All About Good Parenting Part 1


Read these first:-

It is a slow start for 2016 when it comes to blogging but on the other side of the spectrum, I am making some positive changes this year when it comes to personal health. All weekends and on alternate week days when I am back from office early, I am spending at least an hour or so playing badminton to keep myself in shape. My badminton partners are the usual suspects – my kids (when means I get to pick the shuttlecock most of the time, be very patience and be gentle with my returns) and my wife (when I can practice my smashes, ha ha). It is just a start but I still sucks on other things like the food I eat and the amount of sleep I get on daily basis but as they say a journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step, it is a start for the moment.

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(Parents who let their kids on the motorbike for daily commute and without any license should be charged under the law for recklessness. It is one thing giving them to learn to ride a bike in a controlled & safe environment but it is another thing to allow them to use it for daily use without proper training & license and worse, riding without any helmets)

Young, Unlicensed Motorcyclists

Couple of weeks ago, I read this on the papers:-

“No mother would want her child to suffer like this. My heart is broken,” said Maimunah Md Razali, the mother of 13-year-old Siti Nuraisyah Sahrin, who lost her legs after being run over by a lorry.

“She is so brave. But as a mother, it is hard for me to be strong. It breaks my heart to see my daughter going through so much,” said the 48-year-old at the hospital where her daughter is being warded. On Monday, Siti Nuraisyah was on her way home from SMK Bagan Terap in Sabak Bernam on a motorcycle with her stepsister Shamim Amira Roslan, 14, when the incident happened at about 3.30pm.

A Perodua Kancil was believed to have overtaken them and brushed against their Honda EX5. Siti Nuraisyah was thrown onto the middle of the road when a lorry coming from the opposite direction ran over her legs. Shamim suffered a sprained ankle from the impact.

A composed Siti Nuraisyah, who underwent surgery earlier, said: “My wounds hurt,” adding that she wanted to walk again and was hopeful of recovering soon. Her left leg was amputated above the ankle while her right leg was amputated below the knee.

(Source)

At first I thought “Damn, it is a tragedy” and I seriously felt for the young girl who have to contend with such tragedy at a very young age. Imagine having your both legs amputated when you have so much things to see and do and at such a tender age? As a parent myself, I can understand the situation and I do get so emotional when it comes to young children – I hate to see bad things happening to them due to some idiots making the wrong decisions. And there is no exception with this one as well.

Then I was angry with the Kancil driver for being so reckless and caused the accident in the first place. To be fair, I don’t have all the details on this incident. The driver may have been innocent. But on average, some of these small sized car drivers think that they are driving high powered Formula 1 cars on the road and I have seen one or two zig-zagging between the heavy traffic when I drove back home. So, I was not surprised when I read that there has been another tragedy involving Kancil.

I then realised I missed an important fact in the news – the girls on the bike was aged 13 and 14 years old. It does not mention anyone else riding the ride. Then what the fuck a 13 & 14 years old kids were doing on a bike when in Malaysia, the minimum age to ride a bike is 16 years old? Are they trained to ride a bike in the first place? Now a tragedy had happened, there is no point of not doing this and that.

If you ask me, even at 16 years old, I have seen and encountered far too many young kids on bike who:-

  1. thinks that they are riding on their grandfather’s road and therefore all other traffic should make way for them (which is why they often ride on the wrong side of the road)
  2. their head is made from the hardest material on earth, thus nothing will happen if they fall down and thus there is no need for a helmet

I said this many times before – safety of the children must come above all other things and this includes inconvenience. Unfortunately even at my own residential area, I can still see young kids riding around the residential areas without wearing any helmet and obviously without any licence. It is another tragedy waiting to happen and due to parents who care less on the safety of their kids and other road users.

Pearson_English_Language_Learners_Infographic

(Mastering the national language is a must for every citizen but there is a limit to how much of the national language can be used to master certain skills and knowledge on a global level. Infographic source: http://www.english.com)

Reality of Mathematics & Science

In case you had missed, there was a good letter from PAGE over at theSun couple days ago:-

In this case, that medium is the language of STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine) which is English. Therefore let us ponder a little on the role of the English language in this matter and pose a few questions.

What was the language used to present their research findings? If it was English, then it has to be English at a level that has to be well understood by the panel for that evaluated his application and research. In order to do that, applicants for such awards have to be proficient in the scientific language required.

What was the language of the main sources of reference – were they written in English? If they were, then the person sourcing for this reference will require a good command of the language in order to get the most accurate information from these sources.

(Source)

The point is you cannot simply dissect English away from the core subjects of Science and Mathematics. Even if you have Science & Mathematics books translated in Bahasa, without understanding English and it’s usage in these two subjects, you will not going to learn anything more. It is as simple as that. Science especially is on a constant move – new discoveries are made on daily basis and most of them are often documented in English. If you don’t understand English, you will not know about them and you will be left behind.

Early this year, I attended a briefing in my son’s school and at one point, the Headmaster got up and brought up the subject of Science and Mathematics and how the students had performed last year and the school’s expectations for this year. It was obvious that most students do best in Bahasa Malaysia subject (that is because most of them speak Bahasa on daily basis and at home), then followed by Religion and then very poorly in English and trailing far behind was Mathematics & Science. More than half of the students had failed these two key subjects and I can see the clear correlation between English, Science and Mathematics – all three was on a declining trend.

And it is not only due to the language that we use, we are also not following the standard trends. Take for example – the movement of the moon. We already have a Bahasa word for that – “peredaran bulan” or “fasa-fasa bulan” but instead of that, the good people at the Ministry decides to bring in an Arabic word instead – Takwim Qamari. Why the further confusion to students? No one at NASA will even going to be bothered with this Arabic word in the day to day space mission (fusing the subject of Science and the modern Arab is like trying to mix water and oil. They are hardly the trend-setters in the subject of Science). We should stop such nonsense and get back to reality.

The good thing is my son excelled in both subjects, partially because we enforce the urgency & importance of the two subjects which was not so difficult due to his ambition to a scientist one day and another thing was, we ensure that knowledge of Science and Mathematics does not come from school text books alone – real life experiments and plenty of magazines & books in English (as such as “All About Space” and BBC’s “Knowledge”) was another effort we had put in (and it paid off). We speak English to him all the time and whenever possible use the right terms (having a smartphone by side becomes very handy). And considering that he is very responsible for his actions, we have also had decided to allow a greater internet quota to be allocated for him to do his research and make the necessary cross references (in the past, he is barred from using the internet without close supervision and we often do the research on his behalf).

But that school briefing did highlight a general notion that there is a high decline of these two key subjects – no thanks to the Government’s flip-flop on the education policy for past few years and using Bahasa instead of English as the lingua franca of Science and Mathematics. The school is very concerned of this decay and have decided to take pro-active actions from the start. For start, they have organised the briefing for the parents so that the reality of things would be out in the open and they run through some of the trends in the past and what they have planned to address the issue in this year (weekend special classes, plenty of past year exam workshops, parents taking up active role at home, etc). It is a good thing that the school gets the parents deeply involved so that we get to know the facts, the latest changes in policy and exam rules and what part the school & parents need to play to ensure the students get their knowledge and pass the exams.

And I personally have taken up the challenge this year to spend more time with my children’s studies and indirectly “go back to school” learning some of the subjects that I dislike the most when I was in secondary school many moons ago – Additional Mathematics. Whilst I can cope with other “Science” subjects, Additional Mathematics somehow was something that was hard to crack and where I often go blank whenever I open the book for studies. It is my personal opinion that without the parents understanding the subjects, they are of no use to their children when it comes to assisting them on school works and preparing for the exams. Some of the structures may have changed but the fundamentals remains the same. And “going back to school” is not a bad thing for the parents – it improves knowledge which in turns improves the help that the parents can give their kids and it is also another avenue of leading by example.

And on a funnier note, going back to school also means that me and my wife have to go back to the basics – the very basic of speaking A, B, C and that is for the youngest one who have started to speak and write these basic items.

To be continued…

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The Other Side of Parenting


Read these first

silhouettes-of-parents-and-kids

(What young children really need is a strong, supportive and loving parents. Image source: http://eduart4kids.com)

Another innocent life taken away all because of sheer recklessness:-

A four-year-old boy died after being left inside his father’s car at the parking lot of SM Kuala Nerang about 45km from Alor Setar. The deceased, identified as Muhammad Aqil Arfan Adnan, 4, had begun the day accompanying his parents Adnan Salleh and Asiah Abu when they left their house at Kampung Padang Durian, Pendang, Kedah.

They left their house about 6.45am and Adnan sent his wife to the school where she taught before going to the school where he works as a religious teacher. He forgot to drop him off at kindergarten Perdana ABC at Kuala Nerang.

At 4.00pm as his father went back to his car, he found his son was unconscious. He rushed him to Kuala Nerang Hospital but the boy was pronounced dead.

(Source)

Then couple of days ago, I watched a local TV program of a single mom who was struggling to meet the ends for her small children – 4 of them.

None of the children were going to school and they all don’t have any birth certificates. The eldest of the 4 instead helps his mom to sell snacks at night and they barely makes it on a daily basis. It seems to be a typical case of the poor family in this country except for one thing which made me very angry indeed. Apparently the lady have another 3 kids – all grown up but are not staying together to help the lady and their siblings. The eldest, a son is in jail for criminal activities whilst the other 2, girls had ran away from the family. The father used to be in jail but had recently been released but had decided to stay away from the family. The remaining young children future remains bleak and the lady is really helpless on what to do next.

Whilst it is tragic, the question that begs to be answered is why some people have kids but does not take the trouble, pride and responsibility in taking care of their kids? How could the father could have forgotten that his kid was inside the car. Imagine the suffering that the young child would have before he died. How could the father simply washes his hands from taking care of his kids but the idiot had plenty of time, fathering whole lot of them. There was no excuse whatsoever for these acts and in case of the parents abandoning the kids, these irresponsible parents should be made to pay dearly.

Having kids is a big, big responsibility and once 2 people have decided to have kids, nothing else comes before their kids and their welfare.

And one of the main things that parents can do in the best interest of their kids is making sure they go to school and get a decent education. The lady with the 4 young kids expressed to the reporter in the TV program that all she wanted to do to get her kids to school but without birth certificates, that is not possible for now unless the Government steps in to help the family. Then there is the issue of the family making ends meet with the single mother not having a permanent job and whatever she makes and sells on daily basis is used back for the family’s expenses and for the raw materials for the next day.

I was lucky that my parents especially my Dad held that education was far more important that saving up for a new house or car or good things in life. We all stayed on rented house for most of our life until I bought a house on my own. We often take the bus and walked a lot back then. And having chicken for our meals was a luxury that came perhaps once in a month. But somehow there was no short of money for school tuition, stationery and revision books. No matter what was the situation, my Dad always had the money for our education..

In general, most parents are doing well when it comes to having the right responsibility and care of their children and myself and my wife do have our hands full handling our 2 little bosses. As my dad have done in the past, I emphasized the same on education and even though my children fares slightly better than me when I was at their age, their ultimate goal remains the same.

And there is another aspect of being a good parents and that is to be around when the children needs us – providing that support, teaching the rights to say and do and assuring them that they can always count on us. I travel a lot so I do get to miss a lot of my children’s activities and first time occasions but when I am at home, I make it a point to spend as much as possible time with my kids. When I come back from work, one of first questions that I ask my son is “how was school?” or “how was your day” and followed by “have you finished your home work?” of course. My daughter still young but she do fight her brother to get a bigger share of my attention. She will butt in with her own report for the day. We sleep late almost every day but despite being very tired, it is a very rewarding feeling.

And I say this again, having kids is a big, big responsibility and once 2 people have decided to have kids, nothing else comes before their kids and their welfare. If you can’t do that, don’t have kids – just simple as that.

When the Mind Goes AWOL


I did not check but this probably one of the longest gap when it comes to blogging.

Working 7 days a week including working up to 10 at night on the weekdays sure pulls the energy from the mind. Somehow, I still force myself to take a late night shower (I have tried but I could not bring myself to bed without a shower…it simply feels too “sticky”) and sometimes put the clothes for washing. Then it is off to the bed and wake up again at about 6.30 am (without alarm) after the alarm goes off at 5.45 am, 5.50 am and 6.00 am (I am rarely aware of the time I switch off the alarm on 3 separate occasions).

I went back home for a couple of days just before Father’s Day. My kids were waiting for me at the front door as I got down from the taxi. First to hear was my youngest’s voice calling me loud and the next is my son rushing to open the front gate. They were indeed very excited to see me back (although it was for a few days). We slept very late that night with my son having tonnes of story to tell (as usual) with the youngest chipping in with her own baby language and jumping on my stomach as she often do. When I falling off to sleep, she even passed me her favorite blanket. My wife had a list of her own for me starting with the washing machine which have been giving some trouble (I almost smiled when I heard the washing machine mentioned).

Yes, I missed my car too. My wife had forgotten to get it washed before I came back but it did not matter much. Driving for that few days and despite being stuck in traffic jam did not deter me from having a great time driving. Ya, Malaysian drivers are still one of the worst kind out there and pesky motorcyclists remains the parasites of the road but some how it was different for that few days. Perhaps after almost a month of being driven around from the workplace and to the apartment and judging on how others drive the car made me miss my own driving. Perhaps.

I miss the good old Malaysian food as well (and yes, that includes my wife’s cooking). Somehow the limau panas tasted better than ever and it did not cost me a bomb for me to have a good healthy lunch with plenty of vegetables. A far cry now where a simple nasi campur have plenty of rice and chicken but almost non existing vegetables and it cost as much as dining in 5 star hotel. But I found the perfect place to dine (yes, it is still expensive) but somehow healthier than the other more premium looking place. This is one reason why home is still the best place to be.

It was a short break indeed and soon it was time to fly back for the overseas assignment.

FD

The night before I flew back overseas was great. We had a good dinner and a quick shopping for the essentials. My son had wanted to buy a rabbit (he knows the right time to ask me) but there was no time to go to the pet shop. I told him that we will revisit this once I am back. My son knew that I was flying out the next morning and I saw sadness in his face but my daughter was still too young to understand things (the same happened to my son when he was small to a point that he thought I worked at the airport). And that night, my son presented me with his “Father’s Day” wish card which was lovely and very touching indeed. He always have something to say that leaves me speechless and it was the same case this time around.

This morning, I had a good conversation with an elderly gentleman taxi driver (he was 72 years old but drives perfectly) who had served in the Air Force back in the 1960s and at once was attached to the Royal Malaysian Air Force. When he heard that I was from Malaysia, his first question was this – “What had happened to Malaysia? From a country that had a good chance to be one of the powerful country in the region, it had turned into a country that full of crime, corruption and going down the drain”. I kept my silence. Not that I am not angry with a foreigner speaking badly of my beloved country but because I saw in the old man’s eyes, he was very disappointed. He was sincere. He knows the nonsense that the so-called leaders are doing on a regular basis (in case you don’t realised by now, the country is running on auto pilot on a very regular basis and has come to a point, had become a heaven for terrorists from all around the world and religion extremists). There was some truth in what he said. Just like the old man who is a foreigner, we are asking the same question.

Oh, never mind. No point talking about it now. The only way we can clean the house proper is through the elections. I don’t see the logic of the corrupt, the extremists and the short-minded ones to be continued to be voted in to rule this country. There will come a day when the corrupt, the lazy and the selfish are caught, stripped naked and lashed by the millions on public grounds. We seems to have more bad things lining up compared to good things and this gets amplified when one is abroad where there is more unity among the people, extreme view of race & religion is non-existence, very strict control & enforcement at the borders to keep the foreign criminals & scammers away (we on the other hand are welcoming them with open arms) and there a general direction and accountability from the local politicians (I say “general” because politicians from matter from which country, era or background will never be angels).

That’s all for now, hopefully I can write something next week but for now, I am squeezing all available free time on catching up on sleep.

Big Boss’ Rules


Read these first:-

When my son was a baby (a very cute one too), he occupies one third of the bed with me and my wife taking one third each. But as he grew up, I find myself sleeping on the floor as my son takes up half of the bed (and moves around in his sleep) and my wife the other half. Of course, this does not happen all the time as he usually sleeps on the ground floor with his grandmother although if given the chance, he rather opt to sleep on my large comfortable bed and with the air conditioner running on high speed (I don’t mind either – anything for the Boss, eh).

So one day when my brother got married and decided to moved, we saw a golden opportunity to take “ownership” of my brother’s room and give it to my son instead. It was meant for him anyway, one day. We got for him a cabinet and drawers for his clothes, books and toys, a bed and more importantly a table & chair for him to use when he does his revision and homework. His room has a small fan and has an attached bathroom.

He is a big man now (so we told him) and thus we were sure that he needs his space and privacy. Of course, it took some coaxing and words of encouragement before he braved himself to sleep in his own room (it gets worse if he had watched some horror movie before going to bed). Sometimes we allow him to sleep on our bed and when he had fallen asleep, I would carry him to his bed (a feat I could no longer do these days).

D3

One day when I entered his room to clean up, I noticed a hand-written “rules of the room” pasted on his cabinet. The boss must have worked on it when he was alone in his room the night before and when we had told him to do his homework (now I know why he took hours to finish up his homework).

The rules (not sure for who) states this:-

  • Do not jump on the bed
  • Ask permission to play carrom
  • Do not read any private books
  • Make your bed after you sleep
  • Ask permission to play Saidina
  • Do not read any books on the bed
  • Sit on the chair if you are to do homework and read any books
  • Do not jump on the chair
  • Do not sit on the table
  • Do not mess any clothes in the drawer
  • Do not use the gel without permission
  • Do not play with the yo-yo without permission
  • Do not use the room watch to do any alarms
  • Do not play with the tissue paper
  • Do not play with the badminton racquet
  • Use the bookmark to mark the book page

I read the rules of the room a couple of times and to tell you the truth, I was immensely proud – he somehow had took charge of his room with his own “rules” (one of course does not necessarily applies to the Boss).

One thing that the Boss does not take ownership is the cleanliness of his room. Pieces of papers all over the place, books not arranged properly, bed not done up and often his school bag & school books thrown on the bed. Despite my wife constantly reminding him to keep his room clean and use the dust-bin in his room, it simply fallen on deaf ears. We had to tasked ourself to organise major housekeeping operation whenever we enter his room to clean up. It takes me almost the whole day to clean up and organise things in his room.

D2

And recently a strange graffiti had appeared on the wall just behind where he sits.

I asked him – who “drew” on the wall. My son who was busy with his homework, turned around, looked at the wall for a moment and casually and with a straight face said that he did not know who drew on the wall. I wanted to laugh for I recognised his “handy work” on the wall anywhere, anytime. No one else enters his room other than me and my wife. There was only one suspect and he was sitting in front of me, pretending not knowing what is happening.

I asked him again and I got the same innocent answer – “I don’t know who did it”. No point forcing him, I already know who did it. I replied “ok” and told him that I hope that whoever did this, must not do it again and should be more careful to take care of the wall.

Well, my son must have thought that I am referring to someone else because a few days later, new graffiti appeared on the wall. After a while, I decided not to bring this up to the Boss because in a way the room belongs to him and he is free to “decorate” it as he sees it fit. Besides I had planned to repaint the whole wall one day and hopefully by then he had grown up to be more responsible.

And the Boss do have big plans for his room and one day, he did talk to me on his “future plans” – he wanted the room to be painted bright orange (yes all 4 walls) and to add a huge air-conditioner to his room. He also wanted a flat screen TV (for his Play station – whenever he takes his 5 minutes break from doing school work) and a computer with broadband internet (he argues that he will use it for school work and nothing more. Ya right!).

Maybe by then, the Boss would draw up new rules. I know he would…

When Service Really Sucks!


Don’t mind me, it has been sometime since I bitched about service at a restaurant or is it is because it is the weekend again.

Read these first:-

30mins

(I have walked off from restaurants couple of times before when there was no service or when my orders delivered late but it was a bit hard difficult to do the same when you have a family in tow. Image source: http://www.insightwithpassion.co.uk)

I did not realise that eating sushis for lunch (which was excellent and my son had a good run on the available choices) can make you really hungry later in the evening.

When we came back home, it was just nice for a quiet afternoon nap. And some hours later, my wife and my son was soon feeling hungry again. But since we were going off to see one of our aunty who were not well, we decided to go for dinner on the way later. Just then my mom and my sisters had came back from their Deepavali shopping and since my wife had not cooked anything for dinner, they asked if we can “tapau” some food back.

Someone mentioned thosai and the Indian restaurant just near the house where we once had our usual fare of good thosai, roti naan and roti canai did crossed my mind. However the problem is that their level of service is nothing to shout about – its sucked big time (a norm in some restaurants). You actually need to remind the morons at the restaurant several times on your orders and I have kind of had avoided going to the restaurant for some time. Which was unfortunate because the place is clean, the food is great and the price of food is quite reasonable. It is also quite near to the house and have plenty of parking spots near to the restaurant. These days we pick on another Indian restaurant couple kilometers away where their service is better. Unfortunately it is far from where the aunty resides and since my son now had started to complain that he is really hungry and could not wait another minute more, I had to make the dreaded decision – to head to that nearest restaurant where service is known to be bad. My wife tried to protest but since my son’s complaint had become louder, she kept quiet, hoping for the best.

As we pulled in to the parking spot in front of the restaurant, we could see that the restaurant was packed – the reason was due to another restaurant nearby (with the same level of service that sucks) had closed for the day and its patrons had decided to eat in this restaurant. I looked at my wife and told her that it looks like we need to wait longer for the food. That did not go well with my son but somehow he understood the situation. Despite the crowd, we found empty seats. Trays, plates and cups from the previous patrons left on the table. We took our seats and I immediately waved my hands asking the waiter to clean the table but no one came. One guy passed our table and only remarked “wait”. We understood that the restaurant had more patrons than usual and it will be slow. Sensing that someone will come over later to clean, we decided to wait for the table to be cleaned. But then on the other side, another group of patrons had left and to my irk, the waiter who told us to wait, was soon got busy clearing the plates and cups whilst the same remained on our table.

I was losing my patience – why they don’t clean tables where patrons are still waiting? They can’t be that dumb, right? We understand if they are busy with patrons who came before us. I waved to another waiter and he only came after I had raised my voice. He cleared the plates and cups but left his rag cloth on the table without cleaning the table. He left us rather abruptly to take order from another table. We saw another waiter but he seemed busy chit-chatting with the cook. The restaurant was crowded and the workers were very busy no doubt but it looked like they were not interested taking our orders. To make things worse, they were entertaining patrons who came in after us. If they are too busy with the existing patrons, I completely understand their situation and I will patiently wait for our turn. But seeing patrons who came after us getting their orders done did struck the right cord with me.

I had enough of the nonsense – I somehow regretted coming over to this restaurant in the first place. I should have just listened to my instinct and go to our usual place for our dinner. Never mind the traffic or the distance or my son saying that he is very hungry. I told my wife in a loud voice that if no one come over and take our order in the next minute, we are walking out from here – I did not realise I was loud but I guess I was rather annoyed with the level service. It was loud enough to be heard by the patrons near to where we were seated. Despite the need to disappoint my son who was complaining, we decided to have dinner at our usual place. It seemed this restaurant was “rich” enough to turn away customers.

Just when we was about to walk out and head to our usual restaurant, the earlier waiter then came back and asked us on our orders. His rag cloth was still on the table. My wife was about to tell her order when I stopped her. I looked at the waiter rather annoyingly and told him to clean the table first. We kept quiet until the table was really cleaned. Only after he had properly cleaned the table, we gave him our orders, expecting another round of waiting for the order to come (somehow I regretted this decision). But it was not the case. The food came without much delays – probably because I was keeping an eye on the waiter and the kitchen. Or perhaps the waiter knows that if the food was delayed or if patrons who came after us got their food first, we would have just walked out (it is not the first time I have done that).

Lesson well learned – 1. no point giving some people a second chance. Some people does not know what a good service means and take things for granted 2. just follow instinct and go to places known for good food and good service and 3. simply walk out if service turns out to be bad

Childhood Memories – Part 25


Read the series here

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(Long before mountain bikes, you still remember the BMX madness in the 1990s? I think  there should be a rule that all kids should be able to ride a bicycle at least one point of the childhood life. Image source: http://bicyclensw.org.au)

It was great to be back home – I missed my kids the most (the Big Boss had a tough time going to school knowing that I was coming back in the afternoon) and my car the next (haha, don’t worry, my wife understands me). And whilst I was away, my son have been busy – very busy indeed. I am not sure what prompted him but he has been checking out bicycles at the hypermarkets. He did that some months ago but he was not pressing for a purchase back then.

When he was small, we bought for him a 3-wheeler but he soon got bored with it. We decided to hold back from buying another bicycle until he has grown up to ride a proper bicycle and not another 3 wheeler (that is for babies, he once remarked). Lately he has been bringing up the subject on bicycles again – he got to know some of his classmates come to school on bicycle and that seemed to captivate him. He too has been toying on the idea of able to go to school on a bicycle – he said we can save on school bus fees but I think he knows that will not fly with us. There are too many junctions and heavy traffic between the house and the school for us to risk him with a bicycle (unless the school was next door to the house, of course). And we have seen him looking in envy at the kids with bicycle at the playground. The writing is on the wall for us to get him a bicycle – we just have been delaying this until we see him outperforming his “peers” in school (and from we saw and heard so far, he seems to be on the right track). My wife told me that he has even identified the exact bicycle that he wanted me to buy once I am back.

And speaking about bicycles, do you still remember your very first bicycle?

I don’t recall when I started to ride a bicycle on 2 wheels (instead of a 3 wheeler) – probably at my grandma’s house where there always a couple of old big bicycles laying around for us kids to practice (still remember those with steel brakes?) and where no one says “no” to any kids. But what I can recall was that I was able to ride on 2 wheels by Standard 4. We did not have bicycles at home so any chance of riding them was at my grandma’s house. There was also the place where I ride my first racing bicycle although I was too small to ride comfortably (I kept thinking I was going to fall over) – the change of speed gears was fascinating though.

Then one day when I was in Standard 5 (or so), my neighbour (lovely family from Sarawak) came over and asked if they can take me and my siblings for Christmas Open House at one of their relatives’ house. And there is where I saw it for the first time – a BMX bicycle. It was small, agile and it simply looked great. I saw some kids riding it and since we were kind of “out of place” in the crowd, I was only able to see it from far or so I thought. When one of the aunties, after seeing me sitting down bored at the living room, remarked to one of the kids that they should “invite” me to play along, I got closer to it and was happy when they handed me the bicycle to take it for a round. I was in heaven when I took hold of the bicycle and took it for a spin. We took turn riding it and I managed to put in another few rounds in it. Santa must have understood my wish back then.

When I got back, I mentioned that to my Dad but he only kept silent – a BMX bicycle was a luxury item back then. In a time when we had to rely on public bus, trains and my uncle’s car to move around, a bicycle was the last thing we need to strain our expenses. But not all was lost when we shifted house to another apartment block and we had one of the friendliest neighbour – a Chinese family and soon, 2 of the teenagers in the family (they were pretty much older than me) became more like big brothers to me. And one of them had a BMX bicycle. I did not dare to ask the brother for his bicycle – if anything happens to it, I don’t want to put any strain my Dad to pay for the damages. But the brother noticed this one day and asked if I wanted to take it for a ride. At first, I politely declined but he insisted (and soon his father who was inside the house asked me not to be shy and go ahead to take the bicycle for a ride). I took it for a ride and it was very smooth – I hardly hear any noise from the bicycle chain & sprockets.

The brother had greased the chains too well and it shows in the ride. I just took it for a ride around the neighbourhood and was worried if I had took it for too long – my parents would disapprove of this. When I returned, the brother was inside the house and when I called him, he looked surprised. He expected me to take another few rounds and returned it only when I had enough. He mentioned this to me and told me that I can take the bicycle for a ride at any time – he was getting too big for the bicycle and he hardly use it (his Dad got him a motorcycle for his commute to school). And if no one was using it, it will only collect dust. And soon I was using it when I had to go to the shops (which was about 1.5 km away) to buy things for my Mom and at the same time, taking the BMX for a longer ride. Riding fast on a BMX was definitely better than walking to the shops.

Although I was happy to be able to ride a BMX whenever I need, I was still apprehensive and shy of asking my neighbour to use the bicycle. At end of the day, it was not my bicycle. Further since my younger brother was also hooked to the BMX, we were worried that we may be using too much of a something that we did not owe. And my Dad knew about it but he kept his silent. But when I got top marks for my final year exams, something happened. Not known to me, my Dad has been making plans to buy a BMX bicycle for us (well, it is actually for me but my brother got his chance on it too – when I allowed him).

So on one fine weekend, my Dad came back home early and said that I need to follow him to buy something. Thinking that he is asking my help to carry some of the house sundry items (as how he often do when he gets his monthly salary), I was all up and ready to go after he had taken his shower. We walked but in the wrong direction of the sundry shop – clearly we were going to buy something different. I kept quiet as we walked – my Dad did not give any clue of what he was intending to buy and why I need to  follow him. Things got a lot clear when we reached the bicycle shop. We walked in and my Dad asked me to pick the colour (and the model) of the BMX bicycle and it will be all mine. It took me a moment to realise what was happening but then realised he was buying one for me (I later found out that my Dad had made arrangement with the bicycle shop owner to pay in instalments for the bicycle).

Finally I had my own BMX bicycle – it was maroon in colour and all shiny. And it remained in the “family” for the next few years until I started to lose interest on cycling and was more interested on motorcycling which was more high-powered and more expensive (where once again, I learned at my grandma’s house using my uncles’ bikes).

And now, it is my son’s turn to experience what I have gone through and I am very sure he is going to enjoy it.

“Professor” D


Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google appear

(Still remember Geordi La Forge from the famed Star Trek the Next Generations with his high-tech eye-wear? We may be seeing technology catching up on the low profile eye-wear with Google’s Glass Project and that could be start of things to come. Who knows, perhaps we can even replace our human eyes with its limitations with a high-tech robotic eyes? Image source: http://resourcemagonline.com)

This year could mark an important year in my son’s life – it is the year he started to wear a spectacle. It was something we did not expect to happen so soon but since he had complained that he could not see what is being written on the blackboard from the back of the class and thus missing to copy down some assignment, we knew we need to act fast. We had talked to his teacher and got him to sit in front but in the long run, it was not that helpful. It is either we play ignorant whilst he continue to fall back on his studies and his eye-sight get worse or get him to see a eye doctor and then a proper spectacles.

It was the same dilemma that probably faced my Dad when I said the same thing many, many years ago when I too had the same problem. But back in the 1980s, wearing a spectacle seemed to be a big taboo sort of. Perhaps it is due to the size of spectacles back then – it was not small, looked ugly and came without added technology such as multi-coating, high index and light sensitive lens. Contact lens was almost non-existence. And given the fact that no one in the family (and that included those at my uncles and aunties side) wears a spectacle, you were looked at like an alien when you wear one in front of them.

It took some sound advice from my class teacher to get my Dad to “see things from my point of view” and we were off to see an optician. Let’s just say that things gotten clearer since then. And my son remarked the same when he got his “stylist” spectacles. And things have changed too – instead of the usual weird looks from our relatives, it seemed more acceptable now for one to wear spectacles especially if you read a lot of books. One even remarked that my son now looks like a professor.

Perhaps there is another point on view on why we should not be wearing spectacles:-

The problem with glasses and contacts are that they are crutches. Just like using leg crutches to help you walk when you are recovering from a broken or injured leg, glasses give you the instant gratification of being able to suddenly see clearly with eyes that have lost the ability to focus well on their own.

Glasses are a quick fix indeed! However, they don’t address the root cause that allowed your eyes to get out of shape in the first place: deformation of the actual shape of the eye. Myopia (near-sightedness) is caused by elongation of the eye; hyperopia (far-sightedness) by the eye becoming shorter in length.

And just as one’s leg would never fully recover, but would actually become weaker, if you continued to use crutches indefinitely, the use of corrective lenses allows your eye to become progressively weaker — either more myopic or hyperopic, as the case may be. The use of laser surgery may seem to be the best of all fixes, by permanently re-sculpting the cornea. But the risks and complications can be significant, and continued bad vision habits can result in the need for repeat surgery.

(Source)

It does makes some sense but it takes a lot of practice and patience to maintain the “eyes exercise” and get on with daily activities without wearing any spectacles. Certainly it is not an easy thing to do. Otherwise many opticians would have gone out of business fast. But moving forward, things may change in the near future – we one day may not need to wear spectacles:-

Short-sightedness, or myopia, which makes distant objects appear blurred, often begins in childhood, and it appears to be growing in the UK – now affecting about one in three British adults. But a scientific breakthrough announced this week could start to reduce that number within a decade.

Scientists based in London have identified a gene that causes myopia and are confident that drugs could be developed to halt the distorted growth of the eye that brings about the condition. In about 10 years, short-sightedness could be cured through eye drops, says Dr Chris Hammond, who led the research at King’s College London.

(Source)

Coming back to my son wearing one, we do try to get him to be less dependant on his spectacles by getting him to do some basic eyes exercise and to use his eyes unaided if possible. Not that we have anything ugly against him wearing spectacles – we just worried that it will deter him from his usual active activities. But he proved us dead wrong the very next day – wearing a spectacle however did not deter him from his usual active activities – he still flies through his swimming practices on the weekends, setting faster pace every week and remains active in school as well. Of course, that causes us to constantly reminding him to be careful with his spectacles. He do forgets that he is wearing one especially when he high-jumps on the bed whenever he comes to our bedroom.