Saturday, November 14, 2009

Strength Training

So yes, this is the promised post. And although I had a lot of time to think of what to write, I only got a proper idea about an hour ago while cleaning my room. But hey, Archimedes got his epiphany in the bath (Eureka! I got it!) so mine pales in comparison.

Anyway, I’m standing in the calm of the storm now. It’s one of those rare moments nowadays where I am strangely serene and feeling at peace. Of course, these lucid flashes will promptly end in an hour or so and I shall be reduced to a bumbling mess once again. So, I shall quickly grab this opportunity before I forget what I wanted to write.

I was flipping through my literature notes just now and was looking back at some of the ‘insights’ I got from the novel, Holes. I think most of those in the same boat as I am are feeling particularly nostalgic towards the beckoning of exams. I know I did, because you never really know what you have until it’s gone.

Take for example, my brother. I see him, still in Form 2 (actually, it doesn’t really count anymore as the school term is ending) and for him, school is still a long process which seems to have no end. There is next year, and the year after next and then yet another year. And for him, it doesn’t really matter if he didn’t remember everything good about his school because it is not going to end ‘anytime soon’.

‘Anytime soon’.

That was our catch phrase for years. It never mattered if we didn’t appreciate what we have then because we always had tomorrow. But now, my tomorrows are limited. Yet, I’m not here to reminisce about my years in secondary school. I’d do that, but only when school is really over for me. Now, I’m just thinking about a conversation I had with my dad just a few days before starting Form Four.

Me: What if I can’t do well? I mean, it’s a totally different ball game; it’s going to be a lot tougher. It’s not PMR. What if I can’t keep up?

Dad: The thing about growth is that it allows expand and do things we feel we cannot do. Like now, you feel like you can’t because you haven’t started! But just as you age, your capacity in life will and should increase. Likewise, your capacity to learn will increase. I’m sure you can do it.

That seemed so long ago but I still remember it. And I’ve got a lot to thank God for in this whole journey. And it seems apt that the ‘insight’ I was reading from Holes was this:

Elya Yelnats was supposed to carry Madame Zeroni up a mountain. However, he wasn’t physically strong to carry her immediately. He had to undergo ‘training’, by carrying a growing pig up the mountain every day. As the pig grew heavier, Elya became stronger.

In the same way, Stanley Yelnats, the great-great grandson of Elya Yelnats was supposed to carry Hector Zeroni, the great grandson of Madame Zeroni up Big Thumb, a mountain. However, Stanley too wasn’t strong enough to carry him. He had to undergo training by digging holes every day. The longer he dug, the stronger he became. At last, he was finally strong enough to carry Hector up the mountain.

In both scenarios, we see that enthusiasm is not enough to get the job done. Effort and hard work is needed as well.

In the same way, this exam is going to not just going to be an end point for my school life, it’s also a training process for more to come. After all, what doesn't kill us makes us stronger!

The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the Lord. Proverbs 21:31

Ultimately, I’m leaving it in God’s hands. And of course, there’s a note in front of me now saying, ‘Lord, help me remember that nothing is going to happen today that You and I can’t handle’.

All the best to all of us SPM-ers and we’ll see each other at the finish line!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Hiatus

This isn't a post. It's a line to say, I'm so sorry I haven't posted anything up. Partly because I'm busy doing what every normal seventeen-year-olds-sitting-for-SPM-in-less-than-a-month's-time do. And I'm out of ideas. Wait, no that was yesterday. I have a good idea now (since I squandered an hour on the phone talking to JASMINE yesterday) but I lack motivation to get it done nicely.

So, I'll make sure that post comes up before SPM starts and that'll probably be my last one for a long, long time (BECAUSE I FINISH A WHOLE WEEK LATER THAN EVERYONE ELSE).

So, don't scold me because my blog's dead! It's not dead... It's... Hibernating. =)

But a big thank you for those who constantly remind me to keep writing! I will, I will. =)

P.S I just realised this is nowhere close to 'a line'. Well, anyone who know's anything about me know I can't stop at one line. Haha!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Endless Potential

Photo courtesy of Sammy Liew
********************
“Where are you headed next year?"

Sigh.

When you’re a senior in high school, it’s a given that everyone you come in contact with is going to ask you a variation of the Question within thirty seconds of saying “Hey.” So you’d better have a fast answer.

Jessica Darling from Second Helpings by Megan McCafferty

I can identify with this actually, considering that I’m hearing the Question almost everywhere I go. As of yet, I usually just go, ‘National Service (yes, I got selected)’. Sometimes, the questioner laughs and I change the topic. Sometimes however, that’s not enough. I’m still working out the kinks to the perfect less-than-thirty-seconds answer.

But it’s getting increasingly difficult to remain nonchalant about this.

I realised this yesterday.

Then again, I get most of my epiphanies during English 2.

This is a chronological sequence of events.

I started the paper. I stopped after half an hour and day dreamed for 15 minutes. I continued the paper for another half an hour and day dreamed another 15 minutes. I had ONE HOUR for the literature component so I sat back and day dreamed for yet another 30 minutes. All in all, I wasted one hour out of a two and a half hour paper day dreaming.

But hey, at least I didn’t sleep!

While I was day dreaming, I was doodling loop-d-loops on my spare piece of paper. In pen, mind you. As it is, this was a risky thing because I only had 2 pieces of paper. So if I don’t have enough, I either have to shrink my writing to microscopic size OR whisper conspiratorially to the person behind me for paper.

But after I handed in my exam paper, I saw the loop-d-loops and they looked like a fancy string of zero’s.

ZERO.

I like the number zero; it holds endless potential to be anything.

Likewise, I’m at the crossroads and there’s just so much I want to do, to achieve. And you have everyone around us saying, nobody can predict the future, nobody can determine the outcome of your potential.

I’m dreaming big – as big as I can. The number ‘Zero’ for me represents just that, dreams and potential.

But the thing about zero is, on its own, it’s pretty much useless. The number zero alone is not even a significant figure. Only when it is paired with something else other than another zero will it be significant.

Stanley watched him write it over and over again.

Zero Zero Zero Zero Zero Zero Zero …

In a way, it made him sad. He couldn’t help but think that a hundred times zero was still nothing.

Holes by Louis Sachar

As the saying goes, passion without action is merely an emotion. The same here, dreams and potential without effort will remain just that – dreams.

We all have our zero’s, some have whole string of them, some have just one. But then again, are we putting other numbers into them to make that dream a reality?

0000 or 1000?

Big difference.

What are you going to do about your dream?

Don’t let those zero’s remain just that – zero’s.

P.S At the same time, this zero reminded me of my walk with God. About how me alone is just a string of zero’s. Only when God comes into the picture as a totally different number, will my life count for something. Well, the number may not be huge or prominent, but it’ll be significant. And that’s what counts.

P.S 2 If you were wondering, I managed to fit everything into one page in the exam. =)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Triple P's - Priorities, Principles, Perspective (Part 3)

But take heart.

And read what does happen when you take a stand for what is right.

In the fourth century there lived an Asiatic monk who had spent most of his life in a remote prayer community, raising vegetables for the cloister kitchen. When he was not tending his garden spot, he was fulfilling his vocation of study and prayer.

Then one day, this monk, named Telemachus, felt that God wanted him to go to Rome, the capital of the world - the busiest, wealthiest, biggest city in the world. Telemachus had no idea why he shoud go there, and he was terrified at the thought. But as he prayed, God's directive became clear.

How bewildered the little monk must have been as he set out on the long journey, on foot, over dusty roads westward, everything he owned on his back! Why was he going? He didn't know. What would he find there? He had no idea. But obediently, he went.

Telemachus arrived in Rome during the holiday festival. You may know that the Roman rulers kept the ghettos in those days by providing free bread and special entertainment called circuses. At the time Telemachus arrived, the city was also bustling with excitement over the recent Roman victory over the Goths. In the midst of this jubilant commotion, the monk looked for clues as to why God had brought him there, for he had no guidance, not even a superior in a religious order to contact.

Perhaps, he thought, it is not sheer coincidence that I have arrived at this festival time. Perhaps God has some special role for me to play.

So Telemachus let the crowds guide him, and the stream of humanity soon led him into the Coliseum, where the gladiator contests were to be staged. He could hear the cries of the animals in their caves beneath the floor of the great arena and the clamour of the contestants preparing to do battle.

The gladiators marched into the arena, saluted the emperor, and shouted, "We who are about to die salute thee." Telemachus shuddered. He had never heard of gladiator games before, but had a premonition of awful violence.

The crowd had come to cheer man who, for no reason other than amusement, would murder each other. Human lives were offered for entertainment. As the monk realized what was going to happen, he realized he could not sit still and watch such savagery. Neither could he leave and forget. He jumped to the top of the perimeter wall and cried, "In the name of Christ, forbear! Stop!"

The fighting began, of course. No one paid the slightest heed to the puny voice. So Telemachus pattered down the stone steps and leapt onto the sandy floor of the arena. He made a comic figure - a scrawny man in a monk's habit dashing back and forth between muscular, armed athletes. One gladiator sent him sprawling with a blow from his shield, directing him back to his seat. It was a rough gesture, though almost a kind one. The crowd roared.

But Telemachus refused to stop. He rushed into the way of those trying to fight, shouting again, "In the name of Christ, forbear!" The crowd began laughing and cheer him on, perhaps thinking him part of the entertainment.

Then his movement blocked the vision of one of the contestants; the gladiator saw a blow coming just in time. Furious now, the crowd began to cry for the interloper's blood. They started burying him under a hailstone of projectiles and stones.

"Run him through!" they screamed.

The gladiator he had blocked raised his sword and with a flash of steel struck Telemachus, slashing down across his chest and into his stomach. The little monk gasped once more, "In the name of Christ, forbear."

Then a strange thing occured. As the two gladiators and the crowd focused on the still form on the suddenly crimson sand, the arena fell deathly quiet. In the silence, someone in the top tier got up and walked out. Another followed. All over the arena, spectators began to leave, until the huge stadium was emptied.

There were other forces at work, of course, but that innocent figure lying in the pool of blood crystallized the opposition, and that was the last gladiatorial contest in the Roman Coliseum. Never again did men kill each other for the crowds' entertainment in the Roman arena.*

There are several versions to this story but the fact remains that Telemachus stood by his convictions and change ensured.

So now, how will you respond? Will you say, "Good story, but no big deal"? Or will you consider, what shall you live by?

It's your call now.

P.S And for us who know, it is not just about What Will Jesus Do but What Will You Do about What Will Jesus Do? I know, it's a mouthful and it won't into a wristband nicely. However, that's a more pertinent question to ask, isn't it?

*Taken from No Compromise, Day 49.

Triple P's - Priorities, Principles, Perspective (Part 2)

I've always liked war stories. No, I'm not a sadist but it's often interesting to see how people react in times of extreme opposition. And I'm particularly interested in the Japanese involvement during World War II. So anyway, I was just flipping through my books and I saw this excerpt which caught my attention.

'I love the story of the kamikaze pilot, who flew in World War II for the Japanese air force. He was interview by a newspaper reporter after returning from his fiftieth mission. The reporter asked the pilot if he wasn't a contradiction in terms. How can someone be a kamikaze pilot -whose mission is to fly to military bases and give up his life in the process - and still be alive after fifty missions?

"Well, it's like this", the pilot responded. "I was very involved. Not very committed, but very involved." '

That's the funny thing about us. We want the best of everything and yet, none of the strings attached. We want to eat the biggest bar of chocolate but we don't want to strive to shed the pounds after that. We want to have Jessica Alba's/(guys you fill in the blanks) body but we don't want to get up from the couch with our chips. We want money but not the work. We want the results without the studying. We want instant gratification but none of the responsibility.

We want to commit to nothing, but yet complain when we say our lives feel meaningless!

But here's the thing. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr., 'If you haven't found something worth dying for, you aren't fit to be living'.

What are your principles in life? No, I'm not talking about your beliefs. I'm talking about your convictions. What the difference?

Belief is what you hold on to but conviction is what holds on to you.

It's the driving force behind your life. It's the reason for all your priorities you place. Your beliefs get you from one pit stop to another pit stop in life but your conviction is the fuel which drives the car through the journey.

And guess what? Your convictions, your principles (or the lack of them) not only impact you, but others as well.

Years ago, a boy grew up in a Jewish home, watching everything his father did. Evidently, his dad didn't realize the influence he had. They attended a synagogue until their family moved to another city and there was no synagogue nearby. Dad decided to just switch religious beliefs. He admitted it was only a way of meeting business contacts anyway. This father's failure to live by values outside of his own benefit led his son to question morality, ethics and his faith. As the boy grew, he believed religion was a 'crutch' for the masses. He wrote that money was behind anything meaningful in the world.

His name?

Karl Marx and he led millions of people into a destructive belief system during the 20th century.

Such a pity his father didn't have his own personal convictions about what to live for. As a result, his priorities were out of order and his actions inadvertedly caused a chain reaction. A chain reaction whose consequences we still see until today.

But take heart.

And read what does happen when you take a stand for what is right.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

One word. Wow.

I don't normally post up videos but this seriously blew my mind when I saw it. But I'll just let the video do the talking this time. =)

I love my flute so much more now.

Thanks Felix!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Triple P's - Priorities, Principles, Perspective (Part 1)

If you know me well, you would have realised that I was walking around a tad bit more hyper than I normally am with a reference book attached to some part of my body. And if you put two and two together, you get this – TRIALS.

Yes, I have just finished trials and now can quickly grab the opportunity to update this blog. It’s not dead! And thank you for all those who pop in and remind me time and time to ‘UPDATE WOMAN, UPDATE’.

However, it’s rather difficult to update as for some reason, I was out of ideas. And if you know me, I don’t write for the sake of writing. When I have nothing to say, I rather not say anything at all.

This is where exams come in handy. I get epiphanies during English exams. ALWAYS. So while I was writing a less-elaborate-compared-to-my-mid-year-paper essay about The Pearl, I realised that the year is rushing by a lot faster than I thought. I’ve been moving just so fast that I didn’t realise time was moving just as fast as I was – if not more. It’s already approaching the end of August and my compulsory school life has almost reached a full circle.

This I grasped as I sat in my seat listening to who was going to be the next Head Prefect.

This I grasped as I listen to my debate teacher talk about training the next team. This I grasped when I stepped down from CF.

This I grasped when I filled in the form for National Service.

Life as I know it is changing quickly. In fact, the only thing constant about it is that it is ever changing. But I realised that there are 3 things that we bring with us through all our seasons and passages of time.

Our Priorities.

Our Principles.

Our Perspective.

But the one which hit me during exams was this – Priorities. Partly that was also because I remembered this story I read in a book. (I love stories. Any story worth telling once is worth telling twice).

One day, an expert on time management was speaking to a group of business students. To drive home a point, this expert used an illustration I’m sure those students will never forget. As this man stood in front of the group of high-powered overachievers, he said, “Okay, time for a quiz.” Then he pulled out a one-gallon, wide-mouthed Mason jar and set it on a table in front of him. Then he produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar. When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, “Is this jar full?” Everyone in the class said, “Yes.” Then he said, “Really?” He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. Then he dumped some gravel in and shook the jar causing pieces of gravel in and shook the jar causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks. Then he smiled and asked the group once more, “Is the jar full?” By this time the class was onto him. “Probably not,” one of them answered. “Good!” he replied. And he reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in and it went into all the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked the question, “Is this jar full?”

“No!” the class shouted. Once again he said, “Good!” Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was full to the brim. Then he looked up at the class and asked, “What is the point of this illustration?” One eager beaver raised his hand and said, “The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard, you can always fit some more things into it!” “No,” the speaker replied, “that’s not the point. The truth this illustration teaches us is that if we don’t put the big rocks in first, we’ll never get them in at all!”

How apt this analogy is. What are some of our ‘big rocks’? What are the things we know are important but keep putting it off? And in time find it so hard to fit it into our schedules?

I’ve many ‘big rocks’ in my life. Time to spend with God, time to spend with my family, time for my studies…. But sometimes, things go out of hand and before I know it, I find myself busy but achieving nothing. And because of that, we end up experiencing burn outs, when we’re so tired of doing because it seems like nothing is being done!

You see, a lion tamer was once asked which “tool” he would keep if he only can have one – his whip or his stool? He picked the stool. Now, if you’re like me, you would be confused. I mean, logically the only thing which can defend me would probably be the whip. Sacrifice my last line of defence? Are you kidding me?! So yes, this was puzzling until he explained why. The stool actually paralyzes the lion. When it is waved in front of him, the beast is unable to focus. The four separate legs create four separate focal points. The lion doesn’t know which leg to focus on and because he can’t decide, he can’t attack. He’s immobilized.

Interesting.

Sounds familiar?

I guess when it boils down to it; we have to focus our priorities and what truly matters. I know what I need to put in first, do you? And more importantly, are you putting it as your main priority?

After all, it’s not about prioritizing out schedule – but rather, scheduling our priorities.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Nicole OWNS this post!!!!!

I'M WRITING RUBBISH NOW simply BECAUSE I CAN. xP
Tze is wonderfully amazingly Godly and Gorgeous. Double Gs.
GUYS, the ONE may be here!! so drop a comment. =)

Just Checking In

Ok, this is just a line to say no, I didn't abandon my blog. I promise, promise, promise I'm updating it tomorrow. Partly because I'm not actually at home and my parents will be coming to pick me up anytime now.

So if you see this, you're bearing witness and KEEPING ME ACCOUNTABLE.

Yes, Sarah... I'm talking bout you... =)

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Retiring Prefect Makes Peace

You know a prefect is going to retire when:

1. The once-bright-green uniform has faded so much it resembles the white school shirt.

2. The once-black shoes have turned dual tone. The canvas part is now grey and the PVC part still remains as black as ever.

3. The name tag is scratched and BROKEN.

4. The blazer worn with the skirt/pants are dual tone. (Reason being the blazer is washed less frequently than the skirt/pants. Ok well, for MOST prefects.)

5. The markings on the tie have faded (Again, only if the tie is actually washed).

6. The shoes have holes which lets water in during rainy days.

7. The skirt/pants tore.

AND...

8. The campaigning season for the incoming board is here.

So this is a little shoutout for those who will be campaigning.

It's going to be difficult with disappointments on the way but hey, what doesn't kill you only serves to make you stronger. And this will definitely grow you as a person if you wish to learn from experience. It's going to be difficult, no doubt, but enjoy the ride!

Enjoy the speeches, knowing that you'll probably only get this chance to speak to such a wide audience (and they'll actually listen).

Enjoy the campaigning, because it's not everyday you get to see your 'merchandise' on everybody's pencil cases.

Enjoy the encouraging words you'll receive, because you'll not be able to hear as many any time else in the year.

Enjoy even the criticisms you'll receive, because you'll not get the opportunity to listen to so many honest opinions about yourself.

Enjoy the process, regardless the outcome.

I'm very proud of all of you, for daring to stand in front of the school and offer yourself to serve. Check your motives first and make sure that you're running to be the Head Prefect for the right reasons. With all that said, run the race with full perseverance, so that at the end of the day, you can still stand tall and know that you've done your very best. I'm supporting each one of you, all the way.

With lots of love,

Tze Quan

Friday, July 10, 2009

Bite the Bullet!!!

True, I don’t normally blog about current events (correction, I don’t) mainly because I lived like a ‘katak bawah tempurung’ and never, ever opened the newspaper. However, I’ve been making conscious effort to do so after the recent debate competition.

And boy, oh boy am I mad.

After 6 years of teaching Maths and Science in English, they are reverting to Bahasa Melayu again. Yes, after just 6 short years, they decided that the teaching of Maths and Science was better conducted using the medium Bahasa Melayu. Not only that, while I was reading today’s paper just before going for my flute exam, I came across the most ludicrous statement.

In the Star paper 10/7/09, Najib says that ‘Increasing the time allocated to teaching English. Introducing English literature and language laboratories, among others, would be a better method in boosting proficiency in the language than using it to teach Mathematics and Science’.

Now, the dubious logic behind this presents two flaws. First, English lessons as it is merely serve as ‘homework-completion’ times and not many teachers actually teach English in a way that is interesting and more importantly, INFORMATIVE. Classes can end up being a drag. Imagine if they increase lesson times! I too don’t understand what our Prime Minister meant by ‘introducing English literature’. English Literature is already introduced into the SPM line-up of subjects. (I would know – I’m taking that subject). Not to mention the literature component of PMR and SPM English. Never mind the fact that literature component is a laughing stock (I think I just had an idea on another blog post). Fine, if we want to ‘introduce English literature’, can they assure us that the standard of English will be heightened? That it won’t be lowered just to enable passes? Let’s not talk about being on par with countries overseas, let’s just think about raising the dismal standard of Malaysian English.

Second, most of the English scientific terms are reused in Bahasa Melayu anyway! As someone told me before, ‘I don’t need to have a wide vocabulary in Bahasa Melayu to score in my ‘karangan’. I just need a good vocabulary in English’. Too that, I have to agree. Encyclopedias, journals, researches, they are all written in English. By switching to BM, students will have to double work during projects. Not only do they have to look up information, they have to translate it as well. And after learning for 11 years in BM, they are expected to revert back to English in time for Form 6. Doesn’t the government see how ridiculous their decision is?

No, they say that, ‘The lack of proficiency in English among the teachers had resulted in ineffective learning among students.’ (Education director-general Tan Sri Alimuddin Mohd Dom). Knowing that is the case, why are the students being penalized? Shouldn’t steps be taken to increase proficiency among TEACHERS? Or, is reverting to BM an easy way out?

To that, I say, bite the bullet.

We’re going to have to bite the bullet and sweat it out. We want progress, there is a price. Why switch after just 6 years? It doesn’t take a genius to know that it would take a lot more time to accurately gauge the successfulness of a decision. Why, it hasn’t even touched a decade! True, it may be difficult but as the MALAY proverb goes, ‘Berakit-rakit ke hulu, berenang-renang ke tepian; bersusah-susah dahulu, bersenang-senang kemudian’. You say Bahasa Malaysia should be upholded, well, uphold your very own proverbs then.

It’s easy for the government of today to make this decision because the people who made the decision won’t be around to see its effects. It’s going to be the future generation who will see it. And this is why I am frustrated and disappointed. We always take 2 steps forwards and 5 steps backwards.

For our future generation, for progress…

BITE THE BULLET FOR CRYING OUT LOUD.

P.S Note to self, don’t read the papers during a stressful situation i.e. just before flute exam. The next time, I’ll end up with a popped blood vessel.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Espionage

When I entered the room, I thought he would be very angry with me. But to my surprise, he beckoned me forward with a smile. He opened his arms wide and hesitantly, I went to him. I felt his warmth envelope me and relaxed a little in his embrace.

“Don’t you hate me?” I mumbled into his shirt.

The inevitable reply came.

“Absolutely”

I heard the gun click at my temple.

**********

I’m known by many names. It all depends on what my assignment is. For now, you can call me Harriet. I’m a pharmacist by day. I live in a modest condo with a good view of the city. I have a pet dog that has been with me for many years. But that does not explain why there is a gun to my head now.

Let me get to the point then.

I am an assassin.

Ever since I can remember, I have been trained to kill – swift and without a mess. Of course, I don’t come cheap. I auction my services to the highest bidder. And let me tell you, life is sweet for the likes of me. After all, money is power and with money, you can do anything.

Many would remember their first toy as a doll, a brightly coloured ball, a mini car… Mine was a handgun. Others get pats on the head for getting 5 stars for homework. I get pats for hitting the bulls-eye 5 times in a row. Girls grow up learning how to use makeup to enhance their beauty. I learned how to morph into anyone I like. Teenagers learn to lie from their parents. I lived a lie from the day I completed my first assignment.

Let’s get this straight. I don’t like what I do. It gets old after years of doing what I do. Try as I might, I just can’t seem to take pleasure at the number of successful missions I’ve accomplished. And there’s a reason why I am one of the highest paid in the field. The sense of purpose vanishes in time. I get a call, I carry it out, and I wait for the next call. I wanted to get out of this vicious cycle and put a halt to this downward spiral of my life.

Of course, this didn’t just happen overnight. Somewhere along the line, I dedicated my life to God and knew in my heart that I can’t continue to do what I’ve been doing. I realised I’ve been blind all this while to life – living it like it should be. All this while I’ve never dared to admit to my self that what I was doing was cold-blooded murder. I couldn’t, you understand? Doing so would make it seem personal – that I was robbing someone’s husband, someone’s wife, someone’s parent, someone’s child. In my line of work, there’s no such thing as emotions. You rub sentimentalities out of you because you need to remain objective – even in the very face of death. You can’t afford a single moment of hesitation because that will decide who walks away the victor.

However, just because you want to quit doesn’t necessarily mean you can. First, I was already involved with the man who regularly hires me. This was my first mistake because I needed to be neutral – free from any emotional holds. He was a dangerous man and being the reckless fool I was I fell for his charm hook, line and sinker. Telling him I had enough was equivalent to committing hara-kiri.

At the same time, many people were circulating rumours that I had a daughter. And that she was dying by the seconds with leukaemia. And that I would do whatever it takes to keep her with me. Even if it means to kill for the money. As to the question of whether or not I really had given birth to a daughter, I’d certainly be reluctant to talk too much about her, for fear that her identity might become publicly known. It would be in no one’s best interest for such a thing to happen. The best course, I feel, is for me to say nothing at all, especially when I’m still alive; I’m sure you will understand.

So I continued living my lie – doing what my heart screamed was wrong, wrong, wrong. Every person I killed now weighed heavily on my conscience. I was convicted, God kept tugging at my heartstring to stop. It went on and on until it came to the point where I knew I must take a stand.

The day came where the reason for doing what I did broke.

And I did the unforgivable – I let my target live.

It was utter chaos. I was tracking down this man for months and when I finally found him, he was in a room. Not alone, no. If he was, I would have been able to muster the guts to finish the job. No, he was playing with his daughter – laughing together as she hugged him tight. Tears welled up and I fled.

Naturally, my man found out. How he found out I will never know. And he was livid. The target I allowed to walk free was about to spill highly classified secrets to the government about my man. He was as good as dead.

I walked into my condo knowing full well that I may not leave alive.

**********

When I entered the room, I thought he would be very angry with me. But to my surprise, he beckoned me forward with a smile. He opened his arms wide and hesitantly, I went to him. I felt his warmth envelope me and relaxed a little in his embrace.

“Don’t you hate me?” I mumbled into his shirt.

The inevitable reply came.

“Absolutely”

I heard the gun click at my temple.

**********

Mama!!!

Oh my sweet child! You’re here! And you look beautiful!

I’ve been waiting for you mama…

And so have I my dear girl, so have I.

**********

When I entered heaven, I thought He would be very angry with me. But to my surprise, He beckoned me forward with a smile. He opened His arms wide and hesitantly, I went to Him. I felt His warmth envelope me and relaxed a little in His embrace.

“Do you still love me?” I mumbled through my tears.

The inevitable reply came.

“Absolutely”

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Technology in Communication - Boon or Blessing?

Just a mini break from the whole thing about why left-handers die early not because I don’t have enough woes (I do, trust me, I just got back from a wedding where there were 3 left-handers in one table) but because… I got tired of the subject.

Don’t stone me! At least I’m being honest.

No worries, I’ll finish it, just not now and not immediately.

Anyway, I just finished reading another Jessica Darling book about an hour ago. (YES, THE BOOK I BLEW 50 BUCKS ON). Reading it reminded of something she wrote about technology.

‘You noted how no advance in technology can be a substitute for real interpersonal interaction. I was particularly touched by your admission that being able to get in touch with your long-distance friend twenty-four hours a day is sometimes more of a burden than a blessing because it just makes you wish she were here.’ – Sloppy Firsts, Megan Mccafferty

I hold technology guilty for the break-down of many of the basic living skills. Take for example, cooking. With so many instant dinner-in-a-bag packages, microwave food, INSTANT noodles, we find ourselves pampered and seduced by the mess-free, hassle-free, stress-free food sources. Of course, I really shouldn’t touch on cooking because that’s number 13950897203 on my post-SPM to-do list – TO LEARN HOW TO COOK.

But I digress.

I understand the need of technology for development, for progress. However, I can’t help but notice that it’s due to technology, we’re losing one of the most vital skill ever – face-to-face communication. Like when I was at the wedding lunch, I was listening to one of the guests telling a love story – that is tragic at its best and pathetic at its worst.

I shall briefly summarise.

Boy meets girl through Skype. The communication was mainly done via Skype. Boy and girl fell in love. The courtship was mainly done via Skype. Boy and girl get married after just a few months. Boy and girl are now stuck in unhappy marriage.

Well, I’m sorry but that is as romantic as rabbit droppings.

Unfortunately, that is what’s happening now. We’re losing the ability to carry out a meaningful conversation face to face. We prefer to hide behind emails, online messaging, SMSes, c-boxes spamming, facebook, Twitter, etc.

And you know you’ve got it bad when someone tells a joke and you say, ‘LOL.’

I’m not discrediting technology as a means of communication but sometimes I fear we have relied on it too much that we forget the person talking to actually have a face with his/her own personality and not just a username like ‘CookieMonster59’.

It’s true it’s difficult to imagine a world without the technology as we know it. At times, I do appreciate technology because in some cases, a little contact is better than no contact at all. To that I say, embrace technology but at the same time, remember that technology is a poor substitute to a face-to-face communication.

So keep your conversational skills, they’re a lot more important than the ability to type like a bullet train on MSN.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

WHY LEFT-HANDERS DIE EARLY - Part 3

PART 3 - FOOD WOES

1. ChopsticksTo be precise, using chopsticks during those jam-packed wedding dinners Chinese are so famous for. Try sitting next to a right-hander (or vice-versa for right-handers). IT’S ARMAGEDDON.

2. Potato/Apple/Fruit/Skin Peeler

This is by far the worst one I’ve come across. And heartily agreed by almost all the left-handers I ask. Well, those that do know how to peel potatoes that is…

For right-handers who have no idea what I’m talking about, trying using a potato peeler with your left hand. Good luck!

3. Tin opener

This takes the award of ‘Most Un-leftie Friendly Item’ together with the potato peeler. At least for the potato peeler, I can either just eat the skin (for apples and papayas) or use a knife to cut the skin off. But for the tin opener, there’s absolutely no way around it. Maybe I’ll hack it off with a saw. Speaking of saws… Refer to future post on working woes.

Source? ALL PERSONAL EXPERIENCES. Cheers.

To be continued...

Monday, June 1, 2009

WHY LEFT HANDERS DIE EARLY - Part 2

PART 2 - CLASS WORK WOES

1.The Self-Smudging Effect

Now, remember what I mentioned in the spiral bound notebook case? In the same way, this curling of the hand results in the heel of the palm being placed behind the writing, forcing the writer to lift it off the paper and making the grip even more awkward. In addition, constantly lifting and replacing the hand over fresh ink often causes smudging, causing problems for many left-handed students, especially in exam situations.*

Tell me about it. My hand turns blue/black (depending on ink colour) after exams.

2. Those retarded table-cum-chair-sets

We used to have this in the APD room in my school library both in primary school and secondary school. Thank God my secondary school has replaced them with normal tables and chairs but it was torture in primary school. We lefties have to bend and curl our spine to the right which is uncomfortable and highly irritating.

Note to self: When school reopens, must tell Pn. Shanta that this is the reason why left-handers will be more prone to backaches. The table cum chair set promotes BAD SITTING POSTURE for left-handers. How are we going to rest our back against the back of the chair and maintain an upright position?!* (Those who know what I’m talking about, please remind me when school starts. Those who don’t know, please refer to Biology Form 5 textbook page 62, Photography 2.5. Those who still don’t get it, it’s ok….)

*Sources from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Left-handed#cite_note-40 and Biology Form 5 textbook

To be continued...

Friday, May 29, 2009

WHY LEFT-HANDERS DIE EARLY - Part 1

PART 1 - STATIONARY WOES

1. Scissors

Scissors, a very common tool, are arranged so that the line being cut along can be seen by a right-handed user, but is obscured to a left-handed user. Furthermore, the handles are often molded in a way that is difficult for a left-hander to hold, and extensive use in such cases can lead to varying levels of discomfort. Most importantly, the scissoring or shearing action - how the blades work together (how they are attached at the pivot) - operates correctly for a right-hander, but a left-hander will tend to force the blades apart rather than shearing the target substance.*

Try using a blunt right-handed scissors with your left hand. IT’S TORTURE. Probably this was the main reason why I couldn’t use right-handed scissors all the way in primary school. It was only after I lost my left-handed scissors I forced myself to learn how to cut using my right-hand. Why? Please refer to my future post on miscellaneous woes.

2. Sharpener

Some of my left-handed friends find using a sharpener difficult. Personally, I have no problems with it but apparently, they say that right-handers turn it clockwise outwards while left-handers have to turn it anticlockwise inwards. This is a lot more awkward and inconvenient.

3. Ruler

For those mass produced rulers, the scale reads from left to right. We lefties tend to block the scale because our left hand goes over the scale whenever we draw lines.

4. SPIRAL BOUND NOTEBOOKS

I need to explain this one. When my right-handed friends and I were discussing this discomfort, they say that the wires also poke into their wrists when they write on the left page. Ah… To examine this, let me take you back to the time when a left-handed kid first learns to write.

When properly taught, left-handed writing is a mirror image to that of the right-hander, making the teaching process confusing for the right-handed teacher of a left-handed student. The result is that many left-handed children learn to write with their hand curled around the pen so that it can meet the paper at the same angle as the right-hander and also to account for the front page of notebooks and binders, as the books open so you write on the right side, which puts the binding on the left side, inhibiting the left hand from writing freely.

When the left hand is held correctly, it is below the writing, as is typical for right-handers.* Unfortunately for most left-handers, we have already the habit of writing OVER the alphabets and so, our left hand tends to ‘rest’ on the wires. Right-handers who have learnt the right way hold their hand below it and hence, avoid most of the wires.

The sad fact?

Once this habit is formed, it is difficult to break. Mine is already 17 years in the making.

5. Rollers and highlighters

Right-handers can do their corrections with a correction tape as they go along the word and highlight the text as they go along the passage. Unfortunately, we lefties either have to bend our wrists at an awkward angle to mirror right-handers OR we correct and highlight the word BACKWARDS. This gets irritating but well, after awhile we tend not to notice because they’re other more pressing woes to face.

This is why I NEVER use correction tapes.

*Source from ‘Lefthanded scissors explained (dailymotion.com video)’ and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Left-handed#cite_note-40

To be continued…

WHY LEFT-HANDERS DIE EARLY - Introduction

‘You’re a left hander??? Cool! Do you know you will die earlier than right handers?!”

I have lost track of how many times I’ve heard this statement. However, I’ve yet to determine which part of ‘dying early’ is cool. In the beginning, I wasn’t so sure of the fact that left handers die early. Logically, why would this be so? Unfortunately, when I did some background check, apparently a study by Coren S, Halpern DF which was published in 1991 claimed that these statistics indicate that left-handed people's lifespans are shorter than those of their right-handed counterparts by as much as 9 years.* Great, absolutely fantastic.

Which brings me to the question, why? If I was going to die early, I’m going to need to know the reason. Well, the author suggested that, ‘This may be the result of left-handed people being more likely to die in accidents as a result of their "affliction", which renders them clumsier and ill-equipped to survive in a right-handed world.’*

Or, in the words of Samantha Madison from the book All American Girl, ‘Left-handed people die sooner than right-handers, due to the fact that the entire world, from automobiles to those desks you take the SATs at to cash machines at the bank, is slanted toward the right-handed. Finally, after a while, we lefties just give up the struggle and croak rather than try one last time to write something in a spiral-bound notebook with all those wires poking into our wrists.’

Thus inspired, I decided to list down some of the grievances left-handers face. Some of them are personal discomforts; some have been contributed by other left-handers (and surprisingly, right-handers as well) while the rest of them were lifted off the net. Without further ado, let the left-handers cry of oppression begin.

P.S. To ease the eye and to appease my readers, I will divide this post into many sub posts AND I will put pictures.

*Source from Coren S, Halpern DF (1991). "Left-handedness: a marker for decreased survival fitness". Psychological Bulletin 109 (1): 90–106. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.109.1.90

To be continued…

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Lost Kairos

‘Let me just throw you a word. And you come up with a whole article about it.’

I get really scared when someone tells me this. This explains why I never take the option in English exam which goes, ‘Blue’ or ‘Water’ or ‘Sand’. Or any of the one word questions for the matter. I take too long to think of what to write. But that’s the problem with competitions. They give you one word and you’re supposed to come up with a masterpiece THAT MAKES SENSE.

And the word I got was LOST.

What shall I talk about? Should I talk about lost hope? What about lost love? Or maybe if I was feeling creative, how about the TV series Lost? But then again, lost hope sounds like a movie, lost love sounds like a teenage romance and I’ve never watched a single episode of Lost. So, where does that leave me?

And I got it. I’m going to share with you my Lost Kairos.

Now, you may probably be wondering, what in the world is Kairos? Don’t worry, I have asked many people what they thought about it and some have remarked, ‘Is it a new ice cream brand? A new fast food chain? A new shoe company?’ Well, I’ll put your minds at rest. Kairos is the Greek word for opportunity.

To put it simply, I’m here to tell you about lost opportunities. I’m sure all of us have plenty of them. Whether in our school, in our workplace, in life, we have too many of these missed opportunities. As for me, if I were able to write down all those lost opportunities into a book, I’d have a literary work of a genius published by now. So, what kind of opportunities have we lost really?

We have lost the opportunity to love someone more. We have lost the opportunity to extend a helping hand. We have lost the opportunity to give a piece of meaningful advice. We have lost the opportunity to make the best out of time. And sometimes, when we reflect upon all those lost opportunities, we wish we could erase time. And there goes that wonderful cliché, ‘If only… If only’.

Honestly, I just experienced a missed opportunity. And I’d be lying if I didn’t say ‘If only’. It certainly didn’t help when I recalled what I read in a book about a certain statue…

Picture this with me. You’re in ancient Greece now, in Athens to be precise. There are statues everywhere. Some of them look beautiful and you might be thinking it would suit your furniture at home. Some of them look hideously ugly and you wouldn’t take it with you even if you were paid. But one of them draws your attention. It is called ‘Kairos – Opportunity’. It is a statue of a person who had long, flowing hair in front of its face – but it was completely bald in the back. Weird… But guess what? That statue really exists in Athens.

Alright, let’s return from our mental fieldtrip. You might be wondering, what did that statue signify? Well, opportunity has one characteristic. You can grab it when it’s coming toward you, but you could never get hold of it once it had passed.

Imagine how that makes us feel when we’ve just missed an opportunity in life. There’s no second chance. No turning back. And thinking about all those morbid thoughts, it is easy to see why I felt depressed. But then again, I realised one thing.

A missed opportunity delivers us the opportunity to learn from experience. Let me repeat that again – a missed opportunity delivers us the opportunity to learn from experience.

Now, what do I mean by that? Well, whenever we lose an opportunity to do something, whatever it is, we are presented with to choices. One, we sit and glare at our foolishness and hence, miss even more opportunities. Two, we give ourselves a little shake, pick ourselves up and move on. Sure we make mistakes, but hey, that’s life. That’s why I admire Thomas Edison for saying and I quote, ‘I didn’t fail 1000 times. I just found out 1000 ways that a light bulb does not work!’ He could have said 1000 times before, ‘Shoot! I missed the opportunity to make this thing light up! You know what? That’s it! I’m going back to retire now.’ But he didn’t. He made those ‘missed opportunities’ into an opportunity to persevere.

So, no matter what situation we are in, always remember it’s up to us to see it in whatever light we want. After all, the Chinese character for ‘Crisis’ is danger and opportunity. In everywhere situation when we feel like it’s just too much for us to bear it, we can always succumb to the danger of giving up or seize the opportunity to press on.

I for one refuse to by the kind of person to sit and glare at my problems. I refuse to wallow in self-pity about my missed opportunity. I want to get up and learn from that experience. I’d rather one opportunity and walk away wiser than two opportunities just because I prefer to sulk.

To end, allow me to quote a conversation from Tuesdays with Morrie. Mitch Albom tells his professor Morrie, ‘Why do people always say “Oh, if I were young again.” You never hear people say, “I wish I was sixty five.” Morrie smiles. “You know what that reflects? Unsatisfied lives. Unfulfilled lives. Lives that haven’t found meaning. Because if you’ve found the meaning in your life, you don’t want to go back. You want to go forward. You want to see more, do more. You can’t wait until sixty-five.”

Exactly. Lost opportunities doesn’t mean the end of the world. Lost opportunities don’t lead to unsatisfied lives, unfulfilled lives, lives that haven’t found meaning. No, lost opportunities only mean the end of the world if we’re unable to pick ourselves up and LEARN.

I’ve recovered from my lost opportunity. Though it still hurts at times, I learn to pick myself up and to move on. And that, my friend is seizing an opportunity in itself. So, what shall it be then? Do you let another opportunity slip past? Or you grab it and better yourself? I’ve made my decision, what about you?

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Ride Home

“Curse this blasted rain.”

Standing in the downpour, stranded in the middle of nowhere with no umbrella, it’s clear why I was in a bad mood. I knew I forgot something as soon as I stepped out of the house. But because I was in a hurry to return my library book (2 weeks overdue, no less) I promptly left my house without my phone, wallet and a coat. All I had was 2 ten dollar bills to pay the fine. Well, I would return soon anyway.

I only have one problem – I have a lousy sense of direction. I can’t direct myself out of a paper bag even if the world’s best GPS system was given to me. So it’s no surprise to find out I was hopelessly lost.

“How in the world could you get lost?” Tze Quan version A was sitting on my right shoulder.

“Because I told her to turn right but noooooo, you said turn left and voila! We’re in this mess!” Tze Quan version B was stamping her foot impatiently on my left shoulder.

“It’s the left turn doofus. Remember? On the way to the library, we passed Burger King. And we turned right. So now, we have to turn left! Simple!”

“It was MACDONALDS!!! Retard!”

“Shut up dur-brain. Burger King.”

“McD”

“Burger King”

“MCDONALDS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

“BURGER KING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Because they really weren’t helping, I kicked them both out of my head. Tze Quan version C climbs on top of my head and taps it.

“You know, living on the streets isn’t so bad. You can always go checking in dustbins for food. People like to throw stuff away after just one bite anyway.”

Sigh. This really isn’t helping. How in the world am I going to go home? This is really embarrassing.

HONK!!!

Startled from arguing with my alter egos, I look up. The most horrible egg-yolk coloured car parked beside me. A man and a lady were in the front. The lady was driving. She smiled, “Need a lift lassie?”

Shoot. What do I say?

“Say yes dumbo! It’s a miracle, never mind the ugly car” Tze Quan version A.

“No no no! Rape cases! Murder! Don’t do it!!!” Tze Quan version B.

“Well, it beats living on the streets” Tze Quan version C.

There was an awkward pause…

“Gee, thanks!” TZE QUAN says.

When I was in the car, I noticed that the man slumped in the car was sleeping. I admit I was a little peeved when he didn’t even bother to open an eye to see who’s in the car. The car was giving a off a rather weird smell too but he seems oblivious to it. At least he won’t be pulling a fast one considering he’s unconscious.

“So, where’re you headed lassie?” The lady was beautiful, in a hard way. Her bright yellow hair was all set into a permanent bob and it looked glued to her head. I bet if I threw a rock at it, it would bounce off. She was wearing a blinding gold chain and I could see from the edge of my eye she had a gold ring on her finger. Her clothes were tasteful, showcasing her ability to dress and dress well. All in all, she looked like a very powerful woman.

I gave her my address and wished she’d stop calling me lassie. It unnerves me.

“Thank you ma’am for helping me out”.

“Oh it’s a pleasure lassie. It’s not everyday I meet a pretty face in need.”

“Well, I really appreciate it. I’ve no idea what would happen if you didn’t come along!”

“Oh, it’s nothing. My husband and I were just going for a ride anyway. He’s sleeping now though. Had a long night yesterday”.

I see. That would explain his comatose position. Sort of.

“Number 61 right?”

I nod my head and offer a big, big smile. Stepping out of the car, I thanked the lady and made my way back to the house. Breathing a sigh of relief and promising myself never to leave home without my phone again. I was pretty sure that was the last time I would see the lady and I was glad of it. Somehow, she scared me.

Two days later....

I was lazing at home channel surfing. As usual, there was nothing particularly interesting on. Oh well, I might as well give the news a try.

“A very good evening to you all. There has finally been a breakthrough in the serial murder case which has gripped the nation. Adele Renee Smith, prime suspect for the murder of 6 high-profile politicians has been arrested. When she was arrested, she was driving a bright yellow car, slightly resembling an egg-yolk, apparently heading out for a ‘ride’. However, when the boot of her car was opened, the body of one of her victims was found decomposing there. At this point of time, the identity of the body is still unknown but it is suspected to be Mr. Theodore Daniels, Miss Smith’s current lover.

Miss Smith who has been married four times is charged with the murder of her three ex husbands and two of her lovers. Her fourth and most recent husband – Mr. Pierre Troboyzkoy has been reported missing and is largely suspected that Miss Smith has also done away with him.

If the public can provide any information regarding the whereabouts of Mr. Troboyzkoy, please contact your nearest police station. Your cooperation is very much appreciated. Thank you and good night.”

The room turned cold. Thoughts started running through my mind. The picture flashed on the TV screen was identical to the lady who sent me home two days ago. The man slumped in the front seat never stirred even though his wife and I were talking and there was a foul smell in the car. In fact, he was so still I doubt his chest was even moving. The car was an egg-yolk yellow. She said she was heading for a ride.

The room spun and everything went black. My last conscious thought was, “Thank God for keeping me safe”.

2 years later…

“A very good evening to you all. Miss Adele Renee Smith has been charged of 6 first-degree murder charges which carry the death penalty. The police would like to thank the public for helping with the investigation. However, even after 2 years of searching, the body of Mr. Pierre Troboyzkoy has yet to be found.”

I had just returned from the library and was lazing at home channel surfing. I gave the news a try.

Whatever happened to the man in the car remains a mystery till today.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Worldwide Heating a.k.a GLOBAL WARMING

If I can make a dollar for every occasion the issue ‘Global Warming’ pops up, I’d be a billionaire by now – Me.

Yes, by the tender age of seventeen, I’ve listened to countless campaigns about global warming, read countless articles about global warming, written countless essays about global warming and moaned countless times about the monotony of global warming. And as fate would have it, I’m facing the daunting task of writing yet another essay on (yes, you guessed it) GLOBAL WARMING.

Now, for the sake of those who were living under a rock for the past decade, global warming is the increase in the average temperature of the Earth's near-surface air and oceans since the mid-twentieth century and its projected continuation. In English, it means the hot weather everyone’s been experiencing way before we’re born. Global warming can be explained using scientific jargon (and I’ve come across a lot of those when I searched ‘Global Warming’ on Google) but considering this is an English essay, I’ll spare you. We know global warming to be a critical issue the environment is facing. And we want to do something about it – unless you’re a fat lazy slob who thinks global warming is a new brand of ice cream.

Since I have a profound dislike for the bombardment of scientific explanation in English lesson essays, I’ll describe the effects of global warming to you in such a way that you’ll walk away educated and no headaches. I solemnly promise. So here goes.

The most obvious effect of global warming is the rise in temperature. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Global surface temperature increased 0.74 ± 0.18 °C (1.33 ± 0.32 °F) during the last century. Climate model projections summarized in the latest IPCC report indicate that global surface temperature will probably rise a further 1.1 to 6.4 °C (2.0 to 11.5 °F) during the twenty-first century. Never mind if those figures boggle you. What is important is that you understand that the earth is getting significantly warmer.

Now, the rise in temperature is largely due to the emission of greenhouse gases. The common misconception is that greenhouse gases are BAD and they were a result of human industrial activities. However, did you know that naturally occurring greenhouse gases have a mean warming effect of about 33 °C, without which Earth would be uninhabitable? Greenhouse gases are NECESSARY for survival or we’d all freeze to death and they have been around since the earth was created. The problem arises when human activity since the industrial revolution has increased the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The concentrations of carbon dioxide and methane have increased by 36% and 148% respectively since the mid-1700s. And that ladies and gentlemen, is the main cause of global warming.

But I digress. I was talking about the effects of global warming and shall now promptly return on track. Since global warming is attributed to greenhouse gases and greenhouse is attributed to carbon dioxide, the effect of global warming is synonymous with the effect of increased production of carbon dioxide. And while we may talk about all the common effects of global warming such as falling grain yields, climatic changes and whatnots, there is one little know effect. Global warming results in ocean acidification. Yes, I’m totally serious about this. According to Mark Z. Jacobson, author of Journal of Geophysical Journal, increased atmospheric carbon dioxide increases the amount of carbon dioxide dissolved in the oceans. Carbon dioxide dissolved in the ocean reacts with water to form carbonic acid, resulting in ocean acidification. Since organisms and ecosystems are adapted to a narrow range of pH, this raises extinction concerns, that could disrupt food webs and impact human societies that depend on marine ecosystem services.

Well then, moving on to a more popular global warming effect – the rising sea level. With increasing average global temperature, the water in the oceans expands in volume, and additional water enters them which had previously been locked up on land in glaciers, for example, the Greenland and the Antarctic ice sheets. In fact, scientists have estimated that sea levels could rise up to seven meters. What makes the current sea level rise so much more threatening than earlier ones is the worldwide increase of humans and their preferences for living in and developing coastal areas. Nearly 75 percent of Americans, for example, live on or within 50 miles of the coast. Island countries like Japan and Philippians are in danger of being submerged and this would pose environmental refugee problems.

So then, the big question remains. As any Sherlock Holmes worth his buttons will tell you, you need to determine the cause to pursue rectification. We know that global warming is largely due to increased production of greenhouse gases. Therefore, what do we as individuals do about it?

Simple really. Take small steps. Car pool or take public transport to reduce the number of vehicles emitting carbon dioxide. Reduce, reuse and recycle as by recycling half of your household waste, you can save 2,400 pounds of carbon dioxide annually. Buy energy-efficient products. Use less hot water and air-conditioning. Breathe out less to reduce amount of carbon dioxide in to the air.

I’m joking about the last one. But everything else above will help reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emitted and hence, help our earth to recover. I may be one but I am still ONE. And because I am ONE, I will not refuse to do the ONE thing I can do. After all, we have only one earth, ours to make and ours to keep.

Written by Tuen Tze Quan

Copyright reserved

Or at least until my essay reaches my teacher's hands

P.S See Sarah-Ann, you have made me so guilty for neglecting my blog that I post up homework. Hahahahaha! If you don't see read and acknowledge this by Monday, I'm taking this postscript down.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

To Help or not to Help?

One day a small opening appeared on a cocoon, a man sat and watched for the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body through that little hole. Then it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could and could go no further. So the man decided to help the butterfly, he took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of the cocoon. The butterfly then emerged easily. But it had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings. The man continued to watch the butterfly because he expected that, at any moment, the wings would enlarge and expand to be able to support the body, which would contract in time.

Neither happened!

In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings. It never was able to fly. What the man, in his kindness and haste, did not understand was that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through the tiny opening was God's way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon.

I'm sure we all go through struggles and trials in life. After all, it's life. Often we wish that life was smoother, the grass was always green and we could sit under the sun drinking milk shakes all day long (without the threat of skin cancer of course). We wish our problems would just disappear because they JUST SEEM TOO TOUGH. We think that we cannot overcome the obstacles and neither do we lift a finger to try. Many times, I caught myself sitting and glaring at my problems instead of getting up and beating the problems to mush. For some reason or another, I didn't know I had the capability to do so.

But I realise that struggles are exactly what we need in our life. If God allowed us to go through our life without any obstacles, it would cripple us. We would not be as strong as what we could have been. We could never fly.

I asked for strength and God gave me difficulties to be strong.

I asked for wisdom and God gave me problems to solve.

I asked for prosperity and God gave me brain and brawn to work.

I asked for courage and God gave me danger to overcome.

I asked for love and God gave me troubled people to help.

I asked for favours and God gave me opportunities.

I received nothing I wanted and I received everything I needed.

When it comes to things like Physics and Chemistry, there are some things which can never be done. Just like when a ball is dropped, it will never fly to outer space. Just like when you add metal and acid, you will never get oxygen.

But when it comes to living things, there is no such thing as 'it can never be done'. -Pn. Shanta (my Biology teacher)

Friday, February 20, 2009

I Was So Sure I Won...

Have you ever had those moments where you fought so hard to win something but in the end, you lost so much more than you gained? Those moments where we were so sure we won, so why aren't we feeling as excited as we should? The times we felt satisfied for 2 seconds but dejected the next 2 years?

You, my friends, have experienced a Pyrrhic Victory

Let me take you back in time for a little History lesson (and I solemnly promise that this is actually interesting)

The battle lines were drawn. 40, 000 Greeks vs. 40, 000 Romans. King Pyrrhus had his sights set on Rome, and no one was going to stand in his way. He'd brought cavalry, archers, and even war elephants with him. His track record was nearly flawless. Surely the Roman Empire would fall. But after several days of fierce combat, it still wasn't clear who would win. Both sides suffered major casualties, and it looked like a stalemate.

Then at last the Greeks managed to prevail. Their elephants broke through the enemy line, the Romans were driven back, and Pyrrhus won his battle. Unfortunately, his army was now incredibly weak. He was far from home and couldn't gather reinforcements quickly. The enemy could. When a comrade congratulated him on his win, Pyrrhus responded, "One more such victory and I am lost." He never did conquer Rome.

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Sometimes the cost of winning is so great that we lose more than we can gain. I guess one of the main ways this is showcased is in our interpersonal relationships. How many times have we lost friendships just to guard our pride? For the sake of winning an argument, we steamroll pass our friends. Sure, we win the quarrel, at the price of the friendship.

I've had countless encounters such as these. Looking back, I wished I had stopped to think about the long term consequences instead of trying to emerge the 'winner'. Whether I was fighting to dominate, to save face, to retaliate, to boost self-esteem or just for the sake of fighting, I lost more than what it's worth winning. I wished I had the courage to be the bigger person and let it go.

But of course, we have learn from our mistakes (well, we should unless you like seeing history repeat itself). I guess before we rush headlong into a heated argument, we should pause to ask, is this issue worth debating? What do I hope to accomplish by winning anyway? What kind of consequence will this result in our relationship? And the best one, why do I want to win so badly?

I don't want to succumb to pride and be unable to take the high road. I hope and pray I'll never reach the point where I see backing down as a sign of weakness. Because if you think about it, only the strong will dare admit they're wrong.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Nursery Rhymes - Harmless? I think NOT. (Part 2)

Ah yes, where was I? Well, I've already given some examples on how nursery rhymes aren't as morally inspiring as many of us think. However, what I've given were merely tidbits, showcasing petty harms. Let's move on now to more destructive and murky rhymes.

How many of us still remember Jack and Jill?

Jack and Jill went up the hill

To fetch a pail of water

Jack fell down and broke his crown

And Jill came tumbling after

Not only is this gruesome on its own (head injuries, instant death), the roots of this rhyme are just as bad, if not worst. Jack and Jill referred to are said to be King Louis XVI of France - Jack -who was beheaded (lost his crown) followed by his Queen Marie Antoinette - Jill - (who came tumbling after).

Did that turn your tummy? No, how about this one?

Ring-a-Ring o'Rosies

A Pocket full of Posies

"A-tishoo! A-tishoo!"

We all fall Down!

What does this poem mean? Well, it originated from English history. It was during the Great Plague of London in 1665 (bubonic plague) or even before when the first outbreak of the Plague hit England in the 1300's. The symptoms of the plague included a rosy red rash in the shape of a ring on the skin (Ring around the rosy). Pockets and pouches were filled with sweet smelling herbs (or posies) which were carried due to the belief that the disease was transmitted by bad smells. Violent sneezing* (A-tishoo, A-tishoo) was another symptom of the disease. The death rate was over 60% and the plague was only halted by the Great Fire of London in 1666 which killed the rats which carried the disease which was transmitting via water sources.

Fancy that! And here we were holding hands and dancing in a circle to that tune. I have tons more to tell you but I'll just show you this last one. It's the best/worst one and I've saved it for the last.

Mary Mary quite contrary,

How does your garden grow?

With silver bells and cockle shells

And pretty maids all in a row.

Be perfectly honest with me, how many of you conjure up the image of a pretty girl in a pretty garden with pretty flowers and pretty maids surrounding her? I did. Until of course, I found out this.

The Mary alluded to in this traditional English nursery rhyme is reputed to be Mary Tudor, or Bloody Mary, who was the daughter of King Henry VIII. Queen Mary was a staunch Catholic and the garden referred to is an allusion to graveyards which were increasing in size with those who dared to continue to adhere to the Protestant faith - Protestant martyrs.

Hold on ladies and gentlemen, there's more. The silver bells and cockle shells referred to in the Nursery Rhyme were colloquialisms for instruments of torture. The 'silver bells' were thumbscrews which crushed the thumb between two hard surfaces by the tightening of a screw. The 'cockleshells' were believed to be instruments of torture which were attached to the genitals!

And guess what?! The "Maids" or Maiden was the original guillotine! Due to problem hacking people heads of with an axe (well, I personally wouldn't stick around to endure 11 blows to my neck to sever it), a mechanical instrument (now known as the guillotine) called the Maiden - shortened to Maids in the Mary Mary Nursery Rhyme was invented.

If you ask me, those nursery rhymes should be bound with red tape and classified as PG-13. Certainly no innocent baby should be subjected to these NURSERY RHYMES fraught with murder, violence and death.

Source from http://www.rhymes.org.uk/index.htm

* Incidentally, when Europe was in the grip of the bubonic plague, the tradition of saying "Bless you" when you sneezed was introduced. After all, one of the first symptoms was a bout of sneezing. People would quickly bless you in case you dropped dead the next minute.

Fascinating, no?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Nursery Rhymes - Harmless? I think NOT. (Part 1)

Yes, you got that right. Nursery rhymes are not as harmless as we would like to think. All of us grew up with these being recited to us and many of us still recall singing 3 Blind Mice and Mary, Mary Quite Contrary among many popular others. Sure, we think that by singing and teaching them to youngsters, we teach them language and incorporate some moral values. Yet not many of us have sat down to contemplate what message we are sending through those seemingly innocent rhymes.

True, you must be wondering why the sudden shift into nursery rhymes? Well, I was just thinking about the countless essays I've written about the cause of society's ills known in Bahasa Melayu as 'gejala sosial'. I'm sure we are all very familiar with it (especially school going students). First on the list are the parents, followed by the school, than wagging the finger at the media, peers and of course the individual's lack of moral fibre. It's such a common topic that many of us would just roll our eyes and tend to write it out without paying much attention to what we're penning down. Well, I was pursuing the line of thought that a good deal of who we are has been molded since childhood. And what are we fed daily when we were them icky little boo boos?

Exactly.

NURSERY RHYMES.

After rereading my Big Book of Nursery Rhymes, I have concluded that nursery rhymes are highly violent and totally unsuitable for those under the age of 13. Here are some well-known examples.

Firstly, the famous lullaby.

Hush a bye baby, on the tree top,

When the wind blows the cradle will rock;

When the bow breaks, the cradle will fall,

And down will come baby, cradle and all.

Just imagine the scene, this baby was sleeping peacefully on top of a tree ( it was the practice of some Native Americans to place a baby in the branches of a tree allowing the wind to gently rock the child to sleep). And then suddenly, what happens? The baby falls?! The vivid image of a gruesome death lingers in my mind.

What else? How about Humpty Dumpty (who incidentally was not an egg as assumed by the general public but was actually a cannon)?

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.

All the King's horses, And all the King's men

Couldn't put Humpty together again!

Are we saying to the child then that if you make a mistake, it's too bad for you? And that no one, not even the King himself will get you out of that mess? What utter rubbish.

How about this one?

Hush, little baby, don't say a word

Mama's gonna buy you a mockingbird

If that mockingbird don't sing

Mama's gonna buy you a diamond ring

What a way to raise a spoilt child. Wail and scream, you might just get a diamond ring.

If you think these are bad, wait until I post up these few examples I found. As I did some more in depth research, I was appalled by the fact that many nursery rhymes are seeped with bloodshed and gore.

*Source from http://www.rhymes.org.uk/index.htm