All About Good Parenting Part 2


Read Part 1 here

For the past few days, if you had not noticed, the weather had not been that good – the day had been rather hazy and the nights has been warm and very sweaty. Can you imagine – I was sweating profusely eventhough I was pouring buckets of cold water onto myself. It was that bad. And as if that was not enough, I caught cold and started to cough and it got worse day by day.

One day I woke up, feeling like someone was sitting on my chest and I could not breathe properly. The chest felt heavy and I did not have a good appetite in the morning as well. I went to see the doctor and after registration, I was waiting for the nurse to call me in to see the doctor.

I was coughing almost nonstop and it did not take long for the doctor to come out and told me that sounded very bad. I was put on nebuliser for 30 minutes and despite taking a “crash course” tablets in the doctor’s room – I did not see my improvement. I was given the day off on medical leave and it took me another 2 days for the “burden” on the chest to subside to some extent. And 1 week thereafter I still have not recovered from the bad cough but it is improving, so I think so.

Bike

Anyway take a good look at the picture above and tell me what is grossly wrong with this picture – I got this from one of the Facebook shares much earlier but my thoughts even back then was that why this person endangering young kids and further riding around without any helmet for the kids.

And as if my worst fear becomes a reality, I was sending my kid to school one morning – it was about 6.20 in the morning and the traffic was already bad. As I inches on the fast lane, I noticed on the slow lane, a motorcyclist with a school girl at the back and the school girl was not wearing any helmet. Just then another bike overtook them and caused this motorcyclist with the school girl to fall down. For a moment, my heart stopped when I saw the school girl fell on the tarmac.

Not sure if she had hit her head on the hard, cold tarmac but she immediately stood up. Thank God for the heavy traffic in the morning – there was no speeding car that would have hit both the mother and the daughter into smithereens. It almost ended up as a very tragic morning.

The first obligation for any parents would be the utmost safety of their children. Having kids riding motorcycles without any helmets is a bad, riding around without proper attention to the surrounding traffic attracts the same. And now with the heat wave in place, there are greater calls to parents to keep a close eye on the kids in the car. There have been too many cases of parents leaving their kids in the car and completely forgetting about them. There is just too many unnecessary deaths to contend with.

The second obligation would be education for their children.

In the beginning, it can start with education on the aspects of safety – simple things like wearing a seat  belt when in a car, the right way to cross the road, how to hold hands when walking in a crowd, how to hold something sharp like a scissors, how not to run around in the house, how to hold something that is hot, etc. Kids must always be taught to recognise potential danger and how to deal with that dangerous situation.

Be paranoid if you need to be and think of all the possible ways of your kids can get injured and do something to mitigate them.

One of the earliest form of safety education was for them to wear a seat belt whenever we are in the car and they know that we are not go anywhere until everyone had been buckled down. God knows how many times I got a shock seeing kids jumping in the car as the driver is speeding over 100 km/h. I wish I could shout and alert the driver but it seemed to be a futile effort.

The other aspect of education that all parents need to ensure is teaching the right things – what is right & wrong in general sense. The issue of morality and what is right & wrong is something personal and is a very subjective. That one I would leave it to the individual parents but it is an education that must take place in the end.

Personally I must admit that no one out there that is perfect and we all have some form of shortcomings one way or another. Education to my kids takes a mix form – from leading by example, “case study”, motivation & counseling and reflection of the mistakes & errors done in the past and what can be done to avoid the same in the future. And trust me, we adults have plenty to learn from innocent children as well and this strengthen our bonding. We learn from each other as we see things from different spectrum – experience vs innocence.

Academic education is essential for one’s future, no doubt but how & where one gets his / her academic education will be something that one need to decide when the time is right. Ambitions, opportunities and interests changes all the time – I know – I once wanted to be a fire-fighter but ended up something else.

Give a thought – after all, nothing is more important than the well-being of our kids

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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.

pix_top_12902

(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…

Direction of a Nation


(Sorry for missing out on blog posts for couple of weeks now. I have been tied to work rather overwhelmingly and I still have a long way to go)

Sometimes when you see what happens around the world and see how much mankind have moved forward since, since I don’t know – perhaps since he climbed down from the trees and learned to walk on his own 2 feet hundred thousands of years ago, you get this amazing, proud happy feeling.

One recent example is this:-

Many congratulations to the Rosetta team at ESA for successfully landing the lander module on a comet. It was not an easy thing to do, after all, the comet is flying past in space at more than 130,000 km/h. It will be interesting to wait and see what discoveries that we will find from this mission on a comet. Perhaps confirming or disapproving the theory that all water on this earth was brought down by a string of comets striking the earth millions years ago.

And last month, it was the India’s Mars Orbiter which made serious news and it was for a good reason too:-

The Mars Orbiter Mission cost Rs. 450 crore (£46 million) in comparison to NASA’s Maven orbiter costing £413 million, which also successfully inserted itself into the Martian orbit on Monday 22nd September 2014.

The Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, even stated: “Our program stands out as the most cost-effective. “There is this story of our Mars mission costing less than the Hollywood movie Gravity. Our scientists have shown the world a new paradigm of engineering and the power of imagination.”

(Source)

Whether you like it or not, the world have become very technologically advance. It has become small too – it is possible to go to any country in the world within a day (compared to months or years 200 – 300 years ago). Information these days is at one’s finger tips literally and connected to the world wide web 24 hours, 7 days a week.

Sir Ken Robinson in his talk in TED once said that as early as the 17th century, the industrial revolution drove the education blueprints of many nations towards science, engineering and mathematics. And that had given birth to some of the greatest minds that the world have seen. That industrial revolution plus two world wars that came later however had not stopped the advancement of mankind towards science and technology and whoever who do not embrace it at this age would be left out high and dry. Same thing happened to many companies in the 1990s who failed to embrace the digital age. Still remember Polaroid? And even Nokia, once a world leader in the telecommunication sector is no longer is in existence (after it was taken over by Microsoft).

That is why, the country as whole should emphasize more on science and technology instead of religion. Religion which have always been the scourge of science (or the other way around) should be left to individuals and should not form the backbone of a country. Think about it and take a good look of events around the world. There have been more people died and suffered in history due to religion indifference compared to people who died from say science experiments. There have been more dark ages brought by religion than by science. Some of the biggest tragedies in the recent times were done by twisted culprits claiming supremacy of religion and they continued to make an ass of themselves and the better aspect of a religion – such as Boko Haram in Nigeria and ISIS in Syria & Iraq.

And back home in Malaysia, we too been taking all the wrong steps. First we decided to teach Science and Mathematics in Bahasa instead of the accepted language of science and mathematics which is English. The lame excuse that was given was that the country needed to promote the national language and there was not enough teachers who can speak proper English. Unfortunately, despite the obvious reasons and calls from many quarters including the former Prime Minister, this decision have not been reversed to this day and the damage to the nation continues to this day.

But instead, we are entrenching ourselves with trivial issues like this:-

Non-Muslims in Kedah need not be worried or confused over the recent amendment to an 1988 enactment that bars non-Muslims from using Islamic religious words and terminology. State exco member Mohd Rawi Abd Hamid said no non-Muslim had been arrested in the state under the enactment for using terms that are exclusive to Islam and Muslims.

Mohd Rawi said non-Muslims could still use the words in their daily conversations, but not in their own prayers, public speeches or in religious publications.

“If you say you want to go to a masjid (mosque), why not? If you ask me where that masjid is, there’s no problem with the usage of that term,” he said yesterday

(Source)

Earlier, the whole nation seemed to be busied itself with someone who had organized a “want to touch a dog” event and after that, of an image on a water bottle.

Obviously we are getting our priorities all wrong and that is why for reasons like this, we will not going to be a developed country in 6 years time. Forget achieving vision 2020. We are too worried on what we can say and do in the name of religion. We are not worried about building more schools, getting our children to embrace science and mathematics in the most convenient way (by learning in English) and push for greater space and opportunities for citizens to speak aloud and to agree or disagree with the establish norms. One wrong say or act in this country can make one run foul of the dreaded Sedition Act and the authorities. We cannot advance if we confine ourselves to very few options and old rules. We even banned Darwin from this country.

And that is why, the country as whole need to wake up to reality of things and what is important for the society survival? And if one still have doubts as to where the nation should be moving, perhaps this will give a food for thought:-

Science is the engine of prosperity. Economists have said that a third to a half of U.S. economic growth has resulted from basic research since World War II. The cars and trains that got us here today, our smart phones, the energy that lights this chamber, the clothes we wear, the food we eat: All of these were developed and improved through research.

And so it is. Science is a system for exploring, and for innovation. It can fuel our nation’s economic growth. It can form a path for our young people in a competitive global marketplace. And it can fire our imagination.

(Source)

And mankind seems to be heading that direction too and probably in a greater pace due to the wealth of information available on the internet:-

Religion will become extinct by 2041 as the world becomes more developed and wealthier,, proclaims a new study by a noted author and biopsychologist Nigel Barber.

Barber makes the claim in his upcoming e-book, Why Atheism Will Replace Religion, which will be available next month. The Irish author says Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and all other types of religious beliefs will be wiped out by atheism.

Barber notes there is a direct correlation between religious or atheist beliefs with economic development and level of education. The more educated and wealthier a society is, the less religious they are and vice versa. Barber adds that religion is most popular in underdeveloped countries.

(Source)

Religion is important but it should be something personal and it should never mix with the state of a nation. Science on the other hand is going to be the stepping stone for many things to come to make a country strong, capable and flexible. Something for us all to ponder especially for the next generation of Malaysians. Good governance helps too but let’s start with something simple – give more focus on science and mathematics and put this country on the path of it’s own industrial revolution if you may. There must be a new paradigm of vision and a greater power of imagination. As I have said, religion is important and let’s not discard it from our life but not to a point that it drive the state backwards and into the dark ages. We just need to look into history and move forward.

Have a good weekend ahead…

Listen, Listen, Listen….Listen


sharifah ego

(Listen, listen, listen….from someone who suppose to be listening in the first place. With that magical word and gesture, all the sudden the esteemed speaker have been reduced to nothing but patronising and rude unwanted propagandist who now is the end of the unwanted attention of the country. Image source: http://wargamarhaen.blogspot.com)

The main “news of the week” (other than that SYABAS managed to resolve the water supply disruption in the Klang Valley) has to be this:-

A second year law student became an overnight sensation when she stumped a NGO leader with her questions on free education. KS Bawani took on Suara Wanita 1Malaysia (SW1M) president, Sharifah Zohra Jabeen at a forum entitled ‘Are University Students in Line with Politics’ last month in UUM. In the video entitled ‘Forum Suara Mahasiswa Part 4′,

Sharifah was unable to counter Bawani’s argument in favour of free education and went ballistic against Bawani. Sharifah insisted that Bawani listen to her explanation. She said ‘listen’ and ‘let me speak’ seven times.

Meanwhile, higher education deputy minister Saifuddin Abdullah criticised Sharifah Zobra Jabeen’s action as “condescending and patronising”. “I am sad with what I saw in the video. Sharifah should had let Bawani complete her speech. Even if you don’t agree with her, you should reply nicely… not condescending and patronising.

Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin meanwhile disassociated his party from SW1M. The 1Malaysia tag is Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s clarion call to unite Malaysians regardless of race.

(Source)

It is a bit sad that we could not get to know what Bawani was trying say as she was told to shut up before she can complete her statement and asked to go back, sit down and continue to listen to the brain-washing session (well it is not the first time we hearing this nonsense).

“Someone” thought that since no local public university students would dare to talk back against the Government as many probably are there on Government grants and scholarships (same case expected of the Government students) and afraid to voice out in fear of losing their place in the university and in view of the up-coming general elections, decided to use some unknown pro-BN NGO to indoctrinate them with strong sense of obedience to the Government’s policies and instil deep hatred to the Oppositions or anyone who do not share the same views (hmm, sounds familiar?) and it back-fired very, very badly.

One sole brave soul had enough of the nonsense, stood up, collected her courage and blasted the speaker with hard cold facts and left the speaker speechless to a point where the speaker could not say anything intelligent other than “listen, listen, listen, listen…..listen” and asking Bawani to leave the country if she was not happy in Malaysia. KS Bawani who took the brunt of patronizing and cheap response from the speaker, Sharifah Zobra Jabeen, a leader from a NGO known as Suara Wanita 1Malaysia, has been labelled unsurprisingly brave, factual and an inspiring future leader whilst Sharifah as patronizing, unprofessional, hard to control and downright rude.

Thanks to the Youtube and the comments flying all over the place in the internet, Sharifah’s faults seems to be just too obvious – she should have just stopped and waited for Bawani to finish her arguments and then professionally reply Bawani with relevant facts of her own. Even she did not know how to reply Bawani (perhaps because Bawani’s facts made more sense and is the truth), she should have at least said that her points have been noted and she will check on it later. She should have done that instead of uttering “listen” 10 times and rudely pulling the microphone away from Bawani. Bawani on the other hand should have kept herself one notch cooler than how she was when she was facing Sharifah (without any support from her fellow students) – at least, this would have killed the some of petty contentions that she was too emotional during the talk but then again, seeing from Bawani’s point of view, who wouldn’t be emotional when faced with a series of lies and brain-washing.

The undue rude response from the speaker may be seen by some as something isolated or trivial perhaps but we should look at it from a bigger perspective.

Looking at the incident in UUM, one have to asked whether this would have been another failure in our system where there is an overwhelming fear of an open debate on something that the establishment had decided for. Or has this been the business of the day where the people in power are bent on asking others to hold their silence just because they do not share and support opposing views? Have we lost our sense of courtesy on listening to what others have to say just because we are bigger and in a higher position than the rest?

Bawani could have just asked her to shut-up and listen to her first in the same manner this rude speaker asked Bawani to stop and listen. But perhaps Bawani had a better sense of courtesy (the speaker is after all just a guest in UUM) and better judgement (she did not organise the forum in the first place, so perhaps it is better to let them have their way first to talk their share of the garbage and go away). And as whole, it seems that time and avenue is still not right for students to be vocal and able to disagree to whatever characters like Sharifah’s can say in public forums:-

Two influential varsity students associations as well as PAS Youth and Muslimat wings have praised a student for her courage in speaking out against government policies during a Barisan Nasional-backed event in Sintok, Kedah. University of Malaya’s outspoken Islamic Undergraduates Association (PMIUM) gave the thumbs-up to law student K.S. Bawani in the face of insults publicly hurled at her last month by the head of a pro-UMNO outfit during a forum in Universiti Utara Malaysia.

However, PMIUM expressed regret that not one from among the 2000 students gathered in the auditorium had attempted to come to Bawani’s defence when the latter was continously interrupted by Sharifah Zohra Jabeen Syed Shah Miskin, the head a group calling itself ‘Suara Wanita 1Malaysia’ which organised the event.

“Not one undergraduate had the courage to defend the student (Bawani) when she was attacked by president of Suara Wanita 1Malaysia. Perhaps they were muted by the promise of (Samsung) Galaxy Note? “Friends, undergraduates should not be fooled in such manner!” said PMIUM’s women’s affairs committee chairperson Noor Afifah Jamaluddin.

Questioning the real agenda of the forum, Afifah challenged Zohra to meet UM students and prove her claim of practising mutual respect by engaging in a discussion.

(Source)

And at end of the day, there must be a proper closure to this chapter – not by punishing Bawani and others like her with forcing them to shut and listen to whatever nonsense, biased and half-baked garbage that anyone with the wrong credentials can dish out in front of fellow Malaysians. They must wake up and realize that we are no longer in 1950s where having strong thoughts about something can be dangerous and easily misinterpreted, we are no longer limited to one source for information (these days information is at one’s finger-tips) and we are no longer need to keep quiet if want things to change for the better (Bersih and Hindraf rallies are testament to that).

In that sense, it was heartening to know that people like higher education deputy minister Saifuddin Abdullah took Bawani’s side and was not happy on the manner Sharifah conducted herself. But we need to do more. It’s time for critical thinking. It’s time to have plenty of avenues for open debate and to forward one’s thoughts & facts on the current issues. Let’s stop all this brain-washing forums, seminars and rallies at schools and universities level where students should only focus on education and nothing more. It is not right and it brings more harm than good.

2013 – Expectations & Targets


book cabinet

(The overloaded book cabinet that is long due to get a “partner” – the sign was obvious when we started to see books all over the place. And we have targeted this year to get one and reorganise the area into a mini-library )

Happy New Year to all and welcome! So, what’s I am expecting in 2013?

We will have the big Boss’ 1st year birthday to celebrate this year and compared to the one we did for our son (the other Boss) many years ago (although we made it up for his 2nd birthday), we were thinking of doing it on a larger scale with friends and family and probably save the trouble of cooking for all by just engaging a proper caterer. The problem is to find the right place to have this celebrations – doing it in the house is the obvious option for now but it may not be enough to accommodate all if we are going to “formally” do this one (parking would be chaos too). And if we are going to do one for new Big Boss, we also need to do a similar one for the other big Boss, just to be fair (we might combine the two celebrations to cut cost & time and make it a lot easier for guests too). Anyway we still have a couple of months to decide and plan for this birthday bash – we just need to pull our resources to finalise them. I am sure we will get plenty of suggestions. And we can’t wait to share the new Boss’ experience of growing up in the same manner we had with our son (we still do and we are loving every moment of it).

My son has moved up into the “first class” this year and we are all well aware of the intense competition and high expectations (from the teachers) in that class for the top places. We are also well aware of the fact that if he did not do well this year, he will be moved out from the “first class” to other “lower class” next year. Actually we are not very concern with this “first class” – “lower class” issue. Education can come in all forms and manners and the status of class means nothing to any students who are hard-working, all rounders and well understands the subject matters. And we are more than happy if son gets good marks (to go to college) and the education that will be useful in his future. And we know that he can keep up with his friends in the same class if he wants to if he spends more on school books than on his comic books & games. So this year, a small change of strategy needed in making sure he spends more time on his writing, school books and homework and us spending more time to check on his school work and tutor him if we find any weaknesses.

For this year, we are also intending to add another book cabinet before end of the year and turn the small family area upstairs into a mini library (we already calling the existing book cabinet “the library” but it would be better if we can get the books more organised). My son has been stacking up more books in his room and because we don’t have enough space in our current book cabinet, it is taking up precious space at his cabinet where he is also keeping his school books. And it has come to a stage where we are now stacking up books in 2 rows and on top of each other in the book cabinet. So another book cabinet is a must before we have the 2013 Big Bad Wolf Book sales starts at end of the year (another event to look out for in 2013), otherwise my wife is going to see more books lying all over the place and I know how much she hates me making the house “dirty”. Creation of a mini library would also mean that we need to rearrange the prayer altar for the book cabinets & maybe a couple of soft sofas and work on better lighting to make the reading more pleasurable (to make it an ideal corner for reading).

prepper

(2012 may been the Mayan’s end of the calendar year which thankfully did not happen but hopefully this 2013 would be prepper’s year to be one notch better than last year. Picking up from the news report on last year’s doomsday excitement, it should not be the end of prepping and getting ready for disasters in the future)

2013 would also be my target year to be a complete prepper where I hoped that we will be self-sustaining on food, water and others (maybe with improvements on security as well) for at least couple of months. Think about it – we barely into 2013 and we already facing a serious disruption of water supply – a basic need for all living things and despite it has been raining cats & dogs for some of the days, there seems to be plenty of finger-pointing as to who to take the blame (in this case, the contention that Syabas should take the complete blame for poor maintenance of the pumps makes a lot of sense). I have a colleague who did not have running water in his housing area for the last 2 weeks and he has 2 school-going children to take care and things are not getting any better even now (the latest news reports states that this situation is going to last way in February – imagine the havoc on Chinese New Year celebrations and then we had warnings of typhoon Sonamu hitting the East Coast states with a possible spill-over to West Coast (so, another round of flash floods?). Anyone recall when was the last time we had major warning on the some tropical storms hitting our shores? And I am not talking about the yearly “musim tengkujuh” warning. Is it going to be sign of things to come? Would prepping be part and parcel of our normal routine in the coming months? With a constant threat of water disruption (and now the weather), perhaps we should start with prepping of water for a longer time period and that is what I am targeting for this year.

Oh yes, we will likely to see the general elections to be held this year and it will be interesting to see on whether Pakatan can still to hold on to the states of Selangor and Penang which BN lost back in 2008. After all, they have been pretty “busy” for the past years since 2008 campaigning Pakatan as a bad choice for Selangor instead working themselves to be better choice for the people. It will also be interesting to see whether BN can regain the lost two-third in the Parliament (a place where they have been kept on their toe by the increased and well coordinated oppositions). However the fact that the Selangor State Government resisted the implementation of AES in the state (with dumb politicians failing to see the bigger picture) is more than enough for me to turn to the dark side and vote for BN. The Pakatan fellows may have their merits in resisting the AES implementation but the longer they resist without a solution in sight meant lawlessness on Malaysian roads will continue with dire results. Whatever it is, we need to be prepared for face dirty politics as part of our daily life until and perhaps after the dust had settled after the general election (we saw the same thing in 2008 – remember the Perak fiasco? I hope you still remember it – it was a case of law of the jungle at the highest order).

One thing is certain at this point of time in 2013 – we will not be a developed country by 2020, not in the next short 7 years that we have (there are too many things to be undone and done and I don’t see the political will-power to take drastic actions), not when we don’t have broad minded politicians who can see the bigger picture (some still living in the Stone Age and insist on others to follow them too), not when we are still lack in areas of enforcement & management of resources and certainly not when we continue to segregate the people by race and religion (unless something drastic happens in this year). The ex-PM, Tun Dr M can go to his grave knowing that his vision 2020 remained as a vision and nothing more.

Counting down into the 8th year of blogging, it has been one a good way for me to relieve stress and provide a good mental exercise (another has been reading a good book). And speaking of stress, 2013 seems to be a good year to relook into the topic of health and well-being. It is something I started at the end of last year – eating less outside and bringing food from home. Since the birth of the baby and until the time is right for my wife to go back to work, (since she had to wake up in morning to make milk for the baby) she decided to prepare food for my daily lunch. Nothing special or difficult – last night leftovers and something simple & hot in the morning and with less oil, salt and carbohydrate and more protein. Money saved from daily lunch (and breakfast) is re-used to buy fresh vegetables and fish (which is not getting cheaper by the way), so in a way I am getting a bigger boost for health from the same amount of money. It is not about me going for dieting (it will not work) but rather eating more balanced, healthy food, something that sometimes is difficult to get in your local mamak stall. The other aspect of getting healthy is exercise and that is something I have not really planned on anything specific other than take up more time to play badminton with my son in the evening on weekends and do more housework (cleaning & painting the house).

Let’s see how things moving on as we proceed further in 2013…

Art of Reading Part 2


Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.  ~Charles W. Eliot

Read Part 1 here

BBWB2

(The scene at the BBWB book sale at 2 am in the morning – there was enough crowd to keep things lively in the convention centre but it was not so crowded to have us fighting through to get our books. In other words, it was just perfect. I hope that BBWB will do their 63 hours marathon on yearly basis)

Firstly before I proceed further, I would like to say many thanks to the people at the Big Bad Wolf Books for taking the trouble, time and resources to organise the world’s largest book sale, year in, year out. We went for the sale last year and we had best of the time picking the good books, cheap. You cannot get 75%-95% discount anywhere else – I have just checked one book at one of the local book stores – it was going for almost RM90 at the book store but was only going for RM15 at BBWB (that is enough savings to take the whole family out for a good dinner and I am only taking about one book here).

This year, the sale is held at Mines Convention Centre (the sale is still on until 23rd December) and the folks at BBWB went one notch up with their 63 hours marathon (God bless them!) which made it a whole lot easier to go and buy good books without the need to fight the crowd at the queue and parking lot. We went again this year and thanks to the 63 hours marathon, our time at BBWB started at about 11 pm Friday night (there was some traffic jam towards the Mines CC, no thanks to queue jumpers but once we entered the parking lot, it was a breeze – way too many empty parking lots) and ended about 2 am Saturday morning (p.s. what’s up with some parents dragging bringing their kids to the place at 2 am? Shouldn’t the kids be in bed by now, sigh?). I got a box full of books that should last me for a couple of months. And we have one whole year to save up for the next BBWB sales next year.

Secondly, I am happy that my son is also picking up the same reading habits that I have. Instead of watching TV all day long, he would instead go to his room (where he has his own collections of science comic books and history books) and bury himself with reading a book (and ask plenty of questions once done). And I bought 2 books for him this year from BBWB and certainly, it was not enough for him (he already done reading half a book within a couple of days) so I am expecting another visit to book store in the coming months.

Over the weekend, I went to my brother-in-law’s house for a visit and I caught him as he was leaving the house to buy breakfast for the family. I decided to join him and whilst the old aunty under a makeshift stall was packing hot thosai and nasi lemak, we decided to have our coffee and chat. I told him about my book purchases at BBWB and he remarked that whilst he liked to read, he does not have the time to read as he was too busy with work. The reason that he gave for not reading somehow hit me and was in my thoughts for rest of the day, more so when I take up a book to read at least once a day. Then a couple days ago, I was chatting with my buddy at work and he remarked the same thing – he was too busy to have the time to read a book.

BBWB1

(War, history and general knowledge – the themes of my books that I bought at BBWB book sale this year. I also read ebooks and surf the net for knowledge but somehow nothing beats holding a book in your hands and lay down some where comfortable to read. One thing is for sure, I need to buy another book cabinet by early next year. The current book cabinet is so packed with books and there is only enough space to squeeze another 1-2 books)

Frankly speaking, this is highly understandable as it all depends on one’s interests, available time and priorities. It is the same thing here with me. There are about thousand things (such as doing a blog post on daily basis) that I don’t do because I don’t have time for it. I wished I had 25 hours in a day. However I do think that we need to make an effort to pick a book (it can be on any subject) and read something (even if it is only 1-2 pages and not the whole book) at least once a week (especially when you don’t have much choice other than watching TV). After all, the benefit of reading a book is obvious and cannot be dismissed.

INews India reports “10 benefits of reading” and it does make a lot sense:-

  • Reading is an active mental process
  • Reading improves your vocabulary
  • Gives you a glimpse into other cultures and places of the world
  • Improves concentration and focus
  • Builds self-esteem (the more you read, the more knowledgeable you become. With more knowledge comes more confidence. More confidence builds self-esteem. So it’s a chain reaction)
  • Improves memory
  • Improves your discipline
  • Improves creativity
  • You always have something to talk about
  • Reduces boredom

Life Dev adds further the benefits of reading:-

  • Enhanced Smarts
  • Reading reduces stress
  • Greater tranquillity
  • Improved analytical thinking
  • Increased vocabulary
  • Improved memory
  • Improved writing skills
  • Helps prioritize goals

My son reads something once a day (on Sundays, he reads the newspaper) and it is the same thing with me but there’s a catch to it. Both of us do not have time to complete one whole book in a day (my son still has to do his school work). I am not sure about my son – he has more time compared to me and he can finish one whole book if he wants to but as for me, my target have always been to finish at least one page per day (if I miss reading for the day, I will try to cover back the next day by reading more pages). Just one page to focus at a time and it does not take that long for me to complete reading that one page (especially it has plenty of images).

Back to the conversation that I had with my brother-in-law over coffee, I remarked that he can start with one page or half page if he does not have the time. And I highlighted the beneficial side of reading, something that made sense to him too. Other than it being a good way to gain knowledge and building up of vocabularies (a must for bloggers), it is one of the best way to get mental exercise. Sometimes we are watching too much TV and it does not simulate the mind in the same way a book does and in healthier way too. After reading a passage in a book (or magazine), I would stop for a moment and imagine how that story that I just read would have been in real (even it is a fiction – my version of The Lord of the Rings was far more exciting than Peter Jackson’s version). For me, that is a good mental exercise and a superb stress buster.

Think about it…1 page is not that hard to cover, does it?

P.s. since Christmas is around the corner, why don’t you give away books as Christmas gifts?

Moving Forward with Science & English


(This is hundred times better than some of cheap comics out there and it is my son’s favourite book at the moment. It is also starting to be mine. Image source: http://www.gempakstarz.com/)

The flip-flop direction in regards to the use of English in our national schools over the past few years is showing its ugly side.

Read these first:-

The Education Ministry is looking at ways to encourage more students to take up Science subjects due to the current low take-up rate. Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said currently, less than 20% of students were in the Science stream, a shortfall of the 60% target set by the ministry.

“We found that many students are interested in Science subjects but there are no follow-ups probably due to lack of support from parents as well as lack of appropriate facilities in schools,” he said after visiting students who are sitting for SPM examination at SMK Taman Kosas, Ampang Tuesday morning.

He said the ministry was considering giving incentives to both students and parents to encourage more kids to take up Science subjects such as free books and grants for students, and tax breaks for parents.

Earlier this year, Deputy Education Minister Dr Mohd Puad Zarkashi said the ministry was viewing the matter seriously as there was a 37% drop in students taking up Science and Mathematics, and a 29% decline for pure science subjects. Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin had warned that the drop in interest in Science subjects may stunt efforts to improve technological innovations to make Malaysia a high income country.

(Source)

And

It has been revealed that two-thirds of 70,000 English teachers in the country failed to reach a proficient English level. Education Ministry deputy director-general Datuk Dr Khair Mohamad Yusof said it was one of the two major findings of a survey which required the teachers to sit for the Cambridge Placement Test.

Dr Khair added that the other major finding of the survey was that two in three students failed to meet the basics in English proficiency. “This was based on the comparison of the students’ results in SPM English and Cambridge 1119 standards,” he said, adding that the survey was conducted among 13,000 students.

(Source)

And

Students will suffer from the Education Ministry’s preoccupation with the Malay language at the expense of science and technology, according to the Parents Action Group for Education (PAGE). “Why are they pretending that the language of science and technology is Malay?” asked PAGE chief Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim. “They are definitely in a denial dream.”

She was commenting on the new education blueprint that the government unveiled this morning. “The blueprint is a total letdown since they played safe by not addressing key issues and recommendations,” she said.

(Source)

My son is very interested in Science and wants to be a Scientist one day (he has ideas that is out of this world but don’t say it is not possible in the near future). He has a good command of English (as far as I am concerned) so he watches more science related, complex documentaries than brainless cartoons (Marvel or DC cartoons however is excluded from this list) these days and even his comic books are all history or science related. He actively checks on the 3 large encyclopaedias (and me) whenever he has the slightest doubt of anything under the sun and he gets excited whenever he does any “experiments” in his room. He simply questions everything and is not happy when he cannot get a good answer.

Now, when I read the Education Minister’s comment that there is a major decline in Science stream students (not because the fucked up policy of not teaching Science in English?), I view this with great concern especially when my son has high interest in Science and is in the same education system. It is highly improbable that there is a lack of Science students due to “lack of support” from parents, not when most of us are aware the importance of subjects like Science and Mathematics. It is understandable if you say it is due to “lack of money for books / tuition” or “lack of means” to ensure their kids take up Science stream but I don’t think it is due to “lack of support” (unless Art and Religion are far more important than Science subjects for some parents). What is more probable is lack of facilities in schools – how many of them have a well-equipped lab with proper Science teachers and lab assistants? How many of them have the necessary funding to finance Science projects at schools?

The other item in the news – teachers in the country failing to reach a proficient English level was not a big surprise though. You can’t blame them entirely on this – they did not fail, the system did. The flip-flop on use of English in schools, over emphasis of the national language, lack of the necessary English trainers and sometimes the unnecessary hatred on mission run schools produces student who are weak in English and end up being teachers who are weak in English and the vicious cycle continues.

I was a Science stream student too but I did not do that well in all the science subjects for STPM but I did rather well in SPM. I don’t blame the teachers who taught me all those years though. I found that the teachers who taught Science when I did SPM were simply more brilliant (all of them have at least a degree or masters in actual science subjects), speak better English, more dedicated and more understanding (to weak, struggling students) than those teachers who taught me for STPM. Perhaps different school had different culture. I may not have done well in Science subjects for my STPM but I was lucky enough to go through schools (all secondary schools) that had proper well equipped Science lab which made learning Chemistry, Physics and Biology fun (still remember when you dissect the frog with the heart still pumping?). Those science labs were well equipped so we were able to conduct all experiments and more.

Move forward to the future, if nothing is done to curtail the lack of Science stream students and poor use of proper English in schools (yes, the education blueprint seems to address some part of this but it did not reverse the decision to teach Science and Mathematics in Bahasa instead of the more acceptable, universal English), the deterioration will only continue – couple that with lack of facilities due to lack of funds to schools, it is only going to get worse. It is not good news for the advancement of science and technology in this country. It is good to know that there are people both from the Government and the concerned citizens have not given up and continued to work towards improvement of the education system to meet real world challenges and demands. But such change is slow and faces many hurdles (quite a number political) before we can see a positive development.

So whilst we wait for the Government to reverse its unwise decision on not teaching Science and Mathematics in English and whilst we wait for our teachers to improve their command of English to a standard that we can really be proud of, it looks like it is up to you and me take up the challenge to ensure that our kids is inclined to use proper English and incline towards the subject of Science and Mathematics – ok, never mind Science and Mathematics but at least proper English. I am concerned about the state of education in the country and me and my wife have given a lot of thought on what we can do as concerned parents. What we can do to ensure that our kid do not slack on the subjects of English, Science and Mathematics and at the same time, master the national language and all other subjects (including Tamil).

No doubt, we cannot change everything overnight but let me tell you on what I have done for my son in the last few years.

My son’s first spoken language was English (we have been talking in English to him since he was born) so it was slightly easier to start him off on reading and learning things in English. So we already had a good foundation to start with. When he was small, it was not easy to get him to read (we read to him instead) – so we started with something highly visual and colourful – TV kiddies programs and we were quite careful on what we pick for him to watch. Anything that teaches him on reading, words and identification skills was on top of our list. My son got his share of children toys but in between we also try to add something that will provide mental exercise for him. And that continued even after he had started studying in kindergarten. But at the end of the day, all this was to build up good foundation. The real work starts for us when he started his schooling in national primary school.

For the first year he struggled with Bahasa but it did not stop him from keeping up with the school work (although we had to do some serious translations and plenty of checking at home). Kiddies shows was drastically reduced (although he gets to see whatever he wants to see on the weekends) and more educational shows (Discovery, National Geography, History channels) take more time when we switch on the TV. It is back to the highly visual and colourful method of getting him interested on at least some of the current development in science and technology. TV is just one of the tools we deploy for knowledge and understanding. At the end of the day, it is back to basic, so my son have to do some kind of school work (alternating between Mathematics, English, Bahasa, writing and colouring exercises) at least for one hour before dinner everyday (if he has more time, then we extend his revision time as well). After his dinner, he has his adventures comics (such as this  – he has collected a few over the last few months and intends to collect the whole set) which provides humour and general knowledge.

And we have been  learning too – the last thing we need is for the blind to lead the blind. We had to be very sure that whatever answer we give is the correct answer. We had to make sure that we can back up our answer with the right evidence (thanks for the internet for that). We had to be sure that we can explain the unproven theories and provide the various options. And when it comes to English, we also try to drop that “lah” from our conversation and with the right grammar and we keep a close eye on our son too. No doubt, it is tough to keep him interested and maintaining him in the right path when it comes to English and Science (after all he is still a kid and undue stress is the last thing he needs) and it would be more helpful if the education policies are changing in the right path too. Until then, it is up to the individual parents and students to make the big difference on how they are going to handle the shortcomings in the education system. We have to take the first steps and maintain at it.