Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Geography was never my forte, but still....

Maria's post reminded me of an incident

that happened at the post office the other day when I was sending out wedding Thank You cards.

Although most of my family members are in Malaysia, my brother is here in the States with his family in Virginia, and I have an Aunt in Arizona.

I also have an aunt in Brunei Darussalam, whom I got close to while I was studing medicine in the part of Malaysia that is on Borneo Island. Because of the relative proximity ( there was no South China Sea separating us, but many many miles of land, nevertheless ), she visited me at the university and brought me out and about a couple of times and we've been keeping in contact via email and letters, especially since I've moved to the States.

I have visited Brunei only once when I was a student, and that was mainly to go to Jerudong Park, a kind of Disneyland that the Sultan had built for his wife and ENTRANCE AS WELL AS ALL THE RIDES WERE FREE!!!!!!! You can imagine how crazy we went in the Park..



( They have started charging about a USD$8.00 all day entrance fee since then, with a minimal sum for rides etc.)

Which brings us back to the post lady..

Scenario:

Letti and David go into the post office with a bundle of Thank You notes, to be sent all over the world - Malaysia, Singapore, Australia etc.

Post person weighs cards one by one, taking note of the different countries that the cards are going out to.

Post person comes to the card that's addressed to aunt in Brunei.

Post person looks puzzled and asks "Is that a country? I've never heard of it!"

Letti tries hard not to roll her eyes but turns to David and raises an eyebrow instead.
( David always loves to refer to the Sultan of Brunei as being one of the richest people in the world - Brunei has one of the highest GDPs in the developing world and has oodles and gobs of Petroleum - and if something is overly expensive, he would say, "who do these people think I am, the Sultan of Brunei???" ).

David bites his tongue and holds back any comment.

Forbes magazine put the Sultan of Brunei as the world's wealthiest man in 1997, but Bill Gates has since surpassed him in worth.

*sigh*

Update: P/S didn't mean to offend anyone..I'm quite the ignoramus about a heckuva lotta things out there myself, but this was a post person, for pete's sakes..*smiles*

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Mother Nature's Wrath

I woke up this morning..

to see on the news that Hurricane Katrina has strengthened to a Category 5, with winds exceeding 175 mph, and headed straight for New Orleans, expected landfall at about 5 - 8 am tomorrow morning.

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I can be pretty stoic about a lot of things, ( as a result of having to be "detached" a lot of times when i was a doctor, to prevent emotional exhaustion ) but things which involve human suffering almost always make me cry, and I can only imagine the horror that is felt by the residents of the areas that are anticipating the hurricane to strike them, right now.

Back to hurricane Katrina..

after its onslaught on Florida, it's now in the Gulf Coast heading towards Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, with a projected direct path to New Orleans.

The bowl shaped city sits below sea level and is dependent on levees and pumps to keep the water out every day. The bottom of the bowl in New Orleans is 14 feet below sea level and more than 1.5 million people live in the metropolitan area, where a mandatory evacuation order has been issued.

A direct hit is devastating with storm surge up to 25 feet and could wind up submerging the city where i
n worst case scenarios, most of New Orleans would end up under 15 feet of water, without electricity, clean water and sewage for months. Even pumping the water out could take as long as four to six months because the massive pumps that would do the job would be underwater.

Katrina is the 11th named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, which began June 1. That's seven more than typically have formed by now in the Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, the hurricane center said.

The season ends Nov. 30.

Meanwhile join me in praying for everyone affected.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Home Grown Vegetables..

Yummy Yummy Yumkins..

I use a lot of tomatoes and bell peppers in my cooking, but when David brought home these scraggly looking little plants from Lowe's, I was a bit skeptical.

They were plants that had wilted, and so Lowe's was going to dump them anyway, but David talked the manager into giving them to him

..and now look how they've grown!

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I have a green thumb after all!!!


Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Food Glorious Food

I am terrible at cooking Asian food..

or at least the ones that I love so much....

so it was with quite a bit of excitement as well as envy when I tuned in to the Travel Channel last night to watch celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain visit Malaysia and join in the national past time - EATING, on yesteday's episode of No Reservations.

It brought back a lot of memories ( and hunger pangs ) and made me feel painfully inadequate at reproducing the delicious food that he sampled on his travels in both Peninsular and East Malaysia ( Borneo ) - yes, Malaysia is made up of West Malaysia ( the peninsula that continues down from Thailand and ends right before Singapore ) and East Malaysia ( where 2 Malaysian states share the island of Borneo with Brunei and Indonesia ) - but at the same time, reveling in all the familiar sights and sounds that are unique to Malaysia, and feeling a certain kinship with him.





I guess I had been deprived of anything Malaysian for a while now, so I was glued to the tube the entire hour and even recorded the episode on videotape..

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Fellow Texan Down

I'm normally not much of a football fan


In fact, I didn't know much about the game when I was back in Malaysia, other than the occasional movie that highlighted footballers etc..

Malaysians seem to enjoy soccer much much more ( the concept of which eludes me as well ), but now that it's football season *preseason, but still as intense, nevertheless*, I can't help but be swept up with all the bru-ha-ha especially when there's a football fiend in the house ( read: David )

We'd always discussed about how when we have children, we will will be very wary about them playing football because although it is up there as a national sport with baseball, it can be really BRUTAL and chances of getting hurt is really high.

So, it made me sad this morning, to hear about a very young footballer from Texas who collapsed after a game yesterday.

"On Sunday, Kilgore coaches and many others in Texas were mourning the loss of Herrion, the San Francisco 49ers lineman from Fort Worth who died Saturday night after a preseason game in Denver.

Herrion collapsed in the locker room shortly after the 49ers finished their postgame meeting following a 26-21 loss to the Broncos. An autopsy performed in Denver couldn't immediately determine the cause of his death of the 23-year-old, who graduated from Fort Worth Polytechnic High School and briefly played with the Dallas Cowboys in 2004.

After playing two years at Utah when he left Kilgore, Herrion was signed by Dallas in May 2004 and was with the club through training camp. He was released in the final cuts before the opener, then spent two weeks on the practice squad."

Other Notable Pro Football Deaths

Year Players Team Pos Cause
1971 Chuck Hughes Lions WR heart attack
1979 J.V. Cain Cardinals TE heart attack
2001 Korey Stringer Vikings OL heatstroke
2005 Al Lucas Avengers (AFL) DL spinal cord injury

Saturday, August 20, 2005

So this is why we file our receipts

David & I love plants,

and we have 5 acres for him ( er, did i say him? I meant us ) to play with. Like yesterday, we bought more fruit trees ( we already have peaches, pears, figs, grapes, blueberries..etc. er..are tomatoes fruits? ) from Lowe's, but I digress.



We bought some Blue Spiral Juniper in June last year but after like a few months, they just shrivelled up and died.

Now, back in Malaysia, where the return policy on things is like NO RETURNS/ALL SALES FINAL or for those stores that seem to pity consumers, there's a 3 day grace for you to return/exchange products, the idea of exchanging PLANTS of all things, would have seemed pretty useless, not to mention nonsensical.

In the States, however, most stores have a 30 day or 90 day return policy for most items - we've even returned VERY MOULDY blueberries to Sams' after a week and exchanged them for fresh ones! - which seemed HUMONGOUS to me when I first got here. Talk about customer satisfaction.But when I learnt that some places like Lowe's had a ONE YEAR GUARANTEE on some of their plants, I almost keeled over.

Hence, back to the Junipers. We got 2 new ones yesterday from Lowe's ( 14 months later ) and ( maybe because David is such a regular customer there ), he talked to the manager, and get this..we didn't even have to bring our receipt.


Goodbye sad looking shrivelled twigs, Hello big fat succulent evergreens!
Hope you survive longer than your predecessors!

p/s: Er, Mr. Manager at Lowes, I forsee some exchanges of roses later this year..but don't worry yourself over that for right now...

Thursday, August 18, 2005

MyBuddies.Net

Remedy for Homesickness..

I have made so many friends online through blogging, all whom are so dear to me...

and I have also come to know a community of Malaysians living abroad, all who come together at a forum to talk about their experiences, exchange ideas ( & recipes! ) as well as support one another - a home away from home.




MyBuddies.net's latest project was to gather greetings for Malaysia's National (Independence ) Day which falls on August 31st, to create a banner/poster, a radio show ( in Cantonese ) etc...and it can all be found HERE.

Here's my little contribution to the banner...

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Feel free to drop in and "gather round the good stuff!"

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Hungry Ghosts abound during the Chinese Halloween

The gates of Hell are open..

at least in some parts of the world they are...


The Hungry Ghost Festival is celebrated by Southeast Asia's Chinese communities ( and that means Malaysia too, where it's called Phor Thor) during the seventh lunar month on the Chinese calendar ( i.e. roundabout August ).

Before the family became Christians, we would follow our grandmother as she celebrated this "festival". Apparently, the deprived ghosts in hell get an entire months' vacation from purgatory.

(Even as a child, I would wonder why the ghosts would so obediently go back into Hell after the one month "vacation" )

To appease these roaming and wandering ghosts, there would be offerings of food, music, theater ( yeah, a time for chinese opera and screenings of movies outdoors - kinda like drive-ins with the smell of burning incense and joss sticks, as well as the smoke from the burning of "hell money/notes" thick in the air).




***When we were younger, we were told that the ghosts would "smell the smoke" and get full from the scent, as well as if the hell notes were burnt, they would somehow be "interdimensionally" forwarded to dead relatives etc.***

If they weren't kept full or entertained, they would come into your house seeking food, wreck havoc and start messing with you...and they especially loved getting to the children - so there were a lot of taboos during that month, like no swimming or the spirits in the water would drag you down; or going out late at night; don't start answering calls to your name if you don't see anyone around; if you smell sweet scents in the air, keep it to yourself and don't even mention it to anyone;

AND if for some reason, you felt the need to pee outdoors, like in the bushes or something, you had to say aloud "Excuse me, please move aside" before you started peeing. ( kinda like a forewarning so that the spirits wouldn't get peed on and get mad at ya)




When we were growing up, there was an open lot in front of our house, which was THE designated place for offerings yearly, and a tent would be put up and families from ALL AROUND would come with their offerings, placed long long tables and with little colourful "hungry ghost festival" flags stuck among the different types of food. There would be lots of tales like, if you bent down and looked through to the back between your legs, you would see a ghost, yada yada yada...

I don't remember this particular occasion, but my mom once told us that when my older sister and I were toddlers, she had brought us out to the playground, and we had come running to her telling her that some "auntie" was beckoning at us and asking us to go with her. When my mom looked at where we were pointing, she didn't see anyone........

The Buddhist origins of the festival can be traced back to a story originally from India. It is an account of a wealthy merchant, Mu-lien, who after attaining enlightenment seeks out his parents. He finds his father in heaven and his mother a hungry ghost in Hell, sent to Hell for her greed. Mu-lien had asked her to be kind to any Buddhist monks that came her way, but she was not. Mu-lien rescues his mother from hell by battling various demons and imploring Buddha’s help. A deal is made and Buddha installs a day of prayer and offering in which monks can pray and make sacrifices on behalf of dead ancestors or hungry ghosts. The 30th day of the seventh moon is the last day of the festival. At midnight, the ghosts return to Hell and the gates are shut after them. Paper offerings and other goods are burnt in a giant bonfire as a final gift.


Monday, August 15, 2005

R.I.P Fishy

Goodbye Fishy, we loved you.

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Fishy
August 2004 - August 2005

Friday, August 12, 2005

Look skyward: Perseids peak tonight

We watched fireworks in the sky last night..

and it was the meteors from the Perseids..

One of the advantages of living out in the country and on a slight elevation is that the city lights are far away and under you, and so the night sky is as brilliant as can be...

David and I stepped outside for about 15 minutes last night and saw at least 7 or 8 BRILLIANT meteors during that time, which were brighter and lasted longer ( as well as being colorful ) than any shooting stars we had seen...it was indeed an amazing sight..

I woke up early this morning, about 5:30 am, and looked out my bedroom window, which had a view of the northeastern sky, and in 10 minutes, I saw 3 bright streaks in the sky...feeling fulfilled, I went back to bed again.

TONIGHT, we're going to set chairs out, for sure, and watch the sky light up once again...




The Perseids

The Perseids are debris from the Swift-Tuttle comet. Each year, during mid-August, the Earth in its orbit around the sun plows through the debris field and particles ram through the atmosphere at about 37 miles per second. As they incinerate, they produce spectacular "shooting stars."

Viewers could be able to see a meteor a minute, late tonight and early Friday as the Perseid meteor shower reaches its peak, said Bob Brown, member of the Southwest Washington Astronomical Society.

While the Perseids first became visible in late July and will last throughout August, Bown said the opportune viewing time is 11 tonight until 2 a.m. Friday, when spectators can see the highest concentration.

Discovered back in 1862, this comet takes approximately 130 years to circle the sun. And in much the same way that the Tempel-Tuttle comet leaves a trail of debris along its orbit to produce the Leonid Meteors of November, comet Swift-Tuttle produces a similar debris trail along its orbit to cause the Perseids.

As the meteor streaked across the night sky, different excited atoms emitted different colors of light. The origin of the green tinge visible at the right is currently unknown, however, and might result from oxygen in Earth's atmosphere

Watching for them is simple:

Find a spot shielded as much as possible from man-made light sources.
Lie down, with your feet pointed south and look straight up.
Most of the meteors should appear to originate over your left shoulder, in the northeastern sky.


Enjoy, everyone..it's not too late !


Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Now I have more clothes to give away...

It seems amazing to me,

but I am at my lightest weight ever as an adult.

While preparing for my wedding, I went on a diet ( and still am on it ) and have lost more than 15lbs so far, and have gone from a size 12 to a *gasp* size 6 !!!

So imagine me, going around pulling my pants up with every few steps I take and looking like I have NO bottom at all ( which isn't all that far from the truth ) ...

I had griped to David about getting new pants that actually fit, so we took advantage of last weekend's TAX-FREE WEEKEND and got myself a few pairs of new pants and a few funky belts for the older pants...YIPPEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!

Texas - Sales Tax Holiday
August 5-7, 2005
Friday, Saturday and Sunday

Texas shoppers get a break from state and local sales taxes on August 5, 6, and 7--the state's seventh annual tax holiday. The law exempts most clothing and footwear priced under $100 from sales and use taxes, which could save shoppers about $8 on every $100 they spend.

TAX FREE

Baby clothes
Belts with attached buckles
Boots - cowboy, hiking
Caps/hats - baseball, fishing, golf, knitted
Coats and wraps
Diapers - adult and baby
Dresses
Gloves (generally)
Gym suits and uniforms
Hooded shirts and hooded sweatshirts
Hosiery
Jackets
Jeans
Jerseys - baseball and football
Jogging apparel
Neckwear and ties
Pajamas
Pants and trousers
Raincoats and ponchos
Robes
Shirts
Shoes - sandals, slippers, sneakers, tennis, walking
Socks (including athletic)
Shorts
Suits, slacks, and jackets
Sweatshirts
Sweat suits
Sweaters
Swimsuits
Underclothes
Work clothes and uniforms



size 12 hand-me-downs, anyone?

Monday, August 08, 2005

*wink wink, nudge nudge*

It completely took us by surprise..

when we were over at Judith's for dinner on Saturday, and she looked over at David and I coyly, and asked, "Is there anything you want to tell us?"...

Our minds were racing as we tried to figure out what we information we were supposedly witholding, when Stephanie said, "Mom dreamt you were pregnant last night".....

..... to which we went, "ehhhh?????"



And the answer is "No, we are not pregnant at the moment"....


*chuckle*

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Stephanie's Art Show

We have so many artists in the Woods family..

and yesterday, Stephanie held an art show to showcase her Glass Art at a local Art Gallery, and it was a great success..

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Stephanie Glass Artist Extraordinaire

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New art at River Oaks

The River Oaks Gallery presents the exhibit ''Grass & Glass,'' featuring art by:


Stephanie T , a glass artist

Bernice Landrum, with still-life work

Bruce Hackney, a landscape artist.

The show opens Aug. 5 with an artist reception from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the gallery inside Abilene Frame-N-Art Shoppe, South 14th and Willis streets. Hours are 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. weekdays, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. The show continues through Aug. 28.

Hurrah for Stephanie!


Monday, August 01, 2005

Battle of the Network Stars

Although David and I have very similar tastes

when it comes to TV/Movies, and are quite eclectic in our viewing preferences,

it's hard to get a man to watch Home and Garden TV ( HGTV) or Food Network among other things.

I on the other hand, am NOT a fan of CNN, MSNBC, Bloomberg or murder cases on CourtTV. ( NOT TO MENTION that Football season is coming up ) Plus I can get finicky and start channel surfing, which drives David crazy sometimes.

Before, with just one satellite receiver in the living room, I would retreat to my "study" when the above programs were on, ( which was basically most of the morning & afternoon ) and watch *gasp* BROADCAST TV on my little 14 " TV.

Which meant that after the morning news shows, there would be SOAP OPERAS and JUDGE shows!!!!!! *barf*

Well, today we finally got a second receiver into MY MY MY MY MY MY room.





What am I watching at this moment as I blog?

HELL'S KITCHEN!!!!! *laugh*
*shakes head in utter embarrasment...hahah*

p/s: the wounds on my face are healing nicely, thanks to everyone for their concern.

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