Thursday, December 29, 2011

We must not forget

Despite having lived for seven years without a credit card, I find myself easily slipping back into the "swiping" lifestyle: didn't bring enough cash? No problem! Swipe! And it's so, so, so dangerous.

Lessons learned must stay learned, or I shall return to my trusty debit card and spurn credit once again. I feel like I've been on a crazy shopping spree in the last half of this year. But it's all for the apartment... so I think (hope?) things will settle down to normalcy again in a month or so. Or else!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Santa, are you listening? ...oh wait, too late! Darn!

I want an iPhone4. Gahhh after all these years I have finally succumbed to The Lure. But I am refusing to buy myself one because I know I don't really need it. It's just that it would make certain things (like finding particular SMSes) more convenient, and... well, okay, I admit it. It's 'cool'. Gahhhh. I can't believe I just said that.

People constantly say we're living in a consumerist society but I never realised the full truth of that statement till I bought my netbook last month. See, with my PC, I bought the various parts and had them assembled, so I could get the specs I want. But with the netbook, I simply wanted something functional that I could use for word processing.

I walked into the store and was instantly bombarded with prices and specs lists: For RM800 you get this, but if you add another RM100 you can get something with a slightly faster processor perhaps, and if you add RM200 to that you can get something with a slightly bigger screen that would be easier to see, and so on so forth. It never ends! First you think: "Oh, what's RM100? That's little enough, I might as well get the better model" and then you think, "If I'm going to add RM100, I might as well add RM200; after all, I want this thing to last me for at least 2 or 3 years" and then before you know it, your RM800 purchase has turned into an RM1,500 purchase (and you get a full laptop instead of a little netbook!). The temptation to "upsize" simply never goes away.

The hell of it is that it's so easy to get sucked in. We all want bigger, better, faster, stronger. Why not, right? We are taught "you get what you pay for" (or, as Malaysians say, "Good thing no cheap, cheap thing no good"). And if all you have to do is add RM1 for a large value meal, or RM100 for a netbook with a slightly faster processor... well, why not?

My parents would be truly delighted to know all their years of brainwashing *cough* training have paid off. The reason I can't bring myself to buy an iPhone is because I know I don't need it. In the same way, I don't think I truly need to be connected to the Internet 24/7, and getting an iPhone without a data plan seems to defeat the purpose. I WANT it though. Oh, how I want it!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Price tags speaketh louder than words

The most expensive thing in my new apartment will be the custom-made 12' x 8' bookcase, which is estimated to cost RM3,200. The second most expensive thing is my new queen-sized mattress, which cost RM2,500. I think you can see where my priorities lie :p

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thirty thankful thoughts: The beginning

I sort of quit reading blogs three years ago (at about the same time that all my blogs died a sudden and most untimely death), but one of the very few bloggers that I still read on and off is John Scalzi. He's a science fiction writer -- I have some of his books but haven't read them, as is the case with 80% of my books :p

His blog is not about his books, however. At least, not primarily. I like it because when I read it, I get a glimpse of the person behind the books. In fact, I bought his books because of his blog: I thought, "This guy has a great sense of humour -- I bet his books must be interesting! I only wish I could write like he does!"

For the month of November, he's writing about the things he's grateful for -- focusing on one thing each day. Personally, I feel inspired after reading them, and think I might try something similar. I really, really wish I could write like him.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Coming through!

I have come to the conclusion that I am constitutionally incapable of driving slowly.

The other day the weather was good, highway traffic was clear and I was in no particular hurry. I told myself, "Self, let's take a leisurely drive back." I tried VERY HARD to keep to 90kph but it was tough going. So much so that after 10 minutes, I said to myself, "Self, sod it," and zoomed the rest of the way home at 160kph.

Also, in the city, you are TOO SLOW if:

(a) You are in front of me
(b) You are in the fast lane
(c) There are no other cars in front of you for at least two to three car lengths
(d) You are doing less than 100kph.

MOVE IT ALREADY, or get out of my way!

I am not impatient (or at least I don't consider myself to be) and I don't get angry and yell or curse at other drivers -- heck, I hardly even honk and almost never flash my headlights at the car in front, except on the 3-lane PLUS Highway -- but really I cannot understand oblivious drivers who block the whole road!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Colour conundrum

"Here, you can choose the pattern you want for the bathroom door." The contractor handed me what looked like a bar with several different coloured plastic squares.

As I stared at it, he said, "You don't need to decide now. In fact, you should probably decide on your wall and door colours first so that you can order a bathroom door that will match your general decor." Then he gave me the paint catalogue: A thousand shades.

A thousand!

"Choosing a shade of paint for the house is like trying to win the lottery," I joked to my colleague. "What if you finish painting and then decide you don't like the colour after all?!"

I want the living room to be a pale purple, my bedroom to be light blue and the rest of the house to be soft cream.

Me: "Do you have any colour preference for your room?"

Mr TDH: "Anything is fine by me."

Me: "Okay, I'll paint your room pink."

Mr TDH: "I'm moving out!"

Monday, November 14, 2011

2011: The year of firsts

Over the weekend, I bought a netbook. To use for writing my Master's thesis.

When (if?) I have kids, I'll be telling them, "Your mother didn't have mobile computing and Internet access until she was 33!" I never had a laptop coz I never felt I had a need for one; with a desktop in the office and a desktop at home I figured I had all bases covered. After all, I'm not some big-shot businessman who travels all over the world and needs to work on the go.

So, 2011: The year I got both an iPod Touch (first ever Apple product!) and a netbook.

Oh, and the year I bought an apartment.

Man, this practically makes it a LANDMARK YEAR!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The unnecessary post

Some days I think I am single-handedly keeping MPH afloat. I know, I know, I have inflated ideas of my own importance.

Speaking of which, a colleague handed me a copy of the July 2011 Reader's Digest. It was meh. I grew up reading RD and used to love reading it primarily for the funnies, not just Laughter, the Best Medicine and All in a Day's Work, but also the little snippets at the end of most articles. These days there's hardly anything, and a lot of the jokes aren't even amusing, let alone funny.

I'm also not sure I like the skew towards more articles about people or events based in Asia. Trying too hard to be relevant, perhaps. The stories aren't even gripping or as poignant as they used to be, and I zoomed through the whole book in about an hour or so.

Now with the Internet, there is so much more to read, and just no time to read it all. The Internet is good for short write-ups, but I like lying in bed with a book, and however much Mr TDH champions digital readers, I still prefer reading the printed word. There is something about reading things on a screen that make them seem a lot more "flat" to me. Perhaps it's just unreasonable prejudice.

The reason why I don't post often is because I write a post like this one and then think about how I'm adding to the vast sum of stuff to be read on the Internet, and how this is just going to suck up 3 minutes of some poor, unsuspecting soul's time (5, perhaps, if he's a slow reader) -- 3 minutes he'll never be able to get back again. He won't be any the worse for not having read this, and he won't be any the better for having done so, either. The futility of it all gets me. As it is, I am also spending 10 minutes pounding this out when I could be reading something inspiring, moving, amusing or thought-provoking.

Monday, August 22, 2011


I am having speaker envy because my office roommate has better-quality audio speakers than I do. I usually never notice these sort of things, so the sound quality must be pretty disparate. Or maybe I've been infected by the group of guy friends I often hang out with -- Mr TDH and his posse.

*      *      *      *      *      *

When I was a child, adults would tell me not to make things up, warning me of what would happen if I did. As far as I can tell so far it seems to involve lots of foreign travel and not having to get up too early in the morning.
—Neil Gaiman, in the introduction to Smoke and Mirrors

*      *      *      *      *      *

Am I really the only one who wonders why instead of uneatable we have inedible, and instead of unexplainable we have inexplicable? I really like the word "inexplicable", by the way.

A sure sign

You know your housemate knows you too well when you tell him you're going to host wild parties while he's away and he snorts in disbelief.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

I am a teacher.

I do not know when I started thinking of myself as a writer. I can't even remember when I started writing; the only thing that is clear is I began writing letters to a dear childhood friend when my family moved to a different town. We were both seven. I answered letters promptly; he did not. It frustrated me.

This began a long career of letter-writing, where I was always destined to be the more frequent correspondent. At one point in my teen years I had 30 pen-pals -- thirty! But most of them hardly wrote, and I would wait months for a reply.

It seemed I could not stop writing. The letter writing didn't segue into stories, for all I would make them up in my head; instead, for some reason I began composing poetry instead. Very bad poetry. Adults told me it was good -- some of it even got published in our church newsletter. Today I wince each time I think about that. Perhaps it was just that in our little town they didn't know anyone else who wrote poetry, so to them it was a wondrous thing? I'm not sure.

The attachment to writing caused me to choose journalism as a career. I love writing, journalism involves writing, what could be more perfect? Of course, later I realised that although journalism involves writing, it is definitely only a particular style of writing. And then I discovered blogging. It was a way for me to write the things I wanted to write, the way I wanted to write them. In keeping with my earlier madness of having 30 pen-pals, I began to actively update 6 different blogs, each for a different purpose or subject. It seemed like I just couldn't write enough.

When I started teaching, I still privately thought of myself as a writer. It was the identity I'd held for so long that I was simply unable to imagine myself as a teacher, despite facing classes of 20 or more students every morning. But I found myself writing less and less as I immersed myself in my new career. I discovered a joy there which writing had never brought me. Writing is cathartic sometimes, an outlet for expression, but although it can be satisfying it is not fun. Spilling out words on a page is often easy for me, but it is a solitary activity and I love interacting with my students, despite being an introvert.

Slowly, so slowly I don't know exactly when it happened, I stopped thinking of myself as a writer and started thinking of myself as a teacher instead. Today, I can finally say that I am a teacher, not a writer. I don't know if I'll ever be a writer again.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Death... and faith

    The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.
    —Mark Twain

Two weeks after my grandma's passing, I am still thinking about death. Not in a grieving way, for I'm not sad about her -- just relieved that she had felt no pain, died peacefully, was free from the weak body that I felt had stripped her of much dignity in her old age. No, I've been thinking about it in a wondering way.

Anyone who has looked upon a lifeless body lying in a coffin surely must have the sense that what remains there is merely an empty shell. I don't know how atheists explain it, but when I looked at my grandma's body I was pretty certain that she was gone, the essence of her. She was no longer here. What was there bore no resemblance to the grandma I knew, except that it had her face and form. But the vital spark was missing. The soul.

I think I understand now why so many religions believe in life after death, whether it is reincarnation, heaven and hell, or some other philosophy. When you look at the body lying there, you just know that the soul has left; hence it must perforce go somewhere, even if that means it is to roam the earth in invisible form among the rest of us. That's why we say the body is "lifeless": the life has left, it is now... somewhere else. Where, we may not know for sure, but definitely not here!

Death is, of course, the Great Unknown. Religions try to comfort us by putting names and descriptions to this Unknown, but intellectually we can't ever be sure that any one of them are the truth. This is why it's called "faith"; as defined in the Bible, "Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see." (Hebrews 11:1) And so I believe that it is impossible to argue anybody into any religious faith, nor can you necessarily convince them that yours is true. Faith is not something that one can reason out or be intellectually convinced of. We are talking about things that are unseen, mysteries that are veiled. It may be that we will never have incontrovertible proof of our faith, yet millions around the world still cling to their own deities and personal beliefs.

To say that faith is a crutch, a way to explain the inexplicable, to comfort ourselves by saying "This person is now in a better place," is... well, perhaps there might be a grain of truth in that. However, ruling out the unknown or the unfathomable simply because one cannot understand it or does not have any concrete proof -- that, too, is either a form of faith, or denial ;)  I respect the agnostic, who simply says, "I do not know." That is honest.

So if you ask me, I don't know why, but I do believe that my grandma is in a better place; that she is free of her weak and ailing body, free from pain and suffering, and that I will meet her again one day. In the end, I can't explain my faith, because it simply is.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Are we there yet?

As time goes by, I get more and more impatient to move. The first document I ever signed with regards to the apartment purchase was dated 16 April, and it's now 9 August. Time seems to plod by.

Sometimes I worry that I'm building it all up too much in my head, and that when the time comes to take possession and move into the apartment, it will turn out to be an anti-climax. I have such dreams and hopes and desires all bound up in that block of concrete. Perhaps I am romanticising it too much? I ask myself. It is not likely to be the answer to all my dreams any more than getting married would be.

But anyway, the planning is fun. I have bought 4 dinner plates and a set of six glasses -- growing up, we had a motley assortment of mugs to drink from, most received as free gifts with various purchases at the supermarket; but there were also the "nice glasses", the ones that came in a set, ones you'd rinse out and use when guests came to visit. And so I find myself thinking, "I must have nice glasses." Then I find myself thinking of matching cutlery, and there you go, I'm on a slippery slope downhill! At least I haven't bought any cutlery yet. YET.

For weeks I drove around with a huge-ass beanbag in the non-existent boot of my car -- I drive a two-door hatchback (Proton Satria Neo) and so had to fold down the back seats to make space for that monster of a beanbag, 3 feet in diameter at the base. Then my parents arrived in town and I had to haul it out of the car to make space for them, and now it's sitting in a blob in my living room among all of the boxes. I really can't wait to move.

"Why are you looking at furniture now?" my mother asked. "There's no hurry," and I couldn't explain that it is more or less the only thing I can do at the moment, since the transaction process is moving so slowly, and is largely out of my hands. It's the banks, the lawyers, and the property valuers (THREE WEEKS to get a property valuation report!) and their red tape that is holding things up. Bureaucracy is alive and well in Malaysia. And so since I'm waiting, there is nothing else to do but plan and hope and dream -- and buy furniture. And other household stuff.

Of course, it helps that Hari Raya is around the corner and so there are sales everywhere. Suddenly I am buying 600-thread-count sheets: it seems that when you buy a horrendously expensive mattress, you end up needing horrendously expensive sheets to go with it, because the mattress is 13 inches thick and normal sheets won't fit! Plus, it's a queen-sized mattress and all my existing sheets are for a single bed, so... "It's necessity," I told myself, and refused to feel guilty. And then I decided I might as well go the whole hog and bought two feather pillows. They've taken the place of the huge-ass beanbag in the boot of my car. At least I don't need to fold the back seat down for them.

Every time I buy something for the apartment I roll my eyes at myself and think of having to transport it over later. Most of the furniture can be delivered directly from the stores -- they'll hold the item at the agreed price if you pay a deposit -- but smaller items like the dinner plates, glasses, beanbag? Uh-huh. And don't forget mine is a walk-up apartment on the FIFTH FLOOR. Oh yes, it's going to be fun :p

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Hiding behind a smokescreen

I am utterly crap at bargaining, a fact which was first brought to my attention when I went to Bali some years ago. It isn't so surprising when you remember I don't like confrontation, and although bargaining might be friendly it is still a form of confrontation. I have a lot of trouble standing my ground when a) I really like & want the item, b) I'm not sure whether I'm in the right to demand the price I'd like, and c) the salesperson/store owner is trying to wear me down with persuasiveness and aggressive sales tactics.

In fact, I have issues with sales people, period. I know it is a problem but I really feel bad saying no to them... although I know, intellectually, that they are trained and prepared for the fact that someone might say no. I even feel bad when I try on clothes and nothing fits or looks nice, and then have to tell the saleslady that I don't want any of the 5 items I brought into the dressing room with me!

Imagine how much worse it is when the salesperson is pushy and aggressive and, well, you get the picture...

Anyway. So in all this shopping for furniture, I, um... just happened to invent an imaginary husband. The first time the salesperson kept pressing me to make a decision on the spot, I blurted out, "I have to consult my husband first," and it's been a very useful way of escaping whenever they get a bit too aggressive for me to handle. I wonder what the future hubby, whoever he is, will think of this when he finds out! I feel like a bit of a coward :-\

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The reasoning

I never did explain why I want a chaise lounge so much: it's going to be the place where I curl up to read, my personal hangout spot (not that the whole apartment wouldn't be that, but this will be special, you see?). I've never had that in any place I've ever stayed. Most of the time I lie in bed to read, but it's not really the most comfortable position -- and not good for the eyes, or so they say. So I'm going to have a spot where I can lounge in comfort and read, with a reading lamp peeking over my shoulder to illuminate the words on the page.

I was inspired by a picture in a book, which I surreptitiously took a photo of using my iPod Touch, and forgot to note the name of the book itself. Things like that irk me, they make me feel that my blog post is not complete. "Attribution! Attribution!" my inner OCD journalist-cum-academic yells at me. Blimey!

No one is going to spend as much time in the apartment as I am, and frankly, I don't really expect many visitors, being as that it's on the 5th floor and there's no lift ;)  So I figure I shall furnish the place for myself, and if that means a chaise lounge instead of a sofa (because there probably isn't room for both), then so be it.

I'm also considering a small aquarium, to have something that's alive around me. Why fish? Easy to care for, although you can't really have a relationship with them like you can with a dog; but practical for an apartment, and I figure I can choose pretty fish which will double up as decor and make me feel happy when I see them. But in a strange way, even though they're just going to be swimming around in their tank, they'll be a reason for me to go home, and I think will make me feel like I'm not going back to an empty apartment where there's nobody to care whether I'm there or not.

Or maybe I'll get a hamster. Just because they're cute :p

Image from

Friday, July 15, 2011

Long live practicality

I spent some time looking at interior design books in MPH a few weeks ago, and it was dangerous, because -- ah, me! -- how would a normal person like me ever able to afford a house and furniture like that? But more, I doubt I'm ever going to be the kind of person to have a picture-perfect home like that, because for one thing, um... well. My home would probably look more "lived in" than "showcase" :p

There is a lot more of my parents in me than I ever realised, which I discovered when I visited IKEA recently. There are a lot of pretty things which are simply impractical and would gather too much dust: take this Fillsta ceiling lamp, for example.

Image from

So I found myself walking around and thinking, "Oooh, interesting design, pity about the dust... so pretty, but ugh, dust... that one, hmm, dust..."

It's a bit scary, come to think of it.

At 33 I guess practicality has begun to win out over aesthetics, and even over vanity(!). So although open bookshelves have more character, I'd rather have glass doors to keep the dust out; and knickknacks, well, I can hear my mom's voice in my head saying, "They just sit there and gather dust." I like having little touches and decorative items here and there, but I know I'm not the type to dust every week... If I were rich, I suppose I'd compromise and hire a maid to do the dusting for me!

Growing up does suck sometimes :p

It's easy to tell yourself you'll only buy things you really like for the home. Then you find out that the glass-topped dining table you really like costs RM1,250, and the 5ft x 5ft L-shaped study desk won't fit in your room no matter which way you try to position it. But never mind, I shall have my CHAISE LOUNGE and my BEANBAGS. Take that, life! Nyah nyah nyah!!!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

On Sunflower's mind

A chance link to a friend's blog (which I didn't know she had) made me want to write again. Writing from the heart, that holds the voice of a person, always inspires me to write. It reminds me what it's like to connect with others through the written word.

The main thing on my mind these days is furniture and decorating. I just bought an apartment. Haven't moved in yet, and already I'm wishing I had more space. Although my colleague who recently moved back from Hong Kong tells me that 850 square feet is loads of space!

I've never had my own place before, and it's funny how my mentality changed once I knew that this was going to be mine. Before, I didn't care about cutlery and dinnerware, as long as I had plates and cups and forks and spoons to use. Now I'm dreaming about having matched sets, pretty things that will make me feel happy when I use them in my new home. It's really weird.

From "I won't do any major renovations", I'm now contemplating putting in built-in bookshelves for all my books. But well! I do have a lot of books, I argue with myself, and it would be nice if I could have them all back here, in my own home, instead of sitting in boxes in my brother's storeroom. The only thing I worry about is having uncles and aunts come over and then ask me how much those bookshelves cost. You don't know my family. It's going to be all, "Why did you spend so much money on something unnecessary?" (In my family, unless you'll die without it, it's considered unnecessary. And therefore expendable.)

But you can never have perfection, and so instead of the lovely natural wooden colour I'd love to have for my bookshelves, like so:

Image from

-- instead of this colour, I've decided to opt for white, simply because white will make the room look larger; this kind of colour is too dark for a small room. It's a compromise I'm making out of necessity. In general, white is my least favourite colour, because it gets dirty so easily, is difficult to maintain (especially on clothing) and is so stark. It has no personality.

I'm also having to think about my style, what kind of style I want my home to have, especially in the living room. I've always known I'm not a minimalistic type. The very thought would make any of my friends laugh their heads off! Super modern steel and glass stuff is not me either; that's too sterile and soulless for me. Antiques are too stiff and usually rather uncomfortable. I want furniture that will be so comfortable to sit on, I could plonk myself down on the couch and fall asleep. Welcoming furniture, you know. Homey furniture. Like bean bags.

Although I also want a chaise lounge. I saw something like this and have been dreaming of it ever since:

Image from

It was very comfortable! I'm told it wouldn't "go" with bean bags but I don't care :p