Thursday, July 30, 2009

The box

I think of the most fundamental electrical appliances that people in just about any household is that one that possesses the ability to provide you with endless hours of entertainment: the television. Sure, with all broadcasting stations slowly moving towards digital transmission nowadays, I guess more televisions will be sold to be on par with the technology.

But, what's a television without a good and reliable service provider, right? Here, we have several pretty reliable free-to-air channels, but I think that's hardly enough for programming for the discerning tastes of today's tv viewer. Of course, we have our very own satellite tv provider, but the kind of service is still somewhat wanting - just look at what happens when it starts raining.

Wouldn't it be great if we had more choices than the seeming monopoly of our single service provider as in the US? Then, we can sign up with companies such as Direct Satellite TV and at the very least provide some much needed competition. From their website, they offer free equipment, and free installation! Nothing boosts the quality of service like a little competition. While I'm no television fanatic, the service provided by the likes of Direct Satellite TV sure makes me want to stay in front of the tv, though that may not be entirely healthy.

But, the best thing (if you just can't live without your daily dose of tv) is that you don't have to worry about moving even to a different state. You'll have your uninterrupted Direct TV in Florida, even if you moved from New York!

Now, I wonder if our sole nationwide satellite tv provider provides this kind of service.


Monday, July 27, 2009

Gallivantings: Part 1

This new post officially means that I'm back from my roadtrip. In case you're wondering where it was that I went to it was that town in the east coast of Sabah that was once dubbed "Little Hong Kong". Know which town I'm referring to yet? It's Sandakan. Since my in-laws are here, and my wife and I have been toying around with the idea of driving to Sandakan for quite some time now, it gave us the perfect reason to go.

I think this is the furthest I've ever driven anywhere in Sabah, though not the furthest I've ever driven. A one-way trip from my place to Sandakan town is about 350km, so the round trip means that I've probably clocked 700km in within three days. And that's not including the day trips to the various places of interest around Sandakan. what can I say about the drive there? Nothing short of bumpy. Really, really, really bumpy. There were a few stretches along the road where putting my foot down on the brake pedals was an almost minute by minute affair because I would suddenly see a depression ahead of me. But, once we got to within 40km of the town, the roads are actually quite good. I'd say the roads around Sandakan and its suburbs are even better than the ones I find around Kota Kinabalu!

We made only two stops along the way. The first was at the cool highland town of Kundasang. We made the Pine Resort our resting place to get something to bite and to also enjoy the refreshing air. After that, we made our way until we reached a small row of shops (I don't remember the name of the place now) which was probably about an hour's or so more to reach Sandakan. By the time we reached our supposed place for lodging, it was almost 4 pm. That made it almost 7 hours of travelling. Whew!

Our initial plan was to stay at this interesting place we found on the Net which is situated very near Sepilok, that renowned spot for orang utans. My wife chanced upon it while reading up on places to stay in Sandakan, and this place sounded intriguing and received some good reviews. So, we arrived at Paganakan Dii and the place looked just like in the pictures on it's website: a one-of-a-kind place.

Place for happy times

Paganakan Dii - The Family

But, and this is a big but, the place was full! Thinking that since it wasn't a public holiday, or a school holiday, there would be no need to make any reservations, we just went there confident that rooms would be available. Not only were there no rooms available there, there we no rooms available at the other resorts around Sepilok as well! Not one single room. Everything was fully occupied.

So, that basically laid to rest our plans of seeing the orang utans first before heading into Sandakan town the next day. So, we asked the person serving us if their sister hotel, Nak Hotel, in town (we read up on this as well) had any vacancies and they had one left - thankfully for us, a family-size room that could fit all five of us. So, since our accommodation was settled and there was nothing much else to do, we got back into the car and drove to town. But not before we got a tour of the place first!

Unique embellishments decorating the whole place

This is the place for some serious R & R!

White drapes provide shade at the open-air viewing deck

Clever use of the kuali as a washbasin!

The whole place is surrounded by these views!

Kamsan who kindly showed us around the place

We're definitely staying here the next time we visit. Stay tuned for the next post!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Road trip

I'll be away. See you when I get back.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A run in the sun: Sutera Harbour 7K Charity Run 2009

I wanted to blog about this yesterday but I was too pooped to do so. So, after a good night's sleep, I thought I'd write about it this morning before the details of yesterday's event became fuzzy.

We arrived at the Sutera Harbour for the run just before it started, and boy, the place was absolutely full of people. Many were wearing the official t-shirts, but quite a number as well were not. I suspect they joined the run just for the fun of it. The Sutera Harbour 7k Run is a yearly event, and I'd say it's almost like a big community event. It's basically a charity event: the recipients of the proceeds from the event being the Sabah Chapter of the Special Olympics and the Sabah Thalassemia Society. And while this is only my second time joining this, I think the turn-out every year is huge. This year, according to newpaper reports, more than 10,000 people showed up in support of the event!

The event has some interesting traditions in keeping with the number 7 theme. It starts at 5.07 pm, that's 1717 hours, and if you finish it in 77 minutes, you're eligibile for a lucky draw. I remember the first ever time it was held, and it was held on the 7th day of the 7th month in 2001.

Anyway, we brought Adelle along for the run and she was pretty excited about it as we had been telling her about it before this. But, surely you can't expect a two-and-a-half-year-old child to walk the whole seven kilometres would you? So, being the smart parents that we were, we brought along her stroller - for her to sit in (which she did most of the time any way). My wife did the pushing since I lagged behind trying to take some decent pictures of the event (which I didn't). I tried to catch up, mixing a brisk walk with the occasional short-distance trot. The funniest thing was, as I was making myself out of the hotel grounds, I already saw a number of people returning!

I was quite surprised by the weather. It had been raining the past two days in the evening with strong winds but the weather was just perfect yesterday: no sight of dark clouds, and not a single drop of rain. The sunset was quite beautiful and it wasn't very hot, so conditions were just about perfect. I finally caught up with my wife and Adelle just past the half way mark, and we walked together after that. All of us reached the finish line but I think it was past the 77-minute cut-off time, since there was no where to register ourselves for the lucky draw when we finally crossed it. Oh well, another time perhaps.

There was other programmes lined up for the evening: a concert by several local artistes, a lucky draw, foodstalls to buy food from, and others, but we didn't stay. We just helped ourselves to some of the free drinks that were available (Adelle has discovered the good taste of 100 plus!) and then left. Since I parked the car quite a distance from the starting line, I had to walk another kilometre or so to get it and pick-up my wife and Adelle.

It was a fun-family outing, and I'd highly recommend it for a healthy family do-together activity if you've never joined it before. For more photos, please visit my photoblog.

Adelle getting into the swing of things at the start of the run.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Things that go bump in the night

"Do you believe in ghosts?"

That was the question I was asked during an interview a long time ago. I remember that situation quite vividly. There I was sitting down in front of a panel which comprised of four interviewers. My hands were clasped together feeling quite clammy, and my legs quivered as if they had their own built-in motor. While waiting for my turn, I had prepared myself to answer factual questions, questions that would test my knowledge and logical thinking, questions that would enable the panel to make precise decisions based on the organisation of my ideas, the maturity of my answer, and the depth of my analysis.

But this?

"Err, no. I don't believe in them," I blurted out. "But, I do believe in spirits."

As soon as those words left my mouth I knew I had to think quickly of what exactly was the difference between those two. I don't remember now what my exact answers were but that question has stuck with me because of some recent events. So, is there such a thing as ghosts?

Popular culture would seem to confirm that there is such a thing as a ghost. You are told about it on the tv, in the cinema, in magazines, in books; you sometimes hear ghost stories from friends as well, events that seemed to have affected people closer to you.

But, if you asked me, then I'd have to answer the question with another question: what's your understanding of the word 'ghost'? Does it refer to the spirit of someone who's died? Or is a ghost, a spirit being?

If you're Christian (or even if you're not), consider this passage from the Bible:

Hebrews 9:27
And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment...

The Bible declares that man dies only once, and after that he is judged. There is no mention of an in-between state. You die, then you're judged. But at the same time, the Bible also teaches about spirit beings who can somehow manifest themselves in our world and connect with it. Of these there are two: angels and demons. Angels are servants of God, faithfully serving Him. Demons on the other hand are evil, deceptive and destructive. Their primary modus operandi is that of trickery: disguising themselves as servants of righteousness (2 Cor. 11:15). And while such spirits can sometimes seem to do good (as in giving some useful information or a warning), it is their nature to deceive. Their intent is only one: to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10).

That's why Christians are called to test the spirits to see if they are from God (1 John 4:1). And how do you know whether a spirit is of God or not? Read 1 John 4:2.

So, after all that lengthy explanation, do I believe in ghosts?

No, I don't believe in them. But I do believe there are spirits.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

A talk with a stranger

I woke early this morning. Extremely early. It was even earlier than the time I'd wake up to go to school. And what would drive me to wake up at such an insane hour on a cool-sleep-inducing early Saturday morning? A photoshoot.

My cousin Alvin had asked me last week to help him out with a family photoshoot at Tanjung Aru this morning, and never having the experience of such a task, I gladly agreed. So, I got up when everyone else was still in dreamland and got ready and drove to Tanjung Aru. The shoot was at Shangri-la Tanjung Aru Resort and it was a blast. If you're interested you can check it out at my photoblog.

But, the reason I'm posting is that when we arrived, a lady was looking at the swallows which kept flying near the windows of the reception area. Then as we wanted to go to the garden grounds below, out of the blue she talked to me and said how amazing the birds were and how wonderful it was to be in Sabah. Not wanting to be rude, I said it was. Then she asked me if I was a guest and I answered that I was just visiting. I bid her farewell and thought nothing more of it.

After we were done with the shoot, we were leaving on our way up the stairs when we chanced upon the same lady again. Again she asked where we were from, and I guess she remembered because she blurted out the words 'KK'. Then, seeing that we were holding cameras she went on to ask questions about who we were and so on. And after talking about her life in British Columbia, Sandakan and Singapore (all in a span of 10 minutes!), my cousin and I found ourselves being persuaded about the benefits of becoming a yoga practitioner. By this time, all three of us were already sitting down. I guess my cousin and I were just being too polite. We actually wanted to go somewhere to review the pics we had taken, and so we 'endured' and made polite conversation with this lady. Towards the end, she gave me a photocopy of this supposed master, and asked me to read it. She even offered to possibly meet up in Canada if we ever headed over there.

We managed to excuse ourselves soon after and then went to Coffee Bean for some fake cool-air comfort and some ridiculously expensive drinks. That encounter with the woman got me thinking: she was basically hot-calling: strike up a conversation with anyone and introduce them to something that seems worthwhile. And she was doing it with all earnestness, too.

She's got guts.

Friday, July 10, 2009

And the verdict is...

That Maths and Science will not be taught in English beginning 2012. This will be a huge sigh of relief for a number of people, while others will lament a lost opportunity. Well, it has been said often enough and I guess I'll be saying the same thing that's on a number of people's mind: be ready for changes whenever a new Education Minister takes office. It's been proven time and again.

I remember when Anwar Ibrahim used to be Education Minister since I was in seconday school then. He was the guy who introduced that silly idea of starting the schoool academic year in December. Then, it was reverted to its original start in January when the next minister came in. I don't remember what Najib did when he was Education Minister after that as I was already in college, so that doesn't count. When the non-politician Musa Mohamad took over, English for Maths and Science was introduced. When Hishamuddin came into office, it was the introduction of a compulsory but non-examination subject called Civics and Citizenship in 2005. And now we have Muhyiddin with the scrapping of the teaching of Maths and Science in English. Oh, and the talk is he plans to introduce subjects like grammar and composition and English literature as well. And that's in addition to the plan to increase the number of teaching hours, too!

While I'm not against change, but when that change is not calculated carefully and not planned with a long-term eye, it can only be described as haphazard and will ultimately be detrimental to the students and the teachers who have to face more headache and (in this case, potentially) more time doing even more paperwork.

It really makes me wonder where exactly it is the education of our young minds is heading...

Eventhough teachers may rant, complain, and whine all we want, but at the end of the day it just boils down to one thing:

"Saya yang menurut perintah."


Saturday, July 4, 2009

Movie day

After more than half a year of not going to the cinema (the last movie we watched was Beverly Hills Chihuahua), my wife and I were finally able to go again today. We asked a close friend if she could help babysit Adelle for a couple of hours and she was more than happy to take up the offer (how kind!). So, that enabled my wife and I to go to the cinema and watch a movie in relative peace; I say relative because we found out that there were other young children in the cinema. And you know how it is with young children and attention spans.

I have been wanting to watch the second installment of Transformers, but we decided not to go since the show time wasn't right, and it is such a long movie according to reports. So, we went to watch Ice Age 3 instead. I found it entertaining enough, and so did my wife, but it wasn't uproariously funny as some would have it to be. But, I guess our funny bones all tickle a different way as I found out during the show.

In front of us sat a family (whom I guessed were made up of a mom, a father, children, sisters, and even grandmother!), and during one of the sequences in the movie, I noticed how this young lady in front (one of the sisters) giggled and laughed throughout that part. I looked at her, then I glanced at my wife. She only had a half-smile on her face. I thought the sequence only mildly amusing at best as well. I thought to myself: what a contrast in response to the same movie!

But, we enjoyed the movie nonetheless. However we both thought the first was the better one.