A Pain In The Neck


(The pain in the arms and finger numbness starts with the pain in the neck. Image source: Google / Slide Share)

Missed a couple of weeks of blogging, though…

Some weeks ago (or maybe a month), I woke up with a severe pain on my left arm (funny thing was I was unable to pinpoint the exact spot of the pain) and feeling numb on couple of my fingers. It is not the first time this has happened – all blamed on the way I end up sleeping. I had pain and numbness before but it usually goes away when I do some yoga like stretching my back and neck for couple of minutes.

However it was different this time around, it felt different. The pain was greater and longer and it persisted as I was driving and started work. Thinking that I had sprained my neck muscles, I went to see the doctor at workplace, told about the pain and got some medicines for muscles relaxation. But the pain persisted despite medication. The next day, a friend of mind suggested me to go and check on my heart, knowing how a pain in the left arm is usually an indication of heart problems.

It was too painful to continue work anyway and the last doctor that I visited had somehow have not arrived at the clinic. So I decided to take the day off and go and see another doctor nearer to home. She listened to me on the symptoms and immediately said that my pain had nothing to do with the heart (even so she did an ECG check just to make sure) and suggested me to take an X-Ray. She suspected that I had cervical spondylosis and gave me different medication to reduce the pain.

Fearing the worst, I googled the details out…

Spondylosis (from Ancient Greek σπόνδυλος spóndylos, “a vertebra”, in plural “vertebrae – the backbone”) is a broad term meaning degeneration of the spinal column from any cause. In the more narrow sense it refers to spinal osteoarthrosis, the age-related wear and tear of the spinal column, which is the most common cause of spondylosis. The degenerative process in osteoarthritis chiefly affects the vertebral bodies, the neural foramina and the facet joints (facet syndrome). If severe, it may cause pressure on nerve roots with subsequent sensory or motor disturbances, such as pain, paresthesia, and muscle weakness in the limbs.

When the space between two adjacent vertebrae narrows, compression of a nerve root emerging from the spinal cord may result in radiculopathy (sensory and motor disturbances, such as severe pain in the neck, shoulder, arm, back, or leg, accompanied by muscle weakness). Less commonly, direct pressure on the spinal cord (typically in the cervical spine) may result in myelopathy, characterized by global weakness, gait dysfunction, loss of balance, and loss of bowel or bladder control. The patient may experience shocks (paresthesia) in hands and legs because of nerve compression and lack of blood flow. If vertebrae of the neck are involved it is labelled cervical spondylosis. Lower back spondylosis is labeled lumbar spondylosis.

(Source)

Further googling from the internet on cervical spondylosis, I understood more on the situation that I was in and the type of recovery methods available. The problem is with the neck and thus I had to more neck exercise to make the bones to be back aligned.

I got the X-Ray done and the condition confirmed as cervical spondylosis and it was time to see a specialist. I guess it is part of the occupational hazard of looking at a laptop and smartphone that causes this condition. My doctor did mention that this did not happen overnight but it takes time and it is made worse with bad posture. Perhaps age is finally catching up with me.

I made an appointment with an orthopaedic surgeon and it was indeed a short appointment as the source of my pain was obvious. The specialist suggested MRI scan if the physio and medicine does not work but added that in most cases, the problem is treatable – 90% of the time. But I was so much in pain so I was rather eager to start off with my physio and medicine immediately so that I can see my pain coming down as early as possible. After seeing the orthopaedic surgeon downstairs, I was asked to go to the first floor where the physio centre was. Whilst waiting for my turn with chiropractor, I saw a small kid bouncing a basketball and the specialist was timing him and after a short stint, he was advised to how to bounce differently. I later understood that the kid’s left arm was weak and he needs to strengthen them. Damn, I hate to see bad things happen to small kids.

My turn came and I was expecting to do some exercises or bounce couple of balls around but I was proved to be wrong. The chiropractor asked me to lie down on the bed and attached a device to my neck which will stretch the neck bones. It is called cervical traction. I was started off with a 15 kg pull and moving forward the strength of the pull will increase accordingly. To be frank, the cervical traction treatment was indeed very relaxing and I ended up sleeping, only to be rudely awakened up by my wife who was standing close to me and knows me better. Good thing, the chiropractor had left us alone and pulled the curtains to attend to another patient whilst I undergoing the cervical traction which last about 20 minutes.

Once this is done, then there is another treatment to undergo which come closer to a massage than a proper treatment. That takes another 10 minutes but instead feeling less painful, the massage actually rather ticklish than soothing. I was actually laughing in pain. I suppose to undergo physio twice a week and for at least 12 sessions. But considering that I am only free during the weekends, I changed it to treatment once a week which means recovery may be a bit longer.

I spoke to someone else who had the same problem and it took almost 5 months for him to recover. If I use the same analogy, it is still early on my road to recovery. But for now, I still have the pain in the arms and numbness in my fingers and that drains me down quickly at work. It is as if someone had turned me into a long towel and whacked it against a large rock. Sometimes the pain becomes so unbearable that I can’t work and become restless. It has been very tiring at work and when driving for past few weeks now. Drinking a lot of water and some neck exercise helps to reduce the pain but not much sometimes. Holding a wet handkerchief in my left hand helps too.

4 months and counting, sigh.

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“Car Wash” Workouts


Read these first:-

(This is one of the more scary car wash made for an advertisement. But the true horror is seeing your loved vehicles being man-handled at the car wash centers and being blasted with cheap detergents & shampoos that can rust the car body and wash half done properly and you still need to pay for it. This was one thing that we decided not to do when and if we decided to open our own car wash center)

The dreaded GST came into effect from 1 April 2015 and one have to admit that while it has saved the Government’s hide for more than one occasions (especially when the price of oil went down), it however had brought a cascading impact on the country’s economy. The consumer have ended paying more for basic goods and services – in some cases, with an unnecessary spike in price even by those small traders who now have to pass on GST charges in their prices because the bigger traders have done the same. Guess who gets whacked left, right and center in the end?

On the positive side of the GST is that we have been forced to relook into the items we buy or consume on monthly basis and start to eliminate luxury items away. We end up scrutinizing our needs and then buying things that we really need for daily consumption and opt for more home cooked food than going for expensive menus at some fancy restaurants (and sadly that included our favourite Sushi restaurant). And soon, this list included McDonalds, Pizza Hut and Kenny Rogers. Nowadays our go-to-place is our local mamak restaurant.

2015 was a bad year and eventhough things started to “stabilise” in 2016, it was not a good year as well.

One day in 2015, I got a call from my cousin who was retrenched when his company decided to downsize the staff. Despite his good experience and skills, he was not retained and it was a bad timing indeed as his wife was also retrenched from her company almost the same time (but later found a position opened in the same organisation). My cousin after considering whether to go back to his 9 to 5 routine with another company decided instead to go into business with his friend. Together they opened a car wash center near to a car workshop. Business was slow on the weekends especially because the center was not next to the main road (where there are other car wash centers) and as most office in the vicinity were closed. I would occasionally bring my car to his car wash as well – I know he would do a good job and at the same time, I was able to support his business as well.

My cousin however was always on the lookout for a better place for the car wash – one that fronts the main road where it is easily seen by potential customers. And one day he called me saying that he got the right spot – when I visited him, it was good place indeed although he was not alone to provide car washing services in the area, there was another 2 – 3 car wash centers in the vicinity. First day at his place, I asked him to polish my car – it was cheaper than other places I often go and having my own cousin doing the polish works alone is a good reason to have the polish done here and not elsewhere. But then I saw his problem – he was doing the work all alone (another cousin joins in occasionally). Then when he was free, we had a chat – one thing I noticed he looked healthier (a bit darker but healthier). He slimmed down a lot as well (compared to the time when he was working in an air-conditioned, cozy office). And because he was his own boss, he looked less stressful as well – he had time to kill this time around.

Considering that he could use extra help especially on the weekends and since I don’t have much to do on the weekends (other than eat, sleep and watch TV), I decided to join-in to help him – I had always wanted to help him for all the things he had done when I first started to date my wife (back then he had already married, so although I am elder than him, in a way he was a “senior” than me when it comes to relationships, ha ha). I did not much money to spare for his business (good thing, he had other “investors” coming in) but I had the time and myself to help him. After discussing with him and getting his green light from my HEO, I came over on fine Saturday morning, wearing an old T-shirt and my short pants. No pay for the work done, which was ok for me as money was not the reason I joined him.

I have washed my own car many times before this but I found out that it is a whole different ball game when it comes to washing someone’s else car. Firstly some of the cars that comes in is clearly not driven by humans. Yes, I repeat it – not humans. Vomits, chips, spilled milk, dog furs, mud, black oil and dusts is just a small part of things that you will discover in some of the cars (especially, sorry to say, women drivers). It is amazing that there are humans out there who are willing to be driving on daily basis in a car covered with those things. Secondly some of the drivers who came in for the car wash are simply too impatient before we get the car all done. I noticed this mainly from the lady drivers, the male drivers on the other hand, don’t mind the extra time taken to clean their cars. Sometimes it is the other way around – too many cars lined up and very less time to get the car washed up and me and my cousin get too impatient to clear them.

At first, I follow the so-called “routine” – often looking for queues from my cousin and often limit myself to wiping down the car after it has gone through the snow wash. Then slowly I moved on to interior cleaning, vacuuming, tire polish and later on to shampooing the car (we did not use the cheap detergent but a proper car shampoo). And we embarked on improving the quality of service, gradually – one that immediately sets us apart from our competitors. We decided to wash the cars in the same manner we wash our own car or rather how we want car wash centers to wash our cars. Yes, it takes longer to complete the washing but in the end, the effort taken is much appreciated by our customers – the car is a lot more cleaner and we included a small effort of detailing of the interiors.

Which car wash centers dusts off the dusts on your dashboard. the dial meters and the finger prints on the mirrors and the old stain under the car plate number? Yes, we do all that. In fact, if we have time, we actually wipe and clean each strand of the tire rims to make it clean and shiny. Detailing is part of our services for no extra cost. And once we have done all the washing and wiping and before we hand over the keys back to our customers, there is one final round of quality check. And our customers loves that and so much that we often see them bring their cars, their wife’s car on weekly basis and telling their friends & family members to visit us as well. We got a lot of referrals and that pushed us to ensure quality is always maintained eventhough we have cars waiting to be washed. No rushed work as far as we are concerned. Surprisingly people wait for us – once a customer waited for 2 hours for my cousin to open shop. This is excluding those who are coming in for wax & polish (which took at least half a day to be done but we still had customers) and some to clean their headlights.

There were other developments as well – I started to meet my daily active minutes, consistently meeting it on the weekends when I am “working” at the car wash. And if there are enough cars to wash, I can easily clock in the minimum 10,000 steps. I sweat a lot so much so I started to drink gallons of water – sometimes within minutes my large 1.5 liter water bottle would be empty and I have to replenish on a regular basis. Interestingly drinking a lot of water when I am at “work” did not mean frequent visit to the toilet and in fact, all the days I was at the car wash, I did not once went to the toilet, no matter how much water I had been drinking the whole day. I gather most of the water that I drank is dispensed when I sweat a lot. It was a good workout from morning until late evening and by the time I come back home with a very soaked T-shirt, I would be energy drained – just enough to take a light dinner (sometimes a burger near the car wash) and knock off for a good night sleep. Yes, I started to lose weight and feel healthier as well.

Business was good except when it rains – there were days when we hardly had any cars due to the heavy rain. We will sit at the sofa, waiting for customers to come in once the rain had stopped but never once there have been a dull moment at the car wash except maybe when the cats from the nearby workshop decided to mess up the place (you know I hate cats right?). No dull moments because me and my cousin share the same passion for old Tamil songs especially one from MSV and Illayaraja – we will fire up our smartphones and sit down to listen to the songs whilst waiting for the rain to stop. On other days, we will recall back our childhood and incidents such as the meet up at our Grandma’s house for Deepavali. There were plenty of funny & interesting stories, some unknown to me from that “era” and we would end up laughing on that events. Usually after the rain had stopped, we will see cars now muddied coming over for a good wash.

My stint at my cousin’s car wash was however a short one – just several months short. My cousin soon found that despite good business and a string of loyal customers (ha, I even had one, coming in on the weekends for detailing), it was not enough to continue. He had other issues well to resolve – one had been manpower. It is hard to expand with just one person handling the whole thing. So ended my weekly workout at the car wash – I was kind of sad to leave that active & fun environment but my wife was relieved to see me at home on the weekends. My cousin had moved on as well – he got busy with other work but both of us agreed that if we have the chance and opportunity, we would open a proper car wash center but maintain the same level of commitment and quality. Car wash center is one kind of gym that gives you work and works you at the same time.

Damn, I Hate Cats!


WARNING: Cat lovers, walk away right now…you may not like this post

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(Cats are evil indeed. Image source: http://www.debate.org)

One of the joy of moving a new house many years ago was the chance to do up a garden.

It was a joy because we used to stay in apartments which does not enough space for a garden (I mean a proper garden where we can dig in and plant things). So when I had the chance to buy a house of my own, I had great ideas on what I wanted to do with my garden, starting with beautiful carpet grass. And when my dad retired and looking for a hobby to spend his time at home, he took up gardening. And he was good at it too – a mango tree at the front, several types of flowering plants and he would spend hours running through the carpet grass to look for weeds. At one point, carpet grass was clean and trimmed and was wonderful to walk on.

And then evil descended at my neighborhood…

I am not sure how they came – maybe an UFO dropped them off in the middle of the night or perhaps the ground opened up and they came out from the hell underground. Soon one fine morning, there were 4-5 cats at our neighborhood. At first, they kept themselves close to other houses and don’t wonder around. Soon they started their nuisance – at first by sleeping on the middle of the road. I lost count of the times cars had to slow down or slam their brakes to avoid those cats. And one day, when I opened the front door, I saw one of the cats sleeping under my car in the porch. I shoo-ed it away but it did not go off immediately. It stood up and gave me the stare. You know about the “stare” right? The stare that seems to be showing me the middle fingers and telling me to f-off and leave the Lord of the Land alone. The stare that implies that humans were born just to serve the cats. When I was pretending to kick the cat so that it will move, the Satan stood it’s ground and only left rather casually.

My experience with cats in the past has not been a pleasant one. When I was small, we only had fish and even dogs as pets but never cats. My old neighbor had a cat but the whole house smelled funny and the whole family (my neighbor) seemed to exist just to serve the cat. The cat goes and comes whenever it want and there was nothing that the neighbor could do about it. Then we rarely had any encounter with cats when we moved to apartments (we don’t have any encounter with rats too).

Many many years after that, we were at the shopping mall and my wife and my son wanted to have fried chicken for lunch and we headed towards the nearest KFC. We sat down and was just about tuck-in our meal when I saw an ugly, sick looking cat inside the restaurant, walking around diners’ tables looking for scraps. I was very angry of the fact that the KFC staff allowed a stray cat in and worse, did not do anything of clearing the cat from the premise. It went to the table where another family was having their meal and the stray cat started to get into their nerves and one of the guy gave a good kick and the cat went flying. Someone from another table commented that the cat was “innocent” and does not deserve such punishment. Another retorted that there should not be any stray animals in the premise in the first place and threaten to report the premise to the authorities. That “woke up” KFC staff and soon one of the staff came over and grab that cat and took it out (I hoped that he washed his hands before handling the food after that).

This is one key reason why we try to avoid some of the Malay restaurants that has great dishes but marred by presence of cats – no wrong assumptions here – we have experienced more than once. Some years ago, as my friend was having her meal, a stray cat (which was a resident in the restaurant) came over, jumped on the table and try to steal the fish from my friend’s plate!! And when we complained, the only response from the restaurant owner was “kesian kucing itu, mungkin dia dah lapar” (pity the cat, guess it is hungry now). Mind you that cats can be very persistent when they need you throw down a good portion of the fish from your plate and to them on the floor. We were surprised with the response from the restaurant owner – he did not see the problem of his cats stealing food from his customers. Needless to say, we walked out and boycotted the restaurant ever since. So these days, one of the first thing we check when we walk into a restaurant is to see if there are any cats around.

Anyway back to my garden and the Satan at the neighborhood. One day, I noticed something on my fine, beautiful carpet grass – cat’s poop!!

Damn, the culprit was nowhere to be seen but I had a good idea “who” it was. I would have skinned the cat alive if it has remained there. The poop attracted flies and it was messy & smelly too. We quickly put some sand over the poop to stop the smell and the flies. Later my wife scooped it (sorry dear) and threw it away. Thinking that it is a one-off incident, we let our guards down but it happened again and at the same spot too. This time, the Satan was seen leaving just moment before we could get close to it. It stopped for a moment and looked at me for a moment before leaving. Ya, it gave me the stare as well. My hatred to cats multiplied many times over immediately because we have small kids at home and I know how dangerous cat’s poop can be.

Cat poop could give you a fatal disease

Remember that T. gondii parasite? Normally, it doesn’t do anything to harm those humans whose brains it calls home (well, except make you love cats) because your immune system knows how to handle it. However, for those people whose immune systems can’t handle it, exposure to the parasite can cause a disease called toxoplasmosis. It can either give you mild flu-like symptoms, mental disorders like schizophrenia and depression, or kill you.

Feline feces are true safe havens for T. gondii, so you can contract toxoplasmosis by cleaning up your cat’s sh*t.

(Source)

Further analysis shows:-

People usually contract T. gondii in two ways — by eating the undercooked flesh of infected animals or through contact with cat feces.

The parasite causes a disease called toxoplasmosis. Most people experience mild flu-like symptoms before it goes into a chronic and dormant phase. But the disease can be fatal in people with weakened immune systems and in fetuses, which can be infected through the mother. This is why women are advised to avoid contact with cat litter boxes while pregnant.

Some studies have shown that mental health disorders such as schizophrenia, depression and anxiety are more common in people with toxoplasmosis, while others have suggested that the disease can influence a person’s levels of aggression, extroversion and risk-taking, the researchers from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden pointed out.

(Source)

We had to stop the cats from entering the house compound but no matter what we do to block their entrance, they always able to come back and mess up the whole place and leaving silently. And when I back from work and find them lying on the lazily and does not move even after my car is very near to them and after I had honked them, running them over with my car did cross my mind. Just think about it – my tires crossing over the cat’s soft stomach and causing the guts to burst open and the Satan ends being a nuisance. A very simple solution, right? However at the last moment before my tires connects with the soft stomach of the cat, I always change my mind and slams the brake and avoid the cats all together. The Satan lives another day to mess up the garden. Ya, damn me.

Perhaps I am being too soft with the Satan. The time had come for me to be a hard cold killer. The time had come to take extreme measures which also included violence (lots of violence if possible). We started off with sharp spikes that we hope that “once bitten, twice shy”, the cats will remind themselves not to enter the war zone unless they want to commit hara-kiri. The sharp pikes – anyway it is not real spikes but rather plastic spikes – I got a few of them from those Japanese themed supermarkets that sells items to stop cats & birds from messing up home gardens. We laid them around the grass randomly, hoping that the Satanic cats will step on them, rather painfully and will remember not to return back to the same place. We were so wrong!!

Couple of days later, there was a load of fresh cat’s poop on the small space of grass that was NOT covered by the plastic spikes. Somehow the Satan have found a loophole or rather, a way around the minefield. I can imagine that it must have taken them several missions to find the way through or maybe they just saw the easy way through from Day 1. Time to reconsider the strategy to stop the Satan from messing up the garden but since it will take time to do the research, we decided to just cover up the place with large wood boards temporarily whilst we look for permanent and feasible solution (laying metal spikes and animal traps that will maim the cats for live did cross my mind)

However laying wood boards, in a way stopped the Satan from visiting the favorite pooping spot. But that also meant we lose the garden and the nice carpet grass that we have painfully cared, forever. I was sad and angry at the same time. Sad for the grass, angry on the cats. Considering that these cats at the neighborhood could be stray cats (means it does not belong to anyone), I decided on another step as well – lodging a complaint with the local council to catch these stray cats. I even posted the photos of the Satan roaming at the neighborhood. They came and search for cats (not sure if they tried hard enough) but they replied that they did not find any cats and went off. It was surprise because those cats was indeed went missing for a few days before making their appearances back to be a nuisance.

Then we learned another trick from another neighbor who also had problems with the cats and basically wiped out her garden full of flowers and vegetables, not to mention leaving a loadful of poops. Short of basically coming out with samurai swords to basically skin the cats alive, she discovered another thing that cats hate and cause them to stay away – black garbage bags. The only downside of using garbage bags is that when it rains, it tends to collect rainwater – a potential breeding place for mosquitoes. We rearranged the wood boards, covered some areas with the spikes and other places with garbage bag (we keep a close eye on the pools of rainwater after it is rains “cats” and dogs).

It has been several weeks since the Satan last made the visit to my house and there is no more of cat poops to handle. The garden – the beautiful garden with it’s nice carpet grass is gone. Now my garden looks more like a construction area and that looks ugly too. My dad suggested we replace the grass with pebbles and transform the garden into a Zen garden instead. I still see the cats around and in front of my house, often staring at me with a strange, angry look. I sometimes catch them gathering in front of the house (no poops though) and I would immediately shoo them away – most will run away except one or two cats who won’t budge an inch. Instead they would just stare at me and seems to tell me to “f-off”. But because I don’t have them pooping in my garden (or whatever that is left of the garden), there is some peace in the world for now. But that does not means I hate less the cats now – my hate remains unchanged – they have destroyed my garden, I am not going to forgive them for that.

The battle won, the war is still on-going…

Aaaacccchooo!


Trip

(A shot from my latest trip overseas – it was not so late and we just had a good dinner and we were on a tram, going back to our apartment. It has been an interesting trip and probably with the best first impression thus far this year. More of it later once I have recovered and put the details on writing)

I don’t know why that it seems to happen every time I step out from the country. It could be the weather (yes blame it on the effect from global warming) or the food or my immune system in a very bad shape, I don’t know.

I just came back from another trip with a very stuffy nose – yes, I am breathing through my mouth now. I am going off for a few days for rest, far away from my projects and work (I will try to, anyway) and have plenty of bed rest, vitamin C and chicken soup to recover faster. I guess age is finally catching up on me and I need to slow down a bit. I need to accept that I no longer have the same endurance that I used to have 10-15 years ago and with my daughter in the picture, I need to take things slow and steady especially when I have another few trips overseas lined up until the end of this year.

Seriously 2014 has not been a good year for blogging (it has not been a good year for the aviation industry too) – I hardly be able to come up with a post at least once a week. Nowadays 2-3 weeks gap has been a norm. There is no lack of ideas or contents to write, I am pretty sure of it. But what is missing is the time to sit down and write type all these down and press the button to publish it.

There have been too many things happening in this world that in one way or another have moved us to think harder, be more compassionate to others and open our bloody mouth and act on it. The 2 MH tragedies, the slaughter that is happening in Gaza, Syria and Iraq and the various incidents that could easily trigger another World War 3.

Back home, things are not so rosy either. We have now PKR buggers battling each other for the post of MB of Selangor (what’s wrong with these people!), the water reserves drying up and this could mean another spell of water rations and Malaysia nowhere close to kicking out the religion and racial extremists from our society. These guys are having a field day with our PM still missing from the scene and remains silent. We are continuing to walk backwards whilst others have moved on past us.

And I am easily distracted too these days. Could this been the signs for me to finally stop blogging and move on? I have been blogging for more than 9 years now and the 1,590 posts I did is probably nothing to shout about but it has helped me in different ways. My writing skills have improved tremendously and I have forced to read and analyze on a lot of things for my blog posts and thus improved my grasps on many things others would have dismissed as trivial. I don’t know. Perhaps I could think better once I could breathe through my nose again.

Have a good weekend!

Stepping into 2014…


plane

(New jet for PM? Is this part of the cost cutting measures that Najib announced recently? It sure dwarfs the Penang CM’s purchase of a 2012 Mercedes Benz for his official car. Image source: Malaysiakini)

Just a short (unstructured) one, I am still recovering from “last year”…

Well, I must say that it was depressing stepping into 2014 and I’m not even referring to the recent raids on Bible Society of Malaysia and the planned protest against the church. Ha ha, with the overgrowing protest against the Government on the recent price hikes, would this be “the issue” to divert the more pressing issues? Having said that, I for one could not understand why the Catholic Church would be stiff in insisting to use the word “Allah” in its publications and create unnecessary attention, tension and ahem, opportunity. Are they using the same formula used to justify the toll hike? Yes I understand that it has been used in the past and people in East Malaysia are more familiar with the term but still, can’t they do this rather quietly without the same word and undue publicity?

No, it was depressing because I spent the last few days of 2013 in bed, down with high fever, a very bad cough and a running nose. My daughter had the same problem and she was cranky enough to drive us up the wall. She was in fact was on hyper drive and she simply refused to take her medicines which made the recovery even slower. My son however was spared from the same fate (thank God!) and was somehow cheerful looking forward to the start of school (oh, by the way, school bus fare went up another RM5 – an increase which I guess was cushioned by the fact that the school is quite near to the house. Pity those who are staying further from the school and have more than 1 school going kid).

It was also depressing to learn Michael Schumacher is in coma – the retired seven-time F1 world champion slammed his head against a rock on Sunday while skiing in the French Alps. Damn, that is downright bad luck, don’t you think? Of all the years behind a fast F1 car, he had to be seriously injured on skis. This reminded me of someone who smoked cigarettes and drank alcohol rather heavily and was certain that he would die from cancer or a burned out liver (pick one he always say), only to have slipped in the bathroom one fine morning and died from head injuries. Shit do happen. Let’s just hope that Schumacher will display his trademark fighting skills and recover from this one as how he has done many times during racing.

Next was the news on Illayaraaja – although the maestro was pushing his luck, somehow I knew that he could not make it in time for his concert in Malaysia. The man had a mild heart attack and was still recovering from the attack. It would have been too stressful for him to have pushed himself (and ignored his doctors) to be at the concert. But still it would have been something if he had led the concert himself.

Let’s see if there are anymore depressing matters before I sign off for this week?

Oh yes, despite waiting for the Android upgrade for my SP before the end of year, Sony had announced that it is still working on it and promised that the update would be out soon. Damn indeed but at least that is better than nothing and I still have plenty of games to keep company when I was down with fever, cough and flu.

Time to re-look into my monthly budget and see if I can do some “magic” with all that price hike looming in the coming months….

Airplane Headache


Just a quick one this week…

(Things you do not want to see or worse, do when you are in a plane – trust me, you never know what will happen next. Having a terrible headache just when you are about to land for the first time is something else)

I was away on a short trip overseas for a meeting. Except for the idiot who keep bumping his trolley into me at the check-in counter, the flight itself was uneventful. The service from MAS was excellent as usual and the in-flight meal was good too but all that changed when I landed and walked to get my luggage.

First thing I noticed was part of the bag was damaged but it was not the end of it. Part of the bag was covered with some kind of oil. But since I had to rush for my meeting, I decided not to spend time claiming for the damage or arguing with the airport staff on the oil stain on the bag. I admit that it was my mistake, I should have packed my clothes into a smaller hand carry bag that I could have brought in the cabin instead of checking in a bigger bag. After all, it was a short trip but sometimes as you know me, I like to do things the other way around. I gathered later that the oil could have come from another passengers’ bag – it smells like some kind of medicated oil instead of aircraft lubricating oil (which is a good thing, now I think about it). I guessed some idiot had not packed it well and the bottle must have broken when their luggage was thrown into the plane. Thinking that the oil “damage” only limited to the outer rim of the bag, I decided forget about it and focus on the work at hand. Hours before I need to show my face at the meeting, I had checked in at the hotel and taken a quick shower.

I then opened my bag and got a shock of my life – the oil that was so evident on the outside of the bag had “leaked” into inside and had ruined my clothes (which I suppose to wear for the formal meeting). I regret not checking on this at the airport and make my case with the staff but there was no time to waste now. I had no choice – I noticed my company T-shirt had escaped the damage and was still good to wear. I wore back my jeans and headed to the meeting. At the meeting, so as not to rise any eye-brows (which I know will happen since the rest was wearing formal), I apologized upfront for my inappropriate attire and explained what happened. The meeting went rather well and my “out of place” wardrobe did not make any issues.

After I came back from the meeting, I checked on the damage – it was not that bad. I managed to clean up the oil from the bag but the stain on the clothes had to wait until I go back and sent it for washing. It was an early flight the next morning, so I hardly sleep that night – I do not want to oversleep and rush to the airport the next day. Thankfully I did not wake up late the next morning and took my time to shower, pack up and head to the front office to check out and wait for my shuttle to the airport.

I was flying back on a “budget” – purely because it was the first flight out in the morning. Budget also means I need to be ready with my cash for the in flight meal and there is no in-flight entertainment. I just hoped that the plane would be on-time and without any other problems. There was quite number of foreigners on the flight back home – so most of them passed on the in-flight meals (perhaps it was still too early in the morning). So I had a plenty of choice to pick when the flight attendant come over to ask me on the meals. The last time I flew on budget, the popular meals were all sold out and I had to settle to one of the less favorite choice on the menu and it was not that good. Having nothing else to do, I was asleep for rest of the journey though.

A sense of a sudden drop woke me up. I then realized that the plane had descended and the pilot had just announced that we will landing soon. Then it started. A sharp pain near my eye lids and side of my head and it only increased as the plane neared the airport. I was not wrong to imagine that something was moving in my head – you would have thought the same. I actually thought there was something alien in my head, moving to and fro, drilling and probing into my brain. I looked around and noticed that all looked normal with other passengers – no one was holding their head in sharp pain. I did not want to cause any unnecessary panic (like the one in the top video), so I just held on, hoping that the pain would go away once we have come to lower altitude. I somehow knew what was causing the pain and I kept trying to open my mouth to equalize the pressure in & out but after many years of flying (some spanning of flying 10 – 18 hours of flight per trip) and did not having the same thing, I was a bit concerned. Why now? Is age finally catching up with me?

Thankfully my head did not explode, although the pain remained even after I had reached home and taken a hot shower. A couple of painkillers and a good afternoon nap did the trick. I probably need to be more prepared next time I fly – last thing I need is to be the next “star” in YouTube.

Smoke Gets In My Eyes, Again!


Read these first

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(The hotspots in Indonesia is a yearly affair and it some how had become “tolerable” when by right it should not be the case. The above when Singapore faced the worst from the slash & burn activities in Indonesia. Image source: http://marufish.com)

At the beginning of last week, this was reported on the state of haze in Malaysia:-

Malaysian authorities declared a state of emergency Sunday in a southern district where a smoky haze blamed on Indonesian forest fires has triggered one of the country’s worst pollution levels in years.

The worst of the smog has shifted from Singapore to southernmost Malaysia, where noxious fumes have drifted across the sea this past week from Indonesia’s Sumatra island. The Malaysian government’s index for air pollution reached a measurement of 746 early Sunday in the southern district of Muar. It was far above the threshold of 300 for hazardous air quality.

Authorities were issuing instructions for Muar’s residents to remain indoors and for schools to close, Environment Minister G. Palanivel said in a statement on his Facebook page. The district has about 250,000 people, several of whom posted photographs on Twitter showing bridges and buildings enveloped in smog that slashed visibility to barely hundreds of meters (feet).

(Source)

And since then, some schools in the Klang Valley were closed for a couple of days (my son certainly was not complaining though) with all of us breathing in and out some of the very unhealthy air todate – some spiked more than 400 on the API reading. But thanks to (man made? or perhaps God taking pity on some of us) heavy rain last week and recent days, API readings have gone down to less dangerous levels and things seemed to have come down to a more normal levels (although last Sunday the haze was back). But hopefully despite the clear skies, we will not be forgetting the culprits who caused some of the worse air pollution over some states in Malaysia last week or keeping our silence on preventing similar occurrence in the coming years.

For start, the Indonesian Government have (once again) blamed (and listed) the “Malaysian” firms involved in the opening burning in Sumatra and on paper, the Malaysian Government have asked for proof and urged prosecution against the wrongdoers but it is a big question on whether the Indonesians would be willing to do that. We are talking big players here and a very aggressive prosecution on something that could be tough to prove (as to who started the fire) could back-fire big time – big players may pull out and huge investments may drop. Think about it – if they could prosecute the culprits, they would have done so a long time ago and that would have been the end of the yearly man-made deadly haze, right?

Interestingly whilst this is still being debated between the Governments, the Malaysian firms having plantation interests in Indonesia have come out emphasizing on their zero burn policy and flatly denied that they were the culprits behind the massive haze over Malaysia & Singapore – they are putting the blame on the locals who determined to do it the easy way. That sounds reasonable but is it?

The standard response has been to blame local communities and smallholders in Sumatra for the clear-cutting and slash-and-burn tactics. It is easy to blame the small guys/local farmers/local communities, etc when they are unable to respond in the media.

Yet, an overlay map of Sumatra shows that there is a close correlation between the hotspots (where the burning is taking place) and the concession areas for oil palm plantations and timber.

So, the large companies then engage some of these local communities to clear the land for them – sort of like outsourcing the land-clearing. And then these local communities do it in the easiest or cheapest way possible. Moreover, the local people often do not have the expertise for replanting, which the large companies possess. But because it is the local communities doing the clearing, the large companies are able to wash their hands and pass the buck to the local communities.

(Source)

And it gets worse if these allegations are true:-

The whole world knows, and has for years, that the haze is not just the product of ‘burning-off’ by a ragtag bunch of small farmers, but wholesale illegal clearance of what’s left of Sumatra’s peat forests by the managements of massive palm-oil plantations.

And that many of these environmental vandals are so-called government-linked corporations which the respective ruling regimes involved are coy about naming because they and their cronies are the principal beneficiaries.

(Source)

In the end, it goes back to the issue of enforcement and the deploying the best method for clearing the land for plantation.

The issue is serious (at least for me) when you have small kids and old people at home and they start to have breathing difficulties and there is nothing much we could do about it. Mind you, 2 people died from all the haze in Malaysia, courtesy of the idiots in Indonesia taking short cuts to clear the land. One of their Ministers even had the cheek to say that the Singaporeans are acting childish on this (some politicians will remain a moron to the core no matter which country they are from). Perhaps some of you may not have small kids and old people to take care of but then what about your own health concerns in the long run? How long you think you can survive wearing mask when you go out? Don’t you get frustrated, angry and sick at the same? What about the negative impact to the country’s economy especially in the tourism sector – how many tourists you think will be willing to take a long stroll outside if the haze is thick and sickening?  In the end, will the slash & burn buggers compensate for these losses – both the economic and personal losses?

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(If there is fire and it cannot be done with simple tools, it is time to look at a more powerful one. One such tool would be the fire-fighting aircraft like the one made by Russia above – it is more effective once coupled with the traditional fire-fighting techniques on the ground. Image source: http://02varvara.wordpress.com)

The “problem” with the problem is that everyone knows what need to be done. The mysterious part would be on the Governments with all its might, expertise and will-power seems to be powerless when this happens on a yearly basis and one need to ask why the might of the law and almost unlimited resources of the Government have not been used to the fullest scale? Sucking up to the slash & burn offenders does has its limits. Instead of being reactive to the problem, why not be proactive instead? After all, trans boundary air pollution is not something one can hide under the blue carpet.

Enforcement aspect aside (it is all talk and no action here for donkey odd years), let’s start with a beef-up the fire services with a specialize team on the forest & peat fires with superior technology (like early warning systems), tools (such fire-fighting planes) and man-power all paid in advance on a yearly basis from a centralised fund (all donated graciously from all plantation owners)? Why not use the satellite imaginary system to pin-point the start of the peat and use the information to coordinate fire-fighting and enforcement on a more aggressive manner? It can be done if this need to be done.

But before that, the Indonesia Government should start with ratifying the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution is an environmental agreement established in 2002 between all ASEAN nations to reduce haze pollution in Southeast Asia. There should not be any more excuses from the Indonesians, now that the source of the haze is clearly is self made and is in their own back yard.

Time to breathe in and breathe out before the next round of haze is back