Archive for January, 2014

10 things you should know about Chinese New Year.

Monday, January 27th, 2014

AGELESS TRADITIONS: The Lunar New Year is around the corner and during this festival, many families abide by a set of beliefs and superstitions to start off the year on the right foot. Tan Choe Choe shares 10 enduring ones that are still observed.

1.  Giving “Ang Pow

In the old days, the elders would thread together coins using a red string. This string of money is called yasui qian, which means “money to ward off evil spirits”, and would be placed under the pillows of their young to protect them from sickness and misfortune.

Over time, as paper money replaced coins and the printing industry took off, the red strings were replaced with red envelopes and the coins replaced with notes. Gradually, yasui qian became known as ang pow or hong bao (red packets) or lai see (good luck). Today, it is given by elders and the married to children and those who are single, and is regarded as a blessing.

2. Cleaning the House:

In the weeks before the Lunar New Year, many Chinese folk would spring-clean their houses to wash away remaining bad luck from the previous year and have the houses ready to receive the good fortune that the new year will bring in. For those who might “forget” to do so, there is a rhyming Cantonese saying often bandied about to remind them to clean the house: Ninyabaat, sai lad tad (On the 28th of the last month of the year, wash away the dirt). This does not mean that the cleaning up is only to be done on that particular day, but rather, it is a reminder to do so, with the big day just a couple of sunsets away.

Then, on New Year’s Eve, all brooms, dusters and brushes would have to be put away, as there must be no sweeping or dusting done on the dawn of the New Year. This is to prevent good fortune from being swept away.

After the first day of the New Year, the floors may be swept, but sweeping must be done with inward strokes, where dust and rubbish are swept from the periphery of the house to its centre, before being carried out through the back door in dustpans.

3. Setting a Precedent for the rest of the year on the first day.

All debts have to be repaid before the first day of the Lunar New Year. And when the big day arrives, nothing should be lent on the day itself. This is to ensure that the year starts off on the right note and remains that way throughout the year.

2014: The Year of the Wooden Horse

Monday, January 27th, 2014

FIERY YEAR AHEAD: Chinese metaphysics expert Sherwin Ng shares with Tan Choe Choe his forecast for the year of the Wooden Horse.

What’s in store for 2014?

In the year of the Wood Horse, the most dominant element is Fire. Fire element industries, therefore, will generally do well. These industries include oil and gas, airlines, restaurants, IT, electronics, metaphysics, and spiritual studies. With Fire being extremely prosperous, it does indicate a general impatience, volatility, and unrest in the minds of people. In the year’s birth chart, the element of Water is missing, indicating a lack of ideas and deeper thoughts. Put these two situations together, we will see a tendency for more fighting and quarrels across the world. Fire-related natural disasters are also to be expected, such as volcano eruptions, earthquakes, and also forest fires.

The second most prominent element of the year is Wood. Therefore, Wood industries, such as education, printing, fashion, herbs and botany, are expected to continue flourishing. The Earth element, in the presence of extreme Fire, starts to harden. This indicates obstructions and lethargy in Earth industries, such as property and real estate. The Metal element, which is weak in the year’s birth chart, also indicates challenges in sectors such as finance, the auto industry, and machinery. Changes in the legal system and financial trends are to be expected when strong Fire melts Metal. However, with the Water element missing, a lot of big decisions will be made based on emotions and fear, rather than wisdom and intelligent reasoning. The year will also see Water-related industries, such as tourism, travel, and fishery, slowing down.

Feng Shui for the Year

The danger zone for the year is in the Northwest sector. You can check this no-touch zone by using a compass and measuring it from the centre of your home or office.

This sector should not be renovated or “activated” with even as simple an act as nailing from February 4 onwards until the end of the Wooden Horse year. In short, it should be largely left alone, with little or no activities held in this sector because activating this sector will trigger negative Qi that will bring about possible accidents and injuries.

The Wealth Star of the year is in the South. Using this sector as your bedroom or office room can bring about financial opportunities, as well as gradual career advancement.

Trotting in style into the New Year

Monday, January 27th, 2014

RIDING HIGH: As we usher in the Year of the Horse next week,renowned Feng Shui master Lillian Too suggests carrying or wearing a horse symbol on us to foster good luck and protection in the Lunar New Year. Cheong Phin heeds the spiritual advice and discovers three fashionable ways to get horsey luck this year.

The mille-fleurs pattern and cubist trompe l’oeil horse print Carré Hermès this season.

IN Chinese astrology, the Year of the Wood Horse is a time of fast victories and good fortune. The seventh sign of the Chinese Zodiac is a much-loved symbol of nobility and strength that is endowed with speed, power and perseverance. The physical beauty and  elegance of the animal make it an appealing subject in fashion, appearing on scarves, dresses and polo shirts this season.

The Horse Print Scarf by Hermes.

With a heritage of saddle-making that dates back to 1880, French luxury brand Hermès is no stranger to working with horse symbols or equestrian nuances on their seasonal collection of silk scarves, ready-to-wear, bags and accessories. In the colourful mix of their iconic silk twill scarves for Spring 2014 is a new collection of exquisite artsy horse prints that range from mille-fleurs (thousand flowers) pattern to Tiffany art deco style and cubist trompe l’oeil.

Affectionately known as the Carré Hermès when it was first introduced in 1937, each exquisite creation takes up to two years to create — from graphic development to engraving and its arrival in stores. With technology advancement in silk-weaving, the Carré Hermès has evolved into different sizes and finishes today.

Nevertheless, each scarf is still screenprinted individually by hand and produced at their silk factory in Lyon, France.

Beloved by women across the world, including celebrities such as Catherine Deneuve, the Carré can be worn in many creative and chic ways, thanks to their free Silk Knots app on iTunes — a programme complete with videos, diagrams and photos that provide tips on how to create the ultimate head scarf, a trendy drape round the neck or turning it into a belt or top to wear under a blazer.

When not in use, the Hermès scarf is popularly tied on handbags, particularly the Birkin bag.

The Warp-dress @ Clutch by DVF

Diane von Furstenberg (DVF) has been wrapping women in her iconic wrap dress for 40 years. In the spirit of the Year of the Horse this Lunar New Year, the legendary American designer introduces a limited edition collection of Lucky Horse wrap dress, envelope clutch and a printed off-the-shoulder sweater. Available in red or black, the original Lucky
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Three E’s to employability

Monday, January 27th, 2014

Apart from the do’s and don’ts of acing an interview, one needs to be adaptable when on the job.

DRESS up, be confident, make eye contact. These are the common tips featured in “how to ace an interview” articles.

For the jobless fresh graduate, these articles may be a lifeline, to be followed to the letter. However, the results may be unnerving.

During the recent Roundtable on Graduate Employability organised by KDU University College, editor and head Lily Cheah said that she had encountered an interviewee who stared at her, without moving his gaze, the entire time she was talking. It was quite discomforting, she added.

“I know that he was trying to make eye contact but it was not coming across well,” she said, adding that being calm and acting naturally during interviews was an important factor.

“They (interviewers) want to find out what the person really is like,” she said.

Cheah was one of the six panelists during the roundtable that included other individuals from the Government, various industries and an education institution, who gathered to discuss solutions to graduate unemployability.

The Graduate Employability Blueprint 2012-2017, released by the then Higher Education Ministry included employer reports which said that graduates lacked several “key characteristics” — a strong command of English, the right attitude and the ability to solve problems.

Commenting on the current employment situation, Education Ministry senior principal assistant secretary (Planning and Research Division) Dr Guan Eng Chan said 75% of graduates from both the private and public universities were gainfully employed or furthered their studies within six months of graduation.

He congratulated KDU University College on having a 95% graduate employability rate, which was high compared to the national average.

“But to our surprise, the unemployability rate is not that serious because after two years, we conducted longitudinal studies and went back to the old graduates and found that 100% were employed,” he said, adding that this meant that graduates could find jobs if they wanted to.

He said that the other issue contributing to unemployability was institutions not knowing market needs. “Some just jump onto the bandwagon and end up producing too many graduates in the same field,” he said.

Roundtable moderator Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA) chief executive officer Datuk Dr Syed Ahmad Hussein pointed out that many industries were able to get “the bodies” but were unable to get high quality employees.

by Jeannette Goon.

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Effort to reduce number of low-performing schools

Monday, January 27th, 2014

KOTA KINABALU: The State Education Department is making an effort to reduce the number of low-performing schools, namely band six and seven, to 32 primary schools by year-end.

Its director Datuk Jame Alip in disclosing this also expressed confidence that their targeted Key Performance Index (KPI) for the District Transformation Programme (DTP) can be achieved through the implementation of several initiatives.

The initiatives include the Literacy and Numeracy (Linus 2.0); Garis Asas Infrastruktur (GAI); Pre-school Enrolment, the International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).

However, the figure was a minimum target set by the Education Ministry, and believed that they would be able to reduce more.

“Instead, the department will increase the number of schools under band one and two by performing better in the Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) and Penilaian Menengah Rendah (PMR), as part of efforts to narrow the gap between urban and rural schools.

“At the same time, we also hope to narrow the gap between Sabah and other states,” he told reporters after officially closing a workshop to set the KPI targets for the state and district, here, yesterday.

Based on record, of the 1,064 primary schools in Sabah in 2012, a total of 35 are still under band six and seven.

“So this year, we hope to reduce the number by 1.4 per cent to 32 schools,” he said.

Touching on DTP, Jame said that Sabah and Kedah, which had been picked for the pilot project, were entering their second year of implementation.

Through the programme, a total of 158 School Improvement Specialist Coaches (SISC) have been appointed to guide teachers in teaching specific subjects, while another 44 trainers from the School Improvement Partners (SIP) would be guiding the headmasters, headmistresses and principals.

Under LINUS 2.0, it would be focusing on English literacy, he said.

“We were seventh among 16 states under the Bahasa Melayu LINUS,” he said.

Jame said through the GAI, its priority is to repair dilapidated schools.

“Infrastructure development will be given to schools which are in need of critical repairs, be it on the building, electricity and water supplies, or tables and chairs.

“Under TIMSS and PISA, Sabah’s initiative is through the Higher Order Thinking Skills (KBAT).

One-upmanship will cause difficulties

Monday, January 27th, 2014

THE democratic space offered by the Internet is so vast that freedom of expression has reached levels beyond the expectations of those who crafted the concept of the ideological system.

This is well and good to a certain extent as no one has a monopoly to shape public opinion, nor can anyone claim to be deprived of having a say at all.

It is only unsettling when hate mongering under the guise of an alternative voice gets as much traction as sober analyses from cool heads to sway the thinking of the masses.

Dissension, even the very virulent, now reaches such a wide audience that the concept of a mainstream thought has been turned on its head for good.

Issues deemed sensitive in the old days are now up for debate for everyone, including those with the most twisted logic on the World Wide Web.

Strangely, some have mistaken being a common sociopath to being opinionated.

The next mad man, anonymously, of course, on the Web, can now garner as wide an audience as articulate and urbane intellectuals when dishing out their opinions.

The kalimah “Allah” is one good example of how the Internet soapbox allows anyone with a data plan and smartphone to launch a diatribe from even his loo to advertise his views.

For a rising number of these types, sensitivity or common social grace over the religion, race or creed of others is only good when it is flushed down the bowl.

Adding more disquiet to the situation is when certain seemingly educated individuals or groups choose to ignore the good old social responsibility when discussing the kalimah issue in the public sphere.

To give a sheen of legal acceptability, they helpfully lift the Federal Constitution to justify their stand on the issue with little thought spared for the feelings of others.

Oblivious to them is that building a peaceful society is not entirely based on the strict code of the law, which also needs some tempering with common decency and tact to ensure fairness. What needs to be asked of them is whether the constitution should also explicitly spell out a provision until they can legally be told to offer greetings to their next door neighbour.

Our wishes evolve as we grow older

Monday, January 27th, 2014

CHANGING PERSPECTIVES: One day, you realise you are wishing the best for others and hardly any more for yourself.

Chocolate maker Cadbury has developed a temperature tolerant Dairy Milk that resists melting in hot weather.

The bar can withstand 40oC heat for more than three hours and the product will be sold in warmer countries.

This delightful piece of news means that forgotten chocolate bits left in pockets will no longer turn gooey, for sometime at least.

Certainly one of my childhood wishes come true.

We seem to carry with us a never-ending list of wishes in our hearts and if we really sit down and try to remember, I do believe that many of them have come true.

Why, even Jiminy Cricket (after singing When You Wish Upon a Star in Walt Disney’s 1940 adaptation of Pinocchio says: “Pretty, huh? I’ll bet a lot of you folks don’t believe that, about a wish comin’ true, do ya? Well, I didn’t, either.

“Of course, I’m just a cricket singing my way from hearth to hearth, but let me tell you what made me change my mind.”

Jiminy was talking about Pinocchio, the wooden puppet’s wish to become a real boy.

One of my earliest wishes when I was 6 was to get a baby doll.

Then wishes for good school grades, for the ability to enjoy food without growing sideways and for a world without mosquitoes or flies or cockroaches followed.

Sometimes, I wished for the appearance of a fairy godmother, like that in story books who could grant you any wish. To outsmart the fairy godmother, I wished that anything I wished for would come true. In that way I would have what I wished for any day of my life.

When a wish comes true, we are over the moon. We have finally arrived as we have got what we wanted and strived for. We smile and we re-enact the ‘happy scene’ again and again in our minds.

Yet strangely the period of exuberance and jubilation experienced does not seem to equate the long suffering involved in waiting for the wish to come true.

The thing about wishes is that they evolve over time.

Physiological wishes give way to wishes for safety, for belonging, for self esteem and finally, for self actualisation.

Strangely, wishes mirror Maslow’s hierarchy of needs represented in a pyramid with physiological needs at the base and self actualisation at the apex.

It’s a shame to bin food

Monday, January 27th, 2014

BAD HABITS: A third of everything grown on Earth is lost or wasted during production and consumption.

I was buying half-priced bread in  a Japanese bakery stand before closing time one evening when my friend noticed the staff throwing unsold bread and pastries into rubbish bags.

We asked if they give their unsold bread to homes. The staff told us that they donate unsold products to homes only on Mondays and Tuesdays.

It was a Friday and there were several large garbage bags filled with unsold bread and pastries.

We offered to take the bread off them but were told that it is company policy to bin unsold bread rather than give them away.

It’s no wonder that Malaysians waste 15,000 tonnes of food daily, enough to feed 7.5 million people or about one third of our population.

Of the amount wasted, 10 per cent to 15 per cent are either unconsumed or expired.

By comparison, Hong Kong dumped 3,600 tonnes of food waste a day in 2011.

That’s 0.50kg of food waste per person daily, compared with 0.36kg produced in Singapore, 0.35kg in Taiwan and 0.29kg in South Korea, according to Friends of the Earth.

The 2012 Auditor-General’s report highlighted an oversupply of dry rations to the tune of RM47.98 million to the Royal Malaysian Navy between 2010 and 2012.

Only 28 per cent of the supplies worth RM13.46 million were used.

This kind of waste is offensive when there are poor and homeless people who don’t know where their next meal will come from.

At this rate, we may one day catch up with wasteful British households that throw away about 4.4 million tonnes of edible food a year with bread being the most wasted of all.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) indicates that 32 per cent of bread purchased by United Kingdom households is dumped when it could be eaten.

Globally, food waste takes its toll by draining natural resources and adds to negative environmental impacts.

by Eleanor Chen.

We are what we think

Monday, January 27th, 2014

READING gets into you. How many times have you felt that you’ve connected with a character in a novel or a play?

The brain does curious things to what you feed it, but basically it works on inputs, just as the plastic surgeon Maxwell Maltz discovered a long time ago, that if you practise movements in your mind, say throwing a basketball, your brain sends signals to the muscles that are actually involved in throwing the ball. The brain shapes itself — and you — from the imagined into the real.

A famous Olympic gold medal winning swimmer said recently that he achieved conf

Hoping more Sabahans in top post

Saturday, January 25th, 2014

Kota Kinabalu: Fifth Infantry Brigade Commander Brigadier-General Datuk Ranjit Singh hopes more Sabahans would follow in his footsteps and go for the top post in the military service.

“There are not many Sabahans holding the top rank positions and the highest rank in Sabah right now is held by me, but we still have a long way to go in finding my successor, particularly among Sabahans,” he said.

He said with this in mind, the Fifth Infantry Brigade has conducted various school to school programmes to encourage more Sabahan youths, particularly those at the SPM level, to join the army.

“I want to encourage more Sabahans to join the army and not just be part of the army but to aim for the top post,” he said after attending the Fifth Infantry Brigade parade in conjunction with its 50th Jubilee Anniversary, here, Thursday.

A total of 27 officers and 327 military personnel of various ranks took part in the parade.

He said the Fifth Infantry has also been involved in numerous civic action programmes under the National Blue Ocean Strategy, which is not only to defend the country but to assist the people as well.

Among programmes conducted involved repairing houses for the poor in Pitas and building water supply channels for villagers in the interior in support of the State Government.

On another note, he encouraged military personnel of various ranks to think out of the box when executing their tasks.

“Yes, the army follows orders but at the same time we emphasise on getting military personnel from the lower rank up to the top ranks to take initiatives for the betterment of the force.

“If the army personnel just follow orders without thinking, they will be robots, thus, development of initiative and character profile of the soldier is very important, they must think one step forward.

“Armed forces nowadays are not similar to those 50 years ago, now we have Diploma and Degree holders and there is a lot that they can contribute when they think out of the box within the bounds of military instruction,” he said

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