Friday, September 3, 2010

Where to find help

This is a Sponsored Post written by me on behalf of NMEDA. All opinions are 100% mine.

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you needed to find information about a certain issue but you were not too sure of where exactly to look? I  suppose most of us have, and apart from family and friends, many of us would eventually turn to the Internet. Yet, how far is what we read on the Internet reliable?

The National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA) is perhaps the best place to find information and advice on mobility equipment if you're looking to purchase one for a loved one with a disability. The association is strictly non-profit and it is the only association that promotes safe driving and equipment for people with disabilities. All of its members are required to adhere to the safety standards of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration so you can be assured the recommendations and advice they provide are trustworthy.

A personalized 'in-person' evaluation helps determine the best driving solution that meets a certain person's specific lifestyle and needs. If any additional refinements or training is needed, the NMEDA dealer is able to assist. And if, because of these, you think that NMEDA dealers already have a high-degree of professionalism, the NMEDA goes one better. They also have Quality Assurance Program (QAP) dealers. Dealers with this accrediation are held to extremely high standards in serving and meeting consumers' transportation needs. in case you didn't know, the Quality Assurance Program (QAP) is the only recognized accreditation program in Canada and the United States for the Adaptive Mobility Equipment Industry. It is based on the principle that in order to satisfy customers consistently, companies must have a systematic and documented approach to quality.

How's that for impeccable service and assurance of safety?

Visit my sponsor: NMEDA

Flying time

My oh time flies.

A look at my last post and it was over a month ago! I suppose that's to be expected. I have other things occupying my interest now and blogging here is not really high up on my priority list at the moment. But, for the time being I'll still leave this blog here while I sort things out with the current project that I'm working on. And when the time comes, I'll announce it here and we'll see then where we'll go from there.

In the meantime, I'm looking forward to the school holidays which begin tomorrow! That's 2 weeks! That means more time to do the things that I want to do and it's a much needed reprieve from the daily grind of teaching.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Hong Kong Children's Choir

(Last night, the Hong Kong Children's Choir performed at Star City Exhibition Hall. I'll be writing my experience of attending this show in two parts because I feel that I wouldn't be doing justice to the spectacular performance presented by them.)

The weeks before the performance of the Hong Kong Children's Choir, I got to know about their show here in Kota Kinabalu through the several banners hung around town. I had never heard of them before, but I supposed the fact that they were performing internationally at our shores meant that they were probably good enough.

I had no intention of attending the performance, but just last week my neighbour had been talking about it to my wife saying how her daughter had been wanting to go and watch the performance. At the same time, the organisers had been promoting the tickets for the show at my wife's school as well, and that sort of got my wife interested and she in turn got me interested. So, in the end we decided to go and brought along Adelle as well. Our neighbour's daughter came along as with us as well.

We arrived at the Star City Exhibition Hall just after 7 pm without having taken our dinner because we thought we were running late. We bought our tickets and proceeded to take our seats. We sat at the second row from the front so that we could have a pretty good view of the choir. But since there were no signs of the show starting yet, I took the opportunity to have a bite together with Adelle. My wife had packed some food for us to eat so Adelle and I looked for a suitable place to eat. By the time we finished about 15 minutes later, the show still hadn't started. In fact, it didn't start until it was 8 pm. That was a whole hour delay from the time printed on the tickets.

Despite the hiccup, when things started it was smooth sailing all the way. The emcee got things rolling with the usual reminders - silencing handphones, no flash photography, too keep to our seats during performance until intermission - and then invited several VIPs and their spouses to come up on stage to do a ribbon-cutting ceremony. With that out of the way, the choir came in followed by the conducting to enthusiastic applause and my surprise. The troupe is called the Hong Kong Children's Choir so I was expecting to see children. But, the first thing I noticed was that these people didn't look like children - more adolescent than primary schoolers. But it was a small matter - semantics one might say.

We were given a programme sheet for the evening's performance and it'd say we'd be treated to both English and Chinese songs with the intermission dividing the two. The first two songs were hymns and they were followed by several more secular songs. The song selection for the first part of the performance was a mixture of slow and upbeat songs which kept things interesting. But, what proved outstanding were the quality of their voices and the well-choreographed movements. No, they didn't just stand still while they sang, they were moving all parts of their bodies and at certain times, even walking about exchanging places and in what looked like utter chaos! It's a wonder they didn't bump into each other and fell onstage!

Here are some of the photos I took during the performance.

The host for the evening, a Rotarian.

The choir's opening act.

Noticed this girl crying - wonder why...

The group's largely made up of girls.

Singing and movement - perfectly synchronized.

Action during one of the more upbeat songs.

Sometimes, choir members would say something to introduce a piece or provide information about their group.

They dance as well!

Reminds me of a scene from the Sound of Music.

Awaiting their turn to come in - all eyes fixed on the conductor.

You get some really funny actions in some of the songs!

The crying girl becomes a happy, graceful girl.

Different parts of the choir would be doing different actions - all perfectly polished!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Fourteenth Letter

So, without saying them out loud (and without using your fingers to count), tell me what's the fourteenth letter of the alphabet? Just right off the bat, what is it?

It's the letter N.

Now, why am I thinking about this particular letter? Well, it's the start to a word that perfectly describes this blog's situation right now: Neglected.

I see my last update has been over a month ago. It's been slightly over two years since I first started this blog and in that span of time I've written just over 150 entries. Not exactly a wordsmith kind of scale by any means. But, I've made a few friends along the way, and a few bucks which made for some motivation. But, I'm finding it increasingly difficult to actually sit down in front of the computer to write here. Not that I don't have anything to say, mind you. There were many times where something happened and I told myself that I'd put that up in my blog but I just never got round to doing it.

So I'm just wondering - wondering if this whole feeling of wanting to blog will actually finally leave me.  I'll leave that to time to provide the answer.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Nine hours

As I write this, the clock on my computer tells me it's exactly midnight. I should probably be getting to bed. After all, in nine hours' time (hence, the title of my post) I'll be sitting behind a desk in some secondary school, a black pen in my shirt pocket, four 2B pencils and a rubber laid out in front of me, awaiting my question paper to be handed to me.

Yes, I'm sitting for an exam.

At precisely nine o'clock (GMT+8) on the tenth day of the sixth month of the tenth year of the new millennium, thousands all across Malaysia will be in the same situation as I will be: holding a blue question paper consisting of forty questions before them, and quite possibly be exhibiting one of two kinds of behaviours described below:
  1. The more diligent ones would probably be smiling to themselves and already thinking about what new things they can buy with the new pay increment they would get once they aced the paper. 
  2. The ones on the opposite side of the spectrum (like myself) would also be smiling to themselves and wondering why they even bothered waking up that morning.
Being a teacher, I understand that exams are a necessary part of life. How else would you be able to measure your understanding of a certain topic or discipline. Besides, I like shading those tiny oblongs on the answer paper. It feels quite relaxing.

If only this exam didn't determine your supposed competency at doing your job...

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Caffeine fix

How do you like your coffee?

Ask any coffee drinker that and you're bound to get very different answers. For me it's simple. I like mine thick and with enough condensed milk to just provide that lift to the flavour of the coffee. If I don't get what I want, I'd just have a few sips of the coffee and call the waiter for them to add whatever it is that was lacking. Of course, the coffee I'm talking about here is your kopitiam variety, not one of those fancy-schmansy designer places you pay top dollars for. While your local coffee shop may not have the extensive menu of places like Starbucks or Coffee Bean, you're not exactly short of choices. Just think of the ways you can order your coffee:

The base:
  • Kopi O - Your locally brewed black coffee served with either sugar or no sugar.
Then, you have the add-ons to the basic drink:

  • Kopi - The same coffee as above but with the addition of condensed milk. My kind of drink: smooth, and sweetish with just a hint of bitterness to it.
  • Kopi/Kopi O Kaw - The same as either one of the drinks above, just with a bit more oomph. The 'kaw' literally means 'tall', which indicates you want your coffee to be stronger, thicker.
  • Kopi/Kopi O Pok - Again the same drinks, but this time the opposite of 'kaw'. 'Pok' means 'thin', and so you want your coffee to be thin or weak, almost watery. (I can't understand how some people can actually drink this! You might as well be drinking water!)
  • Kopi Susu - The same local brew served with milk instead.
All those choices are for the local brew alone. Now, if you're more the Nescafe kind of drinker, well the same choices are open to you! And let's not forget that highly original Malaysian concoction called Neslo: Nescafe and Milo.

Oh, if you're interested and you're in Kota Kinabalu, a Gloria Jean's Coffee outlet has just opened at Jesselton Point and is currently running a buy-one-free-one offer. The flyer says the promotion's on for a month.

Cup of hot java. I like.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

One day past

Yesterday, May 16, was the Thomas Cup Finals, and as expected the Chinese were unbeatable, and so China get to hold on to the trophy for another two more years. But, yesterday was also another special day of sorts because it was a day to celebrate teachers - it was Teacher's Day. Unlike Mother's Day or Father's Day, there's no great fanfare when this day comes around. For most, the day almost seems...normal.

I did a search on Wikipedia and apparently there's no standard date for this day - every different country celebrates Teacher's Day on different dates. Also, some countries mark this day as a holiday (now, THAT would really be my kind of Teacher's Day). But, since it's just about exam season right now in many schools I suspect most will only hold some kind of celebration at before term breaks.

Adelle made a Teacher's Day card for all her teachers at her playschool and I'm quite proud that she managed to draw and colour it all by herself. It's her first real piece of artwork and I must say she's rather proud of her achievement as well.

Adelle showing off her masterpiece

So, here's to all teachers - God bless you as you continue your struggle in educating the minds of the nation.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Thomas and Uber Cup - whither are we to go?

Well, that's it. Malaysia's out - again. Three games to nil. What a whitewash considering all the talk during the build-up to the competition. So, it'll be another two-year wait before the chance comes again for Malaysia to attempt to win the Thomas Cup. And when that time arrives, it'll be more jittery nerves and tension, and maybe even a few more finger gestures directed towards the crowd.

I have not been able to watch a single game of the on-going Thomas and Uber Cup matches until today. All this while, my only updates came from friends and the daily news reports in the papers which, while they allow myself to broaden my imagination by picturing the games when they happened, is hardly heart-stopping and exciting stuff. So, when I finally managed to find a web-link that offered live streaming of the games, that just made my day. If you're interested you can find the live-streaming of the games here. It's actually linked to TV1, so it comes with all the ads (and news) that come with the channel.

I wonder if this link will continue to work right up till the time of the World Cup...imagine all those games.

*rubbing hands in glee*

Oh, just in case you're wondering why I don't just watch the games on television, well it's like this. The idiot-box I have isn't connected to the aerial. Thank God for the internet.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Cause for worry?

I was talking to my dad over the phone just now and he mentioned something which I found to be quite disturbing - disturbing because this is the first I've heard about it, and also because many people in this country, including myself occasionally, use it. The worrying news has to do with mouthwash.

Do you use it?

If you use Listerine, Plax, or any other mouthwash that contains alcohol there is a potentially higher risk of you developing oral cancer. Yes, you read that right - using those brightly-coloured, minty (or citrusy, take your pick) flavoured liquids may lead to cancer. I was rather skeptical when my Dad talked about it, so I looked it up and true enough, there have been reports about such a claim. The Australian Dental Association had apparently published a paper concerning the use of mouthwashes and this was what was said:

"There is now sufficient evidence to accept the proposition that developing oral cancer is increased or contributed to by the use of alcohol-containing mouthwashes."

You can read more about it in this article from the Daily Telegraph, an Australian newspaper, which was published way back in January 2009. The actual paper may be read here if you're interested.

Having said that however, a supposedly comprehensive study along the same lines published in the Journal of the American Dental Association (ADA) in 2003 claims that there is no link between alcohol-based mouthwashes and oral cancer. The ADA even recommends that such mouthwashes be used as part of your oral hygiene regimen.

Conflicting conclusions means nothing is conclusive yet. So, the ball's in our park - do we err on the side of caution, or not?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Inevitable

Have you ever thought about how much the typical Malaysian eats?

If the government courses that I occasionally have to attend were to be taken as some kind of norm for the average Malaysian, then the only conclusion that anyone can come to would be this:

A lot! A whole lotta lot!

Take your typical full-day government-sponsored course or conference: you start off the day with breakfast (whether at home, or at the venue of the said event if the organiser so generously provides it). The course then begins promtply at 8.00 am and after oh about two hours, there's a break and with it comes...tea, coffee, some cakes or pastries, and maybe even some fried noodles or vermicelli. After thirty minutes of nibbling, then comes lunch, just two hours later.

After lunch, it's back to more serious matters and perhaps around mid-afternoon at about 3.30, tea break commences with more finger food. And so you continue your sessions some more and before you know it, it's the end of the day and then it's time for tea, then later in the evening, dinner! Count it - that's five meals a day! And if you have night sessions, there will also be supper so that will make it six! Isn't it any wonder then why the circumference around your waist continues to grow larger?

I for one am growing - horizontally. I think I'm larger than I've even been before, and the sight of all that folded flesh and skin when I sit is not something I'm going to get used to. It must be because of me sitting too much in front of the computer. Sigh.

I've heard crunches are supposed to be good...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Trading fairs

We all like the occasional trip to the funfair when it comes round to our neighbourhood. You get to go on rides that may leave your heart permanently in your mouth, shoot hoops all for the sake of winning some ridiculously cheap prizes, and even be covered in that icky, sickeningly sweet candy floss. Still, funfairs are great fun even if you only go home with your hands empty and your head in a spin with all that nauseating rides you were in just a few moments ago.

But, there's another kind of fair my wife and I will try to visit at least once when it happens, and that's a trade fair. Each year in Kota Kinabalu, there's this Sabah International Expo which brings in not only local companies but also companies from other countries. I think such fairs are equally interesting as you get to see all sorts of new products you never knew existed, you get to witness demonstrations of some modern appliance, and you can even sample some of the products when it comes to food. For all this, I think such trade fairs are definitely worth a visit.

Apart from that, visit this kind of event, and you're bound to see all sorts of trade show booths all around the venue. And the way each booth tries to make itself attractive is something else to wonder. You'd see trade show displays of all types with the range of products a company offers displayed in neat panels, and I must say, some of them can prove to be quite effective in getting your attention. But, I say if you're going to make yourself known, you may as well go the full distance and smother (albeit, tastefully) every bit of available space with your company logo and product info, no? I've seen some companies use logo floor mats and hang banners from the truss standing over the exhibit area. That's in addition to the displays they have already put up.

But, I don't mind all that. I find such trade fairs quite interesting and informative, and who knows, you may even find a bargain or two, or it may even be the place that sparks that long-thought-about business opportunity.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A smoother drive?

Let me just say on the onset that I'm not a car expert. I can tell different models or makes of cars apart, but if you asked me how powerful a car was, or what year model a certain car is, I wouldn't be able to tell you. Neither am I an engine expert. If I took apart my car's engine, I might as well buy a new car as I'd never be able to put the engine back together. Oh, and one last thing - I'm in no way affiliated to any of the brands I'm going to mention later in this post, though I wish I was so that I'd get paid megabucks for it.

Okay, now that that's out of the way - let me ask in introduction what petrol brand do you use? When I first got my car about 9 years ago, I was a Shell user through and through. I guess it was because my parents used it and nothing else, so I was just sort of continuing the tradition. Yes, yes...lousy reason, I know but that's what it is.

But, then a friend told me about how Esso fuels were much better - your car had more power, and the drive was smoother. I didn't try it then and there, but I eventually did. And what did I find out? True enough the car responded better, and the drive was smoother. It was almost as if I had just had the car serviced. And ever since then I used Esso almost exclusively. But, just last week I filled up with Shell again as no Esso stations were open on my way to work, and the car was running dangerously low on fuel. And since I'd pass a Shell station on my way, so that's where I filled up. No perceptible difference...


with the tank about half full, I filled up again at Esso yesterday. So, in my tank was half Shell, half Esso. I can't say whether the drive felt any different then, but just this evening, it did - quite perceptibly. The car was quieter, and smoother. I told my wife that it felt just like the first time I filled up with Esso.

So, here's the thing. Each fuel company promotes its own fuels saying how good they are and I suppose each adds their own special formula of fuel additive as well. But, I'm just wondering if mixing those two will actually give 'better' performance. My wife suggested that I try filling up using alternate brands next time. I suppose I'll try just to see if this continues.

Now, I must say that what I've said is just based on my observation and 'feel'. It'd be interesting to know if anyone else has a similar experience. Drop me a comment if you do or don't think that mixing different brands of fuel has resulted in better performance for your car.

It could be just that I'm imagining things.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

P is for Pizza

This is a Sponsored Post written by me on behalf of Tony's Pizza. All opinions are 100% mine.

Okay, raise your hand if you've never ever eaten a pizza? Thought so. Apart from that other famous Italian export - think long thin rods or strips - the pizza is a firm favourite for a lot of people. That includes me!

But what happens if you get a sudden craving for one late at night (guys get them too, you know!)? The restaurants are closed, and all the delivery guys have gone home. Well, that's when the frozen variety like Tony's Pizza makes a more than equal substitute. Want to feel that gooey cheese and those full-flavoured pepperoni slices tickling all those taste buds at just that instant? Nothing easier than just opening the freezer, taking the pizza and popping it into the oven. Almost instant gratification. Man, I'm making me hungry!

And that's just the savings in time. Those frozen pizzas can also save you some money. Think about it - you don't have to drive your car to the restaurant (saving on fuel and hence, money) and you don't have to pay whatever service charges the restaurant includes in the bill. Lip-smacking food at a lower cost. That's a great combination.

Now, a pizza's nice enough to be enjoyed on its own. But, what if you pair it up with something like bowling? I'd say that sounds like double the fun. And that's just what Tony's Pizza is offering right now - free bowling along with the pizza. Between throws, you can munch on a slice or two and plot your strategy for conquering the lanes. Who knows? That pizza may just be the needed extra boost for your game.

Did I say that Tony's pizzas also great for a movie night? No? Well then...I think it will!

Visit my sponsor: Tony's Pizza

Friday, March 12, 2010

Where has it gone?

Where has what gone you may ask?

Something known as "common courtesy". If you don't know what that is, then my point is proven: common courtesy isn't very common anymore. It refers to your etiquette, minding your Ps and Qs, and treating other people politely. But, increasingly I see this thing called courtesy becoming more and more uncommon.

A very common scenario: What do you do as you push open a door to enter or exit a building? As a lot of people are wont to do, they push open the door, walk through it, and let go of it - and in the process, smashing the swinging door right in the face of the poor soul who happens to be walking right behind them. How hard is it to just have a quick look behind you as you're opening the door, and if you see someone approaching, to hold the door open for them? It costs you nothing, and in return you may even get a thank you and a smile that's sure to warm you right up.

Another example, what do you do when someone kindly signals to you that they are giving you way to turn out from a junction? Increasingly, people just drive on without even so much as a glance at the person who offered the kind deed. Would it be so hard to just lift your hand and smile at the person for being so thoughtful as a means of thanks before driving off? I think not. If it hadn't been for him, you'd still be stuck where you were hoping for some break in the never-ending traffic.

I could go on but I think you can think of more examples yourself. I don't think any of us would like to live in a world where being polite and courteous had ceased to exist. That's why we need to

rock the boat
buck the trend
stop the rot.

Educate our young people on how to be polite and courteous. Don't just tell them, show them. After all, it's often said that action speaks louder than words.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Zee Avi Live in Malaysia

Those of you who've been following this blog (all two or three of you...haha) will probably remember that I've posted about a Malaysian singer who made it quite big on youtube not too long ago. If your brain cells have somewhat depleted since then and can't quite remember what or who I'm referring to, here's the link to the post to help you remember again.

Remember now? Well, why am I talking about her again? Well, I just received an email from (in case you're wondering, IS related to that now-everyone-can-fly airline company) and they tell me that no other than Zee Avi herself is coming to perform right here in Malaysia!

It's about time, I say.

Taken from

A quick check on the ticket prices and it seems that they have an early-bird promotion going on. For the first 1000 tickets sold, it's RM42.50 for the main deck (I suppose that's like the generic seats that you get on Airasia flights)) and RM80 for the upper deck (I guess that's like the hotseats...). Not too expensive, I must say.

But, for people like me staying 'overseas' on the other side of Malaysia, I think the cost would still be a bit too prohibitive. Another quick check on the Airasia website and return tickets would cost me over RM600. I think I'll take a rain check for this one. But, that doesn't mean you have to, especially if you're on the other side.

Update: I've just found out that every single ticket for Zee Avi's Live Concert here in Malaysia has been sold! Amazing. For those of us who missed it, we'll just have to keep our fingers crossed that she'll come by this way again.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Grilles, deadbolts, padlocks and alarms

When I look at the houses of today, I sometimes cannot fail to notice how different they are from those from about 25 years ago. For one thing, architects nowadays are more bold in their designs. So, while you still get the more conventional four-side box designs of old, you also get the more updated ones (which are essentially still boxy, but with more play of different box shapes) that look quite refreshing.

House designs aside, the other difference you're bound to notice is the security features that any typical house has nowadays. Grilles, deadbolts, and padlocks have become the norm rather than the exception nowadays. Twenty five years ago, you'd be hard put to spot a house with any of them. You just had bare windows and doors.

And it's not just grilles and deadbolts and padlocks, too. Closed-circuit television, and even motion sensors are becoming increasingly popular among house owners from my observations. I suppose nowadays some would consider an autogate, grilles, and a home security system the bare minimum to have for any house.

Of the three perhaps the most important is the home security system. So, I was curious and searched for one and I found While they do not offer their services in Malaysia, the security system that they market is one many are familiar with: ADT Security System. While I'm not a subscriber of any of their products, I've noticed more than a few houses sporting the ADT logo on the alarm attached to the exterior walls. A look at their website says that they have been in operations since 1874 and have over 7 million customers worldwide. I suppose many potential customers would put their trust in a company with a reputation like that. I think I would put ADT Security high up on my list too, if ever I was looking for a dependable provider for home security systems.

This was brought to you by your friends at

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A New Year's Post

Let me see.

It's been 10 days since the first day of Chinese New Year, and that would make this post on Chinese New Year more than a bit late. But, since celebrations actually last for 15 days then I'm not overly late so I'll just go ahead and wish everyone a Happy New Year. Don't let all the roaring (it is the year of the Tiger, is it not?) make your voice go hoarse.

How was your celebrations (and the off days that went with it?)? For the first time ever, the whole family managed to go to Klang to celebrate this auspicious occasion. That's thanks to cheap airline tickets and a rather long-ish school break. It's a nice change from the usual routine during New Year celebrations here in Sabah.

Anyway, apart from the customary New Year's eve meal (which my mother-in-law single-handedly prepared!), we managed to visit a friend's house and also make our traditional 'pilgrimage' to Mid Valley Megamall on the second day of Chinese New Year. We were expecting the place to be rather quiet, and at first when we arrived there it seemed that way. Quite a number of the outlets were closed, and the place wasn't as crowded as usual.

Mid Valley's Centre Court with its Chinese New Year decorations. I like!

Decorations at The Gardens.

But, after walking around The Gardens and deciding to have lunch after that, we found that we couldn't find any restaurant to eat that wasn't already full! So in the end, we ate at the food court at The Gardens which was not too bad. And after that, it was more window-shopping.

The next day, it was reunion time with my brothers and parents (who also decided to fly over). This would be the first in a number of years as well that my brothers, my parents and I would be reunited for Chinese New Year. Can't find a better opportunity than this to have a family portrait together.

One big moderate-sized family.

Happy New Year everyone!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

What you want, when you want it

This is a Sponsored Post written by me on behalf of Charter. All opinions are 100% mine.

How would you describe your habit when it comes to watching TV? Would you say that you are:

a. the couch potato: you breathe, eat and sleep TV!
b. the seat warmer: you spend a few hours on the TV, but life still excites you more.
c. the hit-and-runner: you only watch a specific show and then turn the TV off

I wouldn't say that either me or my wife are TV addicts, but once we get interested in a particular show, then it's hook, line and sinker. But, what we don't like about watching television series is that we'd have to wait a whole week (that's seven 24-hour days!) for the next episode to find out what happens next, and that, by any reckoning is so frustrating sometimes. Then, of course you'd have to actually be around the TV on a particular day at a particular time to enjoy your favourite show. You miss it then you're just going to have to figure out what happened. Wouldn't it be great if you could just watch what you want when you want?

Now, apparently you can. Having a service like Charter digital actually allows you to watch your favourite shows when you want it. There are no schedules, and that means no more waiting. That also means no more squabbles among family members because of missed shows. Now, everyone can just tune in whenever they want. Imagine over 6000 movies and shows available to you right at your fingertips. Talk about On Demand, this just rocks!

If you're interested, you can learn more at or you can even get updates and fun extras on Charter’s Facebook page.


Now, if only this service were available here in this country.

Visit my sponsor: Often Overlooked Gem

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The hardest words

What would you say is the hardest word or words to say that you've ever come across in English? And when I say hardest, I don't mean the most difficult to say in a given situation (the words "sorry", "thank you" and "please" come to mind). What I mean is the most difficult to produce by your tongue and mouth - the hardest to pronounce, the most laborious to produce. You may think of some tongue twisters like:

  • Red lorry, yellow lorry; or
  • Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,
    A peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked.
    If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,
    How many pickled peppers did Peter Piper pick?; or (try this one for size)
  • The sixth sick sheikh's sixth sheep's sick; or (if you're really good)
  • The sixth sick sheikh's sixth sheep's sick so six slick sheiks sold six sick sheep six silk sheets!
But, I'm veering off topic here. Anyway, I'm a teacher and a teacher, well, teaches things. And in my ten or so years of teaching, I'd say many things have astounded and bewildered me. But, year in, year out, one just keeps me amazed. I'd say one of the hardest words in the English language for my students to say are these:

"May I come in, please?"

If I'm assigned a Form 1 class to teach, then one of the very first things that I do with them is to get them accustomed to asking for permission to leave and enter the classroom in English. And boy, do some of them really struggle, especially with the coming in bit.

You'd think that it's simple - five words, not very hard to pronounce, quite easy to remember. But, a lot of my students have great difficulty in uttering those supposedly "simple" words. They'd get the structure all mixed up, or they'll leave out one of the words, or they'll mispronounce a word or two, or they'll even draw a blank even after I have repeated the question over and over.

I've tried almost everything that I can think of - breaking up the sentence into short phrases like "May I", followed by "come in", and then "please", and they are able to follow. But, when I ask them to repeat the question on their own they become lost again and the whole drill restarts. From my experience, this is usually a year-long affair - you have to keep reminding them, and keep them practising. They'll sometimes try to cop out and ask for permission to leave the classroom in Malay, but I insist that they ask me in English.

Now, I'm not complaining about my students nor am I condemning them. I'm just wondering what it is that has made them like that. Lack of stimulation? Lack of nutrition? Lack of proper training? Just five simple words to remember and repeat, but they can't.

It just baffles me.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Noisy nuisance

Check your calendars and you'll know that Chinese New Year's just under three weeks away. As a kid, I enjoyed this occasion tremendously, and why not? I get to eat scrumptious food that I'd get to eat only once a year (since that's the only time that I actually get to eat some of my aunts'and uncles' cooking), but more than that there's the ready supply of fireworks! One of my uncles would be the supplier and my cousins, brother and I would rub our hands in glee over the precious loot. And we'd play to our hearts content.

But, it seems that some people nowadays are in an overly early celebratory mood. For the past couple of nights, I've been hearing the sounds of fireworks going off around the neighbourhood. Now, I wouldn't mind so much if it were already Chinese New Year because it's to be expected. But, the New Year's still so far away!

So, I find all these high-pitched whistles and mini-explosions a nuisance and an irritant - more so since these people seem to get itchy fingers past 9pm when Adelle's already asleep. Adelle's not especially fond of all these fireworks going off when she's awake, more so when she's asleep - they wake her up and disturb her sleep. So, whenever these things explode I'd stop whatever it is that I'm doing and wait and see... whether Adelle would wake up or not. If she does, then I'll have to go up and pacify her and reason with her saying how 'naughty' all these people are who play fireworks when it's not even Chinese New Year yet. Only when she's convinced then Adelle will go quietly back to sleep...until the next bang wakes her up, then it's the whole process again. It can be quite tiring - for me having comfort Adelle again and again, but also for Adelle because of her disturbed sleep.

I'm all for celebrating special occasions, but let it be done in consideration for others, especially if the celebration involves loud noises.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Expiration introspection

I was reminded again of our how mortal we can be just this morning when I was reading the local newspaper. Every day we read of obituaries, news of natural disasters, accidents, murders, wars, and I think I've read so much of all these tragedies that I have somehow grown somewhat desensitised to it all (which can be dangerous). I may think to myself, "Oh, it's another terrible", but promptly proceed to forget about it a few hours later.

But, something made me take notice of this particular news item. "Taiwanese Man Dies After Watching 'Avatar', the headline said. Apparently, the victim had a history of high blood pressure and having watched the movie, he complained of being unwell and by the time he reached the hospital, he was already unconscious. Eleven days later, the man died from brain haemorrhage, which the emergency-room doctor said could have been triggered by over-excitement from the movie.

What was meant to bring enjoyment, instead brought death.

I've personally heard numerous stories of people engaging in activities that they enjoy only to suddenly drop dead the very next second. I read as well of supposedly fit people like professional footballers suddenly drop dead in the middle of the game. I know this sounds like a morbid subject to talk about, but I guess sometimes it's helpful to have such reminders to actually slap me in the face and tell me that hey, you never know when you're going to leave this world so why not make every second that you have, count.

But even more importantly, make doubly sure that I know where I'm headed after that.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Not so funky

I've previously posted about what I think are the three essential characteristics that a restaurant should have in order to attract new patrons and more importantly, keep customers returning. I think this is especially important if the restaurant or stall was new. You just need to make that great first impression on the customer, and if you pass that hurdle, then chances are he or she may just come back and bring their friends even. Nothing makes a business prosper like word of mouth. People like what you offer, they'll come back, they'll tell their friends about it, and those friends will come, and tell their friends about it, and so on.

Well, this evening the whole family decided to try out a new eatery here just in Damai. We got to know about it because, one day, as we were walking to another restaurant for lunch a couple of doors away, we noticed this new place and started looking at their menu. The owner happened to be sitting outside and started talking, telling us how his restaurant's prices were good. From the menu, I thought the prices were pretty standard, but since the place looked classier (not the coffeeshop variety), then it offered slightly better value - the ambiance being considered.

So, I filed this at the back of my head (this was maybe a month or two ago) and finally today, we decided to check out this new eatery. And the place is called Funky Town. If you know where Maple Cafe is, then Funky Town is just two doors away...I think.

We decided to sit inside and what greets you soon after you go in is a whiff of something strange. I couldn't quite put my finger on what the smell was: it was a mixture of something damp, and cockroaches. Not very pleasant. But we later found out it was nothing of the sort. It was the remnant of the smells of one of their offerings: Fried Sambal Meehoon. Apparently, customers had complained about the smell (it was actually the sambal) and so they decided to take it off the menu.

So, anyway we look at the menu and my wife decided to go for the fish and chips, and I decided to try out their lamb chop. Order done, we sit down and relax and I check out the place. It had pleasantly dim lighting, soft background music, and with not many customers at that time, the place was cosy enough to have a decent conversation without having to stress your vocal cords.

The first surprise of the evening was when the fish and chips arrived in front of my wife in about 5 minutes - that was fast! Before Adelle or my wife could lay their knife and fork on it, I whipped out my camera and snapped a few pictures of the dish. Here it is:

Fish and chips - wish they were bigger

First impressions. The fish pieces looked a bit on the small side (as I'm typing this, my wife's eating some instant noodles saying that the dinner wasn't filling at all), but probably the size of the plate didn't help either. The amount of food didn't cover the plate adequately so it looked a bit empty. Perhaps they could have added a lettuce leaf of something together with the coleslaw just to fill in the empty white spaces, or use a smaller plate, or better yet increase their portions! So, presentation was not quite there.

Taste? My wife took the first bite and said, "Frozen dory". I knew what that meant as I still remembered the time we bought home some and attempted to make fish and chips. You see, frozen dory is more or less tasteless, and I suppose the batter didn't help add much to the taste. Luckily there was the tartar sauce. The chips were a bit soggy as well, and the whole dish was a tad on the oily side.

So, that's my take (or rather my wife's take as I only had a small bite) on the fish and chips. How was the lamb chop? Well, I'm still wondering. My lamb never arrived. After waiting for about half an hour (and my wife and Adelle were finishing the last bits of their meal), I see a plate of lamb chop come out of the kitchen window, the waiter takes it, and proceeds to give it to a group of young people seated next to us who came and ordered much later. It was then that I decide to ask the waitress (the one who took our orders) to check on my order and also another order of chicken wings that we had made. She goes to the kitchen and checks and never informs me what has happened.

I wait.

Twenty minutes later, my food still hadn't arrived. Food was coming out of the kitchen so I know the cooks were preparing food, just other people's and not mine. The order of chicken wings finally came and I decided to cancel my order. He apologised. When the waiter put the chicken wings on the table, I stifled a laugh. Before us was a small serving plate with two pieces of wings and nothing else. No garnishing, no sauce, nothing...just the two chicken wings sitting on the plain white saucer. Here it is:

The very airy plate of chicken wings

The three of us shared the wings, and though they were tasty enough they were not enough to lift my mood. Just then, my neighbour and his family walked in. I was almost tempted to tell him to find another place to eat but decided against it. Perhaps their experience would be more positive than mine.

Experience and training were clearly lacking in the staff: a lack of experience in handling a clearly disgruntled customer because of a huge mistake on their part (if I were the proprietor, I would have offered a free meal or if that were too much, offered a free side dish or something for the whole family. After all, you're new and you desperately want your customers to come again!); and a lack of training because an experienced staff would have noticed that my order wasn't filled yet even after so long. The restaurant wasn't very busy, so if the waitress who had taken my order had been alert she would have noticed me just sitting and looking at my wife and Adelle eat and would have checked my order with the kitchen.

Just before we got the bill, the waitress who took our order came and gave us something on the house - a pot of frozen yogurt. She offers her apologies saying that the kitchen had forgotten about my order. So, the yogurt was offered as "compensation"- a peace offering. My wife and Adelle ate some, and I was left the task of finishing off my "meal" while my wife went to pay for the meal. The person in-charge (who happened to be my wife's ex-student) asked my wife how I was and my wife's reply was, "Well, put it this way. A hungry man is an angry man."

The giant and the dwarf - the "peace offering" that was given
next to a standard-sized mug of water

How apt.

My wife's ex-student went on to say that the kitchen messed up the order, and I suppose she may have apologised again. We walk out of the restaurant, and I was thinking, "Should I ever go there again?"

Maybe, maybe not.

Service - Below average (especially after they dare charge the 5% service charge!)
Food - So, so. Portion could have been better. My wife thinks Fish and Co. offers better value if you want fish and chips: a bit more pricey but a whole lot more tasty and portion is larger.
Value: RM12.90 for the fish and chips and RM4.50 for the wings - not the best value but not too expensive as well.

Update: Well, what do you know? It looks like my boo-boo wasn't a one-off thing. My neighbour whom we met at the restaurant also had a similar experience. Telling my wife this evening, my neighbour said that somehow the waiter/waitress had forgotten to punch in their order of fish and chips, so that dish didn't come out until the error was pointed out much later. They also ordered a lamb chop but this one came out fast. Must have been my order...

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Tis the time for sickness

Not me, but Adelle.

I suppose it was just a matter of time before Adelle would get it. It's something that's not quite within our control as parents to prevent, more so if your child mixes with other children at a playschool or nursery.

Adelle developed a slight fever two days ago after coming home from playschool, but my wife and I thought nothing much of it. She had just developed a runny nose, but it was nothing serious so we just gave her some paracetamol (Adelle says this in the cutest way. Para-city-mall. She just has this thing about City Mall!) and didn't make more fuss about it. The next morning it was off to playschool as usual, but in the afternoon, my wife must have gotten a call from the principal because she messaged me saying that Adelle had a fever and asked me to take her home after I was done at work.

So, I got her home, got her cleaned up and rested. Then we took her to the doctor, and we were told that Adelle had two things bothering her. One was the flu and cough, and the other (which the doctor suspects is the cause of the fever), hand foot and mouth disease. Apparently, it's in season again.

Adelle had a few small red spots on her legs, and her bum. She also had an ulcer at the back of her mouth, so that more or less confirmed the doctor's diagnosis. She'd have to stay away from school for a week. So, I'm staying home till the end of the week to take care of her. But, you'd be hard pressed to say that Adelle was actually sick. She's still her active talkative self. Her appetite's taken a slight dent (must be the ulcer), and she uncharacteristically napped a few times during the day, but other than that, she looks quite normal.

Which is good.

I much prefer this to the whiny fussy side of her that can sometimes surface when she's uncomfortable or sleepy. Praying that there will be no complications from this episode of illness, and that it'll just run its course and go away quietly.

Monday, January 11, 2010

A spreading dark blot

Not bad.

One entry per month for the past couple of months. Well, at least that's something rather than nothing at all. But, being silent and being hardly here wasn't the push that motivated me to finally write down something. It was something else totally, something more serious.

The hottest issue in Malaysia right now has got to be about the use of the word "Allah". I hadn't realise how hot this whole matter was until a friend told me about the first attacks on several churches in West Malaysia a few days back: a church literally got burned, and two others were also in for the same treatment except that thankfully, the Molotov cocktails that were used didn't quite set off as expected. But, such attacks are still continuing. To date, eight churches around the country have already been targets of vandalism or attempted arson.

It just goes to show how shallow the minds of some in this country are, and the depths they have sunk to to even allow themselves to carry out such cowardly and despicable acts. It seems to me that, rather than moving towards acceptance , some are hell-bent on edging towards anarchy and chaos. Their reasoning seems to be, "as long as I (we) think what I'm doing is right, who cares about the sensitivities of other people". How else do you explain the latest happenings and the cow-head incident not too long ago to name just two? And all this amidst the government's grand vision of making a One Malaysia.

Yet, even in such saddening times, there are still things to be thankful for:
+ that the government seems earnest in stopping and preventing further attacks
+ that no one has been hurt
+ that, while terrible acts have been committed, there is still forgiveness
+ that God is still in control of everything

Stay safe.