Saturday, March 31, 2012

Chocolate Lovers, Rejoice!

Here's good news for chocolate lovers who struggle against obesity. However beware of eating milk chocolate, chocolate flavored cakes, cookies and sweet as they are loaded with refined sugar which contribute to weight gain. Best to eat dark chocolate or cocoa powder which are healthier.

A letter published in the March 26, 2012 issue of the American Medical Association journal of Archives of Internal Medicine reveals the results of a study which found that adults who ate chocolate more frequently had a lower body mass index (BMI) compared to those who consumed it infrequently. Higher body mass index is a component of metabolic syndrome, a cluster of factors linked to the development of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego analyzed data from 1,017 men and women aged 20 to 85 years who had no cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or abnormal low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) levels upon enrollment in the UCSD Statin Study, which examined the noncardiac effects of statin drugs. Participants were queried concerning how many times per week they consumed chocolate, and food frequency questionnaires were completed by the majority of subjects.

The participants in the current study consumed chocolate an average of twice per week. Although greater frequency of chocolate intake was associated with increased calorie consumption and saturated fat intake, those who consumed chocolate more often had a lower body mass index than those who consumed it infrequently in several adjusted models.

"Our findings—that more frequent chocolate intake is linked to lower BMI—are intriguing," Beatrice A. Golomb, MD, PhD and her colleagues write. "They accord with other findings suggesting that diet composition, as well as calorie number, may influence BMI."

"A randomized trial of chocolate for metabolic benefits in humans may be merited," they conclude.

Article Credit:
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Friday, March 30, 2012

Are You Retired?

I am still asked this question and while I used to be foggy a year or so ago today I confidently reply 'YES' because I have indeed crossed the line into full retirement. It doesn't mean I have no interest in my business or have nothing to do except read newspapers, surf the Net and think of holidays to go. My Google Calendar is packed with stuffs to do and appointments to keep that keep me busy. But retirement is stopping active employment where I have to be in my workplace from morning to evening at least 5 days a week and take regular leave from work. Lately I am being asked to help out in small but important tasks in my business. I suppose my contributions are being valued still.

We always hear the common sense advice: don't retire for good. It means retire and do nothing. People who fall under this category don't have a fall back plan to do something productive after they stop working. Either they have no interest or believe that retirement is a reward for years of sacrifice. Many inactive retirees regret having too much time in hand that some dabble in stock market and lose their savings or start to nag at their wives and children. Or become great armchair commenters and critics of our political system. But some take great effort to stay healthy. I know of some neighbors who religiously jog daily to keep fit. They can because their daily calendars are usually empty.

I do envy people with lots of free time to spend as they like. But life is never free and never your own unless you choose to be a lonely hermit. When we are young we are surrounded by family and classmates. When we are old we still need to be surrounded by family and classmates so that we can experience friendship within and without. If retirement is doing nothing then it is indeed a tragedy to waste precious time. Retirees ought to share their experience with others - students and social organizations - to continue contributing their knowledge even though they may not be physically agile to run and play.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Very Important Trip

Over the past few months I've made sure my organizer is properly planned to exclude any local events from happening while my wife and I make a very important trip overseas. Little things like fixing my haircut just a few days before we fly, arranging the pest control technician to visit the day before and mow my lawn 2-3 days earlier. And to exclude medical appointments until after we return. We want to be sure we can have a focused holiday when we fly in just over 2 weeks time to visit our son who will be a father around that time.

It is a joyous occasion for my wife and I to finally have a grandson from our son. His name shall be Joshua and he shall be named great and a family man. In our mind eyes Joshua will be a grandson we shall be proud of, just as we are proud of all our other grandchildren before him - Victoria, William, Grace and Andrew. And baby Joshua will be followed a month later by a cousin sister, Sharon.

We thank God for such blessings. They are all bundles of joy. I read somewhere one of the factors that help longevity is that of a close knitted family with many children and grandchildren to make the grandparents feel young and energetic. Certainly we look forward to waking up each morning in expectation of seeing or hearing our grandchildren.

I said this to my 87 year old mother, you are blessed because God has given you 11 great grandchildren before the year is over. To the Chinese having a larger family is a sign of prosperity. To my 94 year old father-in-law I said the same, that he is well blessed with 8 great grandchildren to give him pride and happiness. I certainly doubt I can be as blessed with such numbers. To be able to see one great grandchild in my time shall be a hope I dare not dream seriously as young people marry later and have children even later after marriage. However I have been blessed many times over, beyond many of my friends, some of whom are still waiting for their children to finish college, or whose children have no desire to settle down.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Would You Like to Live Longer?

Longevity is a dream many people chase but very few realize it because they followed the wrong recipe or advice. I just finished watching the below video which attempts to discover why certain communities and culture in parts of the world are able to live to 100 or beyond, and live happily and with fulfillment at that. I encourage you to watch the video right till the end and discover for yourself the secrets. I don't think it is trying to advertise a product or a religion, rather an honest and objective study on why some people can achieve longevity more easily than others.

Friday, March 23, 2012

What is to DIE?

Anyone know what it means to die? If you agree with this acronym then death is not so fearful, in fact it should be an event to look forward to.

DIE = Dwell In Eternity

So to die means to dwell in eternity. Death is not an unknown but a journey to a place where you live forever.

Homeward Bound?

THIS news is going to make lots of Malaysians clap their hands. If Lynas's home state can refuse to take back the by products of its extraction and refining operations in Gebeng, Malaysia, what does it tell us about Australia's environmental policy? It should be a cue to say that the Malaysian government has been a sucker to agree to this investment that is potentially hazardous. Notwithstanding the assurance by PM Najib that Lynas will not be permitted to operate if it is scientifically proven to be hazardous. The point is missed. The residents just DON'T WANT LYNAS for whatever the evidence of harmlessness the government can obtain. So now that Western Australia has rejected the waste it means Malaysia should reject this investment for the sake of future generations.

Homeward bound? Nah. It is better for the minerals to be processed at source and then exported. While we mull over this controversy let us enjoy this clip recorded 45 years ago.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

When Will The 13th General Election Be Held?

In Malaysia we don't have a transparent system of preparing the nation for a general election. The announcement of the dissolution of Parliament and fixing the date is the prerogative of the Prime Minister who alone decides the date. Not even his deputy knows his secret. This system is wrong because it glorifies a leader and makes politics dirty, as if it is not already dirty. The naming of polling day is like watching whether there is a good wind to fly kite, and looks like the PM thinks a good wind is coming up soon in the next 1-3 months by the way he is whipping up a storm. In the recent months he gone on a publicity campaign to raise his popularity. He has been traveling round the country in particular to opposition ruled states and the dodgy ones to give out grants and money and postulate himself unashamedly to literally beg for support. I say that if a person, or a government is already performing well, no such acts are necessary, but when the top CEO of the nation goes around belittling his position by stooping to conquer, woe be to the nation if his audience take his words literally.

I think Malaysians must come to their senses, especially those who hear the roar but think the tsunami is too far away to be afraid. By this I mean that we know, or sense that, we are heading down the road of bankruptcy which none other than one of the government ministers gloomily announced last year. He wasn't a savvy minister but spoke from whatever numbers he read and interpret so he must be speaking the truth. Since then many people, including the Oppositions, have saddled up and took the government to task for blundering billions of ringgits on projects, money that the government don't own but need to borrow, even from the taxpayers retirement fund, including 'bribing' the 1.3 million civil servants with 7-13% pay rise. Some of these projects stink of cronyism and corruption that even a person with blocked nose can detect. Against such backdrop the government is fighting a public perception hoping that they will be 'forgiving', 'understanding' and give the 'more experienced' government the choice to take the next GE in their favor, better still to more than 2/3 majority.

The Pakatan coalition that is rearing up to take over the next government is doing quite well in shaming the government over several scandals like the 'cowgate' scandal that has forced a minister to step down. Although the government papers are doing their best to destroy public confidence in them by headlining petty issues among the coalition members, the bigger issue is that the present government has not improved upon its performance since the February 2008 12th general election in which they were handed a slapping defeat, losing 5 states to Pakatan, subsequently 'stealing' one back through undemocratic means.

Just as in the case of an employee who was admonished for poor performance and begged for another chance, will we give it to him if after 4 years he has worsened rather than improved? In the meantime a newer employee had shown much promise of doing better, has a cleaner track record but lesser experience? Will the employer do better in giving the new employee a chance to be promoted into the post held by the incumbent? For the sake of the corporation/nation I would although I have to bear with inexperience, but which person start life/career with experience anyway?

Malaysians are generally averse to change, especially when they face some unknowns or threats, so they rather stick with the old devil, and be like the proverbial frog that gets slowly boiled in the comfort of a sauna bath that isn't. For the sake of national survival I think they must think carefully if we have to struggle up the slope this round or risk falling into the deep ravine, injuring ourselves or even getting killed.

You read what I wrote and know my choice by now. I just hope that the election will not be held in my absence from the country. If it does then it will be a shame that I can't have the joy of casting my votes but only to read that my fellow voters in my constituency have done me the favor of doing the same.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

AL My Pal

AL will be undergoing radiotherapy and chemotherapy early next month to zap off residual tumors. Some of our classmates have already begun praying and interceding for his recovery and such news naturally made AL upbeat which in return gave us encouragement that he is fighting the cancer well. He sounded pragmatic and confident without any sign of defeat or depression, if any, he didn't show. Over the past week one of our classmate of 65 had visited him and gave a good report. I asked AL if he is OK to receive us. We have to be sensitive and understanding that under such difficult situations, not every patient welcome visitors, especially when they start treatments that can make them moody. But AL welcome our presence, and for this assurance I am starting to search for flight tickets as well as a short holiday in North Island, New Zealand, with another classmate of our TCS.

It will be a short 6 days trip in early June with 3 days holiday to the Bay of Islands. The holiday is just to make the flight serve beyond the purpose of visiting AL my pal.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A Friend in Need

On March 8 I received an email from a classmate who was mysteriously silent for some 2 months, making us worried. In a one paragraph email written with irregular text spacing my good friend AL openly revealed he underwent brain surgery a week earlier to remove a tumor which the surgeon identified as malignant. It shocked many of us and made me realize how vulnerable we are now to become victims of such ailments. To have a close friend affected touched many of us in the class of 65. A day later I called up AL not knowing what to expect. I was relieved he could come to the phone. Although his voice was coarse he was coherent and touched by our concerns over his health and well wishes. We all prayed for his full recovery notwithstanding the risk of poor prognosis.

AL need all his friends. I realize that old friends are gold friends. We bond like we had not been separated by time or space. It was a bitter sweet feeling, I said to Jimmy this morning when we skyped, that no sooner after he left with good memories of old friendship we received news that made us all sad. We are all on our way, you know what I mean. The path gets narrower, lonelier and harder to travel. In these moments friends are everything, not wealth or power. Simple friends who will spare their time to give comfort and make the journey more bearable.

Do we need friends? Maybe not now when we can take care of ourselves. But when we are taken to that pathway I think companionship counts more than anything.

Post Note:
AL was the main visitor from NZ but his visitation to my blog is likely to be less and less frequent. Soon NZ will disappear out of the Top 10 in Geocounter in the right panel, overtaken by Indonesia. I would like NZ to reappear among the top 10 list because I know that he has come by to read my blog. Get well AL.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

New iPad Launched

The newest and hottest tablet, the new iPad (I wonder why Apple chose not to call it iPad 3 which has been the popularly speculated name) was launched yesterday and I've already decided to pre-order one unit of the 64Gb model without 4G connectivity at the price of USD699. It will be ready for shipment from March 16.

Looking at the specifications the greatest improvement over iPad 2 must be the high res retina display which will bowl over users who constantly seek to get the near perfect graphic and video display. I guess this latest iPad has raised the bar and benchmark all new tablets to meet.

To power up the device for smooth and fast data processing Apple has introduced the Dual-core Apple A5X custom-designed, high-performance, low-power system-on-a-chip with quad-core graphics which should please any user now accustomed to lagless screen movements.

The iSight camera has gone full HD with its 5 megapixel resolution to capture crisp still and video pictures.

Although the dimensions are the same as the iPad 2 (9.50 x 7.31 inches) the thickness has increased from 0.34 to 0.37 inch and with it the weight from 1.33 to 1.44 lb (Wifi only model) to accommodate the retina display and full HD camera, a trade-off which is not substantially noticeable. As a user of the first generation iPad I should not find it a problem as I never used the iPad 2.

Between the black and white frame I'd go for the white (my current iPad is black) as it is more definitive.

Back to the name I believe we will continue to nickname it as iPad 3 so that by the next upgrade we should not again be calling it the New Ipad (or Apple may decide to call it say the NextGen iPad?).

Photo Credit:

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Free Reload, Refill, Takeaway

Last Saturday we drove to a small town called Pedas, south of Seremban, to attend the wedding of a Malay staff. A few kilometers after Senawang, after passing the new Sungei Gadut railway station, we spotted a side stall with many customers. It was selling cendol, a popular Malaysian dessert drink made from pandan, a fragrant leaf, coconut milk, brown Melaka sugar, and green wormy looking jelly made from rice flour. It was a hot day so we decided on the return trip we'd stop by to find out what make this spot so popular.

As we drove into the car park and spotted the banner waving in the wind, the answer was given. Here, a customer after paying for his first purchase is allowed to refill his bowl as many times as he wishes, even bungkus (pack) to take away for no extra charge. Even the barley water was provided free.

I asked the owner operator how he can make money this way and he obliquely asked his workers how many years they have been in business? The answer was 5 years, so he can make money even by giving the dessert away. His charges were not exorbitant, between RM1.00 - 2.00 depending on whether you asked for extra ingredients like glutinous rice and sweet corn.

I topped up my RM2.00 bowl with more ice, more sugar syrup, more greeny worms and more coconut milk. I would have eaten more but found the 'worms' too soft and the coconut milk too watered down and lacking in ooomph. By comparison the cendol sold by James in Sitiawan, Perak is unbeatable. No visitors to Sitiawan can afford not to taste his glorious cendol especially on a warm afternoon.

If you like to enjoy James's cendol find his stall in front of the Hindu temple next to the Store supermarket in Simpang Empat, Sitiawan, along the way to Lumut/Pangkor. There are two stalls there, the operators are both wearing white overalls, but the 'genuine' James stall has his daughters manning it and has a big portrait of James serving cendol to the Sultan of Perak at an official function several years ago.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Farewell Jimmy

Yesterday six of us old classmates gave Jimmy (wearing a shoulder strap) a nice farewell lunch at the Crocodile Farm Seafood Village Restaurant in Subang Jaya. It was the second time I met Jimmy, the first was on February 5, a few days after he returned to Malaysia for a visit. Jimmy is expatriate now although in our hearts he is still a part of us. I've said before, the best friends are those you already knew from the past and reappear. In the case of Jimmy we took no time to reconnect. Yesterday was the first time another classmate, NCK, who sportingly agreed to come along. He was a quiet and unassuming person with few needs but is still one of us. For over 3 hours we talked and laughed like when we were in school. Then when it started to quieten down we knew it was time to say goodbye to each other. We knew that such meetings will not come about often so we treasure every word, every smile, every laughter. I brought my iPad and played the golden hit entitled 'Goodbye Jimmy Goodbye' an appropriate going away present to our dear friend. The song was a hit in our early teens in the early 1960s. Jimmy fly home to Canada tomorrow. Bon voyage until we meet again my friend.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Sync A Song of Freedom

One of the most nagging problems is losing vital information and data should a computer hard disk crashed. I've spent much time thinking and planning how to avoid a disaster and like many PC users, tend to get paranoid in backing up these information and data all over - on CDs and later DVDs, in hard disks, email servers, thumb drives and flash cards, the latter to move around. Of course none of these methods satisfy as information and data often need updating and expired copies are strewn all over in records archived. If you hardly move out of your house, or you don't care about data management the hot topic on synchronization is not for you. But it is for me and if I can to only have single copies of the latest files of everything, including pictures, music and video, kept and stored in one place where I can retrieve anywhere from my home, my car, my office, on the road, traveling anywhere. I guess this is the absolute freedom from data clutter and space management. I'm sure such a dream had been dreamt of even 20 years ago but development had been slow, depending much on building a global data transmission network that can allow millions of users move their data library seamlessly from device to device, from place to place. Today this dream is being realized and it is called Cloud Computing.

So I am in the right generation that let me sync my song of freedom. I first realize I can store vital information on my Gmail server. Yea, lots of people will warn me never ever store important information in sites you have little or no control over. Ok, perhaps this means printing out hard copies and lock them safely in a security deposit box and deleting your digital file, but that is of course a joke. If I want convenience I must accept some measure of risk. If I can trust my savings to an investment manager I think trusting my information to a web server is no less risky. You may disagree of course.

I soon realize Gmail wasn't built to sync data but nonetheless provide a place to store and retrieve. Later I heard of cloud server. People were speaking of storing information in the cloud and that sound pretty silly but imaginative. Of course the 'cloud' is just a descriptive concept to explain a huge, mobile, out of the world place where 'things are happening'. I've always been fascinated by clouds. When I was younger, and I still do now and then, look up and gaze at the clouds dancing or morphing. It is therapeutic, believe me. So the concept of cloud computing seized my imagination and I thought how wonderful it will make our lives to be, living on cloud nine literally.

I am not crazy over putting everything on cloud, just the important stuffs. I use Evernote which sync my notes to its own cloud server. I can retrieve my notes anywhere. Evernote runs off iPad, Android and PC which fits me perfectly. I like to journalize on the go so I now use an app that 'cloud' my entries so I am not tied down to a particular computer, or need to take my thumb drive wherever I go. Problem is I've yet to discover a multi-platform program like Evernote.

Ever since becoming a member of the iPad community, I think we should all call ourselves iPaders, I have become amazed by Apple's concept of iTunes that make synchronization a breeze. But they should take it to the ultimate level, sync to the cloud too! The reason I believe this must be so is for the sake of mobile iPaders who want to sync their data and apps to a universal spot they can, and not worry about lugging a laptop along as well. I plan to get the latest iPad 3 which is expected to be revealed and launched on March 7, that is only 2 days away! In the absence of the option to sync the iTunes library to the cloud the best option for me is to carry that on my portable hard disk so I can restore all my apps to my new iPad. Cloud computing is fast becoming the favorite method of managing data online as more and more people are working on the move. THIS article may be old but provides a good read on what iCloud is and what it can do as well as its shortcomings. It is just one of many ways of storing your precious and important information off-site. Designed for Apple software users the big question arise is can it be made cross platform for Windows and Linux users as well?

Photo Credit:

Saturday, March 03, 2012

IPad Dying from Over-use?

That was the observation my wife gave after she encountered green screens appearing more and more frequently lately. Last night she rushed to me with the iPad in her hand with more than half the screen green and I was able to capture it on my smartphone before the screen changed back to normal. Here it is:

This first generation iPad was purchased sometime in October 2010 and is technically out of warranty now. It has given me and my wife and grandchildren enormous pleasure and companionship. On average the iPad was turned on for 6-8 hours daily and every evening put on the charger. The only trouble I faced in recent months was weak or hanged internet connection and to get around it I have to switch to airplane mode and switch it off to re-establish wifi connection.

A few nights ago the iPad refused to charge and the next morning it was unchargeable. I feared it had fallen asleep permanently. Several hours later the battery began to receive a charge and thereafter the iPad behave normally except from the occasional green screen. I am not sure if it is a battery related problem. I think it is unacceptable for the display to start to fail less than 18 months into use. But I worry that if it really fail on me several daily activities dependent on the iPad will be seriously crippled.

The iPad could not be over-used, maybe slightly abused from rough handling by my grandchildren if you noticed the frayed straps of the case in the picture above. However it was never dropped or knocked against a hard surface. And I don't think the iPad can think. If it does probably it was thinking that it is being replaced by the 7" tablet and later the new iPad3 expected to be launched on March 7.

I am just hoping that if indeed the display is damaged it can be replaced without spending a bomb.

Update: I just heard that the green screen may not be due to hardware failure but interrupted video streaming that causes partial display of the color pixels received. Can anyone confirm this?


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