Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Dream Traveller

In my entire life, the only other country that I've ever been was Singapore, and that was in my teens decades ago; the only place I travelled by flight was to Sarawak and back when I served there for 3 years as a teacher. I can conclude that in my entire life (till today), I've never actually stepped beyond Malaysia & Singapore while some lucky 10-year-old kid has been to Hong Kong Disneyland, and would be going to Australia end of this year. How I wish that kid was me instead.

I was never born a traveller. I dislike the inconvenience and the tiresome journey after spending hours on the airplane and in transit. Over the past 2 years, especially after my Big-D, friends and relatives have been advising me to get out of my comfort zone and see the world as I'm now a free man. I have been kind of reluctant when I thought of the air fare and the distance.

However, I've come to realise something. I won't live forever; now I'm blogging this post. Tomorrow, I may be gone six feet underground. Life is THAT fragile as we don't know when God will call us home. Before this happens, I am determined to travel though I'm not too sure if I'd do it alone, with a partner, or a group. For someone whose mouth contains tonnes of gold, I think it's wise to go in a group for a start. I'm not rich, despite what others think. Half my salary goes to paying fixed monthly debts, a huge chunk goes to the utility companies, while the rest ... well, I still need my necessities, don't I... leaving nothing much for travelling, and a negative bank balance if I did.

But I'm determined to travel at least once a year. Perhaps to Singapore once more to see the changes - not that I could remember much, anyway. Thereafter, I need to venture away from the little island and see what other continents have to offer. If you've not seen the world, you've read only a page of a book.

Right now, my cup of life is not even half full. I want to fill it up till it overflows if I can. I want to die a well-travelled person, touch the soil of other nations, taste new culinary delights, take snapshots of beautiful beaches and ancient architectures. It's not too late to start. Sounds like a dream? Maybe... maybe not. I think God is all merciful, and He won't take me away so soon. Touch wood!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Facebook is Great, or Is It?

Paul: Hi, I've not seen you in a long time. How have you been?
Pearl: I'm doing good, thanks. Been pretty busy with work actually.
Paul: Oh, really? I thought you've gone MIA.
Pearl: Nah, still here though it's not the best place to be. Look, I've got to run ok?
Paul: OK, sure. By the way, do you have a Facebook account? I'll add you in.
Pearl: That's great.

People, what has happened to the conservative way of exchanging business cards and telephone numbers? The former is purely for business interactions, no more for social relationships - except perhaps in Japan. Exchanging handphone numbers used to be the norm, but now we'd add in Facebook as well.

Just like the iPad fad, Facebooking has become too popular as well; it has become a social networking phenomenon the past few years. It's so easy to set up an account that even an 8-year-old (or younger) could create an account on his own, and I'm not exaggerating.

I've never delved much into Facebook until the past two years when I started connecting to friends, and I've been actively using it in recent months to communicate with my students and long-lost buddies (if they're still alive, that is). I've noticed that the Facebook administrators have been updating the site with more features which enable users to get connected even easier. However some new features actually expose unsuspecting users to newer threats. We are now concerned with not only privacy invasions and identity thefts, but also criminal acts like virtual stalking that could possibly lead to abduction. Yup, I'm talking about this craze of using a new feature known as "Check-in" where Facebook is able to track your location (because you allow it to do so) thus allowing you to keep in touch with your friends, and telling them where you are. It works like a GPS. The only benefit I see is that your daddy would at least know where you are, if you're still in possession with your phone by then.

Watch this video clip, and hope you'd make the right move. For me, I'd just stick to what Facebook is meant to be used as - a social networking tool, not a tool to announce my whereabouts every second of the day.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Price of Technology

Technology helps; technology destroys. Which one would you prefer?

Go to any restaurant and look around you. The place is crowded, yet silent. You see families with kids, yet you don't hear sounds of children whining and crying from the tables around you. Yup, they have been sedated by a new tranquilizer called technology. You see them holding phones and tablet PCs in their hands as they wait for the food to be served. It's not uncommon to see everyone in the family staring at their own handheld devices sending messages, playing games or surfing the Net. What has happened to family interaction? It's quite dead, actually. Mommy doesn't talk to daddy; little boy/girl is in his own world immersed in his "Plants and Zombies" game.

You'll see the same scene at home. Daddy is watching television, mommy is blogging her latest travel adventure, their teenage son is engrossed in Facebooking, oblivious to what is happening in the house. They hardly ever go to the park as a family anymore, have a picnic, talk about anything under the sun. 

Ask any teen about what Merdeka is about, the contributions of former politicians to the nation, the world's population, names of capital cities, the causes of tsunami... chances are, they know nothing much, or nothing at all because all they ever do when given an assignment is copy wholesale and paste into Microsoft Word, ready to be submitted to their teacher a soon as they could. I recently gave my students a topic on how to overcome gangsterism in schools. Guess what?  Even with my assistance, it took them some time to think of the points and elaborations. That's what copying and pasting does to students. 

Sad, huh?

Thursday, September 1, 2011


It's not very often that I get a long break. This time, because of Hari Raya and compulsory leave, I got the whole week off, and here I am at my sister's place in KL. The road is still clogged with cars though, if you drive out at peak hours.

The first thing I noticed when I got into my sister's house was the presence of a ubiquitous device - a machine that needs no introduction, a gadget that all 4-year-olds would beg for their next birthday. Yup, it's the iPad. I saw not only one, but three iPads. That's one each for my brother-in-law, one for my sister and one for my 8-year-old niece. They were using it not for work but for playing Smurf, Baking Dash and stuff like that, as well as making full use of its Wifi capability to surf the Internet. I'm not gonna ask if they had actually bought three, but I think I heard my bro-in-law saying that one belonged to his mother who lives just next door.

What's this thing with the iPad that has everyone, from tiny tots to adults, go a gaga? To find out, I got hold of my niece's iPad when she wasn't using it. Well, now I know why this expensive toy is a craze. It's not the price that matters, it's the technology that comes with it that everyone finds irresistible. A capacitive touch screen (just a light touch to activate the icons), crystal clear screen, zooming in and out by "pinching" the screen with your fingers and flipping page-by-page with your index finger. There are plenty of games (mostly paid ones) that could keep a kid silent for hours, giving adults lots of tranquility, and time to do their chores. Yeah, I must admit that I'm hooked to it, but not to the extent of being so highly addictive till I'd forget my meals.

Would I get one myself? As much as I'd like to, I won't. I've already spent a fortune on my credit card and utility bills as well as repaying the house and car loans to finance companies. At over RM1,500  I could have meals, groceries and household needs. With the same amount of money, I'd rather get a brand new LCD television so that I could enjoy some good movies at home, or just save the amount for a rainy day.

Indeed... the iPad is meant for those who could afford it. If you can't, then don't burn a big hole in your pocket just because your kid has been bugging you nuts day in and day out.