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Rambles' Ramblings

Ramblings, a salve for any hurts

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Malaysia

Soap and Baking, Oh My!

It is really interesting how interests evolved and grow. I, for one, would not have pegged myself for being one of those ‘make it yourself’ type of people. Even when we got the oven, it was mainly for my sister. I got curious about baking, went to research on cake (because everyone loves cake and commercial cake is really bad for our family – parents with diabetics and us two at a hereditary risk). I found myself falling into that world so fast that my head still spins until today.

I started off making no-bake cookies and cakes and quickly upgrades to baking them. At that point in time, I am still wary of altering recipes and so found myself with many too sweet cookies and cakes. Once I started to cut down the amount of sugar required in the recipes, the products become much more palatable.

Then I discovered bread. I first started to make bread using recipes from a real cookbook, the first one I got. I was apprehensive of using yeast and kept on checking whether it rises. It rose beautifully and it was delicious, though being such a large batch, it took us some time to finish it. I will admit, I went a bit crazy, making three different batches in just three days. We were heartily tired of bread by the time we finished them all.

For me, bread is one of the easiest thing to bake, until one batch failed so utterly that it is more brick-like than bread-like. Then I realized that ambient temperature is as important as they always tell you. Even in hot and humid Malaysia, rainy days still meant failure to bread left to rise on the counter top. A tip I found on allrecipes.com worked well for me: pour a pan of near boiling water into a baking pan or a large plate placed at the bottom of the oven and place the dough inside to rise. It works out every time and I no longer has the trouble of failed bread. I thought that is all to my obsession to homemade goods.

Of course, then I am introduced to soap making by a friend. While soap making may be much cheaper in other countries, it is ridiculously expensive in Malaysia where it is very very very difficult to get hold of one of the essential materials: lye, or sodium hydroxide. After that, the different oils and essential oils as well as colourants do not make it any cheaper. To date, I have only made one batch of lemon-scented soap which should mature in about 2 months. Although I have been meaning to make a second batch (chocolate soap!) today, I forgot to get the materials needed and so my plans are thwarted. Oh well, it will keep.

The same friend asked me about gluten-free bread (she has a nephew who was put on a gluten-free diet for health purposes) which I neglect to research for such a long time. She has heard of flourless bread, which to me sounds quite impossible until I checked it with Google and finds that not only is it very possible, but probably tastes as good as normal bread.

There’s only one problem: the recipes frequently asked for coconut flour or almond flour, both of which, again, is quite difficult to source in Malaysia. So off I went again on another research binge: how to make coconut flour. It turns out to be quite easy, though tedious. Why not almond flour, one may ask. Well, it is because coconuts are cheaper than almond here and it make sense to go the inexpensive road although I might make some almond flour for just for special occasions.

Seriously, I have too many interests when I should be studying. But then, I wouldn’t have as much fun without all these projects. So I guess I will just have to learn to manage my time well.

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The Police

Sometimes I wonder if they are there to protect us or to victimize us. I don’t know about other countries, but in Malaysia, the police is almost a synonym for corruption. Of course, there will be some who are really good and upright men but they are few and far in between.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not against the police nor am I saying it is better to abolish the police force. What I am thinking is that the system is too old to be really efficient these days. I know that there have been upgrades and training and whatnot, but are they true changes or only cosmetic changes? Police brutality in Malaysia had make the headlines recently, with one death in custody confirmed due to beatings and torture as well as at least three suspected of the same.

Even on the international news reports of police shooting dead civilians are frequent. It makes me wonder: Is the training of the police sufficient, adequate and suitable? If it is, what went wrong that it seems to have become a trend for the police to kill?

Don’t even start on corruption! Even my own relatives say that traffic cops are just a bunch of corrupted SOBs. If one is pulled over by traffic cops due to any number of traffic violations, all one has to do to avoid a write-up is to present RM20-RM50 in the form of money folded within handshake. The traffic cops are also known as ‘potatoes’ due to their action in staying in one place to ostensibly direct traffic but in reality obstructing it. More than once have I been on a road that ought to be clear but was jammed due to the bumbling of the officer in charge.  They also chose the darkest and loneliest paths to spring their roadblocks, but never in well-lit roads near housing estates to keep crime down.

So I ask: What is the purpose of the police today? To protect or to victimize?

Democracy (My personal opinion)

Democracy or democrazy? I always wonder whenever it is time for the General Election of Malaysia. Is democracy that big a deal? It seems that the whole world is fixated on the idea of free will and hoped that one day all the nations will be democratically ruled.

I don’t know how that system works in other countries, but I will tell what I can about how it works in Malaysia before talking about my misgivings about it. The system in Malaysia is known as a constitutional democracy. Simply put, although our Prime Minister and all other are chosen by the people, we still have a head of the country, known as the Agung, not unlike the British Monarch. The difference is that there are 9 Sultans in my country, and they will take turns to occupy the position of Agung. They do not have much power, mostly as the head of Islamic matters.

About the political parties though, it is different story all together. I am unsure if any of you would know, but the recent 13th General Election on 5th May 2013 is one of the most closely contested election in all 50-something years of history. Before the election in 2008, 5 years ago, there is only one coalition worth mentioning — Barisan Nasional, which is the ruling coalition. It consists of many parties, the main three being UMNO for the Malays, MCA for the Chinese and MIC for the Indians.

In 12th General Election 2008, three opposition parties, DAP, PAS and PKR formed a coalition named Pakatan Rakyat, which means ‘People’s Alliance’. To everybody’s surprise, there is a political tsunami and between the three of them, they managed to wrest Penang, Kedah, Kelantan, Selangor and Terrengganu from BN. It seems as though a new dawn is breaking for Malaysian politics.

In 2013, the General Election quickly became heated and the people turned apprehensive, fearing another May 13 tragedy. There is however, a clear and definitive difference between the older generations and the younger voters. The race riots of 1969 still retain their horror for the older voters but the younger members prided themselves on being mature enough to restrain from riots. The result? No riots, but accusations of fraud prevailed.

So now, nearly two months after the election and one of the ‘chosen’ died due to health problems. For us? Another re-election which is bound to waste tons of money and yield very little results.

One thing that bugged me is how we never get to choose the candidate. Instead, we have candidates from the parties contesting against each other and we are supposed to choose one of them. What if I don’t like either of them? What then?

What is democracy meant to do? To give people choice? I think that democracy is a mere illusion of choice. We don’t really have a lot of choice. We only have a choice between evil and wicked and neither is a nice choice. Sometimes, I wonder why do we bother to hold elections when we are not really given a choice. If I had a choice, I would have elected my secondary school teacher who had more sensibility than all the current politicians added together!

A waste of time and money, a wealth of corruption and fraud hiding behind the planning. Is democracy all that good? Just wondering.

 

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