Saturday, June 30, 2007

Goodie bags gone wild

We went to a kid's birthday party earlier this month. Usually, my concern is on the amount of candies in the goodie bag. This time, however, there was no candy at all. In fact, there was no bags at all.

Ben got a cool Batman Power Key Playset, and Anya got a set Barbie. Definitely more costly than the birthday present we brought for the birthday boy.

What is really wrong with parentings these days? It took me a while to agree to move from "the original" goodie bags (candies and small party stuff) to things like matchbox, pencil holder, diary, and the likes.

Has the goodie bag standard increased? As ridiculous as it sounds, it scares me - the amount spent for things like this, or for kids in general. Education cost is perhaps the scariest.

A survey in the U.K. found that demand for goodie bag contents had risen 12-fold in the past three years.

Why do we need to give out goodie bags anyway? Why do kids need to get a goodie bag just for going to someone's party?

And then there are parents who just have to try to overdo others' goodie bags. The same survey quoted: "I think that children actually prefer the simple things. In the end, it's the parents that are making all these expensive choices."


By the way, Ben loved his Batman, though I had trouble assembling the toy. On the other hand, Anya didn't really like hers. We settled with a replacement from Toys 'R Us; Barbie will become our next birthday present.

[Read more...]

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Managing oils

Fried food is very difficult to resist, isn't it? Some, probably most, delicious food are fried. You name it: french fries, fried chicken, kerupuk (crackers), batagor, etc. And also all the fried snacks or appetizers - fried tofu, calamari, and so on.

The problem with fried food, though, is the oil. Below is Dr. Mao's take on oils from Yahoo!Health. I found it helpful.

Unfortunately, it seems that fried foods taste good only when cooked with the bad oils, and the good oils are expensive... Frying chicken with olive oil will only lead to terrible fried chicken, and financial disaster...

There is a lot of confusing information circulating about oils. Hopefully, the tips below will help you navigate your way to the good oils that will benefit your health in the long run.

The Lowdown on Oil
Oils that originate from vegetable, nut, and seed sources provide the essential fatty acids that are critical for our nerve and brain functions. The typical vegetable oils that can be found at supermarkets have undergone chemical and heat processing that destroy the quality of the oil — bleaching, cooking, defoaming, distillation, extraction, refining, and the addition of preservatives. Additionally, many of these oils are exposed to light and air and are even potentially filled with pesticides.

All of this causes the formation of free radicals, which undermine the health benefits of consuming essential fatty acids. To ensure that you are receiving all of the possible benefits from your oil, buy organic, cold-pressed, minimally processed oils at your local health food store. Be sure that you consume oil within three months; to prevent it from becoming rancid, store your oil in the refrigerator in dark glass containers.

Fats: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
There are three types of fat: monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and saturated.

Monounsaturated fats — including olive oil, sesame oil, canola oil, almond oil, flax oil, and fish oil — are good fats. These contain essential fatty acids such as omega-3 and gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) that are critical in brain development and function, skin health, vascular health, proper immune function, fertility, and normal physical development.

Polyunsaturated fats, such as margarine, corn oil, hydrogenated safflower oil, and sunflower oil, also contain essential fatty acids. Unfortunately, these fats are highly refined and contain large amounts of trans fat. Trans fat, created by hydrogenating vegetable oil to make it spreadable, is implicated in both cancer and heart disease.

Saturated fats are the bad kind of fat. Included in this category is butter, peanut oil, coconut oil, palm kernel oil, and lard. These saturated fats elevate cholesterol and triglyceride levels, leading to an increased chance of heart attack and stroke. These oils are best avoided.

Two Stand-Out Oils
The essential ingredient of the Mediterranean diet, olive oil, has been found to have beneficial effects on blood lipids and it may even lower blood pressure. According to the World Health Organization, nearly 60 percent of strokes and 50 percent of heart disease are associated with high blood pressure.

Hypertension is estimated to be the cause of 7.1 million deaths per year worldwide. A recent study has concluded that olive oil intake is “inversely associated with both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.” The bottom line: consuming more olive oil is linked to lowered blood pressure.

Sesame oil — the most common oil consumed by Chinese centenarians — is enjoyed for its delicious nutty flavor and also possesses some considerable therapeutic properties. Chinese medicine lists sesame as a blood builder, a kidney and liver tonic, and a bowel protector and regulator. It is rich in phytic acid, the antioxidant that may prevent cancer. Lignan sesamin, one variety of sesame oil, appeared to radically reduce cholesterol levels in the bloodstream and liver of rats.

To benefit your health and enhance your meals, add some olive oil to your food and salads; sprinkle sesame seeds and oil into your dishes regularly. Some other excellent choices for oils include: walnut oil, flaxseed oil, and soy oil.

I hope I have cleared up some of the confusion surrounding oil. I invite you to visit often and share your own personal health and longevity tips with me.

May you live long, live strong, and live happy!

—Dr. Mao

[Read more...]

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Polygamy on the rise

Call me ignorant, but I was pretty surprised to read an article about polygamy in the U.S. - open and quite legal. "About 40,000 'fundamentalist Mormons' in Utah and nearby states live polygamy illegally," the article said.

Aroengbinang stated his position on polygamy - respecting both groups, those who oppose as well as those who support polygamy. I guess mine is along that line.

As long as there's a mutual agreement between the parties involved. As long as the neighbors are not disturbed. As long as there's no fights or whatsoever.

But, religion aside, there should be some rules to govern polygamy, shouldn't it? If people are free to have as many wives (or husbands?) as they like, I am sure there will be chaos.

This is absolutely a one-sided view.

Love or attention is probably too difficult (or impossible) to measure, but financial is not. Without ample financial foundation, there will be problems. More family members to take care of. More stomach to feed. More kids education to fund. And so on.

So there probably should be rules for polygamy, if it's ever made legal. Sort of like a financial threshold before marrying the second, third, fourth wives/husbands. Or even the fifth, sixth and more.

[Read more...]

Monday, June 11, 2007

Bisa diatur

"Can be arranged" or "can be worked out" - more or less.

My neighbor was approached by a high-ranked Indonesian government official. A simple version of it, they wanted to hire him. So there they went, talking about, perhaps most importantly, compensation - salary and benefits. To make it short, this officer can't match the salary, but the total amount "bisa diatur" through other means.

So here's the thing, again. (Relatively) low formal salary but big take home pay. Probably something like uang rapat (meeting allowance - should meetings be part of the normal job?). Or perhaps "projects", whatever it means.

For my neighbor, he sees it as a risk. Good for him. There's no written contract. What if this official moves? What if he simply lies?

For many others, this might be an opportunity. An opportunity to maximize whatever it is that can be arranged. Might lead to corruptions, unprofessional decision-makings, and other bad practices.

And that's one of many reasons why Indonesia is what it is now.

On uang rapat, someone once shared his frustration. He works as a consultant to a UN-funded initiative to develop infrastructure outside Jakarta. Often, the government officials refused to attend the meetings unless uang rapat was provided. Holy cow! This was for their own development!

[Read more...]

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Ana and the queens

Update - For Ana Ivanovic and 2008 French Open, it's on Ana Ivanovic and Traffic Surge.

- I guess I got my wish - a perfect final between Henin and Ivanonic. The only thing is, that it wasn't perfect. Justine was way too strong and experienced for Ana in her first grand slam final. Too many unforced errors, too many double faults. Nevertheless, an excellent tournament for Ivanovic, having beaten both the 2nd and 3rd ranks.

Original post June 4, 2007:
There are many reasons why people love tennis. 19-year old Ana Ivanovic is one of them.

(picture from

Ana Ivanovic is currently world's number seven. Born in Serbia, she now lives in Basel, Switzerland, unlike many other players who choose Florida.

She hits and serves hard. Her fastest serve in the last game was 201 km/h, compared to Federer's 213 km/h and Nadal's 198 km/h in their respective 4th round matches. The ladies final between her and the one-handed-backhander Justine Henin would be perfect.

The ladies quarter finals itself is almost perfect, with almost all the eight top seeded players, today's queens of tennis, in. The only exception is seeded nine Anna Chakvetadze, taking seeded five Amelie Mauresmo's place. Not bad.

Here are the queens (pictures from Roland Garros website):

#1 Justine Henin vs. #8 Serena Williams

#4 Jelena Jankovic vs. #6 Nicole Vaidisova

#7 Ana Ivanovic vs. #3 Svetlana Kuznetsova

#9 Anna Chakvetadze vs. #2 Maria Sharapova

[Read more...]

Friday, June 08, 2007

Excellent tiramisu

Got a piece of tapau (take-away) of Alexis tiramisu for late dessert at home last weekend. And for breakfast the next morning. Yum!

Not a very healthy life, but I had a local version Roland Garros matches that night. Should've been a breakeven :)

Alexis makes one of the best tiramisu I've ever tasted. Highly recommended if you are visiting Kuala Lumpur, or if you live here but haven't tried it yet.

* Thanks to Mandy for letting me use the picture.

[Read more...]

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Dr. Sh*t to help Malaysia

Malaysia is really serious tackling the toilet- and hygiene-related issues.

While back then the initiatives seemed to be driven by tourism and image, the recent effort is closer to the root cause. More specifically, the Malaysian government is getting Dr. Shit to help educate on the matters about keeping toilets clean (the Sun, May 25).

Seriously, Dr. Shit (a.k.a Mr. Shit) - a geologist named Trevor Mulaudzi who now educates people to take more responsibility for sanitation.

Unfortunately, the ride hasn't been that smooth. Around the same period, overflown sewerage manhole damaged a number of files in a basement room of the new court complex. The cause of the overflow
was, or it was blamed on, the use of toilet.

Contacted yesterday, PWD deputy director-general Selvanayagam P. Nagalingam said the manhole overflow was due to the indiscriminate disposal of sanitary napkins which could have been going on for some time.

blog it

[Read more...]

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Little and often

Drink wine, have a sharp memory, said Italian scientists. It can boost memory and delay the onset of dementia.

But it's also like walking on a fine line...

Experts said the message was "little and often" for people wanting to protect their memory as high levels of alcohol consumption can lead to dementia.

blog it

[Read more...]

Make the most out of airfares

I came to know this only this week: many airlines (in the U.S.) will refund if the price drops after you bought a ticket.

clipped from
Few customers realize it, but many airlines will give refunds if they cut the price after you have bought a ticket. Alaska, JetBlue, Southwest, United and US Airways all offer vouchers for the full price difference -- if the price drops $200, you can get a $200 coupon towards a future trip. Others offer vouchers, or cash, after deducting change fees (which can run up to $100). In industry jargon, it is called a "rollover," and in most cases it only works if you bought the ticket directly from the airline. (It generally won't work if you bought them via a Web site such as or, unless the price drops in the first 24 hours.)

blog it

Even though the process is not that straightforward, I would think this helps many people in making purchase decision early - knowing they can get refund if the price drops. Especially with the help of websites like

Customers are the ones who benefit from this, I suppose.

Will the airlines lose their profits (they barely make profits even now) if more and more people claim for refunds (assuming no price increase)?

Logically, they will (lose profits), won't they? But I find it too hard to believe.

The airline yield management is already complicated (yet very interesting). If more customers claim their refunds, it gets more difficult for the airlines to price discriminate. There are more parameters or assumptions to be considered.

That said, some airlines have already made it difficult like change fees. They also have the question whether services like Yapta is a good thing.

What if it is not? They can push the "base" price up, and entertain every single refund nicely. Perceived as "good value" by customers yet still receive the same level of profits. It's all about perception anyway.

Or switch to everyday-low-price style of Wal-Mart (low cost airlines like Southwest still cut prices, if I'm not mistaken). Which would be nearly impossible in the airline industry.

Well, just like
gasoline price, I think airplane passengers will still pay high price on average...

[Read more...]

Friday, June 01, 2007

An old lady who swallowed a fly

Not real.

I just finished reading to Ben, my son, "There was an old lady who swallowed a fly" book. It's an American folk poem, first heard in the 1940's, says the book. On the back cover, there are pictures - drawings, not photos - of 20+ types of flies (or insects with "fly" in their names).

I didn't realize there are so many types of flies, though wikipedia says the true flies are those with two (or single pair of) wings.

Among those, house fly is what we're most familiar with. What I found interesting about house flies are (1) the female can lay up to 8,000 eggs which hatch within a day -- no wonder there are so many flies around, (2) normally the female mates only once, storing the sperm to use it repeatedly for several sets of eggs, (3) flies continually preen themselves, cleaning their eyes with their forelegs and dusting off their legs by rubbing them together, and (4) they are capable of carrying over 100 diseases.

Another one that the picture looks interesting is robber fly. Red eyes, big and dotted upper body. It looks mean (picture, robber fly with housefly prey, from

clipped from
Robber flies are not to be trifled with. Capable of immobilizing bees, wasps and other insects larger than itself, robberflies catch their prey in mid air. As with other aerial predators, robberflies have excellent vision, characterized by two conspicuous compound eyes. The mouthparts of this family have been modified to a stabbing proboscis. Flies were revered by the ancient Egyptians who awarded a military honor in the form of a golden fly pendant.

blog it

The poem itself:
There was an old lady who swallowed a fly
I don't know why she swallowed a fly - perhaps she'll die!
There was an old lady who swallowed a spider,
That wriggled and wiggled and tiggled inside her;
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly;
I don't know why she swallowed a fly - Perhaps she'll die!
There was an old lady who swallowed a bird;
How absurd to swallow a bird.
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider,
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly;
I don't know why she swallowed a fly - Perhaps she'll die!
There was an old lady who swallowed a cat;
Fancy that to swallow a cat!
She swallowed the cat to catch the bird,
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider,
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly;
I don't know why she swallowed a fly - Perhaps she'll die!
There was an old lady that swallowed a dog;
What a hog, to swallow a dog;
She swallowed the dog to catch the cat,
She swallowed the cat to catch the bird,
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider,
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly;
I don't know why she swallowed a fly - Perhaps she'll die!
There was an old lady who swallowed a cow,
I don't know how she swallowed a cow;
She swallowed the cow to catch the dog,
She swallowed the dog to catch the cat,
She swallowed the cat to catch the bird,
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider,
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly;
I don't know why she swallowed a fly - Perhaps she'll die!
There was an old lady who swallowed a horse...
She's dead, of course!

[Read more...]

Drinking coffee

I'm a coffee person. I like it black and hot, or latte with ice.

So it's nice to see another research saying that drinking coffee may help prevent gout - knowing I will soon be the typical "gout at-risk" segment (men, age 40+).

Then I found this article of 7 good reasons to drink coffee (gout was recently added).

  1. Cut the Pain
    Two cups of coffee can cut post-workout muscle pain by up to 48%. From the Journal of Pain, March 2007 (link).
  2. Increase your fiber intake
    A cup of brewed coffee represents a contribution of up to 1.8 grams of fiber of the recommended intake of 20-38 grams. From the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry (link).
  3. Protection against cirrhosis of the liver
    Of course you could just cut down on the alcohol intake. From the Archives of Internal Medicine (link).
  4. Lowered risk of Type 2 Diabetes
    Those who consumed 6 or more cups per day had a 22% lower risk of diabetes. From the Archives of Internal Medicine (link).
  5. Lowered risk of Alzheimer’s disease
    There is considerable evidence that caffeine may protect against Alzheimer’s disease. From the European Journal of Neurology (link).
  6. Reduces suicide risk
    10 year study of 86,000 female nurses show a reduced risk of suicide in the coffee drinkers. From the Archives of Internal Medicine (link).
  7. Protection against Parkinson’s
    People with Parkinson’s disease are less likely to be smokers and coffee drinkers than their healthy siblings. Just make sure you don’t get lung cancer on the way. From the Archives of Neurology (link).
And also a research that shows that coffee may boost a woman’s sex drive (there's a catch).

Of course, there are cons about drinking coffee. The article "Coffee: to drink or not to drink" has both pros and cons. Interestingly, the first pros is "There are scientific studies that refute most if not all of the above listed negative effects".

But just like anything else, I believe consuming too much coffee is not good either.

[Read more...]