Saturday, April 30, 2011

Podcasts on iPad

More on my sort of iPad apps.

I discovered the joy of podcasts not too long after we got our first iPod Touch. What is a podcast? A podcast is basically a audio or video file containing the stuff you want to listen to. I'll leave the technical jargon out of this cos there's always Wiki to refer and it does a far better job at defining than me.
Podcast,iPad
Anyway, podcasts are fun mainly because you get to choose what you want to see or listen. I've found them to be educational as well as entertaining.... good 'makan' companion. I've this habit that I must read or watch something when I am eating alone. So this podcast thingy is a nice companion to have. My favourite podcast is TED Talks which is basically made up of talks. They get all these different people with great ideas to come share what they've done or are doing... for example in one of the talks, I learned that oysters make very good natural filters.. they can filter something like 50 gallons of water or 190 litres of water a day! And in New York they are trying to create walls of oysters to purify their rivers!!! Cool! You get yummy food as well as a natural filter! Or that a guy managed to turn the ecology around naturally by turning to natural fish farming instead of using conventional fish farming methods in one European country.
TED
Podcast is light and easy on you cos you chose when you want to listen to them. What I'd do is I'd pick out the podcasts before I go sleep and download them. Downloading is easy. Just click whatever you want and leave your iPad. When morn comes, the podcast downloads are all done. And off I go to school with my iPad. These talks come on when I take my meals in between lessons sometimes. Multi-tasking, no time wasted. Actually, the reason is because I don't have much time to listen when I am at home. Eating and not doing anything else seems such a waste. So, enter the podcasts. I might want to get a speaker to make it clearer. Ravaged by the tick-tock of time, my eardrums have lost a little of their elasticity....
RSA,Animate
Another favourite is RSA Animate. I simply love the way they animate the talks. It keeps you riveted to the screen cos you want to see how the artist will illustrate the concepts and ideas. Very humourous and funny sometimes. And again, I've learned so much from them. Makes me wish that I can draw. Imagine how much fun that would be for my students. I can imagine the rapt attention students will give if a History teacher were to 'animate' his lessons this way. Totally awesome and cool!
Sesame Street,iPad
My girl's flavour of the day... Sesame Street Podcasts. She has been going on a download frenzy. Every time she gets her hands on the iPad, downloading Sesame Street Podcasts would be one of the things she'd do.... Word on the Street series are rather interesting. One of the first we listened to was the world 'Arachnid'. This is one series that need no introduction. Children love 'em, adults find them entertaining too!

There are many podcasts out there, from sermons to silly cartoons. You are spoilt for choice. The only limit is your iPad storage capacity and your time. You can spend the whole day listening to them if you can stand it.

Other Half is into MacBreaks at the moment. It is informative and brings you to par with the latest but it's too long for me. Each podcast can be as long as one and a half hours.

Audio podcasts are also available but I'm not into that at the moment. There's a good app for Sermon Audio but I have that on my iPod Touch.

No Country For Old Men... by Cormac McCarthy

Book 15... and this is one is violence filled; that sort of violence typically associated with drug world. Llewellyn Moss stumbles onto dead bodies while out on a hunt for animals. Alongside the bodies was a bag of money, totaling 2 million. Unknown to him, the bag of money had a transmitter. Anton Chigurh, a psychopathic killer was sent to recover the money. He is a cold, calculating killing machine, who shows no mercy to anyone. He kills anyone in his path. He has no enemies because all who stands in his way will be destroyed. He is portrayed as one having no feelings. And on the side of the law was Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, who tries to save Moss.

I thought Moss, who was a former sniper in the Army would survive his encounter with Chigurh and get to enjoy his money but it wasn't to be. I was rooting for him cos it would be like rooting for the small guy to get a break in life. But he was tracked down and killed in cold blood. Chigurh then went after Moss' wife, Carla Jean, not because she was a threat to him but simply because he had made up his mind to do so earlier on after an encounter with Moss in a gunfight. The fate of Chigurh was not made known at the end of the story.

To cut the long story short, I didn't quite enjoy this book. Though I've read books with quite a fair deal of violence in them, this one somehow just didn't go down very well with me. In fact I found this brand of violence rather disturbing cos it seems to highlight the worst of our human nature. It's disturbing because it also feels chillingly possible, going by violence meted out by e drug cartels which we read about in the news. Greed brings out the worst in us and this book seems to be that reminder of this.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Site Aggregators for iPad

One of my favourite aggregators is Zite. I've mentioned it a couple of times previously.
iPad app
With it, I've been able to read extensively into areas of interest with minimal effort. I like the fact that I am able to just type in a category of interest and it will do the aggregating on its own for that particular category. And if I like a certain area within that category, 'Like' it and the app will try to get more of those articles for me. It's like having someone do the library search for me, a personal assistant that you don't have to pay a salary. I like this app cos you can customize what you want in it. In other words, you get to choose your own magazine content.
iPad app
Pulse is one of my earlier aggregators. This one I like cos it's so graphic; pictures and articles come in film reel format for easy sight. As you can see, I've almost one whole page dedicated to food. I've other pages dedicated to blogs, news, geeky stuff. This particular page is really colourful, appetizing and nice to look at. I haven't really tried any of the recipes or food suggestions, though I must admit that I am rather tempted to do one; the pink pickled eggs. 8)
iPad app
Flipboard is my latest addition to my aggregator collection. The interface is cool. I like its minimalistic approach with maximum show-and-tell on one screen. And like the above, you can customize it to your preference.
iPad app
I've just begun to get it organized and I like its simplicity. I think the simplicity of interface and vivid contents have made it easy for those with computer phobia to be able to manoeuvre their way around the iPad. And the screen size is ideal. Android may be catching up fast; I read somewhere that in a couple of months, there'll be more apps in the Android store than Apple Store. But there are already over 100 000 apps available for the iPad and they're growing. Maybe I'll even take a bite and try an Android tablet one day but for now, I'll stay with the iPad. There are so many things to read and 24 hours a day isn't enough for all the things I need to do and want to read because of the iPad.
iPad
I occasionally use this to read local mainstream news, for quickie updates. This is a paid app but I got it free during its one month promo period. Sometimes you might get lucky and come across such freebies. But this is cheap... 99 cents if I'm not wrong.
iPad
News articles are displayed newsreel style, like Pulse but minus the pictures. As you can see at the bottom are lists of Malaysian sites. There is another version which aggregates the Singapore news called NewsApp Singapore. I got that free too during their one day promotion in the App Store. Happened to be checking the App Store on that particular day when they released it. 8) It's also 99 cents. 8) There are iPod versions too but they're too small to be comfortable on my eyes. My iPod is mainly for book reading these days and occasional updates of records.
iPad,NewsShare
If I want something more country specific, I use this... also occasionally. It aggregates news briefs of a specific country. You get to pick them by clicking on the flags. This is a free app. There are many other apps available such as Times, NY Times (but you only get to read their top news section for the free), Popular Science, etc, etc. The list is long enough to exhaust you. You can read till your eyes bulge or get brainwashed... as some of us believe that there is this conspiracy to shape the readers' minds via media.

Lifelong learning, lifewide learning, reading for fun... in short, reading has taken on a whole new dimension for me. No longer do I depend on my school to send me for courses, or the physical books that I buy from the store or even depend on Google. In fact I find books rather cumbersome to carry about and many of the speakers at courses boring. Plus most are unable to introduce some 'wow-ness' into their courses. I get more up-to-date developments, ideas and info way faster via reading; with most of them written by experts or at least have references to experts of the respective fields. I would never imagined that my reading eyes can be set so far. And it's reshaping the way I view learning. But the learning is dependable on our attitude and how pliable we are in learning to utilize the technology around us as an enabling tool.

And hence, our preoccupation with getting another iPad... one for me, and one for Other Half. Right now, Other Half is squinting his eyes a lot just reading into his iPod Touch. But magazines (in PDF) are a no-no on the small screen of an iPod. Site aggregators have really changed the way I read, that's for sure. And I am enjoying it!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Dinner break...

Dinner
... at the start of the week, on Monday night. Joseph and Sze Mum cooked this meal for us. Beef, mutton, huge prawns, boiled potatoes with sour cream and bacon bits.
Dinner Plates
Ah! All of us enjoyed this meal. Incidentally, this is baby Julia's first trip to Alor Setar, her full moon (1st month) celebration!!!
Cooks
The cooks, busy at the stoves (and oven)! 8) This is real 'kerjasama'. Share and share alike and we also get to share their shared kerjasama. Supeeeeer dupeeeeer good for us. LOL!
Red Velvet Cupcakes
Red velvet cupcakes. I am told that this is an old craze that has been given a new lease of life. Karyn was finishing one batch as we were about to leave. But we got a few to try the next day! 8) Savoury and sweet in one bite.

Dinner at the start of the week... something which we seldom do. Nice change, though! 8) And something to drool over in time to come.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Jerks!!!!

I think it's only fair to say that all of us have been jerks one time or another, to different people. But for some, it sometimes feels like it's a permanent condition (I know it's not but it just feels that way). Jerks are people filled with self importance. Jerks become jerks because the space they have for others in their lives is very tiny.

Jerks are very loud people. They leave an incessant ringing sound in you, of their voice, scratchy and pitchy.... in BM there's this word... terngiang-ngiang. You get a hearing impairment because their voice continue to ring way after they are out of your presence. The sound of their voice leave you cringing, and a bad aftertaste.

Jerks expect you to pity them because the world is supposed to evolve around them. Last I checked, our world evolved around something bigger, the sun. But no... jerks think we owe it to them. They feel that they deserve all our pity cos they are doing so much and therefore deserve our gratitude.

When jerks are in charge, they bring out the jerks in the people around them too! That's the saddest part. Cos in each of us, there is this jerk waiting to be released. And like it or not, it takes a jerk to bring out another jerk.

So, jerks... It makes you feel like jerking their heads.... you feel like putting them in front of a mirror. But nah! Jerks don't see their reflection.... futile effort. Cos if at all any reflection they see... it's of themselves, larger than life.

And I am probably being a jerk writing about this.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Blogsy for iPad

Blogging on the iPad is actually quite easy with Blogsy. It's not a free app. But at USD$2.99, what started of as a price-to-pay for a tryout has turned into something quite useful. BTW, one of the beauty of Apple apps is the price.... they don't make you dig deep into your pocket. And upgrades are free. So, I guess that's why many young people have no qualms about purchasing the apps.

Blogsy
Blogsy for iPad. First, the iPad is very easy to turn on. One press and you're ready to navigate. One swipe and another touch on the app you want, it's ready for use. But you have to take care to swipe the main screen (from right to left) as the page that you see above is actually a 2-in-1. One page can be edited while the other one seems to be a preview. Click on the + sign to begin a new post. All that in less than 5 seconds and you can be drinking milo and dipping in your Jacob's Cream Crackers at the same time. 8)

Because the iPad screen is big enough, I've found typing on it quite acceptable. I've actually gotten quite adept at this touch typing on the screen. LOL! However, I still find it a little disconcerting that I don't physically feel the keys going up and down as I type though it's something that one can adjust and adapt, given time and practice.

And with the connection kits that enable one to upload photos to the iPad, photos are not a problem. With Blogsy, you are also able to seamlessly drag your stuff from YouTube, Picasa and Flickr into your blog posts. My only snag now is I use Photobucket. No direct line there yet and I hope the developers will look into it. But overall, Blogsy is nice if you want to do some blogging from your iPad.

My only complaint is whenever I click to use it on the first try after turning on my iPad, it will tell me that I am not connected to the Internet. Because of that, I cannot access my posts for editing. I expect the developers will look into that! So what I would do is to start a new post and save it as draft. Once that is done, I can view all my posts; scheduled and drafts.

I've actually begun to type out some of my posts on it and also done some editing. Verdict - it's easy enough cos the iPad is a true coffee-table companion, compact and comfortable to use, though I think some weight reduction will be great on the wrist. This app is worth a second look for those who blog. Blogging can take on a new dimension, one that entails greater mobility. After all free wi-fi spots abound in the Malaysia, unlike many parts of the world.

Naik dan Naik Lagi

In Dec 2009 1kg of sugar was RM1.45. Robert Kuok exited the sugar business in Malaysia in Oct that same year. Entered Syed Bukhari as the new sugar king. In December 2010 sugar rose to RM2.10 per kg. In the span of 12 months sugar went up by 65 sen after it changed hands, cos the government said it was reducing subsidies.

But sugar isn't the only thing that has gone up. Everything is. Prices of butter will go up by 10-12% this coming May. Life is getting to be rather expensive even in Alor Setar. If you opt to buy just an egg or two from the sundry shop now, it costs up to 50 sen per egg. If you buy in tens, it's around 35-40 sen. And if you work really hard and search for good bargains, you might still be able to get a really big egg for around 36 sen. But you've got to know where to look for such eggs and you have to buy in bulk. Not everyone does that or is able to get friends to buy the same type of eggs. People in the 'can-afford-to-buy' bracket have way too many idiosyncrasies.

Prices of daily stuff is going up and up. Our ringgit may be strengthening but our purchasing power doesn't seem to be growing in tandem. Inflation is something that is very real for the man on the street. The funny thing is our economy is supposed to be doing well... but the more money we bring home don't seem to be bringing in very much more goodies for our families. We're working harder than before to bring in more dough... but more dough doesn't seem to give us more food, relatively speaking.

Weekend is the only time I go out for breakfast with my girl. A plate of fried mee/kwayteow, one small meat pau and one small bottle of soya (we share) cost approximately RM6. Used to be below RM5. It is costly to eat out now. Government and service taxes add on to the cost. It's cheaper to eat at the hawker stalls; more value for money.

Prices of things continue to rise.... and rise. Economy rice is also not that economy nowadays. Chak-fun with 3 choices ranges from RM4 - 5, depending on the type of dishes you take. It's worse at the Nasi Kandar shop. Nasi kandar is food for the rich now... which is just as well, I supposed since it brings with it all those rich man's health problems. One of the few good news is that RON95 is still stable at RM1.90 per litre, heavily subsidized. But that's one of those few places I see my taxes coming back to me. But we can never continue subsidizing.....

A bun from the cake shop is now no longer cheap. And it seems to be smaller. The cheap mee (pre-fried mee) that we used to buy from Jalan Putra and the market is now RM1.50; portions are smaller too. It used to be RM0.50 per packet and you could fill your stomach with it. If the prices remained, the size would shrink. Value for money is beginning to feel like distant dream.

Our strengthening ringgit....yup! No denial that electronic gadgets are getting cheaper. But those stuff don't feed the stomachs. The stuff that feeds our stomachs don't seem to be benefitting from the strengthening ringgit..... unless you are thinking of importing false eggs or melamine tainted products from China.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Bit and Pieces... of Idiocy

Lynas Rare Earth.. till this came around, I didn't even realize that a $100 million clean-up is ongoing in Bukit Merah for a rare earth plant closed down in 1992. If it's so good for us, why aren't all the first world countries clamouring to have their own plants? You only find such plants in Inner Mongolia!!! Anyway, if it's so safe, why not build it next to Putrajaya? Leaders walk their talk, show the people it is safe. Then we can build some more plants all over the country and Malaysia will be super rich from rare earth elements production. Now, how come other countries all so stupid?? And we're the only smart ones around.


Incidentally, it seems the new class of nuclear plants will be running on thorium (which has an over 1 billion years half life... which means we'll forever be radiated by it if a Fukushima were to happen... I think)... ring any bells? One of the byproducts of rare earth thingy is thorium... could it be because we'll be killing 2 birds with one stone that we allowed something so rare in first world countries to be built in Malaysia???

Boot camp for sissy boys! Poor boys! I don't what what is more 'malu-fying'.. to be labelled a sissy or to be sent to a boot camp to be toughened. Sissy boys are aplenty these days! Good life and you only need to translate your urge to play and socialize by sending out digital signals... how not to have sissified boys? What next? "Shoe camp" for pengkid(s)??? We're a real sesat society. Go find out why we're having more sissified boys-lah. Schools so academic oriented... how to find time to go do all the boy stuff?

Bounced check after election. Some Headman cries foul cos the check he was given to buy his kampung folks' votes bounced!!! But it'll be a 'his-word-against-mine' and as usual, hard to imagine investigations being carried out, let alone actions. One cheat against another bigger cheat... now small cheat says he's cheated..... no need to sweep also already under the carpet.

We're a society of show and tell... show everything looking nice on the outside. Tell based on everything that is shown. I've just gone through a couple of days of watching this whole sessions of painting in shades of gray... where the lines between truths and untruths become so hazy that lies are legalized.... *sigh* This is a supposedly society with deep seated religious zeal.... And now there is a frenzy of doling everything up.... because people are dropping by... even those rocks of Gibraltars are moving to put on a show... albeit temporarily. When the storm moves away, they'll assume their true forms again. Maybe it's a good thing, at least books get marked, some work gets done; no matter how temporary it may be. Those visitors should just make unannounced visits....

And the most ridiculous of all... free email, first a government initiative, then evolved into a private initiative within a span of 24 hours (thanks to the digital opposition). Free with a RM50 million price tag; in an age of real free email, photo and video hosting from Google, Yahoo, Photobucket, YouTube, Vimeo. Then some more spin-offs. Apparently, government agencies save money if they use this new initiative... aiyo! Why not just use the already real free emails that we have?

And if government die-die also must use email, don't tell me that they're going to tarik electricity line to every Malaysian, even the ones who live in the deep interiors of Sarawak and Sabah? ... Oh! I forgot we can fix up solar panels!!! Or maybe build mini dams in those brooks to generate power for the computers. And if that is not enough, supply every one of those people a computer and send people to give them free lessons on how to use the email???? It's not hard to see Pemandu driving us all into the deep ravine of idiocy.... Poor Idris Jala! He's basically a good guy trying his best but up against decades of you-know-what. But maybe he's a hopelessly hopeful fler too, like me. RM50 million.... now some GN3 company will be cubing the cash into neat piles and depositing them into their bank accounts.... but birds are tweeting that CIMB has a share in that company. One of the chiefs of CIMB is super well connected, a brother of the biggest shot in the land... Malaysia Boleh... how not to go bankrupt?

Idiots, nincompoops, blockhead, cretin, jerk, pinhead, nitwit, buffoon, dumbbell........ take your pick.... for ourselves, just in case you think I am calling people names.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Moving Along With Time, Changing Roles...

7 years ago, I started my own version of 'homeschooling' with my boy. Along with 2 other kids, and expanded by one more later on, the group remained together for 5 years. While they were in lower secondary, I would meet with them two nights a week, some nights would turn to 3-4 hour sessions. I taught them History, Geography, English... and whatever subjects that they might be having difficulty with, depending on each child. Each kid has his/her own unique strengths and weaknesses and each one posed a challenge of their own, and so I added my own twist here and there. 8)

Then as they entered their upper secondary years, the twice weekly sessions became one, in part because there were more tuitions to attend and also the subjects were beyond me.

I began as a teacher to them; the 13-year-olds they were back then, growing up they were, trying to make sense of their changing world with their marginal minds, rebelling sometimes when things around them don't make sense to them and so on. There were difficult moments, as well as light hearted times. There were times when tears were the only thing I got... But I watched them through their rites of passage.

As they grew, our conversations would sometimes to drift to other things... of cars, life, relationships, school, teachers... just about anything under the sun that you would expect teenagers to talk about. The role of teaching them began to shift with the years. I still taught and imparted knowledge but over the years, as they grew and when F5 ended, some moved on.....

I thought that was the end of the group... But 7 years on... I still have remnants of that group, with additional kids to replace the ones who left. I marvel at how my role has changed. I'm done with my teaching of subject matter with them actually but I am deeply honoured that they still want to meet and talk. Our sessions have become sessions of sharing life's experiences.. a word of counsel here and there, bits of reminders, some guidance, encouragement.... and it's not just a one way thing. I've been encouraged and also humbled by my 7 years with them, the hope that each is given and the promise of what each can be. And that where there is a will, there is always a way... just that sometimes the way might be full of potholes and rubbles, bumpy at times but still a race which is possible to run and complete.

I've had other kids wandered into my life. Kids who drop in for short sessions such as brainstorming for language competitions, quickie and extended lessons... my life has been made richer by them too. Some of my friends say that one must teach in a premier or selected schools if one wants to teach 'smart' kids. I think it's not necessary. I think it's a matter of how willing one is to welcome them into our lives.

Moving along with time, changing roles.... I realize that I put on many hats over time.... teacher, counsellor, mentor, friend.... and I am glad to be given the chance.

And I am brought back to the lessons I took as a child about the story of Jesus.... a teacher, counsellor, mentor and friend to His disciples. To be all those we need to constantly challenge and remind ourselves that it is a calling.... that sometimes it comes with a price but I've learned that it's a calling with great reward... and it's not necessarily monetary.

As for those kids.... their teen escapades would probably be more than enough to fill a few books!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Numbers on iPad

The iPad is truly a great tool to have, both at work and home.

One of the first apps I bought was Numbers, Apple's spreadsheet equivalent of Excel. Numbers is spreadsheet on the Mac, now iPad... Apple's equivalent to Microsoft Office. It's priced at USD$9.99. Price of a meal in a restaurant... I have many uses for Excel for work, data analysis, charts, tables for merge printing etc, etc. It also helps me keep track of practically anything I want... the limit is my own imagination.

This year, we have to make out a contract of exercises for students and keep track of the numbers and different types of exercises... Somehow people up there wants to infuse us with corporate practices. I think the planners executed this without much proper planning and as a result adds more burden to us. Not that I think it's not a good idea... I've seen many teachers upping their workload... LOL! But this can be made easier.

Now, to keep track of the exercise books pose a challenge of sorts cos you have to be really disciplined in tracking them; unless you have one exercise book for one type of exercise, which will then pose another set of problems.
Numbers
Enter Numbers on a tablet... the Apple Ipad. Numbers of Ipad makes it possible for me to record, with great ease, all the different types of exercises for easy reference and quick count. And at the end of the month, I take the tally and merge print them into small forms, distribute them to my students and get them to paste it in their exercise books. I've been able to do that since school started this year but the thing is those who were supposed to observe and check on us have not been able to sign all those tiny chits in my students' exercise books! Goes to show... they can come out with plenty of ideas but not be able to oversee them as they should. Leaders cannot walk their talk.... but they expect us to walk their talk. Kinda skewed.... Plus my GK actually doubted my figures cos I guess it's just beyond comprehension that one is able to keep track with such detail.

Numbers has also enabled me to keep track of my LDP hours, meetings and all other stuff with fantastic ease. I can even keep track of my students' attendance record, fees payment and whatever information necessary. And as long as I have my iPad with me, those information can be called out with just a touch.

One thing I have to remind myself to do is to email myself the spreadsheets every now and then and leave it in my Google Doc... and I've cloud computing! Backups are important and I was reminded the hard way. Got caught early on when my data suddenly disappeared because I unwittingly touched something I wasn't supposed to. 8( Anyway, Information can always be drawn out as long as there is a wifi connection. And if that doesn't work... I still have my Huawei Ideos to fall back on as my own personal MIFI. The main wifi line in school is still not up and about.

I am getting the iPad2 when it becomes available; and right now, I am thinking of the 3G version. because of my school's hopeless WIFI connection at the moment.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

My First Tomatoes!!!

My tomato plants were flowering a lot but very few fruits remained... mainly my fault cos I didn't ensure that the plants had places to creep on. With the strong winds and the extra hot days, some of them died. The wind broke some of their vines and the heat got to those who were too close the ground. But finally last weekend, we fixed up some places for them to creep on; and transferred in some of the other tomato plants from my other pot. Made of discarded pipes, Other Half built our own 'modular' fencing... LOL! Can dismantle and 'uproot' to any location we want.

Tomatoes
And ta-da... this is the first tomato ever! Looks big and juicy. My gal asks me to leave it there to see whether it turns red. I read somewhere that organic farming is quite a rave these days. Mine is not quite at that organic level yet but we're trying to plant some vegetables at home. I've got some celery seedlings as well but have not transplanted them yet. Time is a rare commodity these days.... still find myself wishing for more than 24 hours! 8)

I've got my long beans growing outside too, also creeping on a fence of pipes. 8) My second round of beans...

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

For Our Kids...

I have this friend whom I always tease about always being stressed up over her kids for the slightest bit - that she'll 'si' for 'her gia' (die for her children). Parents love their children.... to a fault. And that's how we're made. So that babies (who are totally helpless) can survive. Parents will move mountains for their kids. This is one of God's truly awesome order in life...I guess in part also to mirror the relationship that we are supposed to have with Him... that God the Father loves us, His children. That He'll do anything to save us. That we need Him.... but I guess this part we tend to forget.

A parent will go to great lengths, no... all lengths for their kids. Their kids are their source of joy and pride. Many reasons for that, I guess. Their kids are supposed to carry their legacy... Our kids will be what's left of us in this world someday. One of my favourite songs is Martina McBride's, In My Daughter's Eyes. That's how many of us will see our kids... our legacy, we see who we might be in them.

And therein lies the problem too....

A parent can agree to many things (in fact, anything) for the sake of his/her child. Janji, his kid turns out alright. A parent will drive his kids anywhere to get good tuitions or teacher, anytime... they'll even hang around to wait for 2 hours (or even longer) for their kids to finish their classes. Every parent worries about their kid going astray and in those worrisome years, they'll do anything to keep their kids on the path.

Parents will bolot the best places for their kids. My friend tells me of this in her son's school. It's common practice that mothers bring food for their kids during the school break. What happens is these mothers will reserve an area for their kids in the school canteen and will then and refuse other kids a seat even though the space is there. As a result an area of exclusivity is created.... in the school canteen! We too are creating our own versions of little emperors and empresses.

In church too we see leaders keeping silent or 'reserving' certain areas of service for their children. As a result some kids get left out... somehow, there is this selfishness in each of us when it comes to our kith and kin. Cos we want to feel proud to see our son or daughter up there.... acknowledged. We want them to feel needed, of use, etc, etc.

But something from the Scriptures came to mind lately... one of Jesus agonizing in the Garden of Gethsamane, when He asked whether the cup of suffering could be taken from Him and His subsequent crucification on the cross; when He uttered this, "My God! My God! Why has thou forsaken me?" The Father denied his Son on the cross so that there is victory; that we gain life... that's what probably sums up my Christian faith for me. Redemption from my sins, the act of God the Father denying His Son, for that seemingly moment of eternity. There is no Christian faith if Christ did not die on the Cross. And this is where I begin to draw the comparisons sometimes of our actions as parents sometimes...

In church, when we make 'exclusive' certain roles for our kids (this often happens in smaller churches), or when we stop trying to provide that sort of opportunity to train the young who are not ours, we deny them their 'redemption'. Kids need affirmation. Many need extra prodding. They need to know that it's alright to not to be able to play perfectly their musical instruments, for example during worship sessions. They need to be acknowledged; that their presence is just as welcomed as the church leaders' kids... even honoured. That sort of feelings that we all seek.... acceptance, a sense of belonging, etc, etc. Yet very often, in this particular area, our faith is not translated into actions. We show our selfish side by not denying our own children the stage. And perhaps that is why too Paul said that it is better for us not to be married if we want to be effective in serving him.. so that we remain focussed.

I am brought back to my very own MYF counsellor who remained single. I understand his commitment to us much better today in relation to what Paul said in the Bible. For those 4-5 years (the 15-20 year-olds we were); while we remained under his charge, we were his children. He favoured us as every parent would his kid, cos having no kids of his own... we were his. As a result, each of us had that sort of opportunity that you would expect a parent would want his kid to get. Us, parents always find it difficult to deny our own kith and kin.... it's just so difficult. There is just this 'ga-gi-gor-ga-gi' (in Hokkien means take care of ownself) that will definitely rear its head....

But there are also instances where we'll deny others for our kids sake. Either way, the compelling reason is the same... their kith and kin. I can't say that it's wholly bad but I see a lot of negative too, especially when one in the position of authority does it. We fail ourselves and our flock. Or in some other cases, when one's feelings become the wall that blocks out everything else including reason.

For our kids... sometimes I think matters of faith becomes a tool for our own selfish purposes. I've lost friends over the matters of faith. I've had moments of cynicisms because of its portrayal by people I look up to; because of the kids.... si hor gia.

Easter thoughts...

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

rou gu cha KiNG


rou gu cha KiNG
Was a bit tired of Western food and we decided to go for this. Anyway, bak-kut-teh has always been a favourite with my gal. This was in Gurney Plaza, Penang. Best part is it's not as expensive as those Western restaurants.
Rou Gu Cha King Menu
This is Chinese food, fast food style, says Other Half. 8)
Bak Kut Teh
We took their Double Value Meal which had 2 types of bak-kut-teh; soupy and dry. The dry one is actually not bad. The meat was tender and there was a tinge of spiciness to it, which made food very appetizing. The meal came with the standard yu-char-kway.
Fried Popiah
And they had this popiah and guai-ling-kow; to me it's just black jelly; not very bitter this one. Guai-ling-kow is supposed to be a health dessert.
Fried HK French Bean
This is French beans fried Hong Kong style. French beans gone east. LOL! This dish is actually quite nice; nice enough to eat on its own with just plain white rice. But it was a little oily. I guess maybe that's why it was nice.
Pandan Mochi
Other Half being a mochi fan took their Pandan Mochi. It was only so-so. I had their Wu Long Pomelo Tea which was nothing spectacular.
Hodedec 11
We went to Penang for the Homedec 2011 which was held at Penang International Sports Arena. Usually we only go there for PIKOM. But this was a most interesting trip with lots of things to see. Lots of stuff to be picked up... 8) Learned quite a bit too...
Bath Tub
Here's my gal wishing real hard for this... Ever since our experience with the scrubbing that we had to do in our first house, we steered clear of bath tubs. And what we don't have, usually our kids covet... 8) Was fascinated by the array of LED lights available these days. They even have battery operated sensor lights. Very useful to just put in the house in those places which you need lighted up when you get up in the early hours.
Honda Accord 1976
Saw this on our way home when we dropped by Queensbay to grab some groceries... the first Honda Accord. Reminded me of Mr. Hong Dak King who used to have one of these, I think; the same colour too, if I'm not mistaken.

But what started out as a 'jalan-jalan, lihat-lihat' (look-see) trip ended up as a shopping spree...

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Pre And Post...

... the cycle repeats. Before and after. Eye opening to see the extent of election fever...

April 16th, 2011... I've never paid much attention to Sarawak State Elections... till this recent one. I remember reading a piece of news on the 14th evening that the PM had approved RM60 million for the construction of a road to link Marudu and Miri. Just like that...so easy!!! Our politicians behave like Santa Clauses come every election. It's just that the presents got bigger this time around. The best part is winning 55% of popular votes still translate into a 2/3 majority. Guess this is what it means by more than what the eye sees.

In the US 1% of the upper class earns 25% of the country's total income. In Malaysia the top 20% earns 50% of our country's total income. And that figure is beginning to mirror the US one by the year. Interesting to note that Sarawak is supposed to be the second richest state (per capita of RM30 318) after KL (RM (50k). I've never been to Sarawak but I don't think the people there are rich. But I've been reading a lot about the select few very rich people in Sarawak on those sites which seem to have gained instant fame cos they were repeatedly hacked into. Why hack those sites if the news are untrue? Guess many of the allegations are true then. There seems to be very little effort in constructively engaging these allegations...

What's interesting about this round of election? First, of course the amount of money spent. It's amazing how much these people can come up with. The rubbish collection in Alor Setar is very bad. I'm sure the Federal Government when awarding the tender to Environment Idaman paid them handsomely too. But these days, rubbish collection sucks! We were better off under the MBAS. This is one privatization effort that clearly does not benefit the rakyat. Maybe if the election is around the corner here, they'll make sure the rubbish is not collected... so that we get really annoyed with the State Gahmen.

1Malaysia.... The office of the Sarawak CM has the right to bar individuals from the Peninsular to enter. This election, 4 people were barred.... all activists. What problem can these people cause to the people of Sarawak, I wonder. Most, if not all spoke out against corruption. I thought that is supposed to be a good thing.

So, who won? The results are out. I am no political analysts. But I learned this... greed is now a virtue. Corruption begets more reward. Those in power seem to regard their positions as a license to do as they please. Outrageous acts are committed and the perpetrators let off with hardly a slap on the wrist. Malaysia loses billions via illegal channels and no one seems to bat their eyelids much. I guess we are the ones who allow this. At the end of the day, it's about toeing the line, supporting those with means and positions. You still get the advantage. It's not just in politics. It's how we humans function. And we take a look around us, that's how it is around of us most of the time. You can even find it at work places and even the house of God!... they just take different forms.

Politicians theorized that the people will continue to vote them in as long as they buy them over. Or if they have served long, they should be let to serve till they want to quit. From democracy to despotism??? Anyway, the pot is calling the kettle black.

Today I read this in the paper... the explanation of the use of Race in the university application. It's almost laughable. Does it matter of what race? If they ever want to find out the racial breakdown, they can always do it when the students register for their courses. Having race in the application form just mean that there is room for a different sort of selection. That's Malaysia!

So, they say the Chinese will not have a representation if the Chinese BN component parties are not voted in. What does it matter? The Chinese representatives been more like puppets than real representations. They are just there to enrich themselves. If they have been speaking out, the voices must have been really soft. We've hardly had any representation to begin with. At least UMNO gave a semblance of representation, the skewed kind.

Anyway, it's just a matter of time before the rest of the races wake up and realize that the other politicians are also there to enrich themselves too. Corruption is a scourge. Eventually it affects the whole body. A matter of time. If it's 1Malaysia we're promoting, it's not supposed to matter whom my MP is as long as he does his job as he should... based on universal values.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Ang Chau Mee Suah...

... Alor Setar. Some more quite nice one.
Hao Xiang Lai
This restaurant is located in the vicinity of Putra Medical Centre, Jln Pintu Sepuluh thereabout, next to Gromex, the advert firm. Can't miss it cos the green Gromex signboard is so big. Restaurant Hao Xing Lai is just next to it.
Interior
The inside is simple but clean, comfortable because it is air-conditioned but because there is no dampeners, voices echo around a bit.
Ang Chau Soup Pot
We had gone there earlier on the recommendation of one of our friends and found the food to be quite nice. So, I took a friend there again recently to try... a non-angchau-mee-suah friend to be exact. The ang-chau comes in this quaint little pots. It's just nice for 2 small bowls of mee suah.
Ang Chau MeeSuah
Since there were only 2 of us, we couldn't order much. This is the mee suah after being doused with the ang-chau. Verdict, well, from my non-anghau-mee-suah friend... she would go again for it! It's actually quite nice though I miss the ang-chiu smell.
Egg Plant in Claypot
We also had this - eggplant in claypot. Actually this dish is good enough to eat just with plain white rice. It's tasty enough on its own.
Stir Fried Veg
We took one of their green veg too. Quite ordinary, this one. Portions are all standard... i.e. one size orders, I think. That means if you have a bigger group, you can actually order a few types of soups. 8) The proprietor is Cantonese, by the way.

There have a range of the more 'exotic' dishes like pork/mutton tripe soup. I've tried the former; the pepper version and it was quite soothing and nice. The owner told us that we need to call ahead for the mutton tripe soup. We'll probably try that one of these days. They have a whole range of those 'healthy' soups. Prices are reasonable... not exactly cheap but it's also not on the expensive side. Tis a nice discovery.... to be able to eat ang-chau mee suah anytime away from 'home'.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Catch Us If You Can... by Catherine MacPhail

This is the new novel for SPM English. And I am reading the Student's Edition. 8)


Rory and Granda (his grandfather) live together. Granda suffers from lapses of memory and requires care; which Rory does gladly. He makes sure Granda takes his pill, gets his lunch, see the doctor, etc, etc. That despite Rory being just a mere kid still. But he is very mature for his age. He forgoes football, hanging out with his friends because he knows his Granda cannot be left too long on his on. So this goes on till one day when Granda sets their flat on fire.

He gets hospitalized for smoke inhalation. Rory gets sent to Castle Street, a home for kids. There he meets this horrible girl, Tess; whose mother is in jail. She is mean to everyone. And despite that, gets special treatment. The home is run by Tom and Nellie who seem to be rather decent people. The other kids there seem to be happy. Granda soon recovers but the authorities deem him not competent to care for himself or his grandson. He is sent to Rachnadar, a retirement home.

It breaks Rory's heart. Granda is all he has and he sees life going out of his grandfather after he is placed there. So he hatches a plan to break him out. He succeeds and moves into a caravan owned by his best friend's (Dennis) mother. It's just a matter of time before he is tracked down. Dennis' mom figured it out as soon as she realizes her spare keys are missing. While fishing one day, Rory and Granda bump into a man (Sam) and his son (Tyrone). They look like good-for-nothings. But soon Sam and his wife (Ruby) came to their rescue. They smuggle Rory and Granda out of the caravan park. Rory and Granda find out that good people come from different social groups. It's not exclusive to a certain segment.

An all points bulletin is put up to locate the pair. The whole country goes into a debate. Many are drawn to the tenderness of the situation - a kid trying to remain his grandfather. Yet they are hunted down by the law, though there are reminders via the media that these 2 are not criminals. When it becomes clear that it no longer is viable for Rory and Granda to remain with Sam's family, it is decided that they move on. Their 'escape' runs into a grind when Rory is identified. They steal a car. While trying to fill up at a petrol station, they are yet again identified. But, Rab, the owner tries to help them. He gets his girlfriend, Annie to help them go to London. Annie deposits them with her relative, Norma and her daughter Nicola. Norma squeals on them because she feels that Granda is too frail. Squealing with good intention. But Nicola informs Rory just before the police arrives.

They escape by the breadth of their hair. This final act of escape does Granda in. He almost succumbs in the the attempt. Rory has no choice but get help. The authorities are soon brought in. But all the publicity has also alerted Granda's long lost son (who walked out when Rory was born) of their plight. He and his father (Granda) do not have a good relationship. In fact Granda goes into a fit each time Jeff is mentioned. But Jeff comes back into their lives.

Granda hovers between life and death. He survives. His son, Rory's father, Jeff is now married to Karen, with 2 daughters - Rhonda (5) and Ava (3). All ends well.

Unlike its BM counterpart, Interlok, which I've yet to read but have read plenty of comments about it, this is a nice book; one that gives us hope that there is still goodness in humanity. Best part is there is no hidden agenda to brainwash the readers, except to remind us that while society exists with his bias, there is also a fair amount of right-minded people. That there is hope for the better. Now, don't you think that's how we should 'brainwash' our next generation. I'm still trying to get my hands on Interlok. And if it's really that 'bad' as they say, I think our education system is going to do the dogs.... the foulness and stench of dirty politics is overwhelming it.

Book 15.... a cheat mode one. LOL! Cos all it takes to finish this book was a mere 40 minutes!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Teaching...

When I picked teaching to be a career, frankly speaking, I was attracted more by the working hours than anything. Back then, I was ambitious too and because of that was drawn to the corporate sector; in fact I secured a few job offers even before I sat for my last paper of my final term exam. I was that driven! LOL! While my friends were still busy trying to enjoy their last few months of their uni life, I started scouring the ads for jobs. I was in a hurry to go earn my own living so as not to be a burden to my parents.

But... there's always a but. I was also intending to get married. Somehow, that got me to pause a while. Dad told me to go back to uni and complete my Dip Ed and then consider my options again in a year. I took his advice. So after working for just 3 months, I quit my job and went back to school. And that's how I ended up being a teacher.

I enjoyed being a teacher almost immediately even though my first posting was to a rural area. I found that I was okay with teenagers. Even back then, my students would come over to our quarters in the evenings. My first batch of student had also been without an English teacher for 5 months before I reported for work. The passing percentage for PMR the preceding year was a mere 20 something percent. The school was desperate for a teacher. And so, that's how I, a young rookie with no experience, ended up teaching the whole Form 3 of 5 classes from May that year. I put my heart to the job... drawing from memory how my teachers taught me...

That year, the students surprised us... passing percentage went up by almost double. Almost half the students passed. I learned lots too from my 15-year-olds, being rather innocent back then. LOL! Some shocked me to the core! The students did well not because I had a magic formula but because I hardly missed classes with them.... I learned this early on. Teachers should minimize missing classes. Also, I did lots of written work. The effect of the work frequency showed cos by the end of the 6 months, some who could not write could manage comprehensible sentences. And I made sure I marked their work individually, often time, putting down my comments in their books. But I wasn't particularly close to them as I believed that there should always be a line drawn between a teacher and student. Today I still occasionally bump into some of these students, as I did not too long ago in Penang. The young lady had fond memories of those years when I taught them apparently....

Fast forward 2 decades... I still teach, though more and more I have entertained the idea of perhaps quitting. The problem is I haven't yet figured out what I want to do. Teaching the kids is still fun. I still enjoy it. But for me, I find the passing years showing lack of good leadership for our education. It's rather frustrating seeing all the imbalances, the inefficiency, the work ethics.... There is also a lack of imagination among policy planners.

Visions we have plenty but we seem to be feeling our way in semi-darkness. We don't seem to be empowering them to assume responsibility for their own learning. If anything is to go by, we spoon feed them and lull them into blissful complacency. Neither do we enable them to reach their maximum potential. And rarely do we engage them in the manner that would inspire them to develop deeper knowledge and skills in problem solving and creativity. We have mobile learning, online learning, digital aid, technology. Put it this way, education has never been this giddying. Social media is changing the landscape of education in ways I never imagined.

But the disappointing thing is what I perceive to be the deteriorating quality of teachers. Oh sure! Teachers today can do all sorts of things like decorating the halls, producing beautiful paperwork, etc, etc. But there seems to be this lack of imagination and substance in many of us. Education is supposed to be lifelong these days. We teachers are supposed to be at the forefront of this... to be practitioners of lifelong education. But most of us fall short. And these days, they say lifelong alone is not enough. It has also to go lifewide, which is learning in different spaces simultaneously as opposed to learning in different spaces of one's life. I think it basically refers to multi-tasking or multi-learning.

And racism... it's ever alive in teaching too. The number of teachers do not really reflect our racial composition any more. But I think I think this is not very important. What's important is we filled our vacancies with qualified (not just on paper) to teach and inspire. Cos as it is, promotions are hard to come by... even among the Malays. I see some of my Malay colleagues who are really capable and bold... they usually get bypassed by some others who can butter-up and answer 'yes' to the bosses. Your upward climb is based more on whether you can be a first class 'kaki bodek'. We lose many good potential leaders this way.

And so because of that, very often our core duties (teach, assess) are often overlooked. And we are constantly reminded that where teaching is concerned, everyone is the same. How is it possible? You can walk past a class and it would be noisy, with students walking all over even though the teacher is in. Or you can walk past the next class and find it quiet. Or you could open up an exercise book and find it marked mostly with a long tick or open up another one with detailed marking. But in the end it's the former who gets everything while the latter continues to run in one spot.

PM said meritocracy is the way to go. I say it's more crap than truth. The patronage system is still very much alive, albeit a smaller scale. But it's the kecil-kecil thing that causes birth to the bukit... hence the saying sikit-sikit, lama-lama jadi bukit. And I've not even touched on the curriculum yet.

As a result, at every tier now, you'll find them filled by the 'yes' (wo)man. To be that is good but sometimes we need the boldness to go against the tide especially when carrying out policies and programmes that do no better for the kids. And that unfortunately is something that's rare these days. Also, because we have many who are not well-read or exposed to the ever changing landscape of education, we get many directives which often look good on paper but are horrendously wasteful of our resources.

But then again what's there to improve. Our SPM results keep improving every year. This year we even leaped 1000+ candidates in terms of straight A(s). And countless others did very well too. The general perception is our graduates are lesser in many departments, but the results indicate otherwise... something is not giving somewhere.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Sacred Stone... by Clive Cussler & Craig Dirgo

This is the second Cussler's book I've read. It's adventure filled, gripping and entertaining. And the good guys win in the end.

The Corporation headed by Juan Cabrillo goes on a chase for a nuclear bomb and a radioactive meteorite enshrined by Eric the Red in 1000 A.D. Exposed to it, one dies a horrible death. An archeologist unearth it in our present day. Unknown to him, his sponsor was Hickman, a billionaire filled with hatred for the Muslims after his son was killed in Afghanistan. He would later swap it for the Hajarul Aswad in the Kaabah. Some theorize that the Black Stone is a meteorite. Anyway, the radioactive meteorite and the Black Stone, hence the title of the novel, I supposed.

In the meantime, on the other side of the world, the Al-Khalifa and his Muslim group was trying to destroy London with a nuclear bomb. Cabrillo and his crew from The Oregon (their ship) chased the terrorists to London where they managed to stop the detonation. Suspense was kept as they chased the young Yemeni boy who was going to die a martyr's death by detonating the device; even as Elton John carried on with his concert to usher in the New Year!

With one down, Cabrillo and co chased down Hickman to the Middle East. He attempted to use the meteorite to kill the Muslims during the Haj pilgrimage. The authors bring us to Mecca, The Dome of the Rock in Israel and some fancy outmanoeuvring of the bad guys. The plot is absorbing and riveting; the kind of novel which makes you want to complete as soon as you can.

Been picking up on my reading of late not because I have a lot of free time. The eyes seem to be quite okay with the words and I need some distractions as well to fill up my 'free' time. An idle mind is very likely to be the devil's playground so they say.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Of Telekom Contractors and my Aircon Serviceman

My phone recently went slightly berserk as in it would auto answer calls coming in at random. So Other Half called up Telekom's 100 to report the fault. He was told that it would be resolved within 24 hours. Well, their contractor came and left a note stating that I was not home.... I was. I called them just after lunch but the guy said he was tied up for the rest of the day and could only attend to my line the next day. Had to make repeated calls just to get him. And he asked me to call him to remind him. Aiyo! I didn't know that I was to be someone's secretary. Dealing with all these can be very frustrating sometimes.

Anyway, the next day came and 3 guys showed up at the appointed time! First of all, they stank! They must surely know that they deal with customers and though I understand that they sometimes sweat it out in the sun, surely they could put on fresh T-shirts and pants when they go out and work every morning! Their clothes smelt like they've not been washed for a couple of days! And we had to bear with it within the confine space of the 4 walls of the house!!!!

And what was wrong? Just the tiny splitter! 3 guys to do one man's job! I can change the splitter myself. TM better do something about the image of their contractors. If my aircon serviceman had not been in my house servicing my aircons at that time, I would not have let them in cos one of them looked like a Mat Rempit. And 3 guys!!!! With all these predatory men prowling around, one cannot fault me for having my trepidations. They were extremely nosey too, wanting to see the rooms, touch things which did not concern them... and messy.

Compared that to my aircon serviceman who was doing a much 'dirtier' job. He left behind everything as it was. Water dripping from the aircon was wiped dry. Smudges were cleaned. And he was extremely sensible.

Suffice to say, I was really edgy with those guys in the house and breathed a sigh of relief when the job was done. Couldn't wait to get them out of the house! At one point when they came up with what I felt were rather improbable problems and solutions, I wanted to just cancel my line and Streamyx. I was that uneasy.

The TM contractors worked as though they are not interested for future jobs for themselves. I guess they feel TM will always contract all these repair jobs to them.... where as my aircon serviceman worked with the intention of coming back for future servicing. Open competition vs 'the-job-is-mine'.... no wonder the lack of professionalism, not forgetting the paranoia which I had to go through.... many heart thumping moments. The next time my phone line goes kaput and such kind of guys have to come make repairs.... I think I'll just cancel my subscription.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Life Begins At Forty

The BIG 40.... Is there truth in it??

I think when we hit 40, life begins cos we begin to realize our mortality. Cos just around that time, I begin to realize that everything about me is never going to get any better. The eyes begin to fail. Close ups become a blur. More of your hair begin to turn gray and you find yourself colouring your hair cos much to your chagrin, streaks of white become more apparent. Also, you find that more food seems to be getting stuck in-between your teeth. For some, you might begin to start losing your final set of hard, bonelike structure rooted in the sockets of jaws.... at 40 you begin to lose all the familiar that marks the you, you. It's like everything about you is starting to unravel...

At 40 you begin to learn to accept those changes which you might want to keep at bay a while longer. And if you do it well, some wisdom you will gain. If once you had been difficult, maybe 40 is a good time to start re-analysing what makes you, you.

Life does begin at 40. If you have enough humility to recognize that, perhaps your remaining time might be truly what 40 is supposed to set you up for....

But these days also, they say life begins at 60... delayed realization cos studies say we're living longer. But how long each of us lives, your guess is as good as mine. I guess that means, with all the bridge and dental implants, losing your teeth may not be a big deal. Hair colouring is big business now, everyone is doing it, so it has become fashion. Sagging parts can be tugged and pulled under the skillful hands of the plastic surgeon.... of course you have to have plastic of good standing to pay for all that. In time to come, who knows what else medical sciences may have for us....

Life begins at 40... I guess there's quite a lot of truth in it cos you have to start preparing for your day of reckonin.. you begin your preparations.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Household Sewer...

On a Saturday morning, supposedly our day when we go places and do things together... Other Half and I had made plans to go for lunch in Tanjung Dawai, see the beach. But since our gal had tuition, we decided to cook our breakfast of Maggi Mee with fried egg and salami. Trouble started while we were washing up. The sink got stuck and while I was using the plunger to unstuck it, water started coming out from the sink behind.

Being the handyman Other Half is, he got out his tools and tried to open up the drain trap for the sink. That didn't work. Water from the sink gushed out from the trap. Then we opened up our grease sewer trap. And to our horror, staring right at us was this mucky and thick stuff almost covering the overflow outlet which was supposed to drain into the sewer. Water couldn't flow out into the grease trap cos the muck had blocked the pipe. So, it had to back flow! Other Half took a stick and prodded the muck. The marker on it indicated that we were staring at almost 2 feet of emulsified muck. We were at a loss cos both of our kitchen sinks were all stuck! At that time we didn't know where the sinks' exit pipe into the trap was. A house without the use of its kitchen sinks is a crippled house!

So we did the next thing we could think of; which was to call our contractor. It was kind of him to come even though he was tied up somewhere. When he came, he said we needed to dig out the muck... So that was we did for half the morning - scooping up the gooey and caked solidified oil muck with all its foul stench. Pale roaches were going crazy in the sunlight too... and also the insect spray which we had applied. I was stepping on so many of them. My lil one, of course was squealing (in half horror) at the sight of them. Kids these days are so soft.... they forget that they're godzillon times bigger than the roaches. And with it came the usual foul smell from the sewer belly.... it must have stank into my neighbour's house.


The next thing was to cart all those mucky stuff to the dump.... All those fat, that had emulsified over the years. We must have scooped up about 400 litres worth of emulsified greasy muck. The task was made more difficult because we had to do it with more care so as not to leave too much mess in the yard. I think this is the closest to being night soil 'engineer' for the both of us. We scooped up almost everything from the grease trap... might as well, since we had already opened up the sewer and was already into the unpleasant task.

While doing this, I remembered the wisdom of my mom from years ago when we were still kids. Us, kids would always have to catch the rain water from the gutter pipe of our house and pour buckets of those rain water down our toilet bowl. It was a task assigned to us almost without fail each time there is a heavy downpour. Her reasoning was to keep flushing the sewer so that it doesn't get clogged. True enough our house never did get clogged up all those years we were there to pour the rain water.. even when Indah Water came and inspected, they were surprised by how clean our sewer was. I am going to try pouring water more often into my sink to get my muck flowing....

And a little lesson out of this too... in life we need some diluting sometimes too, to dilute our bad habits so that they don't emulsified and clog up everything else. Cos when it does, everything tends to overflow and create a mess. We need friends to dilute our wrongs, the bad habits, etc, etc. But people can dilute just the opposite way too... you always get 2 sides to a coin. 8) Just as in our contractor... who came and showed us the way before he left. Sometimes, we need those people to point us to the right actions.... who would imagine that my sewer experience can be so 'profound.'. LOL!!! And also my kids... I wonder too whether they can get their hands dirty without being paralyzed by squeamishness.

And of course, we made sure we had a good scrub down after that. 8) My bathing time must have been at least 3 times longer than my usual quick shower. I usually can force myself to be keyed-up about difficult and dirty tasks. But this surely is one which I would never imagine myself doing. But I've also learned that when there is no one else left to do it, we can rise above it if we can overcome ourselves (though of course, sometimes, there are limitations)... today, it was the thought of the gooeyness and stench.... but I am glad that we can still get down on our knees and get our hands dirty.... though I'd prefer not to.

As for the Tanjung Dawai trip.... we decided to give it a miss... dealing with emulsified muck is a tiring affair. And what else did I learned? The workings of the sewer grease trap... Plus,your chemosensory senses can be duped into bearing with the foul stench after prolonged exposure! In other words, we can be dulled into all sorts of conditions! LOL!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

PPSMI to stay???

... 2 medium of instructions. For two days in a row, I've been reading from the papers that the gahmen is considering allowing 2 medium of instructions for Math and Science. I, for one would be most happy if Math and Science continue to be taught in English, simply because most of the good references are in English.

Why now, at the 11th hour after such a long time of adamant insistence that we switch back to BM? Is it out of genuine realization that we need to or could it be that the gahmen does not have enough resources to switch over? New books to print, teachers to be sent for retraining, new teaching aids, etc, etc.... all these cost a bomb, given our current penchant of paying more to selected vendors.

Maths and Science in English... I still feel that it benefits the students more. As it is, English is still on the slide. Results in the recent SPM may indicate that all is well but I think many in the system will acknowledge that all is not as well as it seems. Many feel that the passing marks are ridiculously low. Some of us even question the A+ score too. Cos students apt to make glaring grammar errors can score A+ where English is concerned.

However, deep down in us, and because we know our students well enough, I think some of us are honest enough to admit that there may be other forces at play here; forces out of our control.

PPSMI to stay... such a sad thing that we're still flip-flopping over it. Why did we switch to it in the first place? Because we knew that we were lagging, that our poor command of English was making us lose our place in the 'persada dunia'. So switch we did. Then the about turn after that; after billions of RM spent. And now this. I wonder how come we're not smart enough to separate education from politics. National language politicized, feelings stirred and siege mentality ensues. For every two steps we take forward, we 'go-stan' (reverse) another one.

Minus the English skills, we minus ourselves and kids from a lot. We deprive them of the ability to learn from beyond. I was reading an Education related article when I stumbled onto this site.... The Khan Academy. It's like tuition online. The best part is it's free!! 8) The person behind it, Salman Khan, has 3 degrees from MIT and a Harvard MBA. It's a site filled with instructional videos for Maths and Science, no bells and whistles but very easy to understand. One can keep replaying the same thing till they get crystal clear understanding. We lack such kinds of innovators among our teaching fraternity here.

Sites such as The Khan Academy benefit our kids too even though we are on the other side of the world. They take learning beyond the walls of the classrooms. But we need to understand the language used in the instruction. That unfortunately for now is English... cry as much as the nationalists want to about preserving our national language. We still need to master English.... in order to leap forward. But then again, we have built our own little tempurung(s) to prevent those who want to leap forward, leap. I hope the government makes a wise decision on this... one that benefits our children.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

This blog...

... has served as a reminder, of good times, events, food, books, rants, places, the cycles that perpetuate or repeat themselves... in my more reflective moments, it reminds me of this same with a little altered sequence that most of us seem to follow. From the birth of a life to the closing chapters of death, the events that dot my timeline; this blog has served as a reminder of sorts to me.

I recently discovered an old letter to my sis which I never did post. As I read through, it reminded me of some of the things that dotted my life. Little things that I had forgotten. That's what this blog has been... that sort of reminder of my forgotten details.

I sometimes read through the old posts... It reminds me to stay consistent. It reminds me to be the things that I sometimes feel not like doing. It reminds me to count my blessings. To apply the Eucharisteo in my life. To rise above my emo-ness.

And the friends and visitors who dropped by; the comments left behind. Those are like little footprints, left by them. Sometimes they are funny, sometimes they encouraged, yet at other times there are those who rant and scold... to the point of being rude. But they remind me of life with its roses and thorns. We can never find everyone to agree with us. Nor for everyone who will treat us fair. We might even get a few stabs from those whom we care deeply about too.

When I started blogging, I didn't know how long I'd last. When I first began, writing out a piece took more time. These days, they take much less. And in writing I find myself thinking and consolidating. I find myself thinking through many more things. I find the expression of words in writing helping me process my thoughts. A processed thought might end up differently after the the writing process cos I have to put my thoughts down in organized words.... it helps somehow. It doubles appreciation, it reduces anger....

I think writing is a form of training the mind to be critical; which our kids do so little of these days. Many of us plagiarize these days.... A study on American undergrads show that the writing skill is on the decline. My own experience as an educator tells me that there are less who can write now, even among my own colleagues.

I don't know how long I'll be able to keep at this.... life is a cycle. After a while maybe everything will feel so same that I might just stop. I don't know. But for now, whenever the itch comes....

D for Deadbeat... by Sue Grafton

I'm still ploughing through Grafton's alphabet series.

A drunkard mows down 5 people. He comes out from jail with 30 grand, which he cheated from a fellow jail mate. He blew 5 on himself and decides to leave the balance to the kid whose parents he killed. That's where Kinsey comes in. She is hired to locate the boy, now 15, to give him the cashier's check. He pays her also in check her services but the cheque bounces. She should have just dropped the case.

But Kinsey was hooked after some intrigues here and there. The guy who actually gave her a false name turns out dead; death by drowning. Then she gets hired by the deceased's daughter. Police classified it as accidental death but she feels otherwise. More nosing around and it is soon suspected that he had been murdered. The guy's 'good' buddy then turns out dead too as he got too close to the truth. It's easy to suspect many as the 5 DUI deaths came from 3 families. Turns out his death was not accidental.

The murderer turns out to be the least likely suspect of all in the end.

Book 13, I did it in 2 days cos I was in the mood to read.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

R for Revengeful...

Back to my alphabet series... 8) and the letter today is R. The word of my choice is Revengeful.

Revenge is sweet... so goes the old idiom.

All of us have this trait in us.... it's only how much room you allow it to take over your life that makes the difference.

A revengeful person is a more often than never a bitter person; bitterness makes us rabid and rancid. Revengeful people are unhappy people, mostly with the way how their own lives turn out. That beh-kam-buan feeling never goes away. You turn your bitterness on other people because you cannot have that fleeting happiness. So if you cannot be happy, others also cannot be happy. Happy people are seldom revengeful, I notice.

Anyway, Confucius said... "before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves." One thing though, we often fail to take note that revenge kills us eventually too.... the second grave (which is ours) is a sure destination for the person executing revenge. Cos the reason is plain and simple. For every 'sweet' revenge we plot, we lose a bit of ourselves. For the continuous revengeful desires that we continue to nurture, our soul we sell too.... to the grave! to the grave!

But if one has to be revengeful, I think there's a better way..... forgiveness. Forgiveness is probably the sweetest revenge. LOL! After all the purpose of revenge is to cause us frustrations... in other words, make us feel like the revengeful person. What does it mean to forgive? Sometimes I think it's difficult to just pretend nothing has happened, the path which many of us are likely to take. For me, I won't continue to pick an issue at it or try to even get back. I think it's easier to just walk away from it all..... The issue is no longer you, it's the other person. And I think it's best to leave the person to deal with whatever issues herself.

The Bible says love conquers all, to put it simply. I think it's true.

But if allowed to eat into us, I guess at the end of this road of revenge is probably another R word - Ruin. A ruined eternity.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Weissbrau... Straits Quay

Another makan outing... this time at Weissbrau, another German Bistro & Bar at Straits Quay. It was rather quiet when we got there.
Weissbrau
After a few visits there, many of the outlets are beginning to feel the same. Anyway, we wanted to try what was available. I'd have gone for Asian food but Other Half and Daughter were more keen on the sausages....
Pork Knuckle,Shredded Fried Potato
Pork knuckles fried crispy. The skin is crispy and nice on the outside and the meat succulent inside. This order came with roesti or shredded potatoes with herbs fried in butter. First few bites were nice but one can only take that much 'oily' food before the stomach gets full.
Alsatian Sauerkreat
I opted for this... and because it is not fried, it was easier on the stomach. This is Alsatian Sauerkrat. Sausages, braised pork belly and loin were the main dish. For the side dishes I chose their garlic mashed potato which I simply loved. It was creamy with a tinge of butter taste and small bits of garlic. Of all I think I like the mashed potato the most. The sausages were tender and moist but I am not much of a sausage coinnoisseur. The sauerkrat went missing cos I forgot and ordered their market vegetables.
Sausage
Our Lil One had this... Farmer's Garlic Pork Sausage... with potato salad as one of the side dishes. It's okay-lah. But our gal finished the sausage!
Service Tax
I think I've had enough of Western food for a while... at the end of the day, I still crave for something Asian cos it's lighter on the stomach. One more thing, maybe I'll go to the hawkers' for a change. Service and government taxes at such establishments can easily get one a couple of bowls of hawker fare, easy!
Gurney Plaza
We dropped by Gurney Plaza to shop after lunch; second last day of sales this round. It was a pleasant surprise to see these sensors at work in the parking bays. They made it so much easier to locate the empty lots, rather than waste time looking for one in a perpetually full car park! Just look up onto the ceiling for the green light and you know there's a parking lot available.

As for the shopping, we got ourselves our yearly ration of shoes! LOL! And books! It was nice to spend some time at MPH... went on a small book spree there! 8)
There was a Canon Fair going on and they had this what I think, is part of a 24-season Chinese drum show as part of the Fair attraction... from the USM Kungfu Club (I think). Quite nice...

Friday, April 1, 2011

Nineteen Minutes... by Jodi Piccoult

Why is it so easy for people to point a finger at someone else? This book takes a cue from Dunblane, Columbine and countless other shootings at educational institutions.

When a kid goes on a murderous rampage and leaves a trail of dead bodies behind, it's only automatic that after the dust settled, the questioning begins and the finger pointing follows.

In this book, a couple loses one every-parent's-dream kind of son to a DUI to be followed a year later by the 'loss' of a second son, turned into a cold-blooded murderer who leaves a trail of 10 dead bodies and countless scarred lives. He was apprehended and given a trial.

Peter, the teenage killer goes on a murderous rampage. For years he was a victim of bully and ridicule, even from his own brother. There are lots about the teenager that can be explosive. I guess maybe there's good in the ancient system where as soon as you are able to work, you do just that. Busyness and tiredness keep you from going astray. Josie, the other main character is the daughter of Alex, the judge whose dilemma was whether to preside over the proceedings of the case or excuse herself since her daughter was a witness to the shootings, already fragile from the experience of being a 'victim' herself. Nineteen minutes was all that was needed for the killing rampage, for so many lives to changed or snuffed out.

Bullying is a norm in schools. There are the popular kids and the ones who get pushed around. Every kid wants to be in the former but it's an exclusive group. It's hard to be the unpopular one. It's even harder to be unpopular and picked on. But then again, the same kind of 'behaviour' is found even among adults; though we no longer call it 'bullying' at that stage. Bullying is for kids. In the adult world, I think that's flexing the muscles... imposing will by use of might and power or perhaps even persuasion using the strings of the higher power. Church leaders, mosque leaders, politicians.... you can draw parallel comparison. You include your followers into the select group when there is compliance. At the end of the day, it's about feeling 'chosen' or selected, marked as the trend setters, leaders, etc, etc...

Finger pointing. In real life too, we look for a direction where we can point our finger. It's an easier way out; to look outward to a probable cause is way easier than to look inwardly to see how we've contributed to an act. The book ends on a sad yet hopeful note. But this is a nice read.

Book 12 on April Fools' Day. Reading was slow last month... failing eyesight and bogged down by more to do everywhere and also distraction from the e-mags.