Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Priorities

I had an interesting conversation with my daughter, JJ, in the car recently on our way home from her maths tuition. The conversations I have with JJ are different from the conversations that I used to have with my late father as a teenager. In those good old days, a conversation with my dad amounted to him telling me what's good and bad—according to his views of the world, and it's always a one-way-street. I had no choice but to accept his views. 

Therefore, for example, running as a routine, according to dad, is a stupid hobby. To him, fishing and playing with slingshots, and playing games with friends are more sensible hobbies. Singing in the choir and joining the Red Crescent are sissy and a total waste of time; joining the Boys Scouts is more suitable for a boy. Neither explanations nor justifications were given for his opinions; and my opinions didn't matter at all. Whatever he said was the gospel truth, as simple as that.

My conversations with JJ are a lot different in that I'm always keen to know her opinions. What are her explanations and justifications for her decisions. But of course in the end, I have the final say, though I try very, very hard to refrain from using that authority.

JJ is now in form four, and next year she will be sitting for the SPM exams. Right now she has no clue of what she wants to do when she grows up. She knows for certain that she doesn't want to be a lawyer or a doctor. She explained to me why, and I can accept her reasons. I'm not a parent who will force my child to take up a career that she's not interest in, just because I'm convinced that it's good for her. She said she feels like she can be good in handling animals; yet she doesn't see herself as a veterinarian. I'm not sure if she is influenced by the movie Jurassic Park, the sequel of which she's eagerly waiting for now.

I told JJ that I will try my best to support her in whatever way I can to achieve her dreams. But sometimes in life we must face reality. There will be times when doing the things we like doing would mean that we won't be able to bring 3 meals a day to the table. Therefore, sometimes we may have to do the things that we don't really like doing for the sake of survival. We have to set our priorities right, because one of these days she will have a family of her own, and children to feed. Worse, there will come the responsibility to give them proper education.

I cast my mind back to when I was a young man, when I was as poor as a church mouse. I was earning about RM500 a month as a maths teacher in one of the private colleges in KK, plus about RM200 from giving private tuition in the evenings. From that, I had to pay the rent for a miserably small house in a flood-prone neighbourhood which I was sharing with my sister; RM175 for my motorbike installment, several other expenses which I couldn't escape from, as well as a small fixed amount which I paid as "income tax" to my dad. As  you can probably imagine, there was hardly anything left after all those.

Those who know me well would know that I'm a person of many hobbies. If I could afford it, I would play, play and play all the time. But I had to set my priorities right. I had to work hard for a better future. My then girlfriend used to grumble a lot for not spending enough "quality time" with her because I had to work. She said I did not spare enough time for her; she was expecting me to take her to the movies more frequently, for example. 

My priority was to work, save money if I could, and then hopefully have enough savings to pay for further education. I had no idea what's gonna happen in the future, but I just had to try doing something. I must admit that back then, I seemed destined to be that hopeless "church mouse" for the rest of my life. That's why I can't blame my girlfriend for choosing greener pasture elsewhere for a brighter future. How the heck would I know that I would end up where I am today? I mean, if my daughter falls in love with a very poor man, I'd probably try my best to talk her out of it too, although of course it's her life, and she has the final decision.

I'm sometimes worried that JJ is having troubles setting her priorities right. She's a reasonably bright kid, but looking around me now, I dread the thought of her having to compete in such a competitive environment when she's an adult. Mom and dad won't be around forever to rescue her when she's in trouble. But at the end of it all, with a little bit of discipline and getting her priorities right, the end results are always positive.

I hope for her sake, she heeds her daddy's advice.


Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Narrow Angle

I texted my sister recently to ask her about one of her children. She replied by saying that she'd rather not comment about her children. Now there are many, many things about my sister that I just can't agree with, although I suspect that there are also many things about me that she doesn't agree with too. But I really admire her attitude when it comes to her children. 

I have seen way too many parents that can never let go when it comes to their children. They will try to get involved in their children's affairs; in fact, they will try to organise their children's lives until they die. I should know, because my own mother is like that.

You see, it is too easy to forget that children will grow up and will eventually have their own minds. For better or for worse, it's their lives. They have enough problems without their parents' intervention.

Well, I have a 16-year-old daughter, and although I'm trying my best to guide her; to instill in her what I deem to be good qualities to become, hopefully, a good person, I keep reminding myself that one of these days she will become an adult and have a mind of her own. I realise that there will be some opinions and decisions of hers that I can't agree with (not very many, I hope). But I will let her live her own life. It is her life, not mine. If ever she needs my advice, I shall be happy to help. If not, then it's OK, that's fine with me too. 

I've learned since a long time ago that many of the problems in the world today arose because too many people are unwilling to consider views from other angles; what they see are only from a very narrow angle—their own angle, and only that angle. All other views that do not concur with theirs must be wrong, and they are fast to criticize those opposing views; even judge the people having those views. There is no room for compromise; no willingness to allow others to have their own opinions.

Today I saw yet again the narrow angle that I speak of above when I accidentally stumbled upon a link named NTD Life through facebook. It was just a short video clip on dogs that were meant to be eaten, but were instead rescued. And of course many people were criticizing dog-eating folks as inhumane, evil and needing education. Many, many more comments condemning the practice of eating dogs.

But someone commented as follows:

"Folks have to eat. I count dogs and cats as part of my family. I am not so bigoted to think that all humans must share my view. Would I save a dog or cat to starve a child or family? No. Their culture is not mine. So I will not judge or hate about this thing."

She is unfortunately one of the very few having that opinion. Immediately, she's bombarded with so many negative responses; people who called her "sick" and "evil".

Well, I range myself on the side of the minority. I couldn't help from commenting:

"I've read your entire comment. No, I don't eat dog meat. Never have, never will. That's not  my culture. That's how I feel right now. But when and if I'm ever at the verge of dying because of starvation, and the only available food is dog meat, I may think differently, I don't know. Maybe by then my survival instinct will take over the driver's seat. So I won't judge you. I respect your view."

If my memory serves me right, my friend Eric Chong used to have an iguana as a pet. Perhaps I will check with him to make sure that I can still remember well. And while I'm at it, I might also tell him to get his brain checked for having an iguana as a pet? Then my friend, Jiki, had a pet chicken named Rio, but I think Rio escaped one day when there were plans for chicken curry? I have also known some people having pigs as pets. It takes all sorts to make the world. But people have been known to eat chickens and pigs. In fact, I was once in Cambodia, and I saw people there eating all sorts of animals including scorpions, worms, insects and spiders, to name just a few. Elsewhere, people eat live baby octopuses—these are cut into small pieces and eaten while they're still alive. I've also seen people swallow live baby rats. People eat many, many animals, so eating dog meat is not very surprising to me. 

I don't quite agree with many of them, but I don't condemn them, for the simple reason that I don't expect others to think and behave exactly the same way as I do. What is "sick" and "evil" to me may be just a normal daily routine for some people. I shall not impose my standard for others to adhere to. But I do not want to be forced to accept the standard set by others. I must beg for the freedom to agree to disagree.

I firmly believe that if we can all refrain from seeing the world from just a narrow angle, and willing to open our minds to see things from other angles too—although we may disagree with those other angles—this world will be very peaceful. It takes a brave person to accept that one's opinion may not be the perfect one; that there may be other equally good opinions out there, if not better. Let others have their opinions, and we can remain true to our own. There is no need to force others to agree with us.

But the sad truth about human nature is that most people only see things from very narrow angles; narrow and rigid...


Thursday, February 8, 2018

Prevention of Dreaded Diseases

I have long ago noticed a strange reality in people—most of them would say that health is among the highest priorities in their lists of the "Important Things In Life". Quite often health is way high in the list together with things like family, career, and money, to name a few. Yet you will find that these people spend very little time and efforts, if any at all, to maintain or improve their health. They would spend a lot of time and efforts on securing and building up their families; careers, and amass wealth, of course, but hardly ever on health, even though they insist that health is very important to them.

Like almost everything else in life, good health is not free; time and efforts will have to be invested to get it; and once it is obtained, more time and efforts will have to be invested to maintain it. It is an ongoing obligation which must be done, just like those required for the other important things in life. Most people know this for a fact, yet what usually happens is that most of them would neglect doing something for health until it's too late. It is so easy to take health for granted, you see.

Some people have tried to convince me to spend an astronomical amount of money for a water filtration system that produces alkaline water, which is supposed to be good for my health. The benefits of alkaline water, according to them, range from the prevention to curing many, many illnesses; some would even go as far as curing cancer. I have not bought the machine up to now, but that doesn't mean that health is not important to me. On the contrary, I try very hard to be healthy as much as I can. It's just that I'm adopting a different approach to be healthy.

I've known people who are very careful about their health. They watch what they eat and drink; some foods and drinks are treated like poisons, never to be consumed. They drink alkaline water—and only alkaline water, because they are convinced that the water has some sort of magical properties and can do wonders for their health. Yet they almost never spend even a few minutes a day to exercise, because according to them, they don't have the time to exercise.

I think there are a combination of many, many factors why one can fall sick, or why and how one can develop some diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure or clogged arteries etc. I'm saying there is almost never going to be enough prevention measures that one can take to really prevent all these illnesses and diseases. So some people would adopt the "alkaline water" approach but totally zero exercise; I'd adopt the exercise approach, never mind the magical alkaline water. After all, there is no evidence that the alkaline water is more effective in preventing, say, heart disease, when compared to a minimum of 8 hours of exercise weekly.

Some people refrain from consuming sugar (or consuming very little of it). Others avoid fatty foods. But I indulge in simple sugar every now and then, and during my workouts in the form of energy gels, or sugary snacks and sports drinks. But I always try to balance up with burning whatever I'm consuming.

Generally speaking, I try to keep things in a balance; everything in moderation, because I can't see myself not consuming sugar for the rest of my life. Of course I can pretend that I have it in me to do it, like many of The Biggest Loser participants, but I know I will fail eventually, and I would regain whatever weight that I've lost. So I'd rather be honest with myself. I allow myself to indulge in some of these "unhealthy" food, and then try to payback by other means like doing exercise. I admit that I'm not perfect, but at least I'm honest to myself.

So yes, I consume ABC and fatty foods every now and then in moderation; I do have big high-caloric foods occasionally; and yes, I do drink Milo regularly even though some people say that Milo is an unhealthy drink. I just try my best to balance between how much I consume and how much I burn. So far, after many years of being a Milo drinker, I'm still alive and able to keep within a reasonable range of body weight for my height. Way too often people deprive themselves from enjoying the things that they like so much, until one day they just lose it all; they explode and everything goes downhill from there. By allowing myself a bit of leeway every now and then to enjoy some of these "unhealthy" food, I'm hoping that I'm preventing myself from becoming a time bomb which can explode any minute. Keeping my fingers crossed...



Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Killer Instinct

I was watching a documentary, Nat Geo Wild recently, about cheetahs, and was intrigued by the fact that there's a stage in a cheetah's life when its mother would teach it how to hunt. The process includes capturing the prey, of course, but would eventually lead to the killing for food. It is in fact a survival skill.

Eons ago, I bet humans had to hunt and kill to survive too. It's an instinct that must be developed and honed in almost every single human. But times have changed; now not all of us humans actually know how to hunt, let alone kill when and if we've caught whatever it is that we hunt. Most of us would rely on others to do it for us, and we just deal with the dead animals. Or rather, parts of the animals.

A facebook friend shared her experience recently on how her mom bought her a whole chicken—a dead one, of course—and she seemed to have had quite an experience learning how to cut up the numerous body parts of the chicken. I found her post quite amusing, and in my mind, I was saying, "Wait till you have to slaughter a live chicken; now that'd be an experience!"

Cutting up a dead animal for cooking is nothing like killing a live one. And I had my fair share of the latter as early as when I was just 10 or 11 years old. I can still remember the first time I had to slaughter a duck. As a little boy, it was quite a traumatic experience, to say the least. Although it has been many, many years since I was 10 years old, I still know a bit about slaughtering chickens or ducks; and so here I am to share with my readers. 

You start by sharpening the knife. Then you proceed to pluck the feather around its neck to expose the skin. Between a chicken and a duck, let me tell you that the duck seems to have a thicker skin! I'm not sure if that's a fact, or if it's just my imagination because of my experience. You will have to hold the duck steady—for the inexperienced, it's a good idea to get someone to help out by grabbing the duck's feet and wings, so that you are free to deal specifically with its neck. However, if you are confident enough, you can also use your own feet by stepping onto the duck's feet and wings, so you can do it alone.

I said it was a traumatic experience for me, but it's not like what you might think. Frankly, I wasn't very scared to kill the duck. It seemed like a natural thing to do; and of course when you really think of it, it is a natural thing to do in the animal kingdom—just like the cheetahs killing other animals for food. But the thing that was traumatic to me was that although I cut the duck's throat, apparently I did not cut it deep enough. So you can imagine what happened next. When I released the duck, it ran off helter-skelter, blood oozing out of its throat and all, and I was frozen for a bit before I was able to shake myself out of the trance to chase after the duck! 

You just have to take it from me; it's not so easy for a fat 10-year-old boy to chase after a zombie duck, especially if that zombie is ridiculously fast like the type you see in The Maze Runner series or Train to Busan. Thankfully, the difference in my story is that I was the one chasing after the zombie, not the other way round. Although I can't remember now, I wouldn't rule out the possibility that I was smiling to myself in bed that night, thinking about how I was chasing the zombie duck. Anyway, like all other skills in life, once you can get through that first time, subsequent chicken or duck slaughtering sessions would be very easy. No more chasing after zombies, that's for sure. 

I know that many people are convinced they can never bring themselves to kill animals no matter what, but I'm quite sure that when it's a matter of life and death, they'd do it eventually for survival. There is always that killer instinct in us all that will be provoked to give itself reign to ensure that we'd continue living.


Monday, January 29, 2018

The Organ Donor

I was listening to the Lite FM on my way to work a couple of days ago, and there was a segment about organ donation in Malaysia. If I heard correctly, we now have over twenty thousand people in Malaysia at the end stages of organ failure. Malaysians are therefore urged to be organ donors, and they can register at the Rotary Club, though I can't remember if there was a specific branch of the club, or at any Rotary Club in Malaysia.

Incidentally, I've had an interesting conversation on the subject of organ donation with my running buddy, a surgeon in one of the specialist medical hospitals in Kota Kinabalu during one of our many running sessions together sometime ago. He, too, was saying that Malaysians are not, statistically speaking, organ donors. I'm not sure if that was due to religious reasons, but I have to confess that I've not pledged to be an organ donor too.

Before I elaborate further about why I'm reluctant to register as an organ donor, I'm rather amused to share that  my wife had a very interesting reason why she's unwilling to be an organ donor. She had the peculiar idea that when she dies, she'd like to die intact—meaning that she wants every part of her body to be still attached together, so that in the afterlife, she'll be intact too. She somehow had the idea that if, for example, her kidneys are taken from her when she dies, she'd arrive at that other place in the afterlife—wherever that place might be—without any kidney!

As most of my readers would know, I'm not a religious person—in fact, I don't believe in any religion at all. So my reluctance to pledge to be an organ donor has nothing whatsoever to do with my religion. Neither am I concerned about whether I'm going to arrive in another place in the afterlife, if there is really such a thing, with my body still intact or otherwise. I'm thinking that when I'm already dead, whatever parts of  my body that can live on as spare parts in other people, is not really a big deal to me. When I'm dead, I'm dead—period. 

I try to keep my body healthy in the hope that it can keep functioning properly until old age. But at the same time, I'm also fully aware that nothing lasts forever; sooner or later, the expiry date will come.

With such a mindset, one would think that I'd readily sign up as an organ donor. But I won't, because once I signed up as an organ donor, my name will forever be in the "database". My details would be there in the database, and that data could be searched by some desperate people. I may be marked as a "potential or promising match" for somebody even when there is still a lot of life in me. The ugly thoughts of people waiting or hoping that I'd die soon because I have something that they need desperately. And I somehow fear that scenario, simply because I'm convinced that there are many, many rich people out there who're in desperate need of organ transplants. When people are rich and can afford to pay practically any price for an organ(s), that, to me, puts those who've already pledged as organ donors at risk.

I must admit, however, that such notions sound a lot like paranoia, especially in the context of Malaysia. But, y'know, remote as it may be, it's still a possibility to reckon with; one that I'm unwilling to carry at the back of my mind for now. Maybe when I'm 70 or 80, yes, if I can live that long, but not now.

My surgeon friend opined that it's quite unlikely that the database for the organ donors could be so easily accessible by just anybody, let alone the scenario beyond that as I've described above. But my paranoid mind is not so easily convinced.

The irony of it all was that when I reached the office that morning, having just heard about the call for Malaysians to become organ donors on the radio, I read the news about the database of over 220,000 Malaysian organ donors that had been hacked since 2016. It makes me wonder what the hackers are planning to do with the data...


Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Authority & Loyalty

I was having my weekly ABC at the Damai Phase 4 food court last Saturday afternoon. Seated at the next table were two women. One of them was lamenting to the other about her daughter-in-law. I'm not sure what was it all about, but it had something to do with that woman's disappointment in her son. She said that her son was always defending his wife; whereas she felt that the son should be loyal to her as his mother. She felt that she had the authority over her son simply on account of being his mother.

I'm not in the habit of listening in on other people's conversation, but it's hard not to hear such an animated conversation. Unfortunately, I did not hear the other side of the story, i.e. the daughter-in-law's story. So as a policy, I won't comment on the merits of this mother's complaint. I can only pity her for her predicament.

Elsewhere in this blog I have discussed this topic before, but I propose to revisit the same topic again here now. Women are of course peculiar creatures—forgetful creatures. I should know because apart from being married to one of them, I have also seen so many interactions between mothers and their daughters-in-law in my day.

Let me hasten to say that I'm convinced that there must be a fair number of mothers whom are good friends with their daughters-in-law. I mean truly good "good", not just good on the surface, if you know what I mean. But in many, many cases, mothers can very rarely live under the same roof with their daughters-in-law. Well, at least not for very long. They are like time bombs—sooner or later, something will give, and the explosion will usually be ugly.

The whole problem revolves around those two little words, "Authority" and "Loyalty". When a woman marries a man, she'd usually feel like she has authority over her husband, and she'd expect his loyalty too. Moreover, that authority and loyalty are even more than what her mother-in-law deserves. In due course when there is friction between her and her mother-in-law, she'd expect her husband to support her.

However, when she eventually has a son of her own, and when that son gets married, she'd assume authority over her son, and she'd expect her son to be loyal to her, not to his wife! It is a strange reality about women in general. I'm not sure if it's a case of forgetfulness—as in forgetting the time when she, too, was once the daughter-in-law to somebody's mother, and that as a daughter-in-law, she had assumed authority over her husband and demanded his unconditional loyalty.

Well, I'd consider myself quite lucky in that my mother had long ago migrated to Canada. Over the years she's been visiting us every now and then, but had never actually stayed for a prolonged period in my house. I therefore have no opportunity to prove the above theory about women as far as my own mother is concerned, but I'd bet my bottom dollar that if it is fated one day that my mom comes over to stay for good, it would be just a matter of time that there will be frictions between her and my wife. It is almost natural for this to happen between a mother and her daughter-in-law!

There will be bound to be occasions when my mother would be tempted to "share" some of her wisdom on how to raise children properly—that children shouldn't eat junkfood up to 3 hours before dinner, because that would spoil their appetite; that the kids are spending too much time watching TV, and should be spending time studying; that kids have no business having cellphones of their own. And the list goes on and on. I dare say that some of these policies are good ones, and my wife would have no problem in agreeing with them. Nevertheless, there will be some ideas that may be not so agreeable to my wife.

And then there are also other matters where mom would sometimes like to throw in some of her ideas. For example, she would suggest that I put my sister's name, at least as a co-beneficiary, for my life insurance policy, instead of naming my wife as the sole beneficiary.

So let me repeat—there will be bound to be frictions. If I'm lucky it will remain a ticking time bomb that will never explode. Maybe my mom would end up lamenting to her friend at a coffeeshop like that woman at Damai Phase 4 above. But if I'm not so lucky, the bomb will explode with serious consequences. What would I do then?

Well, first and foremost, I'd like to listen to both sides of the story, and then assess which side I can agree with. Let me just say it here now that I am immune from the expectation of the society—that my loyalty should ultimately go to my mother. Not in the least. If I can't agree with my mother, I shall have no qualms in telling her, with due respect, to back off. I told her, for example, that there is no place whatsoever for my sister's name to appear in my life insurance policy even as a co-beneficiary; end of story, and there's nothing more to discuss, thank you. This has nothing to do with being ungrateful to my mother; but if it is deemed as ungratefulness anyway, then so be it; life goes on. But of course on the other hand, if I can't agree with my wife, then I will also tell her to back off.

There is no end to the argument of who, between mothers and daughters-in-law, deserve a higher authority and loyalty over/from the son/husband, although I suspect that in this part of the world, the majority of the population would say that mothers deserve more authority and loyalty. Well, what can I say, this is not the first time that my opinion is different from the norm.

I'm very lucky that having been married now for over 25 years, there has never been a quarrel between my mom and my wife. It would have been a rotten deal—and I would have done it anyway—for me to have to tell one of them to back off!


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Cheapskate

A couple of weeks after his mother's funeral, a man was packing some of his mother's old stuff, and he stumbled upon many of her old diaries. Curiosity got the better of him, and he started reading some pages randomly. He came upon an interesting entry from many years ago. 

It said:

"Today I've learnt a very important lesson—Sometimes, it's not worth to save a few cents by buying cheap and low-quality stuff because it might just fail to do what it's supposed to do. It's OK to spend a few cents more for the sake of quality!"

That entry made the man pause for a bit; he wondered what was that all about, and he kept thinking and thinking about it to no avail. It wasn't until much later when it suddenly occurred to him that the date of that entry was about 9 months before he was born!

Well, I have a story to tell about buying cheap stuff too. But in my story, although I'm not the one buying the cheap stuff, in the end I'm the one who paid for the consequences.

You see, I bought a smart phone for JJ, which was in itself an irony, really, because JJ is not so smart about taking good care of her stuff. She brought her phone to school one day and then left it lying around unattended, and eventually it was stolen. So daddy came in for the rescue with a new smart phone. That was almost 2 years ago. Although JJ has dropped her cellphone like a million times, the phone survived the torture somehow. It was quite an expensive cellphone, but it's not waterproof.

Then recently, while Mia was passing a phone accessories shop in a mall, a plastic casing for smartphones caught her eyes. It was designed to contain smartphones which can then be submerged into water. It was selling at a price of just RM10. Such a cheap item with the function of protecting a cellphone worth at least 6 months of my lunch allowance.

So JJ was excited. Last week, she went swimming at Sutera Harbour. She put her cellphone into that forsaken plastic casing and then took selfies in the pool. And then came the painful part of the story. After JJ had had her fun taking selfies, she noticed that water went into the plastic casing after all. What followed next were numerous attempts to revive the phone, including putting it into the rice container (not sure where she got that silly idea). But to make the long story short, her cellphone is dead. Like "DEAD" dead!

So JJ was the not-so-smart user of a smart phone; Mia was the cheapskate buyer of the miserable plastic casing at RM10; and now daddy is the one having to get JJ a new cellphone. After about a week without a cellphone, JJ finally got a new phone today. After checking out some of its features, she said to daddy, "Wow! it's cool dad!"

So JJ is happy; her mommy is happy; and I'm happy for both of them. But I'm rather sad for myself. But unlike the dead mother in the story above, I doubt that Mia has learnt anything from this episode. I bet if she sees another plastic casing selling at RM5, she'd buy it in a heartbeat...sigh.