Friday, April 26, 2013

Becoming a Gardener

It's been just 12 days since my new lawn was laid. Every day I'd walk to check on its condition, watering it twice daily when it didn't rain in the first week. Lately afternoon showers would come drenching the soil and I skipped watering the grass which by now has rooted deeper into the sandy soil below. The grass are taller, greener and looks happier. There are a few small bare patches which the nursery will cover up but if not the adjacent grass will soon do the same job. My nursery contractor says it isn't necessary to fertilize the grass for at least 3 months. In my internet research I learned that lawn grass thrive better and stay stronger and more disease resistant if they are kept taller to keep their roots cooler and fertilized just once a year, and to let the grass clippings spread over them instead of collected and composted or disposed. The idea is to let the clippings mulch gradually besides saving work. I will take this advice seriously when it is time to mow my lawn in a month's time.

This is how the grass look like this morning.


A sight for sore eyes.

Small patches of bare soil soon will be covered.

My mango tree has started to flower!

I repotted desert rose saplings into small bags to force the roots to grow into bulbs.

A desert rose in full bloom. Lovely.

I'm really enjoying my new garden now and take great pain to prevent weeds from adulterating it. I'm planning to add colors by buying small potted plants that yield flowers of different colors to make my garden a pleasing sight to behold.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Let the Battle Begins

Nomination for 222 parliamentary and 505 state seats proceeded without a hitch this morning signifying the 13th general election has gone off to a good start. The weather around the country was generally good, no rain was reported and no accidents or incidents marred this crucial day. So did my wife and experienced the same when we went for our morning walk in a nearby recreational park. Most were oblivious that even as they exercised, walked and jogged, hundreds of thousands of supporters for the Barisan coalition and the Pakatan Rakyat opposition were marching or gathering at the hundreds of nomination centres across the whole nation to receive nomination papers from the aspiring candidates, their proposers and seconders. While most of the seats were straight fights between the Barisan and Pakatan candidates, some are contested by independent candidates out to prove a point or grab some historic limelights at the risk of losing their deposits. This 13th General Election is after all not any election but one that can tip the scale and usher in a change in the whole way this nation is going to be administered. More importantly this election see for the first time the vocalness of many voters and mark an emotional high for many. I've never seen so much anger and indignation in recent weeks with most of the venom and hatred aimed at the Barisan government. I commented wryly to my wife the other day, even before the Election Commission gives the go ahead to campaign, which is to be after nomination ends, for the next 15 days until voting takes place on May 5, Barisan has invaded all available public space along dividers, roundabouts, fences, lamp posts, poster boards, etc with their blue flags carrying the scale of justice symbol. I've estimated they spent several million ringgits on the flags, bamboo poles and labour. And to what avail I asked? Would they help sway decision of the voters who've long ago made up their mind to kick them out of Putrajaya? Being a person who hates environmental pollution I find all the flags distasteful and irritating. Any love for Barisan flew out the window for the way they abuse their might to violate election rules.

When Barisan lost their 2/3 majority at the 12th general election on March 8, 2008, many of us felt that Barisan, if they keep to their promise to rectify their mistakes and be a more caring government, can keep our votes this election. Pakatan was a young coalition unseasoned, untested and inexperienced. But they won 5 states (later lost one due to backdoor power grab by Barisan with the help of royalty) that allow the people to see if they are any good administering at state levels. And they did very well in Penang and Selangor which gave confidence to the people. In 5 years Pakatan matured as a coalition although internal strives continue to worry the people. However each time they come under attack by Barisan and its supporters Pakatan grew closer and stronger. Denied rights to express their policies to the public by government controlled media, they developed their own and depended on internet news channels to provide readers and viewers insights and comparisons. Pakatan came up with a slew of programs and strategies to uplift the nation from its woes created by 30 odd years of misrule started by the former prime minister, Dr Mahathir, who is still in control. Barisan on the other hand depends on cash handouts and grand economic transformation programs to impress the people that they bring immediate and long term benefits to the population. Over the last 5 years cost of living have spiralled, crime rates increased alarmingly, unemployment of graduates grew, migrant population grew to worrisome level, racial harmony dipped to historical low, religion intolerance became a big concern, families worry over the safety of their children and themselves, and for those in cities, traffic jams and bad public transportation made going to work and returning home endlessly frustrating and annoying. The government had not spent their 5 years solving existing problems. They added newer ones, making Malaysia, once a beautiful and livable nation, a sorry state to ordinary citizens. All these made the people angry and helpless. In such a state the desire and cry for change grew louder and stronger. And the vehicle to help this change take place was provided by Pakatan. And the people was relieved that after 56 years of continuous rule by Barisan since 1957, there is a chance of a new government ready and willing to listen to the people's complaints. And the single reason why change must take place this May 5 is to prevent Malaysia from becoming another Greece. Prime Minister Najib was bleeding the nation by spending hundreds of billions of riggit on his pet tranformation programs with dubious outcome. Many concerned Malaysians believe that handing Barisan another 5 years will surely bankrupt the nation. In fact one of his minister unwittingly remarked that if no action is taken to arrest the fiscal overspending, Malaysia will be bankrupt by 2019.

The facts have been laid bare for all to read and analyse. There are those who wants to retain Barisan for selfish reasons. They want to keep their gravy trains going and couldn't care if the trains fly off the cliffs one day. But enough concerned Malaysians wanting to stay and not migrate are deciding to take charge of the driver and turn around this Titanic before it runs aground and destroy the population. Change have to take place, not in 2018 but now, in 2013. The battle has begin. Dirty tactics will be used. Phantom and postal votes will help increase the counts in favor of the Barisan candidates. Voters who love Malaysia are urged to turn out in full force, rain or shine, on May 5, preferably early, to cast their votes. Malaysians residing or working overseas must return to vote. All voters must be alert to make sure their votes are not disqualified on technical grounds like smudges from indelible ink stain or foreign marks place deliberately on their ballot papers.

May the better coalition wins and may Malaysia arise through the will of the people exercised peacefully through their ballot papers.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Shitty Malaysian Politics

There, I've said it and I mean it. As I write this nomination day for the 13th General Election is just over 24 hours away and less than 12 hours ago we read that one of the component party of the opposition coalition vying to capture the seat of federal government at the GE, the Democratic Action Party, or the DAP, runs the risk of being deregistered by the Registrar of Societies over the latter's non-recognition of its elected central committee. Although verbally assured the party can use its party symbol, the rocket, on polling day set on May 5, the leadership chose not to take its word as honorable but instead insist on the retraction of the letter of non-recognition. It is highly improbable at this late hour. The DAP leadership in an emergency meeting with its other coalition partners, the PAS and PKR, decided with their agreement, to stand for election under their symbols to avoid any complication with the ROS which can rule DAP as an illegal party and therefore rule their victories at the election null and void. This action reeked of underhanded tactics, borrowing the words of Lim Guan Eng, DAP's secretary general. Immediately reactions on cyberspace on social networks have condemned the ROS for this last minute attempt to derail the opposition from winning the election. DAP have decided to use the full moon symbol belonging to PAS in peninsula Malaysia and the PKR's eye symbol in Sabah and Sarawak. It was a very unwilling decision, one that made the adviser, Lim Kit Siang, a DAP's founder, cry out in abject frustration and anger. That feeling is not his alone but of DAP members and supporters of the opposition force. Today the battle cry is changed to 'Enough is enough'. This dirty, shitty and underhanded politics must translate into the downfall of Barisan Nasional. Period.

Read HERE for a full report.

The above incident saddens me too. It shows how immature our politics is and how the BN cannot and refuses to fight fairly but use agencies like ROS that are controlled by pro-BN heads to sabotage its oppositions. If there is any doubt of my fully supporting DAP or the other coalition partners, it has just fizzled. The ROS case made me a 100% opposition supporter and I am not ashamed nor afraid to declare. BN does not deserve any vote from me and my family. Even if a friend runs under the BN tickets in my constituency I will tell him I won't support him for being in the wrong party that I have no faith in. But if he stands as an independent he may stand a chance of a sympathy vote, but under BN? Absolutely no way!

It is true what the opposition feared that this 13GE will be the dirtiest of all. I will not be surprised at all if more shits are thrown after the candidates are officially nominated and accepted by the Election Commission to stand for election. And you know for sure who will be throwing those shits.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Nordic Walking

I stumbled upon this exercise routine recently and tried it out this morning when I had our early morning walk, my wife and I, at the nearby City Park, before we adjourned for breakfast. I'll show you the video clip later but Nordic walking is nothing more than brisk and purposeful walking using two poles that appear like ski poles with palm straps to keep the poles from slipping accidentally. I don't have these poles and I doubt I can find them in any sports shop in Seremban but knowing how the exercise works I tried it with invisible poles. Yes, I imagine I was plodding along with a pole on each hand and commented to my wife I'm marching. And it is actually quite fun. Nobody nearby was walking the way I did and some may be even starring. The point is I find the walking to be more beneficial that just walking. I didn't cover more than 200 meters and felt my body muscles starting to strain. Like the video commenter says, Nordic walking works on 90% of the body muscles if done correctly. Even if I wasn't doing it all right without an instructor to correct me I know I am working on more leg and back muscles than simple walking. I'd recommend my readers to try the Nordic. It can be done anywhere and bystanders may first find you a little eccentric they will soon be walking like you. Here's the clip I promised.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Friendship, Prayer and Faith

I've waited till now to blog this. Readers who followed my postings since February last year would recall I wrote about a friend AL who was struck with a deadly malignancy in his brain that medical opinions gave a very poor prognosis of 6-14 months. It was his tennis buddies who noticed his slowed return of the balls and urged him to seek medical attention. He did and discovered a large tumor that was removed in late February. Only around mid March did AL revealed to me that he might by dying. Our common friends were alarmed and fortunately by then we had established a network with email contacts. AL is a Catholic and while the rest of his friends here in Malaysia are mainly Protestants (Methodists) we shared the same God to whom we lifted our prayers to urge God to spare AL. Most importantly we believe in spite of the odds God is able to heal.

Friendship's defining moments are not in good times when laughters are shared. It is defined when there is a real need to listen, care, help and pray. I wasn't put to test out my friendship until this moment when I felt AL's vulnerability could well be mine, and in his shoes I would appreciate true friends to rally to my side to give me spiritual and emotional support. Without being asked to. That I believe separates ordinary friends from real friends. In June, with another friend and also fellow classmate, TCS, we flew to Auckland to offer our encouragement. It was then that I realized money cannot buy friendship and that it would be well spent on a journey just to visit him. Incidentally we have not seen each other for over 30 years but the bond was as strong as the day we left school.

I must mention another friend made in less than 2 years but no less gracious than TCS and I. PL felt he could make a difference to his new friend. We are after all contemporaries so we understand how sickness can take away earthly friendship in the blink of an eye. PL valued knowing AL so the three of us drop in at AL's house unsure if he was able to receive us. I thank God that although AL lost transient memories and was slow in articulating his replies he was not incapacitated as I feared. Our friendship rekindled over that few days plus the many fervent prayers we and other friends and Christians around the world encouraged AL to overcome his illness and not yield to hopelessness but believe that he would eventually be healed.

The test of his healing is in his responses to our emails sent or copied to him. AL stopped replying our emails for over 10 months. Each time we asked of his condition we were stone walled and have to depend on another friend staying in Auckland to report his condition. He told us AL would only respond after his chemotherapy sessions end in November last year. We waited and waited.

The last email to me in June last year before he went into 'hiding' carried the following remarks,

It is way beyond my present abilities to convey to you how the good Lord had been in rebuilding the 'lost' brain which, in His incomparable wisdom, better be surgically removed than left in my head and devour me in an uncontrolled manner. Thanks to Him that my family and I have been 'redirected' by so much love, grace, forgiveness, joy, happiness, peace.........so many qualities we all usually talk so freely and yet not so readily displayed and also not well understood either. With some loss of the grey matter.......I can testify that in so many 'issues' the good Lord had actually showed how He was/is in-charge and all we had to do is to believe and to trust in Him! What a priceless lesson to 'exchange' for a piece of deteorating 'old meat'.

The next email came 3 days after Christmas last year. I want to share part of what he wrote me.

This is a much belated Christmas and NY greeting.....and an attempt to explain why I have yet to start my own 'easing back' into the 'free-and-easy, shoot from the hip' type of 'computer fun'.
The first 'order' is to apologise to each and everyone of what I have done and something that I have failed to do....... to you, a very special group of people who is specially 'prepared' by God, to wait by the road-side, to extend your warm hands and genorous hearts, at a very appropriate timing, to remind a 'long lost' friend that God is good and that He loves us.


Immediately my spirit soared. At that time I know AL has recovered. He has been healed. Hallelujah! Praise God for overturning the odds. After that email AL has been writing quite frequently and the main encourager to his classmates to organize the golden jubilee class reunion in 2015 that he look forward to join.

We are now asked to pray for another friend and classmate whose wife is in depression. I believe in the power of friendship, prayer and faith again, that God will heal again because He loves us and will hear from Heaven our prayers.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

My Home Garden, Version 2.0

This is a pictorial of how my garden was transformed over the past 2 weeks. It is like Cinderella redressing from her shabby maid's attire to a glittering gown befitting a princess. Well, my garden is not that luxurious but is a lot more pleasing to the eyes now. Besides the work done by Alex and his boys (they are quiet and hardworking Myanmarese workers) I too spent many hours repotting my plants in new soil, pruning the shrubs and reorganizing where to arrange them. This is to minimize weeds spreading from the pots to the new grass. My dear wife helped whenever she can, and always with face flannels to wipe away my sweat and cold drinks to chill my body. Here are the transformation process in chronological order.

BEFORE CALLING THE EXPERT


Above pictures showed brown and dried grass which was previously treated with weedkillers.

KILLING THE WEEDS

The green is not grass but weeds which have grown in the one month since I applied the Round Up on my own.

The nursery gave a stronger cocktail of mixed weedkillers to knock out all the weeds.

A WEEK LATER - WEED AND SOIL REMOVAL





The process of digging and bagging the dead weeds and top soil by 2 workers took 2 full days. It was a very laborious process.



Waste soil are taken away for disposal at authorized dump site. The garden is now clean.

NEXT, SAND APPLICATION



River sand is applied over the clean garden soil immediately after it is retreated with another round of weedkillers to make sure no remnant weed roots or tubers are dormant in the buried soil.

A lorry load of freshly cut cow grass turfings from a sod farm in Mantin nearby.

PREPARING TO TURF

It is good that shower came at dawn that compacted the sand making it denser and less porous which is perfect to lay the turfs on top.

Laying of turfs on a cool Sunday morning. The laid turfs are compacted to even the surfaces as well as create better contact with the sand.

MY GARDEN, VERSION 2.0

Finally the completed new garden which now requires daily watering to help the rooting process. The garden may be stepped on but no heavy activities like playing basketball or running for at least a month.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Enjoying Playing Basketball

Both Grace and Andrew are outdoor kids. They like to cycle and play balls and whenever possible would ask me to play with them in the evening after their nap and when it isn't too hot. Last month at the kid's toys section of a local shopping mall I found a junior basketball stand suitable for yound children to practice throwing balls into the net. I thought it was a good introductory game to help them build muscle tones and coordination skills. Here are a few pictures of them playing in the garden with weeds. This made me decide to restore the garden to make it safer and more enjoyable. If my children and wife allow I'd let them camp in the garden and enjoy gazing at the night skies and the satellites and stars, and planes, above. Truly it will be a good experience for them.




Sunday, April 14, 2013

Celebration Month

April stands out as the month in which there are the most celebrations of birthdays and anniversaries. Within the immediate family there are 4 birthdays - mine and 3 grandchildren's. My sister-in-law also had her birthday in April and we celebrated for her when she visited us recently. April has 3 anniversaries - one wedding and 2 deaths. My wife and I had our wedding by dinner celebration in April and this year is our ruby anniversary or the 40th year of togetherness. In April also my dad passed away (15 years ago) and so did my pet dog King (14 years ago) and it was buried in a corner spot in our garden under the shady leaves of the mango tree. If I may add another event that can be like a birthday, that is the birthday of our new garden which I'll blog separately. So April is special to me. Here are some pictures to remember this month.


Victoria's 8th birthday bash

Italian theme birthday dinner at home

The birthday girl and boys


William's birthday will come later in the month


Enjoying the attention

Giving attention

Receiving attention

My sister-in-law's birthday

Our ruby anniversary celebration


Andrew posing. He's quite photogenic when he's focussed


Stanley and Christine duet

Andrew and William engrossed in a game

Grace enjoys karaoke-ing to Gangnam Style

Joshua celebrating his 1st birthday in the States

A family photo in room 5 of Silver Dragon Restaurant

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

13th General Election Fixed on May 5, 2013

Finally the wait is over. The Elections Commission met today and fixed nomination date as April 20 (Saturday) and polling (voting) date as May 5 (Sunday) that is 2 weeks later. On surface this looks like a good arrangement. Eligible Malaysian voters will have no excuse not to cast their votes, including those residing overseas, especially Singapore. Air Asia can do national service by offering special and even additional flights between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur for the May 4-5 weekend to help Malaysians return to vote in this crucial election in which maximum turnout is desirable to defeat the impact of phantom voters. Those who drive, the numbers are not expected to be large as many voters would have registered their current residential addresses rather than those of their home towns or kampongs, should leave early to avoid possible jams. And for most voters whose polling stations are near make it a point to be there early as the queues are expected to be longer this time with additional delays caused by the application of indelible ink on the left index fingers of voters. Be extra careful not to smear the ballot papers. Be vigilant not to accept marked ballot papers which can be disqualified.

The impact on Christians will be direct as polling is on Sunday which is the day of worship for most churches. Three scenarios can take place: status quo in which Christians go to vote immediately after services if these are in the morning, skip church which is not advisable as being the first Sunday many churches also hold communion services, or change the time of worship to Saturday. There is enough time to make special arrangements to help as many Christians as possible fulfill their constitutional responsibilities.

Monday, May 6, should be declared a special public holiday as it is likely many voters will stay up late to follow the results as they are announced. I will surely be among them. Just as it was on March 8, 2008, I will again be logged into popular news portals that report 'live' from the various counting stations around the nation. This time the number of sites that provide this service will probably be no less than 5 times the number in 2008.

Bookies will have a field day taking bets on who will be the winner. It will be a tough fight but I don't discount a runaway victory by Pakatan. Anyway I am excited and will be logged in to my favorite online news channels to follow the outcome of this fiercely fought election in our 55 years history.

Whoever is the winner let's do the Malaysian thing. Be humble in defeat and charitable in victory. Let no violence or anger take control. If there is going to be a change, change peacefully. Don't destroy confidential records and minutes. Help the new government move into office smoothly. Show the world that in spite of all the spins and rumor mongering we are able to close one chapter of our young history and start a new one without any disturbances. Like a boxing match let it be fought above the belt and when the final whistle is blown accept the result with grace.

May God bless Malaysia as she enters this 13th GE.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Malaysian Parliament Officially Dissolved Today

After months of speculations today at 11.33am live over two national television channels, prime minister Najib Razak flanked by his deputy Muhyuiddin Yassin, officially announced that he has received royal consent from the King to dissolve the Parliament today. He proceeded to promote his coalition party and urged the voters to give it a fresh mandate to govern the country for another 5 years. Najib appeared nervous as he began his announcement and fumbled when he made a mistake of stating the dissolution date as April 3, 2012. I believe he meant 2013.

With the dissolution of Parliament the sitting government now becomes a caretaker government with no authority to commit any agreements to any projects including purchases and awarding of contracts. The people of Malaysia look forward to the announcement of the polling date so they can make plans to apply leave if necessary to be at their constituencies to cast their votes. In the history of Malaysia this will be the most crucial election in which the ruling coalition which has been in power since the nation was born risk being booted out.

The road to a new Malaysia has been laid. I pray for a smooth election which is expected to be held end of April.

Beyond A New Lawn

The whole idea of stripping my present lawn is because it has become badly infested with weeds. Having a new lawn would means keeping it weed-free for as long as possible. Weeds can be blown in from the outside which is not controllable. The controllable ones are those from the existing potted plants as well as weed seeds stuck to the grass cutter.

For the past week or so I had purchased new garden soil. I emptied out the 30+ potted plants, cleaned the pots, select the bulbs and young saplings of the plants we wish to keep and regrow and wash them with copious amount of water before repotting them. It was a physically strenuous work that need to be done before the nursery contractor starts his work on April 8.

It wasn't an April Fool joke when the contractor Alex called me last Sunday evening that he will spray weedkillers the next day. I was caught off guard. I still have some repotting to do. With the help of my wife and grand daughter Ling we finished the work in time to rest and bath before going out for dinner. The next morning the lawn was sprayed. I could literarily 'hear' the weeds screaming as the chemical came raining down on them. The next week will allow them to die as the chemical kills the root system. Only after that will the workers return to strip off the dead weeds and grass and the top soil. After that a new layer of sandy soil will be spread over and leveled. Finally slabs of close turfed cow grass (axonopus compressus) will be laid over and watered daily to allow the roots to establish.



The new lawn and the newly repotted plants will be better maintained than before. They will give me the opportunity to balance my indoor life with some outdoor work.

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