Friday, October 29, 2004

eggs and obesity and eclipses, oh my!

So... I cooked myself fried eggs with cheese for breakfast earlier this week...

... and i realised that it was my first time in YEARS that I had wielded a frying pan, in a kitchen, and actually COOKED something! yeah yeah, so I did fix myself a packet of PAMA (*wink* @ ENCppl) in PJ, but that's hardly worth considering as "cooking" is it? And i did assist mom in trying out the pre-mixed curry thingy.. but SHE was the chef, not me!

SO, perhaps you are asking yourself - "if she didnt ever cook, what did she do for food?" Then again, most of you know me as the beanie lady, right? heeeheheh! Well, my time of surfin' @ beanie, consuming nothing but my Ice-Vanilla-Latte-Regular-Skim-Milk or my Vanilla-Latte-Large-Skim-Milk_To-Go-Cup are long over... ditto with my midnight visits to my (un)friendly neighbourhood mamak for teh tarik and roti bakar.. all over now. and I heave a sigh of relief :D

Of course, over here I have to watch out for those horribly huge American-sized portions! Oh and you know what? As much as you oh-so-unthinkingly-cruel-and-stupid-people comment on my weight : it looks like the majority of people in this country would be happy with this body of mine. omg are these people obese! scary....

... and talking about "scary" ... Halloween is coming up this weekend! And monther nature got into the mood of things two nights ago - there was this total eclipse of the moon, where the earth's shadow completely covered the face of the moon. Why do I say "in the mood"? Because, for whatever atmospheric conditions or whatever i dunno, the moon didnt really disappear from the sky.. instead, it looked as if it turned orange! preeeety cool stuff! :-)

... and a teaser for a future post (or two..or three..):
- Magic: The Gathering ... am I getting addicted?
- "Office Space" : a must-see for ALL people who relate to Dilbert cubicles and pointy-haired bosses!
- Airlines for the well endowed?

... and with that: have a MONSTER weekend!

Big Brother and the morality police?

It amazed me to see a recent headline of thestar.com.my, which was in the vein of “Muslim food oulets only allowed to open after 3pm during the fasting month.” Ayoyo… yet another example of the government taking it upon itself to think on behalf of its people….

My take on the month of Ramadhan is that, yes it’s a holy month, yes it’s a time for cleansing, yes we all undergo this not eating/drinking from dawn til dusk, blah blah blah yadiyadiya… but … LIFE GOES ON! It being fasting does NOT mean meetings don’t happen, or that training sessions should not take place. *of course that doesn’t happen in [company name], right? Ha ha ha* You should continue performing as you usually do, PLUS carry out your fasting. Example: If you work as a waiter, you still wait on tables and serve food, even if the aroma of food makes you salivate! It’s still your job, and you need to take such challenges in stride during the fasting month. And if you cave in, well, is it the customer’s fault for wanting to eat? Or your employer’s fault for ‘making’ you work as a waiter? Nope.. it’s all YOU. Your morality, or steadfastness, or whatever you want to call it… it is strengthened by overcoming challenges thrown at it. Kinda like your muscles… if you don’t subject them to stress, they atrophy! But use them, challenge them… yes that aerobic session, that yoga class, that jog around the track… they will make you ache, but the next time you go thru that challenge you’ll find it easier, no? So back to that hapless waiter… if he gets though the first few days of fasting without too much of a problem, I bet if ever a customer orders his favourite dish, he may be tempted, but I doubt he’d crumble.

…. But I guess that’s it, eh? The Terengganu government would rather not chance it?

The Terengganu food operators should have enough gray matter in their noggins to figure out ON THEIR OWN who their clientele are (i.e. a mixed crowd, or predominantly one race/religion, etc), and how the fasting month impacts these customers. Then act accordingly. Chances are, they would come to the conclusion that there is no need for them to bother starting business until at least 3pm, and at the same time it would benefit them greatly to be open right until subuh itself to accommodate those who want to sahur with outside food. But for the local government to take it upon themselves to regulate the Muslim food operators’ “start time” is just ridiculous.

Seeing as the majority of Terengganuese are Muslims, I would assume that most food operators also Muslim. But what about the non-Muslims? They have as much right to their favourite “Pak Man’s Nasi Lemak” for breakfast, or “Mek Pah’s Laksam” for lunch, haven’t they? Is the government so scared of the possibility of the local Muslims not fasting if they cook food for others, or of they know their fave restaurant / warung is open? Or are the food operators (or anyone else for that matter) totally incapable of independent logical rational thought that Big Brother has to do it for them? Or is it Big Brother’s plan to ensure the state residents are totally incapable of independent logical rational thought?

Another thing: This directive is NOT applicable to chains such as KFC and McD’s. Huh? Where’s the logic in that? Perhaps it makes sense to them because these chains are not perceived as “Malay” and therefore do not pose a temptation to the spineless brainless creatures who inhabit the state of Terengganu? Or is there an assumption that non-Muslims do NOT partake of Muslim/Malay food and only flock to fast-food chains or “their own” restaurants?

Ugh!

To me… the bottom line is… it’s a matter of mind over matter… and it’s personal. Regulate and interfere all you want, Big Brother: only we individually, and The One, know just how “sempurna” we are in fulfilling our religious obligations.

Monday, October 25, 2004

A quick note on dubya vs kerry

Yeah, so i watched the 2nd and 3rd presidential candidates debate about two weeks ago (when I first arrived in the u.s.).

Now, my mom had warned me to stay clear of politics since i'm not a citizen of the u.s.... and I rolled my eyes cos I really dont bother even with the politics of my own homecountry,, but anyway,,, the reason i bring this up is, as much as I dont (want to ) bother with politics,,,, but... I tell you.... every time "dubya" spoke, I just wanted to jump up and slap him thru the tv screen! bladi annoying fella ( *wink* @ Oya).

It is quite worrying that dubya seems to still be in the lead (barely) ... and with the actual elections coming up in less than two weeks, I wonder if there is any miracle that will happen for him to NOT get re-elected....

Apart from the "usual" mudslinging (tho it seems the country is much more divided NOW than it was just 4 years ago... feelings run strong now, post 9/11 I guess... i just wish THINKING ran as strongly in this country), healthcare, and each candidate's stand/plan on it, seems to be a cornerstone of their platform. More importantly, of course, is the entire "Homeland Security" issues... what with the Patriot Act (and coming up - Patriot Act 2??!!!) seen to be infringing on the rights of the individuals (similar to our own Internal Security Act?) and all the paranoia created by dubya's administration AND the total f**k-up he's done with the entire Afganistan and Iraq thing... I of course have a simplistic view of the matter since I really really dont wanna bother with this.... and yet... I believe the entire world is kinda holding its breath wondering just who will emerge victorious in early November... (hopefully the Floridians will have learned to COUNT by then) Perhaps it may boil down to the u.s. Joe & Jane Public deciding whether dubya should stay on to clean up his own mess, or whether Kerry should take over and clean up the mess created by the "wrong war at the wrong place and wrong time"

One thing about Kerry tho... I guess if I were an American I'd vote for him... BUT... he does worry me.... twice during the debates, on the topic of homeland security, terrorism etc, this is what he said about the terrorists: "I will hunt them down and kill them." hmmmmm... not "bring them to justice" or equivalent... kill them, he says. ooooof. worrying.

Ultimately... i think there are too many "blindly patriotic" u.s. citizens out there... please,,, THINK a little.... for a nation brought up to question the authorities, to think independently.... you people disappoint me greatly.... If you were a dinky little nation in the middle of nowhere it wouldnt matter so much,,, but here you are, one of the superpowers of the world... what happens in your country will unfortunately impact the rest of the world. So think carefully, and choose wisely.

Monday, October 18, 2004

a week of vegetation does wonders for the soul

My 18th day of jobless bumming whooohoooo!

I am now in the U. S. of A. - have been here for just about a week - am on the first of many legs of visits to ex-collegemates here in Urbana IL plus St Louis MO, Cleveland OH, Chicago IL, among other places...

Getting myself here was quite an experience... first - getting the ticket itself... wow did you know just how much an open ticket costs??!!! almost double that of a return ticket bought at the MATTA fair! ouch ouch ouch ouch!! And this time around, I decided to make my way to the east coast of the u.s. - arriving in Newark NJ instead of Los Angeles CA. While the overall flight is maybe *only* about 2 hours longer this way, it felt way *too* long, y'know?

Of course, my getting past the immigration officer was a miracle in itself... here I am, a single female looking to enter the u.s. on an open ticket, jobless, and claiming to wanna go visit friends. The officer was like "You gotta do better than that to convince me you're not going to get in, work and (over)stay!" I really dont know HOW I got past her.. musta been a combination of luck and my charm :D

Then was the almost 8hr wait for my connecting flight to Champaign IL via Cinncinnati OH. Yes, it was planned that way... I was thinking it best to factor in as much buffer as possible over in Newark in case I got hauled in for additional questioning or something heeeheheh :D

In addition... upon reaching Newark, the flight attendant did the usual "welcome to Newark" spiel, and mentioned that the temperature outside was 10C ... omg TEN DEGREES??!!! aaarrrggghhhhh!!! brrrrrrrrrrr!!! and by the time I arrived in Champaign, it was 9pm and RAINING... ugh ugh ugh....

.. i've kinda holed myself up in my friend's apartment for the past week... the weather is NOT helping with one part of my plan of getting back into a slightly more healthy routine (i.e. walk / jog or something) but it is helping me vegetate :D

but anyways,,, after a week of such vegetation, i'm starting to get moving again... racquetball (a cheater's version of squash) is scheduled for this evening, and my tennis racquets ARE going to be used before it snows... i hope!! :p

more updates later. until then... LIVE LONG AND PROSPER!

Monday, October 04, 2004

... the (threat of a) pen is mightier than ... ?

"Look," I said in frustration, "Just please print out the page in your system saying that Kelana Jaya received my submission in early April. I'll just enclose that together with a letter I will write to protest this situation."

Does that sound like a threat to you? certainly not to me! But after almost 30 mins dealing with this hapless Income Tax officer who did not seem to see the inconsistencies in their data that I was pointing out, and was therefore adamant that my submission was late, and that i was therefore liable for that RM100 penalty,,, i was ready to just throw in the towel, pay the penalty under protest, and write one of my legendary feedback letters to LHDN. ... and yet, when the officer came back with the printout, she was singing a totally different tune! Perhaps she didn't want to have a boo-boo highlighted, even though the 'fault' lay with the Kelana Jaya office, not there at Jalan Duta. But hey, to have the officer offering to ask her management's permission to amend my 'received date' .. whoohooo!! I walked out of the tax office feeling like I had won a small victory!

Here's some background on why I made a trip to LHDN this morning:
Early 2004: I received TWO different Borang B: one correct/normal (from Jalan Duta), the other issued by the Kelana Jaya office and having all my details but wrong IC number. The latter was a total surprise to me.
End March: I submitted my assessment (on the ‘correct’ form), and enclosed the ‘wrong’ form, pointing out to LHDN the wrong IC and asking them to investigate why this should happen in the first place.
30 April: Deadline for tax assessment submission.
June 2004: I vist LHDN Jln Duta to ask what’s going on, because I received a letter from Kelana Jaya thanking me for a blank form submission implying no income for last year. Then what HAD happened to my actual submission, book receipts, insurance statements etc? The officer I met said not to worry, they DID have my submission and it was being processed. He also went ahead and ‘deactivated’ the mystery account. Uh huh, there didn’t seem to be any initiative to find out WHY out of the blue Kelana Jaya would create a file on me, with wrong information… I figure, nevermind, it’s their internal business. So far so good, right?
October 2004: Here’s the cruncher. The Borang J arrived, with that surprising RM100 penalty. So off I go to visit LHDN to get to the bottom of this..

And after an extended argument cum discussion with the poor LHDN officer, here’s (probably) what happened:
23rd March 2004: My submission sent (in my records it was sent to Jln Duta… maybe I got my envelopes mixed up and used the one addressed to Kelana Jaya? After all they did send me two different forms with two different return addresses?)
5th April 2004: my ‘package’ received in Kelana Jaya. They stamped ‘received’ on the ‘wrong’ form (which was issued by them and therefore 'theirs') and process it (resulting in the June letter from Kelana Jaya). The ‘correct’ form (which was NOT 'theirs') was set aside to be processed later.
21st May 2004: Kelana Jaya finds my 'correct' form, finally get around to stamping ‘received’ on it, then only do they forward it to Jalan Duta, who of course receive it ‘late’

So: for RM100... Why didn’t the person in Kelana Jaya chop BOTH forms on 5th April 2004?
RM100 isn’t *that* much money, I hear some of you say. Well, firstly, since I am no longer employed of course I do not want to simply throw money at LHDN; and more importantly: I KNOW I wasn’t late so as a matter of principle I want to make sure my record is ‘clear’!

So, as I mentioned above: I walked out of the Income Tax office feeling like I'd won a small victory. Of course the reality remains to be seen lah.. will permission be granted? Will the officer call me back? Well, if I dont hear from them be the end of the year, rest assured that I will send them a letter that I hope will be a non-magic equivalent of a 'howler' as described in the J K Rowling's Harry Potter series!!

Till then, I'll let my $$ sit in my bank account and gather interest just a little bit longer!
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