Monday, August 27, 2007

Happy Birthday Pa!

My father turned 68 a few days ago on 24 August. Birthdays have hardly been celebrated in a grand way in our family for as long as I can remember, apart from the small birthday parties with cousins, a few best friends from school and neighbourhood kids during our childhood days. When we got older, we simply commemorated it with a meal at home or at a restaurant, and gave presents or angpows and sometimes even without the traditional cake and candles.

Since Caitlin came into the picture, the cake became a must-have as for her, birthdays mean singing the song (in English and Mandarin), blowing the candles (she'd gladly do it for you), cutting the cake, and eating the cream or icing, cherries, chocolate shavings, strawberries etc (but not the cake!).

Pa's (and everyone else's) birthday have received more attention these past few years thanks to Caitlin.

I remember my father as a doting dad but one with a quick temper and did not spare the rod when we misbehaved. I believe he was the one who introduced the love of reading to me. I remember our weekly Saturday afternoon visits to the old little bookshops in Melaka to get the continuing edition of my favourite Secret Seven or Famous Five and other Enid Blyton books during my primary school days. Then there was an occasional handwritten letter or two from him in Indonesia when he had a short working stint there while I was in university in Penang.

He is now a doting grandfather to all three of his grandkids and has changed his tune when it comes to the rod. That's what grandkids can do to even the most military-type. Caitlin, being the eldest grandchild, has received love in abundance since she was born. And she indeed knows she can get away with anything when "kung kung" is around!

Pa said a few days ago when preparing his muesli with chopped apples that he wishes to live as long as possible. I do hope he will, so that he may enjoy, together with Ma, years of happiness in whatever they choose to do.

Caitlin's first movie at the cinema

We had planned this about 10 days ago but we overlooked pre-booking our tickets. Being the school holidays, Ratatouille would surely play to full house at most cinemas here. By the time we realised our mistake, it was too late since Caitlin had already been looking forward to the movie for one week, having kept to her promise of finishing her homework before the weekend.

We checked out two cinemas yesterday morning to try our luck but were met with either full house or migraine-inducing front row seats up to the next few shows in the afternoon. We managed to get tickets for good seats at the second cinema for the 7.00pm show luckily.

On the whole, Caitlin was pretty happy and thrilled with the new experience of a dark hall, many seats and large screen plus surround sound. I guess the movie was entertaining and straightforward enough that she could sit attentively throughout the one hour and 50 minutes. She even laughed at the appropriate moments. We were actually prepared for her usual "what's happening" and "why" questions but there were hardly any.

She requested for another cinema experience to watch her current favourite movie "Dinosaur", which she has on DVD, but since it's a little dated (2000), we told her we'd have to look out for some other fun movie for kids next time.

This morning, she decided to broadcast her cinema adventure to her teacher and classmates, so that got her going in the end to start getting ready for school.

Manic Monday

School resumes today after a one-week break. Caitlin wasn't too keen on going. She's not quite a morning person just like both her parents most days and is slow in getting ready to get out the door in her uniform and backpack by 8.30am. She got to school at 9.05am today, 20 minutes late.

I've been pretty behind in a number of things lately and suddenly feel overwhelmed with the heaps of stuff still sitting on the backburner. The daily chores need to be done too and I've just got half of them out of the way.

I've four intended posts pending: two for PayPerPost, one about Pa's birthday on 24 Aug and another about Caitlin's first experience in a movie theatre last night with Remy the Rat of Ratatouille.

Other stuff pending are for QuestNet, our trip to Singapore this Thursday, and a personal health 'project'.....

Thursday, August 23, 2007


I've just placed a quote by Shakespeare here on my homepage. I find it very true. In my almost 40 years as a social creature, I've made many friends and through the ups and downs and thick and thin, it's been a journey of discovery -- learning about people and how we relate to each other, finding out new things about old friends, going through changes from good to bad, bad to good, etc.

Shakespeare defined it very clearly for me.

And speaking of this, I've just joined Facebook and can now interact with my friends in a whole new 'environment'!

School break

I've been busy this week with Caitlin at home for the one-week term break. That's why I've not been able to stick my butt to the chair to write much here.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

House hunting

I think we may be getting somewhere, finally, in our house hunting efforts. We have been house hunting on and off the past two years, checking various locations in Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya. Some houses we saw were really nice but we felt they were overpriced. Location is the main determinant of house prices in the Klang Valley, regardless of the condition of the house in most cases.

Just when I thought we were heading nowhere in our hunt for our 'dream' home, I chanced upon a print ad a few days ago for a new development not too far from where we are currently living. The price plus specs for the house seemed good value so I decided to visit the show house and came home pretty impressed and tempted.

Eugene came with me today to check it out again and he seemed to like it too, so it sure looks like we're about to take the plunge. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that we've not overlooked anything negative about that place.

Committing to a new house is a giant step, financially and emotionally. Since we are not millionaires (yet?!), forking out tens of thousands for initial payments and subsequently being 'chained' to the bank probably for the rest of our lives is deathly daunting. And after being in our comfortable niche in our current location for the past eight years, I think it would take some emotional adjustment (for me at least) having to grope my way around again in search of amenities. But I guess once I've grown used to the new place, it would be alright.

And the thought of having lots more space (provided my dear husband and daughter don't continue with their hoarding habit :)....), plus a carpark and small patch of grass at my doorstep, and a larger kitchen is consolation enough.

As you can tell, I'm a worrier and think too much ahead sometimes! Please pray with us that the house we have set our eyes on is the right one for us.

And in case you're wondering if this picture is the house we are eyeing, it is actually Caitlin's dream home. She helped me pick this picture for this post. She said she likes this house because it has a swimming pool!

"Talking in Chinese"

While Caitlin is progressing quite well in her Mandarin lessons, I have to be reminded that she is only learning to recognise Chinese characters and read them. She has yet to learn to actually speak the language, although she has mastered a few phrases like 'ni khan' (you see), 'chi si ni' (angry with you), 'ta pien' (defecate) and 'siau pien' (urinate)!! Don't ask me how that happened because I don't remember!

She is now reading simple Mandarin books but has not perfected her intonation. She sounds like a 'mat salleh' (malay term for Caucasian), although I have seen and heard many 'mat sallehs' speaking perfect Mandarin (Uncle George, you put us to shame-lah!).

Here's yet another spontaneous video of Caitlin, this time speaking her own version of 'alien' Mandarin. I thought she was mumbling some gibberish at first....

Friday, August 10, 2007

Zoo Negara Kuala Lumpur

After writing the post about the fabulous website of the Singapore Zoo this morning, I thought it could be interesting to also check out the website of my own country's national zoo in Malaysia. I wasn't expecting much at all to tell you the truth but what's worse is that the website wasn't as easy to find.

When I Googled "Zoo Negara Kuala Lumpur", the first 10 results were links to pages from various sites providing info about the zoo, including one by the Ministry of Tourism. All these links failed miserably to provide info satisfactorily.

I tried again with "Zoo Malaysia" and this time, the link was the fifth in the list. Browsing through a few pages of the site, I concluded that it pales in comparison to the neighbouring country's.

It was only when I typed "Zoo Negara Malaysia" that the link was top on the Google results list. Now tell me, if I were a first timer to Malaysia, I would probably have no inkling as to the accurate name of Malaysia's zoo in order to find it among the top 10 results in Google. I would probably have viewed only some of the sites which made reference to the zoo and not the zoo's actual website.

It's Visit Malaysia Year 2007. The three-month long Malaysian Mega Sale is in full swing and I do see lots of foreigners traipsing about in our major malls in the capital city. They look satisfied with the bargains at the renowned designer shops in KLCC and the likes. I wonder if they would feel the same at Zoo Negara....

Speechless even before the visit

I'm currently checking out the Singapore Zoo's Night Safari website and having gone into the essential pages of what's being offered at the night safari, how to get there, the various attractions, the amenities....I'm speechless, so speechless that I'm writing about it immediately here.

The website is so well designed, easy to navigate and comprehensive in information. And the services provided: they even have shuttle services at an affordable S$4 taking off at convenient times at several hotel pick-up points on Orchard Road (we'll probably hop on one since it's so wonderfully convenient). You can purchase your tickets online, they have an online shop for memorabilia, nice restaurants for you to dine in, the list goes on.

I would expect the other websites of the Singapore Zoo and Bird Park would be equally good and informative.

What we actually mean

I know you will agree with me that sometimes, what people say and what they actually mean are two different things. We all have definitely experienced it. Most times, in situations like this, I let it 'go in one ear and out the other'. But at other times, when it is important or better to actually say what they mean, even if it may not be something they think I like to hear, I would prefer they speak their mind. Why waste each other's time beating around the bush, giving excuses, playing guessing games, or keeping silent?

Is it a culture thing especially among Asians or is it a human nature thing? I know I've been guilty of this myself. Here are some examples of my experiences, some which I have been guilty of, from my corporate days and also encounters with acquaintances and friends.

What is said - what is meant

I will get back to you on this/Let me think about it - I will take my time, I'm not interested, Don't ask me again

I don't have the time/I'm too busy - No, I don't want to listen/attend/meet you

Let's have lunch one day - You're not important enough for me to commit a date

Silence/Changing the subject/Pretending not to have heard - I'm not interested/I don't want to talk about it/I don't believe you

I'll let you know if and when I.... - I actually won't bother to....

Please email it to me first - I'll read the email when I feel like it

Anything is fine with me - I don't want to decide but I actually have a preference (isn't this frustrating because when you take it upon yourself to decide, the decision is met with negative comments, complaints, and worse still if it's done behind your back?)

It has happened so often that we simply do not hold people by their word anymore as it is tiring and disappointing at times. And when we do not say what we actually mean, is it really because we don't want to hurt the other person's feelings by denying them their request or responding negatively? Or is it that we self-centered beings simply want to look good and appear pleasant? I believe we can still appear pleasant by saying unpleasant things tactfully and courteously. I would respect that person more for saying what he means and helping me understand why he thinks that way.

Situations like these, I have discovered, have allowed me to learn the degree of open communication, trust, and closeness I have, or that the person has set, in my relationship with him or her. It's good because then I know who I can talk to openly and put my trust in.

Talking about this brings to mind an old song which puzzles me. Would you reciprocate this guy's love when he can't even utter the three simple words? Maybe I'm looking to deep into it-lah, instead of just letting it be a nice lovey dovey song! :D

Words Don't Come Easy
by F.R. David

Words, don't come easy, to me,
how can I find a way,
to make you see,
I love you
words don't come easy

Words, don't come easy, to me,
this is the only way,
for me to say
I love you
words don't come easy

Well I'm just a music man,
melody's so far my best friend
but my words are calling out longer
I reveal my heart to you and
hope that you'll believe it's true, 'cause

Words, don't come easy to me,
how can I find a way,
to make you see,
I love you
words don't come easy

This is just a simple song,
that I've made for you on my own,
there's no hidden needing, you know that I
when I say I love you honey,
please believe I really do, 'cause

Words, don't come easy to me,
how can I find a way,
to make you see,
I love you
words don't come easy

It isn't easy,
words don't come easy....

Words, don't come easy, to me,
how can I find a way,
to make you see,
I love you
words don't come easy

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Is the haze back?

The weather seems to be changing. This week, it's been hot and dry compared to last week when we still experienced intermittent rain in the afternoons or evenings. This morning when I awoke, it looked quite hazy outside my window as shown in this picture. I hope this is not the beginning of another hazy spell.

The wonders of technology!

This is one of the few rare moments where I wax lyrical about technology. I have never been (and doubt I will ever be) a gadget freak or tech geek. To me, as long as the gadget meets my needs, it will suffice and I will only start learning how to use a function when I need it. Instruction manuals are a waste of time and paper on me.

Since getting my Nokia N73, I've used it to make and receive calls, SMS and take pictures. And when I had to move the pictures to my computer, I didn't even bother to read the manual in detail. That's why I think technology is so great that even for a person like me who wings it most of the time, I still achieve to get it working, and that was even without installing the software from the CD rom provided! Luckily, my printer (another invention that has advanced so much -- from just being a printer long ago, to now a fax, a scanner, a copier, that is "photosmart" as it is called) allows me to connect my phone directly to it, or insert a camera's memory card to save photos in my PC.

Over the weekend, I explored the video function of my phone and recorded an impromptu act by none other than our family entertainer Caitlin. In order to save it in my PC, I had no choice but to install the software from the CD rom (see what I mean, now I will do it because I need it). Of course, I didn't bother to read the manual. I simply inserted the CD into my CPU and voila, it's so user-friendly!

So now my phone, PC and printer can 'talk' to each other. There are so many other functions in my phone I've yet to use since it is yet another wonder of technology. But you know me now, I'll cross the bridge when I need to!

Check out this video of my 'feng tau' (headbanging) kid, courtesy of Nokia N73 and Acer.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Auto insurance quotes made easy

Car insurance is a must if you own a car. Over here in Malaysia, you would need to check with each insurance company individually if you wish to compare rates to get the best deal. That would involve many phone calls or if you prefer the Internet, you could check out the rates in each of their websites.

Advantage Auto Quotes is a website which offers American vehicle owners one-stop convenience in their search for better insurance rates. All they need to do is simply fill in an online form specifying their coverage needs and they will be provided competitive quotes from various insurers.

Browsing through this site, I find it quite interesting that in the United States, insurers get pretty detailed in offering different types of coverage such as for sports cars, trucks, SUVs, classic cars etc., and for individuals, families, business and even those with poor driving record!

Post sponsored by Advantage Auto Quotes

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Planning a holiday is hard work (part 2)

Sigh....I've spent a lot of hours the past few days on the net scouring for deals, packages, researching on locations, accommodation, activities etc for two possible destinations: Hong Kong (Disneyland included of course!) and Singapore.

Since our plans for a holiday during the national day weekend was kind of last-minute, we missed out on some good package deals for Hong Kong. And even if I were to plan the trip myself, it wouldn't be possible as most flights on MAS, Cathay Pacific etc are fully booked. One way would be to travel via Macau on Air Asia but the thought of the transfer from the Macau airport to the ferry terminals to get across to Hong Kong island or Lantau island (where Disney is located), plus the odd and possibly delayed hours of the lowcost carrier just got me tired.

So now we're looking at Singapore. The last time I visited was nine years ago so it's about time I guess. And Caitlin has yet to experience the famed Singapore Zoo and its night safari. Hotels in Singapore seem pretty full too with the current "Uniquely Singapore Weekends" promo going on.

Keeping my fingers crossed that we can find decent accommodation at a decent price considering that four adults and one kid will be spending 3-4 nights there.

Points redemption from our credit cards, I discovered, comes with some catch. While it was not stated in print (not even fine print!), their free stays are mostly reserved for non-weekends (I should have guessed). With this limitation, we could hotel hop to save a few nights' cost but preferably not.

Blog advertising

Having signed up with one blog advertising site to explore how to make money through my blogs, I've come across another site today. This one, called Blogsvertise, makes the process of registering your blog and becoming a member very easy. All you need to do is register yourself for free, have a PayPal account, and they will email you the opportunities with the necessary requirements.

Taking an excerpt from the Blogsvertise homepage, this is how it works:

"We assign tasks to registered members with the internet website address and what to talk about on their blog. The topics/tasks will be simply emailed to you once your account registration is approved.

You write up an entry in your blog about the internet advertiser however you want! You can review the site, compliment it, relate to it somehow in your daily life, or even complain about it, and link to the website at least 3 times in your blog/journal entry.

In exchange Blogsvertise pays YOU in PayPal per blog entry, for writing about the advertisers web site. Payouts are automatically sent to you after your entry is approved and the payout period has passed."

I've just signed up with Blogsvertise and I do hope they will email me with interesting stuff to blog about!