Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Counting counts a lot

The axiom "Publish or perish!" is one that is lived by all in academia. Most of the time, people publish in the field in which they specialise, be it the hard sciences (carbon nanotube construction anyone?) or the soft ones (porn virgins are as elusive as unicorns, you know).

But Prof. John W Trinkaus has made a career out of being OCD about counting. Wonder how many people like wearing their baseball cap backwards? He's published it. What about people who take more than a dozen items to the express lane checkout counter? He's done it. What ever it was that caught his eye or irritates the heck out of him, you can be sure he'd be there to tally and publish it.

Go here for a report of all the weird and wacky stuff he has reported.

Incidentally, he teaches management at Zicklin School of Business in New York City. Therefore, it is not necessary that you publish only in your field; you just need a little OCD-ness, verve and imagination.

*hats off to Prof. Trinkaus*

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Why Jimmy Choos are lusted over more than Hugh Jackman

It seems that a pair of shoes is more memorable than an ex-boyfriend.

Interesting finding, that. But knowing women and their ability to prioritise, I am not surprised. A good pair of shoes last a long time and keeps you comfortable on long journeys. An aggravating ex-boyfriend? Just a pain in the ass.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

On life's difficult choices

Pretty Girls by Neko Case

Pretty girls, you're too good for this
How you break my heart in this cold waiting room
Oh my pretty girls, you're too good for this
Don't let them tell you you're nothing
Don't let them break your hearts too

The TV is blaring and angry
As if you don't know why you're here
Those who walk without sin are so hungry
Don't let the wolves in, pretty girls

Your hearts are so tried and so innocent
Wind your flimsy blue gowns tight around you
Around curves so comely and sinister
They blame it on you pretty girls

Oh pretty girls, you're too good for this
How you break my heart in this cold waiting room
Oh pretty girls, you're too good for this
Don't let them tell you you're nothing
Don't let them break your hearts too

My girls, you're just like the heavens
Not a soul to take your hand in theirs
Your tears in wild constellations
Proud limbs and hard folding chairs

But there's millions to count you and keep you
And lovers who don't understand
Don't let them tell you you're nothing
'Cause you'll change the world pretty girls

Come chain yourself 'round my ankle
You'll see the world like a bird
Diving down low, flying up high
Through all of these saccharine gutters we'll ride and I
Won't say that I told you so
Won't say that I told you so
Won't say that I told you so
Won't say that I told you so


In a perfect world, the services of medical providers such as the late Dr George Tiller would not be required; but God in His Infinite Wisdom saw it fit that there be obstacles and challenges of many kind for us in this life.

Who has the right to throw the first stone? Certainly not I.

To all celebrating ...

Happy Winter Solstice!

or ...

Happy Holidays!

or ...

Happy Christmas!

or ...

Happy Hanukkah!

or ...

Happy Kwanzaa!

Better still ... Happy Spending at Year End Sales the World Over!

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Caution: Air gunung

Clear streams and bubbling brooks and dreamy waterfalls ... who can resist them? But before you jump in, do check the meteorological report of the area and ask around if it had rained recently. Because no matter how excellent a swimmer you are, when a tonne of debris packed water falls on you, there is no escape.

My cousin in Tapah warned us of "air gunung" whenever we go to splash around in the river behind his house. It's not a particularly big or scarily deep one, but high enough in the mountains to have plenty of rocks to dash one's idiotic head and hapless body upon. So, yeah. Play safe. If someone warns you to get out of the water, for the love of God just go.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Hot Fuzz

Extreme ordnance can come in handy when you are about to storm a city, no?

simon pegg
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Do not get on the wrong side of the law.

Rock beats scissors, but  Guns beat search warrant
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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Salting the wound

It is quite common to hear stories about men, who, after divorcing their wives (and marrying another), skedaddles without paying the ex-wife child support. This is worse if the ex-wife hasn't got the means to support the family; either through lack of education or disability. These men are scums of the earth what ought to have their names printed in the newspapers in font 100 (at least) declaring their irresponsibility (apart from the tarring and feathering and proper enforcement of court-ordered paycheque deduction).

But what about men who have been faithfully supporting the wife and child and then discovering said child is not his? What if after the divorce, the ex-wife marries the man who is the biological father of the child and still HE has to pay for child support of a child who carries none of his DNA strands?

Would love trumps the biological imperative for continuing one's genetic inheritance? In the case of Mike L., this appears to be so; proving that not all men who left their wives are scums and that women's cheating have a long and just as terrible a consequence as when a man cheats.

DNA testing: opening Pandora's box in more ways than one.


Friday, November 20, 2009

Lifelong learning

Cos you never know when the fireball juggling / lion taming / Photoshop skills may come in handy.

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Friday, November 13, 2009

Put a Ring on It

I'm not a fan of Beyonce, but John Barrowman makes for excellent eye candy.

This goes a long way towards erasing the Joe Jonas version. *shudder*

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

What to do ... what to do ...

Huh. When this happens in your class, what do you, in your capacity as an educator, do?

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A) Take the microphone and yell, "Wakey, wakey!"
B) Set off firecrackers.
C) Walk out in an indignant huff.
D) Leave quietly for your own well-deserved siesta.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The winner writes history...

The Inglourious Basterds made a very good case for alternative history and underscores how serendipity could be the making or breaking of an event. It was interesting to watch a Hollywood movie with mostly European cast and largely in French or German. Being a Quentin Tarantino movie, it is only fair to expect comical violence, although not to the level of Kill Bill.

A fun way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Biar mati anak, jangan mati adat?

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I'm pretty sure there are better ways to get an adrenaline rush.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Wax and Dye

In May, I had the privilege of perusing an exhibition showcasing the best of Teng's work at the National Art Gallery. Datuk Chuah Thean Teng was a batik painter, a technique adapted from the Nusantara artform of applying wax blocking and vegetable dye to print fabrics. He was a superb craftsman who mastered a varity of media; from wood block prints, ink on paper, metalwork, pastel and poster colour.

His portraits of lush and voluptuous female figures, tinted in rich colours brought to mind the raw sensuality of Gauguin. The delicacy of his brush strokes and the dreamy feel of his landscape brings to mind Henri Matisse. his bold and fantastical abstracts earned him the apellate of the Picasso of batik. He documented life in the village; heavily featuring female figures from bare-breasted aborigine women to the modest and retiring tudung clad Malay girls. His paintings narrated of a lifestyle that is no more, articulating the linkage between nurturing family, land and humanity.

Just to share some of my illicit snapshots and thoughts. My last visit has shown that the NAG is more stringent about photography in the galleries; signages and guards abound.

Observe the little girl in this painting; her scowling demeanour and heavy lips lending her a rather sinister cast. The long suffering patience of the mother. Except for the hair, it could have been my mother and I when I was a bratty child (still am, sadly).

The perspective of this picture is both unexpected and charming, no? The shadows contrasting with the bright colours of her sarong and the manically cheery sky ... I don't know what it is but I like it. The sultry air is almost visceral.

This is the mural he made for the Faculty of Agriculture of University of Malaya in 1960.

R.I.P. Teng. You will be missed.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Kinda like the telephone game gone wrong.

I get a variation of this a lot from my mum.

Except that she would insist that I was somewhere doing something with her when actually? It was my sister.

I ... have no words.

More dangerous than carrying a double-oh tag?

James Bond? Michael Westen?


My job has been classified as one of the most dangerous (albeit on the scientific front) job ever by Wired.

Check it out here.

Thank God we don't have a communal lab coffee pot.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Rapping for Public Health

The world is anticipating the second wave of H1N1 to bitchslap us during the final quarter of 2009. How well prepared are you to face it? Do you know how to protect yourself? Do you know how to prepare your family?

If you want some pointers, watch this guy.

That was John D. Clarke, MD, FAAFP. Who says that all doctors are nerdy?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Thanks a lot ...

You are a mathematical genius who was instrumental in breaking the codes used by your government's enemy to help win the second world war. Your brilliance helped pave the way of the modern theory of computation. How does your government repay you for your loyalty and service?

By chemically castrating you.

You can't get it up no more, humiliated by the witch hunt trial that ended your career by taking away the security clearance required to do your job and kill yourself at the age of 41.

Fifty five years later, the Government apologised. Gee, thanks, Mr Brown.

R.I.P. Alan Turing.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Book rec.: Not Quite a Husband by Sherry Thomas

Keen on adventure? Keen on a well-crafted story with meticulously drafted characters with whom you can fall in love?

Why not read a book that can make you laugh ...

He was serenely unconcerned. He wouldn't have to taste it if the quinine came up his behind.

Make you melt?

You were the moon of my existence; your moods dictated the tides of my heart.

Make you shiver?

Let me have you again. Let me make love to you properly. Let me give you the kind of pleasure that you gave me, delicious, terrible pleasure.

Go read this book.

Monday, October 19, 2009

De Nial; not just a river in Egypt.

My child is not fat.

Of course not.

(It's all right, dear. You just have big bones.)

I find it interesting that boys are often misclassified according to the study.

(Give him the third helping. He's a growing boy.)

Is it because boys are oftentimes more coddled than girls, particularly among the non-whites? Let's not start on the Asian take on the wonderfulness of boy children; that can be a rant for another day.

(Leave the plate on the table, baby. Your sister will take it to the kitchen later.)

Or is it because girls are expected to be slender and pretty, even from young? Apparently, Barbie has cankles and Christian Louboutin wants none of this. Man, if the ideal figure of (plastic?) the female shape is imperfect, what hope is there for the rest of us?

Oh, dear.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Food ambassador

You gotta love Jamie Oliver. This is a guy who doesn't accept limitations and goes out to do what he feels is right. He overcame dyslexia and hyperactivity to become one of the world's most famous proponent of good food for everybody. Watching him cook is like watching a controlled whirlwind; but instead of destruction, he left lovely and delicious gustatory creation in his wake.

On his crusade to teach the world that you can cook and eat well, healthy and cheap, Jamie has embarked on a new journey: to teach super-size-this America to eat right.

Good luck, Jamie!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Bleeding for (a) good (cause)?

I have heard of people who are addicted to blood donation. I never thought that I could be one of them. I have always found the experience to be enjoyable; a comfy chair, a book in hand, nice, soft hands petting your arm to coax the life-giving elixir out ...

Why aren't more people doing it?


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Not exactly dancing bears ...

Thanks to Interwebs friends, I got to know a new source of aurgasms: Grizzly Bear. Folksy, psychedelic pop that is great for acid trip listening.


Sunday, September 27, 2009

Why do you want to know who I want to sleep with?

Kids these days grow up too quickly. Don't believe me? Apparently, there is a need to identify your sexuality from as young an age as eleven years. I mean, your sexuality is your business, no? Why is there a need to let people know whether you are straight, gay, lesbian or whatever under the sun?

In Islam, you are defined by the good deeds that you do, not your skin colour, wealth or looks, much less whether you'd rather shag Daphne or Shaggy. If we believe that we are such an advanced society, isn't it time that we adopt a more egalitarian approach towards self identity?

Why are children feeling pressured to identify to others where lies their attraction? They are unlikely (please God) to be acting on it any time soon. Is it because their peers make it a point to tease them about their mannerisms and inclination? Why aren't these little monsters taught basic decency and courtesy? Calling people names and bullying should never to be tolerated.

Your sexuality is your business. And your partner of course (because getting married when you are NOT sexually attracted to your spouse is NOT a good idea). Is it because we are bombarded with sexuality everywhere; from books to advertisements to movies and even children's cartoon? If you think the latter is outlandish, try watching the Disney Princess animation movies and other shows geared towards the tween sets. So many characters (Bratz anyone?) wore clothes that we would commonly associate with exotic dancers. Why would you put on a midriff-baring halter neck on a child with no secondary sexual characteristics? Is it cute? Is it attractive? Isn't it a clothing item associated with expoiting a woman's appearance? Are you trying to turn your child into a sexual object?


Shows like Queer as Folk and The L Word is passing on the message that it is vital to shove your sexuality down other people's throat. Me, I believe in live and let live. Why should I care if the two handsome men next door are shagging each other? (bloody waste, actually) Or that little Kiki has two mommies who are married to each other (as opposed to the same man)? There are many judgmental people in this world, yes, but does forcing the issue of your personal choice on other people helps?

Children shouldn't have to categorise themselves this way. There is enough pressure to perform well academically, in sports, in being popular etc etc etc. They should have plenty of time to sort through their emotions and feelings before making any kind of decisions that will impact their entire life. Yes, one would know at an early age (around pre-puberty) regarding one's sexual orientation, but it does not need to be trumpeted. To what purpose? Acceptance?


Or will it bring more angst and rejection? Please, stop forcing the children to grow up too quickly and viewing themselves as sex objects. Because that is what they do when they start fomenting about whether they are gay or bisexual or asexual or whatever. It is important to accept a child regardless of their orientation but please don't push them to make a choice before they are ready.

Besides which, why should you make a choice and not pick the smorgasmbord?

Just sayin'.


P/S Sorry not much linky links; just wanted to get the rant out of my chest, no time to do more research. Mea culpa.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Romance killers

Are your drugs turning you into a vampire?

According to this, they may. If you're into doxycycline, that is.

What a way to take out the romance of the supernatural creatures. Just when you thought that you've Turned into a creature of the night, languishing for the sun and all you have is an adverse drug reaction?


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Soul barer ... Jamal Abdillah

I confess. When it comes to Malay songs, my taste seems to freeze somewhere before 1990. I'd like to blame the domination of the sound waves by Eddie Hamid's wailing rock ballads (laments of limp-wristed losers whose girl left them for better prospects) that sounded the death knell to easy listening Malay music, but that would be too sweeping (and I don't know enough to elucidate on this matter).

Jamal Abdillah has been rightly named the King of Pop in Malaysia, generating tonnes of hits and starred in movies that made girls sighs and the explosion of baby girls to be named Azura. Gifted with a voice not just mellifluous and resonant; his passion and emotions imbued lifted the song to more than just melodies. His hits are mostly melancholic songs of heartbreak and loss, such as “Seniman Menangis” and “Sepi Seorang Perindu”. When performing a duet, he is excellent at not drowning out his co-performer with his powerful voice, a talent that is missing in many singers.

Jamal first came into my musical consciousness with Tidurlah Wahai Permaisuri, a most unlikely lullaby that I've always thought was sung by a languishing courtier to the object of his affection. There, you know it now. I have a taste for melodramatic romance. Shut up.

Last night TV1 had shown Jamal's latest consert dubbed "Kembara Seniman" that he performed at the Istana Budaya. It started with a musical of his journey as a singer and ends with an energetic performance of a wonderful of medley of his hits. I was impressed with the musical bit as he really bared his soul (so to speak), alluding to his struggle with addiction and inner demons. But he really blew us away with the concert segment, especially how he belted out all the numbers with a near effortlessness that has been missing for a long bit. His rendition of "Gadis Melayu" made you boogie along and "Seroja", as usual, brought tears to my eyes. (And people wonder why I want to kill Mawi for massacring these beautiful songs. Tsk.)

Bravo, Jamal!

PS: Is late and am lazy so no clicky links. Google away.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

How to live with a hole in your soul (or torso)

Ganked in its entirety from Medscape. But it is sooooo fun and gruesome and the not-so-little geek in me just wanted to have a show and tell.

From Medscape General Surgery > Historical Perspectives in Surgery

The Case of the Wounded Woodsman and His Dedicated Physician

Albert B. Lowenfels, MD

Published: 09/02/2009

The Case

The patient was a 28-year-old, healthy itinerant laborer who was accidentally shot at close range by a companion. The shell entered the left anterolateral side of his body a few inches below the left nipple. The patient fell to the ground but remained conscious. A physician who examined the patient shortly after the accident noted a large wound of entry about the size of a man's hand, but no wound of exit. The left lung protruded through the opening along with a portion of the stomach, with an opening caused by the bullet. Several adjacent ribs had been fractured. Food from a recent meal was present in the wound.

In describing the patient's injury, his physician wrote: "I considered any attempt to save his life entirely useless." Nevertheless, his physician debrided the wound, replaced the protruding stomach and lung, and applied a protective dressing. On the following day, the patient developed fever, a cough, and had evidence of pneumonia. For the next week, the patient continued to be febrile; the wound became infected; and the patient was fed rectally.

To the physician's surprise, over the next several weeks the patient's condition gradually improved, although the gastric wound never completely closed. Nevertheless, he could tolerate oral feedings if the gastric opening was occluded with a compressive dressing. Over the next year, the patient's strength gradually returned to normal, but the gastric wound refused to close. The physician made an arrangement with the patient to follow him more closely and to study his gastric physiology; these studies continued intermittently over the course of many years.

Who was the patient?

Daniel Boone
Kit Carson
Alexis St. Martin
Paul Bunyon

Who was the physician?
William Osler
William Beaumont
Harvey Cushing
William Wells

Brief History of the Physician and His Patient

William Beaumont (1785-1853) was born into a farming family and grew up in Connecticut, where he remained until his early 20s when he joined his brother in Upstate New York.[1] There, he taught school for several years, before deciding at the age of 25 to study medicine. Although it was possible in the early 19th century to practice medicine without any formal training, Beaumont became an apprentice to Dr. Benjamin Chandler, a prominent Vermont physician. This apprenticeship lasted for 1 year, covered both medicine and surgery, and led to certification by the Vermont Medical Society. His training never included any formal background in physiology, and it is unlikely that Beaumont was aware of the available rudimentary knowledge of gastrointestinal physiology.

Figure 1. Portrait of William Beaumont, frontier doctor and scientist.
From Gillett MC. Early campaigns in the North, 1812 to 1813. In: Matloff M, ed. The Army Medical Department 1775-1818. Army Historical Series. Available at: Accessed August 26, 2009

In 1812, a few months after receiving his certification, Beaumont enlisted in the US Army, and then actively engaged in war with the British Empire. Eventually, after the conclusion of the War of 1812, Beaumont was posted to Fort Mackinac, an important trading post located on a small, remote island between Lake Huron and Lake Michigan.

By good fortune, Beaumont was at the Fort on June 6, 1822, when Alexis St. Martin, a French-Canadian employee of the American Fur Company, was accidentally shot in the left chest. Beaumont had received some surgical training during his apprenticeship and additional experience while caring for injured soldiers during the War of 1812. Without Beaumont's presence, it is unlikely that St. Martin would have survived such a serious injury.

St. Martin came from a background that was very different from Beaumont's. According to his birth certificate, St. Martin was born in 1794, in the small Canadian village of Berthier. His family, who originated from Bayonne, France, was poor, and St. Martin grew up to be an illiterate trapper. He earned his living as a fur trader and voyageur (a porter and large cargo canoe man) in the region between what is now Michigan and Canada. When he was wounded, St. Martin was 28 years old and unmarried.

When St. Martin was sufficiently recovered, he signed a contract with Beaumont, who offered him employment as a handyman in return for a stipend, food, and permission to carry out experiments on St. Martin's stomach. To facilitate the research, and to ease the financial burden on the physician, the US Army made St. Martin a sergeant, paying him a small salary.

About a year after St. Martin's injury, when Beaumont realized that the gastric wound was unlikely to close, he began detailed studies of the process of digestion within St. Martin's stomach. These experiments, conducted with the often reluctant St. Martin, continued intermittently over the course of about a decade. St. Martin agreed to travel to Europe to be examined and studied by leading physicians, including Claude Bernard, but he changed his mind before embarking on the voyage. He never did go to Europe, but he did exhibit his fistula at several American medical schools.

Despite Beaumont's efforts, the wound never completely healed; nevertheless, St. Martin was able to resume a nearly normal life if he plugged up the gastric opening with a piece of cloth. Eventually St. Martin married and had several children. He was always poor, however, and frequently drunk. His health, despite the fistula, was sufficiently robust so that he could support his family by hard labor, such as chopping wood.

Regardless of his persistent gastric fistula and his heavy consumption of alcohol, St. Martin lived to be 86 years old; even now this is well above the normal life span for white men in North America. As for Beaumont, after completing his army service, he settled in St. Louis, Missouri, where he practiced medicine until he died in 1853 from a head injury after falling on an icy path. St. Martin outlived his physician by several decades.

Prior to St. Martin's death, prominent physicians, including William Osler, had tried without success to persuade the family and the patient to agree to an autopsy.[2] Osler was particularly anxious to examine St. Martin's famous stomach and to have it preserved in the US Army Museum. However, the family was vehemently opposed to any further contacts with the medical profession. To ensure that his body would not be disturbed, the family buried St. Martin in an unmarked deep grave. Only in 1962, more than 80 years after his death, did the Canadian Physiological Society place a marker at the approximate grave site.

What Beaumont Added to the Knowledge of Gastric Physiology

Before Beaumont's long-term observation of St. Martin's progress, other patients had sustained gastric wounds and lived with a gastric fistula, but none had been studied in a scientific fashion.[3] Toward the end of the 18th century, the Italian Lazaro Spallanzini conducted a series of experiments and concluded that the stomach contained an active principle and that digestion was more than a simple mechanical process. In 1803, Jacob Helm, a Viennese physician, studied a middle-aged woman with a gastric fistula, noting the ability of the gastric juice to act upon stomach content. Just prior to Beaumont's first publication, an English chemist, William Prout, noted that the stomach secreted hydrochloric acid.[4] It is unlikely that Beaumont knew about any of this work on the stomach: His observations are unique.

Without any formal training in physiology, gastroenterology, or any branch of science, Beaumont recognized a unique opportunity, and over the course of several years he performed numerous experiments that led to a solid foundation for gastric physiology. The astonishing aspect of Beaumont's research is that under difficult circumstances he took advantage of a rare chance to study digestion by visualizing the interior of the stomach and obtaining samples of gastric juice from a living subject under various circumstances. Moreover, he took careful, detailed notes.

Beaumont performed a series of 3 experiments on St. Martin at geographic locations separated by thousands of miles.

Figure 2. Map listing locations and dates for major events in the lives of St. Martin and Beaumont.

The experiments were carried out under less than ideal circumstances on a patient who was not always cooperative. Today, it would be difficult to obtain approval to perform a similar series of experiments. Beaumont describes his first experiment as follows[5]:

EXPERIMENT 1. August 1. 1825 -- At 12 o'clock, A.M., I introduced through the perforation, into the stomach, the following articles of diet, suspended by a silk string, and fastened at proper distances, so as to pass in without pain -- viz.: -- a piece of high seasoned la mode beef, a piece of raw salted fat pork, a piece of raw salted lean beef, a piece of boiled salted beef, a piece of [unclear] bread, and a bunch of raw sliced cabbage; each piece weighing about two drachms, the lad continuing his usual employment about the house. At 1 o'clock, PM, withdrew and examined them -- found the cabbage and bread about half digested; the pieces of meat unchanged. Returned them into the stomach. At 2 o'clock, PM withdrew them again -- found the cabbage, bread, pork, and boiled beef, all cleanly digested,* and gone from the string...The lad complaining of considerable distress and uneasiness at the stomach, general debility and lassitude, with some pain in his head, I withdrew the string, and found the remaining portions of aliment nearly in the same condition as when last examined; the fluid more rancid and sharp...I did not return them any more.

*These experiments are inserted here, as they were originally taken down in my note-book....

Beaumont published his early results in January 1825, after his first series of experiments and about 3.5 years after St. Martin's injury.

His major contributions to our knowledge of the digestive process included:

  • Studies of gastric motility;
  • Studies of gastric acidity (recognition of the importance of hydrochloric acid);
  • An important role for neurogenic influences on digestion, which eventually led to vagotomy as a treatment for peptic ulcer disease; and
  • A suspicion that something other than acid accounted for the stomach's ability to digest food.

Of note, this last substance turned out to be pepsin, which was eventually identified by Theodore Schwan in 1836, shortly after Beaumont concluded his third series of experiments.

How Would the Patient's Wound Be Treated Today?

St. Martin sustained the full force of a shotgun blast fired accidentally at close range, resulting in a complex wound involving the left lung, the stomach, and the diaphragm. Beaumont describes a "fist-sized" hole (approximately 9 x 9 cm) in the left lateral chest wall. St. Martin apparently remained hemodynamically stable after his injury, although the sphygmomanometer wasn't invented for several more decades -- so there were no blood pressure measurements.

Figure 3. Beaumont's sketch of St. Martin's wound about 4-6 weeks after the injury.
From Beaumont W.5

Even today, this injury would present a significant challenge to a surgeon.[6,7] However, long-term results following current surgical repair of severe chest wall injuries are excellent, with patient status being similar to the general population.[8] Current management would include the following:

  • Careful physical examination supplemented by imaging studies to determine the extent of injury.
  • If there were a pneumothorax or respiratory compromise following this chest wound, ventilatory support would be provided via an endotracheal tube until the patient was ready for surgery. (Note: there was no mention of shortness of breath from a pneumothorax in St. Martin's case.)
  • Exploration via a left thoracoabdominal incision.
  • Careful exploration to ensure that no other organs, such as the pancreas or the spleen, had been injured.
  • Debridement and cleansing of the original wound to remove shattered rib fragments, necrotic lung tissue, imbedded clothing, fragments of the shell, and food particles.
  • Blood transfusion, rather than bloodletting, as was done for St. Martin.
  • Closure of the gastric wound and the diaphragmatic tear.
  • Repair of the chest wall defect. This would probably require application of a synthetic mesh covered by a muscle flap. If necessary, the repair in the chest wall could be closed with a split-thickness skin graft.


By a fortunate coincidence, William Beaumont -- a young, resourceful, relatively inexperienced US Army surgeon -- happened to be stationed in a remote fort on the western frontier of the United States when Alexis St. Martin, a French-Canadian voyager, received a near-fatal gunshot wound of the chest. St. Martin survived, but was left with a permanent gastric fistula, permitting Beaumont to perform a series of unique experiments that greatly expanded our knowledge of gastric physiology.

Traditionally, St. Martin's physician has received full recognition for the brilliant series of experiments carried out under primitive conditions. However, St. Martin also should be credited for participating in tedious, repetitive experiments that must have been disagreeable and sometimes painful.[9] Although not always cooperative, he should be remembered as being perhaps the first of that special group of human "guinea pigs" who have done so much to advance the progress of medicine. Two centuries later, physicians and patients remain indebted to Beaumont and Alexis St. Martin -- Beaumont's often reluctant patient.

Additional Reading

  • Green AH. The Market Cultures of William Beaumont: Ethics, Science and Medicine in Antebellum America, 1820-1865 [doctoral thesis]. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University; 2007. AAT 3262421.

Internet Sources



  1. Horsman KR. Frontier Doctor. William Beaumont, America's First Great Medical Scientist. Columbia, Mo: University of Missouri Press; 1996.
  2. Sarr MG, Bass P, Woodward E. The famous gastrocutaneous fistula of Alexis St. Martin. Dig Dis Sci. 1991;36:1345-1347. Abstract
  3. Modlin IM. From Prout to the proton pump -- a history of the science of gastric acid secretion and the surgery of peptic ulcer. Surg Gynecol Obstet. 1990;170:81-96. Abstract
  4. Rosenfeld L. William Prout: early 19th century physician-chemist. Clin Chem. 2003;49:699-705. Abstract
  5. Beaumont W. Experiments and Observations on the Gastric Juice and the Physiology of Digestion. Mineola, New York: Dover Publications, Inc.; 1959. Available at: Accessed August 20, 2009.
  6. Koch H, Tomaselli F, Pierer G, et al. Thoracic wall reconstruction using both portions of the latissimus dorsi previously divided in the course of posterolateral thoracotomy. Eur J Cardiothoracic Surg. 2002;21:874-878.
  7. Weyant MJ, Bains MS, Venkatraman E, et al. Results of chest wall resection and reconstruction with and without rigid prosthesis. Ann Thorac Surg. 2006;81:279-285. Abstract
  8. Mayberry JC, Kroeker AD, Ham B, Mullins RJ, Trunkey DD. Long-term morbidity, pain, and disability after repair of severe chest wall injuries. Am Surg. 2009;75:389-394. Abstract
  9. Myers NA, Durham-Smith E. A debt to Alexis: the Beaumont-St Martin story. Aust N Z J Surg. 1997;67:534-539. Abstract

Authors and Disclosures


Albert B. Lowenfels, MD

Professor of Surgery, Professor of Community Preventive Medicine, New York Medical Center, Valhalla, New York; Emeritus Surgeon, Department of Surgery, Westchester Medical Center, Valhalla, New York

Disclosure: Albert B. Lowenfels, MD, has disclosed that he has served on an advisor to Solvay Pharmaceuticals Inc.

Medscape General Surgery © 2009 Medscape, LLC

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Subtlety is not my forte

When I was younger, I loathed British comedies and shows because I didn't understand what was said. The plumy accents, the phraseology, the affectations ... okay, I admit. It was because my English sucked out loud that I watch American shows because they had subtitles, all right? They don't seem to do so for the English ones except for It Ain't Half Hot, Mum (and even those subtitles missed a great deal of the subtle humour) and Sapphire and Steel (which I adored for Joanna Lumley's dresses and shoes. I was six. Shut up).

This video brought to mind the auld whodunnit British series with Basil Rathbones and his ilk stalking across the screen, examining the clues and wraps the show up with some dramatic pronouncement of the real villain. Watch it till the end and tell me what you think.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Do you smell the rotten egg?


I usually don't blog about political stuff; there are so many out there who does it (well and terribly) anyway, so I don't bother. Besides, it's too depressing.

A couple of days back, my alumni newsletter exploded in a one-sided flame war based on a video of "policemen" beating up a sex offender on Malaysia Today. RPK got on his high horse, declaiming on and on about evil Malaysian policemen. This prompted Tan Sri Musa Hassan, the IGP, to respond to RPK, saying that the video was false and it wasn't policemen that were on the video etc. The video has since been taken down.

First of all, I take anything or anyone quoting Malaysia Today with a grain of salt. I am not saying that all media are truly free and unbiased (Rupert Murdoch, anyone?) but to take on the words of people who blog with little to no back up to their allegations? With hear-say deep throat-like "my Government insider informant"? C'mon. You know that's lame.

And then I came across this. I mean, talk about egg on RPK's face and all the people who read him and believes every word without any question.

Seriously, kudos.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The many sources of aurgasm

A number of my friends have fallen victim to my blathering on and on and on about music; usually over artists / music genre that they never heard before or care about. *grin* You could recognise them after the fact of my bending their unwilling ears by the glazed look in their eyes and the discreet drool slowly dripping off their chin.

Tonight, I was introduced to a new source of aurgasms: qasidah. It is a form of poetry that is paired with melody and beat, recited in honour of some special personage. In Malaysia, it is commonly sung as tribute to the Prophet Muhammad, PBUH, at weddings, cukur jambul and other ceremonies with a strong religious overtones (which is many for Malays).

The group Al-Kawakib presented three qasidah tonight at the 51st Al-Quran Recitation Assembly at the Putra World Trade Centre. I saw parts of it on live telecast, courtesy of TV1, with one part interrupted by a remote control battle with my niece. I'm proud to say that tonight? I won. The qasidah was part of the performance during the break before the rest of the qari and qariah presented their recital in the second half.

There were roughly 12 men in the group, with three in the last row with hand drums to keep the beat. Their ages range from early twenties to late fifties. There were four lead singers lauding praise to the Prophet Muhammad, PBUH, with the rest either keeping beat or backup harmonies. Each singer had a red-bound song book placed on rehal (an instrument to support the Al-Quran when reading on the floor, commonly made of wood) placed before them; they appeared to be handwritten. The beautiful melding of tenor and baritone brought tears to my eyes, their voices resonating with love and devotion.

For a song to capture me, it need not even be in a language I understand. It is all about the melody and the emotions expressed in the voice that moves you. I have cried listening to flamenco songs; for all I know, they were singing about losing their goats in the Pyrenees. But the mournfulness of the song was unmistakable, tugging at the beating organ behind my sternum. Sigh. I am such a sap.

The power of emotion relayed through voice cannot be underplayed. To many ears, the recital by the qariah from Kazakhstan was rather flat and monotonous; she had no flourishes or rills common to most qaris. To me however, her recital was heartfelt; I thought that her approach suited the surah she was reading wonderfully. She recited Al-Hadid from verse 20 onwards and if you read the meaning, you'll understand what I mean. The clear, bell-like tones of her voice was simply wonderful to my ears. Her purity of note brought to mind the silky flutes of 60s instrumental songs that always made me think of a really good acid trip. Okay, perhaps the comparison was not apt, but I think you know what I mean.

Perhaps I can win the remote control war again tomorrow night. I need my daily dose of aurgam.


Going kaboom and kablooey!

I had an awesome time with my cousin last night watching GI Joe. Movie preview, whoo! And the movie was everything a summer popcorn flick should be.

1. Violence? Check.
2. Buff, good looking characters? Check.
3. Lots of things being blown up? Check.
4. Insane storyline about world domination? Check.
5. Villain with evil, raspy voices? Check.
6. Side plot of love interest? Check.
7. Awesome special EFX that make you go, "Oooh!" Check.
8. Explosive climax with sequel potential? Check.

Just disengage the logical part of your brain while you watch.

ETA: Thank you, Sophie!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Belasungkawa: Yasmin Ahmad

Yasmin Ahmad was an extraordinary story teller. She became famous for her exquisite, subtle and sensitive holiday advertisement for the GLC giant Petronas. Her trademark quirky tales of ordinary citizens in everyday situation became a benchmark for advertisments and films. Bet that there will be a course on Yasmin Ahmad's film in cinema-making courses soon, if not already. The clip below was the last interview she made with StarOnline, detailing her thoughts and hopes for the country and her raison d'etre.

There was an uproar that Yasmin Ahmad did not start life as Yasmin. I don't think that is relevant at all unless you are prone to small-mindedness and titillating, self-righteous gossip. Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin responded to this issue eloquently in his blog, giving us hope that not all religious scholars have a mindset stuck in mediaeval times (ILU Dr Asri!).

I think people forget that her legacy went beyond such pettiness. She left behind films and writings that made people think and look at the world differently. She lifted the veil that obscured us from seeing what made us the same and helped obliterate the differences between us as Malaysians, what ethnic group you may be. And that is a legacy that will continue to touch lives of people even years from now.

Goodbye, Yasmin. We will miss you and pray that God keep you always by His Side.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Women from Venus ... definitely

The most common perception is that men are raving sex animals while women are just cold fishes (unless they are the alluring Jezebels out there to ruin good men for their nefarious purposes). But if both men and women are willing to be honest about it, the truth is a lot more complex. If you are in the habit of reading advice columns, the Sexual Agony Aunts will make you believe that a woman can get fulfillment simply by reaching out for what she wants and that she is no different to men in terms of sex drive.

To a certain degree, this is true. But why is it with sexual liberation, women are cheated into moving further away from their hearts? Because as cliche as it is, women wants the emotional connectivity before they surrender into intimacy.

And this is something new. Right.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Weavers and hunters

People's reaction to spiders are commonly primal: scream and run or scream and kill. Thankfully, I have never encountered (and God please may I never) spiders of such an awesome specimen as this (read the comments, it is worth your time). I would probably just stare at it and just ... stare. However, if I were this guy, I may adopt a different approach.

Perhaps along the lines buying an airline ticket and getting the hell out of Dodge. Or Japan as it seems.


Thursday, July 23, 2009

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Dust to dust, ashes to ashes ...

Life and death is a cycle. One day we will all be dust, fertilising the soil with the shell that used to house our personality and returning our chemical elements to the carbon and nitrogen cycle.

I am fascinated by funerary rites. Every culture and religion has their own way of dealing with the dead. Some are elaborate, verging on hedonistic (check out the Sulawesi Tana Toraja funeral). These would take months in preparation as the family of the dead would accumulate funds to finance the best and most amazing send off for their loved one. The more fantastical funeral is reserved for the family elders while the younger ones have a less elaborate funeral. For them, death is a celebration of the long and wonderful life of the deceased.It is an expensive endeavour, hence the large gap between the time of death till the laying to rest.

Nearly all would have a funeral procession of some note. For the Malay Muslim, it is a sombre one with those attending reciting prayers for the dead under their breath or in a low voice. The Hindus and Taoists have an elaborate procession, with music and attendants on foot and in cars. The Christians are quite varied, depending on geographical location, with most having a solemn procession. In New Orleans, however, the black community celebrate the funeral procession with rousing music (the famous Jazz funeral) and dancing attendants.

Malay Muslim funeral rites are quite inclusive of the family members. They are encouraged to pray and to recite passages of the Quran to be "gifted" to the deceased. I was privileged to be allowed to help wash my grandmother during her funeral; her frail, stiff body cradled by her daughters and granddaughters. We gently washed her pale, cold flesh with scented water, pat her dry with care before she was wrapped in white, clean funeral shroud.

Commonly, there is a "director" of the event, usually called tukang mandi mayat, who will help obtain the supplies needed and to give the directions for the preparation of the deceased. Such individuals are highly respected and are usually given a token of appreciation by the family of the dearly departed at the end of the funeral. They are usually volunteers trained by the religious authorities. Although many uses the professional services provided by bodies like Lembaga Tabung Haji and the khairat kematian people of the mosque in the neighbourhood, but many still use the volunteer tukang mandi mayat.

The family members are expected to report the death and make arrangements for the burial. Usually, the nearest cemetary is used but for those who passed away far from home, they may be transported back to be buried. The closest male relatives are often the ones to shoulder the dead to the cemetary and help to lower the body into the grave. The imam will lead the prayer before leaving for the cemetary and to give the funeral rites.

For Malay Muslims, lamenting of the dead is forbidden. It is said that breast-beating and excessive displays of sorrow will hurt the deceases soul. I think the same goes for Christians, no matter the denomination (I have only ever been to a Catholic funeral mass and an Anglican wake). But for many cultures, demonstrations of grief is a must. The Taoists funeral rite even involve people who cry for the deceased, wailing and lamenting loudly how the dead will be missed. I had a first-hand taste of this at the funeral of a dear teacher of mine, the late Mrs SS Tan, who taught me English and Literature. She was also my form mistress (class teacher) in Form One. I went just before they prepared to leave for the memorial park to give my last respects.

When I arrived and saw her photograph, tears welled and fell unbidden. It had been so long since I had seen her and she did not remember me when I greeted her on Sports Day a few years after I had left her class. In the picture, she looked just as a I remembered: the kind eyes, her fine fair skin with a dusting of blush, the rose of her lipstick and the luxuriant wavy hair framing her face. It only struck me then that she really is no more. A strange thought since I was never a favourite student or anything of that sort. But the remembrance of her kind and firm ways, how she taught to me the difference between 'despite' and 'in spite of' and her enthusiasm in showing us how to analyse the literary works assigned to us opened the floodgates and I cried. It was terrible since I did not anticipate tears and had no tissue paper or handkerchief on me. There I was trying to cry in a discreet manner and wiping my tears surreptitiously in one corner as the Tao priest conducted the funeral rites, and came a member of the family, handing me a packet of ang pow.

"A gift from the family," he said.

I was bewildered and tried to give it back. For the Malays, it is customary to give a small token to the bereaved family, not the other way round. He had quickly walked away and left me clutching the little red packet. It was later that my friend told me that I was given the ang pow because I had cried at the funeral and that it was an honouring to the deceased.

No matter how a funeral is conducted, lavish or no, I realise that the funeral is for the living. The dead doesn't care what happens to the shell that once housed their souls, but the ones left behind do. Honouring the deceased and participating in the rites help to garner a kind of closure for the family and friends. Then comes the reminiscence and telling of happy stories about the deceased, past misdeeds erased like they never were. Don't believe me? Look at how Michael Jackson was lauded after he passed away. I think it is better to concentrate on the good times rather than the bad when one thinks about a deceased; after all, the dead cannot defend him/herself and digging up past resentments and anger surely cannot be a healthy endeavour. Which is why I admire the idea of an Irish wake, where the grieving family and friends sit and drink and eat while exchanging reminiscence of the deceased.

My father often reminded us that it is more important to attend a funeral than it is to attend a wedding. He said that showing support and to help when a person is in bereavement is more crucial because that is the time when you are needed the most.

I can fully get behind this philosophy cheekily; you don't need to bother about a date when attending a funeral.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The many forms of beauty

You are only limited by the limitations you place upon yourself. I learn this from my friend who has spina bifida and went on to obtain a PhD in neuroscience and is now teaching and raising hell. With the advent of technology, the barriers that kept disabled people from moving on and up are disappearing. You have computers that can talk to aid the blind, better hearing aids and intervention to help the deaf and a slew of other innovations that can improve their quality of life and enjoyment.

In view of the can-do spirit, the China Disabled People’s Performing Art Troupe presented a magnificent performance of the Thousand Hand Guan Yin at the last Spring Festival. What amazing coordination and team work!


Sunday, June 21, 2009

Wallowing in auditory bliss ...

Mary Kay and I went to Hujan's Rainger's Gathering at the Itudio Studio at Kelana Mall today. Lyn joined us there. Gotta say it was a lovely surprise to have a jam session begin with prayers of thanksgiving. Apparently it was the band's tribute to their loyal fans for their support for the past three years; allowing them to grow and go places.

I first heard of them while watching the television series Kami on 8TV; stumbled across the show by accident while I was ironing. It was intriguing with a gritty realism that is largely absent in most Malay dramas; the story was reflective of the realities facing urban and suburban teenagers (i.e. drugs, truancy, isolation, angst, family trouble, friends, love, music etc).

Gotta say that their energy and verve is really something. They sound better live than on radio, unlike a number of the Akademi Fantasia product. Their songs are catchy, lyrical and poetic, capturing the their thoughts on issues ranging from heartbreak, loss, social musings and political headlines. I was bopping my feet and head along; the crowd was very restrained, doing anything more would be inappropriate.

I was humbled by the fantastic opportunity for me to experience Malaysian indie music at its finest. It is also delightful to know that their fame hadn't blinded them to other struggling bands and fellow artistes who are working to make their name and work known. Stormbay (?), one of the guest acts, acknowledged that Noh helped them gain exposure by telling the producer of Remaja, a show on TV3 to give them a chance. Near all of the guest acts have a story to tell regarding how the Hujan members have helped them out one way or another.

Have a listen. Enjoy.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Miserly emotions not required

We would all love to be the first and only love of someone's life. And hopefully, we feel the same way about our partner.

This woman, however, had the courage to be the second love of her husband's life. Her generosity of spirit and love is humbling. She's no saint and I'm sure many a wife would identify with her exasperation at her husband's inability to score his clothes in the laundry hamper. Her wry acknowledgment that she may fare poorly in comparison to his first wife resonates with honesty and an expansiveness of spirit.

Ah, vive l'amour ...

Friday, May 29, 2009

Learning from the animal kingdom ... NOT!!!!

We humans like to think that we are special. But there is a group of people who believe that humans are no better than animals and as such, all creatures should be treated equal. If you want to give paid maternity leave to your cat or your seat on the LRT (light rail transit) to the visiting hippopotamus, be my guest.

But as human beings, we are held accountable by a different set of rules, yes? You may say that homosexuality is natural, but if a human being had done what this male duck did, he would be imprisoned. With a straitjacket over his prison uniform.

Apparently, it took Dr Moeliker over five years to gather up courage to report the necrophiliac homosexual rape of a male mallard (fancy name for duck) outside his office. Love how deadpan and wry his writing is (it is something I don't see in the journals I usually read, darn those dry, snooze generating stuff) and it is reflected in his presentation (see below a video presentation of Dr Moeliker on the occasion of receiving his IgNobel Prize).

Guys, I won't blame you if you feel a little inadequate; the rapist duck clocked in at 75 minutes thrust time and only stopped after the estimable Dr Moeliker interrupted his business. In between, he had rested only twice, each time lasting less than five minutes.

Sexual harrassment also exist in the animal kingdom. South African biologist Nico de Bruyn reported of an Antarctic fur seal who had (mistakenly?) mounted an adult king penguin (of unknown sex) for 45 minutes. Golly, there is just no escaping jerks like that, huh?

Where do you see yourselves in 40 years time?

Apparently for Singaporeans, it is JB (Johor Baru).

I got the link to this video via the Assunta alumni newsletter. Thus far, the response is mixed; some thinking it's funny and others are appalled. Me, I have mixed feelings about it. Apparently, the video was made in response to this report of a statement made by Singapore's Health Minister, Mr. Khaw Boon Wan.

If you can't understand Singlish (Singaporean English), I can't help you. :p

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Lunacy in sanity?

I am a firm believer in self determination. If someone is ill, that person has the right to dictate the kind of treatment he/she wishes to receive and whether or not to continue with the regime. This is fairly straight forward when one is dealing with a functional adult of sound mind.

But what if that person is a minor?

The bioethics involved in treating a minor is still in a murky zone. Status quo indicates that the decision regarding the welfare of a minor rests in the hand of the child's guardian. Hence, the guardian has a a right to push or even reject a treatment for a minor. This is easy enough if a child has no bigger complains than the usual coughs and colds and playground injuries. However, it has come to fore of parents (and guardians) who are refusing treatment or seeking harmful or even allowing the minor to remain untreated for reasons of faith or even non-spiritual belief.

In the case of Colleen Hauser and her son, Daniel, who fled their home in Minnesota to escape court-ordered chemotherapy, who is in the right? The mother, who believes that her child should not have toxic materials injected in him because she favors the natural healing methods of an American Indian religious group known as the Nemenhah Band? Or is it the court who determines that Daniel would benefit from conventional treatment that has been proven to cure Hodgkin's lymphoma?

Many cultures imbue the right of parents to determine the decisions affecting their children. It is not uncommon in Asia for neighbours to look the other way while a child is being disciplined; of course in some cases, such discilinary measures not only verge but enter the realm of abuse and still people will accept that it is the right of the parents to act in such a manner. In the West, this feature has changed with the adoption of bills that prohibit parents from using corporal discipline on their children. It got to such that a mother cannot smack her toddler's bottom for being mischeavous in public.

But in the case of Colleen and Daniel, who have the right to determine what is best for him? It would seem to many that his mother is jeopardising his life by refusing him treatment and influencing him to reject it as well. In the case of Madeline Kara Neumann, who died from untreated diabetes complication, her mother rejected conventional medicine and instead, chose to have her healed via faith healing. Whether it is laying of hands or dependence on supplements and sweat boxes, these are parents who chose other treatment options for their children out of their own particular belief system (regardless of what faith they hold to). One of the extreme cases involved very young children who had the devil tormented out of them by a rabbi with consent from their mother. One of the child now suffers permanent brain damage.

As a person of faith, I am appalled at how belief system can be perverted in such a way as to inadvertently harm vulnerable children. But then again, people have used faith to justify harming other people with purely malicious intent. One would think that with the brain that The Almighty has gifted them, they could reason better than that.

But apparently, not.

*shakes head*

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Adding to a growing vocabulary ...

Came across a new word today: figjam.

It is an acronym for F*** I'm Good Just Ask Me. Applicable to narcissistic types who think that the world revolves around them, that they can do no wrong, it is always the other person's fault etc etc etc. I'm sure you've met this type before. If you have to work with one of them, God help you and you have my sympathies.

Just glad that I don't have an opportunity to label anyone with this today. Go, me.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

More reason to snip away at the prized goods ...

For all the men out there who thinks that circumcision is horrid, go and read this. Besides improving your hygiene, it might just save your life.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Tripping down under (part 2) ... journeying over water for our zoo adventure.

Suzi and I caught a bus round the corner from our lodge (more about the Sydney public transport later). It is good to go on a trip with someone who had the foresight to research transportation dues before going on a trip. Suzi had purchased transport passes for AUD 38 at the airport: good for seven days and gave us access to most bus, rail and ferry lines in Sydney. This is truly value for money: a regular bus ticket for a 7 km trip cost about AUD 4.90 a single way. I guess they are trying to make it easy for the tourists to move around a lot; then they would spend more, no?

The bus wound around the suburbs. It looked to me as though Sydney doesn't believe in zoning. You could see mid-size shopping malls in the middle of the suburbs and just a few blocks away, rows of shops offering everything from dry cleaning, Lebanese bread, lotto and liquor to real estate. The houses seem to be on a small side, but Suzi pointed out that it gets really cold in winter and that smaller houses are more efficient to heat. However, although the gardens of the homes are the size of a postage stamp, they are immaculately kept and boasts a variety of colours. Some even shaped their shrubs into topiaries! None of the apartment buildings are over 5 stories high, which is amazing. I don't know whether this means Sydney doesn't have very many people (which I doubt) or because the development sprawls away into the countryside.

We got off near a train station to try out the double decker train to get to Circular Quay.

On board the train we were giggling away like demented girls as we craned our necks about, commenting at the age of the well-preserved vinyl seats and generally just oohing and ahing. Circular Quay housed the ferries harbour that we took to get to Taronga Zoo, where I got this cute little fellow for my niece.

However, it seems that he spends most of the time on my bed. Huh.

We bought breakfast at a cafe at the port?dock? of the ferry heading towards Taronga. Suzi told me that the school holiday had just begun with Easter last weekend. There was a large number of families also waiting for the ride. Many comprised of three generations; so for those who generalise about the moral and family institution decay of Western society, better shut your trap. There was quite a few where it was the grandparents who took the kids out; no parents. It was noisy and cheery and this atmosphere continued on board the ferry.

The ferries weren't very large and are quite old, I think. Autumn in Sydney was blissfully cool and the delicious cold breeze over the water was a fantastic contrast to the heat back home. The journey took us past a few major landmarks of Sydney such as:

The famed Sydney bridge. Apparently there are guided tour to the bridge inclusive of a climbing expedition. Those crazy mat sallehs.

The Sydney Opera House reminded me of some building in Shah Alam. Don't ask me why. I was just shocked to see how close it was: something that I had not thought to see except on postcards and television. The harbour water looked quite clear and did not carry the unpleasant reek that one often associates with a busy harbour. No debris, no floating pseudo jellyfishes (i.e. plastic bags) either. Fantastic.

I was admiring that white structure on the foreground of this picture; no idea what it was. You can see sailboats moored in the cove in the background; there are all kinds of water vessels to be found here, from paddleboats, schooner-types, water taxis etc.

The ride on this baby wasn't covered by our transport pass, so we only took pictures.

Boats big and small idylly made their way around the harbour, unhurried and casual.

Some of the hydrofoils carry passengers for special tour trips around the Darling Harbour and stuff. They serve food and provide some kind of entertainment on board.

This classic ship also carries passengers for tour trips to reminisce about the historical beginnings of Sydney. Unfortunately none were moored when we were at the quay; it would have been nice to be able to get on board to see what it's like.

Next: Wildlife encounter!

Tripping Down Under (part 1)

Gotta thank the MAS travel fair that made it possible for me to make my trip down to Sydney last month. My whole family endeavoured to send me to KLIA that Thursday (April 16th), so I didn't have to take the train from KLSentral like I used to when I taught part-time at UDM. We had dinner there, which was a little disappointing, as my kuey tiaw tasted like raw dough. Ah, c'est la vie. So I ate most of Chomp's dinner of hotplate noodle, which she barely touched.

Killed some time walking around the airport with Chomps before my gate call. Yongie bought a cute little dress for Iman at the airport with the Petronas Twin Tower on it and it was wrapped up nicely by the sales clerk. Thankfully it wasn't too big that I could place it in my knapsack comfortably. Wish I had thought to get Iman something, but decided to give her angpau before coming back home instead (Yongie gives good suggestions).

Hugged everyone and got a little teary eyed as I made my way through the immigration, with Chomps cries for "Achu! Nak ikut Achu!" echoeing in the cavernous KLIA. Huh. On the days when she declaim that she "Tak nak kawan, Achu!", I will recall those cries. Drama queen.

I had no real idea of the vast dimensions of the KLIA until I made my way through the international departure area. Had to take a train to get to the plane. Goodness. There were plenty of shops for last minute gift shopping as well as getting duty free goods. Strangely enough, the cosmetics aren't all that cheaper than counter prices. What a rip off.

We departed Malaysian soil at 2229 hrs. I had the window seat, but I gave it to the Indian gentleman who shared my row; he had the aisle seat, but since his limbs are so much longer than mine, it was better that he got my seat. There was only the two of us in that row, which makes for a comfy journey, judging by the other rows that were fully occupied. It was pretty okay for an economy class fare; slightly more space than the domestic flight (which is shorter so it makes sense). The lift off was smooth and the nifty screen showing us the flight path was really cool. Love the idea of going over land and sea and knowing how fast we were going. Whee!

We were served a peanut and juice snack, followed by dinner at around 2345 hrs; I chose a delicious chicken dish and secreted away the cheese and crackers for future consumption. Tried watching the movies available, but my seat was over the wings of the plane so the engine was too loud for me to hear the dialogue. Watched a bit of The Transporter; one movie where dialogue was unnecessary. However, the mammoth book of paranormal romance that I brought had greater appeal and so I read that until I fell asleep at around 0040 hrs.

Sleeping in the plane wasn't very comfortable; there was an elderly lady sitting behind me so I didn't want to lower the back (not to mention I failed in my attempts to do so). But my gift for falling asleep under any and every condition came through so I managed about a three hour nap, waking up every 45 minutes or so to blearily look around and nod off again. I woke up proper around 0400 hours, went to the loo to brush my teeth and tidy up a bit. The plane windows were opened by then; the sky was beautifully streaked with light. If you weren't keeping Malaysian time, you would have thought that it was nearly 7 am.

We were served a cold breakfast at about 0420; the Indian gentleman seated with me complained that his bun was too cold, poor thing. We spent some time chatting after breakfast; he was from India, had lived in Malaysia for some time before making a home for himself in Sydney. He reminisced of what life was like in the sixties and how much things have changed. His son is a free-lance journalist in Malaysia, I gathered, and he was here visiting his son and his French wife. Our conversation lapsed after a while and we both woolgathered until the announcement to land.

I arrived at 7.50 am local time. Once the light for the seat belt was off, I turned on the phone and was delighted to receive a message from my friend Suzi, whom I was meeting in Sydney. There was a bit of time to collect my luggage and get my passport stamped; gotta say that the Aussies are more efficient than the Americans at the Los Angeles airport. They were friendly enough and the little doggie (a spaniel or beagle of some sort, I think) who was sniffing for contraband was so cute. I got away with my crackers and cheese, but the dude behind me had apples in his bag; he claimed they were snacks his wife brought. Can't recall if it was confiscated though.

The beauty of cellular telephone connection meant I could warn Suzi that it took a while to find my bag and that she had to wait a bit. Her plane had arrived earlier from Melbourne and she had to take a ride from the domestic flights terminal to the international one; that's how big the Sydney airport is. After meeting her, we took a taxi to the inn where she'd booked us a room and we chatted a storm. Bits we didn't want our cabbie to hear was in Malay; I think she was glad to have someone she can talk to in her native tongue, even though her English is excellent.

Since we couldn't check in yet, we left our luggage in the office of the lodge.

... and left for our Sydney adventure!