Best version of you

I’ve started writing for BodyMindSoul Mag a few months ago. In contrast to the largely negative tone of mass media and social media these days, BodyMindSoul aims to spread good vibes, encourage a positive outlook and promote a happy and healthy lifestyle.

My poem ‘Best version of you’ was published in Vol. 12 of the magazine. It is a poem intended to promote positive body image among females, but perhaps a few males here and there can identify with its message too. Beauty and fashion magazines, advertisements and the like show us photoshoped and airbrushed photos of impossible perfection, and that has made impressionable people dissatisfied and even depressed with their less-than-perfect looks and bodies.

The message in the poem is that we are the best version of us, because every person is unique and no two are the same. We should appreciate and love ourselves more and not compare ourselves to the unreal and the unnatural.

Best version of you_BMS Apr 2017.png

❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤

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Get up with the lark

For RonovanWrites #Weekly #Haiku #Poetry Prompt #Challenge #117, the word prompts were ‘lark’ and ‘rush’. These words made me think about my new routine of going to sleep before midnight (10.30pm to 11.30pm to be exact), so that I could get up early in the morning to make tea or coffee, and a healthy breakfast. Today, I started the day with nice hot cinnamon tea to wake up the digestive system, followed by a bowl of natural unsweetened yogurt with banana, raw almonds, raw walnuts and chia seeds. All in time to go to work at 7.00am. So getting up early with the lark is good, indeed.

Flower Dome, Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

Get up with the lark

Get up with the lark
Enjoy the sunrise; brew tea
Take your time; don’t rush

Khor Hui Min
4 Oct 2016

 

 

Dreams of home

It has been 2 weeks since I wrote some poems for my blog, I think. It’s about time to get back to my poetry writing every week. 🙂  I took my parents and brother to Bali for a family holiday last weekend, and the beautiful Balinese landscape and greenery has inspired me to come back to write anew. 😀

For RonovanWrites #Weekly #Haiku #Poetry Prompt #Challenge #116, the word prompts are ‘home’ and ‘leaves’. I wrote a haiku about the little garden in my parents’ front yard that is overflowing with all kinds of plants.

flowersa

 

Dreams of Home

Dreams of home sweet home
Where leaves flutter in the wind
And flowers glitter

Khor Hui Min
27 September 2016

Parched Land

Today’s poetry topic is about the dreaded environmental condition known as drought. It plagues many parts of the world, and leaves lands barren and cracked. I wrote a series of three haikus on it.

drought
Dry ground in the Sonoran Desert, Sonora, Mexico. Photo by Tomas Castelazo (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikipedia Commons

Parched Land

I

Our thirsty cracked earth
Imploring the blue heavens
For drops of rebirth

II

Abundant river
From clear to brown; at last dust
Parched land in despair

III

Global climate change
Flood today; drought tomorrow
Future uncertain

Khor Hui Min
26 July 2016

#atozchallenge: Revving up the nation’s driving force

The 2nd Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi Human Capital Summit was organised to bring together senior representatives from the government, business sector, academia and training providers to discuss the key issues facing human capital development in Malaysia, with the intention of charting the way forward for the nation.

I was fortunate to be able to attend the summit on 25 May 2016 at Sunway Putra Hotel Kuala Lumpur. It was an interesting and eye-opening experience for me, and it provided valuable insights into the state of human capital and the mismatch between human capital demand and the supply provided by the institutions of higher learning.

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Supply vs. Demand

As the day progressed and respected speakers took to the stage one by one to share their knowledge and observations, a marked trend emerged. Firstly, parents, teachers and school counsellors all prioritised professional qualifications such as medical and engineering degrees, and pushed students and their own children towards achieving success in professions which they thought were superior, until there is now a surplus of degree holders, but a significant shortage in skilled and technical specialisations. So, what sort of human capital do we actually need?

“Annually, 100,000 youth do not enrol in any tertiary programme after SPM. Not even certificate courses,” said Associate Professor Elajsolan Mohan, President of the National Association of Private Educational Institutions (NAPEI) during the CEO panel discussion. “To compound the issue, career counsellors in schools are not updated about the prime areas of human capital demand.”

He added, “The top area of demand is currently the manufacturing sector. There is a real and growing demand for Technical and Vocational Education (TVET) graduates.”

The graduate unemployment statistics he presented drove the point home. Among fresh graduates (with degrees), 31% are now unemployed, of which 43% are from the Arts and Social Sciences. Meanwhile, 25% were from Technical, 20% from Science, 4% from Education, and 8% from ICT.

Top 15 job sectors that are most sought after by applicants in Malaysia since 2011

 

RANKING BY YEAR
(By Average Applicants)

SECTOR

2011

2012

2013

Government/NGO

1

1

1

Oil & Gas

3

2

2

Engineering/Industrial Services

4

4

3

Financial & Banking

2

3

4

Agriculture/Aquaculture

6

6

5

FMCG

5

5

6

Education

7

8

7

Call Centre/BPO

8

7

8

Logistics

9

9

9

Manufacturing – SemiCon

14

10

10

Manufacturing – E&E

15

12

11

Others

12

13

12

Biotech/Healthcare

10

11

13

Manufacturing – Production

13

14

14

Construction

11

15

15

(Source: Associate Professor Elajsolan Mohan’s slides)

 

Top 15 job sectors in Malaysia since 2011

RANKING

SECTOR

1

Manufacturing – Production

2

Construction

3

ICT

4

Financial & Banking

5

Wholesale & Retail

6

Hospitality

7

Consulting

8

Biotech/Healthcare

9

Manufacturing – E&E

10

Others

11

Human Resources/RF

12

Oil & Gas

13

Education

14

Printing/Arts

15

FMCG

(Source: Associate Professor Elajsolan Mohan’s slides)

Mohan also shared with us what employers are saying about graduates these days:

  1. 68% of graduates are asking for unrealistic salaries
  • With 30% asking for a whopping starting salary of RM6,500 (no wonder they are unemployed!)
  1. 59% exhibit poor attitude or character
  2. 64% do not have a good level of English
  3. 60% lacked communication skills

“Employers also felt that fresh graduates lacked adaptability, multitasking ability and decision-making skills,” he added. So, university students and fresh graduates have to take note to improve on these important areas to raise their level of employability.

What can be done?

“The universities are not supposed to produce 100% employable graduates,” said Mr. Tay Kay Luan, Chief Executive of the Asian Institute of Chartered Bankers, who provided a realistic viewpoint.

“A workable approach is the 70:20:10 rule, which is 70% effective learning on the job, 20% coaching and mentoring, and 10% training and certification,” Mr. Tay explained. Created by three researchers and authors working with the Centre for Creative Leadership in the 1980s, the 70:20:10 model for learning and development is a common proven formula within the training profession.

Daniel Bernbeck, the Executive Director of the Malaysian-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry, was invited to provide some advice because Germany was well-respected as a developed nation where industries flourished.

“Originally, what is Germany today was a collection of small kingdoms, and they all did things differently. Even until today, 80% of Germany still consists of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs),” said Bernbeck, providing some historical information. “To standardise everything, guilds and chambers of industry were set up. They, in turn, set the standards, and ensured the commitment to the standards was upheld.”

Bernbeck further elaborated, “The onus is on private companies in industries, and TVET training is provided by the companies themselves. Students spend two days in classes and three days working as apprentices in the company every week. They are fruitfully employed, are paid for work done, and have a three-year apprenticeship contract. Now, the latest trend is to move the classroom into the company itself, because education cannot keep up with the developments in industry fast enough.”

However, when asked how Malaysia can emulate the successful free education of Germany, Bernbeck gave a candid response. “Germany’s free education is funded by taxes. High income earners can pay up to as much as 53% in taxes.” Gasps of surprise were heard from the audience.

The future of tertiary education

The way forwarded in education was summarised well by Prof. Dr. Ahmad Rafi Mohamed Eshaq, President of Multimedia University, in the final panel discussion, which consisted of representatives from institutions of higher learning. He shared the drivers of change (university of the future) published by Ernst & Young:

  1. Digital technologies is the way forward – blended learning, with a mixture of traditional and digital tools
  2. Integration with industry
  3. Global mobility
  4. Contestability of markets and funding
  5. Democratisation of knowledge and access

Finally, Prof. Wahid Razally, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of University Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia, highlighted that TVET instructors as well as graduates needed to be provided ample avenues for their continual growth and development in institutions of higher learning.

“TVET graduates can work in a company for 20 years and remain exactly the same. Universities should provide higher TVET courses to offer the chance for them to upgrade and develop themselves further, even to Master or PhD level,” said Prof. Wahid Razally.

It was a thought-provoking day, and it was hoped that participants took back new knowledge and fresh insights to their companies and organisations, to better inform them of the actual trends in the nation’s human capital developments, and how to address the significant mismatch between demand and supply.

Note:

A shorter version of this article was published in Lakeviews Issue #48. Lakeviews is the bulletin of the Rotary Club of Lake Gardens, District 3300.

Citation: Khor Hui Min (2016). Revving up the nation’s driving force. Lakeviews Issue #48. Kuala Lumpur: Rotary Club of Lake Gardens (District 3300).

#atozchallenge: Edgar Allan Poe

E for Edgar Allan Poe

Today, I would like to share a poem by the famous writer Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849). An American writer, editor, and literary critic, he was most well known for his poetry and short stories, especially stories of mystery and the macabre. He has been credited as the inventor of the detective fiction genre and also regarded as a contributor to the emergence of science fiction (Stableford, 2003). He was also deemed as the first well-known American who tried to earn a living through writing alone, leading to a difficult career and financially difficult life (Meyers, 1992).

To find out more about Edgar Allan Poe, you can read his brief biography at Poestories.com

Dream-Land

by Edgar Allan Poe
(published 1844)

By a route obscure and lonely,
Haunted by ill angels only,
Where an Eidolon, named NIGHT,
On a black throne reigns upright,
I have reached these lands but newly
From an ultimate dim Thule
From a wild weird clime that lieth, sublime,
Out of SPACE — out of TIME.

Bottomless vales and boundless floods,
And chasms, and caves, and Titan woods,
With forms that no man can discover
For the dews that drip all over;
Mountains toppling evermore
Into seas without a shore;
Seas that restlessly aspire,
Surging, unto skies of fire;
Lakes that endlessly outspread
Their lone waters — lone and dead, —
Their still waters — still and chilly
With the snows of the lolling lily.

By the lakes that thus outspread
Their lone waters, lone and dead, —
Their sad waters, sad and chilly
With the snows of the lolling lily, —
By the mountains — near the river
Murmuring lowly, murmuring ever, —
By the grey woods, — by the swamp
Where the toad and the newt encamp, —
By the dismal tarns and pools
Where dwell the Ghouls, —
By each spot the most unholy —
In each nook most melancholy, —
There the traveller meets aghast
Sheeted Memories of the Past —
Shrouded forms that start and sigh
As they pass the wanderer by —
White-robed forms of friends long given,
In agony, to the Earth — and Heaven.

For the heart whose woes are legion
‘Tis a peaceful, soothing region —
For the spirit that walks in shadow
‘Tis — oh ’tis an Eldorado!
But the traveller, travelling through it,
May not — dare not openly view it;
Never its mysteries are exposed
To the weak human eye unclosed;
So wills its King, who hath forbid
The uplifting of the fringed lid;
And thus the sad Soul that here passes
Beholds it but through darkened glasses.

By a route obscure and lonely,
Haunted by ill angels only,
Where an Eidolon, named NIGHT,
On a black throne reigns upright,
I have wandered home but newly
From this ultimate dim Thule.

 

References

  • Stableford, Brian (2003). “Science fiction before the genre”. In James, Edward; Mendlesohn, Farah. The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 15–31. ISBN 978-0-521-01657-5.
  • Meyers, Jeffrey (1992). Edgar Allan Poe: His Life and Legacy (Paperback ed.). New York: Cooper Square Press. ISBN 978-0-8154-1038-6.

Friends by chance

I saw an interesting picture in an impromptu poetry prompt yesterday, and decided to write something about it. I scribbled my poem on a piece of paper and it was ready in 15 minutes. 🙂  Here’s the picture and the poem. 😉

1239756_813103822150033_3173836734636292199_n


Friends by Chance

Strangers from afar
Chance encounters
Of broken hearts
And hollow souls
Disenchanted minds
Pouring their hearts out
Sharing disappointments
Drowning their sorrows
Discovering kindred spirits
Becoming lifelong friends

Khor Hui Min
19 January 2016

 

Life’s an illusion

Haiku Horizons is at lucky number 99 this week. Well, at least from the Chinese point of view – the number 9 represents longevity. This means Haiku Horizons is celebrating double longevity. 🙂 So, I hope Haiku Horizons will be around for a long time to come.

This week’s word prompt is ‘real’, which made me think about the perceived reality of life. Life is only as good as we think it is, isn’t it?

haikuhorizonsbig

 

Life’s an illusion

Life’s an illusion
What is real and what is not?
Be true to yourself

Khor Hui Min
14 January 2016

 

 

#mindfulmonday: Mindfulness in eating

Like water, food is a necessity for survival. Some people love food and enjoy it, even to the brink of overindulgence. Others, on the other hand, view it as only a requirement to fill the tummy for continued sustenance.

Of course, caring for your family and what they eat every day is important, but what you put into your own body is equally important. Before we can care for others, we must ensure that we ourselves are strong, hale and hearty, so that we can carry out our tasks and responsibilities to the best of our abilities. If we fall sick, who is going to take care of us and our family?

Chicken Breasts with Cherry Tomatoes
Chicken breasts with cherry tomatoes

 

Be mindful of what you eat

“The path to healthy body, and happy soul is based upon self-study, mindfulness, love and awareness.”

Natasa Pantovic Nuit

Being mindful is not only about what we think. It also includes what we do and what we put into our bodies. Yes, food is fuel, but what kind of fuel we choose to put into our bodies to keep it running smoothly makes a difference.

There are many kinds of eaters out there. Some people are instinctively drawn to fresh, natural food such as fresh vegetables and fruits, and other fresh ingredients. They are satisfied with the natural flavours and textures of the fresh produce, hence they add minimal seasoning.

Roasted pumpkin
Roasted pumpkin wedges seasoned with nutmeg, cinnamon and olive oil

At the other extreme, there are people who prioritise convenience. These are busy people who work late and have no time for activities like cooking, so they buy and eat processed food of the frozen, canned and instant varieties. Anything that can be cooked in a microwave in a few minutes, or boiled in a pot in 5 mins are ideal. However, these types of convenience foods have a lot of seasoning, additives and preservatives. What is lacking in natural nutrients is made up for in artificial flavours and additives.

What is in processed food?

“We do food every single day! Conscious eating is a big step toward conscious living. Quality and quantity of food is directly related to our health and state of mind.”

Natasa Pantovic Nuit

Processed food is usually (mashed up) foodstuff shaped into something that looks appealing to consumers. If it does not look good enough, colouring is added to increase its attractiveness. If the flavour is not appetising enough, flavouring is added.

For example, a bag of chicken nuggets bought from the frozen food section in a supermarket is made up of minced chicken meat mixed with leftovers from the chicken processing industry. A paper published in the American Journal of Medicine by Drs. Richard D. deShazo and Steven Bigler, and Leigh Baldwin Skipworth, B.A., who bought and analysed nuggets from two rival fast food restaurants, revealed that one nugget was 50 per cent chicken muscle – the part of the chicken that we generally refer to as ‘meat’. The other one was just 40 per cent meat. What about the rest of the nugget? The 50 per cent nugget contained a lot of added fat, blood vessels, nerves, glands and skin. As for the 40 percent nugget, it also contained a lot of fat, bone and tendon.

Giving foods with notorious reputations a healthy makeover

“Understanding our relationship to eating cultivates a lot of insights and help us start living our highest potential.”

Natasa Pantovic Nuit

A nugget is a nugget is a nugget, right? Well… not all nuggets are created equal. We can actually make our own healthy nuggets at home with 100% lean chicken breast meat. Each nugget is a whole chunk of chicken breast meat, and not minced meat.

Just search the Internet, and a multitude of healthy chicken nugget recipes appear in the search results. Here are some recipes you can try:

1. Herbed chicken nuggets
2. Healthy baked chicken nuggets
3. Healthy homemade chicken nuggets and chips

I plan on trying them real soon, and I hope you do too! 🙂

Hamburger patties sold in the frozen section of supermarkets have an equally bad reputation. However, we can make healthy versions of burger patties too. All we need to start is to buy ground-up lean chicken, beef or mutton from the market. Then we can add herbs and spices of our choice to the mix, including finely chopped garlic and onions. I experimented with a healthy chicken and carrot burger patty not long ago and it came out well. The recipe is on my other blog, which is all about food. 😀  These hamburger patties can be made in advance and separated using grease proof paper or cling wrap, packed neatly in containers, then stored in the freezer for future cooking. I think of it as homemade frozen food.

Cooling on kitchen towels to help soak up excess oil
Chicken and carrot burger patties

I hope you will take the time to try out healthier alternatives to processed food. It does not have to be complicated, but it is important to find something that works for you.

Happy experimenting! 🙂

 

Further reading

  1. Mindfulness: From the garden to the table
  2. What’s your flavour? Mindful food preparation
  3. What’s inside chicken nuggets? Far less chicken than you’d think

 

 

3 poems published in EASTLIT Dec 2015

I have gotten into the habit of writing poems every week, and if I feel like it, a few a day. To me, it is a fun activity – an exploration of life and experiences, and sometimes the telling of fictitious stories, through an artful play of words. When I feel like it, I like to toy around with the number of syllables in each line, and mash up the rhyming schemes.

I was delighted when EASTLIT – the Journal of English Literature, East and South East Asia, selected three of my poems to be included in the December 2015 issue. This is the second time EASTLIT has published my poems. The first was in the August 2015 issue.

 

Eastlit December 2015 Cover. Picture: Sunset Near Corbett, India by Kamakshi Lekshmanan. Cover design by Graham Lawrence. Copyright photographer, Eastlit and Graham Lawrence.

The three poems selected were The Happiness Within, Dance of the Sea and In Between. I have copied them from the journal and shared them with you below.

The Happiness Within & Other Poems

                                                                                              by Khor Hui Min

The Happiness Within

Happiness; ‘tis an age-old pursuit
Humanity’s constant search
Would you rather refute?
Looking, high as the bird’s perch

How much for happiness?
Per chance a billion or two?
How much for completeness?
To make one whole; goodbye woe?

What does it take?
Conquer the highest mountain?
Swim to the abyss of a lake?
Drink from eternal youth’s fountain?

Who can bequeath it?
A father or mother?
The best mate; perfect fit?
Or why does one bother?

Happiness; ‘tis not a void
To be filled and quenched
A gaping hollow; fixed by Freud
Or a deal to be clinched

Happiness comes from within
From the heart and soul; enduring
Fulfilment sprouts from therein
Life enriched; love encompassing

 

Dance of the Sea

A marvel of beauty and grace
In a garment of liquid lace
Expressive pirouettes; unfaltering
Enraptured in melody; pleasing
Existing only for the moment
In an intoxicating sea of movement
Living only to dance; shrouded in song
Where muses and sirens belong
Rhythmic figures of the deep
The ensemble that never sleeps

 

In Between

In between
Slumber and wakefulness

In between
Consciousness and unconsciousness

In between
Brightness and shadow

In between
Light and dark

In between
Sight and imagination

Was it there?
Or was it a dream?

Can we see beyond
Our limitations?

Or are we forever rooted
To the confines of our mind?