The tortoise or the Hare?

There is no such thing as “maintain” when you are working on improving yourself. Everyone else, too are working on improving themselves.

In life’s race against the clock, you either are improving or declining. I was involved in competitive swimming as a parent of an athlete swimmer. I used to hear competitive swimmers say after a race, “they maintained their times”. If taken rightly, they use that as a “dig their heels in there for a moment”, as a new minimum standard and move forward from there. Then, good.

But, many of the swimmers use their “times maintained” to be construed as they did well, at least they did not drop in times. The danger of becoming complacent, too relaxed or make excuses; can set in. Now, if they are racing only against their personal time clock, they may be able to give themselves some takeaway from there.

In competition there are two races that really go on in each race. One, you race against your personal best time clock, always. This competitor – the clock; will always race you.

The second is you race against other athlete competitors.

So, the moment you “feel comfortable” about having “maintained your time” in a race; your competitors are working hard at beating their times and beating you, their competitor. The goal for most real competitors is to race at the Olympics and World Championships.

They have to have “Kaizen” in them. Kaizen is a Japanese word for continuous improvement.

Michael Schumacher, 7 times Formula 1 World Champion, is arguably the best of all times. At his peak, he accomplished many records – having won 7 world championship titles, winning 91 races (the most number of races at that time), getting the most number of pole starts, amassing the most number of points, amongst many others. When asked at a press conference what it felt like having chalked up so many firsts, Schumacher said, “Records are meant to be broken”.

These two races can basically be applied to anyone – one, is we continue to improve ourselves. The second is we race against others in our workplace, our profession, etc. This is good as it continues to raise the bar or the new record to break. I think mankind has always been competitive by nature.

When you break that record, don’t forget to spend some time celebrating the achievement. This is “living in the present”. Don’t spend too much of time there. Otherwise, it may turn out to be “The tortise and the Hare”.

Then, back on the racetrack to start a new race to beat the latest record. We should always ask, “How can we make the best, better?”

In order for your life to be great, you must first learn to appreciate it. Don’t forget to add “having fun” in all you do. Fun helps people to relax. It is sometimes regarded as a “social lubricant”, important in adding “to one’s pleasure in life”. Fun can help reduce stress. . For children, fun is strongly related to play. Somehow, they have spontaneity and an inventive way in extracting fun from it.

Are you the tortoise or the hare?

JP

In the meantime, I am going to have Tou Foo Fah (Chinese for soymilk custard) with liquid brown sugar. A little while later…Oops! forgot to take a picture of it. “Walloped it one shot” (local way of saying, “whacked it” or “start eating and finished straight away”).

Tou Foo Fah – yummy!


Put on Your Dancing Shoes

Life never said it was going to be easy. We can’t let tough times define us.

Every moment in our lives that has not yet arrived, is our future. No one has lived it for us. No one can live it for us.

We get to choose how we live. Because we are inexperienced living our future now, we are bound to make a mistake or two or three. That’s o.k.. Just pick ourselves up, and keep moving forward.

Remember, there is no such thing as “no choice”. And, there is no time to kill or be bored. We don’t have enough of it – time..

We can’t always choose the music life plays us, but we sure can choose how we dance to it. Put on your dancing shoes and dance…

~ ALAN IAN ATKINSON
Writer, Author, Storyteller

Paso de Feugo

Kachang Hijau dessert, anyone?

Rather cool for a Thursday afternoon. There was a bit of a shower or heavy downpour that lasted 10 minutes top.

As noon was approaching earlier on, I was still trying to figure out what to write. My ideaSketchpad 💡 had essays at various stages of completion (some with 3 or 4 words in them and that’s completion?). Here’s the thing: I’ve got to get into the grove of things, the feel for words, sentences, paragraphs, stories to flow from my thoughts to my fingers, tapping the keypad and showing up on the computer screen.

So, whatever was on my ideaSketchpad 💡was not a “Thursday or a now article” to work on. Have you ever got into a feeling like that? Opened your wardrobe, full of clothes yet don’t have anything to wear? Yeah, yeah… I know I used this line in the last article I wrote yesterday. It does drive home a point. The same goes with an artist – his studio could have lots of unfinished pieces, yet he does not know what to work on for that day.

While trying to figure out what to write; I served myself a bowl of green beans desert or as it is more commonly known as bubur kacang hijau, which Jeannie boiled yesterday. “Bubur” is the Malay word for porridge.

This is a thick gravy version, the way my mum used to make it when we were kids.

A very simple dish. It is boiled in water for er…awhile. Added in is brown sugar (healthier than white sugar), not too much though. We don’t want it to be too sweet. Coconut milk, commonly known as “santan” in Malaysia; is a main ingredient. It is added in to bring out the richness of this desert. Then, a bit of salt is added in, too. That’s it.

The way we like it is thick. Unlike the type you find as a desert in Chinese dinners, where it is very watery with hardly any coconut milk.

Other varieties include boiling sago seeds with it to add a different flavour. Some people add slices of banana or sweet potato – all this to create a different variant to the original.

As you scoop a serving of bubur kacang hijau and bring it towards your mouth; its beautiful aroma brings a smile to your face. When you eat it, the beans, together with the coconut milk and brown sugar melted in it, takes its simplicity to a whole new level – divine. 😋I’m a simpleton – easy to please.😉

In the family of this type of desert, there are also “Pulut Hitam” (Malay for glutinous rice) and “bubur kacang merah” (Malay for red bean porridge) varieties. Equally delicious.

For those who are weight watchers, it would be advisable to work it off with exercise. I will go out for my 10km brisk walk and weigh myself when I get back after my walk, everyday. I think my weighing scales aren’t exactly truthful to me. It does not want to go down to my “within normal range” or lower. It showed that I am 2kg overweight today.

We’ve also got these green peas biscuits, too:

This is greener than normal because it is pandan flavoured. Simply delicious.

These green beans / peas biscuit is more commonly linked to the state of Penang. Also, if you were to make a visit to Jonker Street, Malacca; you will find several bakeries making these biscuits, in a variety of choice, too. You can buy them as they come straight out of the oven.

It becomes really hard to keep your weight down and in check when we are spoilt for choice of food. Safe to say, the choice is unlimited. Different parts of Malaysia will prepare the same dish like the bubur kacang hijau with a twist in preparation for example.

Hey, it looks like I have penned down / Logitech MX-Keys (brand) typed an article here. When it comes to food, there is plenty to talk about.

Let us know how you like your green beans, red beans, pulut hitam in the comments section and it may come up in a future article.

Wishing all Malaysians, “Happy Malaysia Day”!

A more watery version. Lisa’s Lemony Kitchen

NOTES:

  1. Penang and Malacca are two states in Malaysia.

What If?

Thomas Alva Eddison once said in response to a question about his missteps, “I have not failed 10,000 times—I’ve successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work.”

Edison perfected the incandescent electric light bulb after 10,000 “tries”. Arguably America’s greatest inventor, Thomas Edison had an extraordinarily positive perception of life that greatly enhanced his ability as an inventor.

Don’t worry if you fail once or twice or three times or even more. The ability to pick yourself up and say, “Ok, that didn’t work. I will do it again but differently, this time.”

Your attitude is the ability to pick yourself up. Your altitude is to keep on going, advancing forward!

Can you imagine not even trying and for the love of life, wonder what it would have been like if you did? For the rest of your life wonder, “what if?”

~ ALAN IAN ATKINSON
Writer, author, storyteller

THE TAJ EXPERIENCE

Taj Curry House, SS12, Subang Jaya (1)

The time is 5.40pm, this wonderful Tuesday evening. The weather is quite hot but fine. Over the radio, the newscaster was saying KL (Kuala Lumpur) which is about 20 minutes away; is experiencing flash floods in Cat Road (Jalan Kuching) and certain other areas. Definitely not going to KL. We (Jeannie and I), want to avoid getting caught in flood, no matter how light or severe it is. The thought of chugging along for hours in traffic jams is a put-off.

So, as we head back home towards Subang Jaya, we will go though one of the most severe tests ever known to mankind – “What do you want for dinner?

Subang Jaya is inundated with a choice of types of food, restaurants and food joints. It’s like a snazzy woman who opens a wardrobe with hundreds or thousands(?) of dresses and cries in despair, “I have nothing to wear!”

So, while on the highway, traffic movement was fairly good – slow but moving. Jeannie and I try to have our dinner early, at around 6.00pm – 6.30pm, everyday. As we turn left and get onto the ramp into Subang Jaya; the traffic begins to build to a crawl.

Our (more like my) immediate choice is to go to the Taj Curry House, which is just ahead of us, along our route. Jeannie suggested popiah in USJ Taipan (must mention which “Taipan” as more and more townships are coming up with their own Taipan.) but that would mean flowing with the jam for another half and hour or more.

Taj Curry House it was. For good, simple Indian cuisine. Warning: Parking in that area is near horrendous! One has to be really patient and drive around the area like a headless chicken (Not that headless chickens drive😉) until you find a space.

One of the first thing that greets you as you enter the restaurant, is the wide choice of dishes. For example, they serve curry chicken, fried chicken, chicken varuval and chicken tandoori.

Jeannie and I both went for the simplest of food – roti canai. Made from flour (I think), there is an art of kneading the dough, than turning it round and round while it stretches wide. then, it is fold into four and placed on a hot plate. Roti canai is one of Laura’s (our daughter) favourite food. I like my roti canai made garing – real crisp but not to the point of it becoming flaky.

Roti canai. You can actually eat it with anything. Laura at times eats it with a bit of sugar. All sorts of choices, too – roti planta, roti, sardine, roti telur, roti pisang – the list seems almost endless.
The yellow gravy is dharl.
This is molten lava without the cinders and smoke. But guranteed to bring tears of pain…er I mean joy – it a delicious spicy, spicy hot chili sambal.
Fish curry.
The meal platter.

I decided to have a couple of vaadai for starters. Made of beans mainly.
Fried chicken, as an additional dish.

Our dinner. And limau ais (iced lime water) to go with the meal.

The roti canai is of a decent size. Most other restaurants have shrunk the size of each piece, and at the same time; increase its price. The three side dishes that come with the roti canai are delicious (yes, including the hot chili sambal).

The large onions that comes with the fried chicken, is juicy and gives a balance flavour to the fried chicken. The fried chicken is marinated and prepared well, ensuring customer satisfaction.

This is a simple meal. It was delicious, as usual. Taj Curry House has maintained has always been consistent with its standard of good food. The service has also been good. We usually sit in the air-conditioned section. This has been our “go-to” for dinner over the last few months on our way back from PJ. How much for our dinner today? US$4.45.

Should you visit Taj Curry House? You should. I am sure that you will dine there again and again to try out their whole cuisine range.

By time we were done with dinner, the Subang Jaya traffic jam had eased off quite a bit. Now, that we are back home, we bought a packet of Bombay Mix to snack on.

CHOICE – HAVE YOU MADE YOURS?

There is no such thing as “No choice”. We always have a choice.

Life is about making choices. That’s the difficult part of life – making choices.

Doing nothing is a choice.

Nelson Mandela had a choice. He stood up to apartheid. He was sent to prison. He must have asked himself, over and over again, “Why am I doing this? Why do I need to suffer here in prison? He had a choice to give up and die in prison. 27 years in prison.

Nelson Mandela

Mandela chose to live. His conviction (no pun intended) in his belief, in his cause, in his struggle to end apartheid was his oxygen to live. He became the symbol and probably the reason, that all of mankind should be treated equally; regardless of race, religion, creed.

J. K. Rowlings – yes, many now know who she is – the more than just “very successful” author, Harry Porter. All was not rosy and humpidity hunkey-dorey during her early writing years.

J. K. Rowling, jkrowling.com

Rowling was almost poor and homeless. She, as a single mother; and her daughter, lived on benefits. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone had been written in cafes in Edinburgh.

She said on Twitter that she received “loads” of rejections.

Rowling still remembers her very first rejection. The agent didn’t even send a proper letter — just a slip of paper — and instead of critiquing the manuscript, he went after her stationery, saying, “The folder you sent wouldn’t fit in the envelope.”

Later Rowling recalled that she “really minded about the folder, because I had almost no money and had to buy another one.”

Can you imagine if she chose to give up? No Harry Porter. She finally got it published – Her literary agent (not her first agent), Christopher Little accepted her manuscript and sent it to 12 different publishers before it ended up with Bloomsbury.

The original synopsis of J.K. Rowling’s first Harry Potter book is on display at the British Library. ~ Alison Millington

For me, I have been told several times, more-so by publishers; to not waste my time in writing. “Writing articles and books are for professionals like us,” they said. They talk with big companies backing them. They tell me, that it is extremely difficult to get recognized, since there are literally multitudes of writers trying to get noticed. There may be publishers who may buy your manuscript / book for a nominal fee and shelf it, “not wanting to confuse the public / readers – those who would purchase books; with more choices on the bookshelves”. There are also writers who have to pay publishers to publish their book.

So, I have the choice – not waste my time with publishing all these articles here in http://www.leatherpotato.com; and forget the idea of considering writing a book. Or two.

Or, to continue doing what I am doing.

The thing is; I am the 1 sperm amongst millions of others, that made it! I am not about to give in to some statistics and some publishers who don’t have the foresight to recognize talent even if it is right in front of their nose.

I know why I am doing this. I started with an idea to create a dent in the world – an impact to impact people’s lives with happiness, joy, hope. Entertainment, too. My “J. K. Rowling” day will come. I know it will.

If it has to be, it is up to me. I made my choice.

Have you made yours?

IT IS HARD

IT IS HARD: to forget, to apologize.

It is hard to save money.

It is hard to avoid mistakes, to keep out of a rut. To begin all over again. We try.

It is hard to think of others first, to be unselfish. Yes, it is hard to make the best of all things.

It is hard to be charitable.

It is hard to keep your temper in check at all times, to think first and act afterwards; instead of on impulse. It is hard to shoulder the blame.

It is hard to maintain a high standard.

It is hard to keep on staying the course with your dreams, ambitions, goals; when the journey leading towards them is filled with obstacles and roadblocks, where the finish line is no where in sight.

It is hard to admit error.

It is hard to forgive.

It is hard to take advice.

But it pays!

fig. 1

NOTES:
fIg.1 Quotemaster

WHO GAVE MORE?

You know, it feels great when you help someone out. It even goes a long way when you don’t know that person.

The meaning of giving is when you don’t expect anything back in return. Sometimes, it would include not getting a smile, thank you or a sense of gratitude.

I never really understood the meaning of “You get more when you give”. When you give, it is because you want to give.

The recipient of your kindness does not have an obligation to accept your gift from your giving. He may not want it He may feel embarrassed. He may feel shy.

Therefore, giving may seem simple but it really is not as it involves 2 actions:
1. The act of your giving.
2. The act of his receiving.

The moment you give with the expectation of receiving something back in return; then it becomes an “exchange”. You do something expecting something back in return.

You will also have to discern people who are “takers” – people who make use of other people’s kindness and generosity.

Some givers are very good trumpeters. They are loud in their giving – louder than the hitting of gongs, louder than clashing cymbals.

There was a charity drive to raise funds for the destitute and poor. These people lost lives of family members and friends in a recent severe flood. This flood devastated their homes and livelihood. The people lost all their possessions (which meant the world to them) they had.

There were a very rich man who responded to this charity drive by donating $1 million. There was a lot of press media coverage, fanfare and advertisement about this very generous gesture he made. Donating this amount of money did not lessen his financial standing in any way.

Then, there was this lady who donated 2 cents. She was really embarrassed about only giving 2 cents. It was the only money and real possessions she had. She was in dire straits, financially. But she still gave.

Who gave more?

With money in his pocket and the poor with an empty pocket. Who gave more? Medium.

HANGING ON TO THE OLD BURNER

I’m standing under one of the big trees in front of the TNB building in Taipan, USJ Subang Jaya…beginning the first few lines of this essay.

The weather is cool, with a constant light breeze blowing.  The traffic along the road is heavy as usual, synonymous with Taipan. A couple of crows are cawing nearby above, in the trees. I have to admit, I am a bit apprehensive standing right under the tree for fear of being “white bombed”. There are quite a lot of flies, here; too.

So, why am I here, soaking in nature’s beauty and all that it has to offer? The “blastid” (as Popeye the Sailor Man would say) car broke down…something about a defective fuel pump, according to Affendi, my regular mechanic, over the phone. The car starts and the engine dies off soon after.

I called the motor insurance assist to arrange for a tow truck to the workshop nearby. It has been 50 minutes. The tow-truck operator called me nearly 1/2 hour ago for my location. In case you are wondering,  his name is not Mater, Tow Mater or Sir Mater.

Mater

When he arrived, he certainly was not Mater from “The Cars”. This guy was rougher than the corsest sand paper. He shouted something like, “Your luck kereta (car)”. “Say what?” I  asked. He shouted even louder,  “your luck kereta”, while motioning me to push the car. Ooohhh…”tolak kereta” (Malay for “push car”).

This guy certainly looked prosperous. He had an overhung belly 2.0. He seemed the type to always get up on the wrong side of the bed, no matter which side it was. I think he was cheesed off when earlier on, I asked him where he was, since he had not showed up after half hour.

Popeye The Sailor Man

He took a bunch of pictures and made me fill up a form and sign it before he even proceeded to hook up and crane my car to his truck. His truck was a Mitsudiesel.

I think he may not have liked the idea that I was going to ride navigator, to the workshop. No way was I going to leave the car alone with Friar Tuck, here.

The ride to the workshop was a short one. Thank goodness my regular workshop was nearby. Was I glad to see the last of F.T. (Friar Tuck).

Now, in the workshop, being intoxicated with the fumes of petrol. An initial diagnosis of the problem was right – the fuel pump which is slightly less than 2 years old when I replaced it last; was faulty.

Working on the Samsung Galaxy Z-Fold 3. Off and on, in between writing, ok ok, tapping on the screen keyboard, dozing off 💤💤💤 for a much needed shuteye. Few minutes at a time. When I wake up, I feel so refreshed. Then, a while later, I slip into a lull, back to my sleep mode💤💤💤. Must be the petrol fumes for sure, as I am sitting…dozing off, wake up, dozing off again in the car.

I get tired when I sit too l long. I prefer to move around and keep busy. I decided to take a stroll around the surrounding area to looksie looksie to see if there was anything interesting in a predominantly motor workshop area. There is a Speedmart grocery, three, four or five restaurants all looking rather quiet – no customers.

There is an interesting restaurant there that serves Italian food. But it is only opened from 11.00am to 7.00pm on weekdays. It is closed on weekends. From the pictures on the menu which was stuck on one of the glass panels, the offerings look good but it is pricey especially when you look at the location where this restaurant is situated. This is a restaurant started up by 3 college students. That explains their business operating hours. I am guessing that these students are hands on with this business.

The replacement fuel pump accessory was delivered to the workshop by the parts shop’s runner. In no time at all, the part was fitted to the car. Now, the car is as good as new…figurative speaking. almost. I am happy that Affendi and his younger brothers are professionals in what they do, and are very reasonable in their charges. That is why my late brother, Nigel; and I, have been using Affendi’s services for over 10 years now. We have become very good friends, too.

Should I trade in the Green Hornet (my trusty steed) for one of those new vehicles that have a “Hybrid” badge stuck to it? Will the replacement make financial sense?

Have you noticed that almost every brand of “Hybrid” vehicle, no matter how high on the price or status the spectrum range they maybe, has exactly the same “Hybrid” badge affixed to it. The vehicle can come from the Mercedes-Benz, Honda, Kia, Hyundai, BMW, Maserati stables – if that model is a hybrid model, it will almost certainly sport the same “Hybrid” badge as all other vehicles.

I believe in times of economic uncertainty, where the central bank here in Malaysia has raised interest rates for the third time with the theme, “There’s no stopping us now”, it would be more prudent to hang on to the “old burner” since it is fully paid for. Monthly installments with interest charge, will not make much financial sense.

freepik

So, I will continue to flog…er use the Green Hornet. It may have a bit of the bumper sticking out at one end, a scratch or two on most parts of the car and make various sounds that put a good fusion jazz band to shame. It does almost the same thing as a Rolls Royce, Lambo, Toyota, Mahindra, Kia, Geely, Bugatti, Dongfeng – transport me from A to B.

By spending less, we will be able to keep our exposure to loans and interest at its minimum. Happy weekend!😁🎉

IS IT WORTH THE TRADE-OFF?

A new 330i BMW sits in the porch next to now; quite famed metallic deep scarlet-red, mid-sized Mazda CX-5 4wd SUV (sports utility vehicle) in the porch. The porch had to be big and wide enough to accommodate both vehicles fully, parked side by side each other, protecting them from the “harsh” weather of the sun and rain.

The 2-storey house was built around 15 years ago. Though a mid-sized inter-link building; it is gated by a stainless steel designed auto-gate. Since the purchase of the house, extensive, expensive renovations had gone into it. The original house as it was before the renovations; was very much looked after and did not need renovations. But then, what would their new neighbors think of them? What would their societal friends think of them? How would they had to then maintain their status membership in the “ANYTHING YOU CAN DO, I CAN DO BETTER” club? Ouch!

The front main walls of the hall was moved up front, much closer to the gate, leaving just enough space for a fairly large vehicle to park inside the house compound (porch area). That is why both vehicles could only be parked side-by-side of each other. Due to this, the normal size gate had to be replaced to practically fit the full width of the house.

Next, the rear of the house was pushed right back to the fence. This included the floor above.

With the front walls pushed closer to the gate and the rear walls pushed back to the fence boundary; the built up area became much bigger. Bigger hall, dining room, kitchen and bedrooms.

Next, fixtures and fittings had to be top-notch – fancy lightings, over-sized wrap around tvs all over the place, even on the ceiling with the use of the Samsung “Freestyle” projector; air-conditioning in every part of the house, including the store (the fancy word is “utility”) room (no not really).

There was a maid’s room included. How thoughtful. The maid would have to either be very thin and pint-size or really tuck it in, to fit inside that room. From what seems to be talked about, the maid only needs a place to sleep, not live in opulent luxury. After all, the reason for her to be there…is to work.

The new owners of this property, a family of four – businessman, housewife, son who is just starting his college education and daughter who has just started middle school; moved in after the renovations were completed.

The active and busy lifestyle of this family of four is that they are out of the house (home) most of the day. They get home late on most days, and have to muster energy and strength to get into bed, fall off to sleep and began “life” the next day by doing what they have been doing day in, day out; all over again.

In the meantime, pressure has been mounting on the businessman. While his orderbooks have been filling up, the supply chain for his products have been affected by the recent Covid-19 pandemic, the war in Europe, the looming possibility of a world recession and other factors.

The Central Bank has raised lending interest rates today – the third since May. The tightening of cashflows has forced him to tap into his reserves. He hopes to recover financially sooner than later as his reserves is not a “spend like there is no tomorrow” position. Nevertheless, it is important to look good and keep up with the Joneses.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

How many of us can relate to the above? We try to impress people who don’t matter and don’t really care. We worry about finances all the time, have many sleepless nights – we don’t have peace of mind. Is it worth the trade-off?

As a very wise man said once before: “It is important what your spouse and children – your immediate family, think of you”. Others don’t matter. This wise man dropped out of lower secondary school. With his street wise intelligence, he went on to build one of the largest office equipment businesses in the country. He has also made a name for himself in the automotive accessory business.

Wouldn’t it be nice to wake up in the morning and not be stressed out on how to settle bills? It is up to us to take stock of what really is important to us and take decisive measures to put things in perspective. Seek help on how to go about regaining that “peace of mind”. That “peace of mind” is awesome!

Bunker-riley

NOTES:
The above lifestyle example may work for some people.
It is always advisable to be up to speed on person’s financial position.