It's been a while since I've blogged about social issues. In fact its been quite long since I last blogged. An entry has been long overdue and I guess something that happened to me today gave me something to write about.
I was walking around the mall today killing time while waiting for music practice. As I was going along, I was interrupted by someone you'd think was a direct salesman, I think most of us know how mall booth promoters are due to the nature of their job. This time around it was someone representing then National Kidney Foundation. They were doing a drive in AEON for donations in supporting dialysis operations around Malaysia.
Although I wasn't really keen, but I decided to spend a bit of time listening to what the promoter had to say and what kind of contribution they'd be looking for. Basically, the organisation is looking for people to commit in contributing a fixed amount of money over a period of time. They were giving potential donors two packages / options. If I remember correctly, it was something like RM 38 and RM 58 a month.
For me, I felt that for a select amount of time I could afford to give that RM 38 a month. That's when I asked the promoter how would payment be like and if I wanted to stop donating, how would I be able to do it. He talked for a bit, and then he mentioned the words 'auto deduct'.
You see, I'm rather sensitive to the phrase, 'auto-deduct'. For those who don't know, when NGOs get donors to commit and agree to an auto-deduct form of donation, what it means is that the amount that you agree to commit monthly to the NGO will be automatically deducted via your credit card every month. Now, I know it seems to be a very convenient way of doing things, rather 'efficient' you could say. The thing is, it simply means that you're not actually in control of your money. If let's say you're running low on cash or have emergency expenses during a certain month, you will still have that committed amount deducted from your account every month.
Basically, it doesn't matter whether you have enough money or not, that organisation is taking that amount away from you.
Now, the thing is, every NGO, including the National Kidney Foundation say that if you contact a certain department of their organisation, the commitment can be cancelled or amended. This amendment has to be informed a month before however. Here's where I have a problem, if it's so easy for NGO's to get money deducted from our accounts monthly once we sign that commitment form, why can't we stop the moment I say stop? I know someone who donated to UNICEF in Malaysia through the exact same concept, and when the donor wanted to stop payment, it took a lot of hassle and effort to do it, it wasn't as simple as it should have been. What I'm saying here is that, when businesses and NGOs get you to use auto-deduct, its a lot harder for you to stop than it is to start. I believe most people who sign up for the first time don't know this and may feel rather annoyed, or even angry afterwards, having contributed for a good cause, but being 'forced' to give more than they intended to. That's why its important to be aware before signing up during donation drives.
Because of that, I kindly told the promoter I wouldn't be able to help. Its unfortunate because I did want to help, but this NGO does not accept cash donations and even for electronic transfer, they only have this auto-deduct via credit card program. Frankly speaking, banks complain about people that don't pay their credit card bills, non-credit worthy account holders but yet they encourage these auto-deduct programs, there's definitely a sense of irony there.
The first thing that strikes me is that to donate these days, you MUST donate a minimum amount. I've written about this in a blog entry about one or two years before when I encountered this situation at an LRT station. The second thing is that now NGOs are looking to use auto-deduct payment systems.
Now, I understand that in the modern era, because costs have increased, NGOs may be looking to secure a minimum amount of income and that may force them to ask for minimum amounts. While I still don't agree with donating minimum amounts, I understand the reason behind it. What I am absolutely against however, is the auto-deduct system. Donating is voluntary, it can only be done as and when donors can afford to do so. There should be more options for people to donate cash, lump-sum, or commitment for select amount of months where payment is controlled by the donor and not automated. Unfortunately, NGOs don't seem to be going that way and I feel that they may be right on the border of 'cheating' people. There should be a better way, there needs to be. We shouldn't have to resort to borderline underhanded tactics to obtain resources for people in need.
Saturday, May 18, 2013
It's been a while since I've blogged about social issues. In fact its been quite long since I last blogged. An entry has been long overdue and I guess something that happened to me today gave me something to write about.
Saturday, April 27, 2013
I remember this blog post from some time back that I titled favourite pastime. Cricket’s been my all-time favourite sport. I’d choose it over football any day of the week even though it’s the world’s most popular game. The only thing is that ever since I came back to Malaysia, I never had the chance to play nor the resources or time to watch any of the games.
Then the 20-over format of the game was introduced. I’m not sure if it was the first ever international competition for the format, but I remember watching South Africa take on Australia at the Royal Selangor Club Bukit Kiara in KL on TV! I wasn’t even back in Malaysia then, it was a little surreal to see some of my heroes playing cricket in my own country.
Over time, T20 cricket grew to be a lot more popular. Because the length of the game is much shorter, more people have the time to attend matches and finally India did the right thing by making it a commercial sport, by creating the Indian Premier League (IPL). Whoever came up with the idea has really made it exciting, with rules such as only four overseas players for each time in one game, having player auctions and so on.
The best thing about the IPL though, is that it’s being streamed on YouTube for free! I had no idea it was until I came across one of those YouTube blue promotion banners. So for the last few weeks, I’ve been watching live IPL matches at night. Even if I tuned in late, the great thing is that you can still rewind even though the feed is live.
I’ve really enjoyed watching some good batting by people like David Miller, Kieron Pollard and some of the young and upcoming Indian batsmen. I’m especially happy I get to see Jacques Kallis in action again, my favourite player. Solid as a batter and a bowler, so many people regard him as one of the great players still around.
Then only a few days ago, I was very fortunate to witness what is probably the best ever innings in limited-overs cricket ever. Chris Gayle has always been famous for being an explosive batter, but the other night when Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) played Pune Warriors, he scored a total of 175 not out.
Chris Gayle celebrates reaching 100 runs, scored in just 30 deliveries.
It broke so many records, the highest individual score in T20, the fastest hundred in T20 (probably in all formats of the game too), took his team total to 265 runs, which is the highest team total ever. Actually that last record is mind blowing, some teams don’t score that much in 50-over cricket! A good score in T20 is probably 160 runs, a very good score 180. Scoring 265 runs is ridiculous, its like someone put in a cheat code or something. Every player interviewed said that’s the best batting they’ve seen anyone play ever.
Even one of the RCB players mentioned he felt a little sorry for the opposition bowlers. I guess there’s only one Chris Gayle. Alan Donald (former fast bowler for South Africa), coach for the Pune Warriors told ESPNcricinfo how during the timeouts he saw all the bowlers were scared to bowl to Gayle. I myself was pretty awestruck watching it live. You can catch the replay of the game here:
Then, to wrap it off at the end of the Pune Warriors innings, Chris Gayle got to bowl the last over and picked up two wickets, he almost got a hat-trick but it wasn’t to be. You really can’t ask for anything more than that.
Chris Gayle got to do Gangnam Style twice in his over.
I guess RCB has a really big chance of winning this year’s IPL. They’ve already got a lot of good players and then you have Gayle, it’s crazy stuff for RCB. I’m supporting the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), because Jacques Kallis is playing for them, watched them win their game last night. He did well with both bat and ball, a really great all rounder. KKR are in the bottom half of the table at the moment, but hopefully they’ll qualify for the playoffs.
Saturday, April 06, 2013
Something’s gotta give, gotta break out of this ‘mundane’ rut.
Got to be more intentional about it, can’t be too contented with the status quo. Remembering the reason to live in the middle of being busy or caught up with everything else is crucial.
I think Easter came at a good time to remind me.
Monday, March 18, 2013
For as long as I’ve loved cricket, I’ve always been a passionate supporter of the South African national team, also known as the Proteas. I remember watching people like Alan Donald and David Richardson playing before the mid-2000’s transition to players such as Graeme Smith and Ntini.
Among that group of players was a young guy by the name of Mark Boucher, South Africa’s wicketkeeper.
Actually, he was never my favourite player. I always loved watching the more top order batsmen like Gary Kirsten, Graeme Smith, Herschelle Gibbs or exciting players like Jonty Rhodes. However, one thing about Mark Boucher was that he was always very consistent as a wicketkeeper and usually very solid when called upon as a batsman in time of need. He was a guy that more often than not was there for the team.
In fact, just a few years ago, he played a pivotal role in helping South Africa beat a world record run chase. On 12th March 2006, Australia batted first in the one-day international game and scored a world record total of 434 runs in 50 overs. By any standard, that’s a ridiculous total to try and chase in one-day cricket, let alone test-match cricket where teams would have a better chance of scoring such a total.
In that game, Herschelle Gibbs did most of the work, scoring 175 runs, while the rest chipped in here and there. However, once Gibbs got out, wickets began to fall at the wrong time. The rest of the incoming batsmen seemed to be getting out too quickly and the run chase began to turn into something less and less achievable. However, Mark Boucher was the man who stood his ground and saw them through. With just two balls remaining and with only one wicket in hand, Mark Boucher hit a four and South Africa won the game in dramatic fashion, finishing with a total of 438 runs. You can watch the highlights of the South African innings of that game here:
Throughout the years of course, Mark Boucher got older and over time, was eventually getting replaced by current captain AB De Villiers. However, late last year he was recalled on tour to England with the Proteas, which I thought was great. Then, during one of the practice matches before their first test-match against England, it happened.
When I read the news and saw the photos my heart just sank. It was supposed to be his final playing tour before retirement and it had to end in such a sad sad way. As the batsman was bowled and the ball hit the stumps, the bails flew up and hit Mark Boucher right in the left eye. The moment I read it, although not my favourite player, I just felt so so sorry for him.
Later on, it was confirmed he was diagnosed with a lacerated eyeball, and underwent major surgery. Speaking several weeks later after the ordeal, he shared a little of his suffering, “I have lost the lens, iris and pupil in my left eye. There was severe damage to my retina. I have had two major operations and four blood draining operations in the past three weeks and physically, at times, I have been in a lot of pain.
I accept that the healing process is a long one and that attaining some vision in my left eye will take some time and a lot of patience.”
In another statement, he mentioned, “I'm not in any pain at the moment. It's a little bit uncomfortable, but there's no pain. The worst kind of pain was after the first operation. I was told that it wouldn’t be painful. It was meant to take an hour, but it took four and a half hours. There was some blood on my cornea and they had to sand-paper it away. I was drugged up, though.”
Nonetheless, Mark Boucher has had a great playing career and I’m sure very good statistics to his name. More than that, he was someone very special to his team mates and coaches. There were plenty of messages and solidarity in support of Mark Boucher. The South African team was emotional in the changing room. It was clear, even if not a captain, he was someone very influential for the Proteas. However, that’s not what caught my attention the most. It was actually his response to his career ending injury.
Well firstly, came Boucher’s self-heart breaking statement that captain Graeme Smith had to read out on behalf because he was being flown back to South Africa, “It is with sadness, and in some pain, that I make this announcement. Due to the severity of my eye injury, I will not be able to play international cricket again. I had prepared for this UK tour as well, if not better than I have prepared for any tour in my career. I had never anticipated announcing my retirement now, but circumstances have dictated differently. I have a number of thank yous to make to people who have made significant contributions during my International career, which I will do in due course. For now I would like to thank the huge number of people, many of whom are strangers, for their heartfelt support during the past 24 hours. I am deeply touched by all the well wishes. I wish the team well in the UK, as I head home and onto a road of uncertain recovery.”
Within less than 24 hours, dealing with something happened that would end your career and being able to come up with a statement takes a fair bit of courage and patience. He didn’t blame anyone for the incident, no anger at all, and just a lot of gratitude for the people around him.
What was better though, was when he showed his resolve to move on from what happened and not let the past get to him, “I don't want people to feel sorry for me. Injuries happen and this could have happened earlier on in my career. I am incredibly grateful for the length of career that I have had and the amazing things I have experienced and people I have met during that time. This is just another challenge in my life and something that I will be working to overcome.”
I don’t know how the average observer would look at it, but in my opinion, when you’re involved in something your whole life that you’ve been passionate about but have been forced out of it by unforeseen circumstances or uncontrollable elements, its very hard to take in. For us, sports may just seem like sports. To the people who do sports professionally, its their livelihood.
While I never hope to be put into such a situation, if I am, I hope that I’ll be able to respond the same way this Proteas faithful did.
ESPNCricinfo Mark Boucher Photo Gallery
ESPNCricinfo Article 1
ESPNCricinfo Article 2
The Times UK
Daily Mail UK
Saturday, February 23, 2013
Wow, its already February and its felt like its been ages since I last opened my every so faithful Windows Live Writer to type another blog entry. I guess it be good to update about something that’s actually happened to me instead of a ‘thought’ thing.
This weekend I’m back in KL for a special reason and its because its my fathers birthday! That’s one of the good things about living and working not too far from my parents so I can still make it for those important moments. Honestly, its been a while since I’ve been back so it was pretty nice to come back for an occasion.
That said, what we had certainly wasn’t the most grand celebration. In fact, even some of the simple things we wanted to do had to be called off.
It just so happened that my father had to go into office today (today’s his birthday), so that cut out our initial idea of a birthday lunch. Dinner at somewhere special got ruled out too when we found out he had stomach problems in the afternoon. On top of that, my mum was just recovering from being sick so we weren’t exactly 100% up for anything but we still wanted to make an effort.
Being at One Utama searching for a present while my father was in office, I couldn’t really come up with something, so in the end I decided to treat my mum and dad to an IMAX movie at the newly renovated TGV. I got three tickets for the 8.30 show, so that was set.
My mum finally got to choosing a card, while I chose to be no help at all when she was caught in a dilemma, “Aih, faster choose yourself la.”
The birthday cake was a simple choice. A short trip down to Delicious later, and we came away with a slab of brownie just enough for two persons. They even gave us the ice-cream so we had to go back home immediately and put it in the fridge.
After my dad came back rested, we went for dinner at One Utama, where we had to eat at Porridge Time of all places since my dad’s stomach wasn’t fully well. The food wasn’t bad at all though, so that was a plus.
After about an hour of walking around, we finally entered the cinema for our first IMAX exprience, which is basically just a really big screen, hahahah. I think the movie I chose couldn’t have been better at the time for an IMAX screening.
After the movie, we came home, took out the cake, sang the song, he blew the candle and we shared one piece of cake.
For anyone reading this, I’m sure it doesn’t sound like much and it isn’t. The thing is though, despite the ‘normal-ness’ of it all, it was still good. At the end of it, it doesn’t matter so much about the extraordinary or un-mainstream birthday celebrations and gifts, its about being there for the people you love because that’s what counts.
Sunday, January 06, 2013
Typically, I don’t write or think much about my thoughts at the beginning of the new year, but there’s a few things I feel I want to say.
First of all, I can’t say I’ve started this year with a bang. If anything, it was actually sort of solemn, or quiet might be a better word. For some reason or another, I’m feeling a little unsettled and uncertain about a number of things, which is rather ironic since one thing I’m thankful for about last year was that I had settled down in Melaka a lot more. In some ways I’m a little angry at myself, because I don’t think I have the right to feel the way I do, but I just do.
I didn’t actually sit down, meditate and come across a list of things I’m worried about, but they’ve just cropped up in between moments of the day or night when I’m not doing something. Its basically thoughts about what the future holds and how it’ll affect my life and the relationships I have with the people around me. I suppose that in recent times, that I’ve got certain things that I know I’d be very reluctant to let go of and thinking of the future makes me fear how I might lose it very quickly if just a few things changed.
There’s also the whole thing about making targets or resolutions for a new year, which I abandoned long ago because I guess I’m one of those people that follow on all the way through. When faced with the question about what my goals are for this year, I can’t answer, because I haven’t thought about it, which also means I don’t have any. If you think that’s rather poor of me, I’ll admit to it. It is poor, and depressing if you like.
Adding on to that, every now and then I hear about some amazing things happening to amazing people. Very honestly, I’m happy for those people that have had such encounters, let it be testimonies or great things happening to friends and acquaintances. However, it comes to a point where you do feel a bit left out. Just today, I heard an incredible story of healing that was truly God’s favour. I could clap, agree that it was amazing and be happy for the person, but for some reason I didn’t feel great about myself. Maybe it’s because things haven’t been so ‘exciting’ for quite a while, maybe it’s because I don’t feel like I have a great story to tell. You know about how you read and hear about road accidents but you never expect it to happen to you? It feels a lot like that, but for good things instead, a poor mind set surely.
As I write this, I realise that I border on self-pity. In fact, maybe I am already doing that. Something that angers me is that I already know I don’t have that right to feel sorry for myself as I’m fully aware that I’ve been blessed with many things and that there are others, including people I know that do not have certain privileges I do.
Having written all these thoughts and then actually thinking about God for a moment, I remembered a few familiar phrases.
‘… birds in the air …’
‘… all things beautiful in his time …’
The first comes a very simple and straightforward passage in the bible. Reading from Matthew 6:25-34, the earlier part of it tells me God pays attention to the things that we don’t even care about. How many times have we worried about what birds eat or what colour a flower should be? If God already had those things covered way before we’d even consider thinking about it, I believe He cares way more for us, the people he sent His son to save. The end part tells me something that I believe I need to take to heart, not to worry so much about the future, to take it one day at a time because that’s what we can do. God will still be there tomorrow.
The second phrase comes from Ecclesiastes, a book that was written as a fact finding mission by a king searching for life’s meaning. It was a very deep search no doubt, but there were many simple conclusions from it. Among them, was a statement he made in Ecclesiastes 3:11 that simply says, “He has made everything beautiful in its time.”
Reading the sentence straight doesn’t really seem ground breaking, it may sound cliché even but there’s more to it than that. The two words put together, ‘everything’ and ‘beautiful’ are written as a factual statement, not an assumption. Also, that last bit, ‘in its time’ reminds me that a lot of good things take time. Even flowers blossom during its season, not anytime else. Putting all that together, the whole sentence is two things, an affirmation and a call to trust Him. You know, it’s interesting for me, because I didn’t actually think this out before writing, I’m actually realising it as I type this blog entry. To me, it’s like God saying, “I have a perfect plan, a perfect will and I’m doing it perfectly, so don’t fear. Have faith, trust Me.”
At the end of it all, I have yet to answer all my questions and uncertainties, even certain fears, but I’m deciding to trust God for all these things. I need to do my part of course, not to be paralysed by fear and continue to live as someone who has God by his side daily. I still believe there are greater things yet to come and I believe I’ll be a part of it, even if I can’t see it yet. For any of my friends who might feel somewhat the same as I did, I hope you can make the same decision too.
Saturday, December 08, 2012
Although planned slightly, it was still so random. I didn’t know the exact release date, but it couldn’t have been better. I walked into the store back in early November asking if I could pre-order it and they said I could, so I did. After putting in my deposit, the shopkeeper told me that I’d receive a text message on the day of release so I could come collect it.
Unknowingly, I thought that meant I’d only be able to get it much later because I was only in KL for a short while, the next time I’d come would be around December. Then, I looked at one of the posters and saw the global release date, 6th November. Absolutely perfect, the last day I’d be in KL.
Hence, please welcome to my family of Xbox 360 titles, Halo 4.
I’ve only just played it a little, but there’s no doubt this one’s a real jewel. An Xbox exclusive and the first Halo game under 343 Industries, its been much anticipated and I’ve got a feeling when I play it, it’ll be much appreciated.
That’s not all I got however, while browsing through the displays, I found another title I’d been considering a long time ago and finally went for it.
There are two reasons I got the third installation of the game I’ve never played before. One, Assassin’s Creed is a largely successful franchise and secondly, I wanted a role playing game that would last me longer than Modern Warfare 3 did on campaign.
It was something that took me quite a while to finish. Its divided into about 12 sequences, the chapters you complete to find out the ending of the story. While like any other game, you’d probably be able to finish it within a week or two (assuming you’re someone with nothing else to do for the 15 hours of each day you’re probably awake), like any good RPG, there’s a lot to explore and optional tasks or missions to do that prolong the game longevity. The only grouse I have about the game is that there are one or two instances it wasn’t really clear about what you had to do during a particular task, so much so I referred to online walkthrough videos.
Still, overall its a good game and its a little funny because while I was looking forward to HALO 4 more than Assassins Creed III, I got hooked on the latter and I haven’t touched HALO 4 in quite a while.
Having said that, what I’ve played of the new HALO game, I like and I guess I’ll enjoy it more in the weeks to come. The detailed graphics and great environmental landscape that is always accustom to HALO games is ever present. The only thing I need to get used to are the controls, since its different from what I’m used to in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. I forget I can’t aim down my sights in this game and end up throwing a grenade instead, haha.
Anyhow, I also got a pretty neat accessory for my Xbox 360, something I think is more of a necessity than convenience. It’s the Xbox 360 play and charge kit.
As every Xbox 360 comes with a wireless controller, it only makes sense to get this after a while, unless you don’t mind forgetting to buy batteries and discovering you can’t use your controller while in the middle of a crucial point in a game. When the low battery indicator comes on screen, the controller just needs to be plugged into the cable connected to the console by USB. It charges just like a phone, so you can still use the controller while it’s charging. To use this, you have to replace the original battery casing that houses two AA batteries with the rechargeable battery pack from the kit. I got it at a slightly discounted price of RM 85, normal retail price is about RM 100, or even more if you’re buying it from an upmarket IT store.
All in all, this is probably my favourite purchase of the year. That said, I wonder if I’ll consider getting the Surface RT 64GB version from iPmart, but that’s another story for another time.