Thursday, May 28, 2009


A report in The Star yesterday probably had many mothers-in-law either squirming with guilt or fuming with anger. It published the results of a study undertaken in 2004 by the National Population and Family Development Board (LPPKN) that listed “meddlesome in-laws” as the number one cause of marital breakups in Malaysia.

Mothers-in-law (MIL) have long been the brunt of jokes and a favourite topic on late night talk shows.

Q: Why do they bury mothers-in-law 18 feet down, when everyone else is buried 6 feet down?
A: Because, deep down, they really are very nice people.

Adam and Eve were the happiest, and the luckiest, couple in the world, because neither of them had a mother-in-law.

Q: The difference between outlaws and in-laws?
A: Outlaws are Wanted!!

Are mothers-in-law really the monsters they are made out to be? Well, to be fair, there are some MIL who get along magnificently with their children-in-law. But by and large, judging from the numerous websites dedicated to the sisterhood of agrrieved daughters-in-law, there seems to be more MIL of the troublemaker and witch types.

As a mother-in-law myself, I'm blessed to have two most caring sons-in-law who are generous to a fault. Admittedly, sons-in-law are much easier to get along with than daughters-in-law. Perhaps that's because most mothers find it hard to accept that they are no longer the only woman in their darling son's life.

Me and my sons-in-law (photo taken in 1999)

Here are my 10 tips on how to get along with your daughter-in-law. If you need more tips from the experts, check out "The Mother-in-Law's Manual" by Susan Abel Lieberman, Ph. D.

1. Give your daughter-in-law (DIL) her own time and space, especially in her home.
2. Give your advice only when asked, especially advice on raising the children, housekeeping and budgeting.

3. Stay out of any argument between your son and your DIL.

4. Treat all your children (that includes DIL) and grandchildren equally.

5. Respect the rules set by your DIL e.g. no junk food or expensive toys for the grandchildren.

6. Show sincere appreciation when your DIL does something for you.

7. Keep any criticisms of your DIL to yourself.

8. Make an effort to bond with your DIL e.g. go shopping together or cook a family meal together.

9. Lend a helping hand and a sympathetic ear whenever your DIL needs it.

10. Look upon your DIL as a valued member of the family rather than a rival competing for your son's affection.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


(The following speech is from Pulitzer Prize winning ex-journalist and best-selling author Anna Quindlen's commencement address at Villanova University, 23 June 2000. Do share this with your adult children before they get sucked any deeper into the rat race.)

I'm a novelist. My work is human nature. Real life is all I know. Don't ever confuse the two, your life and your work. The second is only part of the first.

Don't ever forget what a friend once wrote Senator Paul Tsongas when the senator decided not to run for reelection because he'd been diagnosed with cancer: "No man ever said on his deathbed I wish I had spent more time in the office." Don't ever forget the words my father sent me on a postcard last year: "If you win the rat race, you're still a rat." Or what John Lennon wrote before he was gunned down in the driveway of the Dakota: "Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans."

Two of Quindlen's bestselling books

You walk out of here this afternoon with only one thing that no one else has. There will be hundreds of people out there with your same degree; there will be thousands of people doing what you want to do for a living. But you will be the only person alive who has sole custody of your life. Your particular life. Your entire life. Not just your life at a desk, or your life on a bus, or in a car, or at the computer. Not just the life of your minds, but the life of your heart. Not just your bank account, but your soul.

People don't talk about the soul very much anymore. It's so much easier to write a resume than to craft a spirit. But a resume is a cold comfort on a winter night, or when you're sad, or broke, or lonely, or when you've gotten back the test results and they're not so good.

Here is my resume: I am a good mother to three children. I have tried never to let my profession stand in the way of being a good parent. I no longer consider myself the center of the universe. I show up. I listen, I try to laugh. I am a good friend to my husband. I have tried to make marriage vows mean what they say. I show up. I listen. I try to laugh. I am a good friend to my friends, and they to me. Without them, there would be nothing to say to you today, because I would be a cardboard cutout. But call them on the phone, and I meet them for lunch. I show up. I listen. I try to laugh.

I would be rotten, or at best mediocre at my job, if those other things were not true. You cannot be really first rate at your work if your work is all you are.

So here is what I wanted to tell you today:

Get a life. A real life, not a manic pursuit of the next promotion, the bigger paycheck, the larger house. Do you think you'd care so very much about those things if you blew an aneurysm one afternoon, or found a lump in your breast? Get a life in which you notice the smell of salt water pushing itself on a breeze over Seaside Heights, a life in which you stop and watch how a red-tailed hawk circles over the water gap or the way a baby scowls with concentration when she tries to pick up a cheerio with her thumb and first finger.

Get a life in which you are not alone. Find people you love, and who love you. And remember that love is not leisure, it is work. Each time you look at your diploma, remember that you are still a student, still learning how to best treasure your connection to others. Pick up the phone. Send an e-mail. Write a letter. Kiss your Mom. Hug your Dad. Get a life in which you are generous.

Look around at the azaleas in the suburban neighborhood where you grew up; look at a full moon hanging silver in a black, black sky on a cold night. And realize that life is the best thing ever, and that you have no business taking it for granted. Care so deeply about its goodness that you want to spread it around. Once in a while take money you would have spent on beers and give it to charity. Work in a soup kitchen. Be a big brother or sister.

All of you want to do well. But if you do not do good, too, then doing well will never be enough. It is so easy to waste our lives: our days, our hours, our minutes. It is so easy to take for granted the color of the azaleas, the sheen of the limestone on Fifth Avenue, the color of our kid's eyes, the way the melody in a symphony rises and falls and disappears and rises again. It is so easy to exist instead of live. I learned to live many years ago.

Something really, really bad happened to me, something that changed my life in ways that, if I had my druthers, it would never have been changed at all. And what I learned from it is what, today, seems to be the hardest lesson of all. I learned to love the journey, not the destination. I learned that it is not a dress rehearsal, and that today is the only guarantee you get. I learned to look at all the good in the world and to try to give some of it back because I believed in it completely and utterly. And I tried to do that, in part, by telling others what I had learned. By telling them this:

Consider the lilies of the field. Look at the fuzz on a baby's ear. Read in the backyard with the sun on your face. Learn to be happy. And think of life as a terminal illness because if you do you will live it with joy and passion, as it ought to be lived.

Sunday, May 24, 2009


(This article is posted here with permission from the writer, Tan Sri Ani Arope.)

I have been asked many times why I took up flying at this stage of my life. Wasn’t there a more sedate way to spend one’s retirement than to go in for something that demanded one’s full attention to master a potentially lethal set of circumstances? Well meaning friends point out that if I were adrift in the ocean, the chances of being picked up was a real possibility. Or if I were to go off on a jungle track and got lost a search and rescue team could still go searching for me.

But if something untoward happened in the cockpit whilst I was up in the air no rescue party could drop in to give me a hand. I don’t know about being cast adrift in the ocean or getting lost in the jungle. I have had my share of excitement up in the clouds and always there was a reassuring voice coming from the tower or another flyer who happened to be within radio range to give me help. I tell my well wishing friends that the most dangerous part of flying, and this is being corroborated by statistical figures, is the drive from the house to the airfield!

Flying is a great sport especially for those who want a release from their high pressure jobs. The total immersion it demands helps soak off the cares of the day. From start-up to shut-down, the time is spent on aviating, navigating and communicating. At the end of the flight, there is this sense of personal satisfaction, a useful work well accomplished and time well spent.

Those who fly enjoy the thrill of meeting up with the challenges of managing risks and equipment involved to bring themselves and their craft back to terra firma. More mid-level and top executives in the private and public sectors should consider giving it a go. If dummies like me could take to the skies at this late stage in life, there is no reason why others can’t.


For the youngsters, it is good discipline. It trains leadership and responsibility. When one of my children (a hyperactive kid) was at college, how was I to guide her 8000 miles away? I encouraged her to take up flying as one of her electives, though she was majoring in Microbiology. Flying was done on Saturdays at eight in the mornings. When students turned up blurry eyed and looking under the weather, they were sent back to their dorms. So in wanting to fly there couldn’t be late Friday nights or attending boisterous student parties.

And what was more the students that took flying were the more responsible types and were a lot different from the ultra ‘holier than thou’ groups of all denominations that were rampant on the campuses then. In short if you have an ultra super active child, one way to hive off that extra energy is to channel him/her to take up flying. Under their instructor they develop discipline, leadership and responsibility. They get to meet up with flyers of different age groups and professional interests. This is good for them in their formative stage of their development.


When I first received my Private Pilots’ Licence (PPL) and was able to wander off on my own, I undertook to visit most of the major airports on the East and West Coast of the Peninsular. Every airport has its own peculiarities. Coming in to land in Kota Baru, you would be warned to beware of low flying kites in the vicinity. In Langkawi, as you come in for a touchdown, a gust of wind might throw you off the center line. You would have to crab in and use the opposite rudder with a tad of power to land on one main wheel first before settling on the other.

Flying into Tioman, your circuit level is 800 feet and right hand down wind. Without being able to see the airfield which is supposed to run parallel to your flight on the right you take your cue from the checker board on the hill to make a descending right turn to base. At 600 feet you make your final approach to land. Once cleared, you give it full flaps, slow down the plane to its appropriate speed, trim and aim for the landing point.

As the ground rushes to meet you and the width of the airfield fills your windscreen, you pull up on the yoke and keep the plane flying straight and level and shifting your gaze to the far end of the airfield. As the plane sinks, you pull back on the yoke just enough to keep it flying straight with the nose pointing a little up. As the main wheels touch ground, you cut power and take the flaps off. You slow down by raising the plane’s nose and touching the breaks. You get a tremendous satisfaction when you call Tower to say ‘Bravo Delta Bravo, shutting down. Good day and thank you’. Your flying is not over until the engine is shut down, master switch is off and chocks are put in the front wheel.


There is no end to the number of different makes and models of aircraft one might eventually fly. I must admit that I have a fondness for flying different models of single engine planes. I started off with the Cessna 172, a very forgiving plane. then spent some time on the Eagle 150, a stick and rudder plane with power control on the left – pretty nippy and responsive. I had an opportunity to fly the MD3, a Malaysian manufactured plane under licensed from the Swiss. When I was visiting Italy, I had the occasion to fly the Piagio 2 Seater Trainer. Now I fly regularly on the Piper Warrior.

A Piper Warrior


Flying sharpens my mental faculties. It gives me added motivation to keep healthy as I have to appear for my medical every six months to keep my license current. So I have to watch my diet, keep myself physically fit with regular exercises. I socialize, meeting with fellow flyers ranging from 18 years to their late fifties. I get to talk to pilots and controllers whom I don’t get a chance to meet and building a sort of camaraderie up in the air.

Finally one cannot imagine the satisfaction of watching the country side roll under your wings. The perspective from on high is both powerful and humbling. The puny efforts of man to alter the landscape fade into insignificance under the leveling press of altitude. In this way, the experience of flying is reward enough.

Friday, May 22, 2009


MCA President Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat recently announced that the government would review the selection criteria for Public Services Department (PSD) scholarships. He revealed in The Star news report that PSD scholarship recipients were selected based on four criteria: merit (20%), race (60%), Sabah and Sarawak citizens (10%), and students from underprivileged groups (10%).

Is that supposed to explain why every year without fail we hear about top SPM scorers with a long string of A’s not making the scholarship cut? What constitutes merit, and why only 20% for merit? What does it say about a government that does not place a premium on meritocracy? What is the racial breakdown for the 60% under ‘race’? Why is there a criterion based on domicile? How does the PSD define ‘underprivileged’?

Hoping to find some answers, I checked out the PSD website and found that for the Foreign Degree Programme, the criteria for selection are Academic excellence (70%), Interview (10%),
Socio-economic background of parents (10%), Co-curriculum (10%).

Now I'm even more confused. Further browsing led me to a list of questions posted by The Star on 15 May 2008. One example:

The Star: Can we get some statistics on who were awarded JPA (PSD) scholarships in the previous years to show that the selection process is fair? Or can we get some comments from your boss on this issue?

PSD: The question is not clear and we are not sure what information is being sought.

I almost fell off my chair when I read that answer! And to have it posted online for all the world to see!

Instead of shedding some light, Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who is also the Education Minister chose to sidestep the issue. According to The New Straits Times report he said his ministry "felt strongly that the number of subjects should be streamlined to resolve the perennial problem". Hello, am I missing something here? Is he implying that top students who scored more than 14 A’s may have been passed over for scholarships because some of the subjects they took were either easy to score, or were of less importance? Isn’t that an insult to the students, and also to the Curriculum Department of his ministry?

The minister acknowledged the grouses, and said the matter would be discussed at the (cabinet) meeting. A study would also be carried out. Those are the government's stock answers to every problem in our country. I will not be holding my breath to know the outcome. In the meantime, scores of bright students are left out in the cold. They have to rely on their own resourcefulness to get financial aid or give up their academic dreams altogether.

KWOK Ting Choong, 17, of Penang Free School, scored 14 1As. The irony is many top students who failed to secure PSD scholarships were offered ASEAN scholarships by the Singapore government well-known for their stringent selection procedures. (Photo: The Star)

As a retired teacher with 35 years in the profession, I know that this problem does exist, and keeps intensifying each year as more and more students score straight A's in the SPM. As a single mother supporting two teenage children on a teacher's pay of RM1200 back in the 1980s, I know what it is like to have your academically-gifted children rejected for a PSD scholarship.

This issue has been highlighted in the media for the past few weeks, but the PSD has yet to make any statements to clear the air. Why the silence??

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Little One (With Lyrics) ...Russ Hamilton

Remember this song by Russ Hamilton? What a lovely lullaby to sing to our little ones to get them to sleep! If you enjoy evergreens (think Russ Hamilton, Cliff Richard, Frankie Avalon, Johnny Tillotson, Ricky Nelson, etc) as well as inspirational and educational video clips, do check out fellow Malaysian Oh Teik Bin's video-sharing website on YouTube at He has 170 videos in his collection and uploads on a regular basis. A retired teacher, Teik Bin is currently a Dhammaduta worker at the Persatuan Budhhist Hilir Perak in Teluk Intan.

Saturday, May 16, 2009


"Older adults are the fastest growing demographic on the Internet," said Prof Vicki Hanson at a global World Wide Web conference held in Madrid recently. I'm not too sure if this is the case in Malaysia as reliable statistics are not available. What I do know is that there are still many seniors aged 60+ who do not use the computer, and have no desire to do so, period.

Unless the nature of their work requires the regular use of computers and electronic gadgets, most older seniors don't feel comfortable using digital technology. Much of this has to do with the era they grew up in. Back in the 1950s and 60s, there were no personal computers, cell phones, Playstation, video/digital cameras, microwave ovens, washing machines or GPS. Back then machines were very basic and simple to use.

So it's easy to understand why many older seniors are bewildered and intimidated by the plethora of gadgets on the market today – from blackberrys to iPods and what-have-yous. It's a steep learning curve for them, and young adults should bear this in mind before they lose patience with their parents or grandparents and declare them 'impossible to teach'.

Take my 83-year old mother as an example. She has difficulty figuring out how to use the TV and Astro remote controls. To make it easier for her, I leave the Astro decoder on Channel 311. I keep away the Astro remote control so she won't confuse it with the TV remote control. So all she has to do is press the red ON/OFF button on the TV remote to enjoy her favourite programmes.

But not all older seniors are technophobic. At an internet marketing seminar I attended two years ago, I met Chuan Chooi. In his late 70s then, he was the oldest participant to have set up his own website to generate income. Then there is Tan Sri Dr Ani Arope, 78, who famously took up flying after his retirement. "Flying sharpens my mental faculties," he says. I can well believe that. Just imagine having to learn how to operate all those computers and electronic gadgets in the cockpit! I have trouble just remembering how to set up the DVD player to record selected TV programmes!

Many seniors (myself included) still look at e-payment and online banking with distrust. Forget about online shopping. Nothing comes close to the satisfaction of being able to touch, test or smell an item before deciding to buy it. After all, isn’t that what the shopping experience is all about. Likewise reading the news online can never beat the satisfaction of actually holding the newspaper in our hands as we scan the headlines. Let's not even bring up the Kindle.

As long as there is an option, older seniors will always choose the old familiar ways of doing things. That's how it has always been for them. And no one should force them to do otherwise. This is their message to all techno-evangelists waiting to convert them. LEAVE US ALONE. WE ARE HAPPY TO REMAIN COMPUTER ILLITERATE!

Monday, May 11, 2009


The Small Stones, with Johnny's elder brother Lawrence (far left).

12 hours of great non-stop music, from 2.00pm to 2.00am. That was what the organisers promised, and that was exactly what they delivered. (Click on the banner for a close-up view of the line-up.)

I am talking about “A Tribute to Johnny” held yesterday at Ol' Skool Bistro, Jalan Gasing. Musicians from some of the country’s best-known bands came together to perform and pay tribute to fellow musician Frederick John David who passed away on 14 February this year. Judging from the huge turnout, both in terms of patrons and performers, Johnny was much loved and deeply missed by his family and friends.

When I got to the bistro at 4.00pm, the Yellow Jackets were playing. They were in their element and had the crowd shouting for more. As the evening continued, bands like Vernon and Fats, Albert Sirimal and Friends, the Jetliners, Cliff and the Shadows 2 served up a cocktail of heady retro hits that got the crowd all revved up for more. More than 20 acts took the stage, and what a musical feast it was for baby boomers like me who grew up on a diet of 1960s-70s billboard hits.

Roy Gomez (far left) looks on proudly as sons Roeshan, 17, and Chrishen, 15, showcase their musical talents.

If you listened with eyes closed, you would think THE SHADOWS were playing. The band was that good.

As a self-confessed pub-crawler in the good old days when it was still safe for single ladies to venture out at night in search of good live music, I was certainly soaking up the nostalgia as each band brought on more happy memories. In between sets, the organizers screened music video clips of the era. We were treated to classics like "Superstition", "Jump!", "I Want To Break Free", and "Band on the Run". The crowd was lapping up every bit of it. The small dance floor was packed to capacity as the young and the not-so-young showed off their hot dance moves.

The Jetliners wowed the crowd and got them on their feet.

The Yellow Jackets have been around for decades, and they are true vintage.

Albert Sirimal and friends needed no introduction - the crowd couldn't wait to hear them.

The atmosphere was charged with so much love and camaraderie. Not only were Johnny's friends out in full force, but also his family members. I lost count of how many of Johnny's nieces and nephews were there, helping out behind the scenes and upfront. Lawrence, a member of The Small Stones, got all teary-eyed when he spoke of his younger brother Johnny. In thanking everyone for their support, he singled out Ol' Skool Bistro co-owner, Calvin Adelrick Guneratne, for sponsoring the event. Part of the proceeds from ticket sales as well as the wine auction would go towards helping Johnny's family.

Johnny's daughter Michelle reads out a tribute to her father with her mom, Angie Pereira, by her side.
The Family Jam featuring some of Johnny's nieces and nephews.

You may well wonder why I am gushing about this particular musical event. In times like these when all we hear or read about is mostly depressing, any event that brings together people of all ages, colours and religions in a spirit of love, joy and celebration deserves highlighting over and over again. There is also something about Ol' Skool Bistro that makes one feel among friends.

Three of the lovely ladies I met at the event.

I enjoyed myself thoroughly at the event, and so did all the hundreds of people who turned up. It was certainly a fitting tribute to Johnny. I am sure he would have approved and applauded.
Some of Johnny's family members and friends, including Lawrence (4th left) and Calvin (2nd left).

Saturday, May 9, 2009


If you are suffering from a serious bout of bad-news fatigue like I am, it's time to reach out for that medicine bottle for some comic relief!

Two elderly gentlemen, who had been without sex for several years, decided they needed to visit a cat-house for some tail. When they arrived, the madam took one look at them and decided she wasn't going to waste any of her girls on these two old men. So she used "blow-up" dolls instead. She put the dolls in each man's room and left them to their business.

After the two men were finished, they started walking home and began talking. The first man said, "I think the girl I had was dead. She never moved, talked or even groaned. How was it for you?" The second man replied, "I think mine was a witch. When I nibbled on her breast she farted and flew out the window!"

Last night, my friend and I were sitting in the living room and I said to her, "I never want to live in a vegetative state, dependent on some machine and fluids from a bottle. If that ever happens, just pull the plug."
She got up, unplugged the TV, and threw out my wine.

A group of Sun City Senior citizens were sitting around talking about their ailments:
"My arms are so weak I can barely hold a cup of coffee", said one.
"Yes, I know. My cataracts are so bad I can't even see my coffee", replied another.
"I can't turn my head because of the arthritis in my neck", said a third, to which several nodded in agreement.
My blood pressure pills make me dizzy," another went on.
"I guess that's the price we pay for getting old," winced an old man as he shook his head.
Then there was a short moment of silence.
"Well, it's not that bad" said one woman cheerfully. "Thank God, we can all still drive"!


A man was telling his neighbor, "I just bought a new hearing aid. It cost me four thousand dollars, but it's state of the art. It's perfect."
"Really," answered the neighbor. "What kind is it?"
"Twelve thirty."


Yikes! Someone please tell grandma 'being cool' doesn't mean being well-ventilated!

"OLD" IS WHEN..... Your sweetie says, "Let's go upstairs and make love, and you answer, "Honey, I can't do both!"
"OLD" IS WHEN..... Your friends compliment you on your new alligator shoes and you're barefoot.
"OLD" IS WHEN..... You don't care where your spouse goes, just as long as you don't have to go along.
"OLD" IS WHEN..... You are cautioned to slow down by the doctor instead of by the police.
"OLD" IS WHEN..... "Getting a little action" means you don't need to take any fiber today.
"OLD" IS WHEN..... "Getting lucky" means you find your car in the parking lot.
"OLD" IS WHEN..... An "all-nighter" means not getting up to pee!


Wednesday, May 6, 2009


A cowardly act of violence against an elderly. (Photo: The Star)

As a Johorean, I am aghast at the high crime rate in Johor. The latest incident was reported in the papers only this morning. A pregnant woman died after robbers pulled her off her motorcycle in Air Hitam, Johor. On April 22, an 80-year old man was slashed by robbers on bikes in Johor Bahru despite handing over his cash and watch to them. What kind of demented mind would prompt such a dastardly act of violence against a defenceless citizen? And that’s not all. Last month a Singaporean was slashed to death in a parang attack in Kulai, Johor. I can understand the concern of the our neighbours whenever they cross the causeway into Johor to shop or visit relatives or friends.

The Singapore-JB causeway is all that separates a region with a low crime rate from one that's at the other end of the scale.

Over the past few years, the crime rate has steadily risen in Johor. Back in 2006, Johor had already recorded 6.171 cases in just three months from January to March. The state capital, Johor Bahru (JB), in particular, has won noteriety as the city with the highest crime rate in Malaysia. And these are only the reported cases.

The state's crime prevention efforts don't seem to have much lasting success, as evident by the recent spike in criminal attacks. According to a news report in The Star, in January this year Johor police managed to nap four guys selling an array of deadly weapons in the carpark of a supermarket. Among the items seized were 87 Samurai swords, three crossbows with 200 ball bearings and 63 arrows, seven batons, five knives, five parangs and five nunchakus (two metal or wooden sticks connected by a chain, popularised by Bruce Lee in his movies). With such easy access to weapons, it's no wonder armed attacks are on the increase.

What has happened to the JB I used to love? I was born in Batu Pahat, Johor, but spent my coming-of-age years studying Form 6 at English College in JB. Life was simple and safe in the 1960s. I recall strolling the streets late at night with my housemates, looking for supper. There was no cause for us to be wary of snatch thieves, pick-pockets, rapists or armed robbers. Now I would think twice before venturing out of my sister's house in JB even in broad daylight.

It's the oft-repeated story of plenty of laws and preventive measures in place, but a dearth of enforcement. A policeman on duty in JB is a rare sight. A visitor can probably see more illegal immigrants and vagrants in this city than law enforcement officers. Of course, the police will continue to issue press statements with statistics to back up their claim that the crime rate has gone down in many states, including Johor. But figures can be an illusion.

Instead of relying solely on the police to protect us, as responsible citizens we should also be more pro-active about our personal safety. The National Crime Prevention Council of Singapore has an excellent website that lists preventive measures citizens can take to protect themselves against crimes ranging from armed robbery to motor vehicles theft. Malaysians can pick up more than a tip or two from this website than from the Malaysia Crime Prevention Foundation website which, unfortunately, contains more photos of dignitaries and press releases than anything useful.