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Saturday, March 31, 2012

jonker Weekend

A few weeks ago I asked a simple question on Facebook, “Where can I get wristbands in Malacca?” A few replies trickled in, the most helpful ones all pointing me towards Jonker Walk. I was asking because I wanted it for a party I was hosting, but I didn’t have time to go to Jonker’s, but it went on all right anyhow.

I was a little curious to find out if I could have got what I needed from there, so last week I went down late in the morning for a casual stroll on Jonker Walk. Though I live in Malacca, I hadn’t been there as of late so it was nice to get down there again.

One thing about that place is that finding parking is a challenge for both locals and tourists (or maybe it’s just a general problem across Malacca). Even on the hill I had to squeeze into a spot that wasn’t really a parking space to begin with. That’s why I drove down in the morning, anytime after 12 and I wouldn’t even have bothered, the only realistic way of going there would have to be by public transport or a teleport. 



Actually before I’d left it was actually raining so I was counting on the bad weather to perhaps make it easier to find a parking lot and all. The rain stopped barely five minutes before I arrived, but the parking lots were mostly full already! Not to mention there was a fair bit of foot traffic too. Rain or shine, that street’s got people on it. 

Apart from my ‘casual stroll’, the other reason I went down was to go to one of my favourite eatery down here in Malacca, Nancy’s Kitchen. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before on this blog, but I’m sure I’ve talked about it many times with some of my friends here. For me, it’s probably about the best Nyonya food around, most of the other places I’ve been too serve just edible food, which is not what people want to pay money for (Malaysia has roti canai and instant noodles for that).  



Just around the corner from the Geographer’s Cafe, Nancy’s Kitchen is situated on just about the last open shop lot on the right (the same side as the shop lot with the Heineken logo in the photo above). 



I suppose the reason I really like this place (so much so I’m willing to drive down and hunt for parking), is that the food’s reasonably priced, somehow there’s always space when I go, it has a homely atmosphere, and last of all, the food’s just good. 



Like this photo tells you, Nancy’s is popular with both locals and foreigners (although its a mystery why foreign tourists bother to eat at Geographers when Nancy’s is a 10 seconds walk away). Westerners, Japanese, local tourists were all there when I went that day.

I ordered my ‘usual’ because like I said before, I hadn’t been to Jonker’s in a while so I didn’t want to wait for the next time I’d go to have some awesome Pork Pongteh! 

 



I took the otak-otak as well which was sadly a little average. I would’ve ordered more dishes but I didn’t want to burn my pocket, plus the portions they serve there for most of the dishes are meant to be shared among three people at least. I’ve got to convince more people to come with me next time!

Anyway, afterwards I got back to my original mission to find out if I could actually get wristbands, the rubber/elastic types on Jonker Walk (see how food can be a serious distraction? I bet by the time I end this entry, three quarters of it would’ve been about Nancy’s). It was only then I remembered how hot it always is on Jonker’s. Honestly speaking, its a nice place to walk in the day time because its nice and bright, but then there’s the scorching heat that comes with it too.

As I was walking by, I came across this shop that I’d passed by before and I thought was pretty cool but never really spent much time in. This t-shirt shop is around the stage end of Jonker Walk, it’s called ‘tee addict’. They’ve got a good selection of tees from a few indie brands and I couldn’t help but stay there for a good fifteen minutes. 



They’ve got about three different type of concept tees. One of them’s the cartoon and super heroes, the other being contrast themes (e.g. there’s one tee of donuts eating police officers instead of the other way around, hahahahahahaha) and lastly some of the more ordinary pattern style tees, which are good anyhow.

I really liked some of them, so I bought four! My size’s is XL, so they have an offer of RM 60 for 2. However, if you’re a smaller size, like L and below, they’ve also got deals for those and are a little cheaper than mine. 



I liked the bags they gave to put the shirts in, I still have them actually. I asked them if they do custom tees but unfortunately they don’t. Still, its a good place for t-shirts and I’ll probably go back soon.

Now, back to my original mission (see, I got distracted again), I finally found a place that does sell wristbands, but not the elastic types, which I half expected to begin with. There’re plenty of the rope-type ones, and some were pretty nice, but I wasn’t there for that. I even forgot to take a photo of the place.

It was a good day out although when I got back I was pretty exhausted from the heat. I went looking for wristbands, but I think I’ll be down there again in a few weeks for the tees instead, hahah. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

weekly Mix

What a week its been! Its been a complete mix of tension, numbness, contentment, anxiety, disappointment, fear and relief. When all those things come together in a short period of time, you don’t even know how to think or feel at times and all you can do is to just get on with it.

Usually, asking somebody you rarely meet to work for you for a day is usually difficult. How much more so if you’re asking for three days? Let’s add to the challenge by saying you need a dozen people and not just one. Also, you can’t do it in the office, so every single piece of information you need has to be copied from the office and neatly organised so that everything runs smoothly. Of course, that effort only pays off if people show up.

That’s what it’s been like since the last couple of weeks. Myself and a few others had been working on a lot of preparation for this week. With the original dates maintained but being about two weeks behind schedule, it was always going to be a rush. Barely days before, my boss found mistakes in the data, probably due to some badly done ‘copy and paste’ work and I had to redo everything.

Adding to that, with less than a day to go, we still didn’t know how many people would actually turn up for the away sessions and if every section would be represented well enough. I was afraid that on the logistics side that I may have been too optimistic about the numbers. I had already been thinking beforehand it would’ve been so much better if had just one more week to prepare so we wouldn’t have had to invite everybody last minute. Of course, that’s what everybody wishes for all the time but never get, more time.

On Tuesday, I wondered how many people would come, simply hoping every section would bring at least two people, setting myself a target of eight. It was was very relieving to see a total of twelve attending in the end and the away session got of to a good start.

Less than halfway through the first day, one section recognised a certain part of the data was wrong, which would greatly impede their work and slow them down. It was very clear they were frustrated and unhappy with it, and rightly so. It didn’t help to know that I knew the data was my responsibility. It was my fault.

Fortunately the other sections were able to progress in spite of that data mismatch, which made me feel a little better, but of course it was still my fault that that one section wouldn’t be able to work as well or as fast as the others. To some extent, I felt quite bad about that because I knew they were understaffed for the activity compared to the rest.

Day two came, and attendance was even better than I’d initially anticipated. A few sections started pulling more people in and somehow things seemed to become more productive. I was able to answer most of their queries about the work, and I thought, “Hey, this isn’t too bad after all.” The first day’s atmosphere was a little unsure because the work was new to everybody, but it seems whatever was done on the first day was enough to get the momentum running on the second.

However, it didn’t change the fact that the section affected by the incorrect data couldn’t move any faster than the first and it was plain to see on their faces that the work was just something very difficult and became more of a chore than an opportunity for improvement through this initiative. I have to give them credit for not grumbling so much and just doing it.

After reviewing the progress of the first two days, I was a little worried, because a lot of work had been done, but it didn’t really seem like we were achieving as much as we would like. I still hoped for a good result, so it was good to see everyone focused right until the end of day three.

I thought everything was about to close nicely when disaster struck. As I was copying one of the working files onto my computer, it got corrupted and it wouldn’t open properly. It wasn’t just the copy that got corrupted, even the original! That meant that all the entered data was gone! Not only that, out of everyone, that working file belonged to that section which found it hard to work. Its bad enough my mistake made it difficult for them, but it was absolutely horrifying to think that all their work would be for nothing.

Fortunately one of the guys mentioned that they had a copy and it’d get back to me the next day (which is today). When I got it this morning, the working template was there but it was empty! I quickly called them to ask if they were sure they’d given me the right file, eventually finding out that they didn’t have a copy of that corrupted file.

That just killed me. It wasn’t pleasant to explain to my boss that the section that found it hardest to work had all their decision data erased and unrecoverable. I’d tried a few ways to get the file to work, but it just wouldn’t get me what I really needed. It was worse that the section knew their data was gone and I felt really bad. They didn’t react badly, but I knew in the long run that this costly error would lead to a unpleasant relationship with that section, or some aggro in the very least.

That sent my boss off for lunch in an unpleasant mood and left me in the office thinking what could I possibly do?

“God. Please.”

I started searching for more solutions on the internet and I tried one. The solution was starting to the work and in my mind I was thinking, “Thank you, thank you.”

Less than five seconds later, I was back at square one.

I couldn’t give up though, because that just wasn’t an option at this point. I was reading up another method on a forum, but one that wasn’t guaranteed to work, apparently a solution for some and not for others. Still, I gave it a shot and a huge huge relief came when I started to see the missing data on the working file.

Needless to say, I was more that content to text my boss who was probably in the middle of Friday prayers to tell him I’d rescued the corrupt data. Its really uncanny how things can change in split moments. On Monday I was full of anxiety, by Thursday evening, I was feeling generally content and on Friday morning, both my boss and I were probably terrified by our disastrous circumstances. Yet now, I feel free and relaxed, typing this out as I wait to catch my movie for the weekend.

Thank you God, for your favour on my life. It’s just awesome. =)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

noble Soldier

Not long ago I had the chance to watch ‘Act of Valor’ on the big screen and I thought it was a pretty good film. If you don’t know what the movie’s about, the story revolves around a Navy SEAL team that are engaged in several conflicts across the globe in search of a kidnapped CIA agent that holds information vital to preventing a terrorist attack on the USA. The movie is acted out by active duty Navy SEALS (simply put, real soldier, still serving today), probably done to give the movie its realism. 

The film has been widely criticised for not being dramatic enough, with critics saying the directors should have trusted real working actors to perform instead. They also said it to be lacking emotional depth and nothing more than propaganda for the U.S army. I agree that there may be several people that feel that way, especially casual movie goers who may have been hoping for something a little like Saving Private Ryan or Black Hawk Down. Personally, I don’t agree with any of that at all, now here’s why.

Most, if not all of the time, we see soldiers through movies and games where there’re tonnes of epic explosions, unending machine gunfire and the like. Movies and games have an obligation to tell a story of conflict and perseverance, showing how the main character can survive and push his way through every gunfight until he kills the ‘boss’ that ends the story so the West can live another day. That’s what we’ve come to expect from any action movie, although in recent years we’ve become more critical of its realism. Its because we want such movies to feel more ‘personal’, not to mention attainable, that if we tried hard enough we could actually be a gun slinging hero.

The thing is, a lot like love, war doesn’t happen against the backdrop of orchestral heart-tugging music or unending drama. Its as straightforward as, if you get shot, that’s it. There’s no round two or re-spawning. When you’re downed, its lights out and your body will go home in a body bag (if you’re lucky that is).

Where Act of Valor shines is in showing the audience a taste of what its really like to be a soldier. One thing the film really does bring out that others don’t is the sense of professionalism you get from these people. We never really think of soldiers as people with professional jobs, we often think of them as just ‘soldiers’. In this film, you get a real feel of how serious they are about their work and how focused they are, not on killing everybody, but always pushing for the objective and strategising to make sure every team mate isn’t put in unnecessary danger. To an extent, it can look boring at times, but that’s how real life is isn’t it? Its not exciting all the time. 

The human side of soldier life is definitely on display throughout the film. There’s that moment when a wife says goodbye to her husband before he leaves for duty, closing the door afterwards and weeping because she can’t tell if he’s going to come back alive even if he’s the best of soldiers as an experienced veteran.It only takes one shot to take a life, anything can happen in a gunfight. There’s also the camaraderie among men in the same unit, the men who trust each other with their lives in every battle. It doesn’t play out much emotionally, but you can see the manly bond there, which is what it should be.

One thing you can see in Act of Valor, is that it pays its dues to real life and the practical aspects of being a man on the front lines. By the end of the movie, you don’t see an Armageddon like march after the heroes have come home. You see a man who has lost an eye, you see a man that has been reduced from a fit soldier to someone crippled and reduced to the mechanics of a wheelchair, you see a man who is buried, who never got to see his new-born child and lastly, you see a widow with a child that has lost her husband.

At the end of it all, it showed how much dedication and sacrifice it takes to be a true soldier. It even highlighted how difficult it can be for the people who love them, because in itself they are making a sacrifice loving someone they could lose at any moment.

I will take a moment to address and be fair to the critics who say soldiers aren’t really like that. You don’t need to remind me of the U.S marine who shot dead 16 civilians in Afghanistan and the Syrian army killing thousands of unarmed men and women, perhaps even children. Yes, there are the despicable men unworthy of their uniform, and they are a total disgrace. That said, it doesn’t fully reflect the character of the many soldiers who faithfully serve their countries across the globe.

In all of this, what remains true is that it’s hard to be a soldier. Sometimes we don’t give them enough credit or recognition because we don’t see what they do. The dedication and commitment people like those give for their country is nothing short of admirable and courageous.

At the end of the movie when the credits started rolling, nobody in the hall wanted to be the first to leave. Everybody just sat still, totally silent for at least five to ten seconds; as if leaving would be very disrespectful, even though NAVY SEALS have nothing to do with Malaysia. There was just that sense of respect within a sombre atmosphere. It seems everybody got the message and its left me with a real respect for those who choose to serve their country in this way, whether all the way in the USA or right here in Malaysia.

Now, that’s why I think this is a great movie.