Moving to MSMARG.COM

It finally happened guys!

After decades of blogging, I finally launched my own website!

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https://www.msmarg.com/

Milestones:

24 May 2018 – registered the domain msmarg.com

14 June 2018 – officially launched msmarg.com , together with all the social media accounts as well: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter.

And…

Apart from a blog, there’s also a little online store as well!

So yes, I will not be updating this wordpress.com blog any more so please do subscribe/follow msmarg.com for updates yeah. =)

Head on over there so NOW we can start our “house-warming” party!!!

P.S. Left everyone a little gift called “free shipping” if you get yourself something from the store as well! And do like, follow, share my social media handles: @msmargdotcom on  Facebook, Instagram, Twitter.

The new journey begins on msmarg.com!

 

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Ashtar Galactic Cinema : A review

So there’s a new cinema in Bintulu, and it opened it’s doors to the public for the first time yesterday (18 April 2018) albeit on a trial basis. (More on that below.)

Now if you stay in Bintulu, you will know that a cinema is a highly desired yet long awaited amenity here – even longer than before the previous cinema closed its operations in 2016. Why do I say that? We will get to that in a bit.

First, let me show you what the hype is all about!!!

Disclaimer: This is not a paid/sponsored post but an honest patron’s feedback.

Name/Brand

Bearing the name Ashtar Galactic Cinema (AGC), it is not part of the usual cinema chain  that can be found in Malaysia (like GSC or TGV). Not sure why that particular name was chosen, but if you stay till the end of this post, I’ll share with you a fun fact about it. =)

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Trial Basis and Free Tickets

AGC has 6 halls and for 3 days* (yesterday, today and tomorrow), it was offering FREE movie tickets to everyone. All you needed to do is go to the cinema, get in line (the queue was super long yesterday morning) and get the movie ticket(s) of your choice, depending on seat availability of the selected showtime of course. Me and a few friends were fortunate enough to get hold of tickets for last night’s viewing. Some are going tonight.

Movie Hall

Our little group was watching 2 different movies at about the same time and so were divided into different halls. The movie in Hall 2 was already playing for about 25 minutes before our show in Hall 3 began. As we entered our still quiet hall, a friend pointed out that we could hear the sound (not very distinctly but still audible) coming from the hall beside us. Thin walls, perhaps?

The smell in the hall was crisp (but not crispy okay lol) as can be expected when everything around is new and fresh out of packaging etc. The seats were a bit hard for me but that’s probably only because they’re still new. A plus is that it allows you to lean back at a slight angle. Good for those seats closer to the screen I suppose. However, as with most cinemas, try NOT to sit too close to the screen (like the first 3 rows) unless you particularly enjoy a stiff neck after the movies, like what happened to friends in the other hall. We were seated at row F (6th row from the screen), which is good though not quite the sweet spot.

The movie screen and visuals was clear. No comments on that. However, in our hall 3, the surround sound wasn’t that great. It didn’t really feel like we were “surrounded”, if you get what I’m saying. And friends in hall 2 said that the audio in their hall sometimes were not very audible or were muffled. Maybe the management can look into the audio settings of the halls.

Temperature in hall for me was okay. A bit colder would be nice though. We were watching a late night show so perhaps they adjusted the temperature so we would not freeze inside. Speaking of temperature…

Waiting Area/Ticket Counter/Snack Bar

Now this could really use some improvement.

  1. Air-conditioning. Unfortunately, the cinema is located in the non-airconditioned street mall-eque Bintulu Commerce Square (BCS). This means that airconditioning is only when you enter the shops/units. For AGC, this makes all areas apart from the movie hall rather unpleasant. We were watching a late night show and were already sweating before we entered the hall. This is Malaysia weather. Air-conditioning would be good.
  2. Some benches in the waiting area would be good. That will be a challenge though, as how the waiting area is just a small area in between the ticket counter and snack bar. There are seats along the BCS walkways in front of other shops but that’s not so ideal. Everyone was just standing around in the rather warm and humid waiting area. I could only imagine how unpleasant it must’ve felt for those who were queuing yesterday morning…
  3. Ticket counter and the ticketing system was good. The staff was great! Entertaining queries about showtimes and available seats patiently. Keep up the good work guys!
  4. Snack Bar. Tried the popcorn and drink. The popcorn wasn’t the best and could be improved. More food options would also be good.
  5. Overall layout of this outside area is a bit smaller than what you would normally expect of a cinema. One oddity I noted is that the main screen that they used to show movie trailers is near the entrance to the cinema area and at eye level where people will be walking past to get to the waiting area/ticket counter/snack bar. One can’t really stay there and watch the screen for long even if they wanted to. I reckon the screen would be better off above the space between the ticket counters and snack bar and before the entrance to the halls.

Movie Choices

Since they were giving free tickets and it was a trial basis, it was acceptable that they were showing rather dated movies. On offering were: Insidious, Jumanji, The Greatest Showman and Tomb Raider, the latter being the least dated.

Remember how earlier in this post, I mentioned that a cinema was a long awaited amenity here even when the previous cinema was still around? This was one of the many reasons. The previous cinema showed dated movies after most hardcore movie-goers would have already watched them. This of course led to low patronage and eventually, they closed. (There were a lot of things lacking with them, but this is the main one.)

Dear AGC, I sincerely hope this will NOT be the case when you start operations proper…

I mentioned above that this was a “trial basis”. What that meant was, after tomorrow, we are not exactly sure if it will still be showing any shows the next day until… indefinitely. The management has not made themselves very clear on that front. (They did start business proper the following day!) That said, everybody is deeply hoping that they WILL be showing “Avengers: Infinity War” that is set to be released next week! And they did not dissapoint! The staff of the cinema only said their next show “may be” Avengers. *prays*

And there you have it. My honest review of the new cinema in Bintulu – Ashtar Galactic Cinema (AGC).

Have you tried it? What did you think about it? Do share in the comments.

And as promised, fun fact about AGC:

The new cinema is called Ashtar Galactic Cinema (AGC)…in the 70s there was believed to be an alien broadcast from an Ashtar Galactic Command (AGC) 👽  The truth is out there.

*extended from 2 days

A decade plus one

I logged onto my wordpress today and got the shock of the year (so far)!

Why?

Because of these notifications:

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Wow!

We’re already 11 years old!!! (and yes, traffic booming is always sweet!)

This calls for a celebration!!!

Coincidentally (or not), yesterday and today I was suddenly reconnected with friends from back when I was still very actively blogging.

Of course that came round to asking each other how actively (or not) we were (still) blogging nowadays. (For me, it’s not very actively…)

But today, I am reminded how long I’ve been here (just on wordpress).

I have been blogging for much longer since my very first blog is on blogspot (before I moved here).

So yes, today is most definitely a time to celebrate!

Thank You WordPress!

Hope to do more things with you this year. =)

I am going to planet Mars – again!

Seriously!*

My boarding passes:

I went in 2014 for the Orion Flight Test.

Orion Flight Test

And I will be going again next year (2018) for the InSight Mission!

Insight Mission

Martian-status since 18 October 2014 – exactly 3 years ago.

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Frequent flyer yo!

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The Mission Patch for both trips:

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Orion test flight mission patch, 2014

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InSight Mission patch

SO EXCITING!

“What this is about?” you ask.

Well, the gist of it is:

In 2014, the names of 1.38 million people were encoded in a chip and loaded on the Orion spacecraft on its first spaceflight test – including mine. 🙂

See the chip here: https://mars.nasa.gov/resources/6752/

And now, applications were opened on October 2 and until Nov. 1, 2017 for the InSight Mission in 2018. Again, the names will be loaded into a silicon microchip which will fly with InSight for its mission to Mars. I have just submitted my name for this mission! 🙂

Here is an image of the chip mounted on the InSight Lander. They will put this second microchip next to this one.

I may not have “physically” been to Mars, at least I can legitimately say I have (even if it’s just in the form of my name in a microchip) gone where not all names have gone before. 😀

(You can read more about the mission here.)

So, are you going to join me?

Submit your name here: https://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/participate/send-your-name/insight/

Let’s go to Mars!!!

P.S. NASA plans to develop Orion into a vehicle that could one day carry astronauts into space. Who knows, maybe “frequent flyers” will one-day get to call shotgun on a trip. 😉

How To Make Pempek

Almost 3 months ago, I was in Indonesia.

Palembang was my first port of call before I went on to Jogjakarta.

Part of what I love about travelling is learning about the culture of a place. Indonesia is rich with that!

For Palembang, specifically, one such item is the food!

Now, “Pempek” (or “empek-empek”) is a savoury fishcake delicacy from Palembang, made of fish and tapioca.

Fortunately, I was able to learn how to make authentic Palembang Pempek while I was there!

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The basic ingredients are pretty simple – fishmeat, water, monosodium glutamate/MSG and salt.

But I’d rather show you how to make it rather than type it all out so, here is my video recording of some aunties from St Stefanus, Palembang, teaching us how to make authentic Palembang pempek!

(Don’t worry, all the important stuff are subtitled in all my videos – remember to click the “CC” button to activate subtitles!)

Pempek is served with rich sweet and sour sauce called kuah cuka or kuah cuko or just “cuko”. And this is how to make cuko:

The above is the basic Palembang Pempek. For other variants, you can check my other videos below as well:

Pempek kulit/Fish-Skin Pempek:

Pempek kapal selam/Submarine Pempek
Pempek telur kecil/Small Egg Pempek
Pempek pistel/Papaya pempek

Good luck! Let me know if you succeed and how it taste yeah!

Even better, let me try your creation too! =D

How I accidentally climbed a Mountain

Yes, you read that right.

How can one accidentally climb a mountain? Well, let me tell you!

I was in Kuching for the Sacerdotal (Priestly) Ordination of a friend, Rev. Fr. Galvin, over the weekend. We used to go to the same University, were of the same intake and was part of the same community, called Young Catholic Undergraduates (YCU), so of course, his Big Day (Ordination to the Priesthood) was bound to be a reunion of old friends.

IMG20170923090355But on the day after the Ordination, some friends suggested we head up to the Catholic Memorial Pilgrimage Centre (CMPC), located at the Slope of Mount Singai, Kampung Tajong Singai, Bau. It is a venue for the Catholic Community to organise retreats, training and religious related events. CMPC was an integral part of our group of friends as we would go up to CMPC at least once a year back in the day. Some of them still do even now, but the last time I went up was 10 years ago, so of course, I agreed to join them.

The Ordination was all I packed for this trip (read: ill-equipped),  but since it was plank-walks and staircases all the way up to CMPC, I wasn’t particularly concerned. Everyone insisted I not use my ladies’ sandals though so I took up Nico’s offer to wear his crocs sandals instead, sans socks. And up we went…

As I recall, going up to CMPC had always been quite a challenge – even back in the day – as some parts were pretty steep. For those who have not been to CMPC, there are Stations of the Cross along the way up that also double as rest-stops. I have gone up without any stops years ago and I have gone up by stopping and praying at each Station as well. But I have never had my knees feel like jelly, which was what happened this time (the difference 10 years make). Lest my knees fully give up on me, I had to stop at almost each Station after the first five, but I still made it up, Thank God.

But that’s where things started to get really interesting.

After a brief picnic (we brought some food with us) at CMPC, Nico suggested, “Hey, shall we go to the top (of Mount Singai)?”

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A jungle path leading to the top of Mount Singai is located just beside the Longhouse.

There were 6 of us in the group – 2 (Syl and Nick) have been to the top before whilst the rest of us (Nico, Ted, Edwin and myself) have not. Prior to this, I never knew it was even possible to go to the top. Needless to say, in excitement, it was a unanimous YES from all of us, although I was starting to feel concerned. I mean, having only brought dresses, dress shoes and a handbag for the weekend (and jeans, tshirts and ladies’ sandals for “casual wear”), I was in no way equipped for climbing a mountain!

“It’s not that high,” said Syl, who had been up a few times.

“How many minutes or hours is “not that high”?” I asked.

“Depends. Some parts are quite steep.”

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And so we started… There was also a group of foreign students from a local private university that coincidentally started their ascend the same time.

IMG-20170923-WA0011My knees were fine during the climb. I wish I could say the same for my feet. Wearing crocs (sans socks!), my feet was starting to blister. And my hands as well, from the rope we use to pull ourselves up along the steeper parts… My handbag – that was just an inconvenience. I was just thankful I could sling it across my shoulder.

 

After a considerable amount of time and climbing a steep part, I asked Syl, “This is the steep part you mentioned?”

“There’s more.”

Internal gasp.

“It’s still a long way up.”

Internal sigh.

We continued our ascend. The group of students earlier had started to split up as some were faster than the others. At one point, our group of 6 became 4 as Nick and Edwin were left behind. When Nick rejoined us, he reported that Edwin could not go up any farther and would just wait for us where he was. And so were 5…

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But one steep slope after another, it became 3 – 2 as Syl, Nico and Ted went up faster, leaving behind myself and Nick who was kind enough to keep me company. My feet was really uncomfortable but there was nowhere to go but up. Fellow climbers (a few from the student group and others) were also taking their own pace (some above us, some below) and Nick would be cheering us all to continue: “Almost there!” “You can do it!” “I can see the sun!” “5 more steps!” “5 more minutes!”

In reality, we were nowhere near the top yet.

Small talks with fellow climbers along the way was interesting though. It made the climb more bearable.

One of the students exclaimed (dramatically): “Someone should make a documentary of me, before I die!” as he huffed and puffed up a steep slope.

Another climber retorted to Nick’s “5 more minutes!” cheer with a “That’s what you said 5 minutes ago!!!” and to his “I can see the sun!”, “I can see the sun from my room, man!”

Funny exchanges happen when people are exhausted. Hahaha.

I passed a climber who was taking a break on the way up.

“As you can see, I am in no way prepared for this climb.” I said, as I motioned to what I was wearing.

“Neither am I”, he agreed. “Just got back from the club and my mate was like, ‘Hey let’s go for a climb!'”

“Doesn’t sound like a great idea now does it?” I quipped.

“No! And I’m tipsy to boot!” he exclaimed.

I chuckled as I considered the next slope…

There were also a few climbers who were on their way down as well and passed us by. I was tempted to ask them how much further we had to reach the top but decided not to, for fear they would say it was still a long way to go.

The most interesting thing that happened on the way up was when one of those on the way down locked eyes with mine as I climbed up a steep slope. It was a familiar face that I had not seen for almost 10 years.

“Fancy bumping into you here!” both Kevin and I agreed. We had a brief catch up as his group was catching up and Nick helped take a photo of us.

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Turned out Nick in turn, knew one of Kevin’s friends.

“I’m with him,” she said, pointing at Kevin.

“I’m with her,” Nick pointed at me.

“So is it still far up to the top?” Nick asked her.

“I turn back halfway,” she replied.

My heart stopped beating for a second. We’re not even HALFWAY up???

Fortunately, she laughed and continued, “I finished already lah. It’s not much further…”

My heart started beating again.

After what seemed like ages and after I don’t know how many “5 steps” and “5 minutes” later, we finally reached the top!!!

Was the view worth it?

Actually, I don’t know.

It was hazy and we couldn’t really see much.

But considering how ill-equipped I was and I reached the top anyways (and it was my first mountain!), I was really pleased.

And that my friend, was how I accidentally climbed a Mountain!

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At the top of Mount Singai, 562 metres above sea-level

For the record, it took me 1 hour and 20 minutes to reach the top – not bad for an ill-equipped first-timer hahaha!

 

33 Reasons I am Thankful today

keep-calm-and-be-crazy-laugh-and-love-and

  1. I am alive – for the past 33 years and counting
  2. My parents; Mom for giving birth to me and Mom&Dad for raising me
  3. My older brother, for being my first friend and confidante, my advisor and supporter even until now.
  4. My younger brothers for always making me laugh (and occasionally cry)
  5. My family for always being there for me; for loving me unconditionally.
  6. Loved ones, for the opportunities to sacrifice myself and to die to selfishness
  7. The Catholic family: for the continuing guidance in this journey of life
  8. Close friends (who are practically family) for accepting me as I am – and loving me even then
  9. Friends who are with me through the good and the bad: I am who I am because you are/were a part of my life
  10. Mentors/Advisors/Elders who are there to guide and support me when needed
  11. People I see on a daily basis (colleagues/housemates included) for making life pleasant and peaceful
  12. My studies; for equipping me with the necessary knowledge/skills to survive in the world of adults
  13. My hobbies, for making me into a more well-rounded person
  14. My travels; for teaching me humility and appreciation of all of God’s creation
  15. My health for not making life difficult to live
  16. My finances for giving me enough to live a comfortable life but not excessively
  17. My job for the opportunities to increase my set of knowledge and skills
  18. My career for giving me a sense of duty and teaching me life lessons
  19. Church ministry for the opportunities to love and serve others
  20. Ministry for giving me a sense of ownership and responsibility in my local church
  21. Fellow ministers in the church for teaching me how have a Servant heart
  22. The innocence of my childhood, for allowing me to develop trust in humanity
  23. The adventures of my youth for showing me that a big world lies ahead of me
  24. The mistakes of my younger days for teaching me rights from wrongs
  25. The experiences of more recent years that continue to grow and shape me into the person I will become by the end of life’s journey
  26. My fears, for preventing me from making bad decisions in life
  27. My worries, for teaching me to surrender it to Him
  28. My hopes for giving me something to wake up to every day
  29. My dreams, that I may learn to trust in Him
  30. My joys and my pains, for making the journey worthwhile!
  31. God’s love and grace that He deemed me worthy of saving from the start
  32. God’s providence for all the good and wonderful things he has blessed me with in the past – and will continue to provide for me till the very end, and last but definitely not the least of them all:
  33. GOD: for all that I am thankful for written above (and all those unwritten as well)

Thank You Lord!!! – for the past 33 years of my existence, and for the many more years to come…