Wonderful Things of the World #4: Pumpkin Seeds

Recently, I have been eating quite a lot of pumpkin seeds. They are tasty and they pack a punch of nutrients. 

I got this list of benefits from care2 Healthy Living:

- Pumpkin seeds contain L-tryptophan, which helps promote sleep and fight depression. 
- Tryptophan is converted into serotonin and niacin, which aids in sleeping. 
- Pumpkin seeds contain phytosterols, compounds that that have been shown to reduce levels of LDL cholesterol. 
- Pumpkin seeds are filled with lots of minerals including phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, iron and copper. 
- They are a good source of vitamin K. 
- High in zinc, pumpkin seeds are a natural protector against osteoporosis, since zinc deficiencies can lead to higher rates of osteoporosis. 
- In a study of almost 400 men (age from 45-92) published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers found a correlation between low dietary intake of zinc, low blood levels of the trace mineral and osteoporosis at the hip and spine. 
- Pumpkin seeds are a good source vitamin E; they contain about 35.10 mg of tocopherol per 100 g. 
- They are the most alkaline-forming seed. 
- Pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of vitamin B group (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6 and folates). 
- 100 g of pumpkin seeds contains about 30 grams of protein. 
- According to studies, pumpkin seeds prevent calcium oxalate kidney stone formation. 
- Pumpkin seeds reduce inflammation and counter arthritis pain without the side effects of anti-inflammatory drugs. 
- They are used in many cultures as a natural treatment for tapeworms and other parasites. 
- Pumpkin seeds are good for prostate health. 
- The oil in pumpkin seeds alleviates difficult urination that happens with an enlarged prostate.


Brainy books

I have done so many sessions of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People workshops that I can do it my sleep. But I have been telling many stories about the brain, from the very, very little that I know, so much so that I think I should get some good books to read to spruce up my knowledge. 

I think the brain is the most interesting organ and there is still so much to learn about it. I found these books and there are now in my Amazon wishlist. I will be getting a couple of them to read soon. 

Do you have any to recommend?


My Chinese Songs Playlist

With my latest project in learning and brushing up on my Mandarin, I spent some time listening to some Mandarin songs and ended with this new playlist that only has six songs to date - the playlist will grow as I add on to it.

But I am just amazed that with just this short list itself, there are five languages being used: Mandarin, Cantonese, Hokkien, Korean and English. And what more, with an artiste with a Malay-sounding name, Khalil. Other than my two all-time favourite oldies that I have blogged before, and one old Faye Wong cover song, the rest are pretty new. Don't ask me why I like them, they just sound good to me. 

The lyrics that Apple Music use for these songs are all in Traditional Chinese, whereas I am learning the Simplified one, but I can still figure it out here and there, unless the song is too fast for me to catch up. 

I can't really believe it, I am actually singing Mandarin songs looking at the lyrics. 


My Movie Binge

We have a declared public holiday today and I decided to stay home to catch up on some things. I also managed to catch up on some movies that I have missed. In fact, I actually kind of had a movie binge. 

Firstly, I watched La La Land. With it being so highly rated, and after winning so many awards, I was really looking forward to watch it. My verdict? A huge disappointment...big time. It started alright but by the time I got to the middle of the movie, it got so boring and so sluggish I couldn't finish it. I fast forwarded to the end, and I'm done with it. My good friend Wee Yin commented that in this epoch of superhero movies, the younger viewers may have found a musical refreshing. But we more senior ones who have watched much higher standard musicals like Sound of Music, My Fair Lady, or  even Fame, La La Land to us just do not make the cut. 

La La Land ★☆☆☆☆

Unsatisfied, I had to watch something good and decided on J.K. Rowling's Fanstastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. I have not been very keen to watch Eddie Redmayne lately, probably because he is everywhere, appearing in so many movies in a such very short period of time. But this movie was so entertaining, I had so much fun watching it. I love the characters. It could have been much better if there were more character development of the beasts themselves. I am really looking forward to the next one with my all-time favourite actors: Jude Law and Johnny Depp.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them ★★★★☆

Having found myself on the roll watching movies, I picked Deadpool as my next one. It was fun, though some of the jokes sounded kind of stale to me and I found the violence a bit too much. But it was nice to watch pretty boy Ryan Reynolds in this rough and tough character. 

Deadpool ★★★☆☆

I then finished it off with Kubo and the Two Strings, which turns out to be the best of the lot. It is an amazing stop-motion movie that took them two years of filming on a 12-foot table and 3D printers. I think they did use some form of CGI as well, and one huge giant monster that wouldn't have fit the table. The plot is good, acting voices excellent, dialogue homorous and deep at times. It's a must watch.

Kubo and the Two String ★★★★★


The Perfect Wisdom of Our God

A beautiful modern hymn with superb lyrics: The Perfect Wisdom of Our God by Stuart Townend and Keith Getty

The perfect wisdom of our God, 
Revealed in all the universe: 
All things created by His hand, 
And held together at His command. 
He knows the mysteries of the seas, 
The secrets of the stars are His; 
He guides the planets on their way, 
And turns the earth through another day.  

The matchless wisdom of His ways, 
That mark the path of righteousness; 
His word a lamp unto my feet, 
His Spirit teaching and guiding me. 
And oh, the mystery of the cross, 
That God should suffer for the lost 
So that the fool might shame the wise, 
And all the glory might go to Christ!  

Oh grant me wisdom from above, 
To pray for peace and cling to love, 
And teach me humbly to receive 
The sun and rain of Your sovereignty. 
Each strand of sorrow has a place 
Within this tapestry of grace; 
So through the trials I choose to say: 
“Your perfect will in your perfect way.”


Life is full of possibilities

It's a farewell for one of my staff. It's sad to see him go. He has been a very good assistant and help. Wishing him all the best and that life is full of possibilities for him. 


My mom has a good sense of humour, unexpectedly, sometimes

I texted my mom in Mandarin today, for the first time in our lives and she was impressed. (She has always been nagging me to learn up the language.)

She couldn't reply me in Mandarin and wanted me to help her setup the Mandarin keyboard in her phone this evening, when we meet for dinner. 

This was how our conversation went:

She is so funny at times. 

Note: sudah sampai, is Malay for "already arrived". 

The seven deadly sins of speaking

I have blogged about this TedTalk before but this time I was reminded of it again. Julian Treasure spoke about the seven deadly sins of speaking: gossiping, being judgement all, negativity, complaining, making excuses, exaggeration and dogmatism. 

I experienced it yesterday--someone spoke to me in a very judgmental tone--it's not a big issue but I didn't like it. I did want to let it go and get on with the day, with life but it kept bugging me, and it suddenly reminded me of this TedTalk. 

He said,

"What would the world be like if we were speaking powerfully to people who are listening consciously in environments which are actually fit for purpose."

"Or to make that a bit larger, what would the world be like if we were creating sound consciously and consuming sound consciously and designing all our environments consciously for sound. That would be a world that does sound beautiful and one where understanding would be the norm. And that is an idea worth spreading."


We have a language-learning machine hidden in our brain?

Fluent Forever: How to Learn Any Language Fast and Never Forget It
by Gabriel Wyner 

I finally finished reading this book and it is a very, very good book. Highly recommended if you want to learn a new language. I find what Wyner says make perfect sense, and his learning strategy and ways workable. 

He talks about "comprehensible input" and refers to the "language-learning machine hidden within the brain of every child." He says, "Kids don't learn their language from just any kind of language input. The only input that seems to matter is input that kids can understand. In linguistic circles, this is known as comprehensible input. The basic idea is this: kids need to understand the gist of what they hear in order to learn a language from it."

If you try to learn languages in the way Wyner proposes, "you can feel your new language building itself in your mind. Instead of wasting your time on monotonous grammar drills, you're constantly encountering new words, new grammatical forms, and new ways to express yourself--a torrent of comprehensible input that feeds your language machine and helps you understand more and more every day...and you are not working; you are having fun."

Doesn't that sound awesome?

I now understand why I am finally learning to read and write Mandarin in stride. I have come a long way with the HSK decks I purchase that consist of flashcards with Mandarin sentences. I am revising these cards everyday with understanding and comprehension. 

Seriously, I have been trying in vain to learn the language all my life, formally when I was just a 7-year-old kid and when I was in university. After that, it was a half-hearted dabble here and there trying so hard to learn, memorize and recognize the characters but to my dismay, nothing seems to stick. 

It has now changed. I mentioned recently that it have only taken me two weeks to learn up all the 170 characters in HSK1. And given the fact that I have learnt HSK1 a couple of times before and that I have not done any work on HSK2, I thought it would take me much, much longer to master the second set. 

But it has only been 11 days since I started on HSK2 and I already know almost 90% of it. 

This book and the Anki deck really comes highly recommended if you desire to pick up a new language. And the beauty of it is that, as much as it really is hard work, I'm actually having loads of fun. 

Go get a copy of Fluent Forever and read it. Get the Anki app and use it. 

I promise you, it works. 


A true elder brother in the parable of the prodigal son?

The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith
by Timothy Keller

We are using this book in our Covenant Group bible study, studying the Prodigal Son parable in Luke 15:11-32. This book by a Timothy Keller is quite good but there is one interpretation of this passage we have not encountered before. 

In my previous studies, I remember moving from a focus on the younger son to the elder son, a focus on the homecoming of the wayward to the selfish and unforgiving elder brother. 

But Keller brings it even further. He posits a view that in this parable, there is an implied lesson on Jesus being the true elder brother, someone who woulf go all out to search and bring back the younger brother back to the father, back to the family. 

While it is not unreasonable to have such a reading of the passage, can we go that way in proper exegesis of the passage?

I want to try to get to the bottom of this. 


Christ is risen indeed

I finished reading Köstenberger's book, The Final Days of Jesus, and found it excellent as a companion to reading the Scripture on a day-to-day basis during the Holy Week.

I have also concluded the daily readings everyday with the videos provided here, with this video on the Resurrection Day:

I will do this again next year, and make the passages of the Passion Week, of the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus the focus of my thought, meditation and commitment. 


From Comic Sans font to the Polyglot Gathering

I woke up very early this morning at 6:30am and couldn't get back to sleep and I ended up spending the whole morning learning quite a lot of things. 

I started going through my Anki decks like I do now every morning, and then I thought I'd check out my Facebook to see what's going on. It all began with this post from someone: Read This Before You Ever Make Fun of Comic Sans Again.

It's about how a dyslexic person found it easy to read with the Comic Sans font, though I now read that it may have been a hoax, I don't know. But I've always wondered what the dyslexics see when they read and so I began to google for some pictures but I was soon curious as to why and what is happening in the brain for the dyslexics. 

This set me off on a trail of articles and videos. I won't make mention of the articles but these videos I watched were really interesting. 

This one provides an answer to the question I had about what is happening in the brain for dyslexics. Here I learnt the connection between language, hearing, seeing, and understanding to the areas of the brain that manage this complex activity. 

Then I got curious about reading and the brain. When I did the Coursera course on linguistics, I was surprised to hear the lecturer say that reading is quite different from knowing and speaking a language, that it was a later development and is quite distinct from speaking and understanding languages, and that the brain had to change and give way to adjust to this new requirement.  

Then I saw this video in the recommendation pane and it was interesting to learn how brains can actually be healed and improved. His message was quite powerful and emotional, that a healing in the brain can have positive effects to the next few generations through mproved behaviour and actions. 

This TED Talk video has been nagging at the corner of my eye everywhere I go and so I finally succumbed and I'm glad I watched it. It dispelled my initial thought that the brain can never be regenerated. Now science tells us that it is indeed possible through the plasticity of the brain. 

Then I saw these words, the Polyglot's Brain, and that definitely hooked me. The quality of this video is not very good and the content could have been better but it was still quite informative. 

It was then that I realized that there is this whole hoard of videos from this group called the Polyglot Gathering. I need to find out more about them but I ended up with this final video of the morning, one I enjoyed the most. I later found out that the speaker Richard Simcott is a hyperpolyglot who speaks over 40 languages. Isn't that madness? His daughter when she was a toddler was using up to five languages! But he in turn advised and decided that five is the maximum number of languages one should have, in order to maintain them all in the learned levels. He also said that one must have a very good reason to choose a language to learn. Learning it because it's fun and that it's cool is not enough. This is because you will need a lot of time and effort not only to learn but to maintain them. 

This made me think that I need to slow down on my language learning and really learn for a purpose. I was thinking about learning French and German and Italian, but I think I need to just master my Mandarin for now, which I am quite pleased to report that just after three weeks, I am already midway through HSK2. And with my goal to complete it until HSK3, I think I am well paced. I don't think I will proceed with HSK4 and 5, at least not this year.

I have also downloaded two Cantonese Anki decks to improve my vocabulary, but only to listen and speak. This I am treading quite lightly, and mostly for fun. Just listening to the language itself makes me quite happy. 


Can God die? What does it mean for God to die?

In reading and meditating on the portion of Scriptures on Good Friday--the betrayal and arrest of Jesus, the Jewish trials, denial of Peter, the Roman trials, the crucifixion and the death of Jesus--I suddenly began to wonder and ask a question I realized I haven't asked before.

Can God die? 

Jesus is God and he died. I am not sure if that really answers the question. Let's say it does, but it then begs the next question. 

What does it mean for God to die?

I googled for any answers but could not find anyone that provides a good or satisfying one. This article by Veronica Neffinger, Crosswalk seems the best, but even then, she does not fully answer the question. 

She says, "This is a question that can easily get into the deep waters of theology," and I wonder why haven't it been picked up by the scholars. Maybe it's me who have not come across them, and so if you do know of any good books on this, please let me know.

Some explained that Jesus is both divine and human, and it was the human side of him who died. But I agree with the article that said, "Sproul reminds us that this would be a 'mutation within the very being of God.' The doctrine of the Trinity tells us that three separate and distinct persons make up the Godhead, and yet these persons are one." Sproul further explains it here

So I think it boils down to what Jesus cried out to the Father when he was on the cross, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matt 27:46, Mark 15:34). 

Death is not becoming non-existent. Death, even to us mere human, is the experience of a separation. Where we are at this separation stage is still yet to be known. In that case, Jesus is experiencing a separation from the Father, while still maintaining his relationship with him in the Trinitarian Godhead. 

Jesus took the separation that will indeed be ours if we die without him. But now that Jesus has taken the separation in our place, we are reconciled and are in abode with the Father for eternity, for all time.

But of course, like Sproul suggested, that may even be the wrong question to ask.

Is it?

The article aptly concludes with a quote from Greg Laurie, "This message is so deep and profound that you could spend the rest of your life studying it and still not grasp its full significance. Yet it is so simple that even a child can understand it.  Still, many people do not understand the significance of what took place on that Roman cross 2,000 years ago.  Jesus died so that we might live."



Psalm 118: a fitting psalm before the darkest hours

I have been following Köstenberger's Final Days of Jesus since Monday and I was at the Maundy Thursday section today:

1. The preparation for the Passover
2. The Final Passover
3. The Last Supper and Jesus’s Cleansing of His Community 
4. The Farewell Discourse Begins 
5. The Farewell Discourse Continues 
6. Jesus Predicts Peter’s Denials 
7. Jesus Issues Final Practical Commands 
8. The Garden of Gethsemane

I learnt that at the closing of the Last Supper, "the last meal that Jesus would eat with his disciples, the last meal that Jesus would eat in his pre-glorified body, and the final Passover meal of the old covenant", "Jesus and the disciples sing a hymn together and then depart toward the Mount of Olives. Jews traditionally sang Psalms 113–118 during the Passover celebration, culminating in Psalm 118, so it is very likely that this was the final hymn sung by Jesus and his disciples before leaving the upper room and walking to the garden of Gethsemane."

If we take a look at Psalm 118, you can imagine how and what Jesus would have drawn from it as he prepares for the dark hours ahead: his steadfast love endures forever...out of my distress I called on the LORD...I will not fear...it's better to take refuge in the Lord...all nations surround me...I was pushed hard...glad songs of salvation...I shall not die, but I shall live...the stone that the builders rejected 
has become the cornerstone. 

What a fitting psalm to be sung at this time of such heaviness.  

Psalm 118:1-29 ESV
Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; 
for his steadfast love endures forever! 
Let Israel say, 
"His steadfast love endures forever."
Let the house of Aaron say, 
"His steadfast love endures forever." 
Let those who fear the LORD say, 
"His steadfast love endures forever." 

Out of my distress I called on the LORD; 
the LORD answered me and set me free. 
The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. 
What can man do to me? 
The LORD is on my side as my helper; 
I shall look in triumph on those who hate me. 

It is better to take refuge in the LORD 
than to trust in man. 
It is better to take refuge in the LORD 
than to trust in princes. 

All nations surrounded me; 
in the name of the LORD I cut them off! 
They surrounded me, surrounded me on every side; 
in the name of the LORD I cut them off! 
They surrounded me like bees; 
they went out like a fire among thorns; 
in the name of the LORD I cut them off! 

I was pushed hard, so that I was falling, 
but the LORD helped me. 
The LORD is my strength and my song;
he has become my salvation. 

Glad songs of salvation 
are in the tents of the righteous: 
"The right hand of the LORD does valiantly, 
the right hand of the LORD exalts, 
the right hand of the LORD does valiantly!" 
I shall not die, but I shall live, 
and recount the deeds of the LORD. 
The LORD has disciplined me severely, 
but he has not given me over to death. 

Open to me the gates of righteousness, 
that I may enter through them and give thanks to the LORD. 
This is the gate of the LORD; 
the righteous shall enter through it. 
I thank you that you have answered me 
and have become my salvation. 

The stone that the builders rejected 
has become the cornerstone. 
This is the LORD's doing; 
it is marvelous in our eyes. 
This is the day that the LORD has made; 
let us rejoice and be glad in it. 

Save us, we pray, O LORD! 
O LORD, we pray, give us success! 
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! 
We bless you from the house of the LORD. 
The LORD is God, and he has made his light to shine upon us. 
Bind the festal sacrifice with cords, 
up to the horns of the altar! 
You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; 
you are my God; I will extol you. 
Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; 
for his steadfast love endures forever!


Which language would you like to learn?

I was reading some online articles on languages and I found this one quite interesting: What is the Best Language to Learn?

The article analyzed the languages based on different criteria including:
- most widely spoken (Mandarin, Spanish, English)
- most used for business (English, Mandarin, Japanese)
- ease of learning, for native English speakers (Spanish, Portuguese, French)
- most beautiful (French, Spanish, Italian)

It looks like Mandarin is the language to learn, but the article claimed that even though Mandarin is the most widely spoken language in the world, it will not become global because it is mostly only spoken in one region. There may be some truth in that, but for me who live and work in that region, it make sense for me to learn and improve my command of that language.

I have talked about the ease of learning languages here, and I believe that being familiar with several languages across the categories would make it easier for us to pick up any languages of choice. But having said that, learning a completely new language would still require a lot of passion, a lot of time, as well as good tools. 

About the beauty of languages, I do not agree with the article. I feel that it is in the personal judgement of every individual person. Some may feel Dutch is beautiful, or Hindi or Swahili for that matter. Personally, I feel that most Asian languages are beautiful, especially Japanese and Cantonese, the formal kind, especially its melodious four-character idioms, not the colloquial street kind. 

As I have blogged before, I am keeping up quite well in my learning of Mandarin. After that, I might want to pick up an European language: maybe French, but I am quite drawn to German as well. I also thought about improving my Cantonese, if not in reading and writing, at least in building up my scant vocabulary. 

Which languages would you like to learn, if you have the time and resources?


Farewell Lunch

My good friend at work will be leaving to join another company. All the best and good luck to you!


The Most Important Week of the Most Important Person Who Ever Lived

The church I am attending now does not observe Lent and I forgot that it is Palm Sunday today. This makes me miss the more traditional churches I have attended before. 

Therefore, it is good that I received an email from Crossway: A Day-by-Day Guide to the Holy Week. It is to be followed along with Andreas J. Köstenberger's book. 

The Final Days of Jesus: The Most Important Week of the Most Important Person Who Ever Lived
by Andreas J. Köstenberger and Justin Taylor

I have not read it yet, and it will be good to stall what I am reading right now and spent the week reading this in meditation on the final days of Jesus, the most important week of the most important person who ever lived. 

As I began to read the Scripture passages, read the first chapters of the book and watched the video, we found that Jesus entered Jerusalem amidst people with high hopes and expectations. They wanted a political king to free them from the Roman Empire. 

It was a very volatile situation. The people wanted a revolution, the Jewish leaders most probably wanted things to remain status-quo with the Romans, and the Romans were keeping a close eye to all that is happening to ensure things don't go out of hand. 

But with all of that, Jesus has an entirely different and unexpected agenda in mind. 

What began as a small celebration of the beginning of the week, will turn to chaos, but will then in turn become the grandest celebration of mankind of all times. 


Did your old school now look smaller to you?

One of my friends was telling me that he visited his old school, which he has not set foot in the last ten years.

I asked him if he felt that his school has somehow grown smaller. He readily agreed and stated that even the school street looked small to him now. 

Now I know it's not just me. I felt that way when I decided to drive by my old school when I was in Klang one day. 

Methodist Girl's School Klang

It looked so much smaller. I remembered it as a grand place with its building blocks looming over me when I was there in my schooling days.

Could it be that when we were in school, it was not just a building but we saw it as a force, an authority, governing and dominating a large part of our lives? But as we leave school, we see more of life and we see the bigger world?

Or we could have just grown taller.