Monday, September 28, 2009

Think before you act

Caitlin always feels bored during mealtimes and requests for made-up stories to be told to her since we don't allow her to read at the dining table. On a 'lucky' night, we got her to create her own instead. This is her first story she handwrote on her own while eating dinner (thus the spelling/grammar errors and lack of proper punctuation/paragraphing). She has created many other stories in the past but most were narrated to us.

Title: How a stupid mosqito (sic) landed into a zebra's mouth

Once upon a time there was a stupid mosqito (mosquito) who lived in a dark hole in a tree. One day a herd of zebras came. The mosqito was very happy because he will be luky (lucky) to eat. So he quikly (quickly) flew out of his hole. And he picked one of the zebras in the herd and wanted to sting his tounge (tongue) while he was eating grass. So he went inside his mouth. And when he was about to sting him his mouth closed from finished eating and the mosqito died to death. Because of his stupidness. Moral: think before you act.
The end.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The week that was

Another week has flown by. Life is very routine these days. Last weekend we tried out the Black & Decker handheld grass trimmer that JK passed on to us since he no longer has any grass at his house. Had a wrist-straining time sweeping up the grass. Imagine what it'd be like if we had a larger garden.

I got some cheap colourful flowering plants to grow in a few planter boxes. They currently sit alongside the dividing wall, and fit right into the drain but still allow water to flow underneath it. So they act like drain covers. Reason for putting them there is also that it's the only place 'behind bars' (dog-proof fencing) where Rusty can't reach and destroy. It makes a lot of difference to have plants and flowers around the house. It lights up the view when I look outside, instead of just green (uneven) and boring grass.

Next, I need to 'design' the garden further with pebbles, rocks and stepping stones and fill up an earthern tub with water, water plants and cheap fish (to eat the slime and mosquito larvae). This should make up for Caitlin's idea of a pond in the garden! The only worry I have with the pebbles and water tub is Mr Mischievous who would most likely pick up the pebbles and attempt to chew them (and hopefully not choke on them), leaving them strewn about, and pick the water plants out of the tub to have a game of tug-of-war.

Last weekend was the long Hari Raya weekend break. C and E joined JK, Ee Ling and Ryan for a visit to the zoo. While they were out, I spent the entire morning (3 hours) giving Rusty a fur trim and bath. He looks less scruffy and neater now. I have yet to gain experience like the pro groomers in making him look handsome. The rest of the 4 days of holidays were spent around the house, doing the usual boring stuff.

This morning I revised 'sit' and 'lie down' with Rusty. I also taught him 'shake hand' and he picked it up quite quickly within 20 minutes. 'Stay' is revised on a daily basis to prevent him from dashing out the gate when we open it to go out. However, I've yet to be successful in getting him to 'stay' while I'm inside the car driving out. Apart from the occasional accidental escapes, he only runs out when I open the gate to drive in upon returning from school every afternoon. His routine is: dash out, go to the lamp post, mark his territory, hear me calling him and see me opening the car door, then jump into the car. He gets a very short car ride from gate to car porch. After I get out of the car, he has to be coaxed to get out. Why do dogs love car rides?

Since my Nokia phone has been out of commission, my photo-taking has reduced very much despite having a new phone with a higher quality camera. It's to do with the delay in getting a cable to link it to the computer to load the pics. Now that I've finally got the cable, I've yet to figure out how to use it. Hence, less photos in this blog for the time being. We have a camera but I find it less convenient, having to remove the memory card, plugging it into our printer/scanner and loading the pics into the computer. Plus the camera is bulky and not within immediate reach during spontaneous moments.

Another week and October will be here. That means planning for Caitlin's birthday party. She's turning seven i.e planning her birthday for the seventh time. I would like to retire this year and leave all the planning and organising to E. I wonder if that's possible.... being the perfectionist that I am, I have little faith that E (being the laid back guy he is) can pull things off ahead of time.... She has been excited about it since last month (August!) and is currently spreading verbal invitations to her classmates about it. Her school year-end exam will be in mid-Oct, ending one week before her birthday in end-Oct.

Somehow I look forward more to celebrating Rusty's first birthday on 1st November....maybe a new toy for him to throw about and chew on....

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Part Two of "This is the country"...

and is it the end of the story, I wonder.

I had complained in an earlier post about the frustrating ordeal we've been having with our phone and internet service provider. The last was that they requested us to take the lower speed internet package if we didn't want to wait for the availability of the higher speed one that we wanted. And the ball was then left on their court to tell me how long I'd have to wait to get the package of our choice.

Two days later after that phone conversation with them, the internet installer called while I was out. Eugene took the call. The techinician said he had been instructed to install for us the lower speed package. Without any inkling (I remember updating him, but that's another issue...) to the status of my dealings with them (i.e. they were to tell me how long the wait was before I decided whether to accept their 'offer' of the lower speed package), he agreed to getting it installed.

So now I'm accessing the Internet via our newest lower-than-desired speed. Despite that, I'm relieved that we finally could put a tick to this item on our to-do list and be contented with availability of the internet.

I thought I'd never hear from them again but surprise, surprise, I got a call from yet another girl from the internet service provider. Here's the conversation.

Caller: Ms Tham, I'm calling to inform you that your application for Stxxxx service has been approved. You are getting the 1MB package.

Me: What? What do you mean approved? I already got it installed.

Caller: I mean your application is approved....

Me: Your technician came on Saturday and installed it already. (hellooo, blur case, duh...!!!)

Caller: For which phone number? Is it xxxxxxxx? Oh, let me see....was it Mr XXX that installed it?

Me: Yes I guess so, I didn't get his name...a Chinese guy.

Caller: Oh, ok then.

Me: But hey, since the internet was installed, the clarity of my phone is bad. There's lots of static when I talk on the phone. Can you send a technician to check?

Caller: Ok, ok, we'll look into it.... (end of conversation)

Now, tell me, is this a real comedy or what? The first two months after we made our application, I was very gung-ho in chasing them. Assertive to the point of almost successfully drawing blood out of stone. The next two months, I gave up. The last month, I said "que sera, sera" and voila, they f-i-i-i-nally installed everything. During the week between their call to say we got it, me spending one hour at their outlet to make the relevant installation payments and them arriving at our home to install it, I was getting somewhat worked up again by their inefficiency and stupidity.

And after their latest call this afternoon as described above, I could only sigh, shake my head and think of this service provider as "mo tuck kow" (Cantonese for "cannot be saved" or no-hoper). I've expended all my frustration on this so much so that it's just water off my back now.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Bahasa Malaysia the way to go?

Following my previous post below, I was pondering further about the 'puzzle' of the Ministry of Education's decision to switch back to Bahasa Malaysia in teaching Science and Math in school. I had my education in this country from Standard One at age 6+ till Bachelor's degree at age 23. Everything except the English language subject was taught in the national language. Lectures in university for four years were conducted mainly in Bahasa, with English thrown in here and there as all the lecturers qualified with postgrad degrees from outside Malaysia where English was used. All reference materials we purchased or borrowed from the library were in English. But tutorials, tests, exams and even my final year project thesis had to be done in Bahasa. I studied Science in Bahasa all the way from Standard One to university. I went to the Science stream in upper secondary and took a Science degree majoring in Microbiology. I learnt everything in Bahasa.

When I graduated and went into the working world, how much of all those years of learning in Bahasa did I apply to my job and dealings with other people? Practically zilch. Maybe I would have if I had worked in a government department or became a Biology teacher. What is 'biology' in Bahasa? At first, I knew it as 'Sains Kajihayat'. Then, it was also referred to as 'Biologi' (pronounced as 'bee-o-lo-ghee'). I wonder how I would have fared if I decided to do postgrad studies in 'bee-o-lo-ghee' overseas or looked for a job overseas. I think I would have done okay, mainly because I'm good at English too. What if my 'England' not good?

Students who were bad at English had difficulty understanding what they read in reference books in university. How then can they be expected to excel in their chosen field of study or profession, and how can the country compete globally in any industry if the next generation continues to be stuck with learning everything in Bahasa?

The way I see it, we are barking up the wrong tree. If we really want top-rate students and professionals, we first have to be good at English. It is after all the globally accepted and respected language. Teach Math and Science in Bahasa, Mandarin, Tamil, any native language all you want, but if the student's English is not anywhere near the lowest acceptable global standard, we're not getting anywhere.

One can only excel if one can understand what he reads and studies about that subject he is interested in. And most of what one would read is still in the English language. And one can only be good in a language if one is exposed through reading, writing and speaking the language as much as possible.

I believe I am good (enough) at Bahasa. I am however better at English. Should we be better at Bahasa or English in the big picture?

"We are the Champions" by Queen was playing on the radio in the car when I was thinking about this. It inspired me to tweak its lyrics and borrow its tune. Although it's tongue in cheek, it holds some level of disappointment and, without doubt, frustration, to wonder what's the future for us who choose, or have no choice, but to remain here. Some people choose to emigrate, to send their kids to international schools and universities overseas. It depends on your personal perspective and feelings and at the end of the day, the choices and opportunities available to you.

Bahasa for Maths and Science
(sung to the tune of "We Are The Champions)

I've paid my dues
Time after time
I've learnt the language
From primary to uni
I took tuition
I speak it well
I've had my share of writing 'karangan'
And I've come through

We are in Malaysia, my friends
And we'll keep on using Bahasa
It's been decided
We are in Malaysia
Can learn some English
But must 'martabatkan' Bahasa

I've used the language
As much as I can
It eased the process from getting a phone line to a credit card
I got them fin'lly

But it's been no bed of roses
No pleasure cruise
I consider it a challenge for those who cannot speak it
And it won't get any better

We are in Malaysia, my friends
And we'll keep on using Bahasa
It's been decided
We are in Malaysia
'Martabatkan' Bahasa
Bahasa for Maths and Science :(

This is the country I was born and bred in

After five long months of waiting for a phone line and living without a telephone in my house, I finally got a line. Just a phone line. It can be connected to broadband Internet but I have yet to get that. It's a mystery how the phone company works.

The people there appear half-baked to me so their work is half-cooked I conclude. Although the phone line and internet line application is within the same form and submitted to the same service centre, the people processing the application and installation are separate as I have found out.

I got the phone line the very next day after paying the deposit and relevant charges. But meanwhile, in the span of one hour while I was grocery shopping, I got three calls from three different people from the same Internet processing/installation dept, requesting for the same info despite me having indicated everything in the form.

And the icing on the cake is the next day after patiently entertaining the 3 people (or shall I call them some other derogatory names?), one of them calls and tells me the package I want (highest speed broadband) is not available due to not available ports at my area (??!!) and asks me to take the slower speed package that is available. Otherwise, I have to wait. So then I ask how long do I have to wait. The reply came as "I don't know, I will check and call you back..." And that's the last I heard from them so far.

I've had similar experiences with service-related people at the bank, post office etc this week. It took me one hour just to get a replacement ATM card simply because the girl at the counter I was called to was a freshie and fumbling about (one colleague didn't even know her name!). After one step of work, she tells me to sit down while she consults her senior officer. Then after another step, she says sit down again. Then it went on that way for another time before I finally got the ATM card. She didn't even tell me what I had to do to activate the card, or to change the PIN number, or to re-activate my internet banking access using the ATM card etc etc....

And in all my dealings with these people, I had to speak Bahasa Malaysia. Otherwise, they'd give me a blank stare, or reply in BM although I spoke in English to them. Luckily I can speak BM well. I empathise with those who can't speak BM well or at all. They will have a worse time getting things they want.

So, the Education Ministry says the teaching of Maths and Science will be reverted back to Bahasa Malaysia in 2012. Hurray....Where are we heading? While I acknowledge that it is good for all Malaysians to know and speak the country's language well, what good will it do for the country and its people globally? We are not like Germany or other European countries who have become so advanced that German, French etc are recognised internationally or at least regionally....

And this issue is just one of the comedies playing on the Malaysian screen. There are others, especially on the political arena but I don't talk politics in my blogs or elsewhere.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Fat vs. handsome

Caitlin's teachers change the children's seating positions every now and then, mainly because some misbehave or are too talkative with the others nearby. The boys get switched more because they are usually the ones who are naughty or noisy. Another boy is now sitting beside Caitlin. According to her, he is the fattest boy in class (I believe he is just on the plump side and probably the 'fattest' but not the fat, obese type).

After school today, she told me that her sock and pinafore got wet when someone accidentally knocked his water tumbler over, spilling some water on her. When I asked her who it was, she said it was the boy sitting beside her. And she went on to say again that he is the fattest boy. Then she added, "I don't like fat boys, I only like handsome boys. But if the fat boy is handsome, then it's okay. Then, I'll marry him."

???!!!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Busy week triggers thought for the day

When things happen, they seem to happen all at the same time.
When things need to get done, they seem to need geting done all at the same time. When people need your attention, they all seem to want it at the same time.

What these have in common are the words 'seem', 'all' and 'time'. It 'seems' like you have to be an octopus or superhuman to be and do 'all at the same time'.

There are times when things and people really need your attention all at once and that's when you go crazy. But there are times when they only appear to require your attention simultaneously when in actual fact, some can wait. That's when you need to get a grip of the situation and prioritise.

Monday, September 7, 2009

'Spidey' succeeds after 3rd attempt...

and gets fined RM2000 for his achievement. Did other countries fine him when he conquered their tallest landmark?

9/9/2009

Caitlin came home from school this afternoon with a sheet with lyrics of a song titled "This is my country". When I read the lyrics, they didn't sound familiar to me. A new patriotic song? As we were too busy with homework, I didn't want to distract her by asking what the song sounded like. Now that she's asleep, I decided to search for the song in YouTube and as expected, I found it there.

Apparently, this song is to be sung at 9am on 9th September, a tribute to the present King, an event that aims to promote "oneness", probably in line with the present PM's call for "1Malaysia"....I guess Caitlin's school is probably taking part and all the kids will be singing it at 9am in their classroom or wherever in school on 9th Sept....

The site for more info about this event is here and I personally am not too impressed with the site and the event's aim to be yet another "Malaysia Boleh" achievement, getting into the Malaysia Book of Records....

This is what the song sounds like:

Harry Connick movie

New In Town is a movie released early this year starring Harry Connick Jr and Renee Zellwenger - a really fun romantic comedy.

This song below, however, is from Sleepless in Seattle.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Beware of call from 03-2178 8888

This has been passed around via email recently. It is not a hoax as I personally experienced it.

Be Aware of the call from 03-2178 8888

Dear friends,

Please do not believe the call from 03-2178 8888 Ambank Customer Service Hotline.

This happened to my family members.
Incident 1
My father received a call from Ambank last Wednesday. The customer service officer told my father he has an outstanding amount of RM3,800 for his credit card account.My father felt weird and called me to check. I told my father to ignore the call since he does not have any account in Ambank. But he insists that i check & gave me the number that appeared in his mobile, which is 03-2178 8888.

Finally I called Ambank Customer Service Center & told them the incident. The officer told me that they have received a lot of customer complains regarding the same incident recently. They have made a police report regarding the incident.She told me NOT to believe those calls from 03-2178 8888 because the hotline is for public to call in and the same number will not appear if the call is really made from an Ambank staff.

Incident 2
My youngest brother received a call from 03-21788888 from Ambank yesterday & the guy wanted to check with my brother whether he is using the credit card to buy jewellery from Poh Kong in KLCC & the amt is about RM3,000. My brother was
wondering because he does not have any credit card from any bank. Then the guy told him that maybe there is someone using my brothers identity to apply for their credit card. The guy said my brother has to pay an outstanding amount of RM5,000 which has been swiped previously even though he does not have the card. My brother was very angry, but the guy told him to report to Bank Negara and he directly
transferred the line to "Bank Negara Officer".

The "Bank Negara Officer" told that my brother has to change all the PIN number of his saving accounts since his identity has been used by somebody. "The Officer" asked my brother to go to the ATM machine immediately and he will call my brother
again to teach him how to change the PIN number. He told my brother not to check his account within 3 days after changing the PIN number.

My brother was wondering & he told the "Officer" that he only can do it the next day.The "Officer" asked my brother to go to the ATM machine at 10am the next day & he will call my brother. After hanging up the call, my brother called me & told me about the incident. I asked my brother to ignore it & told him the incident that happened to my father last week.My brother told me that those "Officers" were very professional & made him feel that the incident really happened.

Dear Friends, Please be aware of the call from 03-2178 8888.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

At home

It looks like it will be another week before Caitlin goes back to school. Although her chicken pox is more or less status quo (no new additions to her relatively sparse spots and no fever etc), with most already crusted up, we decided to keep her away from school this week. We don't want to risk getting blamed by other parents for infecting their children and adding to their concerns with all that's going on right now regarding H1N1 and their apprehension of sending their kids to school because of it.

This means not being able to go out as I usually would for groceries and errands and whatever that requires my going out will have to wait since there's no one else besides me to stay home to watch her or keep her company if I were to go out and leave her at home. I'm hoping to be able to collect all the schoolwork that she's missing this week via 'remote control' since it doesn't make sense for me to drag her along to school to see her teachers to get info about homework. Unfortunately Caitlin's school is relatively small and 'simple' and unlike some other more profit-oriented and richer private schools that have websites and secure sites for parents to log in to get info about daily schoolwork, and updates about their kids' performance. In fact, some Chinese schools here also have that system in place, thanks to all the donations they collect from parents I believe.

We are two weeks away from handing over our apartment keys to our tenants. My dad helped give the place a new coat of paint and it looks fresher and 'cleaner' compared to other rental units. Am grateful for dad's help. He did it bit by bit over a few months every time he came up to KL to visit us. We're halfway furnishing the place with our old but still functional and usable furniture and appliances and I've got new beds and mattresses for the rooms.

Our tenants will be three medical students. The main tenant appears to be a rather pampered boy whose parents we are signing the rental contract with, who came to view the place (minus the son) and almost instantly liked it for its fresh and clean look and feel, who are obviously very concerned to the minutest detail of the condition of their son's place of accommodation. The mother even mentioned her future intention of bringing her maid all the way from JB/Singapore (they live, work there)to help clean the apartment for their son! And I'll have to give him my carpark lot as he will have a car to drive around although his campus is just five minutes walking distance and the LRT station is 10 minutes away. Well, I've a lot to say about this if I were to compare myself during my time as an undergrad and other less privileged children's experiences living away from home in pursuit of higher education! But I don't have the time now.

It's time to check on the kid who has been watching loads of TV this morning and feed her lunch.