usually be on Fridays so that we could sleep late on Saturday mornings...... my kids will remember their movie going days in comfortable (overly cold) cineplexes!!!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Caught.... by Harlan Coben

This book contains so many twists that I just kept reading every free bit of time I had. Took me 2 days, made possible cos I spent almost an hour at the gym on Friday! Wouldn't be possible if I had gone swimming. 8) So, it was 30 minutes of solid reading while I worked the treadmill!

I was just doing a count of the books on my Ipod just now. I have 54 books on it now! 54 books would probably take up 2 shelves in a cupboard. Yet technology has enabled us to carry this many.... in a little gadget which fits very snugly into my pocket and I still have room for many more. But at this rate, I'm going to have to delete some. It's hard scrolling down to search for a title even at present.... even though I put mine into collections of 'Read' and 'Not Read' for easy reference.

Caught... a novel of our times; with supporting roles from the web, viral marketing of the worst kind, blogs and emails. The novel centres around a TV reporter Wendy Tynes who got an anonymous email tip to investigate a suspected pedophile who works among kids. Then an enraged parent of a child took the law into his hands and 'kill' the suspected pedophile. Along the way, a 17 year-old goody two shoes teenager went missing. The suspected pedophile is believed have murdered her. The plot is rather well 'engineered'.

All throughout the novel, there seem this theme about the need to let go. Let go so that one can move on, forgive... we get consumed by the things we cannot let go. It matters not how smart, rich or well-educated you may be. The past coming back to haunt as a result of not being able to let go is central in this novel. And also justice be seen at the end... one is also prompted to think about the gray areas... do we compromise or maintain the balance (no matter how 'wrong' it feels sometimes) by making sure the rule of law is maintained.

The novel is captivating enough... for me to be impatient enought to want to know what's next. Else, it would have taken more than 2 days.... No 22 and this is only May. I am still averaging slightly over 4 books a month. Yay!

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Silent Sea... by Clive, Cussler and Jack Du Brul

Book 21....

This is is a story of a modern day treasure hunt packed with action, of a repressive military junta and a group of gung ho swashbucklers armed to the teeth with high tech gadgets and brains that save the day. It also helps that these swashbucklers have their own high tech naval ship with a state of the art equipment and weapons. The Oregon is headed by Cabrillo who is known as the Chairman since his outfit is run like a corporation; private but not quite private kind of outfit.

And the bad guys are the Argentines and Chinese; Argentina cos that's where lots of Nazis ended up, I supposed and China because it's communist. Gone are the days when the bad guys would be the Russians. This novel is an adventure that brought the hero, Juan Cabrillo and his merry men (plus one woman) into the jungles of Argentina and the cold harsh Antartica. The downing of a satellite brought Cabrillo and his men into the jungles of Argentina. The rescue mission was action packed with lots of everything; enough to keep you wanting to know what's next. In the mission, they accidentally stumbled onto an old blimp (The Flying Dutchman) in the jungle... lost after WWII. A parch preserved in a condom from the blimp held keys to the lost treasures on The Silent Sea... a huge Chinese junk which had untold treasures on her when it sank. Incidentally I decided to read up about the history of condoms from Wikipedia as I thought the condom is a recent invention. Boy! Was I wrong! An interesting read....

The wonders of what a little twisted fact can do to a book... the author cleverly creates a fictitious admiral (Admiral Tsai Song) latched onto the glory hey days of Chinese greatness in the oceans... from the days of Admiral Zheng He. And then a little drama with how a whole ship went mad because of Mad Cow's Disease (CJD) and had to be scuttled with her sick crew. Then more suspense with the modern 'bad guys' trying to lay claim on Antartica... and finally how a band of men (and one woman) 'brought' down the ambitions of Argentina and China. Swashbuckling kind of adventure even by modern standards for sure.

BTW, the heroes (and heroine) in the novel not only have the brawn but are geeky nerds as well. Geeks with physical prowess... cool!. Overall, I enjoyed this read.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

What is Education?

I look around the 'madness' that surrounds me and I wonder whether we are truly educating our kids. School kids have maddening schedules these days - school, extra classes and tuition. Then the kids have their own extra-extra 'co-curricular' activities like music and games. The latter I don't count into the maddening schedule cos they are optional.

So what is education? Today, I think I can safely say it's the number of A(s) one can ace in their exams. A(s) equals brain prowess...... that's how success is measured these days. And with the brain prowess you can learn to make deals... watch the video below.

Education should be about teaching our kids how to fish. But what we've been doing is giving them the fish... and then we teach them how to exchange the fish for other fish.... Immediate after school hours are filled with extra classes. Time after that is filled with tuition. Kids are 'forced' to study and study.... study does not equal learning.... mind you.

What is education then? A likely education scenario. In schools, students are taught that junk food is no good. As such, school canteens are not allowed to sell junk food. We want to educate our kids in business skills. Cooperatives are encouraged to be formed in schools. Its presence is meant to educate and give exposure to students about doing business; ethically.

Back to junk food... MOE guidelines say no junk food to be sold in school. So canteen operator who is not a school staff adheres to it... has to cos if she breaches that, no chance of a re-tender the following year. But what if the school cooperative sells junk? And school cooperatives are run by school staff. On one hand, we teach kids no junk food, we say cannot sell junk food but the other hand sells... and the head stays silent. Selling goes against prescribed guidelines. Yet teachers who are in charge says never mind. And fairness... to the canteen operator who have to deal with losses when kids don't buy from her. War for the hearts of of kids from junk food is a losing war. And so I learned, like everything else, fairness is no big deal. So canteen operator voices unhappiness cos her business is affected.... head remains silent. Conclusion; maybe we're in the business of teaching mixed signals... ethics be damned.

A lot of what we do is for show. A lot of documentation done is decorative. I could go on some more... of things like APCs (Service Awards) given to those who don't make much sense to students in class or those who run their own businesses in school or even those who take substantial number of MCs.... these days it's a lot to do with "I scratch my back, you scratch mine"... shouldn't be a surprise too I guess since our PM promotes such kind of culture... culture of understanding from what I gather from my reading lately.... Listen and be entertained... LOL!


This, I guess is what we meant by education, I supposed. I hope I am wrong! Maybe we are teaching them how to fish... but with lots of cheat modes incorporated... you know... kinda like the bomb the fish out of the water method... lots of fish you get... but with collateral damages included.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

School and Discipline..

The things that we cannot do as teachers, and this is in black and white...... (I'll just pick the really interesting ones)
  • berdiri di bilik darjah atau di kaki lima
  • berdiri di atas kerusi atau meja
  • berleter
  • kelas tahanan sepanjang waku rehat atau waktu pulang
  • menjeling
  • menyindir
  • memperlihat air muka yang marah
  • mengugut atau menggertak murid
  • tidak menghirau atau memperdulikan murid
These are just some where our hands are tied. Seems like we should only psyche them and get pscycho-ed. Frankly speaking, I don't buy all these psycho stuff. Today, we view the 'spare the rod spoil the child' adage with great cynicism. But the circular we got also had its own preferred punishment - under hukuman biasa, rotan, denda, amaran dan penahanan (see they contradict themselves with the penahanan thing) are allowed.
So what works? I don't know. Can we talk sensibly to all kids? Kids will say they can. But try working with them...

Let me give you a true story. A teacher is teaching in class. A Form 1 girl knocks on the door and asks to see her friend. The teachers says no as she is in the midst of a lesson. The girl proceeded to mouth a four letter word at the teacher. The teacher walks to her and asks her what she had just said. Again she repeats the four letter word in the teacher's face; nonchalantly and with a smirk. This girl had already been admonished the day before for a similar behaviour. Now what? We cannot do a lot of the things above....

Order with limited laws? Order through psychology? Why then are petty criminals still overflowing in our jails? Shouldn't we be talking to them about not committing crime???

And, what should we do to the girl above? Expel her? There's a caveat... another school has to take her in. And if she really wants to get back to her original school, she still can. Just go and plead at the Department.... show a muka kesian or go highlight it in the media about the 'heartless' institutions. They'll most likely oblige. And she'd have gone back to her former school feeling victorious and will probably wear a permanently etched smirk! The law after all guarantees access to education till they are 17. Stand in the way or their right to education, and you'll have to face the law.

Many teachers actually do care. Many of them actually do want to educate, though I must say that there does seem to be an increasing number of bad apples too these days. Teachers do not simply punish because they are sadists. Discipline is usually meted out with the intention to correct. Else why bother chasing the students to complete their work? Might as well let them rot. Life is easier if we don't bother to discipline them. Go into a class and buat tak tahu, tak kisah. It's called marking time and at the end of the month you still go withdraw your gaji. Many of us want our kids to be useful. Yet the policy makers out there sometimes come out with smack silly circulars. It's as though most of them have no feel of the field. Schools are rotting? You can bet on it.

There are many hearsay that many Mat Rempits have parent(s) who are cops. You would think that with law enforcer parents, the kids would keep to the law. Yet they behave as though they have protection from the law. Lawlessness precipitated by protection of law??? Sounds kinda crazy, huh? But that's what happening to schools.... bad behaviour precipitated by regulations that tie our hands...

Doing what is right? Doing what is needful? I no longer know which is which. Today I was told that we have to do a question by question analysis for each student for the upcoming mid-year. I do not see the need nor the purpose. If you ask me why my students don't do well in English... my answer is simple. There is no mastery of the skills. Why no mastery? Poor teaching quality, attitude problem, boring stuff... many reasons. But form over substance seems to be the norm now. Indah di luar lebih dari mencukupi. Isi tak ada no problem. Tak penting. I am confusing myself....

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Marriage...

After the book Sold by Zana Muhsen and the recent wedding, felt like writing this.

Marriage is getting to be more out of fashion these days.... divorce rate is high. And we have people advising Tiger Woods to embrace multiple partners; polyamory. Just learnt that word. 8)

There are couples who spend a small fortune for the wedding; those package thing. But 5 or so years down the road, many divorce! The small fortune spent, messy divorce sometimes, kids and wedding photos with no where to hang.

Monay used to drum this into my head, our spouse is to be our best friend.. Yup! Marriage is supposed to be made of 2 friends. And like friends, we've to be able to take interest in each other's hobbies and likings.... and bear with the idiosyncrasies, change for the better, share each other's burdens.... You know how it is like when we were all growing up. Most of us had a best buddy.

The best buddy thingy is kinda like a training ground for marriage. These days... I wonder whether kids are all too busy even to cultivate meaningful friendships. My best friend and I used to do lots of things together.... and doing things together didn't mean attending tuitions and cramming sessions. We actually had a lot of time to sit down and talk, share our dreams... it helped to put things in place sometimes. Communicative skill are developed. Best friends quarrel and they learn to make up too! LOL! A good best friend allows good things to take nascent shapes in our young minds....

I think there's a need too for couples to cultivate activities (other than kids) that both can do together out of shared interests. Very often the shared interests (responsibilities) trickle into just the kids and the house. And when the kids leave, suddenly both are left with an empty house and not much in common. Add that with the possibility of the rest of everything getting hammered into haziness by the nitty gritty unpleasantries, in-laws, quirky habits, lack of understanding, etc, etc... we are left grappling with our own dissatisfactions.... dissatisfactions can be very cancerous.

We might even feel a little disillusioned even as a result. Among the older gen, they kinda stick it out cos they're probably more stoic. But the younger ones are more like this... not 'ngam' any more, you go your way and I, mine.

Marriage is a partnership....and sacrifice; not one that runs on one person making all the decisions or taking charge or having things his/her way. Think tandem bike... though one is in front but if both pedal together, it's kinda easy. But if only one pedals, it becomes very tiring. And they have to agree to go the same direction. One has to sacrifice his direction sometimes... take a different route.... but somehow if two heads agree, they'd still get to their destination.

A good partnership weathers good and bad times together, kinda like the duri and onak thingy. Like in a badminton game, a good partner covers for his partner on the latter's off days. A marriage is like that - you cover for each other and you learn to accept the mistakes made, you carry on. You make the attempts to change for the better even if it's painful to change sometimes. But it takes two to make it work.... and it helps to have God in it too.... that I learned early on from watching some of the adults of my childhood.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Nasi 'ala kandar'...

This has got to be one of the better places to get nasi 'ala kandar'....
Jln Stadium
The curries look mengancam and they are. This is one place to go for curry rice at night in Alor Setar.... Opens after 8 p.m. but after 8.30 p.m. would be a safe time to go. The place is unostentatiously located; off Jln Stadium... there's a lane on the main road right after the traffic light with the turning leads to JPN Kedah and a complex of schools. Around 10m from the traffic light is a small lane which has semi-detached single storey houses lining both sides. Go a couple of metres down the lane and look out for a house on your left. Can't miss it as there'll be people lining up to buy their curry dinner.
Jln Stadium
There's no in-house dining for this one. You have to ta-pau home. It's a one-man small-time makan operation. But we found that he was in no short of 'fans' while we were waiting for our food to be packed. What is good? Well, practically everything! He has curry mutton, curry chicken feet, curry sotong, rendang chicken.... they're all quite yummy! My 2 friends who went with me concurred with me... and price wise, it's more reasonable than the mamak shops.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Husband and Wife...

The big day.... for Daniel and Emily.
Daniel & Emily
An afternoon of chasing pictures... more of Other Half's chase, actually since he was one of the 'official' photographers....
Daniel & Emily
An evening of being reminded again how blessed our journey with our spouses have been... weddings have a way of doing that.
Daniel & Emily
Then a night of fellowship over dinner. That's how I'd sum up the first wedding of WMC.
Daniel and Emily
Marriage... embarking on a new life together.
Daniel & Emily
I've always liked the exchange of the wedding vows... and like many who were there, we were reminded of our own vows taken so long ago. And also to those about to walk down the aisle..... It's good to be reminded...
Daniel & Emily
Family and friends turned up from near and far.. Everyone hung around a while for some photo shoots.
Daniel & Emily
Then we adjourned for the wedding makan besar... straight from the church to the restaurant. Bride and groom were punctual to the dot. It's the guests who were trickling in, stretching our rubberized time.
Daniel & Emily
So, to Daniel and Emily, hope and prayers for everything good in a blessed journey together!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Wedding...

Daniel & Emily
This is the first wedding at our new church premise. And it"s been almost 2 years since we moved here. Daniel and Emily have the honour of being the first couple to be married in this premise. 8)
Daniel & Emily
Two hearts become one.... and also all the other hearts who made it easier and possible. Labour of love from those around; friends spent Friday morning (and evening) doing up the sanctuary for the wedding ceremony.... thumbs up to the young people...
Daniel & Emily
An effort by all... it's good to be able to come together like this.
Daniel & Emily
Cut, cut, cut... then arrange, arrange, arrange.... long time ago, our friends did all these things for us too..... 8)
Daniel & Emily
All ready for the big event of their lives today.... simple and minimalistic. A blessed journey to these 2... 8)

Mother's Day

Mother's Day!
Mother's Day
This will count as my 'Hari Ini Dalam Sejarah' for sure! A bouquet of flowers with a tiny teddy bear is quite a common gift on such a day. But this one is totally out of the common cos it's from Son!!!! Never one for such displays, this I must say was a surprise. Of course, Other Half prodded him, just a bit this year. He cycled all the way to town (in the hot sun!) to get it. Very touched! 8) Daughter was her usual thoughtful self... she made the little sunflower!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Midwinter... by Matthew Sturgess

Another epic fantasy... I've read more epic fantasies this year than I can ever remember. This one is a mythology that weaves the human and faerie/elf worlds together; where travels from one world to another is through these 'holes' .... kinda like the Stargate SG1 (Richard Dean Anderson) way of traveling from one world to another. And you need the same sort of gate to return.

Mauritane a decorated captain of the Seelies was sentenced to jail after being framed. The Seelies are a faction of the faerie, the other faction being the Unseelies. His queen, Queen Titania sent him on a mission. Success would mean his freedom. Together with his band of chosen aides (who were also promised freedom), he set out into the Uncontested Lands.

The epic is interesting because of the way the author was able to incorporate everything in quite nicely. There is this portrayal of Aba, their God. I see a lot of parallel comparison with the concept of God the Father. And the faes were free to make their own choices. Also that of changeling myth where human children are exchanged for fae at a young age. Then there is the bogeyman, the Thule, which reminds me of the stories from the Greek mythology, Cyclops.

I get the feel of fantasy and science put together in this novel. One of Mauritane's aides is a human (Satterly) who somehow got sucked into the fae land while trying to rescue his niece who was exchanged with a fae (changeling myth at work). He is a physicist. And in the story, we come across humans who wandered into the fae land by accident and got stuck there.

As in novels of this nature, good is always up against evil. That is also the main theme in this novel... good prevails in the end but there is always a price to be paid.

Overall, I'd give this book a read... I googled the author and discovered that he is an acclaimed comic writer and this is his first attempt at novel writing. This is Book 20 so far.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Tao...

Have not been sitting in front of the computer much these last couple of days... busy, not enough sleep, tiredness among some of the reasons. Been the longest break from here... LOL! And the days are extremely humid these past weeks. Crazily so.... even the skin feels as though it is burning up upon contact with clothes straight out from the bathroom!
Tao at E-Gate
Celebrated Daughter's birthday during the weekend. We went to Tao as Son had not gone there before. The last time Other Half and I went, we were ignorant enough not to know that it was ala-carte buffet! So we didn't 'maximize' the meal. This time, instead of the joint at Auto City in Juru, we headed for Tao at E-Gate, just after the Penang Bridge.
Milky Broth
Fresh from NS, Son's appetite has improved! Hope it lasts! This is salmon soup.. in a milky broth. Very nice! I went again with my friends last December and we had a smashing time! But that was at Tao in Auto City, Juru. One thing about this ala-carte buffet is food comes straight out from the kitchen. The soup is still steaming when it arrived at the table. Other Half and I sapu bersih this one! Soothing!
Crabs and Shrimps
These are baby crabs and shrimps. No wastage... everything hauled up from the sea is food! When we asked the waiter what the order was like... he told us that they're like crackers... eat cannot get full... did he mean finger food or just appetizers? Anyway, Daughter squealed that we were eating 'babies'!!! Oh ya! This is one place where you have to make reservations or you might end up eating in the warm air outside or not at all.
Shisamo
This is one of my favourites. Bite and swallow everything.... shisamo or the forever pregnant fish! They have another version fried coated with sesame seed. Also very nice.
Photobucket
Tofu steamed with unagi, soothing. Quite nice also.
Mussels and Cheese
Mussels baked in cheese. Juicy and succulent. These tasted quite good. We also had many round of scallops baked this way.
Maki
Rainbow Maki. Don't order too many of these. They are very filling and you'd be filled up before you know it. Not worth it! But these were actually quite nice also. Smell and taste went well together... very appetizing.There were many other dishes which we tried... Also, you have to call to make reservations; else end up eating outside in the warm and humid weather or none at all. We made reservations via their website the previous time but this time, the site said reservations online was still on hold! We were there for lunch and the place was quite full. Nice time!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Kelas Tambahan...

Extra classes... Very few schools don't do it. Schools try to outdo each other, show that each one is doing something to ensure that students do well.... that they care. Teachers don't have much say... it's a kind of paksa-rela thing.... force us to show pseudo-caring for free..... charity they say. But I am in no mood in such charity... And all these extra classes.... in the chase for the grades, along the way, a lot is compromised....

My thoughts.... I am tired by the the time I am done with my last class. I cannot wait to get out of the school. Cannot wait to hit the shower. With the weather moving from dry to extremely humid, my clothes stick to me like they are glued to me! I am hot, tired and bothered; shrouded by the stifling air, mummified in my clothes! And I smell of sweat! It's not like we work in an air-conditioned complex. After each class, I find my respite in the staff room which is air-conditioned. Without it, I think I'd have burned out much faster in this unforgiving humidity that we're in right now. Classrooms are actually not conducive these days. Curtains block the ventilation vents because they want it to feel like a rumah, with either tarred surfaces or clearings surrounding them. One can actually feel the heat emanating from the walls and grounds.

It's easy for the bosses to say macam-macam... These days HMs bark a lot of orders. They want a lot of things done but very often I wonder who it's for....

Extra classes... they are shoved down our throats! It's easy to tell the teachers do their bidding. I've just met a friend from another school where her Principal told them, she is autocratic. What she says goes! Period! We are constantly reminded that our core business is teaching. I see colleagues who 'kay-poh' here and there being awarded the APC. I see colleagues who make a show of everything they do getting it too. What I don't see is colleagues who quietly slog in their little corners, marking and preparing their lessons. These silent workers are the least likely to skip their classes. And they are the least rewarded too.. the work place today is for those who can show and tell. In part it also points to the inefficiency and inadequacies of the bosses who sit on their high thrones. Hard to find a level-headed boss.... or one who trusts her subordinates.

So if I start conducting extra classes, does that mean that I should take it easy during normal class?? ... to save energy so to say. After all, there is no no incentive for me to do more in class... extra classes are forced on us! Perhaps I should just sit back and relax. After all there are the extra classes to catch up later... BTW, they take students away for camps during school hours and students miss class. Camp on school day... then kelas tambahan. Go figure the sense in this!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Deception... by Jonathan Kellerman

The reading is slower is month... Mid Year=Busy! Took me quite a while to finish this one. This is another one of those 'serials' and it's a murder mystery type. A tutor (Elise Freeman) for a top notch prep school was murdered and plonked into a tub full of dry ice... Dry ice is used in 2 murders in this book. The story took off from there into the intrigues and lifestyle of the rich.... and famous!

Why the deception? Turns out not all the kids who scored high on their SATs deserve those high scores. Being rich they attend not only a good prep school; with Yale, Harvard and the other Ivy Leagues in their sights, but they also could hire others to sit on their behalf. They pay smart substitutes to ace the SATs. It's a case of the haves keep getting more and the have-nots keep getting ripped off. So in the end, being able to secure a place in a famed uni does not necessarily mean that one is smart. So many other things can get one there - money, family connections. Kinda like the PLKN issue which I wrote earlier.

Rich kids, bratty life-style. Booze, drugs, girls... life on the fast lane. One begins to have to audacity to behave as though one is above the rule of law or feel that money can buy one's way out of anything. This book dwells on the darker compulsion of the human character. Sometimes rich people are seen to be doing good when they actually are not. The rich also close ranks to cover for each other. Anyway, some good detective work by the 2 main detective characters solved the case. Good triumph over evil... how nice if it's like that too in the real world. We could do with quite a bit of that now... Teoh Beng Hock, the juvenile who was shot dead and countless others...

A few more murders took place before the case was solved. This is No 19 for the year. 6 more to go to get to my target of at least 25 books this year. Oh ya! I still have 3 more 'real' books not quite read yet too. Tis a nice read, this one!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Little People...

Still remember the story of the The Shoemaker and the Elves?... the elves, little people they were and they willingly (foolishly??) worked for the shoemaker, prospered him... until the shoemaker 'released' them. The little people slogged and made shoes for him yet never thought of making shoes for themselves... LOL!

Little people... the elves. Pittance for their effort they received; a change of clothes and a pair of shoes each. The little people are usually on the other side of the divide. We are little people one way or the other, some of us more than others, some less. Little people take a lot of crap. Little people are overlooked more. Big people like the politicians may say they work for the little people but the fact is, it's actually the other way round.

Recently the PLKN (National Service) came out with this; those who are doing Form Six will not be allowed to defer their PLKN. Last year it was allowed. But those who have gained acceptance in private colleges and Matriculation can. Dah pun, majority of those who stay back for Form 6 are mainly from the 'little people' group. Those who go to private colleges can afford to pay the fees, those who get Matriculation get free money (plus, plus some more) for their education. And the little people.... sudah jatuh, ditimpa tangga lagi. They've to miss a month of school. They're told, "Never mind-lah! Anyway, not much teaching since it's just the first weeks!" Must be small brains the big people have....

Then the DG of MOE came out with this statement that those who were going for Lower Six can come out from NS one week earlier... on June 5th instead of June 12th! Lower Six starts on 10th May-lah! Some people's brains do not seem to be working. They'd be a month late compared to the non-NS people! As though they are trying to show their keprihatinan. Pseudo caring by non-caring big people. Then have the same ruling for all... double standards yet again. Have they forgotten that a good start is important too?

And in the PLKN website, under their FAQ, they say this about the PLKNers and their studies...
Adakah program ini akan mengganggu atau menjejaskan perancangan pelajaran para pelajar yang terlibat?
Kerajaan akan meminimakan kesan gangguan ke atas sistem pendidikan negara. Dalam kes PLKN ini Kementerian Pendidikan telah menyelaraskan kemasukan pelajar ke kelas matrikulasi, tingkatan enam dan IPTA. Namun begitu, jika terdapat kes-kes yang melayakkan penangguhan ianya akan dipertimbangkan mengikut paraturan Akta Latihan Khidmat Negara yang membenarkan penangguhan atas alasan melanjutkan pelajaran. Dengan yang demikian PLKN akan cuba meminimakan penjejasan kepada peluang peserta untuk melanjutkan pelajaran.
Goes to show the inconsistencies... somebody probably calculated wrongly the number of days and now the PLKNers cannot complete the minimum 60 days in order to complete the course..... Try asking these big people to have their kids stay when their studies have commenced... kepimpinan melalui teladan!

And one more thing, it's not like the MOE does not have the data of those students who are more likely to continue their studies as opposed to those who are not. The State Trial Exam marks are keyed into the national database every year. That would provide an inkling to the likelihood of each student's probability of furthering their studies. So, with a little careful homework, it's actually quite possible to make arrangements. Even Son's trainers said that those of them with better results should have been called up in the first batch.

PLKN is actually quite a good experience for the kids... at least there is some effort to create opportunities for integration. It's good for nation building. It allows kids of different races to actually have the opportunity to get to know each other. That is if the politicians and gahmen institutions don't 'sabo' their own good efforts. If only the planners would get their act together and make sure 1Malaysia means 1Malaysia in its planning, implementation and also the welfare of every kid involved.

Big people... little people. Doesn't need rocket science to see who gets everything and who gets the crumbs!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Science and Maths in English... Gone No Where!

Science and Maths have been taught 'fully' in English for the last 6 years. Hence, when you come across engineering or any science students, it's only natural to expect them to, at their very worst, be able to carry out a simple conversation in English as they too would have gone through a couple of years of 'instruction' in English.

But this is not so. Our educational institutions like the polytechnics, colleges and universities are filled with students who have gone through 11-13 years of schooling and prep time at pre-uni (or its equivalent) not quite comprehending simple tasks in English or being able to carry out simple conversations in English. Worse still, the Science students seem to also fall into this incapacitated group. Can you imagine, our supposedly professionals going into the job market, not quite able to even carry a decent conversation in English? Makes me wonder how they cope with their lessons which are supposedly in English.

Which got me thinking.... if these students who are supposed to be studying their subject matters in English don't seem to be making much headway in English in normal everyday English usage, is it safe to assume that tutors, teachers and lecturers are not using English as the medium of instruction which they are supposed to. Hence the continued deplorable state of our English. PPSMI was actually doomed by those entrusted to execute it.

Anyway, just walk into any of our polytechnics today... you'd be surprised at how weak majority of the students are in English... this after 7 years of English being used. My two sen for the day...

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Blogging block....

Surreal... that's the word for today. After 2 weeks of on and off from school, and with a week more of such existence, that's the feel for now. And hence the blogging block.... 8)

There were times when I'd look forward to going to school. But this time around, ambivalence is more like it. There'll be lots of loose ends to pick when I go back... there always are. Dealing with kids, this is one of those things. Leave them too long, you have to 'whip' them back into the routine before. It's not just the kids who are like that. I think us adults are not much different.

Had an interesting conversation with my fellow comrade-in-arms about the pervasiveness of FaceBook. She was telling me about the Games Apps which she's currently playing. There are many games apps on FB such as Farmville, Scrabble, Pets, Hotel City, etc, etc.... So if you add that to the virtual everything (from hugs to cards to cakes and what have you nots), I guess FB has invaded most of our lives.

She was gushing about how about how interesting it is to be able to build her own city.... A few weeks ago, I had a similar conversation with my banker. Hers was farming... how exciting it was to watch over her farm, harvest the fruits of her labour (labour here is actually clicking your mouse. LOL!). If you sit down to listen and didn't know better, you'd think that these people are talking about real things. And they're hooked to those apps!

All you need to do is just listen to the excitement in their voices, the frustrations when their crops lay to waste or even their indignance when thieves come in and steal their produce... and these are digitally generated stuff, made up of programming codes and graphics. You'd think they're going to starve to death the way they talk about their loss of their crops. Or how one of them said she kept checking her computer to make sure that no one comes and steal her crops as she did her housework. I had such a good laugh imagining her mopping a section of her house and running back to the computer to check on her digital farm.... I think we're all going nuts! And now we have a couple abandoning their real baby (the Korean case) who died while attending to their virtual baby. Virtual took precedence over the real one! Feels like the digital world evokes a greater intensity of feelings...

When asked why the addiction to such games? The usual answer? They have nothing to do. I think most of us have things to do... it's just that, this sort of games has hit on our need to build, achieve, strive, own... very gratifying when the results are quite instantenous. A city in a few days. A farm that is constantly growing. The more you click, the more you spend time at the computer, the more of everything... there seems to be a reward waiting for you for all that 'effort'.... even though it's only pseudo effort it seems. We're being suckered for sure.... by the makers of such apps.

Used to be mostly kids who will be glued to the computer games. These days, adults with gray hair, failing eyesight are congregating and willing themselves glued to the screen too... Do I play any of these? Nah! Not yet! For now, the call of the real world is still more 'powderful' and alluring. LOL!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Changes...

Two posts in a row with the same title... was just thinking of the changes that are constantly taking place around us. Everyday, something changes. But we're often quite oblivous to it, unless it's something that shakes the ground we stand on. But there are times too when we pretend not to notice it.

Being oblivious is probably one that quite often is the case. Oblivious cos very often we're comfortable in our cozy little corner. Changes might mean inconvenience or even uncertainty. And being comfortable it's much easier to shut ourselves from it.

We have a Canon Ixus 110IS. When we first got it, this digital camera felt sleek and cool. Then early this year, Son needed a camera cos he was going to Cambodia. So I got another, a Canon Ixus 200IS since he was going to be away quite long. Been 3 months since I last held the former. Today, I used it... and I realised that the once sleek gadget has lost its sleekness. The Ixus 200IS is sleeker, lighter and thinner. If the 'change' had not been forced on me, I think I'd happily continue to think that my 100IS is the sleekest camera still.... Very often our lives are like that too... we don't realise (or want) changes that are happening cos we think what we have is okay.... and so we miss out on the changes that might add more spice or even give that oomph to our lives.

Changes... it happens in every facet of our lives; relationships, in upgrading ourselves, the way we deal with issues... the list is quite endless. These last 2-3 years have been a journey of discovery for me. I learned this, when I am willing to change, usually what awaits is something quite better too. Changes sometimes means leaving behind some of the things we hold on to (sometimes quite dearly); our possessions, our inhibitions, our thoughts, our relationships..... sometimes they pull us back, hinder us from more. And I've learned that, sometimes letting them go can be quite hard... but the discoveries made along the way have also taught me that letting go and embracing those changes can be quite an adventure too... 8)

Sometimes we close our eyes to those changes... we continue to bear with the familiar, telling ourselves that embracing change would be far too much trouble. Better not to rock the boat and disrupt our already smooth sailing. Life goes on too...

Ignorance to changes? Well, being foolish is not something that we can do much about. Everyone of us is foolish at one time or the other. Getting out of the ignorance is hard and we need all the help we can get. But life goes on too... If you're lucky, family and good friends come into the picture and point us to changes, making us more aware of it.

Changes... For me, I think we should embrace the changes that help us live our lives more meaningfully, though sometimes it sometimes may have uncertainties at the beginning. You would be 'richer' for the effort than none at all. Just my random ramblings... incidentally Son goes back to NS today...