Thursday, 29 December 2011

School child harvest

There is a small rambutan tree in the front compound of our house. It was planted by my mother quite a number of years ago, I can't remember. A few years ago it started to bear fruit but the quantity wasn't that much. Last year was not very good at all, with most of the fruits falling off the tree before they were fully ripe.

This year is different. Seems to be the best produce of all... a bumper harvest. Part of the tree's branches overhang past our front fence and the neighbourhood kids are having a field day plucking the fruits as they please. Some of them ask our permission while others do not. To those who asked, I say go ahead. There's plenty to share.

Since last Monday was a holiday and it wasn't raining continuously like previous days, I decided to do some rambutan-harvesting. My son and his cousin pitched in to help. I climbed part way up the tree to trim some of the branches using a saw. The fallen branches were then gathered by the boys who then pluck off the abundant fruits at the tips. Trimming the branches help new leaves to sprout for the next season.

As my son started to gather the branches, three of the neighbour's kids came around to help... and this kind Pakcik then rewarded them with a plastic bag-full of their pickings. I had trimmed maybe four or five small branches when I felt too tired to continue. We had already collected 2 large bucketful of the fruits. There are still plenty more up there on the tree. Maybe I'll continue the harvest this weekend.

The rambutan my mother planted is of the variety known as `anak sekolah'. Strange name for a fruit but very sweet and juicy with a reasonably thick flesh. I wondered how the name came about. According to a friend, this type of rambutan is well-known in Kelantan state since many years ago. Moktea anok skoloh, that's the way they say it.

The young man using a stick and ladder to pick the lower fruits

The plucked fruits are gathered in a bundle and then shared

Red hairy skin...

...with white juicy flesh.

Monday, 26 December 2011

The day after Christmas

The first time I spent my Christmas holidays at a place where most of the people actually celebrated Christmas, was in 1980 in the small town of Wrexham, in the northern part of Wales, in the United Kingdom. The bunch of us students from Malaysia didn't actually do very much during that term break. It was freezing cold outside so we just stayed at home, kept warm and watch TV. No snow though, so it wasn't a white Christmas.

It was the first time I heard the term Boxing Day, the day after the 25th of December. It is also a public holiday in the UK. If we in Malaysia can have 2 days off for Aidilfitri plus another 2 days off for Chinese New Year, then it is not difficult to understand why the Matsallehs cannot have 2 days off too.

I was puzzled why they called the 26th of December as Boxing Day, so I asked my British friends. None of them could give me a definitive answer. Even today, trying to search for the origin of the name via online sources does not give clear results. The name has nothing to do with the sport of boxing (you know, the game where one man punch another man, in a ring which is actually square in shape). The most accepted theory is that it has to do with boxes (the thing that we keep stuff in), whereby charity boxes containing donations from the public during the Christmas service the previous day are collected and then shared with the poor.

Well, what ever the origin of the name, I remember Boxing Day for another reason. It is a full day programme for English league football. So I'll be tied in front of the telly tonight.

Hoping my friends had a lovely day-off yesterday. Me and the missus had a quiet day resting at home. Our son with a number of his cousins, had a blast spending the whole day at Universal Studios in Singapore.

Once a lifetime experience...

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Swift as an arrow

I drive to work this morning (yes, I work on Saturdays). The traffic on the highway to Pasir Gudang is lighter today compared to the weekdays, but still busy nonetheless.

I am on the right lane of the two-lane road, driving at a leisurely 70km/h. A few cars are not far in front, at the same pace. The left lane is conquered by the slow heavy lorries, as usual. I glance at the rear-view mirror and see a car in the distance, speeding towards me. Pretty soon it is right up on my tail and I see it is a red Suzuki Swift. It is so close. The sight of the car fills the whole rear-view mirror. The driver seems to be bugging me to move over but not poking my bum with his headlights. I buat bodo aje...

Image borrowed from
Suzuki Malaysia website
A gap in between the trucks on the left-hand side appears. The Swift makes a quick lane switch, overtakes me on the left and weaves in back in front of me. I see a young man driving and a young lady in the passenger seat... a prick impressing his girlfriend, no doubt. He continues to weave in and out to overtake the other cars in front.

As I watch him fly away in the distance, I realise that another car is close behind my tail. Another Swift! This one is black. It has a lone driver. The same thing happens... as gaps on the left lane present itself, blackie makes swift lane-switch manoeuvres to get to the front. Crap, I thought. I'm being hit for a double trouble this morning. Tak boleh jadi ni...

A thought crosses my mind... I should give them a chase. But then I realise that this old car of mine is no longer a sprinter but a long-distance runner. A few years ago, I would've stepped on the accelerator and perform them nifty moves myself. Age is catching up on me.

Turns out to be a good decision. As if on cue, I hear the sound of a siren behind me. A police patrol car is crawling on my back. I move to the left when I see a safe gap. The coppers zoom past, switch on the flashing blue lights and catch up to the two Swifts. Both Suzuki cars are directed to pull over to the road shoulder.

As I pass them, I note that it could've been three cars in the police summons book. God is kind to me today...

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Ain't no sunshine when she's gone

The original singer of this song, Bill Withers, released it in 1971. The song became a classic hit. Since then, a number of other singers have performed cover versions. A few months back, I discovered this youtube video of Joe Cocker singing the hit in his distinctively raspy style and I like it very much. I thought it appropriate to share at this present time... what with the weather being gloomy and rainy for the past few weeks.

Youtube credit to : Andranik Azizbekyan

"It's not warm when she's away...."

Yeah, you're right Joe. The missus has been away at the hospital for ten days now. The doctor says she may be discharged tomorrow if everything's okay.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Common and self-admiration

As a young boy in primary school, my interest in reading was sustained by poring over Enid Blyton's books, particularly the Famous Five and Secret Seven series. Whenever I come across a new word, I would borrow my father's pocket-sized Collins English-Malay dictionary. That tiny book became my reference companion for a few years until my father, either on seeing my keen reading habit or wanting his own dictionary back, bought me a thick full-fledged dictionary published by Larousse. I was in awe when I received it as a present. It must have cost my father a bomb to buy it and I treasured it very much.

From reading Blyton, I went on to read more classical authors like Charles Dickens and Jane Austen. Reading Dickens was tough. He used so many words I didn't understand that I had to refer to the dictionary too often. This took out the fun in reading so I went back to reading mystery and adventure stories. The Three Investigators and The Hardy Boys were among my favourites. As I entered late teens, my reading scope expanded to include horror by Stephen King and spy thrillers by Frederick Forsyth and Robert Ludlum. Most of the thrillers that I read are fast-paced and I can become so engrossed as to miss dinners and postpone sleep. Unputdownable, if there is such a word.

If I come across new words while reading such thrillers, I never stop to check their meaning in the dictionary. It spoils the momentum. Usually I just try to guess what they mean from the context of the sentence. Only after finishing the book would I flip the dictionary to check if my guess was right... but I'll do that only if I remember or if the word interests me. Sometimes I wouldn't bother... especially if I think the word is too complicated and that I'd never use it myself, either in speech or in writing. Sounds like I'm limiting my vocabulary, but hey... there are millions of words out there, so it's okay if we don't know a few.

I was listening to a classic song recently when I heard a particular word that I didn't know the meaning of. I googled the lyrics and part of it I reproduce here :

You drove me, nearly drove me, out of my head
While you never shed a tear
Remember, I remember, all that you said
You told me love was too plebeian
Told me you were through with me and...

The word that stumped me is plebeian. According to my dictionary, the word means something relating to ordinary people or the common folk. If used as a noun, it is a degrading word for someone of low social class. Now how's that for an insult.

Click on this link to have a listen to the Susan Boyle version of the song -> Cry Me A River

Ok then, for good measure, I'll give you another word that is in my `hard to understand' category - narcissistic. I'm having trouble even pronouncing it. I first came across this word in a novel but I can't remember the novel's title. It means having an obsession with one's own image and ego.

So there you have it - plebeian and narcissistic. Two words I doubt I'll ever use...

Thursday, 15 December 2011

A Good Makan Spot in JB (4)

With the missus lodged in the 1st Class Ward of Hospital Sultanah Aminah, it has been consecutive dining out experience for my youngest son and me for the past three nights. Not that I don't know how to cook... but with the rush back from work, battling the evening traffic and trying to reach the hospital before end of visiting hours, I can't be bothered to spend time in the kitchen.

What I've been doing is to get home as early as I can, pick up my son and then head off to the hospital to visit his mother. On the way back, we stop by any convenient makan place to grab a bite to eat.

For our dinner tonight, I decided to re-visit a classy restaurant located at Jalan Abdullah Tahir, not far from JB city centre. Actually, the main reason for dinner at this place is because I wanted to wash my car. Jalan Abdullah Tahir is the carwash centre of JB.... there are maybe 7 or 8 places (I've lost count) where you can have your car cleaned.

Banafee Village Restaurant is located next to such a carwash and so it's terribly convenient to let your car have a shower while you have some chow. We first tried out this restaurant when it opened for business around two years ago. It was a Ramadhan buffet spread and I wasn't very much impressed at that time because the food wasn't that tasty. As such, it never crossed my mind to give the place another try.... until tonight.

This time around, I am happy to note that there have been improvements. The menu now is quite extensive. They offer Chinese, Western and even Arabic cuisine. I decided to try out the Lamb Hanith, a traditional Yemeni dish while my young man went  for the Baked Lamb Leg. I believe I've mentioned this before... father and son are both lamb enthusiasts.

The leg arrived first and my son quickly tucked into it. I asked him if it tasted good and he simply nodded. I always trust his judgement when it comes to the taste of lamb dishes. I cut off a piece of the meat from his plate and tried it myself and sure enough, the dish was cooked by a pro.

My order of lamb and rice arrived. When I opened the foil package containing the lamb, my first impression was that it looked a bit dry. Upon the actual eating of it, I decided that the taste was not too bad. Maybe slightly below my favourite lamb hanith dish at Saba Restaurant in KL, but I'll give Banafee the thumbs up. My plate of rice and the accompanying salad was wiped clean.

I believe Banafee Village also offer live music entertainment but we didn't stay to watch. My car is already washed and it was time to head home and blog about it.

Baked lamb leg

Hot and cold. Teh halia in the mug and choco milkshake for the young man

Lamb hanith... delicious.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Chances are...

My better half suffers from a skin ailment which afflicted her just after we got married. The cause of the disease is still not known and scientists have yet to find a definitive cure.

In September of last year, the situation became a bit serious and she had to spend a week in hospital. After a regime of antibiotics and other medication, her condition improved but the specialist doctor still could not pinpoint the exact cause.

Six months ago, the skin inflammation recurred and she had to be warded again. As I was helping her `check-in' at the time, it surprised me a bit that she was assigned the same bed in the same room of the 1st Class Ward at Hospital Sultanah Aminah, here in Johor Bahru. The HSA is the oldest government hospital in the city. Its 1st Class ward is located in a new wing and the rooms are quite comfortable. Nearly on par with that of private hospitals. The sad thing is that, admission to 1st Class is quite restricted and upon direction of the specialist doctors only. The rest of the common folk have to make do with beds in the lower classes. The Malay proverb of `duduk sama rendah, berdiri sama tinggi' does not apply in this case. How I wish that one day, all Malaysians can have access to equal health treatment.

The duration of my wife's second stay at the hospital was as long the the first. Again, still no clues as to what caused the recurrence.

Last night, her skin flared up again and I took time off from work to accompany her to the hospital earlier this afternoon. While waiting for the administrative work at the admissions counter, I casually mention that it would be a very slim chance indeed if she gets the same bed again. Once registration is cleared, a nurse leads the way to the room, and lo and behold.... it is the same bed, three times in a row! What a coincidence. My wife shares this fact with the nurse and we are all amused. I jokingly add that my wife has signed a long term tenancy with the hospital for that particular bed.

I did a quick mental calculation on the probability of such an event happening. The women's first class ward at HSA JB has 16 beds. That means 1 in 16 chance (or 6.25%) of being assigned the same bed on the second visit. If my memory of Probability Theory serves me right, the chances of the same thing happening the third time is not doubled but squared.... i.e. 1 in 256 or a teeny-weeny 0.39% only. How's that for great odds.

Well.... the jesting aside, I wouldn't want my missus to be spending time in that bed (or any other hospital bed for that matter) longer than necessary. I hope she gets well soon.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Original blogger creations

Two separate packages from two different bloggers came in the mail for me yesterday. I hadn't expected the items to arrive that early because I just placed the orders and made payment the day before. I salute my two blogger friends for their efficiency.

1. Emila's Illustrated Calender 2012

When illustrator-blogger Emila Yusof announced last month that she may produce a calender for next year, I immediately sent her a message that I'll buy one. She had previously made a calendar for 2010 which consisted of 12 pages of her own drawings. I was the owner of a copy and had written about it here -> 2010 calender. There wasn't one for 2011and so, when she was mulling about her second calender product, I was among the earliest fans to say yes.

Emila's calender is still available for purchase from her website or you can click on the following link to visit her online webstore -> Emila's Littleshop. The price is RM15.00 per copy not inclusive of postage. Pop over to her shop to see larger sample images and maybe also browse the other unique items on offer.

2. Coretan Xnuripilot

I first became acquainted with blogger Major (Rtd) Nor Ibrahim Sulaiman when he dropped a comment in the post where I wrote about Mee Banjir Udang Kuala Sepetang in May 2010. Following that comment, I made occasional visits to his blog to read stories and recollections about life in the Air Force. Major Ibrahim is a retired helicopter pilot who used to serve our country during the communist insurgency. His stories about struggles and confrontations with the enemy make very interesting reading.

I had missed dropping by his blog for quite some time and somehow late last month, I made a chance re-visit. The retired Air Force Major had apparently went on a mission to self-publish his collection of stories in book form. He is attempting to get the support of Dewan Bahasa & Pustaka to assist in a 2nd re-print.

I requested the Major to reserve a copy for me should DBP agree to help him out. He quickly replied that he still has a few odd copies in hand and would sell one to me if I don't mind some minor defects on the cover. No problem, I said... and after a few further exchanges of information and cash, I am now in possession of a book containing first-hand accounts of life as a pilot flying the Nuri (Sikorsky) military helicopters.

Thank you, Pak Ibrahim for sharing your stories with us... and thank you too, for your service and sacrifice in defence of our nation.

Inside cover of the book has the author's biodata and autograph

Thursday, 8 December 2011

The spreader of false news

In the days before there were social networking websites, dubious and misleading news tend to make their way across cyberspace via forwarded emails. Usually such news sound sensational in the first instance and carry some form of warning or community advice. The forwarders of such emails normally do not care to check the authenticity of the piece being passed on, preferring to resort to the maxim of `better safe than sorry' or `no harm to let others know'. It is as if by forwarding the news gives them this `feel-good' feeling of having done a great service to society.

Unfortunately, quite a number of such forwarded news are plain false, misleading and in some cases, carry ill-intent. The Malay word that applies to this situation is `fitnah'.

An example of such an erroneous email is the one I received in June 2009 about the so-called humiliation that Apple is bringing to the religion of Islam by opening a bar in New York resembling the holy Kaabah in Makkah. A simple google search on `Apple Mecca Bar' will yield the true story. The perpetrator of this piece is not a dumb fellow. He was banking on the emotions and naivety of a section of cyberspace citizens by touching on the sensitive subject of religion. The people who blindly forwarded his message are the dumb ones.

I replied to the person who sent me the mail, saying that the story is a hoax and to check the truth before forwarding. She still forwards me similar stuff, although not as often as before... probably because such news have found a new medium of transmission. Facebook.

Last week, I spotted a niece of mine posting a link from her friend's wall, warning readers not to partake drinks from a certain manufacturer. The message goes like this :

Untk beberape hari akn dtg,jgn ambil mnuman dr mana2 produk dr syarikat PEPSI spt pepsi,tropicana juice,slice,7up,coca cola dll kerana ada pekerja dr syarikat itu tlh menambah darahnya yg trcemar dgn HIV.Keluar berita dlm NTV7.Tlg sebarkn kpd org yg anda sygi.

I immediately posted a comment to my niece, asking if this is true. For starters, Pepsi and Coca-cola are 2 different companies. She then posted a similar query on her friend's link. The reply from the friend was a nonchalant, `Better xpayah minumla.. Lgkh brjaga2..'. So disappointing.

Since there was mention of NTV7 in the message, I sent an email to them asking about it. The television station replied that they had never broadcasted such news. And as if on cue, the very next day The Star Online carried an article quoting the response from Pepsi, saying that it was a hoax. The story originated as an sms in India since July this year. The full news article can be read here -> Rumours of HIV-infected drinks untrue, says Pepsi. This same link was given to my niece, who then extended it to her friend. I had a peek at this person's wall to see what her response was. Sadly... nothing. The least she could have done is to say sorry for perpetuating the lie.

I guess the spread of such khabar angin will not end any time soon, if at all. Information nowadays, travel at the speed of light. And we will continue to have ignorant and arrogant people who think they have done a good thing by being the spreader of false news.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Ditelan mati emak...

Back to another posting about Malay proverbs. In a previous post, I had mentioned how the late Pak Sako gave excellent commentaries on the use of peribahasa Melayu to suit any given situation. In general, the old Malay proverbs make use of metaphor to get the message across. Most of such sayings have deep and sometimes sarcastic meanings, but there are some that actually sound a bit inappropriate, whether used in the distant past or mentioned in the present day. Pak Sako took swipes at some of these and the following is an example.

`Duduk sama rendah, berdiri sama tinggi' or its equivalent `Hati gajah sama dilapah, hati kuman sama dicecah'.

The underlying message behind both these proverbs is equality. Not of the sexes, but of class. The Malay word for it is darjat. More often than not, the users of such sayings are those who are well-to-do and they apply the usage to curry favour or empathy from those who are not. According to Pak Sako, in almost all occasions (events, ceremonies, wedding receptions), persons of a certain standing will always be treated a bit special compared to the common folk. No such thing as equality. Which sort of reminds me of the quote from George Orwell : All animals are equal... but some animals are more equal than others.

So why am I again writing on this subject of perumpamaan Melayu? Dah takde idea lain ke?

Well.... earlier today, an old schoolmate named Zaim Mahmood, posted on his FB wall, a list of modified peribahasa purportedly uttered by the TV3 news reporter Karam Singh Walia, who's famous for such idiomatic quotes. Most of the sayings are hilarious and I doubt if Mr Walia actually said them, but even if he didn't, I'm sure he wouldn't mind the credit. I have chosen some real classical samples to share :

1. Terlajak perahu boleh diundur, terlajak kereta pun boleh undur. Terlajak kapal terbang takde gear reverse, sori.
2. Sudahlah jatuh ditimpa pula tangga, lepas tu tercium pulak tahi ayam.
3. Biar mati bini jangan mati anak (boleh kahwin lagi ape...)
4. Kalau tiada rotan, pelempang ajelah....
5. Hujan emas di negeri orang, hujan batu di negeri sendiri. Kalau macam tu lebih baik tak payah hujan.

There is plenty more from where that came from. Muahaha!

Ok then..... let's end this post with another of my own contribution : Ditelan mati emak, diluah mati bapak. Habis tu, kalau tak telan atau tak luah, sendiri yang mati lah ye....