Wednesday, August 31, 2005

new orleans under siege

i have been reading the newspapers about the hurricane, katrina, that hit southeastern america. i just haven't been paying good attention to that news. all sorts of natural disasters hit all sorts of places, so why was this one any different?

it's not that a lot of people died (think Bangladesh's annual killer floods and Africa's drought-famine-deaths), or especially in poor countries (think Bam's earthquake, and the one in Turkey).

this is the richest country in the world, with the best (?cuba?) healthcare system in the world and the best army and engineer corps etc etc. surely they can handle any disaster.

as it turned out, my favourite city in all of america has been damaged, physically and psychologically. New Orleans is a city of natives, of jazz and blues and saxophones, ray charles and sammy davis, prime ribs and steaks, gumbo and potatoes, Mardi Gras and gays, heat and humidity, French and Creole and Cajun, an "inevitable city on an impossible site".

i've always suspected it was inevitable. the world needed a city like New Orleans. not till today did i know exactly how impossible. all of it is below sea level, and surrounded by the Mississippi and Lake Pontchartrain, kept dry by levees (remember that little Dutch tyke with his finger in the dyke? not gonna work this time) and pumps... i suppose it now makes New Orleans that much more special, because of them living against the odds every second of every day, and having so much food, music, culture and celebration of life and choices going on every second of every day.

i hate it that Katrina hit New Orleans. why can't they hit someplace else, like Washington (with that idiot in residence), or Muckville, Alabama?

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

happy merdeka!

happy merdeka malaysia!

gosh, i wish i was out there watching fireworks and having some fun. instead i am (un)willingly stuck in my room studying hard for my obgyn exams in 2 weeks time. but fret not! there'll be good music, and some work done, and football tomorrow with some very good friends!

(i'll spare the predictable analytical prose about the progress malaysia has made in the last 48 years in our march towards developed country status - and concentrate solely on the fact that we do, after all, have the world's second tallest towers... sigh)

Monday, August 29, 2005

hitting back at the big guys

pat robertson is a christian evangelist in the states, and he founded the Christian Coalition, a collection of christian organisations designed to support george bush in elections and in winning the war against liberals and to turn america into a land of intolerance, illiberalism and indoctrination, much like the countries of Afghanistan and Iraq and Malaysia that they abhor, judge and worst of all, invade.

recently he made a statement against Hugo Chavez, President of Venezuela, the 5th largest oil producer in the world. Mr Chavez recently offered to give free diesel to the poor people in america, if he had the necessary permission from the authorities and the distribution network to do it. that's only one of his 'transgressions' against america, the others being the "accusations" that he hurls against america for being monopolistic, dictatorial, arrogant and just plain evil.

so what does pat robertson the christian minister do? he says that the US government should "go ahead with any assassination attempts" on Mr Chavez.

now i am not a big fan of hugo chavez (god knows he's a bit off his rocker sometimes), but i'm thinking that pat robertson was just plain offensive, symptomatic of the usual american bravado and hubris that they're always in the right.

but here's the clincher! hugo chavez has now initiated legal proceedings in america to sue pat robertson, with the possibility of extraditing him to venezuala for "acts of terrorism'!!

whoa! i think that's fantastic! someone ought to go tell the big white bullies that the law applies equally vigorously to them too!

Sunday, August 28, 2005

lazy sundays

you know who should have a blog? my dad. he's a 50 year old fiscal conservative, social liberal, educational conformist, American apologist, philosophising ballroom dancer who's currently in the throes of his second childhood, and i say all that in absolute admiration.

i remember when i was in form4 when the computer and the Internet came. looking back, buying a computer in 1997 was probably one of the best decisions we've ever made, as it set us up for years of convenience and (ahem) education. and no, i don't mean porn sites.

well anyway, my dad used to view the computer as some sort of evil machine designed to draw his children's attention away from studies and other worthwhile pursuits. it didn't help that my sister and i took turns staying up till 2-3am every day just to chat on IRC, inflating not only our own pitiful egos (we could, after all, pretend to be someone BETTER than who we are), but also the phone bill.

i don't think there was a gradual transition, but circumstances changed in his life that forced him to use the computer a lot more often, for work, communication, entertainment or what-not. firstly, he got promoted, and now found that if he didn't master the Powerpoint, he'd quite literally be laughed off the stage. he did that bit fine, creating presentations that won the National-level Veterinary Dept Quality Control Project, or something like that. i've lost track of how many competitions he's won.

then my sister went off to London for accountancy. in came a new computer, and he learnt all about hotmail and yahoo, and more recently, the wonderful virtues of gmail. he'd wake up at 5am everyday to check the mail, copy everything onto a Word document, go to work at 6.30am. then after dinner at home, he'd sit down and type out a reply, for hours!

worse, a year later, he discovered his high school friends. they were always in touch, but only recently the Old Georgians Association became more active. there was a massive reunion, and some IT genius (apparently there are some IT geniuses aged 45 and above too) created a yahoogroups for them. voila! yet another channel for his opinions, this time to a greated audience of hundreds!

recently, he wrote a letter to the NST, and it got published, and it was a good letter too. of course he drew more encouragement from that publication, and he's now contributing to the Perak Veterinary Dept website's guest column!

salutations, dad!

Friday, August 26, 2005

the religionisation of secularism

i just got back from another week in teluk intan, this time spending a week in the

ObGyn department of the district hospital there. i didn't have as fun and as

educational a time there as i did 2 months ago when i was doing surgery, but in blogs,

one does have to be very diplomatic, and try to be very nice and not offend anyone.

(try reading between the lines, i've provided ample space)

when i was there, i was staying in a low-cost house provided for by the university. at least the company was good there, and i had quite good fun with a bunch of similar-thinking people, so that was very good!

what struck me the most about my teluk intan trip this time around wasn't medical at all, it had something to do with the sign in front of a mosque near where i stayed (i can't very well call it a house, much less a home). the sign said in malay, Independence Day from an Islamic Perspective.

ok, a quick backgrounder. malaysia is celebrating our 48th anniversary of our independence day on august 31. in 1957, our first prime minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman (who incidentally shares the same birthday as i do), declared independence with 3 shouts of "MERDEKA!". the celebrations have been much more patriotic as time goes by, but one does wonder whether or not it represents an empty shell of pseudo-patriotism.

but that's not the point of this post. the point of this post is to talk a little bit about the secular nature of Independence Days, and how throughout the world, it has always remained an important pillar of a nationalist (and believe me, every country is nationalist) government.

what that banner illustrates is perhaps the beginnings of an intrusion of religion into what has hitherto been a completely secular celebration. of course i'm not saying that religion will completely encroach on secularism, but it does give me cause to worry.

especially when you analyse a few things, and see that July 4th has never been associated with Christians at all (it's usually a time of barbecues and fireworks, hardly Christian things), and that throughout a yearly calendar of public holidays, only a precious few holidays are not religio-cultural in significance. we have Aidilfitri, Chinese New Year, Deepavali, Christmas etc, and these celebrations are the vast majority of PHs.

so what i think is this: religions are religions, and you're free to interpret politics and secularism as much as you want. however, there should be a clear delineation between religion and politics, and politics should never be religionised as much as religion should never, never, never be politicised.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

sites on the internet

the internet has got to be the best ever research site, for hard facts in medicine, politics, music and sports, as well as the best ever site for gags and funny stories!

this week's edition of The Onion (my favourite newspaper) is particularly funny! check it out at www.theonion.com.

plus this other new site that i found when i was looking to refresh my memory about The Guardian's hoax in 1970, on April Fool's day, when they featured an island republic called San Seriffe, with the capital city Bodoni, and how there were 2 islands, Upper Caisse and Lower Caisse.

see the hoax? if one fiddles around with microsoft word enough, you'd know that there are lots of fonts, and San Serif (without serifs, serif being the little tweaks at the top of alphabets, like this set of alphabets) and Bodoni. upper and lower cases, are, well, Upper and Lower Caisse!

cool? cool! then go to http://www.museumofhoaxes.com/hoax/aprilfool/

Thursday, August 11, 2005

hazy days are here again

hazy days are here again, and this time we find it not so convenient to blame our indonesian brothers across the straits. apparently we have found that even malaysians are burning lots of stuff, horrors this time right next to the prime minister's own home.

the only good thing that comes out from the haze is that it provided yet another reason for the government to show that they're really serious about the whole disclosure bit. it's amazing to see how much information has been shared out, even the information that was previously considered to be sensitive, such as the APs, corruption cases, bribery cases etc. the release and publicity of the API heralds the now-unstoppable railway train progressing towards truth and accountability. so... yay!

a second observation about the haze has got to do with geo-paleontology and paleo-climatology. interesting to note that the API at its worst in KL was about 400+, which obviously pales in comparison to the intensity and extent of the haze that enveloped a lot more of Asia when Krakatoa exploded in 1888. certainly the asteroids that hit Earth in the Yucatan Peninsula and Tunguska in Siberia millions of years ago had pretty much the same effect. humans won't die of course, not from thousands of acres of forest burning in Sumatera every 4 years, but it's a close bet that anything more than this can significantly alter the balance of life to such an extent that environments can change and people can die.

*shudder* we gotta get our act in order!

Saturday, August 06, 2005

debatetrainingweekend

this weekend all i'm doing is training debaters. today i went to TAR college to work with a bunch of first-timers for a couple of hours. enjoyed myself there, and they look very energetic and promising, and i shall look forward to their success sometime in the near future.

tomorrow i'm working with a bunch of experienced novices (a new oxymoron?) in UKM. obviously i'm a lot closer at heart to the UKM team, and i'll spend a lot more time with them, though effort wise it remains the same. i hope my UKM team does well, and i hope we can pull through a very important tournament coming up in a few months time, and make the university proud of us, forever!

Friday, August 05, 2005

busybusy weeks

*phew* thank god it's friday, when the weekend's here and i can indulge in 2 back-to-back days of debate training, and pour equal amounts of energy that i have been applying the past few days into young people. at least i'm going to enjoy this weekend!

it's been an emotionally topsy-turvy week for me, with a lot of things coming to a head, and a lot of pieces of homework dropping into my lap too, tonnes of chores, loads of little irritations that vex and annoy.

they're doing cabling work in my apartment for internet connection, but they drilled holes on one day, set up all the pipelines, and then leave the wiring for another day when it shouldn't take them more than a few minutes to finish everything up. that means that i have to clean up my room for not one, but TWO days, and boy, is it dirty! there is a visible layer of dust that refuses to be swept away except by wetting it, and it means i have to embark on a full-scale cleanup of the entire area, and i'm not liking it!

i'm still negative about the conference, and the association, and i want to write particularly about 2 or 3 people who have *really* tried my patience. they're the kind of people who don't deserve anything they get, and they're the kind of people i will have confrontations with (or had confrontations with), in public, private, to the Sultan, to damn well anyone else, because i know i'm right and they are (so damnably) wrong.

gimme a few more days, and i shall name names in this space.