I was busy all through to the end of 2016 that I was oblivious to stuff happening in Kangar. For example, I recently discovered an alley near the centre of town which had been adorned by colourful streetart apparently painted by schoolchildren from all over Malaysia.
I thought I would take a couple of photos for documentation's sake, because this must have been a really fun event for the attendees.
The title artwork as one enters the alley.
This one looks pretty lively.
It appears one of the artist is a student from Irfan's school.
"Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it, and eventually the confidence will follow." - Carrie Fisher
Carrie Fisher died earlier today. She was 60.
I did not think it would, but it did hit me harder than I ever thought it could. Because I am unsure why because I did not believe she affected me much as a child despite my being a Star Wars fan. For me it was always about the universe first. The characters, who had their own great story in that universe, came second.
So what did she imprint onto me at that pubescent age when I first saw Star Wars? It was probably something like this: if there was an older girl playing on the playground, I would want her to be like Princess Leia. If the boys run out of ideas, grab a gun and blast a hole in the wall. If I had an older sister, I would definitely want her to be like Princess Leia. So, unlike a lot of stories from many fans I had read, I never fell in love with Princess Leia, nor Carrie Fisher.
But I had a younger sister. And I believe subconsciously, I pushed her into becoming someone who I would love to play with on the playground. If assholes talk you down, look them in the eye in defiance.
I think - I believe - my sister Sila did grow up to be like this idealised version of her which I had in my mind.
It was only fairly recent that I learnt that the Carrie Fisher herself was as fiesty as her character Princess Leia. I marvelled at her acerbic wit and sharp tongue during interviews. I discovered how opened was about being bipolar. If anything, I wish I had been paying attention to her when I needed it. I think if I did I would have bounced back from the edge quicker.
Thanks, Carrie Fisher, for being an inspiration on many a level. Rewatching the films will never be quite the same from today.
Andi Gutierrez interviews Carrie and Gary Fisher during Star Wars Celebration Europe 2016.
The answer to that is the clutch disintegrated on the inside.
Usually car problems come not within a month or two of one another. For us. So far. Until now.
It was Friday afternoon just before Solat Jumaat when the car engine refused to start. After prayers, with the help of some colleagues, I got a nearby mechanic to see to our immobilised vehicle. It turned out that the battery - nearly two years old - was as flat as a paper miniature.
Saturday was the lull in the storm. Little did we know that our car troubles for the week were not done yet.
The car returned from a short jaunt to refill our potable water bottles and hissed at me. Since the thermometer was broken, we were unsure if it was the radiator. After it cooled down, I attempted to refill the radiator and reversed the car a metre or so, away from the puddle I made in my refill attempt.
A new unwanted puddle promptly appeared.
It was almost sundown on a Sunday. The car would have to be repaired the next day, and I had to cancel my morning class.
It took an entire Monday to fix the leak as it was leaking at a pipe that was connected to the engine. I also had to cancel my afternoon class.
At he end of the day, the coolant system was fixed.
But the mechanic pointed out that my front right tyre had a bulge. Frayed fibres were visible. It was the end of the day, so I could only replace the front tyres the next day.
I had a medical appointment first thing Tuesday morning. We wanted to have breakfast at the hospital but the cafeteria was shut down on account of their tender contract being lapsed. After the visit to the ENT clinic at the hospital, we looked for food before heading to the tyre shop. By lunch time, we had replaced both front tyres and the usable left tyre was made a spare, and all was right in the world.. until-
Upon our return from sending Irfan to school, the car scraped against a sharp jagged rock on the side of a small road near the back of the school... and tore a gash in it.
I had to cancel one of a replacement class from Monday. I thought I could replace the damaged tyre with the spare, but ultimately I could not - not without a missing metal bar I used as a lever to break the nuts' torque in the past.
So I walked to the nearby mechanic, who told me to walk even further to reach a tyre shop in Jejawi.
The mechanics drove me home, used their tools to break the nuts' torque and swapped the tyre for the spare so I could drive back to their workshop to buy a brand new undamaged tyre to replace the brand new severely damaged tyre.
I tried to get things done as quickly as possible so I could make the afternoon class at Sungai Chuchuh.
After five days, a truckload of worries and many hundreds of ringgit (most of which we had to ask for monetary aid) the car crises finally ceased by the time it was-
When will the next crisis be? Stay tuned to find out.
Then it came to pass that I have to present a talk at the department's inaugural Basic Translation Workshop. Public speaking is not something that comes to me easily. Despite all the training afforded to be by over 25 years of gamemastering, it still affects me negatively as I was extremely introverted growing up. I did not know whether it felt more harrowing about to give a talk to strangers... or to people I know, such as my fellow workmates here in this case.
After several days burning the midnight oil producing the slides and rehearsing, it was time for me to dive into the deep end of the pool. I was creating new slides less than 30 minutes before the talk was scheduled to begin! And I would not have be able to do it without the help, suggestions and support of my colleagues in our Translation and Language Service Unit.
Naturally because I was the one on point, the presentation just had to involve a couple of Star Wars and Star Trek references as I talked, organised exercises and brief group competitions. After over two hours on my feet - actually another two hours even before we started - I was done! I hoped the participants were able to absorb some of the theories and anecdotes that I shared to help them understand the intricacies of translation between Bahasa Malaysia and English.
I suppose I can do this presentation this again... and give a talk to scary strangers next.
One Saturday, our driveway became an apam balik station. Many visitors came to obtain free apam balik as dessert to go with their meal.
The driveway had been converted because of the wedding feast held by our neighbour to commemorate the wedding between his son and daughter-in-law, and his daughter and son-in-law.
The previous day both Ain and I helped out with the preparing of the food. I helped cut up the beef into small pieces while Ain had her fingertips chemically seared off when she attempted to remove the skin out of a million metric tonnes (or so it seemed) of garlic.
Apparently deskinning a large amount of garlic can be painful to your fingers.
There was a meeting some weeks back and we had given them permission to set up the apam balik station here.
Across the street where the food was being served, an ais batu campur station had also been set up. But we are here today to talk about the apam balik station.
Despite this photo, Irfan was not as enthusiastic about consuming the apam balik as Yong and I were and we both enjoyed the little things greatly.
During the feast, our friends from the nearby who were invited to the wedding also visited our house. It was a pleasant day for everyone.
And now the first week of teaching is over.
What do I have to report?
The students are well-behaved (so far) and are very disciplined, most wearing their dark engineering jacket uniforms. They adhere to procedure quite well to, even if registering for classes seemed to be a haphazard affair. They spent little time appointing a class representative among themselves. And the class reps were easy to communicate with via smartphone messaging apps.
I was quite apprehensive of presenting the module to the students, especially in trying to get the lessons delivered relevant to each class's course as each class belonged to a different engineering or business course, and I had to customise the delivery and how I presented examples to each class. And my gamemastering experience also helped, I believe.
Ultimately I discovered that the key to a good lesson presentation is to brush up one's stand up comedy skills.
When you were a child, you always imagined - no, been compelled to believe - that life is a series of consequent acts that scales up as you experience it. You would expect pieces of your future would fall into place like a linear jigsaw puzzle that solves itself as you grow older.
For example if you started out as a young technician perhaps you would advance into becoming an engineer and perhaps end your professional career as a top level manager or even a CEO of an engineering consultant firm. But on the other hand here I am at 43 and my jigsaw puzzle consists of a collection of discarded pieces from a hundred totally different puzzles.
Throughout my four decades (plus change) of life I have been a extremely short-lived manufacturer and seller of bookmarks, a helicopter technician, a translation company executive, an IT company marketer, a freelance writer, a research assistant, a freelance proofreader, a children books' illustrator, an IT executive, a freelance illustrator, an avionics company techincal manager, a graphic designer, a university translator, a comic artist, a photographer and a language instructor.
Two things: Firstly, my professional life is apparently a series of unfortunate, unconnected, unresolved events, much like a number of the RPG campaigns I have run. And secondly, two of the jobs in the list above are a lie as I have never worked in any of these two job titles. Can you guess which?
Instead of having to ride a bike on a remote road in the early hours of the morning only to face off with a entire family of wild boars once upon a time, I am faced with the following view en route to work now:
Instead of driving all over town in the middle of the night to get a piece of tech repaired by an engineer who is only in the country for a single night before I had to fly to another country with the tech, I have to meet these humans now and try to teach them stuff:
I am still insanely vexed at how I have arrived here, teaching these university students English. Will I succeed? Will I instead produce a new generation of twisted thinkers?
We'll find out if they come for me with a straitjacket before the semester is done.
Update: The report at the end of the first week of teaching has been posted.
After the last aborted attempt at FESS at the hospital, I have been waiting for five months for the next scheduled surgery, spraying mometasone furoate up my nose almost daily. Finally it was time to get this pair of nasal polyps out of my sinus cavity.
It should have been an easy in-and-out surgery.
Of course there were complications from all sides.
- My application for a job as a Language Tutor here was accepted and I had been scheduled to report for duty the day before the surgery. I had to call the right person at work to find out the proper procedure. Thankfully postponing reporting for duty is allowed.
- The Guarantee Letter (GL) that would allow me to be admitted to the hospital wards under the workplace was rejected by hospital admissions because the printout did not include my pay grade. So we had to pay first for a Second Class Ward. Because I was warded Saturday, I waited for two days before I was able to get them to fax a newer GL.
- My blood pressure, although it fluctuated up and down, appeared to be on the higher side. (It was the reason why they admitted me two days early: to monitor my blood pressure.)
- On my second night, I develop a bad cough with a lot of phlegm and its cousin sputum. Their colour over the night was yellow. The anaesthetist who consulted with the ENT department recommended postponing the surgery.
- Finally, according to the blood taken from me earlier, my white blood cell count was high, probably caused by the infected upper respiratory tract - why I was coughing.
The view at night from the Second Class Ward bathroom is nice.
So, I have been discharged for the hospital with no surgery done. More wasted time. I eagerly await the next date of my surgery to remove this polypoidal mucosa.
Like last year I drew the workplace's Aidilfitri card again!
Click on the cropped picture below to see the full image:
Thankfully I did not have to draw every single personnel like last year. Whew.
It started as a sore right toe, specifically its joints.
So I went to the doctor. After some questions, the doctor said, "WELCOME TO THE CLUB!" The doctor has the gout. So now I have the gout.
Nothing to do but to consume the meds and control my diet to decrease the pain.
Which I think might be a whole lot better than watching Showgirls.
It was back in early October after Raya Haji vacation when I began to fall ill with fever, coughs and sniffles. I blew my nose at work and sprayed the toilet at the office with a bowl full of blood. That never happened before. I thought that such amount of blood should not be outside of any human body.
The pain was strong and constant. It speared up into the right eye and down into the right side of the mouth. The smell of blood from my nose and mouth was incessant. (My review of Andy Weir's novel The Martian might have been written when I was right in the middle of it as evident from the last paragraph.)
One quick visit to a clinic near home, and a doctor diagnosed just a nosebleed perhaps because of my vigorous nose blowing over the days. A second visit later in the week, and I was referred to the ENT Specialist Clinic at Hospital Tuanku Fauziah.
Endoscopy turned up one nasal polyps. A scheduled CT scan a week later discovered a second polyps. This was escalation. But by this time, I had expectorated a mass of blood and mucus (see end of entry) which had suddenly neutralised whatever that triggered the pain. A steroid spray was bestowed unto me to keep the polyps from flaring up again.
The removal of the polyps one way or another was then scheduled for early March.
It was now early March, and after 43 years of avoiding it, I finally had to be hospitalised for a major surgery.
I was to undergo a functional endoscopic sinus surgery, followed by a septoplasty - apparently I have a deviated septum and no one noticed over the years.
Atok and Opah visited from Sitiawan to ensure Irfan would be okay at home and ready for school while Ain took care of me overnight in the hospital ward. So on the first day, I registered and I was assigned to a bed. It was a nice bed, but it had no inlaid diagnostic scanners, no automatic expert systems to inject me the right drugs at the right time, no wireless connection so I could access and read whatever medical data it has on me.
Apparently I was expected to just lie on the bed.
I had neighbours in nearby beds and later than afternoon Irfan visited me after school along with Ain, Opah and Atok. In the meantime, I spent my time reading the last half of Abbadon's Gate. That evening, after Atok, Opah and Irfan had returned home, it was just Ain and I.
Hospital food here was not too bad. I would say I found it somewhat tasty. Who said hospital food was unpalatable? I hope that they had minimised exposure to the Phoebe protomolecules in the food, or my next x-ray scan will be quite mutagenically interesting.
It appears that I have upgraded the blog from Pivot 1.4 to PivotX 2.3.11 after many months - no, years - of fretting if the CMS which has been vaporware for quite some time would die on us without warning. It was either get left behind by technology, or to upgrade. Upgrading runs the risk of causing irreparable damage. Especially to the ones and zeros that made up this weblog's flat file database.
Last weekend, I made the plunge.
It took me seven hours plus change just to import the old database to the new and there are still issues to be resolved. For example, the URL of each entry used to be ^blog/pivot/index.php?id=(number). Now their URLs end with ^blog?e=(number).
I need to read up on htaccess code to allow all the multitude of links I have dropped all over the internet over the years to be redirected to their new URLs.
Now, I think the blog looks great although I see requirements for more tweaks - especially in the template code - in the immediate future.
Finally, here is a picture I drew a month or two ago just to enliven this blog post.
Three structures in the distance.
Happy birthday, Little Adik who is now four solar years old.
He is quite the loquacious dude on Google Hangouts as the image to the right reveals.
I can't believe he's talking to me using text on the internet these days.
Maybe someday he'll be a writer, if he writes as well as his sister draws!
May he continue to communicate honourably and wisely throughout he future.
Verbally, visually or metatextually.
After our inaugural viewing of Star Wars The Force Awakens in Alor Setar, Cikma - who was very far along her pregnancy - was admitted to hospital for blood pressure that went through the roof. So first thing the next morning Ain and Irfan travelled to KL by bus to aid Cikma.
But before their bus cruised into the city, young Rania Sumayyah was decantered into this world. Both mother and infant were healthy upon her arrival.
Welcome to this universe, Baby Rania!
Of course, Irfan is happy because he gets to meet with his cousins!
We had two weeks to spend in Kuala Lumpur because of my course. Let's get the unpleasantness out of the way first: I had the flu for two days in the first week, then three in the second. It was unpleasant not just because I felt like a popsicle all day but also because it was expensive, but I did not miss a day of class.
During the weekend that marked the midpoint of our adventure in KL, we spend the night at Kak Nor's house where Irfan played to his heart's content with his cousins! On Sunday, I went to continue the Modesty Blazing Star Wars Edge of the Empire campaign, picking up where we left off 14 months ago when I still lived in the city.
Ain and Irfan bought a Corellian VCX-100 freighter which I put to good use during the game earlier.
So the intensive translation course was pretty outstanding. Not only was it informative and useful to my work but the other attendees were all amazing people from various backgrounds, all coming together to learn the tricks of the translation trade. The instructors were practising translators with a truckload of information which they could recall at will.
The building we were in can see all the way to Taman Seri Rampai.
And so it was that the workplace booked me on a two week course. The course was to be held back in Kuala Lumpur. You know the city: Irfan's kampung. We drove southbound and spent the night in Sitiawan before continuing on to Kuala Lumpur after a breakfast with Irfan's Atok and Opah.
We stopped at Sekinchan at a restaurant where lunch was to be had on what appeared to be a kotatsu. A novel thing, and it helped that the food was delicious.
We arrived in the city and headed for Cikma's place where we rendezvoused with every sibling of Ain (and their family) where Irfan was reunited with his cousin Aiman once more.
Then after, we headed for the building where the course was held way across town from Cikma's place. Ain had discovered that the place had accomodations for course attendees and they were affordable. Because of a communication mix up among the staff there, we had to wait for someone to let us in through the inner security door which leads to the lift lobby.
But all was resolved soon.
The best part about the accomodations is that it came with a library! There were loads of books that were translated from Malay to English and vice versa. I was soon to discover that I had not one iota of time to read any of the books because of the course workload.
I really wanted to buy that Epic of Hang Tuah book, which was translated from Hikayat Hang Tuah, but in the end I had to spend on other books. So we will return some day for the Epic of Hang Tuah.
The room we were assigned to was very comfortable as the boy is glad to demonstrate for us in the photo below. I found the air conditioning unbearably cold though.
...when Griff (and Jason Scott Lee too for some reason) gets arrested.
That is all.
Fifteen years since we that day Ain and I got married. We've had a number of anniversaries over the fifteen years. Fifteen years of juking and barrel rolling and Tallon rolling and drop kick Koiogran turn just to stay out of reach of blaster bolts from the rear. Sometimes, we would get it and it would hurt because it would mean I failed to keep my family from hurt and harm. Most of the time, we would pull through by the skin of our teeth.
This was the first year we celebrate our anniversary without anyone attempting to acquire a target lock on us. It was amazing. I felt like it was the first time I managed to get the ship out of the asteroid field and away from the savage squad of pursuing fighters. We were able to spend some on pizza without worrying about the cost killing us like before.
We spent the evening at Shala Pizza.
I got a little Pizza Supreme pan, while Ain got a burger. I did not get enough pictures because the phone ran out of juice.
Irfan had the one slathered with the BBQ sauce.
Even with the last 15 years of running on spit and chicken wire, with oil dripping from the ceiling and everything one step from breaking down into scrap, we kept on fighting the good fight. And we don't plan on stopping to. I would never have come this far if it were not for Ain at my side.
Love you forever, Ain.
The haze has crept up and enveloped the entire northern region of the country. The last couple of days has been abysmal. Visibility range has been lowered to about 200 metres. Even the night rains failed to scrub the air. Even worse is this cough I am experiencing which started when we went to Kuala Lumpur last month and took a turn for the worse on our way home from Sitiawan after Hari Raya Haji.
I joked once that our family motto is Lepas Satu, Satu. In Kuala Lumpur, after we get out of one crisis, it is customary for an even larger crisis to swamp us. I sincerely hoped that this is not one of those instances, now that we are on the brink of being able to live with a small measure of comfort.