Friday, December 31, 2010

Goodbye, 2010


This year has simply came and went in a wink of an eye. This must be how my cat, Obama aka Prootsie (see photo above) feels like. From the moment I signed on the job at the Bar Council in October 2009, days have been passing by at the speed of 1 cat year, especially during the night on every weekday. Waking up in the morning, cursing and wondering where the night had gone, seem to be a favourite 2010 past time (I bet that it’s so popular that it’ll be brought forward to 2011).

I’ve managed to keep myself extremely busy this year and I think I may have compensated for the period of time when I stayed idle from 2005-2008. This year has been indeed fruitful and well-lived. Any regrets? None whatsoever, except for not seizing enough moments, if there were any that went completely unnoticed.


Apart from managing the MyConstitution Campaign (if you haven’t heard of  this yet, this is your last chance to get involved in the biggest phenomenon to hit Malaysia since the government announced the 1Malaysia campaign. The MyConstitution Campaign is expected to wind down  after March 2011), I’ve been writing a lot for The Malaysian Insider and Loyar Burok.

Travelling used to be my most favourite thing to do but since work has been occupying most of my time and money has been rather tight this year, I have turned to writing as a source of inspiration and a form of meditation. This year, it has become my most favourite thing to do when I’m not coordinating events, attending an event, picking up boxes of Rakyat Guides booklets from Taman Ukay, Ulu Klang, or trying to comprehend what are the new amendments made to the Criminal Procedure Code (they’re not necessarily in that order).


Above: A sample of a MyConstitution Campaign Rakyat Guides booklet. The 6-panel cardboard paper is folded to form a small pocket-sized “Luxe Travel Guide”-like booklet slipped into a plastic cover that can be used as a self-defence weapon due to its sharp skin-grazing capabilities. I’ve got tonnes of scars on my hands as proof of this.

My second most favourite thing to do is photography. It was only this year when I first started using the manual mode of my Canon DSLR camera to take pictures. I must say that the results have been most gratifying. Not all the pictures I’ve taken are any good but I think there may be some that show potential (well, to me anyway and any bona fide photographer may disagree).

Here are some of my favourite photos:






Photos above:

1. At the Rally for Sanity, Gateway Arch, St. Louis, USA   2. At Arlington Cemetery, USA  3, 4 & 5. At the St. Louis Rams Vs. San Diego Charges game, Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis, USA   6. At Yogyakarta city, Indonesia    7. At Yogyakarta Market, Indonesia  8. At St. Louis Zoo, USA  9. At St. Louis Zoo, USA

This year has been special too because I was given the opportunity to travel to the United States of America for 6 weeks. Being selected for the Legislative Fellows Programme (LFP) under the American Council for Young Political had been surreal and I am grateful for such a priceless experience.

After working for more than a year in Malaysia, I’ve had a difficult time coming to terms with how messed up the country is.  I was utterly disappointed, demotivated and frustrated with the government, the public and private service sector and just basically the mentality of Malaysians in general. There were times when all I did was fight with almost anyone who could or would not do their jobs properly.

Being in America provided me with a breath of fresh air. I met many people who displayed good leadership and professionalism and I was inspired. I think I came home a different person. I became more eager to take on more leadership role and begin to think more deeply about starting a project on my own.

As a summary, here are some of my most and least favourite things in 2010.


1. MyConstitution Campaign

2. Writing

3. Photography

4. Loyar Burok

5. Friendships I’ve made through MyConstitution Campaign and LFP

Least favourites:

1. Weight gain

2. IKEA (am boycotting the world’s worst international franchise for their horrendous and appalling service)

3. Michael M (probably one of the most loathsome people I’ve met this decade)

4. Did not finish even a book

5. Not seeing more people

Biggest achievment:

1. Quit smoking since April 2010

Hopes for 2011:

1. Lose 17kg

2. Start my own project

3. Travel more (maybe to the North Pole, if I’m lucky)

4. Take better photos

5. Read more

6. Write better

7. See more people

8. Do something new and go crazy


Thursday, December 30, 2010

The chronicle of 2011’s resolution [Part 1] – Be phat and not fat!

This is a new series chronicling my journey towards looking fab by the end of 2011 (well, preferably before the year ends but who am I kidding, right?).


I was uncertain whether I should even blog about this but as an afterthought, if it’s going to humiliate me into achieving my resolution, why not?

Life has been rather wonderful for the year that is 2010. I’m working on an exciting project, I’ve been writing regularly, I’ve got a husband who finally took to keeping things clean in the house and feeding me well (maybe a bit too well) and above all, I’ve got a beautiful and lovely cat that keeps growing on me.

It would look as if life couldn’t get any better, right? Well, nuh-ah - WRONG!

Everything seems well except for my weight that is intent on making my life miserable and I’m not just talking about me being vain. I’m talking about me being utterly uncomfortable with my body weight and losing my self-esteem as a result of it. I have refused dinner invitations from friends whom I haven’t met awhile because I am too ashamed to meet them. I can’t bend over to tie my shoe laces because my belly gets in the way. I am also getting his horrible image of me not waking up in the morning because my heart has been working overtime without receiving any gratitude or TLC and  finally decides to give up on me. Only by then, everything would be too late.

So, why this resolution? Seems a bit too cliché and fluff, no? This is the sad part. I can do the whole giving up smoking and I’m pretty sure I can do the giving up drinking as well. But, giving up oily, deep fried and fatty food, consisting of all sorts of chemical, sugar, salt and other poisons that make them taste soooo good is going to be the toughest thing I would ever have to do. Damn those skinny chicks who can eat whatever they want!

My weight has fluctuated so much over the past few years. My fittest form was when I was in secondary school while I was doing ballet as a serious form of extra-curricular activity, my university years when I would frequent the local student union disco nights at least twice a week and dance all the English custard off and of course when I was starved in countries like Timor Leste and Afghanistan. I weighed around 50 – 55 kg then. Now, I must weigh more than 65 77 kg  (I finally weighed myself at the strike of 12am on 1 Jan 2011) as I haven’t been able to weigh myself for fear I’ll keel over from fright and die before I get to fit into a respectable dress size again.

So, moment of desperation calls for desperate measure. Two friends of mine, E, V and I have decided to have a pact. We’re going to try to  lose 1 kg for each month of 2011. We’ll be monitoring our weight and the person who does not stick to the bargain for that month will pay RM50. Seeing how stingy I am, I think it’ll motivate me unless I get really depressed and start going on a junk binge and adopt a to- hell-with-life attitude.

I don’t know how I’m going to do this because I’m feeling hungry again. Would I be able to resist the temptation of eating my favourite fast food of all time? As my friend V would say, “That’s your internal problem. We’re not interested about how each of us do this or what kinda problems we have. We’re only concerned about the result, ok?” Yeah, so much for moral support, pal.

So if you’re a friend, I beg of you not to be polite to me about my weight. Be tough and yet encouraging and supportive of my 2011’s resolution so that I can be phat again!

The next time I blog about this, let’s hope I am not RM50 poorer.

Monday, December 27, 2010

It must get better

This article was first published in The Malaysian Insider on 25 December 2010 and then Loyar Burok on 27 December 2010.

Team Consti2

I am heterosexual and if I have had more than one sexual relationship, I’d be called a shameless slut. 

If I were a Muslim, heterosexual and have pre-marital sex with my long-term boyfriend, I’d be arrested, persecuted and labelled a sinful and bad Muslim. 

If I am homosexual, I’d be blamed for spreading HIV/AIDS. 

If I were Muslim and homosexual, I might as well be dead because this would be what many of my Muslim brothers and sisters would want me to be — non-existent. 

The point I’m trying to make is homosexuals are not alone when it comes to receiving unwanted, cruel and malicious remarks and punishments, but they do bear the worst of it, especially if they’re Muslims. 

If you’re part of the activist circle in Kuala Lumpur or know someone who is part of the circle, you’ll know the “Seksualiti Merdeka movement” led by several brave and no doubt amazing individuals. These individuals are brave because they confront and embrace their sexuality instead of hiding behind a facade. 

They’re amazing because they do something about defending and promoting their rights to alternative sexual lifestyles, rather than bitch within their own circle of like-minded friends and wait for society to accept them for who they are. 

One recent project that has attracted a lot of attention is the “It gets better in Malaysia” videos. These series of short videos feature several individuals who talk about their experiences as homosexuals in Malaysia. 

This is not an original initiative as it is very much inspired by a similar campaign in the United States aimed at combating gay teenage suicide as a result of bullying in schools. The message is simple. It tries to tell gay teenagers that their lives will get better eventually and hence they should not give up on life. 

I find this campaign very human. It’s not just about promoting or glorifying the rights of lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgendered persons. It’s about treating and respecting them as human beings who don’t deserve to be bullied and certainly don’t deserve to suffer in silence. 

When children take their own lives simply because they can no longer tolerate the torture they have to endure in school and are unable to find the worth in themselves to continue living, something is fundamentally wrong. It is no longer about LBGT rights. It’s about human rights. 

When Azwan Ismail appeared in one of the videos recently, he was condemned by many people. Some even called for his death. It makes me feel sick and it makes me angry to hear this. It also makes me ask why. Why do we behave as if we have the moral right to pass judgment on someone else who is different from ourselves? 

The truth of the matter is, we constantly hide behind our religions so that we can continue to be lazy thinkers and we try to delude ourselves as a society, that sex is taboo so that we don’t have to deal with any problems related to it. We’re told that sex should be something best kept private, which I can agree with. However, I don’t think we should stop discussing sex or try to censure ourselves by pretending to be an asexual society when we’re not. A Catholic priest will be able to tell you this. 

At the end of the day, those who condemn homosexuality do not realise what huge fools and bigots they make of themselves. They’re foolish because they continue to think that if they don’t talk, see or hear about it, then surely it doesn’t exist. (Thank God for great scientists and philosophers who don’t subscribe to such ludicrous theories.) They’re bigots because they believe in casting the first stone even though they are far from unblemished themselves. It’s as if the more stones they throw, the fewer stones will be left for their own sins. 

Being Malaysian is tough. Well, surely not as tough as an Afghan, Iraqi, Sudanese or Somalian, I hear you say. In a way you’re right but at least these countries don’t try to fool you into believing that they’re so close to being a developed nation, founded on the principles of democracy and respect for human rights. It is tough being a part of a hypocritical nation and anyone who asks me to balik China, you’ve proven my point. 

Afghanistan was once ruled by the Talibans, Muslim hardliners who implemented syariah and hudud laws in the country. These Talibans are also known for their sexual activities with young Afghan boys. They won’t talk about this but they will tell you that they’re defenders of Islam. 

Azwan Ismail did nothing of that sort and if anything, he did the opposite. He is honest, as opposed to those who hide behind their masks. I am sure all homosexuals want to be honest about themselves. Something which all parents should be teaching their children, instead of forcing them to be liars. 

I sincerely believe our country will be better if we start being more honest and less hypocritical. I also believe that this country will be better if we’re governed by leaders who are more honest and less hypocritical. 

We have come to a juncture where things must get better for all of us. I’ll vote for the next politician who starts a campaign about this.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Conversation with my father

This article was first published at The Malaysian Insider on 19 December 2010


“I notice that you have a weakness. Do you want to know what it is?”

“Yes, sure,” I said with a voice that quivered slightly due to uncertainty and nerve. It was the same kind of uncertainty and nerve when the doctor asks whether I would like to know the result of my pap smear.

It was the first time in my life when my father expressed the need to reveal to me what he really thought of me. It was momentous and yet nerve-wrecking at the same time. I never thought I could do anything wrong in his eyes and I was convinced that I had his full confidence.

Evidently, I was wrong.

I was told that I was too intolerant and that I could never allow other people to assert their authority over me. These words were said with a heavy heart. I could tell it wasn’t easy for my father to say them to me. Nevertheless, I still believe those were the harshest words he has ever uttered to me and I have a good feeling that they would continue to haunt me for a long time.

Now, my father has his own reasons for telling me that. I know what those reasons are and as he has rightly pointed out, I am unwilling to accept the authority of his words. What hurt the most was knowing how much he has misunderstood my character and how unjust his judgment of me was. Having a strong viewpoint is perceived as rudeness and having courage or guts to go against convention is regarded as rebellion, or sometimes as an easy means of escaping responsibilities.

For as long as my father can remember, I had been an obedient child who subsequently turned “difficult” as soon as I became a teenager and then just simply “unhappy” as an adult. He could not understand why I felt the need to be “rude” to my tyrannical teacher or quit my job when my employer could not care less about my welfare. He simply could not understand why I could not be one of those individuals who settle for a well-paying job and stop being unhappy about every injustice that confronts me.

Father and child

“What do you really want to do in life? What do you want to achieve?” I could see he wanted to know and he wanted to understand.

Such straightforward questions and yet the answers are never as such. I told him that I want to help change things in the country and help to change the mindsets of the people here. I told him that people need to be empowered to choose what’s best for them and that includes the government.

Tears started pouring down my face as I told him about all the wrong-doings that are plaguing the country and how things desperately need to change. I then realised that I had never cried that way before in front of my father. I was surprised and embarrassed by my vulnerability and the inability to control my emotion.

He in turn, looked bewildered and old.

I told him that things are changing and there are many young Malaysians who want to do something to bring about change to the country. I want to be a part of them.

He said I am too naïve and idealistic. He said I would be disappointed when I realise that this is not just a romantic idea of an heroic act. He said he is a lot older than I am and I should trust him that from his own experience, many young people start off with the purest of all intentions but as soon as the going gets tough, they will learn that reality creates stains in life. He said that sooner or later, everyone turns cynical and they will eventually give up.

I am uncertain whether he was being cynical, realistic or simply attempting to protect me from getting disappointed.

I told him that I am fully aware that this world is not a bed of roses and I think I have seen enough of suffering to accept that. What I could not accept is when people stop knowing how to differentiate between right and wrong and choose to be indifferent instead.

He said he couldn’t understand why young people have such silly notions these days. When he was young, all he could think of was to secure a decent living.

And I thank you for that. It’s because of you that I am able to have all this silly notions,” I said to him.

“You wonder why young people are abandoning lucrative careers for human rights and politics? Could it be because of the opportunity and privilege they now have to focus on something else other than bread and butter issues, as results of improved economic condition provided by their parents? Isn’t that a good thing?” I added.

“And that’s where the Chinese is wise. There is a saying that a family’s wealth does not go beyond the third generation,” my father retorted.

“In order for a country and its people to prosper, I think we need two types of people. Those like you who build the country’s economy and those like us who want to see a more accountable and transparent government that protects human rights. I don’t think you can have one without the other. Besides, can one family’s wealth ever match a positive change brought upon millions of people?” I asked in exasperation.

When I arrived home that night, I was resentful of my father. I resented him for not understanding who I am as a person. I resented him for feeling disappointed with me when I thought he would be proud instead. Above all, I resented the fact that he wished for me to be someone I am not. I also wish that as a father, he had taught me to be strong and to never allow others to assert their authority or power over me simply because I deserve better.

My husband told me that I should try to understand that my father lives in a different generation; a generation where his father did not have the means to give him what he gave us. A generation where their biggest enemies were poverty and ignorance, but it is always easier for human beings to survive ignorance and not poverty. Now, most of us just live in ignorance and we forget how it feels like to be poor.

Perhaps my husband is right but how do you then explain another young person who told me I am too idealistic for my own good? Do we still have hope?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Give without asking

Please give

I probably have dozens of pet peeves but there is one in particular which gets on my nerves more often than others.

I absolutely detest it when someone asks my opinion whether there is a need to exercise an act of charity or generosity on others. I also detest it when someone asks me whether I would like to participate in an act of charity or generosity towards others.

Some examples:

Should I tip the waiter/waitress?

Do you think I should buy so-and-so a gift since so-and-so has been such a good host to you?

Do you want to chip in some money so that we can buy some food for the beggar who keeps coming to our table?

Am I cheap for feeling annoyed about this? Absolutely, yes but I think it makes the person asking my opinion or contribution even cheaper, and not to mention insensitive.

My take is, if you really want to tip the waiter/waitress, just bloody do it. Why would you need my approval? As long as the tip comes from your pocket, it’s your prerogative but please don’t try to make me feel bad by asking for my opinion because it makes me the bad person if I don’t think the waiter/waitress deserves to be tipped. (And if you can’t make such a simple decision on your own, you probably don’t understand the concept of tipping.)

By asking me whether you should buy something for someone who has been nice to me is just way out of line and you may have already offended many other people in your life. I would prefer it if you ask me whether I would like to consider showing my appreciation to that someone by giving him/her a gift myself. Don’t try to make me feel and look bad by making yourself look good.

It’s not that I don’t want to part with the little money that is needed to make a beggar happy, I just think it’s something that should come from me. If you want to be charitable, go ahead. Yay! Kudos to you but don’t ask. Just do it and leave me and my money out of it because it may be something you feel strongly about, it doesn’t mean I feel the same way. Plus, always remember that people contribute in different ways and it doesn’t always have to be in monetary form.

So, if you’re really hot on the giving, then don’t ask and don’t tell.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Taking charge

GoAs I sat eating my lunch at a fast food outlet, I couldn't help but felt annoyed with this boisterous  boy not more than 3 running amok at the counter. He was a curious little thing; poking around and trying to get his fingers on everything, including unsuspecting adults waiting in line.  I was quite sure I was not the only one getting annoyed.

I felt sorry for the embarrassed young mother who tried to calm him down. Instead of earning her son's respect, she received continuous kicks from the unrelenting child. 

In the end, she gave up.

As I sat there, I thought about all the possible ways of dealing with the situation, if I were the mother. I must confess that giving the child a good spanking was one of them.

The woman looked relieved when she finally reached the front of the counter. She probably thought her ordeal would end soon once the child got distracted by French fries or a sundae. Instead, I watched him abandoned her and walked towards me.

With all the energy he had, he dragged a chair all the way to the counter. Once the chair was parked securely by his mother, he pushed himself up and stood shoulder to shoulder with her. The woman looked mortified as soon as she realised what happened and proceeded to reprimand him.

I don't know what it was but my initial impression of the boy changed. I was amazed to see how he took charge of his life; he wanted to reach up to be able to see something way above his eye level and he didn't ask for help nor wait for help to come. He just went for what he thought would help him accomplish what he wanted, albeit unappreciated.

I then began to think about all the possible things this boy can achieve when he becomes an adult.


If you were the mother, would you have reprimanded the child for dragging the chair?

As a mother, how do you "discipline" your child without compromising his/her self-esteem to take initiatives and take charge of things?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Joe is smokin’!


Above: Smoking Joe’s signature barbecued pork ribs with beans and potato salad on the sides.

How do you like your barbecued ribs?

I like mine meaty yet tender, slightly burnt and caramelised on the outside but moist on the inside. Above all, it should have that smoky taste and smell.

When I first saw my plate of barbecued ribs at Smoking Joe’s, I was not convinced that they would be anything but dry and hard to chew on. I also didn’t like how they were covered with what looked like dried oregano.


Well, I was pleasantly surprised when I finally bit into the rib. The meat was not only tasty, it was so tender that it could easily fall off the bone with one gentle gnaw. The herbs on it were in fact, Smoking Joe’s very own signature St. Louis rub mix which contains a secret ingredient. The mix was salty, aromatic, slightly hot and tangy. It was so good that Joe the owner, uses it  liberally on almost all his dishes. Customers can even buy them at the restaurants. I brought mine home with Joe’s signature on it and have been using them to spice up my grilled meat.

Left: A customer holding Smoking Joe’s special seasoning mix



Above: (l) The feast we had at Smoking Joe’s, (m) Pulled pork, (r) The gooey and yummy macaroni and cheese


Above: (l) Joe giving us his personal attention (m) Roast turkey & beef briskets (r) Side dishes and salads

Smoking Joe’s is the kind of restaurant that serves simple but hearty American food. My kind of comfort food with lots of meat, mash potatoes, coleslaws, beans, creamy soup and macaroni and cheese. If you’re concerned about your waistline, fear not because it also serves hearty portions of lean turkey meat and beef brisket on a generous bed of salad leaves.


The other thing which I liked about the menu was the fresh potato crisps sprinkled with Smoking Joe’s signature mix. Unlike the usual Lays’ potato crisps, these were only slightly thicker, not as crispy that it felt artificial and you can really  tell that they were made of real potatoes. I wouldn’t trust those bags of potato crisps that claim they’re baked without preservatives anymore.

The ambience was nice and at first I thought the place was a bit too classy for what it serves. One would not have guessed that such a tastefully decorated restaurant would be serving normal regular American food. But again, what would I know since I had only gone to Pappy’s Smokehouse for barbecued ribs before?

It was a refreshing change from the usual loud and rowdy restaurants such as Pappy’s where customers are forced to line up to get their orders before being seated on uncomfortable wooden benches and then pressured into chowing down their food as quickly as possible in order to give the table up for the next customer. Smoking Joe’s is all about comfort, style and good value for money because believe it or not, the food cost almost the same as Pappy’s, if not less.



Above: Joe showing us the new logo for his chain in Jakarta.

Left: What did I tell ya? Ain’t Joe smokin’?

For real and simple American food, this is as good as it gets. It’s so good that Smoking Joe’s is going international by opening a new chain in Jakarta, Indonesia next year!

I wish Joe all the best and hope I’ll get to dine in his restaurant in Kuala Lumpur one day.




Smoking Joe’s is situated at:

1901 Washington Avenue, St. Louis, Missouri, US.

For more information, you can check out its website here.