Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Doctor's Death

I just found out today that one of my childhood doctors passed away this year due to pancreatic cancer.

Dr Foo had a private paediatric practice somewhere in Subang Jaya, if I'm not mistaken, before joining the Subang Jaya Medical Centre (SJMC).

I will remember him for the koalas and other furry animals that lived on his stethoscope. But more than that, I think I will remember him for being a rather reluctant sort of doctor. Mum would tell me how Dr Foo would examine a child and then tell his/her parents, "Why did you bring her all the way here? This will go away in a week. Nothing to worry about!"

And so he would see up to fifty children on any given morning, only to tell most of them that the visit really wasn't necessary. Perhaps it was from this that I developed my inclination towards 'self-monitoring' when ill, instead of going to see the doctor.

What I can quite assuredly say is that he was one of three doctors who planted in me an interest in the medical field and, were I ever to become a doctor, it would in no small measure be due to the passion of this man.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Sleepy and Hungry

I'm sitting opposite Ai Wei in my college's Reading Room.

What a night. (Ai Wei says, what a morning!)

Food Microbiology and Insect Biology.

Vochelle Dark Chocolate and Cadbury Fruit & Nut.

Shower in 12th, Breakfast in 3rd.

Today it ends!

(These are the things that only happen on the last night.)

Monday, November 10, 2008

A way over a wall

I told Kaun I seem to have hit a wall. And as I was thinking of it, I recalled the wall U2 hit at the end of the Rattle and Hum tour. They said then that they would go and 'dream it up all over again', and that led to the masterpiece that was Achtung Baby.

Sometimes the best therapy is to go to a new place for a while, or to go to an old place in a new way. So after the Limnology paper on Saturday, I decided to go to KL Sentral. Two buses passed the Genetics & Microbiology building, saturated with passengers; I decided to walk.

Accompanied at various points by The Calling's 'Wherever You Will Go', the Pussycat Dolls' 'Buttons', Lou Bega's 'Mambo No. 5', Britney Spears's 'From the Bottom of My Broken Heart' and this hip-hoppish song that samples Pachelbel's Kanon, I discovered it takes about an hour to walk from UM to KL Sentral.

Along the way, I took quick snapshots of various things. Some of these are represented, unedited except for square cropping, in the Achtung Baby-like montage above. They were shot on Ai Wei's new BenQ C750 camera, while she took my D50 to Central Market and Dataran Merdeka.

I very much enjoyed the feeling of a compact camera on my belt, ready to shoot at a moment's notice.

After lunch/tea at The Coffee Bean and picking up tickets for the upcoming trip, I returned home by train.

It was a good journey, just perhaps not worth some parts of the cost.

Like Kaun and Yen.

* * * * *

(Photographer's note: The BenQ C750 is probably the best camera on an RM500-or-lower budget. If you can spare up to RM1000, go for Canon's Powershot A590 or the new SX110 IS. If you can spare up to RM2000, forget all compact cameras and get an SLR.)

Thursday, November 06, 2008

His Victory, Your Victory

Your death was not in vain.

What was your loss in now America's gain,
Forty years in the making.

Forty years of Wilderness Wanderings
Have brought us here; Our Father
Must be smiling through the stars.

(I know you are.)

Free at last, they took your life
They could not take your pride

--U2, 'Pride in the Name of Love'

(I was barely awake from my afternoon nap yesterday when I heard from How that Obama won. Some of these thoughts came as soon as I awoke.)

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Handphone Cameras, Cartier-Bresson, the Library and Isaiah

Real artists shoot handphone cameras. They are all you'll ever need: portable, no additional accessories. Better chances of getting the picture before the moment passes.

Or they shoot disposable cameras, like the one reviewed here:

Digital compact photography is a lie. Magic words like bokeh, burst rate, megapixels and noise control are myths. Besides, why pay so much for digital compacts when handphone cameras can do just as well, and when film (even in disposable cameras) is far superior?

A disposable waterproof film camera was used to produce the last image in this entry, and its colour dynamic range is far better than anything a compact would have produced. It even has more character and definition than the pictures I took with my SLR that day.

* * * * *

Behind Saint-Lazare station, Paris, France, 1932. By Henri Cartier-Bresson. A primitive black-and-white image with about as much resolution as today's better handphone cameras can produce.

He said,

For me the camera is a sketch book, an instrument of intuition and spontaneity, the master of the instant which, in visual terms, questions and decides simultaneously. In order to "give a meaning" to the world, one has to feel involved in what one frames through the viewfinder. This attitude requires concentration, discipline of mind, sensitivity, and a sense of geometry. It is by economy of means that one arrives at simplicity of expression.

It is putting one’s head, one’s eye, and one’s heart on the same axis.

Perhaps that is why I find photography therapeutic: it helps me align my head with my heart, albeit via the feeble device of my eyes.

* * * * *

I have a love-hate relationship with the UM Library, and I think this is true for most students.

The selection of books can often be disappointing. Many of them are outdated and there are frequently insufficient copies of important reference books; of course, I speak from the point-of-view of a second-year Ecology student. Perhaps students in other courses find the Library more well-stocked.

My prejudices were brought to light when I set about borrowing books for Insect Biology. The recommended text is Entomology by Romosor and Stoffolano, but there are only about two copies in the library. However, I discovered there were tons of a certain volume by an A.D. Imms.

Later I discovered it is a legendary text on Entomology. One writer suggested that 'every student of Entomology is forever indebted to Imms'.

The more I think about it, the more I doubt the validity of the 'outdated' argument. I, of all people, have something against old editions of books, and so this has been a difficult prejudice to overcome. I'm the sort of person who would rather own a brand-new copy of some classic work, than read a hand-me-down or early edition located in a library.

Yet in these recent weeks and months, I have begun to see that borrowing old books not only reduces one's expenditure on new books, but also connects one with the past in some sense. This is simply because these are the very books our professors, and their professors, read.

I do not think the generations of the past were in any way disadvantaged. One might argue that in those days, the books now outdated were in fact current and cutting-edge then. Yes, to a certain extent. But we consider Darwin's illustrations, which seem more vivid than even a good number of today's photographs. We consider the works of Shakespeare and Donne and Dante, who all wrote without dictionaries and thesauri.

T.S. Eliot wrote, in his essay 'Tradition and the Individual Talent';

[T]he historical sense involves a perception, not only of the pastness of the past, but of its presence; the historical sense compels a man to write not merely with his own generation in his bones, but with a feeling that the whole of the literature of Europe from Homer and within it the whole of the literature of his own country has a simultaneous existence and composes a simultaneous order. This historical sense, which is a sense of the timeless as well as of the temporal and of the timeless and of the temporal together, is what makes a writer traditional. And it is at the same time what makes a writer most acutely conscious of his place in time, of his contemporaneity.

We need up-to-date texts, to be sure, and the Library would do well to stock more of these. But at the same time, I believe the link to the past and the heritage of information that aided the birth of our predecessors should not be lost.

And students would be wise to explore some of these, and remember that science is, to a great extent, less about the amounts of information collected or facts determined or laws created, and more about the methods and spirit of inquiry which have remained largely unchanged by time.

* * * * *

(Photo either by Tee Ming or Alissa.)

It will be a sign and witness to the LORD Almighty in the land of Egypt. When they cry out to the LORD because of their oppressors, he will send them a savior and defender, and he will rescue them. So the LORD will make himself known to the Egyptians, and in that day they will acknowledge the LORD. They will worship with sacrifices and grain offerings; they will make vows to the LORD and keep them. The LORD will strike Egypt with a plague; he will strike them and heal them. They will turn to the LORD, and he will respond to their pleas and heal them.

--Isaiah 19:20-22 (NIV)

The NIV Study Bible suggests that this universal vision is only possible in light of Isaiah 11:1-10. I think it is also possible in light of the consecration of Isaiah:

"Woe to me!" I cried. "I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty."

Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, "See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for."

--Isaiah 6:5-7 (NIV)

To know that revival transcends the borders we place for it. To know that revival begins with the individual.

In the words of the Petra song 'Send Revival', written by Matt Redman;

Send revival, start with me
For I am one of unclean lips
And my eyes have seen the King
Your glory I have glimpsed
Send revival, start with me.

* * * * *

My finals begin in less than eight hours.

* * * * *

Correction, 12.02 p.m. 6 Nov '08:

The comment on Imms by C. P. Friedlander goes like this, "Every entomologist is conscious of the debt he owes to that mine of information, A. D. Imms' textbook of entomology."

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Friends, Feelings and Frustration

7th. SKR (closed). Damansara Utama. PJ Hills. Damansara Utama. KL Railway Station. Mid Valley. Dawn!

Two quarts. Rum and Raisin, Gold Medal Ribbon. Pralines and Cream, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough.

Two pints. Rum and Raisin, Love Potion #31. Rainbow Sherbet, Hokey Pokey.


Speaking of Dawn, my 'twin', I've had an interesting history with the Econica Five (for sake of reference only; they don't call themselves that).

Pleasant surprises, like meeting Jane in the LRT on the way to Bukit Jalil.

Spur-of-the-moment adventures, like Eastern Promises and chocolate sundaes with Kat.

Unlikely partnerships, like planning the Convo Celebration with Pik Tze.

And then some of life's most enduring lessons. C.S. Lewis said God's favourites have had sometimes to go through darker days than others. Adele, you must be one of them.

* * * * *

It smiled at us. We had to.

And then there are moments of truth that strike you when you least expect them to. Moments when your calling becomes crystal clear before the next fog tries again to hide it.

As Bono said, "Ball in back of net. Last minute of extra time."

* * * * *

I've never seen 'ecologists' wearing lab coats in the 'field', but that was what Suzanne and Yng Yng did on the last day of their Biology Practical classes.

What you don't have you don't need it now...

--U2, 'Beautiful Day'

They say I need to move on, to discover new things and new people in new ways.

That is what they say.

Don't try this after 7.00 a.m.

* * * * *

I shared a French Kiss with Shannon on Tuesday. It was sweet and I had to do some creative sucking towards the end.

This girl again.

* * * * *

Oh gaze of love so melt my pride
That I may in your house but kneel
And in my brokenness to cry
Spring worship unto Thee

--Jars of Clay, 'Hymn'

I have a theory, that the best cure for pride is to remember God's sovereignty, and the best cure for envy is to remember God will tell us each our own stories.

Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.

--Romans 12:19 (KJV)

Easier said than done.

Saturday, November 01, 2008


Apparently I have a PR agent in the person of Kaun. News travelled to Sabah (and I think the UK) before I knew it.

The essay was written circa April 2008, and I was told the results would be out by end June. When I heard nothing then, I laid it to rest and forgot about it. Then Rachael congratulated me out of the blue a few days ago (I think it was Tuesday).

Sudden windfall. He gives and He takes away. Blessed be He.

* * * * *

MPH is back with another writing competition. Just as well. I'm in need of some therapy.

Details here.

God is gracious.

(He gave us pen and paper.)