Money Back Guarantee

I never knew about the story of MBG until my boss told me about and I always thought and also seen that the price of fruits in MBG is usually higher than the supermarkets, until today. 

My colleague has been frequenting the outlet in our office building for awhile now and I followed him there today. 

And to my surprise, they were selling Forelle pears that are larger and 50 sen cheaper than what I have bought in the supermarket a couple of days ago. 

Well, looks like I will be going again soon. 


The Golden Pockets of Time

I was scheduled to attend a meeting with the bosses today at 4:30pm. I got prepared, walked over to the venue and waited to be called in. 

And I waited for one whole hour before I went in. 

And what did I do during the hour? Fret? Complain? Got annoyed?

Nope. I did none of those. 

As much as I did not pick up some work to do, since I am not sure when I will be called in and I didn't really want to get into the zone and get lost and lose focus on the stuff  I'm suppose to present to the bosses, I opened my Kindle and started reading. 

And it was a good solid one hour of reading about Praying Backwards by Bryan Chapell. 

These times are hard to come by, but it's the golden pockets of time that I get to do some stuff of value. 

We always tell ourselves we don't have time. 

Why don't you read?
No time. 

Why don't you exercise?
No time. 

Why don't you learn something?
No time. 

But deep down we know that time is not the main reason why we don't those things we know that are good for us, things that take a lot of effort and time. 

It all boils down to our intention, our purpose and what we want out of our lives. 

And we need make time for it. 


What is Expository Preaching by Bryan Chapell

A friend asked me what expository preaching is and I thought she deserved a more complete and authorized explanation. So I went looking for resources and found this more than an excellent explanation of what expository preaching is by Bryan Chapell. 


A Sad Child by Margaret Atwood

You're sad because you're sad. 

It's psychic. It's the age. It's chemical. 

Go see a shrink or take a pill, 

or hug your sadness like an eyeless doll 

you need to sleep. 

Well, all children are sad 

but some get over it. 

Count your blessings. Better than that, 

buy a hat. Buy a coat or pet. 

Take up dancing to forget. 

Forget what? 

Your sadness, your shadow, 

whatever it was that was done to you 

the day of the lawn party 

when you came inside flushed with the sun, 

your mouth sulky with sugar, 

in your new dress with the ribbon 

and the ice-cream smear, 

and said to yourself in the bathroom, 

I am not the favorite child. 

My darling, when it comes 

right down to it 

and the light fails and the fog rolls in 

and you're trapped in your overturned body 

under a blanket or burning car, 

and the red flame is seeping out of you 

and igniting the tarmac beside your head 

or else the floor, or else the pillow, 

none of us is; 

or else we all are.
~ Margaret Atwood


Am I wasting time learning a new language?

I spent the whole afternoon revising my language flashcards and I suddenly found myself asking this pertinent question: am I wasting time learning a language I will never master or use?

I know I have been very fervent about languages lately and I have been learning Mandarin for the last eight months and Korean for the last eleven. I would spend at least 30 minutes a day initially but as I move on to more complicated parts of the languages, I am now taking at least an hour or two every day to complete the flashcards. 

That is a lot of time on a daily basis, and so I do wonder now if I am wasting my time.

I am quite happy that I am progressing well with my Mandarin, compared to the times when I struggle so hard to learn it but never got beyond just knowing a few common characters. But I still could not think or speak freely in Mandarin, and I still find reading anything in that language difficult. For example, when I had dinner with my mother-in-law yesterday evening, I was helping her with her iPhone settings. But I could not make out what was what when Chinese was the default language. 

More so with Korean. I can now say and write really simple sentences but what on earth am I going to use it for?

The one reason I will not be stopping though is because I already invested so much time in them. 

And my current take on it is this: Chinese is suppose to be my so-called mother-tongue and with it being so widely spoken here, I shall persevere on with it. 

As for Korean, I shall take it as a hobby and what more, I am making really good friends with several Korean language partners and so I’m sticking on with it, for now. 

And I’ll never know, something good may come out of in the future. 


Some reflections about praying and being with God

I admit don’t pray very well. 

I am okay when I have my own private prayers because I will just speak my mind without much thought about structure or form. I wouldn’t think of what I should say, I will just speak my mind and from the heart, sometimes casual and sometimes formal. 

But when I pray in public or when I attend prayer meetings, I get quite stressed up as I don’t usually know what to say. I do know what to pray for, especially since it’s a prayer request. I just don’t know how to pray it. 

I also hold the view that we do not treat prayer like a wishing well, asking only for things we want, or reminding God to keep his promises, as if he needs any reminding. 

So to the very core of it, I do not really understand prayer. To me, God already knows what’s best and will give us his best, whether in a form of a blessing or discipline, he knows what is best for us. 

So then, why and what do I pray? 

I pray because it’s commanded by God and so I do it. But what do I pray about. I am not exactly sure and so other than taking on how Jesus taught us to pray, I would just speak my mind and my heart.

I also began to see what books I have on prayer and found I this in my stash. 

Praying Backwards, Transform Your Prayer Life by Beginning in Jesus’ Name
by Bryan Chapell

I have just started reading it and I like it. I do not want to rush through it and thought I’d read it bit by bit to learn and practice as I go. 

Here are some gems so far from the Introduction and first portion of the first chapter:

When we pray “in Jesus’ name,” we pray for his sake more than our own. We still present our desires and concerns to God, but we do so in the context of yielding our priorities to Christ’s priorities.

In this fallen world you cannot avoid suffering; you can have peace in the midst of it. You cannot avoid trials; you can have confidence of their purpose. You cannot bind God by your prayers; you can guarantee his blessing. You cannot direct the will of God; you can pray according to his will and rest in the assurance of his love. You can pray knowing that God will marshal the powers of heaven to accomplish on earth all he knows is best for your eternity. Praying in Jesus’ name is the key.

We approach the throne of grace without the burden of our sin and with the righteousness of our Savior. We ask for his blessing based on God’s wisdom, not ours. We trust in his faithfulness, not in the adequacy of our faith.

I especially like what Chapell says here: We trust in his faithfulness, not in the adequacy of our faith. 

I always berate myself for not praying enough, for not reading his Word enough, for not keeping close to God enough, and I realized I have been depending a lot on what I have done or not done to keep this relationship with God, when at the end of it all, it is God himself who first sought me, and who first call to fellowship and commune with me. 

So the next time when I am reminded to pray or read the Bible or just to be in his presence, I must not do it in guilt that I have not done enough, but to simply be there with the ever-present Emmanuel, God who is with us, who is with me. 


I’m mixing up all my days

I am getting old - not only am I using a pill organizer like what you see above - I am also mixing all my days up. 

On Tuesday, I thought it was Wednesday and when I took the pills from the Wednesday slot, I told myself oh no, I forgot my medication yesterday. 

On Thursday, it became clear that it is not a Friday and when I looked at the Thursday slot, I asked myself, where did my pills go?

Oh dear...


Back-to-back meetings do not work

I had a serious string of back-to-back meetings this afternoon: from 2:00 to 4:00 with a vendor, 4:00 to 5:30 with a working committee, and 5:30 to 6:30 with my boss and HR team. 

I don’t think I have had such an arrangement before and I can conclude now that it doesn’t work. 

I was running from one room to the other without any time to reflect or collect my thoughts. 

And more than that, I had to stop the first and second meeting prematurely to attend the next one, after which by the end of the day, I was so terribly tired. 

I will not do this again. 


How much does your music streaming contribute to the earnings of your favourite artistes?

I have been enjoying music streaming for a year now through Apple Music and I started to wonder today how do artistes make a living these days. How do the replay and the many, many times that I listen to their music contribute to their income?

Gone were the days when they can really earn by selling copies of their albums or CDs. But most people do streaming these days, or worse, illegally download bootleg copies of music without paying.

So how do they make money to survive?

I googled it and found this very interesting infographics from Information is Beautiful (what an interesting sounding site, I shall be checking them out more soon). Do go check it out in the website since it’s not so clear here. 

But we can see, as pointed out by YourEDM that:

Highest revenue per play
1st: Napster / $0.0167 per play 
2nd: TIDAL / $0.0110 per play 
3rd: Apple Music / $0.0064 per play 
4th: Google Play / $0.0059 per play 
5th: Deezer / $0.0056 per play 
6th: Spotify / $0.0038 per play 
7th: Pandora / $0.0011 per play 
8th: YouTube / $0.0006 per play  

To reach minimum wage of $1260
Napster / 90,000 plays 
TIDAL / 130,000 plays 
Apple Music / 230,000 plays (this will take me more than 2 years of continuous non-stop listening!)
Google Play Music / 250,000 plays
Deezer / 260,000 plays 
Spotify / 380,000 plays 
Pandora / 1.2 million plays 
YouTube / 2.4 million plays

And according to this article, buying CDs from the store may no longer be the best way for artistes to earn. What is best these days could well be buying downloads or CDs directly from their websites.

And for me who always would vie for the underdogs, what I could do is to stream their music as much as I can, as far as my data package and phone battery(!!!) will allow me.

Music has come a long way but it may not have caught up yet to the digital world of business. 


Driver for the day

It has been awhile since I have done it but I ended up as my son's full-time driver for one day, which I was glad to be, for the time spent. 


When old friends meet

I caught up with some old friends today, whom I have not seen for 30 over years! It was lovely to catch up after so, so, so many years. 

We spent two hours having lunch and yakking, reminiscing and updating each other. 

We did everything that people who meet up for reunions do except for one thing, take pictures! We were so engrossed in our conversation that all four of us simply forgot. 

Looks like we need to meet up again. 


Thor, Ragnarok ★★★★★

Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

It's our time-out again, for my good friend Wee Yin and I, and we went to watch Thor: Ragnarok

I have not been following much on what's in the cinemas and just found out that Thor is on and when Wee Yin asked me, I was game. 

I liked it. It was quite fun to watch. 

However, I did wonder if Thor can break the chains that was wrapped around him and summon his hammer when he was on a one-on-one with Surtur, why didn't he do that when he was locked in a cage. 

I loved the skits with Doctor Strange and Hulk, especially when I adore both Mark Ruffalo and Benedict Cumberbatch. 

I only found Jeff Goldblum a tad irritating. But it's his character, which he played it extremely well. He'll crawl under your skin and just be careful of his Melting Stick. 


I finally watched the movie version: Room (2015) ★★★★★

I read Room by Emma Donoghue back in 2014 and was so captivated with it that I set my mind to watch the movie version when I found out that it will be made into one. 

But I had forgotten about it and only watched it today, and it was just as awesome. 

Room (2015)

I am not going to give any spoilers because this movie is a must-watch as much as the book is a must-read. 

What I can say is that it is about a mother and her five-year old son who were incarcerated in a room, hence the title. And it's about the bond of love between mother and child, and family, about acceptance, and healing. 

Life can be tough. 


Still no TV...yet

I have just completed one month of fasting TV. And I have not gone back to watching anything, yet. 

Maybe my system is getting used to no TV?

I did expect that I will go back to TV with a vengeance but it didn't happen, at least not yet. 

But it's only the first day!


Facebook never fails in reconnecting us with old friends

Something amusing happened to me in Facebook today. 

I received an message from a really old classmate, only to realize that I sent her a message for us to reconnect back in 2011!

And it took her exactly 6 years to reply. 

The irony is she said she accidentally saw my message. After 6 years. 

That's quite amusing. 


The dreaded triplets of hanyu pinyin

In my attempt to learn Mandarin, my colleague recommended me to use the pinyin keyboard rather than the writing one. 

The good is that I type much faster but the bad is that I take the lazy way and not really want to learn how to write. 

But the other problem though is this: I can read, listen and understand the words and I can say them quite accurately but I could not for the life of me spell them in the correct pinyin symbols. 

Especially these nine sounds that comes in three triplets: z, zh and j; c, ch and q; s, sh and x. 

So I thought if I can memorize nine common and familiar words, I could slowly figure out which is which.

I came up with these:
zū 组 zhū 猪 jù 句 (rent, pig, sentence)
cù 醋 chū 出 qù 去 (vinegar, out, go)
sù 诉 shū 书 xū 需 (tell, book, need)

I then realized that the u sound of the last triplet of each set is not pronounced the same as in the first two. The first two are always pronounced with an oo sound whilst the third is always with an ü sound. 

I need memorize them in these two sequences:
1. 组 猪 句 醋 出 去 诉 书 需
2. 组 醋 诉 猪 出 书 句 去 需

It's a good thing as long as I don't look in the mirror. 

And for the other vowels and diphthongs, I found these useful tables from Chinese Pronunciation Wiki:


What are the opening lines of the books you read?

It took me two and a half months to finish reading The Korean Mind, Understanding Contemporary Korean Culture  I can't wait to get it over with so I can get on with life. It was tough and I'm glad I finally flipped the last page. 

With that book out of the way, I wanted to get my hands on a new one. 

And looking at the 19 books I have read so far this yearwhich is the least number of books in the last 6 years since I went back to serious readingI have not read a single novel. 

I started hunting for one and happened upon this. 

The End of Your Life Book Club
by Will Schwalbe

I love books about books and as I read it, I also like its voice and feel. 

How could a book lover and avid reader ignore a book that is labeled as "a true meditation on what books can do"?

But as I got on with it, I began to realize that it is not a novel after all, but an account of the writer's last days with his dying mom. 

But I was already invested in the book and could not put it down. 

The novel will have to wait. It will have to come after this, or never, for the year at least. 

One part of the book that I really like was when the author said: 

Mom and I loved opening lines of novels. “The small boys came early to the hanging” was one of our favorites, from Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth. How could you not go on reading? And the first sentence of John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany: “I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice—not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother’s death, but because he is the reason I believe in God; I am a Christian because of Owen Meany.” And E. M. Forster’s first line in Howards End: “One may as well begin with Helen’s letters to her sister.” It’s the “may as well” that draws you in—casual, chatty even, yet it gives the reader a strong sense that there’s a lot of story to come.

Obviously I went to check out his first line after reading that paragraph, and it was this:

We were nuts about the mocha in the waiting room at Memorial Sloan-Kettering’s outpatient care center.

I don't know about you but I was hooked right there and then, and didn't even know it. 

But I have always believe in only reading books that start well for me. Only that I didn't really pay attention to the opening lines. 

Now I do. 


What's your music of choice?

I am having a very pleasant Saturday. I thought it will be tough with no TV for the fourth weekend but so far I have not even thought of it today. 

I was up early to drive my son to a conference. And since I was out already, I dropped by the nearest Starbucks in Puchong where I spent two hours going through one of my language flashcard decks. It was a solid full hours of language learning. 

It was hard work but fun. 

I was also listening to this playlist of music which I have not been paying attention in a long while. 

In the midst of my language learning, I try to immerse myself as much as I can through the music I listen to, the TV I watch and the articles I read. 

But I thought I'd go English today. 

And I realized I do have quite a decent playlist:

You can see that I really like songs that are slow to moderate, and particularly those with clear singing voices. As for genre, most of them are rock, indie rock and alternative. 

But my music preference are quite diverse. I have lists ranging from classical to gospel, sacred to pop, rock to chant, M-pop to K-pop to R&B. 

I don't mind the others, but maybe except for techno, heavy metal and jazz. 


Growing up in a musical culture

I have this playlist in my Apple Music which I can't remember when or why I've created it. 

It's a list of songs by 4Men, a South Korean R&B group. Every time I housekeep my lists, I would want to delete it but after listening to the opening of one of their songs, I'd like the sound and end up not deleting it. 

I wanted to listen to something different today and thought I'd check the list out. 

And now I know why I still kept it. They are really talented, with excellent voices. 

I read somewhere that songs and singing is deep in the Korean culture. They are exposed to it from childhood and they never stop singing into adulthood. 

And so far I've heard a few good voices. 

This is one of their best songs. The person with that awesome voice is the one is the middle, 신용재 Shin Yong Jae. 

I am glad I grew up with music in my family though I wish I have been more serious about it then. 

But I am glad that by the grace of God, I grew up in faith communities that gave me the opportunity to serve in the music ministry, in the little ways that I am able. 


Excel and PowerPoint Productivity Hack Training

I spent the last two days attending an excellent training called the Excel and PowerPoint Productivity Hack. 

I know I will have lots to learn in Excel because I really think it's one of the most powerful and useful tool we have. 

I wasn't so sure about PowerPoint. I have taken the Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) Certification before, albeit a very long time ago, I thought there wasn't much to it anymore. 

I was so wrong. 

The training was at just the right level. Not too basic and too advanced. Most of the ones I have attended before were either too boring because I already know what was being taught or too complicated and not relevant for use. 

This one is different. The trainer gave us many useful tips and gave me answers to questions I have had all along with the vlookup function and especially pivot tables. 

Then she taught us how to link Excel with PowerPoint where we can use pivot tables with the slicer (slicer? I've heard of slicers in my life and they are awesome!) in Powerpoint, and that with realtime control from Excel. 

I learnt so much and gained access to many resources I never knew about. 

Since I can't begin to teach the "hacks" here, you could try searching YouTube on how to replace the vlookup function with the index and match functions. They work much better than the infamous vlookup

And the trick to manage pivot tables is to setup your table using CTRL + T, after which you don't have to worry about editing or expanding the table. Your pivot tables will still work. 

Go google it. 


How I made friends across the globe over the years

I had several pen-pals back in my childhood days. Those were the times of aerogrammes and postmen. 

I remember back then when I got back from school every day, I'd wait by the doorway anticipating the ring of the postmen bicycle bell, which of course didn't happen very often. 

I'd probably get a reply once every month or two. But thinking back, it does feel like I had a lot of time. 

Life wasn't in a hurry. 

When I started working, I still made pen-pals but this time, it was the email. I had some disposable income then and we even exchanged gifts by mail. 

I remember once coming home to a box on the floor just outside the door. The errant postmen just threw it in and the chocolate in it were mostly reduced to a melted mess. But they still tasted so good. 

Next came the blog. 

I made many more friends through blogging. The exchange wasn't as long as letters or emails but they were current and relevant. But blogging soon took a dive and weren't as active anymore. 

Life has gone into a much faster pace and ironically, there is now not as much time as we had before. There is just not enough of it. 

Now? It's messaging. 

I made several good friends recently via italki in my pursuit of learning new languages. And the messaging apps that I use almost every day are WeChat with my Chinese and Taiwanese friends, and Kakao with my Korean friends. 

It is real-time and it is really like they are there with me, sometimes yakking away way into the night. 

What's next? Holograms?


Why are things called 东四 dòng xi (east west)?

I have been using the Decipher Chinese app everyday since I found out about it and I'm happy with it even though I have not paid to subscribe, which I don't think I will. 

This is because I'm quite invested in using Anki and I don't need another SRS app to complicate my learning of the language. What I need to do now is to figure Anki out a bit on its technical side and use it more effectively. 

For example, now I can add words and phrases from Decipher to Anki and reposition it to appear first without having to wait until I reach the 6000th card!

Decipher does have some interesting articles, like this one. I wondered before why are "things" in Chinese called 东四 dòng xi or literally east west, and not 南北 nán běi or south north

It is because of the Chinese 五行 wǔ xíng, which is the five phases of Chinese philosophy vis-à-vis wood, fire, earth, metal and water, the five elements that are believed to represent everything on earth. 

And these elements are represented by the directions: east being wood, south fire, west metal and north water. 

And because the only two items that can be held are wood and metal, things are therefore represented by east and west, hence 东四 dòng xi. 


3 Amazing Stories about Faithfulness

I was at Faith Methodist Church Cheras today as Grace Notes presented an anniversary anthem for their 30th anniversary celebration. 

I was glad to be there and I realize how much I miss attending a liturgical Methodist Sunday service!

Rev Dr T Jeyakumar was the speaker and his sermon based on Revelation 14:1-5 was a very good lesson and reminder for me to remain faithful to the Lord. 

Revelation 14:1-5 NLT
Then I saw the Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with him were 144,000 who had his name and his Father's name written on their foreheads. And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of mighty ocean waves or the rolling of loud thunder. It was like the sound of many harpists playing together. This great choir sang a wonderful new song in front of the throne of God and before the four living beings and the twenty-four elders. No one could learn this song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. They have kept themselves as pure as virgins, following the Lamb wherever he goes. They have been purchased from among the people on the earth as a special offering to God and to the Lamb. They have told no lies; they are without blame.

The author of Revelation uses a lot of imagery language and the 144,000 people is used to represent all the people that belongs to God. 

But why the number 144,000?

12 times 12 times 1000? If it is really 12 times 12 times 1000, then it clearly depicts all of the redeemed people of the Lord - 12 tribes multiplied by 12 tribes and on top of it multiplied by a thousand.  

I like Rev Jeya's focus on verse 4: It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins. It is these who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These have been redeemed from mankind as firstfruits for God and the Lamb. (ESV)

When I first read v.4, I felt rather discouraged. I know I am not pure nor have I been really following and obeying all the time. Does that mean I am not part of the 144,000?

But again Rev Jeya reminded us that it's imagery language that was used and that v.4 takes on the marriage covenant imagery where the groom remained undefiled. 

As such the three lessons of v.4 is that of (1) being faithful, (2) following Christ and (3) belonging to God as his redeemed. 

With that I am most encouraged. 

Rev Jeya also gave us some examples in being faithful to God. It is easy when things are well and good but when things get tough, will we still be faithful?

The stories he told were harrowing true events. 

First, he referred to what happened recently when three bus loads of Christians were stopped by a group of ISIS men in Egypt. They were ordered to alight the bus one by one and each of them were asked two questions: "Are you Muslim?" and "Will you be a Muslim?" As they firmly stood by their faith, they were either shot or had their throats slit. Imagine you were in the line to get off the bus to answer the two questions and as you watch what is happening, will you remain faithful?

The second story about Nabeel Qureshi. He was a Muslim who became a Christian after he studied the Bible and as much as he tried to refute it, in the end he found there is no way he could deny the logical truth and the love of Christ. He then put his life into studying theology and spent his days being a testimony for Christ but he faced a lot of cruel criticisms from a lot of people. He soon found himself in stage 4 stomach cancer and the verbal abuse became even more relentless. He held on firmly to his faith in Christ till his death on 16 September 2017. If we were in such a situation, will we still hold on to our faith?

His third story was one that made me tear up. I don't cry easily but this one made me. I did a search and found it in a book entitled Heroes of Our Faith by Patrick Sookhdeo (2012).

I really can't imagine how it will be like when one is being buried alive, and what more with kids!

Will you remain faithful? 

Tonight we will have supper with the King of kings, the Lord of lords.


Isn't this the most romantic of songs?

It is my niece's wedding today. 

The wedding was conducted at the Tamil Methodist Church in Brickfields Kuala Lumpur, and it was a very delightful event. 

Congratulations Lionel and Rachel! May the Lord bless your new beginning with his fullness of joy, peace, hope and love. 

And it was during their wedding dinner that I picked up this song which was used as the accompanying music to the church ceremony video. 

I absolutely fell in love with the song - the words, the guitar, the mood and the voice. And since I'm so into languages lately, it is time I add something in Malay--making it five--and this song really shows that I'm basically a romantic at heart.

Sempurna - Andra and The Backbone

Kau begitu sempurna 
Di mataku kau begitu indah 
Kau membuat diriku akan selalu memujamu  
You are so perfect 
In my eyes you are so beautiful 
You make me one who will always adore you   

Di setiap langkahku
Ku kan selalu memikirkan dirimu 
Tak bisa ku bayangkan 
Hidupku tanpa cintamu  
In my every step
I will always think about you 
I can't imagine 
My life without your love

Janganlah kau tinggalkan diriku 
Tak kan mampu menghadapi semua 
Hanya bersamamu ku akan bisa  
Don't you ever leave me
I won't be able to face it all
Only with you I can   

Kau adalah darahku 
Kau adalah jantungku 
Kau adalah hidupku 
Lengkapi diriku 
Oh sayangku kau begitu 
Sempurna, sempurna
You are my blood 
You are my heart 
You are my life 
Complete me
Oh my love, you are so
Perfect, perfect

Kau genggam tanganku 
Saat diriku lemah dan terjatuh 
Kau bisikkan kata dan hapus semua sesalku  
You hold my hand 
The moment when I am weak and when I fall 
You whisper words and remove all my regrets  

Janganlah kau tinggalkan diriku 
Tak kan mampu menghadapi semua 
Hanya bersamamu ku akan bisa  
Don't you ever leave me
I won't be able to face it all
Only with you I can   

Kau adalah darahku 
Kau adalah jantungku 
Kau adalah hidup ku 
Lengkapi diriku 
Oh sayangku kau begitu 
Sempurna, sempurna
You are my blood 
You are my heart 
You are my life 
Complete me
Oh my love, you are so
Perfect, perfect

Sayangku engkau begitu sempurna 
Sempurna, sempurna
My love, you are so perfect
Perfect, perfect

~Written by Andra Junaidi Ramadhan, Stevi Morley Item


Decipher Chinese: a HSK-based reading app

I had another serendipitous (this is fast becoming my favourite English word) find: an excellent Chinese reading app called Decipher Chinese

It is a service that provides HSK graded articles written by Mandarin teachers through a learn-as-you-read activity that you can do on a daily basis with their  new articles posted everyday. 

I think this would work better than the HSK-based books I found earlier, which I have not purchased any yet. 

This is how the app looks like today:

I am still using the free version and therefore, I do not get access to all their articles. Each article is marked with the HSK level, which you can choose to attempt reading. 

And this is one of the articles I was reading today. Each word is marked with the HSK level and as such I should know all the words in grey and green, which is from HSK1-3 and some of the words in yellow, which is HSK 4. When you tap on each word, you will have its meaning, pinyin and audio. 

I am also able to add words into a vocabulary list that can be used as an SRS-based flashcard deck. 

But alas, as it is with free apps, there are limitations to it. Articles I have read will become inaccessible after a few days and I have a limit of only 30 words in the vocabulary list. 

Subscription is at RM20.90 per month, which isn't too bad but I think I will try it out further before I decide. 


My Mandarin learning progress update

I have been asked this question many times: why are you studying a language?

I was asked the question again by my colleague at work today. And I gave her my usual answer, that's it's something I've always wanted to do--which if you think about it, does not actually answer the question! 

So why am I learning languages?

I need to give it much more thought but I do find that I have been doing it rather serendipitously now, having the aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident. 

Well, I won't say it's all accidental but I seem to somehow find the right tools or maybe we are now in a golden time where there is a flood of language learning resources out there. 

I mentioned many times before that I have been trying to learn Mandarin all my life. But for some reasons, I could suddenly able to pick it up so much faster and easier than before with the tools that I have. 

To mark my progress. This was how it looked like back in June 2017, after learning it for 3 months, growing from zero to 3033 mature cards. 

And after another 4 months now in October 2017--don't ask me why the pie chart has grown larger--it took me much longer to gain only another 1083 mature cards. It is much more difficult as I progress on. 

There isn't any finish line when it comes to acquiring a language. And it looks like I will still be trying to learn Mandarin all my life. 

But at least I got to a better place now. 


No TV? I'm about to go insane

Today I am feeling exactly like Homer here...TV, not the beer. 

With the day off today and not really having a mood to read, I'm running out of ideas what to do with my time other than watching TV. 

I'm still persisting if you need to know. 


Are you a wall rat at work?

I was in a discussion about how some organizations or projects operate on a need-to-know basis and whilst I understand why there is a need to do that sometimes, it is really frustrating for team members not to know what and why they are doing what they are doing. 

More importantly, creativity will not happen because they do not even know what to be creative about. 

With that in the midst of our discussion, this scene from Ratatouille suddenly came to mind.

Can we not equate such team members to rats in the walls?

In the scene, as Remy the rat escaped from the sewers up to the walls of a building, he scurried from room to room observing what was happening in each. 

Isn't this akin to team members who only have the privilege to peep in to departments or sections in the company but do not know what they do?

And only when Remy climbed up and up and up onto the roof--which analogically is where top management is--he sees Paris. 

Isn't it tough to be working in projects or organizations like these, where all we can do is scurry here and there to find out what's going on?

And isn't it sad that we are all along in Paris but do not know it?


Which you think is the most energy hungry organ of the human body?

I have not been watching TV for the longest time--only 16 days but it does seem like an eternity--and what I have doing instead are reading and going through my language flashcards that can go up to 300 cards a day. 

What I found was that I became so much more tired than before. 


I came to the conclusion that with watching TV, it is an almost brainless activity that I can last till the wee hours of the morning but when I study languages, my brain works so hard that by the time it's 10 o'clock at night, I'm so exhausted I'd fall asleep at the blink of an eye. Learning languages is hard work. 

The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History says this: "Did you know that your brain makes up about 2% of your body weight…but uses about 20-25% of your body’s total energy, just for its basic activity? That’s one hungry brain!  No wonder it’s good to eat nutritious foods that offer a lot of energy. The brain of a newborn baby is even more amazing, as it takes up about 60% of the baby’s energy as the brain grows at an astonishing pace."

I'm not sure where they based that information on because as I understand it, it's only still a theory for now but there are enough studies to point to that fact though. 

According to this article Energy-hungry brain likely cause for slow human growth: study, "Most researchers believe this is because human body needs to divert a huge fraction of its resources to the brain during childhood, leaving little to be devoted to body growth. As humans we have so much to learn, and that learning requires a complex and energy-hungry brain."

Looks like my brain has been on full swing these 16 days of no TV. 

Hmm...I'm really wondering now if I should ever get back to mindless television binging again. 


No TV for 15 days and counting

I started a TV fast on October 1st and today marks the 15th day I've stayed away from the television.

I won't celebrate yet because I'm only half way through and I have been really tempted during the weekends to break the fast. There is so much to watch and I feel the urge every Saturday and Sunday. 

The temptation is pretty strong today as I am a bit lazy to read. I am in the midst of reading four books but none of them really have that stayability in them. 

This is how I feel right now:

Sigh...okay. Let me go open a book and start reading now. 


Trip to Kampar

Grace Notes will soon be putting up a concert to raise funds to help the Sengoi orang asli kids in Kampar, and we went there to visit them today. 

We wanted to find out what their needs are. And according to their sharing, we found that other than physical needs like shoes and eye glasses, revision books and a computer, what they also need are opportunities. 

Opportunities to learn and to be exposed, to find out what they can do as they grow up and when they move into the working world. 

And on the whole, there is a need to support them when they grow from the current 16 kids to 37 next year. 

They are a bright and smart group of kids. In just 9 months, a few of them have progressed from being the poorest in class performance to being the top best performers. Amazingly, they picked up English very well too, and as we spoke to them in Malay, they were even helping us to translate English words into Malay. 

We really hope we will be able to make a difference for them. 

Would you? Let me know if you would like to help too. 


Isn't life a bit easier to manage with apps but...

I have just updated my iPad with the latest iOS 11 and I'm very happy with it but since there are not many big changes for the iPhone, I've decided to hold on to it first for the phone. 

This is because I do have some apps that will be rendered useless if I do the update:

I am not worried about any of those apps except for Xiezi HSK-3. I just bought it for RM17 in June! And I don't think there are any plans for them to upgrade it. 

I am still so far away from writing any Chinese and I have to give that app up when I upgrade. Looks like it's back to paper and pen then. 

The other app I paid money for that will no longer work is Travel Pocket but I suppose I've got my value worth of $1.99 for 5 years. It's a good app but I should be able to find something free to use. 

It's trivial but these days my life seems to evolve around what apps can do for me to make life easier. 


What a gloomy day

It was at 16:40 today when I noticed that the skies outside the window of my office were as dark as night. 

Doesn't it look like midnight with a blackout? A good friend told me it looked like a scene from a movie!

I was only thankfully traffic wasn't that bad when I drove home after work. 


Where shall we go?

My mom really wanted to go travel before the year is out and we started talking about where we can go. 

Air Asia has a new route to Jeju Island, and I really wanted to go to these canola flower fields. 

But this is only possible in spring. It's winter now. Moreover, my mom is not really into nature and scenery and so we might settle for Taipei. 

And when I saw pictures of Jiufen, I was captivated. To me, this picture of Jiufen really looks like the Santorini of the East. 

And true enough. I checked it out and it is indeed called Santorini of Taiwan. 

Isn't it pretty?