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.