29 May 2013

Honest Japanese

Today is Day 5 of our Japanese holiday and we are in Kyoto.

Our tour guide, a Malaysian married to a Japanese, told us at the start of the tour that the Japanese are the most honest people in the world.

It was grey and rainy today. Everyone needed an umbrella.

After my kids, husband, in laws and our friends had a short sit down on a nice wooden bench, we moved along. The rain had abated and we could put our umbrellas away.

Probably a good 10 minutes had passed before my son asked me if I had taken his umbrella. I hadn't. I gave him the look. The rain was starting up again. So back we (my son and I) trotted to the bench. I didn't expect anything.

There was his umbrella. Lying on the bench with people sitting all round it.

Our tour guide was right. The Japanese really are honest.

The last time my mom left her umbrella in the Priority Banking section of Standard Chartered Bank in PJ, it was gone in under 5 minutes. And morality is actually a subject taught in schools in Malaysia.

24 May 2013

Rewarding Lady's Fingers

I didn't know that it was so easy to grow lady's fingers.

After clearing our humble vege and herb patch, my maid and I pondered what next to try. She suggested lady's fingers. I wasn't sure. I thought it was a difficult plant to grow, with only meager produce as I thought a single lady's finger plant would only give one bean....silly huh?

Well, we went to the market and up to the second floor to our friendly plants and seeds vendor. We bought a packet of seeds for 50 sen.

We sowed the seeds in several pots with mixed soil. We kept the pots in a shaded area that receives indirect sunlight. I was pleased that my vendor's seeds were fresh and of good quality, as they sprouted after a few days. The little lady's fingers plants grew quickly. When they got big enough, we transplanted them into the ground.

With daily watering and some fertilizer once a fortnight, my plants grew strong and sturdy with large green leaves. They are now taller than I am! And each plant produces many beans.

We now even have a row of second generation lady's fingers plants.

My little girl never really liked this vegetable in the past, but seeing it in mommy's garden, she now eats it with gusto, and enjoys harvesting the beans everyday.

It has been a rewarding adventure with my ladies. 

22 May 2013

Surcharge in your TNB Bill

I admit that I noticed, then forgot about, the surcharge in my electricity bills.

Until the issue was played up in the social media. So I took a look at my bill again, and there it was, printed at the bottom of the bill stating, Kumpulan Wang Tenaga Boleh Baharu (Renewable Energy Fund).

I called TNB's Careline (why is it called care line?? This isn't a hospital service), and I was not disappointed that TNB had seen fit to equip their staff with the appropriate standard response, which goes something like this:
"Caj ini cuma dikutip oleh TNB dan disalurkan kepada SEDA (Sustainable Energy Development Authority). Caj ini diperkenalkan sejak Disember 2011. Pengguna domestik yang tahap penggunaan elektriknya di bawah 300kwh atau RM 77.00 dikecualikan daripada membayar caj ini."

Of course I then went online to SEDA's website. Yes, yes, it is all about  renewable energy.

I had a read of their FAQs and the only memorable thing I took away from it was this:
The FiT System is not financed by the government. Instead it is financed by electricity consumers themselves who contribute one percent (1%) of their total electricity bill towards a Renewable Energy Fund. However, domestic customers who consume 300 units of electricity or less each month will not have their tariffs raised to pay to the Renewable Energy Fund.

So, we pay. Again.

And the clarifying statements that came from TNB and SEDA following awareness of the issue being discussed on social networks - SEDA clarifies on 1% surcharge and 1% charge not aimed at unwary clients

My bill exceeds the FOC limit. Let's see, if I don't want to pay this surcharge, I will have to:
  • turn off my lights and fans after 830pm
  • stop using air-cons
  • change to boiling water on my gas cooker rather than use the electric kettle
  • replace my auto boil-keep warm thermopot with the traditional thermos flask   
I guess that's how things work. 

If you don't want to pay toll, use the old trunk roads. If you don't want to use the badly-maintained public toilets that require a fee should you choose to ease yourself inside the wet, stinking environment of a so-called toilet with the cleaners sitting around watching you, go to the bushes. If you don't want to pay a huge water bill, construct your own rain water harvesting system. 

And if you don't want to pay taxes, don't work?

21 May 2013

Tatabahasa for UPSR 2013

My son is in standard 6 this year. He got back his Bahasa Malaysia paper 1 (One), which is on Tatabahasa.

I disagreed with the school on one question, which I thought was quite fundamental and straightforward.

The sentence was given (below) and students were asked whether it was correct or wrong:

"Mereka berdua sungguh amat bertuah kerana terpilih sebagai calon angkasawan negara."

For those of us Malaysians reasonably well versed with our national language, which I think I am, would you agree with me that the sentence (immediately) seems wrong. That is because there are two kata penguat being used consecutively, making it repetitious and redundant. I was very sure of this.

I even obtained some reference and advisory from Dewan Bahasa & Pustaka on the net, which confirmed that "sungguh amat" adalah salah kerana darjah penguat tidak boleh hadir beriringan (2010).

I approached my son's BM teacher with my query. He replied that he would confer with the other BM teachers. He got back to me a couple of days later, affirming that the school's use of sungguh amat together was correct by virtue of Tatabahasa Dewan Edisi Ketiga, 2011.


His BM teacher even provided me with a copy of the relevant page from the book. Which reads:
Dua unsur penguat boleh juga hadir berderetan sebelum kata adjektif contohnya, sungguh amat merdu, terlalu amat pedih , sangat kurang sopan.

I was flabbergasted. Undaunted, I searched for contact details of the 3 authors of the book. I found one, Professor Hashim Haji Musa.

I dialed his number and he picked up on the first ring. I introduced myself, my situation and asked him if he could confirm the matter. He was obliging and asked me for the page number.

What did I expect? He co-wrote the book, right?

So he said, ah yes, that is an exception whereby you are allowed to use sungguh amat and terlalu amat together and that would be considered correct. He reminded me, only these kata penguat may be used together.

My quest to defend what I believed to be the right answer ended here.

(image from wikipedia.org)

16 May 2013

Snakes (and civet cat) Alive!

A couple of days ago, we received a visit by yet another civet cat.

It kept the dogs up and agitated all night. Me included.

It couldn't get out from the tree it was holed up in because my dogs were circling under the tree. From 2.30am until the morning. Finally, it had enough at about 9am and tried to make a dash for it. Alas for the civet cat! Our Lab mix and our Rottweiler showed their hunting prowess.

All the dogs were knocked out for the rest of the day, deprived of sleep as they were the night before.

Then in the evening, our Rottweiler, fresh from her day's sleep, went about her usual inspection of the garden. She started barking ferociously in her trademark fashion, indicating to us that "something was there".

The "there" was among my lady's fingers plants, and the "something" turned out to be a medium-sized cobra!

Snakes alive!

My Rottie is still a young dog, goofy and loveable, and just coming into her hunting instincts. This is no match for her! The cobra was standing up (as you always see in National Geographic), hissing and lunging at our Rottie when she got too close to it. My hubs and maid were out with me by now, with bamboo sticks.

I tried to call off our Rottie with food, which usually works. But not this time. She was too into it.

Luckily hubs and maid managed to knock out the cobra. Hubs then scooped up the reptile before Rottie could snap at it and threw it over to the neighbouring empty land (which resembles more of a secondary jungle than land in an urban area).

Now, did I say there is just too much fauna around our home?   

(picture for illustration purposes only, courtesy of www.scientificamerican.com )

15 May 2013

After GE13 - vernacular schools in Malaysia debated again

I didn't read the news on Sunday, 12 May 2013 as it was Mother's Day, and I was just too busy with this, that and the other.

Until a reader (and online friend) asked me what I thought of the Star's article entitled Single-stream schools will unify nation.

This is a difficult one. Really.

But to start off. The government, and people in general, should really, really leave education out of politics.

Why is this issue of vernacular schools being brought up again, being brought up now, so soon after GE13? Is it to find a scapegoat?

Come on. No matter who you are, you know what you've done, you know whether it's a fair win, you know why votes went the way they did. Now it's just time to move on. Isn't that what PM Najib said? The results are in. Nothing has changed. BN won. Now just go and do a good, clean job in governing the country in the 21st century.

Back to vernacular schools. Chinese vernacular.

Much has been written on it, and there are loads of research material, high level thinking stuff (which I haven't read) arguing one way or another about the value of preserving mother tongue teaching. Some quick reading can be found here:Vernacular education in Malaysia    National vs Vernacular schools  Why vernacular school issue keeps resurfacing

I send my kids to a Chinese vernacular school. So? Does that make me bad? Make me disloyal? Rubbish!

Sekolah Kebangsaan

I myself, am a product of our "good old" Sekolah Kebangsaan and Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan system.

Good because I obtained a decent education; mastering both English and Bahasa Malaysia to a more than conversational rudimentary level. Religion was not forced down our throats when I was in school. My school was multi-racial.

Old because the system I was educated under is no longer what is being used today. Our education system is like some fashion show, full of catchy acronyms - KBSR, KBSM, KSSR, KSSM. (I wonder if there is a whole department dedicated to creating acronyms in the Kementerian Pelajaran Malaysia)

Our government just can't seem to leave education well alone. First, we are taught to speak Bahasa Malaysia a certain way, pronouncing the "a" with a soft sound. Then, some academician recommends that we speak Bahasa with a "baku" sound, emphasizing a stronger sound "AH" with all words ending with "a". Make up your minds!

For a decade, our government perhaps advocates English while in the next, it almost completely destroys a whole generation of Malaysians' proficiency in English. And then the unemployable graduates of today ask why they can't get a job when they have a local university degree. Ask the government.

However, since I went to a national school, as a Malaysian-Chinese, I am illiterate in Chinese. Illiterate. I can only converse in Chinese but am unable to read or write Chinese, until I sent my kids to a Chinese V school. I picked up some Chinese from and with my kids.

Why do parents send their kids to a Chinese vernacular school

Not because they want to be disloyal to the country. Not because they do not want a united people. Tan Sri Dr Abdul Rahman Arshad and Datuk Mohd Noor Abdullah, please take note.

I don't say that I know why they send their kids to Chinese or Tamil V schools. Everyone has their own reason, and they have the right to choose.

Actually, have you ever asked the Chinese, Malay and Indian parents who send their kids to vernacular schools why they do so?

Rather than spew toxic advice from your ivory towers (Datuk Mohd Noor Abdullah said,"SJKs only disunite the people"), why don't you get down and dirty, and go down to the ground and ask? Do your "surveys" or your "academic research backed up by facts". Have you sat for a few days straight to observe the quality of teaching in the sekolah-sekolah kebangsaan?

And by the way, Tan Sri Dr Abdul Rahman Arshad, I was told that this sentence is correct - Lauk ini sungguh amat sedap. Your comments on the quality of Bahasa Malaysia being taught in schools today?

Prioritise education, not politicise it. 

08 May 2013

Three Legs Cooling Water

Cooling and heaty.

These are Asian concepts which the West is still skeptical about, but to us here in Malaysia, it is part of daily life as we hear, "don't eat too much watermelon. It's cooling" or "don't eat too much durian, it's heaty."

But, I have never heard about "cooling water" before until my maid told me about it. She said they drink "Air Badak" all the time in Indonesia, when they feel heaty or have a sore throat.

This is the Three Legs Cooling Water , which features the picture of a rhino on its lable, while its logo is that of, yep, three legs!

Out of curiosity, I bought this cooling water from the  Guardian pharmacy. It is not cheap - about RM3.80 for a 500 ml bottle.

It tastes just like water. After all, it is purified water. The label states that its main added ingredient is gypsum fibrosum.

Gypsum fibrosum is a mineral, and used in TCM  (traditional Chinese medicine) to, among others, clear excess heat in the lungs and to treat inflammation of the gums, diabetes, high fevers, excessive thirst, headaches, toothaches, nose bleeds, coughing, and wheezing. Apart from its medicinal uses, it is also a substance found in plaster, plaster of Paris, blackboard chalk, and historically as a wood substitute in the ancient world.

Is it effective?

It did help alleviate my husband's sore throat. My maid said she was feeling heaty, with this hot wet and wild weather we are having, and drank a bottle. She felt fine after that. The kids tried it for fun.

I have a couple of bottles handy at the moment. It's faster than having to boil my own barley drink or pak chee cho.

07 May 2013

Life after GE 13

To the polls!

It was an exciting day, last Sunday, 5th May 2013. It was the day Malaysians who care about the country's future went to the polls.

It was our first time voting in Ipoh.

We arrived at our centre just before 8am and there was a queue of about 20 people ahead of us. At 8am sharp, the guard opened the school gate and people then proceeded to have their ICs checked. This was a slow process. And an unnecessary one, we found out later.

The queue was moving so slowly. I remarked to my husband that I remembered during GE 12 back in PJ in 2008, I went straight to my polling stream as I had already checked it online. Why should we queue here since we knew our polling streams too?

But...due to the supposed changes our (not-so) trustworthy Election Commission had implemented for GE 13, thanks to the efforts of BERSIH, we thought we would just follow (like cows to the slaughter). As we got nearer to the tent, I craned my neck so see ahead and it became clear that this process was just for the officers to check your IC details and tell you which polling stream to go to!

Wasted time......sheeeesh!

Anyway, at our polling centre, all was calm and orderly. We were done by 9am. Given the location of our polling centre, it would have been too obvious to bus in "spooks" to vote. At my daughter's ballet class later that day, the moms who voted didn't go too easy on the lone mom who did not vote. Guess that's at least one good thing about the indelible ink - we get to put those who didn't vote on a guilt trip!

The night was spent waiting for election results: my husband on his PC; me on my I-pad.

The morning after.

The much-touted UBAH did not arrive.

BN remains in power as the ruling government, but without its 2/3 majority. It failed to wrest back Selangor and Penang, the much coveted precious gems that BN had gone to great lengths for.

It did regain Kedah, and Mahathir must now be a happy papa as he can finally see his offspring become MB of Kedah, a stepping stone no doubt towards greater political aspirations. And so we have the dynasties of former prime minister Tun Abdul Razak via Najib, and Tun Mahathir via Mukhriz. So...nobody has anything bad to say about dynasties, right?

I have exercised my right as a Malaysian to vote. This was one hair-raising election. People got emotional and heated. But I guess it was in this emotional state that the stuff people wrote on social media truly showed what was in their hearts. And a lot of it wasn't pretty. Nope, not at all.

Racism is well and truly alive here in Malaysia.

Despite 55 years of independence obtained through the cooperation of the different races in Malaysia, it is extremely sad to know that many people have forgotten history; some have chosen to distort history; or to disregard history in their supremist attitude that they and only they own the earth Malaysia lies upon. And the politicians have seized upon this very attitude, increased their insecurities, and fanned it with racial politics to divide Malaysians, for their personal selfish gains.

It broke my heart to read a particular friend's post on FB. It wasn't what she wrote, but rather what her friends wrote. That the elections were about one race fighting against another. How could their thoughts be so distorted?

Malaysians are voting to choose a responsible, honest and capable leadership to steer the country towards greater and continued success. Not a government that doesn't do an honest day's work. Not a government that grows fat and lazy and arrogant.

Malaysians don't want corruption, cronyism and crime.

At least, I thought that's what most Malaysians want and don't want. I may be wrong.

And yes, life goes on.

03 May 2013

Is this our nocturnal visitor - Asian palm (masked) civet cat

Late in the night, on more than one night, our dogs have been set off into a barking and search-and-hunt frenzy. In the mix of canine din, there was feline-like spitting and hissing.

I saw nothing out of the ordinary in the garden when I switched on our flood lights.

Except maybe some swift movement among the fruit trees, and a pair of glowing eyes with a long tail.

It happened again last night. Some months back, our dogs caught and mauled something that later died. I could not recognize what animal it was.

Now, I think the nocturnal visitors are "musang" or the Asian palm civet cat.

It is a fruit-eating mammal, not related to the cat at all. Perhaps you are a fan of the famous Vietnamese  fox-dung coffee?

When I tell (rather, complain to) my husband of all the flora and fauna (domesticated and wild) that surround us, he says, "Aren't we lucky?"

(images from mohanpaisarticles.blogspot.com, www.the-most-expensive.info)

02 May 2013

Plumbers, other helpful (hopefully) contacts in Ipoh

Getting into a new town also means we have to source for help to fix leaky pipes, broken washing machines, etc. I scrolled thru some of my contacts in my mobile and list them here to get you started.

Oh, and I can't vouch for their quality of work, so I hope you won't be disappointed (or mad) after having used their services.

A Keong: 012 5185299

Washing machine
A Seng: 019 5704474

Lorry (we used to move our stuff from KL)
Nathan: 019 4364315

Lights (the shop can also change light bulbs etc for you if you don't fancy climbing up a ladder yourself, for a fee)
Hoover: 05 2548768

(image from mauiplumber.blogspot.com)

01 May 2013

Argh! Fish bone stuck in my throat

We've heard and probably seen on some TV show how someone suddenly chokes on a fish bone.

It happened to me just last night, while having dinner with my son at home.

We had home-cooked bak kut teh, and ikan assam pedas with ladies fingers and roselle leaves from my garden.

I felt the discomfort of something lodged in my throat after I had finished my sour and spicy ikan kembung (mackerel). I thought nothing of it and continued eating. But something was certainly stuck in my throat.

So, going by conventional wisdom, I swallowed large mouthfuls of rice, hoping to push the piece of fish bone down together with the rice and water. It didn't work.

My maid then asked me to eat banana. I tried that and it didn't work either.

I was starting to get visions of me at the doctor's clinic with the doctor extracting the fish bone with forceps! Nope, I didn't want that scenario. So I tried to induce some vomiting. Eeeww! I really hate to vomit but I had to try. I coughed violently and stuck my finger down the back of my tongue.

Vomit I did, but the fish bone remained stubbornly stuck. I was sweating by now and my son looked extremely worried. He then dashed upstairs, remembering something.

When he came downstairs again, he said," Mommy, drink vinegar!" while waving a book in my face.

Huh? My maid and I looked at each other, amused and cynical at the same time. But I went along with my son's suggestion.

First, my maid brought out a bottle of Vinigen honey vinegar. I said that's not strong enough. I asked her to get the bottle of apple cider vinegar. I mixed 2 tablespoons of the apple cider vinegar with a touch of water, and drank several mouthfuls slowly. Then I ate a bit more rice. The fish bone moved! Then I drank the remainder of the vinegar and I could not feel it anymore!

So drinking some vinegar actually worked! This morning I did a search for other fish bone advice. There was one by a a doctor (who advised NOT to cough and gag - oops!) and another really brave soul who used scissors to get the fish bone out.

I thanked my son and asked what book it was that he fetched. It was something I had bought him sometime back - Top Survival Tips by Asiapac Books, Singapore.

So the next time you encounter a fish bone stuck in your throat, try drinking some vinegar (I would dilute with a little water) to soften the fish bone. Good luck!  
(image from ehow.com)