Thursday, December 31, 2009

Our Mango Tree is Dying... Slowly.

I once thought it's as invincible as the Highlanders. But the sad truth is, our mango tree is dying. The signs are obvious as some of its branches are drying up and falling off. Those dead branches are hollow inside. Which can mean that the whole tree is hollow inside too. I suspect the borers finally got to it.

After I got rid of another threat recently I really thought I saved my tree again. But apparently, it's not to be.

I remember getting rid of those pesky weaver ants which love to crawl all over me when I tried to pick those mangoes off the tree.

Lesson learnt. Never get rid of weaver ants completely from your mango tree. They actually protect your tree from borers and other pests.

A Pain In The Neck (part 13) - The Conclusion

Diary entry: Oct 26, 2005
That was the 12th session of the chiropractic treatment yesterday. Mr. Chiro fumbled around my neck bones and declared it's very good. It did sound to me like he was the only optimistic person around. I was still in doubt whether those discs with their sides sticking out are going to go back into the gaps between the bones or not. He said it's not so much that they'd go back inside but given time, they'd shrink. He said I'll live. I thought so too but it's pain that I'm allergic to. But then on looking back, only last month I was moaning and groaning with pain each time I moved, coughed or tried to brush my teeth.

At lunch I used to have to hold a bag of ice to my neck with left hand and hold my spoon with right hand. Now, I can do all that with a lot less trouble. Without the ice-bag. Sometimes I even forget that I have a neck problem.

On a rough estimate, I'd say I'm now 75% pain free, which is a great improvement. I was told those who opted for surgery had to endure a couple of months living in a neck brace 24/7. And there are stories from some quarters, of friends having to undergo repeat operations to relief the pain of a faulty 1st operation and having to spend more money on top of the extra pain they had to endure.

I consider it a blessing in disguise I got into this condition at this time. Without treatment, my cervical section, being out of alignment would start to deteriorate and later osteophytes or bone spurs would form. Then more problems would emerge. But by then I would be in a more advanced age and any corrective chiropractic manipulation would probably not produce positive results. Worse, neurosurgeons would not be willing to commit me to surgery and put their reputation at risk.

On my next visit, which should be the last, Mr. Chiro should give me the x-ray he suggested. I'm eager to know for comparison, before and after, what shape I'm in.

I got to thinking too. In an automobile the main framework (chassis) has to be aligned and correctly balanced. Otherwise the vehicle would not run straight or it would vibrate and soon break down or the occupants would never be comfortable riding in it. So also is the framework in a tall building. Any misalignment would result in the building toppling over sooner or later. So in a human body, the alignment of the spine is most important to the posture and well-being of the person.

Enough of this boring stuff. All I want to say now is I owe a debt of gratitude to 2nd sis-in-law for recommending the chiropractor. To all the rest of you, thank you for your good wishes and your prayers and for paying attention to my updates. The rest is up to me how I take care of my neck and keep it in 'flexible working condition' by exercise and refraining from sticking it out too far or too fast. And not to drive too close to the guy in front. Otherwise if he stops suddenly I may be able to stop in time, but the whacker behind me may not be able to.

Definitely cannot afford another whiplash. This crate wasn't just born yesterday. The road to full recovery is still quite long. It may take another few months or half year. At least it's not too uncomfortable or painful.

I didn't make that X-ray that he suggested. But in order to make sure I got completely free of the pain, I did continue chiropractic treatment up to the 20th session, during which Mr Chiro casually said, 'Well.... I wouldn't mind not seeing you after this...'
I took that as his way of telling me I'm healed. I'm free to go.

My neck no longer troubles me. Oh, I do get a normal pain in the neck once in a while. But it isn't the same kind of problem. An X-ray later showed my cervical bones aligned in a perfect "C" shape.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Pain In The Neck (part 12) - Giraffes don't get whip-lash accidents

A little history before anything else. I remember mentioning somewhere about Zheng He being our great-great (ad infinitum) grand-uncle. I was wrong. Xheng He was born Ma He in Yunnan. He was captured by the imperial army as a kid and was castrated and renamed Zheng He. Ended up working in the imperial palace and found himself getting in the favor of the emperor himself because he was smart and learned fast. The rest is history.

So, the fact is, we're not related to him after all. Doesn't make any difference anyhow, does it? I remember many years ago a girl asked me how I write name in Chinese. I told her. She blurted, 'Oh, so Zheng He was your great-great grandfather....' I said no. She looked at me puzzled. I said he was a eunuch. He couldn't have any descendants. She blushed and we both laughed.

Meanwhile, let me bore you some more about my neck.

Diary entry: Oct 20, 2005
I was wondering why the wire's still entangled in there and asked the chiropractor if we could take that out, like what we do with machines, straighten it, and put it back. He said not to worry, the neck's going back into shape. He said, after the 12th or 13th session, he will take an x-ray of my neck and use that as a living proof that chiropractic works.

I still have no answer from him why it's taking so long for the pain to go away. It's a nuisance. OK, at least it's progressed to 'nuisance' level. Every time I go into a meeting, I have to tell everyone after 15 minutes, 'sorry, I have to get up and walk around. I can't sit for too long.'

Next time, I'll try a different approach. I'll ask him when I can hang up my punching bag and vent my frustrations on it!

Two more sessions to make it twelve and we'll see where I stand. (He mentioned 13, right? Looks like more to go then....). I wonder how a giraffe would make out in my situation. But then, giraffes don't get whip-lash accidents.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The day whole world went to Melaka

We took another trip to Melaka. The last time we went there the organizer didn't tell us most of the group were gamblers. We even dropped by at Genting's casino. (OK, fair enough, they told us Genting was part of the plan). Then they took us to an old well in some out of the way village in Melaka to get some blessed well water to bathe in so they could get lucky with numbers in the 4 digit game.

Then they took us to a zoo and imitation safari called A Formosa. That was the trick. The name. We thought it was the real thing. But there must be a dozen other places called A Formosa in Melaka.

No Joker Street, no old fort, no St Pauls' Hill and no museums. My kids didn't mind, but I hate zoos with all those sad-looking animals. I sort of felt cheated. Who ever plan a trip to Melaka without going up St Paul's hill and knock on some old bricks, stare at some marble gravestones or take a picture of the old Saint all dressed in white standing guard outside his 'open air' church?This time we're determined to get to the old fort & the joker's street. Oops! I really mean the famous quaint old Jonker Street (aka Jalan Hang Jebat) of historical Melaka's business district. OK that's my first impression. People on that street are all in businesses of one kind or another, whether it's food, souvenirs, clothes, antiques or artworks.

We picked on a less crowded day, or so we thought. And this time, my kids are all grown up. And at least one of them knows the way around and could drive us there.

But it seemed the whole world went to visit Melaka on the same day. All the streets were jammed. Cars, buses, people, whole families even, prowling all over Melaka town (or is it city?).

We looked on in horror as people queued along the streets for their lunch.

Somehow we managed to get inside a little Nyonya joint called Nancy's Kitchen. Phew!

Then we experienced a little bit of rain in the afternoon while walking all around St. Paul's Hill. We saw a fascinating sight. A couple of trishaws complete with passengers on board were racing each other through the rain.

Having enough of that crowd, we decided to go back to KL for dinner. But our 'driver' had the foresight to take us (through another 1/2 hour crawl) to a cake-shop to get us some snacks in case we get hungry on the way.

Sure enough, it was a long 1 hour crawl shifting between 1st and 2nd gears from Senawang to Nilai. The journey back to KL took 3 hours instead of 2.

D.I.Y. Self-Help Recovery to regain a healthy neck

Diary entry: 12-10-2005
I discovered another way to help me recover faster. I learned from a medical website which suggested that to keep a healthy neck I should roll a towel into a sausage shape and rest my neck on it. That's supposed to keep my cervical section in the ideal curved shape.

I figure that since the chiropractor uses a traction device to bend it, I can help to maintain the shape by sleeping on something rolled up like a giant sausage under my neck for about 15-20 minutes a few times a day, with my head (the weight of a bowling ball) to bend it down. Amazingly, the pain which is now at nuisance rating went away during the time that slept on the 'sausage'.

Since I can now brush my teeth in the morning without feeling that knife twisting in my shoulder and a branding iron burning my arm, my spirits are up again as I see this as a sign that I'm on the road to recovery. I've also scheduled my sessions to twice a week like I planned. 4 more to go to make it 12. That count includes the initial session.

A Pain In The Neck (part 10) - What’s ice got to do with it?

There has been some progress on my neck condition. So I decided to test if I had enough strength to swim...

Diary entry: Oct 9, 2005

OK, I admit I was wrong about alcohol. It makes my @#*% pain in the neck worse, contrary to what I thought. Well, I had to prove it to myself somehow. It didn’t numb the pain like I thought it would. So that rules out trying to use that solution to drown my pain. I’ll put my whiskey and beer stock into deep freeze for a while. There isn’t much left in there anyway.

Don’t look at me with those accusing eyes, OK? Everybody needs a little indulgence in some so-called ‘sin’. Besides I’m considered ‘clean’ as I don’t indulge in gambling, smoking, (or womanizing like some guys like to brag about, real or imagined). But these days I get a lot of additional advice from all sides on other prohibitions. Each one has his own level of conviction that whatever he recommends against is the gospel truth.

So, doctors out there, is there a medical explanation about the effect of iced-drinks on my condition? The guy at the local Chinese medicine shop said so, one of my self-proclaimed ‘well-informed’ colleagues said so, and one of our family members said so. But when pressed for a logical explanation, only one managed to give me the reason that iced-cold water irritates or constricts the nerves, which is bad.

All this I find hard to understand because the first thing the Chiropractor did after he first tried to wring my neck was shove a bag of ice-cold stuff under it, which probably saved my life because I thought I was dying then.

Then there are taboos about drinking iced-water which lots of folks swear is true. They say it’s bad for cough because it makes it worse. Some people even forbid their kids consuming anything iced, saying it makes them cough. So who’s missing out on this enjoyment in life? No iced-drinks, no ice-cream, no cold coke or Sarsi from the fridge to drown the heat on a steamy afternoon.

On the contrary, just the other day I was told by our staff nurse, if you get a bad sore throat, go get some ice-cream. Hold it there in your throat as long as you can before you swallow it. The cold will help cool down your throat as well as kill off some of the bacteria causing that bad throat. Don’t just believe me. Go find out, next time you get a sore throat.

For me, before a sore throat gets any worse, I’d get half a dozen leaves from my Hempedu Bumi (Chinese Hokkien: Si-Pan-Kee, Mandarin: Chuan Xin-Lian) plants, put them into a cup and pour boiling water in it. After it has cooled down a little I’d drink it. It stops the sore throat right in its tracks. I found it works for me most of the time. Of course, you’d have to be able to handle the bitterest drink you ever tasted in your life! Perhaps you’d rather get your ice-cream. I’m not sure how good it is. I haven’t tried it yet.

By the way, I went for the 7th session with the chiropractor on Friday. This time, he allowed me to say something for a change, or rather I spoke before he could say anything else after asking me how I was. I wanted to know if I was ready to go swimming. He said something equivalent to a suggestion that I wasn’t ready for that yet. But when I probed further, he said I could go but don’t do anything strenuous.

I went swimming. I had to test other measures that may help me recover faster. I found out that trying to swim was out of the question. My right arm wasn’t cooperating. I mean, my neck wasn’t helping it by giving me a sharp stab in the shoulder as soon as I paddled the water with my arm. I almost quit within the first few minutes, but since I already paid to be in the pool, I floated around and gently swam underwater for a few meters at a time, avoiding any sudden movements.

I also found out the chiro expected me to go for the sessions on alternate days until he advised otherwise, because when I asked him if I could schedule for twice a week he said I might like to give it a try. If it doesn’t work out right, then I should go back to alternate days of ‘torture’. He called it that this time, not me.

Monday, December 28, 2009

A Pain In The Neck (part 9) - When doubts creep in

Continuing the saga of a pain in the neck and the long treatment therapy I took to avoid invasive surgery. It is normal for the mind to doubt the effectiveness of a treatment when it takes too long to take effect. So I need to record my experiences just to help remove such doubts from those who have to suffer the same fate.

Yesterday: 5-10-2005

I'm so tired, worn out by the constant nagging pain again. Pain rating: Fluctuating between tolerable and intolerable. I suppose it's because of the longer break in between treatments. The last treatment was last Thursday, a lapse of 6 days, which is probably why the pain sneaked back on me. To worsen the situation, the last 2 days were spent sitting in a training room, clicking the mouse, mostly with my right hand. We had to learn how to use new software for FMEA (Failure Modes and Effects Analysis). Well, I tried to remain seated as long as I could anyway which wasn't pleasant to say the least because it's not my height-adjustable chair and the conference table was too crammed for comfort.

And the chiropractor just went through his routines without even trying to listen to my complaints, as he seemed more intent on showing his personality rather than his professionalism. I'd rather face a sullen, stone-faced doctor who appears to know what he's doing than one brimming with optimism but keeps me guessing all the time. Besides he seemed to be rushing through the job as there were a few more patients waiting in other cubicles. I begin to doubt again his optimism about solving my problem and the effectiveness of this treatment. What's going on inside my neck? Maybe he knows. Or is he also guessing just like me?

My theory is that during the delay, the cervical bones slipped back a little, which explains the 'entangled wire' and the pain shooting down my arm. I'm theorizing this based on my own feelings and the wriggling I have to do every now and then to loosen the neck muscles, which provides some relief, although only for a few minutes at a time.

I will try to schedule my treatments from here on, to twice a week with a lapse of 3 to 4 days in between.

Today, 6-10-2005

I'm spending my time sitting at my work desk, made as comfortable as possible, with my neck in a brace. By now I'm an expert in explaining the Cervical Slipped Disc condition to every other work mate who happens by my cubicle and wonders aloud why this Darth Vader without the black helmet and visor is sitting here at my desk pretending to work.

And I'm still praying, this time, for a miracle to happen.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

A Pain In The Neck (part 8) - A healing in progress

continuing the case history of my neck problem in which I 'miraculously' avoided an invasive surgery and found an alternative solution...

The Chiropractic Progress – day 5

Sep 29, 2005
I feel confident enough to start to term it as 'Progress'. I dropped by at my friendly SP doctor's office last night (not just to say 'Hi', but with my youngest girl who has a little sore throat and fever). He told me the Neurosurgeon at the Specialist Hospital replied to his letter, stating that my condition was serious enough to justify surgery and advised that I should proceed with it. But looking at me smiling from ear to ear, while I explained why I opted for another opinion, my friendly doctor said he was glad I didn't proceed with surgery and was happy that I'm doing good progress with chiropractic treatment.

I went off Ponstan since yesterday just to see how far I could go. If I could give a grading to the pain level this morning before I went for the 5th session, I would grade it as a 'nuisance'. Much less pain but enough to give me that 'tangled-wire-in-the-neck' feeling.

Well, we got to define all the other levels first don't we? Otherwise we don't have a point of reference for comparison. That sounds more like technical jargon. I would rate level of pain the days before I started chiropractic treatment as "intolerable" when I couldn't brush my teeth in the morning without the knife twisting in the shoulder. After 2nd treatment, it was balancing somewhere between tolerable and intolerable. Then, after the 3rd treatment, I rated it as "tolerable".

Today I still did not use my right hand to work the mouse because it still tried to push the pain level from 'nuisance' back to 'tolerable'. There appeared to be some warm glow threatening to flare up again in my right shoulder after I went clickety-click on the mouse for a while.

Mr. Chiropractor addressed me as Mr. Siemens this time. He asked me what type of gadgets we're producing other than meters and instruments. While he fumbled around my backbone with his fingers, I told him our range of products include Engine Management Systems and anti-theft steering locks, etc. He remarked that my spine felt so much better now. I agreed with that.

While he was wringing my neck, he wanted to know whether installing a cruise control in the car as an after-market part would be better than having it factory installed. As soon as I got my wind back I said I don't use cruise-control so I don't know much about that. He said our cars don't often come with cruise-controls in them. Is it because they're afraid we'd fall asleep at the wheel?

I said our highways have too many toll gates in between, it is an unnecessary item. He went on about kampong folks driving their cars on cruise-control while they pour themselves a coffee and eat their nasi lemak. In spite of the discomfort, I was smiling at the floor through the little opening provided for a patient to breathe while lying faced down on the bench.

From here on the treatment sessions were getting routine as the traction pain has gotten so much less painful than before. But before I get congratulated, I still have 7 more sessions to go and the after treatment rating still remains at 'nuisance' level. I certainly hope I can go back to lifting heavy loads and workout on my punching bag to keep myself in shape.

Right now I better go back to work the mouse clicks with the right hand again. I always believe that whatever facilities you have, if you don't use it, you'll lose it.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Pain In The Neck (part 7)

...continuing the case history of my neck problem in which I 'miraculously' avoided an invasive surgery and found an alternative solution...

The Chiropractic Process – day 4

I called the clerk at 10am because I noticed the name on my appointment card wasn't mine and so was the name on the receipt. I couldn't call on Sunday or Monday because those are their off days. She must have given my card to the guy whose card I'm holding because she couldn't find my card anywhere at the counter. Anyway I kept my appointment based on his card. 11.45 am to be exact. Time is precious. If you're late by more than 30 minutes, you're bypassed and have to reschedule.

The doctor's voice was loud enough to be heard in other cubicles, so while waiting for him I learned about what happened to other patients and their ailments, sometimes even where they go for their daily workouts or what they do for a living. And he'd give instructions in Hokkien to those who can't speak English, especially commands like "thay lo khee" (lie on your back), "pheeh lo khee" (on your front), "chey khi lai" (sit up), "chiah peng" (right side), "toh peng" (left side).

Chiro: Mr. Teh. How're feeling today? (He has to confirm I'm Mr. Teh. Can't afford to twist up the wrong patient!)
Me: Sometimes OK, sometimes not....err...
Chiro: Well, give it some time. It will get better......bla.. bla...bla...
Me: (Keeps mouth shut....thinks: "Doctor knows everything")

He'd ask me to lie on my back and while holding my ankles, asked me to turn left and then right. That, I suppose is to find out where the resistance is. If I felt pain in my neck while turning right, I tend to turn my whole body and response is transmitted to the legs. He'd keep talking to me while telling me to lie down this way or that way and manipulated my bones at the same time and even asked me questions and expected me to answer while my body faced one direction and my head faced another direction.

I didn't get the chance to ask him why I sometimes felt like there was a wire entangled with something in my neck and I had to twist around or shake my head and neck trying to loosen the wire. No. I had no chance to talk to him afterward either, as after the body twisting was done, he switched on the heavy massager and worked on my back and before I realized anything, I heard his voice in another cubicle as he worked on another patient.

The massaging and the rest of the therapy were carried out by assistants. His few minutes with me costs RM65 each time. I was wrong about the RM50 I mentioned earlier. That's penalty for missing a scheduled session if you don't show up and didn't call in to notify him 24 hours before the schedule. Quality & efficiency comes with a price?

In this session, after the heavy massage, someone placed a warm bag of beans (it felt like that, so I could only think of beans). It soothed my aching neck and prepared me for the usual bending torture. Surprisingly, the pain wasn't too bad this time. I didn't have to wriggle my toes or pick at imaginary dollar coins.

I read somewhere that chiropractics means gentle manipulation of the spinal bones to effect a cure for ailments. While that sounds like "gentle" to someone who's not in pain, it's not the same thing to the person who's got the pain. That explains the horrible descriptions that patients give to this mode of treatment. That said, I am reminded of a TV stunt show commentator who said, "Don't try this at home!!"

By the way, something else happened to me on one of those days before I went to the neck-wringing session. As if having the pain in the neck was not enough to make my life difficult while saying its long goodbye, another pain said hello.

It's a problem from the other end. A pain in the butt called constipation. I had to push so hard that morning I thought it was all stones inside. Anyway, after I was all soaked in sweat, I got it out somehow. Checked with the nurse for something to help me prevent next morning's "traffic" jam. She gave me some senekot. It's supposed to work like prune juice. I don't know why the prune juice didn't work this time though.

Then remembering a curious thing I saw on my infrared scan image, I looked at the printout again. There was this large red bar indicating a strong ache at the bottom of my anatomy. How could that have been predicted?!! I wonder...

Friday, December 25, 2009

A Pain In The Neck (part 6)

...continuing the case history of my neck problem in which I 'miraculously' avoided an invasive surgery and found an alternative solution...

The Chiropractic Process – day 3

Saturday morning saw me driving out to Penang at 10.15am feeling more confident that my problem neck is positively getting better. So I told the doctor.

After the initial spine and neck twisting, he must have instructed the attendant to increase the traction pressure based on my statement. Or maybe that's standard procedure. Anyway, after another slow death preview, I couldn't manage to get up from the torture rack at the first try. Attendant asked me if I'm dizzy. I said, no, just painful.

We proceeded to the next stage. This time she plugged a couple of wires to my lower spinal area in addition to the normal spots on my neck area. She said that was for the lower back pain which I sometimes had.

Like a shell-shocked and wounded soldier, I slowly drove over to my parents' apartment for lunch and swallowed a Ponstan to ease the pain and took a nap to recover. Youngest sis heard I was there, came over to compare notes. She just had an operation to remove a tumor behind her ear. after forty seems to revolve around some body repair shops, just like old cars having to go to workshops every now and then. Only difference is that old cars have more easily replaceable parts. If you can't find new parts you can usually find salvaged ones at junk yards.

Early evening, I proceeded to Bayview Beach Hotel for our company annual dinner. After the first few dishes a colleague sitting at our table pulled out two bottles of Merlot (red wine) to liven things up while the rest of our 1000 colleagues entertained themselves with the annual clowning by some home bred clowns with their dancing and singing ala Malaysian idol at the beginning stage where the judges kept slapping their foreheads. Except for the change in costumes and the theme, the rest of the menu's basically the same from year to year.

Unfortunately for me, the wine seemed to revive the gnawing pain. I have no idea how that can happen, but anyway, after a few more rounds of the spirit juice I didn't care anymore about pain. Another of our colleagues came over to our table with a few cans of beer and started filling our glasses. A strange thing happened. As soon as the beer went down, the pain subsided.

As if to cheer me up from my awfully low spirits, my lucky draw ticket number came up on the display board at about 10pm. I wasn't quite sure if I saw it right so I waited for it to show again. About 30 minutes later it was confirmed and I decided to call it quits for the night while I'm still sober. The alcohol has all been almost soaked up by the rest of the Yamseng guys anyway. It's a long way home to SP, and I don't have a reason to hang around for the draw on the grand prizes. Besides, I didn't want to risk meeting some cops who might want me to do a blow job on their breath-analyzer. They usually come out only after midnight.

Mom gave me a pillow which is similar to a chiropractic pillow the doctor recommended (which costs RM110). I tried it out for one night. It didn't seem to be a problem. Maybe I was sleeping mostly on my side throughout the night. Sunday afternoon I tried it again, this time I slept for an hour on my back. After I got up from the nap, I got that gnawing pain in the back of neck again. I decided the pillow's not suitable for me just yet. I had to put it away until this cervical column goes back to its original curve. I can survive the pain during and after treatment, but living with the torture all day long is too much for my liking.

By the way, guess what I got for the lucky draw? For those who have seen what's left on my head, you should know it's something which I don't really need. A hair dryer.

... to be continued...

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Maybe he thought he was a hero...

Another time in history he would have been an acclaimed hero. But in this century one just got to live with the times. And nobody kill tigers with bare hands anymore.

from a Reuters report:

Kang Wannian, a villager from Mengla, Yunnan Province, met the tiger in February while gathering freshwater clams in a nature reserve near China's border with Laos. He claimed to have killed it in self-defense.

The only known wild Indochinese tiger in China, photographed in 2007 at the same reserve, has not been seen since Kang's meal, the Yunnan-based newspaper Life News reported earlier this month.

The paper quoted the provincial Forestry Bureau as saying there was no evidence the tiger was the last one in China.

A local court sentenced Kang to 10 years for killing a rare animal plus two years for illegal possession of firearms, the local web portal reported. Prosecutors said Kang did not need a gun to gather clams.

Four villagers who helped Kang dismember the tiger and ate its meat were also sentenced from three to four years for "covering up and concealing criminal gains," the report said.

Kang was also fined 480,000 yuan ($70,000).

The Indochinese tiger is on the brink of extinction, with fewer than 1,000 left in the forests of Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar.

Ai Loon

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Pain In The Neck (part 5)

...continuing the case history of my neck problem in which I 'miraculously' avoided an invasive surgery and found an alternative solution...

The Chiropractic Concept - Neck Traction

I didn't realize what would happen to me on day 2 of therapy. I wasn't feeling much better, but when the doctor asked, I lied that I felt slightly better to avoid telling my long story of how it sometimes felt better but sometimes it became worse. I also didn't ask him why when I drove the car I felt much less pain than when I sat in the car and someone else drove it. I'd observed a few times that after we arrived at work, I had to bear the pain for almost the whole day and even the 250mg Ponstan didn't help much.

He noticed my company name on my uniform and told me he knows my boss' wife who happens to be the landlady of the clinic space he occupied. While still chatting, he proceeded to give me the warming up twists and turns then passed me over to an assistant.

The assistant proceeded to give me an electrical massage and then led me to the traction room. She told me to lay on my back put my head into a neck traction device, closed it and pumped it up. It was a repeat of the first day's neck bending except that she didn't release the f**king thing!!! She left me lying on the bench, clenching and unclenching my fists and gritting my teeth in agonizing pain, while she went off to do something else. I prayed. I thought about my toes, wriggled them and imagined trying to grasp an imaginary coin with them. After about forever, she came back and took off the thing and told me to get up. I staggered over and sat down on another bench she motioned at. She plugged the same wires on the same spots as the other day and I proceeded to shrug my shoulders again.


Today, I just did some research by myself and I found out what the neck bending device was and what it actually does:


The disc compression and protruded cervical disc is reduced, due to be elongated intervertebral discs spaces and foramina by Cervical traction function.

Cervical traction elongates intervertebral disc spaces and reduces protruded (herniated) discs, resulting in the decompression (release) of the irritated nerve roots. Traction promotes great results in reducing discomfort and symptom relief.

There two mechanisms that may help reduce protruded discs

1. Negative Pressure of the disc spaces that is created during traction, which sucks the protruded disc back inside.

2. Pushing effect of the posterior longitudinal ligament that exists on the back of the vertebral body and disc, which is straightened during traction."

So, logically it's not an overnight cure. As the doctor recommended, it's a 12 session thing. As the Americans say, 'it's a 9 inning ball-game'. You haven't lost the game yet after losing the first few innings. You'll know only when the game's over. Therefore it's not right to think I'm supposed to feel better after the first or second session. On thinking back, that long time in the traction device actually was the start to that opening up of the cervical disc space which is supposed to retract the herniated disc thus relieving the pressure on the nerve root. I realized, about half-way through the 'torture' that the pain had started to ease off, which could only mean that the concept actually works.

We'll see what happens after the 3rd day.

Don't go away, I'll be right back...

Monday, December 21, 2009

Moving my writes

Sorry folks.  If you've noticed, I haven't been blogging much in Multiply these days.  I've moved my "writing pad" to another page in Blogspot but I'm still maintaining my simple philosophy of life: live well & keep it simple

I'll still be posting my favorite photo shots in Multiply. 

Do drop by at my new place for a chat and leave some comments.  At the moment I'm posting some write ups on an old issue.  A case history on a neck problem because I think they're of public interest, for people who may be suffering the same ailments I did.  Believe me, there are many out there who are in pain and not knowing how to handle it.  I've spoken to a few of them and I did assure them they have hope of recovering without surgery.

Don't get alarmed.  This happened in the past.  I got some relatives who went, 'Oh no!!!  Your neck problem came back?!!'  I assure you, it did not!  I'm still very healthy and happily enjoying my retirement!!!

Another reason (equally important one); Blogspot allows me to place ads on my page which I hope can earn me some pocket money while I continue my self-training on my portrait painting and water color works.  My solo art exhibition is still in the plan even though it may get delayed.  Which brings to mind the Chinese philosophy: "Don't be afraid of being slow, but be afraid of standing still".

Yes folks.  I haven't been idling.  Time does not stand still.  Life must go on.


A Pain In The Neck (part 4)

...continuing the case history of my neck problem in which I 'miraculously' avoided an invasive surgery and found an alternative solution...

The Chiropractor

Date: 15-09-2005
My 2nd sis-in-law found out about my condition. She gave me a phone contact number for a chiropractor who's reputed to have performed lots of cures for cases like mine. This one came highly recommended by her. Her brother-in-law who couldn't walk because of lumbar disc problem after a motor-cycle accident can now get off his wheel-chair and go back to work.

I found out later he is a Mat Salleh, an Canadian married to a Malaysian Chinese lady. Can speak a smattering of Penang Hokkien with a western accent.

I went early, thinking that I'd have some trouble finding the place. It wasn't too difficult though. But trying to look for the signboard was more of a problem. It was placed 3 storeys up on the building they called Premier Centre. I couldn't look up straight to see it but somehow I managed to find it by turning my head sideways. Also luckily, I managed to find a parking space in front of the building.

I had to leave my shoes outside the office like everyone else. They probably just want to keep the carpets clean. There was a long queue of patients all waiting patiently. Some have their heads slanted just like mine. One guy sat next to me asked what my problem was. I told him briefly what happened to me. He then went into a presentation mode to tell me about his case. When I couldn't understand his terminology, he asked to borrow my pen. Just then the attendant called his name. Phew! That spared me the agony of listening to someone else's problem. I have enough of my own.

The chiropractor said I don't need surgery, after asking me all the necessary questions and writing the answers into my record card. "Easy to solve", he said after asking me to do some bending forward, backward and then to the left and right sides. Then he twisted me left to right, right to left and pressed the center of my back just to hear all that popping trapped-air breaking noise.

All I need, he declared, is about 12 sessions of spinal twisting and neck bending where it hurts the most. Ugh!!! He put my head and neck into a bending jig and pressed the frigging thing 3 times. Only the ends of my hair (or whatever that's left) didn't feel the pain. I felt tears running down both sides of my face.

Photo on the right shows a printout of an Infrared scan. Red bars indicate where the pain is most intense. See a large red bar on the bottom? We'll speculate about that one later...

Next session, he promised he will increase the number of times. He said, "No pain, no gain", again and again, as if I haven't heard of it before. Whenever I said, "argh!!!!" and he said, that's expected. I wanted to ask him if he learned it from the Gestapo, but I was panting and couldn't find my voice. It seems it has to get worse before it gets better. After the torture, he placed an ice-pack under my neck until the throbbing pain subsided.

Then he stuck a couple of wires on the back of my neck and connected me to some electrical pulsating machine and tickled my nerves. It jerked my shoulders up and down (some kind of involuntary shrugging), and massaged the back of the neck.

I hope he knows what he's doing. His card says he's B.Sc., DC, Doctor of Chiropractic, Life University (USA). He wants to see me back in two days for more torture.... and to think I'm paying him for it!!

chi·ro·prac·tic (kr-prktk)
A system of therapy in which disease is considered the result of abnormal function of the nervous system. The method of treatment usually involves manipulation of the spinal column and other body structures.

[chiro- + Greek prktikos, practical]

chiro·practor n.

to be continued...

A Pain In The Neck (part 3)

A pain in the neck that stays for too long is not something you should take for granted even if you can stand the torture...

Here's the 3rd part of my story.

I'm still holding on. The worst is over, since the inflammation has subsided.
At the moment I'm using a neck brace when I'm working at my desk or in the car. (One of my carpool partners drives like a fighter pilot driving a 4 wheel-drive in the jungle!!!) But everyone at the office has to ask why I'm wearing a neck brace. Some call me Darth Vader!!!

I'm using my left hand for the mouse to take off the strain on my right arm nerve. By all indications, this time it's the c5,c6 disk that's the cause as the pain goes along the outside of the right upper arm. The worst time is when I try to brush my teeth in the morning. So, for the time being I also switch to using my left hand to do that.

I consider going for a swim every weekend should be a good start. Give the protruded material time to shrink off. That was what the neurosurgeon said.

After all that, I'll consider a tattoo on my right arm that says: "Do not exceed 10 kgs hanging weight". I'm happy as long as it hurts only when I laugh....sigh.
That's my life. And pain seems an inevitable part of it.

On 2nd thoughts again... The knife twisting pain came back this afternoon. I think I have no choice but to take next step. I found that a Specialist Hospital in Penang has PLDD facilities. I'm going there tomorrow to see if that option is applicable for my case. There is an Iranian specialist there who is quite experienced.

I met the specialist this morning. PLDD cannot be done on cervical disks, only for lumbar discs. That's what he said. His only recommendation was anterior discectomy, normal procedure for such cases. He's reputed to be the best neurosurgeon in this north zone. He wants to remove C3/4 and C5/6 discs as they're both herniated. His fee: RM17K.

To proceed or not, I'll keep that option open yet. Considering the consequences and costs, I give myself another month or so. If the pain increases in frequency and intensity, I'll proceed. If it decreases, I'll hang on for another 5 - 6 months as the 1st neurosurgeon advised, the disc material will shrink and release the pressure on the nerve. If my sleep, normal life or work is too impeded by the condition, then there is no choice. The choice is mine. be continued

A Pain In The Neck (part 2)

A pain in the neck that stays for too long is not something you should take for granted even if you can stand the torture...

Here's the 2nd part of my story.

September 2005
I referred to my skeleton again. That confounded prolapsed disk decided to give me another pain-in-the-neck. I don't know what I really did wrong to deserve this. Did I really over extend my weight bearing capabilities with my existing fragile condition? Is 10 kgs too heavy for my arms?

3rd week since that pesky pain took another stranglehold of my life and put me into daily torture from the moment I get up from bed. Only relief for me is when I lie down in bed or apply an ice-pack on the back of my neck. I read somewhere on internet that ice-pack works better because it relieves the pain and forces the blood flow to go deep inside and helps reduce inflammation faster. And that advice comes with a caution that ice application should be done for only about 20-25 minutes and at intervals of 5 hours. I don't know how much truth is in that. But I'm willing to keep doing it as long as I can stop the pain from driving me nuts.

Remembering the consultant neurosurgeon's prescription of Celebrex, I went to Taman Intan doctor for some. He only agreed to give me 5 doses of 200mg each. I read an on-line prescription that you either take 100mg twice a day or 200mg only once a day. It does help to reduce the intensity. The nagging, throbbing pain still persists. It's supposed to be able to reduce the inflammation as well. But I still need to lie down sometimes for some relief. I have to keep praying that I don't have to go to the final choice of an operation. It is not only costly; it has the risk of paralysis and only a 50-50 chance of improvement. Except that it removes the pain.

Come Sunday, I'm going to take a risk of driving to Penang to attend a nephew's wedding. I'll be prepared with pain-killers and an ice-pack. I'm trying to live as normal a life as possible. The trouble is, the neck column is one of the most mobile and fragile parts of the body. And it supports a heavy head. I thought of wearing a neck-brace, but with our kind of weather, I'd probably be sweating and soaking it in no time. I'm running out of ideas at the moment. I know that if I can keep from further movements and prevent further injuries, I have hopes it will get better.

It was not to be...

A Pain In The Neck (part 1)

A pain in the neck that stays for too long is not something you should take for granted even if you can stand the torture...

Here's the 1st part of my story, from the beginning to the cure, which spanned almost 2 years.

The first strike.

It was the month of March, year 2004 when I found myself staring at my own skeleton. There was this not so obvious thingy which is not supposed to be sticking out, actually sticking itself out into another part of my anatomy, which puts pressure into my nerve which goes into my arm causing numbness that runs down my right arm down to my thumb and sometimes my last finger. Follow?

Prolapsed Disc. That’s how the specialist described it after looking at my MRI scan results. There were half a dozen A2 sized slides showing what looked like fossil bones dug up from somewhere (if only I know what I'm looking at) and that’s what the doctor said was the cause of my pain in the neck.

“…there is a central to right para-central prolapse disc with posterior osteophyte at C3/C4 and C5/C6. The cord is compressed and the right lateral recess are narrowed at these levels,”… which almost seemed like Greek to me, until I started looking for these terms in

I had actually had the pain for a little bit too long, like more than a month, before I realized it wasn’t normal. There was also that tingling down my right arm. Several visits to the doctor later, he gave me a note to refer me to a specialist. That took me to Lam Wah Ee, Penang.

The attendant ordered me to get into my birthday clothes, remove all rings, dentures (if any), watches, wallets, credit cards…(boy, did I feel naked without my wallet) and given a ‘nightgown’ to put on. I had to lie down on a contraption which somewhat resembled a medieval torture rack, strapped in, donned a pair of ear-mufflers and before she rolled me into what looked like a tunnel she told me it would take 30 minutes, and don’t move! I almost panicked. I thought claustrophobia and stared at the roof of the tunnel which was so close to my face I felt I couldn’t breathe! The gizmo went grrrh-grrrh-bump-bump and started to increase in tempo and resembled a rock concert disc that got stuck in mid-track. Ages of Namo Amitabha later (it was only half an hour?) the noise level went down by like a few hundred decibels. And I also discovered I was still breathing. She pulled me out of the hell-hole. That rock concert blew a RM750 bill for my health insurance to sweat out.

Now that we found out what gave me the pain in the neck, the nag-in-the-pain (I mean the nagging pain) was classified as the 33.3% theory. 33.3% of people with this condition get worse, 33.3% have to bear this forever and 33.3% get lucky, I mean, get better. I told the doctor I’ll get better. That was after he told me what was involved if I opted for surgery and about the chances of improvement or the other options of therapy and self-improvement exercises. I didn’t bother to ask about the cost of surgery though. By the time I got the verdict (oops) diagnosis, I’d already made up my mind there’s to be no surgery involved. From the time when the pain first hit me until after the ‘rock concert’ I‘d already realized the pain wasn’t that bad anymore. He told me it would take 6 months to know which way it goes.

It’s been a year since then. I stand among the 33.3% lucky folks.

But wait. There's more to come.

Friday, December 18, 2009

How To Retire Painlessly

Before you get on that horse to ride off into the sunset, decide what you want to do first. There's nothing worse than living with the idea that you'd be idling away the rest of your life. You may feel great to be free of all those tensions, stresses and responsibilities, but the elation is going to last only for a short while. After that the devil starts taking over that 'workshop' of your idle mind. Don't allow doubt and despondency, which may lead to poor health, take you to an early grave.

Don't fight it, if your time's up, it's up. And don't look back. You've spent more than half your lifetime toiling and working the skin off your fingers (or tearing your hair off your head, like it happened to me ever so often), it's time to let go, sit back & relax. Go get that guitar or that rocking chair which you've been thinking about.

Money not enough? There'll never be enough if you don't budget. But if you need to make some extra income for the just-in-case ocassions, pay a visit to this webpage for some useful tips.

Be prepared for change in lifestyle. You've spent almost all your life adhering to schedules; getting up on the dot, trying to keep those crazy deadlines, living your life according to company or bosses' demands. Now that you're free of all that, you'll feel disoriented. You'll need to recondition your mental facilities to your new status. Imagine yourself an ex-convict for a life sentence walking out through the gates.

If the wife has been your housewife for all your working life, consider taking over some of her house-keeping duties, like mopping the floor, cleaning windows, walking/grooming the dog, or getting out the garbage. If not to make her happy, at least you get some regular exercise. After all, you're not the only one getting old and needing to slow down.

Your wife (or hubby) may not get used to your ever-presence in the house unless you can blend in with the furniture. Differences in opinions may creep in. Your wife may worry about your limited savings and resources(except for Bill Gates & all those listed in Fortune Magazine, how many people can have unlimited resources?). Argue and reason over those differences, not quarrel with your partner's worries.

Don't risk your life's savings by trying to earn those 'pie-in-the-sky' promises of easy profits. Never go into any of those get-rich-quick schemes. And nothing comes free either.

If you can spare it spend some of your savings on holiday trips. You and your life partner deserve it. But keep the rest stashed away for rainy days in low-risk investments or fixed deposits. They may earn pittance, but they'll remain your money, not someone else's gambling funds.

More points will be added after I've suffered and survived them.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

When a door of opportunity closes on you, take another.

We paid a visit once to a Buddhist meditation retreat and were strolling around in the cool shade under the trees in the garden when a relative said, 'In this life, everything we own are just loaned to us while we are here on this earth. We can't take anything with us when we leave. Does it make sense then to fight so hard and play dirty to gain what we want in life?'

He should know what he was talking about. He had the potential and the qualifications to take charge of a government linked corporation, but was bypassed due to reasons he never cared to find out. He shrugged off the issue and went on to become a school teacher, a job he felt more comfortable with.

Years later and nearing the age of retirement, after he had served as headmaster at a school 60kms away from home, he had a chance to be transferred back to one in his home town. Somehow, another headmaster from the same hometown managed to get that coveted position through some connections and manipulations.

He was posted another lesser known school slightly further away. But he was rather philosophical about it and shrugged it off as another blessing in disguise.

As it turned out, that coveted position became one source of nightmare for the other fellow. Holding a Headmaster's position in a premier school is no bed of roses. The high expectations from the ministry, PTA, students et al made his life miserable.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Training for survival

A stray bitch gave birth to a brood of 8 puppies in the bushes on top of a hill. This hill is the regular destination of health conscious old folks, business-people, professionals and students. Some animal lovers from among them would come up with food for the bitch everyday.

Soon the puppies were growing up. The lucky males got 'adopted' by some hikers. I met one such hiker and his son. The kid was lugging a bag downhill under his dad's watchful eyes.

"What's in the bag?" I asked the kid.

"It's a puppy." he said.

The pup kept very quiet in the bag. I asked the kid what he's going to name the pup. He shook his head.

"Just call him Hiker" I suggested. He nodded a yes.

I said, "That's good. Go give him a good home. It's better than letting him stay in these bushes. There are wild boars, cobras and civet cats prowling around these hills."

Animals learn by instinct. Here are some of the puppies seemingly playing with each other. They are actually training to defend themselves in case they meet up with some hostile animals turning up for dinner with dog meat on their menu.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

If you can’t be good, be careful

The world is actually a jungle. OK, it's now mostly done up in concrete and you find lots of well-dressed, civilized looking people. But it's still a jungle with the survival of the fit or the lucky. If you happen to be born and bred in a 'safe' place, you're lucky. Otherwise, you’d better be fit and smart enough to avoid becoming someone else’s breakfast.

If you think all the laws and statutes are going to be upheld to keep you safe and secure, think twice about it. It's not that cozy after all. We read about the weirdest things happening within the arms of the law itself. And don't think that just because the people you meet look and act innocent, they're as decent as they come.

And that's the worst part. In the real jungle, you know at once who are the aggressors and avoid these buggers. In our jungle, you can't tell the good guys from the villains until you get mauled. We read about them in the news everyday. And our friends tell us some of their personal experiences too. Sometimes we even get stung ourselves.

And talking about getting stung just be aware what kind of people you’re talking to especially if they’re strangers. There are lots of people out and about who are eager to make a fast buck out of those who are equally eager to do the same thing. Even seasoned crooks are not spared.

Like Michael Korda once said, ‘Keep your appetite in check’. The seven deadly sins are still as deadly as they were since the beginning of time. Stay alert, stay smart. And above all don’t get too greedy.

And if you can’t be good, be careful.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Egrets

Sungai Petani has very few hills, hence the open view. And the few existing hills are being relentlessly cut away, one of which is almost gone. It's more flat land, rice-fields on the west and housing estates all around. Trees are getting lesser due to the fast pace of development of satelite towns, especially on the eastern side where once rubber or palm oil estates flourished.

There's still a huge track of mangrove trees beside the Sg Petani river where hundreds of egrets make their nests. At dawn they'd fly off in groups to the padi-fields to forage for food and every evening they make their way home again.

It's lovely just looking at them leaving the river at dawn or heading for home at dusk. Sometimes we get to see them flying in their customary V-Formation. Some of them have probably lost their migratory instincts. They come home late and alone, looking lost, and just heading in the general direction of the river.


The Egrets

Against an evening sky with dashing strokes of brush

The great Artist paints with coloured ink and wash

Gentle breezes warmly stroking hair and face

Greeting folks on evening walks keeping healthy pace

In the fading light of yellow and orange hue

To the mangroves where young ones feeding is due

From soggy rice fields to cosy nests for the night

Straggling egrets on their homebound flight

Each dawn a relentless struggle in search of food

Till dusk a continuous duty to nourish their brood

People, environmant and nature to blend we must

From birth, nourishment and growth till all turn to dust

Don't drive against a wall. You never know what's behind it

I tend to agree with this other engineer because I once worked as one myself. There's such analysis tool called FMEA in which a bunch of guys (and girls) huddle together and imagine some of the worst things that can happen before you start designing something. We'd sit for hours arguing about some of the worst things that could happen while a product is in use.

I presume they hold these discussions before they design any building. But we worked on automobile parts of course, and while discussing such things we include the worst drivers and driving habits imaginable.

But who would think of letting a teenager without driving experience (maybe not even a licence) hold the steering wheel while getting the car in motion? A car in the wrong hands could become killing machine. And these days with better design and technology, they keep making cars that are more powerful which can go through walls easily.

Whatever you do, don't ever try to push start your car in a multi-storey parking lot even if you're an experience driver. You'd never know what's behind that wall.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

It's not Snatch-theft, it's Robbery

I think we've all gotten so used to reading all those reports of people having their bags, wallets or jewelry snatched while out and about we don't feel alarmed anymore. And there are those who get confronted by menacing looking hoodlums with parangs, knives or sticks and who forcefully take away their wallets, handphones, handbags etc. Some of them even come in gangs on motorbikes.

Get it right. This second activity should be termed robbery. If there are visible weapons like knives, sticks, crash helmets, it's called armed robbery.

But these days in view of what they to their victims, the crime should be termed snatch-robbery. It's not a theft nor a petty crime anymore even when one is not threatened with bodily harm.

We've had a number of cases in our neighborhood some years ago. The modus operandi was to push the victim (mostly ladies) and as soon as they fell, grab their goods and run. One old lady I know was pushed from her bicycle and her necklace was robbed from her neck. I say "robbed" because that's what it was. Daylight robbery. Sudden, violent and without mercy. And they have no qualms about hurting, maiming or even killing their victims.

For our neighborhood, perhaps, the law to their credit caught up with the guy or guys. There's been some peace and quiet for a while now. But that doesn't mean we don’t keep our eyes open our doors locked. Our women folk wouldn't think of going out with even a single piece of jewelry in sight.

I think it's time to get this terminology right, not for the sake of being politically correct but for the proper definition for the law to mete out punishment to fit the crime. Whether the law-keepers are really doing their jobs properly or not, is a different matter.

History Lessons & Patriotism

I flunked history. I kept forgetting the dates when such and such events happened, when who did what, or when who was born and when who died. Dates, dates and dates. We had to remember those.

But I didn’t forget the lessons and the principles behind them. Of course, some teachers didn’t mention those principles. At first I wondered why we had to study history. I figured that out myself years later. So, it should be why, why and why. Not when, when and when.

How wonderful for us all if humans can really learn from history. But alas, that is not to be. We all think we are different. Our situation is different. But is it really? We seem to go through similar situations and make the same mistakes all over again and again. And the generations that come after us will still commit the same errors. If by any luck, they turned out right, they’d live happily for a while. If not, they are thrown into another age of chaos, each fighting the other for their rights and ruining the country until something happens or some leader comes along and save them from killing off each other. Otherwise, they keep their country in perpetual state of chaos and finally destroy the country and each other beyond salvation. The world watches helplessly while that happens to some countries today.

The US went through a devastating civil war before the southern states surrendered and gave up their rights to own slaves and to achieve unity as a nation, to live up to their principle of liberty and equality for all.

The Chinese went through years of a destructive cultural revolution to redistribute wealth for equality and decades of closed-door policy and eventually, after a few more decades of re-learning, are finally ready to get back to be on equal footing with the rest of the world.

The Russians managed to bring their nation together for a while under communism. But they didn’t realize their ideology couldn’t hold the people under it for long. They successfully controlled the people and saved the country from ruin but they failed to revive the people’s self-reliance.

The Indian sub-continent, still shackled by their caste system for centuries, would probably have achieved equality and better wealth distribution for all their citizens if Mahatma Gandhi remained alive to guide them through that phase. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen as he was killed by someone who represented those who wanted to keep their status quo. Thus India remains a nation of huge contrasts between the haves and have-nots.

Japan and Germany had their countries and economies rebuilt because they took too drastic actions which fell back on themselves. Their drastic actions however, turned out to work well for them because it cleaned up their old systems and were compelled to start afresh.

I could go on and name more examples of historical lessons, but I’ll miss my point. It would surely be a sad day if we have to solve our problems the way some of these countries try to solve theirs. Therefore, the way I see it, we'd gone through the first step of re-engineering we wanted to make. The next step must be followed through. The crutches must go before too long, before the mold sets, before the extremities become too deep, before we drop too far behind and find our cake becomes just a shell with icings and decorations but hollow inside. The good stuff all gone. The cream of our crop scattered all over the world, benefiting everyone else except us.

All the flag flying and slogan shouting will do us no good. All must start with changing that mindset. Yes, it's easier said than done. But every positive step is a lot better than bickering about who's got more rights.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Now see what you've done, Tiger

Hey, Tiger!

Now you've gone into the woods and stirred up a whole horny nest. Oops, I mean hornet's nest. You paid off one (that's what we're told) now you're gonna pay and pay until you bleed through the nose. Methinks, we'd thought you could've at least learnt something from MJ.

Anyways, ladies, if half the news we read are to be believed; if your man's young, tall, dark and handsome and he looks like he might get rich and famous soon just doing whatever he enjoys doing, consider getting him 'neutralized' for your own good.

Yes. (Good, as in belongings). Then only you can keep him 'safe from predators' lurking in the woods. Otherwise just be prepared to share him with the rest of the world.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Re-starting my artistic career

I decided to rejoin the artists' fraternity after decades of absence. I mean, do I have a choice? I left my engineering job in an automotive parts plant after an extension of one year from the official retirement age when they told me my time's up. And because I was getting bored and tired of the daily grind I was happy the decision was made for me by the downward spiraling global economy.

I've so wanted to go back to painting and creating art pieces. Over the years I managed to squeeze out a few random pieces of water colors. Other than those, inspiration was hard to come by. The stress of work and the cares of raising a family managed to keep me away from my drawing board.

Then I decided I need to generate some income from my art to keep me going. So I thought, apart from painting what my heart tells me to paint, I should try to paint something the public would like to have.

And what is it that anybody would be happy to have hanging on his wall or in his room? His portrait of course. Or maybe the portrait of his loved one. OK, that's what I think. No, not just my opinion. Almost everyone who heard I'm into art asked me if I do portraits. My answer has always been negative. So, now I can safely say, I'm working on it.

Ah... would that be prostituting my art? Well, I don't think so. Painting portraits is a demanding skill. You have to create a like image of someone on paper or canvas and you have to reflect the person's personality and character in that image. Well, that's what they say.

So, here goes. My first piece (after wiping the layers of dust off my drawing board) was a pathetic pencil rendition of my maternal grandpa. The only image I can refer to is a digital copy of a postcard sized photo of him when he was probably in his forties.

That's for a start. Pencil work is fairly easy. You can correct errors quickly without fuss. But I've moved into using water color. Water color, as every artist knows, is a difficult medium.

But I love the challenge.

And here's my 20th piece of struggling with pencil and watercolor. Way to go, and a long way to go in my new career, with perhaps a solo exhibition to mark my entry into the art world, say, in a couple of years down the road. Optimistic, am I?

I have to be. I remember those hard and hungry years when I found myself at the bottom. I had nowhere else to go but up. Sometimes I feel that I'm there again. But then those were times when we had five hungry mouths to feed. Now that there are only the two of us I'm not too worried.

"Art is a jealous mistress, and, if a man have a genius for painting, poetry, music, architecture, or philosophy, he makes a bad husband, and an ill provider." Waldo Waldo Emerson said that. And that's what kept me and Art apart all these years. It's not applicable anymore. At least to me.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Handling Responsibility

Taking responsibility is like helping someone with a heavy load.  You have to hold up your end of the deal.  Once the load is up and moving, letting go is not an option. 

Now, equate that with the running of an organization or business.  Especially when half the weight depends on you but the whole load will not move smoothly without you.  You are not that indispensable after all. 

So, make sure you have the strength to handle your end of the load before you take that responsibility.

Friday, October 30, 2009

More haste, less speed, but he couldn't help it.

This is another of my observations & thinking aloud on the stress of 'civilized' living and how each person handles it.

I looked on helplessly as the Wantan Mee man rushed back to his stall, wild-eyed and panicky, grabbed a handful of raw mee, tossed it into a long-handled perforated container and dipped it into the boiling pot of water.  He then quickly grabbed a bowl, plonked it down on the bench top and shook some sauce into it.  Then he reached out and clumsily tried to grab a scoop from another pot steaming with hot soup. 

There were two other customers standing next to his stall when I came in, so I stood off to one side and told him in the most soothing voice I could master, "It's OK.  Don't panic.  Take your time.  We're in no hurry..."

But he seemed oblivious to my calming words and kept muttering, "Must hurry... quick... no time..." and continued to rush about like a headless chicken.  The other two waiting customers also voiced the same sentiments as they moved aside to give him more space to work.  But the grim-faced guy just carried on with his quick but clumsy movements. 

Just then a friendly lady from a nearby stall came over to help him out.  That didn't seem to calm him down but it at least it prevented him from running into walls... or rather, splashing the soup and hot water all over the place, or getting a heart attack.

A couple of days later I dropped by at his stall again.  He apologized and said not everyone is understanding and patient.  He explained he was once threatened by a very angry customer with bodily harm when he was too slow to serve him.  That was why whenever he got more orders that come at the same time he would panic.

As I stood listening to him I compared him to another stall owner next to his.  The lady owner used to have her elder sister helping to prepare, serve, pack and collect payments.  But this lady was a screamer.  The more customers waiting in line, the louder she screamed.  The poor, soft-spoken, long-suffering, slightly hunched elder sister took it all in her stride.  Years of such verbal abuse obviously took its toll on her and she looked many years older than the younger sister.

One day, the elder sister just disappeared.  She was replaced by another lady who doesn't look like a relative.  The screamer doesn't scream anymore.  I wonder what happened to the elder sister.  And I also wonder what happened to the screaming.  Maybe this 'punching bag' could punch back...

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Adverse Reactions

Everyone reacts differently to pressure or stress at the workplace, public place, home or life at large. 

Some take it out on their colleagues, subordinates, friends or mates.  Whether their outbursts are justified or not, they don't really care.  They just have to chew up someone who happens to get in the way.  All they want is to let off some of the steam. 

Some blindly pick on the wrong victim and get bashed in return.  That's how law enforcers and doctors get more work, lawyers get clients and judges get to sit and decide who's right or wrong and who should pay whom and how much.  If they happen to be in Who's Who lists, reporters get some scoops to fill up their newspapers or magazines.

Others carry the whole thing on their own shoulders.  They get blood pressure or ulcers.  That gives doctors more business.  Some take it home and lash out blindly at whoever get in their way, as in wives, siblings, parents, or children.  Some who have no families simply go home and kick their dogs. 

For those with none of the above, they go to the gym.  Or they learn yoga. 

Many young executives I heard, went and got involved in some pill-popping or head-shaking parties.  I think that's more self-destructive than helpful.  The much better thing to do is pour yourself a drink and go to bed.

Seldom would anyone, especially in the retail business, take it out on the customer.  That would be business hara-kiri.  But some do.  And they close shop and go do something else, or they wise up and learn which side to butter their bread on.  There goes their poor dogs or cats or whatever.

Others with more knowledge or experience and have better control over their senses and coordination of their brain power, aim their pressure in the proper directions.  Employees or colleagues who get caught on the wrong foot often get the best of these fireworks.  That probably gave them the label of being dominant characters in management.  You can't fault them for that because in the corporate world you either take charge or other more dominant characters will eat you for breakfast.  Like the one who said, 'No, I don't get ulcers!  I give them away!'

If you get two such characters within the same organization, then you should sit back and watch the fireworks.  But such conditions usually don't last long.  As they say, 'two tigers cannot stay on the same mountain'. 

Meanwhile, they also say, if the heat gets too much for you, stay out of the kitchen.  Go find yourself a quiet place and meditate.  As in a monastery or temple.  Sorry, all private caves are taken.

Can't walk like everybody else?

Heres' a typical morning market where everybody walks in to buy provisions and foodstuffs and wanders around wondering what else to buy and where and what to eat for breakfast.

Sometimes it can be very crowded, especially during weekends.

But what's it with those guys on their motorbikes and the poisonous fumes they leave behind? 

No, they can't sacrifice their convenience for others' health and safety.  They can't bear to leave their wheels for a while.  They can't park their bikes outside and walk like everybody else.

And these same fellas do the same thing even on crowded days.

Shame... (or, to quote Patrick Teoh;  NIAMAH!!!)

Friday, October 9, 2009

Battle of the giants...

OK, at least one of them is called by the above name, but I'm not saying which is which.  Somebody might just sue me out of my pants.  But their battles against each other is fought without guns and bombs or missiles.  They only use strategies.  They try to win hearts and wallets.  And of course, the bottom line; Hard Cold Cash.

In the beginning each occupy his own location and each try to exert and expand his area of influence.  One stayed north, the other stayed south.  One plays by a more gentlemanly rule.  Let's say they advertise a period of a few days and put up certain items at reduced prices.  They make sure they have enough stocks to last the few days throughout the period advertised.  Customers happily part with their money even though some of those items are not really needed at the moment.  They feel this giant is more trust-worthy as they are given a fair deal.  Most customers even become members of their card club.

The other uses little bits of tricks every now and then.  They also advertise certain number of days of sale with items on offer at reduced prices.  But a few hours after opening, the items are finished.  Customers who go through the aisles, the shelves and hunt diligently for those items end up frustrated.  They find only empty spaces in the shelves.  The spaces look too small to be convincing.  Customers started talking to each other.  Some are made to go a wild goose chase by some equally blur staffs.  Or they are told to go to a special counter. 

Sometimes they go home empty handed, or without those items they want.  They buy less.  But they never forget they feel like they've been tricked.  A few times of hearing "sale, sale (wolf, wolf)" and they begin say, "Oh let's not bother wasting our time.  Sell their fliers to the old-newspaper man.  Let's wait for the other hypermarket to put up a sales offer".

Soon, the other giant, knowing they're winning the war, decided to invade the other big guy's territory.  They put up an even bigger building than their enemy's and sent out their fliers and buntings.  On opening day, the whole area was jammed. 

So far, the story is on-going.  In the end, who's going to win the war?  Well, the end is not here yet.  But we're enjoy the shopping and watching the battle of the giants...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

How to get rid of village bums

A certain rich man in a village lost a chicken.  Just a chicken out of his backyard coop full of chickens, but he went ballistic and had to blame someone for it.  So who should happen by but a village bum, a young man who had nothing better to do but spend his days hanging around the village shrine, fishing by the river or playing with the kids.  He argued and yelled and said he didn't even know there were chickens around the place! 

A crowd gathered round.

The rich guy was adamant he got the right man.  "Show us the proof then," said the villagers. 
The wealthy one couldn't get any proof, but he refused to let the young man go. 

Then the young man had an idea.  He suggested they go to the village shrine and ask the Tuapehkong.  He thought the Tuapehkong would favor him because he was always there taking care of the place.  The rich guy agreed on one condition.  If the young man was found guilty he will be banished from the village.  The bum said confidently, "OK, let's go find out the truth." 

Tuapehkong decided in favor of the rich guy and the poor bum was thrown out of the village. 

He had nowhere to go, so he hiked to the next county. 

The folks in the next county were fighting a war with several of their neighbors.  The young man was immediately drafted into the army.  They trained him.  To his own surprise he found he could do lots of things he never knew he could.  He learned fast and he fought well with different weapons.  He was always suggesting strategies to his captain and they kept winning battles against their neighboring county.  And they kept promoting him until he became a general.  Then they won the war. 

Years went by and the emperor heard about the young general of the county.  He summoned the young man and made him a general of the imperial army.  He won campaign after campaign, until the whole country was united under one emperor.  The wars ended and the emperor made him a governor of his own county.  It was good thing.  The guy had a desire to visit his home village again.

The first thing he saw upon entering the village gates was the little shrine and the Tuapehkong staring at him.  He stared back.  He ordered his men to tear the shrine down and throw everything into a vacant lot nearby. 

That night he had a dream.

"I want you to build a house for me right in the vacant lot where I am now." said Tuapehkong.

"Who are you to order me to do things?" asked the governor.  "You didn't stop them from throwing me out of the village years ago, remember?  They still think I stole that chicken."

"I did that on purpose.  If I'd told the truth you'd still be a village bum today.  But look at you now.  A word from you and things will be done." 

The governor bowed his head when he realized the truth of that.  When he woke up the next day he ordered the temple to be built.

The rich man who lost the chicken protested.  The vacant plot of land belonged to him.  The governor said, "I shall now pass a law that says all land not occupied or planted with food crops shall belong to the government."  Soon the rich landowners began to lease out their lands or hired laborers to plant crops instead of leaving them to grow weeds or became jungles.

And that was how the poor of the village finally got some land to plant their own food.

Moral of the story:  Some people have the potential to be great.  They just need a boot in the butt to get them going.