Sunday, January 31, 2021

MALAYSIANS DURING "annus horribilis"

 SAMUEL ISAIAH - top ten finalist for the GOLBAL TEACHER PRIZE

Malaysians started lock down on March 18th 2020. I faced it with anxiety plus despair. I quote Queen Elizabeth, “1992 is not a year on which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure. In the words of one of my more sympathetic correspondents, it has turned out to be an annus horribilis.” What did two Malaysians achieve during 2020. 
Sekolah Kebangsaan Runchang, Pahang

Samuel Isaiah travelled 200km daily to and from school to reach his students. His school is in an "orang asli" (indigenous population) community in a rain forest area in Pahang.
Children in indigenous populations seldom receive the same education opportunities as those in urban areas. 
School infrastructure and computer facilities were limited. Samul set up a national crowd funding platform and gathered funds to equip the school with tablets and computers. 
      To improve his students English proficiency, he linked them by email with volunteers in Malaysia and overseas. He used the guitar and ukulele and taught English through songs.
For his efforts, the average pass rate of English jumped from 30% in 2008-2012 to 80% in 2013-2017. 
As these indigenous children were not used to sitting in classrooms to study, he took the classrooms outside under the trees. 

       In a different arena, our girl artistic gymnast Farah Ann Hadi got a doll created in her likeness as a Barbie role model for young girls for sports. 
  The "shero doll" wears Farah's silver studded leotard 
that our gymnast wore in her  29th SEA Games GOLD and the 2018  Commonwealth Games Silver competitions. 
In Farah's words, "You just need to remember that self-belief is your greatest weapon in achieving anything."

DATE: Tuesday February 2, 2021
Eight-time squash world champion, Malaysian Nicol David was named World Games Greatest-Athlete-of-All-Time (GOAT). Quoting The Star, "A total of 23 past and present athletes representing various sports from all editions of the World Games' 40-year history were selected for the worldwide poll."
"Nicol spent an unprecedented nine years atop the women's squash world rankings between 2006 and 2015 as well as winning 82 professional titles."

I can only admire her perseverance and discipline perfecting her sport. The zillion hours she spent indoors in the 9.75m x 6.4m space. Her mental strength during the competitions, what motivated her through the years? 

Acknowledgement to The Star for the photos and write up on Nicol David.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021


       Hey, not the smoking kind but the ‘pests’ that grow so luxuriously in my garden.  Ahh, I sit on a plastic sheet,

 and drag my butt through the garden. The blue stool is to rest my back every so often. Malaysia is now in 2nd lock down, 3rd wave. I'm really "sian" (bored and tired). No more excuses that I could not do anything during the pandemic. The garden needs a face lift, and frankly SO DO I. Easier to start with the garden!

 I do have some blooming flowers , my bougainvilleas,

and powder puffs
but my succulent weeds are my pride and joy taking    centre stage. They invade every nook and corner even in my drains. They are thick and succulent. My niece  said, “your weeds look good like SCALLIONS 

and CHIVES! Sure you are not pulling out your veggies.” AH, If only.

 Now I understand why she morphs from a lady to a cussing monster every summer as she tackles her weeds in Melbourne, Australia. Oh, I heard her swearing to ‘thy kingdom come’ as I squatted close by helping her. 

 Thory, my faithful companion just sits by me and laughs as I weed for 2 hours every morning after my walk. 

It is never-ending.

“Hey Sassy  JAM, you missed this patch Jom, chop chop!” 
It has been 2 weeks now and I have weeded by the buckets full. 

Gismo Man is a very practical husband. He was in US for work many years back. I expected a wonderful souvenir like, maybe a Coach bag. SUPRISE, he got me a wonderful  iron "weeder" together with other gardening tools. What a  lucky gal I am.  Had my faithful "weeder" for 9 years now. The rounded part serves as a fulcrum and I just need to apply some pressure on the handle to get the "pests" unrooted.
Jab it in like you are going to stab someone,
 yank out the innards and job completed. Weeding does bring out the monster in people.
 "Shoo away pest, you are making my Sassy JAM's life miserable."

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

What is trending now? Covid-19 VACCINES,

 Malaysians' acceptance of Covid-19 vaccination. Source: Health Ministry's survey, 21 - 28 Dec, 2020.

    TO BE or NOT TO BE vaccinated? Firstly, we need not agonise over which vaccine to take as this will be decided by the governments of each country. We CANNOT hand pick the vaccine, but we CAN choose if we want to be vaccinated as no country has made vaccination mandatory.

    Some facts on WHO listed Covid-19 vaccines minus the scientific jargon:

     1. IMMUNITY: Vaccines trigger our immune system to produce antibodies and protect us against covid-19. After vaccination, our immune system is able to recognise Covid-19 when we become expose to it, and keep us from getting sick. BUT, becos’ these vaccines are so new, we have NO data on how long this immunity will last. Months or years? Do we need revaccination? Current studies also measured whether vaccinated people develop symptoms NOT if they get infected, thus the trials did not take into account if Covid-19 vaccines can PREVENT asymptomatic infections (i.e. a vaccinated person can still become infected, show NO symptoms and spread the virus in the community).

     2. VACCINE: 

     We CANNOT get covid-19 from the vaccines as NONE of the vaccines are LIVE vaccines.  Pfizer-BioNTech  (US/Germany)and Moderna (US/Switzerland) use a mRNA (messenger ribonucleic acid) - based technology that has Never been used before. mRNA is entirely different from our DNA which is the blueprint of life. The covid-19 mRNA injected directs our cells to produce a viral protein that will trigger our immune system. Human cells then break down the mRNA, thus the mRNA CANNOT interact or change our DNA    The reported severe allergic reactions that have been associated with these two vaccines are due to a molecule (PEG) present in the vaccine. PEG is also present in our daily goods like toothpaste and shampoos. About 72% of individuals have at least some antibodies against PEG according to a 2016 study. About 7% have a level that may be high enough to cause them to have potentially life-threatening allergic reactions. Singapore's PM receiving his first dose of Pfizer-BioNTech, 8 January. 

     Thus, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are NOT recommended for people with a history of severe reactions to previous other vaccines. If you are not sure, stay for 30mins at the vaccination site (I will definitely be doing this).  Both vaccines are about 95% effective after 2 full doses (21 days apart) in preventing symptomatic covid-19 infections. The minus point of these two vaccines is storage requires very low temperatures at -700C in expensive (RM70 - 80,000) ultra-low freezers. Cost of  Pfizer-BioNTechUSD20/dose; ModernaUSD50/2 doses. Countries using: US, Canada, Singapore, Malaysia.

Vaccination trial run in New Delhi.

     AstraZeneca (UK/India) has been selected by India which has the world’s second highest number of cases, >10.2 million. It uses an established viral-vector (carrier) technology, example same as in the hepatitis B vaccine (Ad-HBV). This technology introduces a different genetically modified virus (adenovirus) as a carrier  to produce covid-19 proteins to trigger our immune system. AstraZeneca is 70% (62-90%) effective. The plus point of this vaccine is it can be stored in the refrigerator at 40 C which makes vaccination in rural communities feasible. Thus, it is not surprising that  Malaysia’s Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation has recommended

Pfizer-BioNTech for urban areas, and AstraZenerca for rural populations. Cost: USD3/dose. Countries using: Emergency use in UK, Australia, Vietnam, India.

Indonesian football supporters in support of vaccination, Solo, Central Java. 

    CoronaVac (China) is Indonesia's choice with a confirmed order of three million doses. Indonesia has the worst covid-19 outbreak in Southeast Asia. CoronaVac is an inactivated viral vaccine. This means that an inactive and safe form of covid-19 is introduced into our bodies to trigger our immune system. CoronaVac  has more than 50% efficiency. Storage is at 4C. Cost: USD50/2 doses. Countries using: Indonesia, Malaysia (negotiating), 

    Sputnik V (Russia) is a viral vector vaccine where the covid-19 gene coding for the S spike protein is inserted into the adenovirus carrier. It has a 92% efficiency and 2 doses must be taken. Storage at 4C. Cost: USD10/dose. Countries using: Vietnam, Laos, Algeria, Bolivia, Malaysia (negotiating).

    Even though ten vaccines have been listed by WHO for current use, none of the  Covid 19 vaccines have been officially certified for safety or effectiveness. 

    Will the current vaccines work against the new covid-19 variants?

     “Vaccines are still useful as viruses mutate constantly, but typically not in the ways that would render a vaccine useless,” Dr. Schaffner, an advisor to the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. So, these current vaccines will NOT be totally ineffective. But four new covid-19 strains have already emerged. WHO states that covid-19 is a disease that will be continuously present in the population. Thus, I think, like the flu vaccine, new updated covid-19 vaccines will have to be produced continuously to keep up with the variants.

    What is Herd Immunity? HELP, I AM depending on this situation to avoid vaccination.

    When the majority a population has been vaccinated and becomes immune to a particular disease, even those who are not immune are considered protected because the likelihood of an outbreak is low. Herd immunity has been achieved in diseases like chickenpox, measles, polio and mumps as a result of mandatory vaccination in children. Alas, WHO issued a statement, "We are NOT going to achieve herd immunity in 2021," even with worldwide mass vaccination. Damn it! Sorry but I am angry!

For those of you who, like me, are still undecided about vaccination, I recommend you to take the above vaccination cookies, and as 
"Sir, where are you going?" "Buy shampoo."

This is what I will do when the time comes to vaccinate. Watch, it could be YOU too.
Acknowledgements to The Star newspaper, Reuters, Associated Press News, Agence France-Presse, The Straits Times.  

Friday, January 8, 2021


  as opposed to "Winter is coming."

  Friends helping Fariz Izuan Ibrahim to move horses from his stable in Kelantan.

The East coast monsoon is  upon us and umbrellas are USELESS. Why? With continuous rain for 48 hours

 or more and daily thunderstorms, nothing keeps us dry except staying indoors. 

Malaysia sees 2 monsoon seasons annually. The north-east monsoon blows in during November to  March onto the east coast of Malaysia.

  13,264 victims evacuated in Chukai Terengganu, 8th January. Flooding is NOT a new Norm during this period, flooding has ALWAYS been the Norm during these months of ruthless rains in the eastern states of Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang.

Chilling in front of his flooded house, Kampung Mencupu Pekan, Pahang. 

Soil movement caused by continuous rain in Taman Gambang Damai resulted in the complete collapse of 2 houses. 
House owner Encik Yunus, 51 was a lucky man as he had moved with his family after noticing cracks in the walls. He only had a few hours to take a refrigerator, washing machine, desk and TV before the collapse. Twenty-six houses were identified to be at risk.
Another landslide in Bentong, Pahang. Schools were not spared with Lan Boey's alma mater, Methodist Girls School 
and SK Jaya Gading in Kuantan in deep waters. 
Evacuation came in different forms
 as people were taken
 to temporary shelters.
A dumper truck used in mines dubbed "King Kong"  was "recruited" to save stranded victims. But "King Kong" conceded defeat after three rescue missions, flood waters damaged its internal "organs."
23-year old Universiti Teknikal Malaysia Melaka student, Rano Razali studies for his online semester 1 exams to be held at the end of January. Indeed, there is no rest for the wicked.
Food is prepared onsite in the evacuation centres. Pix shows our King, Sultan Abdullah and Queen, Tunku Azizah  and their son, Tengku Panglima Muda Tengku Ahmad Ismail (2nd, 3rd and 4th from left) preparing food. Tunku Azizah used her own recipes and together with assistance from the final year students in Diploma in Culinary Arts programme, University College of Yayasan Pahang, prepared food for the 178 evacuees from 43 families.  
Malaysia's PM at one of the many evacuation centres housed in schools.
This 2021, Johor on the West coast 
took a big hit.
Kota Tinggi, Johor

Our second monsoon season, the south-west monsoon blows in around May to October, but onto the west coast instead. During this season, we do not have continuous rains, but the violent thunderstorms arrive punctually around 1600 hours, just when offices are wrapping up for the day. I kid you not, Mother Nature keeps to her time and is seldom late with the rains. During this period, I always begin work early at 6.30am, forfeit my tea breaks and take very quick lunches. It is a mad dash out from the lab when the first peal of thunder rumbles at 4pm. I have to get home safely before the roads turned into molten lava of muddy waters and traffic just stands still. Those caught in these swirling waters reach home at the earliest, past 9pm. The unlucky ones are caught together with flood waters INSIDE their cars. Flash floods 

Cameron Highlands
have become more frequent and severe with… of course, rapid development without efficient drainage systems to handle the torrid downpours. Gentle stream just becomes a violent river.
This is a heavy price we pay for over and uncontrolled development.  
Shoes sold at between RM3 (0.744 USD)and RM5 in Kota Tinggi. Continuous rain for 2 days  caused much damage to goods.
FISHING in the monsoon drain in Taman Kota Jaya, Kota Tinggi, Johor when the Johor River overflowed.

Acknowledgements to The Star newspaper for the pictures, to Boey for the photos of her alma mater and to CW Kee for the cartoon.