Archive for January, 2006

Finding Raeven a school

How did everyone’s CNY go?

It was kinda depressing here. No red lanterns. No CNY songs which I lovvvee so much. No going home to BG and catching up with friends. But we did get together with some of Lokes’ Malaysian Chinese friends from MS yesterday night for a CNY dinner at a place called King’s. It was a typical eight-course Chinese dinner, but the portions were SO huge it might as well have fed three tables. Good? It was okay. The cold steamed chicken was a little odd, but otherwise, I enjoyed it. And it was the first time I ate REAL abalone too. Yea, lucky me.

So the crunch has officially begun. I am now in full school-finding mode for Raeven, my 3.5-year old. It feels good to finally be productive, somewhat.

I started emailing some private and co-ops (short for co-operative, where parents and teachers work together in a what is presumably a government-subsidised school) today and a few have rejected us since it’s already close to the start of some of the semesters, and all the classes are full up. Yea, it was alarming and I panic easily. Fortunately, I now have four on my list which did NOT reject us outright, not including a co-op which I understand is VERY hard to get into, but guess what? I just got an email from the registrar a minute ago, saying that they have a place for Raeven. And the school is just MINUTES away, so woohoo!

One of the potentials, called Cascadia, sounded a little expensive. How does a school SOUND expensive? The lady, who told me she’s a director, said that Cascadia Montessori is a school you consider only if you’re interested in sending your kid to private education throughout his/her primative years, right up to Grade 6 or something. She said something like, “If that is not the direction you have in mind, then Cascadia may not be the right school for you.” Well, *cough* exxxccuuusee me.

Back to the good news from the co-op. Basically, co-ops are the cheapest way to go ($65 a month for two days a week, versus $200+ for three days a week in a Montessori school) and even though I’m not an American, I have faith in the public school system since I am a product of public schooling back home in Malaysia. Also, I figured, this is the best way I can get out and make friends as well with other parents since I’m required to work one day a week at the school. Gosh, I feel brave!

I’m also going to see another school in a few hours’ time, called Bright Horizons, which is in Bellevue (much farther than the co-op), which has got some good reviews online. Wonder if it’s expensive though. Here’s hoping it’s not.

I also managed to find the girls a pediatrician, just to make sure their immunisations are up to speed. Going on Feb 8th.

Okay, gotta get ready for the appointment. Wish us luck!

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My Dyson workout

You know, I haven’t vacuumed the floor in like, a million years. Back home, we had tile, and a maid, so I really haven’t played the housewife EVER.

So when we actually shopped for a vacuum cleaner, I didn’t even know what to look for. Luckily, Lokes read somewhere that Dyson was the best brand to get, a fact a friend later verified. Something about good suction and all. But it was expensive (about $200-300 more than the Hoovers and Eurekas out there, same class), so I had to find out more. Finally, after reading many reviews (from people who obviously have been vacuuming a lot more than me, that’s for sure), we bit and bought one from Costco.

After what can only be described as a wrestling workout (largely because I haven’t used an upright VC ever, so if you’ve never as well, this review would apply to you), here’s my take:

Here’s our Dyson DC14 Telescope which cost $469.90 from Costco. It comes with manuals and about five attachable heads you can stick onto the ‘telescope’, an appendage you can remove from the handle of VC and use it like a ‘hose’ to clean stairs, upholstery on your furniture and also under them. When using, it was pretty hefty to lug around, but I’m told upright VCs are like that. You actually push the whole thing up and down, working your right (or left, if you’re a leftie) arm muscles nicely throughout, and believe me, it’s REALLY tiring ‘coz the Dyson is NOT light.

This is what it sucked up from our carpet in the living room and upstairs in both our rooms and the hallway:

So is it good? Hell yea! Just lookit that! I didn’t even know the carpet was THAT dirty!

However, using the Telescope was a little bit like snake wrangling, perhaps because the VC is so new. The spring extension is coiled too tightly and needs to be pulled very hard to reach further, a fact evident when I was vacuuming the stairs. I also had some trouble figuring out which of the many heads to use to clean carpet spaces under furniture. I settled for this:

dyson05.jpg

It says that this cleans upholstery and stairs. When the VC is on, the bristles spin and catch stuff. I think.

The other problem with the Dyson is that it doesn’t have an auto-cable management system (you know, the thing that whips your power cable back in with a touch of a button?). This is where the wrestling bit comes in. You have to hold the cables in your other hand, constantly having to swing it out of the way. This sucked.

So the verdict: Upright VCs are a bitch to work, a fact I’d just discovered. But after you look at how clean they get (judging from how much crap the Dyson managed to suck up) you begin to see how worth it this thing is. Best thing is, the VC is bagless, so no refills needed. It was a little tricky at first to figure out how to dislodge the whole transparent container (without spilling the contents on oneself – especially contents that look like THAT), but it was pretty intuitive, even for an upright VC-virgin like me. Just a snap here and a pull there and it was out. You can even wash the container, so cool beans.

All in all, it’s quite cool.

Just not as cool as this.

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Respect for public restrooms

I said it before and I’ll say it again: you can almost quite accurately judge a country’s social and economic status from the state of its public restrooms.

Where I come from, public restrooms are, nine out of ten, unsanitary. Ten times out of ten, the people who use them, aka the public, don’t care. We use and abuse with nary a thought because someone else is paid to clean up our mess. And if noone is, we avoid using these places as much as we can.

And scoot over to the hotel across the road.

In the US, with only two exceptions – the Asian market I mentioned called 99 Ranch, and a cinema we visited yesterday right between shows – every public toilet I’ve visited is so clean you can sleep on the floor. Even the toilet in a gas station. And this was the same in LA as well, which we visited a few years back. I was pleasantly surprised then, and I am still amazed at how conscientious Americans are when it comes to their public property. I know this may not apply in certain states, but I am willing to bet that the ratio of dirty, poorly maintained public restrooms in Malaysia outnumbers those in the US.

Which is why when I visited the toilet at 99 Ranch, I smiled and frowned at the same time. The floor was blackened with water and grime. Lighting was poor. Tissues were everywhere. And I don’t mean just in the restroom. Outside in the carpark, rampant littering was evident. Which was why I said it really was like Giant. And it felt like home.

Are Asians, with the exception of perhaps the Japanese and Koreans (and ABCs?), SO incapable of respecting public property?

When we visit a foreign country, such as the US, we leave evidence of our existence almost everywhere we go. The times you don’t notice it, are the times we struggle to keep our dirty habits in check. Like to drop or not to drop that piece of tissue paper on the floor when noone’s looking. Or to ‘forget’ cleaning our own trays after we eat at a fast food joint. Or to refuse someone leeway in traffic. Just the other day, someone did that to me, and guess what? He was an Asian (looked Malaysian too, but I’m biased).

Visit the public toilets in any Southeast Asian country, including China, and you will see what I mean. It’s like because we’re a developing country, we can’t be bothered to keep clean. I understand when you’re Cambodia or poor parts of India and the last thing on your mind is hygiene. But if we can build the tallest buildings in the world and the most modern airport in the universe, we sure as hell can keep our public property properly maintained!

More next time on my restroom ‘tour’.

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Kung Hay Fatt Choy

That’s how people spell that here LOL.

Missing my family. Missing the Reunion Dinner food. Missing friends. Missing a LOT of ang pows (for my kids). Missing the CNY cookies.

Sigh. Have a good one, peeps.

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The day Oprah said sorry

Today’s big story on TV was this.

This brings up quite a few interesting points from my POV:

  1. James Frey, the guy who conned Oprah and her book club, wanted to market his book as fiction, but noone was interested. He later changed it to non-fiction and Randomhouse, the publisher accepted and printed A Million Little Pieces . Question: What do publishers do to check if a book IS or isn’t non-fiction? Do they invest any money into checking if someone’s memoir is really one? Apparently not. Anyone can just invent a story and call it his own (albeit it being quite difficult to do so – have you ever written creatively? It isn’t easy). It’s said that Frey is quite the writer too. Too bad he had to also be an Ahole.
  2. How will this affect Oprah’s book club? And basically everything she’s recommending on her show? Because not only did the book win a place on her famous book club, she even called up Larry King when he had Frey on his show discussing about The Smoking Gun‘s reported allegations earlier this month (that the book was a hoax). I mean, before you defend someone on national TV, you should do some fact checking, right? This is the part that was a little irresponsible.
  3. Oprah said in her interview today with Frey, that a memoir should be a true portrayal of actual events that happened to the author. What about Arthur Golden’s Memoirs of a Geisha? That’s a work of fiction. It’s got the word ‘Memoir’ in it. So does that mean Golden is a fraud? When I read Memoirs, I thought it was a true story, until I came to the end. And that book sold like nobody’s business (and even got made into a movie!). So why didn’t Randomhouse and Frey do that?
  4. The book is probably continuing to fly off shelves thanks to this publicity. Who can resist a scandal? Makes me wanna go buy it. How DO you punish a fraud like Grey? He will probably write another non-fiction book called “Why I Lied in A Million Little Pieces” and sell another few million copies.
  5. A website like The Smoking Gun (who has like THREE people working it) is able to devote the time and resources to break this story. What happened to the big boys like CNN and MSNBC (who are busy covering Oprah’s big apology now instead of breaking the actually story, probably kicking themselves in the head)? Internet-only media has definitely arrived.
  6. Americans believe TV a lot more than I thought they did. I mean, I’ve never actually bought an Oprah-book-club recommended title but apparently her book club recommendations help sell millions of copies of books. But I am, for the most part, suckered by the bestseller lists, particularly the New York Times list. Perhaps this will be a lesson to all to not take anyone’s word – not even Oprah’s – totally.

Enough of this madness. Tomorrow, I test my spanking new Dyson.

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Best ever snack in the world

Tomatoes from the US

These must be the best grape tomatoes in the world. We went to Costco today (Makro-type wholesale hypermart) and I picked a box of these up, and man, did I score.

Hey, I love my tomatoes. And you know what? They’re sweeter than the grapes I bought, from the same place! Am definitely going back for more.

Yum yum.

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Pill people

I’ve never really appreciated how medicated Americans are until I came here. And watched TV.

Since we came (14/12), we’ve been seeing little more than pharmaceutical ads on the box. Painkillers, fatkillers, cholesterol killers. Sleep disorder and, of course, your ED treatments. All day long, you’re solicited by one chemical alternative or another to treat a slew of health predicaments, real or imagined.

I wonder if anyone here realises that this is just so…worrisome. I mean, back home, if you can’t sleep, you go to a mamak. And ironically, drink coffee or teh tarik or eat some nasi lemak or roti, and you go home and sleep like a baby. Nobody I know takes other stuff than Panadol or Paracetamol when they have an ache anywhere. And if we DO have a sex problem, we just stop having sex altogether. Or these days, buy Coke with tongkat ali or kacip Fatimah (for women on the go, it’s ok!).

Or do what I do. Read a book.

For the insomnia, not the erectile dysfunction.

Wait ’til I tell you about the nocturnal party-line ads.

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