Friday, August 31, 2007


Today is the 50th anniversary of Malaysian Independence.

Happy Merdeka to All!

The Prelude to the Big Day

The Day is almost upon us. Trien is in the hospital now. The baby will be born tomorrow, for sure. No more waiting. They are going to induce labor in the morning.

This morning, the baby started making these strange movements with her arms. It was unlike anything she'd ever done before. They were moving fast, unlike her normal sedate movements. After that, she didn't move at all for a couple hours. That got us worried.

We went to the hospital for a checkup. While we were concerned, we didn't think it was anything major. We figured she was probably asleep, but decided to play it safe. No use taking anything for granted when you are this far along.

After we got to the hospital, Melody moved slightly, but nothing like her normal movements, which would last for more than just a couple of seconds. They took Trien inside to the clinic, while I had to stay outside in the waiting area, and look cross eyed at the otheres waiting there, and ponder whether that was haze over Bukit Larut, or if it was just humidity.

There was a TV. It was on channel three, with a bunch of talking heads chattering on in Malay about Merdeka. I don't think I would have found it interesting even if I understood the language. Since there was only one other person there at the time, a middle aged, (or seemingly middle aged) Malay woman, I changed the to channel 7, where they were showing the Cirque du Soleil, which was much nicer, a helluva lot more interesting, and needed no translation.

Finally Trien came outside to see me. The results? The babys heartbeat was good. The ultrasound revealed that there was less fluid in the womb then there should be. So they were going to admit her to the hospital. I had to run over to the main building to get her admitted first.

At first the registrar wanted an RM 800 deposit. I told her I only had a couple hundred and change. She asked how much I wanted to give. I was ready to give her everything but the change. After talking to her though, and telling her that I worked at SERATAS, and had an employment letter (even though it only covers me), she waived the deposit. So I ran back to the maternity ward. Third class, which is an open ward with about 40 beds, dorm style. The first and second class wards were full. A busy Merdeka for babies, that's for sure.

When I got back, they had Trien on the fetal heart monitor, which gave Daddy some anxious moments, watching the heart rate go up to 150 or so, then down to 120.

I almost had a stroke, though, when they asked her to turn on her side. Then the fetal heart monitor started doing all sorts of things. One moment it would go to 240, then to 90, then to 190, then zero, then stop reading all together. Each time it would fluctuate, so would the beating of my heart, as if I was tied into the monitor. I ran to get the nurse, who looked at it, and had her lay back on her back, when everything went back to normal. The doctor looked at the tape, but didn't seem too concerned.

We are getting good support here from everyone here. Saras, the maternity nurse from the church, and her husband, who's a cop, picked me up at the hospital and took me home and back to the hospital, so I could get Trien's things. We didn't bring anything, since we didn't think she'd be admitted. Saras also told the nurses in the ward that Trien and I are her friends, and to keep a special eye on her. So we have been getting good service, despite being in the third class ward. Saras and her husband also brought their old Baby crib up to our apartment for us to use.

Saras is working the morning shift in the ward where Trien is, so she will be with her when they induce labor. I won't be, because they won't the Daddys in the ward until visiting hours at 12:30pm.

She won't be alone until then, though. Mr. S. Manogaran, one of the instructors at school, well, his wife happens to be a maternity nurse in the adjoining ward, just a few steps from where Trien is. I ran out to get Trien "Some rice and mutton", and I ran into him at the same restaurant buying something for his wife. I hurriedly rote down where Trien is, and when I came back, his wife came over to check to see how she was doing. She has my number to call me in case anything goes wrong. I'm sure she will be checking on Trien throughout the night. She was also very helpful in other things. God is really working overtime to help us out with this one.

We've already had lots of phone calls, and visits from friends wishing us well. Everyone has been offering their help and support. We don't lack for anything right now.

God has put us in a very good place. We are Truly Blessed!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Baby Report Week 40: Still Waiting

Today makes 40 weeks of pregnancy. Still no little Melody Angelica yet.

That's probably for the best, since my health hasn't been good the past few weeks. What with medical leave, the semester break, and what have you, the students here haven't seen much of me the past few weeks. When I walked into my first class this morning, the students actually cheered! That really made me feel good. Some of the the students told me that they missed me. One of the students told me how they were talking in class about how they miss my classes- my joking around, the things we do. When I walked into another class, there was a question written on the board:

"Why hasn't Mr. John been in class?"

I guess it was a rhetorical question.
Another question I was asked was whether I would be teaching here next year. That I don't know. I know Trien has been giving indications that she would like to stay another year. Being a Filipina, she's not going to say it right out, but I can read between the lines.

The students seem to want me to stick around for another year, but I don't know. The last principal was great, but this one, well- let me stop there and let you infer the rest.

Still, it's definitely nice to be missed, and to be appreciated.

When we leave here, I will miss this place.

On to business: Trien went for her checkup yesterday, and everything is normal. The baby's heartbeat is active, and everything is normal with Mommy, too. She has to keep track of the baby's movements. If the baby moves less than 10 times over 13 hours, we have to go to the hospital. If not, then Trien has an appointment next Wednesday. If she hasn't delivered before then, they will probably induce labor.

So at least we have a deadline.

Trien will be happy to finally give birth, what with all the changes her body has gone through, the discomfort, and everything else. It will be a relief to not be a raging hormone factory any more. To her credit, she has been pretty even tempered through it all.

Well, time to go. I am getting kicked out of the pc room in school.

Happy Merdeka to All!!!

Jungle Crotch Rot

Yup, that's what I got. I haven't been feeling well the past couple of weeks, and this certainly doesn't help any.

I had cold and was feeling constricted in my chest. I went to a couple of doctors, and they gave me the usual, cough syrups, some antibiotics, but they didn't help much. Sister Saras from our church, recommended Dr. Philipp, who has a surgery by the firehouse. He looked me over, and diagnosed that I had a mild case of pneumonmia. So he gave me a bunch of antibiotics, and no cough syrup. He also said that I might have Grave's Disease, or hyperthyroid.

So on Sunday, I fasted- nothing unusual there, I usually do anyway, and he took blood to do a comprehensive bloodwork on me. He also did an ultrasound scan of the vital organs, and continued the antibiotics.

Sunday night, I looked at Trien's leg, and there is an oozing cut on it that didn't look good at all.

Monday was the first day back after semester break. There wasn't much to do, because all my morning classes were canceled because of the assembly, and student meetings. So Mr. Wong drove me back home, and we picked up Trien, and went back to Dr. Philipp. Mr. Wong didn't have anything else to do either, and I know he was looking for an excuse to get away for awhile, too.

The doctor said it was either an allergy, or an insect bite. He gave Trien some cream.

I had some redness and soreness on my testicles. He checked that out, said it wasn't too bad, and that he didn't want to overload me by treating me for that, too.

So Trien and I had brunch at the roti cannai stand, and I walked back to school. When I went home, and took off my underwear, I literally had to peel it off, and there was blood in it. Not a lot, mind you, but enough. My cojones looked like ground hamburger, and were oozing. Not exactly the most comfortable feeling.

Trien made some calls, trying to see if there was a urologist around. We couldn't find any.

The next morning, I called work, and told them I was going with my wife to the doctor, which was the truth. We were going, but I was the one seeing him.

It was worse looking. I will save you the rest of the gory details. He gave me a shot of Rocephrin, some more antibiotics, and a topical cream. Plus, he gave me a medical certificate good for two days off. That way, I could stay at home, and walk around free and easy if I wanted. Instead, I wore a sarong, because one of Trien's Filipina friends came over, and they spent those two days decorating the baby's room.

Right now, I am a walking antibiotic cocktail. I got ones for pneumonia, and jungle crotch rot (I don't know what else to call it) running through me.

the JCR is getting better. The family jewels look less like swollen, scabby, oozing hambuger, and more like they should look. The infection, which was spreading to the underside of John Jr., hasn't gotten worse. Praise God for that!

I went back to work today. Thank God I got a ride just after I started walking, in a car, and not a motorbike! God is looking out for me.

When people at work asked me why I was walking funny, I just told them they didn't want to know. All I said was I had an infection in a painful place.

So literally, being at work today is a real pain in the balls!

At least tomorrow we have the day off, for Merdeka, the 50th anniversary of Malaysian Independence.

Good thing, too, because I think tomorrow Trien is going to give birth.

Monday, August 27, 2007

How to Make Your Own High Contrast Baby Mobile

From what I've been reading, mobiles are one of the greatest things you can get for your baby. Not only are they fascinated by them, and will look at them for hours, but they also stimulate your baby's development. One thing I read, said that by using a mobile over the crib, an infants brain connections can increase by 25%.

The best mobiles for baby's seem to be the so called "high contrast" black and white ones. Research shows that up until the fifth month, babies can only see in shades of gray. Because of this, high contrasting colors are what hold their interest, especially black and white (with possibly with a little red thrown in).

So of course, I would like to get one of these for our little Melody when she is born.

I can't go out and buy one from the store. The only kind of baby mobiles I can find here in Taiping are these cheap Chinese made plastic musical monstrosities, that would either give your baby lead poisoning, or break after you wind it up a couple of times. Definitely not what I am looking for. Instead, I bought a colorful wind chime.

Still, I want to get one of these cool high contrast baby mobiles for Melody. It is highly unlikely that there is a store even in Penang that sells something like them. Buying it online and having it shipped here? Please, be serious. The freight charges alone would kill you, that is, if they would even consider shipping it here in the first place. So it seems that the only way I am going to be able to get one of these cool mobiles for Melody is to make one myself.

So I set out on a webquest:

1. To find a site that will have high contrast images I can download and print out

2. And also tell me how to make the thing.

I found a couple of sites that fit the bill.

This site has some really great images in pdf format that you can download, and print out later. As for me, using the cranky computers we have in school, I found it easier to click on the images, save them to the desktop, then print them out. It also has simple instructions on how to put your mobile together. The images above are from this site.

For those who need more detailed instructions on how to build your high contrast baby mobile, there is this site, complete with step by step pictures. It is written by a guy who was challenged by his wife to build his own baby mobile in one afternoon. So I suppose if you have the time, it is possible to do.

This site has high contrast pictures of animals, like the ones you see at the right. It also has some instructions, but if you aren't that handy, you may want to look at the above mentioned website to get some idea of what you are doing.

I already printed out the black and white pictures I need. Some of the other stuff I have lying around the house. I'll have to look around for the cardboard and other things I'll need, but they shouldn't be too hard to find, even in Taiping.

I figure that I can build this after Melody is born, and I am on paternity leave. She'll probably be sleeping most of the time anyway, so this will give me something useful and creative to do. Trien will probably want to do her part, too. It should be fun to build something together for our daughter.

Only one problem though- I am trying to figure what I am going to use to hang it from. My idea is to buy one of those cheap Chinese musical mobiles, throw out the mobile, and just use the hanger. Hmmm . . . maybe I can get some use out of that cheap Chinese mobile after all. I can use it to terrorize the stupid cats that hang around here. That is, if Trien would let me!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Toyota's Contribution to Merdeka- The "Merde Car"

Merdeka is the Malaysian word for Independence. It also is the word for Malaysian Independence day.This Friday, August 31st, is the 50th anniversary of Malaysian Independence. So there will be a big celebration and what not going on.

Last year, Toyota in KL decided to have a promotion to mark Merdeka. What brilliant idea did they come up with? How about-

The Merde Car!!!
(pictured above)

Obviously, no one in the Toyota office here speaks French. If you don't know what merde means, I'm not going to tell you. Suffice it to say you won't find it in the average English-French dictionary. But if you eat some bad Brie, you'll end up making lots of it. . .

National Conference

Tomorrow is supposed to be the start of CfBT Malaysia's National Conference. All the other PET's (Project English Teachers, not a very flattering acronym), ELC's (English Language Coordinators- what can I say, someone in the Ministry of Education must have a thing for animal acronyms), at least the ones still standing, errrr . . . remaining, are going to be there. So will the whole CfBT office staff, higher ups from the CDC (No- not the Center for Disease Control. In Malaysia it means the Curriculum Development Center of the Ministry of Education, who are our bosses) and various VIP's from the Ministry looking for a free lunch. I'm told it's going to be held at a very nice resort hotel in Malacca. Which one, I'm not sure. It doesn't matter anyway. I'm not going.

Not that I wouldn't love to go. It would be nice to get another weeks vacation tacked on to a nine day semester break, at a resort hotel. Even at a crappy resort hotel. Or wherever. It also would be nice to get to see everybody again, and see how they are getting on. In any other situation, Trien and I would be going home after I finish here, and she's done talking with her friends at Vanessa's apartment, to pack up our things.

Not this time, though. Instead, we are going to go home, get a shower, and start decorating the baby's room, before her much anticipated arrival. Then I have to get to bed so I can go teach tomorrow. WHOOOOOOOPEEEE! Now isn't that exciting? I sure as anything rather be on the road to Malacca tomorrow. As long as Rod Deering wasn't driving his Proton Saga like a test track driver. He tends to do that when he gets deep into a discussion. Or maybe it's when he doesn't like the way the discussion is going. I'm not sure which.

I wouldn't be in this spot if the CDC didn't keep moving the date for the conference around. It was canceled twice. Originally it was going to be in June, which would have been fine. Then it was going to be in the beginning of July, which was still OK. Then, in all their infinite wisdom, they move it to the week Trien is due to deliver. So that means no free vacation with all the rest of CfBT, at least not this year.

Instead, my vacation will come after Melody is born. And what vacation could be better than that?

Saturday, August 25, 2007

My Latest Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Obsession

I have previously written about having Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. It's something I can't deny. It's an everyday part of my life, just like eating and sleeping. Just like eating and sleeping, some days I end up obsessing and compulsing more than other days, depending on circumstances, such as how much idle free time I have. Obviously, the more idle free time I have, the more time I have to indulge my urge to eat, sleep, and perform my "rituals" (like hand washing), and obsess on things.

One of the ways that my OCD manifests is that I get the compulsion to collect things. Without a doubt, I am a pack rat. I have a hard time throwing anything, even the most meaningless piece of paper, out. It is a small triumph if I am able to go through the ever growing piles of paper and miscellaneous excreta on my desk at work and throw anything out.

When I have too much idle time, or get stressed, I go on these collecting jags. You never know what it might be that I will obsess on collecting. All I know is that I have to satisfy the urge somehow, or I start obsessing about it. Then, the collecting urge gets worse, in a vicious cycle. I have been able to stifle the urge somewhat, and not clutter our place, by downloading files from the Internet.

My portable hard drive has 1,150 songs on it. Every time I go to th Internet cafe, I end up downloading more. It seems that I want to download every song that has been background music to my life, because every song has a memory connected with it.

Memories, or actually the anticipation of memories to come, is what is feeding my latest collecting craze- baby toys, and things for our baby.

I got back yesterday, and showed Trien what I bought. She thought what I bought was reasonable and useful, and when her friends came over today, they liked it too. So I felt good.

Today I had to run out of the house and go find stuff to decorate the baby's room. I spent at least a half hour pondering the virtues of the various wind chimes in one of the local stores before one of the salesgirls came over and tried to help me. I explained why I was so obsessed with wind chimes, then finally realized I better come back tomorrow with Trien and have her help me pick one out. In the meantime, I bought one of the small ones. Why, I don't know. Maybe just to introduce the concept to my wife, and show her how nice it would be to put one, (or more) in Melody's room.

Then it was over to The Store (that is the department store chains name), to spend more time in the baby section looking at the toys, then at the toy session. Before you know it, three hours had gone by all together. I did get something great, some rattle socks they talked about in ythe baby development book. Buying those, for me, was a minor triumph. Then there was the cute baby overalls that were on sale . . .

I know that I am doing this because of stress, and impatience waiting for Melody to be born. Who knows how I will act, and what I will obsess on, after she is born.

Even I can't tell you that!

Friday, August 24, 2007

My Latest Project

I am here at the Internet Cafe. Trien is alone at home. While I don't like leaving her, I had no choice. She was tired. After all, she went walking four times yesterday, because she thought that by getting exercise, she might induce labor. Obviously that didn't work. All it did was wear her out. Meanwhile, Melody is happily kicking away in the womb. She doesn't seem to want to come out.

On one of her walks yesterday, Trien and I went to the BabyCentre, here in Taiping, to pick up a few things we need. They obviously recently took inventory, and rearranged things. Because of that, I was able to find a couple of things that weren't there before.

One was a baby bath. This one had obviously been sitting in a storeroom somewhere, because it was dirty, and the a little bit of the slip-proof padding on the back had come unglued. It was perfect for our needs. After finding out from the salesperson that it was the only one, I was able to get a 25% discount. That made me feel good. I washed it today, and it looks good as new.

The other thing was a glove that had finger puppets on it. It is blue, has a castle on the hand, and five different characters on the fingers. There is a king, a queen, a jester, a knight, and a dragon. I was showing it to Trien and doing my cartoon voices by her tummy, and Melody must have liked that, because she was moving like crazy.

Well, our trip yesterday, and the fact that I started reading a book on how to stimulate your baby's development, plus the fact I had to get out, made me take a trip over to the local department store to raid the toy department. Trien is going to kill me when she sees what I bought. What the heck, at least I will have fun playing with it before the baby comes!

Then I figured- instead of buying stuff- Why not make my own! That would be fun, and keep Trien from tying to the bed to keep me from buying more baby toys.

So my latest project will be making a baby mobile. I already have the plans on my portable hard drive. It looks really simple, and I can use either stuff from around the house, or stuff that's easy to get. If I make my own, we can change the little things hanging down, whatever you call them, whenever I feel like making different ones. One thing though- instead of using string, it looks like it is advisable to use zip ties, so baby doesn't get tangled or strangled. That's because whatever I make or buy, its all got to be baby safe. Believe me, Daddy is not going to take any chances with Melody's health and safety. It means the world to me!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Visitation by the Sultan of Perak

The Sultan of Perak, Sultan Azlan Shah, visitied us at SERATAS on Saturday, August 19. That doesn't mean much when you feel like crap. I'll write more when I feel better. It was my job to take pictures, so here's a couple of the Royal Dude of Perak, and his ride, a Rolls Royce limo.

Most excellent wheels, Your Royal Dudeness!

Pregnancy Report Week 39- Still Waiting

Trien just finished her latest checkup. All is well. She had her scan, and the baby is OK. The only problem she had was last night Melody slept all night with her feet pressing just below Triens rib cage. When Daddy "tickled" Melody's feet in the morning, she changed position, and everything was all right.

Me? I'm not so well. The reason I haven't been blogging regularly is that I've been feeling sick the past couple of weeks. I want to the doctor before, but it didn't help too much.

I went to another doctor today, because I don't want to get Trien sick just before she delivers, or get the baby sick after she delivers. This doctor was recommended to us by Saras, the nurse at the maternity center who goes to our church. He is the closest doctor to our place, and seems to be pretty good. His office is pretty well stocked. He even has an ultrasound machine in his examining room. He listened to my symptoms, checked me out, and after listening to my chest, he thinks I might have a mild case of pneumonia. He gave me some antibiotics, vitamins, and other stuff.

He wants to check me out for a hyperthyroid. In checking out what the symptoms are, it looks like he might be on the right track. My problems could be caused by more than just stress. No other doctor even thought to look past the immediate symptoms. I guess Doctor Philipp will be getting more of our business from now on.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Pregnancy Report Week 38- Back Again

I haven't been blogging for the past few days because I have been sick. It has been because of a combination of things- one of which is the haze which our kind, considerate neighbors in Sumatra send our way every August. This has lead to some respiratory problems. It could be that I am allergic to something in the smoke. One thing I know is that I don't like breathing it, even though here in Taiping it is nowhere near as dense as in KL.

The other thing is exhaustion. I haven't been sleeping well because of worry and anxiety over Trien's pregnancy, and that has taken a toll on me. When I go to school in the morning I feel like I am still asleep, and feel the same way all day.

Mr. Wong took me to see a doctor, one of his friends he plays squash with. Dr. Prem Kumar is in his early sixties, but looking at him you would swear that he is at least twenty years younger. Mr. Wong says he plays squash like he was twenty years younger too. His office is in a little old Kampung building in Pokok Assam, across from the post office. He took my blood pressure, which was normal. Last time it was taken, it was high- 150/90. Again, from stress.

So he checked me out, and looked at my throat. After he did, he said it was in bad shape, and asked me if I smoked. I don't, at least not voluntarily. Living in Malaysia during The Haze is like smoking six packs of cigarettes a day, except you have no idea what kind of toxic substances you are inhaling.

He gave me some cough medicine, vitamin C, antibiotics, and I guess some acetaminophen- the standard stuff.

I took it, as the doctor ordered, and felt like I was in a coma for the first day, and semi-conscious the second. The third day I was just walking around in a fog, and went to teach class.

I know I have to try to relax more, and get some more rest.

As for the baby, we are still waiting. Trien keeps having false labor pains. That's kind of hard, because after a while, it becomes like the boy who cried wolf. Of course it's not her fault. Her body is just getting ready for the big day.

Every day brings the big event a little closer. Every day the waiting gets harder.

Monday, August 13, 2007

A Preview of What is to Come

These are a couple of pictures from our photo sharing site. They are of Trien, with our friend's daughter. I looked at them and said, "Wow! This is what will be happening soon!"


So I have to satisfy my urge to see our baby by looking at these pictures in proxy, and pretending that is our baby she is holding.


The waiting gets harder every day.

The Worst Reviewed Film Ever

I saw this film after my house mate in Korea, Tony rented the video. Tony was a kid just out of college, and even he couldn't sit through more than a few minutes of this without screaming and tearing out his hair. Even though it didn't cost me a cent to watch it, I still wanted my money back! You can't even call this a film by any stretch of the imagination. As a matter of fact, I don't have the slightest idea what you would call it. You can call it the greatest affront to western culture ever created, and no one would bother to argue with you.

This one is really, truly, horribly bad. There is not one redeeming feature or quality to this movie. To say this so called film is utterly brainless would be paying it a compliment of the first order. Everyone involved in its making should be tortured to death by having to watch the outtakes. At the very least, they should all be neutered so that they won't have children who will grow up and make execrable disgraces such as this.

I say this after only seeing five minutes of it. After that, I had to turn it off because I lost more neurons in those five minutes than I would have if I spent the rest of my life dropping acid. If I was forced to watch any more of it, I would have had to end my suffering by reaching under the kitchen sink and drinking a Drano cocktail.

It would be a great movie to use to force prisoners into giving confessions in Gitmo.

So, are you curious to find out what it is?

I post the link to here, so others may not have to suffer this insult to humanity.

Believe me, even if you are alone on a desert island somewhere, and there is no other entertainment available, you're better off spending your time masturbating. At least if you do that, you'll feel good.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

More Monkey Pictures

Here's some more monkey pictures.

This family was feeding these guys bananas, so the kids could get a close up look.

Too bad I couldn't get a picture of the kid's faces in the car.
That would have been a prize winner for sure!

Dirty Monkeys

Everyone loves pictures of monkeys. I like taking pictures of them. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Here are two of some wet and dirty monkeys. I have no idea what they did to get themselves in such a state, but it must have been fun. I publish these without further comment. Make of them what you will.

The Latest Mommy Pics

I finally got Trien to pose for some new Mommy pictures before church today. Not that I can blame her for not posing before. If I was pregnant, had a big tummy, and had to pee constantly, I wouldn't feel much like posing either. Not if I cared anything about what I looked like.

She thinks that being pregnant makes her look ugly. Sometimes she looks at herself and then at me and says, "Ugly Mommy, handsome Daddy." Sure, being in this state can't make you feel very beautiful. It's draining, both physically and mentally, I know. Yet the changes that have taken place in her body don't make her look ugly to me. Sure, a huge belly might look unsightly, but nothing could make her more beautiful than carrying my child. Sometimes there is just a little something about her, yes, you might even say a glow, that really makes her seem so pretty.

So I never tried to force things. Still, I want to have something to show our daughter when she is older. Some Mommy pictures to show her along with the first baby pictures.

Trien also gets a little jealous if she sees me looking at other women. I always do it, partially because I like observing people, and partially because I like looking at beautiful things, and I find few things more lovely than the female countenance and form. If I didn't, then I wouldn't have married one!

So in order to make her feel better about herself, and let her know I still love her and find her attractive, I try to take her picture. I never have asked any other woman to pose for me, have I Baby?

If she has her way, I never will.

If I have my way, these are the last Mommy pictures she'll pose for.
The waiting continues.

Friday, August 10, 2007

SERATAS Makes the Malaysian Book of Records

Congratulations to our students, who made the Malaysian Book of Records for "The Biggest National Logo Made of Recyclable Materials".

The other week I left the staff room, when I saw a bunch of form 1 and form 2 students dipping donut shaped pieces of paper in blue paint. Meor, one of the students from 2Z, had so much blue paint all over him, that he looked like an extra from "Braveheart". When I asked Meor and the other students what they were doing, they weren't able to tell me anything, other than they were making a flag or something. Then it started to rain, and they started throwing the blue paper rings on the porch of the engineering building.

A couple of days ago I left the office, and the lower form students were on the field with plastic bags filled with red white and blue rings. Encik Khairuddin was on the loudspeaker in the reviewing stand, shouting instructions. Then it became clear what they were making- a national logo out of newspaper and cardboard for the 50th Merdeka, the 50th anniversary of Malaysian Independence.

Today, the students made the logo for some VIP from the education department who was retiring. They got a certificate from the Malaysian Book of Records honoring their achievement. They deserve it, if for nothing else than having to sit out in the hot sun for a couple of hours having to listen to a bunch of insipid "Inspirational Speeches". More like aural torture, I'd say.

Well anyway, congratulations kids! Both for the record, and enduring the sweltering heat and all the dramatically boring speeches.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Pregnancy Report Week 37: The Waiting

Well right now, it is just like it says in the old Tom Petty song: "The waiting is the hardest part". We have reached 37 weeks in the pregnancy, and now the baby is considered full term. Everything is developed, but she is still in Mommy's womb, growing and putting on weight.

Trien And I both can't wait for the birth. She has an advantage in waiting for the event that I don't. Our daughter talks to her, and appears in her dreams. She doesn't appear in mine, and I am starting to wonder why. I am her father, after all.

Trien says it is because her and our baby have such a close physical connection, which is true. In that aspect, I am on the outside looking in. I can put my hand on Trien's tummy and feel the baby moving inside her, but she actually has the baby inside of her, living as part of her. She feels little Melody there all the time, whether she is moving or not. So her connection with our daughter is very close, where mine is more distant. Why wouldn't there be a special psychic bond there between mother and daughter?

I envy my wife having this connection with our daughter before birth. Trien is already one up on me in bonding with our baby. What it means is that I will have to work that much harder to have the same connection with our daughter after birth. That doesn't bother me, because I know it will be worth it.

An example of what I am talking about is the dream Trien had yesterday. She saw our daughter, floating on some clouds, happy and playing. She saw her clearly- a little mestiza with black hair and her Daddy's eyes. Melody said "Hello Mommy!", and Trien said she felt like she was telling her that she was OK, you just have to wait. Trien felt happy after that dream, and knew everything is OK. Me? I'm still fetting and nervous, as usual.

This was Trien's 4th or 5th dream about the baby. I have only had one, and in my dream, I didn't even get to see her. It was just a vague, anomalous dream where I only felt her presence. Not very satisfying, but at least I did have some sort of brief psychic connection with our child.

Last night I sidled up to Trien's tummy, and I talked to Melody.

"Please, Melody, talk to Daddy in a dream like you talk to Mommy. Please let Daddy see you."

It didn't happen. It looks like my first glimpse of our daughter will come on the big day.

I'm still waiting, and like the song says, the waiting is the hardest part.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Baby Einstein and Brainy Baby Videos No Good for Your Baby?

Trien and I want to give our soon to be born daughter every developmental advantage we can. Not that I want to churn out a female John Stuart Mill or anything like that. We just want to develop her natural gifts and interests, without putting any pressure on her.

The first thing I did was to download a baby sign language book off the Internet. Later on, my sister sent us baby sign language flashcards. Bay sign language is supposed to be a great help both to baby and the parents, in that you can communicate with each other before your baby can speak. My brother and sister-in-law taught sign language to their daughter, and she is 20 months now and is very advanced in her language skills. She can speak and understand both Mandarin and English. They both swear that teaching her sign language greatly sped up her development in this area.

The next thing we have done to help our daughters development while she is in the womb, is that we have been playing classical music since about the 23rd week of pregnancy, when she first showed signs that she responded to music. We have some Mozart, and I have Beethoven, some Bach, and other classical music I am going to burn onto CD for our little Melody. One of the reasons we picked out the name Melody for her is because she seems to enjoy music so much. When we play music, she seems to start dancing in Mommy's tummy.

Finally, I have bought these "Baby Einstein" videos, which seem not to be real Baby Einstein videos, despite their official looking seal and packaging. One of them looks pretty professionally done, and might be the real thing, but the other two look like someones home videos with musical accompaniment. It looks like they spent all of $2 for the actors and production costs. Which Is less than the RM 20 it cost me to buy them.

Anyway, I did download the real thing at the Internet cafe here, and these look legit. I was already to burn them onto CD, until I read this article. Now I don't know what I am going to do.

I didn't know that pediatricians recommended that children under two not watch TV. OK- that means these videos and other of the same ilk are not recommended for use. But now, according to the article, there is legitimate research in The Journal of Pediatrics that says these videos can actually retard your baby's language development? YIKES!

I will have to do more research on the subject. In any case, I think the time would be better spent playing with Melody, and making faces with her, than watching videos.

What the hell! Into the trash, and erased from the hard drive they go!

If that's true, the "Baby Einstein" videos I bought are destined to become Frisbees, decorations, or coasters. It seems like they'll be more useful that way.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007


OK, so somehow I am able to Blog, I just can't see what I publish. I guess somehow in the fit of things in this part of the Internet universe, that makes sense. Little else does.

Like when I come home, and my wife is running the water in the bathroom, and nothing is coming out but mud. It seems that they are working on the water mains in front of our apartment complex, ripping up trees and digging trenches, and making a horrible mess of the landscape. And more than likely, doing a really sh***y job of it too, but this is Malaysia, and the prevailing attitude is "I just don't care". They didn't give any notice that this would happen, again, because the attitude is, "I just don't care."

Well, I do care, and I care about a lot of things people tell me I shouldn't care about. Fine. I'll write about those things later. One of the things I do care about is writing this Blog. For me, it's becoming more and more, "I think, therefore I Blog". Whatever I think about, I like to write here. I have to get this stuff down, whether anybody reads it or not. Of course, I would like others to read and enjoy what I write, but I get pleasure just from writing it.

Like Socrates or someone else said, "The unexamined life is not worth living" Right now, I think I am starting to understand what that means. I don't know if it's not worth living, but I know it's a lot less interesting, and you miss a lot of lessons a long the way. It sucks when you miss a life lesson, and then have to go through the same thing over and over, in an endless feedback loop, because you didn't take time to look at what was happening to you, and all around around you, and learn the lesson the first time. That has happened to me a lot, but as I am getting older, and hopefully wiser, it is happening less and less. The things that I do miss, usually, in my own unique myopic way, are the major things standing in front of me that I should pay more attention too. I'm learning that I have to catch something right at the beginning, and not let it get out of hand and blow up into a big issue. Sure, I've hurt people and made mistakes, and that nags at me. People may forgive me, but sometimes I just can't forgive myself. I am getting better at that, though, and learning to look deep inside of me and see what caused whatever it was, and try to deal with it courageously. It hurts to suddenly see yourself not as you think you are, but through the eyes of reality.

As George Santayana said, "Those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it." I don't want to repeat history. Especially not to repeat the parenting mistakes my parents made with me. With all my Soul, I want to be the best parent I can be to my daughter, and be the best husband I can be to my wife. This takes a lot of inner scrutiny, and a lot of fortitude, but I don't want to hurt the ones I Love the most. I don't want to hurt anybody any more, intentionally or not. I don't want to hurt myself anymore. I want to Love myself the way that God Loves me, the way that my wife Loves me, and the way I hope our baby will Love me.

That takes introspection. Writing this Blog is helping me to see things, even if I don't share them with you. Sometimes I like the things I see. Other times I don't. But at least now, I am seeing them.

OK, enough of this mental vomit for now.

Test Post: The Bloggers Lament

The Ministry of Education has this crazy filtering system here. I can see the reason for that, but I can't see the reason for some of the sites they block. Yesterday I wrote a post, and because of the filter used by the ministry servers, I lost it all. So today I am going to experiment, and see if there is a way for me save this or to publish it. As a test, I give you this original poem, "A Bloggers Lament", based on a popular jingle commonly written on bathroom walls.

Here I sit,
Tried to Blog,
But can't get started

Sunday, August 5, 2007

My 200th Post- OCD and ADD

So, I've come to another milestone in my life. 200 posts. I've stuck with this blogging thing for two hundred posts, and I'm still going. Keeping at any project for 200 times is quite an accomplishment for me. That's because I suffer from a double whammy of alphabetical psychological syndromes- OCD and ADD, and who knows what else. At least in this case, my OCD is helping me, by giving me a compulsion to keep blogging, no matter what. If you know how to manipulate it, OCD can actually be helpful in certain ways. Mostly, though, it is just a real pain in the ass.

I've written about my OCD before. It's still there, and it manifests itself in different ways. The most obvious way it manifests is through the classical symptoms of hand washing and germophobia. I wash my hands many times a day. My bottle of hand sanitizer stays with me wherever I go. If I touch anything which I consider "dirty", out comes the sanitizer, and I feel better. What does "dirty" consist of? Sometimes I don't even know myself. I know that if something that is "dirty" touches something that is "clean", then what is clean instantly becomes "dirty", and stays that way until it is somehow sanitized. I carry a whole list of things that are "dirty" in my mind, things (and sometimes people) that I have to avoid for various reasons. Otherwise, I become dirty, and I have to do some cleaning ritual to make myself clean again.

Sometimes it is a thought that makes me dirty, and then I have to cleanse that thought from my mind, by doing another ritual. It could be saying a phrase to neutralize that bad thought. Sometimes I get that bad thought out of my mind by literally spitting it out, and expelling it from my mind and my consciousness. Other times, the only way to get that thought out of my mind is to obsess on something else.

Sometimes it is something else that I can't get out of my mind. Sometimes it is a song that literally will keep playing over and over in my mind for days on end. The only way to stop it is to find another song to take its place, hopefully one my mind will find less catchy. What helps during these times is that I have the ability to deconstruct the song in my mind, and follow the various parts. For example, lets say that the song that I am obsessing over is Pink Floyd's "The Wall". What I can do is follow just the lead guitar part, and then take it, and play around with it, and improvise a new lead part in my head. Then I can fit that into the rest of the parts, and play that back in my head. If I want to, I can follow each one of the parts individually in my head in turn, and play around with them. Sometimes what I will do is follow one of the parts, play around with it, and come up with a whole new song. I just wish that I knew how to write music, so that I could get these things down.

I also have the compulsion to fix things, straighten things and put them in order. If there's a loose thread somewhere, of course, I have to pull it, even if it means partially unraveling a sweater. If something is out of order, even if it doesn't seem that way to others, I have to "fix" it. Even if I know it would be better just to leave things alone, sometimes I just can't help myself. I just have to mess with things. I have to make things "perfect", even if I know that will make things worse. For example, sometimes I like to draw. Sometimes I can capture something in just a few simple lines. I stop and admire it. Then I have to try to improve it, and by adding another line or two to it, I ruin it, and that magic is lost.

Then there's also the compulsion to collect things. I have learned to control this somewhat by buying a portable hard drive. That way I can collect electrons and groups of ones and zeros, and easily move them from place to place. Electrons and ones and zeros don't weigh much, or take up space, which makes them very convenient for someone like me who likes to move from place to place. It was a really hard when my compulsion was to collect books.

I ended up with about 20 milk crates full of books. I never read 90% of them. I would buy a book because you never know when oh, say, a book like "Build Your Own Underground Home" will come in handy, or who could use it. So I would collect ball sorts of books, and drag them around with me all over the place. I would never think of getting rid of any of them, so they just kept piling up. They are sitting in my Mom's garage, along with the rest of my worldly goods she hasn't gotten rid of yet. My Mom complains that there is no space in her garage. It seems that she is a bit of a collector herself.

I have the first season of Monk on CD, and Trien likes to watch it before bedtime, now that we don't have cable TV anymore. I think she likes to watch it because she is looking for tips on how to live with me, or why I act the way I do. More than once she has said that me and Mr. Monk are the same. That's because she just doesn't know what label to put on my behavior. Well, Baby, it's OCD- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

It's not something I want to pass on to my daughter. I pray that she won't have OCD, and be able to live a somewhat normal life free from rituals, obsessions, and compulsions, unlike me.

As for the ADD- well I'll have to write about that some other time. It is getting late, and Trien is at her friend's apartment. I know she'll be wanting to go home very soon. She may have even been calling me, but I wouldn't have none it because I have the volume cranked up on my headphones. What am I listening to? All the music that I have downloaded to my portable hard drive, of course!

Saturday, August 4, 2007

The Merdeka Coloring Contest

Today there was a coloring contest, held at the hall across the street from the Lake Gardens hawker center. It was sponsored by our church, Shekinah AOG, and the local member of Parliament, Datuk Dr. M. Kayveas. Trien had handed out entry forms to her friends so that their kids could enter. She wanted to go there and see what was going on. That was fine with me, but I wasn't going to stay. I spend all week around kids, so on the weekends, I need a break.

We walked over there. I wanted to take some "Mommy pictures" of her, to post on my Blog. She refused to stop and pose. So that meant that I had to take some action pictures. I was going to post one that had her sticking her tongue out at me wearing a really sour expression. She is sitting next to me, and said she will not be happy if I post it. Her tone and expression made it clear that there would be repercussions later, so like a good husband, I deleted it. So here is the nicest of the action shots for your perusal. As you can see, her tummy is getting really big.

Anyway, we got to the hall, and it was packed with kids, all busy coloring away. Some of the littlest one were doing the most professional job. Their parents had obviously sent them for lessons. Trien just told me about on little boy who insisted on giving all the people on his sheet green faces. They gave him 4 different sheets to color, and he made them green on each one.

Then there was Ramesh's son. When Trien asked his wife how he son did, she said, "Oh, he did very well! He was the first one finished!" She was joking, of course. Her son couldn't understand what was taking the others so long. Needless to say, he didn't take home a prize.

As for me, I went to the hawker stalls for my regular Saturday roti pisang breakfast. Then it was off to the Baby Center, to by a surprise gift for our baby.

Trien had wanted her friends and their kids to come to our place after the competition, so that they could go to the playground later on. I said no. I wanted to rest and have some peace, and I didn't want to have an apartment full of screaming kids running around. Last week I had to work Saturday, and had a full schedule of 6 classes, and this week was kind of rough. Being the sweet wife she is, Trien didn't argue. Instead, they went to someone elses house and had a Filipino barbecue. Thank God for that, because when I called her later, They were all so loud I couldn't hear her!

Time to go! Until tomorrow!

Friday, August 3, 2007

Pregnancy Report- Week 36

OK, it looks like time is growing short. Things are happening that make it seem like the baby will be coming earlier than the end of August, as we were first told.

I came back from work on Monday, and Trien was in the living room, packing everything up for the trip to the hospital. Of course when you see your 9 month pregnant wife waddling around packing her bags, you know something is up, even if she insists that everything is OK.

Then she told me the news. Little Melody had dropped down into position for birth. While waddling around getting everything ready, she kept holding her tummy like it was an overloaded sack of groceries. She had a pained look on her face that she was trying to hide, but couldn't. I asked her what was wrong, and she said it felt like there was a watermelon resting against her cervix. That weight, of course, is little Melody's head. In God only knows how long, that watermelon is going to pass through an opening the size of a lemon. I thought it was happening right then and there.

I was even more concerned after she complained that she had pain in her lower abdomen, near her cervix. She said it was uncomfortable, but not painful as in labor. That made me wonder how she knew what labor pain felt like, as this is the first time she's going to give birth. With typical anxiety, I said to myself that she really is in labor! She assured me she wasn't having labor pains. The pain wasn't too bad, she said, but she had a sour look on her face the whole time.

To assure myself she was OK, and to comfort her, I felt her tummy. It was very tight, and felt like if it got any tighter, it would start to rip. That really did a lot to allay my fears. Later on, I touched it again, and it was back to normal. Then I realized what was happening. She was having contractions. Oh No! Time to panic again!

I managed to control myself though. I kept my hand on Trien's tummy, and could feel the contractions. Her tummy would get impossibly taut, then after a minute or so relax. Then came a refractory period of five minutes or so, when it would tighten up again.

(Contractions five minutes apart? Shouldn't I be calling the ambulance right now? Or should I just be popping Valium like Tic-Tacs? Trien might survive the delivery, but I'm not sure I will.)

Then I realized that it was the Braxton-Hicks practice contractions, except they were stronger than before. But how could you tell strong Braxton-Hicks contractions from real labor?

Trien kept telling me that she couldn't be in labor, because it didn't hurt too bad. Then I reminded her that Grace was telling us on the way to church how she didn't think she was in labor because it didn't hurt. She also told us of other women who were the same way. Trien's part in that conversation was telling about her sister-in-law, who lost a full term baby the first time she was pregnant, because she didn't realize that she was in labor. The baby, though, was in distress, and died right after delivery.

So of course, despite Trien's best efforts to calm me down, I was still worried that this was no dress rehearsal, this was the real thing.

Eventually, though, everything seemed to be normal. I regained some form of sanity, not that I have much to begin with.

Then Trien told me how she had spent her day- cleaning and preparing. I just came in at the end of it.

"I don't know, Honey, I couldn't control myself. I just had to clean and get ready. I don't know what happened."

OK, that's got to be a sign that the baby is coming soon. Sure enough, I found out later that right before giving birth, some women get the "nesting instinct", and start cleaning, cooking, and preparing everything, just like Trien had done. My sister did it. The women I talked to at school said they had done it. UH-OH!

Well, I think the "nesting instinct" also hits Daddys, too. I know it hit me, and pretty hard too.

Yesterday I had some errands to run. I asked Trien if she needed anything, and she said she wanted me to pick up some isotonic drink. No problem. The problem was that when I got to the store, I had this overwhelming urge to buy all the food in the store, even though we are well stocked. I went through the store, looking at food, picking it up, putting it back, only to go back again and ponder the wisdom of putting it back. It was driving me crazy! It was only by sheer force of will that I stopped myself from having to walk home with a dozen plastic bags loaded to bursting with everything edible in the place. Still, the compulsion was so strong that I had to buy something. Luckily, I was able to walk home with just a few bags of things that seemed somewhat reasonable to buy.

Today, Trien went to the wet market to buy meat, fish, and veggies. After work, I went into town to meet her, so we could have lunch together. We passed near the grocery store, and that insane urge to start buying food came back. It was only because she was with me that I didn't run off at full speed into the store and start ogling the ice cream.

Physically, I know the pregnancy is harder on her. She has to do all the hard work there.

Psychologically, I think I have the worst of it.

I can't help but wonder what I will be like when she actually does go into labor!


Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Freewriting, Ideas, and the Big DUH!

OK, I got quite a few Ideas from my free-writing yesterday. That's what always happens. Sometimes the ideas come together during free-writing, and I get that "AHA!" flash of insight where everything comes together. That's coooool, because then I can just follow the flow to wherever it goes, riding the wave until it ends, enjoying it all the while. It's great, and I get a real charge out of it, because I don't know where the story is going or how it's going to end. I work furiously to finish it, so I can see how the characters get out of these impossible situations they get into. Also, I need that sense of completeness that comes when I finish. If I don't finish, it feels like a baby that's only been half formed, and been aborted before it could have life.

I've actually written a couple of books and dozens of short stories that way. Right now, they are sitting in a box in my Mom's garage, along with all the rest of my worldly possessions that I left behind when I left the USA. I'm not going to say I will never go back, but if I do, it won't be soon. At least not until that evil clown in the White House leaves. I would like to get my notebooks back, so I can work on getting my writings together. How I will get them, I'm not sure. I'd hate to have what happened to Ernest Hemingway happen to me. Early on in his career, his wife Hadley packed all of his writings, including carbons, into a suitcase, to bring them to him while he was assignment. The suitcase was stolen off the train. All his early writings were gone, and never were recovered. Man, what a blow that must have been! It must have been like someone had stolen part of your Soul!

If I don't get that "AHA!" flash where it all comes together, the other way my ideas come to me is after free-writing. That's when the ideas have had a chance to play around inside my head, chasing each other around like happy puppies. Then I end up with so many ideas that I can't keep track of them all. The best I can do is reach out and grab a hold of a few of them, like trying to grab leaves in a hurricane. Much is gained, but much is lost. If I am lucky, when I start writing what I remember, most of what was lost will come back too. If not, then I can just take the major ideas I remember, and build off of that.

Right now, the major idea I have is comparing the Malaysia to what's happening with it's football team, and Airasia before Tony Fernandes came in and made it the highly successful Airline it is today. These things are a microcosm of the country. Malaysia will never be a great nation, because of the way things are run, and it's leadership. They turned Malaysian football into the laughing stock of Asia with their nepotism, political patronage, and incompetence. The same thing happened with Airasia before a competent leader with vision bought it for 1 Ringgit, after the government had run it into the ground.

You can't be a first rate country with fourth rate leadership that can't get it's mind out of the Kampung. My ideas are all in my head, ready to go. As a matter of fact, I have been obsessing about this for the past couple of days. I will have to write it out somewhere just to get it out so it quits nagging me. When I will publish it here, I don't know. It may have to wait until I leave this country, which will probably be when my contract ends at the end of this year.

Now for the Big DUH!

Speaking of having part of your Soul stolen: I was writing my posting for this Blog at work, in the Makmal Bestari (computer classroom). Since both the technicians are away at a conference this week, and I use it more than anyone else for my classes, I have the keys. I was alone, having chased the students away. Of course, the Internet connection was acting screwy. I decided to reset it by flipping the breaker switch. Which I did. Which cut off the power to the computer. Which made me lose the post I was deeply into working on, about working in ESL hell, Korea. You can imagine how I felt when all those ideas that I had down and ready to go disappeared in a flash of stupidity.

Flipping that switch was not a good idea. It made me lose a lot of good ideas. It was like I had just killed some of my best friends.

So I came here to the Internet cafe to see if I could revive some of the corpses.
They are still lying out there somewhere, dead.
In their place, is something else that has new life. While I am not over the hurt of losing those dead ideas, it helps me feel better.