Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Starbucks Copy

I received an email with the picture (below) as attachment. I found it quite funny and thought that it would be really flattering if I owned Starbucks. "Look! Someone's trying to imitate us!"

But if it serves better coffee than mine, then I'll call this copyright infringement. On the contrary, if it serves better coffee, wouldn't it make sense to differentiate itself by another brand name?

I was also thinking about other things like the Hollywood and Bollywood.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Mizuno Run

I did the Mizuno Run last Sunday. This is perhaps the last official run for me in Malaysia for 2007. There will be a 1-month hiatus due to the Ramadhan month. No running events will be held until the middle of October.

I did the 10.6km run in 51 mins 33 secs. I am pretty satisfied with my performance considering the jet-lag. In fact, I planned my return to coincide with this run. My poor confidence in this race was also attributed to the lack of training while in the UK and the new running gear that I was wearing.

I thought I packed my running gear home, but I didn't. Ronnie See was so persistent of making me don the Pacemaker vest which I received back in April this year. He was almost like a child pestering his parents to buy him a toy, whenever he saw me online. "Remember to wear the vest", "Remember to wear the vest" and I kept assuring him, "Yes I will!", for like a million times! So when I came home without it, I felt really bad. It was worse when I had to break the bad news to him. I didn't get to speak to him. His wife picked up the phone when I called. Ronnie was asleep early for the next day. Mrs See was very understanding. She said, "It's okay. No worries about it."

I joked, "But my running points will be deducted!"

She said, "Why do you need the running points for?! You can't do anything with it."

I continued, "I thought you can exchange things with it like the Bonuslink points. Now I will be short of 20 points to redeem shopping vouchers!"

Sunday came, I went to Bukit Aman 1.5 hours ahead of race time. I met lots of new as well as familiar faces. Runners I haven't seen for ages since I left for studies. It was great to catch up with them. I didn't know my London Marathon article came out in the recent Footloose, the Club's quarterly magazine. Runners who have read the article told me about it. I was really happy knowing that I "still have a place" in the Malaysian running scene, even though I was physically away from the Club. That was quite reassuring. Honestly, I missed running in Malaysia and I missed Pacesetters! It's really good to be back.

p/s: Photos courtesy of Pacesetters Club

Ouch! Part 2

I slept early last night thinking that I needed rest post-surgery, as part of the healing process. I slept at half past eight and woke up at quarter to seven this morning. I went out to drink some water and found that my fingers were blood-stained. I touched my face and felt the wet patch on my cheek. Immediately, I took my spectacles, still in daze, and looked at the mirror. My face was stained with blood and my mouth, when I opened it, was oozing blood!

I quickly spat out the water that I just drank. I thought it was disgusting! I was drinking my own blood. As I spewed out the liquid, I could see blood clots falling through. I kept rinsing and the red colour did not dissolve to a lighter hue. I realised my attempt to stop the blood was as futile as trying to wash off a deep wound of an injured leg. Instead, I drank some water and swallowed the blood with it. I needed to drink because I felt I was dehydrating and the anxiety/trauma that came with it further exacerbated the dehydration.

My body became cold. I was shivering; in this tropical climate, this was absolutely unusual! I thought I lost too much blood or I had not eaten something since yesterday. So I forced myself to eat some bread.

The clock ticked really slowly. It was only half past seven and I thought of returning to the dentist immediately. The clinic wouldn't open until 10am. So I had a good 2.5 hours to kill and nurse the bleeding gum, my way.

When the clock struck 9, I called the clinic hoping someone would be in early on a Saturday morning (how ridiculous)! Lady luck was with me. Someone picked up the phone and I was really happy.

"Hello, Good morning. I am Yap and I went for surgery yesterday. My gums are still bleeding. I think there's something wrong. I need to see the doctor."

The nurse replied, "Oh yes, Mr Yap, I remember you. Are you alright? Yes, you can come. What time would that be?"

"Right away! I think it's killing me!"

"Sure, Mr Yap. See you soon."

I hung up and quickly made my way to the city and saw the doctor. I kept mouth close all the time and swallowed lots of blood in between.

When I saw Dr T, he greeted me, "Hi Good morning. Now what happened to you?". Dr T gazed at my cheek and added, " O great, no swelling on your cheek."

"Morning, Dr. I was bleeding non-stop. It's not the lower jaw but the upper."

"That's weird. Usually people will have complications with the lower."

As the dentist was checking, he said, "Oh, you have a dry socket. You get that when the blood clot is dislodged from the socket. Hence, the bleeding. Don't worry about it, it's a simple procedure. I can fix that easily."

The procedure went on for another 20 minutes. It started with local anesthetic, then the doctor tried scraping the socket. I could hear the scraping sound though it felt numb and then, some stitching, laser, laser and more lasers. I don't actually know what happens when the laser is in contact with the gums but I saw smoke coming out of my mouth. It must have burnt the gums or something.

"Okay, done. I have stopped the bleeding. The lower socket is healing well. Remember, no activities for the next two days. You don't want it to bleed while you're jumping up and down."

"I am glad I came to check."

"Yes. The flap of gum dislodged and the blood clot meant to stop the blood from oozing out was dislodged too."

I pondered what the dentist said. I can only imagine having a cork unplugged and the blood was oozing freely. Could I have bled to death? But I was also drinking every drop of it. I don't think the body works that way. However, I did notice that the loss of blood certainly led to great anxiety and sent shivers to the body. Oh well, I am not eager to experiment this any further and I pray that I don't have to! Pheww...that was a close one.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Ouch!..ermmm...and Ouch again!

I came back with an ambitious plan to do 1001 things. Things which I intended to do when I was back in May but never gotten near the startline because of my research then.

This time, I come back with a "vengeance", hoping to tick-off at least 80% of the things in the checklist in two weeks after my return. Ambitious...

To start off, I went shopping in a recent sales. I bought office and outdoor attires. I think I could have a new wardrobe by the time I start work. It's really nice stretching the ringgit with £. £1 is equivalent to RM7 and the cost of replacing the wardrobe came up at less than £80! I can only buy 5 shirts with that money in the UK. Because I am not having an income (don't forget I am still jobless), it will still hurt the pocket a little. When it comes to this, I can't wait for my first salary!

Next, I went for a traditional massage. I meant to go for this particular massage, by "Sakai Por" since I took up marathons in Malaysia. I never had the opportunity to do that until now. Sakai Por literally means Aunt Sakai and Sakai is an indigenous tribe in Malaysia. Sakai Por practiced traditional massage for ages and I was recommended to this place by avid marathon runners. I went with five of them. The massage was a painful experience. The pain comes through the massage as Sakai Por massages the pockets of "air" out of the nerve points, usually at the legs and back of the body. I just couldn't help but wince in pain whenever she finds the "air pockets" and tries to get them out of circulation. Those who have little control over themselves cry out like being assaulted or they can be worse by "kicking-off" Sakai Por's grasp of the limb. The antics are funny to waiting customers but the one being massaged can find this a terrifying experience! Actually, it was not ouch!!! It was aaaaahhhhhh!!! most of the time. After the massage, I felt great. The body was like a tuned up engine. I felt like I could take on a bull or something.

Aaahhh!!! Slowly! That's painful!! That's not Sakai Por in the picture but her husband. He uses more strength and is less "forgiving" to the air pockets in the body.

Now take off that shirt and let me see if you have air bubbles in your back! I felt as if my shoulder bone has broken apart or something!

This morning, I went to the dentist to remove two wisdom teeth - the top and bottom right side of the mouth. As if Sakai Por's pain wasn't good enough to serve as a grim reminder, I woke up early this morning to prepare myself for another dose of pain. I went for a laser treatment, so both teeth only took an hour to be extracted. That was quick! Previously, it took almost 2 hours for one to be removed! Of course, anything to do with laser will cost a bomb. It cost me RM1000 (£150) to remove two teeth! Ouch! But I thought it was well worth the money spent because the laser treatment not only took half the time to remove the teeth but also cut more than half the time to heal! It will only take 5 days before the stitches can be removed as compared to a month previously. If there's any premium, I certainly know that premium was to buy time and cut short the torture of pain. I can't imagine having to live in pain for a month and foregoing my favourite Malaysian food or the plethora of food that will only be featured at the current Ramadhan month. No, no, more pain....enough is enough!!!

One of the wisdom teeth. The doctor said, "You have tough teeth!"I thought he meant I had a stubborn tooth, just like myself! I told him, "Can I keep my tough tooth then?". He laughed and said, "Of course! Keep it, it's pretty unique too. That's a 3-root tooth.". I don't know if he meant that to be the unique feature or the tough tooth. Anyway, now I have a spare part.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Cambridge Triumphed

Last Saturday was the debate between Oxford and Cambridge, organised by the Oxbridge Society of Malaysia. It was held in Sunway University College. The motion of the debate was "Security Measures are Justified at the Expense of Civil Liberties". It was an exciting and nail-biting event, with both sides pushing their motion through. Cambridge was the Government, while Oxford took the Opposition stand.

Even though the 6 debaters were equally good, a decision had to be made. Cambridge emerged as the winner. We collected 699 points out of 900, leaving Oxford far behind, at 657.

It's great to see Cambridge winning again! I know of two other winning stories against Oxford this year; a chess tournament and a rowing competition. I'm really proud of the former and latter because the winners of the tournaments were Duane and Jake, students of ESD!

Friday, September 07, 2007

Destined Path: Last minute person

Kiki will laugh reading this...


Last Sunday we bumped into Fr Alban after mass at Fisher House. I told him it's my last mass in Cambridge before I return to Malaysia.

"Where would you be after this?" Fr Alban asked.

Kiki burst into laughter. Fr Alban was taken aback, probably thinking we were making fun of him or something. I had to explain.

"No, Father. The reason Kiki laughed was because, I am still undecided where I'd be after this. In fact it was only last week that I bought my ticket home!"

Fr Alban quipped, "Well, that's nothing bad about it. At least you have options to choose from."

Spot on! I am certainly the kind of person who likes having lots of options before committing to a decision. Perhaps these are the very things that turned me into a last minute person. I hate to think that I am suffering from a Chronic Last-Minute Syndrome (LMS), if there's such a thing. But I am, at least some people think I am!

Take for example today, I told myself that I will reach the airport 4 hours before flight departure. I did. I left Wolfson College at 11.30am, to catch a 12 noon bus. I reached London at 2 sharp and went to look for my dad's keychain for about an hour. Then I went on straight to the airport. I arrived at 4pm. By the time I found the check-in counter and enquired about the e-ticket at the information desk, it was already 4.30pm. I am glad I enquired further if a 26kg luggage was fine. They said it was fine, so I took advantage of that to stuff in some other non-essentials. It weighed 27.3kg after that!

I thought for a moment I can proudly (and finally) announce to Kiki and some other like-minded friends who think that I am suffering from chronic LMS, that I was at the airport 4 hours ahead of departure time! I was completely stress-free for once, doing airport! Yay! That's what I thought....

While queuing together with other flight passengers for the 5pm flight, a personnel walked up to me and asked, "Sir, what time is your flight?"

"Half past eight." I said softly (but clearly proud of myself) trying to drown in with the ambience noise, hoping that people behind the queue will not curse me for hogging the line at such an early hour! Then I thought the personnel was going to scream at me and ask me get the hell out of the line!

An unexpected response followed, "Sir, would you want to take the 5 o'clock flight? We have plenty of seats in this flight. We have overbooked the eight-thirty flight and it's full now."

"Can I do that?", I asked curiously

"Yes, we have plenty of seats in this one, you can choose your seats. We can even get you a 4 in a row by yourself, so you can rest in the flight," the personnel sold this really hard.

I was actually tempted for the emergency seat rather than the 4-in-a-row. Without hesitating, I said, "Alright! I'd love to switch to the 5 o'clock flight then."

So, instead of having 4 hours to kill, my time was drastically reduced to less than 30 minutes to board the plane! You can imagine running for your life with only 30minutes left to board a plane in a huge airport like Heathrow!

With hindsight, I should have asked for a free upgrade to the business class! I had the trump card over Emirates! Drat! But thank God, I made it in the nick of time. I had 5 minutes before the gate was closed...phheeewww....

I kept thinking to myself while running to the security check and boarding gate; I am "cursed". I am so "cursed" with LMS!

I wiped the sweat off my forehead as I took a seat and breathed a huge sigh, turned off my mobile and thought, "Now what am I going to do with 6.5 hours in Dubai!"

**Hence this blog....**

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Going home

This week has been an eventful week for me. I did lots of stuff - shopping, packing, visiting the last few places I have yet to visit, buying souvenirs, printing e-tickets for bus and flight, coordinating my transport from the airport, planning for friends' visit to Malaysia, planning for my subsequent trips, planning for gatherings in Malaysia, responding to two wedding itineraries, job hunting, house hunting, goodbye dinners, packing and repacking to go back to Malaysia. I am swamped!

I got really frustrated at some point, especially in packing. I thought I wouldn't use up the entire 20kg baggage allowance; somehow the weight builds up. It's at 26kg as I type. Fingers crossed, I hope Emirates does not charge me for the excess. Oh well, I will know in a few hours. If they do, I seriously have no idea what else to take out. I bought so many souvenirs they are just not suitable to be hand carried because they do not pass the Liquid, Aerosol and Gas (LAG) hand carry regulations either. I have a luggage full of food product. Hmm, if I really have to choose, maybe I'd throw away the biscuits or maybe hand-carry those since they do not fall under LAG.

BAA is getting stricter with the ONE piece hand-luggage policy. That means, if you have a backpack and a laptop bag, you have to choose to carry either; not both. I remember getting into an argument with one of the security officers in May over this. The check-in staff said it was okay but the security checkpoint differed! Somehow, they let me in after the short commotion. I am just leaving my laptop bag behind this time. I can't afford to lose that or spoil my day again at the airport. Come to think of it, there's never once I have good vibes going to an airport!

Trying to balance the weight between the check-in luggage and the hand-luggage is a tough feat to achieve. Already, the weight limit is at the mercy of the check-in staff. To make matters worse, I just realised I have left out one more souvenir and I need to travel to the Westminster Cathedral in London to get it. My dad wants this special key-chain and I thought of trying my luck to get it. Oh well, how heavy can this get, as compared to the items in the bag! I must also juggle with post-London Underground strike which were still affecting several lines today. I hope they're fully restored by tomorrow! Wait, I should hope I reach Heathrow!

I went to the department today to print the e-tickets for my flight. After printing, I left and as I was reaching the door, I turned and looked around the lab and bid a silent farewell in my heart. Then I went to LR3B, the classroom for our usual lectures. It was locked, as expected. I looked inside, stood there for a while, looked at the tables and chairs, it was all dark but I could still remember vividly the times when the class went on - people greeting each other, our Caribbean friends high-5-ing around, people talking about the weather, powerpoint lectures, 5 minute breaks, the high-octane discussions etc etc etc. Revisiting the places in imagination in the one year that past made me feel like I was doing a pilgrimage. I smiled to myself reminiscing those days. Zooming out, I saw my own reflection from the peeping window. I stood too long, then I said "Goodbye" in my heart and walked away.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Trip to Cotswolds

St John Baptist Church - Landmark of Cirencester

Nine of us made an unplanned trip to Cotswolds on the Bank Holiday. Initially it was to rent a car and help few of us move our stuff out of college before we get booted out. Then it transformed into a holiday plan. We had an additional car rented as a result of this. Moving stuff became a secondary reason. In fact, it was only done on the last day.

Cirencester Park stretches beyond the eyes can see!

It was also one of our mates birthday so we have planned for a BBQ at a park. Our first stop was Cirencester. We didn't know which park to pick upon arrival. You know, there're parks everywhere in the UK! We decided on Cirencester Park after spotting the largest green patch on the tourist map. What meant to be a BBQ at first evolved into a picnic because the park was privately owned. No BBQ and "picnic parties" (whatever that means) were displayed at the entrance of the park. Anyhow, I didn't think it made any difference without a BBQ because the picnic spread was good enough.

Huge crowd at Bourton-on-the-Water

We moved on to Bourton-on-the-Water. This was a pretty place! Because of the weather, the place was extremely crowded too. It was strange. The tagline of this place was "Venice of the Cotswolds". My first reaction was, "Why on earth does this place want to be the Venice? Why can't it be itself?! Where's the originality then?" In fact, this place can't be the Venice! The depth of the river was slightly more than a feet! After some of us went down to the river (River Windrush) to soak their feet, we went off walking down the river before heading back to our cars. We spent about an hour or less at Bourton-on-the-Water before we went to Stow, our third and final stop.

Glorious evening sun at Stow

Martha prepared a birthday cake for Phuong since it's her birthday. Owen, who was my co-pilot was down with a severe headache from the unusual hot and dry weather. He was dehydrated but recovered soon after Stow.

Minh and her historical first BBQ in life

We went back at 6pm and continued the night with a BBQ at Martha's. Apparently, it was Minh's (Phuong's younger sister) first BBQ experience in her life! I am glad we had the BBQ in the end.

2 Weddings and 2 Funerals

I have two weddings to attend when I return to Malaysia. Before I could do that, I already saw the demise of my camera(sss), TWICE! If you include an upgrade, then it's THRICE!

I lost my first camera, then I bought a second one but sold it afterwards for a "free upgrade". So, I got the third camera but it only stayed with me for 5 weeks before it decided to commit suicide by nose-diving onto the pavement, lens down! The impact was so great the shutter couldn't close after that. In other words, it died without closing its "eyes! Tragic! Tragic! You can see this in the photo. It also created a dent on the "Elmarit" writing at the optical zoom.

I just received my new camera a while ago. I was relying on the mobile phone camera on occasions when I needed to take photos or friends' camera when there is an outing. Now I can use my new camera for the two weddings in Malaysia! It's good to be back on speed again! Yay!

"Faired-well" story of Anne

Our block cleaner, Anne, has been marvellous in doing her job. Even though it's not her job to wash up dirty cutleries, bowls and plates left by the irresponsible few, she will just wash them anyway. Sometimes she would just sigh when we meet, looking at the dirty cooking wares piled up at the sink. My next trip up the kitchen, they're all washed! At times, I felt Anne has spoilt the rascal(s) in my block and let them get away with it; while I have to do my own washing!

I could hardly find good stories from my friends about their cleaners. **Maybe they have better things to talk about!** Or more accurately, stories of good cleaners. They either lament and hope that their cleaners do at least the minimum to make their presence felt or they just quip: "the college should pay me instead to do a better job!"

Today I broke the news to Anne that I would be leaving this week. Then I went into my room, took one of the pewter wares which I bought from Malaysia and handed it to her. I explained to her about the ware and its significance. I thanked her for cleaning my room everyday and making sure the rubbish bin was always empty by afternoon. Anne's face was beaming. You can easily tell when a grandmother is touched. The lines on her forehead showed (O yes, Anne is a grandmother of two).

Then I closed the door while Anne continued vacuuming the corridor. After a while, I could hear Anne blowing her nose regularly at unusual intervals. I was tempted to open the door to check if she was okay but I didn't. I thought she was touched by my gestures. Then I thought maybe not. It must have been the dust from the vacuum cleaner.

P/S: I hope this article is picked up by the cleaning service company and make Anne, Employee of the Year! She deserves a pay rise!!!!

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Piecing the puzzle

Jin Hooi (right), 2004/2005 Shell Centenary Chevening, MPhil ESD, Cambridge

I have finally solved the puzzle of locating all three former Shell-Cambridge scholars today. Victory! It must have been luck from my father's birthday (Happy Birthday Dad!) or the shooting star that I saw when I star-gazed at Parker's Piece yesterday.

I met Jin Hooi today over coffee. He was the only Malaysian of his time (2004/2005) to be awarded the Shell Centenary scholarship and what a coincidence; he did the MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development (ESD) too! I had a great chat with him, comparing notes of how the MPhil programme has evolved to what it is today. So what have I found out? Apparently, there were more inputs and components from MIT during his time. Of course, we did some really serious chat other than the nerdy talk, which I will not disclose here. We've thought about a grand scheme of things and are set to take Malaysia by storm. Watch this space! ;)

Adam Sharif, 2005/2006 Shell Centenary, MPhil Economics; Cambridge

Grace Teoh (1st from right), 2005/2006 Shell Centenary Chevening, MPhil ESD, Cambridge

The other two Malaysians from 2005/2006 batch were Adam Sharif and Grace Teoh. Grace was last year's ESD student. Now I've not only completed an MPhil but also the Shell-Cambridge puzzle!