Sunday, October 31, 2010

And the two shall become one...

"For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." (Ephesians 5:31)
One more wedding of the grown up kids I know from church. In this past year or so, there've been 3 weddings of such 'kids' from our small church. And a little one is due in a while more... 8) As I looked around during the dinner reception, I noticed that the familiar faces have changed into young men and women. That's one sure sign that we're getting older... we're where our parents were; and it feels like not too long ago. Time flies.... circle of life moving.
We wish Onnie and Jun God's best.

Kids grow up; move into another phase of their lives and it signifies our moving too. Seems like yesterday they were still, well... kids. Seems like yesterday too that we were still young... And now most of us sport more gray hair (though some of us hide it under artificial colouring..LOL!) and have more lines on our faces... Conversation materials have witnessed a focus from play in kiddy talk, to school work, to college studies and now their jobs. For a few it has gone into about their kids (and soon to have kids)....

Weddings... they provide a reason to get together for families and friends, far and near, to celebrate and welcome the new addition into the family. They give us a goal to work together, put our heads and hands together for the joyous occasion, creating the opportunity to bond. And they also remind us of our loved ones gone cos that's what it did to me and I'm sure many of us there too.

It made us miss Eow Sim. She'd have been beaming with joy this weekend! This, in loving memory of her.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Change of Heart... Jodi Picoult

Number 46. I just realized that if I read another 6 more books before the year is over, I'd have averaged one book per week for the year!!!! Let's see how it goes. Without my Ipod, I would not have been able to read this many... My Ipod would rank as a very good buddy to me this year.

Back to the book. This book has given me much pleasure and also much to chew on. Style is narratives by the various main characters.

Shay Bourne (Isaiah Matthew Bourne... sounds like I M Born - again??) is convicted of murdering June's husband Kurt and daughter Elizabeth. He is sentenced to death by lethal injection. He makes one request to donate his heart to June's other daughter, Claire who was dying from a heart disease. A past and a crime committed running parallel. Shay's sister Grace was raped by her foster father. In a fire set by her, she becomes disfigured but Shay takes the fall. He is sentenced as a juvenile. In his final days, he finally revealed that he had caught Kurt trying to molest his step daughter, Elizabeth. Yet he chose to die. It's his own way of finding redemption for not being there for his sister. Instead of lethal injection, his lawyer manages to get the authorities to let him die by hanging so that his organs can be harvested. Miracles find their way around him.... a reprieve for a dying AIDS inmate, water turning into wine, grass growing in his chamber where he spends his last night....

Change of heart... religion divides us into either 'us' or 'them'. There is no middle ground cos the middle is usually occupied by guns. Isn't that so true today. The way we go for conversions... more like coercion, 'bribery' and force. Your faith, my faith.... I am right, you are wrong. And because of that we fight.

The issues put forward by the novel - death penalty, a mother facing the possibility of losing her daughter being offered the heart of the man who killed her husband and other daughter, miracles in the correctional facility.... Also of love and redemption and hope in the darkest of moments and places.

I like it for the way it reminds me of this.. organized religion stops becoming a faith when it becomes a tool to remain in power. The writer encourages us to question the basis of our faith. Interesting to note that she used the Gnostic Gospels as the vehicle. I've only read in passing the existence of the Gnostic Gospels. This book has made me want to know a bit more. Perhaps I will do a little reading up on that.

It's a nice book, tear jerker; hard not to be moved to tears some of the narratives. Very Piccoult-like. It's her third book that I've read and all 3 have something to do with believe. How it can move mountains, make us go beyond our selfish selves....

Friday, October 29, 2010

Pottering Around the House...

House frenzy is the latest keeping my time occupied; to the point that there's this dull ache in my feet, from all the moving around, I supposed. There's always something to do now that I'm back in the driver's seat.
Long beans
And I'm into planting stuff around the house again... have planted some sunflowers (seedlings courtesy of Ah Ho), long beans and okra in the same bed. Looks like the sunflowers are being overwhelmed by the long beans. Other Half had this bright idea of using the pipes as a scaffolding for the plant to crawl on. And this patch is also where I 'plant' most of the leftover fruit peelings and leftover rice. Because of that, the plants are doing quite well... natural fertilizers.
Grass
Lawn weeding the past few weeks is showing some results. But this is one task that requires persistence and commitment. Of course, the mower extends us lots of help in this department. And these days, they come with a rear bag which cuts down the sweeping greatly.

Things fall into decay when not looked into regularly... and for the past months, we've been sealing holes, scrubbing the corners and clearing out junk and stuff which we don't use any more. I spray painted the metal garden chairs too. They now look brand new again. At my gal's choice, they're now pink! Spankingly pink! LOL!
Leaves
But all the work pays off when I sit down on a rainy afternoon with a glass of tea and my ipod on the swing.... my own little domain.
Fish
My gal keeps me company quite often. Both of us would be there. I might be reading while she feeds the fish.... sometimes she reads too! 8) Or I'd weed... accompanied by the gurgling sounds of flowing water in the mini pond.
Compost Pot
My compost pot! I bury food stuff for my worms in here when I am too lazy to do it in the veg patch outside. In 2 short months, my skinny worms have been fattened. LOL! It's amazing how much of the rubbish we generate is actually biodegradable. I find my household garbage shrinking quite remarkably ever since I started composting my food stuff.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I Have A Debt of RM14 000!!

That's what the Auditor General's report said. Every Malaysian has a hutang of RM14000, since the country has a debt of RM362.39 billion. It seems to our hutang negara is still on the rise. So if there are 5 people in one household, the hutang for that household stands at RM90000.

My parents taught us never to hutang. Growing up, I don't remember my dad ever mentioning that we had debts to pay... not that we were rich, mind you. Money was always tight. Ours was a single income family. Dad was only a primary school teacher but he worked real hard to support us. His normal day would start at 6.30 a.m. and end at 10.00 p.m. with short lunch and dinner breaks; 6 days a week. So, if anyone ever tells me that the Chinese are all rich... my parents definitely got missed out!! Tuition was how he put us through university.... lots and lots of hard work! No hutang, except for those unavoidable major items like the house and car.

If we could not afford something we want, we would not buy it. Our parents instilled in us not to hutang as far as possible. And for as long as I can remember, I've always done that. Now I am told that I have a debt of RM14 000! Malaysia is a rich country... yet the Auditor General Report stated that many states are not very well managed.

But one state shone!!! Penang!!! I am proud of Lim Guan Eng and his team. Been sick of all the 'demi bangsa dan agama' thingy. And very often, the non-Malays are made to feel as though we have no pegangan.... Turns out, what matters is the integrity (the real one and not the laungan kosong) and not the pegangan agama thing, definitely not the bangsa thing either cos doesn't matter if you are red or white or yellow or even green; if you are greedy, you'll dip your hands into the coffer and bawa all the harta into your own coffers even to the coffin if possible I should think. Thankfully, all of us gotta die some day. I am proud of Lim Guan Eng not because he shares the same ethnicity as me. I am proud of him because he practices good governance for everyone.

And apparently Terengganu with all that oil sitting underneath its seas are seeing its money doing the disappearing act. The poverty level there remains bad.

So, what's wrong with our country. Rising debts, setiap rakyat dikelilingi hutang RM14000! And we're still going to spend even more to build that 100-storey building. What wawasan does it envision? PM already said 1Malaysia comes with unequal citizenship. And then our Defense Ministry bought this AV8 Armoured Vehicle which cost more than RM30 million a piece. Some industry watchers say we can get better ones at a third that price! Remember once upon a time the Sukhoi fighters???? We spent mega bucks on them too!!!

My little brain tells me that if we keep piling up the debts, we'll become bankrupt. Recently there were news that the Kuala Nerang rep (BN) was declared a bankrupt in a High Court proceeding on Oct 15th cos he did not pay his loan. Now if we have reps with such kind of reputation, is it no wonder that our finances are badly managed???

RM14000.... I've worked hard, tried my hardest to steer clear of unwarranted debts. Now I am being told that I have that hutang. What has our gahmen been doing???

BTW, Kedah and Kelantan didn't do too badly in their collection of revenues too... 8)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Seize the Moment..

Moments stand for many concepts.... in physics, maths and life... and in each one of them, it signifies something happening, and it doesn't last forever. In life too, the moments in our lives are like that. Those moments are ours for the enjoyment at that particular time and then it's gone, only to be deposited in our memories.

This was from a kopitiam conversation.... our kids are there for us to enjoy but many of us miss this boat. We are busy people; careers, interests and other pursuits. As such we miss out spending time with our children. We miss the moments. And once missed, they're gone. It will not come back again.

More thoughts from the kopitiam conversation, parents are busy with their own lives. Child minders and maids fill the void left by the parents. I watch kids in my neighbourhood. The kakaks get them ready for school, feed them, take them to the neighbours' houses to play, clean up after them, etc, etc... Parents come and go, pay for their upkeep... Am reading 'The Other Boleyn Girl' by Philippa Gregory now. In the days of Henry VIII, children of nobility also hardly saw their biological parents. Everything was done by the maids. Children were merely to perpetuate family name and influence.

The years before 12 are the most wonderful years. Our children are full of wonderment. Our world, theirs. They yearn for our time. They enjoy our company, even long for them. Their laughters come from their heart. Their sheer enjoyment is just that. Everything is innocent. That moment comes.. and then it goes off... and there is no more.

We miss it cos we're busy carving out a career for ourselves, building our little nest and because we're so busy, we tell ourselves we are entitled to some time of our own. I see parents spending night after night, at the karaoke, badminton courts, busy with social functions.... children and parents leading their own lives. And they come together for brief periods - that touted quality time. I think it's just our way of appeasing our conscience.

An acquaintance reminded us of these moments, on one Saturday morning, in a kopitiam. He told us he truly enjoyed those moments when he discovered them years ago when his children were younger and reminded us to enjoy ours. He was glad for it. And yes, I agree with him... Cos we have one who is at that coming-of-age stage, all about to go out into the world and another at the throes of ending that age-of-innocence.... I enjoy those moments that I share with the young one now....

Kopitiam conversations are supposed to be full of rubbish, he said... but this surely counts as one of the gems.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Other Boleyn Girl... by Philippa Gregory

Relished this book tremendously and I did quite a bit of reading on my own on the same topic while reading it. With the Internet, it's a breeze!!! I love books such as this... one which actually arouses more curiousness. The icing would be to be able to sembang it over with friends but these days, such topics are more likely to draw blank stares... I think it has to do with many of us now turning into the proverbial frog under the coconut shell. Our world is now small, our knowledge, despite a borderless digital world doesn't quite include the history of the past... Probably our education system has done a wonderful job at killing off any interest in history.

This is a historical fiction novel... based on real characters, Henry VIII (the most married King???) and the Boleyns at a time when the Church of England's broke away from the Roman Catholic Church. Interesting twist though, the Tudor reign ended with a Boleyn girl...

In the novel, women were used as sexual pawns to secure power for their families. The focus is of course the rise (and fall) of the Boleyn family. Fathers, brothers and husbands prostituted their daughters, sisters and wives. Hypocrisy is one word to describe the decadence and piety which seems to exist side by side. Families go through great lengths to throw their daughters at the King's feet. Discreet affairs were happening all over the King's court; and he was one of the participants.

I took the liberty of brushing up my English history... finally made the connection that Edward VI, Mary I (Bloody Mary) and Elizabeth 1 (the monarchs after Henry VIII) were half-siblings, thanks to Henry VIII's many marriages in his obsession to produce a male heir. But the House of Tudor's reign ended with Elizabeth I (the Virgin Queen) who also left no offspring. Thus Henry VIII's obsession with a male heir, specifically to perpetuate his line came to nought also. Queen Elizabeth I was Anne Boleyn's daughter, the wife he charged with adultery and beheaded at the Tower. I read too the non-fiction version of Mary Boleyn's biography as well as the life in the court of Henry VIII. The novel gives a more vivid description of the courtesans' lives... more juicy and sordid!!! LOL!!!

It was a time of Reformation in Henry VIII's England. But religion was also used as a tool to further one's ambition. Power corrupts. The more powerful you are, the more likely you are to bend the rules... human nature... or rather our corrupt nature. I could draw parallel comparison from this reading with our current politics.... life's unending repetitions in its cycle!

Book 45... It's been slow in coming cos after I came back from a 2-week 'break' from school, I've been kinda bogged down, family commitments and catching up on the year end frenzy. But thanks to SM for passing me this book. Thoroughly enjoyed it!!!!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sejarah... Compulsory Pass

Come 2013, a pass in History for SPM is a must. Else no SPM Certificate will be awarded. I think it's good for students to learn History. Gives a perspective of balance and there's nothing like reading into stories of the past to learn from the mistakes made. Children still learn well through stories.

But our history is boring. It's also skewed. You get the impression that they are trying to rewrite history. There seems to be an effort to conveniently forget certain parts and contributions. There is no real effort to point out the errors of the past. History books say one reason Birch was stabbed was because he interfered with the practice of slavery... and we imply that he deserves his death because of this too. That he should not have interfered with this form of human abuse... The people (especially the lower classes) would probably have had less to fear from and more freedom.

Kids today don't learn about the role of Yap Ah Loy in the building of Kuala Lumpur. We have a colonial past, that cannot be denied. The immigrants came. Coolies and estate workers they were... it took a heavy toll on them too! But colonialism also brought us progress. When the British left, they left behind a good administrative system. We built on what was left behind, supposedly into something better but we've compromised a lot today.

There seemed to be DNA studies about Hang Tuah and his friends and the recent discovery of Kota Gelanggi have all but not been divulged to the public... and some quarters claim that our Federal Constitution favours certain races over others. Principles of morality be damned... sometimes it feels like we've our own version of the Ku Klux Klan, only ours is not that of white supremacy but of another colour.

Anyway, if current trends are to persist, Ahmad Zahidi's claim that the 'neo-colonialism' supposedly happening to Penang cos it's under Lim Guan Eng's stewardship will also dot the history books in the future. Yet under his tenure in the last 2 years, Penang is thriving. Investments are coming in and even the Seberang Perai municipality went into the black after the red by the previous administration. What did DAP do in Penang to warrant such labelling? Penang has done better under DAP than BN... perhaps neo-colonialism is a good thing, then? That is the that sort of racist politics that we have in Malaysia... or perhaps they must have some pirates' bloodline for good measures??? Apparently Najib called Muhyiddin a Javanese, Shafie Apdal a Semporna lanun (pirate) and Hishamuddin a pirate. One should have a pirate lineage to head a country so that one has credibility to behave like a mafioso.. they too have their system of patronage (the skewed kind)??

Compulsory pass... sometimes it seems to me like the compulsory is just to make sure that every young 'un has to read so that they brain goes through one wash cycle. But this sort of wash usually don't wash well cos the kids are not dumb either... actions speak louder than words.

Friday, October 22, 2010

More stories....

Sy was a student of mine some years back. As a matter of fact, I taught him for 2 years. He was already getting rascally at the end of F3, obnoxious and disruptive in class. Much to our chagrin, he managed to get to F4. I had the misfortune of teaching him again in F5. He was much worse and he influenced a few other kids to dance to his tune. He would outrightly rebel, be nonchalant.... he seemed to derive great pleasure from such actions. I had by then realized that it was better just to leave him be. I chased him for my work whenever he was in class but it never went far. To go too far would do me no good as I cannot count on my bosses to stand behind me...

Where English was concern, it was a lost cause. He was caught stealing copper wires that year. What he would do is roll those wires up and throw them in the flower pots for collection later in the evening. No one knows exactly how much he took. But the school did not expel him... kesian, I guess. There were stories about how this boy, with his father would go round the village clearing the villagers' fruit trees for their own profit.

He'd come to school looking and smelling unwashed. He'd do things to elicit comments... like wiping his hands with newspapers after eating and proceeding to do his work immediately after that. And he was above all, extremely rude. A recalcitrant in which the punishments meted out by the school did not work. I felt he should have been expelled but we were too much into this kesian thing back then.

Recently, he came back to school to return his textbooks so that he can get his exam result slip and certificate. Students were supposed to return those books immediately after their SPM but he just couldn't be bothered. I guess he didn't care much about his result slip or whatever certificates. That's so typical him!!

He has not changed much... still looking rather disheveled. You can still catch a whiff of that old smell. It's been a couple of years since his SPM. Apparently he wanted to collect his School Leaving Certificate so that he can apply to be a soldier. Most of us were left shaking our heads... Can you imagine him a soldier patrolling the border? Who knows what he'll be up to. Add that to the live ammo that will be placed in his hands. We all voiced our hope that he would not succeed in his application..... If he does, then something must be wrong with our selection process...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Standard Guru Malaysia...

One more new thing for us in the education line... and they call it Standard Guru Malaysia. The MOE has even set us a webpage for it. This is what it is supposed to stand for...
Standard Guru Malaysia (SGM) menggariskan kompetensi profesional yang patut dicapai oleh guru, dan keperluan yang patut disediakan oleh agensi dan institusi latihan perguruan bagi membantu guru mencapai tahap kompetensi yang ditetapkan. Dokumen ini disediakan sebagai panduan dan rujukan kepada guru, pendidik guru, agensi dan institusi latihan perguruan dalam usaha untuk melahirkan dan melestarikan guru berkualiti. Dokumen ini akan disemak semula secara berkala bagi tujuan penambahbaikan berterusan.
Looks noble??? I'd say so too till we were told to adjust the scores of our questionaires to reflect the status of my school, which is average. Apparently, if we score too low or too high on the instrument that has been formulated (either the online or offline version), they'd send people to come and check on us. So we were told that the safest path, play with the offline version till you get a score that is 'satisfactory'. Then you submit it.

So much for panduan and rujukan. Anyway, I went for the briefing.... downloaded the apps which had 3 standards... click, click, click... and within 10 minutes had an acceptable score. How's that for our standard? If this is going to play a role in replacing the PTK which will be abolish next year, I'd take my chances with PTK. At least that's an exam which needs to be graded.

I am beginning to have second thoughts about PMR being scraped too. Without an exam to make sure students stay on a universal path, it'd be too easy to just cook up scores in the school-based assessments. We're simply too compromised on values as it is... makes you wonder whether you are already in a cesspool.

Standard Guru Malaysia... at the moment, it looks good on the outside. But the first impression is already reeking with compromise and cheat modes.

On a more happy note... my 9-year-girl wrote her first poem. For the past few weeks, I've been (on and off) doing the water cycle with them. And today, I showed them a poem and after that told them to try their hand at writing one..... And this is what she came up with. 8)

CLOUDS
High up there!
White fluffy clouds
You float very slow,
when the wind is gentle.
You roll here and there,
when the wind is strong.
And when you are happy,
You give us showers of blessings
White fluffy clouds, white fluffy clouds
Where did you go today?

Update 17th Nov:
Apparently one of my colleagues took a peek at our boss' SGM forms. She gave herself all perfect scores for the different tahap(s)!! LOL! That after telling us to moderate our scores! How's that for making herself look good at our expense??

Monday, October 18, 2010

Nilai-Nilai Murni...

or moral values.... Values are universal. We are taught from young what they stand for. I recently saw some of these values pasted on the book shelves at a school library; trilingual - BM, English and Jawi. I learned Jawi when I was in primary school. It's rusty now but I can still make out the words slowly. Kinda nice. Back to the signs... such signs are common sight in most schools these days.
Nilai-Nilai Murni
Schools spend a small fortune to buy these signs and they hang them everywhere. But are these values practised?

What is keadilan (justice/fairness)? Does it mean that Ramli gets a place in the Matriculation College while Lee Mei does not even when both come from the same social background and have the same set of results? In fact, even if Lee Mei might have better set of results, she might still not get a place.

Or semangat kemasyarakatan (community spirit)? Is it one community only we're talking about or all Malaysians? For example, the way some lecturers in BTNs berate about the Chinese being pendatangs and Indians being pariahs? I thought all of us are pendatangs unless you can claim pure ancestry from the Orang Asli. Anyway, is that community spirit? Or like the 2 Principals who sang the same tune like the said BTN lecturer above??? Where is the hemah tinggi? If we start measuring them against the moral values yardstick, all of them will get a F!

Where is the kejujuran (honesty) or rasional (rational) in all these racism that is going around us? A Form 4 student takes up Catering as one of his subjects for SPM. Before long, he is subtly pressured to drop it. Reason given? Well, halal (kosher) and haram (non-kosher) issue. It seems anything he touches might not be halal... even though the food ingredients are bought by the school. Going by the same line of thought, I would think we might as well start wearing masks to filter the air we breathe since this air has gone into so many (animal) lungs... or the water that we drink? Water is a limited resource and is therefore recycled. Same principle. Where is our rationality?

Been moving around a bit this past fortnight and I notice that so many schools have all these signs put up. What is their purpose? For deco? To educate? Or perhaps to show the kids that it's all right to be hypocrites? If that's what those signs are for, perhaps too we should put up another new sign... HYPOCRISY!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Budget, budget 2011...

Nothing very exciting for me this budget.... except that like many, I thought it funny that lingeries, underwear, mosquito nettings, handbags, cosmetics are going to cost less. Can't blame me if my first thought was.... "Wah! Rosmah's budget!!" LOL!

What would have excited me... BONUS!!! Or perhaps prices of everyday foodstuff going down. Bonus is quite out of the question; doesn't need a genius to see that with our current bloated civil service, it's going to cost the country more. At 1.2 million civil servants, we even top America! And our population is not even one tenth of theirs! If you asked me, I think we have way too many civil servants. Just look at some gahmen departments' tea break. It's not uncommon to see civil servants clocking in and then going for their breakfast.... time on tax payer's money. Or see them at 10.00 ++ in the morning at the kedai kopi having their mid-morning break. Anyway, word of bonus would probably send prices of stuff spiraling upwards.

One piece of good news though... finally eco-friendly car prices are coming down. Toyota Prius is going to cos around RM130K instead of the RM170K. Still it's expensive. Won't be getting it anytime soon though cos my set of wheels are still quite new.

Maternity break... doesn't take another Einstein to see that all new mothers would want the 90-day break! Gahmen servants will surely take all 90-days but the private sector... they've got to think of bottom line. Small companies might find it hard to give 'free' money to their employees.

Service charge going up by 1%. Number might seem small but still, it's an increase. Better eat at hawker stalls more.

No toll hike for 5 years! Not going to affect us much as we are not KL-ites. But what's this compensation thing to the toll concessionaires! They borrowed money from the people and reaped fantastic profits and the gahmen just keep extending their contract. We've so many people working out the calculations how the contracts benefitted the companies and not the people. If I were any smarter, I'd think that the gahmen does not have our best interest at heart. Just take a look at Penang... good governance... even the Seberang Perai Municipal which has been in the red has gone into the black. And in only 2 years! Whatever happened to all the money all these years?

And to top it all... another mega structure. Wawasan Building. What wawasan does the building represent? More cronyism? More wastage? More corrupt practices? More pseudo 1Malaysia thingy??? Get real! Channel the money into the Talent Corporation. Get our talented people back to build our country.

I was thinking about my guppy tempayan the other day. When I first started my guppy tempayan, I bought these really beautiful and colourful guppies. It's been more than 2 years since I bought them... and I hardly looked at them, leaving them to my gal and sister-in-law to care for them. Recently I decided to clean the tempayan and to my surprise, my guppies are all now either beige or dark brown... just like the longkang guppies. They are very few colourful ones left. In breeding has all but almost wiped out their colours and size. My guppies live very comfortable lives, fed with the best fish food. But living in the tempayan, and having no new guppies introduced into their midst have literally dulled them and decreased their sizes.....

Malaysia is rich in diversity... different races, culture, food, etc, etc. Instead of promoting this diversity in the truest of sense, we divide. We instill suspicion. And when the race card tak jalan, we use religion. We harp on race 'inferiority' - hence the need to keep promoting one race only. Our diversity is our advantage... instead, it feels like we're turning into the guppies in the tempayan, all luster lost through in-breeding. Now I have so many of these guppies that I don't know whether to throw them into the longkang or introduce more new guppies into my tempayan....

Friday, October 15, 2010

B for Burglar... by Sue Grafton

Currently busy and I shouldn't add more headache to my already rather packed days these days but I did anyway. In between many things, this was my 'entertainment'. Book 44 is from Sue Grafton's alphabet series. Light entertainment where you know the heroine comes out triumphant each time at the end. I'm a sucker for happy ending, good triumphing over bad, mystery solved and justice served. Of course, real life is never like that cos lots of injustices remains unresolved. Story book endings don't happen all the time in life.

Like the entertainment it gave me even though I ended up with a perpetual headache most of the days as the reading ate into my 'supposed-to-sleep-time.' Can't see the exact relation of the 'burglar' to the story though but the storyline still appeals. The emancipated, feisty and wise-cracking woman can do anything the guy can do... and that's the main character, Kinsey. The hunt for a widow, double murders, arson, suspense (sort of since you know the heroine would survive somehow) all add up to light entertainment for the in-between moments.

This book was written in the 80s when mobile phones were not the thing yet... I wondered a few times how come the lead character, Kinsey had to search for public phones to call the cops. Caught myself muttering why the writer was so old fashioned. In the 80s mobiles were lugged around like a suitcase. LOL!

Anyway, headache or no, it's still a nice enough read; one for the road... and I've been on the road a lot on work these past 2 weeks! And volleyball season is finally over. My volleyball has just been scrubbed and it's going back into the store room.... 8(

In one day, the end of a competition.... the euphoric highs and the disheartening dejections of the games, the moments of contact with people seen seldom, and the friend I visited yesterday gone home to God... things on earth, they are so fleeting!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Highs and Lows...

One day of highs and lows... rushed down to Lubuk Merbau; this qualifies as a far flung place in this part of the country. The Thai border is just a couple of miles away. The road was undulating and winding, lonely at most of the stretches and flanked by rubber estates all the way. You get more cows as companions than people as you traverse through this part of interior Kedah. And here too, one has to look out for these bovines who wander onto the roads as though they own them. You might not survive a headlong crash with them. In our early days in Baling, we'd hear of headlong crashes between vehicles and cows. Very often the two-legged creature suffered more serious injuries.

Got there only to find out that our team had lost their first game. But hey! Felda Lubuk Merbau has a very nice futsal cum volleyball court. The court actually feels cushiony... 8) We had another game coming in the afternoon and we won! LOL! Apparently I was the pembawa semangat... not that I played very well. This time around, I only went for one practice due to the hectic schedule that I currently am in. However, during the game, in trying to save a ball, I sprained my hand... I've a blue back as a trophy on my palm now.... but it'll recover.

But winning isn't everything, though it adds to the fun. Half the fun is the discovery that you can still do those moves! ... jump, spike, deliver a whooper of a service, make a dramatic save..... At our age, many things are beginning to feel like bonus rounds. In recent weeks, I've been reminded that our lives can change overnight!

Got the opportunity to spend some time and see old friends. And with a long journey to and fro, there wasn't much else to do except talk. You're reminded of the ties shared. You share moments over food, frustrations and furores! 8) Everyone is too busy to spare moments these days... we're all too caught up with our own lives, problems, etc, etc... sometimes it's good to be reminded that the ties are still there....

While I was there, I received a SMS that a church member of ours is back home, end stage CA. After I got home, I got a call that some were going to visit him. So I went and sat there for a while. It's depressing to be reminded that this mortal body has to suffer as we approach the last leg of our journey. Life is like a brief candle... There've been more deaths of people I know in the past 6 months than I can remember; a constant reminder that the line I am in is getting shorter...

I wished I had taken my camera but in my rush from one end of the state to the other, I forgot many things. We used to drive along those stretches of road many years ago, Other Half and I. Been over 15 years and the rural setting is still as idyllic as it was. So there... one more for the memory album (minus the photos).

And the icing on the cake for the day... to have goodies sent over to the house. Home made beef stew with mashed potatoes and garlic bread. The sight of them is making my stomach growl even though dinner was just an hour ago... so I shall wait for my Other Half to dig in together.... our supper! In thanksgiving for friends who make our days cheerier!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Dumb and Dumber.... Dumbed Down!!!!

UPSR is in...PMR is out! I think both exams are mere assessments to see how well one can regurgitate but at least the PMR acts as a sieve to weed out those who really tak minat and tak boleh continue in their studies, though there are very few of those. These days, all it takes to continue to Form 4 is just one pass. Kids who cannot actually read can also move up to Form 4! Cos it's very possible to pass one subject even if you can't read. Just mark all 'A" or "B" or whatever alphabet that you fancy on the OMR form and hope for some dumb luck and you're in. And you've quite a few subjects to try from.... not very hard to pass one subject.

But still, a few won't fall through... and I think that's merciful to them and us. They cannot cope and schools just don't have the kind of resources for a one to one for such students. And to make them stay is just to pass time.... and they hold the rest of the class back. I've a few such students in class sometimes. Lessons don't make much sense to them. While the rest of the class are able to complete the task given, they cannot even write properly, let alone answer some. As much as we would like everyone to graduate from secondary school, reality is that there are some who just cannot cope...

And now with the PMR out of the way... we're going to have to deal with them and they have more time to in turn to allow mischief to turn hardcore. *sigh*

Anyway, PMR or no... we're still getting students who cannot cope with English in our prep colleges such as Matriculation Colleges, Polytechnics and also the universities. This was a discusion among our selected students at such institutions.... they were discussing about how to motivate a person to study...

From one of them... "I think teacher or lecturers can motivasi a student to study because them are knowledge and can handle himself discipline the student." Another said, "I think family members are the important to support us. I think they can support you from behind. All thing good or bad, someone is come from family. We can see boy or girl, if attitude is come from family, especially mother, our mother can motivate us. For example, the best student who are 20As, their family give their support" Yet another said, "Friends most likely are germs (gems) who can encourage us. Let I told you the definition what is friend. Friend is a person who with us happy or bad time. When we see he or her studying we get attracted to studying too. What do you think?" And another... "I think the individual can be the best to motivate he or herself." That's our future undergraduates having a discussion... now go figure!

Imagine, most of them are our future graduates too. No wonder they are not employable. Not only do many lack a good command of language but a greater problem is the way they've been dumbed down systematically by our own system which makes things so easy for them cos they also lack substance... from Bolehland! As always; form over substance.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Nurture Shock... by Pro Bonson and Ashely Merryman

This is Book 43 and it is non-fiction and I would rate it a must read for parents and also teenagers (might help them understand themselves a little better). It's a book about parenting and growing up. Both Other Half and I belong to the generation of supposedly enlightened parents.. read that as supposedly Involved Parents. And it's funny to read that all this psychoanalysis thing my gen has been trying to incorporate into parenting yet not succeeding very much in producing kids any enlightened than ourselves... in fact sometimes I feel they're worse off than us.

The book draws studies picked from empirical researches in the field, not your usual sampling in the labs. What's so funny is I find that many of the studies actually prove that our parents (and not us) generation were right in many ways. Many parents today want to be their children's friends... One of the studies indicate that kids need discipline in their lives. Now if we're their friends, hard to discipline, huh??? Permissive parenting does not result in better kids. In fact permissive parenting leads to more problems. So much for new ways are better than old ones.

We are natural liars! You don't need to the environment to turn you into a liar. You lie as a method of self preservation or to get what you want. This is contrary to the some belief that Man is intrinsically pure but blemished by his environment. Studies discovered that kids as young as 4 (and they come from homes where parents do all they can to make sure their kids are straight) begin to lie to get what they want without being prompted! Fallen nature we are! LOL!

The importance of play... this is where we've all got it all skewed. Kids learn best through play. Our policy makers continue dawdle to decide whether to change our existing crazy exam-oriented system and parents drag their children in the ever rising stream that drowns their children in the chase of excellence. Children need to play more. Having a childhood actually makes our kids smarter, not putting them through hours of long extra boring classes after school. We tire them and stunt their brain growth. In the long run, we are actually dumbing them down. That makes us all kinda stupid, right? It's all this kiasu-ness in us that's causing all this too.

Teenagers.... letting them drive without supervision is also stupid. We learned it the hard way. Teenagers themselves may feel they are ready to drive... they are not. They cannot make good decisions yet... not because they are not trustworthy but simply because their brains are not quite ready yet. They don't make good Executive Decisions because their brains just simply cannot quite handle it yet!

I had an interesting conversation with a young adult recently... he tells me that most of his college mates drink like fish. That seems to be the norm now... we've caught up with the Western societies. Young people go out... they party, booze, go into extremes of gaming (MPOG), get into orgies... etc.. Many kids do things that their parents have no inkling whatsoever. These young people led very regimented life. By the time they leave, they've not quite gotten it that freedom to make their own decision is something that comes naturally with the passage of time. Most of them find the freedom they have when they go to college quite giddying. And many succumb to the 'wild' life...

We protect our kids from the real world because we deem them not ready and this has sorely backfired. And when we let them loose into the world... they literally become loose cannons. We keep them in school because education is supposed to be their tickets to a better life. Look at our unemployable graduates!!! I think for many, it might have been better to enter the job market earlier and pick up some skills. And that's still the 'educable' ones. In schools we have many students who are just 'marking time'. They have no hope of passing. They are not cut out for the academia.... yet they come day after day... turning us teachers into baby sitters and getting bored and becoming disruptive. By the time they leave, many think the world owes it to them their existence.

Nurture Shock..... this is a nice non-fiction book. Enjoy this read! Good for parents and kids to read! Many gems of wisdom.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Getting back into the game...

Am thinking of giving it a miss this year... but my old team mates persuaded me to just go and dig a few balls. I g(c)ave(d) in. So I went and served, 'aunty-spiked', set a couple of balls. The brief volleyball season is back!!!!!

A year has passed since our last game. And even though I am relatively fit, a 'laid-off' game still pose some pain. You need constant contact to be on top of things. Else you'll just rust. But if you have a good foundation and the determination, it's easier to get back to it if the time lapse is not too great. And determination rules.... cos without it, even though you have the skill, you can't last. Anyway, it still hurts to get back into the game!

Got up this morning with some mild bruising and a backache.... not that sort that agonizes but enough to nag and cause discomfort each time I move certain body parts.

I don't know what keeps us going back.... fifty-ish and forty-ish almost half the team. And we're still able to match the 'youngsters' if not better them. Occasionally floored by births (us ladies and maternity breaks!) some of us have kept going back over the years... perhaps this might help to redefine the word 'addiction'... I don't know. Or this could be one of those little things that allow us not to get bored, lethargic and disengaged with our own lives????

Anyway, it's nice to let it out in the open court. We can scream and yell... in delight, glee and even frustration. Kinda nice to be able to just lepas steam. More often than never, as we grow older, we are all expected to be more composed and dignified... act your age kinda thing.

I am not sure whether I'll go for the competition... I know my team mates would want me to... harried existence that I lead at the moment. But it's good and nice to do something that is off the radar screen every now and then... akin to stop and smell the roses thingy.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest... by Stieg Larsson

One of the Blomkvist trilogy from Stieg Larsson. This the the second of his book that I've read. Did The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo last year.

Lisbeth Salander, the main character is back with her stoicism and resourcefulness. She's brilliant, a young computer-hacking punk, badly abused by the system because The Section, a highly secretive (illegal) outfit from the corridors of the state's secret service deemed her a threat to their operations. Anyway, with the help of the crime crusader Blomkvist, all ends well for the heroes and heroines of the novel while the bad guys bite the dust. Liz used her computer skills to hack into her adversaries hard disks. Kinda scary this scenario... that your life can be bared if you keep it in your computer and someone hacks in.

This book made me wonder about the Swedish society. What I know is it is a model welfare state. Sweden also has an interesting law about prostitution. It is legal to sell sex but not to buy it, therefore making the men responsible. LOL! Some reports I read states that women trafficking for sex in Sweden has been reduced greatly. But by putting the responsibility on the buyer (men), this law actually states clearly that prostitution is actually a crime of violence on women.... which it actually is! Cool!!! No other country has this law yet.

Another thing that caught my eye is the consequences of its welfare state system. Having been spared both world wars Sweden progressed unhindered and at one time was one of the 3 richest nations in the world. It's a country where her citizens have that sort of cradle to grave sort of care. Interesting to note too that the grandchildren of the welfare system have now clamoured that older people (those in their 60s) vacate their jobs for the younger unemployed and that many old people are 'abandoned' by their children who hardly visit them. There are many old lonely people in Sweden.

The very young are also sent to the state for public care. Parents spend very little time with their children. Who can blame them. If there is someone else to do the hard work for us, most of us would gladly surrender that over. Just look around at our own children who are brought up by child minders and maids. Majority are spoilt. Parents today live rather selfish lives... chasing their dreams of career advancement and wealth, going for their own holidays, attending social events. Sacrifice comes in the form of paying for care, not hands on.

This book spurned other readings which I found very educational, with insights to our own society. The abuse of our NEP... it too creates a generation who will demand from the state like spoilt children but what is worse is the generation of a degenerated morality among our people.

I will be trying to get the other remaining book in this trilogy to read. Interest already fired. LOL! Book 42.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Edelweiss...

Edelweiss... it's an oldie from the movie "The Sound of Music". An old classic. I learned this song as a kid at school.
Edelweiss,Armenian St,Penang
Anyway, this Edelweiss is different. It's a cafe, some say the only Swiss cafe in Penang located at Gat Lebuh Armenian (Armenian St). Been quite a while since we went food trying. So instead of going to the usual places, we went to The Heritage Trail in Old Penang, something like Jonker St in Malacca. But this one still needs quite a bit work.
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The restaurant is really quaint. You get this feeling the minute you step in. Everything inside seems to be ringing from the past, right down to the fan controls.
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We had to wait a while for our food. I had this. Smoked pork belly. The menu comes with a fatty' warning. 8) The noodle-like thing in the centre is actually mashed potato.
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My boy's pork ribs. He loved it... finger-lookin good from the way he was eating them.
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Other Half took their B52 which was a huge sausage! By far one of the biggest I've seen being served!
Irish Kiss
The B52 was accompanied by this Irish Coffee... another name for it is Irish Kiss, I think! We tried making our own (cold) version of Irish Kiss not too long ago. It was quite fun!
Edelweiss,Armenian St,Penang,Mushroom Soup
And the Lil One had the mushroom soup, apart from 'donations' from us. It's quite thick with presumably finely chopped mushroom, onions, etc in it.
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In between we took a walk to check out the place. The stuff inside are not just antiquated but they've got these nice cute stuff around. There's a funny poster in the men's toilet too. My boy took a photo of it. They serve cheese fondue too and we're going back for that!!! ... thanks to reading all about that from Asterix!
Armenian St,Chew Kongsi House
After lunch, since the weather was really cool and cloudy, we took a stroll into the Cheah Kongsi house which was just a stone's throw from the cafe. My kids have never been into old Chinese houses with courtyards. It's quite big but some sections are closed to the public. It was practically empty while we were there. Some restoration works seemed to be underway by the looks of things.
Cafe Amelie
And Other Half noticed this unobtrusive cafe tucked behind the plants. We walked past the first time without noticing it at all. And when I took a peek inside, it was a really small place.... with something like 4 tables for the patrons only. And it was perpetually full (what would you expect if there were only 4 tables that make up the restaurant? LOL!) Would be interesting to try this place one of these days.

And since we were already on the sightseeing mode, we took the ferry back (after a short shopping stop) to the mainland instead of the bridge... for Lil One's sake. She enjoyed the 'boat' ride very much I think. This is one of the more memorable trips we've done for some time.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Reminiscings...

Conversations... nah! They don't call it that anymore. These days the word 'chat' is more chic and appropriate. After all it's chats we hold over the Internet, what with the VOIP and IM thing-ies. Yesterday morning I had a chat with my 2 dear old school friends (we share almost a lifetime of friendship), geographically separated by land and vast oceans. But we're such 'old' friends... lau-peng-yu (Gosh! I cannot imagine using that term, age is indeed catching up)

Our Form 5 25th anniversary gathering is upcoming. Unfortunately all 3 cannot make it. The years have literally flown by. We're all beginning to sport gray hair and having to deal with stiffer eye lenses and ear drums too. I've just realized that it's harder for me to pick up the higher pitched sounds lately. We're supposed to be undergoing midlife crisis but all agree that we're simply too busy to entertain the crisis. LOL! We're basically busy juggling work and family.... So, a lot of other things just get swept under the chair (no carpet for me) to collect cobwebs, including mid-life crisis.

The years have been kind to us. The different phases we've gone through... and those that await us... in this life's journey. Somehow, the chat jolted my memories of my childhood. Those years before 12 were fun years.... real carefree days, unlike the crazy schedule that kids today go through. I remember the running around with my bro and our neighbourhood kids. Holidays were exceptionally fun. We'd play hide-n-seek in the tall lalangs (the word 'snake' didn't seem to be in our vocab) and even onto the roof and big drains, skate round the school hall near my house, had sunrise (and also sunset) badminton, fish in the longkang, games of 'a-chi-chok' in the field, on the trees and the monkey bars.... Occasionally we'd even build our own stove to cook whatever leaves or stuff we could smuggle out of the kitchen. And how can I forget playing guli (big and small) and the other seasonal games - kite-flying, top spinning... I think we played most of the popular folk games. We even tried our hands at making our own kites. And barring some mishaps and accidents which happened every now and then, I look back with great fondness those years.

Hanging out at our neighbour's house was very okay those days. Sometimes we'd be playing ping pong one whole morning. Other times, we'd be discussing what we wanted to do for the upcoming evening or day or even week... meeting skills, negotiation abilities.... they were all picked up through play (and quarrels). End of holidays would see us tanned, toughened and coarsened (somewhat) by the hours in the sun. Mom was strict but somehow, she let us loose during those holiday weeks.

An idea of school break to my kid today is totally different. No running around the housing estate for sure. Entertainment means sitting in front of the computer.... everything digital. Digital farms, villains, heroes, construction... social networking means tapping away on the keyboard. They sit a good part of the day glued to the computer, their link (lifeline???) to the outside world. Mope and the whole network mopes with you. And if at all my kids do outdoor activities, it would be because I take (my boy will say I force) them out.... they don't seem to have that seasonal 'siaoness' over a project or game. Theirs is a very adult-like existence. And theirs is an existence softened by the soft life they lead.

Old friends are good.. they're like this trigger that sets off old memories tucked in the crevices of our minds, buried under our busy schedules.