Saturday, August 31, 2013

Independence Remembered

I was 9 years old when my country was freed from British colonial rule and became a sovereign nation. There was much celebration and joyousness filled the air when our first prime minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, lifted his arm and led the crowd in the Merdeka Stadium in shouting 'Merdeka!' seven times. That was on August 31, 1957. The following day our first king was installed.

Thereafter every year the nation celebrated her independence with gusto. The people were one in enjoying the freedom from the yoke of foreign rule, yet we couldn't help but thank the British for introducing the legal system, education, various professions like medicine, engineering, architecture as well as the appreciation of arts, sciences, food and other fine things in life. And yes, they gave us English language which has helped us communicate with the rest of the world. I cannot remember if our government had officially thanked our colonial masters for the good they brought into our land. Of course they also introduced the idea of superiority and laziness which have caught on to some people who like the idea of being the new colonialists.

As a schoolboy I took part in national day parades waving tiny flags. The spirit of patriotism was very evident and Merdeka was welcomed as much as a festival like Christmas and New Year. Now 56 years on all these have died and people of my generation are feeling the chill of seeing our national spirit dying. How could this be happening in a land of plenty like Malaysia ? It used to be a spontaneous response from offices, businesses and home, but not anymore. I cannot imagine being told to fly our national flags or stand when the national anthem is played and sung. This is happening in my country when there is no celebrative mood today. Yes, the government organized public events to commemorate this day but I cannot feel Malaysians from all walks of life endorsing them or joining in. They are too engaged in defending their space and rights in a land where democracy and equality are mere words. Today shall pass into history as an ordinary day that we treat as a mere holiday. It didn't crept on us suddenly but over the past 30 odd years the relevance of rejoicing our freedom has become lost. In our race towards modernization and development, we built our body but starved the soul. Many people today felt yoked by tensions caused by racism, religious extremism and intolerance, and disparity in helping the poor and needy. At least the British is perceived as fairer although they may handle such issues with better finesse and class. A fool can easily tell when he's robbed and mistreated now.

To each his own has become our way of life. Have we lost our patriotism ? No of course. We just lost our chance to bring change to a corrupt government structure that is as deep rooted as our nationhood. Not all the 56 years because I felt the death of neighborliness and real friendship across race and religion only like some 30 years ago when a new prime minister helmed the government and changed the way the entire nation has been transformed. I hate saying this but we are going to be like a corpse dressed up in fine suit if we don't restore the joy of being a true and real Malaysian soon. The spirit of Merdeka had left us and we must seek after it before we try to break free from the new bondage we are now in.

For now it is Merdeka remembered. Hopefully soon it will be Merdeka celebrated again like before. Happy Merdeka to all my Malaysian readers. Continue to love this land you've called home. It is not her fault but that of the regime we grow up under. Malaysia is a paradise under the skies above us.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Looking forward to Europe Again

Europe always carry a special fascination to me because it was my first overseas holiday destination way way back in 1985. Things may have changed much now but the romanticism that the history, people and culture of Europe continue to excite me. But because of its distance and the fact that to enjoy Europe one needs to be fit and willing to commit to 2 weeks or longer, Europe eluded my radar. There are areas of Europe (it's so huge) that I've not been but like to see, the Scandinavia, exotic Spain and Portugal, the Mediterranean flavor and mystic Eastern Europe with its ageless charm that has withstood the challenge of modernization.

In February this year a dear church friend asked if my wife and I would like to join his tour group for a 13D/11N holiday to Eastern Europe covering Austria, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland. Apart from Austria which I visited in 1999 the other destinations are new to me. I was attracted to the proposal because it consist of mainly seniors like me. I said yes without really consulting my wife fully because she dislike long flights that cramps her blood flow and give her joint fatigue. Yet I know if we defer holidaying especially long ones like this the likelihood gets slimmer. My friend encouraged saying we should travel when our legs can still carry us. I agree. I'm more of a travel bug than my wife and I started looking forward to this holiday as soon as I've paid our deposit. Secretly I wondered if this would be our last long distance holiday but I hope not. I still want to go places my heart yearns after but only if my wife accompanies me. We've married 40 years and are inseparable as far as I am concerned.

Well, the EE holiday is dawning next month in the autumn season. Temperatures are falling but not expected to be very cold and perhaps the trees will be shedding their hues and transforming their foliage into a riot of colors. That'll be really nice as I love autumn and spring, symbolic of retirement and eagerness that I can identify myself, especially the autumn part now. The four seasons in temperate countries mark out the changing phases of the year, and expresses the rise and fall of our life. I shan't see my spring and summer anymore but autumn is where I am, and I hope to remain there for many many years before I enter my own winter life.

I borrowed a clamshell luggage from a son-in-law rather than buying a new one since we won't need it regularly. And we don't intend to have many bags to lug around. One heavy one plus a lighter trolley bag and 2 hand carry travel bags ought to satisfy our space requirement since we won't be souvenir hunting. As the tour is full board we won't need to carry much cash for food and entrance fees so I just bought a small sum of euros to cover incidental expenses. I'm glad I bought it 2 weeks ago before the ringgit weakened further. It was exchanged for 4.288 to a euro but has gone up to almost 4.5 now. Not a good sign for holidaying abroad since every cost item will go up. Already this tour cost us just over RM10,000 each so I can imagine how unaffordable such holidays will become if our currency don't strengthen back soon.

We've started packing those items that need earlier preparation. The warm clothing need to be aired and spare walking shoes clean out and packed. Like always I had my checklist out and went searching the house for the travel umbrellas, thermo flasks and heater to bring along. And yes, our medicine, which reminds me to pack those that we, especially me, may need, should we get sick. I've not had a good health record in both our Europe holidays before, having fallen sick on both. I hope this won't be my unlucky third.

As usual I look forward to capturing memories for my next photo album to share with friends, relatives and family. Earlier this year I purchased the Canon Powershot S100 and recently the HTC One smartphone that has an incredible camera that shoots panoramas on the go! That really puts my iPad to shame as it need an app to stitch the pictures. And all three get to travel with us on this trip. How lucky!

I am as excited as a schoolboy going for his class excursion to a popular destination. And I shall consider this holiday one I must enjoy thoroughly since I may not revisit it again. I want to sing like Tony  Bennett sang, I left my heart in Eastern Europe. I shall share more after I return from it. Speaking of Tony, we shall be enjoying his upcoming concert in Kuala Lumpur before we fly.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Water Mystery

Ours is a small to medium size family of 3 adults and 3 small children and we don't waste water. Until mid February this year when we had a maid there was just 2 adults and 2 small children. Water usage through 2011 and April 2012 ranged from 20-30 meter cube (m3) or 145-220 imperial gallons per day which is actually quite high but I took no notice of it. Suddenly from May the water usage shot up to 40 m3 and suspecting faulty water meter which was more than 10 years old I requested for a new meter which was installed in August, i.e. just over a year ago. Sadly the water usage did not reduce, which rule out the meter as the cause. I began looking at other possibilities.

1. The addition of a maid. Usage crept up to the 50s-60s m3. Disciplining her to control water usage didn't bring it down.
2. A new lawn was laid in mid April. Over-watering it in the first 2 months could have explained why the usage went up to 70+ m3 but thereafter we cease watering it daily and none when it rain or shower. Yet in June and July I was hit with a bill of 79 m3, the month before 76 m3. This is getting ridiculous. No way can a family of our size consume 550 gallons of water daily, even if I bath 3 times and wash my car daily and sprinkle the lawn, which I don't.
3. Both water storage tanks didn't leak nor overflow. The water line from the meter into the house run above ground and it is watertight too.
4. The other possibility must be underground leakage, if any.

I did a simple experiment over a week ago. Taking the meter reading one night before we retired, I found the next morning 0.7 m3 water had passed through the water meter while we sleep. So some water must have run out of the tanks that they kept refilling. The next day when I shut the supply to the tanks there was no meter movement during the night. It was obvious that water has flowed out from one of the tank or both tanks. I investigated and discovered while all pipings to the bathrooms and kitchen are accounted for as leak free, there is ONE line that ran underground, under the building from a bathroom, to the tap point on a pillar at the garage. Ah, ha, this must be the culprit. For over a year I've noticed water appearing between the gaps of the floor tiles in the garage and I didn't suspect it to be from underground. Now it is beginning to make sense.

I called my regular plumber who came yesterday to seal off the piping to the pillar tap and re-route the supply from the storage tank to the cistern, wash basin and shower. I was so relieved to have nabbed the trouble maker and look forward to days of reasonable meter readings .... I continue to take meter reading daily for the next week or so to assure myself this water mystery is eventually solved. If not my other guess is THEFT! But how?

Update: Aug 20, 2013
The meter reading continue to spiral even after the bypass operation above. Could there be another leakage? There has to be but where? The plumber was recalled and together we discovered another underground pipe that could be the cause of my woes. It connects the wet kitchen washbasin that receives its water supply from the storage tank above the kitchen roof to the wall tap outside the kitchen. There is a run of some 12 feet PVC pipe between the 2 points under the floor. It never struck me to examine this critically as I wasn't aware of this piping, but after it was discovered on Aug 17 the plumber shuts off the supply from the tank to the washbasin and the wall tap and allow the tank to fill up. Viola! Half hour later when the float valve shuts off the inflow the water meter stopped running. It was a magical moment at which I literarily jump with joy. We finally caught the water guzzling monster!

The 24 hours after that saw the water consumption dropped to just 0.7 m3 and the next 24 hours confirmed this usage. The plumber came today and pulled a new set of piping from the tank to the washbasin, wall tap, washing machine and the bathroom. The meter now runs only when there is water usage. I'm really glad the water mystery is exposed. Case closed.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Sharing by a Matured and Forward Thinking Malay Malaysian

I want my readers to know the truth about our former PM, Dr. Mahathir. Whatever modernization he achieved in his 22 years rule, he destroyed the race relationship and weakened the new Malay generations by feeding them with subsidies and special privileges. He made corruption morally acceptable by promotion cronyism. Beneath all the glories and accolades heaped upon him lie a very insecure, vindictive and divisive person who brought us to our knees. There is an awakening of the modern Malay minds who dare to speak out against one of their own. The below article, I believe echo exactly how the non-Malays feel about him. I salute Dato Din Merican for speaking the truth.

by Dato Din Merican

Dr. Mahathir has yet to deal with the ghosts of his past deeds. Here no one can help him but he himself. This is indeed tragic for a once formidable leader of our country who is advancing in years (born in 1925). He just cannot let go and now he has taken upon himself the task of interpreting history. It is not Malay or Chinese Dilemma. It is Dr Mahathir’s. He is unwilling to come to terms with himself. Let us admit this. The Chinese community contributed enormously to the growth and the development of our country over centuries. Instead of giving them due credit for their hard work and sacrifices, UMNO has used them as punching bag for its failure to uplift the living and educational standards of the Malays.

(a) The Chinese know what they want and are willing to put up with obstacles and hindrances in their way to get ahead.
(b) Their work ethic is the envy of all Malaysians.
(c) They are investing heavily in the education of their young.
(d) They continue to modernise their companies for opportunities abroad, since they cannot get contracts in our country on their own merit, and must, therefore, be sub-contractors to favoured UMNO businessmen.
(e) At home, they (the Chinese) expect a government which is transparent and accountable, NOT a corrupt one. In the last election, THEY VOTED AGAINST UMNO-LED BARISAN NASIONAL FOR THIS REASON.

Are the Chinese after political power?

I have Chinese friends–and Indian friends too - with whom I discuss issues (corruption, abuse of power, discrimination, good governance, race relations, and so on). From them I get the sense that:

2. They respect our King and his brother rulers. But at issue to them (and me too) is what kind of Malay leadership we should have for Malaysia.
4. They feel that Chinese bashing after GE-13 should stop.
5. They want to be respected as Malaysians with rights guaranteed by the constitution, not as pendatangs (immigrants), to have some say in the affairs of state in so far as policies affect their interests, and they want to contribute to the future development of Malaysia.

I am sure that, like me, THEY ARE DISAPPOINTED WITH A FORMER PRIME MINISTER WHO HAS ABANDONED HIS BANGSA MALAYSIA VISION in order to further HIS INTEREST IN SEEING A MALAY MALAYSIA. I will have none of this. Just give me a Malaysia for all citizens, irrespective of race, creed, colour and religion so that together we can face the challenges of a 21st century world.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

My Mother and I

I owe it to my mother to write a post about her as I did for my father-in-law. Both are the last survivors of their generation of my family and my wife's. Last weekend she celebrated her 88th birthday with family members and friends. Nothing elaborate as she is hard on moving about. In fact she said she would want it done at home next year if she is still around. I assured her that we would and told her in advance it would be in the third week of July 2014. Although physically wasting away due to weak legs her mind is still active and coherent but with the usual dementia common in elderly people. I would arrive at her stage in years to come and I hope I can stay positive and strong mentally to weather these debilitating days before I am called home. It is hard to stay positive and jovial but both my father-in-law and my mother put up brave fronts and attended the birthdays given in their honors.

I was home last Saturday to visit her. She had come home a day before from the old folks centre where she had been staying since late May. The house was cleaned out to prepare for her return, and the return of my brother from the States for her birthday. Mother likes to have people around her, even if they don't talk to her. She doesn't like to be alone. She feared if anything happen she want help close by. In the home she is among peers and help is just a shout away, 24/7. In a private moment, my mother told me about my father. She chose him, she confided, because he was handsome. I guess even in the 1940s girls were blue-eyed over boys who look good. Indeed my late father looked good and I said to mother she made the right choice. We are good lookers because our parents looked good. Below was the first family photo of me with my parents.

My mother was a stronger person than my father. She was more assertive and the defender of our rights. My father chose her over the objection of his mother, my grandmother, because they were in love. It was during the Japanese Occupation and they communicated by secret notes passed to each other by friends. My mother did not have a good relationship as a daughter-in-law to my grandmother because she stood for the rights of her husband, the first born son, who ran the family business. But she honored her as a filial daughter-in-law would. She did the house chores even while pregnant with me. We had no maids in those days and daughter-in-laws were expected to wash, clean and cook.

We had a good relationship from young. Although I had my mischevious moments, my mother would always declare I was very obedient and submissive. I know she was being kind because I remembered being caned by her several times for being naughty and playing truant. Yet on my birthdays as a schoolboy she'd made me hard-boiled eggs in special noodles to eat. And for my school exams I got to drink chicken essence to boost my brain power. I owe it to her that I did well academically. My younger brother was jealous and complained I received special love from mother, but she saw in me her future hope, a son she can depend upon in old age. And I tried not to disappoint my parents. When I left home to further my study in Ipoh she'd prepared a basket of fresh eggs for me to bring back every time I return home fortnightly so I could have a proper breakfast.

Mother was undemanding. She and my father never made demands on how much I should give when I began working but for the love I received from them I knew it was my duty to look after them financially by giving a part of my salary. Except for a spell when due to business problems that I could not pay my own salary I stopped giving them. Even then they did not query nor demand I must. Deep inside they prayed that I could resume soon for that would be a sign that my business has recovered. It did 2 years later.

After my late father passed on in 1998 my mother had stayed alone. Her joining the church a few year before provided the fellowship with church members of her age and she passed her time attending activities and services so she was never lonely. About 7 years later her health started to deteriorate that she stopped cycling to church. Except for a god sister and a cousin sister who lived nearby all her children lives and works away from her. She insisted on staying in the old house. We visit her on new years and birthdays and she took comfort that we remembered her. Until about 4 years ago she'd cook our favorite Foochow meals whenever we return. And every year for the past 7-8 years at least we'd return home to celebrate her birthdays. Over the last 7 years mother aged considerably.

So here we are today on a threshold when tomorrow is never assured. But mother is assured where she will be going for her faith in Jesus Christ her Lord is strong. She has been a prayer warrior and prayed for all of her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. I constantly reminded her of her great blessing, the envy of many people, of having 14 great grand children. All her siblings has passed away so she is the grand matriarch of our family. We pray for longevity, good health and safety from falls and injuries. From being an iron woman she now surrender her life to us and her Lord.

Blogging or Facebooking?

Until I got into serious social networking on Facebook I was blogging more intensely. I still blog but the effort is greater and require more focus. That's why you see I blog less often, perhaps 6-10 posts every month. I try to keep up knowing I'm been 'watched' by my visitors from the world over. I wouldn't want them to stop coming by. Yet I try not to blog spuriously. This post is a confession that I'm struggling to keep up with both and I admit it is harder to blog than status update on my timeline. But I have serious issue with Facebook. It capture in real time every single move you make. And if your friends happen to be online you're caught before you can delete your activity. FB doesn't let you review before posting, unlike blogging. And FB doesn't let you edit out your mistakes after you post. FB really expose you if you don't know how to manage your privacy options well, even then you just don't fully know how your contents are leaking into other users tablets, smartphones or PCs especially photos. So there is less control and greater risk. But I embrace it by not putting stuff that I regret later.

But writing on FB is a lot more fun and easier. I suddenly realize I'm using my FB as a mini blog! I don't like sharing without saying something or commenting. Forgive me but I think that is like showing something to a friend without telling why you are doing it. On FB I can either share my thoughts, feelings, experience or pick up a news feed or article that I think my friends like and share with them. I create a group that only select friends can view and comment. And I create a page to create awareness to the community work I'm involved in. The beauty of FB is instant access but its 'unbeauty' is limited audience. I believe I have more readers to my blog than my FB timeline.

Yet there is a fundamental strength that blogs have. You decide on its contents and how often you write in yours. My blog is like my garden that I plant and nurture. It is my digital signature. I may write less often but will not abandon it completely. I like my readers to read my FB too if they find my blog slow. The link is

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

My iPad Scare

I've always enjoyed the slick and smooth touch screen of my iPad besides its super sharp retina display, although in recent months other devices have come up with screen displays and interactions that are equally good or better. Since I got it in April last year I've lived and loved with it as my daily companion and windows to the digital world. But over a month ago I found it getting sluggish and at times unresponsive. Well, I thought it must be getting old, or perhaps I've overused it, or too many apps were opened simultaneously. The natural reaction was kill the running apps to free up memory or to reboot and start with a clean memory. It worked for a time and the symptoms of a sick iPad began to appear. I began to worry my iPad, now just past its warranty, is showing signs of hardware failure. I didn't consider failing battery as it still charge up normally although I did notice it took longer to fully charge, a whole night instead of about 4 hours.

A fortnight ago the symptoms got worse. My iPad would behave normally for some 10-15 minutes then decided to hang for a minute or two. Pressing the home button won't cancel the running app. After waiting patiently for it to respond I could continue my work before it hang again. I thought it could be app related. I read that some apps may be corrupted and need to be uninstalled and reinstalled. I thought that is no sweat, even purchased apps can be reinstalled for free as iTunes recognized the account number. The worst case scenario is the iOS which if requiring reinstalling means I have to reset my iPad to the factory settings and restore from my iTunes library. Thankfully I had done a back up as recent as July 24 so my apps and data would be reasonably current. So being prepared for really bad news I rebooted my iPad to get to the Restore from iTunes step. But it refuses to proceed from the logo screen. Like handling a victim with cardiac arrest I pumped the chest (rebooting again and again) but to no avail. My iPad refuses to respond. Then I managed to get into the Restore step and quickly hooked to my PC and launch the iTunes. I was glad that I could get to reset the iPad and restart on a clean slat. But it didn't solve my problem. The Apple logo still display and won't progress to the home screen. The low battery icon started to show. Thinking THAT was the culprit I charged up the iPad for 2 hours. Nothing happened. For 6 hours, my iPad remain unresponsive. Rebooting it again and this time the logo won't even come on. My iPad was either brain dead or died. I was almost devastated and considered life without it. Perhaps by a different Android tablet.

I sought for solution. There are Apple service centers but not conveniently close by, not in my city. And there are no iPad repairers who openly advertise their services. I had to resort to asking around. At that time the cause of my iPad failure was narrowed down to either battery or motherboard. In the worst case, both. I found a repairer who have experience in replacing iPad batteries. It was an intricate and delicate job that I wouldn't try it myself. I met up with him and found he ran a self-own repairing workshop dealing with iPads, iPhones and other smartphones. He diagnosed my iPad to most likely suffering from a damaged battery that refused to recharge. He'd tackle from that angle and bought a new polymer ion battery. If that doesn't work he'd look at hardware issues.

I felt assured that my iPad was in competent hands. A day later I was asked to authorize him to change the battery as the original battery was already comatose. I gave the go ahead. The iPad sprung back to life. So the problem all these months was a failing battery. No wonder I had trouble backing up my apps before July, taking several tries.

After getting my iPad home I restored my apps and data. I noticed the restoring speed faster. Funnily, although I didn't remove many apps I found I have more free space than before. Could my old battery caused a misreading of available space? And I am able to now check the storage space usage by the various apps. And of course I no longer encounter freezing screen or apps that hung up on me.

So if you have never changed an iPad, or iPhone battery before, and you face similar symptoms, you may want to consider changing a new battery. I'm glad the problem wasn't as bad as I feared. The next time I find my iPad slow I know exactly what to do and who to send it to.


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