Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Advanced Maid Recruitment Process

I stumbled upon this WEBSITE on maid recruitment in Singapore (I am not endorsing it but just using it as an example) and I must say this is what Malaysian agencies should follow if they are not already doing it. It allows prospective clients to view maid's biodata online, even view a videoclip of an interview with each maid candidate so the clients can see and hear how the maids behave and speak. I think this is a very good concept to allow clients to at least watch their potential maids in action before deciding to choose them. Presently it is all paper and photo and therein lie too much disappointment and unfulfilment.

Clients sometimes do not know how to handle their new maids. Here I paste some advice (unedited) taken from the same website which I find to be useful.

Many Employers said that you could tell how good a worker should be in the first week. And they would do everything to test worker's abilities immediately.

In actually fact that when new worker arrived your house. Initially she will worry about many thing. For example: being ill treated, employer's family, their job, ... etc. She will lose all the support from her friends and families as she is working in totally different environment. If the employer cannot manage the situation carefully. Homesick can strike at anytime.

I suggest employer shall start with relationship building. Arrange her sleeping place and where she shall keep her belonging. Talk with her. Let your children play with her and tell them respect her as their care taker. Provide the worker stamps to send letter home. Let her settle down first. Let she know that you and your family welcome her. And you are a friendly and reasonable employer.

Please tell her about our culture is different. Although your agency shall do this before deploying worker to you, one of our major different could be language. Please forgive me to say that our English is mixed with Chinese. In some cases, we can simply replace Chinese words with English. e.g. not this one la, that one, no that one, how many time I have to tell you this etc. It could be really unusual to say "May I have this ?" We may simple say "Give me this". To non-Chinese she may feel that we are impolite or sometime insulting her. Explain to her we don't mean that.

Made her feel that it is her lucky to have boss like you.

Balance her work, leisure and rest time. It is expensive to hire a worker but what if she burn out, she may give up. None of us will enjoy hiring and re-hiring.

Your worker could be very good worker as long as you could give her enough time. When we change job. How long it take to start performing our best ? It could take 3 to 6 months. And so does your worker. She could be disappointing you at the begining. With your support she will improve.

From my point of view to hire a good FDW (maid) are 10% lucky 90% management skill. 95% of my customers are Management level. Unfortunately not all of them apply their skill to manage their FDW (maid).

Even the best HR manager can't guarantee all staff they hired will stay and performing. Don't be disappointed if it happen to you.

Creative Solutions to Maid Issues

Following my last post HERE on the decision by the Indonesian government to stop their maids from working in Malaysia, there have been several reactions from stakeholders here ranging from the damage it can do to the Indonesian economy to painting a wrong picture of the true state of affair here. Overall I am of the view that the authorities have used their hearts more than their heads in trying to resolve this issues amicably.

Firstly, let us be aware that Indonesian maids working here are 3rd class quality. I am not apologising for this as it is a fact that the best have been snatched to work in better paying countries like Singapore and Hong Kong. It is little wonder that they are willing to accept low pays here because they are under qualified. As such we should not be surprise if many employers are dissatisfied by their performance, appearance and even attitude. Chances are greater of Indonesian maids here being reprimanded, rejected and replaced than those employed in other countries. And chances are as great that some will be abused than those employed elsewhere. Why? The employers just want to vent their anger and frustrations at the maids for their stupidity. If the crux of the problem is the quality of the maids imported then the solution must be to eliminate this problem, which is to say stop under-qualified maids from even leaving Indonesia! Only the Indonesian agencies can resolve this. Malaysian employers have given their trust to these agents to only submit qualified maids for review and selection here. Can Indonesia resolve this thorny issue? It will surely help stop further maids abuse.

Secondly, Malaysian government must be creative and flexible to allow maids from other countries to work here. Do not be the moral judge as to which nationality would wreck families. The choice must be left to the clients. Just open up the pool of choices so Malaysian maid employers can have a better range to consider. And I disagree that the Employment Act be amended to include domestic maids and regulate their rest days, annual leaves and God forbid, medical leaves! Domestic maids are a very special category of employees that cannot be regulated to work not more than 60 hours a week and give overtime pay if exceeded at double the daily rate, or triple if working during gazette public holidays. Domestic maids work knowingly under the condition that they provide domestic services which are required as long as the host families require them. They can refuse to apply if they cannot withstand this special working arrangement, there is no compulsion and certainly not misled when they arrive here to work. All maids understand it is their duties to be by their employers to help with chores, kids and cooking. The moral issue is whether they are being over-worked to death and punished in the process for not fulfilling their bosses orders. Here the government CAN set rules to protect maids from being abused, not just physical but over-worked, underfed, underpaid, ill-treated, etc. Should the government proceed to legislate the amendments it will be a grave mistake since the repercussion will lead to maids demanding employment terms that households simply cannot accept, and the consequence can be very unpredictable.

Thirdly, many families are grieved by the lack of flexible options in getting domestic assistance. Local maids are non-existent because pays are low (and they feel it is below them to be serving as maids) and foreign maids must be employed full-time. Many families prefer not to have maids live in; too many risks are involved. If possible they want day maids who report to work in the morning and leave at dinner time. This give families privacy at night and on rest days and public holidays to do what they like without maids hanging around. In other words, pay only when you need the maid to work. Another plus is that families can choose day maids they like since they are not the direct employer. Currently you are stuck with lazy and dirty maids if you are unlucky to engage one. If maids agencies are allowed to bring in say, 100 maids, and accommodate them and deploy them one by one to clients household and collect them in the evening, it will give families a new option. Furthermore, these day maids can also work as night maids. Rates can be for 12 hours or 16 hours. The government should look into this possibility since many Malaysian households are very dependent on maids. This include those with aged parents that need constant supervision and care.

Fourthly, the idea of nurseries at workplaces was shot down as impractical and expensive. Not many companies are willing to set up such centres as they are not economically productive to their businesses. And it is not a sure thing that staff and workers will bring their children to these nurseries. Besides there are critical issues of hygiene, food, social relationship and caregivers to be considered. The scarcity of maids may lead to a spurt in demand for private nurseries and old folks homes if the cost of employing maids is increased drastically. Philippines have demanded an unreasonable RM1400 salary for their maids.

All said and done, the reason why we employ maids is to look after our young children and/or our old parents because we are either physically unable to singlehandedly do so or both husbands and wives need to be working to feed them families. If we treat this issue from the context of restoring a healthy family environment and seek a solution for it I am sure with consultation of all stakeholders we can resolve this maids abuse matter easily. Punish the offenders accordingly but do not bring misery to those who depend on maids to help keep their house clean, feed them, send their kids to schools or serve medicine to aged parents. We need maids as much as they need us.

Monday, June 29, 2009

When You Are No Longer In Control

I felt sad for Michael Jackson after I read this REPORT about how he lost control of his life and was manipulated by people around him. While he lives we are shielded from his real life which is slowly coming out into the open. The real Michael Jackson is really a talent that was exploited over the 40 years he was performing. Added to the fact that he was not a successful manager of his own life and resources plus his weak disposition and a penchant for sexual misbehaviors that crucified his carrer, MJ died a pauper and perhaps a martyr in a sense, a martyr to his belief that music alone can save him from the troubles surrounding him. In fact, music killed him because he made himself larger than life that he became a property without privacy.

MJ is very much a human being with needs for love, respect, adoration and right to decide for himself. Unfortunately as soon as people realise that money can be made off his talents MJ became a pot of gold and I believe he was surrounded by opportunists. MJ was enormously talented but without the ability to control his life and steer away from what are wrong. I am not here to judge MJ who died in piteous circumstances, much like Elvis Presley. If not for his debts MJ may still be alive today. If he had learned to say NO to many temptations and to use his talents not only to make money for himself but also to help the poor he may have been able to salvage some dignity and control. Perhaps the lesson of MJ will be learned by many other celebrities and politicians to not allow greed and love for popular ascceptance ruin their lives.

I like this picture of MJ and wished he had not allowed mere appearance to dictate his future, which he sadly succumbed to, and made him HIStory at a young age of 50 when to most people will be the start of real living.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Edema on My Legs

A few days ago I noticed both my shin bones slightly swollen. When I pressed on them the flesh did not bounce back but leave a depression. I knew this is a sign of water retention or edema which usually signifies delayed fluid removal from my blood circulation. It is nothing serious, yet, but I recall my late father had something like that in the last year of his life. He was suffering from an enlarged heart which was unable to pump the blood fast enough through the kidneys for it to be filtered. There could be other factors but if that is the primary reason then I could be genetically destined to follow my dad. However my doctor did not find anything wrong with my heart. I never smoke, nor am I a social or addicted drinker. However he attributed the edema to the prescription drug, amlodipine besylate, which I have been taking daily to control my blood pressure. The drug is a calcium channel blocker which slows down my heartbeat as a means to reduce my BP. Reduced heartbeat means slower cleansing rate of my blood but the doctor also suggest that my veins in my legs are weaker. If my study of the human body is accurately refreshed, our blood vessels also peristalsise to aid blood flow but in old age this ability is weakened and this cause blood to stagnate especially in the blood capillaries causing water to retain there which show up as localised swelling. This condition is more severe in the lower extremities. One way to aid the blood flow is to massage the lower limbs frequently or wear warm compress.

The above is my layperson understanding of my condition. The doctor suggested resting or sleeping with my legs elevated for that should cause my blood to gravitate to my heart in a lower position. I should also stand less. That make sense too but I wonder if there is no longer term solution short of changing my BP drug type.

A Lifetime Countdown

This is an interesting thought someone forwarded me.


On August 7 , 2009
At 12hr 34 minutes and 56 seconds on the 7th of August this year, the time and date will be 12:34:56 07/08/09 which align to

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

This will never happen in your life again! Like a solar eclipse that happens in a 100 years or a comet that streaks by earth in a million year and you are the lucky ones to witness them, consider this special moment as yours. Perhaps say a prayer for world peace?

Friday, June 26, 2009

No Maids from Today

Finally, the Indonesian government has banned domestic maids from their country from working in Malaysia until we come up with a plan how to prevent maid abuse from recurring. Read HERE. The straw that broke the camel's back was the latest case of maid abuse reported HERE.

The controversy is not new. Both governments had failed to come up with a legal framework and enforceable job recruitment and training program to safeguard both the maids and their employers. As it take both hands to clap, it is conceivable that as much as abusive employers are to be blamed for striking and hurting their maids, the maids are sometime to be blamed as well for failing to perform as required. Having said that, no employer has any right to abuse their maids be it physical or emotional abuse.

The reaction from Indonesia is probably to garner populist support as the presidential election is coming up next month. But the ultimatum may hurt Indonesia more than Malaysia. The 300,000 maids from Indonesia are of lower qualifications than those who made it to other more affluent Asian countries like Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan and Taiwan where maids must learn a local language or dialect besides meeting other qualifications like minimum height, built, appearance and appropriate skills. The lowly qualified maids are probably also unemployable in Indonesia so banning them from seeking jobs in Malaysia is not going to resolve the abuse issue. Prolonged enforcement of the ban will create economic problems that will force the ban to be lifted sooner than later.

Even as the ban is enforced, maids agencies here will start looking for maids from other countries like Vietnam and Cambodia. The government plans to liberalise the qualified nations where maids may be employed. The problem of adapting to maids from these countries that is culturally less similar to ours than Indonesia will have to be confronted with training at source. Families seeking non-Indonesian maids will have to make major adjustments and sacrifices initially. At the same time they will have to reassess the way they handle their maids since the government is dead set to enforce the mandatory weekly rest for them.

Another development is that the cost of employing maids will certainly increase making this 'luxury' out of reach to some families. This alone will create new problems back home if wives have no choice but stay home to look after the babies, which will affect gross family income, and even deferred family planning for some until they can afford to engage a maid.

Personal liabilities insurance covers may have to be taken to protect employers from alleged abuse that may be concocted by maids getting back at their employers. Maids may also be given minimum living conditions, attire standard, and no pork rule (and no church) for Muslim maids. Some of these restrictions will definitely create inconvenience for the employers who may just decide to avoid Indonesia altogether as the cost benefits are unattractive. If this happens the eventual losers may just be the lowly qualified Indonesian maids who have nowhere else to go to earn a living. The solution is not to ban but to enlighten all parties on the roles and responsibilities of providing domestic care. In other words, maids must be more professional than what they now are.

Michael Jackson is Dead

I was shocked to receive a text message this morning that MJ has died of a heart attack in Los Angeles at the age of 50.

I was never endeared to MJ because he rearranged his face, especially his nose and chin, through plastic surgery to make him look so un-Negro. It made him so un-Michael Jackson, from the one I knew in the 1960s when he was with the Jackson 5 as a little kid brother then competing with the Osmonds. And I disagree with his pigmentation choice. Why wasn’t he proud of his Black American heritage that he had to make himself appear whiter? I don’t believe it is a disorder problem. Perhaps he felt inferior, that he was born black.

However MJ’s songs will outlast him. Like Elvis, MJ will enter the Hall of Fame as an entertainer with class. I remember he was one of the very earliest entertainers who promoted his songs via video clips over television. That was in the early 1980s. I remember ‘Billie Jean’, ‘Beat It’ and ‘Black or White’ that I enjoyed watching. For the first time I can not only listen to the song but also watch the singer dance to it. I must admit that MJ is a very gifted dancer too and was responsible for introducing many new dance movements and choreography that has been imitated by many other entertainers.

I never idolize MJ I and will not miss him but I feel sorry that he made a mess of his life with court cases against him for child molestation and financial mismanagement. However at 50 he is too young to die just as he was trying to right all the wrongs. Perhaps over the past 30 years Michael had been searching for himself, his true self, the way Elvis did. May he rest in peace and that God will receive him into eternity to dance and sing for the Lord.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Reorganizing Labels

While I gloated over my achievement of having written 500 posts so far I also realised how cluttered the labels have become. As I blogged I lost focus because the labels were too specific. I could not use them on newer posts so I had to create new labels. I guess this problem affect many bloggers. When I started off this blog I had no inkling how to label my posts, I did not have a plan of how to categorise them simply because I could not forsee how my blog is going to progress and what life it will take on. As soon as I've finished blogging my past memories and began blogging current life and events I soon added different labels to the subjects I wrote.

Yesterday when I decided I had better reorganize my post labels at this juncture before the blog gets even bigger I counted some 180 labels! As a person who cannot stand a disorganized environment I am a walking failure in my very own blog! Having admitted my unfocused way of labeling my posts I now undertake the massive task of recategorising them to hopefuly not more than 30 labels. In the coming few days I intend to finish this task to make my blog more searchable. Unfortunately because I blog a variety of subjects many of them will be lumped into very generalised labels.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Landmark 500th Post Reached

I am pleased to have reached this momentous 500th post today that I want to celebrate. Of the many blogs I maintained Mrs Brown is the most active and successful. Recently I closed down one of them. Eventually I may just run 3-4 blogs but Mrs Brown will remain my favorite platform to post my thoughts, my ideas and my memories.

The World Should Nyepi ...

In case you are wondering .. goto my ealier blog HERE. The concept of shutting down the activities for a day to celebrate the Hindu New Year in Bali, if extended globally, will certainly help contain the spread of the A H1N1 virus. Well, not for a day only but for a week. Mexico has done it in a similar way. We must think out of the box and not treat the compelled confinement as a loss of economic opportunity. Imagine this:

1. All airports closed.
2. Malls closed
3. All entertainment outlets closed, only restaurants opened.
4. Religious activities encouraged.
5. Schools closed
6. Business closed
7. Government closed
8. Defense facilities on standby
9. Gas stations closed (to discourage or minimize traveling)
10. Hospitals and emergency services stay open.
11. Television stations opened as usual.

People movements are restricted, priorities re-ordered, and any health hazards contained. The idea does sound ridiculous but we need to change the way we live or else we will succumb to a worse global attack that we may not be able to recover.

Outsmarting A H1N1 Virus

The number of cases reported continue to increase. As at June 19, WHO reported 44,287 cases that include 180 deaths from 90 reporting countries. The number will continue to rise, in some countries, at alarming rates. WHO is right to warn the world that the virus is spreading at a pandemic rate. Why many authorities are not taking this development seriously is perhaps the low mortality rate. 180 deaths account for just 0.4% of the total cases reported. In the mindset of many people, A H1N1 is not a serious problem so they continue to fly, go to crowded places and ignore precautionary measures on safe personal hygiene. I wonder if any country is recovering from this viral attack? In Malaysia we are seeing a daily increase of reported cases. It has not reached pandemonium to scare the public into hiding away. A H1N1 is not a plague but by not taking steps to slowdown the spread or stop its propagation in the human form, we are letting it evolve out of control. We must exercise some restraint and sacrifice some of our convenience to help move this virus out of our life. Can we outsmart it? I believe we can.

1. Avoid hotspots. If we know certain locations are unsafe, why still visit them? I think we are just asking for trouble. Plus it is irresponsible because you may just bring home some of the viruses. Sure you will not declare them at Kastams because you don't know you have them but we will hate you for making our lives more miserable because you pay no heed to be cautious and contribute to the globalisation of this virus.

2. Avoid imports. If you are from infected countries, especially cities with high incidence of infection, please don't visit us. We think you should be considerate enough to stay away until the infection cycle subside.

3. Maintain lifestyle. Don't be adventurous or over-strenuous in physical activities that your body's resistance is weakened to get sick more easily. Flu bugs are everywhere so please stay healthy. Keep warm when the weather is chilly and avoid over-exposure. Avoid activities that you are not used to. Exercise in clean environment, take plenty of fluids, fruits, vitamins and minerals. Above all, be happy and stress-free.

4. Be Cautious. A H1N1 is a stealth virus that spreads without revealing any symptoms. It is wise to avoid crowded places like malls, cinemas, trains, buses, lifts, night markets, hospitals, airports, even public toilets and eateries. Wear face masks if you must, you don't have to be embarassed because you have the right to protect your health in public places. However, if you can, avoid them or go during off peak period and leave as soon as you are done with your business. Avoid handshakes or standing too close to strangers. Move away if you hear a cough or sneeze. If you have no facemask, use a tissue or hankerchief to cover your mouth and nose. Face away from the offending direction. And if you yourself feels unwell, stay indoor and don't be a target of avoidance by others.

5. Spend Time Usefully. Perhaps curtailing your lifestyle means more time to yourself and family. Use that time to build relationship, read more, develop a new interest, do gardening or catch up on works you have procrastinated. Whatever it is, do not be stressed out as to compromise your health.

6. Enjoy the Great Outdoor. You cannot be cooped up indoor all the time. Go to the parks, beaches and hills, drive about to rural places and enjoy the fresh air and new variety of experiences like cycling, fishing, bird watching, kiting. In open places you are unlikely to catch the A H1N1 virus, even if they are there their concentration is too low to cause any infection.

The viral infection we are seeing is like a tornado or a typhoon. Steer clear of its path and you will not be hurt. Don't be a carrier because the virus need human beings to move from place to place. We can win the war against the A H1N1 provided we practise safe lifestyle and outsmart them.

E-Mails or Extra Mails?

Emails have literarily replaced traditional snail mails unless the party you wish to communicate don't have one. My mother don't have an email, she doesn't even know anything about computer, so the only ways I communicate with her is visit, call or send a card/letter. Sending card/letter by the paper route is getting really tedious considering the efforts taken to buy a card, write the note, address the envelope, stick a stamp, shaft the letter/card into a letterbox and wait for a couple of days to check if it gets delivered. But sending an email is such a wonderful convenience as long as you have an email account and an Internet access. Can we ever get on without an email address? Everyday I receive at least 10 emails, some of which are spam mails which I try to filter off before they land inside my inbox. Getting spams is like getting junks, no sense in getting upset but we just have to manage the inconvenience without getting our temper up. But I do have one gripe that I think all email owners must manage and update periodically, that is let everyone in your mailing list know which emails of yours are deactivated, closed, obsoleted, cancelled, stopped, whatever.

In our enthusiasm we tend to keep too many emails. Of course we are advised to manage our emails like have one for family use, one for official use, one for casual use, one for online surveys and feedbacks and other correspondence where you don't wish your privacy invaded or your regular mailboxes spammed. Is it inconceivable that on average we tend to have at least 2 or 3 emails? Some of us even have 10 or more! Like having credit cards that mostly stayed unused, so are many of our emails.

Sometimes when I sent out emails a few gets returned as undeliverable with different messages. Mostly rejected by user domain which can means a host of things like account closed, or mailbox full which means the user has not been reading and cleaning up the inbox regularly.

Like annual spring cleaning we need to organise our email accounts and streamline them. It not only simplify our online life but also ensure you do get that important mail that have not gone into an obsoleted mailbox. I have my emails downloaded into my Outlook Express inbox and the contact list carry many obsoleted email addresses from the same user. Without knowing which one is current often emails get forwarded to the wrong one.

I have 5 emails, I think, but use only 1 or 2 regularly, the others are for casual and anonymous correspondences. Why don't you take a look at your email addresses and if you have too many perhaps it is time to rationalise and notify your friends which ones are no longer in use. It will save them some frustrations, like having paper mails posted but not delivered. This time not through the fault of the postman, but your own mismanagement.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Trojans Have Landed

As I blog this 2 schools in Kuala Lumpur are closed as a result of influenza A H1N1 infection. Read HERE. More schools are likely to be closed in the coming week. How do these kids become infected? They received the virus from infected classmates returning from overseas. We are now seeing cases of locally transmitted flu virus A H1N1. They are like trojan horses that came in via seemingly healthy travelers who returned from countries that have not brought the pandemic under control. These travelers may not even be aware that they have become infected, and on the flights, in the coaches and cars, at home, in the supermarkets they visit soon after returning, and schools that they attend (if school-going) they inadvertently spread the virus around like handing out Christmas presents.

The blame is too much public exposures. You have to minimize people movements to contain the virus, if necessary declare curfews like what Mexico did. Dangerous times call for drastic actions and the government cannot afford to take a soft stance in trying to curb this disease. I'll stay home to eat my smelly durians.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Smelly King

If picture can smell many of you readers will not proceed beyond this sentence. The truth is you either love durians or plainly hate it. Durians have 3 ugly characteristics, especially the local Malaysian variants. All durians have thorny skin and you need to know how to hold the fruit without getting cut by one of the thorns which can be quite painful if not properly treated. In fact it can even lead to an infection so novice please either wear a thick leather glove or hold the fruit with a thick towel.

Secondly, and this is where Malaysian variety earns its notoriety when compared to the Thai durian, the durians stinks. Well, this description is debatable and speaking for myself, the word should be replaced with 'heavenly'. People say eating durian is an acquired taste, which is putting it mildly. Most people, especially Westerners, would not come within a mile of this obnoxious fruit which odor can stink even through walls. Carry durians in your car boot the car will stink for weeks. This is why durians are not allowed in hotels, air-conditioned restaurants, airplanes and supermarkets unless the pulp are well wrapped in cling films. And most likely they are of the Thai variety that is more sweet than smelly. But to local Malaysians who were brought up to taste durians and accept it as a royal fruit fit for the selected few whose taste buds have been seasoned to distinguish the subtle difference in taste and feel of different fruits even from the same tree (yes, durian is a highly differentiated fruit in which no 2 durian taste alike. Some people can tell you by the look alone if they are from the same tree. They are that good!) Just listening to comments of a durian aficionado can send you into bewilderment as to why he is this crazy over a fruit that stinks to heaven! This is the marvel of durian, the thorny devil. Some love to hate it, other hate to love it.

Thirdly, if you ever hold a durian pulp for the first time, you would think it is something out of the sewage. Yes, it is that gluey and sticky. Combined with the unheavenly smell, it is no wonder 99% of first timers are not likely to be a durian convert. The best time to convert someone to durian is when he is just a child and has not learned to differentiate the smell from those of other fruits. I believe that once you let a child reach a certain age when he can sense its unique smell and taste he would not be endeared to you at all. So catch them young.

This is the durian season and I can see lots of stalls selling them all over town. I am not crazy over durians and over the recent years I would only eat if there is an opportunity. This year I was fortunate to have a friend Albert who has connection to a client of his who owns a durian orchard. Last week I requested him to buy some for us and I was ecstatic over the quality of the fruits he bought me. Eating really good durian reminds me of my youth when I enjoyed really good kampong (authentic uncloned species) durians. However eating durian is not for everyone because it is very very rich in carbohydrates and proteins and therefore considered heaty. It is advisable to follow the durian meal with some salt water or fruit salt to cool our body system.

One advice to durian lovers. Avoid eating it if you plan to meet customers, friends or attend meetings or parties since you will be emitting durian smell when you speak.

Last night I opened the 2nd batch of durians from Albert which is as good as the first batch. They are in the freezer and look like I cannot resist taking some of them soon. Looks like I have to end this post to enjoy my Smelly/Heavenly King.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Maid in Hell

Indonesia reacts HERE to the recent abuse of Siti Hajar, an Indonesian maid whose employer was charged HERE. Seems some employers never learn from another recent abuse case where the employer was charged and jailed 18 years (appeal pending). Read HERE. What is going through the mind of abusive and sadistic employers (sadly women too)? Are they so stressed that they have to take out their anger on another human being? Don't they have other ways to resolve a simple domestic issue like maids who just refuse to do a fair job, or cannot understand simple instructions, or somehow cannot connect with the expectations of the boss?

One of the common reasons why some maids are prone to be scolded, beaten or denied privileges is absence of chemistry. Somehow the employer's reaction to seeing the real maid for the first time to the photograph in the biodata sheet was one of disappointment; and since she cannot be sent back or replaced without cost to the employer or justifiable grounds she is likely to impose an unusually high expectation on the poor maid. From day one she must do the work as if she knows the house, the occupants, the rules, the preferences and the family culture. Make a mistake and she gets reprimanded. Make two mistakes she gets punished. Make three, God knows what will come her way, perhaps no meal. Employers who treat their new maids this way are asking for trouble because the labour law is clear about mishandling employees. Employees, maids included, are entitled to fair treatment and where performance is lacking, an opportunity to improve through counselling and training, failing which other options BUT not physical abuse. It is criminal and inhuman to treat another person of lower class than you as if he or she is your slave. Yes, I believe some of the abusive employers actually think their maids are their slaves and this is the start of the ugly chain process that lead to domestic violence.

No two maids are alike. We tend to compare ours with our friend's and ask why her maid can stay for 5 years and treat her kids with so much love, wear neat clothings and is so well-mannered. The answer is in both nature and nurture. Perhaps your friend's maid is by nature caring and hygenic, that is her good fortune but much can be done through nurturing. Remember that a maid who has never worked outside her country is exposed to alien culture and need time and training to adapt and perform to expectation. A good employer will spend time to train her maid to perform to her standard. If a maid is untrainable or misbehave you have to cut your loss and repatriate her.

Mismatch between employers and maids happens everywhere. It is not just between abusive employers and lazy maids. Mismatch can even occur between kind employers and hardworking maids. The issue is how to resolve a mismatch and how to separate amicably. The other issue is when a mismatch result in the maid becoming threatened and/or abused, what course of action can be taken to prevent further harm.

It is time for the government agencies of both countries, the maids agencies and perhaps some employers to sit together to discuss this grave issue and come up with a fair process to handle such cases. For a start I think it is good for the welfare department to pay random visits to homes with maids to enquire if they have any issues. This is only for legally employed maids, unfortunately. Addresses may be easily ontained from the immigration records or maids agencies. Alternatively all employers must be required by law to bring their maids to be examined by a doctor for any physical injuries and interviewed every year. This may be abused by some maids who want to get back at their employers.

Personally my answer to the problem of mismatched maids is for the employer affected to be entitled to a free replacement at no extra cost within 3 months, and if the confirmed maid is still recalcitrant, to send her back immediately. Never allow your anger to get the better of you and be a target for criminal prosecution. Your maid may be in hell through your abuse but you won't be far from that situation either.

Blue on Blue

More older Singaporean men whom Cupid missed are seeking marital bliss by marrying non-Singaporean women. Compared to 1998, when only 18 per cent of such marriages involved men above 40, that proportion doubled to 35 per cent last year.

The Malaysian Insider reported it HERE.

This phenomenon is not embarassing nor unexpected. Look at it this way:

Men above 40 are likely to have established their career and probably doing well financially. If they are not already married they will be ready then to look around. I am surprised Singaporean girls in their late 20s to mid 30s are not on the look out for these prized catches, unless they have undesirable traits such as lack of sex appeal, too materialistic, dominant, no interest in having children, and not submissive to their men.

OK this is a little sexist but most men want to lead and be in control of their lives. However, opportunities given to women has put them up to be almost on par with the males that they expected equal treatment. The roles of women has alway been to play a secondary role to men but the pecking order changed with education and job opportunities freely given to them. Not that it is wrong but to a certain point, women need to know their position in society and at home. I know I am in for lots of angry protests but as a traditional male I believe that male and female are created for different roles. You can find tons of books written on this subject.

I believe Singaporean (Chinese) men prefer ladies from Vietnam and Thailand who are demured and submissive, willing to obey than raise their voice. They are much like the Japanese men who expect their wives to lay out their husband's slippers when they come home and serve them tea.

You can argue that it is cheaper to employ foreign maids to serve you this way but they don't provide bedroom services ! Plus foreign wives are less likely to run away. Ultimately it is money talk really. If you don't have money to offer security to the family of the girl of your choice you are not likely to be accepted. Looks come second as most foreign ladies are willing to leave their countries for better future for themselves and their families. Look like Singapore is a safe haven.

In Malaysia a similar trend is emerging with older wealthy Chinese men from the rural villages who have a liking for Vietnamese brides. They are probably thinking that with all their wealth they are entitled to have some legal and safe fun. The problem is if these men are already married and their flings will cause havoc in their marriages.

Foreign wives are OK if they don't break up existing marriages but some of them can be devils in disguise because they came from different traditions and culture. The trickery of many Chinese women who came here to lure gullible men into parting their money and possession is a warning to men anywhere to never trust their hearts, and pockets, easily to strangers. You will be the one to sing the blues. Especially if you want to 'play play' with fire.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Bridge Over Troubled Water

I adore the song of the same title by Art Garfunkel of the Simon & Garfunkel duet. It speaks to my heart about reaching out to the person in deep sorrow or emotional/spiritual grief by bridging one's strength over to the other's despair.

Unfortunately the title has nothing to do with human sorrows but the controversial bridge that is supposed to link Peninsular Malaysia (specifically the state of Johore) to Singapore. Until 1998 when the Second Link into Singapore at Tuas (read more HERE) was officially opened on 2 January, the vehicular access between the two nations was the Causeway. Former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir wanted the Causeway replaced by a bridge to widen it to allow for more traffic flow. More importantly he wanted container ships to call at the Pasir Gudang port rather than at Singapore, a rather strategic plan by the foxy PM to divert the lucrative cargo liner business from Singapore. Unfortunately the Singapore government would not agree unless the Malaysian government agree to sell sand to the republic for its land reclamation projects, the idea which was shot down. The proposed bridge never materialise, and while it was been mulled, adopted names like 'scenic bridge' and 'crooked bridge' which came about because Mahathir insisted if Singapore refuses to build its portion, Malaysia will build it halfway ... I don't understand the engineering nor architectural logic because a bridge must be anchored onto two fixed land mass, and not with one end hooked to the Causeway. Read HERE.

The crooked bridge failed to see daylight even when Tun Ahmad Badawi took over from Mahathir, who accused the former of sabotaging his pet project. There were just too many views and arguments. Now that Najib Tun Razak has taken over from Badawi in April this year, the bridge issue again reared its ugly head. This time it is simply called the 'third bridge'.

Najib wants the third bridge to be built on the eastern coast of Johore to tap into the soon to be developed Iskandar Region, a projected started under Badawi's reign. It is also supposed to link up to the Changi Airport. Unfortunately the old wounds are still festering and the third bridge may just stay on paper for now. Read HERE for the latest development.

If you read of any project mooted by the Malaysian government chances are you'll find many cooks to stir their ideas in until the food just become unpalatable, or just fit for the dogs. For now it is water over the bridge.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Compulsory Day or Time Off ?

The Malaysian government ruled that employers of domestic maids must allow them a mandatory rest day in a week. Read HERE. I have no quarrel with this as the labour law requires employees to be given weekly rest days. As a human being we cannot be expected to work non-stop, our bodies simply cannot take it. We need time to attend to our private needs. However, the manner of implementation need to be carefully studied before the ruling is enforced because of widespread repercussions.

Currently I know that maids from the Philippines get the rest day on Sundays. Being devote Catholics they want to attend church services and later meet up with fellow Filipino maids to socialise, exchange notes, etc. I believe the Filipino maids are a cut above maids from other countries because of their higher educational levels and better communication skills. Plus some families prefer Christian maids.

Majority of domestic maids here are from Indonesia. They are paid lower and do not get a day off. I believe the Human Resource Minister is referring to this target group. New maids entering the country will enjoy this benefit but existing maids may not get it until their contracts expire and are renewed, unless the government requires the benefit to be provided to all existing maids which is likely if the amendment to the Employment Act is gazetted.

What is it that made employers and agencies worried over this new ruling? I guess it is the fear that their maids will be exposed to negative influences that affect their work as well as open opportunities to tempt them to steal or run away and learn new tricks. Such exposures means potential trouble for them since not all maids are trustworthy except the matured and responsible ones who came with the sole purpose of making money to support their families and future.

There is no objection of maids having their rest day at home and in their rooms. It is the fear of distraction if they are allowed to socialise outside. On the one hand it is their right to do what they want on their rest days but on the other hand the employers concern must be seriously addressed as their maids were brought in at high costs to perform critical duties like childcare or looking after the invalids that cannot be easily replaced should the maids suddenly abscond.

The issue of trust is easily offset by presence of male workers living or working nearby, especially of these workers are from their own country. There have been many cases of runaways, sexual victimisation, burglary and neglect resulting from such distractions. Many employers resort to installing CCTVs to track the movements of their maids and most have also held onto their passports as an added security to discourage them from running off.

The issue of giving maids a day off every week is not disputed. What is unresolved is whether the choice to compel it by law or otherwise left to both parties to decide since some maids would rather work every day than take a day off when they prefer to be alone or just be with the family. The other issue is to allow the employers to decide if they can be given unlimited freedom to do what they like since the employers will have to tackle any new problems arising from changing the norm which is working 7 days but with regular daily rests when there is no work to be done.

The government must not take an overly simplistic view and solution to this labour issue. They should focus on resolving underlying causes of maid abuse which is happening quite often. While attempting to give maids their due rights the government must be concerned of the employer's rights too. If replacing delinquent maids is made easier then it will justify employers giving maids their just dues. For now their only recourse is hold them to some kind of 'ransom' until their contract expires or is mutually renewed. I don't believe employers like what they are doing but without an escape option they are trying to get the most out of their maids.

The compulsory day off may not be such a great idea after all for domestic maids. I think it should be mutually negotiated instead of enforced by law. Perhaps some maids prefer to be given a day off in a month instead of weekly and be paid a little extra for being around on their weekly rest days. Can the government interfere in this mutual arrangements?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Go to the Airport? No Thanks.

In times like this I really feel sorry for Idris Jala and Tony Fernandes, CEOs of Malaysian Airline and Air Asia respectively. For that matter for every commercial airlines around the world. The influenza A H1N1 virus has made air travel to be avoided unless absolutely necessary. And I would not want to go to any airport if I can help it.

I was reading THIS news report today. I was struck by two revelations.

1. Air travelers should be screened BEFORE they fly instead of at arrival. Now isn't that not the obvious thing to do? If WHO did not issue that as a directive they must have a very good reason not to but common sense tells me that screening of passengers before boarding of any health hazards, much like screening them for carrying any weapons, will contain the spread of the viruses out of the country of origin. Letting infected passengers board, and then infecting fellow travelers, compound the hazards that has led to the global pandemic we have today. In fact every airport authorities should on their own accord begin to screen outbound passengers if they have not already done so.

2. The ventilation and filtration systems in a commercial plane cannot trap the A H1N1 viruses. Now that is worrisome and should cause many air travelers to cancel or defer their flights. Can you imagine breathing virus-contaminated air? You would probably worry each time you hear a cough or a sneeze from someone sitting nearby, or from the lavatory. And don't think wearing a face mask will stop the viruses from getting into your lungs. Not if you are prepared to wear it continuously and uncomfortably throughout the entire flight, especially a long haul one. You'd probably die of suffocation before you arrive! Sorry.

Being stuck in a confined space with a group of people you've never met before is not where you want to be in today. Especially when you don't have that freedom to move away, if you want to, like in a mall or public library.

I like airports because I can watch all sorts of people busying getting ready to fly, or waiting anxiously for friends or family to arrive. But I won't want to be watching them especially for now. Perhaps those arriving or flying should just use public transport instead. Sorry but I'd rather be safe than sorry.

We Are Still Colonised, By English

Even after the British granted us independence in 1957, and helped us write into our constitutions that Malay shall be the national language, they never really leave us in peace. The language issue continue to divide the nation. For 27 years English was used as the medium of education in schools and universities although Malay was being used in official correspondence of the government departments. From 1984 Malay substituted English which ceased to be the medium of instruction, instead was downgraded to just a subject. Teachers who were forced to teach subjects in Malay when they were used to teach in English faced the same dilemma and frustrations as the Malay educated teachers today are now expected to teach subjects in English. The actual transitions took several years before that and it was in 1984 or thereabout that English really became a secondary language. I remember that as my youngest daughter was in the changeover phase.

For the 25 years since that grave mistake (I disagree that English should be made an optional subject) an entire generation of Malaysians grew up without knowing English except for those whose parents gave them the opportunity to study it. Today we are debating the fundamental question: should we revive English and make it a compulsory subject in our school exams? I believe deep in the hearts of many Malaysians, including traditional Malays who pride over their language, they realise that we cannot do without English much as we hate the after-effect of the British rule over us. It is not the British fault that English is so widespread. It is to their credit that they planted their culture so successfully all over the world that their language has become the lingua franca of the world that many cultures have adopted it as their second language. Why not Malaysia? Why do we fear English or feel inferior to it? Rather we ought to master it and exploit it to our advantage.

It may take another 25 years to restore the language balance in our population and make our people competitive among the other races in other nations who can speak good English, and that include China. But there has to be a new starting point to retake the race again to become English competent. Yes, there are many opinions of lack of good English teachers, how the rural kids will lose out, that the Malay language will be sidelined and forgotten, or how difficult it is for us to learn so many languages. Excuses, excuses. We waste precious time in delaying a decision.

The one weakness we have is lack of determination and willpower to right a wrong. The other is to admit a wrong which is something we are rather proud of not doing. Taking language as a communication tool, ignoring its association to a particular race or culture, we should learn a language that enables us to stay ahead of our competitors. My eldest daughter who never studied Mandarin in school decided to learn it since in her work she had to deal with Mandarin-speaking customers. For the sake of career survival she did it, not because she like it (actually as a Chinese she should have learned her mother tongue, my mistake for not instilling this patriotism and love). Her Mandarin speaking customers appreciated her efforts and that helped seal many deals.

The struggle the Malaysian government is going through now is NOT they cannot see the advantages of reintroducing English as a compulsory subject in schools and find resources to solve this problem. The trouble is how to convince a large number of Malays who see English as a form of re-colonisation again. Who refuses to believe that Malay has little economic use in the global marketplace. It is not a language of science, business and internet that people would want to learn. Malay ought to be learn by us because it is our national language, this we cannot avoid. But to deny English its rightful place in our lives is shutting opportunities for growth and survival in our faces. Those who selfishly argue against English fail to see the long term damage their bias is harming our children and their children.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Beware Indonesia

In April when we arrived Bali for a holiday the immigration officer attending to us complained that Indonesian authorities treat Malaysians kinder than Malaysians do their counterparts. I jokingly said to please bring this up to our new prime minister Najib Tun Razak. What I hear might be just an example of a deeper rumbling that the Malaysian government must take greater notice. Indonesia after all is the largest Muslim nation in the world, our immediate neighbor and we have a contentious relationship in many issues. Right or wrong the average Indonesian is likely to think we are bullying them because of our stronger economic power.

Consider these examples how relationship can be hurt unless deftly dealt with:

1. The annual haze problem has returned. We always blame the Indonesian planters in Sumatra and Kalimantan for their slash-and-burn practice that sent heavy smoke fumes into the air and get blown across the Straits of Malacca or the Kalimantan border into Sarawak and Sabah. We say the Indonesians are irresponsible and uncaring about the environment but the perennial issues remain unresolved.

2. Indonesia sends the largest number of foreign workers into Malaysia, many of them enter illegally and abetted by Malaysians who help them get in. Indonesian workers rank as the major group of industrial workers getting hurt or killed. Recently the collapse of the old Jaya Supermarket building in Petaling Jaya which was being demolished killed 7 Indonesians. We can say this is unfortunate but lives are lost because of unsafe practices by the contractors. This will be forgotten soon because the victims are foreigners.

3. Indonesia also sends the most domestic maids into Malaysia because they are cheap to employ. Also they adapt better to our local culture and can communicate better than Cambodians, Myanmese or Vietnamese. Perhaps because those sent here are of of lower qualification and skills (pay peanuts get monkeys) as the better ones prefer working in Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan for higher pays, there tend to be more dissatisfaction from some employers of these maids performance and ethics. There are some high profile maid abuse cases involving Indonesian maids. Understandably the Indonesian government are unhappy when their citizens are ill-treated. If they cannot perform why ill treat them? Why not just send them home? The Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has taken a personal interest in the current abuse case here in Kuala Lumpur.

4. Extremely sensitive is the case involving an alleged domestic abuse of an Indonesian model Manohara Odelia Pinot who was married to a Kelantanese prince Tengku Temenggong Muhammad Fakhry Petra whom she accuses of abusing her physically and psychologically. Expectedly the Malaysian government steers clear as the case involves the monarchy but in so doing sends the wrong message that they believe the accusation to be true but must not be seen to be prejudiced against their own sultan.

5. The intrusion of the territorial waters of Ambalat island off the coast of Tawau, Sabah by Malaysian naval force is straining diplomatic relationship between the 2 countries. The dispute over the territory and access to undersea oil and natural gas originated from a map which Malaysia published in 1979 which placed the area in its territory and which Indonesia protested. Ordinary Indonesians are upset too.

6. Indonesian Muslims have settled down in large numbers in Sabah creating a demographic headache for the Sabah government. How did they become citizens in the first place so easily when so many better deserved foreigners married to Malaysian citizens are still waiting for their citizenship? If investigation shows these foreigners received their citizenship illegally can they be repatriated?

7. Is Malaysia the rightful owner of the evergreen song Rasa Sayang that is used to promote Malaysia's tourism? No, says Indonesia, Malaysia stole it and claim it to be theirs.

The only unifying factor seems to be Siti Nurhaliza, a very popular Malaysian artiste who is idolised in Indonesia with her good looks and sultry voice. I think she should be made our ambassador to Jakarta. Do you agree?

Friday, June 12, 2009

Pandemic Alert Triggered

Barely 6 weeks after WHO raised the A H1N1 flu alert from 3 to 5, it has now declared this infection to reached pandemic level when it raised the alert all the way to level 6 yesterday. Read HERE. This simply means that the governments, health authorities and aviation industry have not done enough nor taken the flu seriously enough to contain it. I have read of health personnel at the arrival halls in airports not screening every inbound passenger for fever and other symptoms of flu infections. Perhaps they have become disinterested. Some passengers on flights where infections were detected refused to be quarantined because it was inconvenient to them. They would rather take the risk than help the health authorities. It is this sort of attitude that allows the flu virus to spread rapidly.

Like AIDS, SARS, JE Virus and Bird Flu, A H1N1 is a broadbased community disease spread in the public through airborne and/or contact pathways. They are extremely hard to contain without full cooperation from the public at large. What the Mexican government did in shutting down community services at the onset of the infection some 2 months ago, akin to forcing a curfew, has effectively contained its spread. In Japan, and now in Hong Kong, schools have been closed to children and ordered indoor. The only effective way to stop the propagation of this deadly virus is to stop people movement and association for awhile. The number of deaths may not be serious but we must not let the virus to build up its critical impact.

Aviation business will suffer surely but it will help prevent the pandemic from growing out of control. Our personal lifestyle and priorities must change for at least the next month or two to allow the virus infection to subside. You may feel safe because there is no case of any victims detected in your neighborhood or city. But how can you tell the person you rubbed shoulder with yesterday in a mall may not have been in contact with an infected friend or relative?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

What Next?

I just read HERE about attempts made by some airlines to shed some unnecessary weights so that they may save some fuel in these bad times. I guess desperate times call for desperate measures but what the airlines are doing is commendable. In fact the entire aviation industry should review what are essential against what are superfluous, taking into consideration that safety reigns paramount. Some suggestions:

Flight Safety Chart should be printed on the underside of the foldable tray instead of in laminated sheets. More visible and reduce some weight. And forget inflight magazines.

Do away with duty-free sales on board the flight. That is not the business of airlines. This will certainly take off some irrelevant weights.

Passengers to reuse the disposable cups given for drink refills. Saves some weight and better environment management.

Reduce weight allowance. In fact for passengers who travel light, offer some rebates or mileage points.

Getting Rid of Fire Ants

If you have been bitten by ants while trying to harvest from your fruit trees you must be wondering how to get rid of them easily. After all they are all over the tree and probably have made nests among the leaves. Well, I have a method that you can try, if you are not a Muslim that is.

Ask your butcher for a few slices of pork skin, they are mostly free. Hang up one or two pieces on the tree branches and wait. Soon the smell of the raw pork will attract one or two ants which will excitedly crawl back to the nests to inform the rest to come enjoy the feast. After about an hour go check on the pork skins and you will likely find a few hundred of the ants sedated on them and sucking on the juice. If you want to wait for more ants to gather you can but the number will likely be quite stable. Next comes your weapon of destruction:

Either arm yourself with a can of insect spray or hot water. I prefer the former as it will not scald you accidentally. The insect spray will immediately kill off the ants. Be sure to spray up and down the branches and trunk to kill as many as you can. This exercise will reduce the ant population substantially as to no longer cause you any nuisance when you next harvest your fruits. The picture shows the fire ants having a good time on the pork skin on the trunk of my mango tree just before they 'regretted' gathering there.

I know for religious reasons some of you will disagree with my method of ants removal.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

English, the Comeback Language

It amazes me how the role of English as a language of communication gets so highly politicized here. Maybe I am overly simplistic but I always believe that what is good should be promoted, whether it is a local product or foreign. If it helps the nation globally why not? So I was shocked to read this news report HERE that the Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin who also happens to be the Deputy Prime Minister was suddenly enlightened that passing English is not required to get a certificate called the SPM (Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia) which is awarded after the final exam before a student leaves school to go to college. The good news is that his ministry is going to study if English should be made compulsory. Read HERE.

I remember in the late 50s when I was in primary school English was the sole language of instruction and Malay was just a language subject. Right until 1978 that is. Today the pattern has reversed. Malay was never a language of trade and global communication but as a nation with majority Malay it is enshrined in the Constitution that Malay is our national language so must be learned by all Malaysians. This is largely unchallenged and accepted. Today I can say that everyone, including the non-Malays, can speak Malay beside their own mother tongue and English for those who are English educated. However the usage of English has been severely sidelined because its place has been taken over by Malay and for 30 years a generation of young Malaysians were educated mainly in Malay and can hardly speak good English except for those with opportunity to do so.

There is a difference between learning English as a subject and learning English as a vehicle of learning other subjects like Sciences, History, Geography, Literature, etc. We must be competent in learning English as a subject first before it can be effectively used as a vehicle of learning other subjects, so it must be made a compulsory subject. The current debate of whether to revert the teaching of Science and Mathematics back to Malay from English is about regaining the role of Malay as the language of learning. However, one must be pragmatic to admit that the language of choice must be one that is most effectively communicated to the audience. If the universal language for Science and Mathematics is English, so English ought to be used instead of Malay. But Malay can made available to those who wants to study Sciences and mathematics in that language. There is no denying that Malay must be used widely as it is our national language but English must be promoted for it is internationally used. Malaysians cannot run the risks of cocooning ourselves from incompetency of global communication.

To rectify the flaws in our education system, English must again be made a compulsory subject alongside Malay. This will force all students to learn English although it may be unpopular for a start but it will help Malaysians become confident and competent in dealing with the rest of the world. As for the vehicle of learning, the government must be liberal to set up both Malay and English medium schools to provide choices to the students.

Vision Training Started

I first blogged HERE about vision training. Beginning June 1 I started exercising my eyes to rebuild the muscles and improve their focussing and coordinating skills. The resistance I felt in my eyes is like getting a couch potato up to an exercise bike but the initial inertia gave way to daily persistence of setting aside 30 minutes for my eyes sake. It isn't much to ask for this pair of windows that brought me so much sight to give them a chance of being healed.

This mission has given me a sense of purpose to blog specifically on this goal. This BLOG should run for a year or more for I've given myself a year to achieve perfect 20/20 vision. If you like to jog along with me on this I WANT TO SEE BETTER mission please check it regularly for updates.

Who Want to be a Millionaire?

I received in my mail today a letter that says that I will be richer by RM1,000,000 in 18 days. The writer who claims to be a clairvoyant 'saw' flashes of this happening. Later in that letter I was 'promised' many other events that will make me very wealthy, happy and powerful. I guess this letter should make me very happy indeed, except that it was a form letter, created by a mass mailer software, using a mailing list of thousands of addresses, which means as I read this lottery letter so are thousands of others.

I am amazed by the ingenuity and creativity of some people in tempting recipients to respond to their schemes. Most of us are clever enough to smell a rat but sometimes the thought of 'it isn't expensive, why not give it a try?' is enough to ensnare some victims. Unlike the Nigerian scams that ask for thousands of ringgit as processing fee, this one is cheap, less than a hundred ringgit. Such a low entry fee or 'investment' will certainly get more people interested. If one really get a million ringgit it will be a dream come true, if not it is just a small amount of money burnt. Just having a thousand 'victims' is equal to enriching the scammer almost a 100 thousand ringgit.

I cannot deny that I want to be a millionaire. It is no big deal to be one today as the cost of living has spiralled and a million ringgit can't give you a life of luxury although you won't starve. But you will be much poorer if you have to pay a hefty medical bill if you undergo delicate surgeries or require extended treatments. For now I think I'll save the 'subscription' fee to cover a few dinners instead and let others have a shot at their million ringgit life. But I don't mind that million dropping into my hands without my having to pay a single sen to anyone for it. If I do, I will be blogging again on this subject. Watch this space!

Spiritual Migration

Many years ago I was frustrated enough to consider migrating to another country. I was disappointed I did not qualify. In retrospection I am glad I did not leave my home country as I might have a problem adapting to the new environment. Today the topic borders on a similar subject - spiritual migration. Let me explain.

Unless you are an atheist you'll agree that when we die we go some place. If we have a choice we want to choose that place where we will spend the next phase of our life, possibly permanently and eternally. Some religion believe it to be a cyclical phase. But the common feature is that we will leave earth one day when our time is up. We don't pack our bags, take a plane and land somewhere idyllic or fun to spend our time. We just go.

I remember whenever I plan a holiday I'd elaborately consider every possible aspects of what to bring, where to go, what to buy and what to enjoy. But above all I would choose which holiday destination because I am selective.

I am ready to consider migration again, not to another land on earth but somewhere my spirit will go to rest or suffer. I consider eternity with fear, it is a very long time. I have to choose my options carefully, a wrong choice and I will be sunk. Much like choosing where I go for a holiday I want to be able to enjoy every moment. So I choose Heaven. It promises everything nice in the travel brochure called the Bible. Well, there are conditions, just like every itinerary, but the key is whether we made the correct decision to be where we want to be.

I believe as we get older our sight is set both front and back. We set back to relish the golden moments and our achievements. We set front to see where we are heading, make adjustments that we eventually land in the right place.

Much of our lives are on auto-pilot after we planned our education, marriage and career. Much later we discover our mistakes and swing into action to correct them.

So where do you plan to migrate spiritually? The decision must be made on this side of life before it is cut short.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Lee Kuan Yew's View on Ageing

I want to quote from a speech by Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, Minister Mentor to the Singapore Government on ageing.

In other words, you must have an interest in life. If you believe that at 55, you're retiring, you're going to read books, play golf and drink wine, then I think you're done for. So statistically they will show you that all the people who retire and lead sedentary lives, the pensioners die off very quickly.

So we now have a social problem with medical sciences, new procedures, new drugs, many more people are going to live long lives. If the mindset is that when I reach retirement age 62, I'm old, I can't work anymore, I don't have to work, I just sit back, now is the time I'll enjoy life, I think you're making the biggest mistake of your life.

After one month, or after two months, even if you go travelling with nothing to do, with no purpose in life, you will just degrade, you'll go yo seed. The human being needs a challenge, and my advice to every person in Singapore and elsewhere: Keep yourself interested, have a challenge.

If you're not interested in the world and the world is not interested in you, the biggest punishment a man can receive is total isolation in a dungeon, black and complete withdrawal of all stimuli, that's real torture. So when I read that people believe, Singaporeans say, 'Oh, 62 I'm retiring.' I say to them, 'You really want to die quickly?' If you want to see sunrise tomorrow or sunset, you must have a reason, you must have the stimuli to keep going.'

Have a purpose driven life and finish well my friends.

To Mr. Lee let me say this: To Each His Own. We arrive at our retirement age in different state of physical, financial, mental and emotional health. Added to them our continuing responsibilities to families, businesses and community. Lumped inside is our unfulfilled need to rest, enjoy and taste the fruits of our labour. I think we deserve to have an easier life in our sunset years and to those who can, it is a blessing many envy for there are others who pine for unrealised dreams. And do not forget that our bodies are physically less able to take the stress and punishment of a hectic lifestyle.

Mr. Lee is exceptional, for even at 85 he is still actively involved in government and business. He is after all no ordinary person and cannot use himself for others to benchmark. However I do agree that irrespective of where we've reached when we retire we must never stop moving. We must keep doing work, any work, or as he said, "we will die quickly".

I urge those who are retiring to contribute their time to community service. Many while their time away in coffeeshop gossips, gambling, stock markets, travelling. Some help with grandkids and housekeeping. Others like me are addicted to the Net. Whatever we do it is wise to include a daily period of physical exercise so that our bodies are kept in good condition.

Not to be forgotten is the need to watch over our spiritual health which I intentionally excluded above. Seniors are more likely to think about going away. It is natural progression as we begin our countdown. It is not morbid to think of death because it is inevitable. And thinking of death invariably lead to the question: where are our souls destined to go?

It is no coincidence I believe for Mr Lee to end with this sentence, "Have a purpose driven life and finish well my friends" because all of us need to discover what our purpose is on earth.

If you can, please read the Purpose Driven Life book written by Rick Warren which you can find in any Christian as well as major bookshops. It may just change your mind about what on earth you are here for.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Can or Cannot?

I read in today’s newspaper that a much smaller company called Can-One is going ahead to buy over a 32.9% stake in the larger and established can manufacturer, Kian Joo, its rival. In Malaysian English, or Manglish, Can-One also means ‘Possible’ or ‘It can be done’. So the acquisition is in line with the company’s philosophy and optimistic outlook. Plus the word ‘Can’ is in line with the core business of can manufacturing. Other Manglish that comes to my mind are:

Can-Not, an obvious No-No for a business
Can-Meh?, a doubtful name that also does not augur well as a business name
Can-Also, a copycat to Can-One, maybe version 2?
Can-Do, a business that is open to any and every venture, a jack of no trade
Can-Can, this one has obviously nothing to do with the canning business!

Do you have other humorous Can names in Manglish to share?


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