Monday, June 30, 2008

The day is almost done

This is 'part two' of my day thus far (see post below for 'part one'). The repairmen came. The pump that helps drain the water from the washer has given up after ten years. The new part is available and hopefully can be installed tomorrow late afternoon.

After almost two hours of cleaning up the mess (again) and washing and wringing all the clothes by hand, I'm back here nursing built-up gastric juices and raw, itchy fingers. I feel a backache coming and some joints are starting to remind me of my age, and probably my state of general health due to lack of exercise and strict healthy diet.

It's time now to cook dinner. So for the record, this is how I spent the day in the very middle of the year 2008. Tomorrow will be 1st July, the beginning of the second half of the year. May it be much better.

I'm thankful for my patience and perseverance thus far, and am reminded of less fortunate people who don't have washers, dryers, or enough food to feed their babies, so on and so forth.

A bad Monday

It's a day about my allergy, a rat and my washing machine.

The allergy terrorising my fingers flared up last night and I've got very itchy fingers today. Itchy fingers make me irritable.

As I walked out of the lift returning from sending Caitlin to school, the daily cleaner of my apartment block exclaimed and pointed out the scurrying rat around the gate of my unit. She chased it with her broom but it escaped. I'm glad it did not enter my home through the window while I was out. Now all my windows are close. I've complained to the building management guy. He said the pest control guys came just last week so he said he'll call them again.

We've been facing pest problems lately. There are more mosquitoes due to a construction project in front of my balcony. The green lung which was probably home to the mosquitoes is now a dusty, machinery-filled construction plot. So I guess the mosquitoes have flown up to find refuge (and food!) in our homes. We have donated quite some blood to these creatures of late. Some workers are also living in makeshift cabins in the construction plot. I guess that also contributes to the rats being around. This is the first time I'm facing pest problems since living here for 10 years.

I washed today's laundry almost three times today and it's still not done. My 10-year-old washer has decided to rebel. I wasn't aware it didn't drain and spin. It ended the cycle so I happily opened the door and the water gushed out. Wipe, mop, clean.... I was hoping it was just cranky so I tried a second time. While I was out fetching Caitlin, it ended the cycle so I couldn't tell if it drained and spinned. Because it was a full load, it wasn't noticeable whether water was still inside. Opened the door and again, flood waters, wipe, mop, clean. Opened the drain filter to see if it was clogged -- just some lint/fiber. Cleaned it, checked the outlet hose, started the machine one more time. Monitored the outlet hose, no water coming out. Turned the machine off. Called a repairman to troubleshoot. Hope he'll come in half hour's time as he said he would. My laundry is still sitting in the machine. I will open it only when the guy comes.

After all the wiping, mopping, cleaning, my fingers are anything but better. In between the wiping, mopping, cleaning and troubleshooting, the phone rang, Caitlin refused to help me answer it because the TV was more important. And her lunch was getting cold because TV made her forget to eat....and she is still watching now after I managed to stuff into her whatever was left of her lunch.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

A story

The water supply to the village was found to be contaminated. It had been so for the past 10 years but was only discovered recently. A young resident villager shared the information with his older neighbours and suggested that they take precautions to ensure their safety. They were now aware of the situation.

Some took the information positively and thanked the him for sharing his concern. Some others slammed him, saying that it was not his place to open his big mouth. The young villager's conscience was clear as he felt he had not done anything wrong. He was however disappointed that his longtime neighbours reacted unreasonably towards his open sharing of information and personal opinion. Their emotions got the better of their objectivity, unfortunately.

People are wired differently and each has his own idiosyncrasies. Nature, nurture, culture, phobias, past experiences all contribute to how a man thinks, feels, acts and behaves. So be it. What is white could be black to one, grey to another or even purple to someone else. But telling the truth is important, even if it hurts.

"The truth will set you free. But first, it will piss you off" -- Gloria Steinem, feminist, journalist, women's rights advocate.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Only a mother

Only a mother would...

stay up all night watching her feverish child
eat her child's unfinished food and not think it's gross
ignore the numbness in her thigh when her child uses it as a pillow
wipe up vomit lovingly from the floor
sacrifice her favourite part of the chicken for her child
cuddle her teething child closer when he suckles and bites
carry her tired child despite her bad back
skip lunch to save and buy her child a much-desired book
accept her child with open arms after he made a mistake that hurt
drive through hail to deliver a forgotten jacket to the classroom
give her life to her child

Only a mother would. More precisely, only a mother at heart would.

Love song

While helping a dear friend search for songs for her forthcoming wedding, I came across Ol' Blue Eyes and his Too Marvelous For Words. It's a happy, lively love song!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Chinamen and their trophy wives

I may be generalising here. I don't understand some Chinese men, especially those chinaman-type of businessmen who think their wives are their 'trophy wives'. They don't allow their wives to do anything except paint their nails, flaunt their jewellery, wear designer stuff, have dim sum and go shopping, play mahjong with other similar wives. Or stay at home with the kids and be a 'good wife and mother'.

Good for those bimbos who enjoy doing that and spending their husbands money (although I sometimes wish I could be a 'tai tai' like that!). But I pity the intelligent, educated ones who want to do their own thing, earn their own money, and be independent.

These men think that if they let their wife out, especially to work, it reflects badly on them, that they lose face/respect and others will think him incapable of providing for her and the family. Some don't even allow them to do any part-time work or pursue their interests at all.

I'm not a hardcore feminist but I think women have a right to do as they please and contribute to society. I can't stand seeing women's talents go to waste simply because they have to be trophy wives.

I'm referring to chinamen in my culture because I'm not sure if men of other cultures are like this, although I know there are trophy wives in other cultures too. But it appears to me that most of these wives especially in the western world, choose and enjoy being so, instead of being 'forced' like some of the chinaman ones.


My grandma's surgery went well yesterday. She is now being monitored in the ICU. According to my dad, she is awake this morning and alert. Some weight has been lifted off all our hearts.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Some quotes

It's not what happens. It's what you do that makes the difference on how your life works out -- from the book The Art of Exceptional Living by Jim Rohn.

Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it - Goethe

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing -- Helen Keller

Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds -- Albert Einstein

My grandma

My maternal grandmother is the only grandparent I now have. She is 89 and has been pretty hale and hearty all these years. She's only been a little slow in movement and frail in physique due to her age the past few years. Lately, she's fallen a few times but did not suffer any major injuries.

Last weekend, she had a fever followed by diarrhoea. As she didn't feel well, my uncle (one of her sons) took her to the hospital. Yesterday, they found a mass in her colon and she is scheduled for surgery today to remove it.

I hope and pray she will be all right.

I still remember back in the day when I was a schoolgirl in Melaka. Sunday lunch was a weekly affair at Por Por's home (that's what I call her, 'grandma' in our Chinese Hakka dialect). All her children and their families would gather and enjoy the sumptuous dishes she cooked, especially the traditional Hakka ones.

October 2007 - Por Por with my nephew Ryan, her youngest great grandchild then.

A little holiday

This morning, at breakfast, a conversation at the dining table took place.

Caitlin: Mum, would you like a little holiday?

Me: Yes, of course! (thinking that she was going to suggest a weekend trip)

Caitlin: How about you stay home today, and daddy will send me to school. Then you can come and fetch me when school is over.

Me: Ohhh, that's the holiday?!

Caitlin: Yes, then you get a day's break.

Me: Aah, that's a day's break for me. Okay, thank you.

So innocently sweet. I was not disappointed that she didn't suggest a real holiday. As she left with daddy, she hugged, said many goodbyes, waved and blew me a kiss.

All the welling stress of rushing her to finish her breakfast and be ready for school (she's very slow in getting ready and late for school often, even today) has dissipated somewhat...

Monday, June 23, 2008

Abscess, Euro 2008 and writing

It was a busy week last week. The 'highlight' was Caitlin's follow-up visit to the dentist to repair an infected filling in one of her molars. The earlier filling somehow did not work properly and it became infected, creating an abscess in the tooth and gum. She had complained of pain in her gum two weeks ago and upon checking, I saw the swelling, took her to the dentist and got some antibiotic.

The first treatment involved cleaning up the re-opened cavity and placing a temporary filling. The following week, the temporary filling was replaced with a permanent one so that her milk-molar can last till it falls out when she's around 10. Upon checking her other teeth, the dentist found another cavity so that was done up too.

As usual, she is cool about going to the dentist so there was no problem. The only thing was the unexpected expense it created.

This week's highlight would be Caitlin's trip with her school to the Sunway Petting Zoo, in line with this month's 'Animal' theme at school.

As for Eugene, he's been burning the midnight oil...watching the Euro Cup! He stayed up Saturday night watching TV and waiting for the quarter-finals to start, ending his TV marathon around 5am Sunday.

And me? I'm behind in stockpiling some articles for the local daily I've been writing for since April...

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Back to coffee

I tried going back to my non-coffee days after 1 1/2 months of one or two cups a day, and lasted three days. I just made a cup of coffee and am halfway through it right now...the mind-body struggle....

I read recently that Caffeine Consumption Hikes Blood Sugar Levels by 8 Percent for Diabetics .

It's from a study conducted by researchers from Duke University Medical School and published in the journal Diabetes Care. The article says that "Prior studies have shown that caffeine could increase the body's insulin resistance, leading to an increase in blood sugar levels. In people without diabetes, however, this effect is fairly minor. In diabetics, any increase in insulin resistance can have serious consequences."

It is however not fully understood yet how or why caffeine causes a spike in blood sugar. According to the article, "caffeine might interfere with the mechanisms that remove glucose from the blood. Alternately, caffeine consumption might cause the body to release adrenaline, which is known to cause a rise in blood sugar levels."

Time now to gulp down the rest of it and rush Caitlin to her dental appointment. I need the adrenaline...

Circle of Life

His personal inclinations aside, Elton John is a great musician/singer. As I was revising the 'About Me' in this blog, a 'circle of my life' unravelled and this song came to mind.

From the day we arrive on the planet
And blinking, step into the sun
There's more to be seen than can ever be seen
More to do than can ever be done

Some say eat or be eaten
Some say live and let live
But all are agreed as they join the stampede
You should never take more than you give

In the Circle of Life
It's the wheel of fortune
It's the leap of faith
It's the band of hope
Till we find our place
On the path unwinding
In the Circle, the Circle of Life

Some of us fall by the wayside
And some of us soar to the stars
And some of us sail through our troubles
And some have to live with the scars

There's far too much to take in here
More to find than can ever be found
But the sun rolling high
Through the sapphire sky
Keeps the great and small on the endless round

On the path unwinding
In the Circle, the Circle of Life.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Kung Fu Panda

Last Friday, Caitlin requested to watch Kung Fu Panda over the weekend so we went on Sunday. Coincidentally, Eugene got some comp tickets so we didn't have to break our budget considering how expensive going to the cinema is these days.

It was totally entertaining for her and us. Caitlin has not stopped talking about it after two days. And yesterday, she spent the entire evening in 'Kung Fu Panda' pretend play with all her stuffed animals. She got all her dogs (she calls them the Fighting Team) to fight with all her My Little Pony ponies. Three dogs are the Furious Three (the movie features the Furious Five alongside Panda). And Caitlin is the Master. Today, she asked me to join her Fighting Team but I declined saying I'd rather be a chef because I have to cook dinner. So she asked me to be the chef for her Fighting Team....

And this is one song I've not heard for ages.

Friday, June 13, 2008

A Father's Day tie for Eugene

It's Father's Day this Sunday. As usual, Caitlin's school had something planned and invited all dads to school this morning. Father and child had some fun making hand prints on a decorated cardboard frame. Caitlin also made and decorated a paper tie for dear daddy.

I wonder if Caitlin will insist that he wears the tie to work. She was very excited about the tie this morning and told Eugene that she made it yesterday. And when I picked her up from school this afternoon, she insisted that we drive to his office immediately to present it to him...

Luckily, it's Saturday tomorrow and maybe the weekend will help Caitlin forget about the tie come Monday morning when Eugene goes to work again. But if she still remembers and wants him to wear it, it may just work because it is the same colour as his corporate tie which he is required to wear every Monday, that's if he DARES to wear it!

Happy Father's Day to all dads!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Be a vegetarian?

Benefits of a Vegetarian Diet

According to studies, vegetarians enjoy better health than people that eat meat. In addition to lower rates of cancer, they also have lower rates of coronary artery disease, gallstones, cancer, kidney stones, colon disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. A vegetarian is also less likely to be overweight than a non-vegetarian.

Switching to a vegetarian diet has actually been shown to help cure these diseases. In 1961, the Journal of the American Medical Association stated that ninety to ninety-seven percent of heart disease, the cause of more than half the deaths in the United States, could be prevented by a vegetarian diet.

The American Heart Association report states, "In well-documented population studies using standard methods of diet and coronary disease assessment... evidence suggests that a high-saturated-fat diet is an essential factor for a high incidence of coronary heart disease."

This is an excerpt from an article I read from Natural News. The full article titled Eating One Sausage Per Day Causes Cancer is here.

I have tried a semi-vegetarian diet before and after two weeks, I felt 'lighter' and less bloated. I believe in the 'less meat, more vege' lifestyle for better health in theory but in practice, it's a tough challenge. I have to keep trying harder to eat less meat. I don't know if I can become a vegetarian. I simply love all types of tasty, deliciously-cooked food.

Although I know too much meat, especially red meat, is unhealthy, I am still not able to resist the occasional ribs (Tony Roma's!), trotters (Euro Deli!), roasts (Chinese 'char siew', 'siew yoke'!), barbecues (satay!), steaks (Coliseum!), beef noodles (Vietnamese or Seremban market!), 'bak kut teh' (where else but Klang?!)....all so mouth-watering I'm starting to salivate.

Hats off to 'meatatarians' or 'carnivores' who have successfully become vegetarians or 'herbivores'.

Most dinosaurs were herbivores. So are cattle, elephants and apes which share 98% of DNA with humans (learnt that from watching Animal Planet with Caitlin!). I found another interesting read which provokes thought, suggesting that the human is closer to that of plant-eaters from the anatomy and taxonomy point of view.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

People and their journeys

It's been years since I had the luxury of devouring a book in one sitting within 24 hours. Unexpectedly last week, I managed to do that with Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer. I enjoy reading about journeys, be it travels, adventures or life journeys, and the 'soul' that is involved with the journeys. I read Jon Karakauer's Into Thin Ice about 10 years ago and also some of his writings in Outside magazine. When I chanced upon Into The Wild at the bookstore last week and read the intro (see next para) on the cover, I knew I had to get it.

"In April 1992 a young man from a well-to-do family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley. His name was Christopher Johnson McCandless. He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet, and invented a new life for himself...."

This book was moving and thought-provoking. It first began as an article about Christopher McCandless in Outside magazine in 1993. If you wish to learn more about the story, see here (may contain spoilers).

The story of this 24-year-old man was made into a movie of the same title last year. I wonder if I can get my hands on the movie to see how Jon Krakauer's writing has been translated onto the big screen. The last time it was done with Into Thin Air, the movie did not capture the intensity of the book.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Back to routine

The school break is over and Caitlin has gone back to school today. We're back to the normal routine of school and extra classes.

She spent the past two weeks happily watching lots of TV, playing and reading. I was more generous in dishing out new books from my secret stash for her to read. I did not try too hard to get her to do revision (especially Mandarin) and I figured she needed a break from the normal routine. I was hoping she could practise more of her piano and drums but that didn't happen either.

We got some exercise by going swimming and yesterday, she suggested that we go to the park across the road from our place. She insisted on bringing her scooter and rode it for awhile. Eugene ended up carrying or pushing it most of the time we were there.

Seeing others jogging, she started to jog a bit too. Then we fed bread to the sparrows, turtles and fish in the pond. Before heading home, we tried a few of the exercise equipment. We should do this more often.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Cry Me A River

Time for more blues, petrol price up

This afternoon it rained very heavily. It must have been the signal from the heavens on the gloom that was about to befall Malaysian vehicle owners - petrol price hike again! And this time it's going up 40% from RM1.92 per litre to RM2.70, an increase of 78 sen....

At this time of writing, all petrol stations throughout the county are definitely jam-packed with cars queueing up to fill up before the price goes up at midnight. My mum in Seremban called to inform me upon hearing the news. So did my mother-in-law. Earlier I heard about the impending increase from my brother. My mum said some stations in Seremban have even closed their doors as their supply has run out! And my father-in-law, according to my MIL is stuck in a queue to fill up his tank....

Read here and here for more details. Along with the petrol price increase, electrity tariff will go up too....

Everything is going up, except our paychecks. Start tightening our belts and work harder to look for supplementary income, residual income, passive income....

Willow Weep For Me

In the mood for some blues.

Willow weep for me
Willow weep for me
Bend your branches green along the stream that runs to sea
Listen to my plea
Hear me willow and weep for me

Gone my lovers dream
Lovely summer dream
Gone and left me here to weep my tears into the stream
Sad as I can be
Hear me willow and weep for me

Whisper to the wind and say that love has sinned
Left my heart a-breaking, and making a moan
Murmur to the night to hide its starry light
So none will see me sighing and crying all alone

Weeping willow tree
Weep in sympathy
Bend your branches down along the ground and cover me
When the shadows fall, hear me willow and weep for me

Oh, Weeping willow tree
Weep in sympathy
Bend your branches down along the ground and cover me
When the shadows fall, hear me willow and weep for me

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Family Finance

I was checking this website I discovered - Raising Kids - and found this section as a follow-up to my earlier post. It's about balancing your budget for your family and provides useful tips. Read it here.

This is written in the UK context but I believe most of the tips do apply globally too.

Two parts caught my eye. "How to raise a millionaire" contains quotes from some of Britain's best-known entrepreneurs about how their childhood experiences contributed to what they've become today. For example:

Untie your apron strings
'My mother was determined to make us independent. When I was four, she stopped the car a few miles from our house and made me find my own way home across the fields.'
Richard Branson

Encourage creativity
'You'd come home and there'd be some wooden boxes in the back garden, with a rug over them wired up to look like it was rippled, and a sheet pinned to the apple tree. My dad would go, 'Just sit there for a minute, son, before you go in to do your homework.' And there you were on a flying carpet.'
Sir Paul Smith

Be tough
'My mother had absolutely no time for self-pity. I'm the same...move on. Get on and do it, because nobody else is going to do it for you. I think that whole culture has been instilled in me. I am responsible for my life. There's no point whingeing about it, get on and make of it what you will.'
Dragon's Den Deborah Meaden

The other part "Talking to children about money" shares how you can help 4-9 year-olds realise they can't have it all and that money doesn't grow on trees, or in Caitlin's context, "if you need money, just get it from the bank".

Austerity drive

With prices increasing for almost everything, especially food and fuel, it's time to seriously and consciously take measures to save.

What I'm working on these days:

1. Go to the market/supermarket only once or twice a week. Try to make a complete list of what I need to buy. This saves fuel and parking costs from going to the shops/market too often just to pick up one or two items.

2. Buy only what I need, stick to the list. I used to be greedy and buy food (especially dry/frozen goods) that I 'plan' to cook 'some day'.

3. Don't stock up too much food just because it happens to be on sale, especially when I don't have extra cash to spare.

4. Don't buy clothes or reading material I don't need just because it's on sale or just because I 'feel like it'.

5. Read newspapers online. Since I'm already paying a monthly flat rate for Internet usage, maximise my reading online. Re-read old books and magazines that I already have which have been collecting dust for so many years.

6. Eat out less or buy less ready-cooked meals. It's cheaper to cook your own meals and it's healthier too. Plus you save on fuel and parking and don't pay the taxes that come with the bill and other hidden costs for the nice decor, aircon, and extra unhealthy items like cold drinks and dessert.

7. Cook just enough for everyone at home. Try not to have leftovers. Or cook a large portion, enough for freezing it for another meal.

8. Turn off the lights, fan and TV when not in use. Use air conditioning only when it is unbearably hot.

9. Clean the floors, windows and bathrooms and iron clothes myself instead of paying part-time cleaners to do it every week.

10. Reduce credit card usage. Stick to cash only to ensure I spend within my budget.

11. Withdraw enough cash to last a few weeks or a month to spend within budget. I tend to overspend when going to the ATM too often. The bank also charges a service fee for using the ATM for more than a set number of times a month.

12. Set aside a sum every month to save using a system we've learnt from T. Harv Eker.

13. Buy new toys for Caitlin only on her birthday and Christmas. (This is hard to do...all parents love their kids and tend to give in most times sooner or later). Buy used (but in good condition) books for her. Think of creative, low-cost ways for family activities like going swimming more often, visit the park, instead of going to the mall (extra expenses for fuel, parking, meals, snacks, books, toys, amusement centre, movie theatre).

Monday, June 2, 2008

Aches and pains

Am I depressed or burnt out or unhealthy or lack of exercise or just ageing? I've been getting aches at various places lately, although I know some are from previous injuries from being too active outdoors. This prompted to me Google and I found this quite informative.

Body Aches May Signal Depression
Counseling May Be Better Than Drugs for Those With Unexplained Physical Ills
By Sid Kirchheimer

WebMD Health NewsJuly 20, 2004 -- Why is it that so many people with depression are never identified as having the condition, while about half of those who are diagnosed fail to improve with medications proven to be effective? New research shows the explanations may be in their initial symptoms.

Depression is a mood disorder diagnosed by tell-tale symptoms such as fatigue, lethargy, or poor sleep. But depression may manifest itself in physical aches and pains that offer no obvious cause, such as unexplained chest pain, muscle ache, trembling, or hot flashes.

To continue reading this article, find it here.

Too tired of this issue to say too much

I just read this piece of news and it makes me sick and tired.

The Star, Monday June 2, 2008

Malay students affected

PETALING JAYA: Increasing the quota for non-bumiputras for Public Service Department (PSD) scholarships without increasing the actual number of scholarships has drastically affected the bumiputras, the Umno Youth Education Bureau said.

Its chairman Ahmad Ikmal Ismail said while the bureau agreed with the Government to give more scholarships to non-bumiputras, it did not agree with the way it was done.

“The quota for non-bumiputras has increased from 10% to 45% but the number of total scholarships has remained at 2,000.”

Ahmad Ikmal said this meant that scholarships were being taken from the bumiputras to be given to the non-bumiputras.

“We object to this move because it now means that 700 scholarships for bumiputra students are gone,” he said.

Ahmad Ikmal said a better way would be to use the New Economic Policy concept to increase the number of total scholarships. He said this was to ensure that the bumiputras were not affected and the non-bumiputras would get even more opportunities.

Scholarships should be given based on merit regardless of race, NEP or not. What happens if there is less than 55%of Malay students who deserve the scholarship? Would the government then provide the remaining to their cronies' children? Or would they distribute it to other races who deserve it? Increasing the total number of scholarships would also mean taking more from taxpayers. Clean up the mess in the education system and produce good students first before talking about scholarships!