Sunday, April 29, 2012

The SouthWest Experience

A week after we arrived Duluth I decided to look for flights to Newark to visit my brother and his family. Several options came up but top priority is value for money. We've been on various US airlines over the years we've been to the States but this time SouthWest popped up as the airline to fly not only for its cheaper fare but also my impression that it is a friendly airline. Furthermore we've never flown on it before so I booked our fares online. This post is my impression of SouthWest.

I like its logo. Logo speaks volume about an organization and the SouthWest logo which is the outline of a red loving heart encircled by a flight wing tells me it desires to be a caring airline. This I have to confirm.

The experience began when we arrived at the SouthWest check-in counter at 9.15am yesterday. A good friend of my son, Eric, drove us to the airport. I had our boarding passes printed out at one of the kiosks. What I found different in the passes is additional information not found on standard passes. The SW passes contain information on Group and Position which I couldn't understand until we arrived at the departure gate. I'm not sure if this is the airport or airline feature (but I am inclined to believe it is at other airline departure lounges as well) but I'm pleasantly surprised to see charging ports everywhere, both USB and power sockets, for cellphone and electronic gadget charging. I thought this very sensible and customer friendly although I don't need to use it.

From the information display monitors I learned how the Group/Position concept works. During the check-in process each passenger is randomly assigned this number. During the boarding call-up the passengers are to line up according to the queue and positions so there is orderly entry into the aircraft. Upon entry the passenger can choose any seat as it is not pre-assigned. This idea may not go down well with some travelers who prefer certain positions and want the right to choose seats. But for SW which operates in between a full service and budget airline segment (this is my impression) this boarding arrangement is unrushed and senior friendly.

Our flight includes a change of plane at Baltimore/Washington airport. We disembark right into the SW dedicated terminal and took lunch. The ambience was homely. The display wasn't high tech. Later when I learned from the announcement over the PA system that the flight to Newark would be delayed I was pleased that they gave a reason, even make light of this by throwing in jovial remarks to keep the passengers relaxed. At the central station they just stick a piece of cardboard that says 'DELAYED' next to the scheduled departure time 2.20.

When the flight eventually took off we were served complimentary peanuts/pretzels and soft drinks. Other food and drinks may be purchased. The mandatory flight safety demonstration was brief. There are no TV screens, the B737 is basic but comfortable. In 33 minutes we landed in Newark.

I think what separates SW from othe airlines is reduced formality from online booking to the actual flight experience. Even the flight crew attire reflects this. I couldn't get online but later I received an email notification of the flight delay. Thoughtful.

I think I'll fly SouthWest again. If they can acquire another US airline, AirTran, they must be doing right.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Why The Sheer Stupidity?

Tomorrow at 2pm Malaysia time supporters of free and fair elections will zoom into Dataran Merdeka much like those who participated in Bersih 2.0 did on 9 July last year. At that event the police locked down Stadium Merdeka, the assembly venue and thousands of supporters tried to converge from various streets, alleys and shortcuts, avoiding riot police as best as they could, helping each other, encouraging each other. It was the real 1Malaysia spirit on display because of a common drive to see justice and fairness prevail. But the police drove them off using tear gas and water cannons firing chemical laced water. These people were unarmed and congregated for the singular purpose of voicing their protest towards the underhanded manipulation of our electoral process to cheat and win the general and state elections at all cost. Like in a wrestling match, they said no holds barred. For a developing nation this is not only unacceptable but to be vehemently condemned as uncivilized and backward. Some may even call it dictatorial in spite of the face of outward democracy we wear, deep within we rot.

In just under 24 hours the same scenario will be replayed at Dataran Merdeka, a walking distance of 1.5km or 20 minutes from Stadium Merdeka. Just as in Bersih 2.0 the City Hall of Kuala Lumpur and the police have locked down the Dataran to close it to the protestors exactly as they did last July. And in the exact manner tomorrow the people will converge from various directions towards the Dataran like moths to bright lights. And the police will be there to defend their fort. Why the sheer stupidity?

Even if the peaceful protestors fail to get into the Dataran, like those last July who failed to get into the Stadium, the outcome and the objective would have been achieved. News will splash over the world of the passive protestation against a repressive and unjust government. The hearts and minds of reasonable Malaysians would be hardened when the elections are finally held.

I hate to say this. Poor handling of tomorrow's sit-in protest at the Dataran will be a costly mistake to the government of Najib Razak. It will be a home goal for the coalition led by his nemesis Anwar Ibrahim.

Update April 28:
Predictably Najib loosed his tongue at the last minute and came out with his statement HERE. While I don't condone violence how do you contain suppressed anger against an unlistening government? Thank God no one was injured but the damage is once again afflicted. Read HERE.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Déjà vu BERSIH 3.0

The Kuala Lumpur City Hall has ordered the closure of Dataran Merdeka 48 hours prior to the sit-in assembly of BERSIH 3.0 which is demanding for the reformation of the electoral process to ensure a fair and free election BEFORE the upcoming 13th general election takes place, which will be any time between now and April 2013. Although the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 has come into force the right of such assemblies is ironically denied when what the authorities need to do is ensure security control of the participants.

It has been 10 months since BERSIH 2.0 took place on 9 July 2011 during which the police had been shown to have applied force and violence to disperse the crowds. In this age of instant broadcast over YouTube and twittering it is impossible to conceal evidence. The authorities had mismanaged a simple event by allowing it to get out of control and forcing the government to defend its position. It appear they have not learned the lesson at all.

Upon the announcement by the organizers to hold a peaceful assembly at the Dataran Merdeka 3 weeks ago, negotiations must be held immediately to come to a compromise rather than wait till the eleventh hour. Didn't this remind you of the offer by Najib Razak to use a stadium to congregate AFTER the chairperson of BERSIH 2.0 Ambiga successfully sought an audience with the King? And when BERSIH 2.0 chose Stadium Merdeka the government dilly dallied till the eleventh hour and then refused giving the permit and counter offer another stadium?

This time the venue has changed but the participants will make a bee line there with or without police barricades. Likely scenes:

People will park wherever they can outside the cordoned zone and WALK to the Dataran.
People will take train and commuters to the nearest stations and WALK to the Dataran, many with families, and wearing yellow, defying the hot afternoon sun or possible rain, wearing hats, armed with umbrellas and holding bottled water, some may even pocket some salt just in case they are needed to clean off chemical laced water.
Although it is planned to be a peaceful protest in such a situation anything goes, and pockets of shouting matches with the police will happen and some may get out of control leading to possible injuries.
The international press will be waiting to document the event and within hours or even minutes the world will know what happens this Saturday afternoon.
In all likelihood there will be arrests and we will all get to see video broadcasts on YouTube.

I can't be there even if I want to. I am in the United States following its development. And I won't be surprised if BERSIH 3.0 will be a repeat of BERSIH 2.0 minus the water cannons and tear gas. Still an unsavory event in our national history in which the people has begun to tell off the government. Will we get to see a BERSIH 4.0 before the election? It depends on who dictates the rule of our nation, the people or the present government.

As usual the prime minister Najib Razak is making himself conveniently invisible, perhaps hiding behind a closet waiting and watching when it is best to come out? This is so typical of him.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Real Morning Walk

Good morning from Duluth! Today I decided it is too good an opportunity to miss walking with the morning sun enticing me to go out. So after a glass of warm coffee I took my cellphone and headed outdoor. My mood was immediately lifted when I saw a clear morning sky with just a few clouds drifting lazily. There was no wind so it isn't cold although the initial reaction is of, "Am I going to last more than 15 minutes outdoor in my shorts (I didn't bring along my track pants)?"

I decided to walk further than where I've explored, taking the route my son and his wife use to take before they son was born. I suppose, from his conversation, they will eventually pram Joshua down the same path they took when he gets older. I get the feeling that Joshua won't have a chance to be brought up entirely indoor but will have a balanced activity to develop his all-round personality and experience.

The very first sight that greeted me was, oh today is garbage day! Yes, once a week the garbage truck will come along to pick up all the household waste which must be properly bagged and kept neatly along the walkways. Most residents kept them next to their letter boxes to avoid any misunderstanding. I noted the volume of garbage from household to household and tried to imagine what sort of people live therein. The first pile of garbage belong to ours and it was among the biggest because we have a household of 5 and baby Joshua contributed substantially with his used diapers. I also see garbage that is just a boxful consisting of mainly egg cartons and empty milk containers, suggesting perhaps a simple couple without kids. Another sight I see everyday is that of the morning papers nicely packed inside a plastic bag to prevent them being blown around by wind. Many household refuses to retrieve them and once, when I walked in the evening, the papers were still lying on their driveways. I wonder if they ever get out at all.

This place I stayed has a well contoured landscape with good privacy. Apart from the fact that there are many designs, and it is hard to see a repeat design near your house, all houses have private backyards separated from their back neighbors by a stretch of wooded terrace so technically one can hold a barbecue party or read books, or blog outdoor, in total privacy, except from sneaky neighbors next door.

Again I don't see folks like me, perhaps they walked earlier but I thought walking under a morning sun is more invigorating and healthier. A resident was trimming his shrubs. Most residents kept a sleuth of gardening tools to carry out minor maintenance, but a few I saw even mow their own lawns. Understandably it is expensive to engage professionals unless absolutely necessary. That is why most garages hold not only cars but gardening stuffs, including fertilizers and equipment, as well as serve as an extended store.

Yesterday, coming back from dim sum lunch at a Chinese restaurant around 3pm we have to follow several cars behind a school bus as the driver discharge school kids. In the States it is illegal to overtake a school bus within a residential area while picking up or discharging school children as it may endanger their safety. It also develop discipline and patience of the drivers, a good system to adopt. As I observe the kids of all ages coming down the bus I realize this is a mixed community where people are living harmoniously but not really interactively.

I walked to the tennis courts which is almost a kilometer or 15 minutes walk away and decided to turn around. The walk home is a little bit strenuous as the road slopes upward and I felt my lower calves achy, signs of an inactive life physically. But I managed to get home safely.

Pleeez Keep the Present Blogger Interface

This notification makes me worried:

The old Blogger interface will be removed in the coming month. Upgrade Now.

I am really upset that Google is letting go of a good design in favor of a new interface which is buggy. When it was first introduced several montha ago I tried it a few times and honestly I don't like it. I am not concern about the new look or the new feature of interfacing with Google + or ability to display statistics like pageviews. It is ok if migrating to the new design retains the convenience of the present interface but I believe Google should pay attention to feedbacks and resolve problems raised before burning the bridge for us faithful bloggers. I believe it is still in beta stage. For instance when I attempts to edit a post which has been published it refuses to display the text for editing, just a blank screen. I face no such problem editing from the older interface. iPad bloggers are already frustrated by its inability to post images with the text, making text editing more difficult is going to drive users away from Blogger. I would have thought that any improvements should be towards making blogging from the iPad more fun and more interactive and convenient.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Perimeter Church Revisited

The last time we were in Duluth we attended our first worship service at the Perimeter Church at 9500 Medlock Bridge Road, Johns Creek, GA 30097. It was a big church with impressive buildings. Then we worshipped in the main sanctuary. This morning my son gave me an option, if I want to worship in the smaller more recently built chapel that is also used for wedding and funeral services as it provide a more appropriate ambience. I said yes to the chapel.

We arrived soon after 9am and were greeted by an Asian usher at the entrance and were given a copy of the bulletin at the door to the chapel. Service has begun and they were singing a hymn I know. Up on the stage was a worship pastor, a lead lady singer, a band comprising a pianist, a drummer, 2 guitarists and a violinist. An overhead projector screen partly covered the stained glass depicting a cross and various scenes from the Bible. I scanned the pews and counted less than 100 worshippers, mostly elderly and family. The sermon topic this morning was 'The Cross and Our Values' preached by Zach Bradley who is termed 'teacher'. The crux of ther message is how the Cross help transform our worldly values to that of what our Lord Jesus Christ taught. The service ended with communion. We partake of the wafer and juice much like how we do in in my home church in Seremban, Malaysia. The service ended with the doxology and later at the concourse between the chapel and the main sanctuary where coffee kiosks are set up I observed an inter-generational and inter-cultural spectrum of visitors, many are coming for the second service due to start at 10.45am.

I had the opportunity to take some indoor and scenic outdoor pictures which I will only post later. Overall I got a good impression of a scriptural church believing in Jesus as Lord and Saviour, a beacon to the community to offer the choice of right faith to life eternal.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Memory is like a block of Ice

Memory is like ice, it melts and soon flow off leaving nothing to hold. It is a fearsome thing to be devoid of memory, such as a person who awakes with amnesia and struggles to connect his identity with a missing past; or someone whose ability to recollect his past is punctured with spotty vagueness that flitters between reality and imagination. That's when memory has begun melting. I enjoy watching Andrew playing with ice cubes and when they melt and he struggles to pick them up, it is akin to us, especially the seniors, who struggle to pick up the melting ice cubes and put them into our mouth to salvage and taste whatever that remains. I am a memory person, which explains why I blog, why I capture moments in pictures and videos. I believe in the power of keeping our past current. My blog is like a memory bank outside of myself. A blog is like a freezer keeping those memory intact and stored. Time and again I'd recall what I've forgotten from my blog and refer my friends to specific posts for names and events we've forgotten. I worry the day when I must depend completely on my blog to recall and not on my own ability. But I am reassured that somewhere it is still there. I encourage people to blog as an extension of their inner person. LIke a cord blood bank that refills a person with hope of medical recovery, the memory bank in cyberspace keeps us alive when we are physically gone. Who says ice don't last forever? I do.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Neighborhood

Eversince we arrived 3 days ago I haven't gotten a chance to get out of the house, on my 2 feet that is. The first 2 days was letting my body to settle down but yesterday, it drizzled for most of the day. This morning the weather was thankfully clear and I felt it is good I limber myself up to loosen my tight joints. Sitting in the airplane had stiffen my old joints and I felt 'off'. At 10am while the sun is still in bed I put on my track shoes and gave myself 20 minutes to explore the neighborhood.

The community where I stay is made up of clusters of detached houses each having its own lawn and private backyard. There is no secured fencing nor 24/7 security watch but the neighborhood appear relatively safe with residents courteous and each minding their own business without being intrusive. It is the American way to have garage and most houses have one for 2 cars with driveway wide and long enough to accommodate up to 4 more. A dedicated 4 feet wide concrete pedestrian walkway separates the road from the neatly manicured lawns. As I opened the front door the fresh morning air greeted my face. Ahhhhh ... it felt good. I decided to turn left and soon headed into a cul de sac and was forced to turn back. As I did I took out my cell phone and turn on my voice recorder and narrated how I felt at this point in time. Heading forward I passed a fellow walker and as I arrived at the junction decided to turn right, remembering my bearing so I don't get lost. A Chinese (or Korean) lady around my age was tending to the lawn outside her garage and I greeted her. I noticed most of lawns are tended to by this company called TruGreen whose van I saw yesterday in the same neighborhood. This is the end of spring and with summer announcing soon the weeds are making their early appearance among the grass. Julian commented yesterday weeds are a big problem and I thought, this is a universal problem too, and felt my own garden wasn't as bad as I thought. Here they have little time to tend to it so call in professionals to treat the wild grass. To keep passerbys safe, as well as kids, TruGreen stuck warning placards where they've sprayed pesticides and weedkillers.

I gave myself a brisk 2 minutes jog to work my heart and lungs before heading home. This is just an introductory walk. Over the next 2-3 weeks I'm sure I'll be able to do more, hopefully my wife will find the time to join me.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

My New IPad 3

I was handed the unopened box of my new 'baby', conceived in Cupertino, California and born in China, tightly shrink-wrapped in smooth wrinkle free clear plastic that make unwrapping it like deflowering a virgin. It is that significant to open up the box. The iPad was 'assembled' which means parts or components came from different suppliers all over the world. Technically the iPad 3 is an international collaborative effort, conceived by the development brains in Apple Inc led by the late Steve Jobs and delivered by qualified vendors to the 'baby' factory in China that put the parts into a finished gadget that is setting new standards for competitors like the Androids and Windows tablets to catch up.

At the back of the white jewel box make of quality virgin board precision cut, folded and joined is a label that says, 'MD330LL/A iPad Wi-Fi 64GB White'. Inside, facing up, the iPad 3 introduces itself to the viewer, wrapped in neat clear protective plastic that peels easily to allow the equipment to be lifted out of the contoured molded plastic box that cradles the iPad. A small postcard size box below contains a welcome card, an Apple sticker and product information guide. Effectively Apple is training its users to get right into using the user friendly product. There seems to be no need for a user manual. There is also a charger cable and an adapter designed for use in the United States. Everything is designed with a white theme, including my iPad which I specifically asked to be in white as well. The entire experience of getting the iPad revealed is almost surrealistic. Apple believes a great product must be encased in an equally great packing and I would say throwing away the box is like sinning!

The iPad 3 is ready to go as soon as the Power button is depressed. A white Apple logo fades in and soon replaced by IPAD and a slider below. The battery level indicator read 95% which suggest it was pre-charged at the factory. Since it has been over a month old the battery is holding its charge very well with almost no decay. The slider opened, a welcome screen with the major languages of the world confronts the user and guide him/her through the simple steps of configuring the gadget. I want my iPad 3 to have the apps in my iPad 1 restored. My son helped the process using the iTunes library I saved from my home PC into an external hard disk.

As feared this post is pure text since this latest iPad will not allow pictures taken with its camera to be uploaded into this blog. However the retina display is fantastic. If you wear spectacles like I do you'll understand the feeling when the optician slide over corrective lenses across your eyes and you noticed the sharpness and crispness of the text on the chart 10 feet away on a darkened wall. Even text as small as size 4 font appear super clear. If nothing else wins over an iPad sceptic this will, definitely. Seeing is believing.

Leisurely Atlanta

The flight into Atlanta took just over 13 hours and was I glad to stand on American soil again. The next time I re-enter I will have to reapply for a new non-immigrant visa as the current visa expires soon. The last I heard the fee is going to go up.

I was surprised at the very strict security measure at the airport which is a good thing. Never slacken when you never know when the next terrorist attack may come from. Immigration took a little longer to process and I overheard the officer remarked to his colleague the data format on Malaysian passports were non-standard, whatever that means. But I knew the officer was carefully doing his job. We were given a full 6 months stay although we plan for just a month. At the Customs it was a breeze until after that point we bumped into a real security check. I thought why the necessity since we are almost out of the airport. In this tightened protocol all luggages are to be rechecked in where they will be transported to another carousel at the far end of the arrival terminal. We had to board a shuttle train to get there. Being unfamiliar we sought help from a fellow commuter. As the luggages went their way we queued to have our hand carry goods and body scanned. In the process I think I lost my Kansai Airport Hotel comb which I got a new identical one from Julian later.

I like flying Korean Air this trip. The B777-300 plane is very new and the flight crew were from China and they are always smiling and helpful. It helped make a boring flight more interesting. When lunch was served I was given a choice of beef rice or Korean bibimbap. Being game I took the bibimbap and the flight attendant, sensing I wasn't Korean handed me a How To card. The food was spicy because of the gochujang chilli pepper paste. With the seaweed soup the rice was enjoyable. I was surprised why we didn't get to eat this signature Korean dish when we holiday there in 2010. Over dinner I selected seafood rice and ate double portion of shrimp salad including the share the lady Korean passenger seated next to me offered me. My appetite during the flight was good.

The Duluth area where we will be staying has a large Korean and Chinese population with a thriving business to support. It is a very livable residential suburb for the upper middle class. No wonder Korean Air made Atlanta one of its US hubs.

Joshua was soundly asleep in his bouncinet downstairs when we arrived. He appeared tiny wrapped up that we didn't know he was there! Later after we've bathed dare we get close to greet him and later pick him up.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Our Journey to Atlanta Begins ...

Revised at Inchon International Airport upon arrival.

Even as this post goes online, my wife and I would be up in the air, still in Malaysian airspace, flying northward to Seoul, South Korea on Korean Air flight KE672. The past 2 weeks have been spent leisurely packing our stuffs as well as what Julian and Winnie need, together with something for baby Joshua. Being light travellers and that we will be staying with our son, we did not over pack our clothings so we just have two checked in luggages, each weighing less than 23 kg maximum limit. Actually we are EACH entitled to have 2 x 23 kg checked in luggage and one 10 kg hand carry cabin bag. Turns out we are bringing less than 2 x 23 kg and 1 x 10 kg for the 2 of us, which really help Korean Air saves on fuel.

Yesterday I went to the airline website to get our boarding passes so we can secure the seats we prefer. Didn't realise I could reserved our seats a month ahead and print the boarding passes 24 hours prior to departure. I discovered I had limited choices of seats so this is a lesson I learned to avoid in future. I managed to reserve our seats on all the forward and return flights which is great. Late Saturday night, just as the 24 hours window opened, I managed web checked in and printed our our boarding passes. I was surprised I could change the reserved seats to a better ones forward which were still available. But KA refuses to issue boarding passes for the other 3 flights (condition of issue: 4 - 24 hours prior to flight departure) which is a good thing since passengers may change plans last minute. On arrival at Inchon International I will try to 'upgrade' my reserved seats to ones more forward as I believe they will be more comfortable and less 'shaky'. (Revised: Seoul - Atlanta passes were issued when we checked in at KA counter last night but couldn't get forward seats).

We had early dinner yesterday at our usual Chinese restaurant in Seremban 2 City Park after and our son-in-law drove us to the airport with his family and helped carry down the luggages from the car to minimize my risks of back injury. Very thoughtful. Our flight left 11.30pm on a clear night.

At 6.15am local time we landed at Inchon International Airport after 5 hours 45 minutes in the air and transfer to flight KE035 which will take off at 10.30am local time direct to Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport with scheduled arrival time of 11.00am on April 16. Julian will meet us on arrival. That morning baby Joshua will have his first hospital visit after his birth to check his bilirubin level for any signs of jaundice.

On our long flights I've preloaded selected movies into my iPad and Android tablet so we can watch them should we find the entertainment in the aircraft not to our liking. While we dislike long flights, the Seoul-Atlanta leg will drag for 13.5 hours, over the past months I've trained myself to sleep upright so I can have proper rest and arrive as fresh as I can be. Nevertheless this flight will be the shortest, just under 24 hours from departure to arrival, including wait-over at Seoul. Previous flights to the States had taken as much as 32 hours, some even longer, because of domestic flights. No wonder people are scared of flying to America! But Korean Air has the best itinerary for visitors to Atlanta.

In our excitement we will remember to bath before we handle baby Joshua as he is just a few days old and his immunity not well developed yet.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Blogging on iPad

Blogging with pictures add flavours which endorses the contents, so whenever possible I'd include some pictures to go with the text. Adding pictures to my blog is easily done when I write from my desktop PC which runs on Windows 7, but from my iPad, it is a different story. While the interface is the same, upon clicking Add Image from the editing screen the Choose File from your computer option is blanked off. In other word, under Apple's iOS for iPad, there is no way for any picture to be attached to a blog post, which is sad. I guess that may be because of cross platform incompatibility or absence of content sharing between Picasa (which stores Blogger's images) and iCloud (Apple's cloud storage service).

What this translate into practical limitation as there is no convenient direct way to place a picture(s) inside a blog post when blogging is done from an iPad. I wish to be proven wrong with the latest iPad running on iOS 5.0 which I will lay my hands on next week. But if I am right then my next blog posts from America will be pure text. And for that Apple need to address this issue since blogging on the go is fast becoming popular. I should be able to take photos on my new iPad and attach them to my blog just like I can do from my desktop PC. Simply and effective. Likewise for videoclips.

If you navigate to my October 2011 Hanoi holiday blog postings you'd notice all my 'live' posts were pictureless. The galleries were posted AFTER I've downloaded the pictures from my camera into my desktop. I hope this won't be the case with this trip to the States.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Genealogy Project

How many of us care about our family roots? As I stand in this moment in time, thinking of the past 2 generations I knew and 2 generations I bore, I am privileged to be in the middle of a 5 generations family history. When I started blogging I wrote of my grandparents, my parents, then of myself, my children and of late more and more of my grandchildren. They are those who matter now as the past has served their purposes.

With the birth of Joshua, the coming birth of my 6th grandchild next month, as well as marriages of the children of the siblings of my and my wife's side, there is much action this year which prompted me to write a family genealogy. Many years ago I tried a bigger project which extended to the uncles and aunties, the in-laws and their children but I abandoned it as too massive and likely to be unsuccessful effort. I abandoned it also the reason that these extended genealogy is unlikely to stir any interest. But my present project would, and should. It only cover the immediate uncles and aunties, their children and the grandchildren. This genealogy serves a central purpose, to keep the family members from my side and my wife's side knowledgeable of who their immediate relatives are so they will make conscious efforts to stay connected.

Today most young couples are disinterested in knowing who their relatives are and instead prefer cultivating their friendship on Facebook, their workplaces and elsewhere. This trend will create a separation among siblings and their children. Although this problem is not yet an issue in the current generation it will worsen unless efforts are now taken to draw them together and the genealogy project is one binding factor. From the charts any family member can identify who are related, their English and Chinese names, including birthdays. Admittedly the project was driven by the fact that many of us Chinese who were English educated don't know how to write their Chinese names, or have forgotten how to, especially with the simplification of strokes, and also cannot read other Chinese names. Sadly we mostly know just the surnames and the Christian names, if any, or the given names. We don't know their full names and over time become too embarrassed to ask, and when children ask years later the names of their grandparents, granduncles and aunties as well as their cousins, their parents cannot offer answers and leaving it at that, the linkages among family members are gradually broken until one day they become total strangers.

In the recent Chinese New Year I met the only son of my uncle after over 40 years when he and his family visited my mother. I distantly remembered his name but I wouldn't recognize him anywhere else without an introduction and background check. Likewise I won't recognize my nephews and nieces who have grown, some married and have children. The dispersion of families in search of livelihoods have resulted in breakdown of communication and relationship. Efforts are being made in social media like Facebook to connect families which is laudable as families are essential foundation stones in building strong and trusting networks in our world that is increasingly filled with strangers.

My genealogy project is a trigger, hopefully to encourage the younger families of the Yew and Chan clans, and even the Tans, the Khoos, the Lings, the Lees and others to continue among their own lineage. My generation is passing, the baby boomers who gave rise to generation X, my kids, and generation Y, my grandkids, who in years to come, become parents of the generation Z. By then will they recognize their roots? At least 4 generations before them, who their ancestors were, what legacies they left behind, what characterize the values of their families?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Another Class Reunion

Today 3 of us had a simple 2 hours reunion at a Chinese restaurant at SS22/25, Damansara Jaya, Petaling Jaya with N. Raman who left after Form 5 (1965) and a stint of temporary teaching in Sitiawan for New Zealand where he studied accountancy, worked for several years before migrating to Sydney, Australia. My family and I met Raman in April last year when we were holidaying there but for the other two classmates, Kao and Meng Song, it was the first time in 47 years they came together so they had many stories to share. I took the opportunity to show off the picture of my latest grandchild, baby Joshua to them. Raman will be making his way to Sitiawan tomorrow where he will catch up with other classmates residing there. Here are some pictures taken for remembrance.









Newest Family Addition



Words cannot express our joy this morning, which coincide with our wedding anniversary today, when we received the happy news. Baby Joshua is our gift. He was born this morning, Malaysian time, but in the United States it was afternoon, a healthy and handsome kid who we look forward to hold, love and care when we see him in a few more days. Our congratulations to Julian and Winnie, first time parents. And our thanksgiving to our Heavenly Father, for His wonderful blessings to the Yew and Tsui Families.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Trip of All Trips

In exactly a week's time my wife and I will be making a very special trip to see for the first time our first grandson who will bear my surname. Traditional as I am, although I love grandchildren from my daughters just as much, having a grandson to carry my surname down the family lineage will surely bring a smile to my late father had he been alive today.

When we first heard the news that our daughter-in-law was finally pregnant some 7 months ago, after waiting for 7 years, we were ecstatic. Finally our son will become a father too. It was only 3 months later that word came to us that the gynaecologist scanned the foetus to be a boy which made me literally jump for joy. We begin to consider names to call him. Our son and wife chose 'Joshua' which all of us like immediately. Choosing the Chinese name took a little longer but we eventually decided on a name that will reflect Joshua's character when he grows up. Even before he 'arrives' into the world, Joshua has already gotten himself an email account to which his father and I and other family members will send him love notes that he will get to read years later.

Joshua will be our 5th grandchild. In December I began checking for air tickets and eventually chose Korean Air which flies to Atlanta, Georgia with one flight changeover at Seoul, South Korea. And we will be there for a month with the plan to celebrate Joshua's full moon before we return. Funny that it will also be the time when Mother's Day is going to be celebrated (and I remember at least 3 times in our trips to the States that my wife was honoured with lunch and bouquet of flowers) before we fly home.

We have begun packing a little at a time but the coming days will see the baggage weighed to ensure they meet the strict airline limits. This trip, unlike previous trips to the States that were holidays, will be one where we will spend most of the time staying in, enjoying Joshua, videoing his growth and taking pictures for posterity.

Friday, April 06, 2012

8 x 8 = ?

No prize for guessing right. Today is also another important day - Good Friday. As always we will be attending the 6pm evening service in church.



Update: My family celebrated my birthday again tonight and my 2+ year grandson Andrew sang me his version of Happy Birthday. Very rejuvenating! Reminds me 30+ years ago when my own children did the same.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Starry Starry Night

Tonight I helped Andrew into his car seat after dinner is done. It is a nightly ritual but tonight since daddy works late I have the honour of strapping him down. Andrew is a grown boy, much bigger and taller for a 2 year 3 months kid. Perhaps he is heavier as I am older but like the Hollies sang, 'He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother' I'd apply the same to Andrew, or William, or Grace, or Victoria (if she'd let me).

As I lifted him in I saw the bright moon shining from the cloudless skies above (tonight is the 15th day of the 3rd month in the Lunar calendar), and across the other side of the dark skies, a satellite shone brightly together with some stars. And yes, a blinking moving light revealed a plane too was passing by: moon, satellite, stars and plane. A sight I seldom see and tonight I appreciate.

As usual both Grace and Andrew would hug my wife and I and wished us 'goodnight' not once but many times even as the car sped away. I can still hear the words, 'goodnight gung gung; goodnight gung gung' ringing in my ears as I write this post.

Writing this post reminds me of Don McLean's 'Starry Starry Night'

Blessings

風 fēng
調 tiáo
雨 yǔ
順 shùn

盤 pán
滿 mǎn
家 jiā
和 hé

The above proverb has hung on a wall in my dining hall for the past 10 years and from where I sit at every meal I would gaze up and read them and nod my head in thanksgiving for the wisdom it carry in these 8 syllables. Chinese words are rich in contents yet concise in expression, unlike many other languages that take a paragraph or more to say the same thing.

The first block means gentle wind and smooth rain. It conjures an image of tranquillity and passivity. In life this imply a journey filled with lack of wants; the winds provide steady supplies and the rain constant replenishments. Those who live under this proverbial saying are content and happy; they are not striking at reaching greater heights, greater wealth or greater power. They understand life is to be appreciated and enjoyed moment by moment, like a child under an open rain, licking up the raindrops and smiling at the skies.

The second block means a plate that is full and a home that is at peace. Again this imagery is enviously possessed by those who are always seeking for more and more wealth, not knowing when enough is enough, and hence not able to enjoy life. In doing so they exposed themselves to family discords and peace become a prize they see drifting away. A man who knows when he has enough to feed his family and spend time with them is one who lives in the present, enjoying the blessings of love, want and contentment.

These two proverbs constantly remind me of the rich blessings my family and I have been bestowed with from God and my response is to cast my eyes within my own flock and not seek a greener pasture.

The two sayings were presented as scrolls from a bank 10 years ago. Although they may appear jaded the rich wisdom have guided me through the years. They are more precious than knowledge and skills. They are the gems that help a person live life well.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

BERSIH 3.0

I just read that the 3rd people's rally (it will be a sit-in this time) to express their discontentment over the reluctance by the government to implement the major electoral reforms demanded by BERSIH 2.0 will be held at the iconic Dataran Merdeka on April 28. Report HERE. This time it will be held nationwide simultaneously. And the government immediately issue a statement HERE condemning it and declaring its illegality. Why is the government refusing to engage but prefer to confront dissenting views and rights? The world over this approach has been proven to guarantee either a revolt, violent repercussions or civil riots to demonstrate the anger against the authority. Coming very close to the 13th general election (speculated to be as early as June this year, otherwise September) the Najib administration will be very foolish to use force and reject the rights of BERSIH 3.0 to protest publicly.

If Najib is hoping for the right wind to fly his kite (i.e. waiting for the opportune moment to call for election) let me say that suppressing BERSIH 3.0 is akin to killing his timing, which window is getting narrower. My advice is sit down and talk and don't be domineering. The right to govern is bestowed by the people and is not guaranteed.

A balanced commentary can be found HERE.

The Convenience of Electronic Ticketing



I belong to the generation of travelers who live through the switch-over from paper ticketing to electronic ticketing and am thankful I can adapt and accept the transition. In just over a week my wife and I will travel again and this is how I've booked our flights.

1. I went online to check available cheap flights (maybe I should call it economy flights) from Kuala Lumpur to my destination. Viola! Several portals appear to offer various combinations of direct, 1-stop, 2-stops, economy, business, choice of airlines, flexi flight time or fixed. They will list out the return fare, usually all-in inclusive taxes and surcharges so you won't find hidden surprises when you decide to book. The best thing is where there are multi departures within a day you can choose which flight is most appropriate for you.

2. Having made comparisons and chosen the airline (Korean Air), departure/arrival dates, I lock into the airline website to book my tickets. I am lucky the fare stayed the same as promoted in the portals. Armed with my credit card my booking was made through a secured website and payment made. An email arrived shortly confirming my booking and another email giving my detailed flight itinerary. This is my electronic ticket which I print and present when I check in. Very convenient. In fact, I dare say if I overlooked to bring this hard copy, using my passport I can still clear the airline check-in counter since they will have electronic record of my booking and payment. But this is not the preferred option as explained below.

3. Usually 24 hours prior to departure the airline will allow you (sometimes they even SMS you to remind you) to web check-in to secure your boarding passes. Should you take up the offer you will be able to select seats that are not reserved (some airlines reserve good seats for an additional fee). In my case I have set up a reminder to do that so I can get the seats I want for my wife and I. It is a long flight so choice of seats is more important than in shorter flights.

4. What is obvious from the steps above is it is all self service without an intermediary. Travelers who still use ticketing agents are either not choosy, have no time or find the process unfamiliar or somewhat threatening.

5. With the e-ticket and e-boarding pass in hand, you only need to go to the counter to check in any check-in luggages, otherwise you just have your hand carry bags tagged, scanned and off you go to the departure lounge. It is very time saving. Those who did not e-checked in can use the kiosks in the airport to print out their passes.

Back track to 10 years ago when electronic ticketing was either non-existent or experimental. This would be how you go about getting your tickets and passes.

1. Locate a travel agent you like and tell him/her you want to fly to a particular destination on the preferred dates. They will call up the airline offices to get fare prices and ticket availability and then call you back. You'll be lucky to hear from them within the hour. Usually you don't have any choice since you don't have ways to compare prices and or flight times, or if you have to lay over for say, 8 hours to catch your connecting flight you didn't know of until after you've paid. Some good agents can help you choose what you want but not all.

2. Say after you've decided to book a particular itinerary. The agent will ask you to pay a deposit and return 4-6 days later to collect your tickets and pay the balance. The full fare will include the agent's commission. So if your agent is in the city you have to take time off to get there to collect the tickets. The agent will print for you the full flight itinerary so you will not forget when to wake up to get to the airport on time. Remember courier service was still not very popular then and many travelers don't trust them, especially with important documents like air tickets.

3. The traditional air tickets or passenger coupons come in a stack, the number of copies depending on how many stopovers you will be making. These tickets are printed in red, one set per passenger. You must be careful not to leave them out during packing or else you cannot fly. At each stopover when you change flight you present yourself at the airline counter at the departure hall and the attractive or handsome agent will smile at you, tear off the copy of the coupon related to that flight out of the airport to the next destination. You really want to be sure he/she tear the correct coupon off, otherwise you will be in real trouble later. You'll get a boarding pass at each airport, no such thing as web check-in where you can get ahead of some other passengers who choose manual or kiosk check-in later.

4. The boarding pass will be your ticket into the plane and once you are inside you can heave a sigh of relief that the hassle is over. The whole process is dependent on agents but for you, you just have to be there in person - to book the tickets, to collect/pay for them, to check in and get your boarding passes. It is time consuming and sometimes stressful when you have to wait, and wait.

I usually throw away my air tickets after my travel but am I glad to discover I still kept one issued by Singapore Airlines in May 1999 when my wife, older daughter and I flew into San Francisco on flight SQ103 (KUL/SIN) and SQ16 (SIN/SFO) for the commencement ceremony of our son, and later return on SQ1 (SFO/SIN) and SQ112 (SIN/KUL). On this ticket was stated the total airfare (excluding domestic flights from SFO to OKC via Denver) of RM4691 per passenger. It must be inclusive of all other charges except travel insurance.

After that, after 911, air travel suffered many changes, especially tightened security checks, higher fares since fewer people fly for fear of being a target and later crude oil price spiraled, making air travel more expensive. Out of necessity we still travel and electronic convenience helps take away some inconvenience and empower travelers to be in better control of which airlines they choose to fly. The excitement is also to buy early at a cheaper fare, but that is not necessarily the lowest. Flying cheap is sometimes a gamble, you get it sometimes and you brag; at other times you pay a premium because you cannot afford to miss the flight dates and especially during summer when more people fly, certain airlines/flights are filled up quite early.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Living Without Daily Newspapers

Since last year we have been mulling over canceling our Star subscription through our paper vendor but did not take the courageous step until last Sunday (April 1). The delivery man was at my gate the evening before to collect March's fee and I told him not to deliver papers until I call him. There was a look of disappointment and he asked in Mandarin, 'Going for holiday?' to which I sidestepped with an ambiguous reply. Never tell outsiders your plans including security guards. Trusted neighbors are ok.

The decision to cease our newspaper reading habit has been dictated by a squeeze of available time, poor quality news (lately the front page headlines are nothing but commentaries or opinionated views that are not objective reporting) and better choice of online news. I get to save close to RM 50 monthly but this is not the point. I get frustrated that I feel obligated, since I've paid for it, to flip through its pages, even before I go to bed. I get even more annoyed that the Star today has degenerated into a political propanganda tool publishing biased news, sports/fashion/education/healthcare/business/home magazine. In trying to do too much it has become irrelevant and out of focus and alienated faithful readers like myself (I was a Star reader since it was launched in 1976).

My wife look to Astro AEC channel for major news updates, I rely on TheMalaysianInsider and other news portals to stay abreast.

The past few mornings has freed us from collecting our previously regular paper from the gate or letterbox. No more paper awaiting me on the dining table and frankly I did not miss its presence nor subconsciously reach out to look for it. No need to pick up papers in the evening after the grandchildren have gone home to stack them away for sale once a month to the recycler. Although we still get occasional papers bought by our son-in-law we have learned that newspapers are no longer a necessity. Many of my friends have also stopped reading them. One reason I hesitated was to check out weekly supermarket and sales promotions but these are now coming in via SMS and emails.

And yes, the next time we travel we don't have to put up the tell tale brick on the gate pillar to alert the paper vendor (and meter readers, guards and suspicious strangers passing by the house).

I'm Impatient



I had recently blogged my plan to start a compost project after June but it appear my impatience has overtook this desire since I have time at hand. Yesterday after I visited my doctor to evaluate my PSA result (it was slightly lower than the result from the private lab at 3.4ng/ml versus 3.8ng/ml) and prescribed a combination alpha blocker and finasteride to manage my prostate, I stopped by a plant nursery on my way home to enquire if they have turfed grass for instant planting. They have sufficient quantity for my need so I bought 40 sq.ft. at 80 Msen per sq.ft. In the afternoon I managed to lay them all to cover up selected bald patches in my garden.

An incident of honesty I wish to share here. The nursery worker had short loaded the turfed grass into my trunk that I was unaware. When I returned several hours later planning to buy more, he quickly told me he had tried to stop me but I had already driven away. He had rolled the turfs and stacked them in a wheelbarrow awaiting for me to show up. The grass short loaded turns out to be the exact quantity I need to complete the job which my grandchildren happily joined in to water them.

The lesson on composting I learned from YouTube was invaluable. I decided to compile all the previous grass clippings into one large pile. Already when I dug inside the heat is building up and wisp of steam billowed up indicating the breakdown of the grass waste has started. The musty odor brought back familiar memory. The smell of stored rubber lumps and tree lace in my father's rubber shop in the 1960s smelled exactly the same when I helped out to break them up to pack into gunny sacks.

I'm sure while we are away in the States the compost heap will proceed to breakdown further. Perhaps upon our return I will be able to use part of it to condition my old and dead garden soil to rehabilitate them.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Celebration Month

Many things happen in April, happy and sad. It was in April 14 years ago my father died and I miss him so. It was also in this month my pet dog, King, also died. King was my favorite pet dog and today his remains lay buried inside the garden of my house in a quiet corner.

April is also a celebration month. Beside myself two of my grandchildren share the same birthday month and one of my sons-in-law miss it by just 3 days. In April 39 years ago my wife and I celebrated our wedding with feasts in our respective home towns.

April is also a month of remembrance. The Chinese remembers their departed loved ones on All Souls Day or Ching Ming (this year it falls on April 4) by cleaning their tombs and paying their respect or visiting the columbarium where their ash remains are stored in urns. The Christians celebrated Holy Week which began yesterday (Palm Sunday) and will end coming Sunday with Easter which celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Significant to myself and my wife this year will be the birth of our first grandson from our only son this month. His name is Joshua and the whole family are looking forward to welcome him into the family. He will be our fifth grandchild and we thank God for His rich blessings.

Last night we had a nice Chinese dinner at the Silver Dragon restaurant in Seremban to celebrate 4 birthdays covering three generations. My son-in-law bought a birthday cake which my two grand-daughters eagerly place the candles to be lit. After several rounds of birthday songs the children happily blew away the flames and Victoria, our eldest grandchild, took pride to cut and serve the cakes. It was an evening to remember and although it is April 1 it was certainly no April Fool joke.

Next year it will be a grander celebration. April 2013 will also include our 40th wedding anniversary celebration AND the first birthday of baby Joshua. I could not ask for more.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

VIP 27

Last night my wife and I were invited to the wedding dinner of the elder son of an old business associate. He is of my age but my, he looked years younger last night and I jokingly asked if he has had a facial for this special occasion. I'm sure he did and he was grinning all over seeing some 500 guests gather to celebrate his joy at the One Utama One World Hotel ballroom.

At the registration counter I asked which table would we be seated and my host without hesitation said table 27 next to the host table. Out of curiosity I asked to check who would be our table mates. I was honored to find two executive chairmen of leading public listed glove companies and one president of a large national corporation, also public listed, our evening companions. Then I know I was accorded special privilege among the industry greats by the host who treated me with importance I don't deserve. It was a feeling I will relish for years to come.

The dinner conversation was lively and friendly. My wife had a nice chat with Puan Sri, the better half of the largest glove manufacturer of the world. She was easy going and humble, someone so ordinary you would miss out her very important status in business and confidant to her husband. I noticed many other guests came forward to greet both the Tan Sri and Puan Sri. Unlike some industry captains who must live and breathe under spotlight of public attention this couple was different.

Because we were VIPs our dinner was served individually and towards the end I was pleased to report card 'excellent' in the feedback form given me by a staff. Back home my wife remarked I fortunately decided NOT to wear a tee shirt to the party. If I had it would be a major mistake. I wore my maroon long sleeved silk batik which was appropriate for the grand occasion.

It's No Use



This is my lawn mower which is quite well used.

We've just ended the first quarter of the year and today is the beginning of April, Palm Sunday, the start of Holy Week, an important period of the Christian calendar.

How often we hear this from well-intended relatives or friends when they see you doing things they consider unproductive? Sometimes I hear it from my inner voice too, especially when I am doing something that has very little chance of success, like weeding my garden. In the light of such discouragement it is easy to give up.

I just came in from weeding my planter box which seems to teem with weeds faster than I can get rid of them. On the surface it appear I am losing my battle and if I continue you can even say I am wasting my time. But what if wasting my time weeding actually help me in other aspects of my life?

Since I fell in 'love' with my garden 2 months ago when I decided to buy a lawn mower to upkeep it instead of paying a contractor to do the job I found my initial zeal waning after just a month. I was mowing the garden every weekend in the first month and painstakingly digging out the weeds until my fingers become sore. In the second month I decided to mow and fertilize fortnightly since the grass wasn't growing very much over a week (maybe it was my lazy self justifying my decision). In the recent weeks I actually observe the weeds growing faster than the grass. The fertilizer I feed the grass actually help the weeds to grow more vigorously that I resigned myself to accept an impure garden (I plan to reduce fertilizing frequency to monthly to 'starve' the weeds after the garden has reached uniform greenness). I accept I cannot have a perfect garden but nevertheless tries to build a better one than what I now have.

Each time I mow the garden I have to dispose of the grass clippings around the base of shrubs and trees outside my house to keep the tree roots cooler as well as give them another source of fertilizers. After a few rounds I ran out of space and decided to store them inside my garden to be used as a compost. It struck me that it will not only save me money buying artificial fertilizers I will also learn to create organic fertilizers and soil conditioner almost for free. And a chance to keep myself fit. I have the space. I have the brown leaves and twigs from my mango tree. I have fruit and vegetable waste from the kitchen. What I need is energy and determination. The task can be carried out leisurely, done outdoor and while I work I can think and reflect over my life. This project will start after my US and NZ trips.

Nothing in life can be said to produce complete fulfillment and nothing can be done to perfection. The process of trying often ends up in character building and strengthening our wisdom if only we are sensitive to notice the good it does. So even if the weeds continue to frustrate my efforts what will take place is the continuing effort to overcome them - in the process giving myself some physical workout, enjoying the outdoor air and sunlight as well as opportunities to commune with my soul and with God. And when my garden do get better and the flowers bloom more cheerfully they will add to my satisfaction that what I do is indeed of great use.

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