Friday, December 30, 2011

Hing Ket Grill House

Bro-in-law took us here.
Hing Ket 4
Off the city highways into the little country roads that still exist in pockets of areas here and there in the suburbs of KL. And this makan trip was to Hing Ket Grill House.

It's an unobtrusive building, and there's nothing fancy about the shop which is located along the dusty main road of Kampung Jawa, Klang.
Hing Ket 1
We ordered the sa-hor-fun which was so popular with the kids that we ordered a second round. We also had bee hoon and stir fried vegetables.
Hing Ket 5
These la-la(s) were very spicy. The kids steered clear of them. We didn't order rice but these would go really great with white rice. Totally appetizing, the sauce.
Hing Ket 3
Chunky and meaty stingray grilled with curry powder. This is one of the best grilled stingrays I've taken. The meat was succulent and tender; the flavours just nice. Grilled to perfection.
Hing Ket 2
But this was the main reason for our visit here -  the grilled mutton. And though they might not look very appetizing, they tasted absolutely good. The meat was tender, well marinated - truly a finger lickin' dish.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

December...

It's post Christmas. For the many Christmases before this one, we've always made it a point to spend it here, in Alor Setar. But this year, we went down to KL, to celebrate it with family members.
Barrels
So, together with our little faithful Barrels, we travelled south...

I know my girl had a whale of a time with her cousins. We actually spent very little time shopping. All supermarkets have the same feel after a while. We took Son to see some colleges, in preparation for the next phase of his life. We also made a trip to Seremban, a place where I did my teaching practical more than 20 years ago; where I stayed with Other Half's aunt. I will always remember the kindness and generosity shown by both Aunty and Uncle to me. They literally opened a new world to me. And I met up with an old friend/mentor. Years gone by and I marvel at how she is still keeping to her faith... despite the the many tough moments. It was good to catch up... over Seremban's famous gu-bak mee.
Cakes
And we had a good get-together at Other Half's uncle's place during Christmas Eve. It's been over a year since father-in-law's passing. It was good to be able to meet up, with cousins and extended family members. Good food, great company. I don't know who was happier.... him or us. 

I realize that as I grow older, I can understand better why faces light up when such visits are made. It's such moments that warm the hearts. And sometimes too, a little thought crosses my mind too that perhaps things happen for a reason. If some of the things that happened this year did not happen, I doubt we'd have made this journey. I am glad for this trip because in many ways it's also a blessing for my children. Sometimes we caught up by the busyness of our lives. Sometimes the familiarity of the same activity holds us back.
Pavilion
KL remains jam packed with everything....  every where you go, you pay toll. The air is thick with man made toxins. And everywhere is far... time didn't seem to factor in much those days when KL was my temporary home.... but they seem to these days.
We made to a trip to Pavilion which was right in the city centre..... because Son wanted his Stickies. It was quite interesting to see the sweets being made. The shelves were almost empty when we got there. And they're not cheap. A small bottle of Stickies sweets cost around RM30. Yet the bottles just kept flying off the shelves. We also tried the food at the supposedly famous hawker centre in Pavillion. Verdict? Prices were steep. But the kids got to look at the Christmas deco lights. They were actually very nice.... 

Also, a trip back to the old church we used to attend; DUMC. They have moved a couple of times in the last 2 decades. I've  gone back a couple of times but this was my first time to their Dream Centre and it was impressive. Other Half said one can comfortably get lost there.... 8) Anyway, Christmas treat was watching Juwita Suwito and Jacyln Victor sing for us at the Dream Centre. Daniel Ho was the speaker..... he was as how I remembered him; he speaks faster now, though. 8) The sermon was simple but poignant.
Bird House
And this December too, the things I cherish remain family and friends. I enjoyed a particular afternoon at hone with friends, conversations over things far and near to the heart. Though I tend to get a little more skeptical with age, I realize too that the things that are important don't change much. It's us, people who change things... for better or worse.

December.... the mark of another year, and beginning of another.

Pun Chun Kota Kemuning and Bidor

I thought my brain was thawing.. turns out it went back into the freezer during and post Christmas...

This is a first for us... in one trip we went to 2 same restaurants in 2 different locations. And it's all because Other Half liked their Duck Noodles so much. Well, actually it's dry noodle (konlo mee) accompanied by duck soup.
Pun Chun Kota Kemuning
This is Pun Chun Kota Kemuning, Shah Alam. Bro-in-law took us there cos he said it's supposed to be very famous. They specialize in noodles. They have rice dishes too but most people seem to go for their noodles.
Pun Cun Menu
Their menu... it felt worn out from constant use. That is indicator of the restaurant's popularity. And one more thing, I noticed that the waiter took our orders using a Palm device. Quite cool. 8)
Pun Cun Mushroom and Chicken Feet
My order of Chicken Feet and Mushroom Noodles. I think being hungry probably contributed quite a bit to me thinking that it tasted quite good. But I think the same noodles at Lee & Lee here is just as good too.
Pun Cun Curry Mee
Son's order... curry mee. He says its very nice and he's a curry person. 
Pun Cun Duck Noodle
The konlo mee with its duck soup which got us to Pun Chun's parent restaurant in Bidor. Bro-in-law told us that it was located along one of the towns along the NSE. These days, with the GPS, it's easy to locate them. We were approaching Bidor when the duck noodles came into our conversation. So a few taps here and there.... and we decided to make a detour.
Pun Cun6
And this was where the GPS guided us to. Pun Chun (the parent restaurant) in Bidor. It's located at the corner lot of an old row of shophouses. This place is quite different from their Kota Kemuning outlet which had a city feel. Anyway, small towns can be interesting and exciting in their own ways cos to me, there is this disorderliness of everything.
Pun Cun7
And along the same street, you'll see shops and stalls selling fruits. Everywhere we turned, we saw people eating mangosteens. And literally every fruit stall was selling pomelos. I got some.
Pun Cun 10
This Pun Chun had all kinds of cookies and even this yam kuih. I bought a couple home to try. They're nice but I wouldn't say that they're the best I've taken. Each one cost around RM1.70, I think.
Pun Cun8
This lady was totally busy during the more than half an hour that we had to wait for our order. And it's obvious that order is not via any geeky tools. Business was really brisk and it wasn't even lunch or dinner time. It was mid afternoon and people streamed in non-stop for a plate of Pun Chun noodles. Guess one can see how popular this restaurant is. 
Pun Cun9
And so, that's how we had Pun Chun noodles at home. The noodles and soup were still warm when we got home. Pun Chun in Bidor is cheaper than the fancier outlet in Kota Kemuning. But price is not the only difference. The wantan in Kota Kemuning is sweeter cos they contain more prawns whereas the ones from Bidor contained more meat. Pun Chun's menu is pasted on the wall unlike the more personalized ones in Kota Kemuning.... for the supposedly more sophisticated clientele. And of course the more sophisticated clientele pays more too. 8)

Their duck/chicken soup is good. I noticed that the soups are cooked with longan in addition to the usual Chinese herbs. Would we stop by again for the noodles... I think so.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Meaning...

The brain is slowly thawing.... 8) 

It's Christmas season! And often, we are asked about what Christmas means. Born to die, that one might live. But a look around will tell us that Christmas while continues in its spirit of giving, is more vague in what it means to most of us.

So what gives meaning to our lives? Is meaning externally brought on or internally generated? If it's an external one, then it's also logical to conclude that our moods can be affected by even the weather! Incidentally, the weather does affect our moods. Anyway, if we are responsible for meaning in our lives, then it is supposed to be both liberating and terrifying. Liberating because you no longer depend on others for meaning.... and terrifying at the same time, cos this flow of thought seems to put us all as capable of keeping ourselves happy, in other words we'll be like an ubermensch

I am still inclined to believe that one of the things in life that gives real meaning to our lives remains the relationships that each of us experience. Right from the relationship with the Divine to our families and the people who cross our paths. It's holiday season. And this year, what I appreciate most is the opportunity to renew ties with my family members and also new friends made.

However, I think ubermensch we are not cos we're not perfect. Meaning in our lives is often affected by the people around us. Other Half and I have been looking at our old videos and came across a video of a church camp we attended some years back. What caught our eye were these.... vibrance, energy, enthusiam from one of the sessions that we had during the Camp. There were many young kids and the church camp had a family-like atmosphere when that moment was caught. It looked like everyone had fun. 

Fast forward 8 years... Many of the kids have grown up and left. Many of the adults spot more gray hair. The last church camp we attended had no programmes for the left-behind-kids. Meaning for some had somehow gone on a narrower bandwidth... didn't matter which angle you look from. Meaning, apparently can be affected by external factors. 

The years that have added themselves onto my timeline has also taught me that all of us are 'selfish' creatures.... and because of that , we'll continue to do those things that meet our needs and therefore give meaning to our own lives first; 5Ks - kah ki kor kah ki, with some effort to appease our conscience. That type of giving (sacrifice) as told in a parable of the poor woman who gave her two coins and the rich and his bag of gold remains something hard for each of us to do. The thing is, over the years, even in churches, I have seen how, very often the best is reserved for certain groups (with connection)..... and these benefitted tremendously.. Then, there were those who gave like the widow did and suffered heartaches..  And you wonder where the meaning is... One might be excused for thinking that 5K works better.

Meaning gives a sense of purpose and it works vice versa too. Purpose can be selfish or noble. One takes away meaning, the other gives and enhances it. Calvary was noble and it gives us life. 

New Year beckons... Hope, hopefully.....

Sunday, December 18, 2011

iPhone 4S

Can't imagine that I feel more tired even though this is the hols for me. Have not been blogging much cos the brain seems to be frozen and I kinda like its frozen state though it's time to slowly start the thawing process. 

I finally took the plunge and got myself an iPhone 4S. One compelling reason to get it was my iPod went bust. During my recent trip back, I had the misfortune of falling into the drain when I stopped to resolve a problem at the Touch n Go Service Centre along the highway. PLUS should consider covering all their drains to make it safer for road users. Thankfully, my reflexes were still fast enough. I managed to stop myself from totally 'sinking' into the drain by propping myself up with my hands..... injured my wrist and arm in the process, though. 8( Had a few abrasions, some bruises and I thought that was it. Little did I realize that my iPod which was in my pocket had taken a hard knock. It was only the next day that I discovered a dent at the back when I couldn't power it up.  The gorilla glass held well. The iPod still looks pristine from the front. And that was the final 'encouragement' I needed to get an iPhone. I miss my iPod most during gym time cos my faithful little companion wasn't there to provide me the reading pleasure.

I made a pre-order with Celcom 2 days before the launch. I read about long lines in KL.... Up north here, I just walked in and was served quite promptly. No lines of people waiting to get the new iPhones. At one place in KL apparently, Maxis subscribers started queuing at 3 p.m. before the launch at midnight to get an iPhone 4S. Crazy!

I ran into a problem, though when Celcom said I couldn't upgrade my line since the iPhone 4S corporate package had not been announced. I was of course quite annoyed when they told me that I had to wait since they could not return my deposit. But after talking to the gals who were manning the counter, and a couple of calls to KL, discussions with their superiors, they finally agreed to switch my package. I was almost tempted to terminate my line. But I must commend the young lady who attended to me. 

And no, I am not going to gush about Siri, though I think it's quite cool. At the moment, I don't think I have much use for it yet. The iphone can play the piano it seems... have seen a video of it and it's pretty awesome. Having used the iPod for quite a while, the iPhone is not much different from it... except it has extra functions, of course. What I am going to gush about is the camera. It's almost as good as my point and shoot camera. Night shots are comparable. Video is good. And I carry less things in my pocket too. Everything in one. And oh yes! SMS-ing is easier now too... no more squinting my eyes trying to make out the letters on my less than presbyopic friendly phone keypad. I am usually too lazy to SMS or reply because SMSing is such a chore most of the times.

And with 2011 drawing its curtain to a close, I realize too that there are now many 'i'(s) in my life. And I don't know whether that is good.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Movie Maker Wannabe..

LOL! With apps, software... (the term 'software' sounds so archaic now),  it's easy to do a lot of things these days. And a movie maker (wannabe) can be one of them! Been keeping a rather frenzied pace the last few days;  capturing memories and making sure that I am at home too for my boy since his exam is still not over.

There was a wedding and Other Half and I were the videographers... minus a camcorder! Since it was a last minute thing and our cameras take better movies than our camcorders (which cannot capture in HD), we decided to stick with the former. It felt kinda awkward doing video shoot with a small cameral! LOL! But it's amazing what one can do with a camera these days. And so armed with 2 Canon point and shoot cameras, each of us took our positions and captured away. The old church looks very nice now that they have added a mezzanine floor.

This time around, we decided to take from 2 angles and merge them. Merging them was easier said than done cos I ended up with hundreds of clips! Coming up with a short video presentation two and a half hours after the church wedding, using the video clips was probably the bigger challenge. I found myself having to plan ahead, multi task and sit glued to the screen. But we did it! With half an hour to spare! LOL! Being a meticulous freak, I actually went through almost all of them, edited them so that clips taken from both angles come together as one movie... Amazing how technology has come this far!

Well, the final product is finally done today. And because I hung around a lot during the preparations, I also put together a pre-wedding clip; of happenings which I'm sure is endearing cos those were scenes in the background, the labour of love, usually acknowledged but not quite seen.

Also, going through our own collection of old movies which we took when the kids were small the last few days has also impressed on us again that it's worth capturing moments in our lives. Though at that particular point of time, it may not be such a big deal; given that human memory fails... it's nice to be able to relive those moments; even if it's only on screen. Cos, in reliving those moments, we are also reminded of many other things in life. Sometimes, our minds play tricks on us and make us believe in things we choose to believe. To be able to see captured wonderful moments does wonders in dislodging that which we think is truth. Some also serve as reminders of painful truths too...

Anyway, I use iMovie. It's a remarkable app cos non movie-makers like us can be turned into a movie maker wannabe. Anyone can make their own home movies... and these days, sometimes, can be better than those 'professional' videographers (from small towns like ours) one calls in to capture those special moments. Most of the time, they just capture and give you everything, cos they don't quite know what you want. 

With iDVD, burning a DVD is a breeze. But all these are just tools to help us. To get a worthwhile movie up, one still needs to sit for hours (till the eyes pop out sometimes) and pore through reels and reels of clips. It still boils down to us.... tools are just tools. What makes a tool great remains our persistence to finish what we started. And as in every undertaking, there are always new things picked up. This time around, one of the things I learned was how to rip the themes from other apps and use them for iMovie. And I learned too that Firewire 9 pin to 4 pin DV cables are hard to find. We had to call so many shops.... some have not even heard of it!

Anyway, this recent flurry of activities of this particular sort has gotten us looking at Canon Legria range of camcorders cos in the final analysis, to capture good clips, one still needs a tool that is able to capture the happenings clearly in low light. Most good stuff still takes place indoors. So, here's drooling for one of the Legria(s).

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Goal? Maybe no....

In a game of football, you win the game when you score more goals than your opponents. At both ends of the approximately 100m long field are goal posts, one pair for each team. The field is divided into equal half, meaning each team gets the same distance or space to chest, head or kick the ball into the net that hangs between the two goalposts. And of course, the goal posts are planted firmly into their positions. 

Now, if one team were to shift the goalposts, make the goal mouth smaller, his team would have an unfair advantage. This will never be allowed to happen cos the fans of the opposing team will surely run amok. But in real life, one often changes the goalposts to his advantage (no one will change his goalposts to his disadvantage) because he wants to win, or get his way. 

And that's what everyone of us is apt to do, a lot too. Changing goalposts; even when there is already a set of clear guidelines for us to follow. We will find means and ways to circumvent those guidelines, to have what we want. There will be some among us who will retract or retrace because of conscience but somehow, we will always try to change those goalposts. Sometimes, even when it's obvious that the we've 'illegally' shifted the post, we try to make it legitimate via reasons of various paths.

It takes a lot to say no or walk narrower path. It's difficult cos everywhere we turn, we see people with things we desire too. It becomes even harder when our kids feel deprived of the things they see their friends are able to own. And they are not. Resentment, a sense of hopelessness, peer pressure of sorts fester. And so, we change our goalposts, bit by bit. The gray grows. The black and white diminish.

Life gets a surreal feel sometimes, when you think about it that way.

Monday, December 5, 2011

House of Grace, MYF Years

A comment on FB by my junior from school triggered fond memories of House of Grace. I first stepped into the first House of Grace in Form 3, after our 'promotion' to Methodist Youth Fellowship (MYF) from IMYF. It's like moving from junior league to the senior one. When you are 15, that is a big deal. And the deal gets bigger cos you get noticed by the bigger kids. You get friends who are older than us. It's like you know somebody important.

The first time I went there was for Bible Study. It was Ching Mooi who was teaching us. In the years before and after my years in the MYF, these dedicated teachers.... Mr. Ling KN, Mr. Leong CS, Ms. Ling KB, Ms. Tan Ching Mooi, Mrs. Tan YH and those who came into the picture after my time there; they left indellible marks in many lives.

House of Grace was a place for us, MYF'ers to hang out. It was also a place for us to study... a quiet place away from the cramped spaces at home and the noise of the neighborhood. It provided a conducive environment for us to study. There were rules that had to be strictly followed. In the early years, House of Grace had a 'resident' MYF counsellor living there full time, Mr. Leong.

House of Grace moved location too not long after I was in Upper Secondary. Mr. and Mrs. Tay offered their single storey bungalow for our use. This one had a compound big enough for a game of captain ball or even hockey. There was a table tennis too. The house also had a library filled with books. I read many of my first CS Lewis' books there. There was even a room with air-con, a luxury in those days. The house came alive with activities between 5.00 - 7.30 p.m. on weekdays. During weekends, Bible Studies were conducted there followed by games. All the other hours were study hours, except for the December school holidays when the House of Grace will come alive with Christmas preparations. December was the 'funnest' time at the House. 

House of Grace provided a safe sanctuary for us, teenagers to meet. It was where the older ones, those who had gone to universities would drop by during their term breaks and help out the younger ones who were struggling with their Add Maths, Chem or Physics. It was a place where we could hang out with our friends, seek out adults in our tumultous years. It provided a healthy environment for boys and girls to interact. And it was also a place where we were taught priorities. And I remember making kuih kapit there too to raise funds for our camp there too, one year.

Carrom games, guitar sessions.... one can always count on seeing a bunch of guys with their guitars strumming away, creating their own music as they went along, mostly self taught. Many of us could play the guitar as a result cos there was always someone ever ready to teach. Many of us saved to buy the cheap Kapok guitar just so that we could learn how to play. There was a sense of belonging and warmth of friendship. These days, I look at my surrounding... so much of everything but much less warmth.

It was through the dedication, commitment and generosity of our MYF counsellors and also the church that House of Grace was possible. I had many good moments there. We played, laughed and cried there. We quarreled and made up there too. It was a place where many aspects of character building took place through the interactions that took place. It was a place which played a big role in our growing up years. We always knew that there was a place for us in House of Grace. If you needed to find someone to talk to, you can always find one there in the evenings during the games time, an older kid, a counsellor sometimes or just your regular hang out friends.

It was also a place where we would have our gatherings... those little 'year' gatherings. When I think back of those years, truly there were many fond memories, defining and even tender moments. Friends from far and near, old and young... House of Grace provided us that meeting place.

The meeting of lives... grace extended to us in so many indescribable ways. We were truly blessed.... by the environment created in our best interest, by the people who committed their lives for ours. 

Friday, December 2, 2011

iPad App - Pearltrees

Pearls don't grow on trees. We grow them in oysters in the seas. Pearls are beautiful and they're a sight to behold. And so, enter Pearltrees, the app. Pearls and trees... the worth associated to pearls and the growing and branching out; getting more knowledge. When I first discovered this app a couple of weeks back, the immediate attraction was it would enable me to organize the many websites that I want to keep for reference. I bookmark and create folders in my computers for the sites I want to use but whenever I am at another computer, I would always have difficulty recalling a particular site that I want to refer or use.
Pearltrees 2

You grow your own pearls of information, knowledge, wisdom.... call it any name you want. But the bottom line is your pearls keep growing...... and growing. One pearl can grow into more pearls and so on. The pic above is a close-up of how your pearls may look like.
Pearltrees 1
This is the screenshot of the whole page. Within each pearl you can grow more pearls, which are actually links to the sites you want. You can create your own downline... sort of like a direct marketing model. If that's not enough and you want to know what other similar pearltrees you might find out there, you can do so.... one arrow leads to more gems of knowledge and the trail keeps going on and  on. The arrows are like your path to like-minded people.... for 'birds of the same feather to flock together.'
Pearltrees 3
Clicking on the arrows on the pic before this one brings you to neighbouring like-minded pearltrees. And there you have it, a sharing community. It's very much like a social networking but of a different kind; though not as people-oriented as FaceBook, still one that appeals a lot because one reference leads to another, info to another. It makes it a great informal library of sorts for one.
Pearltrees 4
There is also the ease of which you can pearl a website by bookmarking it, once you install it into your browser. Installation is a breeze. Just follow the set of instructions that pop up during the installation and it's ready for use.
Pearltrees 5
Once you bookmark the site, this page appears and all you need to do is just to 'Pearl the page' and you will find the new pearl among your pearls, to keep until you choose to delete it. You also have the option of organizing it or leaving it at the bottom bar till you figure out what you want to do with it.

I could think of plenty of uses for this app. For people like me with varied interests and also write,  it's great for storing sites with which provides information and data for future reference. And for, teachers like me who get bored using the same materials, this can be a possible site resource centre. I could create pearls for different components of the language and pearl (a new verb... LOL!) the sites. LOL! I could even use Peartrees as a lesson... teaching students the ropes and how to use it to organize ideas and thoughts; the future. Students would probably have more fun learning how to do mind mapping in a different way. This would go very well with IThought HD. And it would be a practical skill.... Alas, the MOE were not far sighted enough to give iPads instead of Netbooks.... the 1Malaysia Netbook. The missed opportunity was the Government gave the Netbooks without any solid plans or programs to maximize its benefits for the students.

The Pearltrees app will  probably help students a lot too, especially if they are doing research. Everything that is related can be pearled for later use. 

In short, this is our very own personal aggregator, made by us, tailored to our own needs and with the flexibility of the octopus tentacles reaching out to other pearls made by other people along the same line of interests. And more and more too, I think laptops are heading towards being obsolete too... cos apps are easier to learn.