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Friday, February 27, 2009

Another Undergraduate Speaks


When my brother talked about his university days in Banana Talk 2.0: A Malaysian Undergraduate, it really bought up lots of memories. Year after year our local university ranking drops to a further embarrassing level. When the press questions the people involved (i.e ministers, lecturers, management staffs and students) fingers start pointing in circles and made it look like everyone was at fault - which in fact IS everyone's fault.
The kiasu-ness was evident among the students. Even in my faculty, these parasites were 'all over the place'. They cling on you and pretend to be your good buddy for the sake of getting tutorial answers. When in turn you ask them for answers, they shun you and try avoiding you like you have some contagious parasitic illness. Even though most of the answers are easily available in the library and the Internet, still many were reluctant to search for themselves and prefer to 'feed off' someone's answer sheet. To make things worse, when this parasite is among your assignment group member and not only does she expects you to 'feed her' but also cover up her flaws. Needless to say, I was so frustrated with this particular individual that I reported her to the lecturers causing her to fail two papers on our final year. Did I regret it? Not one ounce. I felt that such individual didn't even deserve a degree in the first place, so why should I feel sorry for her?
Now, as much as our ministers want our local universities to produce more graduates every year, it looks more like our universities are now turning into something like a China factory which mass produces everything without any QC. During my years in uni, I seriously wonder if the higher education ministry is actually doing any filtering or just allowing any Tom, Dick or Harry to get a degree. Before my brother even entered uni, my parents were worried sick that we might not get a place in uni. But when my father employed a freshly graduated chemist from University Malaya and my father asked her on something, her reply not only shocked my father but gave him a sense of hope that if such kind of person can be accepted into university, then it wouldn't be a problem for his children. Shocking, but seriously true.
The lecturers aren't exactly flawless either. I've this lecturer who not only reads from the slide but also translate word for word into Bahasa. So the entire 45 minutes of so-called lecture was nothing more but this (just some silly example) - "This is a computer. Maksudnya ini komputer. This is a mouse. Maksudnya ini te-tikus. This is a keyboard. Maksudnya ini papan kekunci. (and on until the end of the slide or end of 45 minutes which ever comes first)". But that lecturer isn't the worse of the lot. There was one lecturer who loves to use clings to one particular book for one particular course. That book became somewhat "The Bible" and coincidentally the 10 chapters in that book were like the 10 commandment. And thou shall memorize the book, regurgitate it's contents during exams and thou shall all get an A - which sadly, was exactly what I and the rest of my course mate did.
When I was in uni, I had the opportunity to make friends with one or two lecturers. My course mates and I had many chats with them over tea or sometimes tong sui (sweet soup). They helped me realized that the system or policies itself was very very wrong. Having the need to fulfill the ISO standards (which to us was nothing more but a waste of paper and time) a lecturer's job was no different from a primary school teacher. There were weekly meetings, faculty events to be carried out (and reports written on everything they did), become a counselor for a certain number of students. And if that's not bad enough, if the overall grades of students are not ideal (statistics - the bell shaped curve), they have to write a report. If students fail, write a report. If the lecturer is getting a bad review from students, write report. Any thing not "ideal", write report. So with so many reports that needs to be filled, there isn't any time for these talented people to work on their researches. They can't be wasting their life just writing reports, so they took a short cut - let these student pass. And it was these students that were 'let off the hook' bring the university a bad name. And again it was these students, I often wonder how they can get into university in the first place?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Getting married - Is Tomorrow too soon?


NO! Not me. This post isn't about me. It's about a friend who's getting hitch soon. Last week, he came to our house and announce his intention to marry his girlfriend of 6 months. The date? Next month. My husband and I first thought they were in a hurry because he's made her pregnant. But he then explained that it was his mother that's being superstitious and next month is a good time to get married. Any time after that is deemed 'bad luck'. Even though he knew that it was way too soon, but he couldn't defy his mother's orders. From his face we knew he was slightly disappointed as he didn't expect us to be so shell shocked. The truth is, who wouldn't be shock by such news on such short notice?
With only 30 more days till their wedding date, my husband and his apprentice helped our friend to get ready for their big day. A week after the announcement, fatigue and pressure began to loom on our poor friend. We knew the obvious answer was money related - that was why we did not plan for an early wedding because we wanted take our time to save enough so the financial burden would not be so much of a problem to us when the time comes. To make matter's worse, the essential items that were needed are expensive as there are many others conducting their weddings this time around. Then there was the photo shoot which last night we met up with the bridal couple at a friend's bridal studio to help them choose a few gowns for the photo shoot this coming Sunday. When the bride was busy picking for gowns, I saw our friend beginning to loose the 'happy feeling' of getting married. His face began to look even more upset when we told him that the photo shoot this Sunday will take at least 5 hours. He quickly begged my husband to cancel whatever plans we have this Sunday and come to the studio to keep him company! Its a good thing this Sunday we have no plans yet, so we will be there at the bridal studio. At least I get a preview of how things will be when it's my turn.
Honestly speaking, weddings and marriages between two people should never be a stressful event. Nor should our lives be bound by such ridicules superstition which may cause more problems instead of providing solutions. Anyway, it's a blessing that both my parents and my husband's parents are not superstitious!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Aloe Beautiful!

Aloe Vera flower
Ever since Dan and I bought this house, the plants that were left behind the previous owner has never stopped to amaze us. This 'flower' is one of the latest "about-to-bloom" blooms that I've never seen before. Initially it started with the lily which bloomed for a couple of times but I didn't have the chance to get a good photo of it. Not too long after that we saw the bamboo flowered - which according to Chinese customs, a flowering bamboo is a good sign. By then it was the flowering season and most of the flowers in our garden was in full bloom. The pest infested hibiscus was flowering bright red flowers, and even the pathetic looking frangipani which we thought was dying was suddenly flowering pink flowers!

To me those were very much common flowering plants where I get to see them all the time. But this bloom which we discovered last night was something different. Even though I've been constantly watering this plant, I didn't notice this little stalk growing until last night when it stood out like a sore thumb! In many herbal / gardening books I've read, I knew there has been mention of this plant flowering. However, in my many years of having one grown in my house, I've never seen it flower. So I guess this was our lucky moment. Dan took out the camera and set it to macro-shot with flash, ISO-200 and shutter speed 1/30 sec. He then asked me to use my phone's camera light (it's a Sony Ericsson W810i) and shine it from the left side of the flower to get the camera to focus on the flower. Now to get the black background effect, place a piece of card board (or some fairly thick material) on the camera's flash to disperse the light. Then chi-chak! Done.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Blogger Cannot Import Wordpress Blogs

My first blog was on Xanga way back in the year 2002 which was where I learned basic HTML from w3schools.com. Then when I was in University, I moved to Friendster and HTML has became a second language to me and I learned XML too. So now that I'm using Blogger, I wanted to export my Friendster blog (which was powered by Wordpress) to Blogger. When I started this Blogger Blog all I did was download the Friendster archive and tried uploading on Blogger which resulted to an error warning being displayed (I can't remember what the warning said). And when I asked my brother, he too had the same problem which this can only mean that the format between the Blogger and Wordpress are different.
So I downloaded my Blogger archive from another blog and made comparisons between those two. When I opened both files, my first reaction was "Oh Boy". The vast difference between the two was so huge, it wasn't possible for me to make instant edits. Generally speaking, the Blogger archive includes the blog posts and layout while Wordpress only carries the blog posts. The format tags for Blogger and Wordpress was also very different. To make this easy to understand, imagine that you have two keys (one called Blogger.xml and the other Wordpress.xml) which generally looks the same but the 'tooth' pattern are different. So if you try the Wordpress.xml (key) on the Blogger platform (lock) - or vice versa, it won't work cos the tooth patterns are not the same.
When I was in university, I've came across such possible problems between two libraries who carry digital archives in different formats and to come up with a converter. Theoratically, I came up with the algorithm but did not persue to make a conversion programme because I was short of time. Anyway, this problem was very similar to the Blogger-Wordpress problem. Perhaps in future when I have the time, I can work out a conversion programme - or someone on the World Wide Web will get it done before I do!
So in the mean time, us bloggers will have to do the manual way of "select all, copy and paste" or in computer terms, CTRL+A, CTRL+C, CTRL+V.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Valentines - What's your idea of celebration?

Heart Shadow

So what if Today is Valentines day? It's still another working day for me. Before we closed for the day, Dennis friend drop by as he had to wait for his wife-to-be to finish conducting her tuition class. He then asked us what we got for each other for Valentines. We looked at each other and spontaneously we gave each other a quick smooch. He quickly turned away in embarrassment and turn back to ask where do we plan to have dinner. Simultaneously we answered - "home". I knew he felt quite awkward as he must have been cracking his head the entire day wondering where to bring his beloved for dinner and only to find that his good friend here is spending dinner at home with his family and his wife is not complaining one bit.

We explained to him our little policy of not spending money on Valentines Day. True as it's a day where people celebrate love, but why must we spend extra on this day just to show each other our love? Can't we celebrate our V Day on another day other than Feb 14? One stalk or rose on V Day is at least MYR1.00 (USD0.30) but when we were in Cameron Highlands in May last year 120 stalks of roses cost my hubby MYR20.00 (USD5.50) which is approximately MYR0.20 (that's about USD 0.05 cents) cents per stalk! Of course we didn't go all the way to Camerons just to buy flowers. We were there for holiday and decided to get some since it was very cheap. An average couple would spend at least MYR100 (USD30) on V Day which to us it would be an extra MYR100 that we can spend on our coming Phuket trip in September.

I know that everyone have their way of celebrating V Day. Some may find the perfect happiness by cuddling each other while watching WALL-E on a 32-in LCD TV, while others prefer to have a candle light dinner at some revolving restaurant in downtown KL (there's TWO revolving restaurants in KL you know). So Happy Valentines Day or as my brother puts it "Happy Economic Stimulus Day"!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

My life as a Blouse

Back in my primary school days, the Malay Language essay is one of the most boring subjects I had to endure. Usually the essay topics are life as an object - be it clothes, shoes (most common) or even stationary. Which to me was very lame because such topic would test your creative mind within the logical boundary of reality. But today, I've found a blouse with a story that probably is far different from the usual 'example essays' provided by the school teachers. Meet The Blouse.


The Blouse was manufactured in some garment factory in China. She was made 80% Rayon, 16% nylon and 4% polyester into a Japanese size 9. After being pieced together by the seamstress, the Blouse was folded and packed along with her sisters in a carton box and was ready to be shipped to Japan. Upon arrival at the port, she had to endure the regular inspection like all imported items before being driven to the shopping mall. The shipping box which carried The Blouse was sent to one particular store - ISETAN Shinjuku flagship store in the heart of Tokyo .
Isetan Shinjuku, Japan
The Blouse was picked up from the box and hung on the hanger as a test fitting garment together with a few other sisters of different sizes. The hanger only carried The Blouse and a few of her sisters while the rest was folded and neatly stacked on the selves. Above the hanger, there was a tag written 'New Arrival'. During her first month as a new arrival, life was very exiting. Very often she was picked from the hanger and taken for a test fit. She tried her best to make the wearer look pretty and each time she succeeded, one of her sister from the rack is being sold. And the best thing about being on the 'New Arrival' rack is that she felt exclusive. A huge spotlight shone on her and her sisters, giving them the 'posh' feel. The entire rack has no other designs but them.

However after a month, she was removed from the 'New Arrival' rack and place on a different rack sharing spaces with other 'old' models. From her new spot she could still see the 'New Arrival' rack and there now hangs a new design of clothing. Having to be placed with other clothes now, she felt less attractive. Even though her sisters are still with her, it's hard for her to get much attention as she used to. The chances of her being picked for fitting was little. Despite the current disadvantage, she still tries hard to please a would be buyer and help her sisters get an owner.
The Blouse - Isetan Tag
As days turn to weeks and weeks turned to months, the annual grand sales arrived. Many of her sisters were already sold leaving only a hand full of them, including The Blouse and her fitting sisters. The Blouse was given a new price label - the value was half of the first price tag she got during her arrival day. Even though she felt that her 'value' was slashed but her hopes of being own never dimmed. As a permanent fitting unit, she tried her best to please a would be buyer. Soon by the end of the sales all her sisters were sold except for her. Even her other fitting sisters were grabbed but somehow she was not wanted. When the sales was over, she was packed in a box again. This time those in the box with her were almost strangers to her - she knew that they were all from the same departmental store but none of them looked like her. She felt that those in this box were like the odds and ends of fabrics from the textile factory in China. Uncertain of her future, she sat quietly pondering on her fate...

As time went by, all those in the box became The Blouse's friends. And one fine day, her box was opened and a big bright light shone at them. They were poured out on a table for sorting. That was the last time she saw most of her friends. While lying on the table, waiting to be picked she could make out that she was in a factory. But the language the sorters were speaking was weird and she was confident that it was not Japanese due to her one year exposure in the land of the rising sun. Where ever she is, she knew she is going to be on the racks again.

True to her thoughts, she was back on the rack and a new price tag was pinned on her. To her horror the price tag was barely 2.5% of her on sale price tag in Isetan! And the thought of herself being valued at such a price was totally absurd! She was so upset and offended by her new tag she wanted to scream and cry, but only to know that the world will never hear her. While blinded by her own thoughts she was suddenly picked up from the rack. A young man pulled her from the rack and showed her to a young lady. He stretched The Blouse to twice her length and let go only to see The Blouse fall back into her original shape. He burst out laughing at The Blouse's ability and made the young lady smiled. The young lady flipped the tag on The Blouse and saw her Isetan price tag still hanging on her.

As they say, the rest was history. The Blouse finally had an owner. Even though she was bought at a price that would shock all her sisters (only if they knew), What will happen to her for the rest of her life span is another story yet to be told.

Note : The Blouse was originally priced at JPY10,290 (after tax) which is about MYR406 or USD110. During Sales, The Blouse was priced at JPY5,145 (after tax) which is about MYR203 or US55. But I bought The Blouse at MYR5 nett which is about JPY127 or USD1.30. Good bargain, huh?

Monday, February 9, 2009

Chinese New Year - The Undefined Part of Customs

Ang Pao = Red Packets
Red Packets or Ang Pao is money wrapped in red envelope and given by married people to those not married during Chinese New Year. During the 15 days of Chinese New Year (which for this year started on the 26th Jan and just ended today) children will have every right to go house to house to collect red packets (somewhat like the American version of trick-or-treat during Halloween), but in modern times children are restricted to friends houses only.

When being on the receiving end, it's definitely fun and more often than not, for those on the giving end, it's not that all fun. This year I'm still on the receiving end and next year would be my last. So this year, I had a little 'tutorial' lesson from the great giver - Mommy. It was then I realized the hassle she has to go through to get these red packets ready. First was to the banks to exchange new notes and ask for red packets from the bank clerk. Most banks in the Klang Valley are rather stingy and they have a limit for each customers because of the large customer base there. Unlike in small places where it's the banker who gave me red packets without being asked and she even asked if I needed new notes! Two weeks prior to CNY my mom was basically on a red packet collecting spree as she needed to have different patterns for different nominations and made sure there was enough for herself and my grandma. Second is the sorting part. It's a good thing my mom kept a book listing the numbers of red packets she have gave to in the past years and the amount received by us kids. So there's her reference to how much she has to pack again this year. And finally the packing part where the more relatives you have the longer you'll be packing.

In most cases red packets are given as a willing gesture to those unmarried. But what happens to people like myself where I'm married thus should no longer be receiving red packets. Still some relatives say that I'm NOT considered married because I have not serve them tea (tea serving ceremony is a custom for all newly weds to serve their elders on their wedding day). On the other hand giving red packets is a symbol of the willing heart to give, then I will receive with a willing and happy heart. So technically who's right and who's wrong? If I were to take a stand, I would say that giving red packet is a cultural thing and not bound by any laws. And since I have not fulfill my cultural duties of having a banquet and serve tea, I consider myself not married and fully qualified to receive any 'economic stimulus package'. But what about a divorcée with no children among the guest of relatives? Is she allowed to receive again as though she never married? Or is she expected to give to others as though she never divorced? It's quite funny how such tradition can be easily confused in such grey area that was never defined previously. Well, I can't blame those ancient folks as divorce rates back then was next to nothing!

Even though this is not a big deal and one can choose to ignore this problem. But this reoccurring annual problem will cause more embarrassment in the long run. Of course in my case, after my wedding banquet I'm considered married and will when be on the giving end. But what about the divorcée? Or what about my cousin who's older than I and still unmarried - do I give her also? Perhaps the best way I can think of so far is to spend my coming Chinese New Year in another country. Maybe I'll go Bali again!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Oddball

Rosidah, meet Oddball.
My Dalmation - OddballAnd of course to everyone else who's reading this blog, this is my dog Oddball. She's a 7 year old Dalmatian with liver brown spots instead of the common black spots. She is quite photogenic, but to get a good clear picture of her is difficult. It's a good thing that today there's digital cameras so no film is wasted. Most of the time, I try to take multiple pictures of my dog in one single session. So when I load these pictures into my computer, I tend to get funny unexpected results.
For example, this "YES??" look
Oddball - YES??Now being a family pet has it's ups and downs. The good side - free manicure and pedicure. The bad side - you don't get to select the color you want for your nails! (Note : the nail polish is safe for the dog and that was done way back in 2006 CNY)
When Oddball is asleep, she looks real peaceful can sweet. And the unique thing about her is that she prefers to place her head higher than her body. Which makes this sleeping position a common site.
And there are times where the clicking sounds of the camera wakes her up, she just stare straight into the lenses.
Like Marley (from Marley and Me), Oddball too is afraid of thunder and lightning. So this is where she sits until the storm ends. A little corner of the stairs where she will sit quietly. But if the thunder gets louder, my bed becomes her castle. She will rush up stairs and hide under my bed and no amount of coaxing will ever get her out of there - unless of course the thunder stops.
Like every other dogs, she too gets her walk at least once a day.
Last but not least, every dog will have it's bad day - punishment. Any wrong doings will equate to a punishment of a spank on the butt and locked in the cage.