Sunday, March 26, 2006

Sony Ericsson Z520i

This morning, the screen of the Nokia 8210 that I've been using for the past five years suddenly went dim. So I had no choice but to look for a new handphone. Problem was, my impression of the latest handphones was that they just wouldn't good enough. Yes, they have colour screens and so on whereas the venerable 8210 has a monochrome screen, but the newer phones that I'd seen just felt confusing. My benchmark for these sorts of thing is the 'inbox test'. How many buttons does one need to press to read the latest SMS? (And without using 'shortcuts'!) It took 4 quick presses on the same button on the 8210. I think the newer models need more presses. The other thing was infra-red. I didn't need Bluetooth, but I need infra-red because I dislike typing SMS messages with the keypad; I never do it unless absolutely necessary. Instead, I write on my Palm and send it to the phone through IR. The newer Nokias and other manufacturers seemed to have phased out IR in favour of Bluetooth. So I was resigned to the fact that this new purchase would really be a 'downgrade' from the 8210. Not only would I need to endure a worse user-interface, I couldn't use my Palm to do SMS too. Luckily this week, M1 had a few models to give away (they put out newspaper advertisements every Saturday), and there were two 'cheaper' models. One was the Nokia 6020 ($0), and the other was the Ericsson Z520i ($38). The Nokia doesn't have IR, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Ericsson has both IR and Bluetooth! That was all I needed to know, and I promptly bought it. The build quality is really good, the buttons are nice and the user-interface is quite straightforward. Hopefully, this phone will last four more years...

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Travelling Great-grandparents

Stranger! If you, passing, meet me, and desire to speak to me, why should you not speak to me? And why should I not speak to you? ~To You/Leaves of Grass/Walt Whitman
If you meet someone that you don't know on the streets, it's reasonable to think of that person as a stranger. But I just read in this month's Geographics that even though he's not someone you know, he's still someone who's related to you!
"Scientists now calculate that all living humans are related to a single woman who lived roughly 150,000 years ago in Africa, a "mitochondrial Eve." She was not the only woman alive at that time, but if geneticists are right, all of humanity is linked to Eve through an unbroken chain of mothers. Mitochondrial Eve was soon joined by "Y chromosome Adam," an analogous father of us all, also from Africa. Increasingly refined DNA studies have confirmed this opening chapter of our story over and over: All the variously shaped and shaded people of Earth trace their ancestry to African hunter-gatherers."
The stranger you meet on the train is technically a distant relative with the same great-great-great...grandparents! The Geographics also has this very interesting thing going, called The Genographic Project. It invites folks to pay USD100+++ to have their DNA samples analysed to see how exactly their ancestors travelled from Africa to Europe, Asia and so on. Yeah, I know my most immediate ancestors look Chinese. But before that, they were Africans. So how did they walk from Africa? What route did they take? Very intriguing indeed...

Update: The results can be found here.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Straits Times Survey: Almost Half Of Respondents Don't Trust Straits Times

Oops! From today's Straits Times:
Believe those blogs? Only 1 per cent find them credible IT MANAGER Jerry Chia, 34, trusts the newspaper in his hand more than a fleeting TV snippet for his daily dose of local news. To keep up with local politics, he would rather read a page of analysis in the newspaper than catch a newsflash on TV. His preference is typical of 88 per cent of young Singaporeans who rely on newspapers for news on local politics, according to a survey commissioned by The Straits Times [1]. TV is a close second, with 87 per cent... When it comes to credibility, newspapers top the list. They were considered most credible by almost 60 per cent, while 35 per cent picked TV... [2] Agreeing, magazine writer Sim Jui Liang, 31, said: 'Newspapers have more depth. You can't compare full-page coverage in print to a one-minute coverage on a news bulletin.' Lagging far behind on credibility are news websites (3 per cent) and Internet blogs and forums (1 per cent). [3] Miss Poon Jiat Ling, 22, a pharmacy student at the National University of Singapore, offers a possible reason: Mainstream media is more comprehensive and objective in its coverage while blogs are more personal and 'can be heavily biased' [4]...
[1] It's time people with online diaries and folks from TVLand start commissioning their own surveys! [2] Even the survey commissioned by the newspaper found that 40 percent of respondents don't find the newspaper to be credible, assuming that the article title is correct! I mean, wow! The title of this article shouldn't be about bloggers; it should really be: Almost Half Of This Newspaper's Readers Don't Find It Credible ! [3] One percent of respondents find blogs credible. I really do hope that most, if not all, of the readers of this blog make up the 1 out of 100 people who find blogs mildly credible! [4] Too funny, considering [2] LOL. Update (!): Mr. Miyagi was nice enough to feature this blog in his weekly column for the Today newspaper. More from

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Bibbulmun Track / Hewett's Hill Campsite

Two days ago, I walked the Bibbulmun Track. Well actually, just 1% of it since the whole trail is almost 1000km long! Took the first 7am bus to the Kalamunda, found the Northern Terminus traihead, but promptly got lost within the first 100m. Luckily, that didn't happen too often for the rest of the 20km return hike. The view before the descent to Piesse Brook. The plan was to walk 10km to Hewett's Hill Campsite, and then walk back. It was quite straightforward because of the cool morning, except for the ascent immediately after crossing the bridge at Piesse Brook over loose, eroded rocks. That was tricky because I was wearing running shoes and not hiking boots. The yellow triangular signs tells folks where to go. If it points to the right, it means 'turn right'. They're nailed onto trees along the trail. I reached the first Hewett's Hill Campsite in around three hours. The place was fantastic! Beds for eight people, tables, benches... And the most important thing as far as I was concerned as I'd seriously underestimated my water requirements, two large tanks of rainwater! There was an American hiker from Minnesota there. He'd already walked 100km from the south for the past five days and was finishing up the trip back to Kalamunda. The blue box on the table contains visitor logbooks. Some of the entries were like long essays; most of it very funny, and others more heartfelt. One person wrote in an entry that his life wasn't going too well and maybe something better would come out of this experience; the trip was also his way of staring danger in the face... Little did I know that I was close to experiencing the same thing on my way back to Kalamunda. I guess it's a combination of several things: the heat, the limited water supply, and probably the climbs. If the ground were flat, it was probably OK. On hindsight, I definitely need another water bottle for trips like these. The GPS was a lifesaver, without the electronic breadcrumbs and the indication of distance travelled, it's much harder to ration the available water.

So apart from that, the hike was really wonderful. The trail was well maintained, and the campsite was great. The thing I love about the Australian bush is that the trees and plants are much 'neater' compared to tropical rainforests. It doesn't seem as 'overgrown'. Another very dramatic thing is that it's so quiet in the bush. There aren't a lot of the loud insects or whatever, there's only the rustling of the leaves in the warm wind. But sometimes the silence was interrupted by jumping kangaroos. I saw around four, and the 'thump thump' they made as they moved around so effortlessly like Zhang Ziyi hopping from rooftop to rooftop in Crouching Tiger was a thing to behold. They looked like they were flying... Anyway, I reckon if I go to Perth once a year to spend 5 days hiking 100km, I would finish the route in 10 years! Oh well, the journey of a thousand kilometres begins with the first 10...

Heirisson Island

OK Amy, here's proof that 1) there's an island called Heirisson Island, and 2) kangaroos live on this island! LOL This place rocks. The last time I was here, there were I think six kangaroos. This time I either saw two, or four (because I was unsure if the two that I saw initially were the same two that I saw a few minutes later.) Can you see them 'roos?! The good thing about the 'roos here is that they aren't really afraid of people, so it's quite possible to get closer to them. Anyway, a plug for the Singapore Zoo, it seems that more grey kangaroos are joining the existing colony. Crikey!


So I've been doing some Geocaching for the past few weeks, but have only found one so far. The fun thing is not just finding the cache itself, but the walking, sometimes for a few hours, which I did one weekend from Bukit Timah but didn't find anything despite reaching all the locations.

Last week, I was in Perth, and I found six! I think I'm getting better, there seems to be this 'feel the Force' thing that more experienced Geocachers possess. LOL Geocaching is essentially a treasure hunt. One person hides a tupperware that contains goodies and a log book somewhere (adhering to 'leave no trace' and other guidelines), then posts the coordinates on the website so that others can find it. Visitors sign a logbook and leave comments if they are able to find the cache. They may also want to take stuff from the tupperware, but they need to put something back in, sort of like an 'exchange'. Alternatively, it's quite all right to 'take nothing, leave nothing'. As the tagline at says, 'The game where you are the search engine'. It's like being a member of a Star Trek Away Team; you're given some coordinates, now bring your Tricorder, go to that location any way you want, and do some investigation! In our case, we don't have a Tricorder. Most people use a GPS. Although it's possible to do this without a GPS, it becomes almost impossible unless there are lots of hints and pictures that's provided by other people who've found the cache.

Other things that I use are Google Earth with the addon, a compass with a base plate, and CacheMate for downloading all the coordinates into my Palmpilot. Now, the fun thing about this is that folks who hide caches often choose very interesting places that a reasonable person would probably never have a chance to visit if not to participate in the search. For example, the first cache I found in Singapore was a picnic ground next to an expressway! It's really a nice place to stroll to... Here's a screenshot of the geocaches currently in Singapore. There're more than 100, which will probably take me some time to go through them. I had a bit more luck in Perth last week when I found six caches. Another fun thing that's found in some places were 'travel bugs'. TBs are 'released' by their owners all over the world, and they 'hitch hike' across the oceans to be deposited in new cache locations, and the cycle repeats itself. I've obtained two travel bugs, and one originated from the States a couple of years ago. Hopefully it can go on to the rest of Asia... King's Park was a special place to do some Geocaching. The Aussies are quite elaborate, making interesting name cards put into the tupperware (or in this case a big ammo box!) so that the owner knows who has dropped by. This particular Travel Bug Passport Centre is a place where interstate and international visitors can come and pick up hitch-hiking TBs. Anyway, geocaching is a very 'explorer-type ' activity, and a good excuse for me to take the train to that station that I've never been before, or to walk to that rock next to the Tower in the middle of the 10 km trail between Bukit Timah and MacRitchie Reservoir just to write some notes in a logbook LOL.

Monday, March 6, 2006

First Aid Course

There was an interesting article a few days ago in the newspaper about this girl called Esther in ACS (I didn't know ACS had girls?!) who performed CPR on a heart attack victim. Her efforts bought enough time to keep him alive.
Student, 17, keeps heart attack victim aliveBy Jessica LimTHREE times, the news magazine vendor's heart appeared to have stopped beating. It made 17-year-old Esther Tan's heart skip a beat too. But she battled on, pumping the man's chest and giving him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Then, professional help came. Esther, a student at ACS International, may well have saved the life of a familiar figure in Holland Village - Mr Logadasan, or Uncle Loga as he is known at Mama Joe Magazine Corner. Esther and three friends were having breakfast at Crystal Jade Kitchen yesterday morning when they heard a scream across Lorong Liput. Uncle Loga, who is thought to be 72, had keeled over, seemingly from a heart attack. Pushing through the gathering crowd, Esther applied what she had learnt at a Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) course and at the Singapore Red Cross Society - cardiopulmonary resuscitation or CPR. 'It took me a few seconds to play out the entire CPR procedure in my head before actually performing it,' she told The Straits Times. She continued for six minutes, before SCDF paramedics arrived. Mr Logadasan, who has an ailing wife and a daughter working in New York, is now in the intensive care unit at the National University Hospital. Said an SCDF spokesman: 'When the victim collapsed he had no pulse reading. The actions of the bystander in keeping his heart alive with CPR, helped our paramedics bring his heartbeat back to normal. And that gave him a fighting chance of survival.'
This is truly impressive; you might be interested to read Book of Aletheia's interview with Esther. Last month, I attended the basic 4-day, First Aid course at the Red Cross, and today I went back there to collect my Red Cross First Aider card. It basically says I know a little bit about first aid and can thus be considered a certified first aider, and that if you should ever have a cardiac arrest right in front of me, I shall try my best to save you. But seriously, it's not easy. No matter how many times you rehearse the Airway, Breathing, Circulation mantra in your head, in an emergency, everything can just go blank. That's why I think Esther deserves a medal or something... Anyway, I think everyone should go and learn first aid. One reason is that if a loved one is in real trouble, at least you might be able to do something to help, rather than be completely helpless. Time is of the essence. A person with no bloodflow to the brain has only four minutes to survive. An ambulance will take at least 10 to 15 minutes to arrive, which is too late. Obviously no one can guarantee that a person who takes a first aid courses can perform as well as Esther did, but at least there's a fighting chance that might happen. The Red Cross, and St. John's Ambulance, regularly hold courses. Go sign up, and maybe save your own life in the process, if you happen to choke on your own food. (Yes, they taught that in the course, but I've forgotten how to do it! I'll go read up on it again soon...) Update(!): New guidelines for CPR were released today. Read the details here.
Only 1 in 5 who has cardiac arrest given CPR Lack of confidence, apathy may be reasons many bystanders do not attempt procedure By Radha Basu ABOUT only one in five people who suffers cardiac arrest here receives cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), doctors said at a seminar where they released new guidelines on the proper way to perform this life-saving routine. The help rate is low compared to places such as Seattle in the United States, where more than half the victims receive CPR. The procedure is performed on patients who suffer cardiac arrest, a condition where the heart stops functioning suddenly. Such an attack occurs when heart abnormalities, such as a blocked artery, hinder blood flow and starve the brain of oxygen. It can kill in five to 10 minutes. CPR involves pressing a victim's chest repeatedly to restart blood circulation. It also involves offering mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, to help the patient breathe. It can be performed by trained personnel only so it is imperative for more people to undergo training, said cardiologist Teo Wee Siong, a senior consultant at the National Heart Centre. About 30,000 people, mainly health-care professionals and emergency workers, receive CPR training here every year. But this number could include repeat attendees as health professionals in public hospitals are expected to renew their training every two years. 'One of the big problems is that in about four in five cases, bystanders do not even attempt resuscitation,' Dr Teo said yesterday. He suspects that in some cases even those who have undergone training may not attempt to revive a patient as they are not confident enough. 'That must change.' Senior Minister of State for Health Balaji Sadasivan also backed the call for more CPR training while speaking at the seminar yesterday. 'The public mindset must change, from apathy and the belief that learning CPR is someone else's duty, to one of shouldering the responsibility, not only for oneself, but also for the community.' In Singapore, only about 5 per cent of people who suffer cardiac arrest outside hospitals survive, said Dr Lim Swee Han, head of emergency medicine at Singapore General Hospital, who did a study of survival rates of 1,000 such patients. However, survival chances double if patients are given prompt CPR. Timely use of machines known as automated external defibrillators, or AEDs, that can shock the heart back into action, also boosts a victim's chances. Aside from training emergency personnel and lay people, some countries have targeted CPR programmes, said Dr Lim. In some places, high school students, for instance, are trained. In others, employees at places where people have been known to suffer cardiac arrests - such as casinos, airports and sports stadiums - are given special training. Such targeted training has proved effective in the US, said Dr Michael Sayre, an associate professor of emergency medicine at Ohio State University. If there are no trained personnel around to offer CPR, bystanders should call an ambulance immediately, said Dr Teo. 'Too often people wait too long and it's too late.' Nurse manager Ismail Sheriff, 53, who has undergone CPR training, could not agree more. A few years ago, he received a frantic phone call that his 72-year-old neighbour had collapsed with chest pains. He rushed over and tried to revive the unconscious woman. But it was all in vain - she was dead. 'It was only later that I realised that they had called me more than 20 minutes after she had collapsed,' he said. 'It was much too late.' ----------------------------------- New guidelines DURING CPR, rescuers need to frequently press hard against a victim's chest and offer occasional mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. New CPR guidelines released here yesterday say rescuers need to perform at least 30 chest compressions followed by two rounds of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Earlier guidelines said only 15 chest compressions were required. Studies have shown that a victim's blood pressure may fall if chest compressions are done only 15 times in a cycle. Chest compression jump-starts blood circulation. Mouth-to-mouth helps the victim breathe. CPR should begin within four minutes of a person collapsing. Rescuers should also:
  • Push hard and fast, pressing the chest at the rate of about 100 compressions per minute.
  • There should be no interruptions in the 'pump and breathe' routine. CPR should continue till paramedics arrive.
More information can be found at 2005 American Heart Association Guidelines for Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and Emergency Cardiovascular Care. Parts 4 and 11 elaborate on the rationale for the new 30:2 ratio.

Sunday, March 5, 2006

Crashback Mountain

I'm so looking forward to tomorrow morning's Oscar telecast. It's the first time in months that I'm going to watch the local English free to air TV Channel 5, woohooo! Three reasons: Crash, Mountain, B., and Stewart, J., in alphabetical order. I haven't recalled any Oscar in the last three decades that had such a compelling and important lineup. Crash forces folks to think about racism, which probably exists in all of us. Mountain is not just documentary about gay cowboys, it's really about a grand love story that hits you in the stomach long after the movie has ended. And one of the most intelligent, sexiest and incisive news anchors on television today, Stewart released early on that his destiny lies not only in reading the news (which he's very good at, having earned multiple Emmys and Peabodies), but challenging his viewers to think about the spin they absorb daily from the media and press releases. Anyway, Ang Lee or Lee Ang (李安) will win the Best Director award. I hope Mountain wins the Best Film award, but it's OK if Crash and Mountain are tied. Fingers crossed...

Wednesday, March 1, 2006

For SPUGers

This is a public service announcement for SPUGers who read this blog. I've just been informed that the website is currently down as the hard disk has crashed. The backup can only be restored this weekend The downtime might last for another week, so in the meantime, you can take the opportunity to surf other websites instead of just SPUG hehe... please spread the word, thanks! Update (!): The server is now back online.