Saturday, December 31, 2011

start well & finish strong.

i like to start well. if it goes well, it sets the ground plan for better things to come.

just like a day at work.

or, a business venture.

or, a relationship.

there was a scraping noise that came on from the back tyre whenever i reverse the car. i sent the car to UMW for a check yesterday & within the hour, the service person called to say it was just a small pebble that was lodged in the brake disc. no damage was done & no parts needed to be replaced after the pebble was removed. total cost : 2-hour loss of use of car.

many years ago, on a trip from penang to KL, i accidentally drove off the road kerb & when i steered back onto the road, there was a noisy rattling sound that came from the back wheel. i drove into a gas station in ipoh & the foreman shook his head & said it could be a ball-bearing problem. since i know squat about car repairs, i had no choice but to let him take each wheel off, inspect them & watched him test the brakes. finally, he said it was the brake pump or something like that. he changed a part & then as he placed back each wheel, he casually removed a pebble from a rear wheel.


total cost : rm35 for parts & labour, & a bitter taste in the mouth.

he could have removed the wheels, dislodged the pebble & billed me the same for labour costs & i might have been happier to hand over the money. as it stood, this experience just propagated the widespread belief that most car mechanics are con-men. in a way, i was glad i wasn't driving a Merc or a BMW. who knows what else he could have ripped off - a broken axle?

so, the UMW experience had left me with a sense of fairplay, a warm fuzziness. we can be fair & still be profitable. or, we could be firm with our kids & still earn their love & respect. wouldn't be it nice if this sort of justice prevailed in all aspects of our lives, from the way we treat our family, friends & enemies & from the way the govt treats its citizens?

i can't remember how this year started off for me, but i'm sure glad it ended this way. all's well that ends well, they say.

may this year also end well for you & may you all have a blessed 2012!!

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2Tim 4:7

Friday, December 30, 2011

bali - the sequel

i didn't read the novel eat, pray, love. neither did i watch the movie, so i was pleasantly surprised to be told that jimbaran bay that we passed by on the way to uluwatu was a location shooting site for the movie.
there was some religious ritual going on that day. the sand is fine, the water looked clear &, coupled with fine weather, it would be picture-perfect for the movie. no wonder the leading lady, played by julia roberts, fell in love here.

uluwatu temple is 1 of 9 directional temples (which are located at various corners of island that serve to protect from the evil spirits)

here, you have to watch out for the monkeys as they are brazen enough to snatch caps, sunglasses & other loose articles from you.
the famous (& touristy) kecak dance is held here daily at dusk, where the setting sun provides stunning backdrop.

the dance is based on the Ramayana which tells the story of Prince Rama who wants to rescue his kidnapped wife Sita from the hands of the evil Rawana, King of Lanka. the Prince asks the General of the Monkey Army, Hanoman, for help.  it is a typical story between good and evil described by performers who wear colourful masks, are beautifully dressed and dance gracefully.

after the show, we were driven to jimbaran beach for a seafood dinner. it's obviously another touristy area as most of the customers looked "foreign."

the food was well-cooked & reasonably priced. we had cuttle-fish...
huge prawns.....
& crabs.........
but before everyone rushes to bali for what appears to be delectable fresh seafood, our guide told us that most of the seafood is imported from java. after we've had dinner only did he reveal that the 2nd bomb attack on the beach in 2005 occured only a short distance from the restaurant where we just had dinner.

an unexpected surprise was having a meal at a restaurant offering crispy chicken.
i have to admit the balinese have perfected "crispy" to an art. the chicken was good down to the bones.

people who enjoy shopping & sight-seeing will like bali. there are sea sports activities that will also appeal to enthusiasts. which doesn't leave much for kids to do. so we tried out whitewater rafting, which the guide reassured us that is safe for kids. rafting is mainly along the anjung river & there are many operators offering it.
safety helmets & life-vests are a must. after a short descent down the hill, it's onward ho!
very mild ride. not much adrenaline rush. very suitable for kids. (& those with weak hearts!!)

finally, the famed temple at tanah lot (literally, island on the sea) which can be accessed when the tide is low. it was built to worship the God of the Sea.
tourists usually congregate here to catch the sunset.

you could have told me this was taken in penang & i would have believed you.

that concludes our brief 5-day vacation to a really beautiful island. people are friendly, cost of living is very affordable & crime rate is very low. i would definitely visit again.

but not before i've read eat, pray, love..

Thursday, December 29, 2011

blood is thicker than water

my son would have been a marvellous elder brother.

he loves taking care of children younger than him - playing games, sharing toys or just simply being with them. but as it is, he will remain the younger of 2 siblings & that's unlikely to change.

the other day, i asked him that since he likes playing with joseph, a really cute 4-yr-old from church, would he mind if we exchanged his sister for joseph, so that he'll always have someone to play with. he thought for a while, then declined the offer. i asked him why, & he replied as-a-matter-of-factly that she is still his sister.

i was pleased with his decision, although i wouldn't have despaired had he accepted the offer, not that i could make it happen. despite his loneliness while the sister is away at school, i'm glad he realises that blood is still thicker than water.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

was it worth the drive?

penang is a good 5-to-6 hour drive. add another half to an hour for the holiday traffic on the expressway. but we usually spend the christmas weekend with the in-laws.

i don't envy the penangites for the constant traffic crawl & for the escalating cost of property but you can't beat penang for the variety of food on offer.

we had our 1st lunch at the newly opened coffee island at gurney drive. i like it for the ample free parking & the cheap lunch. the main course....
............came with soup, dessert (kuih & fruits) & drinks in a buffet spread....
my sambal fish with brianyi rice costs only rm10.90, & there's no service charge or govt tax!!

our 1st family dinner was at a restaurant in cititel hotel, a whole 8-course of it.
the next day, it's off to penang road for the cendol...
2 stalls....each claimed to be famous but 1 seemed to attract more customers. we showed no favouritism by having 1 bowl from each stall. what caught my eye was this man frying char kway teow...notice anything odd?
he's promoting his stall based on his handedness....
                                is he a marketing guru or what?

chowrasta market along penang road is where you get reasonably-priced tau sar pneah, nutmegs, rojak sauce & lots of other stuff.... 

i must also tell you about this new place that just opened recently along northam road called...

 it sells hawker fare but i like it because there is ample free parking. i may sound overly concerned about parking but not having lived in penang or KL/PJ in recent years, i personally dread driving round & round searching for a place to park. so, a spacious & free parking lot is like heaven on earth for me.
what's more, it's right by the beach, as the name suggests. there are over 20 stalls serving all kinds of penang food.

we used to go to porntip's for thai food but that has since closed. the in-laws took us to the thai restaurant at heritage club on scotland road, near the penang sports club. nice ambience, food tasted authentic & yes, ample free parking again!

one more for the road - dim sum breakfast at bali hai along gurney drive. it was still packed when we arrive at 10.30am.
but, it was good - everything you'd expect from a popular dimsum restaurant.

we left for home soon after breakfast. i think the person most happiest with this trip is the mother-in-law. she hasn't seen my daughter for 2 years & we had dinner together every night we were there. she's getting on in age & there won't be many more dinners like these.

as for me, i quite dread driving the long distance but i'd do it for the old lady. the sumptuous spread is just an added bonus.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

front passenger

when i was a child, i enjoy sitting on the front passenger seat of a car because i get a good full view; sitting at the back only offered one view. if you have children, you'll know what i mean & why kids like taking the front passenger seats.

little did i know that, without a seat belt, the risk for injury in a frontal collision is high. nowadays, we have seat belts, air bags as well as car seats for kids that restrain & protect the front passenger.

but these devices are helpful only if they are used. if you have a child sitting on your lap, no matter how well you yourself are restrained & how tightly you hold on to your child, it's as good as not having protection in a collision.

this is what happend to a 4-yr-old child sitting with her mother on the front seat when a collision occured.

it's a broken thigh bone aka femur - not life-threatening but very painful. fortunately, it was the only injury suffered but it could easily have been worse considering that the car was a write-off.

the mother only had a gash on the forehead while the father who was driving the car sustained a similar fractured femur. both had undergone successful surgery.

who should be responsible for this injury to the innocent child?

may you have a safe journey if you're travelling this festive season.

Monday, December 19, 2011

master entrepreneur

doctors are not generally known to be skillful businessmen because i think, to be successful in business, you need to be book-smart, street-smart & daring.

so, one out of three won't do.

but i feel one of my colleagues made a masterful move when he took in a junior partner to "share out" the work. so now, he comes in only in the morning or afternoon, or sometimes, not at all while the young fellow is doing most of the work.

the best part is my colleague can go on vacation as & when, according to his fancy. imagine sipping pina colada on a sun-drenched stretch of white sand with the palm trees swaying to a beach boys CD - not working but money rolling in all the time.

is that a master entrepreneur or what?

i could learn a couple of tricks from the old man himself.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

the gift

some years back, i won an 2GB iPod nano in a competition. not being one for mobile music, i passed it on to the girl who was in primary 6. she warmed up to it & eventually, it seemed like the ear plugs were perpetually attached to her ears.
2 years back, the battery started to fail & she implored me to get her battery replaced as she can't study without them. the new battery is about half the cost of a new set, so i got her a new 8GB one instead.  i posted it here.

now, that has given way as well. it seems these china-made screens & batteries don't last long. although i had previously agreed to get her an iPhone after she's completed her O-levels, she now asked if she could get a new 64GB iPod touch instead of the iPhone.

it arrived this week......

....except that i got her a 32GB unit with this message......

was i being mean?

nah....i'm just a loving father with a cynical sense of humour.

Monday, December 12, 2011

monkey see, monkey do

i usually don't imitate people blindly. most of us don't anyway. but yesterday, i bucked the trend.

we were at sunway pyramid & had just parked at the multistorey carpark. as i was trying to remember the section where we had parked, i saw someone else who had also just parked, take a photo of the marked pillar with a phone camera.

i immediately whipped out my phone & snapped at the pillar.

now, why didn't i think of that before?

best ribs?

tony roma's are well-known for their ribs. yesterday, we were at the sunway pyramid outlet for lunch & i have to say their trademark beef ribs looked & tasted great - so succulent, you can just bite the meat off the bone.

and it goes with 4 different sauces, barbeque & honey amongst others, to enhance its flavour.....
the portions were quite large & even though we had the standard order, we were left satiated...
we were here because we were given some vouchers & normally, the ribs would cost, at least to me, an arm & a leg. but where else can you feast on what's often regarded as the best ribs in town?

ps. this is NOT a paid post

Friday, December 09, 2011

pay rise.

so, the government has given the civil servants another pay rise.

they are all rejoicing now - praising the government for being sensitive to their needs during this difficult time. some even added it'll motivate them to be more productive.

you think?

and don't expect the private corporations or self-employed people not to do anything about it. expect your neighbourhood char kuay teow hawker to start raising his prices or reducing his portions. why should he sit still & watch while the millions on government payroll reap the benefits? then the public transport companies will raise their fares, car repairs will be more expensive, price of supermarket items will trend upwards & your salon will charge more for haircuts/perms/highlights.

it's a vicious cycle we are all caught in.

and yes, don't be surprised if your medical bills start to climb, too.

but then, this could all be just conjecture. after all, i have no training in economics.

Monday, December 05, 2011

breaking free

the SPM exams just concluded last week & my daughter got to hang out with her ex-classmates over the weekend. amidst the girl talk, they shared amongst themselves what their study plans were, or rather, what their parents have planned for them. most will move to KL/PJ to pursue A-levels/matriculation. one will go straight to UK for A-levels, another to AIMST in sg petani for science matric leading to dentistry & yet another will stay back for STPM.

so many options & they are spolit for choice. i was relieved to hear none will quit school.

although most will miss home when they further their studies, there is one particular girl who expressedly relishes the separation. she just can't wait to get away from her family. & who can blame her when her overbearing parents control every aspect of her life, even which friends to make or hang out with.

given the environment that we live in, with threats from perpetrators of crime in both the physical & virtual world, some restraint is necessary so that the kids do not wander too far from safe ground. & for parents like us, the wisdom rests in knowing where the limit lies, blur at times as it may be. too much restraint may instill a feeling of imprisonment & the child can't wait to break free; too much freedom results in not knowing where the limits are.

parenting is never easy, is it?

Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it.
prov 22:6

Saturday, December 03, 2011

stuff i didn't know about bali, but i'm ok with it anyway.

i think we were generally "ill-prepared" for this trip, in that we didn't do much detailed background reading. even though it wasn't planned with military precision, it really turned out quite nicely maybe because we took things as it came. perhaps that's how vacations are meant to be enjoyed.

(1) i had this bizarre idea of renting a car & driving, GPS-guided of course, around the island at leisure. that way, we can slowly explore most of the tourists' attractions unhurriedly. until someone told me the roads are narrow &
motorists obey traffic rules even less than those in m'sia. we therefore followed the recommendation of others to hire a guide & driver/car instead, & that turned out to be a sound idea. with a land area almost 6 times larger than penang, there is much to explore. here, the guide, Mr Dana, explains the sights as we travel in comfort in a MPV. he gave an excellent account of bali & i would strongly recommend him. incidentally, missyC gave me his contact some time back..
                               (again, notice the narrow road)

2) balinese women are no pushovers. they work hard, not only looking after the family but help out their spouses at work as well. if left without transport, they move around carrying loads on their heads.

3) the cottage industries are located at specific districts, eg. in celuk, there are numerous silverware shops along one particular road.
somewhere along a road in ubud, there too are clusters of shops displaying & selling wood/carving products.

4) besides the ubiquitous nasi goreng & satay, 2 dishes tourists scramble to savour are babi guling (suckling pig) & crispy duck. the babi guling, though a must-try dish, is certainly no match for our siew yoke (roast pork) in appearance & taste.
 the skin wasn't even crunchy. so that was a disappointment maybe because i expected more. the crispy duck is something else. it's deep-fired till you can actually chew on the bone.
oh yes, satay is served the traditional way, complete with a burning charcoal grill.

5) kintamani in north-east bali has been likened to cameron highlands in terms of altitude and climate. at 1200m above sea-level, it was a welcome reprieve from the heat of the lowlands. i even noticed some roadside stalls offering strawberries. it's here that the active volcano mt batur & it's adjacent lake is located. tourists actually trek up its peak to catch sunrise. the black-coloured earth by its sides are fertile lava spewed out during previous eruptions.

nearby is where the some of the rice terraces are located.
rice, being the staple food in the region, is grown also in the fields. here on the terraces, each farmer form part of a cooperative that shares the limited water supply & the complex irrigation system is jointly maintained so that a farmer does not block the water from flowing downward to rice terraces below his. communal living is a major issue in bali - families are closely-knit & wives are expected to look after the parents-in-law till they pass on.

6) also in kintamani, we visited a family-owned coffee plantation. the 2 varieties grown are the well-known arabica (more expensive because less caffeine content) and robusta beans. but what we really came for is the kopi luwak - coffee made from beans that had been ingested & passed out by the civet cat.

by some weird twist of fate, this product is now the most expensive coffee in the world

dare i try some?
 this shop assistant beckons with a cuppa & a Rp50k (about rm18) a pop. oh, what the heck, i've already had babi guling & crispy duck, one more won't hurt.
of course, to savour coffee, you have to take it as it is, unadulterated by sugar or milk. i confess that i'm no connoisseur, so to me, it didn't taste anything different from the brew from ipoh or muar. perhaps a tad sourish but it had the ooomph though. i was wide awake after that. should you be in a boutique cafe & the premium coffee you ordered tastes like s**t, you know, you could be right! anyway, i bought a box home..
so, if you're ever in the neighbourhood, give me a shout & i'd love to make you a cup of the most expensive coffee in the world. but do give me a few hours' headstart because i've got to 1st retrieve it from the safe deposit box.

**i thought i could squeeze bali in one post but looks like there'll be a sequel**