Words of Wisdom
Saturday, February 21, 2009
On Friday morning, I remarked to a veteran from HR to 'reserve' for me a blank form. He calmly (this guy is so soft-spoken, calm and cool as a cucumber) told me to come over to the Orientation Room at 11.00am. Adding that applying for VSS would not automatically grant one an acceptance. I laughingly replied that not applying would automatically grant one non-acceptance.
So, I went with a colleague. We signed each other's form as each other's witness and handed the forms over to the HR veteran. I went through the names of those who have applied so far. I pointed a few names including mine saying, 'This person has a slim chance', 'There's NO WAY they're letting go of this guy!', 'This one's sure to be rejected' etc.
I'm not afraid this time unlike the last time I applied for one. That was nerve-wracking as I was still repaying for my car. This time, the payout is a few thousands more and I am committed to only my small low-cost townhouse repayment. I can always rent out that place if I don't want to pay its monthly repayment.
It's highly unlikely they'll grant me the VSS though. I know it but it's still fun to apply for it and scare the Management. I even told people that I'm going to apply every VSS offer they're putting up.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Apart from a (6-inches?) stitching, she's back to her normal self. Loud.
We both agreed that she shouldn't be eating solid food yet. Only rice porridge, juices and oatmeals for the first 2 weeks. We don't want to take chances.
(Picture is from Islamic-world.net)
Told her what I told my mother yesterday. Got an email from a former colleague that the tropical fruit 'Soursop' is actually a natural cancer cell killer. Unlike chemo, this fruit kills the bad cells only and leave the good cells intact.
If only I had known this many many years ago when we first found out that my mother had colon cancer, I would've gotten her the fruits.
I was incredibly excited when I received the old metal magazines I purchased from the UK on eBay recently. Even when I was in my early teens, I never saw these as a waste of money. Hard rock and heavy metal magazines were a big part of my formative years. They were like my escape from real life.
Continuing my German fixation (as a friend described it....he...he...), nabbed myself 1 issue of Kerrang and 2 issues of Metal Forces with, of course, Helloween on the covers. Got myself into a bidding war too for a rare promo slide of drummer Ingo Schwichtenberg. Hey, you don't get things like this easily.
As I leafed through the pages of Metal Forces, it suddenly struck me that these actually came from one of the writers himself Mr. Bernard Doe. In fact, I actually bought the very issue that his original review of the band's Keeper of the Seven Keys Part 1 was published. The band's record label actually put that piece of writing on the reissued album inner sleeve.
So, I wrote Bernard an email saying how happy I was to have those items. He replied and kindly gave me a lovely photo of Ingo from 1991 during the Pink Bubbles Go Ape album era.
You know what? I call this a random act of kindness. It means so much to me. Ingo flew to me :-)
Thanks Bernard! You're so cool.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
When I started this blog, I was determined to have at least 1 photo accompanying each of my posts. I believe a picture speaks a thousand words. However, lately I haven't been able to do so very well.
You see, I host most of my pictures on Webshots - a photo sharing site. I like the easy interface. easier than Flickr in my opinion and certainly way way better than the ever-confusing Imageshack. However, my biggest gripe about Webshots is it's incredibly slow. It wasn't slow 2 years ago when I first trawled it for pictures of young Tokio Hotel band members.
Nowadays, even going to the 'welcome page' seems to take FOREVER. Maybe the folks at Webshots need to upgrade the server. After all, they claim to have 624 million photos there the last time I checked.
So far, my blog loads quite ok and there are people who have no trouble at all viewing it so I still say that Webshots can still do a decent job at image-hosting.
OK. So why wouldn't I simply upload pictures to Blogger? The answer is I'm a sucker for freeloading especially when it's legal. I do want to keep my blog free forever. With my penchant for putting up pictures whenever I can, it's easy to use up the free space given by Blogger.
Well, then. Some people say 'beggars can't be choosers'.
The VSS had been highly anticipated since factories all over the world went into downsizing frenzy last year.
I'm a factory worker and proud of it. As known in the economic world at the moment, we are the worst hit industries. In the most recent turn of event, our Management announced yesterday that they are opening VSS applications to employees from or related to our Car Stereo and Air-conditioner divisions.
However, rumours are rife that the Management actually already selected a list of names they want to kick out. That is why the announcement yesterday was made with the 'side info' that :
1. Those who have applied may not necessarily be selected
2. Those who have not applied may be called to the HR office should your name be in the selected list
3. The 'problem' employees who apply may not necessarily get the VSS as it is the company's wish to see you leave without having to pay a cent
Obviously the last condition was specially made by the HR Manager for Mr.B.....he...he...
My only worry is if many of my colleagues apply for it and actually get accepted, their workload may be shifted to the ones left behind.......like myself. This thought alone makes me want to climb the stairs to the HR Office to get the Application Form.
It wouldn't be much. My salary is so paltry that the total VSS payout I can get would be about MYR18K+. There isn't much I can do with that amount.
Monday, February 16, 2009
I've said before how my hands are better off holding a paintbrush than a piping bag. My words really rang true yesterday. My cake was like a normal Buttercream Cake after a 30-min car journey on a rocky road.
The chef was a Chinese guy with a 20-year experience in a family business. He said he'd been decorating cakes since he was a little kid still in school helping his parents in the family-owned bakery.
What the Teacher made :
Teacher's demo cake No.1
Teacher's demo cake No.2
Teacher's demo cake No.3
I'm hopeless at smoothing my cream frosting. Trying to smooth things over and the frosting would thin out and my cake would show. Very unpleasant.
The Chef? He smoothed his cake using a piece of cut plastic and his cake looked like a steam-buttercream cake. Glossy and smooth.
What I made :
Look! A blob of buttercream just fell from the sky!
Just look at that super ugly swirl!
Worst thing is I don't know how to correct it.
The better side of the cake.....phew!
Rose leaves that ended up looking like ferns
The only area which I can be a bit proud of. The leaf is just right.
After awhile, I gave up smoothing the cake and proceeded to little decorations. The Chef taught us to make swirls using the 'star' nozzle. Then he taught us how to pipe out our roses. He said I rotated my flower holder wrong. Where his roses look smooth and fresh, mine looked wrinkled and incredibly 'blossomed out'. In a way, that's a good thing as the ladies next to me had hard times trying to make their roses 'blossom out'.
Then, on to the airbrushing. In my eagerness, I took the blue colouring to spray my 'leaves'. They look 'dead'.
Then, I sprayed around the edges where I had piped with my star nozzle. As I spun the cake, the colour change to another and another. What the heck was that?
The Chef said I didn't clean the airbrush properly. Thus, I ended up with myriads of colours sprayed onto my cake.
OK. Then, the wordings. Where everybody else wrote 'Happy Anniversary' or 'Happy Birthday', I narcissistically wrote 'Shelly'. Ha...ha...!
Since this cake is forever going to be called my first Buttercream Cake, then I'd better 'stamp' my name on it.
Back home? It's chow time.Best thing is........my nephews demolished the cake once I brought it home.
I had a great time.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
My little sister came home a few days ago with a fever. On Saturday late afternoon, my parents decided to take her to the General Hospital after she complained about bad abdominal pains. Turned out she had a case of ruptured Appendicitis.
That evening, my parents called from the hospital asking me to be her company that night.
Oh, no! Not again. I hate having to sleep over at the hospital. I still remember the last time I had to spend nights there taking care of my mother. It was uncomfortable, the air conditioner was cruel on me and my sleep kept getting disrupted by nurses and doctors doing their duties. Not to mention looking after the sick person herself. It was exhausting.
I spent the night on a resting foldable 'beach' lounge thingy I borrowed from the ward's store room. Where the air-conditioner during my mother's time didn't work at all, the one where my sister is placed literally transported me to Europe pre-winter.
I wish I was wearing shoes. I had only flip-flops on my feet. No socks. No blanket. No warm jumper. I was freezing.
It was only appropriate that I tried to kill time by reading the new children fiction called The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. It's about a boy who became orphaned when his family were killed one night.......one cold night........ and he was saved by a graveyard full of ghosts after the boy wandered accidentally there during the murders. Interesting huh? Why didn't I think of such an idea?
I barely finished the 1st Chapter when my eyes just couldn't take it anymore.
My slumber wasn't very peaceful as the girl from another bed kept on making noises and whines about how painful her surgery had been. I wish I could just tell her to shut up.
Add to that, it was freezing that I kept on rubbing my toes fearing I would lose senses in them. Like a frostbite.
Woken up by an attendant asking me and my sister to prepare for the surgery. I was horrified to see dried blood at the edge of my right big toenail. It was so cold that it somehow caused some blood vessels to rupture there I think. Probably from the rubbing and bending I did that night.
After the morning prayer and my sister already got wheeled off to the surgery room, I called home to inform my parents that I was going home. My first plan was to shower at the hospital and hang around there for awhile. In the end, I couldn't take it. The chill was cutting to my bones, my toe was bleeding, my nose felt blocked and my face was red and painful around the nasal area.
Oh, there is just no place like home...............peace!
However, I kept on thinking about the advice given by this lady from a renowned British sugarcraft company that sells Celsticks that we should knead and re-knead gumpaste that has turned hard to soften it. On the container, Wilton even states that if the gumpaste has become hard, we may add some shortening before re-kneading.
The left rose is the 1st one I made and turned to be the best looking one.
The second rose.......hmm........the quality went downhill from No.2 onwards.
As it turned out, I didn't need any additional ingredients as my hands were naturally wet enough to soften the gumpaste. I actually just discovered that my hands are wet during my first fondant class at Mis's Creative Cakes. Kak Mis, the owner/instructor/sugarcraft extraordinairess told me so after observing my fondant at the time.......plus the trouble I was having with it....he...he.
The pink roses are just 'exercise roses'. Of course, I want to do the whole rose spray thingy which brides just love to put on their wedding cakes. Later....later.....just not this day. My back needed that rest.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
My day didn't start ugly yesterday at first when afterwards I got emo and went into a verbal war with an Advisor from Purchasing whom I usually get along very well with. She was questioning me why my Section hadn't yet produced the Data she asked for since last week. I told her it wasn't as simple as that. We had to ........:
1. come up with the latest List of parts (which came to our factory only a few days before production usage)
2. issue for quantity adjustment, inform all relevant parties,
3. take the parts ourselves at different locations,
4. check the usage status for each,
5. record the photo for each,
6. recheck against the Quantity adjustment again,
7. label each part
8. on top of all those, ALL four of my Operator girls are NEW. They're little juniors. Had to be guided from A-Z and THREE of my permanent staff were on sick and emergency leaves.
Frankly, I hated myself for raising my voice at her because she is a nice person really but it sickens me sometimes when my Section always have to answer for many problems that wasn't started by us.
In the end, we were instructed to finish the Data, by hook or by crook, that day to be handed in at 8.00am sharp today.
I can't remember the last time I had to stay back late for work. I once went home at 4am in the morning.
My colleague and I naturally had to be the ones staying back. He's be operating the machine and had to enter the Data in the summary I made earlier. The girls had to go home.
OK. This is how it happened. We were instructed by the MANAGING DIRECTOR to finish the job or our Production line would be halted today. I joked about it later that the future of the factory relied on my colleague's hands and mine.
I ran to my car to get my USB Pendrive where I stored many MP3s. Told my colleague that I wanted music to keep me awake.
I didn't notice the time flying by once the music was on. Let's see. I had Janne Da Arc, Matchbox 20, Tokio Hotel, Helloween, Hoobastank, Killerpilze, Jennifer Paige, Paramore, JoJo and Aizat. I went along doing my work singing along to the songs phonetically most of the time especially to the Japanese and German songs. It was a blast!
We left at around 11.20pm. As expected, my father called while I was driving asking where I was. The old man and his midnight curfew......ha....ha.
Didn't bother taking a shower once home. Did I get a good sleep? I knew I dozed off immediately sadly only to wake up again at 5.40am today to hand in last night's work.
Sunday, February 8, 2009
My first attempt at Fondant was a few years ago for a colleague's wedding. I was totally self-taught with only 1 book for the recipe reference and another book for the design. I remember rolling the fondant like a piece of sun-baked clay! It was tough like old rubber. Ok, I'm totally exaggerating here but I certainly couldn't get the smooth and pliable 'dough' like the pictures in the books.
I already dismissed that recipe as a failure. Therefore, I was quite surprised to find the recipe/ingredients used for this class by Kak Mis was similar to the one I attempted on that occasion.
I came back home today delighted by the experience. Now I know where I went wrong and what the books 'forgot' to inform. I didn't use corn flour at all last time. I didn't flip my fondant over and over while rolling. I didn't even roll it the correct way causing it to stick to the rolling board. Oh, need I mention that I didn't even know how liquid glucose looked like. I just melted some sugar in water and that was it. It was supposed to be very thick and sticky. I really didn't know the correct ratio of sugar and water to make the home-made liquid glucose or glucose syrup. Oh, I even committed the Cardinal sin of leaving the fondant exposed to the air while working. No wonder everything went tough and cracky.
We did a girly and frilly Dutch girl cake design today and a sugar box out of fondant. No gumpaste at all today which is great as I was always doubting fondant's capability of hardening properly especially for flower deco. I remember my first rose wilting and cracking at the bends. It wouldn't dry like it did in the the books.
Can fondant be used for flower deco? The verdict after today......YES.
I made her blonde where everybody else chose to paint her hair brunette. To me, I couldn't imagine her to be anything other than blonde.
For my Dutch girl cake top, I admitted making lots of mistakes. I'm not too proficient on the Garret frills which I already attempted on that very first occasion years ago. I'm still not doing that much progress today as far as I can see. I need to practise more on crimping techniques later if I decide to get the crimpers at all.
We were racing for time and as a result, my mind couldn't concentrate very well. How to when there was a bus home to catch later in the day?
Back to the deco. I wasn't too happy with my colour scheme as the colours I had originally envisioned didn't materialise. I wanted very soft blue background which failed and had to switch to the peach coral pink thing. For the sugar box, I originally wanted a light lime green colour to embellish with silver ribbons but I didn't know how to mix the colours to achive that. So, I had to abandon that idea and ended up with the peach coral pink thingy again.
I was quite happy with my Dutch girl though. I was the only one who decided to give her the blonde 3D hair. I wanted ribbons on the nape of her hood but didn't have time for it so I just stuck a flower there instead. I liked her bouquet. I wanted it to look like she picked the flowers up from the meadow beneath her feet. Wasn't too thrilled with the frills at her skirt hem though. Told ya that Garret frills aren't my specialty at the moment.
All in all, mine certainly wasn't the most attractive cake there but there was only ONE thing that I managed to excel over everybody else. That is my paintbrush stroke. Drawing and painting are second nature to me since I was a kid and I will always feel more comfortable and steady with a paintbrush than I ever will with a nozzled piping back.
It was worth the money I forked out for this class. Thanks Kak Mis.
Thursday, February 5, 2009
Got to get this out of my chest.
In the last election, the Opposition (better known as PKR) won 5 states which among them was the state of Perak. It's one of the biggest states in Peninsula Malaysia and the win certainly was a major breakthrough for the PKR.
This being Malaysia, it never takes long for things to get down and dirty. Super filthy.
Last year, 2 MPs from the PKR were caught in an entanglement of sex scandals (allegedly) and bribery. I'm not sure about the details. Not interested to know that deep. This year, the 'shamed ones' were reported as 'missing' or 'kidnapped'.
Then, the news broke yesterday that the National Coalition party had won the state of Perak because the two 'shamed MPs' had left the PKR. They call this 'party-hopping'.
I am so disgusted with this. There is one very prominent figure in the PKR who is determined to make 'party-hopping' illegal. I'm very much on his side on this issue.
This is how I see it. Even if 'party-hopping' legal for now, it's still IMMORAL. In the first place, those who voted for the 'party-hoppers' DID NOT vote them to represent any other parties. To turn 180 degree turn is downright disrespectful.
The honourable thing to do is to step down from the posts, officially announced to your constituents about pulling out and have a re-election where the voters have their say.
This is one of those times that I envy countries like the USA. I mean, when Clinton got embroiled in sex scandals, he was impeached. He stepped down honourably. It is not so in a country like Malaysia.
How desperate can Malaysian politicians be? The National Coalition is so hung up on wanting to win even by resorting to poaching corrupt leaders from another party. The PKR traitors are now representing their constituents as 'free' MPs.
I cringe thinking of who would be our next PM. At the moment, the
National Coalition is rooting for a man who :
2. Despite being the son of a highly respected late political figure who didn't think twice about taking even a bicycle to visit poor folks in the rural areas, this man is never known for showing up in the villages except during elections.
3. Talking about the murdered Mongolian with a C4 bomb mind you. How come he as the then Minister of the Defence Ministry claimed to not know or authorize the 'issuing' of the bomb from the Ministry?
4. Don't let me start on the poor Mongolian's travel record into Malaysia being non-existent. Hmm.......
5. When the former PM's wife was a respected intelligent figure and the late wife of the current PM worked tirelessly to promote our Arts and cultural heritage most noticeably the batik, this man's wife is better known for having a face that turns more like plastic each and every year. Her most famous social 'contribution' has been a flirty exchange with a Bollywood superstar that caused an uproar in our conservative society.
Back to the Perak affair, the PKR State Minister who was chosen by the Perak Royal Palace is an educated, multi-lingual and religious man who has achieved so much in his life and people friendly too. At last, I thought, someone with a brain that works got to lead. Of course, he was chosen by the educated royals of the state Palace.
20 years ago, I never would have hoped for this but somehow in the face of the current situation, I want us to be saved by nothing more than a family of intelligent royals who understand what the phrase 'for the people' means and I'm not even a fan of royal families.
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
So I followed the recipe on the Gum-Tex container as my base. I halved it in case it didn't turn out good as usually happened with my previous attempt at making gumpaste/modelling paste.
I started with sifting the Gum-Tex with my icing sugar. Leave about 1/2 cup of sugar for mixing in later during the 'dough' stage. Then, I put my glucose syrup into a cup and added 3 part hot water and 1 part lemon juice. Put the cup into the microwave and heat it on medium for 1 minute. The glucose became thin and I thought that this would make sense to pour into the icing sugar mix. So, I did. I was even able to use a spoon to stir it a little.
Then, after the liquid glucose was coated by the icing sugar, I started to use my fingers. That's when I began to doubt. The instruction said, the mix would turn very soft. Mine didn't. It was crumbly and dry. All I got was this mixture that resembled breadcrumbs or the crumbs you get
when mixing butter and flour for shortcrust pastry. What kind of 'soft' did Wilton mean?
I started thinking that this was actually Wilton's recipe to make the 'Wilton Just-add-water gumpaste mix'. Hmm....water.
Time to improvise. I added in a 1/2 tsp of water and worked it in. Still crumbly. Added 1/2 tsp more water. Started to stick but still crumbly. Added another 1/2 tsp of water and really knead it in like doing a bread dough by adding more sugar that I kept aside in the beginning. Then, it
started to look like the dough of the experienced sugarcrafters I saw many times on the Internet. Oh....thanks Heaven.
So, in the end, this is my recipe:
2 cups icing sugar (set aside 1/2 cup for kneading)
1/2 tbs Gum-Tex
1-1/2 tsp hot water
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tbs liquid glucose
1-1/2 tsp water for kneading
1. Sift Gum-Tex with 1-1/2 cups sugar and make a well.
2. Mix together 1-1/2 tsp hot water, 1/2 tsp lemon juice and liquid
glucose in a cup and heat in the microwave for 1 minute.
3. Pour the melted glucose into the icing sugar well and start mixing
it in with the fingers.
4. Mixture will resemble bread crumbs.
5. Add water 1/2 tsp at a time.
6. Knead like a bread dough.
7. The dough will turn out smooth eventually.
8. Keep in a clingwrap and place in an airtight container till ready
As I'm writing this, the 'dough' is still in the clingwrap. Would it work? It felt hard like a piece of clay when I touched it last night. Wilton says we can add a little shortening to soften it a bit when we are ready to use it. Sounds good. So, I'm not too worried because that's a technique I've seen a few skilled sugarcrafters do online.
Good luck to me. Besides, it's Wilton. You can't go wrong sugarcrafting with Wilton, can you?