Friday, November 30, 2007

KLCC Twin Towers

Last week, I scored another first, despite my physical ailments. I went up the sky bridge on the 42nd floor of the KLCC Twin Towers. The escalator moves at one second per floor, so it took less than a minute to reach the skybridge. Talk about modern technology. You get a panoramic view of Kuala Lumpur’s high rise buildings but the most beautiful views were the bird’s eye view of the various sections of the park below.

I wrote an article about KLCC when it was still new. I was freelancing at that time. I wonder if it ever was published? Sometimes, you do a write up, interview people but the article doesn’t see the print. It can be pretty embarrassing and can cause misunderstandings. It is something beyond the control of the writer. I hope readers understand. It’s the editor that calls the shot.

Anyway, my Xuzhou students tell me that someone from Xuzhou was involved in the designing or architectural aspect of the complex. They are very proud of him.

Help! I've got a fishbone stuck in my throat! Part 2

My headache throbbed on mercilessly. Each time I worked on my computer, my eyes automatically shut and I dozed off more than did my work. Finally, I wised up and took a complete break. I decided to focus on something which I’ve always wanted to do but never got round to. I decided to learn how to make bread. Before I could do that, I had to send my Cornell oven for repair. I hardly used the oven because I didn’t know how to adjust the temperature. The service people told me the heating element was faulty. No wonder. I bought all my ingredients and just when I was about to begin, I discovered that the scale was not functioning.

I had to invest in a new one. I found one at TESCO, weighed out the ingredients and followed the recipe to the T but halved the proportion. Twenty minutes into the over, I sniffed. Something was burning alright. I opened the oven and saw a burnt crust. I turned down the temperature from 180 degrees centigrade to 160 and reduced the time from 45 minutes to 40 minutes. Here’s the outcome. Looks yuk but at least, its cooked and it taste like bread.

Help! I've got a fishbone in my throat!

It’s been an agonizing week, healthwise. A fishbone or scale, (till this day, I don’t know which) got stuck in my throat. I tried swallowing bananas and drinking lots of water but the object kept jabbing my throat. I couldn’t do a thing!

It was so bad, I had to go to the emergency ward where they did an X-ray and confirmed it was a bone. It looked like a figure seven hanging on to the larynx. It looked so huge on the –x-ray, it scared the life out of me! They gave a referral to the Ear, Nose and Throat Department. There the experts in the field stated that everyone has that bone. The doctor then did a scan, through my nostril, but she couldn’t see a thing. The machine wasn’t clear. (That’s based on her conversation with the hospital attendant). Then she did the scan through my throat. I felt the bone hurting me but still she couldn’t see a thing. Her supervisor came in. He, too didn’t see a thing. So he gave me two options. Take a course of antiobiotics or have my throat opened up and the latter was no guarantee that the bone could be found. I didn’t have to consider. I took the safer option.

Meanwhile I came home and tried one home remedy after another. I swallowed vinegar, the rationale being that the acidic properties in it would dissolve the bone. It didn’t work. I drank glasses of black vinegar mixed with Sprite to make it more palatable. That didn’t help. I swallowed rice balls – all to no avail.
I suffered though the week, which was compounded by a throbbing headache on my right temple. No amount of Paracetemol could get rid of it. Finally, I decided to go for a massage, to get rid of the headache. The headache remained but thank God, the jabbing sensation in my throat is gone.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

IELTS Listening (contd)

The IELTS listening test last 30 minutes and consists of four sections, each with increasing difficulty. Before the test begins, the examiner will play a pre-test tape. This is the time for candidates to adjust their earphones to the volume that they are most comfortable with. There should be no question of the ear phones not working because the equipment are usually tested by technical staff before the exams.
There is also no basis for the sound being unclear since the tapes are professionally produced unless of course, there is an oversight. If a candidate is unhappy, he or she can address the problem in the feedback form that is given at the end of the writing test. If you are unhappy with your results, you can ask for it to be reviewed. However, to do that you have to pay a fee.

Friday, November 23, 2007

IELTS Listening

Cheryl C. wasn’t too happy about the IELTS Listening Test that she took recently. In fact, she was a bit worried about her performance. Her English is good, but IELTS is a requirement for non native English speakers who wish to pursue their studies in the UK and Australia. She admits that age has to do with her listening test. Cheryl is in her early forties. Although she understood the script, trying to recall the information was not easy. She added that the other problem was that it was too fast.

My advice to those sitting for the exam is to know the format of the Test from the back of your hand and practice, practice, practice. If you keep practicing, your mind would be attuned to the speed of the task and the expected questions.
As for Cheryl, I don’t think you should worry too much. I’m sure your score will meet the university requirements.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Diet and Cancer

The link between what we eat and cancer has been proven repeatedly by scientists. The message issued by the American Cancer Society is loud and clear – eat more fruits and greens and less red meat and carbohydrates. The information is not new but serves as a good reminder. The first few days of adjusting to such a diet would be critical. One challenge would be how to deal with the inevitable hunger pangs. Learn to nibble on an apple, a carrot, cucumber, banana or anything that can be eaten raw. Take soya bean curd or soya bean water. Have a handful of almond nuts which are good for the heart.

Exercise regularly. When we sweat out, we actually cleanse our internal system by releasing toxic and excess salt. Lift weights while watching your favorite TV program. Lifting weights make one’s muscles lean and reduces the risk of falls which are fatal if one is suffering from osteoporosis.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A dog is man's best friend

A dog is man's best friend. As far as I can remember, there was always a dog in the house. My dad loved dogs. He once brought in a stray, pregnant dog, gave it an old blanket and a corner in the back portion of the house. When Blackie delivered a litter of puppies, he provided confinement food in the form of ginger chicken.

It was no wonder, the dog remained faithful to him. One time, my father was so ill, he had to remain in bed for several days. We, his children thought nothing of his illness. We were our usual selves, playing,laughing or fighting. Not Blackie. She stayed under his bed and refused any food until Dad recovered. Blackie, Buddy and Sunny were never toilet trained. Yet, they somehow knew where to go when nature called. I suppose, a kampong atmosphere with plenty of wide open space helps.

Dogs in housing estates, however, are different.They are confined within the four corners of the lot and have to depend on owners to take them out for runs and to do their business. The sad thing is that some dog owners, allow their dogs to do business along the road, in front of other people's houses AND they do not bathe their dogs. Can you imagine how intolerable it is to have to suffer the stench of dog shit each time there's a breeze?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Speech and Drama Programs

I have a brochure at hand advertising speech and drama courses by a private educational center. Speech and drama are very effective methods in improving oral English. When I was in China, English speech competitions were highly regarded and encouraged. One of my students, whom I helped coached, emerged as the provincial champion. It was no small feat! She went through different levels - class, college, inter-college, provincial and then national level to win the title. The national level was sponsored by the British Council at that time. I'm not sure if the British Council is still sponsoring the program.

Drama too is another way to help students lose their inhibitions and fear of speaking English. Many foreigners complain that Chinese students are non participative. The ones I had in a college were such a blessing! They were enthusiastic and serious about learning English. I got them to make dramas out of news items and songs! Boy! Sometimes, they surprised me with their vivid creativity and imagination.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Give the children a break from studies

The holidays have begun but parents are not about to let their children out of "school." Apart from a few days of holiday outings, the rest of the long holidays are spent studying to equip for better performance for the next hurdle. Thus children are enrolled for holiday classes, run either by the school or private centers. Very popular are courses for preparation of high stake examinations such as the UPSR, PMR SPM with focus on major subjects like Bahasa Malaysia, English, Mathematics and Science.

I'm not against learning but as the saying goes All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Another saying with similar inference is There's a season for everything - a season for work and a season for rest.

Children should be allowed to expand their horizon beyond their studies. Exposing them to spheres outside of academic subjects will actually make better students. Drama, creativity courses and survival camps would serve them better in the long run than dry, academic subjects. This has been confirmed by educational experts who suggest that we bring our prior knowledge into our studying.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Teaching language through culture

Thanksgiving is approaching. It’s an American holiday and is usually celebrated on the second last Thursday of November of each year. Its tradition dates back to the first Thanksgiving by the Early Pilgrims who celebrated their first successful harvest in the new land with the Red Indians who had helped them to adjust in the new land and taught them how to plant and fish.

Today, Thanksgiving in the States is celebrated usually with families, much like the Chinese family reunion dinner on the eve of the Lunar New Year. The signature dish seems to be the Thanksgiving turkey.

In China, most American teachers celebrate the occasion with their students. Although I’m not American I did the same with my students in order to expose them to American culture.

I remember in one Thanksgiving, I had the class think of one item to be thankful for. Many of the young ones said they were thankful for their parents, but three comments stood out and these were from those who had experienced the Cultural Revolution, first hand.
Cai Xu, an associate professor said he was thankful for Deng Xiao Peng who re-opened the universities. Otherwise, he would have been a carpenter. In those days, intellectuals were discriminated against and his mother put him in a carpentry school to avoid being stigmatized. He attended one day of carpentry class but quit the next day when the universities re-opened.

Monitor Fung was thankful because he and his siblings were never short of food since his mother was in charge of the ration cards during the revolution.

Mary had a hard time during the Cultural Revolution. Her family suffered hunger and cold. From her sharing, one could tell her family had no guanxi or connection. In China, good guanxi can make the most difficult task a piece of cake!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Malaysian English

It's funny because when we're with English speaking foreigners, we use official English but when we're among ourselves, we tend to switch code, use the local accent and of course, throw in our famous la's at the end of sentences. Somebody sent this to me via e-mail. I'm sorry I'm able to cite the source but there cemented is a good example of Malaysian English.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

High Stake Exams

The UPSR results are out! Joey passed with 7A's. Her mother, Li Qi was overjoyed. So am I! I had taught her and her siblings English.
"How will you reward her?" I asked the mother.
"We'll see," she responded.
I wonder if this high stake exam will still be on next year. There was talk that it might be scrapped because it can be a source of great stress for candidates. It's true that written exams may not be the best assessment of a student's abilities. After all, one's performance in a big exam is dependent on several factors apart from head knowledge. An otherwise brilliant student may not perform well because some circumstance has upset his/ her equilibrium. A cold, poor sleep, bad news can take its toil on one's thinking skills at a time such as this.
Despite such factors, I personally feel that exams are valid instruments for assessment.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Idiomatic Sayings

GB enjoyed the Ipoh salt chicken so much that he crunched the bones to bits. Laughingly he said, “My brother says that when I eat chicken, the dogs and the cats cry.” He means that he had so cleaned up the chicken bones that there is nothing left for the domestic animals to enjoy.

I liked the way he expressed his enjoyment for the dish. In fact, I often encourage my students to use local idiomatic expressions in their essays. After all, different races have their own way of expressing the same thing. Let’s take jealousy for instance. The English language expresses it as green eyed jealousy. The Chinese express the same emotion as : So and so has red eyes.

Monday, November 12, 2007


Sun Yi asked in an e-mail what is the meaning of set aside.

The English language has many idioms. For instance the verb put has idiomatic phrases like put away, put on, put up with.

Knowing how to use such phrases will go a long way in helping one's oral as well as written expressions.

Set aside
has several meanings.
1. It can mean to put aside what you're doing to concentrate on something urgent/ or important at hand.

The mother set aside her laundry when the baby started yelling.
Jane set aside her homework to help the younger brother with his mathematics.
She set aside her ambitions for a tertiary education to take care of an ailing father.

2. One can set aside something : eg savings/ time
She set aside monthly savings for emergency purposes.
The busy father set aside time for his growing child.

3. In law, set aside means that a court decision is not valid.

The High Court set aside the Session's Court's decision.

Photoshop Elements6 made easy!

Today I stumbled on the lazy man's way of using this program. Click on the Edit button on the upper right hand side. Then select Guided. A dialogue box appears asking what would you like to do?

he drop down menu gives several options-basic photo edits which include cropping, rotating and straightening. Then there is lighting adjustment, color correction. Then there is the Guided Activity The last category allows one to work on a project and is grouped under Photomerge/ Group Photo and Faces.

The tools are easy to use. When you click on the crop icon, a box appears immediately on your subject and all you have to do is to resize it by using the arrows to shift it up or down or left or right. The lighting and color corrections uses a slider for adjustment. The Guided Activity helps to take care of blemishes, scratches and marks in the photos.

I have here a picture of Xiao Hong taken with my Nokia cell phone. The picture has been cropped and adjusted for lighting and color.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Cropping tool in Photoshop Elements6

I’m still imbued with Photoshop Elements 6. I’ve got a side profile of a young Indian beauty with all her features in perfect proportion. I tried the cropping tool to remove the background but failed miserably. I didn’t seem to be able to capture the portion I wished to retain. In other words, my subject turned out to be in discarded area, which wasn’t what I wanted.
I tried to preset the crop size but still failed.

I soon realize that it was easier to go Image>Crop to get the job done. Here’s the outcome. I hope the borders will vanish.

Friday, November 9, 2007

My beloved is to me a cluster of henna blooms...Song of Solomon 1:14a

I met a young a web administrator at the Adobe Photoshop Workshop 2007. She commented that I could pass off as a Malay or Chinese. I suppose it’s because I wear a scarf. I wear it not for vanity sake but to cover my flaming, henna dyed hair. I hate the color but between grey hair and red, I’d rather opt for the latter. I can’t use commercial dye because of a sensitive scalp.

It is interesting that henna is mentioned in the Bible in the Song of Solomon 1:14:

My beloved is to me a cluster of henna blooms
In the vineyards of En Gedi (New KJV)

According to Biblical scholars, the henna shrub was planted in vineyards to prevent soil erosion and to protect the grape vines from attacks of wild animals. The reference here has romantic connotations. We are talking about Biblical society two thousand years ago.

Henna in our century is still used in the context of romance. Indian women use henna for a variety of purposes that smack of religious as well as aesthetic connotations. The high fashion world has adopted henna as a hair dye as well as a body tattoo dye. The Malay bride-to be –dips her fingers in henna – a beautification ritual.

The inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible has been proven beyond doubt, in history, archeology, culture etc. This is another example that proves the Book of Life is indeed as relevant today as it was 2000 years ago.

The picture has been edited from Haslina Henna Mashoor Dawakhana Package.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Adobe Photoshop Workshop 2007

Sorry, only tea and coffee provided. I don't blame the organizers. I was told there was an audience of close to 4,000. The majority were those in their twenties and early thirties.I found myself lost in the sea of Photoshop's terminology. Did I hear cloze or clone, stack or stuck, opacity or capacity? Whatever it was, fiery Filipina, Marianne sent us reeling with her power knowledge. She even put herself on the chopping board using a picture of herself at her worst and appying the magic of Photoshop to correct the fierce, red blotches on her cheeks. I salute you, Marianne. That was such an effective teaching method. That image will be embedded in my mind for some time.

Christine went on to further prove the limits of Photoshop. Baby fat, unwanted moles, disappearing acts- phew!!! With the click of the mouse using lighting effects, filter, mask -tools in the program, a village girl can be transformed into Miss Malaysia! Now, I understand why some videos are not admissable as court evidence.

The last speaker, a French Australian took Photoshop to the zenith, showing how it can be used by professionals like doctors and architects. It was a long day. Many waited for the lucky draw. The winners were over the moon. The prizes included CS 3, CS3 Extended worth RM4000 or more. There were free courses as well. Unfortunately for me, I have to contend with my now 26 days left of my free download of Photoshop Element 6.

By the way, don't forget your name card for the next workshop. It is used as part of the draw. I took a picture of the event with my Nokia cellphone and took the opportunity to use Photoshop Element 6 to lighten the dark areas, using Enhance >Adjust Lighting.

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