Saturday, 22 November 2014

RON95

My brother told me that most people he talked to were unhappy that the government is doing away with the RON95 subsidy.



I do understand why some people are protesting against it - mostly because every petrol price hike had always been accompanied by higher prices of goods and services.

So there is an expectation that without the subsidy, petrol prices would increase, and that would lead to increase in prices of consumer goods and services.

For the majority of the lower income group, I believe that they are most affected by the increase in prices of consumer goods and services associated with petrol price increases, not the actual petrol price increase itself.

As for me, from a purely practical perspective, I agree that we should do away with fuel subsidies, and now is the best time to do it what with the sharp falls in global crude prices.

Other countries are taking advantage of the lower crude prices to reduce or even do away their petrol subsidies too.

However, I am just way too lazy to lay down my reasoning in detail here - I'd rather waste my time with my digital dolls.

If you insist, read about what is happening and being said elsewhere about petrol/fuel subsidies here, here, here, here, here and here.

Or you can just google for "fuel subsidies" within the past week and you will have a whole lot of references.

Just don't read the Opposition blogs - they are experts in taking advantage of any situation to fan the anti-anti-government sentiments, hence are not reliable sources of facts and data.

Oh, and read up about the local perspective here at Economics Malaysia.


Thursday, 20 November 2014

Friendship

Mikail spent the morning with us today as his mom had to go to Putrajaya for something related to her business.

He is Deen's age, and next year they will be in the same class.

Incidentally, Yaya too had some business to settle in town, so she went off straight after sending Al to school for the end-of-year prize-giving ceremony or something.

Both Deen and Mikail got the day off from school as school is practically over for these two average achievers.

Since I am now working from home, I babysat both boys while doing stuff on the computer, while the adults went about their business.

Lunch was easy - rice, fried chicken, coleslaw - as all the things that Deen likes seems to be Mikail's favorite too, so that wasn't too difficult to prepare.

They spent the entire morning playing games on their iPads, bragging about their various achievements like boys tend to do.

I was periodically interrupted by either one of them, "Auntie, nak ribena", "Aunt Sel, nak mango", "Auntie, Adik buat camni (demonstrating the irritating act)", and so on and so forth ...

Ah yes, everyone calls Deen Adik, it seems, even little Ara who is barely three years old addresses him as Adik.

I am not too keen on these boys spending the larger part of their time gaming, but I remember that at one time I was just as obsessed with computer games as they are now with their iPad games.

The difference being, I was well passed my UPSR years when I caught the gaming bug, while these boys are just eight year-olds who still can't construct proper sentences.

Al came home early today, and immediately sat in front of the computer browsing for things a nine-year-old would be interested in - today he is fascinated with planets, stars, and constellations, having finally moved on from pyramids, pharaohs, Musa A.S. and Harun A.S.

That means tonight I will probably be inundated with questions about planets, stars and constellations.

That's what we do before tucking them in, answer questions about what they learned during the day, be it in the classroom, at the playground or on the internet.

I sincerely hope that Al's and Deen's innocence can be preserved for as long as possible and that they will continue to talk to us and share their interests with us throughout their growing up years.

We have always been a rather close-knit family, and we hope that these boys will not only be brothers, but also good friends that will support and take care of each other.


Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Shunning Politics

Someone wondered why I don't seem to write anything remotely political these days.

The thing is, when I decided to write about my life in general, I didn't realise how little politics affect my life.

The Bumiputra quota in housing means nothing to me or my immediate family because none of us bought our homes under that scheme even though we are all registered as Melayu in our identity cards.

When the nons quibble about Bumiputra discounts, I find it irrelevant because we never bought our homes with the Bumiputra discount, not even our father when he bought his retirement home.

When people talk about the need for low cost housing - it makes no difference to me because none of us are qualified for low cost housing.

As for Malay Reserve Land except for a few acres of palm oil in Johor, the rest of our properties are not on Malay Reserve Land.

While the politicians get all excited about Malay first Malaysian second, it makes no difference to me whatsoever because I have always encountered racial discrimination at the workplace because I am considered a Malay first by my largely non-Malay employers and by-passed for training and promotions on the basis that I will get that training from trained seniors, who happened to be non-Malays.

That sort of justified the tag "assistant" in assignments even though I ended up doing the bulk of the work.

I heard one of the senior managers once said "we are transferring our skills to our Bumiputera colleagues" as if Malays were incapable of acquiring those skills themselves should they were given the training directly.

Has any politician said anything for the average Malay professional facing discrimination in organisations with largely non-Malay management?

It is really funny that I got more acknowledgement from the HQ in Britain than I did from the Malaysian office when it comes to ideas and job accomplishment.

My Malaysian bosses questioned why the departments from HQ offered all-expenses paid training to me directly instead of asking for their recommendations, when they had never considered that I was never sent by the office for training anywhere and yet expected me to "assist" the trained colleagues to complete their assignments.

They even refused to grant me time off for the 5-week professional license training programme offered at no cost to me by the HQ, while at the same time two others were given the go-ahead to attend the same programme and the office were willing to pay for it.

Once, I was also reminded by a senior manager not to wear baju kurung for a presentation because the client was not a government department, something that I never encountered when I was working in Britain.

Hilarious, considering my previous job in Britain required me to do a lot of site visits and meeting clients in various settings, even a boardroom presentation.

How's that for discrimination?

I was considered a rebellious upstart and not fit for grade promotion, but various department heads were offering me lateral movements into their departments, one even offering me a position at a reduced grade - to streamline with the others doing the same things in his department - while making it like he was doing me a favor.

And these are the kind of people in the pool of "top echelons of professionals" in that particular field being head-hunted by multinationals for ever increasing remunerations.

Some of them are even Malays.

Do politicians even care why Malay professionals in many non-Malay dominated organisations have always carried the stigma of being a Malay before anything else is considered, unless they embrace the so-called "corporate" culture that is practiced by the ruling classes within the organisation?

Does anyone care?

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Bananas



Two of our banana trees at the back are currently fruiting.

We have decided to allow them to ripen naturally before harvesting because they will be sweeter that way.

The grove started with a young plant that was a gift from our brother.

Considering that Yaya never planned to plant bananas at the back, that grove has been very productive over the past two years.

We have had three humongous stems of fruits and 'hearts' although this time around, Yaya decided not to harvest the 'hearts' because we see a couple of beautiful tiny birds drinking nectar off them every morning.

I love the banana 'hearts' which we would normally just boil in salted water and eat with rice as 'ulam'.

Usually Yaya would prepare a 'sambal' dip to eat with a variety of 'ulam' that include fresh long beans, steamed okra, 'pucuk ubi', 'pegaga', 'cekur', or just store-bought vegetables prepared raw or steamed, but I prefer to eat them without the dip.

The first 2 banana fruit stems we harvested from the grove were humongous giants that we couldn't really recognise as a specific variety that we normally find - you know, not 'pisang embun' or 'pisang raja', or 'pisang Cavendish' and certainly not 'pisang emas'.

Al took one look at them and refused to eat them even though he loves bananas, his reason was they were 'mutated giant bananas that may be alive'.

The imagination of children can be quite trying sometimes ...

But the third bunch we harvested were smaller, and we actually managed to polish them off within 3 days.

The leaves are plentiful too, useful for a variety of things in the kitchen, such as wrapping fish before grilling them, forming a base to steam 'pau', lining the bowl of nasi lemak, and wrapping 'kueh' for steaming.

Some of those who visited us were amazed to see a grove of banana trees in our tiny backyard, among other plants, but honestly, they are really good as not only they provide fruits and leaves, but also shade.

My room, which is at the back of the house, is cooler now that some of the leaf steams have grown tall enough to reach the upper level of the house.

At night, they move back and forth in the night breeze to create eerie shadows on the windows, and being the scaredy cat that I am, I always draw down the curtains nowadays.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Taekwondo Grading

Today the boys went for their Taekwondo grading.




Me: So, macam mana grading tadi?

Al: OK

Me: Did you do well?

Al: OK

Me: What about Adik?

Deen: (silence)

Yaya: Hmm ... pencapaian Adik is questionable ... (demonstrated how Adik held himself during grading)

Me: Hahaha ...

Last week Al was aiming for a double promotion to a green belt.  He still does.  Because Sir promised an icecream treat for those who managed to get double promotion.

Heh ... and I thought it was for the pride of donning a green belt.


Saturday, 15 November 2014

Digital Dolls

Someone asked after my health, wondering whether I had not been writing regularly like I resolved to do because of ill health.

Yes, it was rather bad these past few days, more so when my asthma acted up as well, but I am okay, just not up to spending long hours in front of the computer.

Today is another day spent indoors, browsing the latest happenings as well as working on one of my hobbies, creating custom content for a favorite game.

I used to be an enthusiastic gamer, but now I reserve my gaming on just a few games that I have on my phone, while The Sims 2 is the only one I have on my computer.



Okay, The Sims 4 is out, but I am still playing and creating for my TS2 primarily because I can't really afford another game right now, though the review from The Sims Community seems to indicate that it is worth a buy.

I started playing The Sims ages ago when a friend gave me her entire CD collection because she had moved on to The Sims 2.

Back then it was a very simple game, playing digital dolls and dollhouses, and even then I was making custom skins and furnishings for my digital dolls because that game was rather limited, but I was just too parsimonious back then to spend money for a game as much of the custom content for it was from pay-sites.

When I got a job and was earning quite a bit, I could afford to buy TS2 with all the expansion packs, so my game was pretty much complete, but I couldn't get rid of the creative bug, and I was totally convinced pay-sites were evil, and creating for TS2 was a lot of fun too.

So I continued creating custom content for my game, got active in The Sims community, interacting with the absolutely brilliant custom content creators in the community and cluing in on the occasional ensuing dramas.

I gained and learned so much from the community and that added to the enjoyment of playing and creating for the game.

Even so, I never got onto TS3 bandwagon when it was introduced, despite getting the base game free courtesy of a friendly online acquaintance, primarily because it was too resource hungry and I'd rather not spend a lot of money on a high-end computer just to play games.

And now that TS4 is out, it is very unlikely that I would ever get TS3, not that I was going to get TS4 anyways.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Back to School

I was very poorly yesterday that I could hardly walk, but I am so glad and thankful that I am healthier today.

The reason being, I promised the boys that we would begin to look for their workbooks for next year.

I know, school holidays haven't begun yet, but this is really the best time to buy stuff for school as almost all the department stores and supermarkets are having their Back To School promotion.

Stationery, books, uniform, shoes and school bags are at least 10% to 20% cheaper than they normally are.

We went to Mydin USJ after Zuhr today to check out on their Back to School offering, and the place was chock full of people that I was practically claustrophobic.

We bought two sets of workbooks for each of them but since we still have plenty of stationery from this year's stock, we did not buy anything other than a couple of pencil cases and some exercise books for Sekolah Agama.

The prices were not much different from the usual Mydin bundled prices either.

Stocking up on stationery and art supplies is an important part of our Going Back to School annual ritual.

My sister is very particular about checking and comparing prices although that doesn't necessarily mean that she will only buy the cheapest because she believes in value for money.

For instance, she will only stock up on colorful Faber-Castell dust-free erasers because these erase cleanly and minimise tearing, colored pencils for everyday use are always Steadtler because their vibrant colors mean a little goes a long way, and sharpeners are usually the ones by Papermate as they last longer than the others we've tried even though they tend to be pricier than the rest.

However, besides Faber-Castell 2B pencils, she would also stock up on Tesco brand 2B pencils for everyday use as these are good enough for school even though the price is almost half of other brands.

Besides the set of 12 Steadtler colored pencils for schoolwork, we also stock up on some Stabilo jumbo colored pencils primarily for artwork, not only because of the vibrant colors, but the size of the pencils makes it easy for the boys to fill up the empty spaces with color.

Al has begun using oil pastels in DSV (Dunia Seni Visual - Visual Art World) classes, so we bought a few different brands to try out - Crayola, Pentel, Astar, Buncho - but settled on Buncho primarily because of the price, while the quality is good enough for primary school children's artwork.

I like drawing and doing artwork too, so I am a bit invested in the stocking up of oil pastels and colored pencils as I would sometimes "teach" Al on how to use blending techniques using his oil pastels, or show Deen on how to color his clouds using colored pencils.

I used to work with acrylic on canvas, but nowadays, drawing block paper, crayons, oil pastels and colored pencils are sufficient to make me a happy woman.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Being Relevant

Someone asked me why am I not writing anything about SIS being declared as deviating from Islam by the Selangor Fatwa Committee.

Honestly, I have nothing to say about the whole thing.

For one thing, I am not an Islamic scholar, so how am I supposed to comment on something that had been discussed and analysed by a committee of learned men on the subject of the aqidah and the things that would be considered a deviation from the faith.

However, I do find Zainah Anwar blaming Putrajaya for the fatwa as rather comical.

Come on, you want the federal government to curtail the states' fatwa committee?  In this case, the Selangor Fatwa Committee?

The Selangor that is currently governed and administered by a PKR Menteri Besar?

And with a Sultan who has already said that fatwa was released with his endorsement?

And you are blaming Putrajaya?

It is easy ain't it, playing the blame game?

My question is, why take pot shots at Putrajaya when your gripe is with the Selangor state?

Hello makcik, even SIS' judicial review was filed against Majlis Agama Islam Selangor, Selangor Fatwa Committee and the Selangor State Government.

Putrajaya wasn't in on it la ...

Or is that a mandatory requirement of being a The Star columnist, if there is someone that you want to blame something on, blame Putrajaya?


Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Poor Health

Today I am not very healthy, a bit of flu, some coughing and running a temperature.

Not too serious but it makes me feel rather lethargic and achy all over.

Outside, it is raining rather heavily.

The thunder frightened little Ara, and she refused to go home with Mummy so she is spending the night here.

The boys are not too happy, but they don't have much choice as my sister has agreed for Ara to stay the night.

Today Al and Deen came home excited; apparently Deen performed better than Al in Math, scoring 100%, and Al was excitedly telling my sister about it on his behalf before he quietened down a bit and showed us his math results - 96%.

I think Al was over confident, as he would have scored 100% too if he hadn't been so careless with his sums.

As expected, Al did poorly on his Bahasa Malaysia comprehension paper - only a B.

I am not sure why they make Bahasa Malaysia so difficult for the kids.

Some of the questions stumped even me - and my BM isn't really too bad.

No wonder Al loathes BM and given the choice, he would rather learn his Arabic than do his BM exercises.

Unfortunately BM counts for two papers in the UPSR and contibutes two fifths of the total for their final academic ranking, so with his poor showing this time around we managed to convince him to spend more time doing his BM exercises and reading if he wanted to top his class.

I hope his resolve to not neglect his BM exercises and reading lasts through to next year and we don't have to get into a scolding tone just to get him to open the supplementary exercises we bought him.

Which reminds me, we will be going to Mydin this weekend to find suitable supplementary books for the boys.

I hope to be sufficiently recovered so I can go with my sis as I immensely enjoy browsing for books, even if they are for others.

As for now, my mission is to drink plenty of plain water and get enough sleep, so good night.

Young Career

I was going to post something last night before going to bed but was interrupted and then it was just too late in the night and I was feeling unusually tired last night, so I went straight to bed instead.

I guess I broke my resolve to write daily just a day after making it.

Never mind, it is not a life or death thing and is of no consequence to others even if I am upset that I manage to break it so soon after making it.

The thing about resolutions is, it is very difficult to keep if it isn't something that can real in life-threatening situations such as cutting out on sugar and rich food or you will die within six months .

Or living a frugal life to have sufficient savings to own an asset which you can live in, i.e. a home, instead of going through life with rentals as a permanent part of your living expenses that contribute to cost of living.

Anyways, home ownership is something close to my heart as I believe a house is an asset, although a major purchase, one that will appreciate in value with time, while in contrast, a car can be equally expensive but will depreciate drastically.

When I first started working, I was renting a tiny room some 30 miles from where I work in the city and took the train or the bus to work.

Fortunately, public transport was very good, but I did have to walk quite a bit to the bus stand, and even further to the train station but I consider that as healthy exercise.

I lived on cheese (it was cheap) and cucumber (the most readily available vegetable) sandwiches and would stop by the fishmonger for some plaice or trout as a treat once a month, which I would pan-grill in foil.

Even though my landlady, Linda, was very generous and allowed me to use the kitchen, she consumed a lot of pork, the cheapest meat that a working class Brit could afford at the time, so I couldn't really use her pots and pans nor her dishes, hence the foil.

Linda, then a 27 year-old model from Chester, was by no means poor, but she was from a working class family and understood the importance of having something to fall back on, so she was saving for retirement even then.

That is something I learned from Linda, saving for retirement should start early, and by God's Will, you will not be too dependent on anyone when you are no longer working.



Within 6 months of working, I managed to save enough for the down payment of a 2-bedroom terrace house in a nice quiet neighborhood near where I was renting, although I still saw Linda often  for tea whenever she wasn't away on assignment.

Even with mortgage payments, my expenses wasn't that much more than renting, and when I took in a tenant, it helped to pay the bills too.

It was an old house, so was not very energy efficient, and the heating expenses was rather high especially in December and January, but using a timer to turn on/off the heat helped to save gas bills.

By then, I could also afford a car, a green Citroen CX, that I got cheap from a friend at work.

And so, by age 22, I was already a proud owner of a terrace house, albeit in a working class neighborhood, and a car that gave me the freedom of movement for my weekend adventures.