Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Old Barber Shop

Remember these old barber chairs? Accompanied Other Half and Son for their haircuts today. Yup! The males in our house still go to the traditional barbers for their haircuts! A place which is slowly being replaced by the new and swanky hair salons which have gained so much popularity in the last decade or so. I wonder too whether establishments like the one in the picture still exist in the big cities. Many of the younger generation (and I supposed some older ones too) prefer to have their hair cut in the 'newer' establishments, most of which are unisex.
I remember in my younger days, Mum and Dad would tell bros that boys must go to the barbers where as hairdressers were for girls. Well, those lines have crossed today. I have friends who would not even dream of sending their sons to get their haircut from these traditional barber shops.
When we were really young, my first recollection of barbers was that of a barber on bicycle. There was this barber who would come by in the afternoons on his bicycle. I can't really remember how we would know he would be coming but it was quite amazing to watch him work. He would have this box which he carried around on his bicycle, and out of that box would appear a stool for his customers to sit. His bicycle would be one of those with a really big seat at the back.... like the ones that my grandfather used to cycle to tao rubber.
Haircutting was done al-fresco style. And it was a whole neighbourhood affair cos the boys would soon be waiting for their turns. Then when bros got bigger, the barber of the bicycle barber stopped coming. That was when Dad started bringing them to the Indian barbers. A haircut was only 50 sen back in those days! These days a haircut at the Indian barber is RM8 for adults and RM6 for school kids. Son still qualified, apparently for the student discount. Cheap and clean.
Which brings me to this point.... Unisex hairsalons are expensive. But I guess these days, guys want to do their hair too, colour it especially. Not sure whether guys are going for the other stuff like technical rebonding but I am sure some are trying the curls too. Places where to cut one's hair used to be clear cut last time. Guys go to the barber. Girls go to the hairdresser. In English we learned that too... What do we call guys who operate the hair salons today? Definitely not barber, right? I guess hairdressers have also assumed a unisex trait today... Evolution? And there is a new term - hair stylist, even though sometimes all they do is just cut hair.
As for me? I still prefer to go to the hairdresser for women only.... but that too is a dying business. 8(

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The 404s in Our Lives

If you are regular surfer of the Net, a 404 screen is one which you would have occasionally come across. It basically means that while your computer was able to communicate with the intended server, the page that you requested could not be found. And that means your surfing experience has been interrupted. It's kind of annoying, this 404 thingy.

But if you come to think of it, 404 is not confined to the cyber realm. Our lives are dotted with 404s too...

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404 Page Not Found is very irritating. It is annoying because your anticipations are dashed, especially so if there is very little info on the subject that you are looking for. Then as you peruse the list and come across its accompanying brief, your hope hits a high because you think you have it! You click the link and the infamous ERROR 404 - PAGE NOT FOUND appears. That's when frustration hits cos it's like having a candy in your hand and not being able to eat it. It can be likened to coitus interruptus!!! LOL!

We get different responses for 404; from both ends of the spectrum, the extreme nonchalant to very violent. Some people treat it as a minor inconvenience and move on. Others go hopping mad and there might be occassional slamming of the mouse or banging of the keyboard. Of coure in very extreme cases, the something gets smashed. In life too, our responses to the 404s that appear can be similar

But there are those who have turned the 404 ERROR into opportunities. At some point, someone came up with this idea of turning the 404s into something that benefits. And they turned it into a creative exercise....

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... of branding. In Batman lingo, this reminds us the whole paraphernalia world of Batman and Robin, in a way, maintaining presence even in an adverse situation, sort of an omni presence in the virtual world, popping up every now and then to remind, a marketeer's dream of perpetual marketing.

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Sometimes, a 404 come with a humor injected...

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... sometimes carving out a silent smile or even a chuckle or two. And they help to reduce the frown, lighten the tense moment. Life needs to be like that sometimes. In the face of adversity, smile or laugh at it.

Funny... how everything is related, from the sterile computing world of signals to real life. Even the workings of the tech world mimics our biological world. And like it too, there's the opposite effect as well.

Not all about 404 is negative. 404 can be a nice thing too...


This is an old photo from and old post... Order No 404 - Chicken-ala-Forestier, found at the former RKC Restaurant. It used to be a favourite among many club members. The restaurant has since then ceased to operate from the club, making many members reminisce about the good old restaurant. So 404 can be a good thing too... and rightly so too, cos sometimes by either coincidence or act of providence, you are spared of worse because of its appearance. Sometimes when 404 appears, it makes you pause and realign your priorities. 404s can be a second chance, or new lease. It pauses us, not quite in the deadlock way, but to prod us to move in another direction... sort of like a dead end but not quite one that is totally dead.

In the virtual world, a bump is called a 404. In the real world, it is known by many other names.... adversity, trials, tribulations, problems, worries, fear, torment, agony, distress, difficulty, trouble, etc, etc.... the 404s of life.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Prius C

I learned about hybrid cars many years ago but back then it was not available here. Protection for our local car has resulted in the government imposing hefty taxes on imported cars. Then when they did become available about 3 years ago, it was prohibitively expensive. Believe it or not, trying to go green in Malaysia is not exactly easy. There are so many taxes in place to protect our local car industry that I feel we are getting the shorter end of the deal. Proton has been around since 1987. For more than 20 years, we've had to pay more for less. And the end doesn't seem to coming....8(

I was convinced even more so to do my part for the environment after listening to Jane Goodall on TED. And 2 years ago, the government announced a temporary tax break for hybrid cars below 2000 cc. This will end in 2013 if no more extension is given or I suspect, if Proton starts producing hybrid or electric cars. Then, early this year, a new but smaller Prius C was launched. A few months ago, I found out that the local Toyota Service Centre is now able to service the car. Before that, the nearest centre was in Penang. We test drove both models and decided to get the smaller Prius.

Prius, Uploaded from the Photobucket iPad App 
Okay, what I like about the Prius C. It comes with lots of cool stuff. The first which goes without saying is the fuel consumption. One tank easily lasts me for the whole month, and even beyond. No more going to the petrol kiosk every week. Don't like the fumes at the petrol kiosk. Prius C meets the stringent California emission laws too. So I know I am getting more for less. I know the extra paid for the car will never quite make up for the fuel but it's nice to know that I am reducing my carbon footprint. Anyway, I find it amazing that it's 36-litre tank can get me all the way from JB to Alor Setar (almost 800 km)!

The second is the smart key system. It took some getting used to, but to be able to just walk up to the car, open the door, press a button and then start driving is quite, quite convenient. No more rummaging through the pockets or handbag for the key. The car is super silent too. The only way you know that the engine is up and running is the dashboard lights up. There is no familiar roar of the engine. If you listen hard enough, you might just notice a silent whirring sound. The car glides almost very silently under low speeds of below 40 km. If you are on foot, you might just hear the sound of the wheels crunching the gravel on the road. Many a times, I see my students being startled in the morning when they realize that a car was coming up behind them. Lol!

And locking is just as easy. One swipe or touch on the door handle and the car locks. Keyless entry has been around for quite some time but it's usually found in the more expensive cars. We used to eye it in the Nissan Latio 1.8 a few years ago.

The dashboard is cool too. I learn that my driving style is generally quite economical but there is room for improvement. It has all these charts, graphs and information to tell you that you are driving right (or wrong). I find myself trying to improve my scores very often. Driving becomes like a game cos the charts keep score - you get instant gratification. People go for that these days, the instant thingy.

The sound system is good too. And the best thing is I can plug in my iPhone and listen to whatever that I've stored in them. Current flavour is TED. I've learned new stuff like liquid metal batteries, birth control, how an engineer repaired his own heart, releasing creativity, the Arab Spring and even the uniqueness of the tissues that make up a male anatomy. LOL! And they are delivered by the best in the world, MIT professors, thinkers, movers and shakers of the world! I know I will probably be moving on to something else soon but to be able to plug in and learn while I drive. This morning I listened to Jamie Oliver talk about food. Awesome!

Safety wise this small and compact car comes with 7 airbags. So I guess that makes it safer than most cars, The space at the back seats is quite narrow but that should be quite okay with me since most of the time, it's for me to drive to work and to be my gal's driver. BTW, it's silent only when it runs on electric mode. At higher speeds, you hear the engine sounds. It took some getting used to, pressing the Power On button and not hearing the whir of the engine. When you power up, the electric motor kicks in, hence the lack of an engine roar.

The Prius C is a compact car but it's zippy enough. We actually tested its bigger bro, the Prius V but settled on this because we thought the latter felt sluggish, though it comes with even more cool stuff. Price wise there is quite a hefty difference too.

One more thing I learned from the salesman... in towns away from the bigger cities like KL or Penang, Prius C doesn't sell well. It seems people still want size for the amount paid for the car. Spending more for the environment - still a long way to go.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Lunch on A Saturday...

Been meaning to do this for a couple of weeks but something always came up... or I forget.

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Grilling our lunch! 8) I was given this mini electril grill by a friend but have not used it till now. So, this morning, we went to market and bought some stuff for lunch. Chicken, brinjal, pineapple, capsicum, long beans and okra. Kids did not like the brinjal, which meant that the adults had to finish them. Grilled pineapples are delicious though.

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Salad... we're in a salad mode these days. This had a whole load if stuff in it, baby romaine, red and green coral , apple, pineapple, jackfruit, blueberry, strawberry, honey tomatoes, zucchini, walnut, raisins, a dash of maple syrup and some other stuff. Dressing was a mix of French dressing and Heinz Salad dressing. And we threw in the leftover from the grill - chicken and capsicum into it. It made good pre-dinner with some muesli fruit and nut cereal thrown in! 8) Have to eat more healthily. This morning I bumped into a friend who told me that she needs to go for a triple bypass. And she's only a few years older than me. 8(

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Found the grill to be quite useful. Cleaning is easy as the oil and juices all flow into the container which can be easily washed. Not much 'splashing' of oil takes place too as the cover can be closed for quicker cooking. The plate itself just needs a few good wipes and it's clean. Good for small family meals, especially with my kids who are small eaters. Might do ribs if we are up to it one of these days.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Fooling Around With Bento 4

Bento is a database app by Filemaker. A year ago, we bought it because I wanted to be able to build my own database to make my work easier. Thinking that Bento might be the answer, we bought the app. But I wasn't able to do much with it cos It was rather limited. And so, I left it there, sitting in my iPad, untouched after the initial tries.

For no reason, I fiddled around with Bento again a couple of days ago. That was when I found out that the old Bento was no longer available for the iPad in the App Store. Filemaker had decided to sell Bento 4 for iPad as a new app; that means no free upgrades for the existing Bento owners. 8(

A quick read-up of the new Bento was promising. Words like 'standalone', '4-star rating', 'aiming for the heavens', 'completely redesigned', etc, etc were glitzy enough to make one think that the product must be good. Of course, when I bought the first Bento, the marketing lines were glitzy too.. So, this time I was more sceptical. Anyway, I had a little extra time at work today because the students had to go for some ceramah... and after fiddling with it, have to say that the new Bento 4 is a vast improvement from its older sibling.

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Yup... many of the descriptions are true this time. The interface is easy to use. Also, being written for the iPad HD retina display makes viewing a really pleasant experience.

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I decided to build my class database as part of my fiddling around. Must have something meaningful to do to learn meaningfully. I had to build everything from scratch since I couldn't find a Malaysian sample to work from. Over the last 2 years, I have found the iPad to be a more constant and consistent work companion than my Record Book, Register, workbooks, etc. Those books don't follow me everywhere but my iPad does, well, almost everywhere. As a result, I can now do quick reviews regardless of where I am. The iPad has become a teaching tool which has made my work easier. If at all our MOE wants to look into improving teaching practices, it should start looking into developing apps for us. Tablets are marvellous teaching aid and tools, but with the proper and right stuff.

Being the class teacher of one of the most problematic classes in Form 5 means I have to deal with a high rate of absenteeism. And one way of keeping this problem in check is to hound my students unceasingly; which means that my records must be easy enough for review to enable quick action. Quick action here refers to Warning Letters being sent out on time and as soon as the criteria is met.

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What makes this Bento nice is you can have tabs. This particular tab above is mainly to keep track of the attendance so that Warning Letters can be sent out ASAP. When you have a class of students where at least half of them have a penchant of skipping school, monitoring the letters can be quite a headache. By this time of the year, it's at Surat Amaran 2 for some. I have actually been using the spreadsheet, Numbers to keep track of students' exercises as well as attendance.

It's unfortunate that Bento on iPad does not print. It would be another icing if it has a relational function too. But that would mean that Bento iPad can truly stand alone, and not be the stripped down version of its famed sibling, Filemaker. And if that happens, how would Bento 4 for Mac sell? Business sense rules in the end... So I guess, I'll have to wait for those features to be added. Eventually, it will come to the tablets.

Right now, Bento iPad is awesome enough to make people salivate for the desktop version. And that costs $29.99.

Well, this is a different sort of Bento for a change. I used to prepare all these bento sets for my kids to take to school. One container with many goodies. This Bento is like that too... it contains enough goodies for people to build personal databases.

Anyway, till July, Bento will be offer at $4.99. After that it'll be $9.99. An error of a purchase which turned out to be a fun learning experience.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Koi Japanese

Nah... this is not about fish, though there was a piece of salmon involved. This Japanese restaurant is located on the second floor of the New Wing of Gurney Plaza. And it's got a nice view of the eating alley between G Hotel and Gurney Plaza if you are seated beside its windows.

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The place was empty when my kids and I walked in. It was still a little early for lunch. Decor was simple and nice.

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Kids below 12 get to eat for free. They had a few sets to choose from. Daughter chose this for a simple reason - nuggets and gooey egg! She likes her eggs gooey.... with the yummyness of the yolk oozing out as you take a bite.

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Son's Chicken Teppanyaki. For an extra RM4, you get rice, miso soup and dessert (which were 2 pieces of watermelon) thrown in. The teppanyaki was okay. I realized this. With Japanese food, the sauces make the food appetizing and brings out the flavours, especially when taken with warm rice.

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My order of Seafood Teppanyaki. The vegetables were nicely fried. The salmon ended up in my gal's stomach. This was not too bad. I guess being rather hungry impaired my judgement somewhat. But I think I'd give it a rating of 3.5 out of 5. One plus point though, this restaurant gives one a vantage point from which to observe the comings and goings of the crowd in Gurney. You could sit and sip your tea, and enjoy the view.

Price wise, I found it to be reasonable.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Blogging and Change...

Blogging is actually good exercise for the brain. It makes you think and process your thoughts. And in the process you are often forced to reflect, in other words one is forced to put to use the 3 domains of learning - psychomotor, affetive and cognitive. Of course the latter 2 will emerge more refined from repeated blogging exercise. Writing is easy if you are used to it but down right hard if you have not been squeezing the juice out from your gray matter. So it helps to keep your mind sharp because when you write you analyze, synthesize and produce. Creative flow is one of many outcomes, as a result.

Blogging is good too because it helps us remember. One night as we were walking along Gurney Drive with Son rambling about eating ribs, I told Other Half that we had visited one of the ribs restaurants at Gurney. He had no recollection whatsoever of our visit. When we got back to the hotel, I checked my blog and true enough we did visit the Chicago Rib House quite some time back. Sometimes I am reminded of the good times I had, friends lost, moments and trips when I take a trip back into time via my blog. Memories can be altered as time goes by but we can recapture some of those moments again via writings done at the time of those moments.

I have learned too that blogging can change the world... well, maybe not spectaculary but it can have an impact. It creates awareness, allows us to share our experiences and rant. Even 9-year-olds can have an impact, as did this little girl who blogged about her school lunches. And her blog not only changed the composition of school lunches but also raised enough funds fo build a kitchen in a country far from her homeland. Check out her blog... Never Seconds.

Boy! Could we do with such kind of impact in our school canteens in Malaysia. The food that our kids eat at our school canteens are not only fattening but not balanced. Sometimes, I think canteen food contribute too to the problem of obesity in out young, cos they're mostly high in carbo. Vegetables and fruits are hardly ever seen.

In the aftermath if Bersih 3.0, the blogospere was filled with articles of individual experiences. It was mind numbing in the sense that you cannot no longer contain information or determine their form factor. So while there may be efforts to misinformed, generally the truth usually prevails. Blogging is more of a sharing of personal experiences. Because of that, it's easier for the reader to identify or even sympathize.

Blogging and change... change happens at different fronts, the personal as well as the public spheres. And I think that is good for us.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Gurney Paragon Mall

Touted as The New Heart of Penang, this is the latest to join the list of hangout places in Penang. It's located just beside the G Hotel. Just further down is the Gurney Plaza and a little further away is the Esplanade Hawker Centre. It's in the happening zone...

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Anyway, the Gurney Paragon is quite a ncie place. Built, incorporating the old building which used to house the Uplands International School, they've preserved the old building and wrap the new ones around it. Before it became grounds for the school it was known as St Joseph Novitiate, a place where the La Sallian brothers trained teachers for the mission schools (St Xavier, Convent Light Street) in the early 20th century. These schools were known for excellence, a tribute to the commitment of these missionaries. An Art Attack exhibition was on when we took our walk. Our gal enjoyed it very much.

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The familiar big pillars, wide corridors and high ceilings which are hallmark architecture of its era can be seen as we walked through the restored building. Ever wondered why old houses built in the early to mid 20th century remain cool despite the hot weather. I think it's the high ceilings and thick walls which make them ever so comfortable in our hot weather. Houses built these days have lower ceilings and are constructed with cement bricks. The hot air does not have enough space above and the bricks absorb heat way too fast. And that's why our houses become heat traps.

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The former school field which used to house tennis courts have now been turned into a courtyard-like area, with a lighted fountain as part of its decor. Anyway, this place is still spankingly new. The upper floors don't seem occuppied yet. The ground floor is a thriving eating place with names like TGIF, Italiannies, Morgansfield, Moo Cow and others. This former school field is a great place for activities now. There was a kindergarten sports cum performance thing going on while we were there, with music, dances, clown show, game stations.....

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There is a schedule for the fountain shows. The place cooled down considerably when the fountain show started, I noticed. The evening's kiddy programme was just winding down by the time we finished our dinner. The security guards were having a hard time trying to keep the kids off the fountain area. Parents were oblivious as some were still busy lining up for snack freebies.

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We went back to Italiannies for dinner... and to claim our free bread pudding. LOL! But it goes to show how much Other Half likes the pizza here. The bread pudding was nice and moist. Served with cream, the cinnamon and raisins make it quite delicious. But we find the pudding a bit heavy on our stomachs.

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We also ordered their Sicilian Salad, with diced chicken breast, grapes, mangoes, tomatoes, romaine lettuce and walnuts. After dinner we went over to Cold Storage at Gurney to get our own mix of nuts and other stuff for our own salad experiments at home.

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Turkey ham and mushroom pizza. Son didn't follow us this time around cos he is trying to hit a high at work before he leaves for his studies soon. Food was a tardy bit too much for the 3 of us as a result. He'd have enjoyed the food if he had been with us.

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We took a walk down the Esplanade after dinner while waiting for rhe fountain show to begin. It was low tide. The haze is back. The skyline is now hazy and it feels rather humid. The API is getting worse it seems and with it health issues too. It's the time of the year where slash and burn in Indonesia contribute heavily to this condition. These days, like condo living, whatever our neighbours does impacts everyone. Other Half commented too that the air smelt like the market. And on closer observation, we noticed this.

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Dead fish everywhere... These must have been left behind by the receding water. There were still some puddles of water and we could see fish struggling to survive there, waiting to be rescued by the next high tide. By the looks of it, many did not make it.

Everywhere I go in Penang these days, I see restoration works on the old buildings. Many of the old buildings have been restored to their former glory. Some like the former Uplands International School have been incorporated into the modern urban planning, the old and new existing side by side. I was driving past St Nicholas Convent (Alor Setar) which is being torn down at the moment. I understand that a new medical centre is being built on its site. Such a pity because that is part of our heritage. Sometimes it seems like we are trying our best to wipe clean a certain past of ours. Sometimes, it seems that our greed for profit knows no boundary...

But whatever it is, I think acknowledging our past is just as important as building our future. Who we become is also a result of our past. It's a journey of accumulating what is good, learning from our mistakes... buildings can remind us that too...

I came back with rashes all over.... viral.

Saturday, June 16, 2012


Lately, Pizza Hut appeals less to me, partly because I find the crust to be rather oily. And service has deteriorated too. During a visit some time back, the table we were seated at was sticky and the cutlery didn't look too clean either. So, if we do Pizza Hut, it's mostly takeaways, which is not very often now.

These days I prefer the crust to not leave a layer of oil on my hand after holding them. And that has gotten us trying out different pizza joints.

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Italiannies is located at the ground floor of Gurney Paragon Mall. It looks like a nice hang out place in the evenings with company. With Euro Cup on now, I guess it will be filled with people whenever there are crowd puller matches. Football has a way bringing people together and works fans to a frenzy... even though the matches don't involve our team.

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Bread for starters and on the house. The waitress asked us if we wanted more after we finished these, which we declined. The stomachs can only take so much. I've never taken fresh bread wih olive oil mixed with herbs. But it was surprisingly good. The black dash is balsamic vinegar. It gives this added oomph to the flavours. But go easy on that. Vinegar is sour. The bread felt soft and tasted fresh.

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For our first order, we had oven roasted stuffed mushroom with minced stuffed, cheese included, and a small dollop of paste on it. They are served on a layer of creamy sauce. The sauce was really good. We scooped it clean.

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Free Kids Meal... spaghetti in Alfredo sauce. Daughter loves all these cheesy stuff. The portion was just nice for her. We pinched a little bit from her and found it to be creamy.

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The main order - Pizza Enorme. And it was huge! All 16 inches of it. This is a thin crust pizza, and yup! Minus the oily feel. It's meant for 5-6 people, according to the menu. It's one pizza, 4 flavours; pepperoni, turkey ham, pineapple, shrimp and mushroom, and roasted garlic. Only I didn't mind the pineapple, shrimp and mushroom section. The rest didn't like it, I guess because of the 'sea' smell... I think mainly the shrimps. But I thought the natural flavour of the shrimp wasn't too bad. Had to force Son to finish the last piece (from the shrimp section) because we were so full.... BTW, this is one of their signature dishes.

This is a place we might go back again.... anyway for filling up their feedback form, they sent an SMS and offered us a bread pudding... on the house. Not bad!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Cheap Labour???

It seems many Malaysian households cannot do without foreign maids these days. One neighbour said she sat down and cried when her maid left. But overnight her children became the house elves. They swept and mopped, helped with the laundry and the dog. There is still hope for this spoilt generation. However, when a replacement maid came, the elfin selves all ceased. It was back to 'kakak this' and 'kakak that'. I

We need maids to help with the care of the house, kids and even dogs. I learned that from someone. I always thought that dog people don't mind all the hassles that come with a dog. Seems that I was wrong. Just like kids, we need someone to scoop up the poo, clean their ticks and bathe them too. So now, we need maids for that as well. Kids and dogs... Not much separates them.

It seems the construction sector will be crippled without these cheap labour. Our own people prefer to travel to the Land of the Rising Sun or to our neighbour down south to build their skyscrapers because their labour is worth much more there than in their own homeland. Many travel to the West too for better earnings. A vacuum is created back home and it's only natural that cheap labour flock to our country and live in rumah panjangs or squatter areas, cos that's all they can afford. Swaths of land are set upon and turned into home away from home.... births of new kampungs. And in these new frontiers, sex, drug and gambling dens flourished as in the days of old. We think these are new social problems but they actually are not. It's actually same old problem, different spot on the same timeline.

And so social problems are revisited. Maids come into the picture of a marriage. Families turn porak-peranda. China dolls come in search of better prospects. Many turn to hawking China wares. You find many lonely (and not so lonely) men buying up all their wares. Men stand no chance when 'assaulted' by these sweet and smooth talking ladies. A friend once told me her husband came back with 10 pairs of the same slippers. Another elderly person I know came back with bags of herbs which he swore was very good for health. Social problems... I bet it was like this too long time ago. Anyway, we do the bride-to-order thing via mail now too, as in the days of old too.... though it wasn't called that back then.

Close proximity... Germs like close proximity. Certain types especially thrive when there is promiscuity. And they rule when humans huddle together in communes. It was announced years ago that we had licked the tuberculosis problem. Well, it's back with a vengeance, stronger and more resistant to many antibiotics. Walk into the hospital and you will know what I mean. We have many TB patients seeking treatments at our hospitals. Ever heard of Hansen's Disease, where the loss of sensation can cause parts of the body to become horribly deformed? We used fo dread leprosy. If you were inflicted with the disease, you would be discriminated. You would be isolated to a lepers' colony. Pulau Jerejak was a lepers' colony. Well, back during the first wave of immigrant workers, many of those with leprosy were those who came from China. Migrants from impoverished areas are more likely to have infections. Well, some reports claim that there are more leprosy cases now. Leprosy is a disease of the tropics and we live in the tropics. Perfect place for it to thrive. Our cheap labour today still come from the tropics too.

Imagine this. A teacher gets infected with tuberculosis by her maid. She in turns infect her students who then infect their family members. Infectious diseases find their way into our community with ease. And they spread with greater ease. Add that to sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhea, AIDS, syphillis... without the migrant workers, they are already problem enough. With cheap foreign labour, it spreads exponentially.

Factories too need these cheap labours. So do the F & B outlets. Apparently locals are not willing to work hard enough. Foreign labour not only work hard but come cheap. Double bonus. I recently patronized an outlet where the waiter couldn't even understand what we wanted. Sign language got us no where. In some places, you point and order. It's now not uncommon to see wantan mee and charsiew fan stalls operated by a Cambodian or Vietnamese. Cheap labour... But slowly too, I am seeing new food being added to our already rojak Malaysian cuisine. We're truly on our way to become an Asian melting pot. So for those who keep on harping about racial supremacy, at this rate that we're importing cheap labour, there'll be dilution soon enough.

There are many plus points for cheap labour... Women joining the work force which does wonders to their confidence and self worth, more disposable income for a household, etc, etc... But, nothing comes free in this world. Eventually we have to pay the cost for cheap labour. And I think we have started paying big time. Crime rates have started climbing up. Safe isn't so safe anymore. Cheap labour, it may not be that cheap in the long run... but we still need them. And in time to come, we too will have to embrace them into our society because like the Chinese and Indians who came so long ago in search for a better life, many stayed and made here home.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Yoghurt... Smiles Frozen

A couple of years ago, I remember a yoghurt craze among some of my friends. But to have yoghurt back then meant making your own. It was quite easy, I remember. You just throw in your existing yoghurt culture into the milk, throw in some stuff - sugar, etc. And you have yogurt. You keep restocking by repeating the process over and over again.

These days, yoghurt has gone commercial. You get outlets specializing in yoghurts only and they are now served like ice-creams. They are not cheap, too! Even in Alor Setar there is now a yoghurt outlet called Smiles Frozen which is located in a row if shophouses fronting Lencongan Barat near Tesco Mergong.

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It's a DIY yoghurt ice cream shop. You decide how much you want, from the yoghurt.... and there are a few flavours to choose from...

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...right down to the types and amount of topping you want. And there're plenty to choose from.

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But remember, you pay based on the weight. At Smiles Frozen it's RM0.49 per 10g. Two cups like this can easily set you back RM35 or more!

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This is from another yoghurt outlet... Tutti Frutti. There is one in Jitra, at the Jitra Mall. Tutti Frutti is slightly pricier, 10g at RM0.53.

I am not a yoghurt fan but I found that I can actually get used to it, mainly because of the toppings. I also feel the yoghurt from Tutti Frutti is creamier. I have also found out that the types of toppings differ outlet to outlet even for the same franchise. So in some outlets, you might find only only sweet and processed stuff which means that the health benefits of the yoghurt are negated by the toppings. LOL!I like the choices of toppings available at Smiles in AS - sunflower seeds and other nuts. They seem to go well with yoghurt. Can be lunch.

Our tastes and preferences can change with times... today it's yoghurt, yesterday it was bubble tea, who knows what tomorrow will bring....

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption Laura Hillenbrand

The hols is over and I finished this book with one day to spare, after I finished some painting around the house. Daughter was a great help this time around. Between the 2 of us, we finished painting more than what I had originally set out to do. 8) And the best thing was I enjoyed doing it with her very much.

Back to the book. WWW2 - most of the books I have read covered mostly the European side of the war. This one covers the Pacific theatre. War is cruel. It disrupts everything. It lays bare the worst and also the best in humans.

The book begins with Louis Zamperini as a kid of Italian migrants. A colorful childhood, his escapades and brushes with the law were humourous. A natural runner, his brother Pete helped to shape him into a better athlete. At 19, he took part in the 1936 Olympics running a fantastic last lap. Hitler asked to meet him after the race. A great future seemed to await him. Then the War broke out and he became a bombardier of a B24, at a time when more airmen died via accidents than the actual war.

The irony was he wasn't shot down in bombing runs but his plane, the Green Hornet ditched into the sea due to engine failure. Only 3 survived the crash but one died on Day 33. After drifting in the ocean for 47 days, Louis and Phil made landfall, on the Japanese side. They became prisoners of war and were incarcerated in Japan for 2 years.

The story of their survival is a mark of their resilience. Redemption for their lives came after Japan surrendered. The other part of his redemption came after he was able to come to terms with his past as a POW and forgive his tormentors. Life as an American POW in the Land of the Rising Sun was a nightmare. The atrocities and cruelty of the Japanese are well known. My parents and grandparents' generation lived in fear of the Japanese. And my generation was brought up listening to the cruelty of the Japanese. Suffice to say, as a kid, I never did like the Japanese or the Germans.... blame that on the show, Combat.

But life for the Japanese POW was more pleasant. Say as much one may of the loose Western morals but mo POWS died in Japan than even Nazi Europe. Suffice to say too one also reads about the Little Napoleans who stole rations meant for the POWs for personal profit and commanding officers looked the other way while their subordinates tortured inmates; all to shore up support as well as their standing, so that they can move highter up in the ranks.

Not too long ago, in Outlier, I read that the era we're born into plays a pivotal role in our lives too. This book confirms that too. Louis Zamperini could have been the greatest miler of his time. He never did find out. WWW2 made sure of that. His era was an era of tumult and great upheavals... It wasn't possible for his talent to grow and achieve its maximum. WWW2 killed all of that, just as it killed many great athletes of that time.

Friday, June 8, 2012


Haven't done a makan-makan for some time. This is at Gurney Paragon Mall. I think it's supposed to be an American restaurant. We actually wanted to eat the hawker centre at the Esplanade but it was packed. Also, the night was humid and we didn't need much encouragement to walk back into the cool comfort of the air-con. We walked around and ended up here cos Son wanted ribs.

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These days Penang seems very much alive. The place was still quite packed with people. The empty space just outside the mall were parked with neat rows of differet models of VW cars.

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This is their wine shelves..

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I ordered their Waldorf Salad. It had apples, lettuce, walnuts with mayo as dressing. Traditional Waldorf Salad contains celery but I think I didn't taste any of them. This particular salad could do with more walnuts I feel, to give it more oomph! But generally, I find myself gravitating towards salads these days....

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Their bacon meatballs. Was quite disappointed with them actually. The sauce didn't seem to go very well with it and I couldn't seem to smell the bacon on the meatballs. We had actually wanted their sauteed mushroom and Sausage Platter but apparently they were out by the time we arrived.

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Chilli Cheese Nachos... not enough cheese on the nachos, my gal commented. I ended up eating most of this order cos Other Half was having some pain problem with his tooth while Daughter pinched from her bro. Son said my chilli taste better. How not to, when all they want is luncheon meat and I put generous amounts of that into my chilli with all the other usual stuff. 8)

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Son's order - Hickory BBQ Spare Ribs or Sticky Bones, their signature dish. I took a bit and found it to be okay. It was a good thing that we ordered half a slab instead if the full one. We were quite full by then.

The night was still humid when we walked back to our hotel. The roads were packed with cars and it was also Euro Cup night. There were plenty of people were still milling around when Son and Other Half went down at midnight.

Penang has actually become quite a nice place for holiday of late, though I think there are way too many cars on the road now. It's cleaner, the city looked vibrant as we approached it from the bridge. The change of state government seems to have given it a new lease of life.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

When snatch theft hits close....

This afternoon, a bunch of us had a get together at a friend's place for an iPad session. The group was made up of senior citizens and our hostess had thrown in lunch for us as well. We had a fun time... I played teacher. And one of them had just gotten her new iPad too. She was so happy to be able to watch movies on it. It was nice to be able to get together after quite a while....

At around 3 p.m., because the sky was showing signs of rain, we decided to make move. We were all quite happy and pleased. I thought all of us had gotten into our cars and left. A motorbike passed us but none of us really took notice of it. Then just as I was sitting down, a call came from the friend who had just gotten her new iPad. Two guys on the bike and gone one round and when they saw my friend still getting into the car, one of them snatched her chain as well as her iPad. I rushed over and both of us went round the taman. I thought I saw the two culprits on the bike but I lost them because I had to turn my car around to follow them.

Our leaders talk about our achievements. Yet in this one area of security, they've failed to ensure that. When I first came to Alor Setar, one of the things that impressed me about the place was how safe everything seemed. You could leave your car keys in the ignition and be rest assured that it will still be there. The locals used to tell me with pride that it's because the people here were honest and God fearing. Those days are long gone. I find myself contemplating getting a dog and securing my perimeter with CCTV. Friends have been telling me the regular break ins which have been taking place.

I feel bad for my friend. I'm indignant that the police are not seen around so much any more. What you can see though is their spanking new police headquarters rising above the city skyline. And you know what, when traffic lights break down, they cordon off one road and cause great inconvenience to motorists. Mr. Policeman will be at the traffic light, sitting on the barrier or leaning on something, and watching the traffic placidly. I wonder whether this is their new SOP, to divert traffic with barriers when traffic lights at crossroads break down.

We seldom see police presence on Thursday evenings when Mat Rempit wannabes fill their road with their dangerous riding as well as big number. I don't go out much in the evenings these days and I don't know whether it's still a permanent fixture on certain roads in Alor Setar on Thursdays. Instead, like a friend said, you'll find police holding road blocks at busy roads after office hours where vehicles have to make a beeline at busy roads. Some people are beginning to wonder why this and not during those happy rempit hours.... when so much nuisance is caused.

But today, I am infuriated by the thuggish act. It makes me look around for reasons for it. My friend is a tough lady and used to be in the force. Even ex-service personnels are not safe from such threats. I hope these criminals get what they deserve. May they die a thousand painful deaths.... really geram.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Nearpod.... 1Malaysia Pad.. Proton

I came across Nearpod a couple of weeks back in one of the articles that I was reading. The review of it was very good and so I downloaded it. The verdict... Yup! It's good. This app turns the iPad into pods that communicate with each other. Thought the name was quite cool. Many years ago, we tried to use classroom management softwares in our computer labs. The concept was good but in many schools it never quite did take off.... teachers did not know how to use it and the learning curve seemed too steep for many, classroom size, infrastructure limitations, etc, etc... Then the iPad came along but I think we've not quite tapped into its potential. As usual we're rather slow in keeping up.

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Anyway, Nearpod works in that same capacity, except that it's super mobile! We are no longer tied to the computers at the desk. I tried some of the modules that they have prepared and found them to be impressive and fun. Pictures, movies, quizzes, mini tests at the end of each lesson and mark tallies are all available. There are 2 apps actually, the Nearpod Teacher and Nearpod Student. Works like a presentation. Teacher-pod determines what appears on Student-pod. Quite amazing! The pods communicate with each other via wifi!

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The nice thing is each student is able to view everything close up and take the assessments, and the teacher will know which student still have issues with the topic taught. What the teacher has is basically a set of slideshows with assessment tools incorporated. And the results can be printed. And we know how easy it is to print stuff from the iPad. One can develop their own teaching units by using the tools available on the Nearpod website. And one more thing. This is one more reason too why we should have just continue teaching Math and Science in English... resources, information, new knowledge, they're mostly in English. In Indonesia, the teaching of Math and Science is going bilingual. We took one step backward..... and someday, who knows, maybe labour market connection will be reversed....

Which brings me to this....

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Our 1Malaysia Pad. The 1Malaysia tagline is actually beginning to feel like some cheap marketing line. Why the Proton car picture? Well, I think at RM999, and running on the older Android Gingerbread 2.3, it's overpriced. Thailand is getting tablets for their students at $81 (that's less than RM300) per unit and with superior specifications, running on Ice Cream Sandwich, the latest OS.

We already have the free Netbook programme in place; give free hardware but till now, cannot really be used in classrooms cos there is no program tailored for it... And there have been so many reports and claims of abuses too.

By the way, a 16GB iPad 2 with wifi is only RM1099. Go figure why students should buy a 1Malaysia Pad and save only RM100, mind you, with an older OS. If it's RM300, then it's an okay deal. It seems there are certain quarters in Malaysia who think that Malaysians don't mind paying more for anything, everything, like what we've been paying for our cars because of Proton. Our ringgit has such little purchasing power and we seem not to care.

And recently, Tun M said that Proton needs some more funds and time. Once upon a time ago, Proton had the Koreans for company in the upstart bandwagon. Seems like we're still stuck on the wagon while the Koreans have sprouted wings and flown off. They have become world players. And we're still proud of our jaguh kampung status. And guess who has to pay for the upkeep of its seemingly PR status on the bandwagon? Yup! The people.

At every level we are paying more. Those who can only afford Proton pay more for it. Those who can afford other makes pay more too. We keep paying and paying.... and now they say they hope to sell this 1Malaysia Pad for RM999! Defies logic! Almost the same amount of money, one gets peanuts and the other gets a Wagyu steak.

So will there be real quality and success without real effort and hard work? I guess not..... unless we consider rip-offs, short changing as success.....

A 16GB iPad 2 at RM1099 from Apple; support and quality assured. 1Malaysia Pad? Anyone's guess.... but remember, it's running on old OS, some newer apps might not run on it....

Friday, June 1, 2012


It's half way through the holidays... I've read books, gone swimming, hung out and visited friends, did some spring cleaning, minus the usual hassle, just drifting along... Do not know whether I'll get down to painting some parts of the house next week although I've been toying with the idea. One thing that I enjoy doing quite a bit is read with my girl. We can spend half the morning (or night) sitting in the hall together reading our books. She's into Enid Blyton series now - Mallory Towers, Mr. Galliano's Circus and all that. I used to love that when I was her age. And I used to spend a good part of my holidays during my school days reading too...

Oh ya, we finally did a shopping trip together too, something which I have not done since school reopened early this year. Hardly go to the mall these days unless during our Penang forays, which have been few this year too. And guess what, undergarments cost fortune these days.... that which we wear hidden away from sight can cost a bomb... Inflation is everywhere! Even in undergarments! Told my girl that I'll go to the market stalls to look for her pants. Even with discounts things still cost a great deal more... How can people survive with the minimum wage that has been proposed? Money shrinking in value, rising costs in practically every thing.... Economy supposedly to have done okay for the past years.... But it seems very little is trickling back to us.

Oh ya! Police says the crime rate has gone down. I don't know whether their statistics are to be believed. In the past few weeks, I've been hearing so many cases of break ins, many of them in broad daylight and each attempt getting bolder. There was even one house where the robbers lifted the gates and drove the car away. And on another day, in one area, 3 break ins occured! One of my friend's house was broken into too. And she had only gone for dinner. The robbers would stalk the neighbourhoods, it seems, and strike when the houseowners leave their homes. Where is the police when there are real crimes to be combated?

And then the attempted kidnapping and rape incident at The Curve recently. As the link reported, the attempted kidnapping has since been followed by a robbery. Good thing the young lady kept her cool. Our authorities cannot seem to ensure security so that we can just live our lives. And I read of a robbery where the robber drove away with a 4 month old baby in Batu Pahat. She has since turned up dead. Senseless!!!! If crime rate is down, why so many crimes? In Jitra, a spate of break ins have been happening like clockwork the last few weeks. I asked my friend whose area has been hardest hit by the break ins whether there has been an increase in police presence since the spike in the number of break ins. She said no. The modus operandi seems to be like the above... they return to the scene of the crime. They stalk the area. Residents in some areas have seen suspicious cars and when they call the police station to check the number plates, the cars are stolen. Why aren't the police 'stalking' areas which have been regularly hit? Where are they? Have the police too become like many of our civil service branches?

Halfway too, I read that Peter John Jaban, of Radio Free Sarawak was 'abducted' by 3 unidentified men in Sarawak. His radio call name is Papa Orang Utan. I tuned in to him once or twice long ago. He was with 2 other men, his lawyers at the time of his abduction. At the time of this writing, there has been no news of him. Would the fate of Bruno Manser befall him too? Jaban's 'disapprearance' most probably is politically linked since he is on the Sarawak CM's list of wanted men, for exposing too many things. People get bundled away and become incommunicado for known and unknown reasons. (Latest reports indicate that Jaban might have engineered his 'abduction' out of fear - 2nd June)

So halfway through the hols, my little world gets jolted by the culmination of crime news... cos I realized that it's definitely no longer safe to allow our childen to go out and play on the streets without close supervision... And even with supervision, abduction still happens.

1st June marks the introduction of the Evidence Act 2012, one wonders why a legislation to silence people. But I feel, lies will eventually be seen as they are. Truth will eventually prevail.

It's amazing too to note that most of the Opposition leaders seem to be embroiled in one controversy or charges while the ones on the opposite side of the bench seem to be exonerated for most charges. Or why the privileged continues to be privileged while the rest continue to pay more for everything. I just got a new set of wheels too and it cost so much when the actual price is so much lower.... but that is another ranting for another day.

And finally, after so many years of being a faithful The Star newspaper subscriber, Other Half and I decided to stop subscription. Found its silence on many issues rather deafening these days. So even though they have an online version which I can read on the iPad (and cheaper), it wasn't enough for us to take a bite. We would have stopped earlier if not for our delivery man.

Disturbed, concerned.... Are we breaking apart at our seams? Is this the transformation promised to us?


Time flies... that's when days are filled with things to do. 24 hours feel rather short now but some day, I guess 24 hours in a day will...