Monday, August 31, 2009

Word 2

The lyrics of Bee Gees popular song, Words, contain the following phrase,

It's only words, and words are all I have to take your heart away ...

The words we say to others have a powerful effect. They can heal, comfort, weaken, strengthen, hurt, anger or even provoke fear. They can build trust or create disbelief. Some people are very good at using words, and depend on such abilities to survive in their jobs, salesmen and motivational speakers for examples. Politicians are a special group who learn the art of speaking to sway the public to believe in them. But a group of professionals wield a greater power of influence, and they are the educators, from pre-schools to universities. What they speak into the minds, and hearts, of their students can influence they ways they behave in their growing years and into their adulthood.

Another powerful source of impact are the entertainers, the pop culture has a huge following of fans that subconciously or otherwise, believe the lyrics of the songs they sing. It is a dangerous movement that sometimes contain spiritual, sex and drug undertone that lead the followers astray.

Human words are widely used to communicate a variety of views. They can be carried over personally like during a private counselling session or transmitted via mass media like the televisions, radio and now, online news portals and blogs. Our reactions are often tampered by how others react and there is a tendency to have the herd mentality, believing what most followers believe as right and truthful. Discernment is crucial that we do not let words take our hearts away as the Bee Gees sung over 35 years ago.

Word 1

What is a word? Back in the school I learned that a word is a combination of alphabets strung together to give meaning. For example, O R A N G E, 6 alphabets that make no sense by themselves placed adjacent to each other in the order shown becomes a word that means orange, a popular citrus fruit. I would like to share my thoughts of what word or words means to me in a few posts. Today I like to dwell on the first verse of the Gospel according to John which says:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

If you are confused then you are not alone. I was confused too. It made no sense. Literally how can a word be a thing or an object when it is just a combination of alphabets, if this is what the passage means? However, I don't think John meant 'Word' to be 'word' as we commonly understand it. So if Word is something else what was it? A person, a spirit, an object? It didn't say then. But the verse continues with a claim that is amazing, even controversial. It says that the Word was not only with God but was God himself! How can it be possible, that two different beings or things are at once the same? Nothing on earth prepares us to comprehend this statement so we have to look for other sources to learn what this verse claims.

In the subsequent verses of John chapter 1 it became clearer that he was referring to the man called Jesus, that He was the Word. At this point I still cannot associate a man with a word, no, Word which must have a different meaning entirely. What then does Word means?

If we go back to the first book of the Bible, Genesis, also at the very beginning, it says in verse 3 very profoundly and powerfully,

And God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light.

Now I see the light. If the Word was God, then it means power to create. Because whenever God speaks, it was created. No human can perform this feat. Only God can create.

How then is Jesus considered the Word and how do we connect the person and the characteristic of power to create? This means that Jesus himself is God incarnate (God becoming man) and that he too possess abilities to speak and make things to be, like how he raised up Lazarus from the dead (John chapter 11). So my understanding is that Word is God's expression. If we can make Word common with word, then 'word' means the human expression which is now easily understood. But God's expression is divine and different. While Word can make things to be, our word cannot but is able to do what is humanly good, or bad.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

New A H1N1 Threat Announced

This is an alarming research finding reported HERE. Every person who is infected with the H1N1 swine flu puts 1.5 other people at risk over the three days before coughing, fever and other symptoms appear. This is why we must all be vigilant since we are dealing with the invisible threats to our health, even our lives.

Yet WHO reports HERE that Malaysians are generally complacent about the H1N1 virus. This may explain why so many have died (71 to-date). But I took exception to the Health Minister's reaction when he said:

“Although the death rate in Malaysia is quite high, it is still within the WHO limit.” as reported HERE.

This is like hiding behind the skirt of WHO. What is the WHO limit? For a nation with 26 million population I would say the rate is alarming. Scale this up 50 times to China's population it explodes to 3550 deaths, much more than the global deaths so I think the explanation is unacceptable. The problem is twofold:

1. The health and airport authorities took the pandemic lightly in the early breakout days and not consistently and stringently screened both inbound and outbound passengers, as well as not tracking down those other passengers of affected flights but depending on the self efforts of the passengers. All passengers, and not just those sitting within a tight range of the infected passengers, should be quarantined since the air circulation in the plane is closed and the filtration system cannot trap the virus. The failed efforts had allowed the virus to penetrate the nation much like trojan horses until such time the minister admitted that local transmissions exceed those imported. By then we have invited the enemies into our house, which makes damage control much harder.

2. Lackadiasical attitude of Malaysians of still frequenting public and crowded places where dangers lurks. Most did not wear masks, even now. Notwithstanding certain medical opinion that H1N1 is not life threatening, statistics have proven otherwise. H1N1 does not kill, but like AIDS, it weakens our immune system to allow other infections like pneumonia to fall us. The information ministry thinks that by publicising the alerts on TV and radio stations and putting up posters they had fulfilled their responsibility but I disagree. In such a near crisis situation they should go to the streets in residential areas, schools and kampongs, blaring out on loudspeakers like in the olden days to warn the residents the danger of H1N1 and show documentary films, also like the olden days, of what it is and what to do to avoid catching the germs. If the health people are desperate to do this to arrest the dengue problem it should be done, even more critically for H1N1, which WHO now declares has entered a more severe form that attacks healthy people, not just those in high risk groups. This means the entire population is at risk.

Do not trust the public to be pro-active and act responsibly. Apply tough laws on those who disobey health regulations. Treat the entire pandemic as an emergency crisis before it becomes full blown. Follow Mexico. Shut down the nation for a week and deal with the whole issue as a national threat. The people wants the government's full focus on dealing with this global threat before more people die unnecessarily.

Picture credit: Reuters

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Are Westerners Lazier than Us?

This blog entry in the Star's Citizen Blog of August 28 caught my attention. As it is very long I'll just select the salient points.

Excuse me? What makes you think they don't work hard?

Posted by: monadc

I feel compelled to write this after skimming through Frodonet's recent post about the dreaded Western people, against my better judgment. Among other things that caught my attention was his insistence that:

they don't work as hard as us...
they don't study as much as us...
they don't want things as badly as us...

Below are some of the points MonaDC raised against the Frodonet's impressions:

... but my years in the UK has taught me something - the British people have pride in work. It's completely unlike in Malaysia where most urban kids are expected to be showered with expensive goods, fast cars, the latest gadgets and branded clothes by their parents.

Here's a little wake-up slap - Western youths are not afraid of work. They're not ashamed of going out and getting after school jobs. In fact, they're not ashamed of admitting to their peers that they have part-time work. And they're not ashamed of admitting that they have to juggle between part-time work and school.

You can say whatever you like about the Westerners. Say that we are a nation that barf out strings of A's - as if that's proof that we are genius. You wish. And I'll tell you - those A's mean nothing when the people who hold them have no character or their own mind or a backbone or whatsoever.

During my study years, I watched my fellow classmates in admiration as they juggled classes, courseworks and part-time work. And still managed to do well in class.

... So to certain people's shock, I decided to follow suit and braved out and get part-time work. I had the illusions that people must be desperate to employ young people for part-time work here, and to my surprise I was wrong. Getting part-time work is a real competition here, regardless if you are local, from the EU, Asia or whatever. Interview process is pretty rigorous, and no, I've not encountered racial discrimination in case someone here might want to broach that. They take the part-timers seriously.

Regardless if you're trying to apply for a job at a restaurant or even Tesco, you have to look decent when you show up for the interview... that is if they accepted the CV you submitted in the first place. That doesn't even guarantee you got the job. You need to score with the following interview.

... To be quite frank a lot of the jobs I've done really sucked! At the end of the day, I feel good. I feel proud. I built character. I built myself, and still am actually. I wanted to complaint how tired and exhausted I was, but then I remembered two of my classmates were young mothers with kids... and they still managed to submit their courseworks in time, grace their exams, juggle school, job, kids and husband - and they survived.

And believe me - my course is hardly a cakewalk. ... I'm recalling back the days when I was studying in a local varsity in Malaysia where so many students I've met complaint about a lot of things, menial things that they could actually overcome themselves. I remember only a small handful of my classmates that actually work part-time. Most do not work because parents don't allow them to. But the truth is, the unanimous opinion is that part-time jobs is beneath them.

The Westerners - they have their flaws, sure. But so do we. But to call them lazy and less hard-working than us... dude, that's just plain ignorance.

I know that there lazy people in the UK that expect free handouts. But don't forget there are people like that in Malaysia. Saying things like that simply screamed that you're in denial about yourself.

... Our real problem? The real reason why we're not advancing? It's mentality. That and the way we designed our education system. All these have been harped upon before again and again, but we've done nothing to fix it... not even from home. We're systematically producing witless spoonfed robots spewing inherent amount of A's to please ourselves and to keep up with this blind and senseless pride. We can't even teach our kids to perform their own chores without hiring an outsider to clean up after us. Our local universities are not even concerned about the importance of plagiarism regulations. Otherwise, how is it that someone I know graduated with Honours without even producing a thesis or a final-year project from a local Uni? And think about the absence of literature reading requirements in Malaysian schools, further preventing our students from expanding their minds outside textbooks.

I was really obsessed with the amount of As as well... until a professor pulled me aside and explained to me that it's not what looks good on the paper that counts - it's the information that I obtained that's what's important. She said a lot of things to me that completely did me a 360 and changed how I view education. It was one of the most valuable chats I've ever had, aside the ones I have with my parents. And I never looked back since.

Say what you like and will about the Westerners. Scoff at them, go ahead. At the core of it, they'll be ahead of us, and always will be. I don't know what is China and Japan's secret, I can't comment. But this is what my dad said when I asked him again and again what made the Western people so advanced, so ahead of us. "Three things," he said to me. "Grit, inquisitiveness and mentality."

... So please. Pull your head out of your backside and stop calling other people lazy and do something about yourself for once.

Well said. I could not have said it better.

A Stupid and Dastard Act

This is the stupidest act I've ever encountered. Read HERE. It just goes to show how intolerant some people have become towards our very own neighbors. And ironically doing it in the month of Ramadhan. Whatever justification there is just flew out of the window. The basic problem is the issue of not wanting a Hindu temple to be relocated to a Malay majority community (in which there are also Hindus and Chinese residing) but why did such a dastardly and childish act? If you don't want a temple in your neighborhood, send a delegate to the Menteri Besar to demand a relocation. Seek alternative solution, not using rash force and threats. This is being very unMalaysian.

Being the majority race does not confer some of them a special right to bully a minor race this way. Using a dead bull's head is gravely insensitive to the Hindus who regards the cows as sacred animals. Other options are available. As matured adults we ought to be able to sit down and negotiate a reasonable solution fair to all parties and not resort to such provocative actions. No wonder the mainline papers refused to publish it but all over the internet one gets to read about it, and the prime minister is hopping mad. The incident cost him dearly in promoting the 1Malaysia concept. The incident revealed deep crevices in race relationship that if not speedily healed through having open discussion of each communities grievances and seeking compromising grounds (which the government had been avoiding all these years) most certainly it will lead to massive fissures of the Malaysian society.

The bull's head incident reveal dark hatred by a small segment of our society that if not clamped and resolved satisfactorily will endanger the rest of level headed and tolerant citizens. Malaysia celebrates her 52nd independence year in 2 days but this incident again showcase to the world that in spite all the braggings of our economic successes, race and religious relations must rank as something we are deeply ashamed of and worried about.

Will the BN government push this to the top of the agenda under its 1Malaysia concept of People First where the wellbeing and safety of her people rank utmost importance? Or will it have to wait till 2013 when the people will unleash their frustrations and anger by voting in a new government?

The people hate to be caught in a bind. Nearly everyone will want to enjoy a peaceful, safe and properous life in the wonderful land we call home. The government must act swiftly to mend the cracks that are fast growing. The happening in a Pakatan controlled state must not be seen as a Pakatan problem. It is a national disaster if it is allowed to propagate further.

In Praise of Malaysian Health Service

If there is anything good I am proud of in the government services, it is the healthcare service. While I cannot speak of the services provided elsewhere except in Seremban where I reside, I believe it is representative of the national performance index.

Why am I indebted to this service sector in particular? Firstly it is above politics, and that is a professional ethic that is missing in many government departments. Here the sick are attended to irrespective of backgrounds that makes medicare a noble effort here.

Secondly, there is a good system in place. The government hospital and clinic I frequent are ISO certified, so they have an efficient system of moving patients around with minimal fuss. And the staff know what they are doing, and they are helpful when the patient is ignorant of the procedure or the location of his treatment room.

Thirdly, the turnaround time is fast. Usually within an hour a patient will get himself registered, see a doctor and collect his drugs and be off. Sometimes it may stretch depending on whether there is an epidemic or if you go soon after a holiday break when more people tend to fall sick. But the jam is often resolved if you know when not to queue for treatment since peak hours are usually in the morning sessions.

Fourthly, the Malaysian public health service cost must rank the lowest in the world. While I have only been getting outpatient care in which I paid just RM5 (equivalent to USD1.50) I get the following benefits:

a. consultation
b. drugs
c. laboratory tests

The drug supplies are for a duration of 4-6 months, and lab tests as ordered by the doctor. All for just RM5 because I am seeing a specialist doctor. Seeing a general medical officer cost only RM1 (USD0.30). Therefore the public healthcare for the citizens are heavily subsidized by the government. I treat it as part of the tax I paid that the government must take care of me in old age. It is social justice I believe that healthcare must not be commercialised or privatized.

The drugs are often branded and manufactured specifically for the health ministry. If the patient is a retired government servant or a militaryman, the cost to him and his spouse is zero. No wonder many citizens want to join the civil services.

Perhaps it is a way the government is repaying the services of its people for the years they contributed to national growth. The private hospitals are doing a good business for those who can afford and those who cannot wait. Government hospitals suffer from long queues and waiting list but they are compassionate to shift you up if your case is serious enough to warrant urgent treatment or surgery.

The Seremban Hospital is tied up with the International Medical University (IMU) that uses the hospital for practical training for their students. I benefitted in a way as I am a patient under study by medical students. Every 4 months when I meet my doctor who is an associate professor in IMU I will be clerked (have my case history taken) by a medical student who will investigate me, which will be evaluated by the doctor for errors and guidance in front of other medical students. I also benefitted from personal care.

Healthcare for the elderlies is always a torny issue. Poorly managed it can lead to complications. I am among the fortunate few who chose the path of helping the medical students while choosing to help myself to the excellent healthcare given by the Seremban Hospital and Clinic.

Felled by a Mosquito

Humans are weaklings although we pride as being the most intelligent of God's creations and control the earth. Yet we succumb easily to infections by organisms much smaller than us. The A H1N1 virus is making headlines round the world which by now have killed over 2000 victims. In Malaysia alone some 68 have died but thankfully the number has not increased in the recent days.

On Wednesday I felt a little down under and I became worried if I would be a H1N1 victim since I am developing a fever. I stayed home to rest and observe and when I did not get better the next day I decided to check in to the nearest government clinic. I kept away from my family members and quarantined myself, making my wife to stay in separate room and my grand-daughter to live with her parents in the day time. If I am diagnosed as H1N1 positive going to the government clinic will be the right place to receive my anti-viral jab. The attending doctor ordered a full blood test on me and the results gave my platelet counts to be below normal, at 133,000 per microliter. This immediately suggest I had dengue fever, which is making many people sick in this country alongside the H1N1. In a sense I was relief as dengue fever is non-infectious, but the mosquito that bite me and was not killed or died and then bite another human would have made him a victim as well. The incubation period for signs and symptom to develop was given to be anything from 4 - 14 days. Taking the short end, it means I might have caught the bite in Petaling Jaya where I spent the weekend last. Otherwise I would have caught it in my own home.

The symptoms of my fever on Thursday, the 2nd day of discovery, was that of high fever (above 38C to 39C) and body ache. No cough, sore throat or headache. I was recommended to take PLENTY of fluids. So my loving wife boiled me herbal drinks as well as bought coconut water to help flush out the toxins as well as cool down my fever. Thursday night my fever rose and I had to be sponged and miraculously it fell to normal by early dawn of Friday, by which time my body ache had also subsided. A colleague got me cactus juice to drink to improve my immunity. It was a very expensive concoction that I take as recommended.

Friday visit to the government doctor and blood test showed my platelet counts fell to 103,000 per microlitre. As a basis for comparison, the normal platelet count is between 150,000 - 450,000 per microlitre. I remember about 1995 when I had my first dengue infection my platelet count had fallen to about 40,000 that require emergency transfusion of blood serum to restore my platelets level.

This morning my body temperature is still normal, in fact slighty lower at 36.8C, and I was not feverish at all last night. In awhile I will have my 3rd blood test to see how I am recovering from this dreaded disease which if not properly managed can lead to severe haemorrhage and death. I discovered a few blood rash on my lower legs this morning, typical and confirming the doctor's diagnosis.

Updated: 12.00 noon. My platelet counts rose marginally to 113,000 per microliter which is good news that I am on the way to recovery. However doctor ordered another blood test tomorrow to establish the trend. Meantime I continue to drink plenty of water, take vitamin C and rest. Another update will be made tomorrow.

Updated: Aug 30, 2009. I had my blood test this morning and expectedly the platelet counts rose further to 144,000 per microlitre. As it is marginally lower than the normal range, the doctor ordered one more test on September 1, as tomorrow is a national holiday.

Updated: Sep 2, 2009. Yesterday my blood test showed the platelets have increased to 190,000 per microliter, above the norm. Therefore I am considered free from the disease and no more blood test. I still never rest to regain my strength.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Knowledge is Dead without Understanding

And understanding is dead without applying what is believed.

My daughter and I found a common ground in being inquisitive students. We both love to sit right in the front of the class, or lecture theatres, but not at the first row, to better capture what the teacher/lecturer says, as well as getting his/her attention. I also think it is a mark of being a good student who love to pursue knowledge for which he (more accurately, his parents) has already paid for! But acquiring knowledge should not be an end it itself or that knowledge becomes an archive of dead bones, without life and without usefulness. Dead knowledge, like a dusty book, fail to improve the person, it merely take up memory and perhaps will be wrongly used to boast or worst, justify a wrong logic.

Throughout human history knowledge has been the bane of civilization only because the wise had chosen to apply them for the betterment of society. How often we hear the phrase 'history repeats itself''? This reflect the unwillingness of the students of knowledge to ask salient and hard question behind the knowlege he acquired. Or the teachers failed to stimulate active discusssions of the controversies and errors of history. For instance, study of history is dull and pointless if it is just for the knowledge of what happened a thousand years ago. History is supposed to be a record of human endeavours, failed and successful, right and wrong, to help future generations avoid pitfalls. Other subjects help us understand why certain events take place they did and how we can appreciate them, such as nature, science, mathematics and the arts.

The study of world religions is one important aspect of asking why human kind fear the unknown and the measures they take to look to the spiritual and their leaders for guidance. Too many of us stop at studying without going beyond to understanding and then applying the lessons we learned. If we all can do this then society will be this much richer and more at peace. But Christianity has identified the root cause why this is impossible, the craving after greed, power and dominance which continue to beset nations generation after generation. Christianity calls this sinful nature and is impossible to remove in this world.

Picture credit to:

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Whipping Up a Storm, Literally

The decision by the Pahang Syariah Court to penalise Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno by whipping for her consumption of alcoholic drink has literally sent Malaysia into negative publicity territory (read HERE), and the government is now attempting to soften the impact by a couple of 'silly' suggestions:

Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir said HERE that the sentence was 'harse'. Maybe for a female first time offender but why he did not say so almost 4 weeks ago when the sentence was mete out?

Women Affairs Minister was happy that the punishment was deferred. Read HERE and HERE, but this is postponing a very unpopular penalty that Kartika insisted she wants to go through although the prime minister has suggested that she appeal against the verdict. She certainly embarassed the religious authorities and the government by insisting to be whipped in public as reported HERE. Why is the PM interfering and offering advices that only her lawyer is qualified to give? Read HERE. He is suddenly a very compassionate person to an offender when he felt coporal punishment shoukd be imposed at a last resort. Read HERE. Maybe the underlying reason is the penalty was meted by the religious authority of his home state, Pahang, and not doing anything may be viewed as not in control.

The Home Minister gave his own take on why the entire decision should be reviewed, taking the cue from his boss the PM. Read HERE. Used to be the politicians do not interfere with the religious courts but suddenly they all want the penalty either nullified or reduced.

The Barisan government had being battling bad publicity and the Kartika incident is embarassing. They need to kill it before it become an international issue and place Malaysia in a bad light. But killing the issue means confronting the decision of the shariah court which is unpopular as it is seen as intrusion. So far the BN government has been able to overturn any decision that is deemed expedient to them.

Actually the caning is very light but it is the anger human rights group feel over a minor offence as well as without warning against repeating it. The question on everybody's lips is what about the thousands of male Muslims who imbibe liquor in classy joints like pubs and hotels in Kuala Lumpur and getting away with it? Is it easier to 'bully' a female? Or perhaps she has no political connections to pull of her arrest.

Am I A Victim?

This morning I awoke feeling somewhat lethargic. No fever but I took paracetamol as a precaution. After running 2 errands with minimal close human contact I came back. The fever did not subside but I started feeling body aches in the afternoon, signs of of flu, not necessarily of the H1N1 type but with a very high probability. I reviewed where I could have contacted it: I was in Petaling Jaya over the last weekend so the chance is there. I was also caught in a slight rain on Monday.

I had taken paracetamol thrice today. My body temperature was 38.6C but I did not feel drowsy nor feel other symptoms such as cough, running nose, vomiting and diarrhea. Tomorrow I will get my condition evaluated by my family doctor to ascertain the next course of action. Worse scenario is to have my throat swab taken at the government hospital and start my anti-viral treatment. I am fortunate to be infected at this time when the authorities are concerned over the pandemic and is willing to start early treatment to improve chance of recovery.

After blogging actively on this topic it is ironical that with all the advices I gave I should be 'victimised'. It just show that N1H1 does not respect anyone. Because it is a stealth virus we should all take extra precautions. I begun wearing face masks today, a practice I had avoided until now. I suppose generally Malaysians care more of public perception about their looks than taking their health seriously. I hope to emerge in the 98% of the reported cases with healing.

As a precaution I am avoiding family contact, wear masks, eat in isolation and sleep alone in a different room. And drinking plenty of water.

Updated: Aug 27, 2009
I went to see a government doctor this morning and had my blood test done. The result shows I did not have H1N1 infection (which is infectious) but Dengue Fever (which is non-infectious). Still I will stay away from family for the time being. I will have to re-test my blood for the next few days to help doctors decide courses of treatment. Meanwhile it is drinking lots of water and taking vitamin C.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Health Tips in the Morning

Every night even as we sleep our digestive system continues to break down the food we ingested at dinner, assimilate them and our kidneys continue to extract water soluble waste, our liver detoxifies our blood and our skin excrete sweat to keep our body cool as we sleep. Our body therefore works as we sleep so when we awake we awake with a body that need to be refreshed.

Our blood is thicker in the morning since water had been extracted to the urine and the sweat. Our mouth, nostril and eyes are dry from dehydration of the air. Our body needs a cleansing to start the day healthily. Yet what we normally perform each morning are just brush our teeth and wash our face. Some of us floss or scrap our tongue. Some may take a shower to remove the residual sweat and body odor. These are all excellent ways to give our body a great start.

I wish to add a few other good practices to the list. It is good to sniff water up our nostrils each morning to clean the orifice. Especially now in the flu season. If possible use salt water which acts as an anti-bacterial cleanser. Those who use the neti pots know what I am writing about. With the air quality been so polluted, it is a healthy habit to keep our nose washed regularly. It is also advisable to clean the nostrils before we sleep.

Drink a full glass of water even before we brush our teeth to replenish that lost in our sleep. It not only dilute our blood (research showed we are more prone to heart attacks in the morning when our blood is thicker) but restore the ionic balance in the blood and help flush out more toxins through the kidneys. Drinking water in the morning is like giving our inner body a bath!

Taking a shower should be as routine as brushing our teeth. Various parts of our body in particular where our orifices are located need to be hygenically washed. This include our genitals. Washing one's hair is also a good practice since our hairs trap dust particles and micro-organisms that thrive in them. Especially of you had been to a crowded place or you have sweated, the hair must be washed to cleanse them from potential infection of the follicles.

While we take care of our upper torso remember our feet, they carry us where we want to go so we must remember their well-being. Scrub the toe nails, the in-betweens and sole. A pair of healthy feet give joy when you can move around without pain and discomfort.

Finally watch your back. This is quite personal since I have a weak lower back. Even to those whose backs are seemingly strong, remember to get up from the bed cautiously using your elbows instead of your spine and spinal muscles. Early in the morning after some 7-8 hours of lying down horizontally your back needs to adjust to being vertical. A minute of sitting on the bed and getting up slowly to the bathroom will prepare your back for the rest of your day.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

My Blog's 1st Anniversary

I missed this important date that I had wanted to keep. The date is 14th August 2009 which is exactly a year since this blog was born. I am happy that I managed to sustain this blog. The first year is an important hurdle and is the major event for me. To be able to look back after writing 500+ posts in one year is a feat I am proud of.

Originally I had hoped this blog will add to my Adsense income but I have given up hope although you still see the banners displayed. The mission of this blog is no longer income generation but a documentation of interesting events and thoughts I want kept. Perhaps when I am too old to blog one day I will have my grandchildren read them to me .....

Down Memory Lane

Last night I made it a point to attend the 20th anniversary dinner of the Malaysian Rubber Glove Manufacturers Association or MARGMA at the One World Hotel in Damansara Utama. I wanted to be a part of the celebration to commemorate the growth of the industry to which I chose to belong since I started my business 21 years ago. You can read more of it HERE. The association was formed a year after I started my business which shows that we are among the pioneers who survived the many challenges in the early years.

I had expected many of the veterans to attend but I was disappointed that many of the old faces did not turn up, and the program did not include a walk down the memory lanes for those of us who helped build the industry to what it is today.

I did meet some old friends though and I took the opportunity to walk about to greet them. I know that I may not have such a chance again since I have sort of semi-retired and am not in the full knowledge of the current industry development. A couple of drinks made me rather talkative and sociable. I also took the opportunity to share some of my business philosophy to the younger guests who spoke to me. When the dinner ended I wondered if my association with this business has also ended somehow. It has been bitter sweet. The industry still have many challenges to face, many new mountains to scale, and also many new opportunities to explore. The younger executives will be more resilient and adaptable to face them. My expectation for the glove industry is positive and strong as it is always in demand as healthcare become more critical in both the developed and developing economies.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Unconditional Love

I just feel I need to follow up with the last post with this one about my wife. Her life is an epitome of perfect parental love. Recently she celebrated her birthday quietly because the H1N1 flu pandemic made it inadvisable to eat in a restaurant. We bought her a birthday cake, sang her our evergreen birthday song as she held on to her grand-daughter Ling whom she had been caring since the day she was born 23 months ago. Four over years ago she singularly took care of her first grandchild for almost 3 years, who now adores her po-po with almost daily phone calls.

My wife doesn't complain about the long hours she spend at night changing diapers, feeding the baby she cared for. She does not complain to me the lonely afternoons she cradled the grandchild to sleep in her arms and then place her down to bed, cover her, set up pillows to cushion any fall and turn the ceiling fan to the right speed, etc. In every motion she think only for the comfort, safety and well-being of the little child. Sometimes she had late lunch, sometimes none at all, just a drink to pass the day. And through it all she neglected her own well-being in favor of the little girl's, and those of myself and our other grown-up children.

In the evenings she would sometimes tell me she felt very tired below her right knee. It may be varicose or something else but she refuses to get a medical opinion. She was an ex-nurse and thought she could diagnose her condition as well. I tried to alleviate her ache through massage. I pain for her because she gave so much and yet begun feeling signs of growing old. Recently she bemoaned to me that she might be getting what I got 6 years ago, cervical spondylosis. I told her she would need to exercise her neck and sleep on a hard pillow which she will have to acquire the discipline to follow up. I warned her that she would need 2-3 years to recover (I no longer feel the achy neck and shoulder ache and tingling fingers although my lower back is weak from degeneration of my spine).

Next year we expect a 3rd grandchild under our care, this time with a maid to assist. Still my dear wife will be overall in charge. She does not complain over the new burden. To her anything for family is worth doing even at great cost to her. My wife is truly love in motion and I am blessed to have her. So are all our grand kids.

Love and Responsibility

I attended a funeral service recently. The elderly mother-in-law of a friend has died after living to some 90 years. In her later years she had severe dementia and had to be cared for 24/7 by him, his wife and a maid. There were other siblings but as usual one will be 'unlucky' to be responsible for the care of the elderly parent. To be fair, it is a relief that the parent had died because I can sense this friend's life being liberated and that he can now do what he love and not be bound by filial love to his mother-in-law. I wonder if he felt the loss, or were there a time he quarreled with his wife over this 'burden'. But at the funeral service I saw the tears, the loss and also sign of something heavy being lifted from their lives. They are no longer young, in fact they are a few years older than me, and really need caring for themselves. But in our Chinese and Christian tradition and faith, we will never abandon our parents when they are at the point of greatest need.

We hear of many definitions of love but the greatest human love is one that is expressed through daily actions, sometimes without any words accompanying. Love is just doing what is right and best. Love is placing yourself in the receiver's shoes looking back in need and responding to that need. You can never buy that kind of love, and you can't even think of repaying it since you will never get into a situation of reversing the role to show your gratitude. A good advice is always to pass what you have received on to someone else who need it.

Every station of life needs a different expression and application of love. Since it involves giving, love becomes personalised and never the same. When given it is a unique sharing of one's life with another person we love. In that giving and sharing, a part of our life is sacrificed, no longer ours to spend for ourselves. The giver sometimes feel sad that he or she did not have the opportunity to enjoy life more fully in fulfilling his or her dreams. The receiver sometimes feel guilty for robbing the giver that chance and tries to make up later when opportunities arise. This is why love between parents and children are so privately satisfying and meaningful, that only they can fully understand.

My friend lost his mother-in-law he helped care for the past 20-30 years. He sacrificed part of his life in showing his love. Not many children today will do this, which explains the growth of old folks homes to accommodate ageing parents that their children don't have time to care or socialise anymore. They have used money to pass on the responsibility of loving (or is it more of caring?) to others. Yet, loving cannot be delegated. As one generation made time to love, so the next generation need to do the same. We all need to love those above us and below us. The purpose of parenting is that of looking after those who had cared for you as well as those who will eventually look after you.

Love your family well. You will be rewarded when you really need it.

Pets, a Traded Arrangement

If keeping dogs for the love of them is consider 'petting' then I have kept pets for the past 35 years. They number about 10, some of them strays, some given to me. I've never kept pets for the pure reason of just loving them or seeking their companionship. Maybe none of them ever came close to being very lovable, especially my present dog. One did come close, a stray dog that I wanted to keep him and cuddle him, but he chose not to stay with us. He preferred the wild life and that cost him his life. For awhile I was saddened that he (I even named him Fonzi and got him a dog licence and took him to the vet to deworm, etc) left without a word but I soon got over his momentary 'intrusion' into my life. Then I had the habit of taking morning walks and Fonzi would accompany me. He came closest to what I want in a pet, a companion.

My present dog, Lipton which is a spayed bitch did not come close to the character of Fonzi but we kept her for a very good reason. She was the most fortunate of all the dogs we had. She was the cinderella, a stray pup that had absolutely no future beyond going for crumbs and risking being kicked, beaten and even road killed. But Lipton and her sister were given princess lives and they are today pampered with secured homes and well fed every day.

Lipton stayed on because we wanted her presence when we need some sort of security. Of late, perhaps due to the recession or the growing presence of foreign workers as well as the tired police force that has surrendered patroling the housing estates, there are more burglaries and house break-ins. Even in the day time. There has never been a time when we feel less secured, so having a dog or dogs will serve us well.

Lipton is already 9 years old. She does not romp as much as she used to in our garden, and I am less energetic to run and chase her. We have both aged so I just amuse her occasionally, especially when my grand daughter wants to play with her. Lipton's redeeming value is she looks fierce and male, so strangers may think twice about apprehending her. Even the water meter reader gets a wee bit scared when he attempt to take the monthly reading when Lipton hung around nearby, so he just wrote in an estimate. Silently I am glad. Lipton also does not stray out, well maybe occasionally, when the gate is opened for us to drive in or out. Sometimes she get herself locked out and we just let her stayed there for awhile 'to teach her a lesson'.

Keeping dogs is becoming more of a traded deal. It cost about RM100 a monthly to maintain a dog. In Lipton's case, her other redeeming value is she keeps our food garbage minimal as she eats almost every morsel of remnants, except fish and hard bones. I don't want to risk her getting injured or sick because she does not welcome a trip to the vet and would try to bite anyone who want to trick her into the car. Fortunately she had been reasonably healthy all these years. Sometimes to justify her value to us she would chase and kill one or two cats and squarrels, and an occasional bird. With slower speed this is becoming a tough goal and she spends most of her time under the car napping and coming out for her food and drink.

I have considered what-if, what if Lipton die in the next few years, would I be able to look after another dog when I may need looking after myself? Originally I banished the idea of keeping another dog, that Lipton will be the last. Then the worry of bad security and safety of my family made me reconsider. Perhaps I should have a dog or two still after Lipton go. But not now. The spectre of her killing a pup some 6 years ago out of jealousy meant she cannot tolerate another dog in the same compound (maybe Fonzi left for this reason, he was harassed!). Lipton is an intensely jealous dog and this is her undoing for she is now destined to live a lonely spinster life. Maybe this is what she wanted all these years. Sigh!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The H1N1 Ball Now in People's Court

The bad new today is Malaysia recorded its highest number of reported cases in a single day - 569. Read more HERE. The worry of deaths is now replaced by the worry of defencelessness against the virus that can mitigate into death even though the mortality is very low, ranging from 0.1% to 2%. Human nature is such that we don't want to be put at risk even if it is as small as 2% or less. What if we fall sick although we take all the precautions and statistically stand the risk of becoming one of the 2%? We can say that pre-H1N1 there was no fear of this and we take what comes along with a bit of fatalism. No one is to be blamed if we, say, got bitten by mosquitoes and get a dengue fever and die unfortunately. Blame on the local authorities, blame on irresponsible neighbors who breed mosquitoes, blame on ourselves even. The issue is local and attract little national interest. But H1N1 is different.

When news broke in late April, we watched how our government responded as the virus made its way into our airspace. We could have taken stringent measures to protect our citizens by getting tough on inbound travelers who are sick. We didn't, we let many in unchecked. We let the trojan horses in. And today we pay the price. We didn't force home quarantine. We didn't close schools until things get bad. We didn't ban public meetings, we just advise the public not to attend if they are sick. All the 'didn'ts' have created a crisis of massive infection. The greater the number, the bigger pressure is placed on our healthcare system and the higher the risk of oversight, carelessness, and higher chance of people dying. Just as the police have failed to provide protection for our safety that we must resort to using private security services, so the health ministry have failed to protect the people from H1N1 infection that we must take steps on our own to stay alive. People, if you refuse to take charge of your own safety you cannot blame anybody if you get terribly sick because the government cannot assure you that your welbeing is in their hands. The health ministry just became the information ministry.

I wonder what is the point of electing a government to look after our interest if they keep showing their incompetencies. We may just as well appoint a specialist and professional team who have proven KPIs and KRAs and pay them off our taxes. I am sure there will be many applications. And we will be free from all the politicking that saps our time and resources.

KPI - Key Performance Indicators
KRA - Key Results Area

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

You Can't Change Race But You Can Change Religion

I am regularly baffled by the mindset of our political leadership. Today I am agitated enough to blog after reading THIS. Removing your race identity on official forms used by the government is going to help the 1Malaysia concept? Doing so is not going to make me less Chinese, a Malay less Malay or an Indian less Indian. What we want is how to make us all more Malaysian and taking away our race identity do nothing to help improve situation. I am happy to state on any form that I am a Chinese AND a Malaysian. But I don't want to be discriminated against because I am forced to declare, against my wish, my faith. I am born a Chinese and I cannot change that. But I wasn't born a Christian and my parents did not forced me to remain a Buddhist when I decided to embrace Christianity in 1981. A person's faith is his choice and sometime he will want to review and make a change if he discover he wanted to believe something else. This is the basic human right attached to every citizen, a freedom of choice, and this is what the government should be reviewing instead of race.

Remove any requirement to declare one's faith in every documents, including the identity card, birth certificate and school records. This will smear whatever segregation that keep some of us different from others. The 1Malaysia concept must start with the removal of faith differentiation. If the Najib government can do this I am willing to give it a fair chance in 2013.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Reader's Digest Going Under ???

I was shocked to read THIS just now. For as long as I can remember I have been a regular subscriber to this favorite companion of mine. The Digest is highly readable with its broad base contents that appeal to young and old. I have encouraged my children to read them to improve their standard of English and I did the same to my nephews and nieces. Old issues of the RD are never thrashed but handed down to them since almost all the articles are timeless and there are lessons to be learned and shared. What I love about the RD is that the articles are short enough to be read at one sitting (literally in the toilet!) and the humor sections kept me on top of the downside of my life. The amazing thing about the Digest is it is a study about life in its ups and downs and how the contributors respond to its trials and joys. The Digest kept the human hope alive and provided years of loyal companionship which I am sad to learn is becoming shaky in its foundation. With the new generation not keen to be readers, the book and magazine industry is under threat of being replaced or overtaken by other media that are less time consuming and more attention grabbing, like the mobile phone that can perform lots of functions.

Over the years I got a bit annoyed by the way the Digest tried to promote its products, which expanded to magazines, audio CDs and books, using its very unique contest method. I remember when I first received envelopes with personalised contest forms I got very excited that I was among the few handpicked subscribers to participate. After several tries that I qualified from buying their CDs and DIY, dictionaries and self improvement books, I failed to win any prizes. Recently I changed my subscription to the Large Print, which is an US publication as my eyesight is geting poorer. But I realise that some of the materials are not relevant to my culture and lifestyle. My association with the Digest may revert to its local edition.

The news of RD's financial difficulties is a reality check for many established businesses that nothing assure them of continuity if they do not re-engineer their business models to suit the changing times. The present recession and changing lifestyle are making many products and services irrelevant or unpopular as newer offers are promoted. The RD is in the same predicament. The print version may have to be replaced by audio and streaming video versions to keep the customers happy.

Monday, August 17, 2009

H1N1 Patients Queuing to Die

It is a terrible tragedy to be helplessly under a government that is not taking definitive and drastic measures to curb the advancing spread of this virus. Many unhappy readers have voiced their complaints to the press and blogs on the absence of clear cut actions to stem the spread. Essentially the muddy leadership on this health scare is putting the citizens at high risks and we are naturally angry at the slow response taken. Yesterday's Star had a report HERE on how Mexico licked the H1N1 flu that the Malaysian government must emulate to break the chain of propagation, failing which a larger disaster looms ahead of us with more deaths to come.

Today 62 official deaths have been reported. God knows how many more have died unreported. Today a number of seriously ill patients lie waiting to die in Intensive Care Units across the nation, some 33 of them, while over 200 are being treated in normal wards. Over time, more cases will be added, and some of the critically ills will die. The health ministry is still hesitant to give the Tamiflu anti-viral vaccine to all patients except those in the high risks and critically ill groups. This is like reacting too late to save. The government must stop using persuasive means to cull the flu bugs. It does not work for indifferent Malaysians. The only way is to enforce full closures of public gatherings, including shopping malls, cinemas, schools and public events like sports, concerts, political gatherings and the upcoming Merdeka celebration. Personally there is nothing to celebrate when the nation is under threat. It is far better to protect lives through preventive measures.

The only way to solve the H1N1 viral propagation is to cut off its source, which is those who are already infected through compelled quarantine and enforced reduction of people contact and movements. Declare a 7 days national public holidays for everyone except those in essential services.

A news report sharing my views above. read HERE.

Thank You, YouTube

Sometime I really wonder, why do we want to travel to faraway places to see places that streaming videos are able to deliver right to your home? And documentaries from Discovery Channel and National Geographic take you to places you can never go on your own. I also receive wonderful powerpoints of scenic collections around the world, many with added music and captions. There is a dearth of 2-dimensional resources on the Internet to justify why real life travel is becoming less of a good deal, cheap flights notwithstanding, since the only advantage is reality but at a huge cost of money, time and efforts.

I have never been spoilt for options in the last few years when the explosion of cable and satellite TV and high speed broadband allow videos to be streamed smoothly into my LCD monitor with HD or near HD quality. I asked if it is really worth the efforts to fly to places just to get an on-the-spot experience that I cannot get from documentaries and YouTube videos. And more often than not, except for a small list of selected places I really find worthwhile going, I am satisfied just watching travelogues. The advent of YouTube gave me a new field to explore. I am thankful for its contribution to senior netizens like myself.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Shadow Boxing with H1N1

First it was a virus that seems far away but like a tsunami it has reach our shores and surrounded us threatening us with flu and fever that can lead to death. When the government announced about 10 days ago that we have a 95% chance of catching the H1N1 flu virus when we catch a flu virus it became clear that we are going to be shadow boxing with this dangerous virus. I have not had any fear of dying from influenza but now with the H1N1 claiming lives I am anxious that we are all coming face to face with an invisible danger that lurks among people we are surrounded with. It makes me uncomfortable and conscious when somebody looks sick, sneeze, cough, even wear a jacket. I will avoid going into lifts or stand or sit too close to someone, including people I know. I much prefer to be in an airy spot and to get home as fast as I can.

People I know are now beginning to come doing with this H1N1 virus so it is like is the likelihood of my contracting it much higher than before? My immunity to flu is not high so if I do catch it will I be at higher risk of dying? Of spreading the early Christmas gift that nobody wants? In the past few days I've even suspended breathing sometimes when I suspect someone nearby to be a carrier. Oh! how I dislike going shopping now because of the danger of breathing in polluted air. Cigarette smoke laced air will be more bearable than one carrying the H1N1 virus which is odorless and imperceptible. This makes the discomfort much higher.

I have masks but I don't wear unless really required. I am like the 99% of the public who still move about unmasked. I am trusting on my lifestyle and my faith in God to keep me protected from infection. But as I track the daily death rates I hope that the day will come soon enough that the deaths will slow down and stop. All of us want to have the unfettered freedom to move about without fearing the flu bugs to knock us down.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

A H1N1 Scoreboard

The situation is serious enough to warrant a 'scoreboard' to track the deteriorating situation in Malaysia.

Updated: Aug 9, 5.30pm - 26 deaths. Read HERE.

Updated: Aug 10, 2009, 2.30pm - 32 deaths. Read HERE. Total cases 1983, mortality rate = 1.61%. Globally, 1688 deaths from 208,155 infections, average global mortality rate = 0.81%. Malaysian's mortality rate disturbingly high at twice global rate, suggesting combination of ignorance, confusion, indifference, delayed treatments, lackadaisical attitude of some healthcare personnel, uncoordinated efforts between public and private medical services, and virus carriers continuing to expose themselves to the general public. A timely reminder on how to outsmart the H1N1 virus is found in my post HERE.

Updated: Aug 11, 2009, 2.30pm - 38 deaths out of 2253 cases, 1.69% mortality.

Updated: Aug 12, 2009, 5.15pm - 44 deaths. Read HERE. The daily deaths for the past 4 days are 6, which for a nation of 26 million, is rather high. The government is still adopting a wait and see attitude before taking drastic measures to cancel public gatherings, including the upcoming national celebration on August 31, close schools, colleges and universities. Instead it prefer to launch awareness campaigns which should have been started 2 months ago. Crisis like now need drastic actions and strong determination to weed out the H1N1 virus. This morning I checked with a shopping complex operator who told me that few people are shopping due to the flu scare.

Updated: August 13, 2009, 11.45am - India is a nation 46 times the population size of Malaysia. It has reported 1078 cases of H1N1 virus infections and 15 deaths (1.39% mortality). The situation is not as critical as in Malaysia and yet the Indian health authorities has decided to close all schools and movie theatres. I am wondering why the Malaysian government is still sitting on this problem that the 2nd largest nation in the world deem serious enough to warrant sweeping actions. Read this view from a Malaysian medical doctor HERE.

Updated: August 13, 2009, 4.45pm - 51 deaths. This number doubled what was updated barely 4 days ago! Read HERE. I don't have the actual total cases, but assuming it is about 2500, the mortality rate is a scary 2%. The Malaysian health ministry is still in the dark what to do to effectively arrest the spread. Unpopular actions such as curfews or closures of entertainment outlets, schools and all public events for a full week while mobilising all medical personnel to track down and treat the flu sufferers and getting the Information ministry to get to the grounds to broadcast to the public the high risks of H1N1 must be enforced, failing which the government must be accountable for sitting on the fence and wait for the situation to deteriorate before enforcing such ideas.

My concern of the high mortality rate is echoed HERE.
Another blogger shares his medical opinion HERE.

Updated: Aug 14, 2009, 5.15pm - 56 deaths, 2250 cases, mortality 2.49%

Updated: Aug 15, 2009, 4.15pm - 59 deaths. The health ministry is habitually highlighting death cases as victims from high risk groups, implying that they are helpless or the victim's families are not seriously screening them from infection. As the singular authority that can make a difference in managing the mortality it is not enforcing control measures and aggressively publicising the danger of the virus especially to those in the rural areas as well as the lower income segment of the society who tend to be more ignorant and indifferent. As a comparison, China with a population over 50 times greater than Malaysia is reportedly having only 105 deaths, or less than twice that of Malaysia's 59. Is China hiding or Malaysia more transparent?

Updated: Aug 16, 2009, 12.30pm - 62 deaths as reported in Malaysiakini (BM version) and 3857 cases, average mortality 1.61%. Some inconsistency of reported cases with the figure I updated on Aug 14, increase of 1607 cases in 2 days!

Updated: Aug 17, 2009, 2.30pm - 64 deaths from 4225 cases, 1.51% mortality. The number of new cases rose by 368 in a day.

Updated: Aug 18, 2009, 4.00pm - 67 deaths. The number of deaths seems to be reducing to 2-3 daily from 4 days ago. Hopefully this will continue to reduce as fear and panic is starting to grip families who are worried their children and elderly members are prone to catch the virus. It is good that the government is including facemasks under price control as this item has been sold at excessively high prices.

Updated: Aug 20, 2009, 3.15pm - 68 deaths. Just one new death reported in the past 48 hours. However, as reported HERE, the nation recorded the highest number of cases in a day to date at 569. This development may signify the H1N1 flu virus has indeed become too widespread to effectively control it. It is now left entirely to the people to prevent its spread. THIS report paints a troubling prediction on the spiralling deaths to be expected while the government seeks WHO's assistance to understanding why our MORTALITY RATE IS HIGH.

Updated: Aug 21, 2009, 2.00pm - 68 deaths still but reported cases rose by 380 to 5876 giving an average mortality of 1.16%. Read HERE.

Updated: Aug 22, 2009, 10.30pm - 68 deaths. For the 3rd consecutive day there was no new death. This is encouraging. Read HERE. Meanwhile a school was closed for 9 days when a teacher died of H1N1 complications as reported HERE. However, parents were kept in the dark until they visit the school to verify the decision.

Updated: Aug 24, 2009, 2.30pm - 69 deaths. The latest death actually occured on Aug 19 but only officially revealed today. Read HERE. Why the secrecy?

Updated: Aug 25, 2009, 3.00pm - 70 deaths. Read HERE. No report of total cases so unable to determine average mortality.

Updated: Aug 26, 2009, 7.00pm - 71 deaths. Read HERE. Wise move by the government to cancel the Merdeka countdowns at the Dataran Merdeka and Petronas Twin Tower. Read HERE but using the Ramadan fasting month is inexcusable since celebration were never downsized or cancelled in the past on this account. The real reason is the pandemic, of course.

Updated: Aug 29, 2009, 12.45pm - 71 deaths. It is good news that no Malaysians or visitors to the country had succumbed to this illness in the past 3 days. I hope this will be the beginning of the decline of the H1N1 infection here.

Updated: Aug 30, 2009, 4.00pm - 72 deaths. Good news don't last long when H1N1 virus is still lurking dangerously. Read HERE.

Updated: Sep 3, 2009, 8.30pm - 73 deaths. Read HERE. Death toll seems to slow down but whether this trend will hold depends on the next few weeks. Tomorrow there will be a travel fair in Kuala Lumpur. Hopefully those with H1N1 infection will not go there to spread the goodies.

Updated: Sep 8, 2009, 12.00 noon - NO change since the last update. Hopefully the H1N1 virus has lost its power or the government had finally found the way to prevent more deaths. This is the last update. If situation changes I will start a new post.

Yin Yin and Yin Yin

It is an amazing coincidence today in church. The two Yin Yins we know came to church, one from Singapore and the other from Perth, Australia. The Singapore Yin Yin married an Englishman Steven and has happily made their home there. I know this Yin Yin's dad as he sings in the same church choir as I and he speaks a smattering of Foochow each time he greets me.

The Perth Yin Yin was my former neighbor some 16 years ago and she moved to Australia while we were staying next door. She also made her home there and has a 3 year old son, Ryan. Oh, yes, the Singapore Yin Yin has a 5 year old daughter.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

H1N1 Deaths Increasing

It is indeed worrying that over the past 72 hours, 6 new deaths had been reported, bringing the total to 14. The government is starting to worry as reported HERE. A sms survery conducted by a local television station yesterday evening on whether the respondents favor a more stringent control on the spread of this virus, a overwhelming 95% supported the idea. Frankly it is better late than never. I had expected the government to over-react in June when the WHO shot a warning that this disease has become pandemic.

The above report also carried an interesting observation by the Perak health committee chairman Datuk Dr Mah Hang Soon. He surmised that 95% of those who catch a flu now will be catching the H1N1 virus. Now this is scary even if the virus is not a killer. I have not heard of people dying from flu so this is certainly worrying. Where Dr Mah gets his number I don't know but assuming it is authoritative, and building up on what he said in the same report that at least 20% of the population will get the virus, I want to do some arithmetics below.

26,000,000 x 20% = 5,200,000 will be infected.
Taking the global mortality rate of 0.5%, this projects to 26,000 dead Malaysians (within the range of WHO's projection of 5,000 - 28,000). See earlier post HERE.

Scary? Then it is time for us to take the message from the Health Minister very, very seriously. I reproduce it below:

Those down with flu, even if it is mild, should stay away from public places to help contain the spread of the highly contagious disease, said Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai.

Even at home, they must avoid contacts with their family members, he added.

The ministry, he said, have also directed all clinics and hospitals, both government and private ones, to increase their suspicion index on the H1N1 virus.

“Meaning, patients with the slightest flu symptoms must be treated as potential H1N1 cases.”

In South Africa's Cape Town, people have begun panicking as reported HERE. Laboratory services are being stretched to breaking point. I hope we will not see this scenario here.

Latest! A H1N1 Virus Can No Longer be Contained - read HERE.
Updated News Aug 7, 2009, 4.15pm from BERNAMA:

Influenza A (H1N1) Now A Serious Threat, Says Najib

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 7 (Bernama)

Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said on Friday the influenza A (H1N1) has become a serious threat to the nation and advised the people not to attend gatherings in public places.

The prime minister also advised the people to take comprehensive preventive measures after the H1N1 death toll rose to 14 as of Thursday and many schools and tertiary institutions had been closed due to cases of infections.

"Don't hold gatherings unless they are necessary. Gatherings will expose us to additional risk because the disease will spread," he told reporters after opening the Malaysian Sports Industry Convention here.

Preventive measures like washing hands and wearing masks, especially when attending public functionsm, could also be taken, he said, adding that he had washed his hands before entering the convention venue because he had shaken hands with many people.

"If we have to wear a mask, wear it. There's nothing to lose," he said.-- BERNAMA

Updated: Aug 9, 2009, 12.30pm - 18 deaths. Read HERE.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Ignore Public Opinions at Your Peril

Today I read this forthright remark from a trade unionist, Malaysian Trades Union Congress's secretary-general G Rajasekaran, in response to the use of force by the police and riot squad last Saturday to disperse the anti-ISA Rally organized to present a memorandum to the King to seek his intervention to have the Internal Security Act repealed.

"It is now a well known fact that government always ignored memorandums and proposals submitted by civil society groups"

The Barisan government has been ignoring feedbacks because they have been the only political power than Malaysians can vote into power so they can ignore every complaints since they expect to be voted in again and again. The longer it stays in power, the longer it believes that its actions are beyond reproach. Even if they know they are wrong they will be turned right because they believe their authorities are absolute and unchallengeable. Many leaders who turned dictators tasted the bitter pills when they are brought down by the might of rebellion and revolution by people power. The late president of the Philippines, Madam Corazon Aquino, was credited with taking down the mightly Ferdinand Marcos on the wind of massive support from the Filipino people. The late President Suharto of Indonesia met similar fate. Tun Mahathir would have gone the same way but he was smart enough to step down earlier.

The present Barisan government under Najib Tun Razak must not pay lip service or promote slogans to convince the people that they are sincere to help them. They must act speedily on the many grievances put forward to improve their quality of life. Malaysians are generally not bothered whether it is Barisan or Pakatan who rule over them. Their primary concern is the coalition that sincerely listen, understand and rectify the many problems raised will be voted into power.

Do not deny the people the right to express their concerns. Give them every avenue to do so. And interact with the representatives, find solutions and monitor their progress. True leadership comes from meeting the needs and aspirations of the people they lead.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Under Attack, Preparing for the Worst

This table captured from this web report HERE paints a gloomy picture of a nation under attack by the H1N1 virus. Personally I think we could have done better especially in controlling the number of deaths. When the virus was detected and started propagating in late April from Mexico, the WHO had sounded a serious warning that it will be pandemic unless national health and border control authorities take stringent measures to stem its spread. Since humans dislike being subject to inconvenience, this provided a loophole for the virus to penetrate and disseminate rapidly. Like a trojan, once it lands it is almost impossible to wipe it out. Today we join the many nations that reported deaths among its victims.

Radio broadcasts repeatedly warn listeners to practise stringent personal hygiene, and avoid moving in crowds. In fact today I had to be in the presence of unfamiliar crowd in a hospital setting when I went to collect my drug supplies. Some are in masks. When I got home I had to take a bath scrubbing with anti-bacterial body wash, change my clothings, and wash my watch and spectacles. Like I just returned from a funeral service!

Am I being paranoid? If situation get any worse I think I may even stop going to places where there are more than 20 people! And ask each one if he/she is sick, or recovering from one, or had been in contact with someone sick recently. No joke! I need to stay healthy to avoid inviting the H1N1 into my body and unknowingly infect my family.

In the above report the WHO apparently projected between 5000 - 28000 deaths from Malaysia. If this really happen it will be like a plague has attacked us and there will be mass panic among the masses. Imagine what can happen:

1. People avoid traveling by public transport.
2. No cinemas, shopping, going to muzeum or the zoo.
3. In workplaces employees will absent themselves for the slightest excuse of being sick.
4. Hospitals will be flooded with patients and facilities to treat will be severely stretched.
5. Schools will close.
6. Economy slows down costing losses of billions.

It is imperative that everybody take full responsibility to be safe, and if he is unwell, go into hiding. Let us not become a nation that succumbs to the tiniest of organisms, the virus. Once we break the chain of propagation, the virus will either die or weaken to become benign.

For the record:
Globally: infected - 189,155, died - 1319 (0.697% of infected)
Malaysia: infected - 1,460, died - 8 (0.548% of infected)

Updated: Aug 5, 2009, 3.30pm - 1,476 infections, 11 deaths
Updated: Aug 5, 2009, 5.15pm - 12 deaths
Updated: Aug 6, 2009, 8.30am - 13 deaths
Updated: Aug 6, 2009, 2.30pm - 14 deaths

Throat Swab Saves Doctor

After I read this REPORT I am assured that getting a throat swab even when you have a mild flu can help detect the presence of the A H1N1 virus. I quote from the report:

“I had mild fever but no other flu-like symptoms. However, I knew something was not right the following morning when I experienced shortness of breath,” she said when contacted at her home in Klebang.

The doctor, who was supposed to attend a dinner gathering at a hotel here on Saturday night, immediately got herself tested at the hospital.

“I was very anxious and wanted to know if I had the H1N1 flu before the dinner, as I did not want to spread it to others,” she said, adding that the results from a swab sample came back positive for the flu on Saturday morning.

I believe the anxiety of the doctor is common among people who are down with flu and expects the hospital to treat them likewise even if they are not on the frontline attending to the sick.

In a related REPORT the Health Minister ordered patients in the high-risk groups, including children and pregnant women, to be given anti-viral treatment if they go to hospitals with influenza-like symptoms. We should not wait for more deaths before we remove this categorization. Everyone who contracted a flu must be a suspected H1N1 carrier and be given a fast track examination. The minister even said,

“Waiting to be tested and waiting for the results could result in a delay in treatment,” said Liow, adding that the test results can be out within six hours.

This is a responsible statement from him. More need to be done and I suggest every flu case treated at private clinics and hospitals be referred immediately to the nearest government hospitals for followup treatments.

Monday, August 03, 2009

To Swab or Not to Swab?

There seems to be different views of whether people who come down with flu like symptoms during this time should be given mandatory throat swabs. A source close to the government hospitals said that only those with severe symptoms will be given this test. Read HERE. A blogger in his post HERE said throat swabs are expensive and that the government can only conduct selective testing. I quote:

It is impossible for the government hospitals to test every flu-like case for H1N1. A throat swap will cost the government at least 60-80 dollars. A confirmatory test using blood tests (PCR tests) will cost even more, and there are thousands of flu cases a day. So in a mitigation stage like we are in now, the authority can only test cases who are more serious , those in the high risks groups, or those admitted for serious complications, to confirm whether they are H1N1 cases and to start them on anti viral drugs.

But patients are worried that they may be too late in receiving proper treatment as many of the deaths reported were due to late treatment. In this REPORT, the Director-General of Health Tan Sri Dr Mohd Ismail Merican said,

“Throat swabs must be taken from severe pneumonia cases at the hospitals to be tested for the disease, patients given anti-viral treatment and the history of their influenza-like illness and Influenza A(H1N1) infections noted.

“I hope after four deaths (from the disease), people will be more alert. If you don’t feel well, if you have symptoms like breathing difficulty, put on a face mask and seek treatment early.
(emphasis mine)

“All this shows that we (doctors) need to really strengthen our examination techniques. When the patient comes, you listen well to the history, and if the history shows respiratory symptoms, you examine the respiratory in detail.

“But this is not happening, so we are alerting the doctors to examine all patients thoroughly, especially those with respiratory symptoms and unusual clinical features,” he said.

Dr Mohd Ismail said all severe pneumonia cases due to suspected Influenza A(H1N1) must be given influenza anti-viral medicine with the doses increased.

The question that begs an answer is what constitute 'severe pneumonia'. Perhaps when a patient has developed such a severe pneumonia he/she may be beyond saving? Is saving money to selectively conduct throat swabs on every walk-in and referred patients more important than saving lives?

In this REPORT, Dr Mohd Ismail said patients can insist to be tested for Influenza A H1H1 on their second visits if their symptoms have not subsided. He could not answer why a patient who had asthma and suspected to have been infected was not given the tests causing the patient to be very worried about her safety.

A reader to the Star paper complained HERE that he was rejected by the Hospital Ampang to be tested if his flu was of the A H1N1 type. He blames the hospital for not taking matter seriously to contain the outbreak. I believe there are many patients like him who come down with flu and just want the assurance that they are not going to die needlessly. Only the government hospitals are equipped with the necessary test facilities and anti-viral vaccines to treat.

As much as we want to cultivate caution and personal hygiene, there is no guarantee that we will not become a victim. And when we do get ill, will the government continue to send the same following message to us:

Go home, stay in your room and rest. Don't come into contact with other people including family members. AND if you still don't get well, THEN come and see us to be tested if you are unlucky to be a candidate for throat swab and admission for further treatment.

I disagree that this is the wisest thing to do when the A H1N1 virus appear to be actively spreading. Self quarantine do not have the control that hospitalization provide. It is not that we are all going to die from H1N1 since the mortality rate is only about 0.4-0.5% but we all want to play our part to stay alive and not to infect others. The government must collaborate lest it be seen as paying lip service to harnessing the pandemic virus that has now taken over 1400 people sick and 7 of whom have died (which is roughly 0.5%).

Sunday, August 02, 2009

A Dangerous Infection Phase

Within the past 5 days we have 4 deaths in Malaysia caused by the A H1N1 virus. If this is not a major concern I think Malaysians are then very tidak apa (could not care less) about their risks and continue to patronise public areas with close physical contacts or tight space. The government is to be faulted too for taking a wait-and-see attitude. The annual Mega Sales Carnival has until end of the month and is expected to still draw crowds of bargain hunters. But what if some of them, in spite of being ill, still want to get out of their homes and risk infecting others? Honestly, the only control is self-control and nothing the health authorities say or do will change things unless the sick act responsibly and self-quarantine. Not only that but I strongly advocate they 'surrender' themselves to the nearest government hospitals and demand to have their throat swabs taken and tested to determine if they are infected by this new virus. I have posted before that since this virus is infectious even without signs of flu symptoms being close to a person who just return from another country will raise your risk substantially. This morning I politely refuses to shake hands with someone who just returned from Australia 3 days ago although he appear well. No offense but I think I owe to myself and my family to be cautious in time like this.

Please go HERE to read of my updates until today. I pray that we will see the number of infections and deaths subsiding in the coming week. Watch for updates in this post below.

Updated Aug 3, 2009, 2.30pm - 7 deaths. Read HERE.
Updated Aug 3, 2009, 9.00pm - 8 deaths. The latest victim is a 51 year old teacher in Selangor.
Updated Aug 5, 2009, 3.30pm - 11 deaths. Read HERE. All 3 new deaths occured in the last 24 hours in Melaka.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Growing Intolerance Towards Injustice

Today's anti-ISA (Internal Security Act) rally reported 'live' HERE is the latest case of how intolerant and impatient Malaysians are getting towards the government's inaction, reluctance, even refusal to repeal the draconian act that, instead of being used against external threats to national security, have been applied against dissidents to the government. It gives the impression that the government is aloof to the clamour for change that has been demanded for many years. Opposition political leaders were sent into detention without trials alongside religious deviants and the occasional terrorists who are national and international threats. The feeling is that the government cannot tolerate any views other than their own and refuses to sit down to negotiate compromises acceptable to those who want to see the ancient law removed for good, or at least heavily amended to prevent abuse of power.

Going on riots is un-Malaysian who are generally peace-loving and tolerant. Such reactions only surface within the past 10 years as a form of frustrations. But when human rights are trampled unceremoniously and criminal cases conveniently shoved aside to be left forgotten it is understandable why people decide to take up the cause personally for the security of the future generations. What the government is doing is against the global movement towards free expression and determination of laws demanded by popular actions. Eventually it will not be what the prime minister wants but what the people wants and to find the best ways to execute the changes. Succumbing to the will of the people is not a sign of weakness but of matured leadership. For now the police are resorting to use force to repel the demonstrators. I believe the sight of fellow Malaysians being 'gunned down' by chemical laced water and tear gas is uncomfortable to many riot squad police but they are under orders to act. It is up to the prime minister Najib Tun Razak to listen and act, or else his 1Malaysia concept will stay grounded.

In the worst scenario he may be jettisoned from his office by mass pressure. The ISA issue is overdued for a solution and the government can no longer buy time.


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