Monday, June 24, 2013

I want to shoot ...

... the whole day down.

Too bad if you like the Boomtown Rats original. I think Tori's version wins cos it makes you want to take a razor to your jugular more than the bratty original version.

Have a great week ahead, everyone!

Adrift in bliss. ..

It's late...and I have Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy's soundtrack on while I wrap my niece's books. The mournful trumpet wails in the foreground while sinister violins accompany the plaintive, tinkling of the piano.

Somehow it reminds me of the time I walked on the cobblestone streets of Istanbul. l was my snugly clad in my new patchwork bather jacket, ignoring the pinch of the new leather boots that threatened to slip from under me on the slick pavement. The air was redolent with the scent of coal smoke, strangely fragrant, unlike the stinging haze currently blanketing my city & country. Winter lent a crispness to the air; cool & moist near the shores of Bosphorus while inland the air was colder & dry.

The streets of Istanbul were clean & confusing. Wide tarmac thoroughfares were few in the maze of Byzantine slick cobblestones. We saw no stray  animals save cats. Turkish cats were fat, with healthy fluffy fur coats. They were friendly animals, obliging of cuddles from strangers even without food incentives.

Today I read & watch more unrest in the beautiful city. Protests over the Taksim square have evolved into something bigger & uglier, fueled by resentment & anger. Ordinary citizens battle & batter the authorities daily, the pretty streets strewn with rubble & burnt rubbish as protestors lob Molotov cocktails hither & yonder.

Outsiders like me would think that the Turks should have no complains. As more EU economies rumble & crumble, Turkey has been enjoying unprecedented growth. No longer are they the Sick Man of Europe. The horrendous inflation that saw me pay 1.7 million Turkish Lira for a tiny handbag is a thing of the past.

However, the threat to destroy one of the last vestiges of greenery in a city that is calcifying in towering structures in the name of progress has gotten the citizens up in arms. Personally, I feel that another shopping mall is superfluous, what more an edifice paying tribute to a shameful mark in Turkish history (the Janissary barracks look-alike was in the architecture plan. The Janissary was an elite military corps that were populated by stolen Christian boys who were forced to convert to Islam & serve the Ottoman empire.).

Whatever the spark that ignited the rage fueling the protests, it is not the first time that Istanbul was rocked by civil unrest. It won't be the last. The city between two continents, watered by the Marmara & the Bosphorus, will continue to witness the drama of the Turkish people. Joy & sorrow, success & failure, elation & despair, the cycle plays on until the annihilation of mankind.

The conspiracy theorist in me suspects that there are unseen hands fanning the passion of the protestors, similar to that in my country. But like Turkey, the prosperity enjoyed in Malaysia breeds a different sense of discontent. When all of Maslow's pyramid of needs have been fulfilled, people begin to look for other aspirations to give structure & meaning to their life. Something loftier than the struggle for survival in the past. The siren call of civil liberties are only audible when one's no longer worrying about from where the next mouthful will be coming.

The cross dressing TV personality in Pakistan who was interviewed by Diego for the show, Don't Tell My Mom Where I Went (or something like that) was asked whether he is fighting for LGBT rights in his show. His candid reply was that Pakistan had bigger problems to solve such as violence & corruption. For two men or women to have the right to make love is not even on the table of the important things to be solved.

Although many people of Turkey decried their duly elected Prime Minister, I'll bet the people of Pakistan, Egypt, Algeria, Syria & many other countries ravaged by unrest, economic meltdown etc. would dearly love to have Reccip Tayyip Erdogan take a hand to manage their country. Someone who will suppress the infighting & foster prosperity will be a welcome change to the incompetent regime currently holding the reins as they head pell mell for hell...

Then again, you'll never miss the water till it's gone.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Your health is in the toilet

I am sure many of you have seen this story before:

You don't need brains to be a Boss.

When the body was first created, all the parts wanted to be Boss.

The brain said, "I should be Boss because I control all of the body's responses and functions."

The feet said, "We should be Boss since we carry the brain about and get him to where he wants to go."

The hands said, "We should be the Boss because we do all the work and earn all the money."

Finally, the asshole spoke up. "What about me? Why can't I be the boss?"

All the other body parts laughed at the idea of the asshole being the Boss. So, the asshole went on strike, blocked itself up and refused to work.

Within a short time, the eyes became crossed, the hands clenched, the feet twitched, the heart and lungs began to panic, and the brain fevered. Eventually, they all decided that the asshole should be the Boss, so the motion was passed. All the other parts did all the work while the Boss just sat and passed out the shit!

Moral Of The Story: You don't need a brain to be a Boss----any asshole will do.

Stolen from here with edits.

Many people think that bodily functions (and its accompanying sight, sound and scent) are gross and embarrassing. The Japanese took it to another level by inventing a device to disguise the sounds you make in a public loo. Nevertheless, when you have problems with your your plumbing (front or back or both), you know that you will be in for a miserable time.

I had a cousin who was hospitalised (when he was in his late eighties) for problems with urinating. When we came to visit, he grabbed my Dad's shirt and hissed to my Dad, asking Dad to stab him to death; he does not want to live anymore.

I am sure those who have watched The Green Mile remember the tears that flowed down the prison guard's cheek (as played by Tom Hanks) at the fiery burn of peeing with urinary tract infection.  Really, not being able to pee is no joke.

What comes in, must come out. So your output could also indicate the state of your health, whether you have an infection or not, or a physiological issue. If you decide to go back today and examine your bodily output to gauge your health, you can refer to the diagram below, courtesy of a pal.

I can't figure out how to make it appear right so please click here for larger version.

May you enjoy a healthy and happy life!

Friday, June 14, 2013

You won't even miss it!

"Today I lost weight. Close to half a kg. Ask me how!"

The last time I posted the above on Facebook I got tonnes of hits within 5 minutes asking me how. It's really very easy.

Just donate blood.

Stolen from here:

Once upon a time, when people embraced the "humour" theory of human physiology,  drawing blood from sick people to make them better was practiced. Nothing like throwing away a bowl of blood from a man suffering from a gunshot wound to make him better, right?

But once we figured out that the red stuff that circulates inside you is kinda vital to your well-being, we tend to want to keep it inside us. After that, some smart guy figured out that those who have lost (from stuff like injury, ulcers, etc) or have not enough blood (anemia) could be saved by giving them the sweet red stuff. The first successful blood transfusion was done in 1818 to save a mother who has lost a lot of blood while giving birth. What's amazing was that this was done before blood typing or cross-matching was even a glimmer of an idea and that the patient did not die of transfusion reaction.

For history of blood transfusion, read here.

Whole blood and blood products (e.g. platelets, clotting factors, plasma) have a plethora of use to keep people alive and healthy. Due to the risks in using and difficulty in managing blood products, doctors do not willynilly prescribe transfusion for sick people. Therefore, for those who require transfusion, it truly is a matter of life and death. However, there are athletes keep stock of their blood and re-transfuse before an important race/match in order to increase their performance. That situation don't count.

I try to make it a point to donate blood every three months or so. It was easier when I worked at the Faculty of Medicine of a teaching hospital, but now that I work farther away, it takes effort. *sigh*

I was alerted by a former colleague-cum-friend who works at the blood bank about the World Blood Donor Day and would I be a darling to come and donate on June 14th? So I moseyed over after lunch with a trio of friends and did the deed.

Lo and behold, to my surprise, there were door gifts!

Goodie bag and contents.

Content of small silver box above.

Content of the other box.

I know this post isn't as pretty as the ones that Ms. Goh have on her blog, but it was kinda inspired by her.


Anyway, this is just a PSA to ask you to be lovely and part with some of the lovely red stuff you have running in your veins. You make new ones every day and you won't even miss the amount that is taken. It doesn't hurt (they inject you with a numbing agent first) and it takes only 30 minutes of your time (from registration to drinks and snack). If you live around Klang Valley, you can contact the University of Malaya Medical Centre Blood Bank or consult with the National Blood Centre for their mobile campaigns for those outside of Klang Valley.

Please don't give lame excuses like, "I'm afraid of needles/pains/nurses/whatever" to avoid donating blood if you have an opportunity. There are many reasons why some people are excluded as donors, but seriously, cowardice isn't one of them.

Go out and save three lives! You can be a hero outside of a comic book too!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Jalan-jalan cari makan ...

... extreme polar edition.

I don't eat molluscs; but I suppose seal and whale meat day in and day out would get old during the long winter months. The  people of Kangiqsujuaq apparently laughs in the face of death racing against time to collect mussels for a change in their seasonal diet.

Thirty minutes is all they have to hack through the sea ice, grab the delicious mussels and get out. They risk drowning in the frigid Arctic water as the ocean rushes back with the rising tide or being crushed by the shifting polar sea ice.

Can you imagine dying just because you are beyond sick of what is available on the dining table? Malaysians pride our country as a some kind of food Mecca. No matter what your palate favour, you can find it here; cordon blu haute cuisine, weird meats and sago worms, whatever you want, really.

The reality of what was shown in the video above is something that many Malaysians cannot envision, except perhaps those who live in the rural areas or experience economic hardships. This disconnection about where food comes from is probably a contributing reason as to why Malaysians waste food. In the face of the many people who go without, are malnourished or have only one meal a day, do we think about food beyond what we want to eat?

Do we also think about the way the food we eat are sourced? We haggle over the price of fish and seafood, blithely ignoring the warnings of the devastation of over-fishing and the hardships faced by the fishermen to bring their catch to land. We think we are animal lovers, and yet we close a blind eye to inhumane farming practices and abuse of antibiotics and hormones on livestock that we consume. We take for granted the vegetables and fruits we enjoy year around that are grown under unsustainable conditions that also poison our water supply.

For all the ranting above, I am cynically aware of my own apathy about where my food comes from. Unless you are an activist type, reading or even knowing about the stuff outlined above remains nothing more than an academic exercise. I read Fast Food Nation and it still didn't stop me from eating at Mickey D (I reason that the supplier for the Mickey D here are either local or from developing countries that need the economic growth).

That said, I do think that we should be more grateful with and for everything that crosses our lips to enter our gullet. Honour the food that nourishes you; respect the hard work that got it on your plate (your own, the food producer and procurer and the person who cooked it for you) and enjoy it. Don't take it for granted.

Because you could be an Inuit who died because you are tired of eating seal and wanted to have some mussels instead.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Secrets of a stay at home mommy

The ExpatsThe Expats by Chris Pavone
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

*edited because I am wide awake and could assemble my thoughts better.

I had stopped reading spy thrillers or any kind of thrillers in my late teens. I find them formulaic and depressing, though I still enjoy over-the-top, psycho-sociopath Bond as written by Ian Fleming and the crazy adventures in Alistair Maclean's novels. The latter I treat with respect; some of his books made me cry crazy buckets (say, Guns of Navarone or HMS Ulysses).

When I read the review of this book in The Sunday Star, I was intrigued. A former spy female protagonist in a thriller? Bring it to mama, sugar.

Sadly, as a reader who favours characters over plots, I don't find Mr Pavone's characterisation of Kate convincing. I am willing to forgive clunky story telling if I love the characters (I'm looking at you, Laurell K Hamilton). Somehow, I don't think a female former spy would let matters of trust and privacy to stop her from finding things out about her husband when she sniffed something suspicious about his new job.

Also, as the story was near totally from her POV, I find that Kate I is ... boring. I get that she has to make a huge transition from being a CIA analyst to being an expatriate hausfrau, but her desperation at the banality of her life is so ... meh. Perhaps she's not a larger-than-life character as I am used to reading in other genres, but seriously, it's hard to want to root for her. Or her husband. Or the antagonist characters. They're all so meh. You expect some unexpected jalapenos somewhere when you read about spies (they have licence to kill!) but this is like consuming a huge bowl of oatmeal pudding. Bland and never ending.

The timeline jumps did not help matters. It's a bit disorienting because the flashes are disjointed; what does it have to do with what's currently going on? Perhaps if I re-read the book I can pick up the pattern of the chronological leaps, but I really cannot be bothered to re-read this.

However, I will admit that Mr Pavone has a gift for describing scenes that really makes you feel like you're a part of the scenery, even smell the coffee served at the corner boulangerie. For instance:

"She can see past the woman to the bright, leafy courtyard at the other end of the dark breeezeway whose walls are filled with mailboxes and electrical junctions and rubbish bins and loose wires and chained-up bicycles. Her own building has a similar passage; there are thousands of them in Paris. All competing for the best-place-to-kill-someone award."

It was an interesting foray into the genre, but I don't think I'll be picking up another sample anytime soon.

Male protagonist: 1/5 stars
Female protagonist: 2/5 stars
Storyline: 3/5 stars
Pacing: 2/5 stars
Fun Factor: 2/5 stars
Repeat Reading Factor: 1/5 stars

View all my reviews

Dangerous my foot

Dusk with a Dangerous Duke (Lords of Vice, #6)Dusk with a Dangerous Duke by Alexandra Hawkins
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

... spoilt brat is more like it.

I usually do the page 99 test when trying out a new author but this time around, I only did the flip the last few pages and thought that this book had promise. I mean, beaning of a baddie with a bedwarmer to rescue the hero? Sounds like game on, right?


You have a group of guys who call themselves Lords of Vice. You hope to have them be snarky and dissipated. What you get is a bunch of guys who get together and chitchat like Valley girls. WTF?


The heroine. I had so much hopes for someone who rescued the hero with a bedwarmer. But somehow she seems schizophrenic to me; alternating from innocent miss who loves her neglectful fiancee to I-will-marry-anyone-to-foil-my-uncle virago. I find it hard to reconcile someone who wants to preserve her inheritance at all cost by getting married before turning 21 would snub a ready-and-able fiancee in search of a mythical love match in a few week's time. It's not ... logical. Just make up your mind: do you want to preserve your inheritance or marry for love? Because the scenario simply paints that you can have one but not the other.

How to deal with such annoyance? I skipped pages till the end because dammit I paid good money to rent this book and Ima finish it.

Male protagonist: 1/5 stars
Female protagonist: 1/5 stars
Storyline: 2/5 stars
Pacing: 1/5 stars
Fun Factor: 1/5 stars
Repeat Reading Factor: 0/5 stars

View all my reviews

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Anthematic: Gone Away

My Brightest Diamond's Gone Away + Sherry Thomas book (any) = cry fest.

When you read, do you have a soundtrack that plays through your head? I do, especially if the story is truly engrossing and compelling.

This is why I love authors like Carrie Vaughn and Kim Harrison; they share the soundtrack to which they write the book du jour.

Fabulous way to discover new music, yo.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Connect ... Disconnect ... Hang Up ...

Those who remember having used this type of telephone

Stolen from

would understand the importance of patience when calling someone. After all, it is often located in a stationary position (unlike mobile phones that you can take with you all over creation including the bathroom, ew ...) and if the person we call did not pick up, we don't go all paranoid android that the person we are contacting is trying to avoid us.

We understand that the person we call is probably:

1) Not at home
2) In the shower
3) Running out of the loo but was too late to pick up the phone.

We work at trying to call people because dialing itself is an effort (no speed dials or automatic calling from phone book function), not to mention requiring little grey cells that store a string of numbers of the person(s) with whom we wish to connect.

Human connection is beyond one individual calling another individual for conversation, be it amiable or a screaming match. Human connection extends to the pesky neighbours whom you think are whispering about you behind their lace curtains, the colleague who always share stories about his colicky baby and sleepless nights, your best friend in school who still go out to get drunk with you and many other people who make up the social fabric into which you are knitted.

This connection reinforces our personal identity and helps to orient us to our position in this world and our community. Unless you are a survivalist nutter who thinks that the aliens/government/whatever is out to get you, you are likely to live in a community (be it urban, suburban or rural) where you are required to interact with people at some point in your day.

But what happens when your sense of personal identity somehow does not mash with the community in which you live? What if you feel disconnected, disjointed, the jarring note in the harmony, the nail that sticks out and keeps getting hammered? What if you feel like all your life and actions are totally meaningless in the grand scheme of things? What if you feel like you never knew what acceptance feel like; even something as mundane as an automatic smile from the bus driver never comes your way because you feel that your personal identity is not acceptable to others?

All this came to my mind as I was listening to Prof. James Piscatori at the Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies yesterday. Prof. Piscatori has been studying Muslim politics throughout his academic life and had shared his views on "Muslims in Europe: Towards a New Civic Pluralism".

He kinda reminds me of the dad in Numb3rs.
Muslims in Western Europe are largely recent migrants who moved en masse in the middle of the twentieth century, thanks to liberal immigration laws of the time. Like all immigrants, they had to adapt to life in the decadent West and try to reconcile it with their faith and culture. Some have been successful, as evidenced by the rising number of the Muslim middle class. Others are stuck and unable to achieve social mobility due to lack of education, discrimination in the job market and other factors.

Prof. Piscatori explained that Europeans shouldn't fear that they'll become Islamised by 2030 (or whenever); the numbers of Muslims in Europe are often exaggerated and are actually just about 15% at the greatest estimate (he quoted numbers polled by the Pew Forum). He also mentioned something very surprising: terrorist acts by Muslims in Europe from 2006 to date are actually LESS THAN ONE PERCENT.

This is definitely not the sort of thing that we see or read on the BBC, CNN, Deutsche Welle or Paris Match. Prof. Piscatori was quoting figures collected by the Europol in their annual report on terrorism. Apparently, most acts of terrorism were actually perpetrated by leftists, separatists and eco-anarchists.

The strangeness of Muslims and Islam make them a convenient target to fresh and old fears about the changing landscape of European society, thanks to globalisation. They look and sound foreign; their women are wrapped up like birthday gifts! You can't bond with them over a glass of bitters at the pub after work, and they have this strange habit of washing their face and hands and feet and falling on their face several times a day in the same direction.

There is this concept in Islam about strangeness and being strangers in the land. It is not regarded as a bad thing to not conform with those who are corrupt. It is, in fact, an ideal. However, there is a fraction of a fraction of a percent who, in their failure to participate in the society on their terms, respond with misanthropic reactions such as bombings in public places and killing people one perceives as the enemy combatant.

It makes non-Muslims think of Muslims this way:

Stolen from
when they are actually:
Out to support the slain soldier by the ravening mad fellow in Woolwich.
But to go back to the figures, LESS THAN ONE PERCENT of the terrorist acts are committed by Muslims. We don't quite see the sensationalisation of Basque separatists (have you even heard of who they are?) or Italian anarchists (aren't they busy doing fashion-related stuff and/or eating pasta?). Because to the European, these people are not the weird OTHER as Muslims are in their society. So they don't make as good as a boogeyman as these Quran-quoting, hijab/bearded people who speak with a funny accent.

As rightly pointed out by Kenan Malik,

"The real issues we need to confront are issues such as the contemporary sense of social disengagement, and not just among Muslims, the corrosion of the institutions of civil society, the lack of a progressive counter-narrative, the collapse of the organizations of the left, and the continual attacks on liberties in the name of security."

*read the rest here.

Towards the end of his talk, Prof. Piscatori touched on the crisis of multiculturalism in Europe: is it a choice between imposition of liberal values on a conservative society or tolerance of difference? Would tolerance of difference actually promote segregation? What is real integration? Is it better to choose assimilation and conformity or empowerment for social participation?

I am sure I was not the only who think that this is a mirror to the social situation in Malaysia. We pride ourselves on being Truly Asia; we are a hodge podge of culture, language and appearance. But as we could see after the 13th general election, we still have a great deal of suspicion towards one another, we poke and whisper behind each other's back, we still clutch our nasty thoughts about the "Others" close to our breasts.

Hence, this song is sincerely apropos to our situation.

Communication is not a threat. We should start talking to one another and not just lambast and share inflammatory stuff on Facebook and Twitter. We should actually connect in the real world, find out what the other fella eat, drink, watch and which football association he/she backs. We should learn about their faith and customs, and share with them our own practices so that we will no longer be strangers to one another.

So we will stop being "Others" to each other.

Written while listening to this.