Friday, September 30, 2011

Unpredictable Hanoi

In just over a week we will be flying to Hanoi for our long awaited holiday. With the city bounding for autumn I want to be prepared for proper protective wear since the trip involved traveling to the Halong Bay and the Sapa mountains where weather conditions can be quite diverse from Hanoi city. The above snapshot was captured from and it reveals a few observations I wasn't prepared for.

1. The average sunlight per day is just 4 hours. I'm not sure if this is related to the cloudiness or is it a sign of diminishing daylight as winter approaches. With sunrise as early as 5.46am and sunset 12 hours later it suggest more cloudy, and 33% rainy, days in October. My tour agent Xuan is more optimistic and I hope she is correct.
2. Daily temperatures are going to be cool to cold so we will be prepared with jackets and umbrellas in case it really rain. And rain-proof footwear too. Since we are visiting first half October chances of colder days are lesser but forecasts can be wrong so it is better to err towards caution.
3. While it is projected to be wet in the coming week, the forecast is cloudy to sunny while we are in Vietnam with 1/2 raining days.
4. We've both just recovered from flu so will be armed with proper travel medications just in case.

I have been thinking about packing since we will not be staying in a fixed hotel but on daily move. Only on the first and last day will we be staying in the Hanoi Tirant Hotel. We will need a checked-in hard shell luggage and two hand carry overnight bags to be used when we are on the Halong junk and while up in Sapa staying at Bamboo Sapa as well as return journeys on the Sapa night train.

Reviews from friends who have been there have been good and we are really looking forward to a romantic and relaxing holiday and hopefully not marred by bad weather. My iPad will accompany me to document this trip which I will blog in greater details upon our return.

Update October 4
The 10 days weather forecast for the duration of our holiday is rain everyday and day temperatures in the low 30Cs making me very confused as what to bring. The previous forecast of cloudy to sunny with just one or two rainy days is completely upset now. Happily this forecast is only for Hanoi where we stay only on the first and last days. Hopefully the weather in Halong Bay and Sapa will be more amenable for outdoor activities.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Retire Old

The Malaysian government has agreed to review the retirement age from 55 to a yet undecided figure, probably 60, according to THIS report. This step puts us in the league of developed nations where people work very late into their life, whether by necessity or optionally, at least seniors now have a choice, given how many have felt frustrated and isolated being forced out of the job market on their 55th birthday. Most of them, given a choice, would rather work an extra year or two, at a slower pace and in a less demanding environment in preparation for their eventual step-down from a world they committed more than half a lifetime building self, family and nation. Shouldn't their thoughts count in preparing for what can be the final leg of life's itinerary on earth?

Ask any normal person if he will choose early retirement and probably the answer is yes, if I can afford it. It is human nature to choose pleasure over pressure, i.e. work, and why not? Especially with the philosophy that life is for enjoyment and that we have only one life to live. Personally I find nothing wrong with this approach except that it must be balanced with responsibility to self, society and environment. The sad state is most people cannot retire securely, not with spiraling cost of living eating away the savings, nor sudden serious medical scare within striking distance to upset a well planned financial emergency fund. Or an unknown financial or political crisis that turn hard earned investments into craps. Living in a mobile and volatile world is not a sane experience for seniors who prefer firmer footings rather than excitements. For me, yes, no roller coaster ride please.

Choice is a luxury to a lot of people who cannot make ends meet. In fact the irony of their lives is the ends get further apart. Many choose to work not for the joy or pleasure of it but to put the next meal on the table. Retirement is a joke and a fallacy as well as an illusion that only the privileged enjoy. For the self employed work is not a dirty word but the only way they know how to live. And they even feel embarrassed when they have nothing to do, perhaps that's the reason why idle old people picked up a new trade, nagging others. One reason is they suddenly discover friends are no longer around to pass time with them. They either pass away or moved away leaving them alone to needle away in self pity. Retirement in a way is destructive if one is not prepared to face it positively.

I have digressed. Now that the government has thought of the welfare of the seniors as far as continuing to let them work for a few more years, will they also learn to listen to them before their lips are permanently sealed? Seniors may be prejudiced and bitter and we mustn't blame them for their disappointments but they have insights and wisdom younger leaders lack. I wish to exclude a particular venomous 80 something political has been who refuses to stay on the sideline but continue to provide unwelcome commentaries that are divisive.

The danger of a nation that loses her best talents to other developed nations and extending the working life of the aging employees is a regressive society. It reminds me of abandoned villages that were once thriving but now owned by creepers and stray animals because only the very old still live there. The young men and women have all migrated away or moved into the cities. Some towns in Europe have already fallen into such pitiful states because they are no longer attractive or economically sustainable. Perhaps they should all be made into retirement towns.

There is wealth and opportunity in managing retirement and senior lifestyle. Someone can study this seriously and make us older people feel secured.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

What's That Again?

Yea, Mrs Brown you've got a lovely daughter, which you would say in the 60s or even 70s when you were courting a girl and would also woo over her mother at the same time. Winning over mom score vital points in case dad think you are not good enough so the strategy then is to get the ladies on your side. Did you ever try this trick? I didn't have to since dad-in-law wasn't the authority of the day.

Today though I doubt many young man would attempt the same trick. Girls are more liberal and independent and mothers tend not to interfere in their choices. However a small number still believe in respect for the elders and curry backdoor favors. Personally I consider it a good PR exercise to raise your stake in future mom-in-law's good book. Praising the daughter's good look suggest the mother is beautiful too, and of good stock. It also recognize mom as great character builder. Personally, I encourage all young men out to court any girl to first court her mother. And to make her treat you like her own son. That way you will be assured mom-in-law will always take you to heart in any marital discords later. As a father with 2 married daughters I say the respect given by my sons-in-law earn them my love and respect too. It is a 2-way street. I'm sure my missus sees it the same way. After spending so many years to raise them and then lose them to other young men it is natural to expect assurance that their wives will be well cared for, and that we will not be neglected.

Now that my daughters are also parents of daughters as well maybe they will think of the days years from now when a young handsome boy will say to them, Mrs. Xx you've got a lovely daughter, just as lovely as you ... Love and respect should never go out of style. Maybe my missus will love to have this said to her one day, Mrs. Yew you've got a lovely grand-daughter ..... and she'd be beaming ear to ear for she indeed spent much time grooming them in their childhood years. And the good breeding would have come in great part from her.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Ling Turns 4

Weeks before her real birthday Ling kept reminding us that her birthday is coming up next in September. She knows popo's birthday is in the month of August and following hers mama's will be in December. Ling's shyness melted when she agree to sing her own birthday song. For the first time she was asked what sort of birthday cake she wants and where she would like to have her birthday dinner celebrated. She chose a banana fruit cake which mama bought from Secret Recipe. For the dinner venue we reminded her she slept through when we celebrated her 3rd birthday last year at the brand new Silver Dragon Restaurant. Originally she chose SD for its decor but hours before the dinner she turned realistic. She told mama she doesn't want to risk sleeping through her birthday, again. She chose a Japanese restaurant instead for a change.

Ling turned 4 last Sunday and her birthday was a family affair as had been in previous occasions. In the months before this day Ling has grown up very fast though not physically since she has a smallish frame and a slow and choosy eater. She sings very well and is really caring to her baby brother Andrew who tend to be a bully even biting his big sister. Both of them enjoy each other very much. Sibling rivalry exist as expected but we try to let it resolve calmly and reprimanding Andrew if necessary. Now without a maid, Ling sometime doubles up as a baby sitter for popo when I am away. Ling seldom cry now and is a great house helper. We watch Ling develop into a sweet little girl with pride, joy and thanksgiving to God for this lovely gift. Over dinner we are teaching her to say grace and wherever convenient I bring her out on simple errands to teach her the real world she is growing up in.

Ling still manja which means seeks attention. We accommodate occasionally because this is her personality. We even joke that she should marry someone who treat her preciously. In our hearts we hate to see her childishness disappear and Ling turns into a serious minded person. Her impish and dimpled smile, her serious expressions whenever she conveys a serious remark, her love to sing and dance will forever imprint in our memory as she starts to grow older. Next year she will resume nursery class and 2 years later start school. These few carefree years will always be cherished in our hearts. Happy Birthday, Ling. We love you beyond words. Taking care of you made us young again.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Malaysia's PM Appointment Process Must Change

The prime minister of Malaysia is by default the president of UMNO the largest partner of the ruling coalition, Barisan Nasional, or BN and his deputy, UMNO's deputy president. Malaysians do not have a say in choosing a PM of the calibre and background they trust. This has been the process since independence in 1957 and today proves to be the undoing of the political leadership and maturity of our freedom to choose the best. Today, Najib Razak is the PM and his appointment has come about by a simple ascension to power when his 'boss' the former PM and UMNO president relinquished his post by being forced out simply because he won the 12th General Election in February 2008 by losing 5 states. Najib did not have a strong mandate to be UMNO president, and hence PM. Since April 2009 when he became Malaysia's 6th PM his leadership and policy has not shown his mettle as a PM of substance. In fact many have placed him as worse than Badawi, the sleeping PM who retired with a Tunship, which many wonder why and what for?

Granted that Najib was handed a tough assignment to turn around a nation riddled with corruption from the top and disintegrating racial harmony and religion intolerance he could have decline the job but he took it and now nearly 29 months in office, failed to deliver substantial transformation except sloganeering and advertorials on how well his team has performed. But the results are not confirmed by the regular man or housewife on the street. His popularity plunged after he mishandled the July 9 protest against unjust electoral process which Najib callously blunt off and used force in the name of national security to suppress and silence. When he realized the tragedy his mistake caused his political future he again took a populist approach to abolish the repressive security laws that give the government unlimited rights to arrest and jail dissidents without trials. In other words, he is not a change agent but a person who reacts to changes necessary for his political survival, which any ordinary citizen can see through. Malaysia can ill afford PM of such calibre.

So how should we elect our PM? Certainly not the way it is done which reeks of too much political patronage that make a PM powerless. For example, the announcement to repeal the ISA and other repressive laws have been met with conditional support from militant groups like Perkasa which can cost Najib substantial support if he does not agree to their conditions. Likewise views from former PM Mahathir can also swing votes away if Najib refuse to play to his tune. Hence he has no freedom to exercise what he believes is right and continue to be manipulated by hidden hands. Malaysia do not need a weak PM who cannot deliver his promises. The only way out of this hopelessness is give the voters their power to choose directly a PM they can trust to serve effectively. This change cannot happen as long as the nation is under BN rule. It stands a good chance of happening when laws are amended when Parliament sits under the rule by Pakatan Rakyat with strong mandate.

Malaysia is about to taste a government of the people, by the people and for the people. Many are beginning to think that it is possible for a PR victory instead of just reducing further BN's marginal lead. It is no longer a chant for change for a better government, but rather a change against an intolerant government, whatever the outcome. It is that desperate. Let the power to decide the future of Malaysia be returned to Malaysians as a whole, not cronies who wear Malaysian names.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Back Ache is No Joke

My nagging backache has bothered me for awhile making me tired and sometimes irritable. Today I took the opportunity to be seen by a traditional Chinese physician Dr Yap for an alternative cure. Dr Yap has helped my older daughter conceive after 7 drought years so this must count for someone who knows her profession. You'd never guess she is a medical doctor from the way she dresses but when she diagnose a patient it was precise and confident. In my case she took my pulse and immediately conclude I have weak colon which affected blood circulation that created back ache. I am puzzled at the connection but took her logic at face value. I am to avoid spicy food, take less meat and more vegetable and avoid Ceylon tea. Coffee is ok. I asked for two courses lasting one week each so I can ascertain its effectiveness. Her parting words - I will look more rejuvenated and my wife should be watchful. That, to a man, is a compliment but also to suggest my health is generally good apart for some 'misalignment' that need straightening to improve blood flow. If my backache goes and my cheerfulness returns then I count the visit one I should have made years earlier.

It will take discipline and faith to believe I can and will be healed. What is there to lose?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Wrong Move Again, Mr. PM

On Thursday night, at 8.45pm, the eve of Malaysia Day, prime minister Najib Razak, declared that several archaic and restrictive laws will be repealed. To some it seemed a noble gesture, a gift. To others, a desperate attempt to clutch at a straw to stay politically afloat. For all the good intention, which you may really mean this time, sadly public perception of your real sincerity, and ability, to implement reforms remain pathetically questionable. Response such as THIS and THIS is typical from those who have become accustomed to the inept skills of the present government. It is much harder to believe a good intention when we have already lost faith. Mr. PM, you got to do much better and really time is not on your side.

A very nice piece from an Opposition MP is posted HERE. Please read till the end.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

PBSNS New Centre Opened

After several months of planning PBSNS new training centre was officially opened today. With it ends the necessary work to place our work on the right footing but begins the journey of serious work of training more handicapped people with learning disabilities. The next phase will be to improve our training methodology and identifying prospective employers for graduating trainees. In my welcoming speech to some 80 guests I emphasized the need for an inclusive efforts to embrace these disabled people instead of isolating or rejecting them. Thank God for a lovely weather and glitch-free program. I am relieved I won't have to make public speeches for awhile!

Check out this BLOG for a report and pictures of the event.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

I Don't Know About Tomorrow

Today is the 10th anniversary of 911, an event filled with great evil that stunned all civilized society who arose to condemn its cowardice. We remember those who died undeservingly and their families who suffer over their untimely losses. Indeed we don't know our tomorrows but God does. The title hymn spun into my head and I thought I should write about it on this day madness and fear attacked our human society.

The caption is the title of a familiar, popular and spiritually comforting hymn sung typically to assure both self and the bereaved that God stands welcoming us, His children, with open arms into His Presence, with love and compassion. It isn't a song of surrender but a song seeking refuge in God who provides for all things. Including peace we long for but always so elusive.

In this life, or the next, we see God availing Himself for those who decide that they belong with Him and no one else. Living upon this earth is not easy. From birth to death we are confronted by temptations to sin, and we fall into sin. We succumb to the ways of the world and are ensnared by pressures to conform to its standards and expectations. God is distant until we see how wayward we have become. We become tired and soon desire to belong to a life free from the cares and the pain and the sufferings of the world. Like a prodigal son we navigate our way home to the cozy bosom of God.

This song is sung by a person who discovered the secret of fleeing from a life that entraps and imprisons into one that trust in what Jesus offers, companionship and leadership to the lost and weary.

I don't know about tomorrow,
I just live from day to day.
I don't borrow from its sunshine,
For its skies may turn to gray.
I don't worry o'er the future,
For I know what Jesus said,
And today I'll walk beside Him,
For He knows what is ahead.

Many things about tomorrow,
I don't seem to understand;
But I know Who holds tomorrow,
And I know Who holds my hand.

Ev'ry step is getting brighter,
As the golden stairs I climb;
Ev'ry burden's getting lighter;
Ev'ry cloud is silver lined.
There the sun is always shining,
There no tear will dim the eyes,
At the ending of the rainbow,
Where the mountains touch the sky.

Many things about tomorrow,
I don't seem to understand;
But I know Who holds tomorrow,
And I know Who holds my hand.

I don't know about tomorrow,
It may bring me poverty;
But the One Who feeds the sparrow,
Is the One Who stands by me.
And the path that be my portion,
May be through the flame or flood,
But His presence goes before me,
And I'm covered with His blood.

Many things about tomorrow,
I don't seem to understand;
But I know Who holds tomorrow,
And I know Who holds my hand.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

You May Be Paranoid After Reading This

Someone sent me a short read taken from the The 8 Germiest Public Places, excerpted from The List Maker’s Get-Healthy Guide, By the Editors of Prevention.

1. Restaurant Menus
2. Lemon Wedges
3. Condiment Dispensers
4. Restroom Door Handles
5. Soap Dispensers
6. Grocery Carts
7. Airplane Bathrooms (Lavatory)
8. Doctor's Office

The truth is, germs are everywhere. The above list merely suggest the likeliest places where they can be most densely found, and spread. Back home where there are young children or invalids, toys, books, gadgets, tv remote, toilets, refrigerators and kitchen tables are similarly rich breeding grounds for bacteria that require systematic cleaning and disinfecting. We cannot avoid germs but proactively live defensively. It is a constant battle to stay on top of being overcome by bad germs and falling sick, through touching, breathing and exposing to unknown risks our body have yet to pick up defense and build up resistance. The standard advice is stay healthy always through a good regime of exercises, balanced diet, good personal relationship, spiritual outlook and avoidance of unhealthy habits such as over-consumption of alcohol, smoking and drugs taking. Staying alive and staying well is not about avoiding germs. It is about co-existing with them and staying on top most of the time.

In passing let me share the most worrying source of germs that you will avoid if you can. Cash. Your bills and coins have passed through the hands of millions of people and they now sit snugly inside your wallets and purses. Think there are no germs on them? Think again. You are providing comforting and comfortable place to breed them and spread them. Can this be avoided? Impossible unless we all become a cashless society. Can we all be carrying sanitizers and spray our hands ever so often, drying our skin and then apply moisturizers? Do we wear face masks and gloves to avoid contamination?

I shan't be more negative on this Saturday morning. Just a closing note that as long as we live in an open environment we are always at risk, like those who perished on 911 nearly 10 years ago. They were blissfully unaware of the coming tragedy. But for keeping germs at bay my advice is to accept them as co-creatures on this earth. They serve purposes in the cocktail of God's creation we may not fully understand nor aware of. Live preventively and be on guard and pray that you don't become victims of the next pandemic. Meanwhile it is a great idea to use a paper tissue on that public toilet door handle you grab to exit. They should design and revise all toilet doors with foot exit instead.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Can You Lose Your Faith If You Lose Yourself?

My friend posed this questions to a group of ex-classmates. Maybe the question is irrelevant to those in their 40s and younger but older people can doubt if they are not in control of their mind and senses, will they lose everything else they own, including their faith? Now that more and more senior people are suffering from Alzheimer's disease their children start wondering if their future after death is as assured as before they lose their faculties to think and remember. It is worrying for the family and frightening for the victims.

What is absolutely certain is upon death our properties will be signed over to family and other beneficiaries. We can't even carry our Bible or iPad away. We are dressed up to go dignified and either buried or cremated and that's how we all go. All that's left are memories that linger and soon fade.

What is confusing is our beliefs. Most of us believe in the spiritual life after death. Different religion preached different pathway to different destinations. Only the atheists believe in nothing and perhaps in their deaths dissolve into nothingness or an abyss of emptiness. By and large we depend on our beliefs to ticket us to the next realm and constantly live as honorably and peaceably to stay within that qualification. Christians live by the assurance they are saved from hell and will enter Heaven to enjoy a life of bliss and freedom from sufferings and pain that has categorized this earthly life. Many Christians worry that they may be disqualified because of certain misdeeds (sins) or omission of good deeds and continue to struggle with the fear that their faith alone is no assurance of a place in Heaven. In other words, the fear that God apply a strict yardstick to exclude those who are 'not saintly' or 'fail to display 'Christianly' attributes' whatever they may be. However, absent from other faiths but prominently dealt with in Christianity is the theology of GRACE that not all understand nor appreciate. In simple terms, grace is a gift for someone who do not deserve to receive it, but is given anyway. Say you give a thief who broke into your house all the money you have not under threat but because you just wanted to. The concept of Grace in Christianity assures all its believers not to fear that our actions, or inactions, will be used to judge us unfavorably. Instead grace is God's promise that because of His great love for sinners who confess their sins and accepts Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour he will be saved for eternity from hell.

It is my belief that our faith is our passport to God's promised grace, an assurance that whether we die conscious of who we are, or with our minds blank and devoid of feelings and knowledge of our faith our salvation is guaranteed. Maybe the subject matter should be:

Can You Lose Your Salvation If You Lose Yourself?

Thursday, September 08, 2011

This iPad is Now Public Property!

This explains why I haven't been blogging much lately. Two developments.

1. Both my grandchildren who are staying with us now claim equal rights to my iPad. The younger one, who will turn 2 next January, cannot understand why he cannot press or swipe the screen when we are watching a video or playing a game. His favorite action? Press the home button and shut down whatever we are watching and that upsets me and his older sister. I have to hide it high to prevent the little boy from getting it. He simply loves Talking Tom, not yet ready to enjoy Angry Birds.

2. Now that my wife discover she can watch her favorite TV serial on demand from my iPad, I lose more control and especially at night, after the kids has followed their parents home, the iPad become enslaved to stream Internet video. One good development is both my wife and I watch it together.

The iPad is fast becoming a new member of the family. Especially with many educational programs for young children it is going to make conventional reading and writing tools obsolete fast for the generation Z kids. My concern is when they start school they have to get use to books, pencils and erasers. Maybe in their time iPads will be allowed like electronic calculators were allowed when I was a kid? How fast time flies and how advanced technology have developed in just 5 decades.

The above entry was written as I wait for my car to be serviced in the Toyota Service Centre in Seremban. Free Internet connection complimentary from TM, my broadband service provider.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

First Taste of Big Screen Streaming Video

Last night my wife and I enjoyed our very first streaming video to my LCD TV off my iPad 1 through an AV adapter purchased from Apple Store. It was after several tweaking of the HDMI cable and TV settings from which I found to my dismay I can't play video downloaded nor children stories nor pictures. I can only view podcasts and happily video streamed from a China web server that serves hundreds of movies and tv serials. I may be lucky but the free movie watching is precisely what I was hoping for, an alternative to satellite broadcasts my wife currently watch but with limited choices. Again as luck would have it, the connection speed last night was good and there was little lags and freezes most of the time. I was wondering why my iPad cannot deliver all graphics and videos to the big screen. My TV is full HD delivering 1080p resolution. Maybe the answer lies in this explanation I captured from this old PCMag Article I extract below.

The iPad can output video to an HDTV just like an iPad 2. Apple announced the Digital AV Adapter alongside the iPad 2, and showed off its video-mirroring feature as a strong benefit of the new tablet. Unfortunately, video mirroring only works with the iPad 2, but the adapter itself works just fine with the old iPad. You can still use your original iPad as an HDTV-slinging movie player, albeit at 720p compared to the iPad 2's 1080p maximum output resolution. (Update: The Digital AV Adapter only works with the first iPad at up to 720p, while the iPad 2 can output at 1080p through the adapter and supports video mirroring. You can still send video to your HDTV through your original iPad, but it will be slightly lower resolution. Whether that's a deal-breaker is up to you.)

I am still hoping my iPad will work as it should. I have plan to get a digital media player to complement the range of entertainment we, in particular my wife, can enjoy.


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