Wednesday, September 29, 2010

They did not find it stimulating

    Caffeine is found in varying quantities in the beans, leaves, and fruit of some plants, where it acts as a natural pesticide that paralyzes and kills certain insects feeding on the plants.

Wanting to find out more, I looked up the reference provided. In an experiment with tobacco hornworm (Manduca sexta) larvae, the researcher reported, "In concentrations from 0.3 to 10 percent (by weight) for coffee and from 0.1 to 3 percent for tea, there was a dose-dependent inhibition of feeding associated with hyperactivity, tremors, and stunted growth. At concentrations greater than 10 percent for coffee or 3 percent for tea larvae were killed within 24 hours."

He also reported, "Dried tea leaves, which contain two to three times the caffeine of dried coffee beans, were about two to three times as effective as coffee beans in inhibiting weight gain. Furthermore, the concentrations of caffeine found naturally in undried tea leaves (0.68 to 2.1 percent) or coffee beans (0.8 to 1.8 percent) were sufficient to kill most Manduca larvae, suggesting that naturally occurring methylxanthines [of which caffeine is one] could function as endogenous insecticides. When applied as a spray to natural feeding substrates such as tomato leaves, caffeine [...] exerted pestistatic and pesticidal effects that resulted in leaf protection."

I rarely drink coffee or tea, so can't identify with many of my friends who need a cup of coffee to kick-start their day. The brew smells heavenly but is way too bitter for me -- I tend to dilute it heavily with lots of milk and sugar! I mostly only drink it at department meetings or seminars where coffee & tea are served...

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

How times have changed!

I'm not sure what to feel about VideoEgg acquiring Six Apart. I've used Movable Type ever since my original blog moved away from Blogger in June 2003. Recently I switched to Wordpress because MT has been getting more & more complicated and bloated. Used to be I could fiddle with the template and easily make some minor changes to customise things, but now the template is so complex I can't even find the thing I want to change, let alone figure out how to change it. Even Erna complained that MT was too difficult to configure and kept trying to get me to switch to WP so that I wouldn't bug her so much about all the things that weren't functioning properly on my blog :p

Still, to know that things are changing with MT... even though users have been assured that development and support will still continue... it kinda makes me a bit sad.

I'm not sentimental about my car, but I'm sentimental about my (ex)blogging platform. I can't believe this.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Can't afford to live in this country!

    I graduated in 1977. My starting salary in government service was RM1,205.
    Consider the price of items in 1977: teh tarik (20 sen); mee goreng (30 sen); ais kacang (30 sen); Toyota Corolla (RM18,000); single-storey terrace house (RM35,000); first-class cinema tickets (RM1.60)

    Graduates of today earn an average salary of between RM1,500 and RM2,300. They pay RM1.20 to RM1.50 for teh tarik; mee goreng (RM3.50-RM4); ais kacang (RM1.50-RM3.50); Proton Saga (RM35,000); single-storey terrace house (RM100,000); cineplex tickets (RM10).

    —Hassan Talib, in a letter to the editor published in the New Straits Times

He is wrong on two counts; the single-story terrace house, at least in Petaling Jaya, is more in the region of RM300,000 to RM450,000 -- I've been doing some desultory house-hunting. The cheapest car in the country today, the 660-litre engine Perodua Viva with manual transmission, is RM24,900 including road tax & insurance costs. You can only dream of owning a Toyota -- the most basic model of the 1.5-litre Vios costs RM70,783.

Cars have become so unaffordable that one of the local makes advertises "100% loans". I didn't realise how they managed that till I started car-shopping. Then the salesman explained to me: you buy the most basic model of the car, they put in a loan application on your behalf for the top-end model, the bank approves the loan, and as a result the loan amount covers the entire cost of the car. Thus you get a car with no downpayment at all.

It's a bit scary to think that there are so many people out there who are struggling so badly to manage that they can't scrape together enough for a down payment, and this is the only way that they can afford a car. It's even scarier to think that they will then take a 9-year loan (the maximum term) and struggle to pay the installments.

As for buying a house, I'm now wondering how anyone manages to afford one. Property prices are ridiculous in the city, and if you buy on the outskirts you have to factor in the commute: traffic jams = time & fuel & tiredness. Seriously do you realise that RM450,000 for a single-storey terrace house is nearly half a million? Sheesh! Talk about paying through your nose...
Related reading: Then and Now -- Life Gets Harder in Malaysia

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Trivia of the day

The average desktop is crawling with 400 times more bacteria than the average toilet seat.
—University of Arizona microbiologist Chuck Gerba, as quoted by ABC News columnist Buck Wolf

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Privacy is an illusion

The Internet has made it so easy for us to publish our thoughts, opinions and ideas to all & sundry. So much so that many people don't think twice before they send out something, as in the guy who was found guilty of a crime for jokingly tweeting that he would blow an airport up.

The airport was closed due to snow, and he was frustrated. I might have said the same thing myself -- how many times have I said things like, "I'm going to strangle that guy!"? We all say things like these and don't mean it. But the thing is, we say these things verbally to people who know us and who therefore take our words in the spirit in which they're meant. Too many people forget that what they put on the internet is public -- accessible to the whole wide world. They forget that not everyone is going to place a generous or kind interpretation on what they say.

I think this is partially due to Facebook. Somehow Facebook has given us this feeling that if we put something online, we're saying it to our circle of friends & acquaintances... Facebook has made us feel safe to reveal ourselves, to say whatever we want in the belief that others will understand & forgive accordingly. But if your status updates (or the status updates you're commenting on) aren't private, guess what? You'd better be careful or you'll end up on

In any case, Facebook's not totally to blame. In general, people seem to be much less restrained when it comes to writing things on the Internet. When blogging was all the rage I used to see bloggers insisting, "It's my blog, so I can write whatever I like." True enough, but whatever gave you the idea that exercising your right to write whatever you like carries no consequences?

Blogging taught me that yes, you can say whatever you like because it's your story, your experiences, or your opinion, but the other side of the coin is you have to be responsible for what you say. I treated my blog sort of like a diary, writing about my joys & sorrows, achievements & frustrations, but then my mom read it and complained that I was making her sound like a terrible mother, and I felt guilty... one part of me thought it was my right to talk about how I felt, it wasn't like I was writing to vilify her or anything like that... on the other hand, I also understood her wish for privacy and I wondered if maybe I didn't have the right to say things like that publicly, to talk about the struggles and difficulties we faced within the family.

These days I'm a lot more circumspect (in addition to blogging under a pseudonym!). A number of times I've written a tweet and found my finger hovering over the 'enter' key as I reconsidered the wisdom of sending the tweet out. If I'm venting... or I think someone might misinterpret what I say and possibly use it against me... or I think I'm just writing it to get attention... then I often don't send it. The same with blog posts; I have a number of drafts written that I eventually decided not to publish.

In this day & age I think we all have to be a little more careful what we place online. People used to say that we ought to pay attention to grooming and carry ourselves well in order to create a good first impression; but nowadays a lot of first impressions are created in cyberspace, through nothing more than the various bits of text we've left floating out there. A good rule of thumb: You should never place anything online that you wouldn't want certain people to see. Even if your Facebook account is private, one of your contacts could take a screenshot and email it around; on the Web, there's no such thing as absolute privacy anymore. If you want it to be private, keep it off the Web!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Goldfish ain't as dim as you think

Blink said something about a goldfish's memory to me when I met up with him for dinner on Sunday: he said the goldfish has such a short-term memory that by the time it has swum round the bowl, it's forgotten that it's right back where it started.

Intrigued, I asked the all-knowing, almighty Google. Turns out Blink's version is a myth; it seems scientists now believe that goldfish have a memory span of up to three months. The Mythbusters team on Discovery Channel even trained a goldfish to navigate a maze or obstacle course!

I know this is not very exciting news, but it's probably way more exciting to you guys than listing the pros & cons of every car I've test driven over the past two weeks. I've been breathing, eating, drinking, and dreaming of cars, and I still haven't decided which one to buy!

Friday, September 17, 2010

And it's not even fun!

    If Twitter founders Biz Stone, Evan Williams and Jack Dorsey had asked people in a phone survey if they wanted a new service that's like blogging, but where you're not allowed to exceed 140 characters or post pictures directly, everyone would have said no, they wouldn't want that.
    How to Succeed Like Apple

Actually, I still don't understand how or why Twitter is so popular; when I look at my twitter page I can hardly tell what the heck is going on. Half the time I feel like I'm coming into the middle of a conversation, as people I follow -- I won't call them friends because not all of them are friends -- reply to other people they follow, whom I don't follow and whose tweets I can't see because their tweets are protected, and therefore prevent me from deciding if I want to follow them but gives me the impression that they probably wouldn't approve a follow request anyway.

Take the confusion you're feeling after having read that paragraph, and magnify it by ten times: that's how confused I am over my Twitter page.

The latest buzz is over the coming "new Twitter", a new interface. Mashable has even dared to say, "The new web interface effectively makes Twitter desktop clients irrelevant in the long run." But one look at the first screenshot on Mashable assured me that I'll continue sticking with TweetDeck and Sobees. All it took was seeing "5 new tweets" at the top of the page.

I don't want to have to keep refreshing the page to see my new tweets. If you can tell me I have five new tweets, why not show them to me? In the end, this is why I feel frustrated that Twitter is so popular. It doesn't work well straight out of the box; I have to install a third-party app to make it easier to use. That alone should have caused it to fail. Other than that, it doesn't encourage conversations -- it's good for broadcasting, for one-way communication; but two-way, not so much. Isn't "social media" supposed to help you, well, be social, and doesn't socialising include conversations, like a back-and-forth? Sure, you can go back-and-forth on Twitter, but it's impossible to properly track all the @ replies, and everybody else who's listening in either gets annoyed by the irrelevancies cluttering up their page, tantalised by intriguing bits of a one-sided conversation or finds their heads bouncing back and forth as they attempt to follow the trail of the @ ping-pong ball.

Why do I tweet, then? Oh, I resisted for the longest time. My Twitter account remained dormant. But many friends began tweeting and if I didn't tweet it ended up that I was the only one who didn't know what was going on... so I'm tweeting out of self-defense.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Bathroom reading

Each of us has at least one book on the bathroom shelf for this purpose. Current contributions:
    Housemate #1: Slipping into Shadow by Craig Thomas (Genre: Fiction - Thriller)

    Housemate #2: What They Really Teach You at the Harvard Business School by Francis J. Kelly & Heather Mayfield Kelly (Genre: Non-fiction - Business)

    Me: The Determined Virgin by Daphne Clair (Genre: Fiction - Romance)

It's gotten to the point where we can all tell whose book it is just by looking at the title.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Wanted: A marriage made in heaven

Choosing a car to buy is a bit like choosing someone to marry. You look at all the options available. You try to decide on one that is the best 'fit' in terms of lifestyle, income bracket, personal principles, etc. (Hybrid or electric, anyone?) You ask yourself whether you can stand to look at it and drive around in it every day for the rest of its natural life. You hope that after purchasing, the shininess won't suddenly wear off, only to reveal a lemon -- thus breaking your heart and making for a very difficult relationship. All these things come into play.

On the other hand, you're prepared for the fact that some maintenance will be involved, and you know you're going to have to fork out wads of cash at various times. It's something you accept as a foregone conclusion when you have a car. But in the end, you tend to buy the car that attracts you the most, the one you fall in love with... if you can afford it, of course. Sometimes you even buy it against your better judgement, like when people pour money into an old junk that's mostly running on a wing and a prayer.

On the part of the car, this is more like an arranged marriage since it doesn't have much say in whom it gets to marry. Still, it's willing to do its best to help you in any way it can, as long as you don't abuse it. It's proud to be chosen and hopes you will be a good fit for it as well. These things don't go only one way, you know!

Plus, being a machine, it knows it has a few minor quirks or, um, issues that you're going to find out about later, but it hopes you'll continue to love it anyway. No relationship is completely smooth, and no one is perfect, so this is perfectly normal, right? It figures that's something you'll have to deal with and adjust to, just like it'll have to adjust to the fact that you like to, oh, I don't know, take corners at 80kph... It's also expecting that you'll work at the relationship -- regular maintenance and servicing is a must to ensure a state of harmony -- but the rewards are great, and the fun you'll both have together--!

Monday, September 13, 2010


Apparently, I've suddenly gotten "erratic". How did THAT happen?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Dealing with it.

Expectations. I hate them, but they are all around, and I cannot even escape my own.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Too many ouches

I see a vehicle in my future. A shiny vehicle.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Choose thy drug wisely

    Several psychologists regard romantic love as an addiction because it shows addiction characteristics such as the lover's intensely focused attention on a preferred individual, mood swings, craving, obsession, compulsion, distortion of reality, emotional dependence, personality changes, risk-taking, and loss of self-control. Romantic love is likely to be a constructive form of addiction when one's love is returned but a destructive form of addiction when one's love is rejected.
    Reward, Addiction, and Emotion Regulation Systems Associated With Rejection in Love by Helen E. Fisher, Lucy L. Brown, Arthur Aron, Greg Strong, and Debra Mashek


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Ba da BING!

Note: For context, see here. (You won't be lost if you don't, though.)
Mr TDH: I would never have taken a title like The Girl's Guide to Hunting and Fishing to be an outdoor back-to-nature book.

Me: Really? Why not?

Mr TDH: *giving me superior male look* Hunting and fishing are two completely different things.

Me: But you go into the jungle to hunt and there are lakes in the jungle, so you can fish...

Mr TDH: *facepalms* You did NOT just go there.

Me: Sorry lor I'm not all that fond of the outdoors!

Mr TDH: I can tell.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Time to practice drawing! :p


By Edward Monkton

Saw this as I was browsing at the MPH Bookstore warehouse sale over the weekend. It made me laugh. And it's so different from the usual cynical take on things!

It also made me think, hey, I'm sure I could do something like this... and if Edward Monkton can make a living drawing & writing such books, I should be able to do it too! I mean, people are actually willing to pay upwards of RM31.90 for this? After all, it's more or less just a picture book... it's funny and cute and uplifting, but I don't know if I'd consider it worth RM31.90, which is about the same price as a full-length paperback novel.

On the other hand, Monkton has other revenue streams as he also does greeting cards and writes children's books under his actual name, Giles Andreae. It's encouraging to find a self-proclaimed "poet, artist, philosopher, interesting fellow" who's able make a comfortable living doing what he enjoys most. Isn't that what each of us wishes for ourselves?
Andreae: I'm a writer who draws

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Truly Merdeka

This was supposed to be posted on Aug 31, Malaysia's National Day, but I only managed to write it today. English version follows after the Bahasa Malaysia (Malay) version.

Dengan bangganya kita melaungkan perkataan "merdeka" setiap 31 Ogos, tetapi malangnya kita belum lagi merdeka di hati. 53 tahun telah berlalu selepas mencapai kemerdekaan daripada pihak penjajah, tetapi pemikiran kita masih sama sahaja. Tingkahlaku kita menunjukkan bahawa kita belum lagi benar-benar merdeka. Ini disebabkan kita terus berjuang untuk melindingi hak sendiri.

Jika kita sudah "merdeka", maka kita tidak lagi patut berasa seperti kedudukan kita sentiasa diancam. Itulah maksud 'merdeka' sebenarnya -- tiada sesiapa yang mempunyai kuasa untuk menyakiti kita. Akan tetapi, kita seolah-olah masih takut dan berasa tidak selamat, lalu masyarakat kita berpecah-belah dan setiap golongan saling berjuang untuk melindungi hak sendirian. Akhirnya, kita lupa bahawa kita bukan sahaja ahli golongan-golongan tertentu, malah kita juga seorang rakyat Malaysia.

Perpaduan dan harapan "1Malaysia" tidak akan tercapai sekiranya kita selalu berpegang kuat kepada hak individu, hak kaum, ataupun hak sebahagian masyarakat sahaja. Di sini saya merujuk kepada keseluruhan rakyat, sebab pada masa ini, setiap kaum di negara ini memang hanya memikirkan hak sendiri sahaja. Kita rakyat Malaysia perlu mengutamakan hak rakyat Malaysia dan berjuang untuk negara, bukannya untuk kepentingan kita sendiri. Inilah kebenaran yang perlu diakui dan diterima oleh semua lapisan masyarakat, tidak kira yang miskin ataupun yang kaya.
*      *      *      *      *      *

Unfortunately, although we proudly shout "Merdeka!" (freedom) every August 31, our hearts aren't free. It has been 53 years since we gained independence from the colonialists, but our thinking has not changed at all over the course of those 53 years. This is obvious from the way we speak and act; we behave as if we still have to fight for our rights. That is, we act like someone who isn't truly free.

If our struggle for freedom has truly come to an end, we should no longer feel threatened or insecure. However, the truth is that in our fragmented society, each of us is constantly fighting to protect our own rights instead of considering the rights of our nation as a whole. If we continue to hold on to our individual rights, ethnic rights or community rights, we will never be able to achieve unity and "1Malaysia".

In saying this, I am not singling out any single group, because many groups in this country are still fighting to preserve or protect their own rights. As Malaysians, we ought to put our own rights first -- our rights as citizens -- and fight for the good of the country, not to uphold our own interests. All of us, no matter whether rich or poor, need to recognise and accept this truth.
Much thanks to Florence for editing and proofreading the BM version; my Malay is sooooo rusty!

UPDATE 6 SEPT: Changed BM version to a less formal tone, thanks to Mr TDH, my unofficial advisor :p

Friday, September 3, 2010


I love that my brother used the word 'heinous' in a text message to me. That's the first time I've ever seen or heard anyone use it in conversation!