At the Cash Deposit Machine

It has been a long day: the bosses were screaming, errands were many, kids were wild, the home fridge was too bare for dinner, and the horrible traffic jams made you shed more than a few tears. Now here you are at Maybank, about to line up at the ATM, eager to make a cash deposit as fast as possible (because a creditor is screaming too) . You look at the three ATMs and your heart sinks: each one has as many as 10 people lined up.

Decision time: which line to take? You know the choice can be aggravating. And wrong. Like Julia Roberts once said in Pretty Woman, “Big Mistake. Big. Huge!” Remember lining up at the checkout counter of Giant, or checkin counter of Air Asia? How the queues that you chose NOT to take just happened to be faster, way faster, than the one you were stucked with. How you watched as the guy who queued at the same time as you happily sailed through in no time while you felt your miserable life slowly ebbed away while some silly customer in front wasted time with the checkout clerk for whatever reasons. Aaaargh!

And so it is at the CDM (Cash Deposit Machine). A woman spends ages depositing to many accounts. Slow, slow, slow. You wish your eyes could laser in two smouldering big holes in the middle of the slow loris’ back in front of you. You know, like Cyclops in X-Men. You are parked in a bad and illegal way outside because of your rush. Perhaps a mean 6 ton truck has already eaten the ass part of your new MyVi. Aaaargh!!

Finally, it is you, second only in line! In front are two 20-something young men–the way that they are dressed and their haircuts mark them as what a Dusun will call “ongkor” (nakal)–fiddling with the CDM. Whrrrriiillll goes the machine. Note rejected. Young men mumur with each other while reinserting the same bank note. Whrrrriiillll goes the machine again. Nope, note rejected again. Mumurs and discussion reintensifies. Probably their only 100 RM note left. Whrrrrrriiilllllllll! Nope. You look at the floor. You can almost see your life melt away like goo and flow along the shiny tiles of the bank. Aaaargh!!!

You can’t take it anymore. You tell the boys, “Boleh saya tolong tukar tu 100? Mungkin saya punya boleh.” And one of the boys turns and flash a sweet smile, “Tidak bah. Ini duit terlampau baru.” True enough: it is a spanking new note. The boy crumples and rubs the note. Puts it in. Whril. Wala! Success.

My turn.

Thank you, 20-something young men. I learned something new today. Sorry about the mischaracterisation. Cheers, Rayner

Killing Us Softly

Once I ranted about the state of traffic jams in KK and Penampang, and a friend, in a throwaway comment, said “Biasa lah tu.” No, it is not. And there lies the crux of the problem: People (and authorities) just get used to problems that have slowly crept up to them, and they think, “Biasa lah tu.” You know what? People used to ride buffaloes to town along the now-jammed-up Kiansom road. I know—I have used the road for 57 years now.

This is what author Jared Diamond in his book, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, called “Creeping Normality”— how societies have slowly destroyed themselves without noticing it until it was too late. These societies did not know that what they were doing was harmful because the affects happened very gradually. An example that Diamond uses is how the people of Easter Island were willing to chop down the last trees of a once luxuriantly forested island. The problem is very gradual process, and people often do not realise until they are in a lot of pain. Like the bliss of no traffic jams and no traffic lights (The first one in the whole of Sabah was that one in front of Wisma Muis; I know—I was there, getting excited for being stopped by a traffic light. Imagine!) being slowly erased from the collective memory of living motorists and road users.

Cheers, Rayner.

NPC and Genetic Risk

Just this single month I attended two funerals of childhood friends who had suffered and died from nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) or nose cancer.

This is a cancer that I know well and have seen up close as my first wife had also died from this disease. I have talked to the cancer doctors about the incidence of this cancer among Sabah natives and they said that clinical records definitely show that it is common among Kadazans, Dusuns and other inland natives of Sabah. My observations from sitting many many times in the waiting rooms of cancer doctors attest to this fact. (Perhaps my FB friends here who are MDs can second me on this.) In short, Kadazans and Dusuns have a relatively higher genetic risk of being afflicted with this disease. Why is this? The theory is that the genetic risk was originally from South China populations, and since many Kadazans and Dusuns have old (and for many, new—their great great parents are from China) South China bloodlines they carry this risk too. (See link below for a scientific discussion of this.)

The point for me to share this info is this: If you are in this high genetic risk group, be extra careful and watchful: If you feel something is not right inside your nose (the internal space between the tip of your nose and your eyes—the nasopharynx) and it persists for weeks, go see an ENT doctor! They have strobes to look into the space and can see if something is growing there – the cancer.

I have friends who caught it early, and after treatment, are still alive today, but sadly, I have also friends who were diagnosed late and have passed away. The very dangerous thing about this NPC is this: even if the cancer has just spread (has affected the nearby lymph nodes) the sufferer most probably only experienced mild discomfort (and not pain) and thus would not really give a serious thought to aggressively find out about his/her sickness/proper diagnosis. In other words, the absence of pain can lure you into a false sense of wellness.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4013336/

Tapai Rangalau (Rambutan)

wrambutan

Making wines from fruits, like grape wines, is essentially converting the sugars in the fruits to alcohol, mostly ethanol, through the process of fermentation. So rambutans should be a good candidate for making tapai.

First, we just need the sugar-full flesh. There:

wrambutanflesh

wrambutanfleshnoseed

Then we bring it to a slight boil with low heat. We need to do this to kill the unwanted micro organisms that can make the fruits go bad, like turn into sour acids. Tapi jangan lah sampai terbakar.

wrambutanboiled

Ok, we have to let it cool to room temperature. We don’t want to kill the little bitty yeasts, do we? Now add the yeasts, about 2 sachets per kilogram of flesh, and do mix well. I used Brewer’s Yeast from Cons Food.

I would have loved to add a bit of ammonium phosphate [(NH4)3PO4] to the mix as fertiliser for the yeasts but I didn’t have a chance to source this. Second round brew, definitely.

wyeast

And then, let’s be traditional, we put the whole mash inside a jar/tajau to ferment.

wtapaijar

The plan is to let the mash-inside-a-tajau sit for 5 days open to the air so allowing oxygen to be accessible to the yeasts as they multiply, and for the next 3 weeks, close it to encourage anaerobic fermentation (the plastic seal just loose enough for carbon dioxide to be vented out as the pressure increases inside the tajau.

So, after 4 weeks, wala! we have alcohol as the yeasts ate the sugars and produce ethanol. Johnny, you’r listening? You know, the stuff you drink, and after a few glasses, bleary-eyed and frisky, you get into the mistaken belief that the hot babe with the bee-stung lips across the bar is actually ogling you?

So, did the brew come out well, and how did it taste? Haha, go to my Facebok.

wtapair

Install additional fonts for your iPad ebook reader

The full size iPad is my go-to ebook reader (for epub documents) as I like the 4:3 screen ratio as opposed to most android tablets which have 16:9 dimensions. iBook reader is, to me, a so so reader because (1) the book title appears in every page, and it can distracting if it is a long one; (2) there are no options to change line spacing or margin widths; and (3) the fonts are limited to six, none of which I particularly like. My favourite reader is Bluefire (or any reader using the Bluefire engine) as it addresses the failings above.

Also, font-wise, you have the choices of any of iOS system fonts. In addition, since IOS 7, you can install additional fonts (without jailbreaking your iPad). To do this, go to http://www.fontsquirrel.com/, choose a font to your liking, and click the “Install On IPAD” button. The installation will create a new iOS profile for your iPAD, and the new font is now available as a system font.

I used to like EB Garamond font, but now my default font is Linden Hill. Here is a screenshot of my Bluefire ebook: nice, lots of white margins which I like, Linden Hill, no distracting book title, and I can control the line spacing:

mypage

[UPDATE]

Earlier I mentioned about installing additional fonts for your iPad through http://www.fontsquirrel.com (especially to use for your ebook reader). The shortcoming of this is you are limited to the fonts listed in the website. No worries, now you can install iOS Font Maker (free!) on your Mac or PC, and you can install any TrueType font you can find on the Net on your iPad or iPhone.

Inculcating the reading habit

My 3 elder kids like to read. I would like to think that that was no accident. When they were mere pre-schoolers, their mom and I (being avid readers ourselves) decided on a strategy to how to make them take up the reading habit. We realise early on that to force anybody – let alone mere babies – to do a particular thing as a matter of self interest will not work. We need a hook-and-bait strategy.

Reading for the pure joy of reading and appreciating an author’s work is like an addictive drug. Let me explain: as is for any drug, you have to consume more to get more bang for the buck as things progress – to get your requisite fix, you need to wind up the dose.

And so we started the kids on comics. Yes, the really (dumb) kiddie ones. Then they upgraded to heavier stuff like Doraemon, Archie, etc. Notice what I said: they upgraded; these are their choices now: you can see the upgrade treadmill is about to start. Now, they are regular readers like me. There was a time when they tossed away novels that were less than an inch thick. Mission accomplished! Heck, my elder boy even reads Haruki Murakami (whose writings/protagonists are so dense even I won’t touch).

Personally I wanted them to read for a very specific reason. No, not the usual academic/knowledge reasons; the school can take care of that. I wanted them as young as possible to be introspective as they read about the characters in a novel: to learn how people think, their thought processes, how different people have various takes on particular situations, the many varied characters of human beings, etc.

If you have read through, for example, a Murakami novel you would know what I mean.

[Update]
One parent long time ago argued, “Better I feed them with movies, they can be entertained while learning.”

Ha ha, but there is a huge difference: watching TV is a passive, non-participative consumption of essentially the screenwriter/director’s version of a made-up world. Reading, on the other hand, invites the reader, in her mind’s eye, to paint a vastly textured canvas and populate it with characters as she interprets the author’s vision.

Anyone who has seen the movie version of Laura Hillenbrand’s excellent book, Unbroken, will understand how shallow the celluloid story was compared to what was written.