Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Miracle of Alvin

On Sunday, someone shared the most powerful testimony I have ever heard in my life so far. It was a first hand testimony of someone whose life was literally saved by the Lord.

Alvin was a young chap who was doing some renovation work for one of the church members when he suffered sickness that resulted in collapsed lungs.

Ending up with 2% lung function, he had to be put on a lung machine in the hospital to help him breathe. Pastors and church members alike prayed for him, but there was no improvement. Put on sedatives, he ended up in a 2 month coma instead, and became a shriveled 40 kg of skin and bones.

One night, the lung machine failed. He stopped breathing and his heart stopped beating.

Alvin found himself looking at his body on the hospital bed and the nurses rushing in to check on him.

The nurses called the doctors. They took a look and asked the nurses to wait another 30 minutes. Alvin tried desperately to go back into his body, but to no avail. He prayed to God to help him, but no answer came.

30 minutes passed. The doctors came in, and pronounced him officially dead, at 11.45 pm. They switched off the lights in the ICU room and left.

Alvin was left alone in the room with his body beside him. He prayed to God to take him to the better place, since his time has come. Suddenly, a bright light came out from the wall.

Alvin walked towards the light. And woke up.

The next morning, the doctors could not believe that he was alive.

Months later, they also could not believe that he had recovered 90% of his lung function.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Leadership & Obama

An article at the Huffington Post today caught my eye, and I think succinctly sums up Barack Obama's leadership of America so far.

I have never thought much of him during the campaign last year, when I was actually rooting for Hillary Clinton, who, despite labels of being a bookish technocrat, actually showed much more passion and conviction.

True, Obama often tend to speak more eloquently than Clinton, but does he have it inside? Is it in his bones? I have more than enough first hand experience of leaders who can speak really well but clearly is unable to follow them through with real, preserving action.

His actions thus far has been too data driven and too reality driven, not that data and realism are bad things, but if they are the only considerations, then he is not leader, just a mid-level manager.

Vision, passion and beliefs are all things that come from the gut, and not from dry data. Out of these things come courage, conviction and boldness to act. And most important of all, it is critical to get a sense, a feel, if you will, of the people that you are leading, otherwise leaders will end up barking up the wrong tree.

I really wish Obama well, but I am afraid he will end being remembered for being too cautious, too timid, in a turbulent time in the world where bold and courageous leadership were needed.

I end with a quote from the article:

"...a transformational president has to move the Congress -- and the public, if need be -- beyond the limits of where they thought they were prepared to go."


I guess in this age of overcommercialization, my story is not really such a surprise after all.

It started innocently enough. On Sunday I had a slight sore throat, but was beginning to get the chills and body aches. Come Monday morning, I decided to see a GP at Pusat Bandar Puchong. The lady doctor I met seemed skeptical of my condition, it sounded like she thought I was just trying to get an MC to avoid work on a Monday morning :)

Nevertheless, she declared that I had a viral infection and gave me some Panadols and NSAIDS. Now for those of you who do not know the difference between viral and bacterial infections, in terms of treatments what it means for the case of bacterial is that you get to have antibiotics to help you, while for viral you basically have to rely on your body's immune system. She even checked my throat and declared it "nothing".

I was miserable the whole Monday despite the medication, and on Tuesday, decided to go back to the same clinic. This time it was a male doctor. Again. he took a look at my throat and didn't think it was serious. He thought the NSAID I was prescribed was not suitable and gave me another type.

So, again, I spent the whole of Tuesday with body aches and fever, cursing my immune system for not doing its job. Finally, at 6 pm, I decided to go to a hospital to do a blood test (just in case its dengue) and a second opinion.

The lady doctor took a very close look at my throat, and said "You have very bad tonsilitis, can already see pus coming out". I was like, huh? I told her my GP said it was viral infection. She just smiled and didn't say anything. The dengue blood test confirmed that I was fighting a bacterial infection.

So, finally armed with some antibiotics, I suffered for another 1 hour before it kicked in. Relief, at last!

So, lesson learned. Don't trust your GP 100%. If you have doubts, always get a second opinion, after all, its your body and your health.

But I still don't understand how two different doctors from the same clinic can get it wrong. Maybe they think alike? Maybe they were just too overloaded and had mentally formed certain opinions about people like me? Anyway, having lost my trust, I doubt I will be going there anymore.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009


No, not promoting an old Terminator movie. but something that I have been involved in for the past one year :)

I think a lot of us grew up with more questions about the meaning of life, God and the hereafter than we could manage to cope. With the busyness of our lives, they tend to stay in a corner at the back of our minds, to be taken out and thought about once in a while.

I was in this same boat, until I encountered someone who decided to fearlessly take on these questions. If dinasours lived millions of years ago, how can we reconcile it with how God supposedly created us? Does science make belief in God irrelevant? Is there a God, and if there is, why should we believe and worship Him?

Dr. Ron Choong is one of a kind, someone who dared to face these questions head on and was able to gain clarity and understanding to them.

If you've ever been haunted by any of these questions, why not take the opportunity to hear what Dr. Ron has to say? He will be in PJ, Malaysia in January 2010 to do a series of seminars that covers these topics. You can get more details and register at the ACT Asia website.

Just in case you're wondering what T3 stands for - its Thinking Things Through. So be warned, the seminars are not the usual Christian talks, they will really make you rethink your ideas and presumptions :)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Singapore Marathon (Not)

For the first time since I took up running last year, I am going to miss a race I have registered for, and it was down to my own foolishness.

I injured my right foot at the end of August, and instead of immediately resting and letting it recover, I kept trying to run again every time I got slightly better. In the end I prolonged the injury to three months, and even as I write this I am still only 80% recovered.

Desperate at one stage, I even went to a sports clinic, where I found out I had something called posterior tibial tendonitis, which in layman's terms meant I have strained one of the tendons on my foot. After some treatments and custom orthotics (thanks, Dr Aston), I got slightly better, but foolishly, I kept trying to get back to my training, even trying to supplement it with some cross-training on a stationery bike.

Finally, I saw the light, and to date I have stopped running cold turkey for three weeks. Not being able to run is quite depressing, but I realized if I don't rest until it is 100%, I will just keep prolonging the issue.

Hopefully, there will be more discipline in managing my injuries in the future :)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Whitney Revisited

With the return of Whitney Houston to the music scene with her latest album, some music commentators took the occasion to revisit her finest hour - the 1992 soundtrack to the movie The Bodyguard, which even today remained the best selling soundtrack of all time.

The movie itself was so-so, but the theme song I'll Always Love You struck a chord with a lot of listeners, and lent the movie an extra level of poignancy which was lacking in both the script and the acting (Kevin Costner tried very hard to go for the stoic look but ended up looking wooden instead).

I remember the song well, for I had fallen hard for someone around the time it was released. The song had been playing for a few weeks on the local FM station at Belfast before the film's opening, so most people were already familiar with the song when they went to see the film.

As Whitney walked away after saying her goodbyes to Kevin at the end of the movie and the acapella first verse started, suddenly, the girls in the cinema started singing along! The guys in the cinema squirmed, but the girls grew bolder and louder. Of course, not everyone made it to the iconic chorus, but the whole incident was oddly moving. The song was about loving someone but not being able to be with him/her for some reason, and the girls were pouring out their own set of circumstances into their impromptu karaoke.

Even today, the opening verse still gives me the goosebumps, as I remember the voices of those girls in that dark cinema many years ago.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Eight Years On

Like the baby boomers who remembered where they were when they first heard about John Kennedy's assasination, I guess most of us Gen-X'ers remember where exactly we were when we heard about what happened eight years ago today.

I was having supper with some friends in Section 1, PJ Old Town. The whole group of us were just hanging out and gossiping about other friends. One of us got a call from her sister that CNN had reported that New York was "being attacked". A bit bewildered and somewhat worried, we quickly paid up and headed home. On our way to our cars, we passed by another mamak stall that had CNN on, but couldn't really make out what was going on.

When I got home, my cousin was watching her usual Cantonese serials on Astro. I asked her to switch over to CNN, and we watched silently in horror for about 20 minutes to what unfolded before our eyes.

I went to bed that night thinking that the world will never be the same again.

Fours year later I had a chance to experience it first hand as I was in London one week after the underground bombings, and there was a bomb scare.

A lot has happened as a result of that fateful day.

Friday, August 07, 2009


I went to the Royal Lake Club, located within Lake Gardens, for a seminar last week. Just as I came up from the underground carpark, I caught sight of something which quickened my pulse and brought back a flood of memories.

Lake Club Library

Located on the ground of the club was a library. Not the modern type with metal shelves and bright lighting, but one with nice wooden shelves and a cosy atmosphere.

My love affair with libraries began when my dad first took me to the Sarikei public library when I was eight years old. Abridged Ladybird books were then the staple of my reading.

When we moved to Sibu, the SMC library became my regular haunt, and I read Tolkien's The Two Towers long before I realized it was a classic.

Sarawak was luckier than the other Peninsular states in Malaysia, because up till the 90's, the British Council was a significant donor of books to the public libraries there. Thus, I learnt BASIC programming without even touching a real computer, and had access to a wonderful collection of British magazines.

Sibu Library

When I came to KL to study in 1989, the National Library was at Jalan Raja Laut, and together with the British Council library at Bukit Aman, became my favourite weekend haunts.

Things got better when I got to Queen's in Belfast, for they had a 10 storey main library and a 3 storey science one, not to mention Linen Hall library at the centre of the city. I felt like a man trying to gulp down an ocean of water, borrowing books like crazy.

Back to KL in 1996, the British Council library became my regular again, together with the KL Memorial library at Dataran Merdeka, which I felt was the only decent government funded library in West Malaysia apart from the National Library.

It was also at the British Council library that I found the perfect excuse to "bump into" my future wife, as she was studying for her MAICSA then :)

Sadly, after shifting to Wisma Selangor Dredging, the British Council library is now closed down for good.

After witnessing the terrible collection at the MBPJ library in 2000, I gave up visiting local libraries, and nowadays prefer to haunt Kinokuniya and MPH instead.

However, I was glad to find out that Puchong is finally going to have its own library at Bandar Puteri, which I think will be open sometime this year. Here's hoping it will have a decent collection.

With the pervasiveness of the Internet, Wikipedia, etc nowadays, do libraries still have a place in our lives and our kids' lives? If we want to go beyond consuming snippets of info, plentiful though they may be, I believe physical books will still continue to have a future. Let's put it this way - consuming info from the Internet is akin to eating a McDonald's Chicken McNuggets, convenient, fast, but insubstantial. Reading a book, on the other hand, is akin to tucking in into a nice steak, something to be enjoyed slowly.

My little Cynthia has been observing her daddy always having a book in hand in the evenings, and my wife would sometime catch her intently studying a copy of the Reader's Digest, even though she can't really read yet. When she does, I look forward to share with her the wonderful world of libraries.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

RIP, Yasmin

Tonight, as I sat starring at my monitor, I thought of Yasmin Ahmad's untimely demise, and decided to gorge myself on her works on Youtube.

Like Lat, she was one of a very few persons who really understood the essence of who we are, in this beloved country of ours, whatever our race may be.

My heart aches for the fact that we will never find out what else she had in store for us. But I guess we should also celebrate the fact that she also left us a lot - a legacy of reminders to us on what means to be, well, who we really are. I share some of my favorites below.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Last of An Era

The retirement of Brother Paul Ho recently as principal of XXI in Penang marked the end of an era. For he was the last of the La Salle Brothers working as headmasters or principals in Malaysia, private schools aside.

I attended these Christian schools from the time I entered kindergarten till the day I left for college. I started at St. Clement's Kindergarten in Sarikei, which is still standing today! There's a fantastic write up about it here.

Half of my primary school years were then spent just a stone's throw away from St Clement's, and that's St Anne's primary school.

When my family moved to Sibu, SHS (Sacred Heart School) was my alma mater until Form 5.

Throughout all these schools, the same tenets remained - discipline, respect, strong work ethic, pride, love. All the Christian Brothers and Sisters that were there poured out their heart and soul to educate the children the best that they can.

And today, I dare to say many who have passed through the gates of those schools have continued to rely on those principles to make their lives a success.

As I write this, the songs that the Sisters at St Anne's used to make us sing during morning assembly echoes through my mind. Even after 30 years, they still remain vivid:

We Stand For God

We stand for God and for His glory
The Lord Supreme and God of all.
Against his foes, we raise His standard,
Around His cross, we hear His call.

Strengthen our faith, Redeemer,

Guard us when danger is neigh
To Thee we pledge our lives and service,
Strong in a trust that ne'er shall die.
To Thee we pledge our lives and service
Strong in a trust that ne'er shall die.

It's A Long Walk to Freedom
R- It's a long road to freedom,
A winding steep and high,
But when you walk in love

With the wind on your wing

And cover the earth
with the songs you sing
The miles fly by.

1- I walked, one morning by the sea

And all the waves reached out to me

I took their tears, then let them be…

2- I walked, one morning at the dawn

When bits of night still lingered on

I sought my star, but it was gone…

3- I walked, one morning with a friend

And prayed the day would never end

The years have flown, so why pretend…

4- I walked, one morning with my King
And all my winters turned to spring

Yet every moment, held it's sting…

Sunday, June 28, 2009

KL Marathon 2009

When 2009 came, I wasn't too sure I will continue running anymore, after all the pain and injuries I went through.

But after some googling around, I decided that my shoes could be the culprit. So, shortly after Chinese New Year I got myself another pair of spanking new Nike shoes. Nike Air Structure Triax 11 maybe quite a mouthful, but it brought the joy back to my running again. According to the sales guy, you are supposed to buy one size bigger than your actual size, as your feet will expand as you run.

Thanks to a good friend who also took up running recently, I slowly got back into training again.

When the Standard Chartered KL Marathon was announced, I quickly registered for the full marathon, which I immediately regretted! But since commitment is made, I decided to try my best to train for it.

The hardest part of the training was waking up early on weekends to do the long runs - if you don't start by 5 am or 6 am, the sun will make the runs unbearable.

By the time the marathon came around, I had logged almost 300 km in 3 months, including 4 races.

Before the race, the question constantly eating on my mind was - will I be able to finish the race? The furthest I had ever done in training is 25 km, but according to marathon training theory, anything between 25 km to 32 km in training should be enough to guarantee that one can finish the full 42 km.

Then there's also the weather - the race starts at 5 am, meaning amateurs like me will finish in the hot sun between 10 am to 11 am. And last but not least, there's the feared "hitting the wall" phenomenon, the moment when your leg muscles finally run out of fuel.

The race started in drizzling rain, which I was very thankful to God for, as it meant that the first 30 km was very pleasant - the rain was later replaced with an overcast sky and a gentle breeze.

After running through Petaling Street (km 32) and up Jalan Istana (km 34), I finally found the fabled wall. I had imagined it was going to be fatigue, but it was not - it was sheer pain! Both my legs felt like they were going to fall apart. I managed to alleviate some of the pain by doing squats and rubbing Counterpain. From km 34 to km 40, I was alternating between running 1 km and walking 1 km. Km 40 to 42 was mostly walking, with short runs of 300 m in between. It was agony, but I also knew the finishing line was near!

My good friend who was running the half had stayed back to cheer me on in the last 200 m. Thanks, Liu! I owe you one :)

I finished in 5 hours 6 minutes, above my target time but I was just glad that I finished :)

I ran 42 km and all I got was this finisher medal :) (plus a finisher t-shirt)

Monday, June 15, 2009

Dating Blind

There was an article in The Star recently about where ladies could supposedly hang out to meet guys. They include the usual suspects like the local Starbucks, to the weekend flea market.

For the Chinese in Malaysia there is the MCA Cupid Club to look forward to. Judging by the number of weddings they had, I would that say it is more successful than trying to snag a guy while pretending to browse through some old antiques :)

Anyway, from the early 80's until 2003, the British had a tv show called Blind Date that supposedly did the job. It was hosted by the irrepressible Cilla Black, who always ended the show with "ta ra then!".

The show basically had a guy choosing between three ladies who he can hear but can't see, and vice versa, after which the show sponsors them on a blind date at a usually exotic location.

The fun comes in four parts - in the answers to the questions that the chooser asks (most participants try to give as suggestive as possible answers to even the most innocent questions), in the fact the guy who gave the most charming answers was usually a fat bloke who you usually won't even give a second look, in the speculation of whether they tried anything with each other during the trip, and finally, in the behind the scenes post mortem of the date by both sides.

While the show was great to watch, as far as making real matches was concerned it was quite miserable, scoring a measly three marriages in its 18 years of existence. The BBC has a great write up about the show here.

The Taiwanese had a much more effective tv show called 非常男女 which was somewhat modelled after traditional Chinese match making. A group of ladies would sit opposite a group of guys, and the hosts then throw up topics for discussion which then helps the participants decide who they like.

The parents of the participants usually come along to give moral support - some of them even point out to their kids who they should choose! As usual, there is the inevitable guy or lady that everyone wanted to date, but for the most part, at least half of them end up with someone by the end of the night. And some of them were so serious they looked they were going to get married on the spot! The show's been discontinued, but you can catch an old episode here.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

A Tale of Two Car Parks

The other day, a discussion at the office reminded me of a true story that happened at a place I used to work some years ago. No names mentioned, in order to protect the innocent :)

Once upon a time, there was a company that had an open air car park and a covered car park at its office. Only the two top big honchos of the company were allowed to use the covered car park, while the rest of the staff made do with the open air one.

Everyone accepted this arrangement, and all was at peace.

Due to tight project deadlines, some staff came back to the office on their own on Saturdays. There were no OT or extra allowances for doing so, but they were happy to sacrifice their day off. Since the bosses didn't usually turn up on weekends, they parked at the covered car park.

One Saturday, the big boss turned up. He was enraged that his car park was occupied.

The following Monday, his PA sent out the following email to all the staff:

"Please take note that no staff is allowed to park at the covered car park at all times."

From that day onwards, no one came back the office on Saturdays.

The End.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Now Everyone Can Really Fly

When I found out that my opposite neighbour was going to UK for a 10 day holiday, I was genuinely surprised. Going to Europe used to be a big thing, and boasting that you just came back from a trip there never failed to solicit the "wah's" from friends and relatives alike.

Prior to that, I also found out that my babysitter is going to Melbourne at the end of the year.

And nowadays, whenever any friend mention that they just came back from Bali, Bangkok, Phuket or Hong Kong, no one bats an eyelid or even bothers to ask for the photos anymore. Instead, most of us starts to compare notes on what we did at those destinations.

Thanks to Airasia, the world has really become a much smaller place for us Malaysians. On a whim, I checked for flights to UK next year, and managed to find fares of around RM 1200 round trip.

Thanks, Tony, for giving us the chance to live out our dreams to travel the world.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Naming Vanessa

A common question friends ask us is how we came up with Vanessa's name, and its meaning. A lot of them imagined a lot of thoughtful discussion and research happened in terms of names' meanings, etc.

Well, actually the truth is slightly more mundane, but it was still an interesting process for us.

One thing that got my dad upset when Cynthia came along was our decision not to follow the family's Chinese middle name. The Chinese word in question was 德, pronounced De, and usually written as Teck. Its quite a masculine word, and the tough part was matching it to the right female name to balance it out.

I told my wife that since its possible that we may decide not to have another kid, I wanted to honour my father's wish this time around. Being Chinese educated, it fell to my wife to find the right word to go with the middle name, and she came up with 2 choices, both pronounced xuen.

Closer to the birth date, we both traded lists of English names, and got it down to between Theresa and Vanessa. Our choices were based entirely on how we perceived the names, and not on any meaning behind them (sorry to all you romantics out there). I had wanted an Irish name, and it has always been my dream to name one of my daughters Siobhan (pronounced "Shevon"), but since the name is so rare in Malaysia, I had to agree with my wife the headache this will cause teachers and friends alike in the future.

Shortly after delivery, I told my wife I was leaning towards Theresa (on account of Mother Theresa, Theresa Kok, better match with Teck, etc), when I was told that my younger brother's coming baby was going to be a BOY. This changed the whole situation, as unlike girls, it is compulsory for boys to take the family Chinese middle name. Hence I no longer feel obliged to use it.

Right there and then at the hospital bed, we brainstormed a new name, and flipped through the day's Sin Chew Jit Poh for ideas. We decided to use the same middle name as Cynthia, i.e. Xin, and agreed on Hui for the name. Theresa doesn't really go well with Hui, so it was settled there and then that the our second daughter will be named Vanessa Ling Xin Hui.

So there you have it, our non-systematic, non-romantic and non-scientific way of coming up with a name for our kid :)

Sunday, April 12, 2009


She came almost a week earlier than expected, but praise God our second one was delivered safely at 12.16 pm on 8th April 2009.

This time around, the labour pattern was completely different from Cynthia's. For almost 12 hours there was no progress, but once the doctor decided to induce, it all happened very quickly, so much so I had to leave behind my lunch at SJMC cafeteria and rush to the delivery ward :)

Vanessa at 36 minutes old

Vanessa looking around after arriving home

The difference between newborn and 2 years, 3 kg vs 12 kg - Cynthia and Vanessa side by side

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Baby Rooms

When we first decided to take Cynthia out, one of the worries was whether there will be any places to make nappy changes. Initially, I thought it should be a cinch to find a suitable place, especially in the more established shopping centres.

The reality is actually quite a mixed bag - the good, the inconsistent, and the surprising.

The good - One Utama old wing gets our thumbs up for a having a large baby room that can accommodate around 10 babies, located on the first floor of Jusco. Part of the room has curtains in case anyone needs some privacy . And the best thing is, if you run out supplies, the baby products section is just outside the room!

Another place that gets high marks is the new wing of Sunway Pyramid - the baby room even has a playpen and a separate breastfeeding room. See pics below:

Ikea, of course, is another place that get good marks.

The inconsistent - having sung the praises of 1 U, I have to also point out that apart from the mentioned room in Jusco, there aren't any other baby rooms in either the old or new wing, and similarly for Pyramid.

In Midvalley Megamall its the same situation, in the whole gigantic building, there isn't a single baby room, while in the Gardens, its inconveniently located on the second floor, not to mention being small and cramped. To further add insult to injury, to get to the baby room in the Gardens from Megamall second floor, tough luck if you happen to be having a stroller with you - there are stairs to navigate, so I was forced to carry both Cynthia and the stroller up and down the stairs! Pic of the Gardens room:

In Times Square, the one and only baby room amidst 10 floors of shopping is so well hidden you have to ask for directions to get there. But to give credit where its due, the room itself is quite nice.

Another strange thing is, there is no other Jusco that I know of that has a baby room.

The surprising - have a look at the picture below. Nothing special, just a nappy changing board, right? Well, guess what, it is actually located in the MEN'S ROOM. The shopping centre? Kudos and bravo to Ikano! It is gratifying to know that someone actually realized that its not only the mummies who are taking care of the babies :)

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