Monday, June 30, 2008

J.K. Rowling's Commencement Speech at Harvard 2008

* I guess one day other medical students who fail their finals would stumble across my blog, and if you do, don't miss reading her speech

One of the things that i cherish most about running my own blog is that now there exists a means for me to easily share the gems that i come across everyday. 

Had a briefing with Prof Dean Koh this morning on our remedial general surgery posting, and he told us about this must-read speech by J.K. Rowling, the famous author who brought Harry Potter to life.

She was being conferred an honorary degree at Harvard University this year, and was invited to give a commencement speech to the graduating class as well. Her complete script below. 

Thanks to Joo Wei for promptly finding the article and sharing with all of us. 


The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination

Harvard University Commencement Address

J.K. Rowling

Copyright June 2008

As prepared for delivery

President Faust, members of the Harvard Corporation and the Board of Overseers, members of the faculty, proud parents, and, above all, graduates, 

The first thing I would like to say is 'thank you.' Not only has Harvard given me an extraordinary honour, but the weeks of fear and nausea I've experienced at the thought of giving this commencement address have made me lose weight. A win-win situation! Now all I have to do is take deep breaths, squint at the red banners and fool myself into believing I am at the world's best-educated Harry Potter convention. 

Delivering a commencement address is a great responsibility; or so I thought until I cast my mind back to my own graduation. The commencement speaker that day was the distinguished British philosopher Baroness Mary Warnock. Reflecting on her speech has helped me enormously in writing this one, because it turns out that I can't remember a single word she said. This liberating discovery enables me to proceed without any fear that I might inadvertently influence you to abandon promising careers in business, law or politics for the giddy delights of becoming a gay wizard. 

You see? If all you remember in years to come is the 'gay wizard' joke, I've still come out ahead of Baroness Mary Warnock. Achievable goals: the first step towards personal improvement. 

Actually, I have wracked my mind and heart for what I ought to say to you today. I have asked myself what I wish I had known at my own graduation, and what important lessons I have learned in the 21 years that has expired between that day and this. 

I have come up with two answers. On this wonderful day when we are gathered together to celebrate your academic success, I have decided to talk to you about the benefits of failure. And as you stand on the threshold of what is sometimes called 'real life', I want to extol the crucial importance of imagination. 

These might seem quixotic or paradoxical choices, but please bear with me. 

Looking back at the 21-year-old that I was at graduation, is a slightly uncomfortable experience for the 42-year-old that she has become. Half my lifetime ago, I was striking an uneasy balance between the ambition I had for myself, and what those closest to me expected of me. 

I was convinced that the only thing I wanted to do, ever, was to write novels. However, my parents, both of whom came from impoverished backgrounds and neither of whom had been to college, took the view that my overactive imagination was an amusing personal quirk that could never pay a mortgage, or secure a pension. 

They had hoped that I would take a vocational degree; I wanted to study English Literature. A compromise was reached that in retrospect satisfied nobody, and I went up to study Modern Languages. Hardly had my parents' car rounded the corner at the end of the road than I ditched German and scuttled off down the Classics corridor. 

I cannot remember telling my parents that I was studying Classics; they might well have found out for the first time on graduation day. Of all subjects on this planet, I think they would have been hard put to name one less useful than Greek mythology when it came to securing the keys to an executive bathroom. 

I would like to make it clear, in parenthesis, that I do not blame my parents for their point of view. There is an expiry date on blaming your parents for steering you in the wrong direction; the moment you are old enough to take the wheel, responsibility lies with you. What is more, I cannot criticise my parents for hoping that I would never experience poverty. They had been poor themselves, and I have since been poor, and I quite agree with them that it is not an ennobling experience. Poverty entails fear, and stress, and sometimes depression; it means a thousand petty humiliations and hardships. Climbing out of poverty by your own efforts, that is indeed something on which to pride yourself, but poverty itself is romanticised only by fools. 

What I feared most for myself at your age was not poverty, but failure. 

At your age, in spite of a distinct lack of motivation at university, where I had spent far too long in the coffee bar writing stories, and far too little time at lectures, I had a knack for passing examinations, and that, for years, had been the measure of success in my life and that of my peers. 

I am not dull enough to suppose that because you are young, gifted and well-educated, you have never known hardship or heartbreak. Talent and intelligence never yet inoculated anyone against the caprice of the Fates, and I do not for a moment suppose that everyone here has enjoyed an existence of unruffled privilege and contentment. 

However, the fact that you are graduating from Harvard suggests that you are not very well-acquainted with failure. You might be driven by a fear of failure quite as much as a desire for success. Indeed, your conception of failure might not be too far from the average person's idea of success, so high have you already flown academically. 

Ultimately, we all have to decide for ourselves what constitutes failure, but the world is quite eager to give you a set of criteria if you let it. So I think it fair to say that by any conventional measure, a mere seven years after my graduation day, I had failed on an epic scale. An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless. The fears my parents had had for me, and that I had had for myself, had both come to pass, and by every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew. 

Now, I am not going to stand here and tell you that failure is fun. That period of my life was a dark one, and I had no idea that there was going to be what the press has since represented as a kind of fairy tale resolution. I had no idea how far the tunnel extended, and for a long time, any light at the end of it was a hope rather than a reality. 

So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had already been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life. 

You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default. 

Failure gave me an inner security that I had never attained by passing examinations. Failure taught me things about myself that I could have learned no other way. I discovered that I had a strong will, and more discipline than I had suspected; I also found out that I had friends whose value was truly above rubies. 

The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means that you are, ever after, secure in your ability to survive. You will never truly know yourself, or the strength of your relationships, until both have been tested by adversity. Such knowledge is a true gift, for all that it is painfully won, and it has been worth more to me than any qualification I ever earned. 

Given a time machine or a Time Turner, I would tell my 21-year-old self that personal happiness lies in knowing that life is not a check-list of acquisition or achievement. Your qualifications, your CV, are not your life, though you will meet many people of my age and older who confuse the two. Life is difficult, and complicated, and beyond anyone's total control, and the humility to know that will enable you to survive its vicissitudes. 

You might think that I chose my second theme, the importance of imagination, because of the part it played in rebuilding my life, but that is not wholly so. Though I will defend the value of bedtime stories to my last gasp, I have learned to value imagination in a much broader sense. Imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not, and therefore the fount of all invention and innovation. In its arguably most transformative and revelatory capacity, it is the power that enables us to empathise with humans whose experiences we have never shared. 

One of the greatest formative experiences of my life preceded Harry Potter, though it informed much of what I subsequently wrote in those books. This revelation came in the form of one of my earliest day jobs. Though I was sloping off to write stories during my lunch hours, I paid the rent in my early 20s by working in the research department at Amnesty International's headquarters in London. 

There in my little office I read hastily scribbled letters smuggled out of totalitarian regimes by men and women who were risking imprisonment to inform the outside world of what was happening to them. I saw photographs of those who had disappeared without trace, sent to Amnesty by their desperate families and friends. I read the testimony of torture victims and saw pictures of their injuries. I opened handwritten, eye-witness accounts of summary trials and executions, of kidnappings and rapes. 

Many of my co-workers were ex-political prisoners, people who had been displaced from their homes, or fled into exile, because they had the temerity to think independently of their government. Visitors to our office included those who had come to give information, or to try and find out what had happened to those they had been forced to leave behind. 

I shall never forget the African torture victim, a young man no older than I was at the time, who had become mentally ill after all he had endured in his homeland. He trembled uncontrollably as he spoke into a video camera about the brutality inflicted upon him. He was a foot taller than I was, and seemed as fragile as a child. I was given the job of escorting him to the Underground Station afterwards, and this man whose life had been shattered by cruelty took my hand with exquisite courtesy, and wished me future happiness. 

And as long as I live I shall remember walking along an empty corridor and suddenly hearing, from behind a closed door, a scream of pain and horror such as I have never heard since. The door opened, and the researcher poked out her head and told me to run and make a hot drink for the young man sitting with her. She had just given him the news that in retaliation for his own outspokenness against his country's regime, his mother had been seized and executed. 

Every day of my working week in my early 20s I was reminded how incredibly fortunate I was, to live in a country with a democratically elected government, where legal representation and a public trial were the rights of everyone. 

Every day, I saw more evidence about the evils humankind will inflict on their fellow humans, to gain or maintain power. I began to have nightmares, literal nightmares, about some of the things I saw, heard and read. 

And yet I also learned more about human goodness at Amnesty International than I had ever known before. 

Amnesty mobilises thousands of people who have never been tortured or imprisoned for their beliefs to act on behalf of those who have. The power of human empathy, leading to collective action, saves lives, and frees prisoners. Ordinary people, whose personal well-being and security are assured, join together in huge numbers to save people they do not know, and will never meet. My small participation in that process was one of the most humbling and inspiring experiences of my life. 

Unlike any other creature on this planet, humans can learn and understand, without having experienced. They can think themselves into other people's minds, imagine themselves into other people's places. 

Of course, this is a power, like my brand of fictional magic, that is morally neutral. One might use such an ability to manipulate, or control, just as much as to understand or sympathise. 

And many prefer not to exercise their imaginations at all. They choose to remain comfortably within the bounds of their own experience, never troubling to wonder how it would feel to have been born other than they are. They can refuse to hear screams or to peer inside cages; they can close their minds and hearts to any suffering that does not touch them personally; they can refuse to know. 

I might be tempted to envy people who can live that way, except that I do not think they have any fewer nightmares than I do. Choosing to live in narrow spaces can lead to a form of mental agoraphobia, and that brings its own terrors. I think the wilfully unimaginative see more monsters. They are often more afraid. 

What is more, those who choose not to empathise may enable real monsters. For without ever committing an act of outright evil ourselves, we collude with it, through our own apathy. 

One of the many things I learned at the end of that Classics corridor down which I ventured at the age of 18, in search of something I could not then define, was this, written by the Greek author Plutarch: What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality. 

That is an astonishing statement and yet proven a thousand times every day of our lives. It expresses, in part, our inescapable connection with the outside world, the fact that we touch other people's lives simply by existing. 

But how much more are you, Harvard graduates of 2008, likely to touch other people's lives? Your intelligence, your capacity for hard work, the education you have earned and received, give you unique status, and unique responsibilities. Even your nationality sets you apart. The great majority of you belong to the world's only remaining superpower. The way you vote, the way you live, the way you protest, the pressure you bring to bear on your government, has an impact way beyond your borders. That is your privilege, and your burden. 

If you choose to use your status and influence to raise your voice on behalf of those who have no voice; if you choose to identify not only with the powerful, but with the powerless; if you retain the ability to imagine yourself into the lives of those who do not have your advantages, then it will not only be your proud families who celebrate your existence, but thousands and millions of people whose reality you have helped transform for the better. We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better. 

I am nearly finished. I have one last hope for you, which is something that I already had at 21. The friends with whom I sat on graduation day have been my friends for life. They are my children's godparents, the people to whom I've been able to turn in times of trouble, friends who have been kind enough not to sue me when I've used their names for Death Eaters. At our graduation we were bound by enormous affection, by our shared experience of a time that could never come again, and, of course, by the knowledge that we held certain photographic evidence that would be exceptionally valuable if any of us ran for Prime Minister. 

So today, I can wish you nothing better than similar friendships. And tomorrow, I hope that even if you remember not a single word of mine, you remember those of Seneca, another of those old Romans I met when I fled down the Classics corridor, in retreat from career ladders, in search of ancient wisdom: 

As is a tale, so is life: not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters. 

I wish you all very good lives. 

Thank you very much. 

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Anwar's Sodomy: The Inherent Unsatisfactoriness of Religions

* Anwar is accused of sodomy yet again. A religious crime punishable by law, and exploited in politics (probably). This entry is my response to the inherent unsatisfactory state of religions. 

** Full text of Malaysiakini article on Anwar's sodomy at the end of the entry. 

*** Even if you are just mildly religious, you may want to think twice before reading on. You may get really angry with me at the end of the article. 

I was only 14 in 1997, when i first heard of the words sodomy and liwat (in Malay) from news report on Anwar's alleged sodomy and political fallout. 

I had no idea what the heck it was about when everyone in school suddenly started teasing everyone else about getting sodomized (I was from a boy's school then that was full of adolescent boys heh). I found out the meaning soon enough, but was puzzled as to why would anyone want to do that. 

I suppose it was for the lack of a receptive sexual organ in the males, but if that takes place between two consenting adult males, why would it be an offense to anyone else? 

Then i learned that it was forbidden in Islam. That was the first instance i had a taste of how religion could actually dictate how people live. 

But who came out with the rules? Some says God. 

I think otherwise. It could very well be a misguided lunatic who thought he heard from God.  

These days we call it auditory hallucination. 

Perhaps we are placing too much faith in holy books across all religions whose origins could no longer be traced. Perhaps we are holding too dear those teachings that made little sense, and the original intention when those teachings were preached was anyone's guess now. We have commandments, but we have little insight into the preceding events that led to its being. 

Instead we try too hard to explain those absurdities. 

We resort to more accomplished beings in our respective religions for explanations, and we listen with full satisfaction of their understanding of the teachings. While forgetting you and me can as easily come up with those explanations ourselves. 

Human has inherent abilities to make perfect sense of happenings that had already taken place. You can explain anything, provided it HAS already happened. Anything at all. That's how columnist makes a living. 

That explains why religions are so lacking in prophecy, while full of retrospective wisdom. Simply because it's a human invention.

No ordinary human can foretell future, but everyone has his/her 2 cents on why something happened. Normal human beings use their logic to interpret the situations. Those whose religiosity surpasses one's own logic proudly utilize their understanding of the religion, which unfortunately is often very narrow. 

God's wrath. Bad karma. 
(Think of those RELIGIOUS comments on why New Orleans was flooded, why China was struck with an earthquake, why Tsunami bleached coastal countries)

*You may claim that religious groups are the first to offer help, i agree, but they are often the first to come out with stupid comments as well. 

They often blame it on something so abstract and intangible, that you hardly can argue with since there is so little substance to poke at. The religious fervor makes up for its lack in logic. 

The same fervor that makes you unwilling to argue with an angry old lady stubborn old hag whose demands aren't met. 

Powerful emotions. 

Powerful emotions that led us into wars. Think of Iraq. Think of your recent outburst with anyone. 

Those powerful emotions that cloud our consciousness and make us do stupid mistakes. 

Now think of when powerful emotions has done you any good the last time. 

Think harder. 

That's why we should never make any decisions when we are overwhelmed by emotions. They hardly have ever done us any good. 

Now back to religion. You can extol its merit for all you want, but for all the good deeds that a religious person can do, any nonbeliever is capable of doing them too. When they do it, they do it absolutely without religious pretense, without hoping for a divine reward. 

Yes atheists are capable of crimes too, but atheists are unable to band together to commit organised crime. Think of the religious conflicts, the religious persecution of nonbelievers, the Crusade, terrorism, etc.

Only in the name of religion can normal conscientious human beings commit the most heinous crimes, without remorse. Well, country and ethnicity can to a certain extent achieve that too. 

So what are their similarities? 

They are all artificial, all human inventions. They all tend to make us feel special, feel superior above others. Different from others, yet uncomfortably so. 

They all substitute individual reasoning skills with a common group-think. They all turn us into mindless zombies serving the wish of the persons who have learnt to manipulate us, doing their biddings while feeling all righteous. 

Are you a religious pawn waiting to be mobilized? 

Don't follow blindly what anyone tells you. Even if they are your religious superior, for they will falter as easily as any one of us. The only difference is that they are darn good at projecting an image of infallibility. 

Use your logic to interpret why you are doing what you have been doing. Is that because everybody has been doing it too? Are you a subject of group-think? 

The world will be a much better place if all of us who observes a religion questions its rationale, and cease following blindly. 

At least Malaysia will be a better country. 


Aide alleges sodomy: Report lodged
Jun 28, 08 11:03pm

A police report has been lodged against PKR 

de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim for allegedly sodomosing one of his aides - the second time that such an accusation had been made in over 10 years.

The report was lodged by the 23-year-old alleged victim at the Jalan Travers police station at 6pm.

pkr anwar ibrahim pc 080608 anwarKL police chief Muhammad Sabtu Osman confirmed that the report had been made.

The man has been sent to Hospital Kuala Lumpur for a medical examination.

"Yes, we have received a police report from an aide of Anwar Ibrahim that he was sodomised. But no, we will not arrest Anwar at the moment," added deputy federal police chief Ismail Omar.

"We will investigate this report first. We will look into it and carry out the necessary steps before issuing any warrant of arrest," he was quoted by AFP

It is learnt that Anwar met with a number of party leaders at an emergency meeting late tonight.

At 11.15pm, PKR sent out an SMS message stating that the police had detained Anwar's special aide Saiful Bahari this afternoon and forced him to lodge a police report about being sodomised by his boss.

It added that the police are expected to arrest Anwar soon.

Meanwhile, Anwar is expected to comment on this latest crisis at a pre-arranged press conference tomorrow.

The press conference is scheduled to be held after a meeting between Anwar and all PKR members of parliament and state assemblypersons.

Anwar expecting the worst

Party sources said that Anwar was chairing a party supreme council meeting at a hotel in Shah Alam when he received an SMS at about 9pm on Saturday night about the police report lodged against him.

He apparently then told the party leaders that his aide Saiful had been missing for two days.

"He then received another SMS at about 9.30pm and his face changed dramatically after reading that SMS," a party insider toldMalaysiakini.

"He did not reveal details of the SMS but merely said that the situation was very serious," added the insider.

Anwar is said to have left the supreme council meeting to meet his lawyers until about 11pm.

The council however continued their meeting without Anwar.

Party leaders are saying that they have to be prepared for any eventuality.

DAP veteran Lim Kit Siang wrote in his blog that he had spoken to Anwar over the phone and that the PKR leader was expecting the worst.

Press statement at 1.25am

Anwar issued a press statement at about 1.25am, saying that the report lodged against him was a "complete fabrication".

The following is his statement in full:

"The police report lodged against me earlier today is a complete fabrication. I believe we are witnessing a repeat of the methods used against me in 1998 when false allegations were made under duress. This is clearly a desperate attempt by the Barisan Nasional regime to arrest the movement of the Malaysian people towards freedom, democracy and justice. 
"The report has been organised by interested parties to attack me in retaliation for evidence I have recently obtained implicating IGP (inspector-general of police) Musa Hassan and the AG (attorney-general) Gani Patail in misconduct including fabrication of evidence in the cases launched against me in 1998-1999. This vile attack will not prevent me from releasing this dossier to the public.
"I urge the Malaysian people to stand against the repressive forces that will be unleashed by the government in the coming days and weeks. We expect the media, the judiciary and the police force to all come under the direct and unchecked control of the executive. 
"My fellow Malaysians - we took a bold step forward on March 8 towards a new dawn for freedom and justice for all of our citizens. This people's movement for change must go on with all of our strength and conviction."

Accused of sodomy in 1997

Meanwhile, at about 1am about 400 people had gathered outside the hotel in Shah Alam to ensure that nothing happened to Anwar.

The party leaders and Anwar's lawyer SN Nair also held a press conference at the Shah Alam hotel at about 1.30am where they distributed Anwar's statement.

Anwar, a former deputy prime minister and finance minister of Malaysia, was sacked from the government in 1997 for allegedly being involved in sodomy and abuse of power.

In 1999, he was sentenced in a highly controversial trial to six years in prison for corruption, and in 2000, to another nine years for alleged homosexual acts.

However in 2004, the Federal Court - the country's highest court - reversed the second conviction and he was released.

Anwar has always maintained that the charges were a government hatched political conspiracy against him, a move denied by the government.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Hulk's Weight

The trailer was really cool. I am really looking forward to watching it.

Has anybody thought of the Hulk's weight?

I mean, he looks even bigger than an elephant when he is that huge green piece of rippling muscles, and an average adult elephant already weighs between 4.5 to 6 tonnes.


As usual i had my sudden flash of brilliance and i discovered the Hulk's weight, accurately.

It's merely 70kg. 2 kg lighter than me. (Hey i am tougher than the Hulk!!)

NAME..Edward Norton Jr.

HEIGHT..185 cms

WEIGHT..70 kgs

DATE OF BIRTH..August 18, 1969

PLACE OF BIRTH..Boston, Mass., U.S.A.

EDUCATION..Columbia School for Theatrical Arts in Columbia, Maryland; Wilde Lake High School in Columbia, Maryland (1987)

(taken from here)

You see, according to law of physics, mass is a constant. You can change shape and so on, but ultimately, you can't create mass out of thin air.

So, if you ever chance upon the Hulk in its monstrous green-ery, don't fret. He should be of the consistency of a mushy candy floss, for such a huge size at only 70kg.

See how happy the girl is with pink version of the Hulk

Lick him.

Sunday, June 22, 2008


Nesa was telling me yesterday about some absurdity that was being practised at the Immigration checkpoints. I had a good laugh but the full impact wasn't felt until i saw it happening this morning at Woodlands Checkpoint, en route to Senai Airport.

A Caucasian lady in a full length figure-hugging red dress that accentuated her willowy figure was lining up just ahead of me to cross the checkpoint. There must had been some issue with her passport or so, for the immigration officer and herself spent a long time explaining to each other, seemingly to no avail even with the help of waving limbs.

Eventually their animated discussion ended abruptly, and she was told to put her thumb on a scanner. She's not a particularly hot lady so I naturally turned my attention to the screen of the immigration officer's computer, trying to peek at the content. Surprisingly, this monitor was not protected with a privacy screen protector*.

*A privacy screen protector would make viewing angle so narrow that no one else apart from the officer directly in front of the screen would be able to see anything shown on the screen.

A detailed scan of the thumbprint turned up, then out of the blue the face of Mas Selamat popped out really big on the screen.

NO FIT, the system proudly declare on the screen in huge green letters.

The officer glanced at the Caucasian lady again, and satisfied with his visual assessment he dismissed the lady and beckoned at me.

He sized me up a bit, then took my passport and student pass to scan, never softening his intent gaze on me even for a bit. He then gestured for me to use the thumb print scanner.

The system showed error, and again i felt a pair of concrete-boring gaze befalling on my cheeks. Probably he was trying to make out if i was donning a mask ala Mission Impossible.

He must have decided that Mas Selamat would have more self respect to use a better looking mask, for he stop analyzing my face.

He asked me to use my left thumb instead, and this time it registered.

NO FIT. Those huge green words were plastered all over the screen again. He waved me goodbye coolly.

I sighed in relief. You know, i do look a lot like Mas Selamat in that picture.

I have brownish skin, 2 eyes, 1 nose, 1 mouth, 2 ears, and a short crop of hair too. Minus the facial hair. (I shaved them ok, not that i am not manly enough. Ha)

Maybe Mas Selamat was tall and willowy too, that must be why the officer was gawking at the lady. Did i say gawking?

Mas Selamat must be able to take many shapes too, as Nesa saw an officer trying the thumbprint of an old, hunch-backed lady who probably had genu varum from osteoarthritis.

Mas Selamat must be a magical being, for the immigration officials to think he is capable of taking so many shapes. If he is magical, then why bother.

It's just darn ridiculous.

* the lady's footwear shop PRETTYFIT should take a cue from the immigration officials. Instead of disappointing their customers by saying there's no more size with earnest face that tries extremely hard to be apologetic, they should just install a screen and say NO FIT, with Mas Selamat's face. At least we will all get a good laugh.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Across Time and Death

Do you believe in reincarnation? (I do, as a Buddhist this concept was not at odds with what i was brought up to believe.)

This is a rather short but interesting read on the account of Jenny Cockell who grew up having dreams about her past life as Mary. 

Those dreams haunted her entire life, because Mary died at a premature age of thirty five years old, leaving behind a brood of kids under the care of an alcoholic and abusive husbands. 

Even as a small child she possessed maternal instinct and would worry incessantly about her children who she left behind. 

Tormented by maternal worries for her children, whom by now would be old enough to be her parents, she set out on an extraordinary adventure to find them all. 

It's a very good read, but it's a non fiction so don't expect the thrills of fictional stories. 

You don't have to agree with reincarnation to read about that book. Yes you will maybe end up doubting your faith, but as i have always said, a belief that cannot stand up to scrutiny and questioning probably isn't worth believing at all. 

Life Is Fragile

(taken from her blog)

This is heart wrenching. 

We live our lives as if tomorrow is nothing short of a certainty. 
We scoff at people who teaches us to treasure every moment and live it to the fullest. 
We laugh at the teaching of impermanence of everything. 
We wait, and we say another day. A better time. 

Some people's tomorrow never come.
And we usually are ignorant about it. 

Remember the young trainee pilot, Clifton Lam, who collapsed and died in Brunei while undergoing jungle training?

Read the blog entry dated 18th June of his girlfriend, and mourn for the loss of a life unrealised. 


It was only awhile ago we last talked,
it was merely 11 days ago i last heard him on the phone,
his comforting words, assurance that he'll be back very soon,
we talked for awhile, us saying how much we missed
each others presence, hugs and kisses,
him sharing his days there, him telling me his going into the jungle,
him saying he'll be not be contactable for the next 4 days,
him telling me not to be worried, not to miss him, he'll do the missing . .

Singtel's Broadband on Mobile vs Telekom's Streamyx

Am down with a bout of fever and chill since last night. 

Wrapped myself up like a tortilla wrap and slept at an uncharacteristic early hour at 12 am. 

Woke up feeling better today but still a little bit feverish. Feeling rather drowsy also, so i give hospital rounds a slip today. 

That's the privilege of being a medical student, as compared to working as a houseman. My friends who are working now have to drag their asses to work even if they are having diarrhoea from gastroenteritis. 

Anyway i shared my smartphone's internet connection to my mac, using bluetooth PAN, and am pretty impressed with the connection speed. (Here's an excellent blogpost on how to do it)

Not bad huh Singtel Broadband on Mobile

I am using the 1Mbps plan (free upgrade from 512kbps plan which i pay around 20 dollar monthly.) There are options to subscribe up to 3.6 Mbps. 

Those using Streamyx in Malaysia is going to be green with envy. Haha. 

5xmom tiu-ing Streanyx on the poor broadband performance in Malaysia today. Haha. 

There's even a website set up just to bitch about Streamyx. 

user posted image
user posted image
Telekom's Streamyx, Malaysia's supposed leading internet provider. Haha. 

And loads of interesting artwork on the subject, taken from here. Enjoy!

Streamyx Sucks

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Umbrella Ella ella, eh eh eh, eh eh eh

Yeah being young and broke really sucks. 

Saw an old frail lady trying to cross the neighbourhood street in small weak steps, with a makeshift walking stick (an umbrella). Many buses were plying that street so i held her arm and led her through the traffic. 

Charles Darwin's walking stick. Just thought it was interesting. 

Holding to her arm reminded me so much of my own grandmother. The same old loose skinfold with almost no discernible flesh below, but the muscles would defiantly taut with strength when they support themselves against the walking aid before making another step forward. 

Lots of old people in Singapore use umbrella instead of a proper walking stick. Some worry about the perceived stigma of carrying a walking stick. The old lady i met just liked it for the light weight frame, just like Rihanna. 

Every single step was huge effort to them. It just reminded me of how much i took my own youth for granted. It was also inspiring that despite their frailty for marauding age, they persisted in being as independent as they could. 

But whatever it is umbrellas are not made to bear the stress of human weight. It will be quite tragic if it breaks; these old folks will get a fracture or two for sure.  

But just lend a hand anyway when you see these old people crossing the street ya. 

There are walking stick in an umbrella's disguise out there. Let those who need them know of this option. 

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Last Night

* Be warned. Possibly the most boring and jumbled up post. Blogging from my skeletal new room, using internet connection that is shared from my mobile at 260 kbps. 

** Just don't read. Damn boring. 

I really miss the view outside my window in KE. Now i get lots and lots of HDB instead of trees. 

--- A post i typed 2 nights ago but never got time to finish it up ---

Door tag made by the Block Committee. Good effort, but under-utilised by boring people like me. 

Have been feeling rather depressed for the past few days. It's 3.23 am now and i still can't sleep. 

As evidenced by a week's worth of dust on my speakers.

I have even neglected my routine weekly 'spring' cleaning. That's highly unusual, as all my close friends would gladly bitch about it tell you about my obsessive trait to clean (we call it OCD for obsessive compulsive disorder).

The level 8 that can only be accessed by staircase. No lift. 

I feel sad leaving this place. 

I have stayed in this room for the past 4 years. So many things have happened in the span of 4 years. (I stayed in Prince George's Park in my first year. Joined KE as a new senior)

Even gone bald once! Thanks to everyone who made Flag Day a big success 3 years ago. (Yes i was sunburnt too, from standing under the hot sun for too long on Rag Day)

*I pledged to shave bald if the hall residents under my leadership would manage to raise SGD 10000 on Flag Day. In the end 5 more guys joined me voluntarily to shave our heads bald. Haha. 

Previously KE Hall was raising just a few thousands every year, but our new Hall Master tasked me to do better than that. Well i am proud to say that we raised a tidy SGD 28000! And we have never looked back since, and the amount we raised kept going up and up. I hear this year they are trying to surpass SGD 90000!

The room silently witnessed my growth (character and abdominal girth, unfortunately).

My shoe boxes, one of it houses a pair of severely under-utilised running shoes. The badminton shoes too. 

It is also a witness to my many mistakes and unaccomplished ideals. 

As i leave the room, i shall bear in mind my blunders and shall never repeat them ever again. 


More random shots. Just for my own remembrance. 

It's messy. 

When i was in primary school, my favourite teacher taught us that the state of the wardrobe would tell us a lot about his/her personality. i have since strived to keep a tidy wardrobe. 

Random footwears. Don't ask me why i put them this way. I don't know.

The rubbish bins that are totally unpredictable in behaviour. 

No more collecting 20 cents coins to pay for dryer's usage. 

The piece of cloth i use to shield my computer from direct sunlight. 

No more walking down 2 stories to fill up my jug. 

No more annoying ants that would even go for water in my jug. 

Friday, June 13, 2008

Who's Your Daddy #1 (The Tale of 4 Hotdogs)

Dear Child, 

I went to Ikea* this evening, to pick up some boxes. 

*Ikea is one of the few places that manages to make both men and women squirm in joy every time they step in, when your daddy is still in his twenties. No, it's not a love hotel, if you wonder. Yes you are right, people do squirm in joy there too, but Ikea achieves that mostly by just selling awesome furnitures at a cheap price (not always). 

The boxes are meant to carry my books, as daddy will have to move to a new apartment shared by Uncle Nesa, Uncle Rags and Auntie Lydia in Bukit Batok. Even though daddy hasn't graduated and can continue to stay in KEVII Hall, i prefer to move out with the uncles and auntie. Otherwise i will probably die of boredom being the oldest guy around, and you will probably never see daylight. 

Anyway, i haven't had dinner when i arrived at Alexandra, where Ikea the swedish furniture supermart was located. I originally intended to dine in a nearby hawker centre, but it was rather warm and humid so i decided i would just eat in the cold comfort of Ikea's restaurant. 

But there were too many people queuing up. There must have been 20 people lining up for Swedish meatballs, so i just walked away. 

Daddy usually won't choose to get stuck in a long queue just for food, even if it's good.

So i went downstairs to eat Ikea's hotdog* instead. 

The identical hotdog that i ate (lifted from here)

* I don't know if people at your time still eats hotdog, or still calls it so. PETA might already have made you ban hotdogs. It's not really a dog. It's just a sausage that is wrapped in a long bun, and you get to choose what sauce to put on top; a choice of mustard, ketchup and chilli. Daddy never likes chilli sauce. 

Child, one day you will realise that women in their skin alone wields a lot of power. (lifted from here)

At one dollar a hotdog it's really cheap. I ordered a hotdog and a soft drink at $1.70. Before the cashier could pay me the change, i already ordered an extra one. Yeah your daddy kinda eats a lot. 

Anyway i finished the 2 hotdogs in no time. I folded the paper wrap into neat small squares and threw them away into the bins. You must throw the litters properly too ok?

(lifted from here)

But 2 hotdogs weren't enough, so i went to buy another 2 more. 

(Sorry child your daddy really eats a lot. But i am not obese. I just have high BMI. Really, you can ask any of the aunties or uncles who know daddy in university. It's either the result of dense bones or a dense brain. You guess which.)

So, for the comfort of air conditioning (i wonder how bad global warming is at your time), and my reluctance (why waste time?) to line up in a long queue, i ate 4 hotdogs. Most people would find it slightly crazy to eat 4 hotdogs. That's usually the province of the crazy Americans (and Uncle Nesa, that crazy uncle once walloped 11 pieces of KFC at one go)

Crazy Americans posing with 5 hotdogs there. (lifted from here) Heh

Lastly, just wanted to tell you, my child, that life isn't always fair. Don't always compare with others. Just be happy with what you have got. 

Ikea Hotdog in Norway (lifted from here)

Some people just have it longer. 

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Talk About Coincidence

Life has its funny ways of pulling your legs.

Last time when i told everyone not to worry about failing med school, i ended up failing it myself. 

This time it's much more subtle, but just as funny. 

Yeah failing med school is painfully funny. 

Anyway, my last entry was about dolphins humping each other in an advertisement on a news portal, The Star Online. Regretfully the post was inevitably laced with saucy jokes, i don't know why. Seriously. 

Then when i sent it to Nuffnang's Innit blog aggregate for submission, the anti-spam measure told me to type the word MATURE


I hope the next time i post something about failing my finals, it won't tell me to type AGAIN


Just for Laughs #7 (The Unintentional Perverse by Malaysian Airlines)

For the past few days i haven't been able to focus on the news while reading The Star Online. 

My attention wavers every few seconds from the news item. It's getting really frustrated. 

It's something about the Malaysian Airlines. 

The crews waiting anxiously in their sometimes overly tight uniform. 

Something about Brisbane. 

Brisbane is one great place to be in. I love the weather there. (lifted from here)

Something about Safari. 

There's something very Singaporean about this picture... Ah.. They ACTUALLY queue. Oi hurry up!

Just across the causeway. 
(Anyway this is a record breaking Irish setter by giving birth to 16 puppies. A much meaningful feat than making teh tarik in the space. Read here.)

Something keeps... distracting me on my screen. It's just plain perverse. 

Gosh look at the dolphin's eye. I swear it looks dreamy!

I had been there. But I didn't get to do this go Dolphin Safari.

But these guys seem to know Brisbane really well. 

That explains the glee. Woohoo! 

(If you are getting wet in Brisbane, go visit this website. Did i say wet? I meant wed. Getting old these days)

Now when are you going to Brisbane?

Or you rather go here? 

Disclaimer: I am straight. Even though I am staying in a double room with a muscular Indian hunk. Hi Nesa. haha

Thanks for the flash of doubt ya.