Monday, August 26, 2013

The art of raising children; The mistakes I made

My dad got married at the age of twenty and my mom at that time was at very young age of 15. I supposed then it was the ideal age to get married. Both of my parents had 7 children. We were raised in an environment that  was quite regimented. He was a police constable earning RM 300 and supporting  more than half a dozen children . Despite not having much money, we were very happy although mom was they type who would never stopped nagging . I got married on the 29 of November 1987 at the age of 25 to then a teacher. Both of us have been married for almost 26 years  and the products are three beautiful and adorable children -a girl and two boys. I didn't know how my parents brought us up but I believe it was quite  difficult especially with the financial constraints. I believe that raising a child is actually an art that you learn along the way. I also believe three's no one template to raise a child because each of our situation is unique. However, there are some general rules that you can pursue to raise your own children. After almost to 5 years of having children I have learned a number of mistakes that I made along the way. I just feel like sharing with you.

obese children

The first mistake that I made is feeding my  children too much of food until they are obese. We would have a well spread breakfast and dinner. At breakfast, we would have half a dozen eggs scrambled too perfection and nicely embellished with grated gooey mozzarella cheese . A dozen of cheese filled sausages grilled over slow fire together with nicely sauteed onions basted with red beans in sweet tomato sauce Then a dozen slices of thick white soft bread submerged with fresh  eggs and slowly cook in fat laden margarine until golden brown. Breakfast also would include  hash brown and chicken nuggets fried in deep cholesterol filled palm oil. Sometimes , there's also nasi lemak cooked with at least half a kilo of santan and eaten with quite sweet sambal udang or/and  sontong.  As such, my children tend to eat a lot and they  were plumb  or may be on the fat side depending on who you ask. If I ask my children of course they would say that they are not fat but a a little on  the plumb side. But anyone looking at my children would say that they are definitely not thin.  At the dining  table, we would have fun sharing all the thoughts and talking and enjoying food. We never stopped chewing and digesting. Eating was the family good times.
Coerced to be a doctor?

The second mistake that I made was to tell them what to major in. My children had no choice. It's like telling them " Son You can become anything/anybody that you want . You can either choose to be  a doctor or an engineer.".  I used psychology (my first degree is in psychology) to psych up my children to be what I wanted them to become. I supposedly offered them all the options but in reality I guided them to choose what I really wanted them to major in. My eldest who did very well in his SPM and was offered  scholarships to study in Engineering under JPA in Gemany and Medicine at UIA. He decided on the former but later after some arm twisting relented to doing medicine. The second was offered to do Accounting and Law but was strongly "guided" to take up law. She had always wanted to be a chef. The third who performed with flying colors in SPM was coerced to do medicine. But the youngest had interest in becoming an astronomer or a historian. On a beautiful night at home he would be gazing the stars with his wide telescope. He is also an avid reader of historical events. One day , in a polite and unassuming manner my youngest sputtered out his thoughts " Ayah. ... X  boleh jadi doktor tapi X tak boleh jadi  seorang doktor yang bagus" (Dad .. I can become a doctor but I will not be  a very good doctor"). That statement struck me like a lightning. OMG , what have I done?

Why waste money buying smartphones?

The third mistake that I made was to be a bit stingy with my children on electronic gadgets and expensive toys although I could afford to buy them so many fancy things and up to date android phones. It's not that I did not want to buy them those  things that they wanted  but they have to earn it. I also felt that spending RM 2400 for an Samsung S4 of Iphone is just too much. Why not just buy gold or other more useful things. My intention was good so that they would not be like the naughty character in "Anaku Sazali" movie who would spend his money on unnecessary things and finally end up as a notorious gangster. But I think as a father they too need to catch up on technology.They need the internet and the gadgets that go with it. One day, my eldest sadly said that he missed on a number of jokes and multimedia attachments on smart phones sent out by his course mates because his mobile is just an ordinary phone that could  only  receive calls and sent out sms texts . His phone is just a China made phone that costs RM 80.

Raising a child is not easy. There are lot of challenges and obstacles that need to be overcome. We also make mistakes a long the way in bringing up our children,. But our intentions as parents are good. We want them to be ready for the world but we also want  them enjoy their lives. I hope my children will do well in the future and hope they will become a better father than me.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Car wash Bangi

Car wash Bangi

I own two cars , a reasonably  big bike and a kapcai. I usually drive the  Honda Accord and my other half drives the Civic. The big bike a blue Kawasaki is a parked under my car porch waiting to be ridden. My son is now the main rider for the motorcycle. I seldom ride the bike. Only occasionally when I feel tired of driving my car that I would take my Kawasaki out for a short ride. Even that is now  a rarely made trip because of my back problem.My "kapcai", a black Yamaha Nouvo, is reserved for my trip to the masjid which is not very far from my house  and an occasional trip to get a kilo of santan or other things at the wet market. Despite having a number of transports, I am just lazy to wash them. Most of the time my rides are mostly blanketed by dusts and spotted by road tars. Whenever I wash my cars, I would go to any of  these car wash centers.

I think the best place to wash a car in Bangi and Kajang area is the one at Petronas station which is on the way to Kajang town. The owner of the car wash is an Indian from India that I have known for at least 8 years. He's not just the owner of the car wash as he makes sure that the cars that they wash are cleaned thoroughly. I also notice that that Indian guy is an honest chap making a good living in Malaysia. He seems to be very happy working in Malaysia and has been saving lots of money to get married and open up a grocery store in India. He has never let me down n terms of the cleanliness of the car that he washes. I would give the car wash center 8/10 for cleanliness , 8/10 efficiency and 8/10 safety and 9/10 for honesty. The guy would always return whatever money that he found scattered in my car. He also passed with flying color the honesty test that I administered  without his knowledge. One problem with the car wash is that they would just blast the place with  Tamil songs. The workers there would really clean your car and at the same time enjoying the Indian songs. So if you love Tamil songs and would want a clean car I suggest that you go to that car wash center.
Kawasaki ZZR
The second best place to wash your car in Bangi is at the area not far from Hitachi plant and next to Cendol Bangi. The place is also a car storage facility with a number of makes such as Protons and Nissans. One good thing about washing the car there is that you can actually have your lunch while waiting. I mean the place is just next to a famous spot to have rojak and cendol. I would give the car wash center 8/10 for cleanliness , 8/10 efficiency and 8/10 safety  and 7/10 for honesty. One good thing washing at the place is that the songs are mostly Malay songs with some Indonesian selections in between. Customers also would not have to wait that long to get their cars washed. The most they would have to wait is around 40 minutes. The quality of their washing is reasonably good. 

The third best to get your car washed is the Chinese Tokong car wash. If you are from Bandar Baru Bangi you have to go up to Kajang where you see a Chinese temple on your right. The car wash is opposite a furniture shop. The car wash is quite OK but not as good as the quality maintained by the two other car wash centers. The owner of this car wash has changed hands many times. The latest is owned by a Bangladeshi. The Bangladeshi it seems works also as a an air conditioner installer. When he is not washing the cars he would go to houses around Bangi areas to install air conditioning  units. I would give 7/10 for cleanliness , 7/10 efficiency and 7/10 safety  and 7/10 for honesty. The main problem with the car wash is that none of the workers there are able to drive a car . So when your car needs to be vacuumed you would just have to move your car  on your own. I am the type that is so lazy top do that. I really need the people at the car wash to do all the things including moving the car in between the wash. 

So guys these are the three best places to get your car washed in Bangi. There are some other places to wash your car  but I believe that these are some of the good ones. Please remove your valuable belongings in your car despite my recommendations. Having said all those things , I think the best thing to do is to actually wash your car yourself. You need the exercise. It's good for you. But I am just to lazy to do that.

Mee Goreng mamak / Rojak / Cendol / Laksa in Bangi.

Cendol Bangi

One of the things I hate about Bangi area it that it's too organized in most of the things particularly in it's zoning and urban planning. The situation is Bangi is along the line of Singapore although not strictly That is why I don't like going to Singapore. Everything is so planned. Everything is decided by the big brother. You just cant have a bit of irregularities, weirdness,  out of the norm, and off tangent . Compared to Singapore , I feel that Hong Kong is very much better place to stay. I don't mind being sent to that city state for a long sabbatical leave. The same applies to food. The eating places in Bangi too are all too organized and the restaurants there  sell the same tired old things. Nothing fancy and  everything expensive.

It is just difficult to get some simple, nice and inexpensive dishes like   nasi lemak in Bangi. You need to go to a restaurant to be served on a beautiful plate and then garnished with all sort of condiments until the price would just sky rocket and at the end will be more expensive than McDonald's Big Mac. What I want is just a 50 sen nasi lemak with some ikan bilis with a small slice of an egg and a piece or two of cucumbers.  I also want to have mee goreng mamak   along the corridor of a Chinese bank or a building with some lazy street lights. Nothing fancy but a reasonably clean alley with some lighting that you know what you are eating.But you cant find some thing like this in Bangi. My hometown, Sungai Petani , has some many stalls of that nature. You can just go anywhere in the town and enjoy light snacks especially in the evening after your Maghrib prayers.
Mee goreng mamak at Hitachi

But in Bangi I'm happy to say that there are 2-3 spots that you can have something light under a tree. I am talking about having rojak or mee goreng at a stall under a shade . The stalls also serve cendol. But the only thing is that you have to have them  for lunch.  One of the best stalls that serves mee goreng is the one in front of Hitachi factory not very far from the Warta shopping center. The spot also serves a very nice cendol that cost RM 1.50 . The mamak has been selling his mee goreng and rojak for so many years. He started selling it in front of the Petronas gas station in section 1 until moving to the present location. The mee goreng costs RM 3.50. Rojak also costs tha same.The Mee goreng used to be served with sotong kering as an option but this practice was stopped when the price of dried sotong skyrocketed. The mee goreng is really delicious and full of kueh and tauhu. The trick to ordering is to wait until there's no other customers around. Then the kuali is just for your succulent mee goreng.
Section 4 Cendol

Another area that you can have cendol is in section 4 Tambahan near Tepian Bangi restaurant. The place is self served and you need to go to the van and order your mee goreng or cendol. They also sell ABC. The rojak at section 4  is better than the one sold in front of Hitachi.  The cendol at both places however are good. The one sold at Hitachi is operated by an Indian from India who has been selling the cendol for mare than 1o years. Despite being an Indian from India , he's a very nice chap. And he worked fast too. He would just prepare your cendol in less than 30 seconds. Please be warned that the prices of the dishes are slightly more expensive in Section 4.

So there you go. These are some the spots that you can have a nice rojak or mee goreng and a bowl of cendol under a tree. The prices of the items are still reasonable and the best part of it is that you can enjoy your food under a very shady tree with a nice breeze included. nI really hope we can have more eating spots like this in Bangi. I really hope that someone would take the initiative to sell nasi lemak 24/7 under a tree in Bangi. Happy food hunting to everyone

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Some Facts about MUET or Malaysian University English Test / MUET FAQ

1. Malaysian University English Test or popularly known as MUET is a proficiency test designed and developed by the Malaysian Examinations Council.  It is NOT a competency test as claimed by certain quarters.  Competency  denotes a wider  ability of numerous skills mostly related to the working world. MUET on the other hand is just a specific proficiency test with an academic slant. Most of the materials used in MUET should be related to academic matters. The closest test that I could think of that can be compared to MUET is TEAP or TEST of English for Academic Purposes, a UK designed and developed test. Other proficiency tests such as TOEFL, TOEIC could not be compared to MUET as their approach to proficiency assessment is quite psychometric.

2. Since MUET is a proficiency test, it does not have to be studied or learned. You either have the proficiency or you don't. Students tend have this mistaken belief that MUET can be studied in order to score. However I believe  some improvement through studying is possible though not significant. MUET is actually a proficiency test. A proficiency test  does not have a syllabus.  Only achievements tests have syllabuses. An example of an achievement test is the SPM English. If you studied the syllabus you can really score in the test. That is why some students who memorized the syllabus and the words could do well in the exam. That is why you find weak students who tend to score in the SPM English paper. But MUET does have what the Examinations Council calls the Syllabus specifications (previously they used to called it a syllabus until it was pointed out by yours truly on the revised committee that it was wrong because of the nature of the test). I believe this is to help teachers and other educators some guidance on how to handle the test. If students cannot study the syllabus , what can they do ? My suggestion is to get experts to teach you some of the testing skills or test strategies. Research studies  have shown that students with the right strategies tend do well in the exam. It is possible to get Band 4 through strategies from Band 3.

3. There is No Pass or Fail in MUET. MUET is graded according to Bands 1 to 6. The highest is Band 6 and the lowest is Band 1. Most of the universities in Malaysia would prefer to take in students with a minimum of Band 3. For English intensive courses such as Law, Medicine, and TESL , most of faculties would require a minimum of Band 4. This is to ensure that their prospective students could sail through the programmes..This is not to say that students who obtained Band 1 are not allowed to to study in Malaysian universities. They can but they are normally offered courses in Islamic studies or the social sciences courses.

4. MUET is Not an Exit test. An Exit test is a test that  indicates the ability of students to function in the real world. An Exit test would normally require a needs analysis to ascertain its construct. The test will also take into account language matters related to the vocation  that the outgoing students would be able to fit in. Since MUET is not an exit test, it should not be used as a language indicator by prospective employers to determine the language ability of their prospective employees. As I mentioned earlier, the construct of MUET is the ability to function in the academic world. The sad thing is that most of the employers  in Malaysia used as an exit test. This is a total misuse of test.

5. Generally MUET is a good test. I think we Malaysians should be proud of this test. However, I feel that this test can still be improved upon further. The test should be validated by content and language  experts. The test can also be validated quantitatively using the internal validation process. I believe that some parts of the test have not been validated as I have not come across the data of their so called validation process locally or abroad. I hope the MES would take note of the importance of validation in a test. They should also publish the data of the validation process to convince the stakeholders that the MUET test is indeed a valid and reliable test. Without the validation process  the validity of the test is questionable. The status of the test  as a premier exam in Malaysian comes into question.

6. MUET does not have an Online version of the test. This is really sad. I think the CEO of Malaysian Examinations Council must urgently get experts locally and abroad to design the online version of the test. I feel that the online version would be cheaper to administer in the long run. TOEFL has many years already  the IBT version. So does UCLES. The Koreans too have joined the frays. What are we waiting for? Is the CEO of MES waiting for the minister;'s order? In the long run , the online version proves to be very economical. I believe the online test can still be a valid test despite some reservation about the construct of the test.