Friday, June 30, 2017

My progress in learning Mandarin

It has been three months since I started on the HSK (Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi/Chinese Proficiency Test) decks and today marks the day I complete all the HSK3 cards in my Anki deck. 

That will be a total of 617 characters, 600 words and 1800 Anki cards from HSK1 to 3. That is not too many but definitely a good start considering I've been attempting to learn Chinese my whole life. 

With this achievement, I first thought I'd stop here to just revise and practice writing the characters, which by the way is the toughest.

But now I think I should not stop but to proceed on at a slower pace. I did maximize my time to cover the Anki HSK1 to 3 decks in the shortest time possible and to complete that in 3 months is something for me to celebrate. 

But HSK4 comes with 447 characters, 600 words and 1200 Anki cards, bringing the accumulated total to 1064 characters, 1200 words and 3000 Anki cards. 

At a much slower pace, it will take me 9 months to complete HSK4. But when I do, I will be able to "discuss a relatively wide range of topics in Chinese and are capable of communicating with Chinese speakers at a high standard."

I have so much to revise every day it is getting tough to find the time to complete my daily Anki cards requirement, let alone the Clavis Sinica app to practice my writing.

But that is the norm when it comes to language learning, isn't it?


Thursday, June 29, 2017

How will we ever get rid of chain mail?

I must say I am not one who receive much chain mail, now gone digital, but when I do, I'd just smirk at my phone screen and delete it. 

I read somewhere that apparently, if you are one who frequently forward chain mail or text along, you'd end up getting a lot of it in return. 

But sometimes, when someone who is close to me send me such text, I'd run a check to confirm that it's a hoax, which it usually is, and reply with a message telling them to delete and not feed into the continuous life of the chain text, and in the mean time learning something while reading about it in 

Why do people send chain mails? Some do it to get people to send money them money, apparently that was what it was for when it was used for the first time (check out its history here). Some do it to get access to email addresses or phone numbers. But some just do it just for fun to see how far it will go. 

Whatever it is, when you get something suspicious, just do a search to see if you have been had. However, some are so blatantly glaring you'd know at the bat of an eye it's a hoax. 

Just ask yourself these questions, why would this person ever text you of all people asking you for money to bail him out, and even if he would, would he just send you a text?

Why would Facebook or WhatsApp send the person in the photo you are about to forward, money by how many times the photos is shared? What kind of business returns would they get? Aren't there better ways for them to perform their corporate social responsibility?

Be smart. Ignore chain mails. 


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

I do miss working with MS Excel

I spent quite a large part of my career in consulting and one of my favourite part of consulting work is data analysis and working with MS Excel. I did not have that kind of work anymore for a while now, until today. 

We ran a survey recently and I now have in my hands all the data I can run tables and pivot charts on. 

And what more, it was a quiet day today in the office with most still on leave in this Hari Raya season. So I got to stay in my seat for the whole time without anyone disturbing me to work on MS Excel to get an analysis report out. 

Such bliss; the simple things that make me happy. 


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Great is Thy Faithfulness

I woke up with this song playing in my head, telling myself to fully have faith in the Almighty God who is ever so faithful. 

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee,
Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not,
As Thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be.

Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above;
Join with all nature in manifold witness,
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today, and bright hope for tomorrow
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside.


Monday, June 26, 2017

The Kid from the Big Apple ★★★★☆

The Kid from the Big Apple (2016)

I've always wanted to watch this movie. It was a Malaysian production released during Chinese New Year in 2016 and since I don't go to the cinema much these days, I missed it.

The movie won several awards in the 7th Macau International Movie Festival and the 28th Malaysian Film Festival. The boon of the movie came from good performances from the two lead actors: Ti Lung, a renowned actor in the golden age of Hong Kong cinema of the 80s and 90s, it is good to see him again, and the new child actress Sarah Tan Qin Lin, though I could not believe her characterization of a kid who spent all her 9-10 years growing up in New York because she does not sound like a New Yorker at all.

My favourite scene was the short fighting scene by both the grandfather and the grand daughter (0:00:31 of this clip). My apologies as I was not able to find clips with English subtitles. 

But what I like most is this performance by Jayson Tan, who is a natural. 

And you can see from these clips why I think the girl is definitely not from New York. 


Sunday, June 25, 2017

Turn your eyes on no one else but Jesus

We sang this good ol' hymn in church today it is timely that I'm being reminded to strengthen my relationship with Jesus, to fully turn my eyes on him, on no one else, on nothing else, but on him alone. 

I found this excellent version of the hymn sung by Loyiso Bala, Neville D and Ivan Siegelaar.

  1. O soul, are you weary and troubled?
    No light in the darkness you see?
    There’s light for a look at the Savior,
    And life more abundant and free!
    • Refrain:
      Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
      Look full in His wonderful face,
      And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
      In the light of His glory and grace.
  2. Through death into life everlasting
    He passed, and we follow Him there;
    O’er us sin no more hath dominion—
    For more than conqu’rors we are!
  3. His Word shall not fail you—He promised;
    Believe Him, and all will be well:
    Then go to a world that is dying,
    His perfect salvation to tell!

There is also this new version of the song by Nichole Nordeman that has also grown on me over the years. I listen to it whenever I need to remind myself to depend on God and God alone, whatever the circumstance. 


Saturday, June 24, 2017

We seriously pigged the night out

A good friend and I really pigged ourselves out this round of meet-up.

First, we went to Ticklish at Seapark and had two servings of pork ribs and a skewer each of lean pork strips and caramelised pork belly. It was absolutely delicious. 

Then we went to Inside Scoop and as always, I ended with a scoop of Chempedak ice-cream and my friend, she had the Valrhona dark chocolate one. 

We still have loads to chat but the Inside Scoop outlet in Damansara was packed with customers and we didn't want to hog the table and so we decided to move on to SS2 for coffee. 

We spotted this foodtruck that sells Korean Bingsu, and it came with an upright grand Yamaha self-playing piano, which was awesome but alas, there weren't any tables or seats available. They should have had more tables for patrons. 

So we ended up in a mamak stall in SS2 and I had teh si kosong and my friend a glass of watermelon juice. 

It was a lovely evening of food and drink and catching with a good old friend. The next round, we will be off to Naughty Nuri's.  Can't wait to pig out again!


Friday, June 23, 2017

Wang Feng's Nowhere to Settle

It is good to talk music with this colleague of mine.  Where the last time he introduced me to my now favourite Bai Ann's What Brings Me to You, this time he brought up the artiste called Wang Feng and when I searched for his music, I fell in love with his Nowhere to Settle.


Thursday, June 22, 2017

There is never too much memory


What are three things you will never have enough of (other than money of course)? For me they are clothe-hangers, underwear and memory.

I was helping a good friend to clear his notebook memory so that he can get it running again. This is because in favour of lightness, he purchased a notebook with only a little over 100G. That was a few years ago. I am not sure if there are still machines sold these days with so little memory. 

When I checked his notebook, about 40G were used in his Windows folder and 50G in his Apple folder. There is nothing I could do for him in the Windows folder, and I removed all his backup files in the Apple folder and that brought down usage from 100G to 70G. 

There is never too much memory. I wouldn't mind paying a little more for that extra memory in whatever devices I am using. 

With one exception: external hard drives. 

I wouldn't buy external hard drives with more than 500G, for now.  I would just buy more units if I needed more. That is because for example if the 1T unit becomes faulty, I would have lost all 1T worth of data. That would be something you wished wouldn't happen.


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Here's how the French say it

Talking about learning foreign languages, which one can beat French in its unusual expressions: 

French people don’t “fall madly in love”…they “are struck by lightning” (Avoir un coup de foudre). 

A French person don’t “feel depressed”…they “have the cockroach” (Avoir le cafard).

French people don’t say “it drives me crazy”…they say “It’s taking my head” (Ca me prend la tête).

French people are not “stupid”…they “have the same IQ as an oyster” (Avoir le QI d’une huître).

French don’t “sleep in”…they “have a fat morning” (Faire la grasse matinée).


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Do you talk to yourself?

I do that sometimes, and apparently it is good for you: The Benefits of Talking to Yourself

So just ignore those weird looks and just start talking to yourself, out loud. 

However, for me, I usually stop short at talking to myself when I am at work because my staff had turned to me before with an inquiring look, thinking I'm asking her something, and I would sheepishly tell her I'm only talking to myself. 


Monday, June 19, 2017

When people disappoint you


There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love. 
~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Nothing to me is unexpected. No disappointment is unexpected - whether it's movies or people or relationships. I'm always ready for the punch directly between the eyes. So I get hurt, but I never get hurt. Happens all the time. 
~ Brian Grazer

There's always failure. And there's always disappointment. And there's always loss. But the secret is learning from the loss, and realizing that none of those holes are vacuums. 
~ Michael J. Fox

The principles of living greatly include the capacity to face trouble with courage, disappointment with cheerfulness, and trial with humility. 
~ Thomas S.Manson 

Regret is not a proactive feeling. It is situated in disappointment, sorrow, even remorse. It merely wishes things were different without an act to cause a difference. However, repentance is different. Repentance is an admission of, hatred of, and turning away from sin before God. 
~ Monica Johnson

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.
~ Colossians 3:23-25


Saturday, June 17, 2017

What would you name your guinea pig?

My hubby sent me an article from Gizmodo about this organization called Portland Guinea Pig Rescue that requested for an Artificial Intelligence (AI) to come up with names for their guinea pigs that are put up for adoption. 

The names that the AI came up with were brilliant and as what the writer termed them as so quintessentially guinea pig. 

This is my favourite: Popchop

Do click on the link above to check it out. 


Friday, June 16, 2017

Do you know how a sentence can end in five prepositions?

Five prepositions? Really?

I got this from Steven Pinker's The Language Instinct, a book I'm finding difficult to read, but this is just brilliant:

Daddy trudges upstairs to Junior's bedroom to read him a bedtime story. Junior spots the book, scowls, and asks, "Daddy, what did you bring that book that I don't want to be read to out of up for?"


Thursday, June 15, 2017

So many books waiting to be read

I am reading The Language Instinct by Steven Pinker but it is taking longer than I expected. It is not an easy book to read. And I have been purchasing many books in between and I'm hoping to start reading them but Pinker's book is still in the way. I need to finish it quickly. These books are waiting for me:

The God Who is There, Finding Your Place in God's Story
by D.A. Carson

The Parables of Jesus
by James Montgomery Boice

Cries from the Heart, Bringing God Near When He Feels So Far
by Ravi Zacharias 

Celebrating Jesus in the Biblical Feasts, Discovering Their Significance to You as a Christian
by Dr Richard Booker

Is God a Moral Monster? Making Sense of the Old Testament God
by Paul Copan 

The Case for Christianity Answer Book
by Lee Strobel

The Goodness of God, Assurance of Purpose in the Midst of Suffering
by Randy Alcorn 


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Christ is enough for me

I know I have blogged before on how I disagree with some of the lyrics of Hillsongs's Christ is Enough. I may have changed my mind but whatever it is, I needed the song today. 

I had to remind myself that Jesus is all I need and that I can definitely depend on him, one hundred percent. 


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

When is it time to give up?

Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time. 
~ Thomas A. Edison

Failure at some point in your life is inevitable, but giving up is unforgivable. 
~ Joe Biden

Being defeated is often a temporary condition. Giving up is what makes it permanent. 
~ Marilyn vos Savant

I have a theory that burnout is about resentment. And you beat it by knowing what it is you're giving up that makes you resentful. 
~ Marissa Mayer


Monday, June 12, 2017

Which is the preferred Chinese bible translation?

So much for trying to read a novel in Chinese, I should have just stuck to the Bible in Chinese. The beauty of it that I don't even have to read whole book, like a novel, or even whole chapters at any one time. 

A verse a day is good enough. 

Using the Tecarta bible app, they only have the Chinese Union Version available, which I have just purchased at only RM3.90. 

However, what is the preferred Chinese bible translation?


Sunday, June 11, 2017

I'm seriously addicted to these language apps!

Clockwise from top left: StickyStudy Chinese (HSK Hanzi SRS Flashcard), AnkiMobile Flashcards, Clavis Sinica Xiezi HSK Levels 1-3, TrainChinese: Dictionary & Flashcards

Since I started getting more serious in learning Mandarin, I am now addicted to these apps! I cannot go by one day without using them. And that is amusing since I have always hated studying Chinese. 

The catalyst to it all is the Anki app. I uploaded 5 pre-built flashcards decks from Chinese Audio Flashcards and these flashcards worked for me because they come in sentences giving context to the words I'm learning. 

HSK Flashcard in Anki

I progressed so well with the decks that I re-downloaded the StickyStudy app to help me view it character by character and word by word as and when I like. I can't do that with Anki, with it being a true Spaced Repetition System (SRS) app, where you will only see the cards when it's time for you to see the card. You can't call it up by choice. 

HSK Vocabulary Cards in StickyStudy

I have also began to use a lot of TrainChinese which I find is the best of all Chinese dictionary apps. The free version allows you to keep two lists of words in flashcard form. I wonder if there is a word limit to the free version. 

Screenshots of TrainChinese

I blogged a few days ago about Chinese writing being at risk. About a week before reading that BBC article, I did start using a notebook to practice my Chinese writing, but I found carrying a physical book with me quite cumbersome. 

So me being me, I naturally went hunting and found the Clavis Sinica Chinese character trainer app. In just 2 days, I have already practiced and put to memory 153 characters, compared to just 22 words I have in my notebook after one week. 

The only thing I'm not happy with it is that the app has not been updated since 2012. I hope they will update it soon with the upcoming iOS 11. 

Screenshots of CS Xiezi Character Trainer

These apps are money well spent, since I am not taking any classes or hiring any teachers anyway. 

They only cost me:
- StickyStudy RM16.90/$4.99
- Anki RM104.90/$25
   HSK Flashcards RM45/$10 with 
   a promo-code
- TrainChinese is free but it comes with
   an annual subscription for premium use
- CS Xiezi HSK 1-3 RM16.90/$4.99
Total = RM183.70/$44.98


Saturday, June 10, 2017

Hen Party!

Our good friend will be married off to Dublin very soon and so we held a (very tame) hen party for her and here we are, so happy for her and yet so sad she will soon be so faraway. 


Friday, June 09, 2017

Memrise is the app to go when learning a language

I had lunch with my colleague and we started chatting about language, which you know by now is my current favourite topic. 

In the course of our conversation, I recommended him to download Memrise as I find it the best app to begin learning a language. It is a good way to start and when you are more familiar with it, you can then begin to expand your resources to help your progress in the language.

But when he began his Mandarin deck in his Android phone, I was intrigued by how different and how much more interesting the interface is compared to the iOS version. How I wish we get the same in iOS!

The Android version has this thing which they called "Mems". It is something that you can upload to help you remember the word better, and these are provided by users themselves. 

Look at what this user did with the Chinese word 很好, which means "very good" or "very well". It is brilliant and so, so funny. Kudos to Kitwiggin!



Thursday, June 08, 2017

How accurate is your home blood pressure monitor

It is a good practice to monitor your blood pressure at home but how accurate is your machine? 

I did some research and found this article from Harvard Health that provides some information on how to get more accurate readings from blood monitors at home: Some home blood pressure monitors aren't accurate.

They advice that, "the best device for most people is a device with an automatically inflating arm cuff and large digital readout for easy reading. To get the most accurate blood pressure readings at home, follow these steps:
  • Avoid caffeinated or alcoholic beverages, and don’t smoke, during the 30 minutes before the test.
  • Sit quietly for five minutes with your back supported and feet on the floor.
  • When making the measurement, support your arm so your elbow is at the level of your heart.
  • Push your sleeves out of the way and wrap the cuff over bare skin.
  • Measure your blood pressure according to the machine’s instructions. Leave the deflated cuff in place, wait a minute, then take a second reading. If the readings are close, average them. If not, repeat again and average the three readings.
  • Don’t be too concerned if a reading is high. Relax for a few minutes and try again.
  • Keep a record of your blood pressure readings and the time of day they are made."

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Is the Chinese writing at risk?

This was published in BBC recently and I found it very interesting: Will Smartphones Kill the Art of Chinese Handwriting

It claims that the Chinese handwriting is at risk because most people who text in Chinese now use the romanized Hanyu Pinyin keyboard to write and send text, and this may reduce the fluency of the written language of the Chinese. 

For example, if you want to send a text saying you'll be coming tomorrow, all you need to do is to type w m t h l and the keyboard will give you 我明天会来, which is exactly what I just did here. 

When I started learning Mandarin, I used the handwriting Chinese keyboard that requires me to write out the entire character before the keyboard will give me the word. This means I will need to know the exact strokes of the words. 

But recently, my colleague recommended me the romanized Hanyu Pinyin keyboard and I found it so easy to use because I no longer need to know exactly how to write the words. I only need to know how it looks like more or less. 

Therefore, I can identify with the BBC article and video. All because of the proliferation of smartphones, the Chinese writing may be at stake. 

However, this reminded me of a TED Talk I have seen before that asked the question if texting is killing language. 

John MacWhorter who is a renowned linguist claims that texting is an entirely new language altogether. I found it so interesting when he said that "texting is not writing at all. Humanity began with just speech...and in a traditional estimate, if humanity had existed for 24 hours, writing only came along at about 11:07pm."

He says that conversationally, we don't talk like we write. But if we can formally speak as we write, we should also then write as we speak and that is where texting comes into the picture. He claims that it is an entirely different language, a finger speech. 

However, I am not sure if this applies to Chinese, which is an isolating language, with a 1:1 relationship in its morpheme to meaning. In other words, there are no inflections in the Chinese language and how you speak is how you write, and it is also how you text. Therefore, in the modern world of texting, it may not be good news for the Chinese language. 

Or could it be what has always been just mere complaints of many over the decades and even centuries that never came true. These were shared by MacWhorton in his TED Talk:

As you can see, the worries over the centuries were uncalled for. Humanity changed and moved on and language in the same way gets adapted along the way. 

We may be using our languages differently across the years, but we will never be bereft of it. 


Monday, June 05, 2017

My Four Favourite Songs, no longer in English

My hubby quipped the other day, "Where is my wife (who only used to listen to English songs like I do)? I want her back."

I still have playlists of my usual favourite English songs, mostly melancholic and sad ones, and many of them by Ed Sheeran, still love him, as well as a whole lot of classical and sacred songs. 

But my latest playlists do not have a single English song in them. And I have created a playlist today with just these four songs that I really, really like--for now--and which I can listen to over and over and over again. 

I don't really understand much of this song yet by Eric Chou. I couldn't find any English translation of its lyrics and Google Translate was hopeless. Anyone can help?

This one by Yoga Lin is what distopia is to a movie. It talks about destroying the world and just letting the useless self be, it is hopeless anyway. Not a good message and yet, there is some truth in it what with the state of the world we are in right now. And I find the musicality and lyricality of the song very interesting, and it has a really good tune too. 

I've blogged about this by Bai Ann several days ago. I simply love her deep rich voice and it how it talks about how one can find love even if they themselves are lost in vastness of the universe. 

Ah...who cannot but adore a love song, when one pours out one's heart and adoration to another. And how lovely it would be when someone like Seo In Guk calls you his flower. 


Sunday, June 04, 2017

Create a picture to remember Chinese words

I sometimes find it extremely hard to remember certain Chinese characters. 

I use the TrainChinese app to find out the meaning of the different parts of the character in order for me create a picture out of it to aid my memory. 

But I know it will not be as accurate as it would be in Traditional Chinese but as long as it helps, it doesn't bother me. 

And I found this excellent poster on Simplified Radicals Chart for easy reference. 


Saturday, June 03, 2017

Find Us Faithful

We at Grace Notes are required to pen down our testimony based on the songs we will be singing in our upcoming thanksgiving event at the end of this year. 

I have been procrastinating it and not being too sure what to write about. I am thinking that my life at this point of time is rather mundane, and I am actually feeling guilty, rightfully or not, about it. 

And so when I looked at the list, this song stood out: Find Us Faithful by Steve Green. 

I found this video by this young lady, which I find is quite a good interpretation of the song. 

I will need to take the next few days to listen and delve in the song in order to be able to write about the ordinariness of life. 

I hope my so-called writer's block will be unblocked soon. 


Friday, June 02, 2017

Doraemon comic books!!!

I found a good way to read stuff in Chinese: comics! And since I am a Doraemon fan, I need to get my hands on these comic books. 

I have "read" these in my childhood days every time I visited my cousin sister, which was very often and I devoured them with fervour. The only difference was that since I couldn't read Chinese back then, I only looked at the pictures to figure out the stories. And I had no problems with that and thoroughly enjoyed the comics. 

But for now, since I'm getting along quite moderately well in my learning of the language, I would love to get my hands on them and start actually reading them. Except that I think compared to my cousin's days, where each copy would probably cost less than RM5 or less, I saw them in the Kinokuniya website at more than RM20 each. I read somewhere that there are 45 volumes of them, and that will cost me a total of almost RM1,000! 


Photo source: thekamfamily

Thursday, June 01, 2017

What Brings Me to You by Bai Ann

I was having a conversation with my colleague about the Mandarin songs we like and he recommended me this song, which I immediately fell in love with. 

It's a song with quite deep lyrics sung by someone with a nice and rich voice. 

Here is the lyrics of the song with its translation:

 I am a dust of the universe
Wandering in this vast sea of people
Accidentally fall into your arms
And I don’t want to leave any more 

 I am a dust of the universe
A trivial state of being
Accidentally become to your beloved
How much I would like to believe the eternity

是什麼 讓我遇見這樣的你
是什麼 讓我不再懷疑自己
是什麼 讓我不再害怕失去
在這茫茫人海裡 我不要變得透明
 What brings me to you
What made me stop doubting myself
What made me not to fear to lose
I don’t want to become transparent in this vast sea of people

I am a dust of the universe
Wandering in this vast sea of people
If you are my inevitable existence
And I don’t want to leave any more

是什麼 讓我遇見這樣的你
是什麼 讓我不再懷疑自己
是什麼 讓我不再害怕失去
在這茫茫人海裡 我不要變得透明
What brings me to you
What made me stop doubting myself
What made me not to fear to lose
I don’t want to become transparent in this vast sea of people

If your leave is meant to be
How should I learn to not rely on you

是什麼 讓我遇見這樣的你
是什麼 讓我不再懷疑自己
是什麼 讓我不再害怕失去
在這茫茫人海裡 我不要變得透明
What brings me to you
What made me stop doubting myself
What made me not to fear to lose
I don’t want to become transparent in this vast sea of people

Source: shintasword