30 October 2009

Aussie (another one) rescued from Canadian mountain

It was reported in today's Age (Australia) that an Australian bushwalker has been found cold and wet but otherwise fine after spending the night in the snow and rain on North Vancouver's Grouse Mountain.

The person in question, Frederick Hayes, 24, wore only light trackpants and a hoodie jacket, with no torch or any other gear, and became separated from friends on the bushwalk at about 5pm the previous day.

Now, this is a mountain trail, in Canada, not some tropical paradise where daylight hours are long, the temperature warm and humid. One must know that it snows on mountains, in Canada. Mr. Hayes is very lucky to have been found alive by the North Shore Rescue volunteers. The rescue leader said "There's three inches (75mm) of snow on the ground, so we really want to appeal to the commonsense of the people who do hike these trails," he said. "I have to be very upfront and honest with you, these kind of (emergency) calls strain search and rescue (crews) because we are a volunteer organisation and all of us have to be at work in the morning."

I couldn't agree more with the resue leader.

Australians seem to be an adventurous bunch. I have nothing against Australians nor against adventurers hikers, but they should be appropriately geared with, among others, maps and compasses (I think - I'm not a hiker), as well as properly attired. Because when they get into trouble, they then cause a whole rescue mission to be activated, which in this case was made up of volunteers. Otherwise, it would be official search and rescue missions costing tax payer dollars. And more than that, rescue personnel also take on risks in any recue mission.

Not too long ago, another Australian, no less than the Victorian state Minister Tim Holding was lost on Mount Feathertop in Victoria's Alpine National Park. His rescue involved the use of "aerial support", all in all costing a pretty penny, no doubt.

And the lesson here? Think a little about your own safety and that of others when you attempt that hike or walk for your pure leisure and hunger for adventure.

28 October 2009

How much does your maid eat?

Over the recent Deepavali weekend, my parents came to visit and stay over. They came with my brother, his wife and theiry baby boy. My parents had to bring along their maid of 6 months as they did not want to leave her alone in the house - who knows what she might do?

Anway, my Mom has been regaling me with stories of how much her new maid eats. I have seen her in action, whenever I visit KL. She eats about 2 cups of raw rice a day, for lunch and dinner (wait, wait, she cooks the rice of course. Phew! Had to clarify that lest we be accused of maid abuse, given the sensitivities of the time) Maybe a bit of perspective will help here. My family consisting of myself, husband, 2 kids and our maid cook about 2 cups of rice for lunch/ dinner, and we usually don't finish the rice. There is always a bit leftover. So that's about 4 cups of rice a day for 3 adults and 2 kids, compared to my Mom's one maid who gobbles up 2 cups of rice a day.

Oh, and she loves sugar too. She eats (drinks?) 1 kilogram of sugar in about 2 weeks, give or take a couple of days. And of course chillies! My Mom lets her blend a whole kilo of dried chillies with onions, garlic and ginger to make her "sambal" which she can't live without, and she eats all of that in a matter of days. Then she complains of a stomach ache! I wonder why she gets a stomach ache, don't you? Then she has the cheek to let us know that back home in Indonesia, she doesn't get to use onions and garlic for her sambal, so it is extra delicious here! (that's why she can't help stuffing herself!)

My Mom's maid has also told my maid, "Saya mari kerja di Malaysia mesti makan banyak banyak!" (When I come to work in Malaysia, I must eat a lot!)

I asked my maid if they were short of food back home in Indonesia. My maid says no. Back home, they may not have much money, but food is abundant as they grow a lot of their own food and raise livestock. The volcanic soil ensures abundant crops and the Indonesian govt also has a food aid program that distributes rice and cooking oil to needy families every month. My maid says that while they may not eat as much meat as we do, they have plenty in terms of vegetables, potatoes, soya bean products and local fruits. So where does this gluttony come from?

My Mom's maid is obsessed with food and her weight, complaining that she has lost weight since she came here. So when they were all here, I took the maid to my bathroom and weighed her on my digital scale. The scale registered 43.3 kg. She was 41kg when she came - she's put on 2.3 kg in 6 months. Nobody can say she's not been fed well! She is also very short, well under 5 feet.

My former colleague had a maid who also ate a lot. She went through 1kg of sugar a week, mountains of rice and stole condensed milk, as she just loved to eat it. My colleague found empty cans of condensed milk under her bed.

I wonder if the contract should stipulate how much the maid should eat? It wouldn't matter, as the maids break their contract anyway. And there is nothing the Malaysian and Indonesian govts can do about it, despite their countless meetings and MOUs. The fact is, there are very few maids from Indonesia who have a sense of honour, obligation, loyalty or gratitude despite earning more money than they ever could dream of working back home in Indonesia.

21 October 2009

Teoh inquest: 80pc chance of homicide, says Thai expert (the Star)

I think the general public feeling and perception is that there is no way that Teoh would have committed suicide. The whole affair very much spanks of foul play and the MACC and the government have a lot to answer for.

It has been very unprofessional of the MACC personnel to say that he did not want to care or to know about what happened to Teoh, when he was alerted that a body had been found on the ground as it was not inside the MACC office.

Hitting and beating suspects or even volunteers under interrogation? Very well known, no matter how much the authorities may deny it.

Homicide at or in or very near to a government premise to a person who was just interrogated?? You draw your own conclusions...

19 October 2009

Dangerous dogs

I don't know if there are any American pit bull terriers in Malaysia, but if there are, I sure hope the owners know what kind of dog it is. The following is an excerpt of a report by The Age newspaper (Australia), and I have highlighted certain pertinent sentences.

Death-jab dog 'on killing rampage'
Paul Millar, Mex Cooper

A Melbourne man has told how he feared for his life as he wrestled with an American pit bull terrier that had torn his dog apart.

Eric, from Reservoir, said that the dog locked onto his wrist and arm after he went to try and free his tiny dog from the jaws of the terrier.

The American pit bull - which had to be lethally injected after refusing to let go of Eric's hand - is believed to have been on a killing rampage, mauling four pets and biting a 10-year-old girl in Reservoir, in Melbourne’s north.

The dog latched on to Eric’s hand for more than 20 minutes. Paramedics were forced to inject the animal with an overdose of drugs after it savaged Eric's two small pet dogs, killing one, as he walked them along Arundel Avenue in Reservoir about 7.20pm. Eric said the police told him to hang onto the pit bull as they feared it could have gone for his throat.

Eric said that the dog obviously had a taste for blood as less than an hour earlier it had killed a cat and bit a young girl. ‘‘It had torn my little dog to shreds. I did not want to let go, I did not want to let go of him,’’ he said. He said his ordeal lasted for about 15 minutes.

He said there had to be tighter restrictions on those types of dogs and asked why anybody would want to own one.

Earlier, Reservoir resident Janette said she believed the same pit bull had killed her cat and attacked her pet dog, which was being walked by her 10-year-old daughter.
Janette said the dog had bitten her daughter on the finger and left her dog, which remains at a veterinary practice, badly wounded. ‘‘It could have been worse ... it was out to kill... I tried to attack it in the driveway and I had no hope, it was horrendous’’ she said.

A Victoria Ambulance spokesman said the killing had been an "absolute last resort" at the request of police who could not shoot the dog because it was too close to the man.
Intensive care paramedic Robert Voss, who was forced to use medical supplies to put down the American pit bull, arrived at Arundel Avenue as two policemen were trying to restrain the dog and free the injured man’s hand.

"As a last resort, we euthanased the dog for them. We used some sedation and then some paralysing agents." Even then, everyone was still "scared and frightened", he said.

Police last night spoke to the pit bull’s distressed owner, a 25-year-old Reservoir man, and investigations are continuing.

Pure-bred American pit bull terriers are a restricted breed in Victoria and must be desexed in a bid to eventually wipe out the breed.

The attack has renewed calls from the RSPCA for the breed to be banned in Australia. The Victorian RSPCA’s president, Dr Hugh Wirth, says the dogs are a menace and are not suitable as pets for anyone.

"They are time bombs waiting for the right circumstances,’’ Dr Wirth said.
‘‘The American pit bull terrier is lethal because it was a breed that was developed purely for dog fighting, in other words killing the opposition.

"They should never have been allowed into the country. They are an absolute menace.

Dr Wirth said local councils were not doing enough to enforce strict laws on pit bull terriers. Restrictions for owners include confining the dogs to their property, ensuring the property is escape-proof, while a signpost warning of the dog’s existence must be displayed outside the property.

‘‘Local government has got to spend some money going around identifying these dogs and forcing the issue," he said.

The latest attack comes after a toddler was scarred for life when she was attacked by a pit bull in Melbourne’s west earlier this year.

Prime Minister's Performance Management and Delivery Unit (Pemandu) website sucks

Big on ideas, bad on implementation. That's still our government's trademark.

I read in the Star today that the government is seeking public feedback and ideas on ways to improve national unity in Malaysia. The Prime Minister's Performance Management and Delivery Unit (Pemandu) is leading the Government Transformation Programme.

Apparently feedback can be submitted to Pemandu's website at www.transformation.gov.my or via email at ideas@transformation.gov.my.

So I submitted my feedback to both the website and the email. Guess what??

Pemandu website: Gave me this response "Data too long for column 'feedback' at row 1" - Does the govt expect one liners?

The ideas@transformation.gov.my email address: I received this message, " This is an automatically generated Delivery Status Notification. Delivery to the following recipient failed permanently: ideas@transformation.gov.my Technical details of permanent failure:DNS Error: DNS server returned answer with no data"

How predictable of all our government initiatives! Was there no testing of the website? Hello....is your inbox full?

16 October 2009

Malaysians still insensitive to each other

It is with disappointment that I note a display of insensitivity at worst, or oversight at best, by the authorities (principal, vice principals, relevant decision making body) at my son's school.

My son attends a Chinese medium school with a long history and well regarded reputation. He sat for 2 papers yesterday, at the start of his year-end final exams. The exams were to continue today and resume after the weekend on Monday 20 October, until Wednesday.

Do you notice anything amiss with the timing of the final exams? I did, the first time I saw the exam notice circular. Deepavali is smack right in the middle of the final exams.

Now, I feel that is inconsiderate and insensitive of the school towards the Indian students in the school. True, their number might be small as it is a Chinese school, still they deserve to have the time and peace of mind to celebrate their festival, just as the Malays have one whole week for Hari Raya and the Chinese also have time off for Chinese New Year. The Indian students in my son's school should not have to be worrying about and revising for exams at the time of Deepavali.

This year, Deepavali falls on a Saturday, which means the Indians don't even get a weekday public holiday, unlike the other 2 major celebrations.

Belatedly, something must have triggered in the mind of the school authorities as the school announced yesterday that exams have been postponed to Monday 26 October. I think having to postpone exams just after one day reflects badly on the planning, sensitivity and most of all, the spirit of unity and muhibbah, on the part of the principal and relevant decision makers in the school. And it is in school, that our children should learn tolerance, respect and consideration for other races and religions. Again, I say, how disappointing.

14 October 2009

Cleaning the koi pond

I always enjoy watching fish of any kind swimming placidly in a pond. So when we had the opportunity of building our own koi pond, we were thrilled.

Today, the koi pond is filled with 70-odd koi and various aquatic plants (which I waded into the pond myself to position) and is serene and peaceful to watch.

But I didn't realise the amount of effort needed to firstly, get it going, get the eco system in the pond to stabilise and to maintain the quality of the water. The first 2 months, the water in the pond was green and murky with lots of algae forming and floating around. We were told that our gravity fed filter system needed some time to get the water balanced; as would the algae, which would need time to eventually stick to the walls of the pond, and stop floating around like some renegade sea-weed. I guess we are finally reaping the rewards of a lovely pond.

Still, there's cleaning to be done. Like yesterday. Husband was down with fever and yellow phlegm, so he gallantly asked me to clean the filter mats in the filter bed. What does this entail? Well, firstly, I have to lift up the very heavy iron grill doors on top of the filter bed. Then I have to stick my hands into the filter water and lift up the heavy, water-laden filter mats (they look like sheets of very coarse carpets).

Now the mats - they stink! Smells all fishy, mossy and yucky. And they are caked with brown-green looking stuff. So, I have to hose the mats down to get rid of the stuff stuck to the mats, otherwise it will restrict water flow from the pond, which flows to the filter bed under the force of gravity, causing the pond to overfill and overflow (thereby wasting water). Sounds all technical, huh?

Anyway, it's heavy and sweaty work, which I have done several times since we commissioned our pond sometime in March/ April.

As with everything, beauty requires maintenance.

13 October 2009

Sick in Ipoh

When I first moved to Ipoh in December 2008, one of my initial concerns was to get references to good doctors here. Back in KL, I knew who to go to for what. In Ipoh, I was groping in the dark.

It seems that God would test one's heart and response to challenges wherever one goes - we can pray for things to go smoothly, but often times God would throw a spanner in the works. I believe it is so that we don't take God for granted and treat Him like a Santa Clause who grants us our prayer requests. God is God and His ways may not be understood by us, but therein lies our faith.

So, not long after moving to Ipoh, my little girl fell sick. My former colleague from KL told me that his dad has a paediatric clinic in Fair Park, so I took my daughter to see him. She got better, and it was Chinese New Year. Straight after the New Year, my little girl fell sick again - very high fever, lots of mucus from the nose and a little cough. This time, my mom in law suggested we see her old family GP, who is a rather aged doctor in town. Upon examining my daughter, she diagnosed possible bronchitis and noises in her lungs and told me to admit my daughter into hospital right away. I was stunned at the severity of her diagnosis.

I rushed back to my inlaws' house (we were still staying there at the time), asked my husband to send my son to school while I went to Ipoh Specialist Hospital with my daughter. Which doctor to see? Our paediatrician in KL had suggested we see Dr. Adeline Tan but she was on CNY leave, so we were lined up to see her partner at the clinical suite they run together, Dr. David Manickam. There were lots of patients waiting but the nurse was kind enough to let us go ahead of some people due to the urgency of my daughter's condition. I was practically in tears by then. New to Ipoh, daughter sick, everything unfamiliar and not having my own parents to turn to here.

Thank God, my daughter did not have to be admitted after all. Dr. David said if I could administer the antibiotic myself and manage her fever, she could go home. We needed to go back daily to see him, though, for her to be nebulised. This challenge so early into our move to Ipoh made me feel all kinds of emotions - why did we move, I have no support here, I felt so alone. My husband is not very good with kids, let alone sick kids; my parents in law still work and have a hectic social life; my bro in law and his wife are somewhat allergic to children.

But, everything turned out well, despite my feelings, frustrations and fears. You know, in the end, each and everyone of us is really alone - we have to be strong, capable, and keep God in our hearts.

10 October 2009

Shameful Malaysian Customs Officers

My maid just came back from her Hari Raya Aidilfitri holidays in her home in Jawa. She came back via an Air Asia flight and arrived at the LCCT in Sepang.

Her flight arrived on time at 1230 and she was supposed to catch the 1400 bus directly back to our city. But she was held back at customs for more than an hour, causing her to miss the bus. She had to catch the 1600 bus instead.

The delay at customs was due to the goods she had brought back - some salted eggs (she wanted to show our children Indonesian salted eggs which have pale blue shells); homemade sambal kacang (pounded peanuts with chilly and sugar); salak (Indonesian fruit from a palm tree); cooked tempeh (fermented soy bean cakes) and petai beans (bitter or stink beans - parkia speciosa).

When she passed through customs, the inspecting officers told her that all the goods she brought were not permitted to be brought into the country. But, they told my maid, if she lets them take some of the stuff, they would let her take the remaining things through. In full public view, my maid said they proceeded to help themselves to half of the above mentioned goods she had brought. To the extent that the lady customs officer brought out her tupperware and a spoon to scoop half of the homemade sambal that my maid had brought. As for the cooked tempeh, the same lady officer took a pinch out of it and pronounced to her male counterpart "Sedap!" Mahu?" ("It's delicious! Do you want some?")

Is this the way our Malaysian Customs Officers are trained? To "tax" goods by taking it for themselves, unashamedly in full public view? If it were truly not permitted to enter the country, then by all means confiscate the goods and destroy them.

Shame on our customs officers who behave in such an undignified, greedy and unprofessional manner.

Dogs and chicken bones

It's such a big debate over the issue of feeding chicken bones to dogs.
Let me state my stand - I don't believe it's a problem, and I have fed cooked chicken bones (and other cooked bones) to my dogs for years, and none of them have ever had any problems, none of them died, none of them choked on the bones.

My inlaws are scared to death of feeding chicken bones to their dogs and always give me the "it's dangerous" spin when they learn that I do. Perhaps tiny toy dogs and those oh so cute but impractical poodles/ chihuahuas (no offence to poodle/ chihuahua owners, whatsoever) should not be given bones, but large breed dogs surely can handle them. And lest we forget, wild dogs have been eating fowl and all manner of prey (including their bones) for hundreds of years.

When I was a child in a rural town in Perak, it was not only unfashionable to feed dogs manufactured dog kibbles, it was practically impossible to get them! So, what did we do? We cooked our doggie meals. We boiled rice together with bones, cheaper cuts of meats and liver. All my dogs were fine - all 9 of them.

Actually, I wonder if those people against feeding bones to dogs have ever watched a dog eating bones. A dog would grab the bone in its jaws, give it several mighty crunches and swallow. Immense enjoyment. You should see it.

I did some net searches, and of course there are people arguing on both sides of the spectrum. Examples:

from http://www.sheffieldforum.co.uk/archive/index.php/t-134865.html - I gave some to my dogs, under supervision, the other night, testing this theory that bones are bad, and they both crunched them twice and they were gone. Lips-a-licking they'd have happily demolished a few more! (I'd say, well done for at least testing out the theory and see, your dogs didn't die!)

from http://dogs.thefuntimesguide.com/2006/05/dog_ate_chicken_bones.php -Fortunately, the bones that Jersey ingested on this day passed just fine -- but it took a couple of days. I was completely on edge for that part of the vacation. Thankfully, he didn't seem to suffer at all from this little (I'd say that's one panicky owner)

from http://dogs.lovetoknow.com/wiki/Dog_And_Chicken_Bones - Common wisdom has long told us that a dog and chicken bones go together about as well as elephants and bicycles. We've been taught that feeding our dogs chicken bones is dangerous for them, likely to cause intestinal injury.
Where does a lot of this information come from? Mainly from manufacturers of commercial dog foods who would rather you purchase their products so they can make a tidy profit. Pet owners who naturally want to protect their canine companions tend to believe this information and pass it along to other dog owners, thus perpetuating the notion that chicken bones are harmful to dogs under any circumstance. However, a dog and chicken bones can be compatible under the right conditions (I'd say this is the most balanced, calm and sensible opinion I've read)

Nowadays, I feed my dogs manufactured dog kibbles 5 days out of a week for the convenience, and the other 2 days I cook them some "real" food. Imagine the poor doggies eating the same boring, dry biscuits that have no texture or variation in taste or feel whatsoever day in day out for their whole lives. Not my dogs.

09 October 2009

Hokkien Mee (Tai Lok Meen)

I took my kids out to lunch in Ipoh Garden South (I know, it's a school day) because yesterday while buying herbs at Soong Kong, I spied 2 ladies eating the black, thick noodles that I love so much at the Sentosa Ria coffee shop next door.

I grew up eating Hokkien Mee or Tai Lok Meen (big fat noodles) in PJ and I so miss Hokkien Mee; however, it is not an Ipoh dish, so there is a dearth of places that sell it here. And even those that do, don't match up.

As I discovered today. It looks good enough, but there was just no "fire" taste to the dish; the black sauce used failed to deliver the salty-sweet taste that is trademark to a good Hokkien Mee; and the fried pieces of lard were not numerous enough nor crispy enough. I took away a packet of the Hokkien Mee for hubby and he too said, "fail".

There is one other place that sells a kinda passable Hokkien Mee - an old uncle and wife who run a stall in a coffee shop (sorry I can't remember the name) opposite Yum Yum Restaurant on Persiaran Greenhill.

Sigh.....I would be glad to find a good Hokkien Mee in Ipoh.

07 October 2009

Hornet attack tragedy

I read with great concern and sorrow for the family whose 3 precious children died from a hornet attack. The mother remains hospitalised in a critical condition. It seems such a random and innocent thing - to take a stroll near their home, never imagining such an outing could turn out so tragic. My prayers and thoughts go out to the family.

One would not expect to find a hornets' nest to be found on the ground behind some rocks. An internet fact sheet on hornets said that hornets nest in hollow trees, wall cavities, chimneys and similar structures and that they show a preference for wooded areas. The pictures in the news show the hornets' nest clinging to the bottom of some large rocks in an area that was more grassy than wooded. Nobody could have guessed that such danger lurked there.

It seems hornets have been rather busy, as a group of about 20 runners taking part in the "Bergmarathon" around the northern Austrian city of Linz on Saturday 12 September were attacked as they approached the finishing line. Angry hornets also put a Swiss businessman in hospital after they attacked him at his holiday home in Gurk in Carinthia’s St. Veit district on Tuesday, 22 September - he was mowing the lawn.

A bee breeder was quoted as saying "If we are being attacked, all we need to do is find a place to squat down. Don't keep running or moving our limbs, as this will make the bees misunderstand that we are going to attack them." That sounds amazingly simple, but to squat down? I don't know how many people would have the presence of mind to do that. And in the tragedy in Sarawak, it was an open space. There was no where to hide, no safe place to squat down. Perhaps there should be hornet/ bee talks to educate the public on what to do in the event of an attack.
(image from arkive.org)

03 October 2009

Ideal weight for my dog

We've got 3 dogs and my inlaws have got 5. They are all from the Labrador family but this batch was fathered by a Lab of questionable bloodline, so they are no longer pure Labs. Still, they are all adorable and loyal dogs.

Now, the issue of the weight of my dogs has been bugging me because each time bro in law and his wife come round, they say "Your dogs are thin, especially Benjie. He's all bones!" Then when mom in law comes by, she says the same thing. I suspect she's just repeating what she heard from them since she's not that much of an animal lover and has precious little time to spend with the dogs anyway. She wouldn't know any of their habits.

True, Benjie is on the lean side. Queenie is a real food hog and she is the biggest, while Bonnie has the slightest build but for her petite size, she looks quite filled out. Benjie is tall and gangly, with a straight arrow tail. His appetite used to be really poor when he first came to us (all 3 were first raised by bro in law by the way). My maid and I had to persuade him to finish his food, and even hand feed him. But the last 2 months has seen a marked improvement in his appetite and he always finishes his food now, even ahead of greedy Queenie.

Back to the thin part. With all those thin remarks, I did some reading on the net and the general consensus out there is that Labs should not be overweight. When patting a Lab, you should be able to see his last 2 ribs and definitely when stroking the dog, be able to feel his ribs without having to press down hard to feel for them. That puts my dogs in the acceptable weight category. My inlaws dogs on the other hand would be fat! Waddling walk, and no ribs to be felt. I know. I checked.

I wonder how many people use Hill's Science Plan dog biscuits for their dogs. My 3 were raised on them, but Benjie just hates it. So I've switched to Fides (Belgium) and Top Ration (US). I intend to try Propac next.