First it was the frenzy about the iPhone-3G, that even my students who’d probably had just gotten their first period/half an inch of stubble for the boys are already gasping, yearning ownership. Yesterday and today, the twit world yak non-stop about iPad.

Ok. I have a confession to make. If by comparison to these people around me who are scampering to get their i-“Things”, I must be living in the dinosaur age, truth be spoken.

I still write in a planner made from paper, with the black cover and dates printed in squares. On the cover it says ‘Executive Planner’ colored gold. On the inside it has the calendar, dates of holidays here, Metric Conversion Table, LRT line maps, planning charts and each day of the year comes in a square where I can fill in my to-do list/appointments etc. For holidays and Sundays, the squares are colored pink. That costs me Rm8 from the neighborhood stationery shop.

Let’s talk about my phone. There’s no ‘i’ to it. Nor was it named after a fruit which I like to make muffins with. After a heart-wrenching episode where my multi-function SonyEricsson was stolen in the surau at MidValleyMegaMall, I was resolved not to get any phones that can possibly tempt any more thieves. On that same day, I got a simple Nokia, which can only text and call. It does not even have a colored screen. Basically the kind of phones employers give to their maids. I saw a few 6-7 year olds using more sophisticated phones than I do and my 9 year old student even squarely pointed out that my phone is ‘old fashion’. I paid Rm 119 for it, from the same DigiShop I went to right after I realised my SonyEricsson was stolen, almost in tears as it was a birthday present from the husband and it was merely 4 weeks old.

Do I feel inadequate without the gadgets all the people around me are competing for? Am I missing out on anything? Sometimes I wonder as well. Without an iPhone and iPad or a Blackberry, am I not in the loop of things? Do I miss appointments, get lagged behind the world who are always connected to the cyberspace and in the know of what is the latest? Hmm. Let’s see if I can find the answers to my own questions here.

Am I missing out on anything?

Well, I am on twitter and facebook and when I am at my desktop (yes, I am using a HP desktop, not a slim multi-colored laptop OR an iPad). I can get access to all of the world’s newspapers and the news junkie that I am, I have several tabs of them every morning from JakartaPost to HeraldTribute to NewsAU and even EarthTimes. So if I am missing on anything, it would be on the days I have a bad internet connection/can’t be bothered to switch on anything/sick. Other than that, I am very much abreast with the current affairs of the world, lack of gadgets notwithstanding. So the answer to that has to be, no I am not missing on anything.

Do I miss appointments or can’t secure meetings etc because I do not own a state of the art gadget to remind me in a sophisticated app?

Not that I know of. I used the same kind of planner late last year. With it, I’ve met clients for translation contract worth 5-figure amount for our newly formed translation firm and never missed any appointments so far. And clinched the deals I did, Rm 8 planner et al. With it, I have met many, many deadlines and even squeezed in many lesson plans for students. My students excelled, my deadlines met and my schedule ran its course. And so, my Rm 8 planner has served me well.

So do I really need all these latest gadgets? At the moment, no. In the future, maybe.

The lack of it has worked to my benefit actually. When I am out, I don’t get distracted by the chats and social networking and I don’t read emails on work. I am able to enjoy what I go out for i.e meeting friends, shopping for books, teas and lunches– without having a friend/friends in front of me but my eyes on the blackberry/iPhone. That is such an annoying anti-social behavior, I find.

Without it, I am able to carry out genuine conversations over the lunch/dinner table outside or at home, without constantly being drawn to look at the small screen for ‘updates’. It gives me the ‘there is a time for everything’ without being sucked into having to accept work while I am spending quality time with friends, my other half, films or other things I enjoy. If anyone needs to contact me, I am just an sms or a phone call away, which unless it is urgent, they will definitely get the ‘I will get back to you later’ response from me. If someone I am waiting for is late or I am passing time to get to the next activity, I read.

Having said all that, I know that what I don’t have, I won’t miss. I am not sure if in the future I find myself in a circumstance where I need to own these gadgets, I would not be able to live without them. Till then, my life proceeds (and with better efficiency than iGadgets/Blackberry owners too if I may humbly add :P) well and wonderfully without them. So for now, I shall remain… you know….. i”Kuno”.

Truly, I cannot stand Meredith.

What do I get, really, from watching Grey’s Anatomy back to back on the dvd? Vegged out on the couch with pringles and sometimes mars bars, do I really gain anything from watching a group of loony, sex crazy group of surgeons which ranges from desperate interns to a lesbian couple to the hospital chief with issues? Other than pimples and a wider waistline, no thanks to the pringles and chocolate bars, did I learn anything else?

Actually I do.

I learnt quite a bit of medical terms. There’s a situation of Addison’s brother getting parasites in the brain called ‘neurocysticercosis‘. That’s a bit mouthful, but now after I’ve googled the term, I read that parasites can go into your brains and in laymen’s term they are called brain worms. I also learnt what’s orthopedic, ophthalmology and podiatry. Well, they appear too many times in the dialog and my itchy fingers can’t help googling to find out their meanings. Before this, a hospital is just a hospital and a doctor is just a doctor. And an operation means a doctor will cut you in a hospital. Keep it simple, aye?

There are a thing or two I learnt from the Christina Yang character. She’s focused, driven and able to draw the line between emotions and professionalism. She works really hard, typical of an East-Asian personality and would not stop short at being good. She insist on being great. That’s something I can learn from, about not resting my laurels even if I’ve achieved something I set out to achieve.

My favorite quote from her, ” Good? I don’t wanna be good. I want to be great!!”

The other character I like is Miranda Bailey. She reminds me of my friend here. Small, assertive, aggressive but with a good heart and very efficient. And I like her punch lines and had this character been a teacher, she would be perfect as the discipline mistress.

From her, I learnt that there’s time to be everything. There’s a time to be assertive, there’s a time to bend the rules, there’s a time to be strict and there’s a time to be compassionate. There are also times when one has to crush one’s ego and listen to his/her students (like she did with her interns) because one will never be the ‘know-it-all’.

And so.

Wait a minute. It’s almost midnight and what am I doing writing about what I learnt from watching a tv series? That’s like primary school composition. It’s guilt I tell ya. I’ve spent way too much time in front of the telly the last few days, one dvd after another. Like a cocaine addict getting his fix.

p.s About the title, truly, I really cannot stand the Meredith Grey character. The one the series is named after. But that deserves another entry altogether, for a woman with that much issues. And I love the Mark Sloan-Callie Torres friendship. So unlike but so real.

The Black Hat

First it was the scene I was watching on Grey’s Anatomy where Dr Hahn refused to do an inoperable tumor surgery onto a ten year old, against the decision of the hospital team. The team, then led by my favorite character Dr Bailey, went on with the surgery anyway.

Throughout it all, Dr Hahn was very critical with just every step they took, and every suggestion the team members gave, she gunned them down with all the impossibilities and the ‘no it cannot work’ response. Exasperated, Bailey barked back with ‘ You’ve been gunning down all our ideas, since you are so smart why don’t you give us suggestions on what to do instead of criticizing all that we have tried to do?!’

Fast forward, some hours later. At the kopitiam, post training. The team of us was having a post dinner meeting. The dojo gang is the organizing committee for the upcoming aikido.seminar in March. We had come as far as putting the respective people into the respective roles- chairperson, treasurer, programs, promotions and logistics etc. Then it came down to planning the week-long program right from scratch. And then…someone in the team did exactly like what Dr Hahn did. She gunned down just about every single thing others said. Every single suggestion was met by critical ‘no it can’t happen, it won’t’ response. All things negative on why this and that cant and won’t work etc, without her giving any solution to how it can work.

To put it simply, I was irritated. But I kept my mouth shut, although seething that the meeting was going no where, wasting precious time. It was midnight and all I wanted to do was to go back and back to my Grey’s Anatomy dvd, dammit.

Then somehow, I remembered EdwardDeBono and his 6 Thinking Hats system.

And obviously, this missy in our team was wearing a big black hat that night. She was basically manifesting what, in the 6 Thinking Hat System describes as

Black hat – Critical Judgment

Participants identify barriers, hazards, risks and other negative connotations. This is critical thinking, looking for problems and mismatches. This hat is usually natural for people to use, the issues with it are that people will tend to use it when it is not requested and when it is not appropriate, thus stopping the flow of others. Preventing inappropriate use of the black hat is a common obstacle and vital step to effective group thinking.

My mister, who was just as irritated but because of his nature/upbringing, squarely but sternly pointed out to our missy that she was making it impossible for the meeting to proceed if she kept gunning things down without offering feasible solutions. That kind of mellowed her down a bit, but I was not sure if  it was because she was a bit apprehensive of being told off upfront like that, which not many Asians can take (and when my man is stern, my man IS stern–big eyes et al)…OR she realised the fact that she was slowing down the meeting. Either way, she mellowed but no, she didn’t stop this annoying thing she was doing.

Whatever it is, the point is, in all projects or in every effort which requires team work, there is bound to be somebody who will be wearing that big, ugly (i’m not biased, just pissed that I couldn’t get back to my dvd last night, heh) black hat. How can we deal with such people? Yank the black hats off them? Point out this annoying trait to them in a straightforward manner? Ignore them?

Now that I’ve had a great Saturday and calmer when reflecting upon last night’s incident, I realized that actually, our missy with the black hat did come up with many valid concerns, only at the wrong time i.e during the brainstorming session. Hence, her weakness was that her critical thinking hat was used at the wrong time, instead of at the time when the team could use her critical thinking as tool to check on our blind spots.

I’ve learnt two things from this incident. Firstly, as much as people who wear black hats into meetings are a tad (or extremely annoying, IF you have Grey’s Anatomy waiting at home), we do need them, provided at the right time – to be asking the right questions to have our blind spots covered and leaving no stones unturned. This will lead us to being more well-prepared with all contingency plans during the execution of the plans and following through the project.

Secondly, I learnt that many stupid, reckless mistakes can be avoided if we wear black hats from time to time during decision making processes (but it has to be after the brainstorming session) and that black hats are most effective if based upon past experiences and not just  empty nay say.

It’s a good thing I didn’t snap at our missy with the black hat that night. It would have caused me to have a bad weekend. And I’m not sure what coloured hat I was wearing today, probably none at all because we simply vegged out on the sofa after we came back from SolarisMontKiara and popping pringles and watching episode after episode of Grey’s Anatomy. That doesn’t require much thinking, does it?

Here she comes, walking down the street

We just came back from supper at Backofen, a halal German bistro cum bakery at Desa Sri Hartamas. Our first time there, given the tip off by others who had been there. So after running the errands for the orphanage project and then maghrib at Senah’s place, the husband really had in his mind that we were going to Backofen since it was  just around the corner.

And so we had the lovely baked cheesecake German style and the lime pie, both of which were given two thumbs up by the husband, which means they were good. I found them to be really good in fact. A hot chocolate and a cappuccino later, we drove home, not anticipating anything other than that I can go back to season 5 of Grey’s Anatomy dvds.

Once we reached the gate, I got out to unlock it and that was when I heard the ever familiar voice screaming meowing for attention. That was not Milo, but can it be…nah. Cannot be. Probably one of Milo’s friends. And so I thought. So I ignored it and then it got more intense, louder and more distinctively familiar. By then I was frantically searching high and low around the compound because I was dead sure I KNOW that voice. How can I ever forget it???

I followed it towards the house across the street and realized that it came from under our neighbour’s car. I bent down and I thought I’ve just seen a ghost. There she was, Tito, who had been missing for more 3 whole weeks!!!

We have already put it in our head that she had died and not coming back (more for us to really get on and let go, in other words-redha) and there she was, underneath the neighbour’s car, screaming frantically, thin, frail but yet still very clean (she’s very meticulous with cleanliness, hence it was the biggest irony that the fleas got onto her first instead of her scraggly brother Milo).

Strangely enough, I felt extreme mixtures of happiness and anger. I had wanted to spank her there and then but also hug and kiss her at the same time. I’m actually angry for what she put us through the last 3 weeks–my sleepless nights, us combing the neighborhood looking for her, going from street to street and finally convincing ourselves that she is finally gone- something which was not easy to do, given our relationship with her. And here she is, back and strutting around the house now like a diva as I am typing this down.

Perhaps, had it not been for the lovely supper earlier at Backofen, I would have really spanked her. But it’s amazing what sugar rush from lovely desserts can do to one’s level of compassion. So Tito, have a good rest, I will spank you tomorrow. You deserve it and you of all other beings should know, I don’t give faces to nonsense and I am fierce like that.


( Ohhh come here my cutie cutie Tito. I miss you shooo much!)

Just do it, lah.

With my grocery bags and purse in hand, I stood in front of the Metro Driving School near our place and continued standing there for a moment. I could feel the palpitation building, slowly but surely. I tried to force myself to take a step in but it didn’t happen. Alas, I gave up and walked away.

That was this morning.

There is a list of phobia listed in the phobia index of most psychological association. Some are as absurd as ‘ablutophobia’ i.e the phobia of washing or bathing (I would rather call it the SKS- ‘Severe Kopet Syndrome’), or the phobia of hair which is called ‘Chaetophobia’ or Gallophobia— the fear of France or French culture (!?!?!?! seriously?). The list is long but I cannot find mine– the phobia of driving.

I told myself that this will be the year that phobia will soon end. Because simply, I am beginning to feel that I really need to drive here because of my involvement in some projects. I’m also training 3 times a week now for aikido and sometimes with the husband stuck at the office and the cab company being a super b*t*h, I miss training just like that. I am also running my own translation firm on my own here with my partner doing it in Singapore and I need to meet clients to get projects and send/collect invoices. Most importantly, calling for cabs here can sometimes be a very ‘cekik darah‘ experience. All those factors make driving a very crucial and time saving asset– which I don’t have.

Maybe tomorrow I should stand outside the driving school longer by ten minutes. And on Thursday another ten minutes more. That will have to go on and on until I finally have the courage to walk in.

Below basics

I was munching the nasi goreng belacan, teh tarik by the side and TheStar newspaper right in front of me at the eatery yesterday morning, with the news of the Haiti quake sprawling in visibility. While it did tug at the heartstrings that here I am, munching yummy nasi goreng for breakfast and frothy teh tarik– in comfort, while this people are homeless and half a million more are unaccountable for, I cannot help but remember the most recent encounter, very much more closer to home and equally,( if not more) heart-wrenching.

The previous Wednesday, my mate here, ‘Senah‘ alerted me to the new orphanage that has just opened a few doors away from her house. We both decided to check it out and since it is newly opened, we wanted to see if we could help with anything at all.

Everything in there is below basic, at least based on my own childhood. Since the orphanage is new, furnitures are much to be yearned for. The kids in there, about 12 of them and a single mother whom the home rescued, sleep on just ‘tikar’. The only visible furniture in the corner lot terrace is the sofa on which we sat on. The children prayed on just cloth, there are no carpets, no cupboards. Basically, that was all that they have–other than themselves and the wardens. The single mother in there has been given a project i.e to sell kuih outside the home.

Ok, here’s the deal. My childhood was not in the lap of luxury, and so I thought. BUT, being there on Wednesday and to see what I saw, I must concur that my childhood is by and large far more luxurious than what I saw. I never once had to sleep on thin mat and even had my own beds throughout my life. Books were and still are aplenty for me and easy access to education churned me out to be who I am today. I had good meals, parents and a large extended family. Things which these kids whom we saw could only dream of.

I can’t write about this anymore. If anyone reading about this wants to go and see the orphanage for yourself and see what you can contribute and help out with ( they need basic furnitures and most importantly, mattresses, pinggan mangkuk, sejadah, carpets, cupboards AND A WHITEBOARD), kindly email me at percicilan at g mail dot com and I will furnish you with the address of the orphanage, the warden’s phone numbers and name.

As the prophet Muhammad peace be upon him said:

أنا وكافلُ اليَـتيمِ في الجَنَّةِ هكذا (وأشار بإصبعيه السبابة والوسطى)

I And The Person Who Brings Up An Orphan Will Be Like This In Heavens;  And He Put His Index And Middle Finger Together.


Come, let’s give them a hand shall we?