Long Walk to Freedom

I recently completed reading Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela. It took many late nights/early mornings to finally finish reading the book.

One time, I took the book along with my other academic readings to the library for a serious study session. The plan was to read my academic stuff and when I got bored with those, I’ll read the “leisure” book. But I made the mistake of reading the “leisure” book first, and I couldn’t put the book down and spent 2 hours reading about the life of Nelson Mandela.

Reading this “leisure” book turned out to require more of my mental capacity than my academic readings. As I read the book, I often stopped and pondered about the issues that Malaysians are facing in Malaysia. I’m not saying that there’s apartheid in Malaysia, but Mandela talked about justice, freedom, good/bad governance, democracy, sacrifice, human nature, politics….and all these things are very relevant to what’s going on in Malaysia.

Mandela talked about marches and rallies that Africans had to demand for freedom and equal rights, but the white government came down really hard on people who were involved in these “demonstrations”. And all marches and rallies became illegal. It was only when the ruling white government was almost ready for true democracy, that Africans could march in the streets without being harassed and assaulted.

I see the same thing happening in Malaysia. Even a peaceful walk to celebrate the International Human Rights Day was prohibited.

Mandela talked about about the many disagreements and quarrels that went on in his party, and the disagreements and quarrels that went on with other African political parties. There were always talks to try to resolve issues, give-and-take, and sometimes things were not resolved. And finally when the Africans were at the edge of freedom, the fights and quarrels were at their worst, and he realized that the saying that it’s always the darkest just before dawn was true.

Reading this made me realize one thing: the local newspapers like to emphasize the disagreements that DAP, PAS, and PKR have with each other, and play up the issue of disharmony. But from the way I see it — these disagreements show that these parties are equals. There’s room for discussions and disagreements. I think we really should be worried when there’s only one or two people who are speaking and the rest are silent in “agreement”.

Towards the end of the book, Mandela wrote about Mr. de Klerk claiming to not know that his government was funding covert organizations that committed violence against Africans. Mandela stated that “if a man in his position doesn’t know about such things, then he is not fit to be the head of the government.”

And that got me thinking about my own head of government who didn’t know that 40,000 Malaysian-Indian children did not have birth certificates. Maybe this is a small non-issue for him, but think about the 40,000 kids that lost their birth rights as Malaysians. Of course, the government is now doing something to help these kids regain what was denied of them, but that’s because it’s election time.

Vote for a Change!

Don’t exchange your civil and human rights for the promise of a street light outside your house.

General Election in Malaysia: The postal vote process for full-time students overseas

The Election Commission (SPR) made a big deal that full time students overseas are eligible to vote as absent voters. But they sure don’t make it easy for students overseas to participate in the coming general election.

Even though I’m a registered voter in Malaysia, I know full well that the SPR is not going to search me out and send me the ballots. Surely, there’s a long and convoluted process to go through.

I did a search and couldn’t find anything regarding the postal voting process. The SPR website provides little information. So I emailed the director of the Malaysian Students Department at the Malaysian Embassy in Washington DC on February 13 and no reply till today. I then emailed the Malaysian Consulate in New York on February 20 and I’m amazed that someone actually responded to my email. But I was told to contact info@spr.gov.my. I did just that and the email bounced back because that email address had “permanent fatal errors”. I then looked for the Penang representatives at the SPR and emailed him, but I received another “permanent fatal errors” response.

Should I give up now?

Finally, a friend led me to this site that says that Malaysian students overseas can vote: I would have to go to the Consulate to fill up a Borang A in the presence of a Consulate staff and then send the form to SPR in Malaysia. And one week before the election date, the Consulate is supposed to receive an electoral roll of eligible absent voters and if my name is on that, then I will be able to vote.

Today is February 22, 2008. One week before the election date would be around March 1 or 2. So I have approximately one week to rush to the Consulate, fill up the form and then send the form back to Malaysia, and then the SPR staff will burn their midnight oil to enter my information into the postal vote list, and finally on March 1, my name will be on the postal vote list.

Hmmm…what are the chances of that happening?

I can definitely rush to the Consulate tomorrow. I can even pos-laju (or FedEx) my form back to Malaysia. But I doubt anyone at SPR will even look at my borang A for the next 6 months, let alone in the next few days.

I can only blame myself for not doing this earlier. I should have submitted the form like 3 months ago!
3 months? Who am I kidding?
4 months? Still not enough time.
5 months? Still a bit risky.
6 months? Yeah, I think 6 months should be sufficient.

I should have submitted the Borang A 6 months ago!!

I’ve resigned to the fact that I’ll not be able to vote during this general election…sigh…

One fine day, I hope to be able to meet a Malaysian full-time student overseas who managed to vote via postal vote. They are definitely a rare species. Maybe they can describe the postal vote process to me. I would like to know (a) the time needed to register to be an absent voter, (b) how they received the ballot, (c) how they sent it back, and (d) how tamper-proof was the envelope?

Sight and Sound experience

My small group from church organized a trip to the Daniel and the Lions’ Den show at the Sight and Sound theater (Broadway-style show with a Christian theme) in Strasburg, PA. It was a 2-hour drive to the Amish-land. We had lunch at a family-style restaurant where we had way too much food. Then we headed towards the theater. While in the car, I had my camera ready to take shots of Amish farmland and people, but I only saw strip malls, outlet stores, lots of restaurants, and an occasional Amish horse buggy driving by.

I was surprised by the number of cars, buses, and people at the Millennium Theater.

A giant mammoth, Wooly, greeted visitors inside the theater.

And then there’s the mandatory group picture.

After Nebuchadnezzar died and his son, Belshazzar, became king, we had a 15-minute intermission. But the intermission dragged for an hour. Finally we heard that there’s some technical difficulties, and a group of actors came out and led the audience in an extended praise and worship session. Finally after a 2-hour intermission, we were told that the technical difficulties were too major (a stage lift broke leaving a very large hole in the middle of the stage, I think), so they were not able to continue the show. However, we could exchange the ticket for another show another day.

Then it was a 2-hour drive back to Bethlehem. I guess the biggest disappointment was not being able to see the lions’ den scene, because everyone was debating whether there were any real lions in the show (most probably no) and how real the fake lions will look.

Freaky fingers

The university library has quite a large online collection of academic journals. But there are quite a number of journals that are still paper-hard-copy only. I used to have to go to the library, find the journal, spent money ($0.10 per copy) to photocopy the articles in those journals. But the student senate fought for free photocopying of these paper-only journals on the premise that — if students can print out electronic journal articles for free, why should the students have to spent money to get copies of articles in paper-only journals? And the students won. The library handed out photocopy cards to graduate students for a few months but they noticed that some students used the card to photocopy other stuff too. So they stop handing out the photocopy cards. Now there’s a link on the library website and students can request for photocopy of articles, and library staff will find the article in the paper-only journal, make a copy of it and then send the pdf file to the student. This is way better and saves me a lot of work. I can request 20 different journal articles and I’ll get the files the next day.

Anyway, the library employs work study students to do the photocopying. And this is a sample of a “fine” photocopying work. It always freaks me out when I have to read pages with images of thumbs and fingers attached. Not the hilariously freaky, more like the “ewwww” freaky!

It’s so painful….

I sent my car to Garage Klein yesterday. The car was making a lot of noise at the beginning of the drive and occasionally I noticed a burning smell.

I just received a call from the mechanic. He explained to me that the belt tensioner has busted and the serpentine/fan/drive belt was affected too. He had to replace the belt and tensioner. He went on to say that because it’s a VW, it’s going to cost more. I took a deep breath and he said, “$350.”

I can actually feel my heart aching 🙁

Reunion Dinner 2008

I invited a few friends over for CNY Reunion Dinner. This year, I decided to make Yong Tau Foo. As I was stuffing the vegetables, I realized that this dish is very labor intensive.

I had to stuff the okra, eggplant, bittermelon, mushroom, taupok (fried soft tofu), and silken tofu.

Then, lightly pan-fry the items to brown the fish/pork paste stuffing.

Make the sauce and place everything back in the wok to braise till everything is cooked.

Place the cooked items in the oven to keep warm. Wash the wok and then steam the delicate stuffed silken tofu.

Thankfully, it turned out good. I also tried to make a stuffing out of texturized vegetable protein (TVP) but that didn’t turn out great, so my vegetarian friend had to eat Yong Tau Foo without any stuffing.

Homemade Malaysian Food

I tried to make kuih bangkit few days ago following this recipe, and it was an utter failure. The cookies were rock hard, not light and melt in your mouth. What a disappointment. But I’ll try again this weekend.

Two trays of failed kuih bangkit.

Rock-hard kuih bangkit.

Today, I made Char Siew following this recipe, and I’m astounded that it really tasted like Char Siew. Amazing! I think it’s even better than some store-bought char siew.

A strip of char siew right off the broiler.

Sliced char siew.