Remembering not


Officially it was 30 Nov. In reality, no one really knew. It could have been 29 Nov. So every year I start remembering my dad on 28 Nov.

On the morning of 30 Nov 5 years ago, my dad was found to have passed on. I still have to think hard to recall the last time I spoke to him He was a man with free spirits and though that was what probably sent him packing earlier than he should, it also made him the man that he was. The fact that he was the eldest in a family of 8 siblings didn’t dilute that one bit.

Every year for the past 5 years around this time I get a bit moody.

I still cant remember the last time I spoke to him.

 

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Weekend Blitz and Bliss


We saw the sun peeking through yesterday arvo just after 2pm. We were at a lunch but decided we must sneak away. The rain had been belting down all day Saturday and our plans to work the garden had been frustrated. We thought if the weekend was going to see any work done we had to leave that lunch soon, great food and wonderful company notwithstanding.

Jason and Mel have always dished out great meals and company. Generous to a fault, it is always difficult to say no to their invitation. So although we had said they should direct their generosity at other more deserving souls, we gladly rocked up anyway. We thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon which unfortunately we had to cut short if we were to halt the rate at which our little garden was turning into a jungle.

The fact that kiddo wasn’t there made it a little harder as other than the cries of the garden, there was no other reason not to just while away the afternoon over a really long lunch.

Kiddo had left earlier yesterday morning. We drove to Tulla just after 8am and after she checked in we did some quick duty-free shopping and she was off through the gates. We started missing her as soon as we got into the car and left the airport. Thanks to the wonders of modern day apps like “Whatsapp” and Skype however, we managed to chat with her later in the evening, as she enjoyed what looked like a really good dinner in Klang. She’d have plenty of that in the next 2-3 weeks.

Before we settled down to avail ourselves to the modern communications technology however, Tress and I tore ourselves from Jason and Mel’s place, got home and immediately changed into our “working gear”. I ducked out to the local service station to get some petrol for the mower and got back and started working.

We trimmed, cut, mowed, swept, washed and did as much as we could for the remainder few hours of daylight, which thanks to daylight saving and the impending start of summer, lasted till almost 8pm. As usual after working on the garden, a cold one tasted exceptionally good and the Tiger Beer Tress had bought a few weeks earlier came in really handy. It was sheer bliss to sit on the deck, looking at a cleaner and tidier lawn and sipping cold beer. What a way to end a weekend. Knowing kiddo would have a great time over 6,000 km away was a bonus.

 

2012?$


2012 may yet turn out to be a tumultuous year, albeit for different – principally economic and financial – reasons. It’s all a bit worrying, depressing even. That’s what happens when you catch up on financial news in this climate I guess.

I have not read financial news for a while now. My current role does not require this beyond the most cursory glance at interest rate trends and general property market well being.

Just for fun however I decided to catch up on some news and it was a mistake. 2012 now feels like a harbinger of bad things, from the perspective of how the economy and finance will fare.

First there’s this swathe of industrial disputes fought out in a climate of economic uncertainty as a result of what’s happening in Europe. Collective agreements companies rushed to sign before the Fair Work Act – courtesy of Julia Gillard – kicked in after Rudd got into the Lodge, are due to expire in 2012. So apparently workers and employers are slugging it out in anticipation of new deals and the Fair Work Act is apparently more focused on processes than outcomes.

Then there’s the credit outlook. With banks exposed to the sick men of Europe seeking to make up gaping holes, borrowing – mainly the interbank sort – is going to be a lot more expensive. Bond on the other hand are seeing low yields as a result of capital leaving Europe and seeking new low risk parking lots. Apparently companies thought 2012 would see the GFC ending so heaps of corporate bonds were structured to mature then. A host of factors would combine to heap pressure on funding and make the business environment very difficult.

I wonder what 2012 would look like. It probably isn’t “The End” but it looks like it could well be messy.

New Horizons


We were away last weekend. Kiddo wanted to explore potential horizons and we obliged. It also meant she could clock up the requisite mileage as an L-plater.

We took off on Saturday morning, braving the downpour as I took us out of Melbourne. Once out somewhere on the Metropolitan Ring Road, kiddo took over and my role doubled. I was mentally still doing the driving but I was at the same time, keeping an eye on kiddo and making sure she was alert and focusing.

I stole the odd moment or so to break the monotony by taking pictures of the often beautiful country roadsides, especially when the rain abated.

LBJ came along for the ride and was very well behaved the entire time.

We got to our destination just after 5pm, checked into our pet friendly hotel, unpacked and then went out to a local Thai restaurant for dinner.

The next morning we went to a Uniting Church and relived liturgical service before visiting a market downtown and then proceeding to the CBD for Tress to visit the local Myer store. We then headed to Kiddo’s survey site and drove around a little bit before proceeding to a riverside for LBJ to do his business, enjoyed the clean crisped fresh air before looking for another restaurant for dinner. This time we found a Punjabi one and it was by far the best food we had in that town, all previous visits included. Happy, we went back to the hotel, watched the surprisingly good “Thor” starring Chris Hemsworth, Anthony Hopkins (liver licking good Hannibal) and Natalie Portman.

We left the next day just before 1pm, after Kiddo completed her survey and we pushed back to Melbourne, arriving just after 8.30pm. Kiddo was again at the wheel for the most part.

Kiddo at the wheel seems to be the overriding theme over the weekend, in so many sense of the word. She’ll soon be the driver and we will no longer take her where she wants to go.

KLSE – Peter Pan qualities


Someone sent me an email on the Malaysian equity market which appears to be as infantile as it was the last time I had anything to do with it. The name Harvest Court Industries struck a chord and I had to dig around in my memory bank before realising it was a company close to home. A distant relative started it – the Ng family in KLang – and an early professional mentor – Mr SS Muker – was on the board of the company.

News about a Sabah based company proposed takeover of Harvest Court Industries caused the share price to surge. It took 2 seconds to guess the cause – a politician (in power) was linked to it. This time it was the second son of the sorry Malaysian Prime Minister, with the unfortunate name of Nazi-fuddin. Nazifuddin was on the board of the Sabah company and I guess it was expected he would be on the Board of Harvest Court Industries. This was enough to cause the share price to surge.

The mickey mouse behaviour of the Malaysian equity market is a bit like Peter Pan. It never grows up. Even when a leprous name like that of Najib Razak is associated with the company, there was positive price movement. Beggars belief.

ANZ Rewards Card


If you have an ANZ Rewards Card, make sure you don’t get slugged with the $42 annual rewards program fee. Check your statement and if they charged you, ring them up and get them to waive it. I did, but I was prepared to just cancel the card if they didn’t so I guess you have to be ready for that if they don’t budge.

I get annoyed with big corporations like that, who try to sneak in little bits of fees and see if they can get away with it. I don’t know if they deliberately target unsuspecting customers who don’t check up on details and blissfully pay unnecessary charges and fees. I am guilty of that sometimes – paying unnecessarily – but given the vulgarity of senior banking executive remuneration, paying banks fees which are totally unnecessary and unjustifiable has become a lot less unpalatable. Even revolting.

So if you are an ANZ Bank customer, and hold an ANZ Rewards Card, make sure you don’t get slugged unnecessarily. It’s only a 5 -10 minute phone call to get rid of this and save yourself $42.

Communion 6-11-11


A couple of months ago, a new monument was opened in Washington DC . It was the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial. The sculpture you see is in the memorial centre, and it is the work of a Chinese artist, who comes from Changsha in Hunan – the same town Mao Zedong spent his early days in. Martin Luther King Jr, as most of us know, was a church minister who was better known as a civil rights leader. Other than his “I have a dream” speech, another speech I like is about how people should seek to unite as much as possible, to always seek common ground. An extract of this speech reads like this:

… all life is interrelated, … somehow we’re caught in an inescapable network of mutuality tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason, I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. You can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.

I have no doubt Dr King’s aspiration for people to work together, was borne out of his knowledge of our God. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit as members of our triune God, are in a relationship where each member shares a common purpose with the other two. We are created in the image of God so we too, are to have a relational character which we exercise by sharing a common purpose. We are here every Sunday, to build each other up. Our lives are inter-related and we share mutuality and a common destiny. When one hurts all ought to hurt. When one rejoices, all ought rejoice.  When you are blessed, I am blessed.

Sometimes we hear the saying, “it doesn’t matter what everyone else in church does – we are here to worship God”. That may be true but only in part, and quite often a partial truth can be the worst kind of deception. We do not worship God in isolation. We are in a community of faith – we are one body. What one does or does not do, affects everyone else. We watch out for each other, we come here for each other.  Our plans and activities are always about the wider community of faith, not about us as individuals or even families or groups of individuals. When someone is not here, everyone else should be affected. If we aren’t affected by each other’s absence or pain, I guess we haven’t quite become one body yet. It isn’t just about whether something is good for my personal wellbeing and development or my family relations it is also about whether it is good for the community of faith and whether my plans and activities would benefit this community.

Thus we are not called to remember the holy sacrament just so each of us can individually remember the Lord’s death for us. Often in a communion exhortation, we read 1 Corinthians 11:24 & 25 to remember that it was the Lord’s command for us to commemorate His death that we eat the bread and the cup. The context of this passage however, is one where Paul chastised the believers in Corinth because each person was doing his own thing. It is the body of Christ which is in focus, and we are asked not just to do things which benefit our own walk with the Lord, but also to build each other up.

So this morning as we hold the bread and drink from the cup, can I encourage all of us to consider this fellowship of believers, as one body to whom we are accountable. As a body then let us each the bread together in remembering the death and suffering of our Lord Jesus. (pause). Let us now also drink from the cup together, as a body in common. Let us pray.

Heavenly Father, when your Son was on earth, He prayed that all who believed in Him may be one, just as You and Your Son were one. Help us this morning as One Body, to come before You as Our Lord and God. Teach us to love and build each other up. Teach us to think as one, beyond just as individuals or even groups of individuals. Help us to be like you God, and be one. Amen.

Cricket’s Abyss


Peter Roebuck is dead? What would a cricket season be like without this venerable source of entertaining commentary? I’d listen to him on ABC every summer and read his columns in the Sydney Morning Herald – and I think I’ve been doing that for maybe 20+ years. In a way, maybe because I read SMH and heard ABC radio commentaries more than followed TV ones, he was an even more omnipresent character than Richie Benaud.

I thought cricket had plumbed the depths after the debacle of Michael Clarke‘s team in the first test in South Africa. Roebuck’s passing feels like cricket would be in an abyss and I have a feeling this summer will be an indeterminably long one.

I was just reading his latest column and he had said a lot can happen in a week. I wonder if he knew just how ominous that sentence could have also sounded.

Rest in peace, Peter Roebuck.

Course of Your Life, a fantastic Alpha Course alternative


The Alpha Course is sometimes said to be helpful not just to someone new to Christianity, but also to one who has been a Christian but hasn’t quite gone through the basics of what Christianity entails.

Several months ago, before my local church started another series of Alpha Course, I picked up a copy of an Alpha course publication which has the contents of the course. I thought I needed to be familiar with the contents. It appears to have the basic points but somehow shies away from a narrative of why man needs God and will be condemned (according to the Bible, not me or the church) unless he believes and accepts what Jesus has done on the cross. In this sense, the Alpha Course appears to be a useful introductory material for someone who is searching, but probably short in terms of completing the message. Some form of follow through is essential and this is from the perspective of someone new to Christianity.

For someone who is already a Christian, why does this introductory level material appeal and what learning does this person derive from this course? It would seem the whole event – the meals, camaraderie, spending a weekend away, the open forum for people to speak their minds – is the appeal, not the content proper. In other words, a Christian who finds Alpha beneficial lacked fellowship, more than teaching. It wasnt teaching that attracted, most probably, but the forum for fellowship and interaction generally.

I’m not sure therefore if Alpha should be the vehicle to bring the church together in that sense.

From this perspective, a more substantial and therefore beneficial tool appears to be the “Course of Your Life“, written by Tony Payne of Matthias Media.

Yes, I am very partial to content produced by this mob and I have relied heavily on CD‘s and books from them for my learning, in particular those by Phillip Jensen.

All this should however, be secondary to the consideration of the content and logic of this course. Course of Your Life appears to have all the basic substantive stuff in a narrative which completes the core message of the gospel of God’s plan for salvation – something Alpha Course skirted around at best. It appears also to have the rigours of basic biblical exegesis and a logic to the content organisation and flow which extracts core points to plot what God’s plans for HIs creation (and us) entails. It appears a lot less lazy, and cuts through the soft core approach of alternatives like Alpha. It appears to be well written in an attractive manner, without sacrificing any elements of the message of the bible.

Also, I like the fact that for the equivalent of the weekend away for Alpha, it suggests ways which pre-empts the need to get away on a Sunday. It doesn’t take a believer out of the fellowship of other believers by taking them away in order to find God (or more accurately, the Holy Spirit). It encourages believers to spend time with God’s family, not take them out of such fellowship and time.

In this regard, I have come to view programs and courses which take participants away on a Sunday, with dismay and disappointment. In particular, course, seminars, conferences and programs which take leaders away from their congregations on Sundays. Somehow organisers who think it is acceptable for ministers and leaders to be away from their wards on the ground of personal learning and development, dont rank highly in my esteem. COYL recommends a Fri/Sat get away or even 2 consecutive Saturdays – not a Sunday get away. This ranks highly for me. It shows the writers value the time spent on Sundays between Christians and only exceptional circumstances should take this blessing away.

I am certainly going to look at COYL a lot closer, and see if a group may be interested. At the moment, kudos to Tony Payne and Matthias Media for coming up with another useful tool to make disciples.

11-11-11


Tomorrow’s a unique day – 11/11/11. Every year however, I remember 11/11 for another reason – it is the wedding anniversary of an uncle and his wife. I wrote this a few years ago, think I’ll just re-post this:

 

 

Happy Anniversary, 6 Chek and 6 Chim

11 Friday Nov 2005

 

[Edit]

 

My late grandfather (Chye Heng) had 8 children – 2 girls and 6 boys. The eldest was a girl, Swee Lian. Her husband (Teck Jin) was the Uncle I blogged about a couple of months ago (I think) – the one who fell ill. My father was the second child and the first son.

Stephen (Hui Been) was the fourth son and the sixth child. He is the uncle I am closest to. He has a wonderful parental instinct which never seemed to have abated over time.

My father was a trader who had to travel all over Malaysia. In our younger days, when he travelled and my mother followed him, my brother and I would stay over at our grandfather’s house. We grew up in that house. It was in the middle of a rubber estate in the village of Kampung Jawa, about 6-7 miles from Klang. We moved out from that house when we were maybe 5 or 6 years old, to a rented house in Jalan Melawis. We returned to the house however, during my parents’ occasional forays inter-state.

Stephen was the Uncle who took care of us the most whenever we stayed over in that big house. I will try to recollect the ins and outs of that house.

There’s a dirt road that runs for about maybe 100 feet before you come to a tall wiry gate. Past that gate, I see a garden which fronts the house. There’s an unforgettable guava tree at a corner on the left, at the junction between the dirt road and the short driveway to the front porch of the house. Usually there are a few dogs sleeping on the front porch. They get up only when there’s someone cycling or walking on that dirt road.

A large dark-wood front door on the right of the porch takes you into the house. To the left is room used as an office, first by my grandfather and years later, by my father. To the right is a lounge area. Just outside the office is a very old piano, which I played on my own when I am there and have nothing to do. A large dining table is just behind the lounge set. This is a special dining table.

Every Saturday night, my grandfather sat everyone down around that table and convened family worship together. It was the family altar. It was at that table we learned to sing old hymns “Amoy” style – hymns sang in Hokkien using romanised lyrics. Then 1-2 chapters of the Bible would be read out, with each taking a verse around the table. Then grandfather would expound on that text. He had several pages of handwritten notes to refer to from time to time. We then ended with a prayer and supper after that. I think that table was the site many seeds were sown in our hearts. If I tool a quick survey with all the grandchildren, I think many would agree that table could easily be the bedrock of sorts for our spiritual growth!

There’s a wall next to the table, behind which were two toilets and a bathroom. That bathroom had a mini pool which starts from just outside the bathroom and continues into it. Occasionally one of us would do a mini scuba dive in and out of the bathroom through that pool. Just outside that bathroom was a wash basin with a mirror over it. There was a shelf at the bottom of the mirror. Often there would be a bottle of white tablets on that shelf. It was a face powder – I think it is what was called the “bedak sejuk”. One takes a few tables in the palm of one’s hands, wet them and spread the resulting paste on one’s face as a cream. It had a cooling effect.

Directly across the toilets and bathroom was another sort of open area, with a couple of chairs and tables and a long row of cardboard lining the wall to the left, which was the bottom of the staircase. Behind this open areas was the meals area. To the right and back of the other dining table was a door just next to the “pool”, which opens outside. I remember the times when 1 or more of the dogs would wander in to the dining table and grandfather would throw a or more slices of bread (buttered!) for them.

Further behind the tables were two bedrooms. I think Keat Bin, Thomas and Tibby occupied these rooms. Keat was actually Tiat Been, I think. He was older than Stephen. Thomas was Kok Meng and was the second last child. Tibby was Ing Been (“Tibby” came from his initials, “TIB”) and was the last child. He has successfully warded off marriage even till today. I think this is one of grandmother’s remaining concerns …

Keat, Tom and Tib were all educated overseas. Keat and Tom went to the Western Australia Institute of Technology (“WAIT”) and did Engineering and Accountancy respectively. Tib went to the US and I think attended Tennessee Tech and University of Mississippi.

Keat unfortunately had a serious motor accident and remains affected by it. He lives with grandmother now. Tom migrated to Sydney about 20 years ago and now lives there with wife Pauline and daughters Melissa and Sarah. Tib was living with grandmother and Keat in Klang, but has been in Beijing for work for a couple of years now.

Grandfather took care of the children of his elder and younger brothers and treated them as his own. Consequently, we called his brothers’ children as though they were grandfather’s own children. Wei Sheng for example was my grandfather’s elder brother’s son. We called him “Ah Pek”, as though he was my father’s elder brother. Tian Chiok (George) and Tian Hoe (Joseph) were Ah Pek’s 2 children and they have always been first cousins to us. Ah Pek’s father had died early and grandfather brought up Ah Pek as his own son. Ai Meng was grandfather’s second son but became our “3 chek”. “4-chek” (Hoe Peng) was my grandfather’s younger brother. Keat was “5-chek”, Stephen was “6 chek”. Hoe Peng’s younger brother, Chong Peng (Henry) was “7-chek”, Tom was “8 Chek” and Tib was “Beh Chek”). Get it? Phew…

Swee Har was the second daughter and has the same infectious guffaw of a laughter as my grandmother. She has the prettiest face of all grandfather’s children (including “adopted” ones). She and hubby Shu were living in Melbourne for a few years. They are now back in Ipoh but their son David remains here. He was married end of last year. He and Charmaine now live in Hawthorn East.

Actually I started this entry to talk about Stephen. Today is his wedding anniversary. He and 6 chim (Paddy) were married on this day I think in 1979. Their eldest daughter, Ruth is now a medical intern in Canberra and I remember her as a quiet but determined kid, when my mother baby sat her all those years ago in Klang. Joy is their second child and now works in a publishing company (I think) in Singapore. Their youngest is a boy (Caleb) who is sitting for his HSC in Sydney right now. Stephen and Paddy moved to Sydney almost ten years ago and remain there now.

Stephen – used bedak sejuk on us, made us take long afternoon naps in the big house in Kampong Jawa, introduced us (also in that big house) to Kraft cheddar cheese and tomato juice, made us do our homework and challenged us to do better in our school work. All this when he was maybe I don’t know, 20 years old? He was advisor to the church youth group we grew up with and was therefore a spiritual leader to us as well. He worked with a level of energy quite unlike the other uncles I know, and was always determined and positive. He introduced me to my first job in an electrical trading company in Klang (a client of his when he was working in the United Asian Bank, the forerunner of the Bank of Commerce and now known as BCB in Malaysia), after I finished my SPM, while waiting for my results. He helped my father while with the bank by providing overdraft facilities.

Recently he travelled to Klang from Sydney to spend time with grandmother and celebrate her 86th birthday. He then wrote an essay setting out in pretty much her own words, her recollection of her childhood. As I read that account, I could almost hear her saying those things herself.

Stephen was a great example. I must blog properly about him one day. For now though, that has to do. Happy Anniversary, 6 Chek & 6 Chim.