Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Brady Bunch Revisited...

What got me started on this? Mind Your Language, another old series, British. We were having dinner at Ah Ho's place when we decided to try out the adaptor that we had gotten for George to mirror their iPad on the TV. Yup, you can mirror the iPad on the TV or projector. That's why it makes a great education and entertaining tool.

One of the things they did was go onto YouTube and played Mind Your Language. Show played smoothly. And it made me think of the old series that I used to watch as a kid. I remembered The Brady Bunch. I think it was one of my favorites, together with Eight Is Enough.

And so I went onto YouTube and watched some of the old series.... they are still nice. Clean and good entertainment. The kids were like kids. In one episode, Greg was grounded after his brother inadvertently told their parents of his carelessness while driving. In another, he wanted to drop out because he thought he was going to be a star baseball player. Those episodes might be found draggy and boring by today's generation. No matter how fictitious or how perfect everything seems to work out in the end, one thing stands out, they were good wholesome family values. Lots of good advice in there. That probably catered to a generation who was more willing to be 'advised'. These days everyone talks about personal space, we know better etc, etc. We generally steer clear of each other's space.

In a later season, when the kids were mostly older, you see wholesome family values. Sibling rivalry is there but generally you see the older ones playing their older brother and sister roles. Kids were really innocent. Boys gila sports and frogs; girls had their ballet lessons. Today's TV kid casts generally show more sophistication..... and are like adults before their time. These days they all siao the opposite sex as soon as they hit the teens.

But those shows had set gender roles. You have a cut, go run to your mom or in the case of the Bradys, when the boys had no mom, they went to Alice, their housekeeper. The men can't seem to take care of the kids if their spouses are dead. Mrs. Brady on the other hand, lived with her parents after her husband passed away. Women still need to be taken care of. If sons had problems, dads must pick up the pieces. Dad goes out to work, mom stays at home. In today's generation, the women seemed to have moved on... they can now take care of themselves....

I was trying to think of a nice family drama series today.... couldn't think of one. Maybe family drama series don't sell airtime. The nearest I could think of was Desperate Housewives. I only watched a few and it seemed to encourage deceit and lies a lot. I can't comment much since I stopped watching it after a few episodes. Didn't like it.

I thought some of the episodes of The Brady Bunch are good enough to use as class lesson material, like The Dropout where Greg wanted to stop high school because he was going to be a pro baseball player.

And so with YouTube and other sites which make all these TV shows available, there is no lack of entertainment. Why pay so much for ASTRO and get mostly reruns? You can watch all the reruns you want at your convenience. Might as well pay more for a faster internet line and have control over the content you view than be controlled by the content. You turn into a couch potato much faster if you adopt the latter cos you have to sit down and watch all those silly advertisements on paid TV.

I enjoyed watching The Brady Bunch.... they were nice.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Malas....

And it seems to afflict the males more....

Laziness kills.... It kills the conscience, mind and body. It makes one into a pacat. Cos lazy people basically have to leech of everyone else around them eventually. Laziness is an attitude problem. And in today's world where we are supposed to be super prihatin, laziness comes in different guises.

I teach 16 year olds. Truancy is a problem. When a student is truant from class, there is not much we can do. Their minds begin to rot cos what they basically do is do nothing. When very little action is taken on them, they become emboldened. And all it takes is just a couple of weeks and you'll have a confirmed lazy bum. After a couple of months, the lazy bum's mind would be so rusty and corroded that it would be very difficult to get them to even sit down and complete a written exercise. All it takes is just a couple of months for this regression to take place. Undoing it is most difficult.

Az is a amiable fler who is very good at sweet talking. I don't buy much into what he says the few times he was in class. Having skipped a good part of his lower secondary year and his PMR exam entirely, he just couldn't sit still. His mind was too lined with karat. Work is an anathema for him. Once he told me that he still got to Form 4 despite not sitting for PMR! This is one sesat kid who thinks he has managed to outwit the system. So, by and by he influenced quite a few of his classmates to play truant with him.

Y on the other hand is a good looking , whom with a little suaveness and language skills might land himself in some modelling career. But unfortunately he and Az are bosom buddies. So he goes missing quite often as well, since he is Az's sidekick. I see the worst of peer influence at work here. The few times he was in class, I noticed that writing a few sentences took a great deal of effort. And he used not to be this bad.

F, on the other hand, was one of those who tried to follow Az but after his class teacher informed his father, he stopped skipping classes. Something must have taken place at home. The importance of parental role is seen here. The teacher called both Az's and Y's parents too but nothing came of it. Does that mean that their parents can't control their boys? Or that they just don't care? I recall a parent whom I met recently. I told her that her son was skipping many classes and very often absent from school. Both times, I got only silly grins. I think too many parents wash their hands off actual parenting these days.

We lament at the increasing crime rates. Snatch thefts is on the rise everywhere. Ever wonder why? Where do you think this skill-less kids end up? Their conscience is already deadened and hard work is something alien to them. There are certain housing estates where walking out is a scary experience because a gang of motorcyclists would zero in on you and encircle you like a pack of vultures. Many old people have given up their morning walks for the fear of being robbed. When I learned about this, I realized that this is the kind of future that awaits such kids.... For those who have not awaken to this, we do not realize that we've a hand in creating a slum, ghetto kind of living too... Melentur aur biarlah di waktu rebung... and to bend a bamboo, you need to use metal wires, basically some hard disciplining. The mind can a very devious place, even at a very young age... and the first response is always to want things easy....

But of late too, I've learn that you can fool your way through many things. I've noticed that the largesse of the civil service is a good place to feign many ailments... especially that which cannot be diagnosed physically. Claim psychiatric reasons, and you can take MCs and be excused for so many things. I am not saying that there is no such thing as a psychiatric problem. The mind is a very wired organ and many things can go wrong. What I observed is, the same mind, being so wired, also can wire up many excuses and reasons; many of which can fool even the most trained professional. Go read Along Came the Spider by James Patterson. Some years ago, I had the opportunity to visit a psychiatric hospital. I noticed this there... I didn't actually see fat people there. These days, if people claim they have psychiatric problem and are fat.... I'd have my doubts. Worries do make people fat... depression may cause us to eat more too... but to be able to function generally quite normally in most areas and then claim to be depressed.... and look prosperous? I'd have my doubts.

Perhaps then we should treat laziness as an ailment too... a magic pill, anyone? It'd solve many problems that I face now. And malas being a more male problem? ..... there are more males it may seem but the females are catching up too!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Aargh, I hate snakes!

Snakes! I know some people like them cos they say the snakes are beautiful. I have never quite learn to appreciate their beauty.... This is one creature that I really don't like. Somehow they make me squirm on the inside. But still, when I see one, my first instinct is always to whack it. And I had been thinking that it's been a while since I spotted a snake.... I did see a snake skin in the garden some weeks back though. And the last time I actually saw a snake, it was in my kitchen and I whacked it too.

Ever since those days long ago in Baling, a place which seemed to be infested with snakes, I'd somehow overcome my fear for them and would whack them out of desperation to get rid of them. You see back then, I viewed the snakes, and most of them were vipers, as something that would endanger my boy. So each time I saw them; I'd see them real often, I'd react on pure instinct. Grab a stick and whack! I had so many encounters with snakes in my short time in Baling. They'd hang from the vines, hide in the shoes, letterbox, gate latch, pathways..... I used to see them everywhere! Even when we moved here, I'd still come across some. In the early years, it was also quite common. And somehow, much to my chagrin, each time one shows up, Other Half is usually not around to play the role of the knight in the shining armor. I always wished that there is someone to do the unpleasant task of getting rid of the snake but so far, it has happened rarely.

So, yesterday, after I was done working on my vegetable pot, to my horror I saw this little black and yellow small slithery creature just at my steps. I went on auto after mode after that! Took the long bamboo that was given by George earlier and gave it a few good whacks..... Then I told my boy to throw it out immediately but he wanted to take photos of it. The little fler was still not dead and despite it's broken neck, was still quite ganas.

Later, I found out that it was a golden tree snake. Son posted it up and got Onnie, our certified snake expert on the other side of the Pacific to identify it for us. 8) He said it was an ornate flying snake. Before that I had emailed the pic to Other Half. He said it was a golden tree snake. Both refer to the same snake. I had earlier thought it was a viper since it was sluggish. Vipers don't move that fast, you see. That's why the locals call it Kapak Bodoh. But I am no snake expert. Most of the garden snakes are usually very fast on their belly. But this particular one wasn't short and stumpy like vipers are supposed to. Anyway, it was supposedly a small nasty fler, though not exactly harmful to humans because their mouths are so small, apparently.

Snakes! This particular snake has created a phobia in me again... I went out after that to buy sulphur. Not that it works, as I've read from some sites... but more of to appease myself. Now I'm going to have to look down and check out everything each time I go out to the garden.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Lesson with the iPad

And an awesome one it makes. I gave my girl and co a comprehension passage on jazz music... when you read about jazz, you'll come across the likes of Louis Armstrong and Davis Miles. Now how many 10 year-old-kid would know about jazz? My gal and the other boy learn music. They've taken their theory exams and know some of the instruments. But jazz is not one of those things they know. I went on to talk about different types of music - classical, reggae, soul and they contributed names like Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga (yup! That peculiar and poor role model is in their list, horror of horrors).... and of course, Bruno Mars. His Marry Me song used to be my gal's favorite. Can't say I don't like it cos the tune is really catchy... that is of course, till you get down to its lyrics; how it belittles the worth of marriage.

Anyway, enters the iPad as my teaching companion. First I let them listened to Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, the jazzed up version. I got bewildered looks cos the jazzy version sounded really different to these kids who have been trained to think and function on a single track. So they only know Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star in one style. Then from jazz I showed them a philharmonic orchestra playing Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.... There had tenors and sopranos backed by a full choir and it was an awesome show. And the clip gave us plenty to talk about... the different types of instruments, the roles of tenors and sopranos, musicians from the age of European Renaissance...

From the classical realm I moved back to more contemporary music and music as a career. The interest in classical music is more difficult to sustain since they are the Bieber and those boy (girl) bands generation. The first the first guy I showed them was Richard Clayderman on his piano. Then I went on to show Kenny G and wowed them with Kitaro playing Matsuri. We played Louis Armstrong's It's A Wonderful World too and the kids like it. All throughout the kids were very consistent in asking one same questions..... is that guy still alive? And then somehow my gal came to this conclusion that if the clips were black and white, they got to be dead. LOL!! Kids! They asked too how come no girl? So I showed them Vanessa Mae playing Toccata and Fugue in D minor, her pop version.

The iPad makes it really convenient for small group instruction cos you can show them stuff and it's speaker is loud enough to be heard clearly. And all I needed was a connection to YouTube for this lesson. No other sophisticated sites or AVA. Just audio and visual on the 10 inch screen and the lessons come alive. One more reason why I like my iPad a lot.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Co-curricular Activities at School

Schools have been trying to streamline co-curricular activities and I think they've succeeded on paper. But in practice, I think it has generally not benefitted students in many schools.

One after school afternoon is set aside for co-curricular activities. Schools are supposed to have uniformed bodies, societies and clubs and games. So, during co-curricular day, students are to wear that particular set of uniform or T-shirts on a rotational basis. But I think students actually like coming to school wearing something different for a change.

Once school ends at around 2.30 p.m. students head for their respective co-curricular meeting places. And that's where the problem starts. Society meetings are fine as society activities can be carried out in classrooms. But when the week for uniformed bodies or games come around, I think that's when the lack of common sense seems to prevail. How can you expect students to play games in the hot mid afternoon sun, especially for games like badminton where even the slightest bit of wind is troublesome? In schools with halls, that's fine. Then again, if you have 100 over members in your club, how is everyone going to get a chance to play. And many would have joined because badminton is such a popular game in Malaysia. And many schools do not have the luxury of big enclosed halls. Plus we know that exposure to the hot mid afternoon sun is not good too. Games are still best carried out later in the evening, from 5 p.m. onwards.

1Pelajar1Sukan.... Not everyone likes to play games. Not everyone can be good in games. We are trying to create holistic students but we fail miserably because the execution is rife with problems. Teachers are expected to do everything. And teachers can only wear so many hats before they fizzle out themselves. In many schools, co-curricular days are actually a waste of time. Students sit around not knowing what to do. Teachers are left with the task of making sure there're activities going on. In some schools students paint the school walls, clean the school compound on co-curricular days. They call it Kerja Amal. Is it a meaningful for the students?

So what do students do? They skip school on Co-Curricular Day because they don't want to stay back at school late. I don't blame them entirely. I walked into class on one co-curricular day and found more than half my students absent. It was Co-Curricular Day. What's the point of sitting around, doing nothing meaningful or fun? School activities should be fun, something to be enjoyed. Yet some schools make their students stay back till 5 p.m.... all in the name for co-curricular activities. Boring activities or none, and they're expected to stick around.... herded into groups, then sit around and wait. Maybe some servings of kopi might make it more fun.

So what gives? Basically like many things which only look good on the outside, the executors or the programme seem more interested in ensuring that it runs, not for the sake of the students but more for themselves. At this point, I think to be able to go home early and sleep would be more enjoyable for many students and teachers alike. LOL!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Boys and Girls

Ah Koon has recently become my plumber. He was the plumber assigned by the shop we got our filter to fix it up for us. From watching him work, we found him to be extremely meticulous in his job. He cleaned his tools fastidiously, he used his brain to figure out a solution and is neat. We liked the way he did his work. It's rare to see such quality today. But he was rather aloof.

So not too long ago, we asked him to come back to clean our water tank and make some modifications to our piping. He was friendlier the second time around. We talked a bit more.

I've observed that the boys, upon entering Form 1 generally are able to cope well with school. But something changes along the way to Form 5. By the time they get to Form 4 many of them would have been sidetracked and most top places will be occupied by girls. Boys occupy something like 30-40% of the top ten places in my school, which is quite reflective of the national undergraduate ratio.

I remember from my own experience that boys would catch up and overtake us in Upper Secondary, very often buoyed by their better performance in the Sciences such as Physic, Chemistry and Additional Maths.

These days, fewer boys do better. Ah Koon's story is very much like what I observed. He coped well when he was in Form 1, even making it to the top 10 list for one exam. Then he fell into 'bad' company and became lazy. There was no turning back after that... he headed the wrong direction until he hit his late teens. His parents didn't realize and were ignorant. They let him do what he wanted. By Form 2, he was languishing. By Form 3 he was way into his own world of truancy. He skipped his PMR and continued his 'partying' life. It's their attitude that lets them down.

This is an excerpt from today's Malaysian Insider...
"While previous surveys named poor English as the main cause of unemployment, bad attitude has now topped the list," Straits Time quoted chief operating officer Suresh Thiru as saying.

Then he grew up! He suddenly realized the importance of education. He wanted to go back to study but he was way too far left behind. So, since there wasn't much choice, he went to work as a plumber... not that it's a bad job. Today, he regrets his immature decisions. And he is trying to avoid the same pitfalls for his children. He says his wife makes sure his children don't stray. She scolds and disciplines them; and he thinks she does a good job at it.

Ah Koon's story is a common one. Caught up by the sophistication of modern living, many parents think their children know better. The thing is, what was is still the same. Children need watchful eyes over them. Children need adults to vet their actions. Children need sensible voices to infuse some common sense into them. And occasionally children need discipline to get them back onto their path.

Boys take a longer time to mature. And girls are doing better than before because nurture no longer overlooks them. And I guess hormones too play a big role. Life is too good for kids today. There's very little need to struggle for survival. The lack of need to shoulder a responsibility for the boys perhaps too give them very little purpose in their marginal years.

I am sure there are many Ah Mei stories out there too... but somehow they tend to get buried by married life as most will remain home and don't come out and work.

The impact of dropping out from school is lifelong, but at that age these marginal people are rather myopic. They cost themselves the opportunity of a better life but they don't seem to care. But lately, I am seeing more of my female students exhibiting the gung-ho attitude of the boys too.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Whitey died today...

Whitey was a koi we've had for over 5 years. After the 2005 big flood which knocked out power supply for 5 days, all our 7 kois died. We replenished our pond with new ones and Whitey was one them. Whitey was named by our girl for obvious reason..... it was white, without any blemish on its body.

Today I came home and did my chores as usual when I saw it on the grass. My heart missed a beat when I saw it in the sun. Thinking that it was dead I called out for Son to scoop it up while I went to dig a hole to bury it. Whitey is quite big, about a foot long and very well fed. But I noticed its gills moving slightly when he put it into the hole.... we immediately put it back into the water. I knew it was pointless. Son said we might as well buried it then. I had no heart to do so.... my gal and I tried to make it more comfortable by putting it in a net and back into the pond. It tried to 'breathe' a couple of times but the shock of being back in the water probably shocked it more. It died a couple of minutes later. Then we buried it.

My gal was lying on the couch sobbing away when I came in after burying Whitey. I felt sorry for her... actually I was also feeling kinda sad also cos Whitey always looked so regal in the pond. She is also Other Half's favourite. Anyway, I asked my girl whether she wanted to go get some replacement. A couple of weeks back, Greedy died. Greedy is a half koi, half goldfish. So we went to the fish shop and got ourselves 2 new baby kois.... one white and the other dark orange. They're going to take a while to grow....

Pets dying... Even though this was just a fish..... My heart still felt that sense of hopelessness. And this is one reason why I don't keep pets like cats or dogs; that apart from the reason that I'd probably be the one ending up with the bulk of the job caring for them. Many years ago, I had a pet cat, Kitty. Kitty was given by dear old friend. She became my youngest bro's shadow. She would wait for him to come back from school every day, slept with him. One day, she got knocked down by a car. We were devastated. My bros and I built a little grave of cement for her. We mourned for her....

This is Whitey in happier times. Other Half took this about a week back. We'll still miss Whitey... at a time when news are abuzz with Amy Winehouse's death.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Along Came A Spider...by James Patterson

This I think is the first of the Alex Cross series. It is about the perfect kidnapping. The story line puts to question the people we are supposed to trust; teachers, police. The betrayal by the very people we are supposed to trust wholeheartedly.

The megalomaniacal main bad guy character executes what he feels is the perfect kidnapping only to find the rug to his perfect kidnapping being pulled right from under his feet. The Secret Service detail assigned to protect the child of a government official became the bad guys. They kidnapped the kidnapped kids but only got one as the other one died. A ransom is out out. They got the money, the kidnapper went to jail.

Betrayal comes from the other unexpected villainess too. Betrayal of her oath to serve her country, and to the man she is supposed to be in love. Money makes people do terrible things, in fiction and in real life. but justice is served in different ways to everyone at the end.

The many twists and turns in the plot kept me going. Patterson weaves his usual magic in his novel, as usual. Many of the twists were mind blowing. The evil from the psychopath who brilliantly is able to dupe the experts into believing that he suffers from multiple personality disorder makes you wonder whether too much in our world is based in too much psychoanalysis. We give too much credence to it.

Book 24 and a pretty good read to kill time on a morning when I couldn't do anything else except to sit down, be confined to 4 silent walls and listen to ceaseless, mindless endless ramblings which served not any good.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Perodua Alza After One Year

On a morning trapped with my iPad. Been meaning to write this for a long time but just didn't want to sit down and go through the data. But then this being trapped situation came about. Have so much time to kill..... so I am multi tasking.

I bought my Perodua Alza last year in June last year. And this is the breakdown of the cost after one year of using it.

Got the car for RM62140 with insurance (windshield insurance included). The car is mainly for me to go to work and perhaps just send my gal for piano plus also a little gallivanting around. As of June this year, the odometer reading stands at 11507 km with a total of RM1694.44 worth of fuel burnt. That works out to about 12.52 km/L on the average. The best mileage that I got out of the car was 15.03 km/L. The worst was 9.73 km/L. The best was achieved on normal driving but I did things like turning off the air con before I arrived at my destination. The worst was achieved at the time when my car went through some problems with its computer board. So when I took it to the service centre, the car had to be left on with it's engine on idling for a long time.

When I got the car, one of the first things I did was to put in some accessories like floor mats, front seat covers (one of those slip ons to prevent sweat from soaking into the seat after my games), a steering lock, a new car horn to replace the little peep that comes with the car and of course a tint. In this hotter weather these days, a tint is a necessity. All in all the cost of the accessories came up to RM945.40.

I sent the car for service and the total service cost for 3 times during the year came up to RM600.40. The 3rd service was slightly more expensive (RM349.65) cos I got sold on the idea of using iridium spark plugs instead of the normal ones. The said spark plugs are supposed to last 100 000 km. I am a little skeptical but I won't know unless I try. So I threw caution to the wind and spent the extra... I've forgotten the exact amount but it should be in the vicinity of RM180.

I made quite a bit of savings when I switch over to the car cos my earlier car was a 2.0. So fuel consumption was generally higher. Also as with imported cars, service is more expensive. So, I am generally happy with the savings that I've been able to make with this car. Of course, if I were to use a Viva, my savings would be even more. But then again, the comfort level would go quite a lot down too.

As for car performance. I missed having more power at my disposal in the earlier days, especially when overtaking. My Alza seems to have this habit of lurching forward just as I engaged the gears. I asked the service people to look into it each time I took it for service. They couldn't do anything. Then they asked me to send the car back to have it looked. I forgot and haven't found the time. It still lurches forward a bit and my foot will have to be on the brake pedal. In the West, I guess this will be reason enough to sue if anything happens... but this is Malaysia where we pay more for less, get less for more. There is also this irritating metallic scraping sound each time my odometer hits certain figures. They say it's a problem with the air-con compressor... their engineers have not figured it it out.

Recording every expense on the car was possible because I used this app, Vehical on my iPod. I managed to record every single expense on the car for the whole year.... some might say I have an obsessive trait. LOL! But it was nice to be able to work out for myself how much a car would cost me a year, to keep. And it's not cheap. Think how much money is spent on the road year after year. This is consumerism built on desire and needs.

But if I were to look at it from the environmental point of view, my carbon footprint is still not much lesser. I still drive myself to work. The car is empty. That's still a waste. But that is something that I can't help cos the public transportation system is really bad. In fact, in the last decade, the system up north here has deteriorated quite a bit. I read yesterday that the ice shelf in North Pole is expected to disappear in the next few years. This summer alone, it's melting at a most alarming rate. And it's probably going to affect the weather in ways we probably can't imagine. My driving habit contributes to this too......

Thursday, July 21, 2011

12 Homework....

My Primary 4 daughter had a homework frenzy yesterday, on a day where she had extra class till 3.30 p.m. And 12 was the number that she had to complete. Crazy is probably a good word to describe it. She asked me half-way through as I was lying down beside her, whether I give that many homework to my students.

I truly fail to understand why the teachers had to give so many... 12! At Homework 5, which was Maths, she got stuck at a fraction problem. I tried to help her. She understood soon enough but when I tried to explain more, added different types of the same, I could see that she had turned off. I could see her eyes wandering. Ten minutes into a couple of examples, she finally said to me that she had 7 more homework to do. And it was already 9.00 p.m. See what I mean by our current system puts a dampener to learning. You have no time to learn cos you are constantly chasing to complete your homework.

Homework... a little of it is okay, even good. 12??? I think that is an overkill! It's rote learning, drilling at its worst too. It takes the joy out of learning. Discovery needs time... but with such crazy schedules, time is scarce. One has no time to discover cos one just doesn't have the time.

So much to do, so little time. So much to memorize and drill but so little meaning... that's the life of a primary kid in a Chinese school. I sometimes wonder whether we teachers actually teach or just drill... and whether it's rightly so that some countries are looking into alternative teachers or teaching methods. After all, why hire someone to drill when the same can be done by a software? Why hire someone to teach when you can have videos like those at the Khan Academy which you can download and replay again and again? Korea is trying to develop robotic teachers... America is giving pink slips to teachers... is it any wonder? But in Finland, it's a a different ball game altogether...

Teaching is supposed to be an art... it's supposed to pass on skills that cannot be passed on by robots or videos. It's supposed to train the next gen into better thinkers, be more innovative and creative. But are we doing that? 12 homework in a day... and most were copying and rewriting... you don't need to think much while you are at it. In the olden days, artisans, craftsmen were teachers... there was this really personal touch, discipling that took place. These days, we are actually more like a factory production supervisor...

As for me giving homework to my students??? I rarely. Homework for my students usually means corrections for exercises done.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Last Say

I notice that there are far fewer listeners compared to those who seem to open their mouths like goldfishes. And everyone seems to want to have the last say... even students. You should see recalcitrant my students are at this.... there is this group in this particular class who must always have the last say! I've discovered that niceties don't work with them. They are too used to having the last word. These days I use a point blank approach. I tell them straight what I see in them, no sugar coating... and it can be really sarcastic. So much for psycho approach.

These kids wizened up... I just learned something from them. If I want to take more leave, I should just go see a psychiatrist and feign frustrations, sleeplessness... very much like what's happening in schools now. I will actually be given more time off. Recalcitrant students get to meet school counsellors during on-going lessons. Yup! You got it right. That means they get to skip lessons! If I were the student... my marginal mind would be rejoicing at the fact that I get to skip class with permission! Counseling sessions becomes a farce to these kids. Counseling for such kinds of kids should not be so comfortable and fun. It should be done after school. We are teaching our kids compromises which I think will not be good for them in the long run.

Anyway, back to last says. So, is having the last say important? I think it's not. Last says are more likely to break a relationship, hurt another, make us look arrogant, even foolish at times, start a fight..... in the case of my students, make them look stupid. Last says can stir up dissension simply because by insisting that others listen to us with the final words, we invite resentment. Last says don't mean we win. More often than never, last says mean we have lost something - a friend, our pride, our humility, a goodwill, etc, etc.

I walked out of my class this morning... shaking my head at the foolishness of the boys.... it's usually the boys who will want the last say in a class. Testosterone overload??? ... Last says they must have... and they are all languishing in their lessons. But then again, these days the kids feel that we owe it to them to make them study, not that they owe themselves.

So, last says... it actually might be better to just try take a deep breath every now and then to slow down the train of words coming out from our mouths. Last says win us our battle... but it actually might cost us the war. We end up losing more than gaining...

Monday, July 18, 2011

Seedlings and Lemon

Lemon Tree
My lemon tree... okay I cheated. It already had flowers when we bought it. I hope the flowers will turn to fruits. I'm trying to plant some of my own food.... 8)
Vegetables Sprouting
Salad leaves are sprouting... but I think I lost even more to the pesky snails!
Water Drip
See the plastic tweezer? That's what I use to squeeze those snails to become fertilizers. The snail population is quite under control now. And I find it most therapeutic, squeezing flat those snails. Heh! Heh! Heh! Their shells would probably be adding some calcium to the soil... 8)
Seedling
Sawi seedling... the leaves are all white when they sprout. After a few hours in the sun, the chlorophyll kicks in. Kinda nice to see them sprouting... hopefully they grow big enough for us to eat.
Garden bean
Another 'version' of bean. This white jelly bean like bean is going to be a garden bean plant... hopefully. Friend brought it when she visited me. It's supposed to be the garden bean blue lake 274. I don't know what the 274 stands for. Anyway, I stuck a few into the soil the night before and by afternoon, they were already making their way up. Hopefully, I'll see more of em tomorrow.
Stair
And this the buah stair.. as opposed to the buah setoi that I was writing about earlier. The fruit is slightly smaller than a tennis ball. Skin is smooth as opposed to the rougher skin of setoi. Daughter and I cut it into slices and tried it. It has a slight sourish taste to it, quite nice actually. Put cutting it left my hand rather sticky. It oozes out unseep sap like liquid, I think. Incidentally, I've begun to notice some roadside stalls selling both these fruits lately too.

On a day when I took my gal to the pool. She was most pleased to find her friend there when we arrived. It used to be just the mummy around was enough... these days, the company of her friends seem more 'fun'... the joys of discovering the pleasure of company of friends have started for her. Anyway, while they played with the water toys, yours truly stayed in the pool for 30 minutes and did 30 laps.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

This is an ebook, a kiddy ebook... with lots of animation and action. The guy responsible for this is William Joyce, supposed to be one of those people doing those animated movie stuff at Pixar; he's an award winning illustrator FYI. Who doesn't know Pixar, right?

Anyway, I read about this new supposed to blur the lines between picture books and animated movie app more than a month back. A check at the App Store showed this to have been put there in May. I usually resist buying kiddy books but for this one, my curiousity really got to me and I told Other Half that I was going to purchase the book.... my first kiddy book purchase from the App Store @ USD$4.99.
The Flying Books
And was it good?? The first page was quite impressive. Notice the ghost like hand pointing to the book? Throughout the app, such kind of 'ghostie' help would appear to prod and prompt user to try certain things, like move put your finger on the screen and turn round and round to make the house disappear into the eye of the tornado.
Upside Down
So, what do I think of this book? One word! Impressive! I enjoyed the book too. Not only were the graphics and animation awesome... they made use of iPad's features like the gyroscopic thingy and of course the touch pad. But the icing was The Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore is actually a nice story... one of those stories that actually tugs at your heart string.
Hello Books
Kids (and me!) are kept entertained through various 'activities'. And some of them are actually fun. And the colours are vivid, facial expression of the main character, Mr. Lessmore, rather cute too.
Flying Lady
Did I enjoy the book? Oh yes! Perhaps I should rephrase it this way. I enjoyed the experience of reading the book. It's always nice to have a nice story, add that to animation, snippets of music here and there to create the mood, and a nice ending... Ah! That's what fairy tales are supposed to be.... it gives one a warm fuzzy and happy feeling.

And what do I think? Yup! Change is on the way. The way we read will definitely be seeing changes in the next couple of years! Paper will probably be out! The digital way is probably here to stay. There will be those who will insist on the good ole paper books that you can hold and flip the pages but this one is probably here to stay. All the senses are put to work in reading... would that be over stimulating? I don't think so. Would kids love this? That would a be a resounding YES!! And is the the USD$4.99 worth it? I think so too... it's at times like this that I wish my MYR is 'bigger'; better purchasing power.

I was just telling my students this morning that in this short lifetime of mine, I've seen how the computers evolve from those days with the green monochrome monitor to the laptop, smartphone and now tablet computing (skip a few steps)... and it's been awesome! But then again, the person who lived through the Industrial Revolution also will say the same of the progress that he witnessed.

I wonder whether I can sneak this in (play the cheat mode) and claim this as read number 23! LOL! For those with kids, this book is definitely worth the buy, for the experience as well as the story. After all, Pixar's signature can be found in its very essence! My gal enjoyed it tremendously too!

BTW, you need an iPad for this to work.... 8)

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency #1... by Douglas Adam

This is one with plenty of eccentricities, to the point that I nearly wanted to abandon it; crazy plot that it had. Tis a book with a very convoluted plot. Dirk Gently with many aka(s) is a 'holistic' detective who teams up with old university mate, Richard to solve a murder which had connections with an alien Salaxalan ghost which is 4 billion years old, space ships, time machines, missing cats, gullible old ladies and an Electric Monk with a horse. How crazy of a character compilation can you get some more? I think the Electric Monk is a robot, but I don't really know. It's supposed to belief in a religion on behalf of its human master... see what I mean by an eccentric plot. Anyway, this particular Electric Monk was cast away for some reason and allowed to believe whatever it wanted to believe. It killed Gordon Way, I think when it found a portal in the time machine and ended up coming through Gordon Way's car boot. He shot him..... unknowingly. Anyway, it beats me why only the engineer from the 4 billion year old attempt to populate the earth 'survived' as a ghost while the rest if his space crew (who were looking for a new home) did not.

I got rather confused reading this story, made worse cos I have been feeling rather tired and busy of late. So the long breaks in between made the plot hazier. I found myself having to flip backwards to recap and refresh my memory quite a few times.

Then there is the murder of Gordon Way, Richard's partner which I don't seem to quite understand its connection to the plot safe perhaps to strengthen the fact that ghosts do roam the earth. Dirk who seems to also have special powers has the ability to hypnotize and get even the most vague details out of a person finally manages to deduce the existence of a time machine and the role of Reg, whom I think was his professor at university.

I did a Google after I finished the book and found out that this is a popular TV series, supposedly in the UK. I have many more of the series. Am wondering myself whether I would want to read them; sci-fi fantasy meandering sort of novel this is. 8) This is one truly 'crazy' book, which makes it kinda interesting in it's own way.

Nombor dua puluh dua for this year! My reading is really slow.

Friday, July 15, 2011

FaceTime

I was out visiting 2 old folks who are recuperating with 3 other friends from church. One remark struck me. It came from a friend of mine became a Christian some years back and she's in her 60s. She said that she wished her grandma had such kind of support (visits) in her last years. She said one nice thing that she has discovered being a Christian is the fellowship that we share.... that the aged and infirm have visitors dropping by regularly. It can be quite depressing to be cooped up by 4 walls and you are stuck there because of your failing physical ability.

Real face time.... I think all of us have this need to interact. There is this need for companionship. Man is a social creature. No man is an island.... Some of us may claim we are loners but I think most of us crave some form of interaction one time or the other.

Yet, this need for interaction is often overlooked and overwhelmed. Busy lives, the Internet, changing norms and mores..... these are some of the problems that seem to change the way we interact. Social networking via the Internet may have changed the way we interact and we seem more interconnected than ever in many sense. But therein lies a different set of challenge too. It tends to lose that personal touch, that face-to-face experience. Technology may even allow a hand to appear from the screen one day to seemingly touch you but I think it cannot replace the actual presence. If that pseudo hand were to be able to replace that actual presence, I guess we might as well hand over our lives to the machines to be run.

Yet the way we look at interaction is also affected by our genders. Women generally tend to be more sympathetic, caring, more ready to embrace the different situations... I have been feeling a bit under the weather the past week. So after the visitation, and picking up my girl from piano, I got home feeling really tired. I nagged Son for not having the common sense to boil water to fill up the water container. His reply was why go after him since I was the one who still went out for the visitation even though I was feeling tired. I used to get that some what too from Other Half for doing things that the felt I 'needn't' have assumed.... Men and women view such things differently. But I'll leave the mechanics of this from my perspective for another rambling.

At my age, our schedule features in the way we interact. Kids, spouses, jobs... they affect how we are able to interact. There are some of us who are blessed enough to have church support to fulfill the need for interaction. Some of us work and we get our fix of interaction there. The young people will probably tell us that there is the Net to see to that need. Young people have an even greater appetite for interaction. I nag my boy for interspersing his study time with chats and tweets. A man and woman... we tend to view such things differently. Different lenses we have.

As for the visits... I am told that it's a highlight of the day for them... the noise, the conversations... I guess it's just the presence of people around that seems to brighten one's day. For many of us, this might not be something which we can quite fully understand perhaps since we still have mobility... But to be able to interact, share moments with another person, I think that's part of the bigger picture too. Real face time!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Oyster Moments

I've always had a liking for oyster, right from those early years when mom used to buy small ones from the market. She'd scald them with hot water, pickled it with salt, vinegar and chillies and we'd eat them with rice. In recent years I took a liking to the big raw oysters; taken with just some soy sauce, a dash of lime and Tabasco sauce.

But eating oyster on your own is not that fun. So, whenever I get this oyster cravings, I'd ajak a friend and we'd go order a plate of oysters (usually 5 in one), divide up the 5 between the 2 of us. To make sure it's fair, usually we take turns. So if this round I take 2 next round my turn for 3. LOL!! And some days we get luckier than others in the sense that the oysters would be really sweet juicy and nice. It depends on the batches that they bring in at Kaede, right now which is about the only place to eat oyster in Alor Setar at the moment.

Oyster cravings... can't quite describe why the cravings. The taste, flavor... just slurping it in with all it's juices. And I guess just trying to chew into it while taking in its succulent taste and softness. Fresh oysters are simply delicious. Usually 3 of those oysters would be enough to satiate my oyster craving.... until the next one comes a-knocking again. 8) Eating oyster is described in many different breaths by different people. But to me, it's a taste that goes back a long way in time, into my childhood. I must have been 7 or 8. I can't quite recall. But I remember always liking the taste. Hence, my oyster moments is more special cos it reminds too that this is a taste acquired because my parents loved to eat them too. Each time I eat, I am reminded of Mom's pickled oysters!

So oyster moments... like all memorable moments are meant to be shared too; those moments when I get a craving for it and to add to the fun of eating, have someone to share it. Here's to commemorate every one of those moments.... my oyster moments. Cheers!!!!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

And We Are But Mere Mortals..

.. with an expiry date.

When I was young, I used to think that 'old' was so far away. Now that I'm older, I find time whizzing by. I used to be callous about what I eat. Youth is very empowering... I am slightly more careful these days. When one is young, mortality is not something one thinks about. It is a hazy distant thought. But as I grow older, I began to realize how small (and helpless) I actually am, the mere mortal that I am. Little reminders like the loss of a tooth, the longer time that your cuts and wounds take to heal, the slower recovery when you play games, the limitations that you once did not know exist... fragile mortals we actually are. And with it comes the realization that every day I have is actually a gift... grace.

And I begin to notice that more people I know are passing on too... I guess it also has to do with my friends and the people I know growing older too.... with me. Aging is a finite experience.... but it can be an enriching one. One life to live... we decide how to a great extent.

Meaning in life. Ecclesiastes begins by telling us that everything in meaningless... everything, wisdom, pleasure, even folly, oppression, toil, friendlessness, advancement, riches and on and on it goes... and then I began to see these little snippets of 'hope' in the sea of meaninglessness... the value of two as opposed to one, of wisdom as opposed to wealth, obedience, or moderation in everything. Those are the things that give meaning to life.

But if one believes in an eternity then it's rather simple the equation; live life to the fullest but remember your Creator. A jumble of thoughts... from a mere mortal that I am... on a sien day. Somehow when I get into this mood, it's often the Book of Ecclesiastes I turn to.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

More Gardening Experiments

A simple drip irrigation method in our attempt to grow vegetables.

Drip Irrigation
This is what we came up with, since we still want to preserve our 'grass-look'. I like green grassy lawn... those tak semak type. So to get started, we got ourselves one of those storage boxes; picked up a green one so that it blends into the surrounding. Then we used our garden stands, got ourselves a piece of concrete and turned it into a bench-like stand. The storage box sits on the makeshift (but sturdy) bench.

Then Other Half (who is ever handy around the house) got to drill the holes and fix up the system. It works all on gravity as I am using recycled water - from my periodic filter wash and also rain water. Our rough estimate shows that when full, the water in the container should last about a week.
Drip Irrigation
But I've not let it run the whole course yet... which means that I do not know how slow the drip will become when the water in the container is reduced. At the moment, after about 4 days, the soil in the pots have been kept moist. In fact, with 2 drips into the bigger pot, I actually noticed some run-offs from it. Hence, I've moved one drip to another pot. I calculated roughly 6-8 drops per minute at the moment. Very little wastage of water takes place. But we've yet to see whether the vegetables thrive... right now I'm also battling the incessant presence of the snails. 8( I just read some where that 15% of snails actually survive being eaten by birds. They get transported to new locations via bird poops! How's that for distribution of snails? Snails fly too, cargo class. Wonders of nature!

We have another drip system in place using our pond water. The salad leaves I sowed seem to be growing but we'll have to wait and see whether they grow well.

Growing our own food... there many reasons for it. But one that makes it appealing to me is my vegetables are not laced with chemicals. I use very little of commercial fertilizers too as I bury most of my food peelings in these pots.

Am also looking into sub-irrigated planter as another option. 8)

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Little Blessings In Life..

Buah Setoi
This is buah setoi. My colleagues tell me a smaller version of this fruit is called buah stair. LOL! Somebody dropped it off for Other Half together with some freshly plucked mangosteens from one of the dusuns near the border. Up north here, this fruit is rather well known among the kampung folks. These 2 are rather big setoi(s) my colleagues tell me. You are to peel the skin, slice it into thin and small pieces and cecah garam belacan with it.... that's something like the kuah rojak. My friend tells me her grandma used to pickle it. Some people chop it fine and fry it with dried prawns and coconut milk.

And it got me thinking about the little blessings that come our way. Macaroni with cheese, butter cakes, pies, Balik Pulau durians, kuih-muihs.... the food stuff that always end up in our stomachs and warm the heart. And this setoi is one of those things, even though we didn't really know how to eat them to begin with.

Been rather busy around the house of late... the current flavour is back to gardening. My last gardening craze was 10 years ago, before my gal was born. Back then, I was crazy about flowers, all kinds of flowers. These days, my preoccupation is the edibles. I'm trying my hand at vegetable gardening for a change. But so far, the only vegetable that has been growing well is our long beans. It's been giving us a rather good harvest for the past month or so. And many a long beans have found their way to my neighbours and friends too!

And I've been reading up about it quite a bit. Have been quite taken up by the urban gardening concept. So, it made me look around for the little things we can improve around the house. I realized that the air con water could be harvested for use. The water is after all clean.
Bird Nest
So, Other Half got down to redoing the piping for the air con and this is what we found on one of our units. A little bird had found a little hole in the plastic covering and built this inside. I saw some dried grass peeping out from the hole and we opened it up, this little home greeted us!

Anyway, work is still ongoing at water harvesting. I'm also trying my hand at some of the other leafy vegetables... and working on the 'watering' problem. Right now, I'm busy getting rid of the snails from my little vegetable patch.... it's a battle against the thousands.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Post Bersih

Try moving goal posts with our kids or our friends and see what happens. In no time, trust is damaged and stress builds up. When my boy was younger, I'd give him work to do. He was able to complete it relatively fast in the beginning. Thinking that it would do him good if he were to do more, I'd pile more work after one is completed, even though it meant breaking my word about the amount that I would give him. In no time, he began wizened up. He took his time, copied answers from the back, argued.... all because I moved the goal posts. Things became rather strained very often. And that's what see in Bersih.... the government moving the goal posts, all the time. And that I find very worrying.

Bersih 2.0! Some say Bersih serves an agenda. Some say they are being manipulated. I think we only need to look at why Bersih is there. What they demand is clear for all to see, yet these last few days, Bersih has come to imply the negative. How can asking for a clean and fair electoral process be bad?

And finally Bersih Day! At 11.30 a.m. I passed the Alor Setar Utara toll entrance, and lo and behold, there was an unnecessary roadblock by the police. It looked ridiculous. Unless one drives at breakneck speed, one will never be able to make it it KL. What more with so many roadblocks along the highway and also at KL? At that moment it seemed to me that some people are even scared of their shadows.

So like many, I followed the development of Bersih. Protests ran in other countries too; Australia, Taiwan, England, Egypt, etc, etc... yet only in Malaysia the police used tear gas and water cannons on the protestors. Everywhere I read how orderly and law abiding the Bersih people were. It just didn't feel right; protestors who get water cannons aimed and fired at them are supposed to be rabble rousers, unruly, destructive, rowdy... but that was not seen. Yet the police fired tear gas too. Barricades were put up; the pics seem to show that KL looked battle ready. And police were everywhere. You know sometimes when we complain about how slow the police are at solving cases, they say they are short. Today it didn't feel like the police is understaff.

The people who went. My admiration for their guts. And in Bersih too I see more oneness in spirit than the government's 1Malaysia rhetoric. Malaysians are beginning to show a level of political and social sophistication never seen before. Perhaps that has always been there but the way we've been pitted against each other via religion and race have been the culprit of that diviseness.

At one point it seemed that the gods were smiling at the authorities, and urging the people to believe that Bersih is bad. Convenient caches of Molotov cocktails accompanied by incriminating yellow T-shirts were uncovered. I read in the news that some people saw suspicious characters at the cemetery back in my hometown, wearing you know what colour. And then! A discovery of homemade bombs again. I feels like an all too familiar script. Ad it makes me wonder too whether or not this script has been recycled many times.

Double standards... Some people can seem so blatant and ultra in their utterings, yet the authorities stand aside and let them be. I see double standards and goal posts which constantly seemed to be moved and on the move. I think everyone sees that. It's so shameful that we seem so like the backward African nations.

A city locked down for 24 hours when less than 4 hours of peaceful march was what all the protestors would do. And they blamed it on Bersih. Wonder who is afraid of who and what. It's worrying the reaction of the authorities. But still, they continue to move their goal posts......

Bersih 2.0.... indeed a day to remember in the history of Malaysia. Who knows what may come after this. I salute those who braved all the blocks and inconveniences, the jail time, the sting the tear gas, the water cannons, the intimidation.... To stand up and be counted for something they believe is good for the nation. If that is not courage, what is?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Everything 1Malaysia....

When I was back visiting my folks, I noticed 1Malaysia 'milestones' erected everywhere. I think some overzealous fler pointed out that those structures were akin to idols. But I think it's a waste of money building those things. They are an eyesore in most places, anyway. Then recently too, I noticed a similar structure at school.

Everything 1Malaysia....

The 1Malaysia email, when just as secured free email is available. And they were going to pay obnoxiously huge amount for the email ids, for added security and ease of transaction with government agencies, they claimed. But hackers showed us otherwise when they defaced and hacked into multiple websites. That's security for you... the the hackers did it cos the authorities blocked some sites when word had been that such things would not happen.... moving goal posts. This 1Malaysia email has got to be the easiest money to earn for whoever awarded the tender. And you wonder too whether they take were counting on our ignorance on such things. Looking into it deeper, you might be forgiven for thinking that this might be another one of those get-quick rich schemes. But I guess the eventual plan is to assign each of us an email id like an IC number. It'll probably be a first in the world!

1Malaysia clinics. Set up for mainly to treat minor ailments, I don't think you get to see real docs when you go in. What does the law say about clinics not manned by qualified docs, I wonder? Does it mean that these clinics are above the law? Wouldn't that be double standard at work at these clinics? If that is the case, what is there to stop anyone with medical knowledge to set up a clinic? What about patient safety? What if a patient walks in with a perceived minor ailment and the medical assistant failed to note the signs and symptoms? Try doing the double standard thing with your kids and see what happens??? You lose all your credibility!

We have, too the 1Malaysia kedai runcit... supposedly only for Klang Valley folks. I don't know what good it will do. True, that the cost of living is high in the Klang Valley but it's the same in other places too. It's not very 1Malaysia if only certain areas get those store.

Good slogan... but are they good products? A vague and not well-defined slogan with products seemingly pointing to the almighty ringgit and sen. Sometimes one gets the feeling that this is another business attempt, to make more money. And there are many more 'products' in the pipeline... 1Malaysia Food Safety Scheme (2014), 1Malaysia Malls (???), 1Malaysia Events.... we'll hear of a few spin-offs every now and then for sure. Slogans, products; they sound more like a money churning effort rather than to unite. And like advertisements, they keep playing it everywhere so that we get numbed by it...

My school is organizing a 'camp' at a retreat for scholarship holders (Biasiswa Persekutuan, Biasiswa Negeri, etc, etc). Guess what? Don't see any 1Malaysia there. The recipients are glaringly from one race. At the end of the day, I guess it's the actions that speak louder than any slogans!

Except for this... the 1Malaysia Netbook scheme at my school. There was at least a reflection of the oneness there. I think credit goes to the person who put up the names. She was race-blind, I think. And I'd say we need more people like her. Had it been someone else, the names might have mostly come from one race too.

Slogans, ideals.... they remain just that most of the time. But sometimes there are pockets of hope when you see people who dare do right. Still, for 1Malaysia to work, we're going to need a paradigm shift not seen in a long time in the mentality of our almost single-race civil service first and foremost. Years of planting a mentality that they are being sieged has caused many of them to twitch uncontrollably just at the slightest mention that they're being sieged.... usually on race and religion.

Hence, my admiration for people who continue to show me that there are still plenty of decency around.

Too many 1 everything but very little one heart in execution....

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Flour Party

Flour throwing... that's the new experience for me today. I entered my class soon after the break and chaos greeted me. The floor was patchy white with wet spots, tables and students coated with white powdery stuff and a few students frantically swinging the brooms in their hands trying to sweep the powdery stuff into a pile; from the corridor and the classroom. It was a rather comical sight actually.

And the perpetrators?? A group of girls who said they were celebrating their friend's birthday! The white flour was part of the celebration, it seemed. One that got a bit out of control because other students came from the adjacent block to join their celebrations. One good thing was more than half the class had gone off for a camp... (yup schools carry out camps on school days these days; which I consider a no-brainer cos classes are disrupted, or if you carry on with the lessons, many will miss the lesson for the day. And we've got one more school day before the week is over.) The girls who looking smug.

Anyway, these days, girls are no longer demure and well-behaved. Some are as 'ganas' as the boys, if not more daring as well. They speak back more too and are not your standard easy-to-intimidate weaker gender. If anything is to go by, I find many of them more vocal than the boys..... The 4 masterminds of the celebration were duly punished by the discipline teacher. But I can see that they weren't that repentant either.... I have another group of girls in another class whose 'leader' will just holler out or belt out a tune at whims.... used to be boys only who will do such kind of thing.

Boys?? More of them seem more subdued these days, even so those from the more academically inclined classes, the kwai-chais. They come across as soft. The tough or macho look is out. These days, the soft look is in... I think it has something to do with the boy band groups and the likes of Justin Bieber. Talk to them and many will tell you that they don't go out for physical games in the evenings.... Exercise is done on the computer keyboard!

I think kids are entitled to have a little fun but these days, I also see more and more of out-of-control situations from them too... a little drama on an otherwise dull day at school!

It seems that my school kids have just caught on this fad of flour 'dousing' accorded to birthday people...

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Create In Me A Clean Heart

A church is a house of worship and as in any houses of worship, it is only normal to assume that the people God will try to follow (to the letter) the commands laid down by God. But, different gradients or shades sometimes they become, especially when it's our own wisdom we apply. And I've begun to see the wisdom of this verse... Let your yay (yes) be yay and nay be nay (no). It actually cuts out the gray areas which complicate our (others') lives.

Imagine going to church and Sunday after Sunday, you see the same groups of people running the different areas needed to run a service. Well, I mean you have a few groups and these few groups are rotated every week... but you see the same faces at the same stations. Worship leaders, musicians, PA people, ushers, scripture readers.....

These groups are tightly knitted and it's hard to break through... Service is by invitation. Institutionalizing God has made the worship of Him an institution too. The institution becomes the defacto voice of authority - that's where sometimes the danger lurks. Anyway, you've got to fulfill a few criteria before you are invited into the inner circle. The inner circle membership is opened but it's much easier if you are a family member or perhaps a close friend.

Then, you must be deemed ready. You say, Here I am, send me (Isaiah 6:8) or Here I am, you called me (1Samuel 3:5). It worked for Samuel! But wait! Readiness is not really dependent on the one on the outer circle. One has to be assessed first. If you are deemed ready by the inner circle to be a worship leader, even though you may sing off key, you'd still be in. If you are deemed ready with your skills to turn those knobs at the PA system or have the ushering demeanor, then you will be allowed to sit there. In the meantime, those on the outside continue to look and wait expectingly or in some unknowingly. You've got to wait for your turn to be issued the license.... by invitation. Membership offers privileges of its own - a sense of belonging, meaning, importance.... as in our politics of the day.

But then again, like everywhere else, the church too has its own group of less fortunate. These are the people who need the extra push and more difficult to include, even to love. These are the forgotten and faded. They may offer of themselves or may not but mostly they'll stay by the sidelines, till they are forgotten. These too are deemed not ready, or suitable or available.... but these are the ones who need this every little bit of push and opportunity to serve. Sometimes a little opportunity does wonders. Yet....

The leaders then exhort the people to live a Godly life. We are reminded to ubah our mindset and bear with the difficulties that come our way. The congregation are told that hardships are challenges that will make us stronger. We are exhorted to make the sacrifices for the good of the congregation and community. Churches have annual camps. The congregation is encouraged to attend. They are promised an uplifting time. They are reminded that the speaker is dynamic. Yet, sometimes the leaders keep the best camps or trips from the knowledge of the flock. Only the select and strong in faith get invited for those special trips.

Over the pulpit teachings remind us that it is by grace that we are saved. Yet that grace is sometimes evidently lacking. Or sometimes it is extended only to be retracted... words from our mouths are often unreliable.

Changes come difficult because minds and ways are set. We talk about humility yet a broken and contrite heart is more often hidden in the closet. Cos that's the way how things have been. Else, many hundred years ago, the practice of indulgences would have not survived that long. But we insist on the way that we know... only we know, as the bishops and priests said they knew better so long ago.

What is clean may just be a perception sometimes for what is clean to me may not be to others. And that's when trouble starts, grace reduced, humility lacking. Oh the church is not actually bad. It does much good, it offers much solace and comfort... but create in me a clean heart.

In this season where the clarion call is to be clean and to ubah..."Create in me a clean (pure) heart, and renew a right (steadfast/faithful) spirit within me.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Cat and Mouse...

A cat chases the mouse... the mouse runs from the cat. This is what happens quite often at school. Been 2 crazy weeks of minimal lessons in class.

And finally today, normal classes resumed after 2 weeks of sports related activities. I still think middle-of-the-year sports is not good for the psyche of the students. The one good thing though is the cool weather. It wasn't hot at all this year!!! 8) But it disrupts the lessons and mood for those in the exam classes.

It rained right from the start of this morning. Whenever it rains, it is not uncommon to find half the students absent. Rain equals to absence! Almost equal numbers of parents seem not to mind their kids not attending school on a rainy day. My mom would throw a fit if I dared suggest skipping school because of rain. She'll tell me there's always the umbrella.... or just be late. The teacher will understand.

My second class for the day was a Form 4 class, notorious for high truancy rate.

I routinely check the names for students who play truant after work is given. The recalcitrant ones are usually the same and today was no exception. But I was told that they only usually make it a point to miss my classes! So today, I decided to wait at the corridor for the 5 who skipped my class after my lesson was over. It was only mid-morning. One head soon appeared from one corner but disappeared just as quickly. I guess the owner of the head must have seen me. After a while, I moved to the other end of the block, anticipating them to use the other stairs to get up to class. Sure enough, the same act. I stood at the corridor for about 15 minutes... heads would pop up from the left and right every little while but disappear just as soon.

I usually make sure students hand in their work. I will 'go after' those who skip unceasingly. And ever since I got my iPad, keeping track has been made even easier. Hence, I will still go after their work even after a fortnight of MIA from certain students. And this is where the problem begins. Because of this, some of these kids prefer to skip classes. Apparently they are allergic to written exercise.

I was thinking whether I should take this as a failure to inspire them to learn. But then again, these are kids who refuse to take any responsibilities for their learning. And neither do their parents. I walked up to the class again later in the day just to see if they were in. A teacher was in. 3 of the 5 were in the class. They were sleeping. I don't know about the other 2. They would apparently stay in the class if not made to do their work.

In the days when we used to have a really fierce PK HEM, just a mention of her name would send these same students furiously writing to complete their work. These days, opting for the soft approach, the kids are getting the better of us. I think kids don't understand the language of reason sometimes... especially such kids. They can tell you that they come to school to study but exhibit no behaviour to show it. In fact they would miss classes. They know the right answers but do the wrong thing. Kids today may be more exposed but they are no wiser than kids of old. In fact, they might even be more foolish for they know not any fear of their future. Too much of a good life, crutches a-plenty, what is there to spur them? Half of my students were given a 1Malaysia netbook, many of whom had deplorable sets of results. You do badly... you still get rewarded. What incentive is there for one to work hard?

A failing system, poor parenting, distracted kids.... the list goes on.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Inter-Generation Carnival Time

Inter-Generation Carnival

Inter-Generation Carnival... this was held on Wednesday at Trinity Baptist Church, bringing together the different churches with members from different ages. My gal was asked to take part as she is among the youngest in my graying church now.

IG Carnival 5

She was a little apprehensive about going but still a little excited. We were getting ready when friend came with her kids in swimming attires. Somehow there was a miscommunication between us and the appointment got mixed up. My gal asked them to accompany her so that they can watch the tele-match.

Bouncing Castle

But the apprehension turned to excitement when this greeted us at the entrance to the church. A huge castle all pumped up.

Bungee Run

And this!!! A contraption for bungee run! The 2 imposing contraption were already fun just to look at! The carnival was organized by SU and I saw many familiar faces. There were many young people I know helping out too!

Ice breaker

Anyway, they had this Rock-Scissors-Paper game as ice-breaker. Losers had stickers stuck onto their faces. 8)

iG Carnival 1

This was followed by games outside. There were different stations with different games. Everyone seemed to have a good time.

IG Carnival 2

It's good to get the young people out into the open for some outdoor games. Else, most would probably veg it out in front of the computer or television screens playing computer games or watching shows! And this also enable everyone to have fellowship with each other.... bonding time!

The highlight of the day was, of course, the bungee run. I left the church to go home for a while and by the time I went back, the young people were having a go at it... some were having repeated go(s). Kudos to SU for the effort in organizing this event!


Friday, July 1, 2011

Mango... And Another Chapter Coming to a Close

Time flies....

Have gone to this place a couple of times but always forgot my camera. This was a planned dinner, to mark the end of another chapter of.... I don't quite know how to call it. It's been almost 7 years. I started my own home tuition for my boy when he entered secondary school. Along the way, other kids wandered in. Two left soon after Form 5 but two came in when I started my MUET for him. In between some other kids also wandered into my life. It's been an up and down ride, sometimes like the roller coaster, other times like the old steam train chugging along.

I learned a lot myself, at both professional and personal levels. It's been a humbling experience also, a time of gains and losses. There are fond memories, and not so fond ones as well; some opened my eyes and some forced me to shut them too.

In a way I was glad for this dinner. They are grown up and turning into nice young adults, with promise. I will miss the time with them but I'll also be glad for the extra time that I can have for myself. There is a time for everything. And the time to move on has come.

Mango was the choice cos 3 have not tried it. We sat out in the open. But as dusk approached, I realized that there were many birds in the air. One has to be careful about 'bombs' from them. LOL! But sitting out in the open air with the cool evening breeze is nice.

Salad Prawns

This is their prawn salad and I've ordered it each time I go to Mango. I like this one but I think the waitress seemed not to notice that there were six of us in our group cos there were only 5 prawns. Good thing I am watching my food. There is no menu. You have to ask the waitress what is available. BTW, the one of the waitresses has a very interesting dressing code.... she was in this sexy black outfit while we were there. The other time I was there she had on this white revealing dress. Dressing to kill? I don't know.

Kheng Som

Kheng som, Thai sweet sour (asam pedas) fish which is very hot. Those white strips are palm shoots. My tongue felt on fire after each bite. The fish was very sweet though. I think the only person who is very at home with all the spicy food was Joyce. We ordered their otak-otak too and that seemed to go down well with her too. 8)

Mango Chicken

I think this is one of their signature dishes, mango chicken. Unlike my first visit when drinks came in plastic cups, we can now order in a jug. I ordered 2, kiwi and soursop. I think the former tasted better. Their deep fried squids were so-so only.

Fried Squids

The years have gone by so quickly. From kids to young adults. Changing phases. I have more gray hair now. In just a short time, they'll be spreading their wings, perhaps far and wide. I don't know. I am glad for the time that I've been privileged to spend with them. Life is better with the experience, with its ups and downs, joy and disappointments.