Friday, August 31, 2012

Malaya Turns 55

It wasn't a typo when I captioned as Malaya instead of Malaysia. Malaya achieved her independence from the British this day 55 years ago. At that time Malaysia was non-existent. She came into being 6 years and 16 days later when Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak joined in but 2 years later Singapore was expelled for not 'fitting the agreement'. In hindsight Singaporeans might have felt it was rightfully fated as otherwise she may become just as what Sabah and Sarawak is today.

So what's in a birthday? It is celebrated because there is a reason to, and that has to do with positive changes from year to year. We seldom celebrate birthdays when we're sick but in some culture they do as they believe a happy spirit help ward off illness and misfortune. So is there a reason for Malaysians to celebrate this special day? We do, not so much that we became a nation but because we've made it this far without much bloodshed and have actually grown. But we have a poor index or report card on many scores that make us ashamed of when compared with other nations of similar or younger status. Major setbacks are a more disunited nation where people seems to show more distrust and a less tolerant society in terms of religion, education and culture. Other setbacks are letting greed and corruption take control of our government which ought to be setting better examples to the masses, and a general feeling that we're overrun by foreigners and that our homes have become unsafe. And for the majority a dispair that they are losing control of their lives with an inability to plan a secured future for themselves and their families due to high cost of living and high healthcare costs.

So for many Malaysians distracted by these issues there is a general mood of not wanting to celebrate any birthdays, especially today. Most homes don't raise flags to commemorate this day. It has nothing to do with a lack of love for the country they were born in but with not having a reason. Many ask the question, what for and what is there to be happy about? And it is true. Birthdays are celebrated when we are well and not sick. But if we think like some societies that we must celebrate away evil with rejoicing and noisiness then let's celebrate today when we became one nation. For whatever mistakes made, whatever wrong directions we took, whatever faults we committed against one another, let us say sorry and ask for forgiveness, if not for our sake, at least for the sake of our children and theirs. Malaysia is too nice and good a country to be wasted on mismanagement. And if we need a change we should. May we have a happier reason to celebrate our independence this time next year.

Happy Merdeka Malaya (Malaysia)!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Food, Holidays, Children

Most blogs I stumble upon are on any of these topics. They're the easiest to write because they're first hand. It's harder to write commentaries or express opinions and even tougher to get real personal and private which may be a bad call. Blogging is great to share but share cautiously. That's why many bloggers take their sites private and make them unsearchable. Like getting an unlisted phone number. Privacy is a big thing today when personal information is readily captured, sold or publicized without one's knowledge. Speaking of which, two cases come to mind.

One, I'm careful what stationery to recycle. Statements are definitely shredded. Flyers with my name and address will have the labels torn away first, as well as envelopes with addresses on. You never know which nosey people will start digging the pile of your unwanted and seemingly useless stacks of documents you sold for recycling. That's one way you get unwanted visitors or junk callers. And with personal safety high on our list trying to stay out of their way is definitely a good call.

Second. I ate pizzas occadionally and prefer home delivery as I'm too lazy to dress up to go out for a weekend meal. So my wife and I would pamper ourselves with pizzas and fizzy drinks in the comfort of our dining hall, just the two of us. Recently as I was munching through a slice I was reading one of the box labels and was horrified to see both my name and phone number on it. And they are on every box labels. I cannot imagine such confidential information in the hands of a garbage truck worker or a scavenger. Granted the possibility is rather remote, still the thought of my name and phone number hanging out among the other domestic garbage or recycled papers make me vulnerable. So I called my friend who owns this pizza business and he promised he'll look into it.

I think it's ok to write tons on food and post harmless photos of delicious dishes we ate. There's no privacy issue here. It's also ok to blog holidays but try to avoid geotagging photos you attach, as well as downloadable personal pictures. You never know who are interested to add yours to his collection. And parents who blog on their kids, great way to share but remember they don't know what you're doing. You're flouting their lives in cyberphere and chances are when they grow up and read about them they'll have something to say. And watch out for the neighborhood pedophiles. Just now we have what I rate as stupid and dangerous judgments that freed two pedophiles on the grounds of protecting their future! Sheesh! What about the poor children they raped?

Giving opinions on the Internet is the American culture that Asians cringed initially but many western educated ones have begun to let loose. They find little harm to tell the world their grouses or preferences. I've fallen into this group over the years and often did so critically because things weren't right. And I know many bloggers write with a bone to pick. Internet is a nice space to blast the government you're unhappy with but be careful with how you blast.

Nowadays I blog lesser than before because I think I should choose my topic more carefully. I was dismayed that out of the over a thousand posts I've written over the past 4 years I became a blogger I could pick only a hundred or so 'good' posts that are worthy to be archived. This exercise was done 3 months ago and since then I've written less and only when I find it necessary and in my opinion, blog worthy.

Maybe I feel guilty of writing so few blogs this month that I cracked my head to publish this final article before August is done. Hopefully you find it readable. Happy weekend, and to all Malaysians, happy Merdeka (Independence) Day which I know most of you will not celebrate but use the opportunity to holiday or visit families. Haven't you got enough already? The long Raya and school holiday was just over lah!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Planning Our Next Oversea Holiday

Earlier this year when my ex-classmate Jimmy returned from Canada for a visit our discussions deviate to places we've been and would like to go. When he mentioned Hawaii I became attentive and over a few rounds of emails we felt a getaway holiday there for some of our former classmates and friends would be thrilling and relaxing. My wife and I came away with a great impression of Hawaii even though we spent just a day there on our way to Norman, Oklahoma, USA in May 1996 to attend our daughter's commencement. We were in Oahu, the main island where Honolulu is located and took a sightseeing tour, including a visit to the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor. It was a somber trip being at the very spot where thousands of American sailors were killed or injured when the Japanese assault planes bombed the US battleships on December 7, 1941 (read more HERE).

The upcoming Hawaii holiday will be longer and more extensive, probably covering two other islands beside Oahu. So far three couples including ourselves have shown interest. We are looking at 5-6 couples eventually to make the trip scheduled for October 2013. Jimmy will look after the local itineraries as he has been there twice. The rest of us will take care of our flight booking and rendezvous at the designated day.

Aloha, Hawaii!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Innovative Squat Solution

End of last year I posted HERE about the health risk arising from sitting instead of squatting when we attend to clearing our bowels. It is admittedly a hard habit to kick and almost all modern homes do not come with a squat toilet and giving a choice most of us would rather sit than squat unless the toilet seats are extremely dirty and we can't see ourselves on top of them. An innovative solution has been found, allowing sitters to squat, or rather sit in a squatting position. This is especially appropriate at home. Watch the clip below and you'll be amazed how the switchover can be made almost instantly. All that is needed is a low stool in the bathroom, or even a box.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

You'll Never Walk Alone

From Wikipedia:

"You'll Never Walk Alone" is a show tune from the 1945 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Carousel.

In the second act of the musical, Nettie Fowler, the cousin of the female protagonist Julie Jordan, sings "You'll Never Walk Alone" to comfort and encourage Julie when her husband, Billy Bigelow, the male lead, kills himself to avoid capture during a failed robbery. It is reprised in the final scene to encourage a graduation class of which Louise (Billy and Julie's daughter) is a member. The now invisible Billy, who has been granted the chance to return to Earth for one day in order to redeem himself, watches the ceremony and is able to silently motivate the unhappy Louise to join in the song.

In the United Kingdom, the song's most successful recording was released in 1963 by the Liverpudlian Merseybeat group Gerry and the Pacemakers (peaking at number one in the singles chart for four consecutive weeks).



This song appropriately describes the lonely moments very senior people go through when they confront the imminence of leaving this world and the sorrow of no longer enjoying the life they had been used to as well as regrets, bitterness, anger and unfulfilled hopes that can never be realized.

My father-in-law probably felt this way and so do my own mother. They feel alone and no matter how much family try to bring cheer it is in them to struggle with this very personal matter. They have the assurance of going to a better place, a heaven their faith promised them. But it pains them and us too when they are unable to connect this and the next life, one that can only be received with absolute faith and trust. It is not easy to tell someone to literally jump blindfold and trust that he will be caught safely. Dying is somewhat like that, going away and trusting his soul will be received into safe hands, and that the new life will be far, far better than the present one.

In this life we all walk among friends and family and know they will be there for us in good and difficult times. But to walk through the curtain that separates life and death and be received by a new fellowship of people who cares demands a faith that only the strong and submissive person can possess. We will never walk alone after this life is over, but in many of our dreams and vision, death is like flying away from our bodies, alone, into the deep and dark abyss or deep space, without any guide and direction, lost and empty, crying for someone to reach out and take us.

The living must assure the dying that there will be someone to usher him into a new world where loneliness is alien.

Lyrics:

When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don't be afraid of the dark

At the end of the storm
Is a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of the lark

Walk on through the wind
Walk on through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown

Walk on walk on with hope in your heart
And you'll never walk alone
You'll never walk alone

When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don't be afraid of the dark

At the end of the storm
Is a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of the lark

Walk on through the wind
Walk on through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown

Walk on walk on with hope in your heart
And you'll never walk alone
You'll never walk

You'll never walk
You'll never walk alone.

Monday, August 13, 2012

An Eventful Weekend

My siblings and I made a date with our mother quite early this year when we know of her lunar new year birthday. As the eldest I asked that we all meet up on August 12 in our home town to celebrate mother's 87th birthday. It is intentionally planned to be a smaller do unlike last year's when friends from my mother's church and her pastor were invited. Except my brother from the States the rest were all present.

To older people they either fear or dislike to be reminded about their birthdays. My father-in-law who turned 94 last month is one of them but I'm sure my mother doesn't. She consider her birthday as a chance to see all or most of her children and grandchildren, and great grandchildren if possible. She consider herself very blessed to have to date 10 (correction: 11) great grandchildren.

The dinner was held at the Hotel Restoran Bei King at Taman Desa Selamat, Jalan Kampong Selamat, 32000 Sitiawan. Tel: 05-691 0253. There is no GPS coordinates available. For those interested, if you drive from Simpang Ampat to Kampong Koh, take the left junction between the Alliance Bank and Nissan Showroom. Take that road and drive a kilometer. The restoran is on the left. If you come from Air Tawar, take the left junction to Simpang Lima/Pekan Gurney. After Simpang Dua, at the traffic junction, drive straight. The restoran will be to your right.

We had only 3 tables with 30 guests invited. The menu was booked by my uncle and it cost RM450 per table. There was no service tax or tips which I'm sure all diners welcome. We don't even know how many courses nor the menu which was customized by the chef. I make sure I capture every single dish on camera and here they are, in total 8 dishes including the desserts. Food quality is rated 4-4.5 out of 5 but service is rather poor. For a restoran that is quite well known even to outsiders this is disappointing but if you can bear with some inconvenience and go for the food this place is worth meeting up for food and conversation. It seems the banquet hall can take up easily 100 tables which is great for big parties like fund raising or political gatherings.



















The weekend is eventful for other reasons. On the positive note my wife and I got to meet with our dear friend PL and wife M from Air Tawar. Upon arrival in Sitiawan we had lunch with them and family in Restoran Ing Hua at 156, Taman Seri Indah, 32400 Air Tawar. Tel: 05-672 3252. PL ordered 5 dishes for a party of 5 adults and a kid and they are all famous Foochow dishes which we enjoyed thoroughly. Later we adjourned to their home for chat and tea and it was with great pride that PL showed me his improved sound room and allowed me to listen to remastered popular songs and watch HD concert movies. All too soon we had to take our leave and look forward to more of such quality senior moments among friends. It was our good fortune too that another old classmate, YCK, came back from Singapore and he joined our afternoon fellowship.





Another surprise development was the sudden resignation of mother's caregiver which although troublesome is actually, on hindsight, a God given opportunity for the family to spring clean and look for a better solution. The reason for the sudden resignation was her refusal to do minimal housework like sweeping and mopping. The house was totally unsanitary with dusty and oily floors and hairballs and cobwebs all over. But the tipping point was discovering a young lady, supposedly the caregiver's granddaughter, living in one of the rooms for several days. It is unimaginable that a caregiver would usurp the employer's room for her selfish use without permission, using the air-conditioning and bathroom, all without paying a single sen. To the family it was good riddance. Mother was quietly relieved but worry over companionship at night. A solution is being sought and the church is coming forward to give her support.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Simple and Effective Solution to Malware Attacks

Most PC users are familiar with the System Restore feature available in Windows OS versions ME, XP and Vista onward. Unfortunately when problems happen to their PCs it is usually not the first solution relied on to repair it. I am one of them and often rely on netizens help whenever I find my PC running very slow, corrupted or infected by malwares. And the solutions offered are usually to run some utilities programs to clean the registry or instal security softwares, if not already done, to heal the PC. In the difficult cases of malicious attacks by certain self mutating viruses that creep into the system surreptiously via the Internet or thumbdrives or SD cards, advices are usually to manually seek out offending registry entries and delete them. But this method is laborious and not very successful. And it require courage and technical knowledge to decide what can be safely deleted. Removing critical entries or system files can stop the Windows from operating when it is next restarted. I am writing from personal experience that mistakes cost me both time and embarrassment for being a novice trying to handle a man size job.

A few days ago a family member cried to me her laptop has been compromised by a vicious virus of the Trojan Horse family and multiple attempts to search and destroy failed to rid it. This particular strain is very intelligent and know how to duplicate the environment it works under. I happened to visit and thought I'd give it a go attempting the rescue and repair. Having identified the services.com file in the systems32 folder as the program exploited by the virus I moved it out onto the desktop thinking that without the file in the said folder the TH won't be able to run. I was wrong. When windows rebooted, it realized the services.com file was missing and requested it be repaired. I refused. After being prompted twice and ignored the laptop rebelliously decided to repair itself and lo and behold I found the services.com file disappeared from the desktop and back inside the systems32 folder! In short I believe the virus, or maybe Windows itself, know where the critical file reside. I'm more sure it is the work of the virus as I have not seen Windows to be this intelligent. It would state the missing file name and ask to be given the location to copy the file from instead.

Several attempts to heal the laptop using online tips failed. Security softwares detect the threat but were unable to remove them completely. It was then that I thought of System Restore. Getting the consent to 'go back in time' I chose the July 20 Restore Point which was the oldest and pray that it wasn't infected. The laptop took awhile to restore critical files saved. All programs installed after July 20 disappeared, and so does the Trojan Horse! A full system scan using the latest set of Norton Security program didn't detect any infections in more than 500,000 files scanned. It was a real relief that the laptop was brought back to health again this way without having to reformat and reinstall the Windows and the application softwares. A manually created Restore Point was made to mark where the laptop can be safely recovered from should it become attacked again.

The System Restore is among the most useful features of Windows and I personally recommend PC users to periodically force a manual restore point after unwanted softwares are uninstalled and thereafter the registry cleaned by program like CCleaner.

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