Saturday, December 24, 2005

Grade Expectations

PMR (lower secondary assessment) results were out this past Thursday. No. 1 didn't appear to be overly excited over this. After returning from youth camp with his dad, he went to school on Thursday afternoon to collect his result slip. Hubby rang me to tell me the news.

Me : He's got 1A? (I was only certain that he'd get an A for his English, at best 3As out of 8).
Hubby : 5.
Me : FIVE?
Hubby : Why you got no faith in your son?

I've got faith in him all right, that he'll get between one to three As. I didn't want to expect too much from him as I didn't want to be disappointed. Moreover, his performance in his term exams hadn't been exactly inspiring. I read in the papers about the girl who cried at getting 6As and 1B because she expected to get straight As. As for us, 5As is great news because no. 1 had done better than expected.

When we heard news of others faring better (a niece got straight As, another friend got 6As and yet another 7As out of 8), no. 1 asked if I was going to start comparing him with them. I told him that if I'd wanted to do so, I wouldn't have been happy with the 5As he obtained.

It's human nature to want to compare our children with others who've done better. This is a favourite refrain amongst parents :

"Why can't you be like so-and-so who
1. got straight As
2. is a debating champion
3. is a state basketball player
4. wrote a book in his teens
5. won the essay writing competition
6. blah-blah-blah-blah..."

Sometimes I do it too but hubby is always quick to remind me that the only comparison we should make of our kids is to compare themselves with themselves. The comparison shouldn't be external but internal. If you're capable of getting an A but you only got a C, then you've done a lousy job. On the other hand, if your level of competency is such that a C is the norm, then getting a B is reason to rejoice.

If we parents insist on comparing our kids with others, then we shouldn't just compare them with those who are better but those who are worse off too. Then, we won't be so demanding on our kids.

But then again, the word "demanding" can be construed differently by parents and children. That's another story altogether.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

$elf publishing in Singapore

Pinched this link from Sharon's blog. I'm putting it here because it's related to the articles in my previous entry. Here are some figures culled from the said Straits Times article of 17 Dec 2005, So Many Authors, So Few Readers.
Self-pub authorTitleOutlayCopies sold
Harris NgReovered Grace (autobio)S$8,000600
Low Kay HwaI believe you (love story)S$2,3401/2 of first print run
Emily TaiWill Your Child Eat a Tomato? (cookbook)S$20,000220 out of 5,000
Joanna WongSqueaky… He’s more than a squirrel (children’s bk)S$23,0001,800 out of 10,000
Mohamed Ismail GafoorYou Can Fly (in Eng, Chi, BM)S30,000

Where the money goes

Cost of publishing book:20%(includes printing, layout, editing & cover design)
Author royalty:10%
Publisher's gross profit:15-20%(before deducting overheads like rent and salaries)

Assuming that a self-published author appoints a distributor to place the books in the bookstores, his profit would be 25-30% gross.

Personally, I’d rather take the 10% royalty and concentrate on the writing.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Self-publishing vs Conventional publishing

I'm one of the authors interviewed in today's Star Two feature story by Lee Tse Ling. Read all about it here :

The power to publish
The pros and cons of self-publishing
Is self-publishing faux publishing?

Friday, December 16, 2005

Way too soon

My father passed away early yesterday morning, 15 December 2005. Today he would have celebrated his 65th birthday.

Initially the doctors thought he had obstructive jaundice but an ultrasound scan showed that there wasn't any obstruction in the bile duct. To be very sure, they wanted to do an ERCP, a procedure that involved inserting an endoscope into his body to take a "picture" of the bile ducts. On the scheduled day, Friday 9 December, his blood pressure plunged down and he became semi-conscious. A few days prior to that his liver function test results came back with bad reading and he was confirmed to have Hepatitis B. His liver was badly damaged.

On Tuesday, 13 December, he lapsed into a coma. The doctors told us to be prepared. We discharged him from the hospital and engaged a private nurse to tend to him. On Wednesday night, the nurse warned us that his condition had deteriorated. At about four-something on Thursday morning, my phone rang. My niece said to come over immediately. I "flew" to mum's. My sister greeted me at the door. "It's too late. None of us saw him go. By the time the nurse woke us up, Pa was already gone. He breathed his last at four-ten."

My father is gone. It was way too soon. I'd always thought he'd be around for a long time. I worried about his Parkinson Disease. It was diagnozed in September 2004 and I'd been taking him to UMMC for treatment. But the PD was the "red herring," the liver disease was the real killer.

I regret not being more proactive when my father first fell sick about a month ago. We should have checked him into the hospital earlier. The doctors said even if he had gone in earlier, it would have still had been too late because the liver condition was already chronic.

If only we'd known earlier. Ignorance is NOT bliss. Ignorance is DANGER when it comes to health.

My father has departed from this world. Way too soon. From now on when I pass by a red and white taxi, I will remember him and visualize him behind the wheel of his beloved taxi.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Eh Poh Nim's Palindrome Quiz

The Star, 15 December 2005

EH Poh Nim, I need your help. I’m supposed to come up with some fun quiz for the school’s English Week. I’ve been swamped with marking exam papers and I don’t have time to think of ideas and I’m supposed to hand in the quiz this Saturday! Give me some ideas, quick!” Shanti rattles off over the phone.

“Whoa, slow down. What sort of quiz are you looking at?” Eh Poh Nim asks.

“You know, fun type of questions. As long as they’re in Malayalam, they’ll do.”

“Malayalam? I thought you said it was for English Week?”

“I did, did I? Oh dear, oh dear. Must be all the Malayalam conversations I’ve been having with my aunt. She’s here on a holiday and has been staying with us for the past week. She doesn’t speak English so I have to talk to her in Malayalam. Sorry. Hello, hello, are you still there?”

Eh Poh Nim, who has been writing something on the notepad, exclaims, “Aha! I’ve got it! I’ve got what you want.”

“You have? So fast? Spill it out quick.”

“Malayalam. I did, did I? What are these words called?”

“What do you mean? You want me to write down these words? Okay, just a sec.”

Shanti grabs a piece of paper and writes down Malayalam and I did, did I.

“Spell them backwards,” instructs Eh Poh Nim.

“M-A-L-A-Y-A-L-A-M. It spells the same backwards! Palindromes! You’re a genius, Eh Poh Nim. Now you’ve got to help me come up with a quiz on palindromes. Ten questions would do. Please, pretty please?”

Shanti sounds so desperate that Eh Poh Nim doesn’t have the heart to turn her down. She has two hours before Desperate Housewives comes on, so she sits down at the computer to crank something up for Shanti. By 10.30, she has this quiz neatly typed up:


Palindromes are words that are the same spelt backwards. Some examples:

Don’t nod. I did, did I?
A nut for a jar of tuna.

Now, fill in the blanks with palindromes. Ignore spaces and punctuation marks.

1. A straw full of moles is called _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _.
2. When Father Christmas makes an appearance at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the newspaper headline may well read “ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _.”
3. The class teacher announced that everyone but Delia has passed the exam. She said, “_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _.”
4. The clumsy doctor’s nickname is _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _.
5. The headmistress asks Adam, “What’s your name, boy?” Adam replies, “_ _ _ _ _ _’_ _ _ _ _.”
6. If someone commits murder in order to steal a jar of red rum, the headline may well read, “_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _.”
7. Linda tries to exchange some papayas for a rock melon with the fruit seller. However, he only wants to exchange it for lemons, not papayas. He says, “Sorry, Miss. _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _, _ _ _ _ _ _ _.”
8. The unique pet shop has little creatures like white mice and hamsters running loose all over the floor. It has a sign on the door that says, “_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _.”
9. If you’re extremely short-sighted and can’t make out whether it was a car or a cat you just saw, you might ask, “ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _?”
10. At the coffeeshop, the wonton mee seller asks, “Would you like some wontons?” You don’t feel like eating them at the moment, so you say, “_ _ _ _ _ _ _? _ _ _ _ _ _.”

Answers in the comment box.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


When I touched down at KLIA last Sunday night, I called my mum. There was no reply, which was strange. It was eleven o'clock. I then called my sister and she told me that our father was admitted to the hospital. He had been sickly before I left so I shouldn't have been surprised.

He has jaundice : his eyes and skin have turned yellow. And I'd just been told by the doctor that his liver is damaged. They're doing some more tests on him. Please pray for him.

With dad in the hospital, I didn't have chance to do much upon my return, that's why there hasn't been any update on the Manila trip. It's "rancangan tergendala" for now.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Fan Power

I'm writing this from Manila. Tonight we had the biggest cheer of all. We had just reached the restaurant for dinner when Lee Hui Seng, the Famemas chairman received an SOS call saying that our presence was needed at the badminton hall. Our male shuttlers were playing the team event. We took off immediately and only reached two hours later due to the peak hour traffic jam. The minute we arrived at the hall, we were told by some people loitering around the gate, "Malaysia needs you now. They're losing 2-0."

Yikes, losing against our arch rival, Indonesia? This was unthinkable. When we walked into the hall, Hafiz Hashim was playing the third match. He was playing his first set. We cheered like crazy, banging kompangs and drum, flailing and beating our thundersticks and yelled like lunatics. And he won in straight sets!! The tide is changing, yeah! Some of us immediately rushed to the toilet to release all our pent-up bodily liquid, then rushed back to the auditorium again. Our hunger was forgotten. As Lee said later, we sacrificed our tummies for our country.

Next Choong Tan Fook and Lee Wan Wah took to the courts. They won in straight sets too!! Double yeah! Now we're tied at 2-2.

When Wong Choon Hann went down to the court, we were delirious. The gold medal is in within touch. We egged Choon Hann on with our "Go, Malaysia, go!" and shouts of "Malaysia Boleh!" This time round, the Indonesian supporters were lesser in number compared with the last SEA Games in Vietnam where we were overpowered in number but not in enthusiasm.

Datuk Azalina Othman, Youth and Sports Minister at the VIP stand, kept waving and gesturing to us to cheer some more and we didn't let her down. When Choon Hann won, again in straight sets, she came to us and danced with the Famemas members. Choon Hann, draped in the Jalur Gemilang, came over and high-fived us. We were so happy that we've managed to help our shuttlers turn defeat into victory.

Malaysia Panalo! (Tagalog for win.)

After the win, we went back to the restaurant for dinner. Our tour guide had pleaded with them to extend their opening by one hour to accommodate us. We arrived at eleven, guzzled down the food and were on our way to the hotel at midnight.

What a night. As the Beatles sang (in the karaoke dvd in the bus), "It had been a hard day's night. It was time to celebrate. Tomorrow we have a free day off for sight-seeing and shopping.

Famemas boleh!

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Eh Poh Nim and Fun Words

The Star, 30 November 2005

Eh Poh Nim parks her car and makes her way towards the public library. As she passes by the locker area to the left of the entrance, she hears someone talking loudly.

“You’re a hopeless bibliobibuli!” a male voice says.

She stops in her tracks. Bibliobibuli! That’s a person after her own heart.

“Will you please get a grip on yourself? Look at this stack of books! How are you going to find time for me if you’re going to devour all these books during the weekend?” the voice continues.

“So what if I’m a bibliobibuli, huh? You knew from the start that I’ve always read too much and you said you could handle this habit of mine. Now you want to change me?” a female voice replies.

Eh Poh Nim creeps towards the locker area and peeps in. A young woman is standing with arms akimbo in front of the locker. With her hands on her hips and her elbows sticking out, she glares at the young man holding a stack of books in his arms.

“Didn’t you try to change me too? Remember Linkin Park’s concert? You tried to stop me from moshing!” the man says.

“That’s different. All that mosh was really mushing up my brain!”

Eh Poh Nim’s ears prick up like a dog detecting an unusual sound. Mosh – that’s a new word. She must brave the crossfire to find out the meaning of this strange word.

“Er ... excuse me, miss. Sorry but I couldn’t help overhearing what you said. May I ask the meaning of mosh?” Eh Poh Nim asks.

“Ask Darren! He should know!” She glares at Darren, then continues, “Mosh is to dance to rock music in a frenzied way with other crazy fans.”

“We’re not crazy! You’d better watch your tongue, Amy,” Darren says.

“I shall say what I like. Moshing at rock concerts is a waste of money!”

“How dare you say that! We mosh at rock concerts because we’re passionate about rock. It’s not a waste of money. Your reading addiction is. You bust your bank account every month buying new books,” Darren says.

“Books aren’t a waste of money! Reading expands the mind and increases knowledge. For example, do you know what bodewash is? See, you don’t. Thanks to reading, I do. It’s dried buffalo dung, used as fuel for fire.”

“So what if you know what bodewash is and I don’t. You’re not going to use it for barbeque, are you?” Darren shoots back.

Eh Poh Nim weighs her options. Should she back off and let these two fight it out or should she try to arbitrate? She can’t let a fellow bibliobibuli have a lover’s tiff. She’s been there and done that and she knows the heartache that follows. She decides to jump in at her own peril.

“Amy and Darren, listen to me.”

The feuding couple turn to look at Eh Poh Nim.

“If you guys want to have a donnybrook, I suggest you do it in the privacy of your home. A library is not the place for a heated public dispute,” Eh Poh Nim says.

“Excuse me. We were having a private discussion until you butted in. It’s none of your business,” Darren says.

“Yeah, but your argument was loud enough to be heard by everyone in the building. Even if my ears were stuffed full of cerumen, I’d still be able to hear it,” Eh Poh Nim says.

“What’s cerumen?” Darren asks.

“It’s another word for earwax,” Amy says. “She’s a show-off popinjay and a busybody to boot.”

“I’m not talkative and conceited!” Eh Poh Nim protests angrily.

“There she goes again. Showing off her knowledge of words. Do you know the meaning of kibitz?” Amy asks.

“To offer unwelcome advice,” Eh Poh Nim replies quickly, then wishes she hadn’t.

“That’s what you’re doing. Kibitz,” Amy says.

“For your information, ‘kibitz’ is usually used in the context of a card game,” says Eh Poh Nim.

“Whatever. I need to go to the biffy to puke, Darren,” Amy says. Seeing the blank look on his face, she adds, “Let’s go to the toilet where I can throw up and then we can continue our argument in private away from pokey noses.”

“Just a sec,” Darren says as he puts the books into a plastic bag. Then he pulls Amy towards him and drapes his arm around her shoulders.

“Goodbye, popinjay,” Amy says as they walk off arm-in-arm like Siamese twins.

Eh Poh Nim pulls a face. She can’t stand the mawkish display of affection. It’s overly sentimental. Well, her strategy has worked but she feels maligned. Is she a popinjay? Of course not. She gives herself a mental shake and strides into the library for a dose of quiet bliss.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Mabuhay Manila!

I'm going to Manila for the SEA Games. Not as a participant but as a supporterlah. Turn to today's Star backpage story and you'll see us Famemas members rearing to go support our athletes. (Ahem, first time I appear in newspaper backpage AND frontpage too. If not for Famemas, no chance for this 5-min of fame.)

If you're wondering what Famemas is all about, here's some info to enlighten you.

The Samsung Famemas Supporters Group was conceived by Samsung Malaysia Electronics in 2002 to promote the spirit of sportsmanship through supporting and inspiring Malaysian athletes to excel.

Famemas represents the combination of the word Fame and Malaysia. When spoken out loud, sounds like Famous - a reflection of our national athletes out to win glory and fame for Malaysia.

Since 2002, members of Samsung Famemas Supporters Group have been screaming their hearts out in fervent support of our beloved Malaysian athletes across the world – from the Olympics in Athens, the Asian Games in Korea to the SEA Games in Vietnam. It is the first official club that brings together hundreds of fun loving Malaysian sports-fans. Besides attending sports events to support our athletes, members of the Samsung Famemas Supporters Group can get of the latest news and updates on Malaysian sports at our website. Members can also the hottest topics on sports at our Forums or make new friends chatting with hundreds of other members online. Famemas also organizes other sporting activities like charity badminton, bowling clinics, Sunday jog and more to keep members in shape.

How did I make the cut for Manila? If you know me, you know the answer. Enter contest. 7 days all-expenses paid trip for a slogan. Not badlah. But then this is not a pleasure trip. It's a working holiday, if you please. We'll be in Manila to cheer our athletes and lift their spirits, not go gallivanting all over town. But of course all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, so our sponsor has kindly arranged for some free time so we can sight-see and shop a little.

The organizers will bring our cheering arsenal along : Jalur Gemilang, kompang and thunder sticks. (Better quality ones, we're promised. Those used in the Vietnam Sea Games went limp after one round of cheering.) On our part, we just have to bring voices along, and of course lots of Strepsils and Fisherman's.

Time to learn some rudimentary Tagalog.
English / Tagalog

Welcome(greeting) / Mabuhay!
Good morning / Magandang umaga
Good day / Magandang arao
Good afternoon / Magandang hapon
Good evening / Magandang gabi
Noon / Tanghali

How are you? / Kumusta ka?
I am fine / Mabuti naman
OK / OK din
Thank you / Salamat
Thank you very much / Maraming salamat
You're Welcome / Walang anuman
Good luck to you / Mabuting kapalaran sa iyo.
Goodbye / Paalam
Long-live / Mabuhay (Mabuhay is used for a variety of positive greetings)

I/We / Ako/Tayo
You / Ikaw
They / Sila
He/She / Siya

Yes / Oo/Opo
No / Hindi

What? / Ano?
When? / Kailan?
Where? / Saan?
Who? / Sino?
Why? / Bakit?
How? / Paano?
How many? / Ilan?
How much? / Magkano?

What is your real name? / Yon tunay na pangalan?
How do you say .... in Tagalog? / Ano sa Tagalog ang .....?
What is the meaning of ....? / Ano ang ibig sabihin nang ....? / Ano yun ....?
I am learning Tagalog / Nag aaral magtagalog
I am / Ako nga
I am from England / Sa England ako
Your country is very beautiful / Maganda ang bayan mo.
I am happy / Masaya ako.

Time / Oras
I love you / Mahal Kita
Please / Pakiusap

Up / Taas
Down /Baba
Left / Kaliwa
Right / Kanan
North / Hilaga
East / Silangan
South / Timog
West / Kanluran
Far / Malayo
Near / Malapit
Bad / Masama
Beautiful / Maganda
You are beautiful / Maganda Ka
Cheap / Mura
Expensive / Mahal

Big / Malaki
Small / Maliit

I see some similarity between Tagalog and Malay. Yes!

Monday, November 21, 2005


My household has been invaded by two types of aliens.

Alien No. 1 - the four-legged variety

I first saw sign of its presence by the little black droppings on my kitchen counter. The next day my suspicion was confirmed when I went out to the wet kitchen and heard scurrying feet ran behind the oven. A short while later, I saw it. Rats! It was quite big. I wish I had a jugful of hot water in my hands so I could send it to pest heaven. It escaped. I closed all the kitchen windows but I know it could still get into the house via the toilet and utility room windows which had fixed open window lourvres.

The next day, no. 1 son said he saw the rat in the utility room. That was bad news. I rushed to the room and true enough the rat had got to the packet of Milo lying around in a box with some other food stuff. I cleaned them up and got rid of the rat droppings. The Milo packet I wrapped up in a plastic bag and stashed it into an empty milk tin. Though it wasn't fit for human consumption anymore, my dog would deem it a heaven-sent. I went out into the backyard and closed up the two drainage holes from whence the rat must have crawled out from. I haven't seen the scoundrel since but I've got to borrow a mousetrap from my neighbour to trap it or hope that the dog will catch it soon.

Alien no. 2 - the two-legged variety

The alien first took over the body of son no. 1. Then he went and infect his brother. Just two days ago the take-over was complete when it conquered the man of the house. Great! Now there are three male aliens on the computers shooting and clobbering each other in cyberspace in order to make more and more material acquisitions. Their mothership is a game called Maple Story which has sent many a testosterone body into addiction.

That's why my blog has been rather inactive of late. The computer has been hijacked by these aliens. I'm just taking it easy for now but when my patience runs out I'm going to confiscate that little Internet connection wire so that those aliens can't get onboard their mothership.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Eh Poh Nim Crosses Proverbs

The Star, 16 November 2005

It is a slow day at work for Eh Poh Nim. This being a Friday sandwiched between a public holiday and the weekend, several of her colleagues had taken the day off.

She stifles a yawn but upon seeing Paul from Sales Department approaching her desk, she makes a big show of it.

“Hi, Ms. Eh. How are you? Rather quiet here today, isn’t it? I bought some cheese buns from the bakery downstairs. Have some.” Paul hands over a plastic bag with two buns in it.

“Thanks. The cheese looks rather burnt, don’t you think,” Eh Poh Nim says as she scrutinizes the bread.

Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.” Paul winks at her as if they were the best of friends.

“Sorry. I shouldn’t question the value of the gift. Do you know the meaning of the proverb, beware of Greeks bearing gifts?”

“Don’t trust enemies who bring gifts because they may be playing tricks. But I’m not your enemy, Ms. Eh. Don’t be so suspicious.”

Eh Poh Nim gives herself a mental talking-to. Paul’s right. Though he’s as phony as a counterfeit bill, he’s hardly an enemy. She decides to change the subject.

“You look smart today. New shirt?”

“You noticed,” he sounds pleased. “Looking smart is one way of getting up the corporate ladder. As they say, clothes make the man.”

“Someone also said clothes do not make a man. Surely you’ve heard of the proverb, don’t judge a book by its cover?”

Paul wrinkles up his nose as if he has smelled something distasteful. “Are we having a lesson in proverbs here? You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”

“One should never be too old to learn, Paul. Knowledge is power.”

“And ignorance is bliss. Just kidding. You’re right. Speaking of knowledge, I was wondering if you could let me have a set of your seminar material,” Paul says.

Aha! That’s what the cheese buns are for. Eh Poh Nim asks sweetly, “Which one?”

“The negotiating seminar you attended last week.”

“Oh, that one. I lent the file to my sister and she’s taken it to Singapore for bedtime reading. She’s on work assignment and won’t be back until a fortnight later.”

“It’s okay. Good things come to those who wait,” Paul says.

“It’s the early bird that gets the worm.” Eh Poh Nim bites into a cheese bun and can’t help thinking that the dry squiggly cheese bits look like worms.

“So your sister will be away for a fortnight huh? Is it a case of out of sight, out of mind for you?”

“On the contrary. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. When she’s around, we argue a lot. But when she’s away, I miss her. I suppose sometimes familiarity breeds contempt.”

There’s no reply from Paul who’s staring intently at Eh Poh Nim.

“What are you staring at? Is there a crumb on my face or something?” she asks.

“I just realized that we’d been crossing swords with each other the whole afternoon.”

“You mean the dueling proverbs?” she asks nonchalantly.

“That’s right. I say a proverb and you mention another which is contradictory to it. Okay, let’s see how good you are at this. What’s the opposite of look before you leap?”

“That’s easy : He who hesitates is lost.”

“How about empty vessels make the most noise?”

Eh Poh Nim stops munching on the bun and wrinkles up her forehead.

“Tough, isn’t it? Even I don’t know the answer to that one,” Paul says with a smirk.

“I know! The squeaky wheel gets the grease.”

“You made that up! I’ve never heard of this proverb.”

“I can prove it to you. Come over here.” Eh Poh Nim beckons Paul over to her side of the table. She pulls out her computer keyboard from underneath the desk and clicks on Internet Explorer. Then she googles the phrase “squeaky wheel gets the grease proverb.” She clicks on a result and scrolls down the list to the squeaky wheel.

“This website has a list of contradictory proverbs,” she says.

Sure enough, it’s there as a contradictory proverb to “a hollow pot makes the most noise.”

“Admit it, Paul, I’m right.”

“You’re quite smart, Eh Poh Nim. How about if I buy you a drink after work today? Birds of a feather flock together.” And he winks at her again.

“Thanks but no thanks. For me, opposites attract. I can’t stand it if my companion is as smart as I am,” she says with a straight face.

“Never mind. Remember to lend me those notes when your sister returns from Singapore, okay?” Paul says as he walks away.

Eh Poh Nim heaves a sigh of relief. She hopes he doesn’t ask her out again. It’s her policy not to date a co-worker. Especially not Triple P : Phony Pompous Paul.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Winner of 1 million Euros

That's me! That's me! I've won 1 million Euros. Yipee yay yay. I've become a millionaire without even trying. I didn't have to do anything. I didn't even buy the winning ticket as mentioned in the notification email below.


Microsoft B.V. Boeing Avenue 44 9459 PE Schiphol-Rijk.

Congratulations to you as we bring to your notice, the results of the First Category draws of MICROSOFT PROMOTION INT. We are happy to inform you that you have emerged a winner under the First Category, which is part of our promotional draws. The draws are being officially announced today 14th of November 2005. Participants were selected through a computer ballot system drawn from 2,500,000 email
addresses of individuals and companies from Africa, America, Asia, Australia,Europe, Middle East, and Oceania as part of our International Promotions Program.

Your e-mail address, attached to ticket number 50941465206-529, with serial number 5772-54 drew the lucky numbers 3-4-17-28-35-44 and consequently won in the First Category. You have therefore been awarded a lump sum pay out of 1,000,000 (One Million Euros), which is the winning payout for Category A winners. This is from the total prize money from 2,000,000 shared among the 2 winners in this category CONGRATULATIONS! Your fund is now deposited with the paying Bank. In your best interest to aviod mix up of numbers and names of any kind, we request that you keep the entire details of your award strictly from public notice until the process of transferring your claims has been completed, and your funds remitted to your account.

This is part of our security protocol to avoid double claiming or unscrupulous acts by participants/nonparticipants of this program. Please contact your claims agent immediately for due processing and remittance of your
prize money to a designated account of your choice:
To file for your claim,please contact the fiduciary agent.
Mr.Sticker van Haren,

You are advised to contact the agents by email.
Failure to do so may warrant disqualification.
NOTE: For easy reference and identification, find
below your Reference and Batch numbers. Remember to quote these numbers in your correspondence with your claims agent.


Congratulations once again from all our staff and thank you for being part of our promotions program.

Sincerely Yours,

N.B: Any breach of confidentiality on the part of the winners will result to disqualification.Contact your fiduciary agent immediately.

Wait a minute! I think I've just disqualified myself from the prize money. I'm supposed to keep this confidential till the money has been moved into my account.

Aah, well. Easy come, easy go.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Nano Advice from Paperback Writer

Paperback Writer is a prolific novelist with 31 published novels in five genres. I like to visit her blog for some writing inspiration.

Here is PBW's helpful list for Nanowrimo'ers. She's got plenty of other lists on her blog. If you're interested in Writing, you've got to check out the blog.

Ten Things for NaNoWriMo'ers

1. My first stop when hunting a title: I use the verse search engine to look for interesting phrases or lines from poems.

1a. My second stop: The Bonsai Story Generator.

2. Our friends to the north, the Canadian Authors Association, have a Writing Resources by Genre page.

3. When all else fails, talk to ELIZA.

4. Sami Pyörre offers the Everchanging Book of Names, a random name generator shareware program.

5. The Giallo Kit Generator offers a crash course in concise if bizarre giallo plot premises that sound like stuff a couple of writers I know would be interested in (not that I'm naming names, John, Stuart, Kate, Jon, James, Tam, Douglas . . .)

6.'s Grammar, Usage & Style page

7. Instant Muse Poetry Generator is supposed to help when you need a poetic line or phrase but your muse is out to lunch. All the lines start with "In the...", and I got: In the city of misery the weeds march.

8. Muse Creations offers a free trial download of Muse Names naming software that looks pretty neat, and if you scroll down you can get also some of author Vanessa Grants's writing templates for free.

9. Need a life? Download Educational Simulations' Real Lives for free.

10. For the wordless, WordGizmo (also good for those times when you have to name that vital stardrive component something but you have absolutely no idea what, i.e. "Captain, if you don't shut down the engines in thirty seconds the idübert will fail and the ship will blow up.")

Reproduced with permission. Thanks, Paperback Writer.

Saturday, November 05, 2005


We don't have four seasons here in Malaysia. At best we have two, rainy and dry. But don't we all have different seasons in our lives?

After buying my Kenwood Breadmaker, I went through a baking spree. Every other week we had home-made bread, basic butter buns, sausage rolls and the like. Nothing fancy, you understand. But eating the bread fresh from the oven with a generous slather of margarine melting in between its folds is an experience that can't be store bought. That was a couple of years back. I haven't been baking bread for who-knows how long. Only my parents-in-law know because I used to bake bread for them whenever they're down in KL. After hearing put3put4 talk about his South African roti, I thought I'd better shake off the dust from the Kenwood and bake a fresh batch. So I did. Nothing fancy. Basic butter buns but with chocolate chips decorating the top. Gave half to the in-laws while the other half disappeared in a flash into our tummies.

Then there was my sewing season. At one time I was crazy about sewing. I'd just moved into my new house and wanted to have new curtains for my house. So I spent a couple of months sewing curtains for every door and window in the house. Then it was bible-covers. Some padded, some not. A couple of years before that I even sewed "quilts" for my kids. I use this term loosely because they weren't those nice, homely quilts with Beatrix Potter like designs on them. They were just two cloths with foam in between them.

November is Nanowrimo. National Novel Writing Month. I can't write a novel in a month. I took 3 months to knock out 70,000 words of vomitty first draft earlier in the year. After that, I'd been trying to rewrite. Second, third, fourth attempts have been made without much progress : a couple of chapters per attempt. It was pathetic. Now I'm in my fifth attempt to rewrite, and this is only the second draft. Tis the season for novel rewriting. Hopefully I can finish it by end of November, in line with the Nanowrimo spirit.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Easy-as-pie Apple Pie

No. 2 made an apple pie last week. She has helped me before but this time, she did it all on her own. She took a mighty long time in doing it too but I won't embarrass her by saying just how long. It was an accomplishment that she got it done while I was out of the house, with an SOS phone call in between.

This is the recipe. It's easy to make and tasty, especially when eaten warm with vanilla ice-cream.

6-7 green apples
1 small box black raisins (the type that kids love)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tabsp sugar
3 tabsp water
1 sheet ready-made rolled out puff pastry (available from supermarkets)

Peel and cut apples into one-cm thick slices. Put them in a pan with the sugar, cinnamon powder, raisins and water. Cook over medium fire for ten minutes. Arrange the slices in a round pie dish. Place the puff pastry on top. Trim excess and arrange them on top of the pie in any pattern you like. Scallop the edges with a fork. If desired, brush egg yolk on the pastry for a shiny finish. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees C for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm with vanilla ice-cream.

Mmm.. mmm...

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Rush to Death

This is in The Star today :

The bad weather and bad habits on the road took 15 lives on the first day of Ops Sikap IX, the festive season's accident-prevention drive.

Twelve of those who died were speeding motorcyclists. A pillion rider, a van driver and a car passenger make up the total.

In yesterday's Star :

PETALING JAYA: Accidents do not just happen by accident. They are caused by carelessness, said Transport Minister Datuk Seri Chan Kong Choy.

Chan, who wished everyone a safe journey during the festive season, said 95% of errors made on the road involved the driver or rider and urged road users to change their mindset and accept responsibility for their carelessness instead of blaming others when accidents happen.

“The word selamat is said daily in our greetings but its true meaning has faded away. It means safe rather than its common perception as ‘good’, happy’ or ‘merry’.

“If we recognise the true meaning of our everyday greetings of Selamat Pagi and Selamat Petang,then we do not need to undergo a safety change process.

“All we need is a safety ‘realisation’ process as change can only occur with ‘realisation’,” he said in a special message in conjunction with next week’s Deepavali and Hari Raya celebrations.

On Tuesday, 12 people died – nine motorcyclists, a motorist and two pedestrians.

Chan said this was an “unnecessary tragedy as grief and pain can be avoided if all positive action is taken to change our behaviour when on the road.”Of the 95% of errors, Chan said 67% was caused by human error and 28% was a combination of human and contributing factors while the remaining 5% was due to technical or mechanical factors.

“In most cases, the problem is due to the driver or rider. Therefore, the solution lies with us and with our attitudes and behaviour.

The way some people drive, especially motorcyclists, it would appear as though they are rushing to their death. When will they realize that humans are not invincible? That a collision can result in loss of life? That accidents don't just happen to "other people"?

Every year the traffic police launch Ops Sikap during the festive period but the accident statistics don't seem to abate. This operation is aptly named because it boils down to our attitude (sikap), doesn't it. Treat the road like it's your grandfather's and that you're an indestructible machine, and you may just end up being a statistic.

Selamat Jalan.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

What's your blog worth?

I just found out my blog is in the same league as Jeff Ooi’s, TV Smith's and Eyeris’s. Our blogs are worth $0.00 according to Dane Carlson’s little test. This test is based on Tristan Louis’s research into the value of each link to Weblogs Inc. I'm quite the technophobe and I don't know the ABCs of how this thing works but I'm only interested in the bottomline.

Being the KPC that I am (writers must have a healthy dose of nosey-parkerness), I wasn’t content to check out the value of my own blog. So I keyed in the urls of the blogs that I frequent and those that I know are ultra popular. Here is the result. is worth $1,016,736.54 is worth $298,077.12 is worth $152,990.34 is worth $50,808.60 is worth $40,082.34 is worth $39,517.80 is worth $27,662.46 is worth $22,581.60 is worth $6,209.94 is worth $2,258.16 is worth $0.00 is worth $0.00 is worth $0.00, is worth $0.00

As you can see here, Kenny Sia is a millionaire whereas Eyeris, Jeff, TV Smith and I are paupers. I’m truly devastated. I know that the readership of my blog is quite miniscule but I tell myself it’s okay : at least there are some faithful readers. Elmo will be happy to know that this “borriiing” blog as he described it has a zero value.

Maybe it’s time to take some blogging lessons from Kenny Sia if he offers it FOC. After all he’s a millionaire, can afford to give hand-outs to paupers like poor me. Now excuse me while I go lock myself in the bathroom and wallow in self pity.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

I'm big already

A conversation with no. 3 recently :

I : Your test is coming up. Bring your books and we'll do some revision.

No. 3 : I'm big already. I can study on my own.

In my heart, I was yelling, Yippee!! No more sitting down with him and going through his Chinese, Science in Chinese and English, Maths in Chinese and English, BM, Moral. Freedom!! but I didn't vocalise it. Instead...

I : No, you're not too big! Bring your books! (Two reasons for saying this : This is what hubby would expect me to say and kiasuism rearing its ugly head.)

No. 3 grumbled and stomped off to get his books.

Next year he'll be in Year 3. I think I'll get some deliverance then because Year 3 Chinese may be too tough for me to handle. It'll take me ten minutes to look up a word and probably an hour to go through a short paragraph. Not the most efficient of coaching methods. I think I'll pass the buck over to no. 1 and 2. They've had six years of Chinese education.

Freedom! Until no. 4 goes to Year 1 in 2008. Then the cycle starts again...

Monday, October 24, 2005

Do you have a book in you?

Read what Margaret Atwood had to say about this in her book, Negotiating with the Dead - A Writer on Writing.

There's one characteristic that sets writing apart from most of the other arts - its apparent democracy, by which I mean its availability to almost everyone as a medium of expression...

To be an opera singer you not only have to have a voice, you have to train for years; to be a composer you have to have an ear, to be a dancer you have to have a fit body, to act on the stage you have to remember your lines, and so on...

As for writing, most people secretly believe they themselves have a book in them, which they would write if they could only find the time. And there's some truth to this notion. A lot of people do have a book in them - that is, they have had an experience that other people might want to read about. But this is not the same as 'being a writer.'

Or, to put it in a more sinister way: everyone can dig a hole in a cemetry, but not everyone is a grave-digger. The latter takes a good deal more stamina and persistence. It is also, because of the nature of the activity, a deeply symbolic role. As a grave-digger, you are not just a person who excavates. You carry upon your shoulders the weight of other people's projections, of their fears and fantasies and anxieties and supersititions. You represent mortality, whether you like it or not. And so it is with any public role, including that of the Writer, capital W; but also as with any public role, the significance of that role - its emotional and symbolic content - varies over time.

Yes, having a book in you doesn't mean you can write it. That's what ghostwriters are for.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Yvonne at Traxx and Borders

Join Yvonne Lee, former stewardess-turned-author of "The Sky is Crazy---Tales from a Trolley Dolly" as she shares candid views on being a stewardess, flying, travelling trivias and book writing.

She'll be interviewed on The Morning Mixx Show on Traxx fm (Radio 4) this Saturday 22nd October from 10-11am. Listeners can call in to win 3 copies of The Sky is Crazy during the show.

Yvonne will also be at Borders Bookstore, Berjaya Times Square, KL at 3 pm on the same day for a book chat and signing session."

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Ucapan Takziah to our PM

I heard the news on MixFm while sending my kids to school. YAB Datin Seri Endon Mahmood passed away this morning at 7.55 am. She lost her battle with breast cancer three years after she was diagnosed and a year after her twin sister, Noraini succumbed to the big C. Though I've read in the papers that her doctors had advised Pak Lah to spend more quality time with her, the news was unexpected and shocking.

Did I hear wrongly? I turned to the other radio channels. They were playing instrumental music and Traxx FM was airing a prayer. It's true then.

The sky was grey and it was raining outside. Inside my car, no. 3 and 4 were chatting happily away. No. 3 was describing the magic show he watched during Children's Day celebration at school yesterday. I urmmed and aahed at him, but the tears were forming in my eyes. He didn't notice when I grabbed a tissue to wipe my eyes, he probably thought I was just wiping off some dust.

I've never met Datin Seri Endon or Pak Lah before but I've read of their love and devotion for each other. My heart goes out to her family who must now cope with their grief, especially to our PM who still has a country to run while grieving for his beloved wife.

On my way home, the radio was playing an instrumental piano version of Love is Blue. The words played in my mind and I thought how apt the lyrics are for Pak Lah.

Blue, blue, my world is blue
Blue is my world now I'm without you
Gray, gray, my life is gray
Cold is my heart since you went away.

My deepest condolences to Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and his family.

Here is the link to The Star's article.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Congratulations, Nicole!

I am so happy for Nicole Ann David for being the first Malaysian to win the British Open today. This 22 year old has come a long way indeed. I distinctly remember a picture of her in the papers a few years ago. She had just lost a tournament and the pix had captured her dejection so well that I could almost feel it.

Nicole has bounced back like a rubber ball and is now at the top of her squash career. The British Open win is the fifth championship she has chalked up this year.

Just a couple of months ago, a group of us Famemas members went to cheer her at the CIMB Malaysian Open. Armed with kompang and the Jalur Gemilang, we cheered her to victory. Of course the cheering was only a teeny-weeny contributing factor but Nicole was gracious enough to acknowledge and thank the crowd for its vociferous support.

Having got to know Nicole during the Olympic Torch Run in Greece last year, made me jubilate all the more on her behalf. She is a friendly, down-to-earth and humble person and has absolutely no airs about her at all. She's currently World No. 3 and I hope she'll climb up to the top spot soon.

Nicole should be an inspiration to our sports people. Malaysians can make a mark in the international sporting arena. We need not be Jaguh Kampung. Nicole is proof of that.

My favourite sport is badminton, so that's about the only game I'll watch on telly. Whenever I see our shuttlers crumbling under pressure, I'm dismayed at their weak mental strength. Compare that to other players, the Danes for example. In one All-England tournament, the Danish double players were down against their opponents (Indonesian or Chinese, I can't remember). It looked almost certain that Denmark will lose. However, in the face of defeat, the Danes coolly fought back point by point and emerged victorious in the tournament. That's the spiritlah!

Fight till the end! Aiyo, I remember one game where a Malaysian shuttler was so badly affected by the umpire's biased decision that he lost his concentration after that. It was a fast downhill ride from there. The Malaysians lost that match. When it comes to fighting spirit, especially in badminton, hats off to Foo Kok Keong. His never-say-die attitude will long be remembered.

In fact, all of us, whether sportsmen or laymen should take a leaf out of Foo's book. Don't give up without a fight.

Which was what Nicole did. Go, Nicole, go!

Sunday, October 16, 2005

The Best Cendol in Klang

That's Cendol Klang for you. The owner, Munusamy used to operate from a motorbike. He parked his mobile stall along Jalan Nanas, in front of a row of shops where a friend of mine had his dental practice. Customers sat on red plastic stools placed on the five-foot way, some just stood around while others parked beside the stall and slurped the cool cendol in the comfort of their air-conditioned cars.

I never found out when Munusamy's off-day was and some days I was disappointed by his non-appearance. After going away cendol-less one time too many, I figured out a way to check his availability. I called my friend's dental clinic to ask if the cendol man was there. The amused receptionist gladly answered my query. For all I know, she might have approached Munusamy for a commission.

In the year 2000, the best cendol in Klang moved into a shoplot, at the very same location where his motorbike stall had operated for twenty-over years. Whether sold from a bike or from a shop, the cendol still tastes the same : thick creamy santan with plump cendol, red kidney beans and thick gula melaka syrup. But the price has gone up. In the nineties, it was a mere fifty sen; now it's RM1.20. You can have the cendol with pulut or ice-cream but I prefer mine ORI. The shop also sells rojak but most people go there just for the cendol.

There's also a Cendol Klang outlet in Bayu Perdana. I went there once but it was a big let-down. The standard was nowhere close to the Jalan Nanas shop.

If you're in Klang (and I know you or you're a regular commenter here), drop me a note and I'll give you a cendol treat.

Note : wanted to post some mouth-watering pix here but for some reason I can't, so you'll just have to imagine the sweetest, coolest and creamiest cendol you've ever tasted, and drool.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Eh Poh Nim's Education Terms

The Star, 14 October, 2005

Did you see The Apprentice 3 which concluded recently?” Eh Poh Nim asks her colleague, Jane. They are making coffee in the office pantry.

“Yeah. I was rooting for the street-smarts team. Too bad Tana lost,” Jane says.

“I was for the book-smarts all along. So glad Kendra from Magna won.”

“Kendra got the easier job, okay? Organising the Best Buy Video Championship is kids’ play compared to Tana’s NYC2012 Athlete Challenge. What kind of name is Magna anyway? I think the street-smarts’ team name of Networth is tons better.”

“You’re right, Jane. Magna isn’t that good a name. The book-smarts should have named their team Summa. You see, there’re three types of Latin phrases used to indicate the level of academic distinction in a degree. Cum laude means with academic honours, magna cum laude is the second-highest level of academic honours, and summa cum laude is the highest level of academic honours.”

“Oh, it’s like good, better, best. Eh, did you graduate summa cum laude?”

Eh Poh Nim blushes. “No I didn’t. But I was a valedictorian in my A Levels.”

“You were very what?”

“Valedictorian. Best student with the highest academic ranking in a graduating class.”

“Wah, that’s great. Which college did you go to?” Jane asks. “I’m scouting around for a good college for my son.”

“Ah, my alma mater ... I haven’t been back there for a long time. Wonder what it’s like now,” Eh Poh Nim says in a wistful voice.

“Your Ah Ma’s name is Martha? What are you talking about?”

“Alma mater, the college that I attended. That would be Summa College. You have your own alma mater too, the school that you formerly went to.”

“Oh, I see. How’s this Summa College? Good or not?”

“It’s one of the best around. You can check it out on the Internet yourself. Here’s the url of the Summa Alumni Association,” Eh Poh Nim says, writing down the web address on a kitchen serviette for Jane.

“A-l-u-m-n-i? Is it short for aluminium? What’s it got to do with the college?”

Alumni are graduates of the college. The Alumni Association is a non-profit organisation consisting of former graduates. If you check out this website, you’ll find out about the various successful people who have graduated from the college. By the way, the singular of the word is alumnus.”

“Okay, I understand now. You’re very long-winded, you know,” Jane says.

Seeing the hurt look on Eh Poh Nim’s face, Jane apologises. To appease her, Jane asks, “How was your college days? Anything interesting happened or not?”

Eh Poh Nim brightens up.

“Of course. When I was a freshman, that’s a first-year student, I was ragged so hard that I fell sick after the first week at college. The seniors were quite mean. Made us bow to them each time we passed by them. Forced us to run errands for them – photocopy notes, borrow books from the library, buy food from the canteen and so on. Then just as we collapsed on our beds for some well-earned sleep, we were woken up at three in the morning for a round of jogging around the campus.”

“Wah! That’s terrible. I didn’t know ragging could be so bad. I never went to college.”

“You say that’s bad? Wait till you hear about that incident called the Serdang Heli. It took place many years ago at a local university. The seniors tied a string to a junior’s wee-wee organ and tied the other end to a ceiling fan. When the fan moved, he had to run to keep up with the fan.”

“Really? So horrible! Maybe I won’t send my son to college. Quite scary, all this ragging business.”

“Don’t worry. Nowadays ragging is under control. Students don’t do crazy things like dunking a freshman’s head in the toilet bowl any more. Anyway, we got our revenge during our sophomore year. That’s the second or middle year of college.

“Some of my course mates were quite extreme. They confiscated the freshies’ cellphones for five days. It so happened that one of the freshies’ father had passed away during orientation and when the family couldn’t contact her on her phone, they drove all the way from Kuantan to KL to fetch her.”

“With all this ragging, where you all got time to study?”
“We don’t rag all the time, Jane. Anyway, the final year students usually don’t get involved. They’re too busy with their dissertations.”

“Oh, I know what’s a dissertation. In my previous job, I helped my colleague type one for his business degree. A dissertation is a long essay written for a university degree, right?”

Before Eh Poh Nim could answer, the boss’s secretary pokes her head into the pantry.

“There you are, Eh Poh Nim! Boss is looking for you. Hurry!”

“Right, Jane. Got to go!”

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Rubbish is Money

But not the perishable type. Not unless you use them as compost and save on fertilizer money.

Those scavengers that come and dig in your rubbish bin do it for a reason. There's money in rubbish. Aluminium cans, scrap metal, old cardboards can translate into $$ at the scrap dealer's.

My 13-year old microwave oven recently went kaput for the third or fourth time since I've had it. As I already have a Europa convection oven, I decided not to repair the poor sod. Instead I bought a small basic unit for reheating purposes. My sister told me of a besi buruk (scrap metal) dealer near her shop. I lugged the old oven over there and got a measly RM15.70 for the oven which I paid RM1,700 for. Better than nothing. It's good for two MacDonald value meals.

I don't know if the 55 sen per kg I got for the oven was a fair deal as I had no basis for comparison. If you have any old pots and pans, don't throw them out. Bring them to the besi buruk vendor and earn some money for your rubbish. In these days of rising commodity prices, every bit of money comes in handy.

Here's the quotation I got from the Sg. Rasa dealer :

RM/per kg
Copper - 11.50
Aluminium - 4.50
Brass - 7.00
Steel - 4.10
Iron (grade 1) - 0.80
Iron (grade 3) - 7.00
Light scrap - 0.55

Now you know why those thiefing vandals steal our manhole covers, drain covers and whatever can be turned in for good cash.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Getting down to business

I'm in a spot of trouble. With blogging, that is. I started blogging less than two months ago. Everyday saw a new post, sometimes two. If you'd told me a month ago that I'll run out of steam, I wouldn't have believed it was possible. Now I do.

One reason why I'd been able to spend so much time on blogging is this : No. 1 was busy studying for PMR and we banned him from the computer for the last six weeks. So with the main competition out of the way, I practically had a monopoly on the computer. Tomorrow is the last day of PMR. No. 1 will be back shooting aliens and clobbering funny cartoon characters with a vengeance.

Now here's the numero uno reason : Time meant for serious writing was eaten up by blogging. By serious writing, I mean writing stuff that can earn dollars and cents. As it is my output is already diminishing. On top of that, the novel that I'd been working on has been on the back-burner. I had managed to write almost 70,000 words from March to June this year. July and August were spent dilly-dallying over how to rewrite the crappy first draft. Late August saw my foray into blogging which spelt bad news for the work-in-progress.

Now with Nanowrimo fever heating up, I felt some urgency to rework my novel. I don't intend to sign up for the one-month novel-writing stint. November is not a good month for me as it's school hols. Besides, I don't want to start another new work.

Today I'd been thinking hard about curtailing my blogging. I don't feel like giving it up altogether as I'd come to enjoy the camaraderie that exists among bloggers, some from halfway across the globe. Being a write-from-home mum, I have limited contact with adults from the outside world and blogging has certainly widened my circle of online friends.

I really should spend less time on blogging and manage my time more wisely. I should be writing more instead of blog-hopping and agonizing over my blog. To the prolific bloggers who have kept the words flowing and still manage to do whatever it is that you do in your vocation, you have my respect.

Friday, October 07, 2005

J.K. Rowling speaks

In BBC's Authors on the Spot feature, J.K. Rowling offered some writing tips for children. The advice is good for adults too, so take note, all you aspiring novelists. (Note to self : get off the Internet now and go plan out your novel! Don't forget that cup of tea.)

Any tips for kids who want to get started as an aspiring author?

The best way to learn about style, characterisation and plot construction is to read as much as you possibly can.

You will probably find that you start to imitate your favourite authors, but this is a good learning process and your own style will come eventually. Always plan your work; writing aimlessly sometimes throws up a good idea or two, but it is no way to produce a whole story.

Write what you know: your own interests, feelings, beliefs, friends, family and even pets will be your raw materials when you start writing. Develop a fondness for solitude if you can, because writing is one of the loneliest professions in the world!

And finally: perseverance is absolutely essential, not just to produce all those words, but to survive rejection and criticism. However, the utter joy of seeing a book you wrote sitting in a bookshelf is a prize worth striving for!

How do you get your inspiration for your writing?

The ideas just come; I don't really need much external inspiration. Just give me a quietish half hour, and perhaps a nice cup of tea, and I'll probably be able to dash off a paragraph or two.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Winning Tips

Due to popular demand in the blogosphere, ahem…, here are some general tips to put you on the winning track. Thanks to Mumsgather who's busy promoting my blog to her online cronies.

File up the forms
Don’t chuck one form on top of the piano, another on the kitchen table and yet another on your bedroom side table. Put all of them in one file so you don’t have to go hunting for them when the deadline looms near. Helps keep sanity intact instead of screaming at the kids, “Whose the wise guy who scribbled on the milk powder entry form?”

Send in your entry early
By early I don’t mean three days before the closing date – that is dicing with danger. One week allowance should be good enough but don’t wait till the eleventh hour because you may just forget about it until the deadline had lapsed. A frequent winner, Eric, begs to differ. His strategy is to send them in at the last minute. He thinks last minute entries stand a better chance of winning and he says it’s a proven technique for him.

Don’t be brand loyal
If Detergent Sparkle is having an ongoing contest but you’ve always used Detergent Shiny to wash your dishes, there’s no harm in giving Sparkle a try. Who knows, you may get to win an all-expenses paid holiday to Phuket. Besides Sparkle may dazzle you with its cleaning abilities that you’ve wondered how you’ve ever cleaned without it.

Send in more entries
The more you send, the more you increase your chances of winning. As they say, the more the merrier. But no need to go overboard. Imagine the disappointment if you send in one hundred entries and you get zilch. I’d rather go for less, that way even if I don’t get anything, the low expectation level guards against heartache.

Do your homework
What is the product being promoted? What are its qualities? What is the company’s philosophy? Find out these information from websites, brochures or the product packaging and use them to write the tie-breaker.

Put yourself in the judges’ shoes
What do you think will appeal to the judges? Imagine yourself going through thousands of flat slogans and signatures. Then challenge yourself to come up with something different. Having said that, judging is a very subjective matter. What may appeal to one may appear mediocre to another.

Compile winning entries
Collect press clippings of winning slogans and signatures. They will give you an idea of what contest judges look for. You can also modify them for future contests. Try not to copy wholesale. If another person also copies a particular slogan bulat-bulat, that means there’re two of the same. Not original. It will be dumped. If you dare take the risk, by all means go ahead. There are cases of contestants using slogans from my book and winning prizes with them. I know because readers wrote in to the newspapers to complain about unoriginal entries winning contests.

Concentrate your effort on hard contests
Easy contests are harder to win, hard contests are easier to win. Easy ones are those that don’t require any work – the 10, 000th entry gets to win a bike, that sort of thing. Hard contests are those that require some sweating over slogans, signatures or puzzles. Think about it, you have more control over hard contests in that the quality of your entry increases your chances of winning. So concentrate on those but if you prefer the easy way out, by all means go for the easy contests.

My comping philosophy

I don’t go for “most entries win” contests. Ever. The way I see it, the only winner in this type of contest is the organizer. It’s a blatant promotion of consumerism.

Usually I concentrate on slogan-writing contests as I can put my writing skill to good use. Now, please don’t ask me to write slogans for you, okay? You see, I sprout five gray hairs every time I sit down for a spot of slogan-writing, and I really don’t want to age prematurely. I’m hopeless at art, so I steer clear of signature contests.

All the best!

Tuesday, October 04, 2005


It was my husband who introduced me to G a few years ago. You can ask him anything, he said.

And so I did. At first our liaison was irregular. Once in a while, I'd look G up for something or other. However, in the past couple of years, we have become closer. Now not a day passes by without me calling on G.

I mean it's not like I could call hubby at work and ask him inane stuff like "What are the symptoms of Bell Palsy," or "Who was the third American president?" He'd go ballistic and say something like, "I'm in the middle of a meeting with my big boss. Will you stop asking nonsense?!" Not that he'd know the answers anyway.

So he can't blame me for getting so close to G. And when you're close to someone, you feel for him when he's in trouble. You see, G's got into some sort of legal entanglement. While I feel sorry for the other party, I also emphathize with G. He's been so helpful to me that I just can't turn on him and say "Serve you right!" I hope things work out well for both sides. I want to continue to court G and will not give him up for anything, not unless someone better comes along.

Want to know who G is? Click on the Comment box to find out.

Saturday, October 01, 2005


I went to bed at 2.30 a.m. the other day. Just as I laid my head on the pillow, hubby got up. He went downstairs. Maybe he was getting a drink of water.

For some reason I couldn't sleep. I waited for him to come up but the minutes ticked by, and still there was no sign of him. "Was he having trouble at work that's keeping him from sleeping?" I thought to myself before eventually drifting off to lala land.

A few days later, I asked him, "Why were you up at three the other day?"

No. 1 replied on his behalf, "Watching football."

I should have known!

"And how did you know? Were you watching too?"

Father and son smiled deviously. And this is the same father who's badgering the son to study, study, study for his PMR. It's also the same father who threw dirty looks at mother and daughter who stay up till midnight to watch The Apprentice.


Friday, September 30, 2005

St Joseph in the Forest

While surfing for some pancake recipes, I stumbled upon this fairy tale by the Grimm brothers. It has a good moral, so tell it to the kids.

THERE WAS once on a time a mother who had three daughters, the eldest of whom was rude and wicked, the second much better, although
she had her faults, but the youngest was a pious, good child. The mother was, however, so strange, that it was just the eldest daughter whom she most loved, and she could not bear the youngest.
On this account, she often sent the poor girl out into the great
forest in order to get rid of her, for she thought she would lose
herself and never come back again. But the guardian-angel which
every good child has, did not forsake her, but always brought her into the right path again.

Once, however, the guardian-angel behaved as if he were not there,
and the child could not find her way out of the forest again. She
walked on constantly until evening came, and then she saw a tiny light burning in the distance, ran up to it at once, and came to a little hut. She knocked, the door opened, and she came to a second door, where she knocked again. An old man, who had a snow-white beard and looked venerable, opened it for her; and he was no other than St. Joseph. He said quite kindly, "Come, dear child, seat thyself on my little chair by the fire, and warm thyself; I will fetch thee clear water if thou art thirsty; but here in the forest, I have nothing for thee to eat but a couple of little roots, which thou must first scrape and boil."

St. Joseph gave her the roots. The girl scraped them clean, then she brought a piece of pancake and the bread that her mother had given her to take with her; mixed all together in a pan, and cooked herself a thick soup. When it was ready, St. Joseph said, "I am so hungry; give me some of thy food." The child was quite willing, and gave him more than she kept for herself, but God's blessing was with her, so that she was satisfied. When they had eaten, St. Joseph said, "Now we will go to bed; I have, however, only one bed, lay thyself in it. I will lie on the ground on the straw." "No," answered she, "stay in thy own bed, the straw is soft enough for me." St. Joseph, however, took the child in his arms and carried her into the little bed, and there she said her prayers, and fell asleep.

Next morning when she awoke, she wanted to say good morning to St.
Joseph, but she did not see him. Then she got up and looked for him,
but could not find him anywhere; at last she perceived, behind the
door, a bag with money so heavy that she could just carry it, and on
it was written that it was for the child who had slept there that
night. On this she took the bag, bounded away with it, and got
safely to her mother, and as she gave her mother all the money, she
could not help being satisfied with her.

The next day, the second child also took a fancy to go into the
forest. Her mother gave her a much larger piece of pancake and
bread. It happened with her just as with the first child. In the
evening, she came to St. Joseph's little hut, who gave her roots for a thick soup. When it was ready, he likewise said to her, "I am so
hungry, give me some of thy food." Then the child said, "Thou mayest
have thy share." Afterwards, when St. Joseph offered her his bed and
wanted to lie on the straw, she replied, "No, lie down in the bed,
there is plenty of room for both of us." St. Joseph took her in his
arms and put her in the bed, and laid himself on the straw.

In the morning when the child awoke and looked for St. Joseph, he
had vanished, but behind the door she found a little sack of money
that was about as long as a hand, and on it was written that it was
for the child who had slept there last night. So she took the little
bag and ran home with it, and took it to her mother, but she
secretly kept two pieces for herself.

The eldest daughter had by this time grown curious, and the next
morning also insisted on going out into the forest. Her mother gave
her pancakes with her- as many as she wanted, and bread and cheese
as well. In the evening she found St. Joseph in his little hut, just
as the two others had found him. When the soup was ready and St.
Joseph said, "I am so hungry, give me some of the food," the girl
answered, "Wait until I am satisfied; then if there is anything left
thou shalt have it." She ate, however, nearly the whole of it, and St. Joseph had to scrape the dish. Afterwards, the good old man offered her his bed, and wanted to lie on the straw. She took it without making any opposition, laid herself down in the little bed, and left the hard straw to the white-haired man.

Next morning when she awoke, St. Joseph was not to be found, but she did not trouble herself about that. She looked behind the door for a money-bag. She fancied something was lying on the ground, but as she could not very well distinguish what it was, she stooped down and examined it closely, but it remained hanging to her nose, and when she got up again, she saw, to her horror, that it was a second nose, which was hanging fast to her own. Then she began to scream and howl, but that did no good; she was forced to see it always on her nose, for it stretched out so far. Then she ran out and screamed without stopping till she met St. Joseph, at whose feet she fell and begged until, out of pity, he took the nose off her again, and even gave her two pennies.

When she got home, her mother was standing before the door, and
asked, "What hast thou had given to thee?" Then she lied and said,
"A great bag of money, but I have lost it on the way." "Lost it!"
cried the mother, "oh, but we will soon find it again," and took her
by the hand, and wanted to seek it with her. At first she began to
cry, and did not wish to go, but at last she went. On the way,
however, so many lizards and snakes broke loose on both of them,
that they did not know how to save themselves. At last they stung
the wicked child to death, and they stung the mother in the foot,
because she had not brought her up better.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

New Look

When it comes to gadgets, most of us just use the bare minimum functions. We may have an entire gizmo of A to Z functions at our disposal but we're usually content with using the ABCs only.

So it is with the Nedstat statistics counter. Usually I just zero in on the page views. This morning, I saw the pull-down menus on top which somehow have escaped my notice. There was a "With What" function and when I clicked on it, I saw that more than 80% of visitors used the Internet Explorer. Yikes.

In my earlier template, the one with the orange header, there was some html kinks which I couldn't figure out. This resulted in the sidebar fonts appearing unusually big when the blog was opened with the Internet Explorer. Surprisingly, if it was viewed with Mozilla Firebox and Netscape, the fonts were okay.

If Red Riding Hood were here, she'd say, "Lydia, what big fonts your blog has." I don't want to tell her, "All the better for you to read with, my dear," because that'll be a lie. So the best thing to do is to change my blog template. I like the new look because it's more streamlined and neater. And the kink is gone!

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

This is Aidyl Het

Who's that? That's me. Go read today's Star In-tech Startbox column. Confessions of a Blog Addict isn't online or I would have linked it.

If anyone came here after reading the article, allow me to say, "Well done, Sherlock Holmes." (Neither the url nor the blog title was published.)

Monday, September 26, 2005

Guess the sound

We were having dinner when a strange, unfamiliar sound filled the room.


I thought someone didn't put the cordless phone in its socket properly and it was tooting in protest.

I : Go put down the phone.

No. 1 : It's not the phone.

We all listened intently.

I : Is it a car horn?

No. 1 : No. It's the water pipe vibrating.

Hubby : No, it's the train whistle.

Suddenly I made the connection. It was the new whistling kettle I had just bought that afternoon. Our old kettle gives out a Pheee.... so the Phooo.... was quite unfamiliar.

Phooo or Pheee, it doesn't matter as long as it tells us it's time to switch off the gas.

Tip for young people setting up house :

Don't use an electric kettle. It guzzles electricity. If you don't believe me, go check the electric meter when the kettle is on. You'll see the dial spinning round and round like it's gone berserk. Oh, and make it a whistling kettle, please. Without the Pheee or the Phooo, there's a real danger of burning the house down if you forget to switch off the gas before leaving for work.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Malaysian Idol 2

When Jien announced, "Your Malaysian Idol is... Daniel!" I screamed and screamed while no. 1 and 2 sat stunned on the couch. We were rooting for Nita whom we believe had more oomph and talent. But Daniel Lee had 1.2 million voters, most of them teeny-boppers presumably. He had 68% of the total votes. Looks like the online poll on the Malaysian Idol website was quite accurate : 66% had casted their votes for Daniel.

This year's result wasn't as clear cut as last year's. In MI 1, when Jien asked "who's the Malaysian Idol?" before the result was announced, the audience was unanimous in shouting out "Jac!" This year, we couldn't make out the name.

But all is not lost for Nita. In an Idol competition, second-best doesn't mean obscurity. (In the first place, this isn't about talent per se, not when you reach final 11. When the sms voting kicks in, it becomes a popularity contest. That's why LaToya London went out so early in American Idol 3. She should have been in the final two with Fantasia Barrino.) Look at Clay Aiken. He was the runner-up of American Idol 2 but he's more popular than Ruben Studdard. Ruben who? Have you ever heard his song on our radio? Nope. In fact if you go to the Reality TV World for AI 2, you'll find Clay dominating the news.

But the reality of this type of program is that it hinges on popularity. That's how Mawi of Akademi Fantasia won. I didn't watch the show but that's the general sentiment portrayed in the media.

Now I like Daniel too. He has some things going for him : a soothing voice, cute puppy-dog looks and a pleasant personality. His singing ability, showmanship and confidence had improved tremendously since the workshop stage. But would he be able to hold a candle to singers like Fantasia and Jac in World Idol? The answer is pretty obvious, isn't it?

Daniel should just take MI as a stepping stone to launch his Chinese-singing career. His voice is made for Chinese ballads. For a small town boy who's had no professional training in singing, Daniel has done well for himself. He owes it all to his fans. But how successful will he be? As Roslan said, "let's see if the 1.2 million votes translates into sales."

The proof of the pudding is in the eating.

Friday, September 23, 2005

More Mummy's bloopers

No. 3 likes the radio ad that goes something like this.

A : Hey, have you sold your house?
B : Yes!
A : Your car? Tv? Radio? Fridge? Computer?
B : All sold!
A : Errr... your mother-in-law?
B : Boo-hoo, not yet!

No. 3 : (Giggling) How can sell mother-in-law? Mummy, what's mother-in-law?
I : (Busy negotiating heavy traffic) Husband's wife or wife's wife.
No. 2 : No, it's not!
I : Oops! Husband's mother or wife's mother.

BTW, I can't remember what the radio ad was selling. The "means" has overshadowed the "end".

Thursday, September 22, 2005

A mother's wet afternoon

No. 1, no. 2 and I were drenched in the rain today, no thanks to some council workers pruning some tree branches.

We were already nearing no. 3's school when we got caught in a long queue at the traffic lights. The lights must have zonked out or maybe a car had stalled, I thought. It was neither. At the road shoulder, municipal workers were cutting down some tree branches which had got tangled up in the electric cables.

I don't understand though how the jam had come about. They had placed some traffic cones at the side of the road but they didn't obstruct the road. The felled tree branches weren't in the way either. Ggrrr...

As a result, no. 3 was five minutes late for school. Then on the way to no. 2's school, the heavens suddenly opened up and torrents of rain gushed down like a waterfall. I decided to stop a little distance away from the school so as not to get caught in the traffic jam. With each holding an umbrella, we should get across without getting too wet. Or so I thought.

Two-inch deep rain water ran down the road. No. 2's shoes were soaked. By the time we got to the school, our clothes were drenched. She gave me her umbrella and it was only then that I noticed that half the umbrella had folded up, and so had mine.

I went back to the car to wait for for no. 1 to dismiss from the same school. It was still raining but it was no point bringing the umbrella over to him. He called me from his friend's cellphone. I asked him to dash out when the rain subsided a little. Still, he got wet.

I drove to my mum's house nearby. (To drive home to get the dry uniforms would take me another half hour.) My aunt had given her some old school uniforms that her daughters had outgrown. They looked a tad too big for no. 2 but beggars can't be choosers. I bagged a pair.

First I had to send no. 4 (who was still dithering over yesterday's leftover spaghetti) to kindergarten, a stone's throw away. I dropped her off, then headed back to no. 2's school. Her slippers were still in the car. I bundled them into the plastic bag and asked no. 1 to go to his sister's class to pass the dry stuff to her. I wasn't about to parade my sorry-looking self in front of hundreds of students. Clad in my wet and shabby t-shirt and shorts, I looked like something the cat had dragged in from the drain. No. 1 was wet too but at least he didn't look scruffy.

I hope no. 2 will be smart enough to give an explanation to her teacher if he asks, "Why are you wearing a uniform with a different school badge on it?"

But then for all our trouble, she may just decide to sit around in her wet clothes rather than look uncool in a pair of baggy uniform. I hope she will at least strip off her wet shoes and wear her slippers.

All in a day's work for a mum-of-4-schoolgoing-kids.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Yeh! My book's on Amazon UK!

Finally Life's Like That - Scenes from Malaysian Life is up for sale on

Please click here to go there. If any of you have read my book and like it, could you please do me a favour? Go to and write a nice little review for the book. I know you're going to ask for commission. Unless the book sell by the thousands, I can assure you it's not that lucrative. But if I see you, I'll buy you coffee but please don't ask for Starbucks. Local kopi, okay?

To see the contents page, just click on the Table of Contents and for more details on the book including the author's comment, click on See All Reviews. Ignore the weird little symbols which are actually quote marks and apostrophes.

BTW if you don't like the book, tell me why but don't go and post it on Amazon, please. Oh dear, I hope I haven't given you any ideas.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The Hem & Haw Writers' Club

Note :

I've moved this entry into a separate category in the sidebar in case "members" want to continue their hemming & hawing or share their triumph of getting into the writing groove. At a later time, when response is no longer forthcoming, I shall just let it languish under the Reading & 'Riting category.


Following the earlier posting on This is it, membership is now open for The Hem & Haw Writers' Club.

Mission : To encourage writers not to hem and haw (I know it's a paradox but it's a good paradox.)

Who is qualified to join : Anyone who has ever hemmed and hawed in their writing.

Definition of hem and haw : Be hesitant and indecisive; avoid committing oneself ( If you've made ten trips to the kitchen to make twenty cups of coffee, straightened your desk for the eleventh time and googled your name for the thirteen time in the last two hours before you finally type your first paragraph, you are a hemmer and hawer.

What is it all about - Members will post their various H&H techniques so that they know they're all afflicted with the same malady. More importantly, they will also update their writing progress so that other H&Hers will get so jealous they will also be motivated to JUST DO IT.

How to do - Via blog with various moderators?

Is this a silly idea or what?

This is it

Okay. I've decided to stick with Blogger. Thanks to everyone who has given me their comments. Wordpress seems to be a very powerful blogging tool, so full of oomph that I'm afraid it'll take me too much time to fiddle around with. This isn't good for me as I'm already spending too much time blogging when I should be BIC (butt-in-chair) spinning that yarn which I've started last year and still mucking around with, not sure where I'm headed.

I can be so fickle, sigh. Wordpress or Blogger. This slant or that angle. I need a huge dose of inspiration. I'd been moaning to a couple of you bloggers about this yarn and I'm sure you're fed up of it already, so I'll just whine to the world at large. I woke up this morning thinking that I need to rework the story, yet again. So I fished out The Weekend Novelist to have a look at that story arc again. Back to the drawing board again. I've gone back so many times but maybe it's because I didn't go all the way that I'm stuck.

Hats off to those writers who don't hem and haw. They just do it. Should take a leaf from their books.

JUST DO IT and quit whining!

Monday, September 19, 2005

Stomp : The good, the bad and the ugly

I drove to Istana Budaya to see Stomp last night. It was the first time I was driving to that part of KL. Nightfall didn't help either. I ended up making a few wrong turns but eventually arrived safe and sound.

Hubby didn't want to come along for the show. "What for?" he asked. So no. 3 accompanied me. He had been looking forward to it since the day I won the tickets from Mixfm.

The good

Plastic bags. Match boxes. Gas lighters. Hubcabs. Oil drums. Kitchen sinks. Boxes. Poles. Brooms. Garbage bins. Bare hands. I never knew these stuff can actually make music. Percussion music to be exact. The rhythm that they churned out with these everyday paraphernalia is amazing. I closed my eyes and thought I was listening to some nifty drummer instead.

No. 3 loved the slapstick humour in the first half of the show. He particularly liked the antics of the red-haired dork who was the oddball of the group. When Red-hair came on stage with a mop the size of a car tyre, no. 3 laughed and clapped enthusiastically. I was more tickled by his enjoyment than Red-hair's shenanigan with the gigantic mop.

My favourite scene was the kitchen-sink performance. Four muscular Stompers with kitchen sinks hanging from their neck made music by hitting their rubber-gloved hands on the sink and tapping utensils such as cups and containers which they fished out from the sink. Then they unplugged the sinks and flushed out the water into strategically placed buckets, making it look as if they were taking a leak. To complete the toilet humour, one of them even did the "shake", you know, to get rid of drippings.

The main Stomper, a fair complexioned handsome young man, had great rapport with the audience. He got us clapping along with him. He would clap in a certain way, say long-long-short-short-long and we would try to mimic him.

The bad

The show kicked off with the broom performance, followed by the matchbox ditty, then the hand-clapping, the poles-clacking etc. I started to wonder when they were going to hit those big garbage bins. That must be reserved for the finale, I thought.

I was right. And when it came, it came with a bang. I didn't like it. It was too loud and in your face. The din made by the garbage bins, oil drums and bin covers clanged together like cymbals was too much for both me and no. 3. He covered his ears with his hands. By then he was a bit bored because there was no more funny antics from Red-hair. He tried to snuggle down on my lap but the armrest of the chair prevented him from getting comfortable. In the end he sat up and pulled his sweater over his head.

Have you seen those Transformer Robots with big feet? Well, we saw them at Stomp. No, actually they looked more like stilt-walkers, but instead of stilts they were walking on huge metal drums which had boots molded onto the top. It was quite a sight, seeing these giants traipsing on stage.

The ugly

All right, they weren't really ugly. I mean the Stompers' clothes. They looked like something the janitors or workmen would wear to work : dungarees, paint-stained pants, baggy bermuda shorts and the likes. I know it's in keeping with the theme but couldn't they have come up with something more colourful instead of drab brown, grey and black?

At the end of the day

My tickets cost RM250 a piece. I definitely won't pay this much to see Stomp. For a mere fraction of it, just maybe, I might, to see what the hype was all about.

Having said that, I must say I was impressed by the harmony of the Stompers' performance. There wasn't a click or a clack which was out of rhythm. They must have put in countless hours of practice to achieve this concord.

I remember reading in the papers that there was a standing ovation at the end. In this performance, it was the main Stomper who beckoned us to stand. The audience clapped and cheered enthusiastically. I didn't mind that this was a "forced" standing ovation for suddenly the coast became clear for us to make a quick get-away. We were among the first to hit the carpark.

But the finale was way too much for my ears. My head became mush, I got lost and went round and round in circles around Jalan Tun Razak and Kampung Pandan. After stopping at three petrol stations and asking six people for directions, it took me two hours to get home from KL to Klang when it could've taken me just an hour.