Sunday, May 5, 2013

Life After Surgery

    None of the nurses in the dialysis center said : "I told you so!" but I said it to myself. I have never really followed the renal diet closely; as a result I had sky high levels of phosphate and calcium, resulting in itchy skin all over my body. As a result of all the constant scratching, I had marks all over my body, not a pretty sight.

    I needed to have my Parathyroid glands removed badly. This is because the itchiness I was experiencing indicated that my Parathyroid (PT) glands had already swollen tremendously by this time. Everyone has 4 PT glands. And it's not easy feat to remove all 4 because 2 will be in an obvious place (behind the thyroid glands) but 2 will be in not so obvious places.

    I was told all this when I went for my first doctor's consultation. I was originally scheduled to have surgery on the 5th of July but because my nephrologist (kidney doctor) spoke to the endochrine surgeon (Thyroid and PT doctor) on my behalf, he managed to persuade the endochrine surgeon to move up my surgery date sooner, so on the 22nd of March, I went in for surgery...........

    I was admited on the 19th, to prep me for the surgery on that fateful Friday. I was in surgery for 5 whole hours. And I was so very thankful that the surgeon managed to remove all 4 PT glands! He also dissected the smallest gland and implanted it into the muscle of my right arm; so I wouldn't lose my calcium regulations completely. That's right, the function of the PT glands is to regulate the calcium levels in your body.

    When I came out of surgery, I felt really groggy, it was so surreal! My parents were there for me and told me that all 4 PT glands had been removed. I heard them, it registered in my brain but I couldn't speak because the PT glands were so near my vocal chords that my voice was then nearly gone.

    During my next doctor's visit, I was told that I couldn't sing for 6 months, and I was told not the talk so much for now. I calculated on my desk calendar and the 6 month mark is the 22nd of September. So maybe I can sing this Christmas but I'll have to wait till next January to sing in the Church Worship Team.

    All in all, I'm glad it's all over now. I just have to rest my vocal chords and later this year, I'll be able to sing my heart out for the Lord again!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Buku Panduan Pejabat@Rumah: Muka Surat Hadapan & Pendahuluan

Buku Panduan Pejabat@Rumah: Jenis-jenis Pekerjaan Yang Sesuai, Ciri-ciri Perniagaan Pejabat@Rumah & Telekerja Sebagai Pilihan

Buku Panduan Pejabat@Rumah: Menubuhkan Perniagaan Pejabat@Rumah

Buku Panduan Pejabat@Rumah: Memantapkan Perniagaan Pejabat@Rumah Anda

Buku Panduan Pejabat@Rumah: Persediaan Rumahku, Pejabatku

Buku Panduan Pejabat@Rumah: Garis Panduan Kelulusan Permit Pejabat@Rumah

Buku Panduan Pejabat@Rumah: Cabaran Sentiasa Ada...

Buku Panduan Pejabat@Rumah: Keraguan Terjawab


Buku Panduan Pejabat@Rumah: Diari Ringkas Pejabat@Rumah

Buku Panduan Pejabat@Rumah: Penutup

The Power In Books

Photo by Rhonwyn Hagedorn
I’ve been fascinated with the book trade since I was a child. Ah Bak, Elder Uncle, worked for a schoolbook distributor in Ipoh. Ah Ba, my father, visited him at least once a week and he often took me along. We would first be seated in Ah Bak’s manager office, a room full of boks.

The Ah Bak would have his clerk bring us some soda drinks. While the two men talked, Ah Bak’s staff would come in to ask for his signatures on invoices, inventories and purchase lists. Everyone in the shop – from the labourer who carried the books in from the lorries to the accountant—were men. 

Knowing that I loved books, Ah Bak asked me, “Do you want to work in a bookshop?”

When I looked shyly at the floor, in deference to an
elder, Ah Bak laughed, “You’re a girl – you should never work in a bookshop. Bookshops are for men. It’s hard work!”

This was why I always associated the book trade with men. Then, one day, a woman named Yvonne Chau from MPH called, inquiring about my interest in selling ‘Stories for My Mother’.

After I agreed with the terms, a sales agreement was faxed to me to sign. “I’ll bring you the original copy of the agreement to sign where I come to pick up your books,” she confirmed after I faxed the signed agreement back to her. The agreement, between the buyer and a new seller, took less than half an hour. 

A blue Proton Iswara showed up several days later. Yvonne, the Assistant Merchandising Manager of MPH turned out to be a five-foot-two young woman with shoulder-length hair. I asked if anyone was helping her carry the seventeen packages of books. 

“I’ll do it, don’t worry,” she said as she picked up two heavy packages and carried them effortlessly to the boot of her car. In her two-inch high heels. In her knee-length skirt. 

I was impressed.

That encounter was the beginning of my dealings with MPH – all women except for the Head of the Marketing Department and a pick-up boy. Yvonne continues to pick up my books for urgent orders.

Since then, I have seen women carrying big cartons of books, collapsible book shelves, chairs and tables at new MPH outlets, warehouse sales, book fairs and shops. They climb ladders to put up displays, banners and decorations. Clearly, they are as capable as the bookshop men in Ah Bak’s shop. 

“Where are the male staff?” I once asked a woman in MPH Headquarters. 

“Somewhere,” she looked around the office before she answered. 

She had not thought of the question as more than half of the fifty six staff attached to the HQ are women. Twenty-one of them work in the accounts department where there are only three male staff. Nearly all the operations, marketing, merchandising and administrative department staff are women. Five out of seven in the Marketing Department are women. The Head of the Merchandising Department and the Chief Operating Officer are women. Most of the women work at the Headquarters, and more of the men work in the warehouse. 

Most of these women love reading, and they enjoy the challenges posed by the book trade. As for women like Yvonne, moving books from the local authors’ places means she gets to meet the authors and gets a glimpse into their lives and the realities behind their writings.

“It makes a difference when I’m not just working for the money, but for the meaning of life!” she shares.

If Ah Bak were alive today, what would he say about all these women in the book trade?

- by Chong Sheau Ching

If Only They Would Listen

Photo by Rhonwyn Hagedorn

I was at the World Book Day celebration organized by MPH Bookstores, the Spanish Embassy and a local college on April 23rd. The crowd gathered at the event comprised mostly of college students, the future pillars of our information economy. 

The Spanish Ambassador, H.E. Alvaro Iranzo, gave the keynote speech and spoke about the Spaniards’ love for book reading. World Book Day is celebrated in a big way in Spain. There is an all day long celebration with jazz combos, street dancing, chorus groups singing love songs, authors autographing books at bookshops, and 24-hour reading of Don Quixote. Men give women roses while the women give men books! By midnight, the Rambla, once a watercourse, is afloat with roses and tiny red-and-yellow ribbons with tiny written words like ‘t’estimo’ (I love you).

Spanish children grow up loving books as the culture of reading is embedded in the society. Parents read, and so children read too. Teenagers who love reading grow up to be adults with a deep love of books, and knowledge. The Spaniards recognize that reading is the best way to acquire knowledge about life and the world in general. Knowledge also begets more knowledge. And with more knowledge, one thinks, and sees more. 

“I grew up in the world of books and so books have shaped my character and personality,” the ambassador reminisced.

I was inspired.

Next on the program were readings of poems and passages from famous novels by six students of the college that included five international students. The audience, comprised mainly of college students, was quiet at first. Murmurs then turned into normal conversations, in total disrespect to the people doing readings on stage. In contrast the foreigners stood quietly paying attention throughout the readings. 

I was embarrassed. 

Why did people attend a World Book Day celebration if they were uninterested in the culture of reading?

And when young college students, the crème de la crème of our society, show public disrespect to book readings, what does it say about their knowledge acquisition attitude? What do books mean to them? A means to get a degree, a job and money? Or a vehicle for life-long learning?

Can we count on them to innovate solutions to better our lives in the future? Can we trust them with their knowledge?

- by Chong Sheau Ching

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Lava Cake

       This dish will melt your heart out as it simply oozes with chocolaty goodness. Preparing it seems pretty effortless since you need no mixer or fancy moulds. In fact, you can even bake it in aluminium cups if no small baking dish is available in the kitchen. Here goes the recipe.

       Preheat the oven to 180C. Prepare a few souffle dish/bowl (picture below) or ring moulds. Brush the bowls with butter and sprinkle a little bit of flour if you want to invert the cake onto a plate. In a double boiler, melt 230g dark chocolate and 225g butter. Once it melts, add in 250g fine sugar. Stir until the sugar dissolve. The next step is important. Turn off the heat but do not remove the bowl from the pot with the boiling water. You are about to add in 210g egg whites.
      Pour in the egg whites slowly while continuously stirring the mixture. Keep stirring until the mixture slightly thickens. When the mixture has mixed well, you can place the bowl on a worktop and sift 120g flour (plain/superfine) onto the mixture and mix well until no lumps is seen. Now if you are going to bake it straightaway, it will take around 13-15 minutes. If the mixture has cooled, then bake it for 15-18 minutes. If the mixture is cold from the chiller, it needs 18-21 minutes baking time. 

      Once baked, sprinkle a little bit of icing sugar, to achieve that elegant effect, followed by a dollop of cream and some strawberries on top. Serve immediately. This is a recipe from Pastry Arts Academy and it works all the time.


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Kitchen Juggler's Steam Chocolate Cheese Layer Cake

     Steam cake was the first cake I knew when I was a child. Apparently, a decent oven was a pretty fancy gadget to be in any household during the 70s. We did have an oven though, the black butterfly oven for kerosene stove. Though humble as it may look, it managed to help my mom do wonders in the kitchen. 

      The steamer pot was as much useful as the oven. Though it was pretty dented up especially on the lid, it steamed the perfect paus, fruit cakes, chocolate cake, traditional kuihs and countless of other dishes that would leave me drooling just reminiscing about it. I too, own sets of steamer pots (and oh, the electric steamer seems very appealing to me), 4 to be exact, each of different size. 

      Somehow I find steam cakes a perfect serving for tea. They are moist, rich and tender just as they are and in no need of heavy frostings and fillings. Of course, a little chocolate drizzle atop a steam chocolate cake would do no harm though. It simply adds to the sinfulness of the cake.

      As for today, I am sharing with you a wonderful recipe that would make any chocolate and cheesecake lover smile over the simplicity of its recipe and preparation. 

      Line a 9" square pan with parchment paper. Prepare a steamer pot with enough water to steam for 45 minutes or more. For the chocolate cake layer, beat 3 eggs with 300g of fine sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla essence until pale and fluffy. Pour a cup of milk and half cup of hot water into the mixture and continue mixing it slowly. Then add 200 g of melted butter, followed by the dry ingredients which are sifted - 160g flour, 4 tablespoon of cocoa powder, 1 teaspoon baking powder and 1 teaspoon baking soda. MIx well and divide into two portions. Pour a portion into the cake tin and steam for 15 minutes.
      For the cheese mixture, cream 375g of soften cream cheese with 80g of fine sugar. Add a little bit of vanilla essence. Add 1 1/2 tablespoon of cornflour and a tablespoon of fresh milk into it. Mix well and pour onto the chocolate layer that has been steamed. Steam for another 15 minutes then layer it with the rest of the chocolate cake batter and steam for another 15 minutes. Remove from steamer and cool. If you fancy extra layers in your cake, you can simply divide the batter into 5 layers, perhaps. 
     Simply a steamy affair.

Friday, January 4, 2013

The Kitchen Juggler's Recipe - Durian Crepe

        Durian eaters have gone into this durian crepe frenzy.  I normally have this thin pancake filled with a variety of savoury and sweet fillings - nuts, fruits, ice-cream, cheese, beef - but never with durian. So I figured why not give it a try.  After all, it is the durian season (I guess my durian panna cotta had to wait).  So I got myself some musang king durians (this must be one pricey fruit crepes ever)...the fleshiest and creamiest ones, and started whipping up things. The result: A delightful combination of that rich fruit pulp and custardy cream. Best eaten chilled. 

1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup rice flour
1/3 cup custard flour
1 egg
few drops yellow colouring
100ml fresh milk
100ml water (more or less)
butter (to brush on pan)

        Mix all ingredients in a blender and pulse for a while. Use a strainer to ensure mixture is thoroughly smooth. A non-stick pan comes in handy when making crepes or pancakes. You just need to brush a little bit of butter on the pan and heat it very warm. Use a 1/4-cup size container as a scoop and pour onto the pan. As you begin to pour it, immediately move the pan around as to spread the batter thinly and evenly. Lift when all parts are cooked and dry. When placing the pieces on a plate, ensure there is a plastic sheet in between each piece so they don't stick to one another. This could also prevent them from drying out. 

Pastry Cream
3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup cornflour
1 cup fresh milk 
1 cup water
few drops vanilla essence
3 eggs

       Again, mix all in a blender and pulse. Pour into a pot and turn on the stove. Use a whisk to prevent curdling and as the mixture thickens, whisk it vigorously. Remove from heat and after 5 minutes, add a spoonful of butter. Whisk until all are mixed well. Set aside to cool. In the meantime, whip up a cup of non-dairy whipping cream (I use Rich) and fold the whip and pastry cream together. 

       Now, to assemble the durian crepe. A dollop of cream followed by generous amount of durian flesh, then another dollop of cream on top. Fold in the opposites sides to get that fluffy square or rectangle pillows. Chill before serving. 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Around The World Seeking Roti Canai And Teh Tarik

Food in Australia can be one of the most expensive items in your budget. I however, simply had to indulge my food whims regardless of the fact that things are three times more expensive there.
       I can easily be lured into sampling any food I set my eyes on. It's like each bite into the food tells us something about the people's culture and identity.
       So when I travel for short while, I can survive without rice or other Malaysian delicacies and put aside my true Malaysian appetite for days simply because I would have a wonderful variety of food to make up for it. Unfortunately, my other half can't possibly live without Malaysian food no matter where we go.
       During our recent trip to Australia, while I was eagerly trying to discover and sample their fabulous seafood dishes and exotic desserts varieties, my other half was whining about his intense craving for a simple (yet not simple in the land down under though) meal of roti canai and teh tarik.
       Being a 'good' wife (I will surely get my way if I help him accomplish his roti canai mission) I finally agreed to embark on our search that seemed endless and arduous. When we finally made to the familiar surrounding where you can actually see a person throwing and tossing the roti dough, I blew a sigh of relief I'm pretty sure all 5 tables around us could hear.
       And what better way to end this true Malaysian meal than with a "durian pannacotta" (which somehow managed to soothe my heel-pain). But the best part was to see a face beaming with a smile...undoubtedly satisfied (or perhaps feeling satiated after eating 2 pieces of roti and a tall glass of frothy teh tarik). 
       And of course, I had my reward for being such a good sport - loads of sinfully delicious desserts the following days!

       The lesson I learned: Never travel in a group of people with true Malaysian appetite! 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Gender Inequality In The Work Force

For as long as I can remember, there has always been inequality in the workforce.  Although this situation is a lot better than what it was, it is still pretty clear that women get treated differently than men.
         I am currently a college student taking classes here in Malaysia for a year before I return back to the States. Last semester,  a class I took, International Human Resource Management, went into gender inequality in the work force in details. The class talked about how employees get chosen to go abroad to work.

         It was pretty evident that a majority of employees chosen to go abroad were males and the question was why? The answer that I am about to give you guys is pretty obvious and probably will not shock any of you. 

         People have it in their minds that males have a better chance of adapting to living abroad than women do, partially because of the place that those employees may be working.

         For example, my family has traveled all over the world because of my dad’s job, he is in the oil business and he is actually good at what he does and because of that he gets job offers from all over the world. So, for my whole high school career I lived in a tiny country in Middle East where their top industry is oil and gas.

         Anyone guess what country that is? It’s Qatar.

         Now all of you are probably wondering how in the world I could survive in a place like Qatar because that it is so hot and covered in sand right?  You guys are probably also wondering what it is like to live in an Arab country where a lot of small things are considered punishable by jail time or even worse, death.

         But back to the topic at hand, since my father is obviously male, he never had a problem when he was working there because, well, he was male. However, for females it is a whole other ballgame!

         In the Middle East, women are not considered to be the alpha gender, it has always been this way, and while other parts of the world are slowly trying to change this perception, the Middle East is embracing this tightly. Women are looked at as caregivers and caretakers and nothing else.

         Males believe that the women belong in one place and one place only, and I am pretty sure you guys know where that is. So, knowing a little bit of background, you probably have an understanding about women in the workforce there.

         It is pretty unheard of for women to be working in offices let alone going abroad unless you are a foreigner; even then it is hard to gain the respect from a lot of male colleagues because males believe that they should not need to take orders from a woman.

         Take this example, the last year that I lived there my father had a female boss, and he was the only person that respected her and invited her into our house. He treated her like a boss and because  of that she asked for his opinion about a lot things.’

         The moral of this story is that it did not even matter that she was way better at her job than any other person but the only reason that work did not go smoothly was because the males that worked under her would not work with her and did not follow her instructions. 

          Gender discrimination in the work place has been a controversial topic over the past few years because as more and more women show up in the workforce, the more companies have to take that into consideration.

          Women are starting to get jobs in places that were primarily male oriented proving to males that what they can do, women can do it. Women also tend to work harder than males so that they can prove to the world that they have to ability to do what so many people say they can’t. Gender discrimination is slowly decreasing but hopefully soon it can end for good.

And I, a young woman, is looking forward to the changes.
By Anitha Thanabalan