Monday, January 15, 2018

Going Viral

How does a word that used to denote disease now becomes the buzzword of communication tech? People in marketing are now always on the look out for ways to make their campaign reach the widest possible audience, and today the most visible marketing currency is video.

Watch Sarah Wood, COO of Unruly Media, explain what it takes to make a marketing video go viral; it's a little chilling how what you think is an organic online interaction really is orchestrated by algorithms crunched by unseen people a world away.

*video is stolen from Wired.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Haunted by Sea Maidens

This song is used as part of the spiritual healing ritual based on the tale of the fisherman who lost his heart to the sea princess. Traditionally this was used for treating what now would be called post traumatic stress disorder; to revive the spirits of someone who has had a traumatic experience.

In other words, traditional Malay medicine use music and song and dance to heal psychological illness. Pretty progressive, don'tcha think?


Sunday, January 7, 2018

Breaking Up is Easier than Breaking a Habit

Every new year (be it the Islamic or Gregorian calendar), I'd tell myself to cut my electronic umbilical cord AKA the smartphone.

Or at least, put it far enough away from me during off times so I'd be more productive -- write more, make inroads in my avalanching to-be-read pile, finish embroidering my kebaya ...

Alas, I still fail. I'd manage maybe 2 or 3 days, and then I fall off the wagon again. The phone is also where I keep track of my email - work and personal - so even when silenced, I still reach for it every so often.

Watching this is pretty sobering, I must say.

Freakin' scary.  Especially since I'm in the middle of reading Nicholas Carr's The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brain.

I can feel my brain being rewired.

Frankly, I have no idea how I'm going to wean myself off of the phone. I am a reading junkie; my phone plays a HUGE role in feeding my habit. I use it for reading my e-books and it's where I keep my Kobo account. Heck, I'm reading Carr's book on my smart phone, small screen notwithstanding.

It's ever harder to put the device far away when so much of our social interactions - be it family or friends or professional relationships - is controlled by that rectangle of silicon and circuits.

By making itself indispensable, the smart phone controls our lives beyond what we should be comfortable with. With the Internet of Things, one day we may not even have to carry the smart phone anymore; it may be grafted under our skin, with retinal implant to display the screen. Forget being afraid of Big Brother's surveillance; we already take Big Brother everywhere we go on purpose and eagerly.

If you wanna know more, read this and let me know if it made your hair raise as it did mine.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Dressed to Kill

You can never dress alone ...

... if your clothes are this complicated.

This sort of fashion was probably the reason why very few European ladies follow their husbands when they go pillaging in the tropics in the 18th century. The suffering when your scapula began to itch; how on earth do you reach that annoying spot?

I don't imagine the garment is terribly comfortable; the boning of the corset looks like sheer torture. Keeping the spine erect is one thing, but the squashing of boobies is another.

Thank God this style is no longer in fashion, no? Although those pockets are really kind of sweet.

*stolen from theLiverpool Museum blog.

Monday, April 10, 2017

A for ...

A for alma mater.

A for Assunta!

And yes, this is an ode to my halcyon school days.

If you live in Petaling Jaya, the name Assunta is synonymous with gung-ho all-girls school. I was privileged to attend the Assunta Primary and Secondary School up to the year I turned 16.

There is nothing quite like life in an all-girls school. It was easy going, loud (my 2nd and 3rd form class was declared as the noisiest in the school, naturally) and chock-full of stress and fun.

One awesome thing about attending an all-girls school is that you don't need to be ladylike (or control ayu) because you have no one to impress. You get to let down your hair, express your inner demonic tendencies and just totally be yourself.

When I attended a co-ed school, I found out the hard way that such liberties are not common.

We also had the best canteen food. In a time when upscale mall food courts are non existent, we get to choose from noodles (laksa/curry/soup/fried)  to rice, to burgers, buns (sweet/savoury), roti canai and even mini donuts, on a daily basis. Visiting other schools where you queue for the same dish everyone else is eating brought forth the kind of sympathies reserved for starving children in Africa.

The racial mix at Assunta means that everyone speaks a little bit of a lot of languages like Hakka, Tamil, Cantonese,  Malayalee, Javanese, particularly the swear words. The lingua franca was broken English peppered liberally with Malay. It is an important contributor to our fluency in the colonists' language.

It was also the time and place to make lifelong friends whom you fight with and defend against all comers come hell and high water. After all, in a school of over 2000 people, the odds are good that you could find someone who would click with you.

We may not meet often, but when we do, it's like we just saw each other last week.

Of course the school has changed tremendously since my days long past. The Thinking Pool has been replaced. The Cow Shed and Woodlands are now part of the food court-like canteen complete with LCD screen. The Music and Art Block has been revamped to add another storey to accommodate an art gallery.  The Basement of the Mutiara Block has been converted into 4 classrooms.

Stained glass deco for the school hall is sick.

However, the more things change, the more they stay the same. For all the cosmetic changes the years have wrought, the school spirit remains the same. All the voices raised in joy to sing the school song are inculcated with tenets of loyalty to the school and Country, determination to realise their dreams and camaraderie of the sisterhood.

Ad veritatem per caritatem!


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Sepsis and How I Almost Punched My Ticket to the Afterlife

Last night, I was watching BBC's Trust Me, I'm a Doctor when I realised how lucky I am to still be alive today.

In 2004, I had what I thought was a bad case of flu that lasted for over three weeks. I sought treatment at the nearby clinics several times, took the meds (yes, I finished my antibiotics), but I never seemed to be able to shake it off. I'd get better for a couple of days, and then then I was knocked down again by the fever, body aches, runny nose, cough etc.

I didn't think much of it, just thought that I got "lucky" and was infected by different virus strains in a row. One day at the lab, I felt so cold that my teeth was chattering. Strangely, it didn't occur to me that I was in a bad shape. My supervisor dropped by to ask something, took a look at me a la death warmed over, and told me to go home.

Off I toddled at 3 pm, driving home in a car that's been baked under the sun for hours with the windows rolled up and I didn't turn on the aircond. The temperature in the car was likely to be above 50 degrees Celsius  and for the first time in weeks, I felt comfortable. Yes, broiling alive in a car felt wonderful. It was only later that I realised I barely sweated even though the day was scorching.

I drove like how I imagined someone who's had a spectacular liquid lunch would be like behind the wheel. Miraculously, I got home without incident.

Once the gate closed behind me, I sat in the broiler that was my car in a stupor, until my Daddy came outside to check on me. I should have realised by then that something was seriously wrong with me, but I just hurt all over and it felt like the heat leached the ache that was bone deep. I mumbled to my parents that I felt horrible and I stumbled to my room to sleep it off.

I was rudely woken at about 6 pm when my Mum told me that they're taking me to the hospital. I protested feebly, thinking that I just needed more rest and I'd be better soon. But Daddy put his foot down. He said there was something wrong with me that made me sit in a hot car for ages, and I needed to get that sorted NOW.

I sulked during the drive to Assunta Hospital, furious that they didn't let me go on sleeping. After the registration, I sat with my parents, making desultory conversation until I was summoned to the examination room.

To my surprise, the nurses took no time at all to insert a cannula into the back of my hand and they told me that I'm being held overnight for observation. They told me that my temperature was over 40 degrees Celsius and I could go into convulsions if I don't get treated.

I wanted to protest, but I couldn't marshall my thoughts. I felt like crying; what kind of a weakling am I to need hospitalisation for a mere fever? Totally forgetting that fever can be dangerous and I learnt all the ways a fever can go south in my general pathology class.

I was taken in a wheelchair to the ward. It was so weird being wheeled about, and it finally struck me that I was really, seriously ill. My Mum looked like she wanted to cry when she looked at the cannula on the back of my hand, patting it gingerly as though she was afraid it would hurt me. Daddy was blasè, as though his child being warded was nothing out of the ordinary. His stiff upper lip hid a lot.

Once I was settled with a saline drip installed, they went home with an admonishment to mind the nurses. I felt bereft. My ward mates were all hidden behind the drawn curtains and I was at loose ends. The cool saline coursing through my feverish body made me antsy, and I fell into a restless sleep.

Less than an hour later, my Sis and BIL came with clothes, toiletries, books (yay!) and a burger from the corner stall for dinner. We chatted while I ate, and then they left. I changed into my pajamas by myself, no mean feat to manoeuvre around the drip, let me tell you, and settled for my first night in a hospital.

Throughout the night, the nurses came periodically to take my vital signs. I was so lethargic that it didn't bother me much until sometime at 3 am, they popped my anal cherry. Apparently, my fever refused to subside and they had to resort to a suppository antipyretic. Lucky for me, they were experts and after a mild disconcerted moment, I fell back to sleep.

The differential diagnosis for my case was sepsis although my blood culture was inconclusive. I suspected that the culprit in my case was the germ I was working with, Chromobacterium violaceum. I was fortunate to have responded to treatment fairly quickly considering the mortality rate for C.violaceum is pretty dismal.

Trust Me, I'm a Doctor reported that sepsis kills more people per year than 3 of the major cancers combined. Considering I had 4 of the 6 criteria for identifying septicaemia per the discussion on the show, I was extremely fortunate that my parents insisted that I get treated.

Slurred Speech or confusion
Extreme shivering or muscle pain
Passing no urine (in a day)
Severe Breathlessness
“I feel like I might die”
Skin mottled or discoloured

At least 2 of the survivors interviewed in the show has had amputation to remove necrotic limbs. It was chilling to hear that all of them had symptoms similar to mine and the number of people who die of sepsis every year because they weren't treated in time.

Don't take your health for granted. Even a minor cut can fell you. With greater number of antibiotic resistance, we may not have much options for treating sepsis if we don't develop new antimicrobial soon.

Read more about it at:

Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Billionaire and the Pauper?

Trade Me (Cyclone, #1)Trade Me by Courtney Milan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The few young adult novels I've picked up left a horrid taste in my mouth, but this one was SPECTACULAR. All right, I've yet to read anything by Courtney Milan that I didn't enjoy, but this one was such a fabulous ride from page one until The End (for the time being; there's more in the series).

The rest is under cut for spoilery stuff.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Waterworks Serenade

Did you ever notice how thin and breathless your voice gets when you have spent the better part of a month coughing your lungs out? In the fantastic acoustics of the shower room, this vocal defect is amplified mercilessly to the auditory torment of your neighbours. Complete with canine and feline accompaniments.

Never mind. I'm still singing this at the top of my lungs during my morning shower, depressing notes bedamned.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Mellow yellow

It's Ramadan. No eating candy in daytime (for those observing it) but no one said anything about ear candy, right?

For those who like psychedelic, Beatlesque groove, have a try.

Wondering what on Earth did you just watched? Get some explanation here.

I've got a thing for Julian Lennon since this song came out when I was in high school. Evocative, mellow, heart rending.


Friday, May 27, 2016

Just a monkey pressing the lever

 My electronic placenta.

I write on this blog a lot more prior to 2013 because I got a smart phone in December 2012.

And that is when the downward spiral began.

Let me acknowledge it.

*deep breath*

I am addicted to my smart phone.


I fondle it before I sleep at night, reading books I downloaded. I reach for it first thing in the morning; to turn off the alarm and then to check out what I missed on social media while I had my forty winks.

I tell myself the light on the screen help my brain to wake up. Ah, the lies we tell ourselves.

Every spare minute - whether I'm stuck in a jam, waiting to be served, stuffing my face, queuing at the bank - I'm looking down at the screen. I think it's now doing something to my neck, and it's not a good thing.

When I didn't have a smart phone, I didn't really care about how useful it is.  I'm happy to keep inheriting my phones from my Big Sister and Daddy. Free phone, neh? So what if it doesn't have touch screen? I only use it for calling and texting. I am an indifferent photographer and have no desire to keep taking pictures of my food.

Do you care what I had for dinner? 

I didn't care that I couldn't check my emails on the go.  In fact, I'm happy that I don't have to keep track of work on my off time.

You sent me an email? Oh, I'll check on it on Monday when I get to office.

No, I don't have Internet at home (my pants are practically flaming).


The only reason that I finally succumbed to peer pressure was because the chunky Motorola-that-looked-like-BlackBerry that I was using had given up the ghost. I got hooked reading e-books on it, thanks to the larger screen and storage space. Anyone who knows me know the length I would go to feed my reading habit.

 Come hither, my pretties.

So I went along with Big Sister to Maxis and got me a Samsung Note 2. I didn't buy a phone for years, and when I did, I blew a dollar short of a grand on a piece of electronic that was already obsolete when I got my paws on it.

Thus began the stranglehold my smart phone has on my psyche and posture.

That was also the time when I got a new job that required me to be accessible near 24/7. The boss expected us to monitor our e-mails and WhatsApp messages at all time. Foolish me thought, "Okay. This is how adults do adulting jobs."

The discovery that my heart pounds at every chime notifying me of a new message, new e-mail in my inbox, was unpleasant, to say the least. Okay, that has nothing to do with my electronic anxiety but everything to do with the job. Although if you ask my former colleagues, they think I'm cool as a cucumber. Never would I let anyone see that inside, I was clawing the wall.

Fake it till you make it, baby.

The major chunk of my smart phone time is spent on Facebook. I tried twitter, but 140 characters aren't enough when you are in the mood for a major rant. I hate the feed and the way I kept seeing stuff that doesn't interest me.

Instagram bore me. All those pictures. *shudder*

 Runs off screaming.

I'm a reader; I paint pictures in my head out of the words I read. After a while, all those pictures become saturated in my brain and I turn off. Thanks to Judith Krantz's I'll Take Manhattan, I have a good idea of what it takes to make things look pretty in pictures, so my cynicism wells up whenever I see anything picture perfect.

But Facebook ... now that's something I can sink my teeth into. I'm an info junkie so basically, it's like giving a meth head Walter White's secret stash. Who needs RSS feeds and e-mail based newsletter when you can get New Scientist, Washington Post, Jezebel, NYT, Russia Beyond the Headlines, Smithsonian and God knows what else in your feed?

I'm like a tick that's gorged itself so much; I'm flailing on my back, legs waving in the air.

The next thing I knew, I'm a monkey pressing the lever for more stuff to read. My experience on Livejournal and Blogspot taught me the power of "Likes" and "Comments". The chemical rewards firing up my brain kept me refreshing my feed, sharing stuff I read, funny pictures I liked, and of course, feeding my mania for all things Loki @ Tom Hiddleston (thank God it has tapered off ... I think ...).

When I look at my On This Day app, I used to have only 1 or 2 posts per day prior to 2013. Usually some funky stuff I found on but that's about it. Very few personal stuff, no pictures of my family or manicure accidents while driving.

At one point,  I did become aware that my addiction is completely out of control. But then I took up the role as VPE for my former Toastmasters Club. I took care of the announcements and postings of the club's FB page. How convenient that I can take pictures and post immediately, neh?

So I tell myself I'm doing it not for myself, but for my club (HAH!) and that the things I share are beneficial not just to me, but to other people (YEAH, RIGHT). People need that amazing TED Talk video on how to overcome whatever it is that's stopping them from knocking their presentations out of the ball park like Anthony Robbins. Yes, they do.

My addiction to the palm monster short circuits my writing here because mentally, I kept composing commentaries for my Facebook status. It's also idiotic because 9 out of 10 times, it just stays in my head.

However, I must be grateful to Facebook for widening my circle of friendship. Yeah, you may scoff and say, "How many of those XXX 'friends' you got will actually bail you out in an emergency?"

But that's not the point that I build friendship. I don't make friends thinking that one day that friend will help me out. I befriend people because I enjoy their mind and it makes spending time with them pleasurable. If at any point, I require assistance and they help, that's fantastic. But if it doesn't happen, so be it. They may have other obligations or think I'm not worth their effort (and that's okay, I feel that way about some people too).

C'est la vie.

These friends taught me new things, help me frame new perspectives, introduce me to other people and great ideas, and so much more. I actually network with it - which has been beneficial for some things in my life. Also, it has been instrumental in my connecting with old pals who have fallen by the waysides of life and our reconnection has enriched me immeasurably.

Reading this, courtesy of my former debate team member, made me think about rebooting my smart phone and Facebook addiction. I'm going to forge a new relationship with my electronic umbilical cord. If I can't cut it off, by God I ought to gain mastery over my impulse to keep  it.

Wish me luck!