Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Reunion 2010 - Science Class of ‘64

From Left:The Organisers - OPs Teck Wah and Weng Yin with Rashid and Mun Yue

From Left:The Early Birds - OPs Yassin,Osman,Mr Leslie Fredericks ( Guest of Honour), Ah Choy and Weng Yin

From Left: Before Lunch - OPs Hank,Hamid,Osman,Ah Choy,Gear,Sin Fah and Ronald

From Left: Farewell - Front Row - OPs Weng Yin,Ain,Teck Wah,Aji,Mun Yue,Suki & Hank
Back Row - Osman,Ah Choy, Hamid, David, Rizal,Yassin,Gurdial,Sin Fah,Cecil,Rashid & Kurien

Barely a week after our Class of ’64 reunion of April 24, 2010, OP Weng Yin called. Together with OP Teck Wah he was organizing one mainly for his science classmates. However, he said he was opening it also to those likeable 'budak boys' like me as well – thank you very much! ( fondly referred to as a 'budak boy' from the Boy's Wing before but now it is a 'putera')

I had then called up a few other likeable fellas , just to help out. There was a frenzy of emails and phone calls as usual. The total confirmed no. eventually came to about 25 of a mixed science and arts guys of Class of '64. This according to OP Weng Yin should be a manageable crowd considering the venue.

Mr Leslie Fredericks our then science teacher was traced and did us proud as the Guest of Honour. He had graciously brought along his spouse as our special guest as well.

The reunion was held at the UM Academic Staff Association Club just off Jalan Universiti in Sec. 12, P.J. on May 15, 2010. Slated for a lunch gathering between 1130 – 1500 hrs we thought time was enough. No, it was not to be!

Those who had made it a point to come just couldn’t wait. At 1130 hrs itself about half the no. were already there. Some had not set eyes on each other since 1964 ie since leaving the alma mater . They just couldn’t wait. OP Ah Choy, with his gracious wife who came all the way from S’pore, came the furthest ( he is currently a Prof at the S’pore National Univ.) OP Sin Fah down from Ipoh and OP Suki from S’ban.

Those locally, trooped in as they came, caught in the lunch-time jam that began building up at that hour. Finally, 20 managed to make it.

How did it go? It was boisterous, noisy with much laughter. There were huggings from some upon arrival ( 45 yrs can you imagine? ) The huggings were not spontaneous. They approached and eyed each other quizzically. Each gave the other a onceover. ( each trying to make out from the graying hair or with no hair from how they picture each other of yesteryears) Once when they were certain would all the huggings , shouts and laughter happen – much to each other’s delight and relief! It was hilarious.

Then the ever wonderful compact cameras kept clicking . Half a dozen cameras all the time. Everyone wanted to be in, few wanted to do the clicking. The ever helpful waiters but unskilled 'photographers' had to do it. ( that explained why some photos did not show the feet but left a lot of space above the heads ) Anyway, time just passed us on and everyone had a great time and it was a great day!

How did they make out? How did the fledging adolescents make out into adult life. The no. present was not exhaustive as there were ‘absentees’ who didn’t make it to the reunion. However, looking at the 20 who came that day, let’s see. There were:

5 doctors ( all in medicine, one in semi-retirement, others still in practice)
5 engineers ( one, a Prof in S’pore while the rest have their own outfits)
3 ex-naval officers ( one was a naval architect ,now on his own, while 2 rose to high positions in the navy where 1 was a Laksamana Pertama)
2 PhDs ( one, a Prof, an LSE alumni, currently in UKM while the other is a retired top Govt civil servant)
2 lawyers ( one, a law Prof currently in Universiti Malaya while the other is a prominent corporate lawyer who had handled many high powered cases)
1 chemist and 2 others (happily retired from top management positions in the private sector)

That’s the 20 and between them, 6 had been made Datuks. But when we met on May 15, at the reunion, we were ranting, hollering and hugging like schoolboys again as though it was just like yesterday!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The American Idol … and then there were two…

The American Idol has now come to its climax, the Grand Finale. This was decided last Tuesday ( aired direct locally at 1800hrs (6.00pm) Wednesday night, the 19th May, via satellite ) when Casey James was eliminated.

From the thousands of hopefuls when they first auditioned early in the year, it is now whittled down to the last two finalists, Lee DeWyze and Crystal Bowersox (female) , a couple. The Final is slated for next week May 25th , same time and day.

Both Lee and Crystal are not just talented vocalists but also strum the guitar whenever the song demands. And besides that Crystal would also play the harmonica at the same time or play the piano. This make them way above the local ones.

Academi Fantasia, Mentor and a few of the new ones just push for ‘vocals’. Very few showed prowess in engaging an instrument, a guitar or piano and such like.

I am not into songs and dance as such but the American Idol presented itself with a lot of surprises, more so during auditions. It was just hilarious and at times dramatic ( when those who failed their auditions would curse and shout obscenities in front of the camera)

The hilarious ones remained and were appreciated for originality. One that remained imprinted in my mind was that of William Hung ( ?a naturalized Hongkie) from season 3, 2004. He was an electrical engineering student from Univ of California, Berkeley. He sang in a typical Chinese style and butchered , Ricky Martin’s ‘She Bangs’ that (even though he failed the audition) he was very ‘successsful’. He cut some song and dance routines later, got onto the charts and made lots of money despite a failure! ( His 2004 CD ‘Inspirations’ hit the Billboard Top 40 Charts and he swore he made US$1mil after ‘Idol’)

Another that left an impact was ‘Pants on the Ground’ from this year’s season 9 hopeful (who called himself ‘General’ Larry Platt ) a hobo looking’ 62 yr old coloured guy. Almost everyone, from high school kids, a politician, pub singers and others were shown later doing the same routine on TV – such was the impact! It was just plain funny, that’s why.

The lyrics did not do full justice ( should see the video) but here it is in any case.

Pants on the ground
Lookin’ like a fool with your pants on the ground
With the gold in your mouth, hat turned sideways
Pants hit the ground, call yourself a cool cat
Lookin’ like a fool, walkin’ to the town
With your pants on the ground!

Apparently at this juncture, after 9 seasons (nine years) the ratings are beginning to drop. ‘Judge’ Paula Abdul left earlier. The infusion of interesting replacements Cara and Ellen Degeneres did a lot to retain the ratings. Now, with the showy and ever critical Simon Cowell leaving next season, it would be bad. There were moves to change the format but it remains to be seen. This is typical of reality shows. The novelty of it wears away.

Donald Trump’s ‘The Apprentice’ was the rage about a decade ago. It had to adjust into some innovative spin-offs like ‘ Celebrity Apprentice’ to maintain viewer’s interests.

I remember decades ago too, seeing and hearing those older than me, discussing TV’s (black and white) popular serials (no reality shows back then) such as ‘Peyton Place’ many an evening with all the excitements. Then later there were ‘Dallas’ and a few others. I never followed them but maybe a few episodes here and there.

However, give me comedies, ‘Saturday Night Live, Everybody Loves Raymond even Friends’ or ‘chat shows’ such as those of David Letterman, Jay Leno, Jon Stewart (not Conan – he bores me! ) or even Oprah, I would stay on!

I remember, while on attachment in New York in mid 80’s, staying up through the nights just to see a young David Letterman and re-runs of the ‘club swinging’ Johnny Carson and Ed Sullivan’s shows. It was just hilarious, and plain witty of the highest order!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Kumon Way

I have heard of it. I’ve read about it in the newspapers. I googled for it. But what is it actually? Yes, I know it has to do with learning, the Japanese way. But what is it exactly.

It says it is learning on your own. It says it builds character. More importantly, what attracts most is that those who went through the Kumon way turn out to be smart students.

I had more of the Kumon way when three little boys in my household, who are cousins, ( read : grand children) enrolled at their Kumon Centres, 2 in Kota Damansara located nearby and 1 at Melawati.

Our two boys, Norm in Std 4 while the brother Kimi in Std 2 are in Kota Damansara. They have heard about Kumon through their friends in school who are already in it. They came full of anticipation. They started on Thursday April 29, 2010 and subsequently on every Thursdays and Tuesdays for 45 mins . Their cousin, Nabil a 4 year- old had started about I month earlier in Melawati.

What and how is the Kumon way, then. Simply put, the Kumon way is solely about establishing a habit at a tender age which they would endure for life. That’s all. That’s all there is to it.

Following a briefing and a discussion with the ‘Principal’ of the centre I picked up some pointers about how they go about it.

1. Mental Strength:
Mental strength is emphasized right from day one. We used to call it mental sums. Maths worksheets are completed without finger counting and are programmed step by step. In time students would just breeze through without batting an eye-lid.
2. Concentration:
Students are expected to be disciplined in concentration. Kimi remarked that in Kumon class it is just like in the library. Every one focused in what they are doing.
3. Personal Pace:
A student works at his own pace, guided by the teacher. There is no element of force, stress, persuasion. Those attending can be of different levels at the same class but they do their own thing.
4. Programmed for each day:
Homework is set out for each day. Friday’s homework is for Friday’s, time started and time finished to be noted. Saturday's Sunday's or Monday's are not to be done on Fridays either. (You cannot eat Sat's Sun's Mon's dinner all on Fri) Students are trained to discipline their scheduling, by not leaving everything to be left for last minute cramming, neither to lump and finish everything before-hand.
5. Propensity To Study:
The end result is that the propensity to study is at a high level. The student looks forward to attend class. When at home they naturally open up to do their homework at the specific time without promptings. I’ve observed this happening within these few days of May for the two little boys. It augurs well in moulding characters and good habits. Somehow they are well motivated.

As often said there’s no end to education, how true it is for Kumon. Apparently a student can continue to come to classes when in higher Forms, even at University level, just so they feel happy and at ease by force of habit to be in the same environment.

All of the above were narrated to me of what to expect the Kumon way. The secret is in the programmed work sheets expended in class as well as for their homework. It is a tested way. (though I wonder how or are there worksheets for those at higher Forms and at the University level in view of different disciplines and specialities) This I need to get clarification just to satisfy my curiousity.

At this juncture, my only expectation is that the kids ( read: grand children) can be moulded into well adjusted individuals in their formative years with and through the Kumon way – a tested way.

Monday, May 10, 2010

A Hung Paliament and a Progressive Opposition

The British had their General Elections on May 06, 2010 and ended up with a hung paliament. Of the 649 constituencies contested, the results were Conservatives (Tories) 306, Labour 258, Liberal-Democrats (Lib-Dem) 57 and Others (smaller parties) 28.

Labour is the government of the day and the Tories were in the opposition before the elections.

It is clear then that Labour has not secured the highest number of seats. They were not readily able to form the government on their own. The Tories on the other hand at 306 is short by 20 for a simple majority. They also cannot claim to be able to wrest power unless they get the support of the Lib-Dem on their side.

It is truly therefore a hung paliament with neither side able to form a government!

This then left the Lib-Dem in a very enviable position of a king-maker. They can exploit the situation to the fullest and negotiate to their advantage because both the Tories and Labour would be wooing for their support.

A hung parliament had happened before. In all instances (1910, 1923, 1929 and 1974 ) apparently the tendency was towards a minority government and not a coalition but it had not been easy.

As expected the Lib-Dem are pinning their hopes with the Tories. The Lib-Dem leader had said that the Tories, as the biggest party, had the right to seek to form a government first.

The Tories and Lib-Dem negotiation teams were scheduled to meet yesterday, Sunday, May 09, 2010 followed by a meeting of the Tories MPs at 1800 BST on Monday, today.

The discussions would centre on points of agreements and disagreements in their respective manifestoes.

For the Tories and the Lib-Dem, there are agreements on matters relating to, Education, Environment,Civil Liberties and Tax. Points of disagreements were relating to the Economy,Defence,Immigration,the European Union and Electroral Reforms.

At this point, we need not go into details on these matters. These are domestic issues relevant to the British people. We’ll just leave it at that.

But what can we learn from this electoral process being played before our eyes .What may be of relevance to our current political situation. Are there similarities to post GE12? Let us see!

1.Manifestoes ( Britain) : All the British contenders have their respective manifestoes. They touch on national issues, they are elaborate, tested through time (they have been around) and complete with shadow cabinets.
Manifestoes (Malaysia) : Basically a similar situation (that we have been told) but may have not been tested through time for certain parties.
2.Reaction ( Britain) : Labour may not pull through. It was expected. Gordon Brown, the PM had to carry baggage inherited from Blair.
Reaction (Malaysia) :
a) . Shock! (for the BN government) It was a disaster. The exact opposite to Tun Abdullah’s 2004 triumphant showing.
b). Bigger shock! (for the opposition) The opposition won 5 states and they were bewildered, loss for words and aimless for months on end.
3.Governance ( Britain) : Cool and collected. The Lib-Dem went about to help resolve the stalemate. They appeared to be a responsible and a progressive opposition.
Governance ( Malaysia) : The BN became defensive, while the opposition changed the political climate to one never seen before, bordering on political immaturity (novices in governing) , lese majeste (Perak ex-MB’s ‘ mohon derhaka’), hooliganism ( Perak Assembly) and mass walkouts (Paliament and Perak Assembly) We have not even touched on corruption ( within just months ) which triggered off the downfall of the PAS-led government in Perak and started investigations culminating in the Teoh Beng Hock’s case in Selangor.

What is then the current situation. How has it been going?

For PM Najib and the BN it has been a turn for the better especially upon reaching the one year tenure of office recently. President Obama lauded his contributions that of a moderate Muslim state. Japan accorded its Emperor’s endorsement.

Back home PM Najib’s ratings had sky rocketed , and Ulu Selangor is safely in hand (attributed directly upon his presence on the ground in the closing stages of campaigning) Sibu due to the polls will be the coup de grace in favour of PM Najib.

What about the opposition? Lately it had never been good. Still smarting from the loss of Perak state, the loss of so many legislators ( especially MPs), loss of legal battles to delay the process of law on sodomy 2, the loss of the last two by-elections, loss all the way.

With the euphoria of winning in GE12 they came up with slogans in Penang, ‘competency, accountability and transparency ( CAT ) It remained a slogan and in one stroke Kg Buah Pala put paid to it being heard again.

Penang needs to revamp their CAT to bring it back into contention. They have to be magnanimous, orderly, understanding, service-oriented and have empathy (mouse)

Penang can then liase with other PKR states to exchange notes but then, Perak had been sent into oblivion, Kedah is teetering for survival (another Perak in the making) , Kelantan is an untouchable, always too clever by half .

So it is only with Selangor that they can exchange CAT and MOUSE stories to bring back what’s lost. It will be fun and games and it’ll keep them busy, kah! kah! kah! kah!


Sunday, May 2, 2010

Tiger it is, he's back!

There’s a good news and a bad news. The good news is, Tiger is back! The bad news is Tiger did not come back with a ‘bang’.

It cannot be him. Tiger Woods is the numero uno, the No.1 golfer in the world. It should not have happened. It was just unthinkable! It could not happen to the best player golf had ever known. Tiger is reputed to be one such player. But it did happen. It happened Friday April 30th at the Quail Hollow Championships ( April 29 – May 02, 2010) . Yes, Tiger missed the cut!

A golf tournament runs for 4 days, from Thursday through to Sunday. At the end of the second day is the cut-off point. Only those with good scores ( those with a 2-day total of less than 145 in the case of Quail Hollow) were allowed to play for the week-end, the remaining 2 days of the tournament. Tiger had an opening round of 74 on Thursday and a 79 on Friday making a total of 153. He was 8 shots above the cut-off which was way off.

Missing the cut means the golfer is a mere spectator for Saturday and Sunday. That was what happened to Tiger. This was only his second game in a PGA tournament following his 5-month self imposed temporary lay-off (arising from his sex scandal ) Five months in the golf wilderness is a long while.

Missing the cut can only happen to lesser mortals but it did happen to Tiger. All goes to show that he's human. It is also shown that golf is a mental game as often emphasized. A golfer can be in the best of physical condition but if mentally affected for some reasons at the moment of play it would have dire consequences on his game.

Tiger is actually known to have a strong mental capacity. This advantage invariably contributed to his many winning forms previously. In fact at the US Masters ( April 08 - April 11, 2010) his first tournament after the lay-off, he came in 4th ( which was a respectable finish ). There were high hopes then that Tiger was on the mend and should do better for the 2nd tournament at Quail Hollow. But missing the cut?

He was heckled no doubt (as attested to on internet videos). Many in the crowd showed a 'thumbs-down' when he walked pass by them from tee-box to tee box. He was under tremendous pressure during the game besides the long lay-off itself, so it can be said.

However being a No. 1 golfer he is expected to be of sterner stuff, unruffled by such minor irritations. He wants to stay competitive. The golfing world wants him. Golf on the final day without Tiger in his familiar maroon coloured vest tells us something's missing.

Just as Muhammad Ali was to boxing, we would remember boxing only by remembering who fought Ali for the heavyweight title. Without Muhammad Ali the heavyweight title lost its glamour (though there was a revival with Mike Tyson but only just!)

So for Tiger, the scenario is all set for him again. He's had his warm-up in 2 tournaments (one a major). He's put his wife Erin on a stable mode ( compromised with a punitively compensated package of US$mils ). The sponsors and tournament directors are happy again - Tiger's appearance brings back the crowd. The money-making machine starts ringing again. Millions of our television audience around the globe are glued to the box again and the ratings increased fast. ( just as Ali did decades ago)

Last but not least, the bookmakers are unperturbed, likewise. Tiger is the favourite to win for the forthcoming US Open ( June 17 - 20, 2010) at Pebble Beach. Let us see if Tiger can live up to it, again!