One of my favourite places: a good grocery store

My colleague told me about De Market Taman Desa for awhile now and I finally had the chance to drop in over the weekend. 

I am impressed. I found all the stuff that I needed, except kosher salt. But that is another story. 

 

 

 

pearlie

With the barest of words and emotions

 

The sermon this morning was from John 19:17-42, the passage about the crucifixion and burial of Jesus. Pastor said that it unusual that after spending so many verses telling us what happened to Jesus who was before the Jews and Roman authorities after his arrest, the passage here on the crucifixion seem anti-climatic with the barest of words and descriptions.

But I find that most remarkable. With just a short passage, the apostle John gave us the most important facts about the crucifixion of Christ. With the economy of words, every sentence and verse, are packed and deep with theological truths. You can practically spend your whole life just studying each and every of these 21 verses in John, let alone the other parallel passages in Matthew, Mark and Luke.

When I watched movie adaptations of Jesus's crucifixion, I always thought it interesting that the Gospels did away with the emotions, feelings, and sensations of the event. 

With just two words in Greek, John wrote, αὐτὸν ἐσταύρωσαν, they crucified him. 

Was it not important how Jesus reacted, what he thought, and how he felt on the cross? Or was it something so painful and so unimaginable that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John chose not to describe it?

I don't know but I believe that even with the barest of words and emotions, they are so important and theologically packed that it is what I need to know and believe in: that Jesus died for me, so I may live.

pearlie

Mushroom Risotto in a Pressure Cooker

 

I am not a very chinese Chinese but Chinese enough to feel oh so satisfied with a good bowl rice. So when I first tried a serving of risotto in an Italian restaurant—I think it was in G3 in Jalan Telawi 3, Bangsar—you should see the contented look in my face. 

So I wanted to try making it and I found this recipe I adapted from Food.com so yummy and good. And it gets done in 7 minutes in a pressure cooker. It's quick and easy. 

Mushroom Risotto in a Pressure Cooker
Ingredients 
4 tablespoons olive oil 
4 tablespoons butter, divided 
1 medium onion, diced 
2 garlic cloves, minced 
250 grams mushrooms, portabella or shiitake, sliced 
1 1⁄2 cups arborio rice 
2 cups chicken or beef stock
1 cup water 
1 -1 1⁄2 cup fresh grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese 

Directions
In a presssure cooker, heat 4tbs olive oil and 2 tbs butter. Add onion and garlic. Saute until translucent. Add mushrooms and rice. Stir until rice is coated with oil. Add stock and water. Cover and cook under high pressure for 7 minutes. Release pressure and add remaining 2 tbs of butter. Stir in Parmesan cheese and serve.

pearlie 

Get your phone to read out loud for you

 
I read aloud my books sometimes to help me concentrate. It takes a longer time but it helps to keep me focused. 

I have tried to get good apps to read stuff to me and I have downloaded both paid and free apps:

1. NaturalReader reads books. It's free but limited in the length of read time after which you will need to pay. I like it but it's not very easy though to manage what and where to read from. I find it difficult to read from anywhere I want. 

2. VoiceReader reads text files. I like this because the voices that you can download are good ones, and they don't cost too much. My only problem with it is that it only reads text files. 

3. Speaky loads webpages and reads it for you. I like it and used it quite frequently before. It uploads selected webpages from my Pocket account and reads them. But after a few upgrades, I found it quite difficult to use. 

I found out some time ago that I can get my iPhone's VoiceOver to read me my books in iBooks. But I don't use iBooks and so I tried it on my Kindle app and it works! Brilliantly. 

Here is what you do:

1. Go to your iPhone's Settings, General, Assesibility, Assesibility Shortcut, choose VoiceOver. This is where when you triple click your phone'shome button, and the phone will read for you what's on your screen. Triple click again to disable VoiceOver. 

2. Set up your VoiceOver function in your iPhone's Settings, General, Assesibility, VoiceOver. You don't have to switch on your VoiceOver. Choose your preferred voice and speaking rate. 

3. Open your book in Kindle and at the page you want it to start reading, triple click the home button to begin. If it doesn't start reading after voicing out the function options, swipe down with two fingers. Tap with two fingers to pause and tap again to continue. To move between pages, swipe with three fingers. 

pearlie 

Input and Maximizer at play

I have completed delivering two modules of training at work and was brushing my next module when I thought I'd come up with an activity that involves creating a poster ad. 

That was when I remembered the last time I went searching for such ads. 

It was during the recent preaching seminar that I have attended. In one of the workshops led by Paul Barker on the applications part of a sermon, he gave us homework. We were to go look for advertisements that portray values, good or bad. 

And it was my Gallup theme strength #3 Input and #7 Maximizer that was at play. My Input pushed me to spend almost an hour if not two till past midnight to scour the internet to find these. And my Maximizer insisted that I only give up looking when I find those that are interesting and unique. 

Here they are:

I thought this Facebook one was cute but not carrying a very positive value but a reality that most of us are so deliberately addicted to social media. 
 

I felt this one minimizes the value of life.
 

At first I did not understand this ad but soon figured out that it's what you eat that causes a war in your stomach. So you would need an Eno to soothe it. The value? Glorifying violence. 
 

This was the one that we picked for our group to present as our chosen ad. Its tagline was "Right the Wrong" and I felt that it minimises sin. It's as easy as whitewashing it and it will be hidden, but it is still there. 
 

Don't you think these ads are brilliant? But not the imbedded values they portray though. 

pearlie 

A checklist of the M'Cheyne bible reading plan

App
 
Mibipi App by Geoffrey Dayley

I was looking for a checklist app that will help me to keep track of my daily bible reading using the M'Cheyne bible reading plan, and found it in this simple app. 

Though I wish it could be more, the app is the only one around, for now. 

This bible reading plan is a good one. It is developed by a 19th Century Scottish minister, Robert Murray M’Cheyne, and it brings you reading through the New Testament and Psalms twice a year, and through the rest of the Bible once each year. You read on average 4 chapters per day.

Have you found any other good bible reading plans?

pearlie

My reading not catching up to my buying

 
Cold-Case Christianity, A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospel
by J. Warner Wallace

Oh dear...I bought seven more books today. Noel tells me I'm addicted to books, especially these Kindle deals. It's madness. 

But with such an interesting title like this one, Cold-Case Christianity, A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospel, which has a foreword by Lee Strobel, who wrote Case for Christ that is catalyst to my learning more about my faith through these fabulous writers and their work, and with such a good deal at $3.82 after a 80% discount, how can I not get a copy. 

I have started on it today and I think it will be a very good read. 

But my colleague did ask me a very obvious question, where do I find the time to read to catch up with the number of books I'm buying?

I really do not have an answer to that. 

pearlie

A yearly journal of your life

 

Time really flies and it has been two years since I started using this journaling app call Askt. I blogged about it when I started using it and amazingly, I've kept at answering its daily questions and have completed two years of it. 

Some of the answers to the questions are unsurprisingly exactly the same, for example to the question "Do you like your mirror?", I have answered exactly the same thing in 2015 and 2016: "nope". 

Some entries amuses me though. Like this one: "What do you hate to talk about?" In 2015, I replied "politics" but in 2016 I replied, I hate to talk about "boring stuff. Politics is getting interesting." And I promise I never look before I answer the question for the second time. 

Here's to Askt for the third year round. I wonder how many years will I do this though. 

pearlie

The NIV Zondervan Study Bible Kindle Version


My good friend Noel has been recommending me this new NIV Zondervan Study Bible edited by DA Carson. I have tried the electronic trial version in my Tecarta bible app for three days but at $24.99, I thought I'd give it a pass for the time being. 

I found out today that it was on sale in Kindle Amazon and bought a copy at only $4.99. It is good to save so much but it is challenging to use it in the Kindle version. I am not sure if I can get used to it. 

In the Tecarta bible app, I can easily get to the
books and chapters quite easily and the commentary section appears alongside with the verses. 

The Kindle version is much more challenging because I can only get to the book via its content page, and then flip through the introduction section before clicking on the link in the list of chapters in the books. To get to the commentary section, I would need to tap on the number of the verse and then tap on the back button to go back to the verse. 

In this scenario, a print version would serve me so much better. 

pearlie

How in the world did they scan all those books in Google

 
Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore
by Robin Sloan

I read Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan and loved it tremendously. It presents a story in a good mesh of the conventional and modern setting in reading. The protagonist is Clay who is a newly graduated designer who is also quite adept at programming. He lost his job and subsequently settled for the next one he could get - nightshift clerking at a 24-hour bookstore.

A 24-hour bookstore! 

I've never found one in my life, but this one here is a mysterious one. It concerns the books in the Waybacklist, what Clay referred to as the tall vertical shelves at the back of the store and a fellowship of readers called the Unbroken Spine. It's a clash between two worlds of old leatherbound books and electronically rendered ones, between codes in the pages of a book and codes on the screens of computers, between handwritten log books and a 3-D model of the bookstore, between a small dim musty decrepit bookstore and the massive polished sleek Google. 

I actually learned so much from reading this book, particularly about Hadoop and Mechanical Turks. And as the story progressed on, Clay went to Google to get a book scanned. It had crossed my mind before to check on how Google actually got all those books scanned but I never did. Now that I did, I am impressed. 

According to Wikipedia, "as of October 2015, the number of scanned book titles was over 25 million...Google estimated in 2010 that there were about 130 million distinct titles in the world, and stated that it intended to scan all of them." That is only about 19% scanned. 

And how do they scanned all those massive amounts of pages.

"Many of the books are scanned using a customized Elphel 323 camera at a rate of 1,000 pages per hour. A patent awarded to Google in 2009 revealed that Google had come up with an innovative system for scanning books that uses two cameras and infrared light to automatically correct for the curvature of pages in a book. By constructing a 3D model of each page and then "de-warping" it, Google is able to present flat-looking pages without having to really make the pages flat, which requires the use of destructive methods such as unbinding or glass plates to individually flatten each page, which is inefficient for large scale scanning."

I could not find out how the Google scanning machine or contraption look like but I found this awesome high speed book scanner I would love to get my hands on. It scans 250 pages a minute, 15 times better than the Google one. And if I had one, I'd scan all my 400 over books in my library in just 20 hours! So I would just need to rent it for a day or two. I could ask the Ishikawa Oku Library in the University of Tokyo, or not. 


pearlie

My Prayer for Malaysia

 


Our country celebrate itself today, being Malaysia Day. And I would like to pray for my country. I found a very good prayer here and it's long, but a good one: A Prayer for Our Country and Our Leadership, but this is my short prayer for Malaysia:


Our Father in heaven, we thank you that we are citizens of heaven as much as we are citizens of our country. While we are here on earth, we are grateful that you are Emmanuel, you are with us. We pray that your holy governance of the world will produce good and wise leaders, who will hold on to justice above their own desires. We pray that they will be pure in their intentions, and godly in their convictions. We pray that the people will find you, to find hope and finally peace on earth and goodwill toward all men. Amen


pearlie

Wonderful Things of the World #2: Hakka Lui Cha

 

I joined my colleagues for vegetarian lunch today, although I don't really fancy Chinese vegetarian food. I went for the company and it was alright. But it reminded me of what I really feel like having, Hakka lui cha or thunder tea literally translated, though there are the vegetarian and non-vegetarian variety.

I especially like it because of the green colored broth packed with ground mint, basil and tea leaves. I can almost taste it now. My colleague, Teresa, who was also at the same vegetarian lunch, did tell me that her father-in-law makes it often at home. I'm still waiting for the invitation that sadly will never come. 

So I found this article in The Malay Mail Online and I will surely check out those places for good servings of lui cha.

pearlie 

Something I can't stop talking about: books and reading


Those who know me well and those who follow my blog would know by now that I am a bibliophile, I love books. I like collecting them. I love reading them. And I can't stop talking about it.

Whenever I run training sessions, I will take the opportunity to ask my classes who loves to read. The response? On average, only 1 in 20 loves to read. I had tried to convince my classes that they need to read, that reading is good for them. But by now I have already given up on it. Not everybody loves to read and so be it.

I started reading from a very young age. The Famous Five, The Secret Seven, The Three Investigators, Nancy Drew and the Trixie Beldon series were my favourites. I then moved on to books by Sidney Sheldon, John Grisham and Michael Crichton.

I started my goodreads account in July 2010 and I just noted today that I have read 332 books, and that does not include those I read in my childhood days. If I don't count all those beginning years, I suppose I would have read on average about 12 books in a year in my adult life, which I thought was quite a lot. I don't remember reading so much except for the last 5 years when I really started to take account of my reading.

Like I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I went back to reading because I really missed it. I have tried to branch out to other activities but reading is still it for me. With that, I have finished 7 books in August and now at mid-September, I have read 5 books, and really enjoying the experience.

pearlie

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

 
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
by Lisa See

One of my favourite movies is Memoirs of a Geisha though I only gave it a 3-star (out of 5) when I last read the book.  I wanted to look for a good novel along the same genre and so I opened up the Memoirs of a Geisha page in Amazon and scrolled through the list of "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought" and found this book: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, by Lisa See.

I finished it in one day today, with it being an off-day from work. The book is good. 

The story is about 80-year old Lily who wrote about her life right from when she was five, growing up in remote 19th-century China, in the Hunan province. She was matched with another girl, of the same age, to become a lifetime friend, a laotong, or literally "old same". 

"A laotong match is as significant as a good marriage," Lily's aunt had explained. "A laotong relationship is made by choice for the purpose of emotional companionship and eternal fidelity. A marriage is not made by choice and has only one purpose – to have sons." 

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is the story of such a friendship.

I find it very interesting to learn about the life of girls, how they grew up and lived as women. It was fascinating to know a bit about the life in China when women had their feet bound. Small bound feet were seen by them to be of exquisite beauty. I think it is an awful practice but it was the culture and life back then in China. I did begin to imagine how it would be for me had I been born in China then.

The other interesting thing I learnt was about nu shu, or literally "women's script". 

It was regarded as women's secret writing...men’s writing is bold, with each character easily contained within a square, while our nu shu looks like mosquito legs or bird prints in dust. Unlike men’s writing, a nu shu character does not represent a specific word. Rather, our characters are phonetic in nature. As a result, one character can represent every spoken word with that same sound. So while a character might make a sound that creates the words for “pare,” “pair,” or “pear,” context usually makes the meaning clear. Still, much care has to be taken to make sure we do not misinterpret meaning.

I was glued to the book the whole day until I finished it this evening. 

pearlie 

Postscript 25 Sept 2016: I watched the movie several days ago. Verdict? Again the book is way, way, way better than the movie. I agree with Roger Ebert that the movie is way too sappy. And most of the important parts of the stories, like the development of their relationships, the exchange of letters in nu shu, the many evening gatherings of the women of the house, the development of supporting characters, which from pillars of the stories, were missing. But what was interesting was the inclusion on an additional modern story of the two women's offsprings not featured at all in the book. 

My family, my world

Family means no one gets left behind or forgotten. 
~ David Ogden Stiers

I'm every conceivable manner, the family is link to our past, bridge to our future. 
~ Alex Haley

A happy family is but an earlier heaven. 
~ George Bernard Shaw

I think togetherness is a very important ingredient to family life. 
~ Barbara Bush

A family can develop only with a loving woman as its center. 
~ Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel

A family is a place where principles are hammered and honed on the anvil of everyday living. 
~ Charles R. Swindoll

pearlie 

What you never realized about the writings of Tolkien and Lewis

 
A Hobbit, A Wardrobe and A Great War, How J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis Rediscovered Faith, Friendship, and Heroism in the Cataclysm of 1914-18
by Joseph Loconte

The book started off quite interestingly but I soon got bogged down on the first few chapters about the First World War. I am not a fan of writings or documentaries or movies about wars and combat and so I got on quite laboriously in the beginning. I was however very adamant on reading this book about my two all-time favourite authors and if I had to read about wars, I will have to read about wars. 

And I am glad I did. This book is exceptional. Very few books made me cry, and this one did.

It spent quite a bit of time to discuss the war that both Tolkien and Lewis were in. It was an important factor, if not one of the most, that influenced their writings. Winston Churchill said that this "Great War differed from all ancient wars in the immense power of the combatants and their fearful agencies of destruction, and from all modern wars in the utter ruthlessness in which it was fought." I wouldn't know about Churchill's comment about future wars, what with the environment we are in right now, and we are not even at war, but I can see how the conditions that they had to encounter during the First World Wat were so bad. 

A German artist Otto Dix, who survived the war said this, “Lice, rats, barbed wire, fleas, shells bombs, underground caves, corpses, blood, liquor, mice, cats, artillery, filth, bullets, mortars, fire, steel: that is what war is. It is the work of the devil.”

But what is interesting though is this, before the Great War, society then in America and Europe, was living in an era of the myth of progress. They have had so many breakthroughs in mechanicals and technologies that they look to a world of perfection and goodness and peace. Then came the war. With this, I can also see that we might be in the same myth of progress where we are now, and we need to be warned before we fall into its trap again.

Loconte then proceeded on to tell the story of how Tolkien and Lewis met after the war, and this part of the book warmed my heart. It is a delight to read how they met every week to discuss their thoughts and ideas, and how they read their writings to each other for comment and critique. It was in such a setting that Tolkien and a friend helped Lewis worked out his logic and thinking to believe in God and Jesus as his Saviour. And it amazes me that it had to do with the theme of myth. Lewis said the understanding of the nature of myth was crucial to his conversion. 

“Do you mean,” Lewis asked, “that the story of Christ is simply a true myth, a myth that works on us in the same way as the others, but a myth that has really happened? In that case, I begin to understand.”

The subsequent section of the book is now my favourite of all in books I've ever read, which I believe I will read again and again. I have practically highlighted almost every other sentence in the paragraphs. Loconte provided me with a better background and perspective which I will take to when I re-read The Lord of the Rings and when I get into The Chronicles of Narnia. Their experience in the war, and the atrocities they have lived in, they have looked at it as the struggle of human against evil and the clamor for power, which is evident in the stories they told. 

Their heroes are unlike the heroes of our day. We look up to the heroes who are the only ones who can save the world, whereas the heroes of these two gentlemen are men who struggled with the weaknesses and yet gain victory not really by their doings, but through the most unexpected means. 

And on top of it, it is not us human that gains the ultimate glory of victory. In all wars or conquests that we see, victory was short-term if not futile. We await for the Return of the King, and only then will it be truly and finally victorious. 

pearlie 

The struggle of wanting to be perfect

 
Disability & The Gospel, How God Uses Our Brokenness to Display His Grace
by Michael S. Beates

In reading this book I have gained a better understanding and more importantly, an acceptance of myself. 

I have known that God works through us in our weaknesses but what if that weakness is a chronic one. How can we live and even understand when pain and disability is long term? 

It's only when we experience such a life will we begin to know and understand the real perpetual struggle of those who are disabled. (The book uses the term disabled though I found out that there is currently this disagreement with the use of the label in a semantic sense.)

What we can learn from the disabled is that they are a reminder to us that we are very broken in a lot of ways ourselves. Beates suggested that it is for that very reason that we tend to avoid or ignore those we see in wheelchairs or are blind or deaf. 

We choose ignore them as a denial of the brokenness in ourselves. Or we ask the questions--what happened and how it happened--not to offer any useful concern, but to subconsciously question our very own rejection of our own flaws in being mere human.

I challenge you the next time you feel a need to ask how and why a person is the way they are, to think again your motive of asking, and maybe refrain from doing so. They are struggling already without having you to ask. They will share with you when they are ready.  

Beates said, "Did you hear the critical phrase? 'God has more need [not that he has any need at all, of course] of our weakness than of our strength' (quoting Marva Dawn). Such a concept is completely foreign to all that the world understands and pursues. And one telling measure of the world’s encroachment into the church is how foreign this truth also seems to many Christians—leaders and lay people alike."

When I read that, the question I had was, how can one apply this paradox, if I can call it that, at work, in organizations where expectations are high, improvements demanded for and achievement vital for survival?

I feel that we at profit making corporations should not look down on workers who are struggling at work but to recognize that we all struggle and we all need to find our space to come to terms with about who we are and who we are not, what we can and what we cannot do, so that we can all excel at what we are good at. But sadly, that is not evident in corporations. The inevitable and reality of human frailty is always rejected, cut off, terminated. 

Don't we sometimes find it so tiring having to always prove ourselves at work, when we have so little to offer in areas where we know we struggle?

It is in Christ that we know our place, weak and in need. And unless and until we admit to our brokenness and our need to submit to Him, we will remain in our delusion of wholeness and achievement.

pearlie

A book sale that goes on and on and on

 
I found out in the month of May that Kindle now sells its ebooks to us here in Malaysia but it took me awhile to realise that Kindle also offers daily and monthly deals. I found the monthly deals page for non-fiction books and when I'm at that page, it really feels like I'm visiting a book warehouse sale, albeit virtually. And what more, the sale seems to go on without an end in sight. 

On my last count, from May to date, I have bought 58 Kindle books!

At the rate I'm going, I'd most probably end up buying about 20 books a month. The average price per book I'm buying is about RM10 and with that I'd need a book budget of RM200 per month, and that I think is very reasonable.

It has become normal for me that when I tell my friends about this, they'd tell me, "Oh! I prefer print books." But the funny thing I found out though is that most of them aren't even readers to begin with! 

So I've resigned to the fact that I can only share this passion of mine with a very small group of people. No matter...just looking at my "pile" of ebooks, I am happy and contented. And there is more to come.

pearlie