Friday, November 30, 2012


(Several friends have forwarded this article to me in the past week. I take it they want me to share it here on the blog. In the article, first published in the Philippine Star, an online network for the global Filipino community, Letty Jacinto-Lopez offers advice that I think parents with adult children should pay heed to. I have taken the liberty of adding some images.)

At their 54th anniversary, my friends made a decision to distribute their combined assets among their living heirs. Their rationale, “Para walang gulo.” (To avoid trouble). They added one proviso: “While still alive, income from these properties will be used to maintain our present lifestyle inclusive of medical expenses, extravagant trips and unlimited shopping.”

 “That’s easy,” replied the heirs. The income was substantial to indulge the old folks with a bonus that the heirs can use in any manner they wanted.

The first year passed without a hitch, but soon the problem surfaced. Each child used all kinds of tactics to keep the money from his parents. It reached a point where the poor retirees had to beg for sustenance, robbing them of the dignity they worked hard to uphold.

What went wrong?

 “Bad decision,” said a cautious friend who warned the couple of this scenario. “Children are so unreliable when it comes to inherited money.”

Money received, which was not expected and not a direct result of something they worked for, is not given the same value as money earned with their own sweat and tears. They lose their sense of propriety; gratitude is tainted by greed and decency gone. This is compounded by in-laws who can tilt or convince their respective spouses to throw out good sense and filial affection like soiled rugs, “Honey, they’re going to die anyway, so why waste good money on them?”

To avoid falling into this vulnerable, pitiful state, keep these 10 tips in mind:

1. Do not retire. If you’re over-aged, retire and get all the benefits but find another income-generating job or open a business that will keep you active physically and mentally. Travel and bond with true friends, play a sport, learn a new hobby and volunteer in your community or parish. Don’t loaf around. Your spouse will hate you because you’ve become a sloppy, listless bum with nothing good to say about the household and things that you never bothered about before. Solve crossword puzzles, play Scrabble, write your memoirs, and above all, read — this will keep you alert and keep Alzheimer’s at bay.

2. Live in your own place to enjoy independence, privacy and a solo life. If you move in with your children, your rank or degree of importance is reduced to that of a bed spacer who has no place of honor or, worse, like crumbling furniture merely displayed with no added value. Might you kowtow to conform to their own rules that are not kind, considerate or mindful of you? If you witness your children engaged in a war of will and wits with your grandchildren, whom will you side with? Will they even appreciate your arbitration? Remind your children that silence is not a sign of weakness; you are merely processing data that is taking longer to complete.

3. Hold on to your nest egg, bank deposits and assets. If you want to help your children, do give, but not to the extent that you wipe out your life’s earnings, singing heroically “not a shirt on my back nor a penny to my name.” Staying solvent and in the black is a good hedge against all kinds of tempests. You will sleep better, you will not be afraid to express your opinion and you will be confident about yourself.

4. Don’t believe your children’s promise to care for you when you grow old. Priorities change. Many children are not guilt-ridden or filled with a sense of moral obligation when the wife and offspring take top billing in their lives. There are still children who would consider it a privilege to show compassion, genuine love and deep concern for their parents but be warned that not all children think alike.

An inter-generational percussion session
5. Expand your circle of friends to include young ones who will definitely outlive your old BFFs. Keep up with new inventions, trends, music and lifestyle including all the scams and schemes you should guard against. Remember that when you mix with the young, you also open a fresh avenue to channel your thoughts, experiences and values through so that the lessons you learned are not lost, forgotten or buried with you.

6. Be well groomed and smelling fresh of spring water all the time. There’s nothing more depressing than seeing people exhale when you walk by because you reek of baul (camphor chest) or lupa (dirt). Old age or bust, don’t look and smell like a corpse when you’re not one yet.

7. Do not meddle in the life of your children. If they ask for your counsel, give it, but be ready to accept that they may not take it. Their situations in life cannot be compared to the situations that you experienced in your life. The playing field has changed and they need to develop their own set of survival skills. If you raised them to be street smart, they can handle themselves in tough situations and be able to read people.  Champion and encourage their dreams and desires but on their own terms.

8. Do not use old age as your shield and justification for turning grumpy. There’s nothing more annoying than an arrogant, old fool.  Welcome each day as another chance to be kind and forgiving, to yourself and to others.

9. Listen to what others may say. Do not throw your weight around just because you are a septuagenarian or a nonagenarian. You are not a depository of knowledge. Even if the roles have been reversed, make growing old a fun-filled, pleasant experience for you and your brood.

10. Pray always and focus on your eternal life. You will definitely leave everything behind, a final journey detached from burden and care. Be more accepting that, sooner, not later, you will croak. Prepare your swan song with a humble and contrite heart. If you believe in a merciful and loving God, there is no need to strut like a star. Nobody is.

Here are more articles on the same topic if you are interested. Click on the links to read.



Thursday, November 29, 2012


Source: Daily Mail

At 65, Ronnie Wood is the baby of the group. Mick Jagger is 69, Keith Richards 68, and the grand-daddy of them all Charlie Watts is 71. Half a century has passed since the Rolling Stones performed their first gig in 1962. To mark this milestone, the band has just embarked on their 50th anniversary tour with the first concert at the O2 Arena in London on 25 Nov.

As they are now. (Source: Tribune)
Back then in 1962. (Source: Reuters)

It's amazing that the Stones have lasted this long, and at their age, still wowing the crowds. Concert reviews have been positive:

"The Rolling Stones are back. They may look old, but they still sound young."
"...shows no sign of slowing down."
"...the band exceeded all expectations."
"...the Stones had somehow beaten the aging process."

From the Stones:
Mick Jagger: "It's amazing that we're still doing this, and it's amazing that you're still buying our records and coming to our shows. Thank you, thank you, thank you."

Keith Richards: "We made it. I'm happy to see you. I'm happy to see anybody."

That the Stones have survived drugs, scandals, break-ups, even arthritis is testimony of their staying power. To be sure, there are plenty of much older entertainers who are still around and performing. Tony Bennett, at 86, is still going strong, but it takes a lot of energy and stamina to be jumping and strutting on stage like Jagger or pounding the drums like Watts for a solid two and a half hours. Makes  my bones ache just viewing the concert video!

No need to shout "Long live the Stones". They are already enjoying longevity!

So young 1969.

Monday, November 26, 2012


Moringa - the most nutritious plant
on planet earth.
Many of you have probably heard of moringa, if not from the media, then from friends who have used it. I read about it some time back, but dismissed it as yet another one of the many so-called plant-based miracles e.g. acai berry, that are sold via direct marketing. Well, after listening to two friends who swore by the health benefits of moringa, I am willing to test out the plant for myself.

Apparently every part of the plant has a health benefit. I shall try the seeds first for a week and report back. My two friends take two seeds twice a day. They tell me they now feel a lot more energetic, their skin is smoother and their digestion has improved.

As with anything that we take into our body for the first time, it's advisable to do some research about it first. There is plenty of information about moringa on the internet, mostly good. These charts below are a good starting point. You can google to verify these health claims.

Sounds too good to be true? Best to verify these claims
before taking moringa.

If you have taken moringa before, do give us your feedback. 

According to Dr Monica Marcu who wrote about the amazing health benefits of moringa in her book "The Miracle Tree", " has all the nutrients that could be found in a perfect food." Discovery Channel produced a documentary on moringa a decade ago. You can view it below. 

If this wonder plant lives up to all the claims, it would be God's gift to those who cannot afford expensive health supplements. Moringa grows easily even in harsh conditions. You can buy the seeds and leaves from most Indian provision shops that sell vegetables, herbs and spices. I just bought two "drumsticks" (moringa pods) each about 20 inches in length from a stall in Little India market, Singapore for 70 cents.

As expected, pharmaceutical companies are already marketing moringa as an extract and in pill form. I don't know what the prices are, but one can be sure these companies are raking in a tidy profit from the humble moringa.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


The cover feature of The Straits Times supplement 'Mind Your Body' (Nov 15) is a timely reminder for all of us to get off our butt every couple of hours or so. Now that we know sitting too much can kill us, we have no excuse not to do something about it. And I am the first to admit guilt. There are days when I walk, and walk and walk, because I don't drive anymore. But there are also days when I sit, and sit AND sit.

We spend most of our waking hours sitting - at work, in front of the TV or computer, in the car/train/bus, at the dinner table, and chatting with friends. We sit for hours at meetings, seminars, and in waiting rooms. At shopping malls or waiting for someone, we look for a place to sit.

Children these days are becoming obese and at risk of the same health problems that we adults face. They sit just as much as we do. They sit in school, at tuition classes, and when they come home, they sit at the table for meals and later to do their homework. On weekends, they are glued to their digital gadgets which means more hours of sitting, Changes in lifestyle and the preference for sedentary hobbies have drastically reduced the time adults and children spend on physical activities. 

November issue of Diabetologia
Data from a recent study published in Diabetologia, the journal of the European Association of the Study of Diabetes showed that people who scored highest on sedentary time were found to be more prone to diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. The study involved 800,000 people, so the findings cannot be dismissed so easily.

Sitting for hours on end every day can also lead to deep vein thrombosis and a predisposition to blood clots. This makes sense as inactive muscles prevent smooth blood circulation to the legs and more seriously, to the heart. From my own observation, inactivity among older people often leads to stiff joints, and increases lower back pain.

While I don't profess to be an exercise addict, I do try to put in some physical activity on a daily basis. Not having a car helps as I have no choice but to walk whenever I can. Living in a walk-up apartment means I have to take the stairs every day. Exercise is forced upon me, whether I like it or not. A good thing I like it.

Note 'even with exercise'! Time to step up or suffer the consequences.  

Here's how I keep on the move:
  • I walk to the neighborhood mall 12 minutes away to run errands and buy provisions. 
  • I walk home carrying bags of groceries to strengthen my arm muscles.
  • I walk to the bus stop to catch the bus downtown, and repeat the process in reverse when I come home.
  • I walk up three flights of stairs at least twice a day.
  • I walk up the escalator rather than stand still on it.
  • I walk at least 8000 steps a day according to my pedometer, sometimes more than 10,000 steps.
BUT I can be a couch potato when there are good programs back to back on the telly. AND I can easily chalk up 4-5 hours of sitting when I am at the computer. That's really bad, so now my hourl timer buzzer alerts me to get up and move about.

My work desk at home. Photo taken in February this year. I have since added a timer with
the buzzer set to go off hourly to remind me to get off my butt and move around.

The study warns that even with exercise, people who sit for hours at a stretch can still be at risk of all the health problems mentioned above. I take it as a warning that I should double or triple my standing and moving hours.

Here's a video with a call to action. EXERCISE! It's not that we don't know the benefits of exercising. It's the lack of discipline, the will power to sustain an exercise regime. The video was first posted on this blog in February with the article "Walking to Better Health and Longevity".

Happy exercising!

Sunday, November 18, 2012


Jalan Tun H.S. Lee in downtown KL is swarmed with foreigners on Sundays

If you haven't been in downtown Kuala Lumpur in quite a while, you will be surprised to find the old KL that we used to know no longer exists. Sure, most of the buildings are still there, but the inner city has lost much of its Malaysian identity.

Take a trip to the Kota Raya-Bangkok Bank area on Sunday, you will feel as if you are in Nepal or Myanmar as these pictures below show.

Businesses here cater mostly to the Myanmarese and Nepalese. There is a sizable population of Bangladeshis and Pakistanis too. The Indonesians are still the prevalent ethnic group in the Chow Kit area while the Filipinos hang out in the shopping malls in KLCC and in PJ.
Browsing their national papers in a retail outlet. DVDs, CDs and magazines are available
in several lingua franca.
A well-stocked mini-market. Enterprising shopkeepers supply foreign workers here
with almost anything they need from their homeland. 
Fresh produce for homecooked meals
Anyone for cow's head soup?
Don't be fooled by the display photos. This studio is patronized mainly by foreigners applying for work permits, passports, visas and who knows, MyKad as well?
The ladies are not forgotten. 
Banners are everywhere advertising all kinds of
services on the upper floors. This one is for air fares.
One of the few banners in English. I was told
this restaurant is popular with the Nepalese. 
Not sure if this ad is for funeral services or a football match!
For the younger workers - a hip-hop concert! 
Across the road from Kota Raya lies Chinatown. The stalls there are run by foreigners. It's a
matter of time before nearby Central Market is also taken over by non-Malaysians. Not too
far away is Bukit Bintang which is rapidly transforming into a Middle Eastern hot spot. 

Whether this foreign influx has a positive or negative spillover is debatable. But one thing is for certain, it won't be long before downtown KL becomes unrecognizable to local citizens.

Thursday, November 15, 2012


This picture taken from The Daily Mail shows the world's largest family. Mr Ziona Chana has 39 wives, 94 children and 33 grandchildren. Large families with far fewer members than Mr Ziona's are a rarity today.

Once upon a time families were large and everyone lived together under the same roof. Today family size has shrunk drastically from an average of ten in the 1950s to four today - father, mother and two children. One of my primary school classmates had a dozen siblings, and it was considered the norm. Lack of privacy and space was a major issue but on the bright side, children from large families learned the importance of sharing and supporting each other in times of need. Families were closely-knit, and this bond extended to relatives as well. Cousins knew one another by name no matter how many times removed. Family gatherings were boisterous occasions, as the extended family members got together to share updates or reminisce on the good old days.

The world's most famous nuclear family
It is a different scenario today. The modern day family home is a shadow of the ancestral home most of us grew up in. It is devoid of family activities much of the day. Dinner time is the only time the family gets to see each other. Even then there is no guarantee the head of the household will be at the table. More often than not, he is delayed at work or has a business function to attend.

Young couples today are eager to move into their own homes as soon as they are able to afford the rent or down payment. On the other hand, baby boomer parents are equally happy to remain in the family home, rather than live with their married children. They are not about to give up their independence and privacy which is what will happen if they move in with their married children.

Young people are delaying marriage, preferring to put career first. Those who do get married delay starting a family, again for the same reason. Childless couples are also on the rise, and have to resort to fertility treatment or surrogacy to have children.

The latest fertility rate (total births per woman) in Malaysia stands at 2.2. There is also a corresponding decline in male sperm count. “Over the last five years, we have seen an increase in male infertility from 15% to 30%,” said Dr Mohamad Farouk Abdullah, head of the obstetrics and gynaecology department of the Tengku Ampuan Rahimah Hospital in Klang in a Star report.

Then there are those who never married either by choice or because of circumstances.

All these decisions have repercussions that reverberate across demographics. Consider some of the issues that families have to face today that were non-existent a few generations ago.

  • Smaller families means fewer siblings to share the financial and physical responsibility of caring for elderly parents. This can put a strain on couples who are caught in the middle between providing for their children and supporting their aged parents.
  • The fertility rate is declining worldwide, but life expectancy is increasing. Malaysians can expect to live to 76 on average. The result - there are fewer young people to support an ever-growing elderly population. 
  • In a dual-income household, the children are cared for most of the time by a maid or a child-minder. This affects child-parent bonding as quality family time is cut to a minimum. One possible long-term effect is children grow distant from their parents. Such parents risk being abandoned by their children in their old age. 
  • This has led countries such as Singapore and India to introduce the Maintenance of Parents Act whereby it is mandatory for children to provide financial support for their elderly parents. The latter can file a maintenance order against their children if they fail to provide support. The number of cases brought to the Tribunal for the Maintenance of Parents is on the rise.
Blessed are the elderly who have filial daughters to care for them. 
Click here to read June Wong's article in full.
  • Who looks after elderly parents who live on their own and require assistance with daily activities? Answer: The usual suspects! Daughters are usually the first choice of caregivers. If there are more than one daughter, then the onus falls on the daughter who is single, or is a full-time homemaker. She doesn't have much of an option. It would be futile to protest and be criticized as being 'unfilial'.
  • For childless couples and those who choose to remain single, who will care for them in their old age? Children are still considered by many parents as an investment for their old age. We may be able to afford the best home-care services, but nothing beats having your own flesh and blood to take care of you when you are no longer able to do so on your own. 
This is a major concern for childless couples. Click here to read Kelly Flynn's article in the New York Times.

When families cannot cope with these challenges, the government will have to step in. In country after country the retirement age has been raised. In Malaysia, it has gone up from 55 to 60. This is to enable employees to remain in the work force longer to support themselves and to build their nest egg. The government also has to look at how to increase the pool of pension funds as the number of civil servants who retire each year continues to increase.

The above video has been posted on this blog a few times. It is a reminder of the challenges imposed by a world that is rapidly ageing, and by transitions is demographics.

It is heartening to know that the government is planning to build more nursing homes and aged care facilities. There is currently not enough to meet the huge demand. Private housing developers are building homes that are not just age-friendly but also inter-generational in concept. The idea of living the rest of your life in a retirement community is starting to catch on among older people, The image of retirement homes as a half-way house where old folks await their departure from this life is slowly fading.

The Green Leaf Retirement Resort in Sepang, Selangor- an award-winning concept of community living in the golden years.

Most importantly, the government has to be more aggressive in promoting active ageing and healthy living. Longevity is a blessing only if accompanied with good health.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


From The New Straits Times 12 Nov 2012
The on-going controversy regarding Nurul Izzah's statement (see photo) shows no sign of abating, at least for now. We all have our views on this issue, but few would want to express them publicly. In Malaysia, any controversial comment touching on the official religion Islam is considered insensitive and courting public outcry. 

For politicians, it is tantamount to committing political suicide if they are perceived to be supporting a more liberal interpretation of the Holy Quran. Malays who make comments that are deemed to 'confuse' Muslims would invite condemnation from their own brethrens and punitive action from JAIS (Selangor Islamic Religious Department). Non-Muslims in the country know to stay away from getting involved in any religious controversy.

(Click here for Malaysiakini's full transcript of Nurul's Q & A session at the forum.)

A 2007 news report quoting former PM Abdullah Badawi that was picked up by Malaysia Chronicle.

What strikes me as interesting is that opposing parties can quote verses from the Quran to support their respective stand on the issue. Also, it is a little known fact outside Malaysia that only in this country is religion (Islam) synonymous with race. All Malays are born Muslim, and die as Muslims. Any Muslim who renounces Islam or converts is considered an apostate. Apostasy, according to a fatwa, is a national security threat. The punishment meted out by the Syariah Court varies from state to state, from hefty fines to imprisonment and whipping.

A reader expresses her views on the issue (New Sunday Times 11 Nov 2012)

Our neighbour Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world. Approximately 88% of its 238 million people are Muslims. The constitution of Indonesia states that every person has the freedom to choose and practise their religion. Officially the constitution recognizes only six religions, Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Confucianism and Buddhism.  

Indonesian Muslims enjoy a greater measure of religious freedom than their counterparts in Malaysia. As the video below shows, they can work together with other religious groups to help the needy and less fortunate. It is rare to see such scenes in Malaysia today.

I would love to hear what my Muslim friends have to say on religious freedom. But I know they would prefer to keep their views to themselves for fear of inviting visits from the omnipresent JAIS, like what happened to Malaysiakini.

In Malaysia, the law recognizes 21 as the age when a citizen is mature enough to vote, and 18 as mature enough to marry. So at what age is an individual considered mature enough to decide which faith he wants to embrace? The answer for non-Malays is: any age. For the Malays, the question is purely academic. They have absolutely no say in their choice of religious beliefs.

For more about the topic, do read "Fundamental Human Rights and Religious Apostasy", posted on the Malaysian Bar Council website. Very enlightening.

Saturday, November 10, 2012


I don't drive anymore, so when the Automated Enforcement System (AES) was introduced, I couldn't understand why there was such vehement protest from car owners and drivers. After all, it would discourage speeding and help reduce the high mortality rate on the roads.

That was before a friend sent me a video last week that revealed the real story behind the AES controversy. If you have yet to view this interview with William Leong Jee Keen (MP For Selayang), I think you should, especially if you own a car. Note the numbers he quotes. Unbelievable, but Malaysians have come to view revelations like these as no longer surprising.

Penang has delayed the implementation of the AES while Selangor has suspended it until further notice. MP for Rembau and UMNO Youth Chief Khairy Jamaluddin has called on the government to defer implementing the AES until all the inherent weaknesses of the system are rectified.

From yesterday's Malay Mail 9 Nov. The total amount has since shot up
to over RM7m and climbing steadily even as I write.

There are conflicting reports on the number of summonses issued, and the total amount collected. So take your pick from the Road Transport Department (RTD), the mainstream media, or the alternative online media.

To date, a total camera of 831 cameras have been installed - 566 units at speed traps and 265 units at traffic lights. Of these units, 14 have been in operation since September.

The AES has been implemented in over 90 countries in the world, including the UK, France and Germany. While few would argue against the effectiveness of the AES in reducing road accidents, many would question where the money is going to and who stands to profit from the large sums collected in fines.

According to Malaysian Insider, "The two firms awarded the contract to implement the enforcement system — ATES Sdn Bhd and Beta Tegap — will spend between RM300 million and RM400 million each to set up traffic cameras at 831 “black spots” nationwide. Both ATES and Beta Tegap are entitled to RM16 per valid summons for the first five million issued. They will then split the remaining revenue evenly with the government up to a cap of RM270 million each.

The firms will each receive 7.5 per cent from the remaining revenue and the government will keep the rest."

Sounds like profit-making is at the core of the AES system, rather than the much-touted goal of reducing the number of road fatalities.

For a list of AES locations, click on the link below.

AES Camera Installation Location List

Thursday, November 8, 2012


I was out the whole day yesterday at back to back meetings till 10pm. I missed out on all the US elections excitement on TV.

With our own national elections coming up anytime, there's much we can learn from the US elections, both the good and the bad - from media coverage and the way the candidates campaigned, to how funds were raised.

The 2012 presidential campaign was the most expensive in US history - over two billion US dollars spent on campaign ads, rallies and parties! At a time when US unemployment remains at close to 8%, even a fraction of that astronomical sum could have been put to better use.

All that money, and in the end NOTHING much has changed. Obama remains in the White House, and Congress remains in gridlock with the Republicans in control of the House of Representatives and the Democrats the Senate.

Obladi Obama, life goes on, brah
La la how the life goes on...

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


From The Straits Times

If you were residing in the US, you would either be suffering from campaign ad nauseum or from election fever. The relentless blitz of media coverage of the elections is finally coming to an end. Today US citizens go to the polls.

What strikes me most about the run-up to the US elections is how both presidential candidates are given equal media exposure, whether on TV, radio or in print. There are up to the minute polls that reflect public opinion on issues that would affect their choice of candidates - Obama or Romney.

From The Straits Times
In the 2011 Singapore elections, the Straits Times and other local media gave coverage to candidates from the ruling party as well as from the opposition, with the ruling party enjoying a slight edge in terms of media time and space.

The Students' Political Association of the National University of Singapore recently conducted an online survey to find out students' views on certain key issues affecting Singaporeans. 400 undergrads took the survey. The results were published in The Straits Times today.

From NST
To my knowledge, opposition candidates in Malaysia are rarely seen or mentioned in the local mainstream media (MSM). The exception is opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim. The New Straits Times (NST) has a daily column featuring a past quote from him. I am assuming the aim is to discredit him and show him up as inconsistent in what he says.

My point is this, will Malaysians ever see a fair and balanced coverage of candidates in the coming elections? Or do we have to resort to online alternative media to know more about opposition candidates?

Will the MSM have the courage to conduct polls to rate the present government's handling of major issues such as poverty eradication, corruption and education?

Malaysians probably know the answers.