Hello, it’s me

It’s been a terribly long time since I posted here. A lot has changed and mostly for the better.
Career-wise, I’m now a subeditor with The Malay Mail Online, who’s been nice enough to give me a column. Racked up a few new bylines including a short stint as Zafigo’s editor and a piece in Time Out for it’s Women’s Day special. I’m also a tech correspondent for Stuff.tv Malaysia.
On the personal front, I broke up with the boyfriend and got a dog (pictured).

Just horsing around, me and the DagLife is up when it’s up, down when it’s down. I’m still a mostly broke, talent-less nobody who occasionally distracts a few people on social media. Yeah, that bit hasn’t changed from 2013.

What’s next in 2016? Well, this is the year I work on my book. Not sure how that is going to go and I have no plans apart from writing it, which I will start in April as part of Camp NaNoWriMo.

Had a bit of a health scare last year so I’m, as Fergie said, working on my fitness. Which in my case means eating one cookie instead of five.

Was in a bit of a funk over the last few months, writing becoming a struggle and a lot of imposter syndrome to deal with. I look at a lot of my peers who are giving to the world and I feel as though I should at least make some effort towards contributing something more than waste and carbon dioxide.

I’m still figuring out how to do that. In the meantime, I guess I’ll just try and give a damn.

How not to be an asshole on Twitter

The problem with Twitter is that it is far too easy for people to misunderstand you. And overreact.

Like when a bunch of ‘bros’ decided to gang up on me for this Tweet.

DudeWithAutisticKid: (Paraphrase) “So you’re saying autistic kids should stay at homelah? Never go out?”

That was only a bit of the nastiness I got over just 140 characters. Basically I was accused of singling out autistic kids, like the bitch I am.

First...where the heck did I say anything against autistic kids? Where in the 140 characters did I mention that? Please underline it in bold Sharpie and send me a copy in triplicate.

Second...autism has a whole spectrum. Personally I think it’s unfair to assume that ALL autistic kids act out and that the rowdy kid who can’t or won’t sit still is autistic.

Here’s the backstory – DudeWithAutisticKid has an autistic kid. His ‘bros’ are all protective about his kid so when DudeWithAutisticKid got offended by my Tweet, they all decided to be SuperMachoHeroBros and collectively diss me.

Now here’s my next offending Tweet:

Note that while both Tweets are about kids running around, they’re not really about the same thing. In the second Tweet, it’s about when kids are RUNNING IN DANGEROUS PLACES. Like where there are TABLECLOTHS.

A tablecloth with a hot teapot on it can be easily tugged by a kid and in 3 seconds, teapot is on kid’s head.

It’s serious enough that the NHS even advises parents to use non-slip table mats instead of table cloths.

Children are forces of nature. Forces of nature that require parents to keep their eyes on when in non-controlled environments.

Autistic kids’ parents have it rough – they have to be careful about triggers, sensitivities kids may have. While some high-functioning autistic kids get on well in public, autistic kids who can’t communicate well or are oversensitised or overreact to stimuli might need an extra pair of eyes.

Just last week I was in a lift with an autistic child. If you know how to look, you can tell – this little boy was pressing all the buttons in the lift while the dad ignored what the kid was doing.

If you’ve been around severely autistic kids like I have, you’ll notice the signs. How their body alignment seems off. A five or six-year-old who talks in gurgles or unintelligible babbles instead of speech.

The kid was hurting no one by messing with the lift buttons. So yeah, maybe the lift would stop a few more floors. It didn’t bother me.

But if said kid, heck if ANY KID was running around unsupervised in a restaurant, running under tables, pulling table cloths with no guardian in sight (or worse, guardian is busy gossiping in corner), I would probably not be amused.

Thing is, most parents of autistic kids I know watch their kids like hawks. They’re watching. Always watching. Always alert. Because their children were born in special circumstances, so they need more watching. I never need to worry about autistic kids because God knows, their parents don’t need telling.

It’s the parents who aren’t as careful that bug me. The ones who are gossiping in a corner while junior is running through the glassware section. The ones who are too busy shopping to notice that their kids aren’t in the same shop.

It’s because I care about your damn kid that I get mad if you’re not watching them. And it should be a good thing that I care.

So think about it when you leave your child unattended in a public place. Maybe the only thing between junior and a hot pot of tea on his head is the stranger who grabs him before he gets to yank at the cloth in the first place.

Stupidity will kill you quicker than the doctors will

Facebook can reveal a lot about your friends.

Like the fact many of them are ardent believers in quackery.

Here’s a tip: when someone puts up a link from a site like naturalnews.com, you know that person is someone you could possibly sell impossible cures or conspiracy theories to.

Case in point was when a friend mentioned someone having cancer. Then all the quack-believers came out, advocating for natural cures.

None of the natural cure champions had actually had cancer or known someone personally who had recovered merely from natural cures.

We do however have one famous case of a guy who tried to cure cancer with natural means, putting off potentially life-saving surgery. His name is Steve Jobs.

Who also happens to be dead now, just FYI.

The quacks of course insist it was the surgery that killed him when it is likely that if he hadn’t put off the surgery, he might have stuck around a little longer to keep wearing his trademark turtlenecks.

Incompetent and profit-crazy doctors do exist, yes. But the majority of them took the Hippocratic Oath with the genuine desire to save lives.

Take it from me, if you want solutions for your health talk to actual professionals. Don’t listen to that well-meaning friend who will try to convince you to switch to a raw food diet or take some miracle supplement.

Go to your friends for support and comfort through health trials. Just don’t go to them for health advice.

 

They have to be hungry

(This post is for Suanie, one of my favourite people ever, who told me to update my dying blog already)

A friend lost a colleague…who quit after just 3 days.

The job was ‘too hard’, said the now ex-colleague.

You would think the job entailed hard labour, depressing conditions and the like.

The thing is, the job wasn’t all that hard for what the person was getting. I know people with a similar job that get paid less than what he was making.

It was a desk job that required skills at organising and fostering community. No, it is not an easy job especially if you’re new at it.

But to quit after 3 days? Really?

I keep hearing stories like this. People not showing up for interviews. New hires walking out right after lunch.

I think they were probably just not ‘hungry’ enough.

Here’s the deal: if you’re not hungry enough for something, you don’t really want it.

And hunger is also something you can see. It is not the same as enthusiasm. Fake enthusiasm masks lack of hunger. Real hunger doesn’t necessarily show itself overtly and some people just like to play it cool, you know.

Sometimes you have to ask yourself, too. Are you hungry for this (your job/your relationship/your project)? Does it keep you up at night? Do you think about it often? Dream about it? Does it make you feel? Do your friends have to tell you to shut up about it?

If none of what I said rings true with you, then you’re just not hungry.

Though I do think some kids these days are spoiled by never having to learn what it meant to really be hungry.  As in ‘it’s World War II and we have to dig up the tapioca or we’ll starve’ hungry.

Too many fresh grads come into the working world expecting fat paycheques for very little work.

Sorry, kiddos. The world doesn’t work that way. Unless you’re in  banking or finance, entry-level salaries in most fields are a pittance. Expect the first few years of your working life to be about barely surviving on a pittance.

Suck it up. Life is hard, unfair and often a crapshoot. Nobody owes you a living; you have to make one with hard work.

And before you throw in the towel at the new job, give it at least a month. Ask for help. Be willing to meet the challenge.

But if your boss puts the moves on you or your job involves things you didn’t sign up for like forging signatures and covering up for cheating colleagues, say Hasta La Vista post-haste. Life is too short to waste it on assholes.

 

You don’t have to listen to me

Free twitter badge
Free twitter badge (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The best thing about Twitter: interaction.

The worst thing about Twitter: interaction.

Because I am on Twitter, people think that it is perfectly OK to do the virtual equivalent of spitting in my face.

Like this one dude who was catty enough to Tweet the following:

“alamak ada org naik darah, give way pls, coz kalau dia marah, people gotta “listen”.

Of course I could make merry of the fact that he Tweets like a 15-year-old girl, but that would be too easy.

The thing is I don’t always ignore my haters. While I don’t bother reading the comments on my column (I like keeping my braincells, thanks), I do take note of the @replies I get. Because sometimes my detractors do have points and I respect their freedom to disagree with my sometimes controversial/annoying opinions.

Also, sometimes it makes great fodder for my weekly column.

The way my detractor goes about it, it’s as though I scream to an audience of bound captives, forcing them to listen to me.

And the thing about my anger is, the angrier I am, the more impassioned my writing. The more I feel, the more it comes out in my words.

If I care enough to be incredibly angry about something, then it is probably worth writing about. So maybe my secret superpower is that the angrier I get, the more articulate I am.

I AM ERNA HULK. I WRITE PRETTY WHEN I’M ANGRY.

The thing is, I would like people to be decent human beings when they interact on Twitter. To be polite to people even when they disagree with them. To be angry about issues, to hate injustice and wrong instead of hating on people just because they can.

But that’s like wishing on a star, right?

So basically I’m saying, it’s cool to disagree with me. But it ain’t cool to be a dick, know what I’m saying?

Especially if you Tweet like a 15-year-old girl, bub. Unless of course, you are a 15-year-old girl. (Then Tweet all you like, sweetie! Someday you’ll grow up and learn to spell!)

 

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Things I learned by 35

Another birthday, another milestone. Some women get a little sad about reaching this age and not being married/having kids yet. And I confess I did get a little bit mopey about it…last month.

But the day’s arrived and funny enough, I just feel really calm.

Since it’s my birthday, here are some things I learned that might help some of you out, whatever age you may be.

1. Be yourself. In this world, people are looking for authenticity, people who are ‘real’. But at the same time, sometimes at work, you will need to put on a ‘persona’. Think of it as a suit of armour that you don for the battleship of work. Understand that this persona is not you but a means of coping with work. You may be a bit of a slob and fart joke enthusiast but that might not be what you want to show off at work.

Just remember to take the persona off and let people see the real you.

2. Learn how to make and keep friends. If you just can’t find people to hang out with, ask yourself: Are you doing enough as a friend? I confess to learning this the hard way. Woke up one morning and the only birthday message I got was from my dentist. Boo hoo. The simplest way of getting friends is being a friend. Really.

3. If you are always sick and having to take medical leave at work, your body is telling you quite plainly to quit. Either your job is too taxing on you physically or you are really, really unhappy. No job is worth the physical toll.

4. If you ever have to choose between keeping your health or your job, get rid of the job.

5. It’s not always about you. Remember the universe does not revolve around you and your misery. Sometimes if things are getting you down, maybe you just need to find something bigger than yourself. A cause. A project. A pet, even.

6. Life is too short for excuses. If you really want something, go all the way. Don’t just talk about things: make them happen. It is OK to clean the house every week instead of every day if it means you will have time to work on that novel/play/song/podcast.

Think about the legacy you will leave behind. Do you really want it to be “the chick who obsessively swept her floor everyday” rather than “the chick who wrote that really good book?”

7. If you’re suicidal and feel like there is no reason for you to go on living…find help. It’s as easy as going to HKL, going to the GP and telling them that’s how you feel. You’ll be referred to a psychiatrist…but the waiting list might be as long as 2 weeks. But until then, persevere. As a survivor of depression and someone who’s had many friends clinically depressed/suicidal, I know it can be hard. But when you can no longer help yourself, accept that you need help. It is there for you if you just reach out for it.

8. Everyone has their own cup of sorrow – big or small, it still brings them pain. So be kind, be compassionate and try to find the best in people. Though it is perfectly fine to ignore people being utter and total wankers.

9. Find something you’re good at. Find something you love doing. If they’re the same thing, then you’re lucky. If they’re not, use the first to support the other.

10. Sometimes, it is just nice to treat yourself to a solo meal at a place you really like. If you can’t enjoy your own company, why expect other people to? Being alone doesn’t mean being lonely. Treasure your solitude and your own companionship.

Yes, not exactly world-changing wisdom. But the best I can think of right now.

But if I had to sum them all up…Life is too short for regrets. Live so you will regret nothing. And love.

 

 

I only write, because you read

Gratitude Dime
Gratitude Dime (Photo credit: InaFrenzy)

Dear all,

I’m frankly overwhelmed by the response to “We are all pendatang, Dr M”.

Thank you for sharing it, the feedback and kind words.

It gives me hope to know that many people share my sentiments. Like how it is a great injustice that many who deserve citizenships are denied them while the powers that be give them away in exchange for votes.

My TMI column is over 2 years old now. It was a secret childhood dream of mine to have my very own column in a national paper someday. So that sort of came true.

It’s all Amir Muhammad’s fault for me wanting to grow up and write columns like his NST ones. Or maybe I’ll blame A.Asohan for my wanting to write about tech as well as he did. Thanks to him and Chong See Ming, I had my first byline in The Star’s In.Tech.

I just need to tell you that if it wasn’t for your support, I probably would have given up and, who knows, tried to make a go at IT again.

While we may not always agree on things/issues, I’m always glad for feedback, criticism when it is warranted and honest engagement about the things we all care about.

Like education, human rights, politics and children running around unattended in restaurants.

I’m also glad for social media because it lets me engage with the people I write for even if the occasional troll shows up for the party.

But I have one caveat: I will write about the things that I think warrant writing about. I don’t write to make you love me or earn your praise – even if flattery can be nice, I won’t deny.

And sometimes I’ll say things that have been said before (like this column).

That’s because, as my friend Calvin says, some things bear repeating.

I repeat again, I am so grateful to you for still reading my column even when I occasionally (or mostly, who knows) suck.

Here’s to a better Malaysia. For all of us.

 

 

 

 

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Flawed gem: Legend of Korra finale review

A test photo released after the announcement o...
A test photo released after the announcement of the series showing Korra overlooking United Republic. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WARNING: LOTS AND LOTS OF SPOILERS

I trawled the Internet for reviews of The Legend of Korra season finale.

Make no mistake; I loved it to bits. I was just curious about what other people thought.

Then I stumbled across a review (didn’t bother saving the link, sorry) calling the finale a major disappointment, saying the episode and the whole show was riddled with bad writing and Korra got “handed everything” including the Avatar status.

I was a little befuddled. Honestly, if you compare all the schlock you get on TV, LoK has some of the better writing around. And Korra being “handed everything”? Maybe in the beginning but she had her own struggles too.

Korra’s journey differed a lot from Aang’s. Part of the reason she is who she is was due to Aang’s intervention. He tasked the Fellowship of the White Lotus to find Korra, keep her safe and guide her through mastering the elements.

I think Aang’s previous hardships motivated him to make sure that the next Avatar would have an easier time than he did. Korra was able to spend years honing her water, fire and earth bending to prodigious levels. Aang on the other hand was forced to “get it over with” while training the other elements so he could achieve the Avatar state and defeat Lord Ozai. I think he wanted to spare Korra that.

Korra had her own challenges; not the same as Aang’s but they were still things she needed to work on. The combination of growing up in a safe cocoon and her tempestuous nature made “adjusting” fairly challenging from her first day in Republic City.

What annoys me is the criticism about how Korra discovers she can airbend. “Why didn’t she discover her ability all the other times when people were in danger, huh? Why does it have to be for Mako?”

All those other times, Korra had the other elements at her disposal. It makes sense that Korra reaches past the barrier that separates herself from the Air element once her connection to the others were separated. If you notice, even the way she uses Air isn’t the way Aang uses it – she punches and blasts the air the way she uses fire, a lot different from the fluid grace Aang employed.

Korra started out brash and headstrong, but Amon forces her to learn fear and caution. She puts aside her own feelings about Mako in consideration of Asami. Do you think it would be easy to have to see the man you love with someone else every single day? At least Aang never had to wake up to seeing Katara doing smoochy faces with someone else everyday.

Sure, it would have been nice to see secondary characters fleshed out a bit more. But given the season had only 12 episodes that would have been a tall order. Still, Lin Bei Fong’s character was given enough love. The writers could have easily let her become a caricature, a slapstick cranky nemesis of sorts but Lin got to show courage and compassion along with her kickass metal bending. Her character arc was one of my favourite in the series and I confess I shed tears when Amon took her bending away.

On another note: When I saw Tenzin and his brood trussed up like lambs to the slaughter, I think I nearly bawled. NOOO NOT THE AIRBABIES NOOOO.

The final 5 minutes seemed a bit rushed to be honest: OK LET’S MAKE AANG AND ALL THE OTHER AVATARS APPEAR YEAH AND GIVE LIN HER BENDING BACK AND HEY MAKE KORRA FINALLY ACHIEVE AVATAR STATE!!!!

Still, only the hardest of hearts wouldn’t be somewhat pleased to see Korra and Mako finally just suck face already. All in all, I give the episode a firm 8 out of 10.

 

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The great kiddy experiment

Kindergarten Graduation Ceremony 2011
Photo for illustrative purposes; my tykes were smaller and not the stand still type. (Photo credit: SFA Union City)

For the past couple of months, I’ve been teaching speech and drama…to toddlers.

It wasn’t what I signed up for. A friend recommended I approach a local children’s drama centre about teaching musical theatre as it’s something I’m passionate about.

Instead I found myself standing in for a teacher who had to stop teaching a session halfway, doing trial or “exhibition” classes for a centre as well as help out with a promotional roadshow.

I thought, “Heck, why not?” New learning experiences are good, right?

At the end of it all, I was feeling drained and incompetent. Something like my stint at PR where I wondered if I was doing anything right at all.

I’d come in with a shiny lesson plan…only to have blank faces staring at me or have to quickly come up with improvised games. The latter consisted of a whole lot of running, man, was there a lot of running. I think I spent at least half my lessons running in imaginary jungles, through the sea, playing sharks and fishes/pirates and sailors/freeze tag.

The greatest takeway for me was, with Pre-K kids…WHEN IN DOUBT, FIND WAYS TO GIVE OUT STICKERS. Not that I believe in bribery. It was more like convincing kids to find goals and once those goals were reached, spoils would be dealt. But call it what you will.

There were days though that were good. Like one class where I had a whole room of parents “observing” my class before deciding whether to plonk good money on it. Boy, was there a lot of pressure. The first 20 minutes were rough. The kids were apprehensive, I was nervous but by the end of it, the kids were huddled around me and one of them was reading a story out loud for me from a book. It was like…magic.

In the end, I decided to retire my preschooler drama teacher cap. It’s far too exhausting to fit into my hectic schedule – 4 hours of prep for one class is more than I can deal with right now. Maybe someday that’ll change.

Things I learned:

1. Kids have excellent BS detectors. Don’t try to be someone else around kids. Be you, at your best. Trying to be extroverted when you’re not just means you’ll come across as fake and few things repel kids more than put-on smiles or feigned enthusiasm. Once I stopped beating myself up about my relative inexperience and trusted in my own capabilities, kids became easier to work with.

2. Don’t get so stuck on an outcome. I realised that the best environment I could create was a fluid one where I could experiment and be flexible. If one activity wasn’t working out, try another.  One kid I had came in crying and didn’t want to leave his mother’s side but by the end of it he was running around, playing games, telling me about his trip to Disneyland and joining in a group rendition of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.

3. Kids need to learn there is nothing wrong with them. So many parents came in with kids with “problems”. “He doesn’t talk”, “He’s too shy”, “She needs to open up”, “What does he/she need to improve on?”

To all you parents, I just want to say there is nothing you need to “fix”. Your children are lovable and worthy of love – and that’s what you need to impart to them. I treat my classes as a way for kids to have the chance to make new friends, discover how much fun it can be to let their inner performer out to play and along the way learn other great skills like working as an ensemble, basics of performing and harnessing their imaginations via dramatic play.

What I love most with the kids is when they talk to me and tell me things. Because for some reason, they get that I’ll listen. That I’m present and there. If more parents would do the same for their kids, the world would be a better place.

Forcing creativity or great things from your child isn’t the best way. Creativity in kids is fostered with love, patience and structure. Let your kids surprise you, so you’ll never be disappointed.

 

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The disease of “Someday I’ll”

I think we all know that person or persons who constantly regale you with great deeds done…in progress.

They talk about their great novel.
Or breakthrough album.
Or trip to the Amazon.
Or leaving that job they hate so, so much.

But dreamers and doers are often not the same person.

It’s easy to fantasise but realities like mortgages, children and the like often put paid to lofty ambitions.

It’s all right to consciously bid goodbye to dreams and decide you want to prioritise your family or career.

But some people let their thwarted hopes eat them alive. I watched my mother let her bitterness poison her marriage and household. I grew up believing that marriage was nothing more than a stifling cage and my mother the best example of a clipped bird that in anger turned on its own brood.

Forgive yourself for letting some things pass you by.

Forgive the people who you sacrificed your dreams for, whether they be your spouse, children or parents.

The simple truth is that you must live with your choices and that in the end, you have no one but yourself to answer to. Of course the religionists will bring God into the equation but to thine own self, be true as Shakespeare says.

Either wait for the right time to chase your dreams, or be willing to accomodate a little time in your current schedule for them. If you can’t see yourself doing either then let your dreams go. Maybe with a little sadness or wistfulness but own your choices. Life is too short for regrets.