Monday, March 29, 2010


When it comes to achieving a lifelong dream, age is certainly no obstacle for Tan Sri Jins Shamsuddin, 75. After two years of hard work and commuting between Kuala Lumpur and Sintok up north, he finally obtained his PhD last Saturday at Universiti Utara Malaysia's 23rd convocation.

For his doctoral thesis he researched 50 Malay films from the 1930s to 1960s. Not a surprising choice of study considering his wealth of experience in acting, directing and producing movies over a career spanning more than 50 years. In his first film in 1956, he was directed by Malaysia's legendary P. Ramlee. Not many Malaysian celebrities can claim that honour. Must have been a challenge for UUM to find a capable academician to supervise Dr Shamsuddin's thesis.

The world's oldest student is currently Allan Stewart of Newcastle, Australia. The retired dental surgeon first came into the public spotlight when he made it into the Guinness Book of Records as the oldest graduate at 92, graduating with a Bachelor of Law degree. Now at 95, he has a year to go before he gets his Masters of Clinical Sciences. His field of study - the ageing process.

''This is a great degree for me to study, not only because I get to research my passion, which is natural health and healthy aging, but also because it is so convenient to be able to study via distance education which is a more flexible study option for older people like me,'' he said.

If only the local universities offered a similar course, I am sure there would be some takers among us...

Saturday, March 27, 2010


When Charlie Chaplin wrote the lyrics for "Smile" back in 1936, his intention was to give hope to poverty-stricken Americans living through the Great Depression from 1929 to the early 1940s. Now 74 years later, studies published in Psychological Science reveal that smiling doesn't only make you feel better, it also increases your chances of living longer.

Smile, though your heart is aching
Smile, even though it’s breaking
When there are clouds in the sky you’ll get by
If you smile through your fear and sorrow
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You’ll see the sun come shining through... for you
Light up your face with gladness
Hide every trace of sadness
Although a tear may be ever so near
That’s the time you must keep on trying
Smile what’s the use of crying
You’ll find that life is still worthwhile
If you’ll just... Smile

Don't be stingy with that smile. Apparently the broader your smile, the longer your life span. Read the study results to know more. Very interesting, I must say.

To me the best thing about smiling is that when you give one, you often get one back. Of course, the added bonus is smiling makes you look years younger. Is there any wonder why people tend to smile in front of the camera?

So here's to smiles all round and a long life ahead!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


I first heard about World Vision in 2005 while on holiday in Brisbane. Like most people, I read the literature given to me, and that was about it. No action taken on my part. It wasn't till a month ago when my daughter, Belle, brought up the subject of child sponsorship again. She and her sister, Moon, have been sponsoring children in several countries over the past years.  Good thing they never gave up on me!

This time I was ready to sign up. A month later I became a 'foster' parent to a shy 6-year old boy from a village about 90 minutes' drive from Phnom Penh. On 16 March I left for Cambodia together with 11 other Malaysians who were all excited to see their sponsored children for the first time.

The smiles say it all - my sponsored child, his uncle and his grandma leaving for home with the gifts of school bag, stationery and provisions. He was absolutely thrilled with the toy car Belle gave him. It was his first toy ever. Before this all he had to play with were rubber bands.

Cambodia is on the list of the world's poorest countries. It relies heavily on foreign aid, hence the strong presence of aid organizations such as World Vision. WV has been in the country since 1970, and doing excellent work there based on what I observed on the trip.

The teacher in me couldn't resist asking "How many of you want to be a teacher when you grow up?" WV introduced filtered water in this school so that the children could have clean water to drink.

One of World Vision Cambodia's (WVC)'major projects is to provide water security to the village communities. A joint effort, WV provides the resources, the villagers provide the manpower to install pumps and maintain them. Usually 15 families will share a pump. The villagers are taught to drink only boiled water.

An integral part of WVC's health and sanitation programs is to promote the use of latrines.

Thanks to joint efforts by WVC and the villagers, irrigation canals now bring water to these vegetable beds.

Young people make up more than 50% of the population in Cambodia. WVC provides skills training to help them earn an income. We visited a drawing club and were impressed by some of the art work produced by the students.

The womenfolk are taught silk-weaving. The finished product can fetch US$40 a piece - a princely sum in a country where the average take-home pay for a teacher is US$70 a month.

Women receiving donations of rice and clothes for their families. In the background are members of the village committee.

I was totally mesmerized by this boy in the primary school we visited. He sang his heart out in a song about a man who sold his only buffalo to pay his mother's hospital bill. This little girl here is one of the many beautiful children you see everywhere in the countryside. WV focuses on children in particular because they are the most vulnerable, but hold the most promise for a better future.

Visiting a home in one of the villages. The jars are used for collecting rain water. The water security projects initiated by WVC have brought much-needed water to the fields and homes during the dry season from November to May.

I was honoured to meet this woman. Her family is one of many that have benefitted from WV's community development programs. Today she is a committee member of WVC's Health Equity Fund and main facilitator for her group of 12 households. She helps to promote good habits of hygiene and sanitation among the villagers. 

Now that I've seen for myself the good work done by WVC, I'm making World Vision one of my favourite aid organizations to contribute to. Sponsoring a child costs only RM50 a month. And the money goes such a long way. WV is rated among the top NGOs for transparency and accountability.

If you would like to know more about World Vision or about child sponsorship, drop by at The Curve, Mutiara Damansara from 25-28 March, 10am-10pm. WV Malaysia is having an awareness campaign and I've volunteered to help out. Hope to see you there.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Blogging this from Phnom Penh. On a World Vision trip to visit my sponsored child for the first time. From the horrors of the Killing Fields to the appalling living conditions of the poor people here, the trip has been an eye-opener for me. Will share more when I get back.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


The next general elections are not due till 2013, but it can never be too early for Malaysian voters to learn as much as they can about the constitution, the electoral system, and their rights as citizens of the country. The Bar Council's Constitutional Law Committee has initiated a series of public forums with support from the High Commissioner of Canada to help ordinary folks like me understand the constitution better. Visit My Constitution on Facebook to find out more.

Last Thursday I attended the second forum in the series - "Federal-State Relations: Should states be given more power?" The three speakers were Tan Sri Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, MP, Haji Sulaiman Abdullah and Malik Imtiaz Sarwar, both high profile advocates and solitors. 

As I am not a political blogger, I shall not comment here about what was shared at the forum. Suffice to let you read for yourself at Ku Li's blog. On March 8 I attended another forum "March 8: Two Years Later". The speakers were former journalist Kee Thuan Chye, and lawyer/activist Haris Ibrahim. You can view part of the forum here.

As concerned citizens, it is our duty to educate ourselves on the constitution, the electoral system and our rights as citizens. Voting is not a matter of simply putting an X on the ballot next to the candidate who looks the least evil of the lot, or who represents the party that is the least likely to do damage. We have to read up, find out more and keep track of what's brewing in the political arena.

Managing Editor of The Star P. Gunasegaram says it best in his article "Make Your Vote Count". Do read it and make sure you do the right thing at the next election. Get your family members and friends to register as voters if they have not done so. Every vote counts - for the future of our country, our children and grandchildren. Do your part.

Note: The Bar Council's next forum is on "Oil Royalty - A Constitutional Right?". Speakers are Tan Sri Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, Prof Datuk Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi, Dato' Cecil Abraham and Tommy Thomas. Date: 20 March 2010. Time: 10am-1pm. Venue: Bar Council Auditorium, Level 1.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


The article "The Best Leaders Have Healthy Brains" in The Star (13 March) made me wonder if this explains why we have a dearth of good leaders running our country. Well, all's not lost if they follow some of the advice given.

The article quotes a study that says our brain actually gets better the more we use it. As long as we continue to stimulate and nourish the brain with mental exercises and acivities, it is capable of growing stronger even as we age. Living proof of this is Singapore's Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew. At 86, he continues to lead a busy life as one of the world's most revered senior statesmen. 

Those who teach or who are constantly challenging their minds live longer than folks who don't. If you want to encourage new neuron growth, all it takes is only 20 minutes of intellectual stimulation a day. If you enjoy mind games, try sudoku, chess, crossword puzzles, Rubik's cube, mahjong. If reading is more your cup of tea, go for books that make you think as you digest the contents. Research has shown that learning a new skill also helps to stimulate brain growth.

If you really have no time to develop and grow your brain, the least you can do is to keep it healthy. One suggestion mentioned is to eat a few prunes a day. Apparently, you can reduce the chances of Alzheimer's disease by a whopping 92%! So prunes aren't only for regular bowel movement!

Drinking lots of water also helps in brain growth as the brain is 80% water and needs to be kept hydrated. Listening to baroque music also increases your ability to learn by 25%-400%.

Whatever your preference, keep doing it to keep your brain actively engaged. Remember, use it or lose it. That's one reason why I blog!

Thursday, March 11, 2010


Dog meat, anyone?

Mention the magic words "Good for health" to an elderly Chinese, and chances are he will eat it no matter how disgusting it may be. The 'it' here refers to exotic meat served as specialties in many restaurants in China, Taiwan, Korea and Thailand. Such meat is openly sold in wet markets in these countries.

Elderly Chinese believe that if any of your organs is deficient, eating the animal equivalent of that organ will help rejuvenate that organ in you. Sounds logical? So eating a tiger penis will give a man super virility, drinking a bowl of shark fin soup will take care of your arthritis, and enjoying a meal of monkey brains will enhance your memory. Turtle soup is great for longevity. And the list goes on.....

Hmm... I wonder what's available for breast enhancement?

And why stop at one cure? Go for the all-in-one marketing strategy. Drinking snake blood and eating the meat is not only considered an aphrodisiac, but also a remedy for fatigue, poor vision, lower back pain and acne.

CNN did a report on the move to ban eating dog and cat meat in China. Click here to view the video.

Well, one man's poison is another man's cure. To most folks, eating exotic food like these is revolting, but to many Chinese, it's lip-smacking yummy, and nutritious too.

As for me, I'll settle for veggies, fruits, nuts and seeds anytime, exotic or not. No meat on my platter, please. Thank you.

Monday, March 8, 2010


Today, 8 March, is International Women's Day. Since 1893 when New Zealand became the first country in the world to give women the right to vote, women's emanicipation has come a long way. It strikes me as strange that women have to struggle to win what should rightfully be their birth rights.

Speaking as a woman born and bred in Malaysia, I am fortunate that I have the right to vote, to be educated, to earn a living, speak freely, and choose my life partner. But women here are still discriminated against in many areas, including employment, salary, inheritance, custody of children in divorce cases. Gender bias is still encountered on a daily basis.

While my counterparts in the west have made remarkable progress on the road to emancipation, enjoying freedom in almost every facet of life, the same can't be said of the majority of women living outside the west, especially those living in many parts of Asia, Africa and the Middle East. We are living in the 21st century, yet there are cultures that still adhere to age-old practises which discriminate against women.

In patriarchal societies, women have no or limited access to education. They are viewed as second class citizens. They have virtually no say in anything. Abortion of female fetuses is still practised in India and China. Child marriage is condoned, despite statistics showing that underage pregnancies often lead to death for the young mothers during childbirth.

Let's not even go into sexual harassment, rape and sex trafficking.

So is there cause to celebrate Women's Day today? Well, I'll lift my glass of teh tarik for a toast, but it would be premature and presumptious to open a bottle of champagne. Not yet anyway.

Just for the record, 8 March 2011 marks the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day. Is there an International Men's Day? Yes. It is celebrated on 19 November. Next year will be the 12th anniversary celebrations - almost a new kid on the block as far as anniversaries go. Why the late start for the men? Go figure.

Saturday, March 6, 2010


Finally, there are statistics to prove that being cheerful helps reduce the risk of a heart attack.

Researchers at Columbia University rated the happiness levels of more than 1,700 adults in Canada using a 5-point happiness scale. After a decade, statistics showed that the 145 adults who developed a heart problem scored low on the happiness scale.

"If you aren't naturally a happy person, just try acting like one," said Dr. Karina Davidson of Columbia University Medical Center, the lead author of the research paper. "It could help your heart."

Good advice. If only more people took it.

The worst way to start the day is to wake up in the morning feeling grouchy and irritable. Perhaps it's the thought of having to drag yourself off to work that makes most people feel this way in the morning.

Well, in that case, retirees should be very happy people indeed!

Friday, March 5, 2010


In April, Maya Angelou was interviewed by Oprah on her 70+ birthday.. Oprah asked her what she thought of growing older.

And, there on television, she said it was 'exciting...'

Regarding body changes, she said there were many, occurring every her breasts. They seem to be in a race to see which will reach her waist, first.

The audience laughed so hard they cried. She is such a simple and honest woman, with so much wisdom in her words!

Maya Angelou said this:

'I've learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow.'

'I've learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.'

'I've learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you'll miss them when they're gone from your life.'

'I've learned that making a 'living' is not the same thing as 'making a life.'

'I've learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance.'

'I've learned that you shouldn't go through life with a catcher's mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw some things back...'

'I've learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision.'

'I've learned that even when I have pains, I don't have to be one.'

'I've learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back...'

'I've learned that I still have a lot to learn..'

'I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.'

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


As requested by some of you, here's a light-hearted look at the funny side of ageing. The good doctor recommends having a hearty belly laugh at least twice a day to keep those wrinkles at bay. Great for invigorating the old ticker too.