18 March 2006

Go Public!

I am all for the switch from petrol-guzzling automobile travel to public transport. My wife and I
promised ourselves we would leave our car at home and become train-riders if the fuel price were to go up again. It has, and we have ditched our car. Though there are a 100 reasons discouraging the use of public transport in Kuala Lumpur, I can still think of a few good reasons to give it a try and make it work.

1- Save money. At nearly 25 cents per kilometre of car travel (working at 8km/L fuel consumption) the savings are considerable if you are a heavy commuter. With LRT season passes that cover both Putra & Star lines, and RM2/day City Shuttle buses, I'm saving at least RM50 a month. And I'm not even counting savings from parking
at malls.
2- Save time. It took a bullock cart 1 hour to get from Kg Baru to Masjid Jamek in the old days. 100 years of progress later, it takes the same time. Go figure. Traffic jams are a complete waste of time. There is a profound pleasure in gloating over cars stuck in jams as you whiz by in your high speed train.
3- Get more sleep. If you can get onto a train or bus early enough, you can actually catch a few extra winks. If you are desperate for a sit-down and shut-eye, take the train to the terminal where the carriage empties, and come back again in your seat of choice.
4- Get fit. With our badly connected public transport system, much of the commuting is by foot between stations and stops. Walk fast enough and you can get a pretty good workout. A 70kg adult can burn 116 calories by walking 30 minutes at a speed of 3mph. Keeping a high heart rate during the walk will also improve your cardiovascular fitness.

5- Finish a book. Trains are an ideal place to read. It's quiet, well air-conditioned, and even standing with a hand on the rail, you can finish a book with
one hand!
6- De-stress. The biggest frustration of driving in KL is not so much the petrol cost, but the traffic jams. To sit in a gridlock, seeing red (bumper lights) for
hours on end does nothing for my blood pressure. I can imagine years of my lifespan shaved off for every hour I spend in jams.
7- Save the environment. Why burn good cash on polluting the environment? Our carrying capacity for pollutant is already maxed out. The slightest puff of
smoke from a forest fire will tip us into a blinding haze. Imagine the amount of emissions reduced by leaving your car at home to be used only for long distance trips or short family outings.
8- See the city. A season pass pays for unlimited travel. Why use it only for getting to work? See the city! Go on a walkabout of Dataran Merdeka or Petaling
Street on weekends, or hit the malls. Watch your spending though - otherwise whatever you save on petrol might just be burnt on shopping. Posted by Picasa

12 March 2006

Inspired... by food

I haven't done this in some time, posting the latest salivary gland pumping concoction in the culinary world of our homeland. So today, I decide to pull out some choice pix of the latest appetite stimulant, or diet-program killer whichever way you like to look at it.

Though not really Malaysian cuisine, but for sheer joy-to-taste we are proud to have them in our land.

Petaling street offers some great photo ops, so a vertiginous shot of chestnuts went into my still-in-infancy TTL gallery.

Well, that's my weekend blogging quota fulfilled. In the process I realised I write in record time when I'm intensely inspired.. And nothing quite inspires like good food. So, the next time you need creative, and other juices to flow, go get a bite!

10 March 2006

When will I stop?

It's funny, how when I'm busiest and accomplishing the most that I feel that I've been ineffective and need to do more. Is this some kind of death wish? Why does my mind conspire against me to burn a few more holes in my stomach and drive me to my grave prematurely?

I've read about it - it's called adrenaline addiction. The more thrills you get out of work, the more you crave it. And the more burnt out you are, the more you look for it to prevent the impending blues. Withdrawal from work is actually difficult because it requires I say NO to the seductive attraction of work and insist that I get the detoxifying rest I need.

This week has seen two busy and overbooked clinics, two lengthy student encounters over lectures and bedside teaching. Two powerful meetings with senior professors, both giving me great encouragement and insights into the world of research. I've been reading at least 4 books concurrently. One massive literature review on cancer markers left me completely spent but deeply satisfied.

Amidst all that I also met my real estate agent and placed a booking fee for a home we've been eyeing, drafted the newsletter for the Malaysian Society of Otorhinolaryngologists, AND writeup an interview for Kairos Research Centre.

Yes, I'm reeling. And it's not even over. I meet the printers this evening, and tomorrow GCF is having a dialog on "Dealing With Difficult People At Work." Hah.

I'm glad therefore for short moments and places that I can use to stop and get reoriented. Like the little corner Starbucks in KL Sentral, tucked away, with trains whizzing by. (Yes, you can see I was poring over my clinical photographs at the time...)

Or in the privacy of my own office, open the Bible and catch up on some reading.

This weekend, I must stop. Really stop, declare a moratorium on all forms of work. And 'Be still once more my soul, for the Lord your God has been good.' (Psalm 116:7).

09 March 2006

Learning Chinese the Geek Way

Did you hate your POL classes in school? Did you get sent to a Chinese temple for language tuition as a kid? Well I did, and have deep emotional scars to show for it. But, I still can't speak my own mother tongue if my life depended on it.

But all that is going to change! Well, at least it potentially and theoretically CAN change... And here's how (I propose, in theory) it can be done: THE GEEK WAY.

1) Pick a Chinese website you would like to read: like a newspaper, an interlinear Bible or the Dao De Ching for high show-off factor.

2) Get it translated using Babelfish or a Chinese-English Dictionary

3) And get it read ALOUD using YELLOWBRIDGE TALKER

Let me give you an example.

This is a screenshot of Nanyang Siang Pau in Chinese:

This is Nanyang translated into English:

After you've had a ROTFLOL session reading the direct translation, try the Yellow Bridge dictionary.

This is the headline translated en bloc, word by word, into English on Yellow Bridge's Chinese-English dictionary.

And if you've got Yellow-Bridge Talker installed, you can have the text read aloud to you simply by right-clicking your selection and selecting "Pronounce Text" or clicking the yellow speech baloon on the Dictionary page!

Is there anything you've been dying to say in Chinese - like, say, cheaper please I have no money, or please cook my chow mein really really spicy? Well, key it into the YB Dictionary, and have it read OUT LOUD back to you. My Chinese-proficient dad vouches for its accuracy and high standard of Chinese.

Also available on Yellow-Bridge is the cool Flashcards method of learning a word a day, and a Decomposition Explorer interwoven into the dictionary. No, the Decomposition Explorer is not some kind of post-mortem surgical technique. It is in fact a breakdown of each component in a chinese character complete with its individual meaning.

For instance, did you know that the word WORRY in Chinese, consists of two parts - which could mean to have strings attached to your mind, or to conspire against the soul? Now, which Chinese dictionary or teacher, for that matter, will give you that?! And it certainly makes learning impossible Chinese squiggles a lot more fun, meaningful and easy to remember.

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Hah.. talk about easy and high geek appeal!! No more embarassing dictation sessions, no fierce, hefty POL teacher with the swishing cane, and no more messy brush and ink in Chinese temple classes!!

05 March 2006

The Radiant Newly Weds

"It gives me great pleasure to present to you,.. Dr. and Dr. (Mrs.) Jeffry Paul Wong!!" Quite a mouthful? What is it with these labels anyway? I felt sorry for the officiant-pastor. But with the billowing sea breeze, grass beneath your feet, garden ambience of E&O Penang,.. nothing could've spoilt the moment.

Not bad, Jeff & Doris. Still able to manage some genuine smiles and laughs after a whole day of plastic grins posing for an unending stream of pictures. Bet you never, ever, want to do this again! Talk about deterrents to polygamy.

We do wish you a life time of joy and laughter.

Awwww... pucker up... Enjoy the moment. EOD calls ahead is no way to spend your post-nuptial week. Unfortunately, that's life for us civil servants. Onward ho! Posted by Picasa

More photos of the wedding here!

The Weekend That Was

Attended good friends' - Jeff & Doris' - wedding in Penang. One of those dreamy, by-the-sea garden weddings that make every girl burst in romanticistic elation. Doris was our maid-of-honor in our own walk down the aisle two and half years ago. Notice the woman in red by the bride? No prizes for guessing who.

Old friends, Angie - now in Likas, Helin - Bruneian in Belukas spending her evenings angling by the river, Tammy - houseman working her butt off, Sudoku winner, and USM medic gold-medalist,... and my wife (you didn't know?!).

An entire convoy of big bikes appeared out of nowhere and accompanied us for a good half hour. It was interesting to watch their routine, the head biker, the tail man keeping watch for stragglers, the hand signals, and the accompanying support car all making a monster team.

Joan couldn't resist trailing this biker. What do you call a bike with tall handles like that anyway? Posted by Picasa