Sunday, August 30, 2009

ENHANCING HARMONY IN DIVERSITY

Source: Racial Unity
As Malaysia celebrates its 52nd independence day, it is time again to ask ourselves how far have we travelled on the road towards racial harmony.

I reproduce below, courtesy of Tan Sri Ani Arope, an excerpt of a speech he gave to a group of Fulbright scholars in March this year. Tan Sri is the country's first recipient of the Fulbright scholarship. Here he shares his frank views on the racial divide, and suggests how we can enhance inter-racial, cultural and religious acceptance in Malaysia. I am sure he will welcome your comments on the issue.


Tan Sri Ani Arope delivering his keynote address.

Racial prejudice and religious bigotry have always been with us. We find it hard to talk about these topics in a cross cultural environment for fear of our emotions. Some of us would deny these things existed and would rather go into self-denial than grapple with this insidious moral and social disease in our midst. The problem unless we admit it, can balloon out of proportions. It has all the hallmarks of a major mental epidemic. We as a group who have been exposed to global cultures and have experienced first hand of these evils should help contain them from rearing up their ugly heads in our society.

It is convenient to put the blame for this prejudice and bigotry as part of the legacy of the former colonial masters. However, the reality is that much of this prejudice and bigotry is of our own making and enforced by interested parties driven by the fear-based environment. These parties need to perpetuate the prejudice and bigotry to exist, because these whether real, perceived or invented are the reasons that justify the existence of these extreme chauvinistic groups.

As a member of the endangered species, what is of concern to me is to see a more stark polarization of races in our schools and institutions of higher learning. This polarization opens the door to prejudice and bigotry amongst the various races. One group would have a sense of superiority from believing that they are members of some elitist group that is superior to others.

Unfortunately the adults at home and the mass media give support to re-enforce this sort of thinking. It is common amongst certain groups of society to believe that they are the chosen ones over the others. They refuse to recognize the worth and contributions of others.

There are enough examples of an artificial importance being placed on everyday happenings reported in the mass media. With a journalistic twist and inflection it could make it appear racial. When young riders are involved with a fight with another rider, all of the same race, it does not make news. But if one rider is beaten up and happens to be of another race, the media dresses the story up in a way that will sell fear and in so doing perpetuate racism and racial hatred. We are being re-enforced through the media, that the respective colors of the skin are more important than the crime itself.

Religious bigotry may well have been the most common form of bigotry for much of the world’s history. In parts of the world people are being persecuted to no end not just because they are of another ethnic group but of another religion as well. We read about these happenings daily in the papers.

Religious bigotry manifests itself as a holier-than-thou attitude towards others. Religious bigots have in their heads the idea that those belonging to their religious group will be saved and the rest will go to hell. They firmly believe that they and they only have a special connection with the Almighty that others lack. This in turn leads them to think that they only have His special favors and others do not.

In my jagged career path, I had occasions to visit countries where people of different religions live together and in so far as ethnicity goes, there are no physical differences between them. They speak the same language. They share a common origin and one would not be able to tell the difference from a member of one religious group from another on the street outside the mode of dress. The only difference is religion, and due to religious bigotry, they are willing to kill each other.

In the more sophisticated societies there are more subtle means of persecution than physical violence resulting from religious bigotry --- character assassinations, harassment of members of religious minorities and the people associated with them. Other members of religious minorities find themselves in the position of an outsider.

Now let us take the racial prejudices and religious bigotry on to the global scale. To these we add to the mix the concept of political correctness which has been in vogue in the last decade. We then have a new category called the ‘Axis of Evil’ which political correctness has been established to eliminate. In reality political correctness needs the ‘Axis of Evil’ so that the ‘Hate Crime’ Industry can continue to exist. Attempts to artificially combat hate, racism and terrorism have created ‘Hate Industries’ in themselves which focus on an attempt to control others. Those who are highlighting the inequality of discrimination are being called religious extremists, or worst still, terrorists.

In a multi-racial, multi-religious nation like ours, where the practice of the religion and culture of one’s choice is protected by the Constitution, there is no reason for any kind of race prejudice and religious bigotry. All of us wish to achieve the same ends, the enlightenment of the soul and well-being of mankind. These ends can be achieved, all the so much easier if there is mutual understanding, trust, respect and to practice what is universally accepted – kindness to others.

With a multi-cultural, racial and religious mix we have all the ingredients of potential social hotspots in the country. We recognize that social conflicts are inevitable, but there are strategies if we care to sit down and work them out for their resolution or at least minimize or divert them before they become unmanageable. It is important that we recognize potential hotspots as we are dealing with human lives, their jobs and their children.

There are enough hotspot indicators which we should take cognizance of. Every day we open the dailies, our computers or turn on the TV, we get reports of street demonstrations, strong public statements airing disagreements. We see increasing lack of respect for Heads of Institutions. There is open disagreement regardless of issues.

For too long we have backed away from displaying the dark side of our social problems, preferring to sweep them under the carpet. What can we do as a group to offer for avoiding and or resolving conflicts which affect our daily lives and the future of the young generation? Institutions of Higher Learning could be roped in, if they have not yet been harnessed, to help gather and analyze data and information on socio-economic matters so that honest discussions and recommendations could be made for a sound apolitical management decisions on the concerns of the people.

At the same time, acceptance and recognition of our diversity through the use of the mass media are conducive to dialogue among the various races, cultures and beliefs, promoting respect and understanding for each other. Our cultural diversity is an asset. It has intrinsic value for development as well as social cohesion and peace. Harnessing our diversity could be the driving force for development not only in respect of economic growth but also of leading a more fulfilling intellectual, emotional, moral and spiritual life.

Have a re-look at the linguistic dimension for our national development. Should we not encourage our young to be multi-lingual which would give them an edge for an appropriate and harmonious use of language in our society? Furthermore, language is of strategic importance for us. Educators amongst you will agree that acquiring languages offer unique modes of thinking and expression which can be an asset to a multi-racial society such as ours.

In conclusion, whatever conflicts should not be swept under the carpet but met head on and discussed honestly about our concerns. We may disagree but we must understand that healthy disagreements would help build better decisions. We must be prepared to discuss our value systems and our priorities. We should not feel embarrassed to talk of the short-comings amongst us or the marginalized sections of our society who are not able to participate in the mainstream of society.

My students - multiracialism enriches the learning experience.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MAX!

My grandson Max turned 9 yesterday. His parents gave him a Michael Jackson themed birthday party today. Allow a proud grandmother to indulge a little. After all, he's my only grandson and grandma's favourite pin-up boy.

Children grow up so fast. Before you know it, they are too big and too shy to sit on your lap for a cuddle. Blink, and they are in college. Blink again, they are ensconced in a career. And before you can count all your grey hair, they have married and given you grandchildren.

Nothing can beat the joy of seeing the little ones running to greet you with open arms and squeals of delight when they see you coming. They make you feel so loved. It's like your pet dog jumping on you and licking you all over when you come home.



Max's birthday cakes

Grandparents and grandchildren enjoy a special bond. They have more time for each other because they don't go out to work! My grandchildren make me feel young and alive with their exuberance and energy. They make me laugh with their silly jokes and antics. They teach me how to love and care all over again!

Maybe not angels all the time, but definitely little sweethearts!


THE PARADOX OF OUR TIME



(The essay below has long been erroneously attributed to George Carlin - comedian of the 70's and 80's. The real author is Dr Bob Moorehead, a former pastor of a church in Seattle. It is eloquently written and encapsulates all that is currently ailing our society.)

The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider Freeways , but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less.

We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness.

We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom.

We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.

We've learned how to make a living, but not a life. We've added years to life not life to years.

We've been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor.

We conquered outer space but not inner space. We've done larger things, but not better things. We've cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul.

We've conquered the atom, but not our prejudice. We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but accomplish less. We've learned to rush, but not to wait.

We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we communicate less and less.

These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small character, steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the days of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes.

These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill.

It is a time when there is much in the showroom window and nothing in the stockroom. A time when technology can bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to share this insight, or to just hit delete...


Remember; spend some time with your loved ones, because they are not going to be around forever.

Remember, say a kind word to someone who looks up to you in awe, because that little person soon will grow up and leave your side.

Remember, to give a warm hug to the one next to you, because that is the only treasure you can give with your heart and it doesn't cost a cent.

Remember, to say, 'I love you' to your partner and your loved ones, but most of all mean it. A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt when it comes from deep inside of you.

Remember to hold hands and cherish the moment for someday that person will not be there again.

Give time to love, give time to speak! And give time to share the precious thoughts in your mind.


AND ALWAYS REMEMBER:

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.


Thursday, August 27, 2009

33 OF THE HEALTHIEST FOODS ON EARTH

Some of the healthiest foods on earth


We have heard it many times before: If you want to enjoy good health and long life, eat right, exercise and have a purpose for living. But unless and until this knowledge translates into action, it’s just mere words occupying space in the mind.

With so many longevity diets around, from the Okinawa Diet to the Mediterranean Diet, it is hard to know which one to adopt. One thing that is clear and common to almost all healthy diets is the importance placed on fruits, vegetables, fish and exercise (let’s call it the FVFE regime).

I recently came across yet another recipe for longevity that supports the FVFE regime.
“No pills, not even aspirin, and certainly no supplements ever enter my mouth -- everything I need comes from my fish-vegetarian diet,” says David H. Murdock, 86, Chairman and owner of Dole Food Company, the world’s largest producer and marketer of fresh fruit and vegetables.

David Murdock, as featured on Oprah


This gentleman is on a mission to share nutrition knowledge with others, so they can live more vital, active, satisfying lives. His blog article featured in the Huffington Post makes for highly recommended reading. He shares a list of 33 of the Healthiest Foods on Earth and what they do for our health.

This list is backed by research carried out at the North Carolina Research Campus to study the benefits of fruits and vegetables. It is the only campus in the world encompassing eight universities all working together for the benefit of health and longevity.
Click here to read about the Morning Banana Diet

My chief grouse is that the prices of fruits and vegetables have skyrocketed. Bananas used to be RM2-3 a bunch. Now they are sold for twice that price at the supermarket. Eating healthy for a family of five may well mean eating into the wallet.
Related article:

Monday, August 24, 2009

PREPARING TO RE-HIRE OLDER STAFF

Harnessing silver talents for business advantage (Photo: http://preparecommunity.com)

Singapore is pulling out virtually all the stops in preparing for a rapidly ageing society. The latest in a series of initiatives undertaken jointly by the public and private sectors is the web portal at http://www.preparecommunity.com/. Set up by the National Traders Union Congress (NTUC) and the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (Asme), the objective is to help small businesses get ready for the re-employment laws Singapore will introduce in 2012.
While the finer details have yet to be worked out, these laws will require companies to re-hire their workers when they reach 62. The portal provides a wealth of information to help small and medium enterprises (SMEs) draft their re-employment policies well ahead of 2012. It also serves as a learning platform for companies to network and learn from other companies how to leverage on the experiences of older workers as a valuable manpower resource.

Click here to read the full story. Photo: The New Straits Times


In Malaysia, the cakes-and-cafe chain, Secret Recipe, under its corporate social responsibility (CSR) programme, has 50 job vacancies reserved for senior citizens in need of steady employment to cover their living expenses. Kudos to Secret Recipe! They deserve our patronage.

There may be other similar CSR initiatives, but a check of the Ministry of Human Resources website revealed nothing in the pipeline for the re-employment of older workers.
Well, if ever I needed to seek re-employment, I know where I would be welcomed and appreciated!
Related article:

Sunday, August 23, 2009

DEAR SON, DEAR DAUGHTER

This touching video has been around for quite a while, but just in case your adult children haven't seen it, perhaps you would like to share it with them.

Friday, August 21, 2009

WHEN ADULT CHILDREN ABUSE THEIR PARENTS...


NOT AGAIN! Another case of elder abuse was reported in the papers yesterday. An elderly couple in Singapore had given their duplex house to their son as a wedding gift two years ago. They thought they could move in and live with the newly-weds. But the son soon sold off the house and bought a condominium. Citing lack of living space as a reason, he shunted his parents off to his sister. After a year the couple’s daughter had enough of them. She changed all the locks in the house. Her parents could not enter the house and had to make the staircase of a nearby school their home.

Homeless and abandoned by his children?

Reports like this and others make one cringe with horror and disgust. Elder abuse is on the rise, and it is happening everywhere in developed and developing countries. What is the world coming to when children can chase their parents out into the streets, siphon off their savings or isolate them from their friends?
Is this a failure of our education system or a breakdown of the family system, or both?


Related articles:
Keep that roof over your head at all cost.
Elder Abuse - How guilty are we?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

ARE WE BORN LOSERS???!!!

(Thanks, Bulbir for sharing this. How absolutely true! But that's life....sigh...)


We have 3 stages of life………..

Teenage:

Have Time + Energy …but No Money!



Working Age:
Have Money + Energy …but No Time!




Old age:
Have Time + Money …but no Energy!



Monday, August 17, 2009

AND A JOLLY GOOD TIME WAS HAD BY ALL


The creme de la creme of Elvis impersonators from East Malaysia. From left: Wilfred Vincent aka Elvince, Eskandar Eyaw, Reynolds Gregory, El Sunny Tai, John Sia aka Shakin' John. (Click to enlarge image.)


The King of Rock and Roll left his legions of fans on August 16, 1977. Now 32 years later, his presence was still felt, at least in spirit and in song at the Elvis Celebration yesterday. I was there from 5.45pm to 12.30am. Thanks to extensive pre-event publicity in the local media, Ol' Skool Bistro, the venue for the event, was packed to overflowing capacity.


From left: Wilfred Vincent, Aziz Daud, Frankie Fong.

Seeing double, triple or more? Just can't get enough of Elvis! (Click to enlarge images.)
A section of die-hard Elvis fans taking a trip down memory lane with Elvis' hits of the 60s and 70s.


Grooving and jiving to Elvis' ballads and movie soundtracks. (Click to enlarge images.)


Birthday boys Philip (72) and Joe Rozario (58).

I've never seen so many Elvis wannabes gathered in one single place. They came from all over Malaysia - from Kuching to Kuala Lumpur, from Penang to Johor Baru. From the oldest and 'paunchiest' to the youngest helluva hunk, from the professional to the amateur, every one of these Elvis clones sparkled and dazzled, not only with their impersonations of EP, but also from the giant rhinestones adorning their outfit.


Left: Alfred Ho with a medley of Elvis song requests. Right: Sunny of the VW Club of Malaysia launching the Elvis Fan Club


Left: Just gotta try Elvis' favourite snack - peanut butter banana sandwich. Right: Spotted in the audience - Mr & Mrs E. Presley of Malaysia. (Click to enlarge images.)
Peter Lee (left) with Wan Zahar on lead guitar working the crowd into a frenzy with their scorching rendition of "Little Sister".

No "Green Green Grass of Home" tonight from resident band Thomas (Tom Jones) Williams and the Small Stones.

Time for bistro owner, Calvin Guneratne (second from left), to thank the sponsors for making possible the Elvis Celebration.


Based on the huge turnout and the fun everyone had, expect more events like this at Ol' Skool.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

THE KING OF ROCK 'N ROLL LIVES ON....

The giant banner outside Ol' Skool promoting the Elvis celebration this Sunday. Click on the image for a clearer view of the week's line-up of bands.

In case you haven't read the media articles about the event, now you know. For more details, check out the announcement on the right-hand column.

I've got my tickets and am ready to enjoy an evening of rock and roll from some of the best musicians in the country.

If you recognize me from my blog picture, do come over and say hello. I'll be delighted to meet my blog visitors in person!

A NEW IMAGE FOR SENIOR CITIZENS CLUBS


Putting their best foot forward in line-dancing.

Don't be put off by the word "seniors". Some of them can put many juniors to shame with their energy and sense of fun and adventure. I have found this to be the case time and time again over the past year and a half since starting this blog.

A case in point is the dinner and dance I attended last night (Friday 14 August) at the Royal Lake Club. Organized by the Happy Senior Citizens Club, it was a semi-annual get-together for the members and also to celebrate the club president Dr Cheong Weng Hoon's 78th birthday.

The food, the music and the company made for an enjoyable night out for all who turned up. I met Katrina, my former neighbour and UM coursemate at the event. What a lovely surprise! The only downside was the glaring gender imbalance. The crowd was overwhelmingly female. The few guys who were there really knew how to work the dance floor with their slick moves.

Hey, guys, fun aside, did you know that dancing keeps you youthful and fit? Know why women live longer than men, and why they can handle stress better? You might want to change your mind and put on those dancing shoes. Your wives are in need of partners.



The lovely ladies from the Sentral Senior Citizens Association all ready to perform the traditional fan dance.

Senior citizens clubs are shedding off their image as clubs for foggies. Besides regular karaoke and dance sessions, members can sign up for tai-chi classes and computer classes. These clubs also organize overseas trips and outings to local resorts, participate in charity events and help raise funds for the needy.

Members of the Damansara Jaya Merrymakers at their weekly singalong session.

Providing music to sing along with.


If you enjoy networking socially with other like-minded seniors, and at the same time want to give back to the community, consider joining a senior citizens club or any club for that matter like the Kiwanis Club, the Lions Club or the Rotary Club.

This is what living life to the full is all about.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

PRODUCTS TO HELP SENIORS LIVE INDEPENDENTLY

(Click on the image for an enlargement.)

According to estimates released by the US Census Bureau, by 2050, one in six people in the world will be 65 and above. This is in large due to declining birth rates and medical advances that have extended lifespans.

Already websites offering products and services for seniors have mushroomed over the last decade to cater to the needs of ageing baby boomers. Click on the links below to view some of the elderly-friendly products already in the market.

Elder Gadgets








Avalon’s EZC Low Vision One Button Talking Watch.


This beautifully crafted timepiece features a loud female voice that tells time with the push of a button. The watch also features large, contrasting black numbers with bold hands, making it easier to tell time. Just the right gift for grandpa's birthday!


The Tek Pal™ from Hy-Tek


I would love to get this remote control for my mom. I can't think of a simpler design than this for older folks who are confused by too many buttons. The Tek Pal was designed specifically for people with vision problems who need a simple remote that's easy to see and even easier to program.

Here is a look at some of the products that are coming onstream.



Shoe-maker Aetrex Worldwide and a technology company GTX Corp. are teaming up to develop footwear with a built-in GPS device that could help track down "wandering" seniors suffering from Alzheimer's Disease (AD). Sure beats wearing a cow bell!

The Smart Personal Advisor


To give older consumers more real-time, personalized information on such everyday matters as the nutritional content of groceries, MIT's AgeLab has teamed with Procter & Gamble to develop the Smart Personal Advisor. This portable device can be attached to a shopping cart or incorporated into a cell phone or personal digital assistant. It then reads information contained in barcodes and analyzes how the item fits with a senior's personalized dietary needs. Similar technology is already in use in Germany and other countries, and could be adopted in the U.S. in the next five years. This is definitely one gadget I want on my wish list!



The prototype Aware Car is equipped with warning systems to help control speed and monitor oncoming traffic. It boasts night-vision capabilities, assists with difficult activities like left-hand turns, and tailors airbag deployment and steering wheel placement for smaller-sized drivers and those with osteoporosis. If I had a car like this, I would seriously consider dusting off my driving license and getting behind the wheel again.


Opportunity Knocks


Another product that uses GPS technology is this cell phone or PDA. Developed by Henry Kautz, University of Rochester Computer Science Dept.Kautz, with former colleague Don Patterson, the device helps keep the user from wandering off course during, say, a daily walk through the park. The user's typical commuting patterns is programmed into the system. An alert would be given if the user wanders off into the park in the evening.

The Center for Aging Services Technologies (CAST) is among the leading players in the race to develop and deploy technologies that can improve the aging experience in America. Established in 2003, CAST has become a national coalition of more than 400 technology companies, aging services organizations, research universities, and government representatives.
In Asia, similar initiatives are underway. One such example is Singapore's Silver Community Test-Bed Programme. The Singapore government offers generous grants to companies that develop products which cater to the elderly.

With all these products and many more coming into the market, seniors can certainly look forward to an active and independent lifestyle in their golden years.