I hope I am finally learning Mandarin

I finally decided to purchase the RM105 Anki flashcard app. It's crazy right? I have never spent so much on an app before. The last time I spent about RM60 was on a GPS app, before Waze was available. 

I have decided to get it because I can see that it is quite a powerful app and I am actually learning a language. I found this free HSK1 deck that suit my needs and I ended up purchasing the whole set from HSK1 to HSK5. I got it with a very good discount from here

HSK (Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi) or the Chinese Proficiency Test is an international standardized exam which tests and rates Chinese language proficiency. Here is a sample of one of its flashcards in Anki:

It comes with a recording of the sentence. Using the SRS method, if I got it right, I can either tap to review it again in one or four days time, depending on my familiarity with it. 

I like it that it presents the HSK characters in sentences rather than just words. I once bought the StickyStudy app with HSK1 but I found it so hard to learn it character by character. It was boring and I can't put them in any context and meaning. With Anki, I hope I will be able to at least learn some basic Mandarin within the next few months. 

I hope I will graduate from being a banana to not be one anymore! (Banana, being a Malaysian slang, "outside yellow, inside white".)


Rock It Now!


We had our 2017 annual dinner with a Rock It Now theme. It was quite fun dressing up with all-black including my lipstick. 


And for the first time, I won an annual dinner lucky draw. Not bad with a 3% probability of winning the bigger prizes. But I'm not an Android user. Anyone interested? I'll sell it cheap. 


Love the questions...not seek the answers

You are so young, so before all beginning, and I want to beg you, as much as I can, to be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves—like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. The point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.
~Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet


I bought four books

I buy books when I am waiting for something and I just did that today. I bought these four Kindle books. They are on sale anyway. Except for the first book at $3.99, the rest are only $1.99 a copy. 

How Should We Then Live?
by Francis A. Schaeffer 

Surprised by Oxford, A Memoir
by Carolyn Weber
Miracles and Mayhem in the ER
by Brent Rock Russell

"You Look Like That Girl..."
by Lisa Jakub


An app for $25?

I have started using the Memrise app for a few months now and I find it quite good and effective. However, in reading Fluent Forever, it recommended using the spaced repetition or SRS method. 

And the very much talked about SRS app is Anki

The PC app is free and apparently it is a very powerful tool. But its iOS app cost $25! That is crazy. 

But there are many who swears by it and felt that it is worth the $25. 

It was said that the developer spent years developing the app supported by donations but it wasn't enough to sustain his work and so when he created the iOS app, and charged good money for it. So in a sense, it's like a donation to support his work across all the platforms. I suppose it sort of make sense in that he could also distribute the charges across all platforms, meaning I would have to pay for the PC version I am using now for free. 

It is frustrating though that the Android app is free of charge. It seems however, the Android version was not developed by him. 


What new thing did you learn today?

I was following a lecture on Coursera today and the professor said we should aim to learn a new thing everyday, and I think that is a brilliant thing to do. 

I am an avid learner and I do learn new things quite often. But I don't usually acknowledge that I do and on days when I am really busy and too occupied with routine, I don't learn anything at all. 

Since I like to keep list of stuff, maybe I should keep a daily list of things I learn everyday just to make sure I do. What more with the many resources we have online, learning new things has become so easy these days. 

Here are 40 places where you can learn something new, and that is just the beginning. 


Only one thing true, Jesus it is you

I learnt this song last year and I slowly fell in love with it.  It was in my darker moments over the past year that this song have touched me and moved me, back to trusting all in God, in Jesus, even if nothing seems to be right. 

Jesus It Is You - True Worshippers (Composed by Ben Manusama)


My biological clock failed me

I am bad at time management but I always make sure I am punctual. However, I turned up late for something this morning. I have always been waking up very early lately and I thought I could trust my so-called biological clock but it failed me today. I had a 9 o'clock thing to attend to but I woke up at 8:55! Thankfully, it wasn't that far away from home and I wasn't that late as a result. But still I was late nonetheless, no excuse. I need to be more careful.

If I have made an appointment with you, I owe you punctuality, I have no right to throw away your time, if I do my own. 
~ Richard Cecil

Punctuality is the politeness of kings. 
~ Louis XVIII of France

Punctuality is the soul of business. 
~ Thomas Chandler Haliburton

Punctuality is the virtue of the bored. 
~ Evelyn Waugh


Google Photos surprised me

I just started using Google Photos and to my surprise I found that it has on its own accord created a panoramic picture out of two shots which I have taken.

I am not sure if this is considered as artificial intelligence, but it does seem to be. Isn't it magnificent?


How much is enough? It's all in the mind

My colleagues and I had lunch in Samplings at 14 in Berjaya Times Square. It's fine dining and food is served in small portions but as I counted the calories, it could come up to 600 or 700, which is a lot for a meal.

But one of us felt it wasn't enough and went for an extra helping of soup from the deli next door! 

But it's all in the mind, don't you think?

Photos by Teresa Lee

And I thought water is just water

In my reading of The Art and Craft of Tea, I found this interesting section on water.

The author, Joseph Wesley Uhl said, "Most water contains molecules of dissolved oxygen. People often refer to water containing high levels of dissolved oxygen as tasting 'crisp', whereas they refer to water containing low levels of dissolved oxygen as tasting 'dull'. A crisp-tasting tea is unequivocally preferable to a dull-tasting tea.Therefore, it is important that your water be aerated; it should contain dissolved oxygen."

I have not come across water as tasting crisp before, like it's potato chips, but I can certainly agree that sometimes the water that I drink has this dull taste to it, that it is because of the absence of dissolved oxygen.

How I wish now I have an access to fresh spring water.

I am beginning to understand why my son refuses to take water that I boil at home. He prefers bottled mineral water that I purchase. I remember asking him why, and he told me it is because he does not like its taste.

As for me, I am okay with boiled water—I grew up with it—but I do not like the reverse osmosis water as it gives me a dry sense in the mouth and throat after taking it. I don't think reverse osmosis water is good for us but I drink it almost every day at work.

And I thought water is just water.


A live experience with a self-victimizer

I was facilitating a training on teamwork, communication and influencing skills for managers today, and at the end of the session, one of them started a conversation with me wanting to find out ways to manage someone in her life. She felt that she finds it so difficult to manage the person, and whatever she said or did, it does not seem to bring any help or change. She is very frustrated and could not for the life of her figure out why the person is behaving in that way. 

We tried to look at the models which I have shared during the session, but after an hour of trying to understand her predicament, it began to sound more and more like a classic case of self-victimization.

I recognized it because like what I had blogged about a week agoDo You See Yourself as a Victim?where I was watching a Korean drama and found the whole drama quite frustrating because almost every character was self-victimizing themselves to the core, when she described to me how the person had been behaving, it began to sound so familiar, and I found myself inferring to the drama describing to her what self-victimization looks like. 

Little did I know that it pays to watch Korean dramas sometimes! 

I advised her to read up about the behaviour and I did some search for it myself and found this excellent paper published by INSEAD: Are You a Victim of the Victim Syndrome? (2012)

It is a very informative paper. It describes the behaviour, provides a checklist that can be used to identify the sufferers, describes the concept of secondary gain (the "benefits" people get from perpetuating a problem), the developmental origins of the victim mind-set, and advice on how to help people who suffer from the victim syndrome. 

The world that these people live in appears to be filled with victims, victimizers and rescuers. They are usually victims by choice and they fall into a spiral cycle of repeated playing the game of being a victim, becoming a victimizer of others, and looking for rescuers but ironically refusing to be "saved". 

In my last post, I said that those who have this syndrome will never realize it until someone points it out to them. But now I think even that is a very challenging thing to do. It will take a lot for them to realize and admit they have a problem. 

The article says, "People who like to play the victim must challenge their ingrained beliefs, and learn to assume responsibility and care for themselves, rather than look elsewhere for a savior...what helps victims best is the development of a healthier self-concept."

They need to own their own lives and be honest about themselves, and that, is a tall order. 

If you have such a person in your life, and more so if that person is someone important to you, much care is needed in looking for the best way to get to them to make them realize the vicious cycle they are in. 


Design Thinking for Innovation

I have been introducing Coursera.org to a lot of people and in checking the site on mobile before I sent the link to a friend, I saw this course on "Design Thinking for Innovation".

I have been seeing and hearing this thing Design Thinking for too many times now, at work and even in church, where the playschool do have some professionals in to run a cool Design Thinking for Kids event. Moreover, I will be meeting someone at work to check it out.

So I signed up to find out a little more about it.

I have just started on Week One but I must say it is a very good start and I look forward to learning more about it in the weeks to come.


The Art and Craft of Tea

The Art and Craft of Tea: An Enthusiast Guide to Selecting, Brewing and Serving Exquisite Tea
by John Wesley Uhl

I wanted to read something lighter and thought this would be an interesting read. It is. I love tea and this would feed me with much interesting info-facts but the only problem is I usually don't remember much of what I read and I'd soon forget most of it. 


Happy People #2

We celebrated my cousin brother's 55th birthday today with family, with my uncle, aunties, cousins, nephews and nieces. 

This was the cake we got for him, not that he plays mahjong. Too amusing for words really. 

The whole gang though not all in the family was able to make it. 

Us girls. 

It is his plan to celebrate it every five years, like he did when he was fifty  and we should take similar pictures in five years timetable 60!


Grace Notes, daily readings with Philip Yancey

Grace Notes: Daily Readings with a Fellow Pilgrim
by Philip Yancey

I saw this book today and couldn't help but buy it since it has the same name as our choral group. I have not read Philip Yancey before and I've always wanted to, so I think this will be a good start. 

I'll naturally use for our devotion time during our weekly Grace Notes practice. 


Fluent Forever by Gabriel Wyner

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

I have started reading this book and found it really interesting. The writing is very engaging and I must say, the author as well, in person. I came in contact with him once when I watched one of his videos in YouTube (he is a professional singer as well, and that was the catalyst to his language learning) and I wanted to ask him a question. I found his email address, wrote him an email and he replied quite promptly without any qualms. 

I have just started on the book, written for those who would like to learn a new language on their own. 

But it is quite a costly activity: it may come up to a start of RM400 for me to buy the textbook, frequency dictionary and the AnkiWeb app alone. But I think it will be a good investment. 


Nice to be alone sometimes

I went to get a coffee at Starbucks after lunch at work yesterday and decided to take a seat and enjoy some quiet time on my own. 

It was nice. 

I did a bit of thinking, writing and reading. But when the seats surrounding me began to be taken by people and when they started busy talking to each other, it's time I took my leave. 

My colleague however, told me she saw me and asked why was I seated alone in Starbucks. For something so natural for me, I suppose for an extravert like her, it is an unusual thing to do. 

Coffee in Starbucks is getting pricier but it's nice to do that once in awhile: enjoy a coffee all on my own. 


I'm worried

I have not felt worry for quite awhile but for some reasons, I am feeling it right now. 

I found these sayings helpful. I may not however hold some of the people here in high regard. But for the sake of what they said about worry, I found it helpful nonetheless. 

When you begin to worry, go find something to do. Get busy being a blessing to someone; do something fruitful. Talking about your problem or sitting alone, thinking about it, does no good; it serves only to make you miserable. Above all else, remember that worrying is totally useless. Worrying will not solve your problem. 
~ Joyce Meyer

Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy. 
~ Leo Buscaglia

In a storm of struggles, I have tried to control the elements, clasp the fist tight so as to protect self and happiness. But stress can be an addiction, and worry can be our lunge for control, and we forget the answer to this moment is always yes because of Christ. 
~ Ann Voskamp

If you don't know how to die, don't worry; Nature will tell you what to do on the spot, fully and adequately. She will do this job perfectly for you; don't bother your head about it. 
~ Michel de Montaigne

I believe God is managing affairs and that He doesn't need any advice from me. With God in charge, I believe everything will work out for the best in the end. So what is there to worry about. 
~ Henry Ford

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
~ Philippians 4:6-7 ESV

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life...But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
Matthew 6:25a, 33-34 ESV