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Friday, August 31, 2012

functional Form

Whenever I want to buy something, I usually start by figuring out how much money I want to spend on this purchase. I already know what I want, but I need to know how much I'm willing to fork out. The key thing here is, how much do I value a particular purchase?

For example, if I want a burger, there're plenty of pricing points available in the market. There're the Ramly's (low-cost), the McDonald's (medium-cost), the Carl's Junior's (high-cost) and maybe whatever juicy concoctions fancy restaurants (premium-cost) are serving up these days. I know I want a burger, but how good does it have to be, and how much am I willing to pay for it? The decision will usually end with me having to answer the question, 'How much do I really want this burger?' Do I really want that huge beef patty, bacon and onion ring sandiwch or would I be just fine with a double cheeseburger?

With food its actually not that difficult, because most people including myself would usually decide based on price-points and whatever I feel I can afford for the day. Things like food and stationary are consumables, things that are used up quickly and need to be replaced almost right away. That's why people typically decide the purchases of these things based on price points. Usually we slant to the cheapest option available, especially with the ever increasing cost of living.

On the other hand, things like cars, houses, even shoes and clothes are typically more difficult purchases. Even if the price of an item was cheap, I would still wonder if what I'm looking at is something I'd want to keep, wear or use for a long time.

It doesn't help that the prices of these type of items are usually about the same, with differences in prices ranging probably just between five to twenty percent. That's a problem I'm actually faced with right now. What's funny is that the product type I want isn't even released to market yet and I'm already having trouble deciding which to get. Allow me to share my dillemma with you.

It's about Windows 8. More specifically, a Windows 8 tablet.

Ever since Apple brought out the iPad, I have always thought, why can't Microsoft do something like that? It's been a long wait, many many years (yes, I have been waiting for years) in fact for Microsoft to create something useful for Windows users in the tablet space.

After months of touting its new operating system, i.e. Windows 8, this years Computex and the more recent IFA in Berlin have finally shed some light on the hardware that will host this new OS. Samsung, Acer, Asus, Sony, HP and even Microsoft themselves have revealed offerings that will likely be available as soon as Windows 8 launches on October 26th.

With two different tablet types to choose from (RT and Windows 8 Pro), consumers already have to make a 'split' decision. Then, when I saw the various form factors (now we have tablet vs tablet hybrid) that the different OEMs are coming out with, I thought, "Man, which to choose?"

HP Envy X2

Samsung ATIV

Surface, being produced by Microsoft themselves seems almost ideal, but its likely to be priced rather high and nobody knows how good its cover-cum-keyboard is. Then you have the Asus, Samsung and HP options which actually seem very decent, but how convenient can it be to carry both a keyboard and a tablet? I can already imagine myself leaving the keyboard behind someplace because I forgot to re-attach it to my tablet. Then, there're tablet hybrids like Sony's Vaio Duo (which I quite like really) and Dell’s XPS Duo 12, but having a keyboard attached to a slide out screen makes the device very thick and forgoes the enjoyable thin tablet experience, not to mention the back looks very mechanical and ugly when it slides out to use the keyboard. 

Dell XPS Duo 12

Sony VAIO Duo 11 w/ stylus

The question now is, "Do I choose form over function, or the other way around?"

It's a very practical question that applies to a lot of situations. Here're a few scenarios:

High Heels:
"Do I get these heels because they're kinda sleek, black and sexy (form) or do I get those super high heels so that they'll probably break as I'm walking and I can force my boyfriend to carry me and I get to hold on and hug him all the way home (function)."

"Do I marry this girl because she's super sweet (form) and super sexy (form) or this other girl who cooks (function) better than my mother and speaks Chinese so we can order all the good stuff (function) at Chinese restaurants?"

"Do I get my mother those Belgian chocs for her birthday since she loves sweet and choclatey stuff (form) or do I get her a new iron so she'll stop burning my clothes (function)?"

All these are jokes, but you get the idea right?

Sometimes, both form and function do come together (although there are probably no irons made of chocolate).  

Lol, well it’s still form over function here.

When form does meet function, its usually priced way over our heads and with technology, sometimes the sad thing is that it doesn't even happen. The scenarios I described seem biased towards 'function' because of the ‘practicality’ argument. However, in buying a tablet PC, its more complicated because thinness (form) is the whole point of a tablet to begin with. What I’m getting at here is that in terms of tablets, thinness as a form is actually part of its function to begin with.

I’ve realised that I really need to make clear distinctions in my choice of a Windows 8 tablet, do I choose a thinner and less functional tablet or a thicker hybrid with all the multiple USB ports, extra battery, and VGA (available on the Vaio Duo) and so on?

The thing is, that greedy boy in me, still wants a thin form that can do and connect everything.


Still, I think it’s time for people to take a bite off an apple. Just how big remains to be seen.

Monday, August 27, 2012

patent Jokers

It was only last week I got on about what I felt was a ridiculous patent case between Apple and Samsung, which we now know has earned Apple about a billion dollars and led Samsung to appeal the verdict. A lot has been said about the result of the case, much leaning towards a broken U.S patent system as well as the fear of stifling technological innovation in the future.

One point that has consistently found its footing in all of the ongoing patent wars is the somewhat obscure or ridiculous nature of some of the patents being awarded. It reminds me of the time I was doing a small case study in university about Smucker's, who in simple terms patented making a sandwich made out of peanut butter and jelly (can you imagine being sued for selling your own brand of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches). Honestly speaking, there's nobody in the modern world who should be awarded the INVENTION of the sandwich.

It's all funny really, and when you see what I'm about to show you next, I think it literally is hillarious, some of the technology patents that are being applied for today. Here's a piece of news I picked off Engadget, something Sony would like to apply a patent for:

If you're still in the blur, imagine this: while watching your favourite tv drama or sitcom, you're interrupted by a McDonald's advert that you can skip or end early if you get off your couch and scream, "McDonalds!" and lift your hands at the same time apparently (according to this hillarious patent diagram).

It was funny enough when I saw this picture, then I read some of the comments which gave a little more insight  of the various possibilities that would arise if this patent is awarded. Thats when I started laughing a lot harder. Note: I may have edited some of the original comments with coarse language.

Commet 1:
by Spedez
I have a patent proposal too: you can skip the commercial if you fart loudly. That's equally inventive and ingenious as that Sony patent.

Comment 2:
by csr 411
I think someone was really, really high when they had this idea.

Comment 3:
by Boris Terekidi
And to end those stupid FBI warnings before watching a DVD, I have to jump up and yell FBI!!!?
I don't want my neighbours to think that i am getting arrested every day. OR in this particular case - going nuts over McDonalds.
Stupid patent. Really.

Comment 4 & 5:
by Squeaks
So it's a patent to skip advertisements?
by Cyber_Akuma
By playing Dance Central apparently

Comment 6:
by Guest
Say SONY to bypass the commercial
ERROR: You must either say "SONY" or "I LIKE SONY" to pass the commercial. Please try again.

Comment 7:
by jonathanbond100110
Sony TV: please shake your head yes to purchase this $200 item
Consumer: No thank.... AAAAACHOOO
Sony TV: ok. Purchasing
Consumer: ......

My favourite of them all:

Comment 8:
by efergie
Me: TV - switch to channel 4 please.
TV: I'm sorry I can't do that. You'll need to stand up first and say McDonalds
Me: My mouth is full - I'm eating a Burger King.
TV: I'm sorry - you'll now have to watch two McD commercials before I can show your program.

It may have been either Apple or Samsung last week, but today's Patent Joker Award goes to Sony!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

lyrical Touch

It was just a suggestion during Saturday night practice, it caught on and I’m glad it did. It happened when I noticed part of the lyrics of a song we were practicing was,

‘… run to the altar, and catch the fire…’

The lyrics and the chords we were playing at the time immediately reminded me of something, of something I’ve done in the past many times before, but haven’t had the chance to do over the last year or so. The chorus from ‘On Fire’ by Switchfoot with a little change I made to the last line was something I remembered combining with ‘Burn’ by Planetshakers many many times.

I’ve always enjoyed just singing those four lines of lyrics over and over and over and it just came to mind to suggest using it this time. It was funny too because I had thought before that it would be great to sing that in church, but I never felt there was a good or an appropriate platform to put it out. 

It was great to see everyone just enjoy and connect with it, during the practice and during the service itself. The words just sunk in and I saw several people in the crowd that I think were just singing it out with whatever they had and I think I know why. It’s because even for myself, just belting out those words is like a real declaration of faith in the power of His grace that drives a passion for when we’re close to Him.

I’ve always loved it, I think it’s a great reminder of what is and what can be when we stay close to Him. I guess I have Jon Foreman to thank for it, with perhaps a little edit to the ending from myself just to add that slightly more worshipful touch to it.

I’m on fire when You’re near me
I’m on fire when You speak
I’m on fire burning for
The King of Kings

Friday, August 24, 2012

quoting August

If you're one of the many that's into social networks like Facebook and Twitter, its very common to see all these inspirational quotes being posted online. Most of them are from literary artists of some sort, ranging from authors and poets to actors.

Personally I'm not the biggest fan of these, since everything needs to be seen in it's context, and I think many assume are absolute truths in themselves because famous people said them. That being said, there are a few that I've come across lately that I like.

Not all these quotes are inspirational, some are just lighter moments from the week. I thought I'd put them down here today and shine a little light on the back story behind them. It's always good to know the 'why' behind the 'what' right?

Quote 1:
"Like a servant plus."
Lewis tells Matthew how he should serve customers at his shop after promotion from servant status.

Quote 2:
"She's pretty.............................................. considerate."
A delayed statement during my 'testimony' at a birthday party that earned me one or two disappointed remarks from a few judges people afterwards.

Quote 3:
"You never change!"
A girl light-heartedly reminding me of my laziness to tour Penang unless for food and beverage. It isn't much different for me in Malacca, hahahah.

Quote 4:
"You can't just assume that because someone has a patent, he has some deep moral right to exclude everyone else."
Judge Richard Posner's on patent laws during a case between Apple and Motorola, highlighting problems with the patent system and the anti-competitive nature of such lawsuits. He eventually threw out the case.

Quote 5:
"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."
South African cricket player, Mark Boucher responds to his career-ending injury when a freak accident on the field destroyed the lens, iris, pupil and extreme damage in the retina of his left eye, leaving him unable to stand bright sunlight, hence preventing him from participating in any extended outdoor activity. He played 147 test matches for South Africa in 14 years of service.

Quote 6:
"Jia you."
Twenty seven year old Leong Siew Ming urges her boyfriend in Mandarin not to give up on her after waking up from a month-long coma. She was a victim of a three vehicle pile-up.

Quote 7:
"Your most seemingly unimportant decision, is actually your most important decision."
Dr. Robi Sondregger on how making small compromises that may not necessarily be morally wrong actions to begin with are actually triggers and catalysts to much bigger problems down the line.

Quote 8:
"We need to have a strong base so when the wind blows we can handle ourselves."
Graeme Smith, captain of the South Africa cricket team after toppling England from the number 1 Test Match format ranking, telling the press how they aim to stay on top.

Of all these quotes, the last two grip me the most. In fact that last one reminded me of Matthew 7:24-27, where Jesus said, "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practise is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practise is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash."

When life's going along well, its usually a prelude to something else, a challenge that will test our true character, if you don't want to be beaten down so easy, that solid foundation of ours is going to mean a whole lot. Can you and I be consistent in faith in the good and bad times?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

xbox 360

It has probably been 8 months since I wanted to put this up, but better now than never (especially since the rumored 720 is supposedly releasing late next year).

Late last year, as a Christmas cum birthday gift, I picked out something for myself that I’d experienced at a friend’s place, and finally decided on taking one off the shelves of a small but popular gaming outlet in One Utama. 

One place I know selling only original games and peripherals for PS3 and Xbox 360.

Shunning what I think is a Malaysian trend, when I finally decided to own a console for the first time, I chose Microsoft over Sony. It wasn’t a bad choice either. Articles from the last few months over on IGN point to better Xbox 360 sales in the USA compared to the PS3, which I guess means that I have the currently more desired console of the two. 

Kinect Sports for family and friends, MW3 for myself and ‘younger’ friends. The console itself came bundled with two games, one with a phsyical disc, the other as a free digital download. The bundled games aren’t always the same, and change from time to time, which is actually quite refreshing, but also frustrating. A few months down the line, they were selling the Xbox 360 bundled with Kinect Sports (which I bought), so you can imagine my frustration there.

With Kinect being a part of the 360 package I bought, its worth mentioning every console has its motion control technology, Nintendo with its older Wii and Sony with the PS3’s Playstation Move. However, one of the reasons I chose the Xbox 360 over the other two was because with Kinect, you don’t need to hold a controller to play motion control games. You just…. 

Not needing a controller for motion control games means two things. One, I don’t need to be swinging around a black-microphone-cum-black-constantly-changing-colour-ice-cream-stick (my dig at the ridiculous looking and colour changing Playstation Move controller, I mean really, I’d rather have an ice-cream) or a tv remote-like device (Nintendo Wii). Two, it means your entire body can be a controller, including your feet, because the Kinect camera tracks your whole body, not your ice-cream cone.  

As is the standard, the console comes together with the Kinect and one wireless controller than runs on AA batteries. I quite like the controller for the 360, which I’ll get into later.

Having the 250GB version of the 360, I think it’s not really a necessity unless used to download games over Xbox Live (which aren’t free anyway and require the use of Microsoft Points, which for simplicity is Microsoft’s own ‘currency’ of which you have to purchase), but considering its only a few hundred ringgit more compared to the 4GB version, I think its still all right. In some cases, certain games come with free downloadable mini-games, which you would do well to have more than 4GB of space available in some instances. 

The button layout is a little different for the Xbox, as the left analogue stick and the direction keypad would be found in opposite places on the PS3 controller. That’s not a huge differentiator by any means, but what is, is the size of the controller. What I like about the Xbox controllers is that they’re bigger, so they fit more comfortably in your hand as compared to the handles of the Playstation controllers. The PS3 controller is smaller, and in my opinion not as ergonomic. Of course, if you have tiny hands, you may not agree with me.

The other thing I really like about it, is this: 

RT Trigger Button

Again, if I were to compare to its closest competitor, what is known as RB2 on the Playstation is actually RT on the Xbox, which stands for right trigger. This makes a huge difference for feel on the Xbox when it comes to shooting games, and while I enjoyed playing Killzone 3 on my friend’s PS3 with the normal rounded button, I preferred the feel of a trigger playing MW3 way more.

That said, it comes down to preference and a friend told me, its simply a case of shooter games being a better experience on the Xbox 360 and role-playing-games (Final Fantasy etc.) better on the PS3.

The features and connectivity available to the Xbox 360 is pretty much like any other current generation console, just that its defined by the company behind it (again, like any other current generation console). There are USB ports in the front to connect up to two wired controllers, and there are couple more at the back. There’s a HDMI port, but note that the console doesn’t come with a HDMI cable, you would do well to buy one (good ones are usually about RM 100 plus, or so I believe) if you’re connecting to something that’s relatively flat like a LCD, Plasma or LED television. If not, you can stick to the red, yellow and white connectors.

To play online you need the Xbox Live Gold membership, which is provided free for a year, but in all honesty, I think this is where Sony beats Microsoft. Playing online is free on the Playstation Network, but Xbox Live requires a subscription of about 5 USD monthly once your one-year free subscription expires. However, some say multiplayer is better on Xbox Live, but I can’t be the judge of that unfortunately, since I don’t. In my opinion, I don’t think Microsoft should be charging for the ability to play online, since investing in the console and a decent internet connection itself takes up a fair bit of cash. Nonetheless, it gives me a reason to invite you over for a few rounds right?

With or without internet connectivity, I feel the Xbox 360 is a decent all-round entertainment machine (which incidentally doubles as a DVD player and future generations will be able to play blu-ray discs), and is quite simple to set up. Its almost plug and play, other than the brief period setting up a user account and perhaps the space in the living room for the optimisation of the Kinect camera. 

All that’s left to do then is: 

Play, like a boss. Like a bear boss.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

patent Trolls

Over the past few weeks, I've found myself following a particular news of interest and thank God it's not political or I'd probably have ended up a depressed being by now. While the topic at hand has actually been quite repetitive in recent times, I still find myself quite interested, maybe because I think its funny.

If you bother about tech much, you surely know about the countless lawsuits that Apple is throwing at just about every single original equipment manufacturer (OEM) producing Android devices (and perhaps vice-versa).

Today, whether by perception or sales, I think most of us know that Samsung is the most successful out of all the OEM's producing Android devices. In recent times, many countries around the world have hosted numerous legal battles between Samsung and Apple.

For what its worth, I think the patent wars between any of the tech giants today is such a farce. Who on earth should ever be awarded a patent for 'slide-to-unlock', and how can somebody claim ROUNDED EDGES on a tablet belong to them because it contributes uniquely to the look and feel of a product?

Apparently, rounded edges on a tablet can belong to a single company. Tomorrow, Pelita will sue Devi's Corner for having rounded edges on their Roti Telur.

Some of the patents themselves are so ridiculous that one of the defense statements in the on going trial is hilarious. In response to Apple's accusations of  Samsung copying the look and feel of its products, referring to 'rounded edges' on devices, one of Samsung's designers testified in a filing that Samsung products were inspired by a 'bowl of water'.

At least there are some judges out there who are taking a no nonsense approach with these tech giants. In June, Richard Posner threw out a patent case between Apple and Motorola (an OEM for Android obviously). Both were seeking to call each other out and ban each other's products but Richard Posner concluded neither side could prove the acutal damages in monetary value and dismissed the case with prejudice. Dismissing the case with prejudice simply means, "What a waste of time that was, don't ever call me again". In fact about two weeks later, he put out a well written article on the problem with the patent system that was very much related to the ongoing IT patent wars.

Unfortunately, not all judges are like Richard Posner and it led to what is probably the largest case so far, where we see Apple in court trying to ban a whole lot of Samsung's Android phones and tablets in the USA, which is a big deal since it is probably the largest market for consumer technology. This trial, which is ending very soon, is under the purview of Judge Lucy Koh, who has become the center of attention in recent weeks.

She's made a name for herself by being consistent in hammering lawyers from both sides for doing things she feels is burdening the court unecessarily, to the point she actually said, "I mean come on, 75 pages, 75 pages! You want me to do an order on 75 pages, unless you're smoking crack, you know these witnesses aren't going to be called when you have less than four hours." Apparently, both Samsung and Apple have been filing truckloads of paperwork (other than the witness paperwork from her rant I just quoted) that the court staff have been overwhelmed by. She's clamped down her authority on both sides, which in an indirect and almost passive-aggressive sort of way has been an overdue punishment to these patent trolls, even if it hasn't hurt more than a mosquito bite.

Judge Lucy Koh

Towards the end of the trial, Koh ordered the top guns from Samsung and Apple to talk it out over the phone and try to reach a settlement, saying it was time for peace (although we all knew that would always end up with nothing). Apple is calling Samsung's head for 2.5 billion U.S. dollars and Samsung's claiming 519 million U.S. dollars, but the results of this case have further reaching consequences. If Apple wins, there'll be a big momentum for them in pursuing similar cases against HTC and other major Android OEMs and vice versa if Samsung wins.

With this particular trial challenging numerous devices over numerous patents for both companies, Koh pointed out that it would be very confusing for the jury to deliver a verdict, with a long list of instructions they would need to follow based on the arguments and evidence provided from Samsung and Apple. She went so far as to mention that an over 100-page reading of instructions would 'put everyone into a coma'. That concern, was just proven true.

Prior to the closing arguments being made in the case today, Koh read out a 109 page document containing specific instructions on how the jury should decide who's awarded what (or simply put, who wins this case). Altogether, there are 84 instructions (and each instruction is already torturously complicated and lengthy)! Maybe there's some truth in what she said on 'smoking crack', maybe Samsung and Apple's lawyers are on plenty of it.

Quoting The Wall Street Journal, before reading the instructions, she said, "I need everyone to stay conscious during the reading of the instructions, including myself," and went on to say she would ask everyone to stand from time to time to sustain blood circulation before the proceeding of the closing arguments.

I have to say, if either one of these companies comes away with a big win through this trial, the end result is that in the long term, it's the consumer that will come out the loser.

CNET: Apple v. Samsung: Why is Judge Koh so Angry?
CNET: The ABCs of Apple v. Samsung
CNET: Judge worried about a 'confused jury' in Apple-Samsung trial
CNET: Apple v. Samsung: Judge Koh looses cool over legal wrangling
CNET: Judge says Apple's 'smoking crack' with giant witness list
CNET: Judge tosses Apple v. Motorola
CNET: Samsung designer: We were doing tablet before iPad
the Atlantic: Why There Are Too Many Patents in America
CNET UK: Apple wins Motorla phones ban over Android slide-to-unlock
Reuters: Judge urges Apple, Samsung to settle before verdict
CNN Money: The judge's 109-pp instructions to the Appl v. Samsung jury
The Wall Street Journal: "Stay Conscious," Judge Tells Lawyers at Apple-Samsung Trial

Photo Credit
CNET: Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 Google I/O Edition
United States District Court: Northern District of California

Saturday, August 18, 2012

lost Pastime

I’ve realised that ever since I’ve left school, I’ve sort of neglected something I used to like a lot. At a younger age, I don’t remember when or where, I was taught how to write using a different way from the conventional method. I think I liked the idea of a new handwriting style then, but the practice was obviously something I didn’t enjoy, but once I got the hang of it, I loved it.

A few of my teachers in school, both in Vietnam and Malaysia really liked it, but I was warned when I came back to Malaysia that not every teacher and examiner might be able to read it, and I certainly wasn’t ready to take the risk of scoring lower for major examinations just because my handwriting wasn’t readable. That led me back to the normal way of writing, which I used in secondary school all the way up to my last exam in university.

Obviously, I had not written using that style for a long time and I hardly write now anyway, since most of the documents I need to author are always on-screen. I have probably not even written even 50 words using that style in the last two years or so.

I’d lost touch with it, but recently a wedding invite led me to write a few lines or so on a card I got for the newlyweds. That coupled with a recent blog post got me thinking, and so since I was very free on Friday in the office, I decided to test myself, or rather train myself a little: 

Cursive, my long lost love with the art of writing. I probably haven’t written this many words in cursive than I have in the last 5 years. I got down to writing words, testing to see if I could connect between letters properly and well,  I didn’t do too bad, but I realised how horrible I am at some, hahah. 

I have a serious problem with connecting x’s in words and my q’s look like g’s. 

That’s also combined with the fact that my capital T’s and F’s look almost alike. Actually in practice, I used the traditional capital F that we all know so that I wouldn’t confuse my teachers in school, but for the sake of ‘pure’ cursive I tried it out.

Actually, it was interesting to learn back some of the styles and rediscovering how hard cursive can be for some words. It was fun to look back at my favourite handwriting, but I wonder when will be the next time I actually get to use it?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

prayerful Fast

For me I find it a little interesting that as a group of people around the world end their period of fasting within a week that I’ve just started mine. To be frank I haven’t participated in fasting for a while, but I’m glad that I’ve been convicted to take part this year and to make it a regular practice. Perhaps I’ve been indifferent in recent years about it, so in a way I’m also glad that a significant milestone has prompted me to make a determined effort to fast and pray for 40 days.

This year’s theme for NECF’s 40-Day Fast & Prayer.

Come 16th September, Malaysia will head into its 50th year as a nation, which is what the word jubilee is about. As far as the bible is concerned, the occurrence of the 50th year is quite a special event because it brings about blessing, restoration, liberty, freedom and transformation among other great things.

I believe that it is significant time for Malaysia, and while there may be those who have become indifferent, given up or can only curse the nation, I stand as one of those on the opposite side. As impossible as situations may seem and as corrupt as it may be, I don’t believe that hope is lost for my nation and that God can turn it around. However, I also believe that can only happen if those who love God stand in the gap for this nation, to cry out for a restoration of God’s divine power and righteousness to reign over her.

Do not mistake me for someone who’s praying for a single political party to win the next general election and swing the country around. Let it be set straight that I believe that the future of Malaysia does not lie in the hands of men, of politicians or men of influence, but God. As far as my faith is concerned, as a Christian, my trust is in God, not men.

That doesn’t mean to say that I don’t think humans don’t have a role to play. God’s style isn’t to wave his hand over the earth and make everything all right. He works in the natural and the supernatural. What I believe is that Malaysians need to pray not against people, but against the spirit of corruption, the spirit of greed, the spirit of unrighteousness, of immorality, of adultery, of all that which is eating up the moral fibre of Malaysia. We need to pray for leaders, for corporations, for the people to rise up in integrity, to be inspired and motivated by righteousness and not to be courted by greed into immorality.

Restoration of relationships, between individuals, families, races is another thing I’ll be praying for. In a society that is supposedly better connected by social media, the nation is become increasingly disconnected, with individualism creeping in, with pride and prejudice getting in the way of racial harmony, with families failing to honour one another. Being someone who used to be in school, I’m ever so familiar with that common essay point which states the roots of the well being of a nation rests with the family unit. While it might sound cliché, it’s just true. That’s why I’ll be praying for a mending of relationships, healing of broken hearts and a resolution to hurt caused by failed relationships.

There are many more things I could say about what I and hopefully many others will be praying for but I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself. The main thing is, I’ve committed myself to praying for the nation, for its future and even for myself as well.

If we want Malaysia to have a breakthrough, we need to have our own as well. If there are no individual breakthroughs, how can we expect one at the national level? That’s why I’m also praying for myself, not to prosper myself materially (although there’s nothing wrong with that), but to seek a personal breakthrough mentally, spiritually, so I can get deeper with God and be thoroughly equipped for whatever is to come.

Fasting is a big part of this time of prayer and the reason I’m fasting is just for me to express my commitment to God, to set aside the distractions and to offer a ‘sacrifice’ in the sense that I want this period of 40 days to cost me something, instead of being just the average 40 days where I pray but do everything else just the same.

It is my hope for Christians in Malaysia to step up to the plate and tarry in prayer, not to offer token prayers and at the end of 40 days expect a significant change, but really commit themselves and the nation to God’s divine will. As it says in the ‘Foreward’ section of the prayer booklet, “Together, let’s unite our hearts, share our resources, intercede for one another, stop complaining and start ploughing the field for the Lord.”

If His people seek Him earnestly, He will surely turn his favour upon this nation. God bless Malaysia.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

quiet Ascendancy

We all felt sad when Malaysia’s badminton champion had to settle for silver. Still, we knew that at least a medal had been secured, that the Malaysian contingent wouldn’t return with an empty medal tally. However, few would have thought or even hoped for another, and that’s when Pandelela Rinong happened. 

The 19-year old Bidayuh girl plucked Bronze in the women’s individual 10 meter platform diving event and it had me genuinely surprised. The reason for that was prior to this, I had read that both she and her partner had  not done well enough to get a medal from the synchronised diving events for both the 3 meter and 10 meter platforms. Obviously, I had set aside medal expectations for the aquatics squad although I felt there were positive signs for the future at the time.

That’s why it was shocking in such a way that I didn’t even react when I found out about it. I think it does beg the question, where does this girl come from, and how is it that most of us have missed out on actively supporting her during the Olympics? Has she really come from nowhere, or did we miss out a few things because we were focused solely on our badminton and cycling representatives for medal hopes?

Most aquatic stars start out at a very young age and it wasn’t much different for Pandelela as she started training at the age of just 9 years old. It’s interesting to know that her interest in diving started from a simple childish desire to beat her brother at something because he seemed to outshine her in everything. Who knew a simple sibling rivalry would lead to what I’m writing about now? Naturally all assume that getting into aquatics would require decent swimming skills, so would it surprise you to know that even as she started out diving that she was hardly a strong swimmer, that she almost drowned in the pool?

Obviously, she’s come a very long way since then and she’s mentioned herself in interviews that there have been sacrifices and painful challenges along the way, but it’s been worth it. Reading up a little on Wikipedia, it seems that she started getting competitive on the global scene in 2007 and its pretty incredible to find out that she’s actually ranked 2nd in the world right now by FINA (equivalent to FIFA for football) for the 10 meter platform! Knowing all this now, its no wonder that she was picked to be Malaysia’s flag bearer for this Olympics and it all went under the radar up until now. There were plenty of signs, just that maybe we didn’t notice them.

More importantly, I think all this tells a small part of an incredible story of a person who’s not come from the wealthiest of backgrounds, but driven by passion, discipline and the strong support of her family has defied the odds and come out so strong, strong enough to be among the world’s best and strong enough to earn that bronze medal. 

It’s an achievement to be proud of by all means, especially being the first woman to win a medal for Malaysia at the Olympics! Combine that with the fact she’s 19 years old, I think it’s just simply amazing.

What’s even more heart warming I think, is just how proud her parents are of her and its something theStar Online picked up on today, doing an article about her father as well. Honestly, I can’t help but feel so happy for them, and how proud they are of their eldest daughter, and while her family may not be rich in funds, but I think they’re certainly rich in joy. Still, I think it helps that there is an economic windfall for Pandelela’s achievement and that will do them a world of good as well.

Here’s to the girl from Kampung Jugan, celebrating her well deserved success. Who says a ‘jaguh kampung’ can’t be a ‘jaguh negara’?

Sources & Photo Credits:
The Star
The Star – My Mother, My Supporter
The Star – Diver’s dad beams with pride
The Star – R.A.G.E Online
Bunnysprint.com – Malaysia’s sports darlings
FINA World Rankings

Monday, August 06, 2012

lasting Legacies

One lift, perhaps combined with the drift affecting the other end of the court took it long and Lin Dan reeled away. Every Malaysian heart sank, but none more than that of Lee Chong Wei. The cameras showed him sitting on the floor, inconsolable. His courtside coaches, Tey Seu Bock and Rashid Sidek couldn’t possibly have had the words to pacify a distraught Malaysian who knew it was his last time at the Olympics. 

Tey Seu Bock tries to console Lee Chong Wei after the final point.

It was simply painfully close. The last game was totally different from than the one in Beijing 2008 where Lee Chong Wei was soundly beaten. Losing by such a small margin on a big stage is always heart breaking and as the commentator put it, because of that, there’ll definitely be certain shots replaying in his mind that he will regret. All the what-ifs and what could have been will play in his mind for a while at least. 

Gillian Clark (probably the world’s best badminton commentator), after the final was over highlighted something else that had been nagging at me as well in the build up to this years’ Olympic Games. Lee Chong Wei had stated that winning the gold medal in London would validate his career and this statement was made fully knowing that this would be his final participation in the Olympics. Clark echoed my thoughts that its really sad for Lee Chong Wei because he’s never won a World Championship title (which incidentally he also lost to Lin Dan in similar fashion to the Olympic final) or the Asian Games gold medal. He just hasn’t scored on the biggest of the biggest stages, and it is really so sad to know he feels that his career isn’t validated because of that.

There’s no doubt in my mind that it is a major disappointment for him, because he really has had such an amazing career, winning the All England (equivalent to Wimbledon for tennis) title and successfully defending it in 2011, winning more Super Series (the major yearly tournaments) titles than Lin Dan but he just hasn’t been able to touch gold in those major tournaments that aren’t held every year. The Malaysian Insider in its last paragraph about this match indicated that in the end it was won by who wanted it more, but I think that’s very far from the truth.

Even from the match itself, Gillian Clark noted that Lee Chong Wei shouted a few times while winning points in the first game, which is more than a rarity from him.Also to me, there was no question it was something he wanted very badly (which did not need a 2.5 kg gold bar incentive), but he’s been forced to settle for the medal you don’t need to fight for in badminton. We know that in sports like this, you need to play your hardest to win a bronze or a gold medal, but not a silver and that’s probably one of the things that Lee Chong Wei will dread. If he knew from the beginning that he would get the silver medal, he may as well have let Lin Dan win every point in the final without a return of serve even.

Personally what I felt was excruciating, was not the match itself but the moments in which the players reappeared from the entrance tunnel for the medal ceremony. Lee Chong Wei was walking right behind Lin Dan on their way to the podium and you could see the stark contrast of expressions. Lee Chong Wei tried his best to be strong in front of a crowd that had supported him and was very obviously struggling to compose himself and stop any tear from trickling out. His facial expressions betrayed him however, and if you saw it, you would know that was the face of a man that just wanted to cry and I really felt for him then.  

Lee Chong Wei struggles to compose himself on the podium.

Quite frankly, at this moment in time, just as I mentioned in the opening paragraph, there’s probably nothing anyone can say to console a national hero who’s been downed by the world’s finest. Words can’t change the fact that a loss is a loss and also that he will most likely not have an Olympic gold medal at the end of his career. It may not seem like a huge loss to the average person, but it means plenty to sportsmen who dedicate their lives to what some of us may only treat as recreational exercise. While there’re plenty of messages of support flooding in to his twitter account which he appreciates, it doesn’t change the result. 

His message to Malaysians everywhere as I type this blog entry.

This apology comes from the weight that’s been upon his shoulders even before the 2008 Olympics. For a long time, the entire nation on Malaysia (and of course that includes Lee Chong Wei) knows that he’s been the only realistic hope for any gold medal at the Olympics and that’s a huge burden to carry. You need to consider for a moment that his disappointment in failing the hopes (and possibly expectations) of a nation is layered on top of his own personal disappointment for his own achievement.

However, this seemingly sad end isn’t his life conclusion. For him, life still carries on, regardless of the result and that brings to him two important questions. Where do I go from here? How do I respond to what has happened?

It’s actually a lesson, and perhaps a future warning to me that there will be times that we invest so much of our time, effort and the resources we have to something but come out disappointed with the end result even if we have achieved much in previous times. That’s because we always feel closer to the present rather than the past.

Situations like those feel more hurtful when we know that we’re coming close to the end of a season in our lives when we may not be able to do that thing anymore. Time doesn’t stop, but seasons in our lives do come to an end before another begins. Success or failure in one season does not determine who we are but rather the people we become as we go through each and every season of our lives.

At the end of the day, every one of us wishes to be remembered for the people we are and not our achievements. You wouldn’t want your medals and trophies to be a hot topic at your funeral or engraved on your tombstone. While trophies are symbols of a legacy, such achievements are purely material and speak little of a person.

For me, the legacy I care so much more about would be my relationships with friends and family, how they see me as a person. More importantly, I care more about how God sees me, and if He’s pleased with the way I’ve lived my life, I believe that’s the best legacy to have.

That’s why I think if Lee Chong Wei is able to look further than his desire to create a legacy of achievements, but one of great character, he will surely be able to respond to this disappointment in great fashion and end his career with an honourable and lasting legacy.

Photo Credits:
The Malaysian Insider