04 November 2009

Amateur graphic designer

It's always fun to learn new skills. And especially when a Mac is there to serve you.

This is my experiment with designing a brochure for our annual society biggie. Not bad for a surgeon no?

I had to climb all the way up Mt Kinabalu for that sunrise shot (from our climb in 2006), for your information! I don't think any printing company would do that for you...

22 September 2009

Revisiting Work Theology

I spent a lot of time reading, thinking and even teaching the integration of faith and work during my varsity days. Having completed my Masters, armed with hard-earned knowledge and skills, I reentered the work force with a passion for great work.

Instead I descended into a major crisis in my early years as a specialist. I was busy, but the work I was doing was nowhere near the kind of challenge and excitement I had envisioned for years. That in its own way was depressing. I got through those early years of meaning-less-ness by seeking and creating opportunities for my own growth... which I succeeded in doing. But in turn I became a victim of my own success. I became chronically overworked. Five years down the line, having tasted both extremes of too-little and too-much,... I'm glad to revisit work theology with new eyes.

I've started reading Matthew Fox's 'The Reinvention of Work - A New Vision of Livelihood for Our Time', and I'm excited just by the introduction. If I could summarise his thesis/rationale for the book in my own words:

The institution of WORK can be defined as an individually unique expression of our inner beings, in co-creating with God, allowing us to connect with the world (environment and human) by virtue of serving it, hence making us conduits for blessing.

Even as Fox describes these themes, though he doesn't explicitly refer to it, I can see how he unpacks the creation narrative - man as steward-caretakes of creation, blessed to be fruitful, representative authorities of God to sustain the order and harmony of creation, and to fill it with the same functional beauty in which it was created.

Life and livelihood,
work and jobs ought to be a functional unity. 'To live well is to work well', Fox quotes Hilden. And 'jobs are to work as leaves are to trees' - subordinate but contributory. Lose the theology of work and jobs lose their meaning.

He then looks at the major crises of modern man as really the result of that, the corruption of our view of work:
1. Disintegration of work-job unity -- leads to meaningless work
2. Reduced create-ivity in the AUTOMATION of the industrial and post-industrial age -- spawning psychological ill-health, entertainment industry, environmental degradation and even unemployment
3. End of co-creating, conduiting blessing, and connection by service with regnant CONSUMERISM -- dulls our sensitivities to moral, political and spiritual issues, enslaves us and substitutes true living

The major environmental crisis and occupation-related health impact should wake us up to redefine work. If we in our industries are killing the planet and ourselves in the process, there must be something very wrong with the way we work. The need of the moment is to recover the spiritual and rediscover values of justice, compassion and a sense of beauty in work. Fox calls us to be prophets, who 'by definition - interfere' to call society back in this critical moment in history. It is a time of 'metanoia'.

As I write this I get the sense that 'reevaluating' and 'redefining' work is not enough. I don't think I'm even ready for that if I am so submerged in the work-job dualism and consumerist culture of the day that it is impossible to pull myself out of it, by my own bootstraps as the saying goes. The biblical picture of work seems to be a fantastical far-away ideal that is nowhere near practicable nor do we see it often embodied in any person or work-body. If we/I have never seen it in real life (imagery) or tasted the experience of it,.. how can we work towards it?

02 August 2009

Healthy pride

It's good to have a little science to reinforce the point that healthy pride is important for self-esteem. Self-abasement masquerading as humility neither dignifies the 'image of God' in us nor helps us grow as persons. The author points out that a healthy self-esteem not only spurs you on but also encourages others to esteem you more correctly - 'pride, as long as it stems from a real success and doesn't slide into know-it-all obnoxiousness or narcissism, not only pushes us to keep trying hard but actually makes others like us more..'

In short, let's bin self-flagellating false modesty and be real so that others can also relate to the real you.

If you are in the habit of self-devaluation, it may be helpful to do a little reality check from time to time. Ask yourself:
1. Have I received any words of appreciation or approval recently?
2. Did I display some virtue recently?
3. Did I perform some job with particular competence?
4. Has someone commented about something attractive in me?
5. What do I know from religious scripture about God's love for me?

Feeling proud makes people more dominant and likable in social tasks

Think back to the last time that you beat a friend at a card game or outdid your previous record in a 5K race. Did you try to suppress your satisfaction so that others wouldn't think you were conceited? In fact, new research suggests that pride, as long as it stems from a real success and doesn't slide into know-it-all obnoxiousness or narcissism, not only pushes us to keep trying hard but actually makes others like us more.

"Contrary to the idea that pride is an emotion that we should tamp down, the experience of pride can be very socially adaptive," says Lisa Williams, a graduate student in psychology at Northeastern University and the new study's lead author. She and Northeastern psychologist David DeSteno found that people who were told they had excelled on a spatial rotation task subsequently took more control over a similar, team-based task, regardless of their mood or how competent they reported feeling. Both teammates and outside observers rated proud participants as more dominant and as more likable than participants who had not been tricked into feeling proud.

The study did not examine the signals proud people send that make others like them, but other research has shown that feeling pleased with yourself tends to change a person's subtle nonverbal behaviors — for example, triggering more smiling or a more confident posture.

Carpenter, Siri
Scientific American Mind; 2009, Vol. 20 Issue 4, p9

01 August 2009

Scene from the underworld

Malaysian: Oi Lu Si Hami Lang?
Singaporean: Sinkapoh lang lor...
Malaysian: Cho Ha Mi Lu Bo Ming Kia Chiak, Boh Cheng Kor?
Singaporean: Lu Em Chai Meh? Sin Ka Poh Beh Sai Burn Liao.
Malaysian: Ani Cham Eh? Wah U iPhone 3GS, Mercedes 10series, GPS, Bungalow, Chap eh maid...
Singaporean: Wah Hami Toh Boh... Jiak Sai Nia..

Gifts for the dead could be dying out in Singapore

Men are autocannibalistic but not women?

This is the strangest thing I've read in scientific literature ever. Apparently men's neurons are programmed to self-destruct in starvation (eg. an ischemic stroke) while women's will burn surrounding fat. Now why would we be wired that way? A man would be better off dead than brain dead but it's ok for women to be brain-damaged because no one would tell the difference? (Let's see who will flame me for this... 1, 2, 3,...)

Starvation brings out sex differences in brain cells

Scientists have long known of dissimilarities in anatomy and activity between the brains of women and men — now a rodent study shows that even individual neurons behave differently depending on sex.

Robert Clark of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and his colleagues found that cultured neurons from female rats and mice survived longer than did neurons from their male counterparts when facing starvation. Such sex differences had been evident for decades in other body tissues, but so far no one had looked at brain cells, Clark says. When he and his team deprived the cells of nutrients, female neurons consumed mainly fat resources to stay alive, whereas large amounts of male cells started to eat up their own protein-based building blocks — and subsequently died.

The findings suggest that tailoring nutrition to a patient's gender during critical care — for example, after illnesses that temporarily cut off the brain's nutrient supply, such as stroke — might help prevent brain cell death, Clark posits. Men's neurons might fare better on a high-protein diet, for instance, whereas high fat content would probably nourish women's brain cells best, he adds.

Self-cannibalism makes sense for body tissues other than the brain, but why male neurons engaged in it to such a large extent is a mystery, Clark says. "You can understand why during famine, you would want to break down muscle to preserve the rest of your body, but it's harder to understand why you would want to break down proteins within your brain."

Branan, Nicole
Scientific American Mind; 2009, Vol. 20 Issue 4, p9

Dont talk about it

Now we know for sure sitting around and complaining never helped anyone. There's a difference between ventilating (to get it off your chest) and ruminating (going on and on to reinforce the excuse for inaction.) This is the very reason I avoid inter-collegiate bitch sessions or meet-the-VIP forums. Nothing positive ever comes out of these; if anything they concretize the negativity and lead to more depression as this little study featured in Sci Am Mind shows.

Too much chat about their problems may lead middle school-age girls into depression, according to a recent study at Stony Brook University. Past research indicates that girls are more likely than boys are to co-ruminate, repeatedly discussing difficulties with friends, speculating about causes and excessively dwelling on negative emotions. In the new study, psychologists confirmed that girls who co-ruminate more often than their peers have more depressive symptoms. They also found a new link with romantic experience: co-rumination was most likely to result in depressive symptoms among girls who were most active romantically.

Scientific American Mind; 2009, Vol. 20 Issue 4, p7

Close calls count

If GAME OVER happens very close to my high score, I just have to play again. Doesn't matter if it takes me ages to reach that level and it's past midnight. Addiction? Maybe. Sci Am Mind features a study that shows we are wired that way; fascinatingly, to keep us breaking our own ceiilings. I realise I choose subjects, projects and sports that have high potential for discovery and pushing limits. Now I know why.

To our brain, a near miss is as good as a win

Close but no cigar, the saying goes. But new research shows that when it comes to gambling, the human brain seems to take a very different approach. In our head, near misses, such as a lottery ticket just one number away from the jackpot, are interpreted as wins.

Using functional MRI, Luke Clark of the University of Cambridge and his colleagues looked at the brains of 15 volunteers who were playing a computerized slot machine. Unsurprisingly, wins activated the players' reward system, whereas complete misses did not. When the wheel stopped just one position from the pay line, however, the reward system of volunteers' brains got excited the same way it did after a win — there was much activity in the striatum and the insula, areas involved in reinforcing behavior with positive feedback.

This type of reinforcement makes sense in behaviors that involve actual skill, such as target shooting, because a sense of reward provides encouragement to keep practicing, Clark says. "A near miss in a game of chance doesn't mean that you are getting better," he notes, yet it seems that the brain mistakenly activates the same type of reinforcement learning system in these situations.

The findings expose the underpinnings of gambling addiction, according to Clark. Even though all volunteers were nongamblers, those whose brain showed a greater response in the scanner also reported feeling more desire to continue trying after near misses. Excessive recruitment of these reward areas, therefore, may be a risk factor for compulsive gambling, Clark says.

Scientific American Mind; 2009, Vol. 20 Issue 4, p6.

03 May 2009

Facing difficult circumstances

With the recent and current increase in difficult circumstances (aka shit) I have been facing, I realise I must evolve in my problem management for long-term survival and to preserve my home and sanity.

When the same experience keeps recurring, it's a signal to take steps to move beyond it. I need to grow. And sometimes growing means getting new eyes to see rather than moving on to new vistas (ala Marcel Proust). When problems come in an onslaught, too many to handle, I either become paralysed or regress to primitive coping strategies (ala Jean Piaget and Aaron Beck) - ie. moralistic, absolutistic, irreversible, non-dimensional, generalising, character-judging, invariant, and personalising thought patterns.

The weak thought patterns are especially that:

  1. I allow problems to accumulate without resolution

  2. I overestimate the difficulty of individual problems

  3. I take an all-or-nothing view of each problem

(The two anxiety-provoking and stress-inducing mechanisms are in predicted difficulty and impact/implications).

New strategies should include:

  1. Solving the problem immediately where possible

  2. Consciously estimate the difficulty on a scale of 1-10

  3. Consciously estimate the implications on a scale of 1-10

  4. In my mind,:
Anticipated Impact = Probability X Perceived Impact (AI = Pr X PeI)


Anticipated Difficulty = Probability x Perceived Difficulty (AD = Pr x PeD)

The strategies above aims to:

  1. Reduce the AD by adjusting the PeD

  2. Reduce the AI by adjusting the PeI

  3. Eliminate the AD and AI by approximating 0 in the Pr

Methods of reducing PeD and PeI is to tackle

  1. Labeling (’ridiculous, unbelievable, disastrous’)

  2. All-or-nothing thinking (’completely, impossible’)

  3. Magnification

  4. Also, after resolution of the problem, it will be good to learn about our estimation accuracies this way:

    Difficulty Estimation Factor = Anticipated Difficulty / Real Difficulty
    (DF = AD/RD)


    Impact Estimation Factor = Anticipated Impact / Real Impact

    (IF = AI/RI)

    By looking at our DF and IF, I gain insight on how badly I overestimate (or underestimate problems) and learn to adjust for more realistic projections.

19 April 2009

Ah Pak San 2

Somewhere between the two entrances, Saga and Awana lies the peaks - Saga and Cuepacs

My second trip up Ah Pak San. This time I defied my old bones and made it all the way.

I got up at 7am in spite of a late night fiddling with the 1TB WD My Book. I think my body was psyched to do it all of yesterday so I was on biological alarm clock mode. Since I was up and wide-eyed, I decided, WTH, let's go torture myself.

I didn't have breakfast. I didn't have coffee. I decided to go with nothing on my back but a towel and my car keys.

Station 6 is the Cuepacs peak or Ah Pak San

It was painful. But good. I made it to Station 6 in 45mins, which I understand is actually the peak of Ah Pak San. After mucking around for a few ticks, I continued on to Saga Hill Top.
To my delight, the trail between the two peaks is really a plateau. I walked some 20 minutes to the Saga peak which is little more than a shack. A few hammocks and swings are there to welcome the weary climber. I decided to swing a little on the hammock - oh what I would've given for a cup of coffee and nasi lemak then.

Note to myself: pack nasi lemak and coffee next time.

I descended slowly, smelling the flowers and admiring the mosses and fire ants rather than rush through like a horror flick with pontianak on my heels. Actually my feet were killing me.

18 April 2009

Chris Botti: Italia

Is it the Martin Committee Handcraft trumpet with a 3 silver plated mouthpiece from Bach? Or the Miles Davis inspiration? Or could it be the Larry McVey, David Baker and Bill Adam jazz school training? Whatever it is, they are all outbreathed through the lips of one Chris Botti to produce music like I've never heard before.

His notes are measured. His technique perfect. His style understated yet unmistakably one of a virtuoso. But most of all it's his soulful yet not morbid, true-to-genre yet original interpretation of a set of classics that make for a penetrating auditory experience in Italia.

This 2007 release rounds up some of the grandest music we know:
1. Deborah's Theme From "Once Upon A Time In America"
2. Italia
3. Venice
4. The Very Thought Of You
5. Gabriel's Oboe
6. I've Grown Accustomed To Her Face
7. Caruso
8. The Way You Look Tonight
9. It Never Entered My Mind
10. Ave Maria
11. Estate
12. Nessun Dorma

Most of it is orchestral and stately - Nessun Dorma, Deborah's theme, Ave Maria.
Venice, Caruso, The Way You Look Tonight balances the contemplative mix with some smooth chill.
The Very Thought of You made me ache inside, Italia (featuring Andrea Bocelli) made me grieve quietly, but the rendition of Gabriel's Oboe simply broke my dam and had me weeping uncontrollably 4 bars into the song. This has never happened to me before, I assure you.

One of the few productions I can call a musical experience and certainly something to put down everything to listen to. Over and over again.

05 April 2009

New Music This Week

Ever in search of the soundtrack of my life, I've turned into a music-download junkie. Thanks to the hyper-efficient cataloging of iTunes and my trusty Sony Ericsson Bluetooth Headset that can turn my day into an audio-enveloped cinematic experience. (I confess, I've sometimes piped music into my ears while doing surgery..)

I don't know why I got Celine Dion - for completion sake? Or just a tribute to the mother of divas?

David Cook comes highly recommended but haven't sampled it yet.

Everything Ingrid Michaelson and Jack Johnson is fantastic. Adequately deep and authentic. My kind of music.

Olivia Ong is Singaporean and saccharine sweet. I drink Diet Coke, so that's ok.

I hope Diana Krall won't be too commercialised to be of any value. The Top 100 Jazz looks promising too..

Soundtrack for my week to come is ready...

APS Maiden Voyage

A week of stress and distress could end fatally with me slumped in my armchair, remote in hand, and 'heart-healthy' chips in my mouth. But every now and then you hit a low that's low enough to catapult you into something a bit more positive.

This week I decided to try out APS. It could well be translated Acute Pain Service for its therapeutic value, but it's actually Ah Pak San: a hill that straddles Hulu Langat and Cheras on the east of Klang Valley. It was good to get off my flubbering butt, drive to the foot of the hill and with nothing but a waist pouch hit the slopes with fury.

It was good.

The trail is steep for short stretches with plateaus for catching your breath. The foliage is thick enough to render the city a distant memory. Cicadas croak and crickets chirp to provide jungle soundtrack. And the occasional stream and waft of morning breeze makes it very refreshing. Trekkers are friendly and the trek is surprisingly rubbish-free. None of the mineral water bottle or plastic bags so typical of Malaysian parks and trails.

I only made it to Station 6 for lack of time. But it was a good 1hr sweat with a few challenging slopes and a nice vestibular-rehabilitating tumble and trot down. When you reach the end of trail, there is a roar of water (courtesy of Indah Water) that makes me feel like I'm in Lata Tembakah or some deep-forest waterfall destination.

Definitely a must-go-again, and to the peak next time!

27 March 2009

The Descent Begins

Age is catching up.
There's no doubting it.
I'm approaching, if not already on, the asymptote of my life and it's a rapid downhill hereon.

I'm listening.

I'm listening to the creak in my bones.
I hear questions from familiar faces in the crowd.
I hear my own history read out.
I hear the 'new' music that's now a golden oldie.

All I did was drive up to Ipoh to speak at a medical conference. I'm exhausted like I climbed Kinabalu. I pulled a muscle carrying Ethan up a flight of stairs and my gluteus still feels like it's been ripped apart.

When I was delivering my talk I saw familiar faces. No, not my colleagues or old friends from med school. They were medical students of mine who, obviously, have completed their housemanship and are now full-fledged MOs. They are attending my talk, not as teeny-bopper undergrads, but mature medical officers. And they are asking me questions about their patients.

I heard my own CV being read out. I did all that? I asked myself while fiddling with the mike trying to look modest. Worse still, it all seemed so long, long, ago in another galaxy far, far away.

iTunes is playing Eric Clapton's 'PILGRIM'. Drowning in a RIVER OF TEARS. It still sounds new. The CD looks like it was bought yesterday. The groove is still real and echoes resound from depths I cannot plumb as Clapton's guitar wails with sorrow that has no words. It was the soundtrack of my housemanship 12 years ago. It still is.

I started the '10 Things I Would Like To Do Before I Die' viral tag on Facebook. A tiny step towards charting the second half perhaps? A bid to redeem the past and create a future? A second chance at it before the curtain closes? Live, learn, love, leave a legacy, Stephen Covey would say.  

Jung, Tolstoy, Shakespeare all had a renaissance of sorts at 37 and their best works produced thereafter. We begin to reclaim all that we sacrificed in the steep ascent of adulthood. We want to relive what we lost. I have come to the place I can not give a shit what others think, not care about pleasing any bosses, and earning a living isn't the all-consuming drive anymore. 

I can live as I believe.
I can live on purpose.
I can start my descent..

08 March 2009

New Music and iClip Lyrics

Am chilling this weekend by sampling new music. The stuff I downloaded this week amounts to 248 songs and 16.3 hours of listening!

Found an app to automatically locate lyrics and add them into the ID3 Tag for me on the fly. No more messy googling on the web. iClip Lyrics seems to be free for use, too. Just wonderful!

28 February 2009

Birth of the Macha Pan

I love green tea products. Green tea ice-cream, green tea cake, green tea syrup with red beans. But I'm not crazy about green tea. Don't know why.

Anyway, I was thinking to myself this morning: why isn't there a green tea bread? I looked it up on allrecipes.com and there was none. So, to satisfy my desire to see GREEN TEA BREAD, I decided to create my own confection. (I looked it up again and found a green-tea with red-bean filling bun on MamaFami's Spice & Splendor which looks really nice as well.

Here's what I used:
400gms bread flour
280mls water
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp milk powder
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp vanilla essence
2 tsp green tea powder
1.5 tsp yeast
50gm pumpkin seeds (whole, not chopped)
1 tsp black sesame seeds

Putting it all in the breadmaker with a setting for a 1.5lb dark loaf, this is the result after 3h 45mins:
A very light and refreshing chewing experience. Despite the pervasive green-ness of the bread, the macha aroma is more of an uplifting aftertaste than an overpowering trip to Osaka.
The occasional surprise of a crunchy-nutty pumpkin seed, and the grittiness of sesame made the bites interesting. Overall a nice mix of flavors, I must say. I'm glad I didn't use butter. Olive oil gave the bread the twang I wanted and didn't drag it down with a bovine heaviness.

Ethan was the first to sample it and for the first time he said, 'NICE BREAD!' There is no greater gratification than to have your two-year old pronounce that on your experimental baking.

So there it is, Macha Pan, my very first confectionary creation!

10 February 2009

Thinking Out Loud

Serendipitous insights 'happen' upon us uninvitied, unsummoned. Mostly as I'm driving or watching Ethan scamper in the playground. Learning is a dance of reception and reflection.

I'd do well to savor these moments; heed them, learn from them. Grow with them. These insights may be new growths like seedlings piercing through the soil, differentiations - sprouting branches, leaves and buds, expansions - lengthening and enlarging, integrations - merging or intertwining, blossoming of flowers or final fruits.

I can't manage growth (or learning) but I can manage FOR growth and what I do with the new seeds - plant them or eat them? I need to resist the urge to put them to immediate use. Some seeds should be buried in soil to see light in another day.

An insight is most likely neither original or new; the collective conscious of millions of years of billions of sentient beings would've reflected further and deeper than one. But I am entrusted with mine. Knowledge can create pride or engender responsibility. Inflate the short-sighted egoist or humble the truth-seeker.

In thinking and in feeling, I want to be aware of the conscious and subconscious as the subconscious often precedes and exceeds the conscious. But intuitive knowing while being wonderfully metacognitive (ie. beyond the cerebral-rational) can also be irrational. How do we maneuvre such treacherous waters? How do I differentiate nonsense from wisdom? I guess this is where I have opportunity for play. For passion and adventure without limit.

An educational explosion

I've been lamenting the deficiencies of my childhood education. Every time I sit down to play on my synthesiser, pick up a pen to write, or read about religion and philosophy, I become dismally aware of how ill-equipped to appreciate and expressing my passions in these areas.

So I literally gasped when I found these on iTunes! iTunes U has collated a mind-boggling archive of lectures and talks from top universities around the world, offering up their content for FREE. How amazing is that?

Just look at a few pickings I subscribed to today:

Imagine being able to get a university level education without having to quit my job and go back to university. This is what makes the Internet the greatest invention of the 20th century for me. It'll also be interesting to see how so much accessibility will transform the education experience.

If no one needs to GO to a university or PAY for an education anymore, what do you actually enrol in an institution for, apart from the scroll and hat at the end? Educationists are going to need to rethink and evolve what the education experience is when lectures have become a mere commodity on the internet.

For me - I'm going back to school! Hang on.. I think I never left school...

01 February 2009

Explain Whales to Me!

Got this in my email today (thanks, Eddy!) - and had a good laugh.
Especially the ace reply on 'Is swimming good for your figure?'

Q: I've heard that cardiovascular exercise can prolong life; is this
A: Your heart is only good for so many beats, and that's it... don't
waste it on exercise. Everything wears out eventually. Speeding up
your heart will not make you live longer; that's like saying you can
extend the life of your car by driving it faster. Want to live longer?
Take a nap.

Q:Should I cut down on meat and eat more fruits and vegetables?
A:You must grasp logistical efficiencies. What does a cow eat? Hay and
corn. And what are these? Vegetables. So a steak is nothing more than
an efficient mechanism of delivering vegetables to your system. Need
grain? Eat chicken. Beef is also a good source of field grass (green
leafy vegetable). And a pork chop can give you 100% of your
recommended daily allowance of vegetable products.

Q:Should I reduce my alcohol intake?
A:No, not at all. Wine is made from fruit. Brandy is distilled wine,
that means they take the water out of the fruity bit so you get even
more of the goodness that way. Beer is also made out of grain. Bottoms

Q:How can I calculate my body/fat ratio?
A:Well, if you have a body and you have fat, your ratio is one to one.
If you have two bodies, your ratio is two to one, etc.

Q:What are some of the advantages of participating in a regular
exercise program?
A:Can't think of a single one, sorry. My philosophy is: No Pain...Good!

Q:Aren't fried foods bad for you?
A:YOU'RE NOT LISTENING!!!..... Foods are fried these days in vegetable
oil. In fact, they're permeated in it. How could getting more
vegetables be bad for you?

Q:Will sit-ups help prevent me from getting a little soft around the
A:Definitely not! When you exercise a muscle, it gets bigger. You
should only be doing sit-ups if you want a bigger stomach.

Q:Is chocolate bad for me?
A:Are you crazy? HELLO Cocoa beans! Another vegetable!!! It's the best
feel-good food around!

Q:Is swimming good for your figure?
A:If swimming is good for your figure, explain whales to me.

Q:Is getting in-shape important for my lifestyle?
A:Hey! 'Round' is a shape!

25 January 2009

Macadventures: I graduated BOOT CAMP!

Windows starting up in Mac

The VM interface

Windows Explorer and Media Player as individual windows in Mac while in 'Unity' mode.

I did it! I graduated from BOOT CAMP.

Virutal Box didn't do it for me. Some old Windows Apps like TextAloud, MS Money, Band-in-a-Box and The IVP Essential Reference Collection are keeping me from a complete Windows-to-Mac migration so I needed some way of running Windows on my Mac. Virtual Box was the first thing I tried. It was magic enough in the beginning to see Windows as a 'window' running on the MacOS. But I soon discovered it was way too limited. It didn't access my soundcard, USB or Mac's HD so that I couldn't share files. Even the virtual networking method didn't work more than a couple of times.

That forced me to use Mac's BOOT CAMP. Boot Camp wowed me. It created a partition and and let me boot the machine from Windows or Mac independently with the stroke of a key (the Option key in this case). With MacDrive installed on the Windows system I could access the Mac HD from Windows, and the Windows HD appears in Mac OS so that cross-access is seamless. But the independent systems are what made it obtrusive. Having to shut down one and restart in another system just didn't cut it.

Enter... VMWare Fusion! Finally, something that does it all!
1. I can run Windows as one separate window in Mac
2. I can run multiple Windows' windows as many windows in Mac
3. I can access Mac's HD using Shared Folders
4. Soundcard, USB, Bluetooth, IR and iSight cam is seamlessly integrated

And.. best of all, VMWare happily 'took over' the Boot Camp Windows partition and made it its own. I didn't have to install Windows and all my apps all over again.

FINALLY. Boot Camp is history. Dual machine operability has arrived for me.

19 January 2009

Sign of things to come

It's an interesting start of year. No respite. Slam jam right onto the race track. 5,000rpms non-stop till the radiator boils over or engine gives up. The last one week was particularly adrenalinised.

12 days ago, mom and dad needed to rush to JB to see my sister so I sent them to the railway at a god-forsaken 630 in the morning. I was quite satisfied with myself to have had breakfast and bond with them. There's something about send-offs that make you dig deep and say things you normally don't say. Anyway, I left them at the station and heard the call to board when I turned the key in the ignition. I arrived at the hospital, hoping to have a breezy clinic, only to find out that a maxillectomy was suddenly on because another case was bumped off the list. Without adequate consent and without decisional review of new CT scan findings. The chaos of the morning was nerve-wracking: I had to tai-chi away my clinic, convince the patient I needed to take out his eye - don't worry sir, we do that all the time, you have another eye you hardly use right? - and revise the surgery to a bilateral neck.

That was followed by 10 hours of surgery. Strangely, holding a knife just makes the world seem right. Maybe it's the skill of working through human tissue to extricate filthy tumors and putting it all back together again. Or the sense of control in your hands - everything can be made better on the table, this table, my table. Mostly I think it's the butt-freezing air-cond, the cute scrub nurses who obey your every command, and because no one, I mean NO ONE, not even the Prime Minister can bug me here.

Cancer surgery is brave, bloody and butcheresque. Gladiator-like. That's how I like my surgeries. But it must start elegantly and end elegantly. From inked incisions to 3mm stitches. What happens in between would make an abbatoir look clean and sterile, but it's how you start and how you end that matters. I climbed Mt Kinabalu once. I remember three things - the charged ascent, full of hope and expecation; the agonising inches up the peak at 4 in the morning - who the f*** suggested I do this stupid thing - but the glory of the sun peeping through Donkey's ears and the world beneath your feet under a shroud of clouded mystery would make it worthwhile, and finally the numbed descent, limping into my bed with no sensation waist down. Long surgery is a lot like that. Raising flaps with a vengeance, get the plane, get the plane. Pausing to behold the life force in a pulsating naked carotid. And finally the zombied-brain-dead stitching that never seems to end.

The next day we were on a flight to Singapore. But not without first being denied boarding! This seems to happen to us a lot. The first time was when we were dating and I was sending her off to Kota Bharu. We were too busy saying goodbye and doing the things lovers do to notice that the gate had closed. She had to take the next flight. The second time was much later when she was pregnant with Ethan. Pregnant women were not allowed on board without a doctor's letter to say she's pregnant - I guess the giant bulge, puffy eyes and blown up ankles could've been just one bag of chips too many with salt-retention to boot - even if we were both doctors. This time: it was the expiry date on Joan's passport. It was too soon, apparently. Four months away was too close an expiry!

Yeah, like we were intending to stay in the sterilised pressure cooker for more than 3 days, I thought to myself. 'You really can't put us on board? We really didn't know about the 6-month rule.' No. You can't spit in Singapore. You can't chew gum in Singapore. You can't frigging cross a road without getting a knot in your pants wondering if you broke a law. We went to the zoo once. It's a beautiful zoo. And the animals were either small and cute or large and ferocious. And I'm not talking about furry ones that walk on fours - I'm talking about little tots in their prams and their attending mothers scribbling notes while giving their 4-yr olds their 'O' Levels mock exam: 'IS THIS ANIMAL A LAND ANIMAL OR SEA ANIMAL? I'M ASKING YOU ONE MORE TIME.. IS THIS A LAND ANIMAL OR SEA ANIMAL?' I'm not about to defect to Singapore, for goodness sakes, what's a 4-month expiry?

I was dumping clothes from one bag to another - Joan would stay, I would go on for my conference, eat alone, snore alone, wake up alone. I wasn't looking forward to the trip anymore. I had no one to blame, it was written in the passport, and that made me angrier. But before I could lock my suitcase, the ground staff appeared and announced we could fly togehter - apparently he had persuaded Singaporean customs to let this one through, dad didn't look too happy and could be a threat to lives on board, he must've thought, watching me rip apart my suitcase like King Kong.

Yesterday was Sunday. At last I got a day off. And I didn't know what to do with it. My heart was still racing. My mind reeling from a clinical trial meeting where I'm the PI - I don't know how the heck I got into this and feel like I'm totally in over my head. I was like a beat up car by the highway, bonnet open, steam all over the place - not going anywhere, just fumes, all fumes. It took a while before I could stop clicking senselessly on my Mac, burning CDs I'll never listen to, and clearing up my room just to mess it up again. When I finally fizzled out and realised I should be doing what I really WANT to do, not what I HAVE to do - more, better, faster - it was then that I picked up a book (Karen Armstrong's HISTORY OF GOD), lay down on an inflatable mattress. read a few pages, and fell asleep. I woke up once when my buttock hit the hard surface of the ground, and went back to sleep wondering if the mattress had ruptured a leak under my weight.. I should lose some, I remember telling myself before slipping into never never land.

Today I went to pick Ethan at 630pm. Dad and I ate at the table, as is customary, while mom would run around chasing Energiser bunny; playing hide-and-seek or watching Hokkien soaps, which was a favorite with Ethan. Dad and I had a longer father-son conversation, and a more philosophical one than the usual down-with-BN and curse-all-things UMNO rhetoric that goes between mouthfuls of mom's gastronomic delights. Mom has a strange ability to serve up the most delectable dishes quicker than any McDonald's with all the goodness of China. Mom's a gem. We talked about me switching over from EPF to the pension scheme - an unheard of move in 3rd generation Chinese I would think - and agreed on its insurance value, psychological worry-free benefit, recession-prrofness, and even a pretty good investment move (calculated ROI was about 47.5%! Ok 34.5% after minusing the government's 13% contribution to our EPF.) He seems to like it at my mom's a lot. When I finished chatting with dad, I found Ethan sprawled on a thin mattress, watching a cantonese soap. I tickled him and said: 'Boy, time to go home.' He grinned and said, 'Daddy bye bye.'

The last three weeks are a pretty good sign of things to come, of 2009 I'm thinking. The unending cycles of F1-style overdrive and weekend pit-stops, of adrenaline-overflow and adrenal burnout, of exhilarating achievements and brooding dark weekends. In between all that trying to learn what's important to me - the things that I enjoy, things that enrich, things that empower more self-determination, and things that enhance my skill and knowledge. And finally, growing. Growing old. Growing up with my son. Understanding his nature, seeing what his nature nurtures, nurturing what's in his nature, and simply having frolicking-about-the-park fun. Live, learn, love, leave some kind of legacy in my son, my patients, my students.

04 January 2009

Macadventures: Going MIDI

Again, in a few clicks I have got functionality I never could get on Windows.
Above you can see my Korg 01/W has been connected by MIDI to the Mac.

I can educate the Mac as to how the Korg is interfacing with the USB MIDI device (using Romio).

Finally, of course, I gotta try it on Garage Band. It's extremely easy to use and going to provide me hours of jamming.

03 January 2009

Macadventures: Podcast Party

I'm from the dark ages. Civilisation has just dawned on me.
I discovered podcasts, discovered that there are more podcasts out there than stray dogs in my neighbourhood, and that I never needed an iPod to use podcasts in the first place.
Yeah, laugh at me. Better late than never right? Not going to waste the rest of my AM (After Mac) years regretting what I lost in the BM (Before Mac).

My love affair with podcasts has gone for skylarking (mischievous spying from afar) to brazen orgy. Look at the mess of podcasts:

The Categories page doesn't help because they come with different tags (News, News/Political, Christian, Religious, etc.) and you can't edit them.

So what I'm doing is to use Smart Playlists to group them, live update them, and select for me the 25 latest in each category. Like so in Medical Science-

02 January 2009

Macadventures: ArCHMock?

Archmock is not the ultimate insult or the angel-boyfriend of Mindy. It's yet another Windows-to-Mac wannabe's reservation quasher.

I was recently endowed with a chunkload of Microsoft HTML Help books - the preferred format for many medical textbooks, also known as the CHM file, short for Compiled HTML . I'm not crazy about shutting down and restarting in Windows by Boot Camp or running it on Virtual Box if I can use it right here in Mac OS.

The answer to that? A free downloadble called ArCHMock which can be downloaded for a meager 310kb bandwidth usage.

A screenshot of the trusty OHCM on Archmock:

01 January 2009

Macadventures: Simple but wonderful Address Book

The first thing I needed to get working was iSync for my Sony Ericsson P1i. Now I love my PDA phone. It's the first gadget I've acquired in years which I could emphatically say enhances my life. I resisted the PDA-phone and QWERTY keyboard for ages. While I fossilised and the world moved on, my pockets bulged with machines and I was dropping them on the stairs shuffling from one to another (I didn't drop them on purpose you see..)

Finally, when my Tungsten T2 (my 4th PDA since 1997) went into irreversible brain death; I got an O2. It was year of misery, and most of that time spent resetting and waiting between apps. Finally I ditched it for the Sony. It was a big leap of faith, what with QWERTY keyboard with button-sharing alphabets (rock to left - Q, rock to right - W) and software-estranged Symbian OS! But it was wonderful leap, and I haven't looked back since. In fact, sprinting forward, I've gone 3G unlimited access, navigate with Google maps, facebook, do Excel sheets and listen to music with a Sony Bluetooth stereo headset that can control the phone. Not to mention I've hacked it and implanted the Sony's Walkman GUI into it! Well, you get the picture - if my Sony doesn't talk to my Mac.. I'm in trouble. It's like if my wife doesn't talk to my mother? Bad analogy.

Make things worse, the forums are filled with angry and frustrated SEP1i users. All cursing Sony or Mac or both for not looking into this compatibility issue. Well, to be fair,.. come on.. the world doesn't exactly revolve around us Sony-Mac users, ok? Give them a break.

Thankfully, my experience has been a good one. Did Mac follow up the issue or did Sony? I think both.

Firtsly, my Mac detected the P1i on bluetooth instantly and made it its preferred 3G modem in a few clicks.

Secondly, when I tried iSync, it recognised my phone but advised me on its incompatibility. No pretenses. No century-long sync attempts and system hangs.

Thirdly, it directed me to Sony! The Mac directed me to Sony's website, and straight to the page where the plug-in is situated. I downloaded that, ran the patch. And wah lahh.. iSync was syncing.

Now comes the best part. No, the best TWO parts.

1- The synchronising of 2500 contacts took less than 5 minutes. I kid you not.

2- Address Book on the Mac detected the duplicates accumulated over 10 years of mal-syncing between devices and fixed those! In a matter of seconds, my address book was cleaned up. Where the same person had several records - eg. one for email, one for mobile, etc. - these were merged!

What MS Outlook couldn't do (I understand that you have to BUY the patch to resolve duplicates) - the Mac did intuitively in seconds. No fuss.

My leap of faith from PC to Mac has proven to be the best computing decision I ever made. And I'm never looking back.

Macadventures: Using Boot Camp

I've been a fool to use Virtual Box to run WinXp as a virtual machine on my Mac all this time (the whole of 2 weeks.) At first it was full of promise. A minimisable window running Windows, one of many tasks running without every slowing, hanging or going into a coma (like XP does). But I soon ran into problems - the shared folder started to hang and I realised that I can't get USB, soundcard or camera access. (Now why would you need that you ask? I'm a sucker for functionality I guess, either I have it all or not at all.)

Then I stumble on 'Boot Camp' on my Applications folder and remember somewhere in my ask-Google-for-an-answer forays that Boot Camp was one of the ways Windows could be run. And I had it on my Mac OS X all this time?? Darned. I should've read the manual. (And I know I will say that again a few hundred times before I actually open the manual. I love rainforests. Manuals should not have been printed in the first place.) It took me about 5 attempts to get it right, but right now I'm on seventh heaven. The first time I partitioned the Windows drive at 5GB. What was I thinking? Then I partitioned it right but realised that I had no access to CDROM, USB, soundcard until I put in the Mac OS Installation CD, which, courtesy of Apple has all the drivers Windows needs... (Now I wonder why they are being so helpful to us Windows die-hards.) But the next thing I find out is that my copy of Windows has an outdated Win Installer which can't handle the Mac CD's installation files!! I try upgrading to Service Pack 3 which invariably hangs.

Finally, it dawned on me that the partition for Windows can be accessed as a drive on Mac OS. Which means I can easily download Windows Installer 4.5 and slip it into the Desktop folder of WinXP and restart the system. Wa lah!! Problem solved. Installed installed. Mac drivers installed. Sound card functioning. Camera functioning. Video display perfected. All that's just fantastic.. but dig this... DRUM ROLLLLL... With Boot Camp, the mouse is left-click and right-click enabled!! How the heck is that possible with no left and right buttons? Why did they manufacture a mouse with left and right click abilities, hidden-albeit, when the Mac doesn't even use it?? This is plain sinister or am I dreaming? And the keyboard is rewired so that Ctrl is Ctrl and Alt is Alt and the Cmd Key is the good old Windows button! Talk about full Windows functionality.

I have got it made. My PC is going to the grave. The next thing to do will be to install MacDrive so that the Windows system can access all of the Mac's files and vice versa. That way I have two partitions that cross-communicate freely, obviating duplication of data (think 14,750 photos and 80GB of MP3s and you'll get the picture.)

Ahh.. the pleasures of Mac. And the journey's just begun!