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Tuesday, September 01, 2015

power Out

I wondered why I woke up on Saturday at 4:30 in the morning. I wasn't due to travel and I hadn't planned anything special that morning. Then I realised the air conditioning wasn't on.

A walk down to the panel box didn't help. Flipping the switches on and off didn't work making me wonder if there'd been a power cut although all the street lights were still on. The funny thing was that most of the houses on my street didn't seem to have a problem, just mine and my neighbour. I guess they woke up first because I certainly didn't call the TNB guys that arrived in less than fifteen minutes of my stuffy awakening.

Unfortunately, the crew that came couldn't fix the problem. Something in the transformer box outside had been totally burnt and would require a more 'heavy duty' crew with the right tools and replacement materials. To quote, "Kita kena panggil lori bang, ni dah habis terbakar."

It was too hot in the house to wait and we didn't know how long it would take anyway, so I have God to thank that McDonalds is open 24/7 these days. After breakfast and then some, the talked about lorry hadn't come yet so I resigned myself to waiting a little more, but again, less than fifteen minutes later the red truck arrived

                                    I watched them work on replacing the burnt units (I don't really know what its called, an online search didn't enlighten me any further). Seeing how burnt it was, I guess it must've been quite a power overload:

                                                                        Talking to one of the TNB guys, I discovered something about my house. Apparently my neighbour shares power with mine. The transformer has a direct line running to my neighbour's box which is then distributed to mine. This means if at any time my neighbour has a blackout, I'll definitely get one but if I get one, my neighbour won't be affected. It seems to be a very clever piece of cost saving by my house developer.

Anyhow, TNB was pretty quick about their work. They didn't waste any time in replacing the spoiled parts. Before leaving they did check with us to make sure our houses had power which was nice. At least they didn't just leave after completing their 'required work'.

I was quite impressed with how efficiently TNB responded, from the first respondents to the final team that fixed the problem. Its always nice to see Malaysian service providers come through, particularly public service agencies. Well done TNB.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

year Later

So, it took a conversation about food and a short mention of a friend of a friend's blog to make me turn the browser back mine. I know I haven't been at it for quite some time, but I didn't realise it's been more than a year! I guess, it'd be good to reflect on what the last 12 months have been for me.

As far as work was concerned, a change was welcome. The friendlier and a slightly more open culture made it a better place to be and I thank God that I'm able to get along with colleagues and bosses all around. While people have come and gone since then, I thank God his favour continues to be with me in my workplace.

Apart from that, I'd returned to the familiar yet unfamiliar city of KL, with me not knowing anybody. It took many months before I settled into any sort of social groove. My problem was I was real picky choosing a group to belong to with my own perceptions of how KL people are like. Yet, I had to put  myself somewhere knowing that I'd start drifting away on my own become laissez faire about things.

Choosing a cell with people I didn't know at all was what I wanted, trying unfamiliar faces in a familiar place. At first, I wondered if I'd made the right choice after realising how different everyone in cell was from me, being in a different stage of life than all of them. I stuck to it for a while, trying to share life with them, but I realised that my future friendships was best placed with peers rather than forcing myself to fit with people inherently different from me.

Still I'm grateful for the friendships that were built there and the short partnership I had with people like Daniel, Le Sze, Fai, Christine, Nic and Mel. I'd contributed in my own way, but I guess it was best for to switch and I think that was a turning point for me.

At the same time, I was happy to be back in SIB KL, and perhaps I've seen a small bit of the reason of why I've come back. Learning things that I never really focused on or understood before has helped to realise the importance of things like destiny and territory. They seem like big philosophical words that I'd leave to the more 'intelligent' minds or 'super-spiritual' people but I'm beginning to see how these are real things to care about and that it's really up to God's people and not anyone else.

In that sense, I believe that I am where I am with a certain purpose and that as I go along, He'll reveal the bits and pieces I need to know and it's up to me to learn a deeper understanding of His will. That's the part of the journey I'm on now I suppose, still struggling with myself to dig deeper.

Monday, June 30, 2014

starting Over

next phase
new season
re start
new ground

Imagine a fantasy-like world where every place is connected by only an underground railroad. Everybody starts in a different place. Each time you choose where to go with many choices, but once you leave your station, you can never go back. Its a risk with many unknowns but there's plenty of room for new adventure and infinite possibilities. Each person can stay as long as they like in one place, but once you  leave, you can't return to where you came from. You can only get on that next train for that ride through the dark without knowing what the end will be until you see that light at the end of the tunnel.

Some of us have a good idea of where we want to go and work hard to earn our ticket to those places. High achieving students get a ticket into a good college, maybe even a plane ticket to an overseas campus. The work suits among us work hard to get tickets for personal pleasures in the form of a bigger pay check. Others are dealt with budget tickets maybe, some out of a lack of ability, others just without luck. The even less fortunate may never get a ticket to a better place at all.

Then again sometimes, we're forced to take that train we don't want to take.

Like I said, sometimes we know what we want and what we don't. Yet, God seems to have a way of landing people in places they would've never thought of or felt comfortable about. It's hardly worth anything to get angry with Him about it, after all would that change anything? Yet, you naturally feel frustrated and disappointed. Why becomes a word often used as an expression of dissatisfaction.

But I'd like to hope that this new place I'm going to will be just as a good or even better than where I wanted to go in the first place. Like a young child that typically misunderstands his father's decision or instruction that differs from his own thoughts, there may be things I don't understand and have not seen but my Father knows a lot better than I do. It's usually hard to see in such circumstances and it's never immediately apparent. I guess it takes time and patience to understand and see the better picture. Hopefully I'll have what I need to make that happen.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

sing Off

I'm so tired of saying "It's been a while since I last blogged," almost every time I've written an entry this year but it really does feel that way, even now. Still, I'm glad I've come across something in the past two weeks that made me put my fingers to the keyboard for this one.

This story is actually courtesy of the fact that YouTube exists. As I (and most probably millions of others do) was searching for nice covers of popular hits, I came across a video that I'd actually stumbled on a year or two ago but totally forgot about since then.

A cappella group Dartmouth Aires were performing their rendition of R Kelly's Ignition remix. It was the first vocal-only live performance I'd seen on YouTube and I liked it quite a bit. Watching the video, I found out they were performing on this show on NBC, called The Sing-Off. As you've probably figured out by now, its a singing competition not unlike The Voice and American Idol except there's no band or background music, you have to make it yourself. That's the beauty of a capella after all.

After searching and watching more videos of  The Sing-Off, I discovered a name that's actually quite popular on YouTube right now, Pentatonix, winners of the most recent season of The Sing-Off. Pentatonix really showed how a capella music has evolved, especially with the influences of hip-hop beat box and electronic dance music. It was totally incredible to see Pentatonix, a group of just five people sing, vocalise drum beats and incredible remix-type sounds in a single performance:

Pentatonix peforming Kesha's Your Love is My Drug

Being totally hooked after that, I started watching performances of other groups on the show. That's when I discovered my favourite group, Afro-Blue (now called Traces of Blue). They didn't come first, that went to Pentatnoix, but surprisingly to me, they didn't get second or third. They had to settle for fourth place, but they're my favourite group by far.

Afro-Blue has this really jazz and soulful feel about them, yet it feels very vibrant. I just loved so many of their performances, here are some to name a few:

Corinne Bailey Rae - Put Your Records On
Estelle - American Boy
Janet Jackson Medley
Sam Cooke - A Change is Gonna' Come
Lady Antebellum - I Need You Now

Here's my favourite one from them, although it was really hard to single one out for me:

With ten members, their arrangements of songs always sounded very full, nice bass lines, and more than one person could do lead vocals. All of them were just great. I just love their sound and they seem like a nice bunch of people. I guess I just kind of gravitate to groups like that.

Then, I found the winners of the previous season, Committed. While not so modernly flamboyant, every performance I watched was just so smooth. It's so interesting because Committed is actually a group of guys who come from a traditional background of singing choir in church. Explaining their name was very simple, "We came up with the name Committed because we're committed to God, to our music and to each other"

Apparently they'd never sung Billboard hits before and had been singing only hymns and gospel music, but they never looked out of touch in any performance I saw them in. Just see this rendition of One Republic's song Apologize and you'll get what I mean:

If you watch the video, you'll notice Ben Fold's is just speechless and I haven't seen that happen for any other top performances on the show that I've seen.

After seeing all these amazing groups, I just started downloading the videos, songs where I could get them. There're at least 10 songs in Sing-Off style being put to loop in my car the last few days! I guess the last week of watching all these amazing performers gave me one of those moments where its like those memes that go 'take my money now!' and there's this picture of someone throwing money at the computer screen because he's seen something so incredible but he just can't get his hands on it.

Then, while looking for more, I found a more humbling story. I didn't know much about the history of Jerry Lawson until I did a little research. I don't want to dwell too long on his story, but just imagine a man who was in a popular a capella group back in the 70's that got onto the Billboard charts even. Having dropped out of the a capella scene because of some troubles, he fell on hard times and he said on the show that through faith and God, he pulled through, found a new group so compatible with him and was invited to participate on The Sing-Off.

In everything new I've come across through The Sing-Off in the last week or so, what I loved most was actually how people like Jerry Lawson and even Committed acknowledged God as important to them. In the second last episode of season 2 where Terry from Committed was asked what it would mean to them if the judges sent them through to the final, I think he mentioned God  twice in the same sentence and that just about sums it up for me. I just think its great when people thank the Creator for being the source of their talent and success, that's all really. =)

Sunday, September 01, 2013

keep Believing

One thing you should know about me is I’m the kind of person that likes to believe the underdog can make it, even when results and statistics don’t seem to agree. When I say the underdog, I could mean anyone. It could mean a sports team, a country, a friend, a leader, or even myself.

That said, I haven’t always got the satisfaction of seeing the little guys make it. In fact, it’s quite rare. I guess that’s only expected, they’re the little guys after all. Actually, of the underdogs I’ve supported, I only seem to remember one that made it.

One that Made It
Interestingly, this doesn’t have anything to do about winning or losing. I remember reading an article many years ago about a Chinese company on BusinessWeek’s website. It was about a sports apparel company from China that was a ‘jaguh kampung’. The article mentioned how it was doing all right within China, but had no presence abroad. It was seen as one of those companies that specialised in being copycats, a company that didn’t do much more than make knockoffs of branded sports goods. They even had a go at its logo, saying it seemed to be an adaptation of the Nike swoosh.

To be fair, the article did say it had some potential. Being Asian, I was a little sympathetic. I hoped this company would become big over the next few years despite the sentiment and prove Asia could succeed in an established industry and that the rest of the world would acknowledge it.

Today, Li-Ning endorses top athletes like Dwayne Wade and Lin Dan. Plus, with their shoes having appeared on websites like SneakerFreaker and KicksOnFire, it shows how far they’ve come. A trip to one of their stores in KL will show you they’re not competing against copycats, but are getting right up there. Honestly, the first time I saw the Li-Ning store in One Utama, I couldn’t help but smile a little knowing this was the brand I’d been quietly rooting for all these years.

The Other Little Guys I’m Hoping On
The first one’s more of a joke really, but oh well. Being a person that watches Running Man, I find myself rooting for Lee Kwang Soo a lot. Now, I know the show is scripted as a variety show but there’s not much ‘scripting’ when it comes to the games. Being the tall, skinny and somewhat dim-witted one, Kwang Soo is hardly ‘winner’ material, yet I find myself supporting this guy. I think of all the individual races in the 150+ episodes there have been, he’s only won once.

The other one that’s more serious isn’t about one person, but two. Specifically, they’re Malaysia’s number one badminton mixed doubles pair, Chan Peng Soon and Goh Liu Ying. Despite their good world ranking, they’re very much underdogs, seeing that the target is being world number one and the fact that they get eliminated from tournaments quite often.

The reason I support them more than men’s singles or doubles is because I just love the way they are on court. When you see them play, its obvious they work hard, that they are fearless and they support one another. Watching them, I personally believe they can be world beaters, but statistics and recent performances definitely beg to differ. Every now and then at the courts, I tell some of my friends I like our mixed doubles pair but there’s hardly an enthusiastic response anytime I mention it. Personally, I still believe this pair can make it big, that their quality can actually grab an Olympic medal. It’s quite a far fetched expectation for many I think, but that’s the kind of belief I have for Chan and Goh.

The Main Point
I guess the main point I’m trying to make here is I want to believe that the people we’re used to see losing can become winners, champions even. I know it doesn’t happen often, but I’ve seen enough to know that its not impossible.

I believe the same applies to me and my country too. There are situations where we’re underdogs and the odds are overwhelming. We’re not always in the best condition, but we’ve got to back ourselves to get out there, do the best we can and keep believing the best is yet to come. Its not time to give up hope, its time to dig deep, pray, believe and persevere to defeat the giants in front of us.

Monday, August 12, 2013

pushing Forward

Its been some time since I put keyboard to blog. Now that I am, once again it feels like time just flew by. Many things have happened, and its a little hard to summarise everything that I've been doing or thinking in one go.

Like a lot of people, I guess I'm in that place where we've just passed a season, when many people were passionate, emotional, even angry about a single event. Now that it's passed, its no longer about the emotions, but about what's next. Life goes on right? Time doesn't stop for anyone.

From what I've seen, some go on doing their routine, but they harbour disappointment. Some let it go and say, "Maybe next time,". Others sigh, feeling a little hopeless because they feel there's nothing they can do to make things better and that the people that should may be doing the opposite.

Moving on from that, a few things have happened, mostly knee-jerk reactions. It doesn't help that many other incidents during recent times in business, politics or even sports have left a bitter taste. Assassinations in the past week have made us fearful again, and it can be startling that the price of a life can be as little as a few thousand ringgit. All this goes on while we're back in the routine of striving hard for the better life. Its all very complicated. It creates more doubts and questions than answers.

Despite all this, I've learnt over time that its important to respond rather than react to a situation. Of course, the question is, how?

For me, what I'm learning is to focus on the right thing, which is to come back to God and just seek him. Its not the same as saying 'turning back to religion' is the answer. The whole idea of going back to religion is a retreat, hoping ancient rules and methods can get society back on track. Its about coming back to strengthen a relationship that isn't as close as it should be.

It's difficult for me to explain what I mean by 'seeking God'. The best way I can explain is to say it involves removing my focus from the situation and focusing on God. It's not a time where we suddenly become oblivious to the real world, but its a time where we stop complaining, murmuring, grumbling. Its a time where we surrender our burdens, our thoughts, our knowledge and just say, "God I need you. We need you."

Sometimes I believe we (and that includes me) think we are very smart. In a world full of information at your fingertips, its easy to be a political pundit, an armchair critic, sports analyst or that guy who just knows it all like an annoying tall scientist in that famous sitcom. We talk a lot and have plenty of opinions, yet we are where we are.

That's why I know its not nearly enough to rely on what we know, or what we think we know. I believe that God knows. He has His purpose, ways and timing. I want to trust and rely on Him more and I'm glad to know there are many others like me who are beginning to desire the same.

How we push forward instead of dwelling in the past, is by putting our confidence in Him. Ask any professional athlete and they'll tell you confidence is important, its powerful. That kind of confidence is believing in your self ability. If that's the case, then how powerful is it to place confidence in God who's more powerful than anything else? We don't just keep calm and carry on. We keep praying and pushing on.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

clean Hearts

Over the past few months or so, quite a bit has happened and there’ve been many thoughts running through my mind. There’s so much that I would’ve like to pen down here in this blog, but busyness caught up with me and I’ve either had no time or have completely forgotten some of the things I wanted to say.

Then today, I guess I caught hold of something good, something encouraging that I wanted to make sure was recorded somewhere. A few things came across my mind today that you could say was coincidence, but I think it wasn’t, but something that was meant to be.

Today, at church we had communion, an act of remembering the powerful act of love that Jesus did on the cross to save me and everyone else from the power of sin. The bread represents the new life and the drink, the blood of Jesus Christ that’s washed away all sin, giving us a clean slate, a second chance.

At the church I go to right now, communion is held once a month and it just so happened that today, on the same day that we had communion, the guest speaker in church spoke on having the right spirit, the right ‘heart attitude’. While communion and ‘right spirit’ don’t seem to have a direct connection, the speaker shared something that did.

He shared a portion of the bible, Psalms 51:10, which says, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

In the first and second verse of that very same chapter it says, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.”

Immediately, it reminded me of that song I’d heard before when Switchfoot’s frontman Jon Foreman had just started his solo project. Of the few that I heard, this was always my favourite:

Jon Foreman–White as Snow

I guess all this reminded me of what I…. or what we all need to have moving on with our lives. Sometimes we can’t help getting stuck in bitterness, resentment and we may do things we think are right, but are actually coming from a wrong attitude of the heart. Some may say they seek justice but are actually harbouring rebellion in the heart. Some may say they have forgiven someone but refuse to offer a hand of reconciliation. Its important to reflect for a while and remember who it is that should be at the centre of our lives, of every thought and every action.

I think a few people, myself included need to calm our hearts and just ask God to renew our strength, to forgive us our sins, for us to rejoice in the joy of our salvation and remember that we’ve been blessed not to be a curse, but a blessing to others.

I take comfort in the fact that God sees us, that He knows us each individually and than although we have our own struggles and challenges, if we remain faithful and if we choose to have the right spirit, He will work things out for us. We don’t really have to fight so hard all the time, but just have the right heart attitude and let God lead the way as we go along.