3 Jujur 2012

These are my students from 3 Jujur 2012. Gonna miss this bunch of kids!

3 Amanah 2012

My 3 Amanah kids. They are normally a lot happier!

4 Usaha 2011

Best of luck guys!

5 Murni 2011

I will never forget all of you.

Choral Speaking Team 2012

Champions of Zone H (Pasir Gudang)

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Alternative Sleep Cycles

Most people only think that there is one way to sleep: Go to sleep at night for 6-8 hours, wake up in the morning, stay awake for 16-18 hours and then repeat. Actually, that is called a monophasic sleep cycle, which is only 1 of 5 major sleep cycles that have been used successfully throughout history. The other 4 are considered polyphasic sleep cycles due to the multiple number of naps they require each day. How is this possible? How is this healthy? Well the most important of every sleep cycle is the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep stage, which has been shown to provide the benefits of sleep to the brain above all other stages of sleep. When changing over to a polyphasic cycle, the lack of sleep tricks the body into entering REM sleep immediately instead of 45 to 75 minutes into sleep like in the monophasic sleep. This way, you still get the benefits of 8 hours of sleep without wasting all of the time it takes to get to REM cycles, resulting in a much more efficient sleep cycle. You can get more information about stages of sleep here.

Here are polyphasic cycles:

Uberman Cycle:

20 to 30 minute naps every 4 hours, resulting in 6 naps each day. The uberman cycle is highly efficient, and usually results in feeling healthy,  feeling refreshed upon waking and extremely vivid dreams. Many uberman-users report increased ability to lucid dream as well. However, the rigid schedule makes it near impossible to miss naps without feeling horribly tired. Blogger Steve Pavlina tried the cycle for 5.5 months and had amazingly positive results. He only reverted to monophasic sleep so that he could be on the same cycle as his wife and children. Read his report here.

Everyman Cycle:

One longer “core” nap that is supplemented with several 20-30 minute naps. The most successful variations that I have read about are either one 3 hour nap and three 20-minute naps or one 1.5 hour nap with 4-5 20 minute naps, all of which have equal amounts of time in between each nap. This cycle is much easier to adjust to than the Uberman and allows for more flexibity in nap times and in skipping naps when necessary. It is also still extremely efficient compared to monophasic with only 3-4 hours of sleep per day. Many bloggers have tried out this cycle and reported no negative effects on their health.

Dymaxion Cycle:

Bucky Fuller invented the cycle based on his belief that we have two energy tanks, the first is easy to replenish whereas the second tank (second wind) is much harder to replenish. So Bucky began sleeping for 30 minutes every 6 hours. That’s 2 hours a day of sleep! He reported feeling, “the most vigorous and alert condition I have ever enjoyed.” Doctors examined him after several years of using the cycle and pronounced him perfectly healthy. In fact, Fuller only stopped the cycle because his business associates were still stuck on monophasic cycles. This is by far the most extreme of the 4 alternate cycles, but also the most efficient.

Biphasic/Siesta Cycle:

Not even worthy of a diagram, the biphasic cycle is basically that of every college student. The biphasic cycle consists of sleeping for 4-4.5 hours at night, and then taking a 90 minute nap around noon. So not all that different, still more efficient than monophasic, but not by much.

However, not everyone agrees with these unnatural sleep patterns. Dr. Piotr Wozniak suggests some negative long-term effects of polyphasic cycles, available here and a follow-up article available here. I have to warn you though, they are both very long (which is why I don't even bother to summarize them for you here).

You might also want to check out a cool iPhone Sleep Cycle alarm clock app that monitors your movement and wakes you up when you're in your lightest sleep phase. This could be useful since being awaken while in your deep sleep (REM stage) is proven to interfere your long-term memory.

Sleep Cycle app screenshot

Friday, December 28, 2012

Breakfast and School Performance

I always ask my students if they took breakfast before coming to school. It was quite surprising to me at first when the mass majority of the students answered "no". When I asked why, they said "tak sempat". I dismissed the conversation upon hearing so but I never really stop thinking whether it is really the time issue that's hindering breakfast, or has it become a bad habit instead? I mean, it could not be so time-consuming to have some ready-made breakfast like a couple slices of bread, some cereal or simply drink some Milo. When I was in primary school, my mother never failed to serve me breakfast everyday. We couldn't afford expensive breakfast cereals so it was normally nasi goreng with eggs or when in the rush, just bread with jam. Perhaps many of us has overlooked the importance of having breakfast to kickstart our day, but despite this, these people still perform well in school or workplace. Because of this, it puzzles me if having breakfast really has something to do with an improved performance in school. Logically, there should be a connection, but I will not believe so simply because I'm told so.

So I did a quick research and I want to share what I found with you.

Mahoney et al. did a research on the effect of breakfast composition on cognitive processes in elementary school children. The research is focused on the following cognitive processes: spatial memory, short-term memory, visual perception, visual attention, auditory attention and verbal memory. 

Spatial memory: Spatial memory relates to how the brain stores information regarding the location of physical objects in space - the environment around you. Spatial memory is extremely vital for many species' survival, including us humans: it allows you to find your way in a familiar city, it allows a rat to learn the location of food in a maze, and it allows cats to find their food bowl in the kitchen. Obviously, earlier on in our evolution, it allowed our ancestors to locate sources of water, food, and shelter.

Short-term memory: Short-term memory, also known as primary or active memory, is the information we are currently aware of or thinking about. 

Visual perception: Visual perception is the ability to interpret the surrounding environment by processing information that is contained in visible light. 

Visual attention: Visual attention is the ability to maintain visual fixation and concentration on a particular target or object. This skill is of critical necessity for school children and helps them maintain on‐task behaviors. 

Auditory attention: Auditory attention is the ability to focus on relevant acoustic signals, particularly speech or linguistic stimuli, and sustain that attention for an age-appropriate amount of time. 

Verbal memory: Verbal memory is a term used in cognitive psychology that refers to memory of words and other abstractions involving language. 

Mahoney et al. examined the effects of breakfast composition versus no breakfast on cognitive performance. Results suggest that performance on most measures is enhanced by breakfast consumption and that the composition of breakfast can also influence children’s cognitive performance on some measures, particularly spatial memory, short-term memory, and auditory attention.

Another research by Murphy et al. studied if a relationship exists between participation in a school breakfast program and measures of psychosocial and academic functioning in school-aged children. Both cross-sectional and longitudinal data from this study provide strong evidence that higher rates of participation in school breakfast programs are associated in the short-term with improved student functioning on a broad range of psychosocial and academic measures.

Cueto's research relates breakfast consumption with increased available levels of energy, improved nutritional status and better school attendance which would improve the capacity of active learning and subsequently school performance. This is summarized in the following theoretical model:

The following conclusions can be drawn from the findings of this study:

  1. Breakfast consumption has a short-term effect in improving selected learning skills, especially work memory. 
  2. School breakfast has a positive effect on the nutritional status of the children involved.
  3. School breakfast programmes have a positive effect on school attendance and probably on dropout rates. 
  4. The effect of breakfast consumption on school performance depends on the interaction between the programme, student characteristics (malnutrition) and school organisation.

Based on these facts, I am convinced that breakfast consumption does have some positive effects in school performance in general. Just eat something in the morning, before you go to school or work to make sure your brain and body have sufficient energy level to support active learning and maximize work rate as well as productivity. Please, do not skip your breakfast and do encourage your students/children to take breakfast.

Salary Management

New year resolution 1: Will try my best to adhere to this scheme. Thanks to Hasani for sharing.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

2013 Responsibilities

Here is my list of responsibilities for 2013:

  1. Setiausaha Unit Pengurusan HEM
  2. Setiausaha PIBG
  3. Setiausaha Kelab Guru & Kakitangan (KGKT)
  4. Setiausaha Unit Disiplin & e-Disiplin
  5. Setiausaha sukan bola tampar
  6. Setiausaha Persatuan Bahasa Inggeris
  7. Setiausaha PK10 Pengurusan Perkembangan Staf Sistem Pengurusan Sekolah Kualiti (SPSK)
  8. Penyelaras Bilik Guru
  9. Guru bertugas mingguan Kumpulan 1
  10. Guru penasihat TKRS
  11. Guru penasihat rumah sukan Rajawali
I will try my best to do a good job and help others as well. InsyaAllah.

Year 3 KSSR Documents Download

Sistem Pengurusan Sekolah Kualiti (SPSK) Documents Download


















Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Declining Maths and Science Standards: The Ugly Truth

Prior to the TIMSS 2011 revelation, I had no idea that the standards of Maths and Science in Malaysia has shockingly plunged to such a pathetic level. Looking at the shiny results of our students in public examinations, who would have thought of the ugly truth concealed behind it. Obviously, the Ministry of Education has lowered the passing grades to give the impression of  a so-called "improvement", for whatever reasons that is. Just look at the 2012 PMR results for an instance. 24% of all candidates got an A in Science. Despite of how glorious this might make us feel, what use is this "glory" if these students cannot compete globally?

Now let's take a look at the real scenario, and judge for yourself.

Percentage of students who answered “What does xy+1 mean” correctly"

Percentage of students who answered “What is the chemical formula for carbon dioxide” correctly.

It's natural that when something bad happens, people will start pointing fingers. Instead of thinking of a solution, we are more interested in finding out who should take the blame. This time, instead of talking about the blame list, let's see what we can do now that our kids in school are no longer inclined to Maths and Science. Deputy Education Minister Datuk Wee Ka Siong said, "we will do something", but declined further comment. The government would study the report, identify Malaysia's weaknesses and take the necessary action.

I have some questions:
  1. Before the TIMSS report, does the government really have no idea of this declining trend? I doubt so.
  2. Why only now, when the dark secret has been revealed to the public, then only "the necessary action" is to be taken?

Perhaps this declining rankings has something to do with our overemphasis on what language should be used to teach Maths and Science. The PPSMI policy? Ring a bell? PAGE Malaysia chairman said:
"The government talks so much about science and innovation leading the country forward but this is not reflected in our education system. The focus has been too much on what language we will teach in. It is knowledge that will help us excel."
We should promote inquiry-based science education with an emphasis on getting students involved in laboratory experiments instead of merely learning from textbooks. Also, Malaysia should do a detailed analysis which will lead to an education reform if we are serious about reversing these plunging standards. We should perhaps start simply by telling the truth. Stop hiding facts and put more efforts on working together as a team, with the true 1Malaysia spirit. Stop pointing fingers, we all should take the blame. So let's contribute what we can to reverse the trends and show the world that Malaysia boleh!

Friday, December 21, 2012

PMR 2012 SBP & MRSM Ranking

  1. Sekolah Menengah Sains Hulu Selangor - 1.022
  2. The Malay College Kuala Kangsar - 1.0237
  3. Sekolah Menengah Sains Sultan Mahmud - 1.0265
  4. Kolej Tunku Kurshiah - 1.0278
  5. SM Sains Raja Tun Azlan Shah - 1.0302
  6. Sekolah Menengah Sains Kota Tinggi - 1.0309
  7. SBP Integrasi Gombak - 1.0375
  8. Sekolah Tun Fatimah - 1.0377
  9. MRSM Pasir Salak - 1.0405
  10. Sekolah Menengah Sains Rembau - 1.0408
  11. MRSM Alor Gajah - 1.0427
  12. Sekolah Sultan Alam Shah - 1.0434
  13. MRSM Gemencheh - 1.0484
  14. MRSM Baling - 1.0497
  15. SM Sains Tengku Muhammad Faris Petra - 1.0499
  16. Sekolah Menengah Sains Selangor - 1.0538
  17. Sekolah Seri Puteri - 1.0557
  18. Sekolah Tuanku Abdul Rahman - 1.0575
  19. MRSM Transkrian - 1.0583
  20. Sekolah Menengah Sains Tapah - 1.0595
  21. MRSM Kuala Kubu Bharu - 1.0618
  22. MRSM Tun Abdul Razak - 1.0631
  23. MRSM PDRM Kulim - 1.0651
  24. MRSM Serting - 1.0695
  25. Sekolah Menengah Sains Kuching - 1.0707
  26. Sekolah Menengah Sains Muzhafar Shah - 1.0711
  27. MRSM Pendang - 1.0716
  28. Sekolah Menengah Sains Kuala Selangor - 1.075
  29. MRSM Pengkalan Hulu - 1.0765
  30. Sekolah Menengah Sains Miri - 1.0772
  31. Sekolah Menegah Sains Johor - 1.0781
  32. Sekolah Menengah Sains Machang - 1.0802
  33. MRSM Gerik - 1.0814
  34. MRSM Kepala Batas - 1.0816
  35. Sekolah Menengah Sains Lahad Datu - 1.0827
  36. MRSM Kuala Klawang - 1.0829
  37. MRSM Mukah - 1.0858
  38. MRSM Langkawi - 1.0861
  39. MRSM Pontian - 1.0901
  40. MRSM Beseri - 1.0914
  41. Sekolah Dato' Abdul - 1.0923
  42. MRSM Balik Pulau - 1.0949
  43. MRSM Kuala Terengganu 1.0958
  44. MRSM Kota Putra - 1.0971
  45. Sekolah Menengah Sains Tuanku Jaafar 1.0983
  46. Sekolah Menengah Sains Kubang Pasu 1.0989
  47. SBP Integrasi Sabak Bernam 1.099
  48. MRSM Terendak 1.1004
  49. Sekolah Menengah Sains Kepala Batas 1.1006
  50. MRSM FELDA 1.1023
  51. MRSM Merbok 1.1038
  52. SM Sains Tun Syed Sheh Shahabudin - 1.1062
  53. MRSM Muadzam Shah - 1.1093
  54. Sekolah Menengah Sains Pasir Putih - 1.1104
  55. MRSM Besut - 1.1124
  56. Sekolah Menengah Sains Dungun - 1.114
  57. SBP Integrasi Kubang Pasu - 1.1149
  58. MRSM Kuching - 1.1154
  59. MRSM Lenggong - 1.1162
  60. SM Sains Hulu Terengganu - 1.1194
  61. SM Sains Sultan Mohamad Jiwa - 1.1209
  62. Sekolah Menengah Sains Tengku Abdullah - 1.1221
  63. MRSM Kuantan - 1.1232
  64. Sekolah Menengah Sultan Abdul Halim - 1.124
  65. SM Sains Tuanku Syed Putra - 1.1243
  66. SBP Integrasi Rawang - 1.1296
  67. Sekolah Menengah Sains Sabah - 1.1357
  68. MRSM Batu Pahat - 1.1368
  69. SBP Integrasi Gopeng - 1.1373
  70. SM Agama Persekutuan Kajang - 1.1376
  71. MRSM Kubang Pasu - 1.1422
  72. MRSM Tumpat - 1.1470
  73. SM Agama Persekutuan Labu - 1.1485
  74. Sekolah Menengah Sains Teluk Intan - 1.1493
  75. Sekolah Menengah Sains Labuan - 1.1496
  76. MRSM Tun Ghazali Shafie - 1.1505
  77. Sekolah Menengah Sains Pokok Sena - 1.1581
  78. Sekolah Sains Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah - 1.1585
  79. MRSM Tawau - 1.1619
  80. Sekolah Berasrama Penuh Tun Abdul Razak - 1.171
  81. MRSM Kota Kinabalu - 1.1725
  82. MRSM Muar - 1.1734
  83. MRSM Mersing - 1.1736
  84. MRSM Betong - 1.1739
  85. MRSM Pasir Tumboh - 1.1763
  86. SM Sains Sulatan Haji Ahmad Shah - 1.178
  87. MRSM Kuala Krai - 1.1849
  88. SBP Integrasi Temerloh - 1.1951
  89. SBP Integrasi Selandar - 1.1954
  90. Sekolah Menengah Sains Bagan Datoh - 1.2491
  91. Sekolah Berasrama Penuh Integrasi Kuantan - 1.25
  92. Sekolah Menengah Sains Sultan Iskandar - 1.2549
  93. SBP Integrasi Jempol - 1.2865
  94. MRSM Jeli - 1.3448

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Actual Mayan Predictions

Tortuguero Monument Six, supposedly predicting the "end of the world" in December, actually tells the life and battles of a ruler.

The Mayans calendar ends today - December 21, 2012 - but will the world ends too? It is unlikely so, but perhaps we'll never know until it's December 21 in  the present-day southern Mexican states of Chiapas, Tabasco, and the Yucatán Peninsula states of Quintana Roo, Campeche and Yucatán, where the Maya civilization used to be. So at the time this post is written, we have a few more hours in the waiting.

Let me talk about this so-called world apocalypse that some of us fear as the end of the world. If you read the history, the Mayans never predicted that the world will end today. In fact, ancient Maya actually said we’ll be around another 7,000 years or so. It is merely a coincidence that their 5000-year calendar ends today. It is the different interpretations of this that leads to the 'prediction' of the end of the world.

First in the list of blame is Nostradamus. But neither did he nor the Mayans predicted exactly so. The Mayans’ long count calendar ends in December of 2012, but that does not necessarily mean doom, and  contrary to what most of us believes, Nostradamus has no exact prediction that conclusively dates to 2012. You must know that frankly Nostradamus predicted a whole bunch of stuff. Also, nothing of any significance ever happens without someone claiming that Nostradamus predicted it. I just want to make that part very clear here in the beginning. However, there is a very interesting prediction of Nostradamus that does seem to give credence to the many people who combine his predictions with the 2012 date.

“After a great misery of mankind, an even greater approaches. The great cycle of the centuries renewed, it will rain blood, milk, famine, war, disease. In the sky will be seen a great fire dragging a trail of sparks.”

Before we go any farther, know this: this is the exact same prediction that was used before Y2K to show that Nostradamus predicted the end of the world in 2000. It seemed to make sense for them then too, but it did not happen. So now this prediction has been attributed to the 2012 Mayan date. The reason is because what could be a greater meaning for “great cycle of the centuries renewed” than the ending of a 5,000 year old calendar? So, it seems to make some sense at least.

So, who first predicted so? It was an archaeologist by the name Michael Coe who in 1966 first brought forth the idea of Armageddon occurring on this date, the completion of the Mayan 2012 calendar. Now, Coe is not just any archaeologist  he is one of the greatest living experts on ancient Mayan culture. Furthermore, he has a doctorate in anthropology from Harvard and he worked for the CIA. I am only giving you this brief biography so that you would not merely dismiss him as a crackpot. So, the Mayans never predicted that December 21, 2012 will be the end of the world, but it was Dr. Michael Coe who studied the ancient Mayan texts and it is his interpretation that there is a possibility that Armageddon would occur at the completion of the Mayan long count calendar in 2012, which is today.

Today simply marks the end of the long-count Mayan calendar. Just because an archaeologist interpreted this as the end of the world, it is unnecessary to believe so. Please do not blame the Mayans as according to the National Geographic, there's only one Maya monument that even has the 2012 date on it, and apocalypse anticipators are ignoring that according to the Maya, when one great cycle ends, another begins.  This could mean that instead of symbolizing death, December 21 is about rebirth. Let's just be optimistic and take this as a symbol of a new and better beginning. As Muslims, this 'rebirth' could mean a hijrah to become a better person. InsyaAllah.

A Spicy Alternative in Education Reform

I wrote this post in response to this article on The Star. I have no idea what political motives lie beneath this action, therefore my writing is based solely on my personal account as an English teacher.

The Transformasi Pendidikan through Pelan Pembangunan Pendidikan Malaysia starting 2013 outlines the need for better-qualified teachers in our country. Based on the results of the Cambridge Placement Test conducted earlier this year, it was generalized that the number of teachers who are proficient enough to teach English is not enough to cater to the needs of the growing number of students that we have in our schools. These so-called 'incompetent' teachers will be sent on courses starting 2013 to improve their proficiency in English Language. While waiting for these teachers to become 'competent', a shortage of qualified English teachers is foreseen in our schools.

It is undoubted that this shortage requires a drastic action from the government, but I have a few questions in mind when the government decided to import English teachers from India to teach in our schools.

  1. Are these Indian teachers qualified (in terms of both English proficiency and teaching qualifications) to teach English? 
  2. If they are, on what basis and how better-qualified are they compared to our local teachers?
  3. Will they be required to take the Cambridge Placement Test prior to being exported to Malaysia?
  4. What are the measures that will be taken to ensure these teachers' full understanding of  the Malaysian education system and requirement?

I am not criticizing the government's action, but merely questioning whether this decision will ultimately benefit our students in schools. If these teachers are proven to be qualified based on the same standards required for local teachers, I have no issue against having them teaching English in Malaysia provided that they adhere to certain Malaysian standards. First, they have to fully understand the role of English in the Malaysian context as well as our education system which might differ from that of India. Second, they should be paid certain allowances but their salary should not differ greatly from that of our local teachers. They are, after all, non-native speakers like us.

Our Prime Minister, Dato' Seri Mohd Najib Tun Abdul Razak, suggested this idea to his Indian counterpart, Manmohan Singh who welcomed it and will instruct the relevant ministry to hold discussions with the (Malaysian) Education Ministry to realize this. According to Najib, Malaysia will receive teachers from India who are fluent in English to teach our students in Malaysia. Hopefully the Malaysian Ministry of Education will set a high standard on "how fluent is fluent" as fluency is rather subjective. Also, some teaching qualifications should also be considered as Najib also highlighted that this action "would enhance the Government's efforts to alleviate the shortage of English teachers and improve proficiency in the language."

KISSM Results

Alhamdulillah, I passed my KISSM. Now I can apply for confirmation. Anyone would like to check their results can go here.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Back to School

Four of my 3 Jujur kids during their class party.

There are still 2 weeks before schools reopen for the 2013 session, but my school requires all its teachers to start working 2 weeks prior to that, which is starting from tomorrow. I know most teachers would despise this, but I am actually quite excited. I've had enough non-working days. I won't say a holiday because even though I didn't have to go to work, I don't get that much days off anyway. I have classes to attend and assignments to burn my midnight oil doing. So it wasn't really a holiday. In the next 2 weeks, hopefully tomorrow, I hope to know what tasks/responsibilities would I be assigned to in 2013 so that I can start planning. 

This year I was the Setiausaha HEM, a role I actually quite like. Partly because I'm used to doing paperwork and I have this sense of accomplishment when I am able to get stuff properly organised. Back in school, I was the secretary of virtually every club and organisation that I was in. The only club in which I wasn't the secretary was the Badminton Club. I was the Vice President. For next year, if I am appointed again as the Setiausaha HEM, I have a list if things that I want to make better. All the reports will have due dates that must be adhered to as I don't want to have to chase people asking for their reports. All the files will be properly organised and everything must be in place. Everything will be ready before the due dates set by PPD. Also, maybe the HEM Unit should have a blog? 

I was also the leader of the English Language Society, a role I think I didn't do too well. I managed to raise RM200 through selling Teacher's Day card. I also set up a blog but I didn't update it regularly (so I don't tell people about it). Clubs and societies aren't given much focus at my school as we concentrate more on sports. So there were only a few club meetings that could be organised in 2012 and in most of the meetings we just play language games. There wasn't any field trip organised, even though this was part of my plan. So next year if I'm still in charge of the club, I want to set a list of attainable goals and work hard to achieve them by the end of the year. The blog will be improved and regularly updated. Members will be more involved in club activities and there will definitely be at least one field trip.

I was one of the AJK Bilik Guru. I had an informal discussion with our leader and we can see some improvement that could be done to the room but in the end nothing happens. We were too occupied with our bigger responsibilities and had been putting things on hold until the end of the year. Next year, whoever in charge of Bilik Guru should make it a more inspiring place. Teachers should feel at home and highly motivated all the time. It's not that the Bilik Guru is a bad place to be. It is a comfortable place but it's nice to see some changes every now and then. Oh, and I'm thinking of buying a new refrigerator so maybe I can donate the old refrigerator to the Bilik Guru - if, of course, there is a space to put it. 

I hope I won't be a class teacher next year. The only thing I love about being a class teacher is being able to decorate the class and organise activities for the students. I hate it when last minute work is given and unfortunately for class teachers, this happens regularly. Otherwise I would love to be a class teacher. If I am appointed as a class teacher, I will make the classroom as comfortable as it can. I will repaint the class (with of course, the permission from the GB) with colours that stimulate learning and I will make sure the furniture is in excellent condition. All students' desks will have covers to prevent vandalism, which is not a nice sight. Students will rotate their seats weekly so that no particular students will have the disadvantage of sitting at the back of the class all year round. Incentives for full attendance will be given on a monthly basis, as I did back in 2011, when I was the class teacher of 4 Usaha. Wait, I do hope to be a class teacher. 

Well, that's all for now. I have a lot more things to write but I think I have bored you enough. I know these are all easier said than done, but there's nothing wrong in being a little ambitious. Thank you for taking some time to read this. Please comment below and share your thoughts.  

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Chocolate Moist Cake

This was the chocolate moist cake I made last week. I got the recipe from here. So far I've used the recipe five times and it has never let me down.

Life of Pi

When my sisters were here last week, we went to watch "Life of Pi". It is a movie of how an Indian boy called Pi survived a ship wreck in the Pacific, after being stranded on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. 

So basically here's the summary of what I like and what I don't like about the movie.

What I like:
  1. The way the story is told. I didn't read the novel, nor do I think I ever will. So I think I should make it clear that this is from the point of view of someone who was introduced to the storyline for the first time. I think it's nice that they let the story sort of unfolds as the movie progresses. It provides the suspense element at the beginning when the older Pi was telling the story about his adventure in the Pacific. I think this keeps that audience alert.
  2. The emphasis on equality - culture, religion, etc. If you have watched the movie, I'm sure you can find some examples of this. Right now I'm just too lazy to list them down.
  3. The CGI - This is partly because of what I heard that the CGI was made by Malaysian companies. So, my opinion on this is quite bias.
  4. The comedy parts are actually quite entertaining.
...and here's what I don't like:
  1. "The Pacific" being way too calm in most parts of the movie. I'm not sure if anyone else realises this, but it is obvious. I know the film was shot in a Taiwanese pool, but at least they should make some efforts to make "the Pacific" more real.
  2. For those who like action movies, this movie could be boring.
Overall, I think "Life of Pi" is worth watching.

Oh, if you're planning to watch it, here's an interesting overview.

What's Really in Pet Food

I know commercial pet food (the ones they sell in supermarkets) are not good for cats. So since I started working, I've been alternating them with premium cat food like Royal Canin and Regal. I thought I've been feeding my cat good, nutritious food until I read a report by the American Pet Institute (API) last night. This repor t explores the differences between what consumers like me think they are buying compared to what they are actually getting. 

What most consumers are unaware of is that the pet food industry is an extension of the human food industry, also known as the agriculture industry. Pet food provides a place for slaughterhouse waste and grains considered "unfit for human consumption" to be turned into profit. This waste includes cow tongues, esophagi, and possibly diseased and cancerous meat. The "whole grains" used have had the starch removed and the oil extracted -- usually by chemical processing -- for vegetable oil, or they are the hulls and other remnants from the milling process. Some of the truly whole grains used may have been deemed unfit for human consumption because of mold, contaminants, or poor storage practices.

Although the purchase price of pet food does not always determine whether a pet food is good or bad, the price is often a good indicator of quality. So basically premium cat foot are generally better than commercial brands. The protein used in pet food comes from a variety of sources. When cattle, swine, chickens, lambs, or any number of other animals are slaughtered, the choice cuts such as lean muscle tissue are trimmed away from the carcass for human consumption. Whatever remains of the carcass -- bones, blood, pus, intestines, ligaments, and almost all the other parts not generally consumed by humans -- is used in pet food. These "other parts" are known as "by-products" or other names on pet food labels. The ambiguous labels list the ingredients, but do not provide a definition for the products listed. Many of these remnants are indigestible and provide a questionable source of nutrition for our pets.

The next point raised in the report is probably the one that disturbs me the most. Another source of meat you won't find mentioned on pet food labels are dogs and cats. 
In 1990 the San Francisco Chronicle reported that euthanized companion animals were being used in pet food. Although pet food manufacturers vehemently denied the report, the American Veterinary Medical Association confirmed the Chronicle's story.
Yuck! This has definitely never crossed my mind. 

What can the feeding of such ingredients do to your pets? Some veterinarians claim that feeding slaughterhouse wastes to animals increases their risk of getting cancer and other degenerative diseases. One factor is that the cooking methods used by pet food manufacturers and rendering plants do not destroy many of the hormones used to fatten livestock, or medications such as those used to euthanize dogs and cats.

Also, restaurant grease has become a major component of feed grade animal fat over the last fifteen years. This grease, often held in fifty-gallon drums, is usually kept outside for weeks, exposed to extreme temperatures with no regard for its future use. "Fat blenders" or rendering companies then pick up this rancid grease and mix the different types of fat together, stabilize them with powerful antioxidants to retard further spoilage, and then sell the blended products to pet food companies.

These fats are sprayed directly onto dried kibble or extruded pellets to make an otherwise bland or distasteful product palatable. The fat also acts as a binding agent to which manufacturers add other flavor enhancers as well. Pet food scientists have discovered that animals love the taste of these sprayed fats. 

The amount of grain products used in pet food has risen over the last decade. Once considered filler by the pet food industry, grain products now make up a considerable portion of pet food. The availability of nutrients in grain products is dependent upon the digestibility of the grain. The amount and type of carbohydrate in pet food determines the amount of nutrient value the animal actually gets. Dogs and cats can almost completely absorb carbohydrates from some grains, such as white rice. Up to 20% of other grains can escape digestion. The availability of nutrients for wheat, beans, and oats is poor. The nutrients in potatoes and corn are far less available than those in rice. Carbohydrate that escapes digestion is of little nutritional value due to bacteria in the colon that ferment carbohydrates. Some ingredients, such as peanut hulls, are used strictly for "filler" and have no nutritional value at all! Then, there's the additives and preservatives that have been known to cause cancer. 

Commercially manufactured or rendered meat meals are highly contaminated with bacteria because their source is not always slaughtered animals. Animals that have died because of disease, injury, or natural causes are a source of meat for meat meal. The dead animal may not be rendered or cooked until days after its death. Therefore the carcass is often contaminated with bacteria -- Salmonella bacteria contaminate 25-50% of meat meals. While the cooking process may kill bacteria, it does not eliminate the endotoxins that result from the bacteria. These toxins can cause disease. Pet food manufacturers do not test their products for endotoxins. 

Escherichia coli (E Coli) is another bacteria that can be found in contaminated pet foods. E Coli bacteria, like Salmonella, can be destroyed by cooking at high temperatures, however, the endotoxin produced by the bacteria will remain. This endotoxin can cause disease as well.

Cereals are the primary ingredients in most commercial pet foods. Most people select one pet food and feed it to their dogs and cats for a prolonged period of time. Therefore, dogs and cats eat a primarily carbohydrate diet with little variety. Today, the diets of cats and dogs are a far cry from the primarily protein diets with a lot of variety that their ancestors ate. The problems associated with a commercial diet are seen every day at veterinary establishments. Chronic digestive problems, such as chronic diarrhea, are among the most frequent illnesses treated.

So, should I start feeding my cat with fresh fish instead?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...