11 November 2018

The Orphan

Losing a parent is not something anybody will ever be prepared for.
Losing both parents in less than a year is definitely not something that will ever happen again.

One never really gets over the passing of a parent, to put it bluntly.

When mother breathed her last that morning at the hospital after a couple of days of laboured breathing, a mix of emotion filled my heart. One of helplessness as we watch our mother slowly fade by our very eyes, mixed with that of catharsis - that her sufferings, both mental and physical have now ended, all at the dearest of prices to pay.

The machine she was hooked up to finally stopped beeping after over a night of elevated activity, the effects of a weakening body fighting for its survival. There was a long flat line with several minor, residual pulses as the attending doctor carried out the compulsory inspections before she was officially certified dead.

Mother was gone.

Just an artsy photo break the wall of text - Light shining by David Pacey

 It felt all too familiar as Father was laid to rest no more than 11 months ago, only this time there will be one less from the family who will attend the funeral.

Father's circumstances was markedly different in which he had lived to the twilight years of his life, retired, spending all the time tending to his garden and helping out at home whenever he can. All obligations paid for, financially free and with all the time he has in the world. The children are all grown up and independent now, it was just a matter of filling time and go gracefully when the time comes.

And gracefully it was. Father was a man rarely unnerved. No regrets, not even in all the decades of chain smoking that pretty much sealed his doom. So he laid there in the hospital bed, going to sleep with the look that said, "I did all I could. Offer me some tears, then move on".

As my cousin and childhood friend mentioned during one of our meet ups in the afternoon back when I was home to help care for mother, one can have no say in how they will die, only in how they live.

So here I am, back again at life.

11 December 2011

Half an inch

One of the other changes that I noticed about myself apart from personality related ones of late is how the pair of jeans I bought about two years ago can now no longer be worn without a belt. Not even a tucking in can help this time - walking more than 20 metres will require me to pull it up before it starts showing my peachy bum and underwear, which is most inconvenient to say the least.

Feel free to thank me for choosing this image.

I'm not certain about how I lost that half-inch or so worth of waist fat. The most obvious reason might probably have something to do with the bout of digestion problem in the past three weeks or so. It probably reduced my appetite for food that smaller portions of food nowadays are enough to satisfy the stomach.

Some in the office suggested that my mind was distracted by either more interesting things or stressful ones (or both) that causes the same effect in what is usually called 'mind over matter'.

"Nah, I'll just nibble off this bit of cucumber".

Otherwise a change in sleeping habits might just have some minor effect on that - been sleeping a lot more this time, as in getting at least seven hours instead of the usual less than five.

Back home my parents might just ask if I'm all right in their most subtle of manners if I don't seem to be eating like I normally do when the cook is my mother. Every trip home for the holidays is a feast as they know I don't get top quality cooking like this over here in KL, so my annual visits home are one of the few times when I get to indulge.

Including copious amounts of God's gift to mankind.
 The downside of what is supposed to be a positive thing depending on the circumstances - being seriously ill is probably a lot less desirable - is that the clothing my now start to look a lot less fitting. While some of the older t-shirts are no longer wearable without further reduction to the volume of fat, some are now feeling pretty baggy. The trade off of a much healthier body size is the loss of some clothing that might no longer look good.

Still, my trip home in a little more than a month from now might just 'fix' that.

Besides, a lifetime of bamboo diet didn't help this fella with his weight.

4 December 2011

Good storytelling

Spend quite a bit of time on Skyrim the past couple of weeks, the fifth installment of the sandbox role playing game (RPG) that allows you to do whatever you want and whatever pace, usually along the lines of becoming a powerful warrior and defeating whatever comes between you and your goal.

Including freaking dragons.

I'm not going to wax lyrical about the game or describe what it's all about as it is already done to death by countless community wikis or game sites,  but instead talk about one part of the game that I find to be most unexpectedly poignant.

Throughout the many journeys all over the game map looking for a fight or things to explore (usually the former), I arrived at a small town and was appointed as the Sherlock Holmes of the game to investigate the case of foul play.

Happy little chicks playing in a box?

A mother and daughter perished in a fire in that town that had everybody talking, not of sympathy or grief but more about the scandalous nature of how the husband switched hearts within a week to another woman.

Long story short, one part of the investigation required that my character visit the burnt down house to find nothing but the apparition of the little girl named Helgi. My character agreed to play 'hide-n-seek' with the spirit of the dead girl but only after dark.

What got me were the few lines that she spoke (paraphrased as I can't remember the exact dialogue):

"It was so hot and I was so afraid. Then it was cold and I am not hurt anymore", all in the tone of innocence (or ignorance of her own state).

Little Helgi was a lot creepier than this, glowing blue et al.

At the end of the quest she then bid goodbye:

"Thank you for helping mother. I'm feeling so tired, I think I will sleep for a while...", as the option to 'talk' to her casket disappeared.

I sat there somewhat numbed, either by how expertly crafted the little bit of dialogue was or by how much I actually felt somewhat moved that her journey for the long rest has come to an end.

This, folks, is good story telling.

23 November 2011

Feeling awful

One thing I noticed about being sick is that the magnitude of illness sort of increases the longer you are on a healthy stretch. I'm not talking about the likes of common cold where the only inconvenience is a runny nose or minor diarrhea. Imagine something that really makes it very difficult for you to think straight or function properly or serious illnesses that warrants hospitalization.

I'm normally a pretty healthy person, small niggling common colds and migraines notwithstanding, rarely sick to the point of giving control to the immune system to wage their own war against the offending invaders and losing motivation for all else.

"What's this 'flu' crap you've been talking about, Lieutenant?"

Perhaps it's due large to growing up in an environment where exposure to germs is a daily thing, especially from the activities that I take part in the afternoons such as waging imaginary spy wars by moving from point to point via climbing up and down drains, get cuts and bruisers along the way from climbing trees as well playing football barefooted in the rain.

Despite the environment at home were ultra-clean considering both my parents being clean maniacs - you can't keep a piece of half used paper on the table alone for a while without it ending up in the bin the next time father passes by - it is not unusual to come home in soiled shorts and dirty slippers with caked sand around the body. Strange enough that my parents never complained (much) about coming home looking like I rolled around in a dumpster, only if I stepped into the house without first cleaning up.

That includes pig snot.

There's some sort of line drawn between being 'sick' and being 'a phony' by my parents when it comes to illness - if you brain can function as normal, it's school as usual or have the entire day being viewed as a wuss. That includes the likes of the sniffles, sprained ankles and other physical issues that does not affect the ability to think. I was not allowed to go to school during those infectious disease periods though - mumps and chicken pox, which always results in fever, achy limbs, headache and nausea.

So yesterday as well as today's after effect of food poisoning almost floored me as the last major illness I've had was almost five years ago - viral fever - that got me hospitalized for a couple of days, not before enduring five days of really bad aches all over the body, fever and the overall feeling of Apocalypse.  What followed was around a month of recuperation that had me feeling like a total wreck for weeks.

"Do I look like I give a damn about your sticks?"

One exception to the story was almost four years ago when my father was a passer-by involved in a robbery at a local tuckshop, causing him to lose a great deal of blood and passing out before reaching the hospital. My brother was frantic when he sent him to the hospital, everybody was in panic mode. Mother must have felt like her world was being turned upside down again less than ten years after Denis died - could not imagine how it felt to be cleaning the car porch of blood dripping from the open wounds of my father.

All in all, thank goodness that this is just a bout of mild food poisoning that did not cause any complications - sufficed to say mother won't know about it until later.

That said, no more Singapore meehoon from that shop ever again.

Except in this most awesome of all forms.

Achy breaky

Spent the last two days away from work recuperating from possibly the worst effect of food poisoning that I ever felt. Used to be able to get through slightly undercooked food or a little less hygiene, resulting in the runs lasting no more than a day and slight dehydration. Usually feels somewhat 'OK' after taking in some isotonic drinks and frequent visits to the toilet.

This time though, my body had to raise the white flag as whatever that caused me to feel so ill was of a degree stronger than ever. Woke up twice in the middle of the night at four and six with a stomach that felt like bottles upon bottles of water was pumped into my mouth whilst sleeping, threatening to escape with the slightest of movement. The cramping was so bad that after morning shower, I decided to let it all out in the most horrible feeling of stomach wrenching ever.

Dried well, they make nice healthy snacks.

I did feel better... for a while. Some of the colleagues who saw me in the morning thought I looked really bad, more so after tracking down sixteen stories down from the office staircase for a fire drill. I was sweating profusely whilst standing outside with them, feeling progressively worst as time passes. Drinking bottles of 100 Plus didn't help either as they only kept me feeling bloated. It was after the second time of retching that I decided to call it in and go home.

Ate nothing for the whole day, just bottles of Gatorade and much resting, drifting between resting the eyes and sleeping as well as some weird dreams usually conjured by the brain during times of distress of such. Woke up at one point around 5:30 pm feeling like the body was on fire, except without the sweating as the immune system turns up the heat to try to cook these pathogens alive.

Posh kid - I didn't even have a thermometer.

Didn't notice how time passed as I woke up around 11:00 pm from the countless sleep-wake-sleep-wake period. The earlier plan to have a meal of vegetable soup for dinner had to be scrapped as the body was still as heaty as five hours earlier and my back were aching from the after effect of fever combined with lethargy.

Things improved slightly the next morning, with the wrenching feeling in the stomach now reduced drastically and the vomiting stopped, replaced by achy limbs and a throbbing headache. Again, I felt 'healthy' enough to resume work only to arrive in the office and feel progressively worst as time passes.

"You look really pale", said Darren who sat to my right. I could only shake my head helplessly when one of the ladies in Software Solutions asked if I was feeling better. Gave up after half an hour and left for home again.

Looked like this 68.3% of the 45 minutes I was in the office.

Spent most of my time lying down and keeping half an eye at the laptop monitor in case all hell breaks loose in the office. With John away with the boss to Korea, it's my job to man both the security and network bit of the infrastructure - thankfully nothing major broke down that could not have been followed up with tomorrow.

As of now, 10:20pm, things have improved greatly from the days of great discomfort. Perhaps, the vegetable soup meal helped greatly considering that it was the first solid meal I had in 36 hours.

Boy, did it tasted divine or what.

20 November 2011

Good morning

I do vary my routines somewhat during weekends just for the heck of it, usually because I was in bed earlier the night before compared to the usual wee hours of the morning of Saturday. It would come as no surprise that waking up earlier for the weekend would offer less of a challenge than a work day because let's face it, who would bother?

"I'm not sleeping - I'm taking my vacation in 10 minute increments ".

The nice thing about being up earlier on weekends is the lack of need to do anything in a hurry. Dragging myself out of bed can take half an hour or longer, the brushing teeth, shower and ... 'morning business' can all be done at a leisurely pace with little care of the world.

An empty wet area at the kitchen would mean laundry although I'll make it a point to hang them outside directly under the sky. It does feel nice to breath in the 'relatively' cool air of the morning with the warmth of the morning sun touching the cheeks. A welcomed contrast of being embraced by the cool of the night, the cycle of the day beginning again. Very little can rival the beautiful rays of morning light thrusting through the morning mist, the quiet, serene start of the day.

It's either the morning sun or a UFO surveying the 'sample area'.
 Lunch is normally around 11:00 - 12:00 PM, depending on how much in a 'hurry' I am to get filled. Of late it hasn't been too much of a rush, even in the office as the appetite sort of 'normalised'. If anything a super lazy weekend would see me eating only two meals for two days - both dinners - which would be all right as long as it doesn't become a prolonged habit throughout the week.

And music on weekends are usually a lot more varied than normal weekday. DJs hosting radio shows are usually a lot more cheerful and would usually select songs from a bigger pool than usual - one of the best recently was driving my way to the nasi kandar shop to Guns N' Roses' epic November Rain. Not minding that it was a sunny morning, I literally drove slower just to listen to the entire song - all nine minutes of it - willing the traffic lights to turn yellow and red.

"Damn you #@&%^ traffic light, may you blow a bulb!"

After lunch onwards would be a lottery - if anything the one issue I have with waking up earlier during weekends is the problem is staying awake after lunch. It would be one of the reasons why it doesn't happen often because I would probably go back to be bed again for the next couple of hours. This would pretty much negate the hours 'saved' by being up early anyway.

It is not really that hard to awake early back home though - the sun is right in your face at 8:00 am and my room get pretty warm an hour later, so sleeping in really is not an option. Besides, one of my favourite things to do then is to go out with my father or brother (or both) for breakfast after minor grocery shopping or a haircut as I'm wont of doing during Chinese New Year breaks. Sitting with them at the old school coffee shops, either sipping hot laksa broth or slurping the awesome kolomee is one of the few simple pleasures I enjoy for being home.

It was a wrong idea to be searching for this image at three in the morning.

For now, I would probably do more to balance out the days when I'll sleep the morning off or wake up earlier to do whatever that comes to mind just for the heck of it, perhaps seeking things to do just so the motivation to do so would be greater.

Too much of the same routine is boring, so why not?

13 November 2011

Happenin' sunday

I mentioned before that I find the raining season enchanting but in every good thing lies a problem of sorts, almost in a no pain no gain kind of manner. In some ways the positives is that I don't need to wash the car as often as Mother Nature is already doing free carwash although the result will not match that of the service at the petrol station.

Won't happen a million years.
 The stretch of kerb along the main street where I live are decorated with trees like all good urban design should be, adding a touch of nature to an otherwise concrete neighbourhood. 

Unfortunately, the flowers that blossom eventually turn into fruits after a while that attract hungry birds. Not that chirping birds are bad, but they have the tendency to poop after meals on whatever is below, causing patches of white or sometimes transparent yellow goo that sticks to the car when it dries. Because of this I've moved a little further down the street to park the car nowadays just to avoid this poop-zone which is not an inconvenience.

Screw you gravity!

The other problem with the rainy season is that it affects how quickly the laundry will dry - with the spinning mechanism of the washing machine screwed, all the clothes will come out soaking wet. This adds hours to the estimated time to dry, which would not be a problem if it were hot and sunny - I could just hang them outside instead of at the wet area; it would dry them twice as fast. Well that can't happen that when it's constantly pouring five afternoons out of seven though, especially when it's possible to have two of those five days on the weekends.

Can't win them all.

Subang Jaya lived up to its violent storm reputation again this afternoon with lightning and thunder interspersing the inconsistent rainfall that ranges from heavy downpour to drizzle. One struck a little too close to home that sounded like it was just next door, causing me to jump from the seat while watching an NBA documentary. It was no big deal - it's pretty common over here.

All lightning bolts should look this good by law.
 What became a common thing though is that it also fried the broadband modem, the second in as many years. The thing failed to start up properly, as well as emitting no signal when connected to a switch. Good news though it was provided by TMNet and cost nothing. Bad news thought we can't quite do much to entertain ourselves without the Internet, so I went out to Carrefour to get a cheap one to replace it.

For some reason the shopping process, though as straightforward as it should be, did not happen any easier than it should be. I had trouble looking for parking as one level of the basement parking was closed for renovation, so I had to circle and eventually exit to search elsewhere. Up I went to the multi-layered parking adjacent to the building and found a lot to park the car after enduring the experience of going round and round up the ramp. For some reason I dislike these corkscrew-like ramps, always driving slower than normal and always extra cautious of how far the car is to the side walls.

Perhaps it was the weekend, shoppers thronged the place which was not at all surprising. However for some reason I found that trying to move about either without getting blocked by slow movers or people standing in the middle of the path was not possible. To make things even better, the one of the ATM machines I was looking for was out of order. Fortunately for me there were more than enough cash in the wallet although the goal was to withdraw a bit of money to pay the rent that I have forgotten about for four freaking months.

After fiddling with the settings on the new Aztech wireless modem-router combo, we're back in cyberspace baby!

Welcome back!

7 November 2011

Furry friends

I'm a pretty boring person when it comes to pets.

Given the option, my choice would always be a split between a dog or a cat. Fishes and hamsters are nice except that I'd usually like a pet that has a little more character and independence than repeating what they do as programmed by Mother Nature. No exotic pets for me either such as lizards, snakes or *shudders* spiders.

Is this the pet or the feed?

The family have had cats and dogs as pets in the past, the first that I know of being two tuxedo cats. There is a picture of me at the age of five holding one of them at the car porch, all dressed up in a yellow Hawaiian shirt with the hair all slicked neatly to the side. We have a dog at the same time then who seem to co-exist well with the cats as long as they don't see one another.

One of the crazy things I'd do sometimes back then were to bring the cat to where the dog was and then watch it hiss like a snake. It was a miracle that I never got serious scratches. My brother seems to recall that I once tried cutting one of the cat's tail with a scissor although couldn't remember if I ever did such a sadistic act. I'm still of the idea that he recalled wrongly though.

We moved house in 1986 about two kilometers away from the government quarters, bringing along just the dog as the two cats originally belonged to the neighbour. It died several months later after being poisoned by some joker who didn't like dogs.

Makes Eustace look like a saint by comparison.

We had another dog some 10 or so years later after mom bought a dog from one of our neighbour, a puppy no more than four months old. I remember mother waking me up early in the morning at around... eight. She cradled the white furball that sported an expression that said "Who the hell are you?".

My parents were in Kuching a few months later with my late brother for his medical treatment, so it was just my cousin whom was tasked to look after me during the exam season, me and the dog. Being just a puppy in a new home, it often howled in the morning in what was the saddest sound I've ever heard from an animal. I would usually steam some left overs or just the pieces of hot dog to feed it, calming the poor dog somewhat.

Perhaps that was why it always gets amazingly animated whenever I get around, jumping around like an Energizer bunny or running to and fro like a crazy dog before showering my feet with licks. It would often draw the ire of my father for digging holes in the yard or barking at passing dogs or cats. The funniest bit of memory I have of the dog with my father is when he would occasionally have a rest waiting for dinner by sitting at the low table set to hold pots. The dog would come up and sit in front of him, prompting my dad to sometimes talk to it as well as slapping it lightly for being the dirt kicked onto the pavement during its many hole digging exploits.

"Who is this skeleton in your backyard, Master?"
 It died several years ago, apparently from cardiac arrest because it became too fat from eating the leftovers from dinner - in the fashion of a Chinese saying - with its four legs facing the sky.

Until today I couldn't be sure what breed it was except that it was a pure breed as per our neighbour's  description. Based on what I have seen so far on Animal Planet's Dogs 101 series, it most closely resembles a Samoyed.

RIP, you crazy pooch.

Sample image - less chubby, just as much drool to wipe.


Living in the city as I am at the moment makes it hard to own a pet considering that I would be away for most of the day at work. So if I were to adopt one it would have to be an animal that is independent enough to entertain itself, as well as not needing too much grooming. A smaller size would be a bonus as I only have the rented room to myself, so something clean would also be preferred.

That sounds like a cat.

What sort of cat? I happen to like those with rich, thick fur that makes them nice to stroke, but not so long that they become one of those miniature dogs. That would rule out Persians for good as this breed are usually pretty skinny. For some reason I developed a great liking for pure white cats, perhaps due to their rarity that makes them pretty mysterious to me, similar to pure black cats.

"You cat-cist!".
Personality-wise, I would like it to have a mellow temperament and a lot less condescending, something like a smaller dog minus the caffeine or steroids.

Based on Animal Planet's Cats 101, the perfect fit would be a Ragdoll.

If I were to choose a dog, I would probably go for the Golden Retriever - pretty much the top of the list of friendliest and best pet dogs. If anything, I would need to have a yard for it to roam or at least a nearby park for it to run around. One of the favourite things I did with the old dog back then were to run around with it, especially with it chasing me.

Dogs would usually need all that exercise to ensure that they don't get moody and start destroying things. Besides, it's a fun way to get some workout and some fresh air away from the room.

Besides other potential bonuses.
In the mean time it will have to be Youtube videos until I get my own place, I suppose.

English Or Not

The recent decision by the MoE to abolish the Pengajaran & Pembelajaran Sains & Matematik Dalam Bahasa Inggeris or Teaching & Learning Of Mathematics & Science In English - or for the impatient, PPSMI - became the hottest topic of late in the papers with all sides putting their thoughts in support or opposing the move.

Personally, learning and teaching science & mathematics should be done using the most proficient method possible - which would mean using the language that the students are the most comfortable in. That means Chinese or Tamil in vernacular schools and Malay in national schools.

Roti kurang minyak banjir satu!

One of the main reasons why I actually think it's better this way is due to the fact that the entire goal of teaching science and mathematics is to teach students about ... science and mathematics. Forcing students to take up the subject in English does not quite make sense if the goal is get them to learn about calculus and cell structure as the facts does not change with the language, just how they are pronounced and spelt. If anything sodium is actually called 'natrium' in BM, which is a lot closer to its chemical symbol of 'Na' in Latin.

Things are also made harder when it is not even the second language, let alone first, for much of the society in general. Like all languages, English require plenty of practice, something that students don't get much unless it is frequently used in conversations. It is not enough to study the language for one hour daily in school, five times a week and then be of no more use until the next lesson.

Sure, it is also used when watching television and movies but when it comes to entertainment, people usually switch their brains off and would not concentrate on finding out how a sentence in English would be like if translated to the subs.

He had one too many cheeseburgers before filming.
There is a need to change the mindset that views English as a 'foreign' language that will erode the cultural nuances, causing many to zealously guard their heritage, especially when it comes to language. Instead it should be looked at as a skill that makes it possible to communicate 'in default', something like a fallback should no localised channels are available. That's like saying learning the guitar will make you less {enter racial stereotype here} because it's a European musical tool - considering that string instruments are found everywhere all over the world throughout human history.

If the goal is strengthen the command of the language, then the only way to do that is by creating more avenues to have it used more frequently, especially in practical circumstances. Unfortunately there isn't much that is practical that can exclusively be done only in English considering that it is by law that instructions and signboards must contain words or translations in the national language. This creates a problem that makes it possible to not ever use English at all. As long as there are 'alternatives', people would prefer the easier way than one that makes things difficult for themselves.

"Someone is bound to pay for my lackadaisical attitude and it won't be me".

So what's the solution to this conundrum?

Forcing it upon students to prove a point is not one.

30 October 2011

Digital memento

Was cleaning up the images folder on the computer and it suddenly came to mind again the photo book that I brought over from Miri almost a decade ago. Flipping through the pages, they contain many images that were arranged in chronological order from the oldest to the newest - Form 1,2,3,4,5,6 class shots, shenanigans in university in Genting Highlands and graduation photos; two of which that got my dad's attention because it was of me and an attractive coursemate together which ended with an anti-climax when I answered 'no' to his question of whether she is going to become Mom's future daughter in-law.

One of the four photos that gave Dad a false dawn.

All of which were taken long before digital photography was the craze due to equipments becoming more and more affordable to the average Joe and Jane. It got me thinking somewhat about digital photography as a whole - was it better that now we have greater freedom of art without the constraints of film or did it somehow made photos look more generic?

On one hand, I concur when some friends mentioned that it is harder to take quality photos using digital cameras because of the knowledge that there is no limit to how many you can take compared to film - snap many, delete the ones you don't like. Back then every shot counts as films cost money and developing them adds to the overall price of taking a memento in graphic form.

This is still used to represent 'Save' on almost all modern applications.

On the other hand it is not always true as well. I know friends with artistic tendencies who took awesome images with their digital cameras whom would probably never been motivated to do so if they had to pay for more than the electricity charging the batteries. I have seen some who did so with only the 5Mbps camera of their phones and took some great pictures worthy of those taken with their more professional brethrens.

I have personally only seriously used digital cameras to take any images of significance during my tenure at the first job as the designated cameraman for events. Even though I was given a Canon Powershot S40 to use back then with memory capacity of up to 800 images, I took each and every one like I was using film. Hence much of the time I had an idea of what I'd like to take, go to the very spot and wait for the right moment to snap it, often times with the finger on the focus button for minutes at a time.
"I waited two weeks for the bear to awaken from hibernation.
Unfortunately it was also very hungry".

One of the best I ever did was the image of a relay race from the corner where every single competitor was in view, unrestricted by the other as the front runners were facing to the right and those tail runners were just turning the arc. It was without motion blur, just perfect. I have always had the nose for thing such as image balance in terms of objects and emptiness. If anything I also had the patience to wait for the right moment to appear instead of going trigger happy with the shutter button.

Of late I only had the phone camera to capture whatever that took my attention, most especially at night where the contrast of darkness and light would usually create some interesting images although the quality was never as good as with an actual camera. Once had a photo of light shafts shining through the branches of a tree at the area near where I parked - there were smoke coming out from the backyard of one of the houses and it created an image that looked somewhat like a horror movie poster.

The only thing missing now is a priest holding a bag and holy water.
On second thought, no.
Getting caught in the jam never looked this artsy.
Perhaps I would in the future pick up the hobby seriously but for now I'm happy to steal them off friend's blogs - after informing them of course.