Wednesday, May 31, 2017

I asked if am I too ambitious. I definitely am.

bought the Mandarin version of Divergent yesterday and thought I'd try reading it within the year. 

Fat chance!

I spent one and a half hours just trying to read three iPad pages of the book and I don't even understand exactly what I'm reading. 

I need another strategy to read in Chinese. 


Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Am I being too ambitious?

My colleague and I were discussing about learning the Chinese language and she suggested I should go to the small bookshop in the mall where our working place is and buy some children's books in Chinese to read. 

Before I could do it, she herself went to the bookshop today and bought these two books so she can read it to her 4-year old daughter. 

But in the meantime, she lent them to me.

The books are pretty simple...well, of course, they are children's books after all. I could easily read the first page, without the hanyu pinyin, with no problems at all. 

Then I began thinking maybe I should be more ambitious. I remember reading Gabriel Wyner's Fluent Forever where he suggested that intermediate language learners should try reading the Harry Potter series in the chosen language. 

Well, I don't think I am intermediate yet. I'm more in the beginner-intermediate level but why not I thought, there's no harm trying. 

So I went hunting but I couldn't find the Kindle version of The Philosopher's Stone but I did find this. I bought it since it's also on sale at $1.99. 

分歧者 Divergent
by Veronica Roth

I could read the first line with a little help from the downloaded Kindle Chinese-to-English dictionary. 

But I don't know if I am being too ambitious. I think I will try to spend at least 30 minutes a day to read as many pages as I can. And even that, I think it would be a miracle if I can finish it in a year...if I can last a year, that is. I am not sure if I can even last a week! But let's not think that. 

Let's see how it goes...keeping my fingers crossed. 


Monday, May 29, 2017

Yippee! Two more books before the month is out

I bought two more books! 

It's hard not to buy them when they look so interesting and especially when they are only a little more than a dollar each. 

The Herbal Apothecary, 100 Medicinal Herbs and How to Use Them
by J.J. Pursell

Revolutionary Medicine, The Founding Fathers and Mothers in Sicknrss and in Health
by Jeanne E. Abrams


Sunday, May 28, 2017

Guard your heart above all else

The sermon today was taken from Proverbs 4, and as I was reading it in the NLT version, the message was so clear.

Proverbs 4:20-27 NLT
My child, pay attention to what I say. Listen carefully to my words. Don't lose sight of them. Let them penetrate deep into your heart, for they bring life to those who find them, and healing to their whole body. Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. Avoid all perverse talk; stay away from corrupt speech. Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you. Mark out a straight path for your feet; stay on the safe path. Don't get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil.

The paramount message is to guard our hearts. And guard it above all else. This is because the heart determines the course of our lives.

I find this a very good and timely reminder for me to check my heart every moment, every day, to make sure that it is set firmly and closely to the heart and word of God. I get so easily distracted and I forget who I am and what my purpose is as a child of God. 

So this is a firm reminder for me -- guard my heart above all else, for it determines the course of my life. I put my heart in your hands, Lord Jesus. Cleanse it and teach me to follow you all the days of my life.



Saturday, May 27, 2017

Book Review: Daughters of the Dragon

Daughters of the Dragon, A Comfort Woman's Story
by William Andrews

I started reading this book yesterday and it was so engaging, I finished it in one go today. 

It is an awesome book. It holds a gripping tale about how a comfort woman survived through years of countless daily rape by Japanese soldiers, whilst trying to barely hang on to the bare modicum of self-respect, and how she survived the shame in the years after. 

It aches my heart to know that this is a story that is based on the real lives of at least two hundred thousand women who were forced into such atrocities. They were brutally raped, tortured and most were subsequently killed when Japan lost the war. 

And I would like to repeat what I quoted two days ago: it's "a narrative that honors the 200,000 sex slaves of the Japanese Imperial Army in WWII, and brings to light this historical, systematic atrocity."

We must honor these women and remember them, for what they had to go through and what they had to suffer in this broken and fallen world. 


Friday, May 26, 2017

The one quote that baffles me

I began reading the book I bought yesterday, Daughters of the Dragon by William Andrews and at the beginning, right in Chapter 3, I read something I can't figure out, however hard I tried to wrap my head round it, which I did try the whole day today. 

"...dreams are who you are when you’re too tired to be yourself."

What is the meaning of that? What am I when I'm too tired to be myself?

I still can't make out what's it's suppose to mean. Can you?


Thursday, May 25, 2017

Two Promising Books

I haven't been reading much fiction lately but when I received an email from Amazon to check out its monthly deals before the month runs out, these two titles stood out for me. 

The first is a book about readers, reading and bookshops. And any books on readers, reading and bookshops would definitely interest me. The book cover alone is enough to draw me in. 

I clicked on the second book without realizing it's a book about the comfort women of Korea. I only got to know about them recently when I read about the history of Korea in Korea, The Impossible Country. The author here has weaved a story about a former sex slave, about life, loss, survival and triumph. Mike Honda who reviewed the book said, "Author William Andrews weaves a narrative that honors the 200,000 sex slaves of the Japanese Imperial Army in WWII, and brings to light this historical, systematic atrocity."

I am really looking forward to dig in. 

The Bookshop on the Corner, A Novel
by Jenny Colgan

Daughters of the Dragon, A Comfort Woman's Story
by William Andrews


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

My yearly big sick

I am currently down with my "yearly big sick" with a very bad flu. Achoo!!!


Monday, May 22, 2017

Best time traveling episode ever

I love watching movies and TV dramas about time traveling but I think of all time traveling shows, this one from Doctor Who is by far the best and the scariest of them all, Don't Blink!


Sunday, May 21, 2017

Speak Hokkien and Cantonese

My friend sent me this video which I thought was quite brilliant. I speak very, very little Hokkien but I can still make out some of the few words used by the speaker. 

This is the first Cantonese TED Talk that I listened to and it is a good thing. I plan to check them out and listen to more. 

It is decades now since I've listened to Cantonese sermons back when I was still in my family church. I didn't realize I miss it. 


Saturday, May 20, 2017

Life's becoming routine but I like it

The secret of your future is hidden in your daily routine. 
~ Mike Murdock

Most of life is routine - dull and grubby, but routine is the momentum that keeps a man going. If you wait for inspiration you'll be standing on the corner after the parade is a mile down the street. 
~ Ben Nicholas

For pragmatic reasons, I love the routine. I love the structure of it. I love knowing that my days are free. I know where I'm going at night. I know my life is kind of orderly. I just like that better. 
~ Andrea Martin

I began to realize how simple life could be if one had a regular routine to follow with fixed hours, a fixed salary, and very little original thinking to do. 
~ Roald Dahl


Thursday, May 18, 2017

Great teamwork!

I spent most of today getting ready for our company's Climbathon event. This is a really great and fun team to work together. And we made 60 people climb 12 floors of stairs!


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Yummiest stewed lamb shank with only two ingredients

I brought my own lunch to work today and it was so good. The weird thing though is that I only used two ingredients to make it: a lamb shank and an onion. 

I put the lamb shank and the diced onion into the pressure cooker and cooked it for half an hour. Then I separate flesh from bone, remove the oils and pop it into the freezer. 

This morning, I brought it to work and placed it in the office fridge freezer. I reheated it in the microwave for 6 minutes, and it was the most delicious lunch I've had in the office in a long time. 

This made me remember one thing that Michael Pollan said in the last Coursera lecture I attended. 

He said that cooking isn't so complicated if we don't make it so. All you need to have in your home are these few basic ingredients: olive oil, onions, garlic, lemons, sugar, and salt. And as an Asian, adding soy sauce and oyster sauce would complete the list. 

All the time, I thought that the more ingredients I put in, the more complete the dish. But now I think differently. What's more important to me currently is to actually get back to cooking and so the easier and the simpler it is, the better. 

So with just some meat and an onion, how much simpler can it get. 


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

How a dog I don't have stopped a break-in to my house

Someone tried to break into our house at 5:45 this morning. But we got down just in time to avert it. My hubby got down to switch the porch lights back on, and the perpetrator ran away. 

This was how they tried to break in. I thank God we managed to stop them in time. 

But how I was woken up to realize what was happening is quite amazing I think. And I firmly believe that it was my God who woke me up to take care of the situation before it was too late. 

And with that, God certainly has a good sense of humour. Here's what happened:

Firstly, we don't have a dog. Having a dog in such a circumstance will be useful but we don't. 

But in that exact same time that morning, I dreamt I had one and it was barking frantically outside my house. I got down to open the door and when I did, my dog flew through the door railings towards my head and because of that I woke up with a jump. 

That was when I heard the grating noise downstairs and woke my hubby to check it out. 

Now you tell me God did not send me a dream dog to wake me up to chase the perpetrator away. 

And maybe it's time to get a real dog. 


Monday, May 15, 2017

The Perfect Sick Pillow

It's Monday and I'm sick. What I need is to get a pillow like this. 


Sunday, May 14, 2017

Lord, purify my heart, correct me, discipline me

Our sermon this morning by Rev Wong Fong Yang is on Proverbs 3:11-12, entitled Do Not Despise the Lord's Discipline

We would normally accept discipline when we know we have done wrong and the Lord disciplines us, but it is when we have not done anything wrong, the Lord still disciplines us. Why?

The answer is pretty straight forward, though hard to take: it is because He loves us and wants to mature us.  If you imagine yourself not having gone through any difficult periods in your life, how would you have turned out to be? Not a very matured or nice person for that matter I'd say.

So be glad for the Father's discipline on us, his children, whom he loves. 

I was worship leading today and I picked Refiner's Fire as the song of response which was most appropriate. I had the privilege to have my former vocal teacher, Charity Lee, to be my back-up (what are the odds? We ended up attending the same church!). It was fulfilling to sing the song with her, calling out to God to purify and cleanse us. 

I found this video by Jeremy Passion and The Katinas who did an amazing job on the song. I kept listening to it over and over again as I work on this post. What a lovely interpretation of the song. 

Do take a listen. 


Saturday, May 13, 2017

Walk and not faint


The floor scooped me up where I stood, and I blinked as it hit me.
~ M. Beth Bloom, Drain You  

I always thought fainting showed an inherent weakness of character, but I understood it now. It was an act of self-preservation. Confronted by emotion too extreme to handle, the body shuts down to keep from running around like a chicken with its head cut off, potentially injuring itself.  
~ Karen Marie Moning 

The life of faith is not a life of mounting up with wings, but a life of walking and not fainting.  
~ Oswald Chambers 


Friday, May 12, 2017

About the Likert Scale

I learnt quite a lot about surveys today. It has been awhile since I've studied statistics. And on top of that, surveys also take into account psychology. With that, I find it is a very interesting topic. 

I have been using the phrase "Likert Scale" a lot only to find out now that it is based on a seminal article written by Rensis Likert in 1932: A Technique for the Measure of Attitudes

It is a long article. This other article would be a shorter one to get a summary of what is discussed. 

My take away from it is that the Likert Scale is ordinal and not interval in nature. 

Statistically speaking, an ordinal scale refer to a scale where the order of the values is what’s important and significant, but the differences between each one is not really known. 

Interval scales on the other hand are numeric scales in which we know not only the order, but also the exact differences between the values.

The Likert Scale is an ordinal one and as such we cannot use mean or average and standard deviations to analyze the results. The median and mode should be used instead but I do see many reports that use the average to analyze the data. 

The other thing that I learnt is about central tendency. I've always thought that it better to have an even level of values than odd, so that respondents do not always be neutral but decide between a positive or negative. 

An example of an even one is Strongly Agree, Agree, Disagree and Strongly Disagree as opposed to an odd one, Strongly Agree, Agree, Neither Agree or Disagree, Disagree and Strongly Disagree. 

Now I am not so sure. It is true that in some areas, respondents are indeed neutral about it and forcing them to make a choice would reduce the accuracy of the survey results.

What do you think?


Thursday, May 11, 2017

My May Book Haul

The non-fiction Kindle deals in Amazon isn't so great this month of May. There wasn't any that I took interest in, but I decided to take another look today and ended up with these three. I am quite happy with them. They look promising and  I hope they will turn out to be good reads. 

The History and Uncertaint Future of Handwriting
by Anne Trubek

Secrets from the Eating Lab
by Traci Mann, Ph.D

Merriam-Webster's Vocabulary Builder, 2nd Edition
by Mary Wood Cornog


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Naps are good for you

We have the day off today and for someone who never ever take a nap, I was napping away in the afternoon, and in the heat too, and thankfully I didn't get a headache as a result like I usually do after I sleep in the afternoon. 

Naps are supposed to be good for you, right?


Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Language and thinking - what's the connection?

As I drove to work this morning, I decided to return to my old habit of driving in silence to think and talk to myself. I have been listening to the radio too much lately anyway. 

And so I did just that - think and talk to myself as I commute. 

Midway through, I thought I should do it in Mandarin, since I need to get used to speaking in Mandarin anyway but I immediately got stuck. 

I couldn't do it. I couldn't think at all. I do not have enough knowledge or a fluency of the language to facilitate my thinking. This brought me to conclude that language and thinking is very, very closely connected. 

John W. Santrock in his book on psychology said that, "The relationship between language and thinking is an important question in psychology. Most agree that language (that is, words), plays an important role in memory and thinking...language determines the way we think."

Is that so?

Would you be able to think more effectively and deeply if you improve your command of your language? Is it true that if any one word does not exist for you, you will have no knowledge or understanding of that thing? And even if you have a picture of it, would you be able to articulate it well enough to explain it? 

I think it is debatable. 

So do what do you think is the role of language in thinking? Do we think using language, or do we only use language to express already made up thoughts?

Ah, I now have something new for me to find out and learn. 


Monday, May 08, 2017

Understanding the Brain

I stayed in during lunch today and I thought I'd check out Coursera to see if there is something interesting to learn. I have mentioned before that I am interested to learn more about the brain and I found this course. 

I signed up though the course is very long: a full 10-week course. The longest of all Coursera courses I've ever taken. 

The lecturer is Dr Peggy Mason, Professor of Neurobiology and she is actually quite funny and witty at times. I completed Week 1 during lunch today, I enjoyed listening to her and I learnt so much. 

It's going to be long and tedious but I am looking forward to the following 9 weeks. 


Sunday, May 07, 2017

Did you know where the word "goodbye" came from?

My dad is someone who refuses to use the word "goodbye" and would prefer either "good night" or "see you again." 

This was brought up during our bible study today and we begin to then ask what is the meaning of the word anyway. 

It really surprised us to find out that goodbye is a contraction of God be with you

From the Wiktionary's section on its etymology, the word came from an earlier Godby, Godby'e, Godbwye, God b'w'y, God bwy yee, God buy you, God be wi' you, each a progressively shorter contraction of God be with you. Note the change of God to good by confusion with good morning, good day, etc. 

In that case, it's actually good to say goodbye, isn't it? I'd be wishing that God will be with you. 


Saturday, May 06, 2017

Yummy Insalata Brezzolata

I seldom order a salad for a meal but after watching all those lectures on food and health by Stanford University, I thought I'd better begin to load on greens rather than meat. 

My son and I was at Bru Cafe in Faber Tower, Taman Desa today and I decided to take just a salad for lunch. 

Insalata Brezzolata
Mesclun Salad, Provola Cheese, Pear, Bacon, Mushrooms, Sultanas, Croutons, Walnuts, Capsicum and Sesame Seeds

By just looking at the ingredients and picture in the menu, it made me salivate. And yes, it was a very delicious salad. And it has given me an idea to whip up one myself at home, since my next stop will be to the grocery store anyway. 


Friday, May 05, 2017

What I need to do now is to open my mouth and speak it

I am getting on quite well with my vocabulary learning using HSK3 though I have cut down the daily number of new cards by half compared to HSK1 and 2 since words in HSK3 are ones I am less familiar with. 

It took me about one month to learn 300 words/347 characters in both HSK1 and HSK2. 

I am now about 10 days into the second month and I'm quite surprised I'm already halfway through HSK3, which has 300 words/270 characters. 

I am continually amazed with the beauty of the language. The Chinese characters are made up of both symbols and pictorials, combining them to give them their meaning. 

Take for example this word 接 that was new in my list today:

It is made up of 扌hand, 立 stand and 女 female. Based on my own logic, so I may not be right after hand, to me it means "to stand with hands to receive in ladylike gentleness." 

When I saw it that way, I had no problems remembering the word, which was challenging at first because there are many characters in the deck with the sound "jie" in its various tones. It's hard to differentiate which is which. 

However, I still find it hard to actually speak Mandarin. I can now understand why my cousin brother who once told me he actually had to force himself to open his mouth to speak English in order to improve in it. 

Looks like I have to open my mouth and start speaking Mandarin or I'll never do it. 


Thursday, May 04, 2017

Book Review: North Korea Confidential

North Korea Confidential: Private Markets, Fashion Trends, Prison Camps, Dissenters and Defectors
by Daniel Tudor and James Pearson

I have read a few books related to North Korea and with that you can say that I am quite intrigued by this mysterious and fascinating country. And so when I found this book written by Daniel Tudor, who is The Economist's Korea Correspondent, I quickly grabbed a copy. 

It is an interesting read, and it proposes that the lives of North Koreans is not quite what the usual reports or news make them out to be, even more so since the recent devastating famine of the 1990s which became a catalyst for change, with black markets for skinny jeans, homemade beer, DVDs and USB sticks for foreign movies and TV shows, computers and such. 

North Koreans may know more than you think they do and most no longer believe that South Koreans are worse off than them, but are in fact living lives far beyond what they can imagine. 

The authors conclude that, "the most likely scenario for North Korea in the short and medium term is the gradual opening of the country under the rule of the current regime. But North Korea, this profit-driven, feudalistic, traditional Korean “socialist paradise,” has long had the power to surprise. No-one really knows what the North Korea of 10 or 20 years hence will look like. In the meantime, we continue to watch with a mixture of frustration and hope."

If you are curious like me about this country, this is a highly recommended read; the best by far. 


Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Do you know what you eat?

have always been interested in food and nutrition, and had once even tried to see if I could enroll in a degree programme. I didn't commit though. 

And so when I saw this programme being offered by Stanford in Coursera, I quickly signed up.

It's very basic but very good, just nice and enough to learn about food and health for the time being. 

Death by Food Pyramid
by Denise Minger

I also read this book recently and my take away from it is not to believe in everything I read about food and what they claim is good or not good for you. I usually don't because most of those articles usually just go by a few anecdotes to promote their claims and beliefs. But after reading the book, I came to realize that even empirical studies are not as clear cut as they claim to be. 

Food is much more complicated than just its components and nutrients, it's a system. 

Michael Pollan who was featured in the Stanford course said that, "people like to figure [food] out because then you can just adjust that one thing and go on your merry way, but we haven't gotten that down yet. We don't know the answer to that question with any real confidence." 

With that, we still do not know for sure what is good and bad for sure but there are still some foods to avoid especially trans-saturated fats, fats that are made from oils through partial hydrogenation, a food processing method, that will increase unhealthy LDL cholesterol and lower healthy HDL cholesterol. 

I've already banned McDonald's from my food list with it being very calorie expensive. Now I will also be banning food like french fries, fried or battered food (oh no, there goes my fried chicken), margarine, frozen dinners, instant noodles, doughnuts, cookies, crackers, pies, pancakes, waffles, ice cream, nondairy creamer, and cakes.

I don't eat most of those food anymore, but some of them I might not be able to ban completely, but to eat less of them I shall. 


Monday, May 01, 2017

Fabricated City 조작된 도시 ★★★★☆

I have not gone to the cinema for quite awhile now and my good friend Wee Yin who recommends me loads of Korean movies to watch suggested we go to the cinema to watch one. 

And I immediately thought it was a splendid idea. 

But she said we will need to wait for a Korean movie festival. So I tried checking out what's in the cinemas, and there is indeed one Korean movie showing. 

Fabricated City (2017)

So we went and watched it today, and I must say, it was quite good. Predictable but good nonetheless. 

It was a tad too violent for me but I really love the action, the humour, the emotions, the car chase and especially this one drifting scene which was awesome. There is however, one ridiculous car scene that does not make sense. 

And I found this review of the movie by Rob Hunter very well written: 'Fabricated City' Livens Up a Familiar Plot With Stylish Action and Dramatic Brutality. Compared to another review I read, I find Hunter knows the Korean movie genre pretty well. 

The movie shows reality as it is, dark and real, very much like most good Korean movies do. Hunter says, the protagonist "Kwon Yu's time in prison is rough — he’s beaten on a regular basis, and after tangling with a resident gang leader named Ma he also finds himself sexually assaulted. This is no Tom Selleck in An Innocent Man where he comes close to being raped but narrowly avoids it — Kwon Yu is not so lucky — and his spiral of despair leads him to attempt suicide by chewing at his own wrists. It does not dodge the darkness."

Well, except that I found the level of technology portrayed in the movie a little too far fetched, or is it not?