Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Quick Brown Fox

My husband and I bought our first computer in 1983. We were in Labuan at this time. My husband was attached to the No. 5 Squadron and I was teaching at SMK Labuan. This was a time when computers were still at its infancy in Malaysia, I presume. Nevertheless, everybody seemed to be talking about the many wonders that a computer could do. My computer knowledge at that time was ZERO and it has not improved much since then. Anyway, my husband convinced me that a computer would lessen my workload in preparing  tests and exam questions. I suppose he noticed how I used my two fingers to tap furiously at my Olivetti typewriter until the wee hours of the morning every time a school exam was approaching. I remember asking him how a computer would help me and I think his answer was "You only have to type once and then all the questions will be stored and then you can recycle the questions". That sounded good to me and so we set out to get our computer.

Those days there were not many shops that sell computers in Labuan, may be only one or two. We headed for an electrical shop called Keharsons, very famous then. There was only one computer on display, an NEC model. After staring at it for a few minutes, both of us agreed that it was quite impressive, so we decided to purchase it. The transaction was very fast because we didn't know what to ask and the shop assistant also did not volunteer to supply any information. I suppose he was equally ignorant. My husband paid the bill, about RM2,500, and we headed home to try out our new toy. My husband's philosophy is very simple. Once the property belongs to you, you can experiment with it. He had done so on many occasions like with our refrigerator, TV, VCR, washing machines and countless other electrical items. All that he experimented with were successful and this computer should not be of any problem!

The moment we arrived home, my husband wasted no time in assembling the computer. It went straight to our bedroom and on top a government-issued writing table. The whole ensemble comprised of a CPU, a monitor, a keyboard and an external storage device.There was no mouse. After attaching all the cables and wires and satisfied that everything was according to what was stated in the instruction manual, he switched on the computer and I could see the pride on his face when the monitor screen came to life. He was successful again this time.

The next stage proved a little bit more trickier. He started by testing the keyboard and immediately the characters appeared on screen. Alright, he was getting somewhere. So, my dear husband typed "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog" and waited for a few seconds to see what would happen. Nothing happened .He repeated the process and still there was nothing. Equipped with a total ignorance on computers, we were not able to do much that night except to have the satisfaction that we finally owned a computer. My husband confidently promised that everything would be OK tomorrow.

I do not know whether WINDOWS was available at the time we bought the computer, I doubt it. Those days it was WORDSTAR and it was not as user friendly as WINDOWS. In fact, to the both of us, it was not friendly at all! I do not know how many rows of "The quick brown fox......................." my husband typed the following day but he never got any further than that. Finally, out of desperation, he consulted a friend who happened to have just completed a course on computers. This friend lent us a book on computers. Unfortunately, we failed to understand what was described in the book. Finally,after comtemplating on what to do for a few days, we decided that we were not ready for computers yet. So, my husband put everything back in their respective boxes and we set off again to Keharsons, hoping and praying that we could exchange it for something else.

The people at Keharsons agreed to take it back, but at a second hand price, in exchange for some other electrical item. This was good enough for us for we feared that they might not want to accept it at all. There were not many choices. We already possessed the basic electrical gadgets in the house so we settled for an Akai hi-fi  set. We had topay a few hundred ringgit to acquire it and headed straight for home. This time there was no excitement merely a sigh of relief that our mission was accomplished.

Once again my husband took all the components out of their boxes and connected all the cables. He put on a record on the turn table and within seconds, Tom Jones' "Love is in the Air" filled the household. There was a smile of satisfaction on our faces. Why would anyone want a computer. This was a better deal, it was able to provide sweet music for our ears! That was how we consoled ourselves.

So, I went back to my good old Olivetti for many more years after that without any complaints. One day in 1995, I had to attend a  course on preparing Mathematics questions in Port Dickson. We were required to prepare many questions using the computer. It was very embarassing when I had to confess that I did not know to use the computer. From that moment onwards, I decided it was time for me to get acquainted once again with the computer. After returning from Port Dickson, I did not waste any time in enrolling myself in a computer class. It was the beginning of a new chapter in my life. There was no turning back after that.

Fourteen years have passed since then. When the government introduced PPSMI in 2002, all of us, Maths and Science teachers were each given a laptop to enhance our lessons in class. Whether we liked it or not, we had to use it, so, indirectly, we had to learn. My computer literacy has improved but only up to a point where it  serves all my purpose. My husband, on the other hand, was not interested after "The quick brown fox.........." incident. He could only type a letter and print it. That was all the progress that he made UNTIL he started blogging last June. He became so engrossed with this new hobby that inevitably he had to learn how to use it to write his blog. I must say say that he has improved by leaps and bounds. He keeps on bragging that his blog is very colourful compared to mine, which, according to him, is plain and dull. I refrained from retorting that only beginners are excited over colourful fonts and highlights. I passed that stage a long time ago.

About two weeks ago, I decided to get a new netbook, simply because I have no access to my old one since he started blogging. I thought he was going to object to my idea but instead he was all for it. I told him to get one for me but he insisted that I follow him to the shop. When the shop assistant showed us a few models, he kept on nudging me to ask questions about the computer. Honestly, I did not know what to ask and I bet he was equally helpless. So, you see, we have not gone very far since the "The quick brown fox.............."
Incidentally, my Olivetti typewriter has found a comfortable resting place in my closet.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Unsung Heroes

Once again I am called to write  after having read my husband's letter in the Utusan Malaysia dated 3 October 2009. It is indeed a pity that all my husband's efforts in trying to secure an allowance for all PTU recipients are , as at today , all in vain. Under normal circumstances, I am not a fighter by nature, like him, but I feel that I have to voice out my opinions in this particular case. Before I proceed, let it be known to all that we are NOT PAUPERS, far from it,  but I feel that it is my duty to support my husband in his struggle to achieve what he is rightfully entitled to. If , by any chance, he is successful, then I can proudly say that I have contributed my bit towards the issue.

Sometimes it makes me wonder whether the  One Malaysia tag line "Rakyat didahulukan, Pencapaian diutamakan" is, at all, relevant. My husband has already achieved one of the ONLY five categories of bravery awards in the country and to me that  is indeed an achievement which translates into pencapaian. Now why all this sudden furore over this award. The answer to that is purely DISSATISFACTION. My husband is dissatisfied because the relevant party has failed to justify why he should not be given an allowance. If the other two bravery awards, the SP and the PGB are given an allowance , why discriminate the other remaining three. The recipients of PTU, JPP and KPK had also done their bit for the country. May be the degree of  their contribution is less than that of the SP and PGB recipients (this is again a very subjective issue)  but , nevertheless they had exhibited their brave and courageous streak in defending the country. The country has acknowledged their acts by bestowing the awards to them but unfortunately, there is no conformity with regards to the allocation of the allowance that comes with the awards. If, at all, all the five categories of the awards were not to be  monetarily compensated , then I think there is no cause for all this campaign. But when the top two awards are accompanied by a generous allowance then naturally the remaining three categories would want the same treatment accorded to them. IT IS ONLY FAIR.

I am sure many will argue that it is their duty to fight for the country. After all, they are soldiers and soldiers are paid "handsomely" to fight for the country. Very true indeed. But, the bravery awards are only given to those  who go BEYOND their scope of duties. This fact is clearly stipulated as shown in the corresponding link http://www.malaysianmonarchy.org.my/portal_bi/rk6/rk6.htm . It is these extracurricular activities that earned them  their medals.

I was very disappointed when I read an e-mail to my husband trying to explain why his quest for the allowance was rejected by the government. According to the e-mail, only the SP and PGB are regarded as "prestigeous" medals and so the recipients are justified in getting their allowance. I can't help but wonder, how and when  these medals came to be catagorised as "prestigious and non-prestigious ". If that is the case, then why did the government created five catagories in the first place. I think the relevant authourities should now put in a proprosal to abolish JPP, PTU and KPK since these three are non-prestigious. That should keep my husband quiet.

Datuk Lee Chong Wei is given an allowance of RM3000 a month for winning a silver medal in the last Olympics. I think all Malaysians will agree with me when I say that he deserves it. I saw the spectacular game on  TV. He displayed a non-compromising attitude when confronting his opponent . I have seen many Malaysian badminton players in action but, in my opinion, Datuk Lee has a very strong fighting spirit. I salute you , Datuk.

In the case of Datuk Lee Chong Wei, it is easy to see what he has done for the country. Most of his games were telecast live throughout the whole of Malaysia and some other parts of the world. We saw how he "fought" to glorify his country not once, not twice but many, many times.

The same analogy is applicable to all those who fought bravely to defend the country but unfortunately their acts of bravery could not be displayed live for all to see. Unlike Datuk Lee, they will never be thrust into the limelight while in action. The nature of their work is often classified 'secret'. Most Malaysians are unaware of what these special breed of people  had to go through to bring peace and harmony to the country. Most Malaysians are unaware of how they sweated and toiled and put their lives at stake to ensure that, Datuk Lee can continue to bring glory to Malaysia, Datuk Nichole Davids can continue to pursue her fifth World Championship title,  Datuk Siti Norhaliza can continue crooning all those beautiful ballads, Datuk Shah Rukh Khan can continue to entertain us through Hindi films, Dr. Faiz can follow in the footsteps of Datuk Dr. Sheikh Muzaffar in space exploration,  and last but not least, so that ordinary folks like me can go about our daily activities without fear of being attacked or bombed by the enemies.  Hence ,is it too much for our "unsung heroes" to ask for a small allowance in return for what they had done for the country. As a wife, I know what my husband and his friends went through during their fight against the communists. It was a period of intense anxiety and stress, to put it mildly. Every time, he was tasked to fly to the border, we could never be sure whether we would ever see him again ALIVE. Many of my husband's friends perished whilst in action and this , in turn, made many of my friends widows and their children, orphans.

Now, readers, you be the judge. And, with that, ladies and gentleman, I rest my case.