Thursday, September 25, 2008


The current melamine-tainted China milk scandal has left many Malaysians fearful of consuming dairy products from that country. To date, more than 54,000 children in China alone have fallen ill, including four infants who have died.

There is an sms going around listing all the products that we are advised to stay away from. If you are uncertain as to the reliability of the list since no mention is made of the original source, you can check with the Ministry of Health for confirmation of dairy products that are MELANINE-FREE by visiting their website. The MOH is keeping tabs on the situation and updating the list as more information becomes available.

There are seniors among us who drink milk on a daily basis for the calcium and protein content. Many of us are also grandparents who would want to be reassured that their grandchildren are taking milk and dairy products that are safe for consumption.

Mead Johnson (Enfalac, Sustagen, etc)
Dumex (Mamex, Mamil, Bebelac, etc)
Nestle (Nespray, Milo, Kit Kat, Nescafe, Nestle ice-cream, etc)
Fonterra (Anlene, Anmum, Fernleaf, Anchor cheddar cheese, etc)
Dutch Lady (Dutch Lady infant formula, yoghurt, sweetened creamer, etc)
Malaysia Milk (Vitagen, Marigold, etc)
GlaxoSmithKline (Horlicks, etc)
Abbott Laboratories (Similac, Isomil, etc)
Yakult (cultured milk drinks, etc)

Click here for the latest complete list of dairy products that are SAFE for consumption.

Mother's milk is the ONLY milk you can trust. Mothers unite for Breastfeeding!!


As a rule, I’ve little interest in money matters. But these are not normal times, economically speaking. Ever since the financial tsunami hit Wall Street and toppled investment giants Bear Sterns, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, and left Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley quivering in the aftermath, I’ve been following every bit of media news on the ongoing financial meltdown. I’m awed and appalled at the same time by the astronomical figures that have been quoted in the massive rescue plan.

Try and digest this. Some top Wall Street executives are earning eight-figure salaries. This is 275 times that of the salary of the average worker in the US. There’s more. The US government is now asking Congress for US$700 billion to fix the financial mess. This is in addition to the US$85 billion to bail out AIG (parent company of AIA), and another US$54 billion pledged in aid to mortgage finance companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. A mind-boggling, blood-chilling grand total of US$839 billion!

If this sum doesn’t leave you gasping for air, how about RM839,000,000,000? To me, such figures are obscene, especially when it’s the American tax-payers’ money that’s going to be used to clean up the mess caused by the recklessness of these companies.

So what has all this got to do with us here in Malaysia? Plenty. As they say, when the US sneezes, the rest of the world catches a cold. Our stock market is getting jittery. Retirees and pensioners are wondering whether to sell their shares, withdraw their insurance policies or just adopt a wait-and-pray policy. They simply cannot afford to see their retirement savings wiped out should a similar US-case scenario occur here.

Who can they turn to for some words of wisdom on what to do in such times of financial uncertainty? Can they trust the advice of their brokers, financial consultants and insurance agents? If they are looking for safe havens to park their hard-saved money and earn some decent interest, where should they look?

One person whose advice we can at least listen to, if not act on, is Warren Buffet, currently the world’s richest man AND philanthropist. He’s pledged to give away 85% of his wealth. No one can begrudge him his billions when he’s giving most of it away for good causes.


Go through this checklist before you part with your money.

Is the company in an industry with good economics, rather than in an industry that competes on price?

Does the company have a consumer monopoly or brand name that commands loyalty?

Can any other company with an abundance of resources compete successfully with it?

Are the earnings on an upward trend with good and consistent margins?

Is the debt-to-equity ratio low or is the earnings-to-debt ratio high? This means that the company can repay its debt even in years when earnings are lower than average.

Does the company have a high and consistent return on invested capital?

Does the company retain earnings for growth?

Does the company reinvest earnings in good business opportunities? Does management have a good track record of profiting from these investments?

Is the company free to adjust prices for inflation?

At what price is the business a bargain? The answer is when it provides a higher rate of compounded return relative to other available investment opportunities.

Personally, what I’ve learned from friends and relatives who are serious investors (as opposed to speculators) is do your homework. One thing most of us have is time. Use it to learn all about smart investing. Find out as much as you can about the company that you are planning to invest in. Read their annual reports. Check their management track record. Pay the company a visit if you can. Do not follow the herd mentality.

Friday, September 19, 2008


What does ‘growing old gracefully’ really mean?

TWO of my favourite movie stars are getting on in years – one maturing graciously but still keeping her “heroine” image, and the other, with more than a spoonful of sugar and wit.

I am, of course, referring to our Ipoh-born Datuk Michelle Yeoh who kungfu-ed her way to Hollywood fame and Julie Andrews who made Sound of Music a movie legend.

I saw Yeoh’s picture with her dad in The Star recently as she celebrated her birthday. She turned 46 but looked ever so elegant. It appears that she is still very much her daddy’s girl despite her fame.

And Andrews? She just turned 69. Wow, how time flies. The image of her singing on the meadows of the Alps with a bunch of kids is still fresh in my mind.

She must be in her late 20s then, so vibrant, lively and pretty that every mother would love to have her as a daughter-in-law.
My close friend forwarded me an e-mail of her latest picture together with a write-up of her special appearance at Man­­hattan’s Radio City Music Hall. Well, despite her age, Andrews still looks great, I must say.

The e-mail came with the title “Growing Old Gracefully”. I suppose my friend is concerned that as I get on in years, I would need a little encouragement to do so gracefully. I must admit that I’m not particularly strong in that department. I do find growing old gracefully a bit problematic, if you know what I mean.

For me, ageing comes naturally. I have no problem with that as I don’t need to plan or make special efforts to grow old. It is not a goal to strive for.

Letting it happen “gracefully” is subjective. And what does it really mean? While some will cheer you on for dressing and behaving young, others would criticise you for not behaving your age.
Surprisingly, your own children would be the first to “disown” you, especially when they are still in their teens, that hypersensitive age. You utterly embarrass them if you dress and behave young. They just don’t want to be seen near you lest they too become a laughing stock among their peers.

With modern science and medication, staying young is no longer an impossible dream. Many have used Botox to take off a number of years from their looks. Others have gone under the knife.

Now, back to Yeoh. She has been in the limelight ever since she won the Miss Malaysia title in 1983. She has bloomed like a rose and matured like fine wine. The stress of film-making and production, not to mention those physically demanding scenes in her action movies, don’t seem to show up on her face. She has certainly taken good care of herself.

As for Andrews, we don’t have the good fortune of seeing her up close nor in any recent movie. To commemorate her birthday, she did a stint at the Manhattan’s Radio City Music Hall. We didn’t get to see the footage but what came in my mail box is simply hilarious and witty. It reminds me of her character in The Sound of Music.

She rewrote the lyrics to My Favourite Things and for the benefit of those who did not receive the e-mail, here is a taste of her unending wit:

Maalox and nose drops and needles for knitting,
Walkers and handrails and new dental fittings,
Bundle of magazines tied up in strings,
These are a few of my favourite things
When the pipes leak, when the bones creak,
When the knees go bad,
I simply remember my favourite things,
And then I don’t feel so bad.
Nobody wants to grow old but old we naturally will become. Being witty, having fun and having the capacity to laugh at ourselves – these, I think, are the hallmarks of ageing gracefully.

For more articles by Hoo Ban Khee, click on the link below:

Wednesday, September 17, 2008



HERE are some tips that I would like to share with my fellow seniors.

When you go to bed, make sure that you have a torch-light within reach. Better still, have it under your pillow. This is necessary because in the middle of the night when nature calls and there is a blackout, you can make your way safely to the toilet.

My friend’s mother became bedridden following an unfortunate incident. One night during a blackout, she headed for the toilet; she swore she knew the way by heart. However, she missed a step and fell down a flight of stairs. A sad price to pay for carelessness.

The other day, my neighbour showed me a bump on her head. She had gone to the toilet in the wee hours of the morning and was too lazy to turn on the light. When she went back to her bed, she thought it was there as she made to sit on it, but landed on the floor instead. For one week, she was in pain because of the fall. So make sure you have a torchlight under your pillow; it is better to be safe than sorry.

I am sure most seniors are pill-poppers. They take pills for high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes and more. Then there are the numerous supplements like vitamin pills. To make sure that you take your pills diligently, set aside a day in the week and put your daily dosage of pills in pill boxes. You can easily buy these boxes that indicate the days of the week. So fill in your daily supplement for the week. These boxes come in handy wherever you may be, and you will not miss out on any of the pills.

The next thing seniors should do is to get a calendar. On it, write down important days to remember, like anniversaries, birthdays, appointments with the doctor, visits to the dentist, when to pay quit rent, insurance, etc. Place the calendar within reach so that you can be reminded of things that you need to do throughout the year. Being seniors, we can be forgetful, so this is one way to ensure that we remember these important dates.

All seniors should also keep a diary. We should note down things that we have done for the day, for example, paid quit rent, re-sprayed the car, had lunch with a buddy. This is just for reference.

When a friend of mine checked her phone bill, she found an outstanding charge to an unfamiliar number. Nobody in the house admitted to making the call. She looked at her dairy and found that she and her family had gone for a movie that particular day and it was the maid who had made the call. Thanks to the diary, the mystery was solved.

I have a confession to make. I like to hide extra cash or, sometimes, even jewellery. And when I need to use them, I cannot for the life of me remember where I put those things. Then I get a massive headache trying to figure out where I have hidden those things. I turn the house upside down in a vain attempt to look for the missing items.

Of late I have become wiser. I write down in my diary where I put my precious things. So even if I changed the hiding place, I just refer to my diary, and viola they are there.

Most seniors have empty nests. To thwart would-be burglars, keep a spare set of car keys near your bedside. When you hear unfamiliar sounds like someone trying to open the gate or prise open the door, press the car alarm button. Hopefully the thieves will run away when they hear the alarm. There is no guarantee that you will be safe, but some precaution is better than none.

You may find it useful to keep an envelope with cash in your house. Should the robbers surprise you one day, give them the cash. Hopefully it will appease them and they will leave you alone and not harm you. Many of us use credit cards and have very little cash in our wallets. So the robbers may be furious when they find out that you do not have cash with you.

Friday, September 12, 2008


THE future’s bright, the future’s grey? Sounds like an uninspiring cliché. But it’s probably spooking Britain just the same.

Recent reports of pensioners outnumbering under-16s for the first time in history have fuelled concern over how society can provide better health and social care for them. As the country grapples with the dramatic demographic change, many are bracing for the day when the elderly will hold sway.

There is little doubt that the growing grey army would have far-reaching implications for everyone. Indeed, elderly care is being regarded as the new child care.

Society must thus be a little more imaginative and proactive in ensuring older people continue to stay well, be independent and productive. In fact, many senior citizens, including those in their 90s, are still living an active and independent lifestyle – shopping, travelling in buses or eating out – all on their own.

You can see them almost everywhere; pushing their trolleys laden with groceries at the neighbourhood supermarket or sitting in one corner of a crowded double-decker bus.
Smartly dressed in colourful hats, coats or jackets, these elderly people – including those in wheelchairs or walking with crutches – go about their daily business just like everybody else.

The government must wake up to the fact that they are dealing with an ageing but highly independent population whose zest for life seems inexhaustible. The fact that elderly shoppers fork out an average of £4,400 (RM28,600) last year – much of it on fashion, beauty and electrical products – has got High Street shops targeting the grey pound.

With the increasing shift towards older customers, Tesco’s plans to open Britain’s first pensioner-friendly supermarket in Newcastle did not come as a surprise. Based on Berlin’s Kaiser store concept, the supermarket would have anti-slip floor, wider aisles, magnifying glasses and seats on trolleys to ease the shopping woes of elderly customers.

Mundane tasks like slipping a pound into a trolley’s coin slot or reaching out for your favourite bottle of jam or peanuts on a shelf might be a breeze. But if you’ve got arthritis or other physical ailments, these tasks could prove challenging.

Anti-slip floors, however, should not just be for the elderly; they are a necessity for all shoppers, especially women with children and the disabled.

Having said that, it’s definitely a great idea to tap into the huge customer base of pensioners.
Oh boy, it would certainly be food for thought for the other major retailers such as Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s, Morrison and Asda in the wake of Tesco’s initiative in pandering to the needs of their elderly customers.

After all, the scheme would go down well with the supermarket giant’s shopping tagline “Every Little Helps.”

Hopefully, the prices would be just as pensioner-friendly too.

(To read the full text, or email the article to a friend, click on the link below.)

Thursday, September 11, 2008


(In general, senior citizens tend to lament the passing of their youth. They gripe about the limitations and restrictions old age has forced upon them. Here's looking at old age as a blessing in disguise, if you will. After all, think about it - we are still around to enjoy the rewards of our hard work, the love of our family, and the camaraderie of good friends.)
Old Age, I decided, is a gift. I am now, probably for the first time in my life, the person I have always wanted to be. Oh, not my body! I sometime despair over my body, the wrinkles, the baggy eyes, and the sagging butt. And often I am taken aback by that old person that lives in my mirror (who looks like my mother!), but I don't agonize over those things for long.

I would never trade my amazing friends, my wonderful life and my loving family for less gray hair or a flatter belly. As I've aged, I've become kinder to myself, and less critical of myself. I've become my own friend.

I don't chide myself for eating that extra cookie, or for not making my bed, or for buying that silly cement gecko that I didn't need, but looks so avante garde on my patio. I am entitled to a treat, to be messy, be extravagant.

I have seen too many dear friends leave this world too soon; before they understood the great freedom that comes with aging.

Whose business is it if I choose to read or play on the computer until 4 am and sleep until noon? I will dance with myself to those wonderful tunes of the 60&70's, and if I, at the same time, wish to weep over a lost love ..... I will.

I will walk the beach in a swim suit that is stretched over a bulging body, and will dive into the waves with abandon if I choose to, despite the pitying glances from the jet set. They, too, will get old.

I know I am sometimes forgetful. But there again, some of life is just as well forgotten. And I eventually remember the important things.
Sure, over the years my heart has been broken. How can your heart not break when you lose a loved one, or when a child suffers, or even when somebody's beloved pet gets hit by a car? But broken hearts are what give us strength and understanding and compassion. A heart never broken is pristine and sterile and will never know the joy of being imperfect.

I am so blessed to have lived long enough to have my hair turning gray, and to have my youthful laughs be forever etched into deep grooves on my face. So many have never laughed, and so many have died before their hair could turn silver.

As you get older, it is easier to be positive. You care less about what other people think. I don't question myself anymore. I've even earned the right to be wrong.

So, I like being old. It has set me free. I like the person I have become. I am not going to live forever, but while I am still here, I will not waste time lamenting what could have been, or worrying about what will be. And I shall eat dessert every single day, if I feel like it.

(Thanks for forwarding this article, Sam.)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Last Friday, 5 September, I was in Batu Pahat to attend an informal reunion dinner. There were 11 of us golden girls from the Class of 1964 of Temenggong Ibrahim Girls School, Batu Pahat.

Some of us had not met for 44 years! Mother Time has certainly been kind to us. Had we bumped into each other on the street, we would still be able to recognize each other. There was Lily Leong from Sydney, Sin Foong and Kim Wey from Johor Baru, Yan Joo from Muar, Soo Watt and I from Kuala Lumpur, Soon Phin, Ai Leen, Lian Hoe and Shin Onn from Batu Pahat, and Lena who has just moved back to BP after spending the last 38 years in Singapore, including seven years working as Assistant Director of Publishing and Research at the Singapore National Library. Most of us have recently retired, and are looking forward to enjoying our much-deserved freedom from the pressures of work.

Lena offered us the hospitality of her newly-renovated house. Just to make sure sleeping arrangements were adequate, Kim Wey brought two mattresses all the way from JB. This certainly gave a whole new meaning to camping!

It didn't take long for us to get re-acquainted. Mothers and grandmothers alike were soon reduced to giggling schoolgirls, as we shared fond memories of our schooldays. We pored over Lena’s collection of black-and-white photos of yesteryears. There were moments of sadness when we found out that a few of our former classmates and teachers had passed on. Some of us admitted that we had taken to reading obituaries of late. How depressing!

We had so much news and stories to exchange that we didn't even have time to bathe before dinner. Not that any of us minded. The cheongsam I had packed remained in my overnight bag. We all went for dinner dressed as we were in our crumpled clothes. To my delight, we fitted right in with the ambience and the patrons at the restaurant!

Dinner was a boisterous affair, and all we drank was Chinese tea, honest! We also had a good laugh when the bill came. Our steamboat dinner for 11 of us in a VIP room with karaoke, came to less than RM150! If we had not ordered prawns and fish, the total would have been even less. At such prices, I’m sorely tempted to retire in Batu Pahat. Let’s hope prices remain that way in small towns. Incidentally, the bus fare from KL to BP cost me only RM15.80!

Despite feeling stuffed from dinner, we could not resist the lure of dessert at our favourite riverside food stalls. We had ice kacang, fried carrot cake, fried taufoo, and would have ordered fried squid, fried oysters, popiah, and rojak, but there was simply no more room in our stomachs.

We ended the day back at Lena’s house. It was past 11pm, but no one was ready for bed yet, or a shower! We had another session of sharing before I had to leave for my sister’s place.

These quotes from the ladies best sum up how we felt about the reunion:

(From Sin Foong): Thank you all for attending the little reunion - let's hope the numbers will grow from here on ... Shin Onn, for liaising, organizing the dinner, brunch treat, ferrying us around and watching over us, Lena, for accommodating us at your place - this beats even the suite at Katerina Hotel! Cheers! Here's to more get-togethers.

(From Yan Joo): Thank you to the JB group for the mangoes, Lena for the bed, the bedtime story books, for putting me up in the lovely house and not forgetting making me tea.. mmm... not bad getting the Asst. Director of Publishing and Research at the Singapore National Library to make me tea and to cut the mangoes...Shin Onn for the coordination and the booking of the VVIP room..and the brunch. Thank you, S Foong, for being always the driving force behind all the gatherings and the lovely emails. It was good for the soul to meet all of you. The next meeting Lily should give a talk on “How senior citizens should behave/not behave in public" using us as examples. Thank you all for being there and making this a gathering to remember.

(From Lena): It was my pleasure. I've been writing to my ex-colleagues to make them jealous of the great time we had. Let’s do it again!

(From me): Yeah, let’s not wait another 44 years for the next reunion. I might not be able to make it then!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008