Monday, March 31, 2008

Rare coins

In our younger days, my grandfather introduced us to coin collecting. I remember my younger brother was especially keen on that hobby. He had foreign coins and even some limited edition ones.

Rare coins are very valuable and if you are into numismatics, there is a coin dealer, Monaco Rare Coin, that offers a host of services. This company belongs to the Monex group of companies, a leading precious metals investment organisation with over 40 years' experience. It deals with gold, silver and platinum bullion and bullion coins, among other precious metals as well.

Monaco provides support for pricing, buying and selling rare coins and precious metals products in the wholesale, collector, international markets and auctions. It also helps those who wish to get started in numismatics by offering information, advice, news, pictures and write-ups of various coins.

This post is sponsored.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Chef Caitlin

In school last Friday, Caitlin's teacher taught them how to bake some simple cookies. She came home with three cookies which she had made and decorated herself. She said we could each have one but right after I picked her up in the car, all three ended up in her own tummy! I didn't even get the opportunity to take a picture of her cookies.

She said she had told her teacher and classmates that we had made a chocolate biscuit cake before and requested that we make some to share with them. So that's what we did today. See here for our no-bake, flourless, eggless and sugarless recipe.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Something to think about?



This is one article that makes me go "hmmm....". It's sometimes confusing to find the balance between trusting modern drugs and traditional or natural cures.


Have You Seen Those Misleading Lipitor Ads?
by Jonny Bowden, PhD, CNS

I'm sure you've seen the ads. Dr. Robert Jarvik, best known for the artificial heart he pioneered more than 25 years ago, is rowing a one-man racing shell across a mountain lake, looking like the picture of health. "When diet and exercise aren't enough", Dr. Jarvik says solemnly, "adding Lipitor significantly lowers cholesterol".

The implication is clear. This stuff's got to be good. Here's one of the big guns in the area of heart medicine - he invented the artificial heart for goodness sake - endorsing it. He uses it himself and he's rowing away like an athlete half his age. It's got to be good, right?

Shades of those old late night infomercials for hair replacement - "I would not lie to you! I'm the president of the company!"

Well, it turns out that Jarvik doesn't actually row. And he isn't actually a cardiologist and currently isn't even licensed to practice medicine. "He's about as much an outdoorsman as Woody Allen" said his longtime collaborator, Dr. O. H. Frazier of the Texas Heart Institute.

OK, so they used a stunt double to sell the pill. Is that so bad?

Not by itself. But taken together with some other troubling information that was revealed recently, it might cause us to take a new look at the whole mania for lowering cholesterol.

Most people only care about lowering their cholesterol for one reason: they believe that doing so is going to make them live longer and reduce the risk for a heart attack. Otherwise why bother, right? So the recent trials on Vytorin - a new cholesterol medication - have something interesting to tell us.

Vytorin (which became famous for commercials which showed people who look similar to foods like banana cream pie and tacos) actually combines two drugs: Zocor, a top-selling statin (cholesterol lowering med) and Zetia, a drug that limits cholesterol's absorption. The hope was that the combo med would be a blockbuster because it lowers cholesterol even more than either medication taken alone.

And it does.

Problem is, that's all it does. The recent study that got headline attention showed that the new drug didn't do a darn thing to slow the growth of arterial plaque. The decline in cholesterol level didn't translate into any appreciable benefit if by benefit you mean living longer or avoiding heart disease.

Which might make you wonder.

Maybe, just maybe, we've been concentrating on the wrong thing. Maybe lowering cholesterol isn't the be-all and end-all of a heart healthy lifestyle.

Remember, fully half of people with heart attacks have normal cholesterol. And half of the people with "elevated" cholesterol have perfectly fine tickers.

Emperor's new clothes, anyone?

Trying to lower death rates and heart disease just by lowering cholesterol is like trying to reduce auto fatalities just by making stronger air bags. The air bag industry likes it; but it doesn't touch the major risk factors for highway deaths, like drunk driving.

For a long time I've been part of the "International Network of Cholesterol Skeptics" who believe our collective emphasis on this one measurement is wrong-headed and not even based in good science. I've seen people with absolutely not a heart disease risk factor in sight be given Lipitor or Zocor because their total cholesterol was a measly 210. That is utterly ridiculous.

And by the way, there is not a shred, and I mean not a shred, of evidence that lowering LDL cholesterol does a thing for women. The only population it seems to help is middle aged men who have already had a heart attack.

We would be so much better off looking at blood measures like triglycerides, homocysteine, CRP (a measure of inflammation) and the ratio of triglycerides to HDL cholesterol, a ratio which, in a published article in the journal Circulation, was found to predict heart disease 16 times better than cholesterol. To find your ratio take your triglycerides and divide by your HDL cholesterol. For example if you've got triglycerides of 100 and HDL cholesterol of 50, your ratio is 2, which is a vanishingly low level of risk. Five, on the other hand is high risk. You can lower your ratio simply by bringing down your triglycerides, something relatively easy to do with a lower carb, no-sugar diet!

And while I'm ranting, let me say one more thing about statin drugs, which, by the way, are inching close to being a 20 billion dollar a year industry, and that's just for the two top selling cholesterol-lowering drugs.

Statin drugs probably do some good but not because they lower cholesterol.

Statin drugs lower inflammation, and that is something we should be concerned about. But saying they prevent heart attacks by lowering cholesterol is like saying aspirin prevents clotting because it gets rid of headaches.

And by the way, in case you're interested, cholesterol is the parent molecule for your sex hormones, not to mention for vitamin D. And there are multiple dangers to lowering it too much, despite what the drug manufacturers would like you to believe.

Let's start looking at the other risk factors for heart disease, like smoking, not exercising, not eating fish or fish oil, being overweight and stress. Remember, in the Nurses Health Study they got an 83% reduction in risk for heart disease just by following five simple lifestyle modifications: a healthy diet (with fish), a healthy weight, no smoking, moderate alcohol and daily exercise.

Eighty three percent!

There's not a drug on earth that can give you those results.

And by the way, Pfizer has pulled those ads with Dr. Jarvik.


About the author
Dr. Jonny Bowden (www.jonnybowden.com) is a board certified nutritionist, and nationally known speaker who has appeared on Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, ABC, NBC and CBS as a nutrition expert. His latest book is "The Most Effective Natural Cures on Earth"((http://www.amazon.com/Most-Effective-Na...). For more information, free audio courses and newsletter please visit (www.jonnybowden.com) .

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Watch what you eat



Late last year, I was stricken with a chronic allergy which gave me urticaria all over my body. I felt extremely itchy, uncomfortable and lousy on the whole. It plagued me for over two months and drove me nuts. In that two months, numerous visits to several doctors managed to only relieve the rashes and hives for a couple of days via antihistamines and steroid jabs (not something I liked but did not have much choice then). There are no cures for allergies. All my life, I've only known that I'm allergic to certain soaps, especially dishwashing liquids.

A review and elimination process of what I ate and used yielded non-conclusive results to what caused the allergy. Different doctors had differing opinions about conducting a patch test so I decided not to do it.

It was most likely some type of chemical or preservative in certain foods. Prior to the allergy attack, I was already aware of 'alternative' health foods and treatments and had in fact become more careful with what I ate and fed my family.

While still suffering from the chronic urticaria, I was caught in a situation where I ate a hotdog topped with bacon bits. Since my 'awareness', I viewed the hotdog with suspicion. Firstly, processed food was not on the top of my list of healthy food. Secondly, the bacon bits looked very artificial with some unnatural red colouring. Two hours later, the hives flared up with a vengeance.

Visit a supermarket and you can find rows and rows of all sorts of prepared food, sauces, mixes, canned, frozen, chilled, dried and the list goes on. What percentage of these are chemical free? Check their content labels and you'd know. But the attractive packaging, convenience of using these type of readymade foods and guaranteed 'good' taste of the food get the better of us most times.

Regularly, I search for information on why it's better to eat natural foods versus processed foods, fresh and organic ones versus chemically-treated ones. Even when buying organic food, one has to be careful. A shopkeeper at an organic outlet told me it's better to buy organic food directly from the producers rather than from middlemen. Middlemen sometimes position themselves as organic food suppliers or producers but the actual source of their food could be questionable. So again, check the labels.



This video reaffirms why my urticaria flared up after the hotdog.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Pokemon


Caitlin was introduced to Pokemon some weeks back when she happened to watch the cartoons at her cousins' place. She had been pestering for similar Pokemon videos and we gave in last Sunday with the purchase of a DVD.

Now I have to study what Pokemon is all about. I knew of its existence a long time ago but never bothered to learn more about it as I've never been a fan of Japanese cartoons in general.

There's adventure, fighting, some level of violence. Whether it is healthy in terms of moral and values, I've yet to determine, although millions of kids and even adults are into it via trading cards, video games, anime, manga, VCDs, DVDs, etc.

Wikipedia, as usual, gives quite a good general overview of it.

Sigh, I sometimes wish there aren't that many things in the kid entertainment world. I already have my plate full with just ensuring the basic needs are taken care of properly.

Friday, March 21, 2008

I'm the boss?

Me: Caitlin, you need to turn off the TV when it's time to leave for your Mandarin lesson.

Caitlin: (in a sing-song way) Yes, boss...

Well, at least once in a blue moon, she knows who the boss is!

Formula 1 weekend...again.

This Easter weekend is also Formula One weekend. Again, I will be a F1 race widow... All the menfolk in my family (Eugene, dad-in-law, bro-in-law, dad and younger bro) will be at the Sepang race circuit for their annual ritual of making themselves deaf.

This year marks the tenth year of F1 in Malaysia. I went to the inaugural race back in 1998. The decibels, despite ear plugs, plus the heat (that time we sat on the grass) were enough to tell me once is enough. The past few years, Eugene got covered hill stand and grandstand seats but I'd pass too because of the noise. Plus, my cool, handsome Finnish driver Mika Hakinnen has stopped racing for some years already. Yup, when it comes to some sports, I'm the typical female who watches for the hunks in addition to the actual sporting excitement. Blame it on the hormones I guess!

All quiet

I've slowed down in blogging these two weeks. Just been too busy with other stuff. My brains have not been excited or stimulated by any ideas too so I've nothing much to ramble about here! I guess life is pretty boring at the moment.

Update on our coin 'collection': I spent over one hour sorting and counting the coins and they amounted to RM248.96! That's a lot when you're talking about coins. I lugged them, weighing at least five kilos, to the bank and 'shocked' the teller when my number was called. Of course, they couldn't count the coins immediately so it was only in the afternoon that they confirmed the amount and deposited the coins. I decided to keep the money in Caitlin's savings as I currently don't feel very generous, in terms of cash, to charities....

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Every cent counts!

What do you do with loose change? I try to get rid of them as much as I can when I go shopping, especially at wet markets, supermarkets or hawker stalls. The smallest denomination for coins in Malaysia is one sen (one cent). Come 1 April, the Malaysian government's decision to do away with one sen coins will take effect. The total that you have to pay will be rounded up or down to the nearest five sen. An example is shown here (pic from The Star).

















Now back to what we do with loose change; more specifically what my husband and daughter do with theirs.

















No, they are not savers actually. Mr Pack Rat simply avoids the hassle of carrying one sen coins and conveniently 'collects' them in a container, while Miss Fun-loving Girl simply enjoys the act of dropping coins into a slot in a few fancy piggy banks.

And moi, the saver and Mdm Pick-up-after-others is now burdened with the task of sorting out the one sen coins, counting them and taking them to the bank to be deposited into Caitlin's savings before 1 April. I can't bear to see the coins becoming obsolete. An alternative would be to take them to a fast food chain which normally collects change to be donated to charity. This way, I don't have to count the coins and they go to a good cause.

What a racket!

The strip of green between my balcony and the golf course it faces is now a 'hell hole'. It's dusty and noisy and pollutes the already-tainted air. The land was cleared some months back to make way for an access road leading to a new condominium development neighbouring mine. Yesterday, they started piling work.



This is the view from my balcony now.




















I keep the sliding doors to my balcony closed and only open them at night. Other windows facing that direction are also closed or just slightly open. Caitlin asked about the 'loud sound' yesterday when she returned from school and wondered if it was a lion dance going on. I told her what it was. This morning, when the piling started, she joked that there was a lion dance again.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Do you believe in drugs only for better health?



My family and I have been using a device which emits scalar energy for health purposes for the past year and a half. When I first learnt about it, I was pretty skeptical that such a device could benefit health in such amazing ways as some people claimed. Eugene had bought it from a convention he attended. Although I am not a professional when it comes to health, medicine or scientific matters, my initial reaction based on my educational background in science (biology/microbiology), was of doubt. Nevertheless, we continued to use the device (since we had already bought it) and I started getting curious and interested in the product. I attended some talks and demonstrations and heard testimonies from people who had benefited from using it.

As a result, I began to understand a bit more about scalar energy and how the device helps improve health conditions for some people. The product does NOT claim to be a miracle device that CURES everyone of any particular illness. What it does is help one's body become healthier naturally on its own at a cellular level. Since our body's most basic units are cells, it makes sense to have healthy cells, which lead to healthy organs and overall stronger systems within the body to counter infections, toxicity, or any imbalance.

Scalar energy, even in current times, is regarded as pseudo-science. One of its well-known proponents, Jon Barron, wrote in his report :

"Every nerve impulse in your body is an electric current. Every cell in your body is a mini-battery pumping out 70-90 millivolts - when healthy. Our muscles are powered by chemical energy....Digestion is nothing more than a slow form of burning that produces energy for your body to live on. In fact, death itself is defined as the absence of electrical activity in the brain....Optimize that energy and you optimize your health.

Energy is neither good nor bad; it just is. The same electricity that is used by a chiropractor or a physical therapist to stimulate your muscles and promote healing with a TENS machine is the same electricity that is used in prisons to execute people in electric chairs. So, is electricity good or bad? The answer is neither. It's just a question of what frequency and amplitude you use and how you use it. Charge your body with the right frequencies and you prevent disease. The same laser light that is used to shoot down enemy missiles or as a death ray in a movie is also used by your eye-doctor to improve our vision via Lasik surgery or by your plastic surgeon to remove facial hair and wrinkles. Again, the difference is merely one of frequency and amplitude.

The proper use of energy in the healing arts has a long and significant history. From the TENS machines and laser surgery that we've already mentioned to the use of sound waves to break up kidney stones, or X-rays and magnetic fields to see into the body to the use of light to clean the blood. Some forms of energy are more effective than others.....scalar energy is merely another application of healing energy."

After five months of using the scalar energy device, we started noticing a difference, especially in Caitlin's health. Caitlin used to have low immunity to common infections and was frequently getting sick (at least once a month). She has allergic rhinitis (hay fever)and mild asthma, and always took ages to recover. (Of course, by the time she recovered, it was time for another infection!). Following the use of scalar energy in various ways, the frequency and severity of her illnesses were significantly reduced. She seldom gets hay fever attacks with continuous sneezing and itchy, runny nose and eyes. She also sleeps better at night, minus the frequent active tossing, kicking and turning she used to torture us with. We are not saying that it exclusively improved Caitlin's condition but based on what we have learnt about it, we believe that scalar energy has helped.

I have also heard of and met personally people with diabetes, high cholesterol, osteoarthritis, sinusitis, eczema and other problems having reduced their symptoms and intake of medication (upon consultation with their medical practitioner) with help from this scalar energy device. A few actually have been considered cured and declared illness-free by their own doctors who have followed their medical history for years. It sure sounds too goo to be true right?

Many people, friends and family, I've shared information with about this device, usually react with disbelief saying that such a thing sounds too good to be true. Some have been nice and polite in declining to want to know more, some simply smile silently and avoid further discussion. Others tell me they think it's a sham, a scam, a placebo effect while there are those who only speak their minds behind my back. It's only human nature I guess, to fear or doubt anything unfamiliar, unproven, uncommon.

There are those who remain doubtful and skeptical (or worse still arrogant and self-righteous), and yet not bother to want to find out more (simply for the sake of curiosity or desire for general knowledge). And there are those who are open enough to delve deeper as they know they have nothing to lose and more to gain. And some also delve deeper exclusively via the Internet and get information overload, and confused between fact and fiction!

Once, I thought that every illness can be treated, relieved or even cured with the use of modern drugs and medicine only (hey, Alexander Fleming and his discovery was indeed monumental right?). I subscribed to taking traditional Chinese herbs simply out of nonchalant acceptance of old folks' advice and belief. I had also not given much thought about the Chinese art of health using 'qi gong' or any other alternative medicine ideas/practices. My mindset is now slowly shifting to subscribing to both modern and alternative medicine (as long they are not conflicting personal religious faith or having to eat stuff like tiger's penis!).

I also learnt of a medical specialist who subscribes to 'alternative healing' methods. He contributes regularly to the health section of a leading local daily. Incidentally, he wrote about scalar energy in his column in today's article.

In case you are wondering, the scalar energy device that I use is not the quantum pendant but similar to the vivifier disc he mentioned.

Of course, nothing beats prevention in the first place. If you are pre-diabetes, for instance, downing that large (and free refill-able!) Coke with your unhealthy burger and fries will surely lead you down diabetes lane sooner or later! (not to mention other diabetes-related problems like heart disease, kidney failure, blindness, hypertension....)

To our health!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Piano



My piano is 29 years old. It is actually my second piano. When I first started learning the piano at age seven, my dad got me a used one. I guess he wanted to make sure I was serious about the instrument before he spent more for a brand new one.

This faithful Kawai has been with me since I was 11 years old. I think it was a reward for scoring straight A's in the then Standard Five primary school assessment exam. Now that I look back, I wonder why I didn't give it a name other than 'piano'.

Piano was my companion in my teenage years when I was really into pop music (those yesteryears of the 80's of Grease, Saturday Night Fever, Footloose, American Top 40 with Casey Kasem...sigh...). I would play all the pop songs I could get my hands on of the scores or play them by ear. Sometimes, my good friend, neighbour and classmate Elaine would come over and we'd belt out the songs together with Piano, much to my next door neighbour's annoyance! But we didn't care as long as we had a good time. Actually, I think our voices were pretty good!

Later, I went to Penang for university, I missed Piano. When I discovered that one of the lecture halls housed a grand piano, I brought some of my music pieces to Penang and sneaked into the lecture hall when it was vacant during my free time to satisfy my nostalgia. When I lived off-campus, the owner of the room I rented had a piano in the house. I also played their piano secretly when they were out.

Piano got a bit neglected during my four years in Penang and when I started working life in KL. It remained in my parents' home until the day I moved into my own apartment nine years ago. I played it a little more but soon other interests crept in, taking away whatever little quality time Piano and I had.

Now, for the past one year, Piano has received a new owner in the form of my soon-to-be six-year-old Caitlin. She plays Piano more often than me. Because of that, Piano has received renewed tender loving care. Due to age, Piano has received two tunings in six-month intervals. I foresee another tuning in the next six months when we move it to our new home.

I should keep Piano for as long as possible. Good ones are very expensive nowadays, and I'm not even talking about the new-tech types which run on electricity like the digital pianos or clavinovas. Maybe I'm from the old school of pianists but I still prefer the original, 'normal' pianos to the digital ones. The upright piano is what most middle-class families have but it would truly be a pleasure to own a baby grand, if not a concert grand!

Yummy egg tarts

I love egg tarts. In Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur especially, nothing beats the famous and established Tong Kee egg tarts. Their main outlet is located in Petaling Street (Chinatown) but in recent years, they've set up branch outlets. Their melt-in-your-mouth tarts of smooth egg custard in flaky pastry became more accessible to me when they were sold in the Jusco supermarket (non-halal) section in Mid Valley mall and also in the Sri Petaling shoplots area near where I live. The pastry is extra tasty because they use lard to make it.

Since Pavilion (one of KL's latest upmarket malls in the heart of the city) opened, another egg tart player, John King, has emerged. John King is said to originate from Hong Kong, established since 1965 according to its logo. Located in the Food Republic foodcourt, it offers a few varieties - the normal egg tart, egg white tart (for the health conscious I guess), and durian tart. It also sells other pastries like chicken pie, "siew pao" and "lou phor peng". I've tasted their normal egg tart and it's really good. They get sold out pretty fast so if you want to get some, especially on weekends, you need to go early.


John King's egg tart










Then there's the Portuguese egg tart; what Macau is famous for. I normally get my Portuguese egg tart fix from King's Confectionary since I don't know any better ones...


King's Portuguese egg tart









I think when and if ever I do get an oven for my kitchen, the egg tart would be among the first of yummies I'd try to make!

Meanwhile, I'm happy now for the convenience of getting my supply from Tong Kee and King's, both of which are located in Sri Petaling, and if I happen to be in Pavilion, I might just try my luck with John King again to check out their egg white and durian version.

Speaking of durian tarts, there's another place famous for it. It's Sri Karak Restaurant in PJ New Town. They sell lots of durian-based food like the tarts, cake, ice cream and what they call the durian 'bomb', a durian-filled pastry which looks very much like the yam-filled Chinese dim sum called "woo kok".

Disclosure policy

It is important to have a disclosure policy if you are writing posts or allowing advertisements, sponsorships and the like in your blog to earn some money. While what I write in my posts will always be my own opinions and not be influenced by the compensation I may receive from the sponsor/advertiser, it is still good to let readers know which posts are sponsored. The following is my disclosure policy, as required by PayPerPost.

This policy is valid from 13 March 2008.

This blog is a personal blog written and edited by me. For questions about this blog, please contact anna.tham@gmail.com.


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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

How far would you go for love?

For Christians, nothing surpasses the greatest love of all, the love of God, "For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life."

Shakespeare immortalised 'undying' love with Romeo and Juliet. Hollywood glamourised it at the 86th floor of New York's Empire State Building where Cary Grant waited (in vain) for Deborah Kerr in an "Affair to Remember", and later with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in "Sleepless in Seattle." Of course Bollywood has its share with song and dance amidst coconut trees.















(picture from thestar.com.my)

In real life, there are countless such acts of love too. I'm sure you have heard and read stories of normal average Joes (and Janes) climbing the highest mountain and crossing the deepest ocean to profess their eternal love. Or maybe, they are not normal or average...?

There are two I can recall i.e. here, and here. I am reserving my personal comments on such 'feats'. "To each his own".

What would you do? What would you give to profess your love? Would it be money, time, a precious or expensive present, an act of bravery or sacrifice, your life?

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Monday, March 10, 2008

Three spoons and a fork

This is a short story about three spoons and a fork.

Prologue: In a moment where routine rules, how refreshing it is for an unlikely spell of comedy to turn the dull and mundane into something that brings a smile upon your face.

One afternoon (today), Caitlin was getting her own plate, fork and spoon ready for lunch while mum was getting the food to be served. She went to mum with a pink fork in hand and said, "I can't find the pink spoon, mum." So mum said, "How about another colour?" and went on with getting the food ready. Seconds later, a little chat was heard taking place at the cutlery drawer.

"Do you want to be my friend? No, I'm too sleepy. Do you want to be my friend? No, I'm too busy. Do you want to be my friend? No, I'm too grouchy!"

"Caitlin, what are you doing?" mum asked.

"I'm trying to get a spoon for the fork but they all don't want to be his friend," she said.

Holding up a blue spoon, "This one is too sleepy," she said and put the spoon back in the drawer. Likewise, she continued with the yellow one and said "This one is too busy" and for the orange spoon, "This one is too grouchy".



A smile crept upon mum's lips. It NEARLY turned into a laugh. Simultaneously, mum's eyes NEARLY rolled while her brains ALMOST said "Grrr, it's just forks and spoons and quit fooling around!"

Instead, mum said, "Well, how about this red one or this other yellow one?"

"Ok, I'll take the red one!"

Epilogue: Lunch was served. The red spoon and the pink fork danced together, twirling the noodles, scooping the soup and picking up the fishballs for a hungry little girl.

The moral of the story: All you need is imagination to turn even the most insignifcant thing you do into something fun. When it's something that you must or need to do, why not have fun while you're at it?

"While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about" - Angela Schwindt

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Cello music for classical music fans

The violoncello is a beautiful instrument with its soulful voice. My awareness of this instrument started when one of my cousins and my older brother learnt to master it many years ago in their childhood days as an addition to the piano. My brother completed the course but went on to pursue engineering. My cousin, however, pursued the cello as his passion and vocation and started out professionally with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra. Subsequently, with his brother who was also with the orchestra playing the viola, they formed the renowned T'ang Quartet .

I was surfing Youtube yesterday and thought I'd share with you some legendary cello greats here. The videos are of what they have been most famous for.

Pablo Casals



Jacqueline du Pre



Rostropovich



And of course, Yo-Yo Ma, who is widely known these recent times.

Malaysia's 12th General Election

Yesterday, responsible Malaysians exercised their voting rights to elect their government representatives. Politics is a topic I had set out to exclude politics in this blog when I started it but since the election was something that Eugene and I participated it, I consider it a story of ACE. Moreover, this time, the lead-up and results are interesting and somewhat historical enough to warrant a post here.

In the run-up to the polls for the past two weeks, campaigning by the candidates was in full swing with full-house 'ceramahs' (talks), grassroot meet-and-greet sessions, and the usual poster and billboard wars around town and housing areas that stop traffic, create litter, and of course debate, controversy, name calling, mud slinging, etc.

This time around, the opposition parties, although still not receiving fair coverage by government-controlled media as in the past, got a tremendous foothold in certain parts of the country, as proven by the election results last night and today. It is clear that people are asking for change. The Barisan Nasional coalition of parties emerged with a dismal simple majority, with defeats of certain long-standing leaders such as MIC (Malaysian Indian Congress) chief Samy Vellu, Penang Chief Minister Koh Tsu Koon of Gerakan and Women's Affairs Minister Shahrizat Jalil.

It will be certainly very interesting to watch how things work out in the weeks and months ahead. Some sites that give their account and analysis of the Election:

Reuters
Malaysia Votes
Malaysiakini
Malaysia Today
TodayOnline
The New Straits Times
The Star

Friday, March 7, 2008

Twenty years (and more) ago

I have always been interested in the 'science' of things. Maybe it's because of my educational background. Thanks to the Malaysian education system (I shan't say more), I was in the science stream in school and continued to be in that field in university. I had a good time learning the 'biology' of things although at the end, I could not see myself making a profession out of it due to my varied interests.

While waiting for my STPM (high school) results prior to entry to university, I took up a part time job as a dental assistant. While some people may not relish the thought of looking at someone's oral imperfections and the gore that followed, to put it mildly, I somehow quite enjoyed watching the dentist at work, performing almost miraculous feats and transforming a person's smile to something quite perfect and pleasing. After that two-month stint, I even had dreams of taking up dentistry!

My exam results were not good enough for me to qualify dental school plus those days, the Malaysian university 'system' was not 'flexible' for 'certain categories' of students which I happened to fall under (If you are Malaysian and not of majority race, you know what I mean). For me to have qualified, I'd have to have scored straight A's.

I wasn't too disappointed actually since I was still unsure of what I really wanted to do. My dreams ranged from being a dentist, a scientist, to a musician. Career guidance was not readily available in our education system then, unlike now where you have qualified counselors to provide proper assessment of your interests and strengths and point you in a better direction. Options are much more vast now too with the mushrooming of private colleges, twinning programmes, distance learning, part-time courses, and overseas education for those who can afford it.

To cut the story short, I was blessed by the 'system' with a place in Universiti Sains Malaysia (Science University of Malaysia) in the beautiful island of Penang. My four years there were one of the best times of my life where I met great friends and enjoyed close camaraderie. That was almost 20 years ago. I still keep in touch with quite a number of them, besides my primary and secondary school mates, and we've all grown older and wiser and settled down into our own little worlds in various parts of the country and the world.

Twenty years is a long time but it still feels like it was just yesterday. A twinkle of an eye and how much things and life have changed and evolved. If I look further back, past my uni days to my school days, that would be over 30 years of history! I wonder what it'd be like in the next one to two decades when I look back....

This post was triggered by an email exchange with some friends where one of us will be among the first this year to celebrate our 40th year on planet Earth. Happy 40th year to you, Pat, and to all of us 'monkeys' of the Chinese zodiac. And yes, I've yet to dig into my memory bank to help you out with details of our yesteryear games like 'zero point'. Kids nowadays only know games in their computers, Playstations and Nintendos. It's just so sad. We should start introducing five stones, congkak, the 'feather-shuttlecock-kicking game', 'hantu galah', hopscotch, what else?

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Shed session

Drums enthusiasts in the Klang Valley (Kuala Lumpur) can look forward to a shed session (drummers' term for jam session) come Thursday, March 20th (a public holiday). There will be one session in the afternoon and another later in the evening. Admission is free and open to drummers and just about anyone interested in drums and music. This event is organised by DrummerforChrist.

I hope to be able to take Caitlin there to expose her to other drummers, watch and listen to some live drum performances or jam sessions.

Click on their poster below for more details.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Blogging

It's interesting to look at what bloggers write about. Some make blogging a business so they write about anything that they are interested in (or maybe not) as long as they pay. Others write about things that happen in their lives, their feelings, their thoughts, passion and interests in certain niches. Some don't write much but turn it into a photoblog filled with beautiful photographs. Some make theirs a videoblog. Some turn it into a forum or discussion board.

But what's more interesting for me is why bloggers blog. This month marks the first anniversary of this blog. I set up Stories of ACE and posted my first entry on March 20, 2007.

It all started when a few of my friends and I shared a blog to update each other and keep in touch. It was kept within our small circle and slowly fizzled out because only a few of us were actively updating the blog then. The short experience ignited my interest and I decided to create my own blog to record the little things (even the mundane ones) that take place in our lives. This way, I didn't have to repeat my stories to different groups of people. Subsequently, two of my friends from the initial blogging group have started their own blogs too to fulfill their own needs.

Why do you blog? I came across this site with a group of bloggers sharing "one word to describe why you blog". It's fun and interesting to learn in just one word why bloggers from around the world blog.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Moving to a new home



Sometime in the middle of this year, we plan to move into our new home and I can foresee the work involved once we receive the keys from the developer: checking for defects, rectification if any, shopping and installing the necessary fittings, packing, moving and unpacking. We do not plan to do any renovation since the house is brand new and we are pleased with the design. We might just need to paint a few walls to the colours of our choice and definitely Caitlin's room which she has already specified to be pink in colour....

The house should be ready by end of this month so I guess we should start making a checklist of things we need to look into and set the budget. I shall be surfing the Internet once again for checklists and tips. I used to be quite a 'pro' when it came to moving, especially during my campus days, when we had to move our stuff out every semester break. Then in my early working days of renting rooms and apartments, moving was still pretty easy since I had only myself and my own things. It's been nine years since I last moved. And in those nine years, I've accummulated lots of stuff, one husband (and lots more of HIS stuff!) plus one kid (and lots, lots more of HER stuff!!).

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Win some, lose some

We got home from Caitlin's classmate's birthday party a couple of hours ago. While making small talk with the boy's father, I learnt that both he and his wife work and leave their two sons to be cared for by live-in maids. They hired two, one to care for the kids and the other to maintain their 2 1/2-storey home. The father sends the two boys to kindy in the morning but after school, a hired driver fetches them home. The house is installed with CCTV for the mum to monitor the maids and kids while in the office. I could tell that both kids are very much loved and adored and live a good and protected life.

We compared notes about schooling options next year (when our kids start formal primary education), and discovered that we've registered our kids to the same Chinese school. They, like us, are also a non-Mandarin speaking family and are apprehensive (like us too) about the kid's ability to cope in school.

Caitlin has the opportunity to get additional Mandarin reading lessons since I'm around to take her for extra-curricular enrichment activities, including music lessons. She has me at her disposal 24/7 so to speak, while her classmate stays home with his 'kakak' until his parents return home in the evening.

It is a choice all couples have to make once they have kids. If both are working, the dual income translates into higher costs of maintaining home and family via hired help. Less time in a day is spent with kids and the kids are pretty much home-based after school (unless you have trusted hired help or extended family to lend support for outside activities). All is not lost however if a balance is achieved somehow when quality time is spent and extra activities provided for over the weekend and holidays. It's not the quantity but quality.

If one parent chooses to stay home, the much-decreased income translates into less spending on hired help like maids (unless you can still afford the same lifestyle on one income), more opportunities for the kids to have outside activities, more attention from the parent.

For us, we've had to do without the maid and revise our budget. Our apartment always looks dusty and cluttered, especially with Caitlin's toys. On the other hand, I don't need to worry or install a CCTV to ensure my child's safety. I get to spent loads of time with Caitlin (...but how much of it is quality time I sometimes wonder!)

I guess whatever choice you make, you'll win some and lose some.

Just make the best of it!!

(I'm telling myself this actually! I miss not having to watch the clock, buying books by the dozen, travelling and enjoying life's little luxuries...and I wonder when I can stop battling detergent allergy!)