Book Review: Adults in The Room

Book Review: Adults in The Room

Wow, almost two weeks since I last wrote anything. Tsk tsk.

For this entry I thought I’d do something way out of my comfort zone – a book review. People who know me, knows that I am a notoriously slow reader. It’s something to do with having to find the time to squeeze a page or two (mostly on the comforts of a toilet seat) and the fact that my reading speed is comparable to glacial motion – granted that nowadays, glaciers may be moving faster, thanks to global warming.

Anyways, the book I’ll be talking about is, Adults in the Room, written by Lord Voldermort, Yanis Varoufakis, the infamous, leather-jacket-clad, no-tie-worn-at-meetings, self-proclaimed radical left wing, former Greek Minister of finance, and co-founder of Diem25 (Democracy in Europe Movement 2025).

Narrated by Yanis, Adults in the Room is a political memoir, dubbed “one of the greatest of all time” by The Guardian. It is an account of his journey as reluctant finance minister who has to re-negotiate Greece’s asphyxiating austerity program, administered by the often sinisterly portrayed creditors, the Troika (made up of the European Commission, The European Central Bank and the IMF).

The book itself is engrossing. It is written in a style that reads like a thriller, that kept me flipping from one page to the next.

Yanis portrays himself as somewhat of a lone wolf, navigating through crocodile infested waters, made up of people who he thought was his ally, as well as vultures flying overhead, awaiting for the demise of the newly elected Greek government (or mostly for his downfall).

Throughout the book, the finance minister, is seen to be motivated by the plight of the Greek, particularly a recurring character, a homeless translator named Lambros. The interpreter, named Lambros, made Yanis promise that he would do all he can to stop the ongoing humiliation that the European administration has continued to impose on ordinary Greek citizens.

Varoufakis depicts the battles that he had to forge, to renegotiate the austerity plan imposed by the Troika in exchange for Greece’s bailouts. The plan, as Yanis puts it was never going to work. A nation that very clearly was already under economic distress, was never going to recover by further pressing its peoples. Without a recovery in sight, he argues that the continued austerity would not have allowed Greece to generate enough economic activity to be able to pay back its creditors.

The central theme around the ‘story’ is that Greece would go to Brussels to negotiate a deal with the Troika that revolved around debt restructuring and reform plans to help Greece get back on its feet to economic recovery. But as the book progressed, it started to look very clear that Greece’s creditors weren’t really looking to get their money back. In fact, it seemed apparent that they knew they were never getting their money back. The entire drama surrounding Grexit, according to Yanis, was pretty much just a show of power, about keeping someone’s dead project alive, rather than admitting that the austerity plan wasn’t working and that a new, more practical plan was required.

Every now and then, Yanis would portray going into a meeting with his creditors with every intention of meeting in the middle and seeking solutions that are not only pragmatic but also allowed the Greeks some dignity and a sense of autonomy in charting their country’s course, only to be smitten down by people who had no interest in Greece’s welfare, out of fear of having to admit to implementing a fallacious and potentially disastrous economic policy.

Of course, the entire story was written through the eyes of Varoufakis himself, so a lot of times you have to take a step back and ask yourself, “is this really impartial?”. The answer is of course, a resounding no. It is his version of the story after all. And as a story of someone who feels victimised by the large machinations of European politics, you can expect it to be laced with a lot of emotion.

As written by Helena Sheehan in her review, Varoufakis very often presents himself as Prometheus, fighting against the Gods, but often does sound like Narcissus. It almost does sound like he’s the only person who had the Greek’s well-being in mind (along with a few allies here and there), while everyone else seemed to be acting in their own self interest, or the Troika’s.

Despite the expected bias that you would find in the book, you do have to take serious note of how broken the system has become. So much so that a European official would rather see Greece pay up its creditors and let ordinary Greeks continue to suffer than to negotiate a more practical approach to Greece’s crisis.

A riveting read, one I’d highly recommend.

Yanis Varoufakis wants you to read his book
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The last mile

The last mile

Back in 2012, I began pursuing a degree in economics. Seven years later, I’m finally in my final semester. A lot of things have happened in between. I’ve had to put studying off every now and then because of work, or personal commitments.

Long story short is that after I came back from Australia with an advanced diploma in accounting, nobody would offer me a job, because my qualification wasn’t a degree and that it was also not recognised by MQA. The MQA, or the Malaysian Qualifications Agency are the people who determine whether your qualifications are…uhm…suitable, or good enough (I guess?) to be applied in Malaysia. Basically, they provide recognition for your education.

Anyways, that has always been a bummer for me, because I’ve slaved away pretty hard, to get good results to be told that my qualifications weren’t recognised (despite being a pretty good TAFE qualification in Straya). So my disappointment defined me for the past few years. I never felt I was good enough for anything (and most of the time I still feel that way now).

My experience with the uni I’m currently studying at has been less than stellar. To be honest, I might be to blame. I never really did apply myself to the work-studying life. I never cared about who my coursemates were. I just wanted to get this shit done. I did pretty awesomely during my first few semesters, clocking in Dean’s list awards in consecutive semesters.

I then went into a slump. Why? It dawned on me that at the end of the day, this paper qualification I’m after means diddly squat. Nobody was going to look into hiring a 30 year old economics grad for the price that I’d be asking. “Oh but your experience counts for something”

Yeah, booshit.

People would be better off hiring young graduates, who are as eager to learn, but are paid a lot less.

This slump would go on for some time, and I stopped applying myself even more.

I’ve made it this far now, and I’m in the home stretch. I can see the end coming and now, being a bit older – 7 years older since I started, to be precise (lol) – I realise that I owe it to myself to do the best I can. Who cares if people are going to appreciate my struggle. I should appreciate my struggle. I have to prove to myself that I am as smart as I used to think I was.

The paper qualification doesn’t mean so much to me, now that I think about it. It’s just about finishing what I started, and not looking back with regret about all the time I’ve wasted.

I’ll gun it on my last lap, til my heart beats out of my chest.

Then when I cross the finish line, I’ll fall in a heap, looking back, with a smile, and I want to say

I did my best.

And…we’re off!

And…we’re off!

2018 ended without a bang…both literally and figuratively.

The year ended off with everyone in the falling asleep well before the hands of the clock struck midnight; before a line in the sands of time was drawn, signifying the start of something new.

It was probably a neat allegory of how we (or maybe just me) were so tired of the year. We just had to fall asleep, we wanted it to be over, so that we could wake up in the new year, ready to go, to pick up where we left off, and start over fresh.

This year brings about new challenges too. Our eldest is now in primary school (how time flies) and the youngest will be sent off to a daycare center. Daughter number one will do fine. Despite a demeanor that many may describe as, coddled, she can more than handle her own when necessary. She’s been an absolute star in adapting to the recent changes in our family. She will do fine, and she will grow. Daughter number two is a bit more of a challenge. Being a high need baby, taking care of her can be difficult. And having taking care of her for the past four months, we’re more than a little anxious about dropping her off at daycare. We can only hope for the best.

We’re all adjusting to the new routine of waking up early in the morning, getting everyone prepared and out the door by a set time. We’ll get there, and we’ll be better because of it. Because hey, the early bird gets the worm – right?

Let’s go 2019! We got this!

Whoa nelly!

Whoa nelly!

The last one and a half month or so has been pretty challenging. It’s like a mad dash to the finish line with a mile to go, your joints failing you and only fumes to power you to the end.

To say that I have been handling it well would be an understatement. The year has been a pretty bad one – or maybe not, it hasn’t been great, or too bad – I don’t know, it’s a little bit all over the place.

We approach the end of the year. An arbitrary line in the sand where we say we’re resetting whatever has happened in our last journey around the sun and begin our new journey with renewed vigour and determination.

But life doesn’t work that way does it? Everything in the recent past gets carried forward, whether you think you’ve dealt with it or not. Though I suppose setting a new zero lets us re-evaluate ourselves and re-purpose ourselves to meet challenges, new and old.

I’m really hoping that 2019 will let me grow into a better version of myself, and that things will turn out really well. 2018 has been mentally draining, and I can’t really say if I’m leaving the year behind as an improved version of myself.

Just like the stock markets, I can say that I’ll be impairing myself at the end of the year and starting anew with a lower base. I can then over exaggerate my self improvement in 2019. After all, moving up by 1 from a base of 1, is a lot better than moving up by 1 from a base of 100. See? No?

Anyways, for next year, would like to come out of this mental funk, write more (on this blog, and on whatever projects I’m working on), get healthier, be more useful professionally, and maybe travel a little bit more.

Most of all, I just want to be a better husband, a better father, and a better friend to everyone.

Here’s to a better 2019.

Playing tourist

Over the weekend we decided to head back to Ipoh. It wasn’t for any particular occasion, except for the fact that the wife is coming to the end of her maternity leave and is heading back to work. I think it’s hitting everyone quite hard, especially child number one. For the past three months, she’s had the pleasure of having mommy to herself and the sister, at home. Baby number one has taken everything with great stride, fitting into the big sister role very nicely. And for that we’re awfully proud of her.

Anyways, back to our short trip.

Normally when we head back to Ipoh, we stay over at my in-laws, but this time it would be different. As the old wedded couple, we were kicked out (I’m kidding!), and had to arrange for our own accommodation, in order to make room for the newly wedded couple. We left earlier on Friday, just so that we would have time to go around the city.

We checked in at a quaint little hotel smack in the middle of the city. Regalodge Ipoh is hidden nicely between UOB Bank, The True Jesus Church and The Tower Regency hotel. As the local that is my wife, she didn’t know of its existence, until we made that booking a week ago. The hotel was an old, refurbished hotel. The marble decorations inside made it seem new. But we could kind of tell from the dank, smokey smell as we made our way up to the room that it was anything but new. 

But as a three star hotel, it had pretty much everything that we needed. A nice comfortable bed to sleep on, and a shower with good pressure.

The best part about the place that we were staying at was that it was pretty much walking distance to everything. Not that we actually walked or anything, because with a kid and a half in tow, walking would have been quite a chore.

Having arrived at a reasonable time on Friday evening, we thought we’d check out the small touristy area at Concubine Lane, you know, just because. We’ve never really done the touristy thing here, since the wife is a local, we’ve never felt like we needed to. Just like me, a local Terengganu boy who has never visited any of the islands off of the coast.

It was kind of fun actually! Concubine Lane was indeed a narrow tourist trap, with junk to be bought, but it was an interesting area to walk around in.

Bustling lane

Can’t walk through Concubine Lane without trying the colourful cheese toast rainbow thingo!

In all, it was quite interesting. Walking around the area, looking at how old buildings were being revived. The old-school facade was maintained, with a more modern interior. It was all quite fetching.

In any case our stay was short, I would have liked to have stuck around and walked about a bit more, but with kids in tow, and other stuff to do, it wasn’t going to happen.

But that’s okay, we’ll be back again sooner rather than later, and maybe we’ll see a bit more of this city.

The school canteen

I’m still here at bub’s primary school orientation. The mum’s in the hall and I’m just strolling aimlessly around the school. I could just stand outside bub’s classroom, but that seems to distract her. So I thought it’s best I stay away, just so that she doesn’t have the crutch of looking around for me when she’s uncomfortable (stay strong, kiddo).

Of course wandering around takes up a lot of energy, naturally, I felt a little peckish. It’s a good thing that the school canteen is open, so I decided to check it out.

The school canteen is exactly how I remembered my old school canteen was. I recalled the old, rickety wooden benches, the cheap plasticky feel the canteen tables. The tables at this school even had some ruffled fabric stapled to sides (ooooh, fancy).

The line heading towards the food counter was reasonably short. But like old times, the line moved slowly. Instead of being made up kids, parents were lining up, reaching the front of the line, scoping out what was served, and then scooping out the food, as irritatingly slowly as possible. Exactly like old times, except instead of being annoying little kids, they’re all adults now.

At the end of the line was the ‘makcik kantin’ (canteen lady), and she’d ask, “what drink would you like?”, as monotonously as possible. Exactly like how I remembered it!

I asked for an iced milo, I don’t know why, I didn’t even feel like it, I just blurted it out instinctively. The makcik canteen trudged to the back, then came out with the drink. She told me how much it all was, I paid, took my change and walked away, awkwardly trying to hide my giddiness of having to relive recess times at school.

I suppose even though we’ve grown up, and perhaps have grown jaded over time, we some times enjoy reliving certain parts of our childhood. Where we didn’t have to worry so much about so many things.

For a brief while, I enjoyed myself a little. A sip of my milo made me feel a little sihat dan kuat, today.

My haul at the canteen! RM4 for everything. I’d be damned if I didn’t get my keropok lekor!

Where did the time go?

So today is bub’s orientation at her school.

I’m sitting here thinking to myself, “where did all that time go?”

It seems to me that it was only yesterday that she was a wee little toddler. Sputtering out half words, making cheeky faces.

Now she’s going to be on her own at school, making new friends, learning new things. Before we know it, she’s going to start wanting more space. Maybe I tell myself that that won’t happen, but we all know eventually it will.

That’s okay, kids grow up. And I know, or at least I hope that, though we grow older, even if the space between us grows, we continue to grow closer. As a parent, I’d want nothing more than for my kids to be able to tell me anything.

Bub’s going to grow to be her own person, and I promise to let her do that, and provide her all the support she needs.