Friday, September 30, 2011

Google, Kindle, Android, IOS, Facebook...

Just realized that these days, those of us who are connected seem to be getting this slew of offerings that keep flying of the shelves. A couple of days ago, it was Amazon with its Kindles. And in a couple of days, Apple will be releasing some more new stuff. Facebook has just gone through one round of new upgrades. One more is supposed to come in the coming days. Before that, we had all other stuff from HTC, Samsung.... Every few days, I seem to be reading about some new release. And how come? All because I am quite 'well-connected'.

I'm on FB like many. I have articles delivered to my iPad at rates which I have no time to keep up with. I am bombarded with reviews, teasers, speculations... They just keep coming. I never imagined that there can be so much to read. Minus work, housework, 'chasing' after the kids, I actually have not much time. But still I am in the know because all the info I need to know is delivered to wherever I am, to be read at my convenience.

Anyway, to keep consumerism going, this new social networking is a perhaps the best way to get to your potential customers. However, many of these networking sites have abilities to keep track of our lives, our likes and dislikes. Privacy policies are in place but that's just one software away from prying into our lives. And I've come to realize also that many of us don't mind many of the privacy issues. We announce to the world where we are, what we are going to do, who we're with, what we had for dinner, what we've just bought.... even love is professed in this public domain. Very often I know where my friends are. I know who check in with who into a particular place. Some may argue that the info is only for our friends' consumption. But I also notice that many don't bother recalibrating their settings. And there are those of us who accept just anyone to be our friends.

And if you think the telcos would be a safe bet to send messages, think again. The SMSes we send out get stored over a period of time. Some telcos keep messages for a long time. So, FB provides your life's timeline. Telcos stored your supposedly personal messages. Amazon via their latest offering will be able to keep detailed records of your reading and surfing habits too.... it's not available in Malaysia yet but someday, it will.

Back to FB. It's actually quite easy to draw a pattern of behavior from FB. If a person unfriends you, you know the other party probably has an issue with you. This is one of the more obvious examples. Patterns can be drawn from our posts, the way we respond, etc, etc that allows more info than which meets the eye to get through. Sometimes, it is even possible to read into a person's mind via his responses. Imagine what companies can do with the information that they have on users. Tailored advertisement, reading content... all that would be possible. In short, it is possible to even programme us via what we read. Articles are easy to write...

Back in 98 (if memory serves me right), the BN went on a marketing glitz which made majority of the country feel or really good. Suffice to say, BN won big time that year. We were all bought by the feel good factor. Inequality was there, cronyism was thriving, yet majority of us felt good enough to give BN a resounding victory.... it was all in the marketing... Imagine how we can be influenced now that our individual tastes can be scrutinized. And they have the means to deliver the persuasion tailored for you only... Scary! Plus peer pressure can be a useful tool too. You will be informed what your friends are listening to, what they are watching, which phone they are buying. Keeping up with the Joneses' at its best. We've this trait built in; and the media needs only to awaken it. The credit cards do the rest even when you don't have the actual cash... Sometimes, I wonder whether this is all a conspiracy to enslave us all...

Look at the hype surrounding the impending Apple release of products. They are so many articles about what experts are saying about the new products. It builds the hype. It makes people wait in anticipation. It gently prods people make up their minds to get one.... there is nothing like building that desire slowly. Suspense keeps us seated, makes us take note... causing us to crave for it.

There are many pros too but like everything else; you always get both sides. Man is a social creature. We want to know what's happening to the people around us, not that it matters to us... we want to have the things that our friends have, not because we need them, we want to keep up with our neighbors... All those companies? They just know which buttons to press so that they make more money. And they're very successful at it. Apple is the most valuable company. Amazon, Google... they're all industry leaders making tons of profits. And they all have one thing in common, they're all involved directly or indirectly in social media.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Too much?

What does too much do to us? Diabetes, heart problems, hypertension... these are all outcomes of too much. Too much good stuff apparently kills. Too little also stunts and eventually kills too. We see plenty of that in Africa.

So, too much or little of everything seems to be a problem. The answer is obvious... striking a balance. But the way to this obvious solution doesn't seem to feel so obvious. It's been 5 weeks of unrelenting pursuit of my lil one's lessons. As much as I try to minimize tilting the balance, it was just not possible with so much to catch up and a limited time frame. I've to give credit to my girl for her compliance. If it had been my boy, he would have balked and there would have been many sessions of wall hitting.... or 'long piak'.

Up to 12 homework a day, that's what my primary going girl comes home with some days. And there are only 5 examinable subjects and other 'unimportant' subjects like Physical Education, Pendidikan Sivik and Kemahiran Hidup. So, it's quite amazing to me how she gets more than 5 homework each day. Perhaps it is this 'too much' that causes them to later ignore their homework at secondary school.

When a kid is in Primary school, it is easy to make them toe the line. That line becomes very crooked in secondary school. Just compare the school bags of a primary kid and his secondary big bro. The kiddo's bag will probably be 2-3 times heavier than his big bro's. And in the worse case scenario, the big bro's bag might even be empty except for some writing materials. Many just leave their books in their drawers at school or don't bother at all. I've had students who can turn their Science book into an English one and then , all in the matter in one day if need arises. Too many....

And as if school is not enough, there are always the extra classes. School starts at 7.40 a.m. And it's supposed to end at 1.10 p.m... Primary that is. These days, kids as young as Primary 3 have to attend mandatory extra classes carried out by the school. Some drag up till 3.30 p.m. By the time a kid gets home, he is extremely bushed. And if he's slow, there is this constant need to play catch up. Add that to us, parents' punya kiasu-ness, there is the after school extra lessons... or tuitions. These usually take place at night. I look back into my own childhood. I cannot ever remember being this busy! Yet again too many....

I've been sitting with my girl lately. I discovered that her teachers make efforts to give as much work to them as possible. I think her teachers are very hardworking. But then I realized this... for my girl to do well, she has to be really good at memorizing and regurgitating the answers. She grapples with language issues because Mandarin is not her first language. It impedes her comprehension. The system has no place for kids with such disadvantage. One just has to catch up. And this is where more boys languish since a great deal of them are faced with language issues. Most boys just don't have their language side of the brain fully operational at that age. My boy went to Chinese school too, took the Chinese paper for his SPM and now his little sis reads better than him. Yet again, too much...

Language... boy or boy! BM is tough. Chinese is just as tough. The only language that is not hard is English... at school that is. Yet, many of students have poor grasp of the language. Many find it tough at school. Easy syllabus but poor mastery. When you compare English to the other 2 languages, you can see how inadequate it is. I don't know whether it's because of our racial politics but I feel that there is this effort to memartabatkan each language from diehards from both sides. I am struck by how little real information passages in both languages contain. Yet for BM and Mandarin, the difficulty level is high. And mastery remains so-so. Too much? Too little? Too many languages to learn. Jack of all trades, master of none.

Too much or too little... It's about striking a balance. Give too much here, expect too much there, something has to give somewhere. There used to be a balance somewhere.

As my lil one, she has way too little time to day dream. Everyday, she is just as tired as us. A kid's life... it's not much different from ours. I thought 21st century living, with all that technology has to offer us... rupa-rupanya, it turns everyone of us into a consumer, waiting to consume the next new thing to replace the not so old new thing. And we slog for that material replacement.... UNESCO has an interesting study about materialism, the London riots...

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Bak Kut Teh

Bak kut teh... it's just a soup dish cooked with herbs, a potpourri of everything edible from an animal. Bak refers to pork. There is chick-kut-teh too, obviously a chicken based soup. Of course you can have duck-kut-teh.... The 'teh' is supposed to be good....
Special Bak Kut Teh
Anyway, this is one of our favourite bak-kut-teh haunts. It's located at Lot 7 (I always get confused with its name even after so many years here), just beside Putra Medical Centre. We come here quite often as this is one of the places that our lil one likes a lot, usually after our swim. This hawker centre was one of the most popular ones in Alor Setar when we first arrived more than a decade ago. Then it went on a slide. But after the Putra Medical Centre, adjacent to it was extended and went through a facelift, the area has become busy again. It seems to have found another lease of life. And this hawker centre too.
Bak Kut Teh
What's so special about this bak-kut-teh? I guess the soup. For any bak-kut-teh to be nice, the soup (or the 'teh') must be nice. There are few other bak-kut-teh stalls around Alor Setar but this is one of the better ones. There is another one which is quite nice at Pekan Simpang Kuala. There are the yu-tiao and lightly scalded vegetables with meat floss and its sauce. But you only have 2 choices of vegetables.

The stall is rather popular. If one goes slightly later in the evening on a weekend, one might have to wait for quite some time to be served.
Chee Cheong Fun
Apart from the bak-kut-teh, there is also this chee-cheong-fun. It's nothing as nice as the ones you get in Penang but again, this is one of those places you can get such kind of chee-cheong-fun in the evenings.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Four Weeks....

It's been 4 weeks since I embarked on a task which I did not know how much I would accomplish. More than a month ago, Jov jolted me to the fact that my girl was struggling with her Science, that she did not quite know what was required of her. It took more than a fortnight before I decided that I would take myself to task to teach her. The problem is I am not Chinese-ed, which basically sums up the whole problem.

And her Science is in Mandarin. I had great difficulty understanding the questions, let alone read her books! Trying to teach content without language competency is a torture. Plus I work full time. So time is a rare commodity. I spent 2 weeks searching for help.... By and by I found a few. The Besta dictionary is a great help but it's a bit slow and it wasn't something I carried with me all the time. But my iPad is with me most of the time. So it was only natural that I looked to it as an alternative.

Enter the Pleco app and the beginning of 4 interesting weeks.... I started from scratch. there were times when I felt like throwing the books away. So many words to learn and so many times I kept forgetting. But I persisted.... writing and rewriting the words onto the screen. The going was extremely slow. That which should take 10 minutes took 3-4 times the time. Still, I refused to throw in the towel. The first week was tough. There were times when I thought, perhaps I should just teach her the concepts in English and hope she picks the rest up herself in Mandarin.

Most of my free time was taken up by this exercise. When I discovered that I could buy an add-on in Pleco which would read the words to me, I told Other Half that I wanted it. That add-on became my intonation teacher. Going by visual would have taken me more time as I would have to go through the 4 tones in my head for each word. By the second week, the going was slightly easier. But I was still writing a lot on the screen. Sometimes, by the time I got the end of the sentence, I had forgotten what it was all about. (But the app Translate, which is essentially Google Translate turns app; helped out a lot with sentence translation) My vocabulary continued to improve. My word recognition got better. But I was still struggling a lot. My eyes were tired most days... from staring into the screen and coping with the transitional eye change that comes with middle age. Both are painful experiences.

It's now just past the 4th week. I am still struggling. But I now have a new tool in my arsenal... OCR!! And it's a truly wonderful add-on. By just using my camera on the iPad to capture the words, meanings and how they're pronounced would appear on the screen. If the need arises, I can take it a step further by having the pronunciation done too. It has sped up the reading by leaps and bounds. I can now cover more in a session. But iPad camera does not autofocus. I have since found out that the iPhone 4 has that capability, which means that words thay I OCR via the camera will be crisp and clear. Moreover, the iPad is way too big to hover over the book line by line. It's heavy on the wrist. An iPhone would be lighter and more nimble..... But for now, the iPad would have to do.....

Four weeks! I do not know whether I have the persistence to keep going but I shall try. I can now read more than I could before I began. I can now make more sense of stuff said in Mandarin more than before. My vocabulary has probably increased by many folds. I can even go to the bookshop, look through a Science reference book and tell whether it contains all the information required. I can look at a word, and even though not quite remember how to read it, for some reasons still be able to make a contextual guess what it means or know what it means.

My gardening has gone on hold. My brain feels 'fried' on many nights. My eyes feel like they are going to pop out on many of those nights too. Sometimes I am so mentally bushed that I find my patience running really thin. But it has been a rather interesting learning experience too. For one, I surprised myself in that, I lasted this long. Another is that I found that I could enjoy it once I allow myself to take the pitfalls as they come along... it's the getting up that makes it enjoyable. Being able to get up means you are moving on; very much like getting up after a fall while learning how to cycle. Also, in learning... even though this learning experience is rather painful because the learning curve is rather steep; because Mandarin is a language of character recognition, I find myself feeling ecstatic after each milestone.... But learning has to be meaningful. Meaning makes it bearable, more fun, etc, etc... and the meaning comes from understanding the content to be able to teach my girl.

And one more thing..... I am so going to get myself an IPhone or an iPod, if the reportedly and supposedly tweaked iPod Touch comes with an upgraded auto focus camera because the OCR process would be clearer. I am fortunate that I have the necessary tools to hasten my learning. I am even more fortunate that I have the means to get them. Without these tools, I would probably have given up in utter frustration. Technology is indeed an enabling tool... if you know where to look for it. My friend offered to read for me, teach me so to say. I told her that my digital teacher does not get tired no matter how many times I bug it. And I think I am persistent (no, dogged enough, LOL!... ) enough to stay focus. So four weeks.... and now I am anticipating the big Apple do said to be next week.... because now an iPhone seems to have turned into a need....

Thursday, September 22, 2011

When I Grow Up

I want to be a doctor, lawyer, engineer. When I was a kid, there was this 001 Card at school which had this column for ambition. My first recollection of being asked was in Std 2. And everyone (me included)would put down the choices above, policeman (woman), teacher being some of the other choices. Kids.... small world, limited contact, and everyone chose almost the same ambitions but in different order.

Then sophistication crept in and these became more vogue - investment banker, stock analyst, venture capitalist, consultant (this or that).... and all kinds of engineering subdivisions, software engineers... scopes which did not exist when I went to university. And we thought that was sophisticated enough....

I read somewhere that we should train our kids to think of possibilities, of jobs not in existence yet cos the job specs will continue to evolve.

After all would anyone of us imagine the existence of this other realm too where old traditional occupations take new forms. It may seems a little unconventional now but in time, they will be. After all, if one watches a slew of sci-fi stuff, what may seem an overdrive of imagination is actually a peek into the future... provided the world does not come to an end; either through divine intervention or man's folly. For me, I think the more vivid (in my mind) of those sci-fi shows were Space 1999 and Lost in Space... .. Well, there is no Moon Base Alpha yet but we do have an ISS orbiting up there now.

I would never have imagined 20 years ago, jobs which didn't feel like real jobs, i.e. earning money via 'play' would come mainstream and overtake the traditional ones in terms of income generation. Jobs like video (online) game tester, or game farmer where they play and earn money by selling passwords for the different levels that they've done. We'd have labelled such people bums!

But dig this? Vice goes online too. Professional pimping gone online... and gambling too. Now, they don't need to go to Genting or Singapore. Even Vegas comes to them. And gambling takes on other guises too... with many saying that it's a legitimate way of earning money. Illegal betting and lotteries still take place in those hidden away corners but there are slowly gaining a sophistication that comes with the internet. Want a game of poker that plays real money?? Well it's just a few keyboard punches away. And the hope of winning big is stoked in ways unimaginable before.

Online gaming is another area. Micro transactions occur where players once drawn in and get hooked will pay to purchase items for their farms or whatever virtual game they are playing. I play Fragger occasionally... A gem whe you throw grenades through a series of puzzles to blow up your enemies... For a couple of bucks you can buy a solution. That's micro transaction.... it makes money out of impatience for a solution to a level. But lots of people bite. We are a generation of quick fixes, remember? Billions of dollars exchange hands this way! I wonder if a major disaster were to strike and all these people whose skills seem to be farming in the digital world, running digital restaurants, basically just running digital worlds... will they have the enough real skills to survive? I mean, actually survive and not just survive digitally. Generation Y, Z... sophisticated gens they are, but to get their hands dirty or to even slaughter a real chicken??
Then also this... some claim that playing games like Starcraft helps them be millionaires. Read this article about Charlie Cheever who says playing Starcraft helped him learn what he really needed to know about being successful. But the lessons he said he learned from playing the game... I think you learn it doing other things too. It's not an exclusive thingy. There should be lots of millionaires from among the Starcraft gamers going by what he says but reality check will probably show us that most gamers are basically just end users!

So, when I grow up...... who knows what a kid today might be doing? He will be doing one of those jobs that does not exist today.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Those Mad, Mad Years

I am discovering plenty every day.

Adolescence, the awakening. No more child, the innocence gone and only memories of the cute 'was' is etched in our memories. Been down this road with my kid.... another ongoing.

Both Other Half and I truly enjoyed our kids' childhood. Am glad for our lil one. Cos the second time around, you know the road better. And you tend to be more relaxed. When difficult moments come, you know there is an end to that tunnel.... But we can never claim to totally know, cos each kid is still different.

It seems the years between 14-17 are the most reckless years. A pre-teen is fun. They listen and obey.... well, most of the time, anyway. But the teen years that follow will awaken the need for attention of a different sort; socialization in the real sense, go out, hang out... with peers.... Man is a social creature and this age marks the beginning of this need to socialize. Their world expands to beyond their parents. I call this period the marginal years, years of self discovery. I now understand better why the choice of peers is very important too. Studies on teen brains are beginning to show that the recklessness is very real during those 'mad years'. I've just reacquainted myself again with terms such as amygdala, myelin sheath, etc, etc... My biology is rusty but it is still enough to help me understand the physiology of the changes, somewhat. So, because of that, being with their own peer is something that they automatically gravitate towards. Recklessness during this time also means giving in to the pressure of your peers (one seeks peer approval) and given the fact that all are in the same phase, it's double jeopardy. Peer pressure makes us do lots of crazy things. We lose some along the way due to the craziness. Those who survived the recklessness of the youth survived because they are supposed to be naturally the better specimens... the process of natural selection takes place. Well, in theory. So the recklessness was also nature's way of singling out the undesirable ones...

I now understand better why my elders had this set of rules to follow. Kids who are mollycoddled are more likely to go wayward. Kids who have everything too easy turn soft too easily. Kids need more than just their parents to 'parent' them. My elders might not have understood the biology behind it but even they understood the importance of the communal role in raising a kid. Our boy had the benefit of this communal role via a few of our church friends. But in today's individualistic world, it's every one for their own... well, most of the time anyway. I now understand why my mom said sometimes our kids must be taught by others and that parents should sometimes empower others with that authority to discipline their kids. My teachers had my parents blessings to cane me. Touch a kid today, and you might find yourself being hauled to the police station. Kids learn that they not only had themselves to please but also the community. Those mad, mad years require community effort. But these days, most of us would just shrug this role off.

It seems the 'madness' begins right around 12 and might even last up till 25. But there is good news. The mind becomes sensible and recklessness reduces with age. LOL! Adulthood, it seems catches up with everyone. And fatherhood, it seems tamper the tempest in the male species by reducing their testosterones. How's that? But the road to it is fraught with unknowns.

Still the problem seems to be those mad, mad years. And I realize this too.... we seem to be lacking that community spirit in raising each other's kids. We are too caught up by the individual in us to bother. That community upbringing has now been taken over by tuition centers where many kids spend most of their time. I know many of them spend their weekdays at school and tuition centers. And tuition centers take up their weekends. They are left with hardly much time to hang around their own neighborhood. Their hanging places centre around those tuition centers. Communal roles have now been taken over by peers.

Playing games have gone into their homes, seated on a chair and facing the computer screen.... 21st century interaction. So we make excuse adn say we go for quality.

An American friend of mine used to complain to me that American kids spend way too much time on sports. I think physical games are better than the virtual ones. At least physical games come with physical limitations. Physical games are played outdoor. Digital ones come with virtual ones and we know that they can continue to be pushed as long as you have a computer with you. It can be restarted again and again. No end, no moving on.... one can even play till one drops dead at the chair!

What caught my attention more than anything is how shallow many of these kids are. They are a generation of throwaways. Bored with a phone? Get a new one! As long as you have the cash, there is no problem. And that is why too more kids are willing to do anything for it. Those mad, mad years make it all the more fun, especially with their peers to cheer them on; senses suppressed (or heightened, depends on how you see it)! Mad, mad years. They're necessary to prepare one for his future but so many go sesat.... but I supposed they'll regain their sensibility, somewhere down the rites of this passage... hopefully with just scars and not just festering wounds.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde... rupa-rupanya there's a little truth to the novel. It has to do with a little chemical adjustment that the brain undergoes. And why this post.. of late I've been in contact with teens who, from all outward appearance seem to be a picture of well-being but upon scrutiny, seem to have this something that is just quite unexplainable.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Buffet...

Roasted potatoes and it was unanimous that these were among of the best roasted potatoes we've taken anywhere. You know how much kids love potato wedges. Well, this is even better than any of the wedges that we've taken.
Roasted Potatoes

And these potato pieces topped my boy's list of food taken the most times for this particular food outing. Spicy, soft and juicy, I found them delicious. I think honey is one of the ingredients used in its preparations but the combination of herbs and everything else the chef put in seem to make them taste very good.

G Cafe
And they were part of this buffet spread made up of really yummy displays. They tasted just as good as they looked!
g Cafe
The makan place was the g Cafe at Gurney Drive. I like the decor; chic urban modern. The dining area is spacious and one gets a view of the happenings around Gurney Plaza. I have always liked the way the big old trees were preserved when they built this place and sitting in a concrete building with lots of windows looking into the greens amidst a park-like feel was rather relaxing. And we were in no rush to do other things except to eat. 8)
Salad bar

Penang is a hawker haven. You get really good food; cheap and delicious almost everywhere. Eating in Penang is an adventure of its own. Because you get good food everywhere, hotel food pales in comparison. After all, hotel food is usually just that... hotel food; which is almost predictable. But this spread was a different hotel food experience.

Salad Mix

My salad mix... I was spoilt for choices. Mixed bean salad, mussels which were really succulent, and generally everything was nice. They had more than enough types of salad dressings to keep me happy. I tried 4 before giving up. My stomach isn't just as it used to be... which is one reason why we generally don't go for buffets. My kids are small eaters too. But we decided to do something different for a change this time.

Prawns

This buffet had a really nice spread... Irish stew, Money Bags, egg foo yong, salmon, chicken.. the list is just so long that everyone will find a few things they like. The prawns were really yummy; really moist and soft. My girl took a small hill of them and I stuffed in quite a few too! 8) Even Other Half who usually steer clear of prawns couldn't resist taking a bite! I notice that the portions they put out on the buffet spread were small, which meant that the chef was constantly replenishing them. It makes the food taste like a sit-down meal.

Lotus Soup

The soups were good. This is the lotus soup. The soup was soothing and everything else in it nicely cooked. Really clear soup.... really sweet too.

Carrot and Coriander Soup

This was the carrot and coriander soup. See the Mickey in it??? Other Half added a big dash of parmesan into it. The breads were nice and fresh. With a little butter on them, and this soup as the dip, it was another winner. Basically I've not much to complain about except for this little one thing. The watermelon we took was, I think, too ripe or perhaps cut and left too long there. It had a 'sourish' taste to it.

Desserts

Not forgetting too the desserts. There were just too many to even begin but suffice to say, they kept both my kids and Jov happy. I had wanted to give Jov a nice treat for her willingness to come and sit with my girl and help her with her lessons before going off for her studies these last few months. I also wanted for her (and us) to have something nice as memories. She made me realize that my girl needed extra coaching for some of her subjects and had taught me a thing of two how to make the connections in Mandarin. And the outing was a nice one. Anyway, the cakes were actually good. Most hotel (even some 5-star ones) have cakes which taste too dry and not rich enough. Most of the sweet stuff they had there were yummy enough to make you go for seconds!

I tried almost all the major items but left out Murtabak, crackers and many of the desserts. My final 'food' was a cup of rather strong coffee that was delivered to the table steaming hot.

Priced at RM58 per person; children below 12 get a 50% discount, this buffet is good enough to make us think of going back to try their other culinary adventures. Saturday lunch deal is the Family Lunch. There are different themes for different days and meals like Surf and Turf, Indian Curries, Shell, etc, etc.. all priced differently. As for me, this is one buffet that didn't taste like a hotel buffet. Definitely a good experience cos you get so many nice stuff in one sitting.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Who deserves more?

Parents get more credit than they deserve and kids don't get enough....
Pecking Order
With one kid at the threshold of adulthood and one knocking on the door to the difficult years, I might be getting such a remark from my own kid in the near future too. I don't know. But I hope not. What I do know is my previous path had lots of potholes and occasional sinkholes which might have sucked us all in. Thankfully, that did not happen and I hope it will not happen.

Parents are busy today. Maid assumes the role of parents. It's also not uncommon to hear of full-week or even full-month baby sitting these days. In some cases, parents only drop by to see and play with their kids for a couple of hours a week (month). Some parents even employ maids for their babysitters! Remote control parenting... from a distance. And the excuse is the demands of today require both parents to work to provide a better life. They feel their family deserves more... they deserve more. And they ought to get credit for sacrificing so much for their family. Sometimes I think we get marginality from both ends... parents and kids.

Marginality brings about marginal thinking... marginal thinking can be myopic. And the easy life of today's generation for many makes marginal people even less sensible. There seems to be this lack of a particular edge which I can't quite put a finger to.

This is exam season and like many of the past exam seasons, I get SOS requests to give crash courses to kids; surprise, surprise... for History. Many kids don't like History and Geography. But lately, I am surprised at the high number of kids who seem to be failing these subjects, History more so, just because they say they don't like it. Whatever happened to plodding on because one ought to? These days, it seems to be that when one does not like a subject, one just lets it go....

One kid told me that she was totally off into her own world in Form 2. I could tell too cos she could not recall a single thing from the lesson from that year. There was some recollection of Form 1 work and also a little of Form 3. Another boy says of the same, except that he was totally gone in his own little world for almost the 3 whole years! If my grades had been dismal when I was in lower secondary, my parents would have made me feel really bad... or I would have felt really bad for disappointing them. But today, many parents also seem okay with their kids having those dismal results in these subjects. Maybe they are too tired from their own toils to think that it matters. Maybe they think it's not important... But kids need to be held accountable.

Results are not everything. But they also tell us what might need attention. The lack of determination, perseverance, the lack of parental supervision, etc, etc..

I chatted with the owner of a stationary shop I frequent recently. Somehow, we picked up a conversation and he told me his work with troubled kids. He was telling me about a kid he counseled 5 years ago. The boy had been expelled. But after a heart to heart session with him, this 13 year-old had a change of heart. He decided to go back to school. Despite many obstacles, he finally managed to get himself back into the school. It's been 5 years down the road. He is still in school. But he is not doing well at all. However, he plods on. This kind Samaritan pays for his tuition fees even though the tuition teacher says the going is really tough for the boy.

Will this boy pass his SPM? It's unlikely. But as this man said. It's not important whether he does pass. The important thing is he is persevering. That says something about his character, right? A(s) are not everything. They're important to open doors but beyond that, once you enter into the working world, your attitude counts a lot more too.

As for that kind soul... he has my admiration for the work that he chooses to do.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Apple IOS Or Microsoft Windows

Windows 8 have just been unveiled... And reviews I have read says that post PC era is way from over cos apparently this new Windows have abilities of tablet and PC computing put together. Basically, for people like me, it simply means that I can have the mobility and versatility of the tablet and do stuff like photo editing on the same gadget. And that would be the most ideal. For all that I like about my iPad, it is still a dumbed down version of the computer which meets most of my daily needs but occasionally does not. So the new Windows sounds quite interesting.

Anyway, this is not a tech review. I have not been a (serious) PC user for the last few years, having migrated to Mac. I do carry a Netbook to work occasionally though. But I like my Mac. However, PC or Mac, I realized this. It's not just how superior the hardwares are in these machines. It's the operating system that powers the machines which makes all the difference. You can have the best hardware but if the OS is not up to par, it will still flop. There are many gadgets which went that way because their OS or content failed them. It's vice versa too.

Take a look around us. In Alor Setar, many things are not well maintained. Rubbish collection is not as good as before. Somewhere along the timeline, there was a change of operator and it has been on the decline since then. Rubbish collection is not so regular and the current operator leaves all these big bins everywhere which are eyesores as well as a place for the strays to congregate. The areas where the bins are located are smelly and unkempt as a result. The operator must have thought it easy for them to create a central location to throw rubbish, unwittingly psyching people to dump rubbish at that particular location. So despite having all the modern equipment, work is still not good. We have an operator in need of upgrades.

Schools, religious institutions, governments... It's the same. We read about brain drain in our country. Those brains are likened to the operating systems. We 'chase' away our best and brightest via preferential policies. In education, we dumb down students by making everything easier. We do not promote the best people for the job. Racial politics has seen to it that double standards remain. We create distinct separation lines by insisting that one race has more rights than others. Talent, the operating system, that powers a country is clipped. The same too is found in religious institutions. We give credence to those who say the things even one with no religious affiliation will find difficulty in comprehending. Often, we prefer to install an inferior OS not quite able to get the best out of the hardware. And that's happening everywhere.

Looking back into history at how the church was used to consolidate the powers of the kings, there is similarity too. Power is difficult to hold on to. But give it a religious tone, fear takes root. After all, the need to choose between heaven and hell makes it quite obvious that religion can be made a powerful tool to subjugate a population. The early rulers knew this too. Hence, history is filled with accounts how each ruler laid legitimacy to their throne via they being the sons of the gods. And this too compromised the operating system..... But I guess too that one could argue that the King is like the CPU needed to direct all the components to work....LOL! There are always two sides to a coin....

But a good operating system is essential for the forward drive, in any institution for anything. So Apple IOS Or Mac, in the end consumers would still go for the better one. For now, Apple has successfully incorporated form and substance and it's a winning formula. Who knows? Maybe Microsoft will be able to pull this from under them with their latest offering.

The OS that makes us? Aptitude and the rest of the long list called attitude.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Literacy...

Imagine this... 26 students in an Upper Secondary class who cannot use English at all! How do you teach Upper Secondary level English to kids who have not mastered any of the basic language skills? Skills which they were supposed to have learned in Primary school. They are in Upper Secondary, yet not able to follow the curriculum's syllabus. Not a single one in this class is able to make sentences beyond 'My name is....' or 'I live in....' and those too with errors punctuated. The language curriculum is also made up of oral test. Not one is able to hold even a simple conversation in English. Even when time is given to prepare their own scripts for test, there is no taker. And these are kids who have spent their last almost 10 years learning English.

There is no way they can pass their English. But English is not the only problem they face. They fare almost as badly in their other subjects, BM too. Many of them have behavioral problems, with some compounded by the problem of the marginality of teenage years. The thing is, most if not all of them find lessons daunting. After spending 10 years at school, most of them in this class can't even pass their subjects. How can one expect them to remain attentive in class since they also grapple with comprehension. We know that if a kid can do something well, he is more likely to enjoy doing it and will exhibit less of behavioral problem. But if the same kid cannot grasp much of what is being taught, it is also normal to expect them to show more behavioral problems. Kids need affirmation, both internal and external. But when they are in a system where academic results overshadows everything else, they turn to other means to get that acknowledgment of their self worth. I know how it feels cos my boy grappled with comprehension issue because Mandarin was a language he had massive problem with. There are probably other lingering effects still but we hope he'll rise above himself.

Problems plague more boys than girls. The most recent statistics show the current ration in our universities to be roughly 30:70, and girls overwhelm the boys. And in the recent PLKN (National Serrvice) intake they discovered that 1000 out of 10000 had literacy problems. One of our ministers say that it's a normal trend and nothing to worry about. Apparently our literacy rate is better than some 1st world countries. I think there is plenty to worry about. Socially, it's going to be a time-bomb too. Low literacy means difficulty in getting jobs.

Anyway, I come across classes like this every year, and there are more these days. There is a vocational subject in most schools offered these days but the places are far too few. Schools are still too academically inclined. Our vocational training doesn't kick in early enough to give these kids a sense of achievement. And it's limited.

As for teaching such classes. I am always at odd ends. Text books are not suitable. There is still the curriculum and the SPM to be taken when they're 17. Yet we only have one shoe for them. It makes school rather routine for them. Our schools may have better facilities these days but I don't know whether it's really doing a good job at producing graduates for the job market. But one thing I know for sure. Where English mastery is concerned, the situation is not getting any better. The solution is not getting Peace Corps or Fulbright volunteers to teach English in our secondary schools. The problem at the root ought to be tackled first. And that's at primary level. and attitude transformation...

I always remind my girl to finish as much of her homework at school cos she gets so many every day. However, one day she came back with all her homework not done. When asked she said that there were visitors at school that day and the kids had been reminded to pay full attention at class because those visitors were at school to give them marks (trade them). LOL! The inspectorate was there to audit/observe the school. Fast forward to the same type visit to my work place. The school went on a frenzy of getting the files ready for the big visit. Teachers were told to prepare for class observation... All the show that was being put up. I wonder whether they wonder if the contents of the files are authentic and not just made up. If a teacher performs exceedingly well in class just during that one time during the visit, etc., etc... Form over substance issues. A whole show gets put up... Why can't the inspectorate just show up unannounced, I wonder? That I feel is one of the issues which we should do some in-depth reflection.... and that too is also one reason why many at the helm today are performers first and foremost than teachers. Teachers teach, performers perform....

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Act of Pulun

Pulun is a local dialect which means going all out.

This is the time of the year when exam is supposed to be foremost on the minds of most students (those involved in the public exams - UPSR, PMR, SPM, STPM), teachers and parents. It is at this time that everything extra is brought out to drill as much as possible into the heads of the students. Hence, it is pulun mode we are supposed to be in now.

And those extras include lots extra classes to make sure that students get as much drilling as possible before the exam. Extra classes... Every school I know is holding them. It is a norm these days to have extra classes. It would be incomplete without the extra classes. The head of a school has to be very brave to buck this trend because nobody wants their results to show a drop.

In schools like mine, we are (or at least are seen) taking every conceivable measure to ensure that as many students as possible make the grades. Unimportant subjects like Pendidikan Sivik, PE, KT which are none exam subjects are taken out of the timetable to make way for the important subjects. Makes me wonder too about this move cos we are often reminded that all subjects are important. The important subject teachers now get extra periods to teach because the subjects they teach are so important. Apart from that, they also have to give extra classes after school. That's how indispensable these important-subject teachers have become. Yet we are often reminded too that all teachers are the same.... LOL!

The work load becomes skewed... the important-subject teachers now get saddled with extra classes during school hours and extra classes after school. The not-so-important teachers get to do mindless work by going into relief classes with no extra classes thrown in. And the mantra that all teachers are the same kept being repeated to us when they need the teachers to ensure that programs run but some obviously have it easier for the next couple of months...

I think this is an indication that the MOE has failed badly. First, because the prescribed hours in the curriculum seem not able to ensure adequacy in completing everything in the classes. Second, subjects which are unimportant should not be incorporated into the timetable since they are going to be 'thrown out' by the school administrators at the end of the year anyway, usually around 2-3 months before the school term ends. Thirdly, the morale of the teachers is badly affected cos those involved in the important subjects get saddled with extra work load. You have one group getting stressed up over exam preparations while another basically with nothing much to 'worry'. Or perhaps there is a misinterpretation of MOE policies by those entrusted to be its executors.

Anyway, I think our current system is too rigid with too much emphasis on rote and very little thinking. Recently, I took some thinking skills questions for my 10 year-old to attempt. She couldn't do most of them in the beginning. I downgraded it one level down and discovered that she was still finding it hard to solve them. These were questions taken from our neighboring country which has one of the best education systems in the world. And my own girl could not do it. Then I thought perhaps it's her mental ability that was the problem. So I gave those same questions to a kid who scored a string of A(s) with many (A+) in her SPM to solve. It was quite an eye opener to discover she could not solve a problem meant for 10 year olds! Whether one is 10 or 20, both are not able to solve a supposedly simple but requires some thinking problem.

Perhaps my sampling is too narrow to draw a conclusion. Moreover, one of our universities is back on the list of 200 best universities in the world. Perhaps too my world too is an aberrant one; it is not the norm. But I notice that very few of my students are observant or have the drive and attitude of a dynamic character. But whatever it is, in this pulun season, I realized too that one reason why the rot has set into our schools is many things are not quite right in our system.

Pulun is necessary in life. but I don't know whether this way, that we pulun for them in the sense that we assume the responsibility to pulun, which should be theirs in the first place. Even in my kids, whose life are generally comfortable, the drive to excel is just so lax. The spirit of pulun is just very lacking.... but then again.....

Thursday, September 8, 2011

One iPad App for 2Es

Education and entertainment... 2 integral areas in our life. And this latest app that I've tried out caters to both.

TagDiskHDLite

This app is worth a second look...TagDiskHD. I am using the Lite version... cos it's free. Am always thankful that the developers offer 2 versions. Have tried it out and liked what I could download with it and may just buy the full version.

Tag Disk

What is good for? Downloading media files to be played on your iPad. It is able to download YouTube files into your iPad for offline viewing. For people like me who still have a relatively slow line at home, this is good. There are many video clips on YouTube which have good educational content and also good old movies. But I hardly watch them cos I need to be online to watch. Now with this, I can just paste the URL into TagDiskHD and download it for offline viewing later. And because the current IOS can multitask, it'll download while you do other stuff. Should you go offline while downloading, the app will seamlessly continue the download later. So, I've been able to download wherever there is wifi connection.

OpenCulture

That on its own should be good enough but with sites like Open Culture which contains list of old worthwhile watch of old movies and good educational recommendations, TagDiskHD is very handy to have. I downloaded Animal Farm by George Orwell, the 1954 animated version. It was the first British animated film to be released worldwide. I am actually reading the book again now... though it has taken me ages to finish only half of it at the moment. Too many distractions and commitments at the moment. I think I have read the book before but this time around, it gives a totally different insight.

There are hundreds of old movies which can be downloaded from the site. But some have geographical block; only for the US. The Science section contains an archive of really interesting videos. I downloaded some on impulse and found one to be immensely interesting. The site also recommends other sites with lists of downloadable watchable stuff.

I shall be trying this out with other downloads. I think my kids will be downloading Mind Your Language from YouTube once I tell them.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

School Is....

It takes only 2 days of school to trigger these.... This is a season of exams. Next week the Primary 6 kids will be facing their UPSR; 6 years of primary school culminating to this one exam which last for 3 days. After all the afternoons and weekends of extra classes. A good part of their childhood is sacrificed in this toil. From Std 3-6, they are forced by the demands to stay in the race to stay back for that extra push. UPSR will be followed by the soon-to-be abolished PMR and finally the SPM and STPM at the end of the year. Standardized exams all these are.

Good schools will remain good schools. Good students will continue to benefit from good schools. Normal (not so good) schools like mine? I think we are failing our students. I have a large number of SPM students who are quite lost. I am at a lost at how to make them pass. Their parents are at a lost too, some quite anguished by it.

Bored by school, pulled by peer pressure and distracted by the sophistication of this age, many are languishing and will not get the basic requirement for entry to diploma level courses; which by the way is just 4 credits or 4Cs. C used to be a C6. We have a very confusing grading system for our current SPM with A*, A+, A-, B+, B, C+, C, D, E, F. STPM also has the same labyrinth of grading system. Sometimes I wonder whether this confusing grading system was slapped together to fool ourselves; compromising quality while duping ourselves into believing we have the quantity of quality that is not there.

School is a business. The chase for grades has caused everyone of us to sacrifice the love for learning in exchange for grades. The aim of education is no longer to ensure that kids leave school with an attitude of lifelong learning in place. It's the A(s) that's most important. I find myself chasing my girl to complete her homework so that I can do other stuff with her but by the time she is done, she is already tired. I find my girl not wanting to think. She only wants to complete her work; the easiest and fastest way so that she can read her story books. I find myself looking at my friends and relatives who are brave enough to go their own; homeschooling. And I find their kids seemingly having those things that I wish my girl would have.

So we produce many straight or near-straight A kids who on paper convey an impression of a kid reeking with those qualities we think they have. Then we are told that many of these kids seemingly fail to meet the demands of the real world which require problem solving skills, tenacity and perseverance on their own. Many of our kids go through our education system being dumbed down in the sense that they lose their ability to think. Realizing that recently, we started our girl on problem solving skills and to our horror, discovered that she preferred not to be challenged by 'difficult' tasks. If anything, I also noticed that the amount of rote learning that takes place at school is beginning to leave effects which I'd rather she not have.

Education, being centralized has become a right for every kid in Malaysia but the individual's needs and abilities don't carry much weight in its execution. And education is also in a very exciting phase currently with ICT enabling it to scale heights unimaginable before. But we have a system that treats everyone the same (supposedly), the one shoe size fits all.... but we also have our very own select system at work too. We claim that we have remedial steps included for those kids who need it but more often than never, these measures fail.

We also sacrifice character building for the grades. In the chase for those A(s), we develop tunnel vision. We forget that kids also need to be shaped to be resilient, focussed and have self-control but we sell that for the other. We go for results but not the effort. Effort becomes secondary to grades.

Being centralized too means great business opportunities. But despite all the hard work that we've to put into getting the strings of A(s), I've realized too how easy it is to gain entry to university. Now everyone can get a university degree. But very often I find myself wondering too whether everyone is cut out for that, the degree. Education answers the market needs. Almost RM30 billion was forked out for our MOE in last year's budget. It's a massive amount of money and I would imagine the massive amount of good that it has supposedly achieved.

Standardized curriculum with a standardized exam. Who actually benefits most? It's supposed to be the students but sometimes I wonder whether it's those who are involved in the creation and administration who benefit more. The recent SAPS under the NKRA for example. It felt like an ad-hoc measure. I find myself keying in marks twice into the 'national system' online. Why wasn't there any thoughts about streamlining both systems? But what I think of is those hired to get the website going. This contract must have been worth quite a bit.

We get sucked into this endless consumerist hole too. Education also economy. And since it is the ticket to a better future, everyone has not much choice but to jump in. Prep and extra classes, tuitions, all in the effort to boost the grades in a standardized exam. Whether one is ready or not, once you hit 17, you sit for the exam. Never mind foo if the kid did not sit for his PMR or can't even read or write properly. They sit for their SPM when their time is up in secondary school. Is it a wonder that many of our kids are totally bored and get snuffed out in school by their boredom? As for those who are able to cope and come from financially stable families, minima, grades, no attitude, still a degree in hand.

We need flexibility and freedom to address each kid's needs and ability but sadly that is not quite available. We need parents to be more involved in their children's learning but the chase for grades but the hectic demands of life make it quite difficult. Parents are missing out opportunities to teach their children critical thinking skills because they have so little time.

Is a government able to do a good job at educating a child? I am not sure. We need policies but the policy makers at Federal level are too detached from the ground. Education should probably be decentralized somewhat. I noticed that my friends' kids who are home schooled seem to have a rather balanced and happy childhood. They are generally more inquisitive and creative too. Perhaps if parents can see this and with some help from the system, we'd be better at producing creative and thinking individuals.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Holiday Roundup...

Been a quiet holiday. We didn't make the trip back home even though the hols was on. First because Son's trial is on right after the holidays and also because of some miscommunications with each other's travel plans. We assumed that my MIL would remain at my bro-in-law's and I thought my parents were traveling to my bro's place. Plus there was the heavy traffic as a deterrent. But I kinda wish that I had gone home to see my folks though, especially after reading a friend's post.

The first few days of the hols were a total washout as it rained and rained. Then on the first day of Raya, some friends gathered at my place for a breakfast do. It was supposed to be a walk but in the end no walking took place even though the weather was fine for the whole day. I guess we were all just too lazy after the cold days. It had been so cold and damp that clothes took a really long time to dry. The air was saturated. I also took Karyn to the Thai noodle shop off the beaten track... and true enough the trip through the winding paths beside the canal was an adventure in itself.

And then my washing machine broke down... or that's what we thought. We went to the shop, but turned out that they weren't delivering since it was the first day of Raya. The salesman wanted a deposit for a later delivery. It was a good thing I decided that since I had to wait, I could wait a couple more days. It's hols and I could always hand wash. Stress level was bearable. That turned up to be a decision that saved us a lot cos when we got home, the washing machine was working again. Before we left, Other Half had lifted it up and that probably dislodged something. Sometimes it's good to be long suffering a bit... LOL! I saved $$ too! And I am reminded this... Be wary of salespeople. Sometimes they just kelentong only to pitch a sale.

It's a nice break, one which I think I could do with more. Had a fruitful time with my girl. I am struggling, teaching her in Mandarin but because I didn't have to go work, I wasn't so stressed out with it. The time we spent together was actually quite enjoyable. I am often told by many parents that it's difficult to teach their own kids. My dad did it with me and I think I enjoyed his 'tuition' classes very much and reminded me that he was a good teacher. I did it with my boy... he was a little bit of of a tougher chew but I think it laid the foundations to a better understanding that we seem to have these days. And maybe too because his marginal years are now almost behind him. But I actually enjoy teaching her.... well, most of the time.

The learning curve for Mandarin for me is extremely sharp but because I taught her when she was in Std 1, there was something I could return to as a base. It's so difficult to remember all those characters. The task feels daunting but the Pleco app on my iPad and Google Translate have made it quite bearable. But I still find it rather difficult to remember the characters and find myself rewriting and rewriting the same characters again and again for pronunciation and meaning. Tis tough, this learning. How long more will I continue to sit with her? I don't know. It takes great discipline and energy. It's tiring cos I work and there's the housework too. Sometimes I feel like I have too much to chew. But I also tell myself that this is only temporary. And it's a matter of priorities - getting it right.

On conversations... one of the must have things in life. I had a few of those which will be remembered more than others. I learned a poignant lesson too. Each of us has this urge to hang on to possessions, responsibilities, etc with a zeal that is hard to comprehend. Some label it service, others feel it gives them relevance for their continual existence, yet there are those who hang on for their offsprings....and those who do it for truly noble reasons. But whatever the reason, we die and must leave all them behind..... cos we're mere mortals.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Tsurukame Shabu Shabu

For some reason my gal has a liking for shabu shabu... and we were at Queensbay Mall, Penang.

Tsurukame
This was where we ended up for lunch. She has been asking to go to the Grill & Shabu Shabu in Alor Setar for some time but we weren't keen. So, this time we decided to go with her choice since she has been really good at home the past week, sitting for hours at end with me and Other Half where her work is concerned.
Tsurukame 1
It's got the same concept as the Grill & Shabu Shabu here, except that they seem to have more choices on the conveyor belt, including a few choices of sushi.
Induction Cooker
They use an induction cooker too which is way more convenient, faster and easier to control the heat. And it's less hot too, a great plus point. Eating is more comfortable because of it.
Kimchi Soup
There are 4 choices of soup available... clear, miso, tomyam and kimchi. You get to choose 2 and we took clear and miso.
Jelly Fish
Choices... jelly fish.
Scallops
Scallops... there were plenty of those. They kept coming very regularly and we didn't have to wait long for them unlike the other experience.
Bamboo Clam
There were prawns too; plates after plates kept passing us but we didn't take any cos none of us felt like eating them. But they had this!!! Bamboo clam!!! It's been such a long time since I had this that I can't really remember when the last time was... probably eons ago. The rest of the stuff is the usual... sausages, fish balls, different kinds of meat, vegetables.
Food Displayed
They have cooked stuff too but not very many choices.... the fried mee was okay, though.

Price wise... it was RM17++ for our gal and RM36++ for adult. Free flow of drinks but don't expect much cos they tasted pre-mixed. It's eat all you want or buffet style, as we were told by the waitress. With the same amount, you'd probably be able to get much better stuff if you were to do it your own. But then again, this is eating out with ambience, a view of the sea and some shopping thrown in... the fun of an outing. Oh yes! I tried a few of their sushi too - quite bland.

Would I go back again... my lil one seemed to enjoy it very much. We think it lacks the 'wow' factor to entice us back, though. But we'll never know... with the lil one pestering.....

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Politics of History...

Education is politicized in Malaysia. Personally, I feel that subjects like History and Moral are taught on the premise that our kids have no ability to think on their own. So it is with some interest that I followed Mat Sabu's interpretation of the 1950 Bukit Kepong incident. And I find his angle really interesting... The details of Bukit Kepong can easily be googled. So can the Malayan Communist Party (MCP) struggles in Malaya.

Going by simple logic, technically anyone who worked for the government back in 1950 was actually working for the Brits. So if one is anti-colonial, then it's actually quite easy to see that the MCP was actually fighting the penjajah. Communism was much feared here back then (and we're still wary of it today). But it's hard to fault Mat Sabu for his line of thought on plain logic... cos by the 1950s they (the MCP) were fighting against the British; which loosely meant that they actually qualified as freedom fighters trying to free the land from the yoke of the colonialists. The 3 stars on the caps of the MPAJA actually represented the three major races, here. Their fight, while was to perpetuate the communist ideology was no longer for China. Malaya had become their home. China became their support base just as in the US, the United Kingdom and France offered support to the Libyan rebels against Gaddafi and provided a support base for them. Malaya was home to the MCP members just as Libya is the home of the rebels. It's a rather simplistic comparison, I know.

And MCP was not solely a single race party, though there were far fewer Malays or Indians in it. But to agree to Mat Sabu's speech would akin to admitting that there were others who were more willing to fight (and die) to gain freedom from 'oppression'. But that too means that the local leaders of the day had been selling the people short too for their own gains. That could be one way of looking at history. And then if we were to continue and study further, we'd also be reminded that in many instances, the local leaders practically gave their lands and subjected their rakyat to being colonialized while they continued to live rather comfortably, even having a semblance of an authority, in other words puppets of the colonialists. It was only in certain instances when their lives were affected as in the incidents leading to the murder of JWW Birch's that we read of the upper class uprising. Most of the other rebellions were by the minor pembesar.... Tok Gajah, Haji Abdul Rahman Limbung, Dol Said. They died, got expelled, jailed, sentenced to death for fighting their causes.

The thing is... history is supposed to enable us to learn from our mistakes. It is supposed to be a shortcut to helping us avoid the pitfalls of those before us. But history when politicized gives the opposite effect. It causes us to live under an illusion. And those people responsible for the illusion has to maintain it. And every now and then, when someone like Mat Sabu offers us another view of what could be on the outside of the bubble we live in, the creators of the illusion have to work even harder, spinning more stuff to protect that illusion. Never mind that most of us do not subscribe to the Communist ideology.

History as a propaganda.... It does feel so very often. In the politics of history, how can governments resist that opportunity to use it to churn support or build a divide?

Anyway, what Mat Sabu offers here seems like The Pill in The Matrix. Take the pill and you might find yourself awakened. But you might not like what you are awakened to. So perhaps, like many who remained happily suspended and oblivious to the real world, the humans continued to exist in their bubble of happiness in The Matrix. I think there is no harm in looking at Mat Sabu's approach. Instead of clamoring him to take it back or lambasting him for whatever reasons, take a look at it from an intellectual perspective. But of course, it's hard to imagine the cause and effect here... LOL!!!! As for Mat Sabu, it doesn't make him a communist sympathizer by just highlighting this angle. Or it could just be a political gimmick to draw attention.... but it is an interesting angle. If the Communists had won, our history books today would be totally different.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

September is here....

This year's Merdeka Day was really muted.... Raya overwhelmed it and pushed it to 16th September, which I feel should rightly be our 'Merdeka" cos Sabah and Sarawak joined Malaya to form Malaysia on that day, 48 years ago. As in many things these days, semua boleh diaturkan, including pushing backward Independence Day... unless this is a permanent push.

Orchid
My long suffering orchid plant finally flowered. I thought it was not going to make it through the last heat wave when almost all its leaves had this yellowy tinge. The cooler weather lately has brought forth colour in the sea of green.
Bush Bean Flower
My bush bean finally flowered. As of this evening, I could see tiny beans growing. Monay, if you are reading this, we are waiting anxiously for the first fruits. But I am going to keep the first few for seeds... after so many failed germinations. BTW, my lil one has also germinated the Alyssum seeds.. there are tiny seedlings now. We are hoping to see them grow too.
Mark 1
This is Mark, the latest addition to our hodgepodge pond. He was found right outside our house after a particularly heavy downpour by our help. We put him in a small aquarium at first, and he made so many attempts trying to crawl up. I pitied him and thought of releasing him into the river.
Mark the Tortoise
But he's still really tiny.
Mark
Finally, after a few days... we thought we'd keep him. Our gal christened him Mark. We had a small tortoise many years ago named Tobias but he died after I fed him with cabbage. He was Son's tortoise. Apparently he couldn't withstand the chemicals in the cabbage... see how laced our vegetables are. Anyway, Other Half built a little platform in our pond for Mark to rest whenever we let him in there to play. He hasn't quite gotten used to it but he's quite happy to swim in the pond. He also seems to enjoy helping himself to the moss in the pond too... So, we'll probably keep him for a while before releasing him back into the wild...
Beans and Honey Dew
And this is the little patch that Other Half and I just cleared over the weekend, after the long beans were done. I have pineapples growing there too but they don't seem to be looking very good after being hidden among the bean plants the last few months. Because I bury all kinds of fruit peelings in this patch, a honey dew plant grew...
Honey Dew Melon
And among those vines which looked kinda weather beaten was this and a couple of smaller lookalikes... honey dew melon. I had one plant which grew there the other time which had a fruit but it didn't grow well. We're keeping our fingers crossed for this one... 8)

September is here.. year end is also coming. School will also be reopening soon....