Saturday, January 31, 2009

An Unhealthy New Year Celebration

Granted that new year celebration involves lots of eating and merriment, I believe that we all tend to over-eat and over-drink during such festive seasons. The Chinese New Year that is being celebrated now involves the giving of gifts that are usually mandarin orange, cookies, alcoholic drinks, carbonated and herbal drinks, preserved food and fruits, nuts and sweets. It would be not in the right spirit if we do not buy these gifts to give away to relatives and friends, or at least keep them at home to serve visitors when they drop in. So we tend to over buy and when the celebration is over, we will have surplus of these 'junk' food lying around the house that tend to be consumed rather than go to waste.

Over the years I have felt that each time after a CNY celebration I would be putting on weight and inches on the wrong part of my anatomy. This year is not going to be any different and I am already seeing the inches around my waste.

As I grow older I believe my capacity to eat and drink is also diminishing. I also believe I metabolises less efficiently and that my lack of physical activities means I tend to store the excess carbohydrates more easily. Will I ever find the will to resist eating such unwholesome stuffs in the coming years? Rather unlikely unless I am forced not to by medical conditions, which God forbid, I will not suffer from. For the time being I shall live by the principle of 'everything in moderation'.

Exercising Away Your Aches, Is it Possible?

Having joint aches and stiffness is not something a person look forward to on a daily basis. When waking up the body would be late in responding to the real world after having been rested for the previous 8 hours or so. To the elderly (well, I am not yet there but pre-qualifying myself as I am heading in that direction), joint diseases are the biggest hurdle to clear as mobility is one big problem affecting one's mood, choice of activities and general health.

My aging mother at 83 years suddenly became less mobile less than a year ago after she fell and had to be confined to bed for awhile. In that time she became depressed as anyone would be and with death peering down, it is hard for a very old person to be smiling through the day. Immobility combined with aches are a potent combination to sap one's desire to live well. I do not want to be in this state when my time comes to be as old as my mother (if I live that long).

I have 2 exercising machines at home: a cardio rider which the builder also called it by a sophisticated name, gravity training system, which is quite meaningless; and a regular exercise bike. Unfortunately they were seldom used, they stayed as 'white elephants' sitting there in our dining hall (which is quite spacious). The cardio-rider allows me to lift my body up and down and in the process exercises my back and thigh as well as get my blood circulated. The exercise bike gives me an indoor cycling and walking exercise to workout my knees and churn up my heart rates.

One of my 'resolutions' for the year is to exercise each morning. That I have not been keeping and I only realised that I've just about lost the first month of the year! This morning I exercised on both machines at a very gradual pace. I feel good after that. Although I am not exactly hopeful that my aches will all go away if I stick to this regime, I know that it will help me generally.

In 6 months I hope to blog on this subject again to report on my progress. Are you an exercise freak, or maybe a couch potato trying to start to be moving? I hope that this will be a healthy year for all of us who decides that life is worth maintaining through simple exercises.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

Not nice words but something to be accepted philosophically and stoically. Since I heard of the D word in 2003 when I started having cervical spondylosis I understood that aging has crept into my life. There is nothing I could do but hope that it will not cripple my lifestyle, maybe curtail it somewhat, but not to an extent that make me move inconveniently or inconvenience others. Spinal degeneration does make life a little troublesome but I also discovered I am not alone. It was not a happy discovery, but a relief, that such condition affects nearly all people growing old, so it is a natural progression. If a person grow old without any sort of body ache or joint pain, consider yourself extraordinarily fortunate and celebrate your senior life as best as you can.

In recent months I found my eyesight deteriorating. I can still see but the clarity and ability to focus on text is diminishing. Suddenly I am experiencing astigmatism. It is a common condition defined in Answer.com as an inability of the cornea to properly focus an image onto the retina. The result is a blurred image.

My wife has been astigmatic for years and now I can understand her frustrations of not being able to read the SMS on my mobile phone, or thread a needle, or read the word on TV remote in low light. We are now a pair!

This morning I went to my eye doctor (ophthalmologist), Steven, to make a new pair of reading glass. He also took a snapshot of my retina and said I am beginning to have AMD, nothing serious but starting. Otherwise my retina is very healthy and my cornea is showing slight sign of cataract at the edge. I said that I have been taking eye health supplements such as bilberry and eyebright. He recommended I try lutein as well.

Family have been criticizing my PC addiction as a major cause of my eyesight failure. I am vindicated when my wife who knows next to nothing about PC and watch TV moderately have similar eye problems. I believe my condition is related to the fact that I have been wearing glasses since 1963, a good 45 years!

My hope is that I will be able to enjoy looking as my PC and TV screens and natural sceneries, and see my grandkids grow up with reasonable good vision, healthy back and joints.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Real Mrs Brown Daughter

At the old pupil association gathering in my hometown over the Chinese New Year I learned that she is now in Australia, married. Other details unavailable. I am happy for her. It will be nice to reminisce our past. I guess she would she be 54 by now.

A Time for Remembrance Too

It does not seem that the new year is only for the living but for the departed as well. For the Chan family on my wife's side, it was a 'reunion' of sort at the gravesite of their beloved wife and mother who left them ten and half years ago.

Eleven of us paid our respect, cleaned the weeds surrounding the tomb and said a prayer of thanksgiving. The morning weather was bright and cheerful. There were no longer tears of loss but just sweet remembrance of a lady who gave so much of her life for her family.

God bless her soul.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A Very Subdued Year of the Ox

There was no charging of the bull as recession reared its ugly head. Although the mood was distinctly quieter compared to previous years, the tradition of upkeeping the reunion with families is still kept. There were almost no fire crackers being heard nearing midnight on the Chinese New Year Eve on January 25 although some families fired colorful flares.

As in previous years, since our children got married and travelled ahead of the CNY to visit their in-laws, we stayed back and only drove back to Sitiawan on New Year day itself to visit my mother, followed by a visit to my father-in-law the day after. The tradition of giving and receiving red packets was kept very alive as well as reunion dinners. For us it was not so much a dinner than to let my mother know that we cared. It make a difference to her to have her children return home to see her. This time 3 out of her 5 children came back to visit and that added some liveliness to her home. On my father-in-law's home, 4 out of his 6 children families celebrated the event. Below are a few pictures of my visit home to see mother.
Mother receiving a gift from me and my wife.
My pastor brother and family was home at the same time as I was.
My mother enjoying pictures of brother Tony on a digital picture frame.
On January 26 from 4.30-7.00pm there was a solar eclipse. Although the sun was covered by clouds, this picture taken at 5.45pm was unnaturally overcast and dark, like it was 7.30pm.
Mother tried giving a red packet to a very shy great grand-daugher, Grace, who clung tightly to her mother, Christine.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

No Sign of Recession, Yet ...

This morning I went with my wife to the wet market for our pre-Chinese New Year marketing. Parking was difficult and the mood was festive. There was really no sign of a recession. Makes me wonder if this is a put up by some people. Or maybe only a section of people are affected. The picture taken from my cellphone, shows housewives going about shopping for goodies before the big day. In fact some stalls have already closed for business. To my visitors who celebrate this holiday, Gong Xi Fa Cai, and may the year of the ox (or bull) brings you prosperity, health and happiness. To the rest, happy holidays!

Friday, January 23, 2009

What A Day!

When I start on something I find it hard to take a break until the project is finished. That's precisely my problem. Because the PBSNS work that I head has begun a new year, its website needed major revamping and I just cannot get it off my head until it is done. I have procrastinated a little for a few weeks but January is ending soon, next week is Chinese New Year, and God knows what new project springs to mind. Last night, inspite of my fatigue, I stayed till 1am to start building a new design and layout for the website, and for the most part of today I searched for suitable graphics, trimmed and resized then, wrote and edited the various web page contents, test run the html files and uploaded them just some minutes ago. They seemed to load find and all the links are working.

Go take a look and tell me. For now I think I'd head for the bathroom before watching television and then hit the sacks.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Day One of the Toughest Presidency

No one envy Obama's position as he sets about to solve problems at home and abroad. Yet he bite into his job with a viciousness of a Rottweiler after a burglar. In this news article we read of his decisiveness in undoing several inappropriate policies and practices. I admire a person with such clearcut point of view. Here again are pictures I lifted off Times.com website to record Obama's first day at work.









Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Photo Gallery of Obama's Inauguration

Following are some of the pictures I lifted off Times.com website that I like to post here for posterity.

















Strong Christian Flavor at Obama's Inauguration

I like what I saw yesterday on television. There was a very strong presence of the church and God throughout the inauguration, starting with the morning service at the St John's Church near to the White House that Barack and Michelle Obama attended privately. During the inauguration President-Elect Obama used the Bible that President Abraham Lincoln had used to take his oath of office, and there were invocation prayer and benediction to remind us that Obama has God in his heart, but whether it is symbolic or that God will be consulted daily in the decision making of the new US government is left to be seen.

In particular I like the invocation prayer by Pastor Rick Warren of the Saddleback Church. Glaringly missing was Billy Graham the great evangelist. I suppose he was too ill to attend let alone officiate the invocation. Rick ended his invocation with the Lord's Prayer and I prayed along as well. I like the benediction by the Rev. Joseph Lowery. Let me reproduce it below and in particular enjoy the last bit that was very humorous but seriously meaningful.

Text of the benediction by Rev. Joseph Lowery during President Barack Obama's inauguration.

God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, thou, who has brought us thus far along the way, thou, who has by thy might led us into the light, keep us forever in the path we pray, lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met thee, lest our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget thee.

Shadowed beneath thy hand, may we forever stand true to thee, oh God, and true to our native land.

We truly give thanks for the glorious experience we've shared this day.

We pray now, oh Lord, for your blessing upon thy servant Barack Obama, the 44th president of these United States, his family and his administration.

He has come to this high office at a low moment in the national, and indeed the global, fiscal climate. But because we know you got the whole world in your hands, we pray for not only our nation, but for the community of nations.

Our faith does not shrink though pressed by the flood of mortal ills.

For we know that, Lord, you are able and you're willing to work through faithful leadership to restore stability, mend our brokenness, heal our wounds, and deliver us from the exploitation of the poor, of the least of these, and from favoritism toward the rich, the elite of these.

We thank you for the empowering of thy servant, our 44th president, to inspire our nation to believe that yes we can work together to achieve a more perfect union.

And while we have sown the seeds of greed — the wind of greed and corruption, and even as we reap the whirlwind of social and economic disruption, we seek forgiveness and we come in a spirit of unity and solidarity to commit our support to our president by our willingness to make sacrifices, to respect your creation, to turn to each other and not on each other.

And now, Lord, in the complex arena of human relations, help us to make choices on the side of love, not hate; on the side of inclusion, not exclusion; tolerance, not intolerance.

And as we leave this mountain top, help us to hold on to the spirit of fellowship and the oneness of our family. Let us take that power back to our homes, our workplaces, our churches, our temples, our mosques, or wherever we seek your will.

Bless President Barack, First Lady Michelle. Look over our little angelic Sasha and Malia.

We go now to walk together as children, pledging that we won't get weary in the difficult days ahead. We know you will not leave us alone.

With your hands of power and your heart of love, help us then, now, Lord, to work for that day when nations shall not lift up sword against nation, when tanks will be beaten into tractors, when every man and every woman shall sit under his or her own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid, when justice will roll down like waters and righteousness as a mighty stream.

Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get in back, when brown can stick around ... when yellow will be mellow ... when the red man can get ahead, man; and when white will embrace what is right. That all those who do justice and love mercy say Amen.

I stayed up till 1.45am this morning watching the ceremony live on CNN. The inauguration speech by the newly installed president was passionate, fiery, inclusive, assuring and hopeful. Barack Obama spoke with conviction and from his heart. The people rallied to his call. It is my hope, and I believe the hope of billions of people in the United States as well as all over the world that he will indeed help bring the right change to our battered world. And as he carries out his God-given duty I also pray that God will surely be his guide as he brings in a new breathe of faith and energy to transform our world.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Grandkids Update

From left to right, in pairs:

Me with grandkid #2, Grace (16 months)
Stanley with grandkid #3, William (8+ months)
Christine with grandkid #1, Victoria (3 years 9 months)

Grace now walks all over the house, babbling her own words, loves books (not reading yet but tears them), abandoning baby food for adult fares, shrieks happily at almost anything, photogenic, playful and rather hyperactive.

William is crawling, understands his surroundings and developing his personality, growing to almost Grace's size, smiles very easily, well behaved and not fussy. Gets along well with nearly everybody.

Victoria grew alot since she left us a year ago to be with her parents. Have been in playschool for about a year and developed good social, academic and vocal skills. She behaves more like a 5 year old. At her age I was still very much a baby. I suppose it has to do with early exposure and active parental communication.

It was a near perfect shot to get all the kids and the adults facing the camera. So it will go into my family album as a very important shot.

A Week to Remember

Beginning at 11:30 (EST) on January 20, the official inauguration ceremony of the 44th president of the United States of America, Barack Hussein Obama, will begin on the West front of the U.S. Capitol. Vice President-Elect Joseph Biden will be sworn in first to be followed by the President Elect. This is a historic and momentous day as for the first time in the history of the USA, a black president will lead the nation, and hopefully the world, out of the messy financial crisis and Middle East tension we find ourselves in. It is in our hearts that Barack Obama will restore the world to its 'good' days before George Bush became president 8 years ago. I pray that indeed he will make a difference, bring about the right change, and help bring peace and stability by providing leadership and clear direction.

Six days after the inauguration, the Chinese community all over the world will celebrate its Spring Festival, the Lunar New Year. While it may not be the sort of joyous celebration to many because of global economic recession and the fear of job loss (some may have even been retrenched), we all hope that the year of the ox will see the ox charging down the stock markets again to restore confidence. But it may take more than a year before it can happen.

I will want to catch Barack Obama on television lifting his right hand while placing his left on the Bible that Abraham Lincoln used at his own swearing in in 1861. I will pray to God for his safety and to grant Barack wisdom, fear of God and integrity to lead America out of its dismal state today.

Come next Monday I will travel home to see my mother for the New Year. She is 83 going on 84 later this year. She is counting. We are hoping that her health and her safety will be assured for as long as possible. And my prayer for her is to understand and accept God's grace in her late years. To be cheerful and at peace. And pray the same for myself too.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Greatest of These is LOVE

Over the past 8 days we were invited to 2 weddings. A third wedding that clashed with the one held on January 10 was held elsewhere that we could not attend. In every of these weddings, the central theme was LOVE, for without it no relationship can be sustained whether in courtship or in a marriage proposal. Today's wedding service was a lovely event, not only because it was well planned and well attended, but more so the expression of love was so evident in the couple's face and body language and on the slide projections that we can see that their marriage is indeed certified and sealed in heaven. There was a little touch on the cheek of the groom by the bride, a proud display of the ring on the groom's finger and a cheeky grin, and loud 'I do' in affirming their intentions to be married before their pastor. Indeed we can see in their eyes their maturity in deciding to joining their lives.

1 Corinthians 13:13 in the Bible wrote that among faith, hope and love, the way of love is the greatest of all for love is patient, kind, not jealous nor boastful, never insist, not resentful nor rejoice in wrondoings but in the right, never ending, bears all things, believe, hope and endure all things.

Love is the answer to every trouble and is the way to a perfect marriage. Many marriages were never properly counselled but in their special ways, husbands and wives had endured their years of marriage, some through convenience, some through companionship, some through compulsion, and some through real love. I believe those who are in love before, during and for years after marriage until death are truly the most blessed of all.

Today's wedding service reassured me that my marriage had endured not entirely on pure love but also on companionship and common sacrifical desire towards our children and grandchildren. To Eugene and Su May goes our best wishes.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Thankful in All Circumstances

I sat down this morning and chatted with my accountant. The chat went from business to personal and I enquired about his health. He showed me the rubbing oil to relieve his back pain and I said that we are in the same boat. I felt companionship. I enquired his family and he said none of his children are married. He is a year older than me. I felt ahead.

I reflected our situations. Finding similarities is reassuring. It means I am not alone. Looking up to people better off is not the answer to resolving personal woes. It can be counter-productive as it can drive a person into self-pity or worse, depression. This is where knowing grace and claiming its power to overcome personal difficulties comes in handy.

Finding differences give opportunities to be ever thankful. I am more than grateful to be 'ahead' than him and many other friends to have grandchildren already. It is not a race. I don't believe anyone of us plan our lives the way they are turning out. But where we are today is the result of mini steps we take day by day. We spend years doing things without checking where we are going; and most of the time, unable to make any changes because in life we are being tossed around like in the ocean. Yet where we are was also our efforts and we are successful to different extent and making comparison is never the right thing to do because it is a vain exercise.

Learning to be thankful in all circumstances take lots of humility and appreciation. You may ask how is it possible to be thankful when you are in bodily pain or financial woes? It is contradictory isn't it? I am trying to justify the opposing logics and the day I discover the truth why I can be joyful even when I am down will be the day I have conquered worldly problems. I want to be smiling, like Mrs Brown's Daughter, in all circumstances of my life. And to not let negative things bog me from enjoying life.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Applying Grace

Last night I learned about the significance of grace and the foolishness of law. If this sounds puzzling let me explain.

In an earlier post I wrote:

We live in sin and we all die in sin, we are not perfect and can never achieve perfection or sinlessness in this life. Therefore if God is to apply His laws on us we shall all perish and be condemned to eternal death. But God grant us grace through His Son Jesus Christ to live and receive eternal life instead. This, in my understanding, is the ultimate definition of Grace of God, that of living under the umbrella of God's charity and love towards His people who have gone astray. Without His grace no one will be saved from condemnation. Therefore we all live under God's grace as long as we believe in and accepts the Lordship of His Son Jesus Christ.

God gave us laws to reign us in from making mistakes. Laws are given to protect us, never to limit us. Given that human beings are born with free will, the likelihood of straying into spaces and areas forbidden by God is all too real. God therefore gave us the Ten Commandments to guide us into righteous living. I something wonder if He had given us Fifty Commandments instead, how much more difficult it is to live out to His standard? But God gave just ten and allow us freedom to express our individual wills which must eventually confront God's judgement. God's grace therefore allow us space to turn around and start over without being penalized. It is like given a second, third or fourth chance without a notation kept that one has failed the earlier attempts. Grace is not a concept but God's way of telling His people to treat others the same way He is treating us. Give them chances to correct and change because we are all imperfect.

Man created laws to contain civil societies in an orderly practice. Those who violate them are punished. This is to preserve the larger society to live in relative peace and calm. But the more laws we create the more we constrain ourselves. A perfect society needs no law. As society degenerates either existing laws are enforced more rigorously or new laws are imposed to contain its degeneration. We can therefore see how excessive lawfulness can frustrate and strangulate our very existence because we are constantly reminded to stay within the laws in order to be at peace.

I quietly observed the unfolding event of a church leader asking for policy inclusion to accurately define service tenure and conduct of those in service. I realized that what was suggested was like giving oneself a rope to tie ourselves up. Was it necessary? Is not grace a better solution to overcome the insufficiency of the law? I therefore conclude that if we all understand the power of grace, then we can dispense with all man made laws. This may seem wishful but I believe if we individually can live in grace with one another, whether the other person is a Christian or not, the world will be a much better place because we learn not to look at the fine prints but at the person we are dealing with.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

My Car, My Car

Lately I felt my car, which is over 9 years old but chalked up just under 200,000 km on its odometer, shuddering slightly when I started its engine in the morning. The shudder goes away after a few seconds but I was worried that it may be symptomatic of a more serious problem. Chinese New Year is days away and I don't want to be driving an unsafe car long distance. So I thought I should have it checked, or at least given a professional advice.

I went to see David, my present auto workshop owner. I told him the car started normally when its engine is warm. What he said to me then was reassuring. He said, "Your car is old, lah. Choke problem. Just let it run for a minute or so and it will be OK." I reflected on what he said and realised it was possibly true. One of my earlier cars also had a similar problem.

This is what Wikipedia explained:

When the engine is cold, fuel vaporizes less readily and tends to condense on the walls of the intake manifold, starving the cylinders of fuel and making the engine difficult to start; thus, a richer mixture (more fuel to air) is required to start and run the engine until it warms up. A richer mixture is also easier to ignite.

To provide the extra fuel, a choke is typically used; this is a device that restricts the flow of air at the entrance to the carburetor, before the venturi. With this restriction in place, extra vacuum is developed in the carburetor barrel, which pulls extra fuel through the main metering system to supplement the fuel being pulled from the idle and off-idle circuits. This provides the rich mixture required to sustain operation at low engine temperatures.


I really don't know if this diagnosis is absolutely correct but it does suggest that my car is getting old, just like me, and needed a little time to warm up to be driven off. Well, I do need a little time to get off my bed in the morning as my bones and muscles are not as agile as before. We all come to this stage sooner or later. Looks like my car and I share the same sympathetic age related issues. This makes for a better understanding of my car when I get behind its wheels. Comforting thought!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Best Years

On first thought I would place the period of my early childhood from maybe 4 to 10 to be my best years. I would be able to comprehend things around me and able to enjoy the attention of adults and experiencing many new food, toys, outings, clothings, etc. I don't believe I would have any stress growing in that period of my life, but then again I would be disciplined for my disobedience, exposed to sibling rivalries, expected to do things on my own such as putting on my own shoes, clothings and bathing on my own, doing some simply chores maybe, as well as made to follow standards laid down by my parents and other adults. However, I accept these to be part of growing up. I would find them challenging and exciting to be learning to do stuffs that I once only look upon but unable to do as my motor skills were limited.

I am inclined to think that a better period should be from 2-4 years instead. Why?

At that age, my caregivers and parents have no expectations of me, are forgiving, dotted me with all their attentions and love, do things for me, teach me new skills, very patient when I was cranky or demanding, and almost always give in to my demands. At that age I would be understanding more things as the vista of the world around me opened up very fast. I would be very simplistic in my world view.

I had no worries, everything was done for me. I had no 'work', which made me sometimes very bored. I need not have to wake up on time as I had no school to attend. My parents and my caregivers were my playmates and I was their prince. At that age I actually knew how to exploit them and get what I wanted, although as I grew older I was reprimanded for showing my tanctrum or breach certain rules of the house, like climbing up the dining table and eating in bed.
What about the time when I was in early teens? I was actually confused and would not rate it as a good period to be in. Suddenly I was plummeted into a transition between my childhood and adulthood that I was unfamiliar with and had to learn other values and practices that no one taught me. I had to find them out by myself. Those were quite frustrating and fearful years, yet tinged with some excitement and thrills as I began to realize what adults were like and what they could do. It was the time I started discovering myself ...

From teenhood onward, life became less pleasurable as independence means added responsibility and accountability. Together they add pressure and stress. Of course adulthood has privileged benefits such as rights to do things I want without being questioned, financial independence and realization of my dreams.

So which are the best years period? Looking at my grand daughters in our care, I would like to vote in the 2-4 years era. Sometimes I visualise myself in their situation and sort of 'envy' their unlimited joy and innocence of being young.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Mrs Brown's Daughter

Each time I open up this blog to read or write a new post, I am drawn to the banner picture above. My head would cock to the left so that I can see her lovely smiling face. This really brightens up my day, the smile that is. I'm sure you will not disagree that between a smile and a frown, you'd rather smile, see someone smile, watch a smiling face in a photo and see a group of people happily smiling.

People generally look better smiling, even if they are not very good looking. Sometimes I'd gaze at myself in a mirror and smile back. I am almost certain that I look 5 years younger when I smile. The best thing is I feel better afterward.

Mrs Brown's Daughter above makes me feel happier whenever I see her smile. In whatever state I am in I must remember to keep smiling more often because I believe it has therapeutic effects not just for the day but for a long time. And a good smile is infectious, it help others to smile too.

Note: The picture featured here and in the banner is that of Alizee Jacotey, a French singer.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Calendars and Diaries

Every December my office would be 'flooded' with calendars and diaries from suppliers. Calendars are mainly of the desktop type as it is more popular but some suppliers will give the larger and more expensive wall calendars which can come in variants of 2, 3, 6 or 12 months view. Because of our multiracial makeup the amount of information on calendars can be staggering. Public holidays, school holidays, calendar year based on Gregorian, Muslim and Lunar years are also listed, and in some cases, horse racing days as well!

Diaries are also popular gifts but they are more of use to take memos and record important information. However, with mobile phones, PDAs, notebooks and desktop computers all having some form of organizers to store these information, traditional diaries are becoming irrelevant. The same argument goes to calendars as well, so it is no wonder that I don't particularly enjoy seeing so many calendars and diaries. But they do remind me how fast a year is ending. On New Year day, one of the very first things I do is change the old calendars at home to new ones.

Years ago we'd love to collect calendars as they were hard to come by. They were mainly printed by paint companies like ICI Paint (now other paint companies like Jotun has taken over) and distributed by hardware dealers. Then calendars were of the wall hanging type as well as the very popular Chinese day calendar that has to be torn every day. My late father would enjoy tearing it every morning almost ritualistically and keep the loose paper to wrap food waste off the dining table. Lovely scenery and pretty girls in swimsuits pictures were hung on walls to decorate them. Such a practice is obsoleted as pictures can be viewed off the computer monitor screens instead.

Easier to Change the Template

Frustrated with tinkering with the codes and coming up no wiser I decided the better and faster way out is to choose a different Blogger template. So here it is. I hope it is more readable than before.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

So You Noticed?

OK, the pretty girl up there in the new header was NOT Mrs Brown's daughter, just a sweet girl who smiles so sweetly that it will make any visit here a fun one. I hope the lady don't mine my using her pix here. The real Mrs Brown's daughter is somewhere I don't know. If she happens to read my blog or you know her whereabout I'd like to meet up with her, again.

The picture is not placed to my liking, I am still learning. Once I get the right advice I'd work on it right away.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Mistletoe and Wine (Christmas Time)

Christmas may be over but last night I was watching a Cliff Richard concert DVD with my wife. His warm singing style brought us sweet remembrance of a traditional Christmas devoid of commercialism but pure family gatherings. We were very touched by this song which lyrics I would like to share here:

The child is a king, the carollers sing,
The old has passed, theres a new beginning.
Dreams of santa, dreams of snow,
Fingers numb, faces aglow.

Christmas time, mistletoe and wine
Children singing christian rhyme
With logs on the fire and gifts on the tree
A time for rejoicing in all that we see

A time for living, a time for believing
A time for trusting, not deceiving,
Love and laughter and joy ever after,
Ours for the taking, just follow the master.

Christmas time, mistletoe and wine
Children singing christian rhyme
With logs on the fire and gifts on the tree
A time for rejoicing in all that we see

A time for giving, a time for getting,
A time for forgiving and for forgetting.
Christmas is love, christmas is peace,
A time for hating and fighting to cease.

Christmas time, mistletoe and wine
Children singing christian rhyme
With logs on the fire and gifts on the tree
A time for rejoicing in all that we see

(repeat)

I hope you all have had a warm and loving Christmas time.

Leave our Mark, Again

My advice to my children was to always improve upon any situation that they have the opportunity to do so. In other word, make the place better than before they were there.

Our tendency is to use or exploit a place, or facility, or relationship and leave it worse off than before. Are we not often guilty of littering? Spreading unhelpful comments? Not leaving a positive mark that you were there and have done something good?

If we all try our best to be good stewards to our environment, better friends, brother or sister or colleague, we will certainly leave a relationship or place in better shape. Our world is in terrible shape because of so much fighting and plundering. I am wondering about President George Bush. He will be leaving the US presidency in just over 2 weeks. After 8 years I wonder if he is leaving a good mark, or a bad one. How will history remember him? Has he brought good to the world? Has he, through his authority, improved humanity and economy?

We are not as big as George Bush but in whatever small ways I suggest we do what we can to make the world a little better because we happen to be where we are. Then our lives would have made a positive difference and our birth not in vain.

Grace of God

What exactly is that, you may ask? Mostly our understanding of the word 'grace' is blur, meaning along the line of something free, a non-penalty, which is exactly what 'grace period' means. However my understanding of Grace of God is much more than that. To fully understand the term we need to understand God first, and then associate how the grace from Him affects us.

If you accept that God created us and all things around us, as well as keeps everything in the universe moving, supplied and replenished, then you acknowledge the awesome power of God. Add to this, your acceptance that God knows everything, determines everything and have total authority over everything, then we begin to realise that God is the ultimate being to whom we owe not just our lives but also the path they take. We are at His mercy and His controls what goes on in our lives.

So where does grace come into the picture? Answer: it seemed irrelevant and of no importance until we need it, which is, simply, when we find ourselves in some sort of trouble, then grace is something we really need from God. But grace is ever present in our lives without our knowing it is there. If grace is not a physical object then how can we profit from receiving it? Sometimes grace has been defined as an undeserved gift from God. Taking from there, we begin to understand that it is given to all of us irrespective of our position before Him. The term 'grace period' means a time of allowing you to carrying on as usual without exercising the law or penalty on you.

We live in sin and we all die in sin, we are not perfect and can never achieve perfection or sinlessness in this life. Therefore if God is to apply His laws on us we shall all perish and be condemned to eternal death. But God grant us grace through His Son Jesus Christ to live and receive eternal life instead. This, in my understanding, is the ultimate definition of Grace of God, that of living under the umbrella of God's charity and love towards His people who have gone astray. Without His grace no one will be saved from condemnation. Therefore we all live under God's grace as long as we believe in and accepts the Lordship of His Son Jesus Christ.

We utilises God's grace when we find ourselves in need of His presence in times of sorrows and sufferings. His grace gives us strength, hope and perseverance to endure all trials with joy and peace, that whatever the outcome God shall bring us through. Appropriating God's grace require a repentant and humble heart through acceptance of Jesus Christ as Saviour and asking for His mercy to deal with the problems at hand. God will grant His peace and assurance of grace through the Holy Spirit to you and walk with you through the difficult times.

Don't we all need God's grace? If not today maybe tomorrow or in a year. We ought to remain in an attitude of reliance upon God to whom we receive all blessings that enrich ourselves and families.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Leave Our Mark

Ever wonder if your life counts on this earth? Is the 60 or 70 years you will be here going to make a difference? Is your absence going to be remembered and missed? Or too early to be talking this?

We are all given one shot at this life. Miss it we're gone. Bulls eye, we leave a mark on someone's life or a community. I confess that I never think about this at all. It was not even in my life's mission. I was more or less working to survive instead of leaving an impression. But in that process we all leave behind impressions whether we like it or not.

I don't believe my late father lived with one of the purposes of leaving a mark on his family, but he certainly did. By his character and sacrifice he made me extremely proud to be his son. Similarly I don't believe any of my school teachers who I fondly remembered in a earlier post taught to leave a mark on their students. They just did their best and in the process became heroes in my life, and those of my fellow classmates. And I certainly don't believe my dear wife work her retirement years off looking after her grand children with the intention of being remembered by them. She did what she knows best - give of her best to those she love. In years to come the mark she leaves will be larger than her life because she will be well loved and remembered. She aspire no greatness but in her humility she is transforming lives. I admire her for her sacrifices and wish I can equal hers.

I stumbled upon the social work at PBSNS. It was not by my choice. I have been there since 2004 and I believe has left a mark, a small one, that I will be happy to contribute. I never intend my life to come to this but the fact that it has is gratifying and I hope to give it my best shot.

How about you? How do you plan to be leaving your mark? It need not be a big one. Perhaps giving encouragements to kids, looking after children and grandchildren, social work, helping a colleague, neighbor, motivating others or designing or inventing a great product. You never know. History will be kind to you. Your future generations will be proud of what you do today.

Learn to LISTEN

We tend to lose this important ability. Our self centredness is making us want to be heard rather than hearing others. Listening closely to others, and trying to really understand what the other person is conveying is more important that exerting our own thoughts. Sadly the world over people are becoming more and more selfish.

However, I don't intend this post to talk about listening to people's problems. That's the job of professional counsellors. What I really suggest is for us to listen to NATURE, our HEART, GOD and the wonderful world of SOUND.

We are born with physical and spiritual ears that are under utilised. We failed to appreciate the sounds and voices in our busyness that that is terribly sad because often they are there to help us get by the day.

I love to be outdoor and listen to the sounds of birds, winds, distant sounds of people working, airplane flying above, eved the barking of a neighbor's dog. Indoor I love to peacefully listen to my music and dissect the various sounds from the musical instruments of an orchestra and listen to it individually. I enjoy hearing what my heart is saying about my life and where I have gone wrong. And I want to be hearing God more and more. You will agree that we have all but shut God off our lives except maybe for an hour or so on Sunday mornings. Even that just as a ritual.

While my physical hearing may diminish over time I want to enable my spiritual ears to take over and become more discerning of what lies ahead. For now, it will be foolish of me to not appreciate more of all the sounds that impinge my ear drums daily. I believe even the sound of a garbage trunk rumbling by can be music to the ears!

The Awesome Power of the Will

The human will is likened to an inner force that drives us towards what we desire. It is there even in a child. Watch how it tries to get what it wants. The human will is vital to survival. Often the lack of willpower signals a surrender towards achieving what was originally set out.

Where does the will resides? How was it formed and how can it be trained? The Wikipedia defines it as:

The ability to exert one's will over one's actions. It manifests as inner firmness, decisiveness, determination, resolution and persistence.

However no mention was made as to how it originates and where it resides. My 2 sen worth:

Our willpower is in our personality that is genetically transmitted. It resides in our spirit and is the driver behind our character. The human will therefore possess awesome power in determining the way we live.

The human will changes much like the weather although to some it stays rock steady. Others waver and give up in the face of threats, adversities or fatigue. The loss or weakening of the will often signifies the collapse of a person's strength to live. Failures and death come easily with its fall.

I believe the health of a person's will is affected by factors such as criticism, threat of harm and loss of self esteem. While some may take such factors to consolidate his will to go ahead with whatever he desires, others may give up or change course.

I blog this because I feel that having a strong will is not necessarily good although it helps to fight competition and gives us a better chance in survival. Our will must always be tempered by other forces in us such as wisdom, reasoning and virtues such as patience, love and kindness. I am quite a strong minded (another way of saying strong willed) person, sometimes ignoring other people's suggestions or ideas as being inferior. I have often realised to my detriment that such a complex did me no good as my attitude did not always profit me and I have to go back to what was suggested to me, or I suffered losses because of my arrogance. I am somewhat wiser now to not shoo off what alternative ideas but to give them equal opportunity for consideration. Time and time again I was glad that moderating my willpower has allowed me to make better judgement and hence 'righter' decisions.

The next time you feel very strongly about something, ask if it is not your willpower that's trying to exert control over your life. Our human will is flawed because we decide based on limited information and foresight. The only higher willpower that we must submit to is that from God. Knowing His will and making ours subservient to His may be the best decision we can make at anytime.

Keeping Work Up to Date

We are always racing against time, which remains a fixed 24 hours in a day. But the amount of work has increased, no thanks to communication technology and competition. Also no thanks to the many distractions and attractions that vie for our attention. They collectively make it harder and harder to keep our work, interests and priorities up to date.

If you are not into keeping things up to date, good for you, because you will not be bothered by the pile of accumulated half processed, half completed and just started projects. But as you get swamped by them, you will invariably feel the pressure of the load, and the sinking feeling that you are losing the race against time. What if some of the work are really important that other people depends on their completion to move on, or carry through to full completion? What if they reflect badly on your reliability as a person towards fulfilling a task, not even considering if you fulfil it well enough? What if you never get the chance to finish them because something happens to you suddenly? What if you are to die tomorrow and it dawns upon you that you have much unfinished work and that you cannot close your eyes and die in peace? What if?

All the above questions have bothered me at some point in my life. If a work is of low priority I will probably keep it aside for a longer while. Problem is sometimes I cannot differentiate between what is low, mid or high priority. Like the need to get my spiritual life right or the need to spend more time with loved ones. Often I had wished the 24 hours can be stretched to 26 or 28 hours, but that will not help because if the attitude is not changed then even a 100 hours day will not make a difference.

Trying to keep work up to date is not an easy goal since the more you finish the more is piled on you. Somehow I feel that as soon as you finish a job, you subconsciously look for new ones to do, and you become more critical of what are imperfect. Maybe you are not like that, you just appreciate the imperfections around you are necessary and natural components of this imperfect world. I guess I am sort of in-between and can close one or both eyes to what I cannot help but will try to change what I can. This, I believe, is what help me spend my time.

As I write this post I think I am pretty up to date in my outstanding works. But I secretly hope that once I finish them I can have lots of free time to idle and do nothing. Then again, I may just fret and get up to look for more work. Sigh! maybe work is our creation. We work to fill up time and establish priority according to our quirks and likings. These make us all very individual and unique.

Are you up to date?

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Run with the Winners

Yesterday I gave one of my best advices to the son of a colleague. He wasn't doing well in his studies and I asked what kind of friends he mixed with. They were not the type who will challenge him to excel. In fact they drew him away towards mediocrity, or worse, indifference and absence of focus and direction. Since he was changing school I encouraged him to develop a new circle of friends who are academically stronger than he is. And to learn to excel with them.

I suppose I had subconsciously applied the same principle while I was in school. I was among the top 3 in my classes and although I seldom reach the pinnacle I had allowed the better classmates to drive me towards academic excellence. Of course having great teachers added to the force, like a good jockey.

In a year's time I expect the boy to deliver the goods he promised because I had given him direction and a focus.

In our lives generally, we need to look up instead of sideways or down. Success belongs to he who is humble and honest with himself plus the willingness to go beyond his present achievement. We are seldom at the top ourselves. Being number 2 or lower gives us every reason to run with the winners.

May this too be our common resolution this year.

Friday, January 02, 2009

What Will They Think of Next?

For the last 10 years revellers have donned such gawky goggles to usher in the new year. Those who attended the Olympic Games can also wear similar goggles all because there are at least two circles to fit both eyes. However, for the New Year revellers, this joy has ended because come next year, 2010, and beyond, it will be impossible to design such a goggle, or spectacle if you wish. Unless they place the '1' over the nose but that will make the eye wear lopsided. For 2010 it will be nice if the '2' is placed over the forehead. I am wondering what other new designs will come forth to give revellers something to wear to welcome in the next new year.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Finishing a Job Started

I have this dislike to keep a job partially done because it means I have to track it until it is completed. Managing partially completed work is like juggling many balls in the air. I'd rather finish as many as I can and concentrate on new jobs that come along. In a sense it is a healthy trait because it means I strive to finish my work as fast as I can. The problem is certain jobs need more time to be completed satisfactorily and should not be hurried.

Recently I started the work of pruning my garden shrubs, a job I have neglected for more than a year. All these while I've depended on my gardener who comes once every 6 weeks but since he concentrates on grasscutting and pruning the shrubs for general appearance, the cleaning up of dead twigs is left undone. I have developed a desire to work on cleaning up the shrubs as it was coming to the end of year, a great time to give my garden a neater look.

Who knows, once a job is undertaken it start to grow into something beyond my original anticipation. Push this back by 2 months, it really started when I got another contractor to give the mango tree a good shave (I've posted this earlier). After that I realised I've overlooked the nearby herbal shrub which needed to be uprooted as it served no purpose. The dead branches were left to dry. After I'd finished the job I looked around and noticed the decorative shrubs also needed to be cleaned, and then the bougainvilla tree has overgrown and the twigs overhung into the neighbor's air space. That too needed to be cut. All the trimmings were piled to dry and about a week ago I set it on fire. The next day I happily recovered the burned soil and potash that make great fertilisers.

Looking at my garden again yesterday I saw the potted plants needed to be repotted. They were staring expectantly at me to give them new enriched soil as well as prune the roots and dead leaves. Well, new year is here and I cannot avoid this important task, so I went about the job with a vengeance. Today, New Year Day, I successfully repotted 9 pots with new soil and pruned the bougainvilla and dumped the cuttings into a fresh pile to dry.

My back is achy but I felt great. I guess I have successfully completed a series of related jobs in a short time. But wait, I think the bougainvilla shrub is lopsided and I shall have to cut away the main slanting branch. But it will have to wait until new shoots grow. Perhaps in a month's time.

My philosophy of wanting to finish my work speedily is probably appropriate in this fast moving world. But it can also cause misunderstanding and stresses to co-workers who cannot match my pace or my high standard. Overall I believe that working fast is healthy as I will have to build a good focus in what I do and plan to do it well. A great benefit is I get a nice workout, plus the satisfaction of doing a good job myself. Not that I cannot afford professional help, but doing it myself as my health allows, gives me an opportunity to apply my skills as well as learn new ones along the way.

I will be really frustrated one day when I can no longer do the things I can do now and find people not able to work to my expectation. Hopefully by then I will be less concern on outlook and leave it to the younger family members to take care.

As a Matter of Record

GeoCounter recorded a total of 561 visitors to my blog as of now since it was launched 2 months ago, which is nothing to shout about. In fact I'd rather have a limited exposure. What gratifies me is the percentage of visitors coming from outside of Malaysia, almost 19% and from more than a dozen of them as of now.

Mrs Brown Daughter's blog writes about my life and philosophies. You are welcomed to leave comments that I can be mutually enriched by them.

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