Friday, January 30, 2009

Have you heard of Michael Heart?

I was driving home from work last week when I heard this new song playing on IKIM FM. At first, it was the acoustic guitar that caught my attention (have always been a sucker for this kind of music :D). Then I realized that it was a song about Gaza. Funny, I thought. Never heard this song before. Who's the singer, I wondered. I'll just google "Gaza tonight" (part of the lyrics which I managed to catch), I thought, when no information about the song nor its singer was given till the end of the song.

The "Gaza tonight" google led me to the song "We Will Not Go Down" by singer, Michael Heart. Another round of googling led me to the the singer's website. You can read all about him at : His infectious song can be downloaded for free at his website though he did request that after doing so, we should contribute to funds dedicated to alleviate the sufferings of the Palestinians particularly the UNRWA (United Nations Relief & Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East).

WE WILL NOT GO DOWN (Song for Gaza)
- Composed and performed by Michael Heart (Copyright 2009)

A blinding flash of white light
Lit up the sky over Gaza tonight
People running for cover
Not knowing whether they’re dead or alive
They came with their tanks and their planes
With ravaging fiery flames
And nothing remains
Just a voice rising up in the smoky haze
We will not go down
In the night, without a fight
You can burn up our mosques and our homes and our schools
But our spirit will never die
We will not go down
In Gaza tonight
Women and children alike
Murdered and massacred night after night
While the so-called leaders of countries afar
Debated on who’s wrong or right
But their powerless words were in vain
And the bombs fell down like acid rain
But through the tears and the blood and the pain
You can still hear that voice through the smoky haze
We will not go down
In the night, without a fight
You can burn up our mosques and our homes and our schools
But our spirit will never die
We will not go down
In Gaza tonight

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Partial Solar Eclipse on 26/1/2009

We waited, witnessed and captured the partial solar eclipse in Seremban, yesterday. Equipped with only our digital compacts and vintage film negatives that were scavenged from old photo envelopes, abah and I spent close to three hours capturing the phenomenon. After all, you don't get to see this everyday, right? The last time a solar eclipse occurred was in 2002.

The challenge of capturing the solar eclipse using our 8 Mp digital compacts made the whole exercise even more exciting. My sister who was in Teluk Intan for the CNY hols, however, was not so lucky. Her D80 was rendered useless because the weather was cloudy over there and she can't even see the sun. It's the case of not being at the right place at the right time.
Since our cameras were no DSLRs, we experimented.

A small strip of used film negative, taped to the camera lense made instant filter.

Triple filters. Two layers of used b & w film negative in front of the camera helped us capture almost crisp images of the sun and help protect our eyes, too.
Below are the images of the sun in its various stages of eclipse. But of course, a DSLR would have produced better images ...

Friday, January 23, 2009

Gong Xi Fa Cai

To all my friends who're celebrating Chinese New Year: May the Year of the Ox brings you happiness, prosperity and contentment. Don't forget to bring back those juicy honey mandarin oranges! :D

Thursday, January 22, 2009

How far would you go?

In the wake of the Gaza attrocities and calls for boycott of American and so-called Jewish products, how far would you go to support the Palestinian cause and send your message across to the Zionist Regime and their supporters?

Are you willing to forgo your ...

Estee Lauder cosmetics?
Sidney Sheldon paperbacks?
kid's Power Rangers figurines?
tightest link - Google and FB?
comfy Levi's and Gap apparel?
weekly grocery shopping at Tesco?
Mark's & Spencer's shopping spree?
thirst-quenching Cokes and Pepsis?
reliable Dell LTs (plus the Intel inside)?
Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren perfumes?
favourite Starbucks ice-blended beverages?
finger-licking good KFCs, McDees and Wendy's?
not-to-be-missed TV shows and Hollywood Movies?
well-paying job at an American company (as suggested by a former statesman)?

Not so easy, huh?
To those who made an effort: Wow! That's a tough act to follow.
To those who don't give a hoot: you have your reasons. Nobody can force you to do something you don't believe in.
To the Palestinians: my doa and prayers.
To the perpetrators: I'll leave it to God.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Happy Birthday Amirul

The year started with a string of birthdays. Mumsie celebrated her birthday on the 3rd, followed by Abang (8th) and on the 12th, another 'Abang', my son - Amirul. Just a normal birthday celebration for a little boy, I would say - eating at a restaurant of his choice, birthday cake, presents. No birthday song from mama, only a piano cover of his favourite song (and the whole family) "What I've Done" by Linkin Park :D! Love u Chill!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

EPF VS Pension

This one month (1st - 31st January 2009) will see some 66,000 government servants making their ultimate decision - whether to remain in the EPF scheme or opt for the pension. Yours truly will also be putting on her thinking hat.

Kudos to JPA and CUEPACS for organizing roadshows across the country to explain to interested parties about service circular no. 19/2008: Tawaran Opsyen Semula Kepada Anggota Yang Telah Memilih Skim Kumpulan Wang Simpanan Pekerja. I attended one of the sessions in Shah Alam, recently. The Director of Bhg Pasca Perkhidmatan (aka bhg. pencen) JPA, Dato' Yeow Chin Kiong himself, gave the briefing in fluent Malay.

I know that for some EPFians, this opportunity to change to the pension scheme is like a dream come true. Some of them claimed that they were not well-informed when they signed up for EPF years ago. Therefore, they regretted signing-up for the scheme.

Moi? I was fully aware of the consequences when I signed up. It's not about money. It's more about FREEDOM. I chose the EPF scheme because I did not want to be tied down to the job. I know most of my friends who chose the scheme had the same idea. Some wanted to leave once they have served their contract. FYI we were bound for 7 years, just like the Medic students! Anyway, the main reason I chose the scheme was I wanted to be able to call the shots should the need arises i.e. can resign anytime that I want and nobody can say no. Resigning is not that easy for those in the pension scheme because it normally depends on the "budi bicara Ketua Jabatan", etc. I actually came close to exercising my privilege in 2007 and at that time, I remembered feeling grimly satisfied that nobody could force me to go to some place I don't fancy. Of course, as fate would have it, I did not need to go to that extent after all ...

But as the saying goes, "you win some, you lose some". When I convert to the pension scheme, I will lose my 'license' to resign-at-anytime-I-want. I will also need to return the government's portion of the EPF contribution. In return, I will get my monthly pension when I retire, plus medical benefits for the whole family. Other than that, I'm entitled for gratuity and the "Golden Handshake" (If you have doubts about this, feel free to check with Bhg Pasca Perkhidmatan, Jabatan Perkhidmatan Awam).

Anyway, unlike some EPFians, I did not regret choosing the EPF scheme all this while. How could I? I've amassed a decent amount of money in my EPF account :D and most important, the choice that I made earlier, had sort of forced me to plan my finances from day one - retirement plan, education funds, insurance, etc. That's quite an achievement for a shopaholic! He! He!

So, why then did I decide to convert to the pension scheme? This time, it's for the children. If anything happens to me, my children will be the beneficiaries of my pension till they are 21 years old. If nothing happens to me and I live to see my retirement, the pension money would come in handy when hubby and I globetrot around the world, like my globe-trotting parents! He! He!

What about FREEDOM, you might ask. Well, I'm bound for another 3 years (thanks to another scholarship) and am waiting to be bound for another six years (hoping for yet another one! Hu! Hu!). So, I'm 'jailed' for life! One consolation, though, my job is not too bad after all ...

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Plants for 2009

They say 2009 is going to be worse than 1929 - The Great Depression. But do not despair, folks! Although most of us will be living frugally that doesn't mean that you can't have the garden of your dreams. Yeah, maybe you should forget about engaging the services of those expensive landscape designers. But no, don't trade those flowers for cow-grass - or worst, cement - YET! Here are some easy-to-grow, value-for-money flowers, which will brighten your homes and may just bring out the gardener in you (if you're the hopeless type :D).

Zinnia Angustifolia @ creeping zinnia (3 for RM 10.00*)

My favourite flower. Comes in a variety of cultivar and colour such as off-white, pale yellow, orange and pink. It's a hit with ladybugs, bees and butterflies (what is a garden without insects?:D). When the blooms aged, and become dry and brown, pluck and scatter them on the soil as seeds. Seedlings will grow in 1-2 weeks and will last for 3 months or more. You can also keep the seeds to be sowed at a later time. (more of this, later). The Zinnia's enemies are those white grubs (don't know their scientific name, yet) and grasshoppers.

Torenia Fournieri @ Wishbone flower @ Bluewigs (3 for RM 10.00*)

Comes in blue, purple and pink. The lifespan of the plant is short - about a month. However, new plants will germinate from the dried blooms which fall on the soil. You will have a steady supply of the flower all year round. Its enemy are also those tiny white grubs. When you see a bunch of them clinging on to the stem, just cut the affected area. Sometimes you might have to throw the whole plant! Don't worry, new plants will sprout in no time.

Cuphea Hyssopifolia (4 for RM 10.00*)

Comes in white, blue and purple. It breeds easily - I'm not quite sure how, but in time you will see 'baby plants' (am a dummy when it comes to horticulture terms :D) sprouting. So, you can just dig out the anak pokok (sapling?) and plant it elsewhere. The plant makes great borders. However it has to be trimmed in order for it to thrive. The plant is a hit with butterflies. Yeah, nice to see the butterflies roaming your garden for a while, but not so nice when the plant becomes their love nest. The plant will be swarmed with those tiny,furry caterpillars. Kalau nasib tak baik boleh togel cuphea ni jadinya ... argh! That's the time I'll turn into a nasty Edward Scissorhands - cut! cut! cut!

Well, there you have 'em, 3 plants for the frugal gardener. In your frugality though, don't forget to water the plants at least once a day. If it rains, then it's your lucky day. Fertilize only once a month (I don't religiously practise this, though). Normally it's just a teaspoon of fertilizer scattered on the soil, far from the stem. (More on the fertilizers, later).

So, to all you hopeless gardeners out there (been there ... he! he!), try planting these flowers. Who knows, they might just be the magic plants that will turn your fingers green!

* the price quoted might have gone up in 2009. The plants are cheaper in the nurseries near the Sg. Buloh hospital.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year 2009

2008 came and went. Come to think of it, time does not even fly anymore. It just ZOOMS through! Alhamdulillah, it has been a bountiful year for me :).

For things that had happenned in the past year, there's a Malay saying that goes: "Yang buruk jadikan sempadan, yang baik jadikan teladan". For things which have yet to happen, hubby's favourite tagline taken from a retro song (Doris Day's?): "Que sera, sera. What ever will be, will be". One thing for sure, it's not going to be a rosy year ahead of us, what with the economic meltdown and all. Still, I'm hoping that everything will turn out fine for everybody.

Resolutions? Well, I'd rather keep them to myself. But this year, am hoping to be more serious in achieving those personal pledges. (Oops! Had just revealed one of my resolutions... so much for being secretive!)

Lastly, here's wishing everybody in the blogsphere: "HAPPY NEW YEAR 2009" (sorry, no song and dance, fancy slide shows or fun pix, like always :D). Hope the new year will bring us joy, opportunities, prosperity, and contentment. Amin...