Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Mid Year School Ramblings...

.. say you have a couple of students who are totally wasted in school. What is the best thing for them? Law says they can stay till 17. But they are totally wasting their time. The teachers become mere babysitters for them. The kids are 16, they can't do much. They sit in class, seemingly listening and trying to keep up with work but when you get down to the crunch, the work they do.... no difference if they had not started at all too. So what do you do with such kids? The parents want them to stay in school cos I think they don't know what to do with with them too, I supposed. Either that, they are hoping for miracles..... I don't know.

Me? I think they should just go out and work. There are lessons that life out there can teach better than school. Two more years and these kids would rot. They'd be so bored that they'd become negative 'role models' for the rest. They'd be so bored that they'd be tempted to be disruptive, insolent, rude, obnoxious.... Since the world of academia is already totally lost on them, some of them might just turn attention seekers, troublemakers, etc... And the school is supposed to be a 'prihatin' place today... benevelovent with the kesian culture. This 'kindness' is actually 'killing' them, denying them the opportunity to be better, I feel.

Policy makers say everyone is supposed to be able to read. Policy makers are wrong. There are some who cannot... add that to those who seem more 'rascally' than others, we have to deal with a myriad of problems... and compound it with school administrators who seem to be breathing down our necks to keep jacking up our passing percentages, education kinda loses its meaning.

Education today is akin to a factory churning out products in a factory line. And because of the almighty 'A' which all of us seem to be striving at, we seem willing to trade our real intellect. Education today is a dumbing down process. Teachers today are also dumbed down by administrators who seem to insist that things be done their way and theirs only. So with every new administrator that we get, there will be changes... even down to changing signboards which cost hundreds to put up... then when new boss comes, change... money wasted...

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

What Your Daughter Isn't Telling You

...by Susie Shellengerger & Kathy Gowler. Book 28. Borrowed this from the Church library. Thought I might as well get some reminders of the growing pains teenagers go through. Lots of things mentioned by the writers hit some chords. But some things have 'evolved' a little though in essence the problem is still the same; they don't call it growing pains for nothing.

Read about 'Cutting'; teenagers physically cutting themselves so that they can feel pain, to replace the emotional pain they feel inside. I remembered being told by someone of her friend who cut herself.... it sounds crazy but this is what the kids in their years of wilderness do to themselves. This is something like self-immolation that we sometimes read about the 'faithfuls' who hurt themselves as an act of devotion to their faiths.

Then FWB or Friends With Benefits.... this was a new terminology for me, though again it's not a new problem. FWB basically means relationship with no strings attached but comes with sexual favours, something like an sex orgy. Other stuff like bulimia (I knew of someone who suffered from that), anorexia, low self-esteem, etc, etc aren't so foreign to me.

Girls growing up into womanhood, the journey there can be quite difficult sometimes. I'll definitely miss this adorable age that my Lil One is in now. But I look forward to the day too when we can do girl stuff together... 8)

Growing into the marginal man/woman... I've gone through with one and it was tough and hard on all of us. The next one is coming soon. And I thought I'd get a little headstart on it. Not that it's not going to be without surprises. But I hope it will be a muted one. Teenage years can be very tumultous years in one's life sometimes.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Brain freeze...

You get this when you gobble down your ice-cream in a jiffy... this intense pain-like feeling in your head. And with that brief intensity, you just have to stop till it goes away. Sometimes people call it ice-cream headache... That's basically how I've been feeling lately, the whirs and blurs after school reopened. The brain seems to be freezing up more often and I have to actually stop and reprocess... get a grip of things. LOL!

In between classes, some video editing (doing video for a friend now), marking the exercise books, seeing to the running of odds and ends at home, running classes for both my kids... I must be doing my own kind proud... superwoman kinda thing. But this superwoman has kinda run out of charge, I think. So some timely reminders to take stock of my life is sometimes good... was just reading through the first 2 chapters of Ecclesiastes yesterday... that was my reminder. Am reminded of the vanity of this chase that we're all in. So I should remember to take time to smell the roses, ease off some of the issues bugging me and be kindly. Gosh! It's been a long while since my last gardening spree.

The brain freezes at various points... and even jams up. But there's always coffee (or tea) to perk one up. The wonders of modern brews, with extra oommph if so required. You get all kinds of coffee concoctions at different levels of lethality. LOL! Nah! I'm still not touching that stuff much yet... since my last break from coffee addiction.

But hey! It has its upside too though... your head hits the pillow and immediately you feel like you're cruising along Zzzzland. LOL! Brain freeze... I am just rambling and rumbling along.... before I floor the pedal and head for home.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Bells and Whistles...

I'm struck by how much Malaysians pay for our set of wheels and still fall short of a good deal. With Son driving, we didn't feel safe letting him behind our wheels. I remember my bro when he had just learned how to drive.. one evening dad took him out for a spin. It was quite late in the evening when the the car 'limped' home with a damaged front end. Bro had 'crashed' Dad's car.... So, we got our boy his own set of wheels while I 'downgraded' (that's what my friend says) mine.

Am going to miss my former comfy set of wheels. It was with a little heavy heart that I let it go for something smaller. Back to the bells and whistles. In Malaysia the gahmen taxes us 'left and right' for imported cars. So when I recently got my new locally assembled wheels, it was amusing to find the convenience of bluetooth connectivity in a car which cost way cheaper than its predecessor. The imported car dealers have had to trimmed down so much on the pluses just to make their cars more attractive in terms of pricing. We've had Proton for so many years... yet till today, it still needs the big bro to give them unfair advantage.... so while my 'local car' had all the bells and whistles, my non-local car came with the basics... how we're shortchanged for quality.

Then, I was at Pizza Hut again recently too and I notice that compared to the early days of Pizza Hut's presence in our country, their service has deteriorated. Quality generally too... though their pizzas still taste the same. We may have a winning franchise but of late, many people I know have been complaining about their quality.

A couple of months back, I went to Pizza Hut at another location and their tables were sticky, the salad bar near empty, no credit card payment unless you go downstairs where they do the take-out orders, slow service.... Well, the one I went recently had waitresses made up like models but with service equals Turtleville pace. Here we've a franchise which would be a bells and whistles kinda treat to many but we seem to be lacking in attitude to keep it at that level. The service just makes you think twice about going back there!

Bells and whistles from both ends... but in the end, we the people still are shortchanged by our leaders' shortsightedness and coming up short on so many ends. Flip-flopping as we go along but filling their own pockets... take a read about the Sarawak Chief Minister's empire as an eye opener... if I had the sort of money he has, bells and whistles of every form and shape, here I come. 8)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Another Edition of Camp...

Finally some time to sit down and put these down.... been meaning to but have just been bogged down and almost sinking in my tiredness of so many things....

Skipped last year's camp... decided to attend this year's on account of Lil One. Son kept insisting we've missed it for the last 4 years cos his last memory was watching the World Cup at camp. How memory fails us sometimes. But I remembered writing about the 2008 Camp... this time it felt kinda strange cos I was asked whether I'd want any programme for my kid while sessions were carried out... I mean, this is after all a Family Camp! So we only skipped last year's.

Like many aging small churches away from the major cities, there are not many young families. So small kids are scarce. And they're often overlooked these days, these kids, made all the more easier cos hardly any church leaders have small kids. I guess the church ages together with the leaders. I always remember what Mr. Ling KN said to us when we were schooling about being a good teacher... that he has to stay relevant. His clients are in the 16-19 year old group. And he told us, that's why he should always remember to remain 17 at heart to stay relevant and effective. He cannot 'grow old'. Guess that should hold the same with a church too... we must cater to the needs of all ages in order to meet the needs. A church should not grow old with its congregation or leaders.

And as we grow older, we tend to overlook things like fellowship to bond cos all of us are tired from our work. So on the one afternoon when there was some free time, most of us preferred to catch up on our lost sleep. In the end, very little little bonding took place. Perhaps like the flock we need a shepherd; to take lead and see the need to organize activities so that opportunities are created for relationships to be healed and strengthened. When the shepherd does not shepherd, then the flock is at lost as how to spend their time. So they do what is most natural... they sleep or wander off.

So, church camps... remembering the young 'uns when ours have grown up. Strengthening relationships to remain strong.... these are the two things most glaring to me this round. Some thots to ponder over....

Thursday, June 24, 2010

No more UPSR and PMR... so they say

One more of those 'they-say-thing' which we are so well-known for. No UPSR and PMR... actually, I think that's rather good. The chase for A(s) has actually dumbed down our children down a lot. The goal of primary schooling for many now is the number of A(s) in UPSR, thus taking the joy out of learning for our young. I was teaching a friend's son about black holes the other day... just for the fun of it. Even though he found it fun, he asked me why did he need to learn about them. It wasn't in his exam syllabus. That's how it's like for many kids now. If it's not coming out in the exam, no need to know.

So, is it good? To abolish the exams? A couple of things crossed my mind. If there are no exams, what then will be the impetus for our children to learn? School based assessments? I doubt its ability to really gauge. School exams? I think the competition to enter some of the well-known schools will open school exams to abuses.

Then the teaching quality. Are our teachers up to mark to inspire our kids and make learning fun? At secondary level, I'm seeing more incompetent teachers, not just because of their attitude (or the lack of it) but their competencies many areas are also suspect.

Internal assessments... the mechanisms are in place. It can actually work if we get the right people, do it the right way, practise integrity... but like everything in Bolehland now, many things we boleh, but we bocor in practically every area.

However, I would probably give a soft 'yay' to no exams. But we have to look into the quality of teachers, textbooks and materials. It does no good for us to lock our children down into a confined type of learning with no other goals except to score A(s). Kids must want to learn because they find it fun.... and useful.... etc, etc... Then perhaps the dumbing down of our children might be lessened....

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Dead in the Family... by Charlaine Harris

My first of the Sookie Stackhouse series... this is apparently number 10. I've not read any prior ones. Actually I've not heard of this series till after I had completed this book and Googled for the book. And wa-laaa, a whole list came out!

Anyway, it's vampire flavour now.... Twilight series and all that. In this book, vampires, shape shifters, were(s) or werewolves, faes have now 'integrated' into the Earth's populace. Some of them are even religious! How accommodating can it get some more? Signs of the permissive times we are in? I thought vampires are supposed to cringe at the sight of crosses or Holy Books! I must be old fashioned in my imagination! But in the book, vampires and humans, humans and faes, shape shifters and humans, etc, etc fall in love.

Since vampires are dead, and so if they want offsprings they must get a surrogate... artificial insemination, implantation (??). And oh! Did I mention that faes (fairies) can be gay. Gone are the more innocent images of fairies, pixies, gnomes of Enid Blyton. The faes are sword wielding in the book. They kill without so much as batting an eyelid! Shape shifters co-exist with humans, run their businesses and pay taxes. It's accepted that vampires sleep in their coffins (in their houses) during the day and 'come out to play' during the night. And oh yes! They have this 'pseudo blood' called True Blood to quench their bloodthirst!

But killing in cold blood, the mad streak and freakiness associated with this supposedly netherworld-associated-creatures are still hallmark of their true characters. Vampires still kill humans and other vampires or whatever creatures in cold blood and in full brutality. And we're supposed to be rooting for the vampire, half-human heroes and heroines in the novel. I find that disturbing, because the process of 'ridding' the 'bad' elements reek of worse....

The morality line seems still to be an important essence in the story but it's a very gray one; one that seems to encourage us to embrace that good and evil are almost the same, with evil just crossing the line a teeny wee bit.

And reading this got me thinking even more... imagine how subtly our young who read such kinds of books get twisted into accepting the gray lines... the novel romanticizes the 'what used to be thought as evil' long time ago into something very desirable.

This being book 27, and it also reminds me, how books play a role in subtly shaping or perhaps more suitably the numbing down of morality and thinking of our young. We are dumbed down and numbed by a lot of things around us these days and books like this is one of them.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Father's Day...

My kids did something for their Dad with a little prompting from me... I think there is too much hype in all these 'celebrations' now. I remembered it was Father's Day cos we usually do something at church. So I smsed and called my own dad. My siblings had 'forgotten' (actually my sis had taken my dad and mom out for dinner to 'celebrate' when she came back way earlier). Hearing my dad's voice a little dejected, I smsed all my siblings to remind them.... and they were rather quick in responding.

My bro and sis had forgotten even though they are parents themselves. Other Half also forgot to call his Dad... I guess everyone was just too busy, this being the last day of hols or first day of 2nd term. But it didn't mean they didn't care... but forgetting that one day seems to leave a sense of dejection....

Father's Day, Mother's Day... though good, I think is overhyped. Father's Day should be an all-the-time event for us. What is the point of celebrating it on one day when you cannot be there for them when it matters to them?

In church yesterday, the speaker spoke on the different types of father. I think the present generation of fathers have evolved... or at least the ones I see in my environment. Parenting... fathering, we hear a lot about parents who want to give the best to their children. All parents want to give 'good gifts' to their children. But in today's world, the line between good and bad gifts are very thin too. Sometimes parents think they are giving good gifts when it's actually not....

I am not against celebrating that one special day but I think I would consider everyday a Father's (or Mother's) Day for all the small acts of concern that my kids show me...

This may be a belated Happy Father's Day wish too all but I am wishing for every day of your life to be Father's Day too.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The first...

...of anything that you don't feel upbeat about usually tend to feel draggy. And that's how the first day of school feels like - draggy! But if it's the first day of something you are upbeat about, time flies. Yet the hour and minutes tick at its same consistent pace. How our perception affects us!

Today is the first day of school after 14 days of break from it. School felt kinda dreamy today. A cup of coffee will probably drug me enough to perk me. However, I guess things will get a sense of its own normalcy after a few more days. For 14 days this life became so distant. But the present familiarity takes root fast. And this morning I followed Son partially to school in my car. His first day driving to school.

Came back from Camp... the speaker threw some good questions. But we'll need to do some consolidation of the unanswered ends if something more meaningful were to come out of it. However, I feel we may have lost our sense of objective a bit. One said it's good enough just to attend a camp for the sake of listening to a good speaker... hmm... I think we can do that without the need of going away. A 3-night seminar would suffice, minus the traveling actually. We'd spend less too, if cost is a factor! We label ours a Family Camp but it felt more just like just a Camp... minus the family in the real sense. Very little bonding took place... and I think I went home not knowing the names of everyone who attended.

Went down to the pool on the only free afternoon of the Camp. The young people were fooling around in the water. My Lil One joined them. The older kids were very kind to her.. they let her monkey around with them. Small kids always relish the opportunity of playing with the older kids. It makes them feel kinda big.... 8) It's a big deal to the little ones.

Anyway, this is just an 'in-between' rambling. There are classes to attend, stuff to clear...... back to the grind. And I've quite a bit to grind for the next couple of weeks...

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

All Good Times Must Come To An End...

.. so that other good times can begin at a later date, I supposed. *sigh*

Hols is coming to an end. With it, so many things too. I would like to have gone to the gym more but somehow so many things kept cropping up. Played a little more squash than normal but seemed to have spent more time on the road. Met up with people but generally didn't feel so upbeat cos I was rather tired. Spent time at the workshop, car dealership, running errands, computer... but very little of my own things essentially.

Freely given but not freely received... I learned a lesson there. What is freely given sometimes is not freely received. Some of us have no problem giving. Some of us have problem giving. Some of us have problem receiving. Some of us have no problem receiving. All of us would have gone through this one time or the other... am reminded of my 'Ice-boxed' experience! Some ask for the things they give, some return the things they are given. But in the end, it doesn't really matter... the acts bare the heart.

Being stood up... sometimes we complain about our kids or friends standing us up. But very frequently we do that to others too. We give our word but then go back or delay them when something that interests us comes up without much thought. Then when our kids do that to us, we get indignant. Get a grip! The kids learn by watching us! Don't forget that they mirror us.

Forgotten friends... sometimes we forget certain people cos they are more difficult to spend time with. We shouldn't. Cos in the end, it can be most gratifying, the time spent with them. It reminds us of the many blessings come our way that we've forgotten to give thanks for. In a way, they help to plant our own two feet more firmly on the ground not because they remind us that life is not a bed of roses often times but that we've been spared some of the thorns.

Memory like elephants... sometimes we forget that some of us have elephant memory. So, when you are reminded of its existence, your faith in people whom you think are better than others falter. A few years ago I raised an issue about the kids not having a curriculum at camp.... They remembered that this year cos I am going. Not because there's another kid on the list (earlier) but because my kid is on the list. Cos her ma doesn't do much mincing?? Makes me wonder whether 1Malaysia 2Standards at work here too. Kinda disappointing!

Doing (or not) things just because we feel like it. How often do we do things even though we don't feel like it? I find it more difficult to freely give in this area too. Giving is not free when you have expectations. It's easy not to have expectations in the beginning. But after a while expectations do creep in and that's when disappointment comes in because you have the expectations. Perhaps a better approach will be to do (or don't do) what you feel.... but that would just be giving in to our own feelings too. Or just freely give and freely receive... in good faith?

But just as well.... I've also realize it's pointless brooding over matters which don't go our way. Some dogs should just be left to lie where they remain.

So, move over... new term knocking, and there're still stuff to do... but for what it's worth, hols is still a good time cos I get to sleep later and not be rushed. And I get time to ruminate! LOL! So when good times come to an end, it's something that to be missed.... and, here's cheers to the coming term, the good and crappy stuff!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Weekend home..

Even though now home is where I have my own house in my current location... home in my heart in many sense is still the place of my childhood and teenage years, Sitiawan.

Made a quick trip home during the weekend and it was a weekend with a flurry of rushing and loose ends to see to. Also, sis and nephew were around plus nephews and niece from Other Half's side. So, there were many quickie things to do.
Sweet Sour Fish Maw
This was part of our lunch in Kg China... the fish and sea cucumbers in the ko-ru came all the way from Sabah. Mom had soaked the sea cucumber to perfection... and it went well with the fish maw... cooked in our favourite style, sweet sour; only in Sitiawan.
Sweet Sour Fish
Fish was very good - shipped all the way in a polystyrene box from across the South China Sea. Dad said they call it the 7-Star Garoupa. This is an 'East Malaysian' fish! We had my favourite mixed veg, Sitiawan-style also.
Traffic Lights
This traffic light was one of many which we passed along the way home. The problem with this one is it faces the setting sun. With the sun shining brightly, you can't tell which light is lighted up unless you stare at it intently to catch the slightest change.
Driving
Also a first for Son... his first highway drive. LOL! He just got his license a fortnight back. His dad sat beside. I was behind... but it was a tense 100km for both of us for sure. I found myself pressing on my imaginary brake.

Already passed the half way mark of the hols... dread to go back to school. World Cup is on. In our household, there is no football fever. Read that in Bangladesh, fans actually went on a rampage because the power supply went off! The craziness of football - 22 men chasing one small ball all over the field and trying to net it. And the whole world goes into a feverish and mad frenzy when the World Cup comes on just to see the 22-men do that.

We caught the opening match between South Africa and Mexico while we were home. But that was viewed in between channel surfing and house-switching. LOL!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

A Woman's Worth...

What is a woman's worth? If she works.. her worth becomes more complicated as she has her own independence... her world is bigger. Financial independence is a marvellous tool to one's confidence.

What if she doesn't? What if she's a housewife? You seldom find non-working single ladies. I am not saying being a housewife is not a job. For me, I think I'd rather hold a regular job outside than stay at home and grow bonkers with the expectations plonked on me. Being a full time housewife... you are married to the house (and its contents) and be a wife. No easy tasks. I've great respect for those who have the potential to have a great career and yet are able give it up for their families.

Where then does her worth come from? Housewives don't get paid! A man's worth on the other hand comes from his work and his possessions. Take his job away and you'll be left with a shell of a man. Societies were mainly patriarchal and still are. Man still dominate. Many still think ownership - wife, children as possessions. I have colleagues who still tell me they have to get permission from their husbands to go out.... but sometimes they use this as an excuse to skip something they don't like.

In the Chinese culture, the groom's family basically 'buys' the bride. Thankfully, my parents didn't deem this practice necessary. 8) So, I'm very much still their daughter. In the Indian society, the woman hurls herself into the burning pyre when her husband dies. They call it suttee. Women cannot go to Mekah on their own, they need to be accompanied by a male family member. Women cannot vote until very recent times. In Saudi Arabia women still cannot drive because the religious leaders say if they allow the women to drive, they'll drive off to find other men! Crazy?

Culturally, if a man takes on mistresses (or wives) it's not really frowned upon. Society does not look kindly on women do the same, keep a paramour... In Egypt for example, female purity holds a crucial position in evaluating the worth of a woman and negotiating marriage contracts. If she is not a virgin then she's not marriageable. There is very little mention (or none at all) of the same for men.

And in recent days, in Malaysia we've religious authorities who meted up caning for women who had anak luar nikah (child out of wedlock). Only the women got punished. They never went after the men who did it to the women. As far as I know, it takes 2 to make a baby.... but only one party was punished, the other gets off scot-free. What actually is the woman's worth in the eyes of these 'religious' flers?

Next.... Why then is the divorce rates higher now? Is it because women today are worth more, especially those who have financial independence? In days of old, when a woman had to depend on her man to provide, she basically had no choice. She obviously could not go back to her parents. Having spent her life depending on her husband and with little education, she would find it hard to adjust to the outside world. She had no means to support herself. She was basically held hostage by her own life. No worth! It still happens sometimes.

So what is a woman's worth? Where is her worth? Self, career, marriage, kids, husband, family? It's a little of all I supposed. Just like the man's.

A woman's worth... if wisdom prevails, if responsibilities are equally shouldered.... in all honesty.. perhaps the family life too would get its full worth. Right now, dad works. Mom works.. children don't get enough of attention. It's actually good for the children to have a full time mom. But the dads must be prepared to share without prejudice all that he has. I'm in the mood to rant again today...

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Undomestic Goddess... by Sophie Kinsella

I've never read Sophie Kinsella's books though I've been hearing it from the young people how nice they are. Undomestic Goddess was passed to me by a friend.

Back to the book. It's short and light reading. The story is about a 29 year old lawyer, Samantha, about to be made a partner in a prestigious law firm (it's all she ever wanted and she worked like a dog for it!) when her dream was suddenly smashed. A 50 million quid 'mistake' sent her on 'a self-imposed run'. And so in her daze she wandered into a little town and in a blur of events ended up as a housekeeper.

Highly intelligent, you'd have to wonder how Samantha could not handle housework but could be transformed within a really short time (with assistance) into a gourmet cook.

This is the sort of novel with an ending where everything is as how the reader would want it. But the storyline struck a chord with me. Working in the top law firm, Samantha (the main character) 'sold' her everything to get to the chance of a partnership. Coming from family of very successful mom and bro, I found the scene where she celebrated her birthday alone with 2 phones (one from her mom and the other her bro) at an exquisite restaurant touching a raw chord.

Both her mom and bro had made arrangements for dinner with her but canceled because they were absolutely buried in their work. Samantha would have missed hers as well if not for a surprise adjournment from her boss. I supposed that's something quite identifiable these days. Rushing from one deal to another, one day to another, being too buried in our own problems and chase for what we feel are security and satisfaction and finally failing to pause to take stock of our lives.... to enjoy the simple things in life... we miss out on a lot sometimes. We chase money and recognition because they are important but often times the chase overshadows every other thing and they pass us by without us ever realizing it. Vanity, vanity.... says the Philosopher in Ecclesiastes.

A light and cute romantic comedy this book is... enjoyable nevertheless. And it became my PTK prep cos I stayed up till 2.00 a.m. reading this rather than my PTK book! Aiyo! This coming after 2 books which I found tough finishing.... 8) Number 26!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Are You There Vodka? It's Me Chelsea ... by Chelsea Handler

This almost qualifies as a raunchy book... it's an easy read but one which I struggled to finish. The last 2 books have not been quite fun like the rest. Well, I shouldn't complain too much as the last 20 something books were good. Can't expect all the books I pick up to be to my taste.... unless I want to pick up some vodka and drown it all in. 8)

This qualifies as an adult non-fiction and there are more than generous doses of inappropriate language. F words abound... I am still rather uncomfortable with its usage. But I like the candid portrayal. It touches on a lot of things which we know are there but often times hide beneath our veneer of civility and also image.

There was one part where Chelsea was forced to attend a birthday party of someone she hardly knew and didn't like. She didn't want to spend money buying a gift. Hence the recycling of her gifts she received from others. Sounds familiar?

In it, she also candidly shares her DUI charge which landed her in a women's prison and her 'dysfunctional' family. Most of our families suffer one form of dysfunctionality or another. Only she puts it in a very straightforward manner. I found it hilarious her holiday adventure to the Bahamas with her dad after her mom passed away. Also, her obsession with nuggets or little people (midgets) as she labels them; and of how she 'allowed' herself to be conned by one just because she found her 'nugget' to be an object to satisfy her curiousity.

The book made it to the NYT Bestseller's list; the reason why I ended up reading it. The power of mass marketing with the right tool. 8( Anyway, I did some reading on the author. She is a well known comedian. Makes sense the candor of her language and non-straightjacket way of writing. A new genre coming in at book number 25.... my genres getting more diversified.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

PTK Again..

Hols = Exam = 40 objective questions...

I finished round one in 13 minutes and took another 15 minutes to check my answers. They told us we could go out from the 30th min to the 50th min. I scooted on the dot! And I wasn't alone! There are 2 papers. I've already a 4 for one component on my first try. This is my 3rd retake for the other component... I must be dumb! I've managed to pass all with a 3 but I need the 4 to get my salary jump.

No matter how good of a teacher one may be, without this written qualifications, you'd never get your jump. So, you may be an awe inspiring teacher or one who gives your mind and soul to your job but if you don't get a 4-4 for your PTK, no pay jump for you. But if you are able to ace the written exam but do not really inspire or you do just the minimum, you'd still get your jump. A fair measure?? Go figure!!! This system has a big hole and many good teachers are lost through that hole! Assessment! It's hard to give and make fair assessments. We are often bought over by our prejudices... again and again, I am reminded of our fallen nature.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

How much does it cost to get a driving license?

I didn't realize that the cost of driving license has become so exorbitantly high these days. Over the news recently, I heard that they are incorporating another new module which will further drive up the cost. But they say it'll produce better drivers. I wonder... cos our road fatalities statistics don't seem to be getting less....

Son just went through the whole rigmarole... and here's the breakdown.
  1. Kursus KPP and Ujian Komputer - RM129
  2. 6 hours of Theory and Practical - RM 230
  3. L - RM34
  4. Renewal of L (delayed his exam because of NS) - RM32
  5. 8 hours of driving - RM200
  6. Another 2 hours refresher's cos of NS - RM50
  7. QTI & JPJ Test - RM131
  8. Retake of JPJ Test (he flunked his bukit) - RM63
  9. P Stickers (new drivers must be labeled) - RM5
  10. License - RM35
A grand total of RM909 to get his license... that can be a month's salary or more for many average Malaysians. I am told that it's even more expensive in KL; somewhere in the region of RM1500. And mind you, the cost is set to increase again.

During my time, getting a license was way cheaper. But the problem back then was you keep flunking unless you are willing to pay extra (coffee money, we call it)... I had to go many times for my motorbike and car license.... a total of 5 times, I think! 8( Either way, we are twisted into parting with our $$$.

Like everything else that is inflated, getting a license has seen a bigger inflationary rise I think. So, my boy better appreciate our generosity with him.... that is not inclusive of the car, the fuel he's going to burn, the maintenance of the car which we'll be forking out, plus and plus and plus....... he's got a spoon going into his mouth all the time and he doesn't seem to realize it.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

When Food Comes A-Calling

Another one of those days with a pleasant surprise in store. Been a busy time these last few days... ferrying my gal for her tuition and running errands. I was on one of those rounds when a friend called. She had cooked a 'hor-liao' lunch for us, she said!
Lunch
So after picking my gal from tuition, Ma and Daughter went. Lunch was waiting when we arrived about 45 minutes later. Salted chicken came from Ipoh from another friend...
Asparagus in Bacon
Asparagus in bacon, grilled! We had it with nasi tomato... talk about fusion! LOL! Food was good... the kids had their fun too.
Fruits
And colourful desserts to go with the main meal... am thankful for such friends who make the day brighter. The Ma(s) sembang while the kids busied themselves with their things. We rushed back cos my gal had another tuition but she was happy despite being tired.... 8)

Monday, June 7, 2010

Holidays Again....

Gembira! That's one apt word for my current status. Happy because I don't have to go to school.... it's a relief to the ears not to have to school related stuff for a change. We were told that we could have the first week to prepare ourselves for our PTK exam and the school would leave the second week alone. Well, apparently extra classes were scheduled for us! Empty promise! I am cancelling..... I need a break from my students. They need a break from me. Else we'll start breaking each other! Absence is supposed to make the heart grow a little fonder.... and we'll look forward to the new term!
Exam Papers
Happy also cos I managed to finished this before school closed for the term. Took me 3 intense days of facing these papers. I didn't want to have unfinished work hanging over my head during my break. Left me with 'sore' eyes and a tired mind for 2 days after that! Such kinds of task saps the energy from the brain and leaves you listless after that.
Pork Ribs
Pork ribs! Karyn came home and her ma did a makan on Friday night! These ribs were nice! We had nice company to go with the nice food. These ribs are as good as the ones we had at Chicago Rib House. We had other stuff too... buffalo wings done with a local flavour. Pork ribs are the craze now... I did a round of it at home on Sunday too! 8)
Noodles
The main course was noodles soup, my gal's absolute favourite whenever she goes to Aunty Chua's. Having spent 4 years eating it, she always relishes every opportunity she gets to eat it. And she is not along in missing this dish... many of the kids who went there do too!
Nyonya Chang
But we had all these other things to go along; including chang! These are nyonya dumplings.... they call it pua-kiam-ti (that's Hookiean for half salty and sweet). It's a fusion food night.... LOL!
Nyonya Chang
This is what's under all those wraps.... the blue colour is from the bunga telang. I usually prefer the meat dumplings but these were very nice. We had another session of chang on Saturday... the day the meat dumplings came out fresh from the pot! 8)

We had fun mixing and making our own drink concoctions - bacardi, kahlua, coffee, bailey, ice-cream, mango....
Kenduri
Blogging has taken a back seat these last few days cos I've not had much time to sit down at my computer. It's holiday season; which also means it's kenduri season. Attended my first one over the weekend. Have a couple more invitations to go.

The blessings in life; not so much of the activities but because of the people... Also one night when Thomas dropped by with mantou from the Bedong restaurant to share his (and his Better Half's) joy of being able to locate the restaurant and try them.... that's super duper nice! Sometimes we forget and allow the trivial matters to get in between relationships....

So this hols.... so far it's been nice to be able to reconnect with friends... that apart from the unending and unceasing toiling of clearing that must take place every hols at home too!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Solar... by Ian McEwan

This is absolutely the most difficult book to finish to date. It took me so long. It's satire-like and it has no ending. It's a book about doing vague and gray things and getting away with it.... I actually wanted to put the book down at many points but because I had started on it, I finished it; but I did read through some segments without actually registering.

This is a novel about a Nobel Prize winner in Physics, Prof Michael Beard past his glory days, gives the impression of a man lazy to think out of the box any more (don't we all as we grow older), a womanizer with countless marriages behind him, a man who couldn't seem to stop chasing skirts despite the failed marriages, and one whose life seems to be only for himself. There is also the issue of moral ambiguity; it mines its way into our minds the subtlety of one being able to get away with a crime, in the case of this novel - for framing another person for murder.

Science is laid down in a way that doesn't make it difficult for the layman to understand; with its underlining theme of climate change and the lobby of the fossil fuel industries. The idea of artificial photosynthesis is kinda interesting. There are some interesting sections, one being the main character relieving himself out in the cold biting temperatures of the Artic. Imagine what unzipping would do to one's genital in such bitingly cold weather! LOL! McEwan's description of the incident was downright hillarious!

But there seems to be an underlying theme that beneath the fame of Michael Beard lies the hubris of a man with with sexual weakness, irresponsible streak, plagiarist who took the work of his dead subordinate, a man greedy for accolades derived from work not done by him.... And he still succeeded to a great extent though at the end of the novel, when his whole world seems to be crashing onto him, it is implied that he may have been released from 'further punishments' as the writer gives the impression that he may be suffering from a heart attack. Justice served??? I don't know. But I didn't quite like the ending.

I'm glad I finished this book cos there were many moments when I thought it might not have been possible. I'm done with Book 24.... and the countdown for World Cup 2010 in South Africa begins too..... LOL!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Seafood in Tanjung Dawai...

This is a catch-of-the-day lunch I had with my friends in Tanjung Dawai, a small, quaint fishing hamlet, 50 minutes by car from Alor Setar. This was on Sunday. We had an extended weekend because of Wesak which fell on Friday. The group was made up of 3 Ma(s), each with a kid in tow. It's one of the crazier things that we did to fill our stomachs. LOL! Some of the landmarks we passed - Merbok Archeology Museum, UITM and AIMST.
Tanjung Dawai
Our first stop was the fishing boats' landing jetties for our supply of the 'catch-of-the-day'. Can't miss them cos the jetties are in town.
Tanjung Dawai
Just take any of the alleys like the one above near the mamak restaurant or the goldsmith in the pic above and you will find yourself on the jetties.
Tanjung Dawai
And at the jetties, you will also find holding tanks for these.... this seems to be the specialty here. Fresh mantis prawns.
Tanjung Dawai
This was part of our lunch. Humongous mantis prawns, deep fried! The enterprising fishermen keep them in their holding tanks till they're bigger... premium size! 8 of these huge flers cost us RM120! But I guess this is what the town is known for. Cos I noticed other tables too had these huge fried mantis prawns for lunch.
Tanjung Dawai,Mantis Prawns
Getting to the yummy part is an art as well as a messy task! Definitely a finger food! But I had fun cutting through the shell to get to the flesh. One of these is quite enough to half-fill your stomach. The meat was extremely tasty and sweet; the flesh really firm. It reminds me of lobster meat. Friend and I were just thinking out aloud how easy it is for restaurants to replace real lobster with these in those cold salads.... and then charge patrons lobster prices!
Ketam Batu,Crab
We also had this crabs or ketam batu (stone crab). They were small but every single one of them had eggs. I think I must have gotten an overdose of cholesterol in one afternoon at this place.
Tanjung Dawai
Fish was also from the jetty. Super fresh fish when steamed is always nice.
Tanjung Dawai
Also had this soft shelled crab fried in batter. Very juicy and delicious. It was attacked before I remembered to take shots of it.
Tanjung Dawai
Where did we have our lunch? Not your air-con restaurant but this open shed! With trees as part of the restaurant, it was comfortable enough despite the burning sun. We were the first customers. Friend had to call the proprietor to check whether he was opening as the shop was closed when we got there. He said was on his way! So we drove round town a bit while waiting for him to come. 8).... which wasn't much cos the town is really small.

For me, a big part of the fun of this makan trip is the restaurant itself; the eating in a shed. LOL! Rustic, don't you think? 8) ... and friends to share the moment. With seafood, as long as they are fresh, you can't go very wrong! So, while the cooking may not have that sort of flair and presentation associated with big restaurants, it was nice enough.

We also had their yin yong which was very nice. A must try if you go there, I would say.
Bedong,Mantou
On our way home, we stopped by this restaurant in Bedong for mantou or chinese steamed plain bread rolls... but these aren't your usual plain ones. It's located not too far from the junction to Merbok/Tanjung Dawai. It you are coming from Alor Setar, it should be on your right. We had to wait a while for them to prepare the filling for the mantou.
Mantou,Bedong
And yup! The mantou was worth the wait. Unlike the ones that we usually see, these are thin and has these slices of fried fritters wedged between. And if you want to enjoy it in its complete yummy-ness, order a cup of coffee and have it straight from the steamer, wok at the kopitiam.... it's a taste to be savoured.

We enjoyed this food adventure... the 3 ma(s) and their brood. 8)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

In-house....

In-house courses/training.... they're meant for us to upgrade ourselves. It usually means staying back after school to be 'talked to'. After a good part of the day spent in classes, the ability to stay focus is somewhat diminished, especially in a room with poor ventilation. Carbon dioxide concentration seems to dull the brain and numb the senses. Add that to piles of papers which need to be graded.... it's mid term now.

Anyway, we seldom get inspiring speakers these days, that despite they being highly qualified. But these are also times where qualification does not mean ability to convince.. neither does qualification seem to indicate possession of adequate knowledge.

Experience, I have observed also does not necessarily translate into the ability to conduct an engaging presentation. At this age and time, I would think the ability to convince verbally in a setting like of an in-house training session would be important to spur and encourage the listeners to improve themselves. Information is readily available and easily accessible.. the ability to sell an idea is the key to better productivity. Changing attitudes.... but then again, how do you change attitudes when invited speakers are so boring, uninspiring, monotonous...

Tis the same for courses which we are asked to attend.... a lot of hoo-hah! Very often very little substance... maybe I am just being overly critical. Twice I've been forced to attend them this year... a waste of time! I could learn more by googling...