Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Satisfied Feeling

Feeling satisfied is an emotion to be treasured. Nowadays we want to receive value for money and to be at the right end is something I want to remember. I just came back from a lovely and leisurely dinner with my wife at the Kensington Restaurant in Oakland Industrial Estate. The Kensington has been our favorite haunt for western cuisine especially on special occasions. Tonight it is special because we are alone, without our grand-daughter around, and it is still Christmassy. We ordered our favorite set dinner and enjoyed the food, the company and the soft music.

Two evenings ago we had another lovely dinner at the Lucky Palace Restaurant around the same place with the family of Beng Cheong, my brother-in-law. The service was good, the food nice on our palates. BC said he has found another great place to dine in Seremban. Maybe the glass of Guinness stout helped him make the observation!

This morning I bought 3 tee shirts from a nice sales promoter. Hmmmm, looks like I am lucky to be getting the things I like without feeling short-changed. A great sign for the year end and New Year?

Friday, December 26, 2008

My Favorite Home Corner

There is always a place that we are comfortable with at home. Some find the bedroom cosy and private, others prefer the TV settee while another may love the bathroom more than anywhere else! Actually I like all these places but none can beat the massage chair in the cul de sac just above the staircase landing before the master bedroom door. Next to the massage chair is a coffee table on which I placed 2 Altec Lansing PC speakers hooked to an iPod Shuffle that has an assortment of oldies, classical and instumental music loaded to play randomly. As the OSIM iMedic massage chair kneads my shoulder blades and roll away the fatigue of the backbones, the music takes me away to a different world and gently eases my mind. I would drift away and let the soft tunes caress my body and mind. It is really very refreshing and invigorating!

Music is always my balm to ease away my mental and emotional fatigue. Sometimes I would allow myself to fall into a nap. In this home corner of mine I have the best refuge I can choose. So whenever I feel tired this is where, above anywhere else, you will find me.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas and The Shadow of Recession

The church was packed with worshippers at this morning's Christmas service. There were many guests who were here for the first time, some from overseas. Sadly there were also members who come to church only on festive services like this and Easter. Nevertheless it was a joyous time for us to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Pastor Paul reminded us solemnly that He came first as the Saviour but at His second coming, He will come as the Judge.

At the Christmas breakfast following I chatted with some church members and invariably the topic shifted to the impending recession that is expected to hit us next year. Actually we are already experiencing some impact but the fear I read is that the worst is yet to befall us, and I was asked what I think of its severest impact. Always the optimistic person that I am I surmised that recession is not fatal, will not affect everybody, that it is temporary and that we will all survive, a little poorer but not badly damaged.

I believe there are 3 categories of people and businesses in this scenario. The recession-proof ones who will not feel any pinch because they are either well insulated or they are in businesses that are little changed by recession because the demand and supply still go on inspite of a recession. The second category is for those who had invested unsafely, overinvested through borrowings or have no savings to cover job losses or unplanned expenses. They will feel the full impact and some will not survive this recession. The last category is that of people and companies that will see recession as an opportunity to profit financially because they will be able to pick up good assets at below market prices. I may add that places of worship will also see increased attendance because some people will turn to these places to find answers and comfort. Perhaps the Christmas services throughout the country is well attended because of such additional visitors. I am sure God will make use of this opportunity to touch the lives of such people in financial difficulties. HERE's an interesting article to read.

Recession is like a flu that affect the countries. The human race is resilient and forever identifying and applying solutions to secure a cure so I am hopeful that this recession will be over soon. Take heart and patiently wait out for the sun to shine again.

Blessed Christmas and Happy New Year 2009!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Multi-Tasking, a New Word for an Old Habit

Long before this word was bandied around the Net and among PC users we have been doing a few things within the same time slot, if that is what multi-tasking is all about. In the beginning when I first heard of this term I thought it was something novel and fashionable, as if technology now enables us to be more efficient time users. What it really come down to is that technology puts pressure on us to do more things in a more hurried manner in the same time slot. For instance the PC now opens up several programmes so that we can skip from one to another to conduct our work. A chef is already doing it, preparing a few dishes simultaneously. A student can be revising his homework, playing online game, and chattng with his friends on Facebook. I can be clipping my toenails while talking on my mobile phone with a friend at the same time watching my favorite TV channel. While driving I concentrate on the traffic while humming a tune and thinking what to eat for dinner.

We all multitask without even realising it. Imagine when you get up in the morning and your brain start working on what to do as you go about freshening up. The only time we stop multitasking is when we shut down our body and mind to go to sleep. However, I seriously wonder if we don't multitask even in our dreams! I really think that when I have a few dreams I was really hopping from one scene to another. Would you not call it multidreaming?

I believe our capability to multitask diminishes with age (growing old). It also improves as one gets older (from childhood) and probably reaches its peak between 30-50 I don't know. It may have to do with better physical and mental coordinations at that prime time of life. But I would like to stay prime as long as I can because I think it help a person stay efficient for a long time. Since multitasking involves thinking, planning, organizing and tasking, the entire process is wholesome and a good exercise. And would that also involve lovemaking?

My Journey as a Publisher

I enjoy building things up and seeing the end result in a pleasing way. I think I am also rather creative although not in an unconventional way. If I could I would like to go into singing, song writing, dancing and things artistic but I guess I have to let them stay where they are, in the recesses of my imagination and wishfulness.

As early as 1992 I was interested in writing for the church newsletter. When it started the care group ministry I volunteered to publish a monthly newsletter that I named unimaginatively Care Bulletin. It was a solo project but I took it seriously, personally and with a mission because I wanted the bulletin to knit the various church activities for general reading. For the next 5-6 years I weathered the many deadlines to bring the bulletin out on time even if I never received any accolade from my readers. It was I guess a pure work of self indulgence and I really put in time, effort and sometimes own money. I derived satisfaction in singularly moving this publication into print and distribution.

I suffered fatigue and some disillusionment around 1998 and decided to stop. A year later my pastor asked me to resume which I agreed under the condition that I should not be responsible for all the contents. I need contributors to submit their materials by my deadlines and I would build them into a newsletter to be published. A new name was chosen - Journey. For the next 5-6 years I again solo'd on this project as a lone ranger. Somehow I found it easier to work alone than as a team. After all if I can have the 6-10 articles given to me by a set deadline I alone will be able to arrange them and add some nice graphics and have the file printed and later photocopied in bulk. I need no committee nor editorial team. I was a one-man publisher cum producer.

Then age caught up. Added to it my thinking that if I never give up this job will be mine until I drop dead, literally. So in 2005 I tendered my resignation. I can but I won't. I said I would stay around to help if needed or write occasionally, but I will not be doing the documentation part with its deadline pressures. I thought I have done my fair share for more than 10 years and needed to take a back seat, which I really did in the past 2-3 years.

Someone else took over. I shared my concerns as well as what he will likely face. He was game and took the challenge. He built a committee and rounded up a group of writers. He was a team leader that I was not. He took the Journey to a higher level, making it a colorful and more readable bulletin that comes out thrice a year - Easter, Anniversary, and Christmas. 6 weeks before each of these publication deadlines, he would send out invitations for church members to contribute articles. Then he'd submerged into his private world of checking and putting the articles into a well laid out format, with great help from a gifted church member who is studying graphics design. How often he faced last minute pressure, working late into the night to see the bulletins printed and stapled in to for distribution I never asked. He would not accept any help, if he can solve the problems himself. I see that very much like me and I see him re-living the kind of experience I went through. He is still gung ho about the whole work and I hope he will stay positive and strong for many more years, perhaps to match or exceed my 10+ years.

Yesterday he called me an SOS, that the file would not print as expected. Was it corrupted? Was it saved under a wrong version? Was the PC at fault? Printer? So many questions, and just 2 days to print the 200 sets for distribution on Christmas morning. The church member who helped put the articles together for printing is in town, on holiday. This morning the 3 of us tried to work out a solution to start printing. When I left the church office around 11.30am they were still at it. I hope they have resolved the problem and started printing.

Those who pick up a copy of the Christmas edition of Journey in 2 days will not realise the pressure the publisher and the designer underwent. I do, because I was there myself, and I appreciate their efforts and dedication. And I know that God saw all these efforts as well.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Where Have All the Choristers Gone?

I joined the Wesley Choir in 1989 when one of the tenor members encouraged me. Over a year later he passed away. In the last 19 years I was disappointed that not many new church members joined the choir. Among the men I am still the most junior dedicated member though there were a few who joined but left after awhile. Last year in August we wanted to call it a day when we felt we were unable to sing due to shrinking numbers and poor attendance. I made the announcement on behalf of the choir and the congregation was dismayed but took it rather well. But not the church leadership who wanted the choir to continue, which we agreed reluctantly. Since then we sang only 3 times, the latest being last Sunday (Dec 21) when we sang 2 anthems (God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen and Joy to the World). We missed singing in September for the church anniversary due to poor turnout at practice sessions. This was a bad sign indeed. Even though we made it to this Christmas we cannot be sure we can sustain it in the coming years. Almost all the choir members are above 55. Our ability to pick up new and faster songs is limited, plus we cannot hit high notes anymore nor drag beyond 4 counts. So when the Operafest children choir sang at my church on Dec 12 in a fund raising concert we felt we have really lost our singing skills over the years by comparison.

In the 19 years I counted at least 5 male members have deceased. They were not replaced. As of now we have just 3 tenors and 2-3 bass singers. Where have all the new choristers gone? Even the choir director feels tired and discouraged. The pianist have not changed until 2 days ago and we realised how much we've depended on her professional accompaniment. Each time we sang we always asked if this will be our last? The recent Christmas rendering may just be our last, or we may just make it to the Easter anthems next year. Nothing is sure. I wanted to be rested too, just were some of those who retired themselves. If I do I shall remember with fondness the good times we had practising on Friday nights, making mistakes, humoring each other and struggling to blend our voices into a credible rendition of respectable singing. I really don't want the Wesley Choir to go into the sunset. I pray for rejuvenation and that perhaps a group of junior singers will take over, remold it and give it a different direction.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Clean Up! Clean Up!

I like to listen to children songs, maybe they reflect my desire to return to my childhood days, or I just want to be at the same wavelengths of my grandchildren. Victoria loves Barney the Purple Dinosaur and one of the songs we like to sing was in the Title. Songs like this help teach children the duty as well as the fun of cleaning up after a meal, or a task. Well, this post is not about that exactly. It is about cleaning up my house and garden. periodically.

2 months ago I repainted the metal grille doors as they were either stained or slightly rusted. Plus Grace then, as well as now, love to be lifted up and step on the grille to watch the world outside. A month ago I decided to have the huge mango tree outside the house trimmed as the canopy has grown too heavy. Plus they were touching the overhead cables and the tree 'forgot' to bear any fruits in the past season. I thought giving it a nice prune would force it to remember. Just wait and see.

A fortnight ago I decided to give the lopsided bougainvilla tree in the compound a nice 'haircut', that I forgot when the mango tree was trimmed. The trimmings were left outside to dry and last night I did what I myself have complained about other neighbors of doing, open burning! Sorry, guys but I won't be doing this on a regular basis. Last night, under a clear sky and a windy weather, I set fire to the dried branches and created a small bonfire. Much as I hated smoke, this was OK since it was non-toxic plant fire.

This morning I killed off a row of shrubs that has overgrown its usefulness and, unfortunately, beauty (I feel guilty to be unappreciative of older plants but I have to be pragmatic here). When dried they will either be carted away to a waste site or similarly burned.

Looking around I see other shrubs awaiting the same fate, plus some of the garden light stands need repainting as well. But the 'mega' job that I need a contractor to do, and pay for the service, is to rebuild the entire lawn that has become an oasis of weeds. I can literally hear them sprouting with joy. But this project will only come about if and when my new neighbor decide to move in and build a wall to stop new weeds from spreading down to my garden. So the project is on hold.

New year is dawning and there is much work to be done, and money to be spent. Recession or not, upkeeping the house cannot be deferred or else it will be an unpleasant place to live in. Speaking of which, we also need to replace the sheers, you know, the 'petticoat' under the window curtains? Looks like this need to be hurried a bit as Chinese New Year is dawning on 26th January.

Ha, ha! That pix above is not of my garden or my car.

Monday, December 15, 2008

What A Blast!

I have never been subjected to this much noise attack than last night. And the other guests at the same table with me and my wife could not agree more. At the centenary dinner we were seated on a table right in front of the banquet hall and some 20 feet from two huge loud speakers. The musical band and singers were making music and all sorts of sounds the whole night as it was a time of celebration. To prevent our ear-drums from being damaged we had to improvise earplugs using tissue papers. Although the food and fellowship were good we certainly could do with some peace to eat and talk a bit. My only wish has been the hosts were a little more considerate to those seating near the speakers by tuning down the volume. I guess I have to remember this if I am involved in a similar dinner planning in a few years.

After the dinner ended I was glad to enjoy the quiet evening as my wife and I walked to the car for our drive home.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

I've Been Summonsed!

Well, not exactly for committing a traffic offense. But I can never tell if my car was caught in the radar for speeding on the highway last week while I drove back to Ipoh and Sitiawan. Today I was 'summonsed' for something happy. Two of our church members have sent us wedding invitations. Andrew Poi marries Winnie Wong on 10th January while Eugene Goh marries Su May on 17th January. Each 'summonse' we get makes us a little older, a little privileged to be remembered by the hosts, and a little proud of the celebrating couples, just like when Morgan and Por married last week.

Summonsing involve paying a fine, in this case red packet money to the wedded couples. Unlike the West, in the Asian Chinese culture, gifts are given more in cash than in kinds so they have more flexibility on how to spend them. So come January I shall be poorer but it will be to help celebrate 2 happy occasions.

On the same subject of celebrations: tonight my wife and I will attend the centenary dinner celebration of the Seremban's Tamil Methodist Church in Restoran Min Kok. It is no mean feat to be 100 years old! As a side note, our Wesley Methodist Church is younger at only 93 years old. Coming Friday I'll be at our care groups's thanksgiving dinner for a member's remission from nasal cancer after early detection.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Last Few Days

I took special precaution to rest a lot to avoid my flu from escalating into a cough. And I was on antibiotic to be doubly sure. Looks like the measures helped. Yet I had to attend to some important matters over the past few days. On 11th I was at the PBS to receive a donation cheque from the KL Wesley for the work of the centre. It was a big sum that caught us all by surprise, a timely Christmas gift.

Last night I attended the Operafest children choir concert held at my church that help raise money for the Council of Churches of Malaysia Building Fund. And this morning I chaired an important closure meeting for Pusat Berdikari Seremban.

Tomorrow morning I will be liturgist at the morning worship. I am glad I took care of myself these few days. Monday appear free on my calendar and I will go to office that I had missed for a week.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Getting Sick is No Fun!

Perhaps it was too many activities or lousy weather combination that made some of us vulnerable to falling ill. Last Saturday the drive back to Ipoh was extraordinarily long because many families took advantage of some public holidays this week to 'balik kampung' or 'go back to the hometown' to visit parents. It was a little stressful and I was the sole driver. After the wedding dinner I helped out on the finance part and only got to bed well past midnight.

The following day we drove back to visit my mother and it rained at dinner time. Again, a terribly long wait for food to be served. Plus it rained the whole night.

The next day we went to Pangkor Island and were again caught in a drizzle. With such combinations anyone could fall ill and I became a victim. My body was achy but I quickly downed vitamin C tablets, paracetamol and began a course of antibiotics. Last night I had a long sleep and this morning as I post this I am feeling better.

The coming days are filled with appointments so I pray that I will be well enough to attend them, and not spread any bugs to the people I meet!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Pangkor in A Fleeting Moment

The trip to Pangkor Island was supposedly for 3D/2N but due to an emergency we had to return a day earlier (this morning). Our memory of the trip to Pangkor Island Beach Resort will be those of drizzles on the ferry ride to the island, a memorable beach walk by CK and I last evening as well as the many lovely pictures I took. We agreed that it is a good family destination to consider as the resort have many events for kids, plus the pools and beaches are just so private and clean! Beating the Swiss Garden Golf Resort in Damai Laut we went 2 years ago when Julian and Winnie came back.

OK, here are some pictures I took. Enjoy!

At the Lumut Ferry Jetty before Departure for Pangkor
The Lumut Naval Base
The Private Pangkor Island Beach Resort Jetty we landed 30 minutes Later
View from our Room at the Pacific Wing overlooking the Pool and Beach
Palm Filled Beach at the Ocean Wing
A Surprise! We even spotted a Male Peacock!
Beach Chairs to relax Your Bodies and Minds (Sadly we did not have the chance!)
Vast Private Beach with the Hornbill Restaurant at the Background

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Away for the Next 4 Days

My family and I will be leaving for Ipoh to celebrate Morgan's wedding dinner (again) and later visit my aging mother before taking a holiday break at Pangkor Island Beach Resort. I will blog again after my return with some pix and stories to share.

Hitting the 'Magical' 60

How can I ever forget this? Not blogging this milestone in greater details when I can remember to blog all else? Thank God this is still 2008 and I am technically still in my 60s.

I celebrated my 60th birthday 3 times. The first was given by my siblings, mother and aunt back in my hometown on 31st March, then on 5th April at the 20th anniversary of the company that I founded I was given a surprise birthday celebration, and finally on 6th April itself I gave my friends and church members a private dinner in thanksgiving to the good years the Lord bestowed upon me and my family. Love gifts I received that evening I donated to the social ministry I am presently actively involved in.

I've selected 3 pictures for viewing. May I wish you, dear readers, very happy birthdays too, at whatever age, for birthdays are indeed a reflection of good times and family love.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Be Wise Like the Polar Bears

I sometime have inspirations that surprise even myself. Most of the time it happens while I was lying down and my mind still active. It is a pity that when I got up the inspiration would leave me and I cannot recall the flow of words that I so wanted to preserve. I was really glad that I was inspired just awhile ago to pen something in Dr Hsu's Forum post of December 4 entitles 'During Good Times, Prepare for the Bad'. Below is what I wrote:

I am reminded of the polar bears and how they manage seasonal downs during winters by conserving food in their fats and hibernating while the body metabolises the reserves slowly. I believe we can learn from how God created such animals to survive in bad seasons.

It apply to individuals, families, companies and governments. Economic cycles always have good and bad times. In good times, don’t spend like there is no tomorrow (which sadly is what many people in our country practise). Always save and not touch them because it will surely be needed when bad times come (like now).

Like the polar bears, slow down and wait out for the bad times to pass. Use the reserve wisely. Economic activities must continue but not at the usual pace. When nearly everybody practise frugality in recession artificially pushing up more work opprtunity will not necessarily work. It goes against the flow of nature. Everything that lives must rest cyclically. Now is the ebb and now is the rest phase. We need to face it and wait out for better times to come back, which will take time.

We are in the winter of the polar bear life. Be like him and wait for spring when you can spot that new fur and fresh outlook and begin life anew.

Take care and be well.

I not only like to blog I also like to comment on some blogs that I find interesting to follow. Later I will share on some of the comments I've made. For now I just want it known that I enjoy letting others know my viewpoints on some issues I am passionate about.

How Resilient Are You?

In today's ever-changing economic, political, social and cultural scenarios, being resilient to such changes help us adapt better and better prepare to confront the future. We can be upset by unreasonable changes, such as terrorist threats, political unrests and financial crises, but since we cannot stop them we must be resilient enough to face them in ways that keep ourselves safe and ready.

I thought about this because I am affected by inflation and recession all within a period of less than 12 months that cause me to lose my stock values, raise my cost of living and made my business more vulnerable. I am also worried about possible increase in crime incidence and how unlikely the police are able to defend the citizens from such threats. I also feel that the political directions of our nation is getting nowhere and too much drama is taking place without dealing with external threats to keep the nation protected. Just today over lunch I was discussing with Christine about how today's system and competition is forcing us to deliver performance beyond what we can reasonably give and which cause some of us to give up and choose a mediocre path in life because doing well is too stressful. She observed dryly that in my time work is less stressful and I agree.

Living in the 21st century is a living hell to some people. It is no wonder that to keep ourselves better survived we need to watch over our loved ones and help them when they are at a disadvantage at some point in their lives. All of us at whatever age need to be flexible to be adaptable. Demanding for change to your liking may be easier demanded than received. Sometimes it may just be well to adapt and move ahead if we can live with something not exactly the way we wanted.

Perhaps resilience is part of the happiness equation. By deflecting issues that you disagree but of little or no importance to the quality of your life you may just about earn more peace of mind, less temper, more joy and satisfaction. Be resilient but never give up your values and your love for the ones you care about.

No Free Time in Old Age

It is a fallacy to believe that when one gets old he will have lots of free time. It is a perception I cannot apply in my own life, unless, God forbids, I am seriously ill and unable to do anything on my own.

How free you are depends alot on how much attention you want to give to details around you as well as how much you want to be involved in making your life better and that of your family and circle of people you know as well. I am a great attender to details and since I believe in doing things well, I am also compelled to give of my best to see them succeed. I am adverse to failures and I believe that success is a natural outcome to those who puts in their best.

Daily I'd enter my appointments on a electronic organizer on my PC desktop. It helps me keep track of what events are upcoming so I can plan my time more effectively. Not only do I manage my appointments this way I also track birthdays and anniversaries of family members and close relatives and send them my greetings. I can display them 2 weeks or one month ahead. It is very configurable.

(Hi, Maha! Happy Birthday today!)

The freeware I am using is called the Rainlendar and it is available from However I prefer the older version (0.20) which I shall be happy to share if you ask through the comment.

Do What You Do, Do Well

Ned Miller sang the above song with the lyrics below in the 1960s and it has been my guiding principle eversince. I don't know the full song but the chorus has been a major influence on my work attitude.

He couldn't move a mountain
Nor pull down a big old tree-ee
But my daddy became a mighty big man
With a simple philosophy

Do what you do do well boy
Do what you do do we-ell
Give your love and all of your heart
And do what you do do well

Sometimes he'd kiss my mother
And hold her tenderly-y
Then he'd look across the top of her head
Then he'd wink and say to me

Do what you do do well boy
Do what you do do we-ell
Give your love and all of your heart
And do what you do do well

Well he was a man of laughter
But a tragedy came by-y
The tears ran free and he'd say to me
Never be afraid to cry

Do what you do do well boy
Do what you do do we-ell
Give your love and all of your heart
And do what you do do well

Today I still remember
Just like yesterday-ay
'Bout a mighty big man with a mighty big heart
And a mighty few words to say

Do what you do do well boy
Do what you do do we-ell
Give your love and all of your heart
And do what you do do well
Do what you do do well...

I suppose for this I have become a dependable person, reliable and of honor. My parents always said this of me, that when I gave monies after I started work, I would give diligently; when I promise to do something, I would carry out my promise as quickly and as best as I can. I discharge the same reliability in my workplace, my church and in projects I have the privilege to take charge of. In doing these things I am very dependent on my team players and my success is really the success of the entire team.

Nowadays I find many young people, as well as some older adults, sadly speaking, who do not take their work seriously. I wonder what has gone wrong. Are they the products of a failed education system? Is bad family environment to blame? Or wrong values and perceptions given them by their peers, employers, government, etc?

I believe that this motto can be applied at all levels of our lives. Whether we grow well, study well, marry well, work well, teach well or serve well, if we give of our best, I believe we give our society a chance to heal and be a better place to live in.

Retirement is a Choice

Every time I meet a friend or former colleague I have not seen for many years my first question would always be, 'What are you doing now?' So it was last Saturday when I bumped into a former working colleague in the 1980s who is a few years older and I asked him precisely that, and his reply was quite standard, 'Just staying at home, play some golf and travel occasionally'.

It seems that this is a popular way most retirees would want to spend their time and many would actually envy them for the superficially extensive amount of leisure they now have as compared to the almost non-existent free time when they were still working. However, I believe we should not be completely retired to be 'selfishly' on our own. By this I means we should balance between free time for ourselves and family and continuing to apply our knowledge, skills and experience in society. It is our just contribution to a society we lived in all our lives.

Really, there are many non-profit organizations that are crying out for volunteer help. This is where retirees can come forward to participate and contribute to their well-being, and possibly theirs too. Some examples: give free tuition to needy students, be advisors in fields you are professionally good in, offer assistance if you were a retired medical person e.g. nurse, doctor, pharmacist, free legal services if you are in a legal profession, house modifications, landscaping, etc.

If you are one of those who moan of not having anything to do, why not run over a checklist of what you are good at, what you like and how much time you can dedicate to help in the community and then offer your services? You never know you may find a new career in retirement that is fulfilling!

Me? I am lucky to be fully occupied at work (part time), grandpa (part time)and social work (part time, HERE).

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The Curse of Weeds

We want to live selectively with living things we like. For me, weeds are not one of them and I am finding them overcoming my garden faster than I am comfortable with because my house is quite open, and the neighbors are not keeping up with their garden maintenance.

I remember 9 years ago when we first moved in the neighborhood was quite barren and I enthusiastically attended to my garden upkeep myself, mowing the lawn at least once a month and pulling out anything not part of what we planted. My house is on a gradient. I built a partition wall on the side of my lower neighbor so I have privacy as well as keep my garden plants to my side of the property. Unfortunately my higher neighbor did not build a wall but have a chain link fence that allowed pollens to fly over to my side as well as creepers to climb down. When it was owner occupied the problem was minimal but since the owner moved away and rented out the house the garden maintenance was infrequent and sometimes neglected until I call up the owner to remind him to cut the grass. In the past few years when this was happening my garden became breeding grounds of weeds so the lawn is no longer homogenous.

Over time we have less time to pull up the weeds as they were growing faster than we could catch up. Our routine changed and our bodies not as agile. Today I am not proud of my garden anymore but I still maintain it as best as I can, which involves a mow-over every 45 days or so by a paid gardener and occasional de-weeding myself.

Which is what I spent time on this morning. And what I learned of this as I pulled out the weeds one by one ?

That our lives are also like keeping the weeds out and what we like in. Busyness tend to put such maintenance behind schedule and to some of us we allow such 'weeds' to overrun our lives that we start losing control. The quality of our lives deteriorate like the gardens in our house. My wife's advice? Have little or no gardens to solve the problems of weeds. This is an instant solution but why we ever have gardens is to have variety, beauty and quality. I cannot imagine living in a condo without a piece of landed garden!

To every piece of beauty there comes a responsibility to upkeep and maintain it. The more of this the more efforts are required. So before you decide to buy that potted plant or aquarium or pet dog, ask yourself if you have the time and resource to keep them well maintained. If not, put it down and simplify your life.

For me, I am still hoping that my new higher neighbor (the original owner has sold the house) will decide to put up a wall and 'keep' the weeds to himself. Then I may consider rebuilding my lawn so I can enjoy the beauty of it again.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

And the Leaves that are Green

I've been meaning to post this song by Simon & Garfunkel on my blog but I am unable to find it. In the meantime I wish to share the lyrics here before I forget.

I was twenty-one years when I wrote this song.
Im twenty-two now but I wont be for long
Time hurries on.
And the leaves that are green turn to brown,
And they wither with the wind,
And they crumble in your hand.

Once my heart was filled with the love of a girl.
I held her close, but she faded in the night
Like a poem I meant to write.
And the leaves that are green turn to brown,
And they wither with the wind,
And they crumble in your hand.

I threw a pebble in a brook
And watched the ripples run away
And they never made a sound.
And the leaves that are green turned to brown,
And they wither with the wind,
And they crumble in your hand.

Hello, hello, hello, good-bye,
Good-bye, good-bye, good-bye,
Thats all there is.
And the leaves that are green turned to brown,
And they wither with the wind,
And they crumble in your hand.

Simon & Garfunkel has been my favorite duet group and I love the nostalgic folksy music and lyrics they sang. I don't have all their songs but among those I know this made me feel like autumn has just gone and winter is coming. If I sound like time is fleeting it is because some of the leaves in my life has indeed turned to brown. But I believe my heart is still very young and wish to stay so for a good many years to come.

Update: Here's the song you can listen or even download HERE.

Petrol Price Down Again

The petrol price for RON97 grade has been reduced by another 10 sen to RM1.90/litre as of this morning, 2 sen below the pre-June 2008 price of RM1.92/litre before the government shocked the country by raising the pump price by a hefty 78 sens or 40.6% on June 5 this year. Since then the price was lowered in tiny steps of 15 sen each round as the crude oil price fell like a deck of cards. The damage has already been done; the cost of living rose significantly. Now that the oil price has gone back to 'normal' the cost of living has not. Don't you hate this mismanagement?

This morning I was lucky to be able to drive my car on a near empty fuel tank to a Shell station near my office and pumped 58 litres, and 'saved' RM5.80 in the price, which just about paid for the vegetarian lunches for myself and Christine.

Since we are surrounded by recession but not really in the mood to be part of this new fad or culture, perhaps we should start to economise as much as we can so that when we are hit we are prepared. I remember how I economised in June when petrol was like liquid gold. I drove my car on cruise control as much as I could; I planned my trips so I conserve fuel. But now the fuel is even cheaper I should be less bothered, right? On the contrary, I am more bothered because fixed deposit interest rates has come down, so I earn less on them, which means unless I cut back on expenses I will have an overall deficit savings for my older old age, if you know what I mean. As we enter recession next year I predict savings interests will get lower still (from 3.50% p.a. now to 3.20% I project) so we should really save more to offset this decline. Which is why I think it was really daft for the government in general and Najib Razak, the Finance Minister (new on the job) in particular to reduce employee EPF contribution by 3% from 11% from next month to stimulate the economy by encouraging more spending (out of retirement savings, of all the places to take!). I am not touching that pot of cash especially now that a survey has shown EPF dividends are earning MORE than stocks and bonds! I think I would like to move my FD into EPF if they allow, won't you? Of course some of you may think EPF may not have enough cash to pay out if there is a run so it is better to cash out as soon as we qualify to do so.

The dilemma we all face today is there is really no safe place to put our money and earn a good interest. So if a good deal comes along, study it very, very carefully. At least we still get to earn reasonable interests. Some of the countries with lower annual FD interests now are: Canada (2.70%), Hong Kong (2.10%), Japan (0.60%), Singaore (1.30%) and United States (3.00%). New Zealand which just a few months ago offered 8.20% now pay only 5.20%, a sharp 3% reduction!

Stock market is in such a rocky state that I am staying far far away before moving in for another look. Real estate? Not interested as it involves too much efforts to manage it.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The Heavenly Trio

Last night I gazed up the evening skies and beheld a wonderful sight (thanks Christine!). Venus, Jupiter and the Moon were arranged in a triangle, with Venus and Jupiter like the eyes and the moon below like a mouth on a smiley face! I tried to capture the sight with my Canon digital camera but gave up after the pix turned out blurry. Should have kept one for the record, though. Below is what I read from

Venus, Jupiter, and the moon all were shining bright on Monday night, lighting up the sky as the three brightest objects to be seen.

The two planets, Venus and Jupiter, have been moving closer together day by day over the past few weeks.

On Monday night, they appeared to be no more than a few miles away from each other up in the sky.

They were seen in the sky and were joined by the crescent moon on Monday night, lighting up the sky and putting on quite a show.

Anyway here's a pix from THIS REPORT. The orientation from my location is different though.

Another interesting pix.

The U.S. is Officially in Recession

The above snapshot is taken from the Washington Post today. Click to enlarge. Now we know that the U.S. has been in recession for the past 12 MONTHS. The rest of the world will be following suit and I believe Malaysia will be seeing gloomier economy next year. Rumours has it that times will be bad after Chinese New Year next year, which will be on January 26 2009. My advice, as given in an earlier post, is WAIT OUT and STAY SAFE.

Another report is HERE.

The Fear of Alzheimer

I am following a popular Hokkien serial on the Astro AEC channel that has run for 850 episodes. I cannot remember any other television series that run for this long and it does not seems to be ending any time soon. If you must know, it is called 'Yee Nang Wan' or translated to Unforgettable Love. The main character of this show, Sheng Tian, is suspected with Alzheimer Disease and struggles with the fear of losing his ability to know his family, especially his wife, Li Choo, whom he lost and found and wants to remarry. He knows he is fighting against time and treasures every moment he has with her. He is retracing the ways they enjoyed each other and the past they shared together.

Are we not taking our memories for granted? That, like a leg or an arm, it will always be there for us to refer or use? I really don't know what trigger Alzheimer and am not in a hurry to know. But I know that this dreaded disease is becoming more and more common and families are learning how to adapt to a member who has it. I liken an Alzheimer patient as an adult who has become a baby with no past, no future and whatever he remembers are a jumbled mess. While he himself is unaffected because he has lost control of his life, the tragedy is with his family who still know him but not the other way round.

I did not create this blog because I fear I will have Alzheimer, but I fear my memory may be lost in bits and pieces, not everything. It is a reminder to me to be constantly aware that life without a past is like a book with its pages torn or smeared. This blog attempts to mirror this life in case something tragic do happen one day that I can never tell.

Blessing our Children

The recent marriage of Morgan and Por Lin made me recall those of my 3 children and what my wife and I did to help them along in their weddings and their married lives. Putting myself in their shoes, I could not want anything more than to have my parents approve of my choice of life partner and to help me along the way financially, giving of advices, opportunities and aids that I will invariably need as my family come along.

Firstly I need to say how I appreciate the good foresight of my children in choosing their spouses. I believe almost all of them got it right the first time, or the second time. None of them went through any heartbreaking experiences, not that I know of. When they introduced their future spouses to us we liked them from the start and began a positive relationship with them. We love them as much as we love our own children and I believe this act is a sign that we have begun blessing their relationship.

Secondly, we became involved in their wedding planning as much as they asked us to, not that we imposed our wills upon them. I believe strongly in allowing our children to grow and develop their own lives so letting them decide what they want for their wedding was one of the best opportunities to exercise their freedom. We let them know that we will support them financially through the weddings. In the first place we decided all gifts and monies they received for their tea serving ceremonies are their to keep jointly as husband and wife. And then we assured them that all wedding expenses above the cash gifts received will be underwritten by us and should there be any surplus we will give it to them as a gift. We did not give them houses or cars but we gave them ourselves, our blessings, our resources as they need them.

Now that they are building their families we became involved in helping our as grandparents as best as we can. Some friends asked why we want to sacrifice our free time in old age to be bound by children when we can do anything else we deserve since we had worked so hard for over 30 years. Our reply has always been that we want to be a blessing to our children and to be there when they need us. Sometimes there may be misunderstandings because of different values. This is inevitable as we all have different outlooks and opinions but the bond between parents and children should keep our relationship so strong that nothing can separate us.

In the Bible, it is a great and important thing to be blessed because a blessing confers to the recipient a special right and privilege. It is as if when you are blessed you are automatically a winner. Jacob wanted to be blessed so badly (actually his mother planned the whole thing) that he even disguised himself as his older brother Esau to steal the latter's birthright and blessings from their blind father Isaac. Read about this story in the book of Genesis.
I sincerely believe as parents our responsibility does not end with educating our children. It has to continue by blessing their forward lives so that they ways will be made smooth and it is our responsibility to also stand by them and provide any assistance they need. I think there is not other blessing greater than this.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Recession and Its Effect on Our Perception

I sent my car for its routine service this morning and over a glass of kopi-O (local coffee with sugar but no milk) and wantan noodle with the owner-operator David and another friend Victor we discussed how recession is affecting their lives and those they know. I of course, still reeling from the after effects several glasses of red wine at last night's wedding dinner in Kuala Lumpur, was ebullient and talkative.

David and Victor were talking about investing in gold bullion; that a party is going round the town offering interested investors a chance of buying gold and earning interest of 30% per annum. I smelled a dead rat and I cautioned them from getting into a deal they have no control over. First the authencity of any reports, second the volatility of bullion prices and the guarantee that the gold they buy is indeed pure as lab tested. In time of recession opportunists will go around trying to con gullible people into parting with their hard earn savings. Sure, stocks and bonds are not attractive, but so are commodities. The safest bet in such times is to keep our savings safe in regular time deposits that are guaranteed by the banking industry and the government. Albeit the returns are low but at least the principals are safe.

Is recession all bad? Personally it is healthy phase of any economy. Nothing stays high all the time. Even the healthiest person do get sick once in awhile. The main worry is whether it is long drawn or of short duration. Much like a person falling ill, whether from a mild flu or a chicken pox infection or an attack of dengue fever than requires hospitalization. In each case the illness is not life threatening (unless the illness is not treated competently). The advice I follow and would advise others to do so is WAIT OUT and STAY SAFE.

Waiting out means not to over react by doing anything out of the ordinary unless you are knowledgeable about the deal you are getting into. Even if you do know you will be working against changes that are unpredictable. In other word stay safe, my second advice, with existing investment channels. We are told that we will get out of this global recession in 18 months which is like mid 2010. If you are financially stable, with a steady recession proof job, good for you, but otherwise you should be quickly reorganizing your debts and priorities and cut back/off non-essential spendings. And learn to be better prepared for the next recession.

David shared how recession is affecting his business (auto industry) with customers paying late and suppliers asking for early settlements. Look like many people are cash tight, and cutting back on spendings. Looking optimistically, there are opportunities during recession, if you don't face a cash squeeze. To each his own, they say, so we should individually examine where such opportunities lie.

Coffee over, at least we can still manage a smile and stay in good mood this Monday morning. Even though the Bursa Malaysia stock market this morning opened in negative territory, it is not the end of the world. The morning sun was bright and there is no rain to dampen my spirit.

So even in recession we should get on with life as best as we can since for every downturn there will surely be an upswing. Take care.


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