Sunday, August 29, 2010

Planning the South Korea Trip

Prior to this holiday our last one was in April 2009 to Bali with Julian and Winnie so it has been nearly one and half year which seems like a long time. From my reading I was recommended to choose the period from September to mid-November to visit South Korea as this autumn season is more scenic, cooler and less wet. Honestly I am choosing this period by blind faith since SK is really an alien land to visit. Firstly it is the language. If I am left alone there in a village where no one speaks English or Mandarin I think I will not be able to get myself understood beyond basic expressions such as ‘I am hungry’ or ‘I need to go to the toilet’.

Going SK was Wai Har’s choice. We have been to China, Taiwan, Bangkok, Kuching and Bali of our Asian destinations. Going to SK seems the natural move. But the next destination I want to decide, and it will be either Melbourne/Sydney or Hanoi in the nearby category; but to travel further my choice will be either Eastern Europe or NE Coast of the USA.

The window to travel was restricted by an important company event during October to early November. I need to be around so the only available period is September but the 2nd half of the month is busy so I am stuck with picking the first half to travel although I was told by a travel agent that it will still be warm then (they did not tell me it will be wet!).

Around mid July I started paying attention to tour advertisements and found Mayflower and Reliance promoting their SK packages. I visited their local offices and found the one from Mayflower and another from Anwin Holiday (who represents Mayflower in Seremban) interesting and viable. The Reliance packages are too expensive so I decided to drop them.

I then discovered Wai Har’s passport had expired in March. I deliberately refused to renew it as we had no travel plan then but now I had to renew it before I can start booking the tour. Using a freeware I printed out a set of her passport size photo, filled in the form and on July 25 submitted the application to the Seremban Immigration office. They opened on Sunday which is a good thing as overwise Yee Peng will need to take time off to look after the children. We got the new passport in 3 hours which was great! On July 29 I went to Anwin Holiday and booked the 8D6N package for the two of us. The tour particulars are as follows:

Departure Date: August 30, 2010
Return Date: September 6, 2010
Tour Fare: RM2,699.00/person
Airport Tax: RM760.00/person
Travel Insurance: RM41/person
Total Cost: RM7,000.00 excluding out-of-pocket expenses

The tour fare fluctuates greatly even for departures days apart. Maybe it is the school holiday or the Hari Raya period. For example, from the same tour agency, Sept 5 departure costs RM3,499.00, a difference of RM800! I do not believe buying a cheaper tour means poorer service, accommodation, food or programs. Leaving end August means we are visiting S.Korea in the end summer period which to us may be a blessing since we won’t need to carry too much warm clothings, especially with both of us are getting older.

On August 14 I bought some Korean Won to cover incidental expenses. As I blog this we are less than 2 days from flying. We may do some last minute shopping today but all the essential items are covered.

Here's a picture of Seoul at night. Lovely isn't it? I shall blog more on this holiday when I return. See you.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Anticipating a Wet Korea



If this forecast is accurate then we will be into a wet wet wet holiday next week. But I am praying and hoping for the weathermen to be wrong. It looks like everyday will be wet. Sheeeesh!

A Constipated Traffic

What I feared has happened. Traffic jam has come to Seremban 2 and it is just the beginning. The bottleneck is the two-lane carriageway exiting Seremban 2 before the S2/Bukit Kepayang traffic junction. Everytime I drive that stretch I would think of the day when we would constipate on the road going home or leaving for work. The scenario is already there at 6pm daily and is happening in the morning as well. It is fair to say that entering a large residential area is easier than leaving it. Reminds me of Subang Jaya in the 1990s when motorists are stuck just getting out. As a comparison we have all the control in deciding how much we eat but what happens when you cannot shit? The more you delay shitting the worse the problem gets as you don't stop eating so there is a build-up, or should I say pile-up of more shit waiting to exit your system. Likewise when the traffic cannot clear fast enough at any given green light cycle, the jam accumulates which leads to impatience, queue jumping or other sudden manouvre that endanger other road users.

How the planners decide that a two-lane carriageway is sufficient to enough to disperse traffic in such a huge housing project I cannot fathom. I can only speculate a cost cutting move to save the developer but at a huge expense to road users. Worst, one of the lane is used for traffic U-turning back and turning right into the fast growing industrial estate which will see a new shopping mall opening later next year. This will not only add further congestion to the vicinity of the traffic junction but bring more shoppers into the already congesting Seremban 2.

Seremban 2 will see a repeat of Subang Jaya for sure. What is needed is other exits to disperse traffic flow. I am looking forward to the relocation of the toll booths as these are contributing to increased congestions. But more importantly is for the town planners to find quick fixes to the smoldering problems before they catch fire and become an irritation that can drive down property value. I don't know how pro-active is the developer in managing this issue. Certainly this is fodder for politicians to chew on the gain mileage and support.

It is good that we now have the inner ring road to get out of Seremban 2 but the route takes the drivers into the Oakland industrial area and the small Bukit Chedang roundabout which again bottleneck the flow. Sigh! When will the planners ever do the smart thing? Hopefully they stay in Seremban 2 to feel the pinch.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Chinaman Talk, Listen

I like THIS report. Those who are particular over grammatical accuracy would snicker at this very Chinese way of expression but sidestepping the poor English education of this Chinese millionaire and a leader of the community you should agree with what he appealed for. The barn is burning and workers are quarreling over who should be doing what to save it? This is the crazy thing about Malaysia and if its economy does not sink under its own stupidity then it has to be a miracle that God is sustaining us.

Personally I think Najib is too soft to be PM. Sometimes he is even softer than his predecessor Badawi and it does not augur well that we have a weak leader. His deputy PM and cousin Home minister does not even respect him by reacting threateningly at the recent MCA's suggestion to sideline the 30% equity for bumiputera to stay competitive and attract foreign investors. Obviously the 30% equity has been a hindrance to foreign investment. If Najib agrees he is not saying. If he does not agree he better respond now as William Cheng urges. Doing nothing is more damaging than stating clearly the government stand because it create indecisiveness and anxiety.

Meanwhile Penang steals the thunder by announcing a Hari Raya red packet of RM400 each to the civil servants in the state to thank them for their performance. This is excellent and a sensible PR work of the chief minister. Read HERE. Now if the federal government decides to follow some people may think they are copying a great idea. If this practice is going to be fairly executed I am looking forward to Penang also giving ang pows to Chinese civil servants come Chinese New Year next year. With cost of living going up almost daily who won't welcome such gifts?

Friday, August 13, 2010

This Playground Is Unsafe



If you were a kid just coming off the slide you would probably be running back to the steps at the back to have another fun ride won't you? But first you have to clear a very dangerous obstacle that adults have carelessly built into the construction of this playground. Children are quite likely to trip and fall running straight across to the steps. It is quite silly and clumsy to run following the curvature of the rubberised flooring. Even adults can hurt themselves since the grass is lower than the flooring. Click on the picture to view the enlargement and see what I mean. I have to be extra careful when I bring my grand-daughter to this neighborhood playground which was opened earlier this year. I don't know if the builder was trying to save cost, or the designer thought the floor shape is cute, or the contractor was cheating.

Apart from the poor safety aspect of the design and construction the grass were also not properly turfed and the ground leveled. It is little wonder that this park is not as popular as the other recreation park called City Park to which we used to bring our grand children there.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

I Have a Website!

Many of you don't know this but indeed I have a website that I spent considerable efforts and time to create some 5 years ago which, due to lack of time, and focussing on blogging instead, I've allowed it to vegetate. Today I decided to drop in to read what I've written and I thought it was a different me then. I believe much of what I wrote are still relevant and though it needed updating (which I won't to keep the vintage flavour there) I prefer to express my thoughts through my blog instead. Just in case you are curious, HERE'S my website. Hope you like the music!

1007 Vehicles



I got this from The MalaysianInsider and it astounds me that the sultan can own soooo many luxury cars. If he were to be driven in a car a day it will take almost 3 years before he gets to sit in the same car again. Even if some are to be used to drive dignitaries and family members the mileage for the cars must be extremely low. To 99.99% of us it is a pipe dream to be sitting in or be driven in one of them let alone owning one.

I wonder what the value of one of these beauties can do towards charity?

Building Bridge into the Past



August 7, 2010 will be a memorable day for me. On that evening, over dinner, I met up with a former teacher and 4 classmates (year of 65), all of whom except for one, I lost touch since we parted ways after our schooldays. Have we all grown older? Sure! Have we changed? Not sure. But what I am sure is that this meeting made us teenagers again, especially me. We did not allow the 40 years gap to sow strangeness into our relationship and we took each other for granted, like kids always do. I was especially vibrant and talkative. Some of us brought old school photos to share and I brought a current album of my family to share. Over a course of 8 dishes and free flowing beer we talked for 3 hours before we said goodbye. Our wives made friends quickly and became close as if they too had their private reunions.

This bridge building actually started soon after the 'friendship lunch' I had in July which caused a series of emails to be shunted back and forth. Thanks to my mother's 85th birthday celebration which gave me reason to asked for this class reunion, the bridge to the past is now rebuilt. Soon another bridge, and another, will be built when other class reunions are held in November and December. What amazes me is that most of us moldies actually can email! Just goes to show that ours is an adaptable and adapting generation.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Yours Obediently

You never come across any letter with this closing anymore. 50-60 years ago during the time of the British civil service in Malaya/Malaysia and I believe in other British colonies you will get letters from civil servants that end this way. They meant they were there to serve you obediently. Today you'd be lucky if they don't shout at you or ignore you or make you wait. This post is not about the civil service but a sharing about how we should be waiting obediently for the greater design of life to happen. What I mean is that we ought to listen to our inner voice instead of rushing things through. In other word, abandon the attitude that we are always right, we must be right, and everyone else's views are wrong. Often the best thing in life lie in an attitude of waiting. The best decision often (I am tempted to say always) come when you wait a little longer and then you'd not regret in rushing things. Let me share a little of today.

I had some credit owing to me from a hardware dealer for goods returned that I need to buy other items to contra. I have my sight on an expensive German bathroom shampoo rack that ran out of stock when the credit racked up 3 weeks ago. I decided not to rush into buying it as I was not in a hurry to fix it. This morning I went in check and the stock have arrived. I took my time to assess other racks and lo and behold found a better one at a third of the price of the German rack so I bought the cheaper one instead. It pays to wait and ponder. The best is not always within sight but at the corner of your eyes. Allow yourself the luxury of careful consideration.

Then I was at the centre that trains learning disabled people that I look after. My trainer had lots to tell me about how certain groups of people are coming forward to help us. I shared on how we are going to transform and reform our centre and the new one being built (ready in a month or two. Follow this BLOG) so we can be life transformers and not just trainers. We shared exciting ideas on having a cafeteria alongside our soon-to-be-enlarged bakery. Then it dawn on me that this attitude of waiting soon after we bought the building for our new centre gave us a chance to reflect and review our plans. Nothing is set in concrete until ideas have been regurgitated and digested. Then we saw the training now given to 2 of our trainees to help in a bakery may just be preparing them to take charge of our own bakery next year.

I look back at the preceding months and sighed with relief and joy that the zigsaw pieces are falling together one by one. I don't plan to rush but to wait obediently for God to unfold and unfurl what is His plan for us to carry out. If we do so then we are His Obediently.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Words

Most of us music lover would have heard of the song entitled 'Words' by the Bee Gees. A sentence in the lyrics is:

Its only words and words are all I have to take your heart away.

I think this sentence aptly describe the underlying promise of the Barisan government to Malaysians, in particular those whose votes they so want to win in the forthcoming general election in the next 1-2 years time.

Words. At any time there are zillions of them being spoken and written. What matters is how many of these words are truthful, sincere and able to deliver results and promises they convey? Or are they meant to, as the Bee Gees sang, just to take your hearts away? If that is the case then you have been exploited.

Over the past 12 elections indeed we were mostly believed that the words promised would translate into prosperity for the nation as a whole. Indeed we prospered but only for a group of elite who did not work for it but earned it through 'words'. Today words don't put food on the table nor send kids to college unless they deliver the underlying promises. What intellegent Malaysians want is this,

Its only words and words are all I have to take your mind away.

We want to be convinced that the words from the government can be trusted to help us grow into a developed and matured nation and not quarreling over who has more rights, what words you cannot use, etc. But words don't convince until and unless the government begins to perform what they have promised to earn that trust to win over our hearts. For now many of us are just cynical.

A near similar post was written HERE.

1 Malaysia - A Slogan That Remain as Words



Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin agrees HERE with former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad that the 1Malaysia concept has failed to unite Malaysians of various racial, religious and cultural backgrounds. What he said only confirms what has been widely accepted in blogsphere, that it is mere words without substance and ineffective actions. In the first place we should not even need to have 1Malaysia if the government of the day had been careful not to cause racial strive to occur by applying policies that treat all citizens with fairness. LiteFM announcers have reminded listeners that inter-racial relationship was good in the good old days and should have been so today. What took place in the 1980s and 1990s destroyed that and we know who was responsible. He should have hidden his face and not comment on the plan to revive our multi-racial ties. It is also harder to recover what was lost; much easier to prevent it from getting lost in the first place. Would he confess his grave error of being responsible for causing the present problems?

The only chance for the spirit of 1Malaysia to be resuscitated is if politicians stop harping on race and religion but spend time and resources instead to alleviate poverty, sufferings, inconvenience of ALL Malaysians who need help. As far as I can see it the present government do not have the intention nor the will to put it into practice beyond paying lip service to slogans. We don't need to play around with words like "not fully understood", "understanding is influenced by certain groups" and "1Malaysia is dynamic and not static".

My understanding of 1Malaysia is simply this: To treat all Malaysians with equality, respect and justice irrespective of background or status. A Standard 1 pupil will agree with this. If this is too hard to implement then 1Malaysia will not go beyond the words it is made of.

I asked What is 1 Malaysia in October 2009. We still have not gotten an answer. Read HERE.

Another Half Baked Research?



Read THIS to judge for yourself. If I am to believe the magic number '7' then I am at risk of cardiovascular disease, just like I was at risk for taking calcium supplements. You see, I sleep 8 hours or longer because my sleep is interrupted by frequency of urination caused by weak bladder. Disturbed sleep means I need to cover up the gap so I sleep on average 8, which does not include an occasional short nap in the afternoon.

I am under the impression that 8 hours is the right amount to rest nightly, or has the number come down due to modern day lifestyle where people, especially urbanites, work late, entertain or socialise themselves and hence do with less sleep than they hope for? I am sure many executives would like to sleep longer if not for that they have to be forced out of bed to leave for work and arrive on time, or send their kids to school along the way.

My take on this subject is that doing 7 hours is inadequate. Our bodies must have good rest to be ready for the onslaught of a new day. Our hearts need the rest just like other organs. Sleeping more, not excessively that is, by which I mean 8-9 hours regularly, is really good for us, if we can afford it. People who are not rushed in their routine, who live in the country, I believe go to sleep by 9-10pm and awake at 6-7am. Howver, city folks and those who work late seldom get to bed by midnight and have to be up by 7 in the morning and usually hunger for more rest.

My conclusion? Change the magic number to '8'. Your heart will be thankful.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Half Baked Research that Confuses



I got THIS report from my son. Coming from the CNN I believe the editors have validated that it is credible enough to be read by the general public. But after I've read it, together with readers comments, I came away annoyed that the report was not comprehensively carried out. It is as if the researchers stumbled onto something controversial and without waiting for further studies to validate the findings decide to release the results to the public. For instance, using calcium WITHOUT vitamin D in the trials suggest lack of knowledge of consumption pattern. Almost all the calcium pills I find on the pharmacy shelves contain vitamin D, so why didn't the researchers use them instead of pure calcium?

Do they carry out trials for different age groups? Gender categorized? I sure would like to know if men who take calcium supplements are as much at risk as women.

So reports like this will drive fear or confusion into consumers mind. It is not that calcium supplements make bone more brittle, which is not life threatening, but to conclude that consumers are 30% MORE likely to get a heart attack is earth moving. It means a normally healthy person can get heart attack because he takes calcium which as some theorize, calcifies the blood vessels. Where is the proof? I am wondering now if NOT taking calcium will extend my lifespan. If so, hurray! I get to live longer and save some money for holiday. BUT what if the findings are wrong? And a year later another research team comes up with another set of data to conclude otherwise?

People must not be treated as guinea pigs. You can experiment but be responsible to conclude accurately. If the results are unclear, retest until a clear pattern emerges. As a science student taught to carry out experiments to arrive at some empirical truths, I expect researchers, especially those engaged in medical researches, to be morally careful in what they publicise.

As for now I am staying away from calcium after my stock finishes and depend on dietary sources to replenish what my bones lose. And PLEASE don't come up with another report that that too is life threatening!

Fruits Galore



This is the season of fruits a plenty. As a family who loves to eat fruits let me list the various fruits that has coursed down our alimentary canals lately.

Local Fruits

Durians - ooops, not yet but we long for it except that the weather has been hot and heaty so for the sake of keeping our health right, we are deferring it. Hopefully we will get to savour them before the season runs out.

Rambutans - ugh! the hairy fruit. Yesterday a kind hearted chuch member passed us a bagful and it was sweet and pulpy. Enjoyed every bite.

Mangosteen - another church member gave us a bag for 'service' rendered. Small and purplish the pulp tasted heavenly. Even the ants like to nest among them.

Mangoes - from my own tree, yet haven't any luck to enjoy the crop, most of which were eaten by the squirrels.

Chikus - same lament as for the mangoes. The stuff we buy outside taste a shade of my own plant.

Banana - we love the variety we locals calls as pisang emas and have been taking them on and off.

Dragon Fruit - I use to hate it because the color looked 'evil' but after trying it all of us have grown to like it, especially our litle grand daughter Ling. We prefer the purple variety to the white one.

Jack Fruit - compliments from our daughter's back yard.

Papayas - the Hong Kong variety is our choice.

Imported Fruits

The local supermarkets sell a large selection of imports from all over the world. Those we like are:

Pears - China
Apples - Fuji, NZ
Oranges - Sunkist, Navel from California, USA
Persimmons - S. Africa, Israel, Korea
Kiwi Fruits - NZ
Grapes - the seedless green variety is my favorite.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

What? Danger in Calcium?

I am dismayed, so are millions of people, especially people over the age of 50 and especially ladies who believe that taking calcium will ward off osteoporosis. Calcium is one of the naturally occuring mineral that forms most of our skeletal structure. So taking calcium as a supplement to keep our bones healthy and strong is harmless, and in fact highly recommended. No?

THIS report now made me wonder if I should throw away the rest of my calcium tablets or keep them but consume slowly until fully used and then stop buying them. If taking calcium increases the risk of getting heart attacks then there must be a very high increase of cardiac admission since taking calcium supplement is almost universal. So I have my doubt over this report. If it is reported in the reputable British Medical Journal then there must be some truth. Then again I am confused by the many researches carried out into claims and counter-claims on the efficacy of certain supplements and drugs.

I take Lovastatin to control my cholesterol level. I read reports that a positive effect of this is that it helps reduce the risks of heart attacks. So it is like getting a bonus which is now cancelled with my calcium intake, if this latest report is accurate. Well, at least all it does is undo the good that Lovastatin does and hence not raise my heart attack risk. Is this an over-simplistic argument?

I am confused by the researchers and scientists to a point that I wonder if they believe in their results. There are main claims that are dubious: taking overdose of vitamin C is good to increase resistance to cold; wine help prevent heart attacks; chocolate is good for your heart too. And don't worry about the fatty stuff you eat, your body rejects excess cholesterol anyway!

We often allow news reports and unverified claims control our decision in managing our health. Up to this point I tend to follow the policy of moderation in all things as the best practice. If I still die of heart attack so be it. At least I get to enjoy what I can, not in excessiveness.

Update Aug 2: Both my wife and I take a 600mg tab of calcium carbonate + vitamin D3 daily. As of today we've decided to take a half tab daily instead.

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