the language of a disease …

I’m not entirely sure how to start this particular post, or whether it is appropriate that I should write about the man lying in the hospital bed beside me as if he is no longer with us … One of the things doctors are very keen to get through to you about cancer is that there is no cure; one only discusses the future in terms of survival, but alas for my father, the prognosis is, as one oncologist suggested, ‘very bleak indeed’.
Personally, I find the whole language surrounding cancer very … disengaging to the point of frustration. It is after all, one of the biggest killers of the human race, and so it seems a little disingenuous and totally baffling why people give it pet names like the Big C, as if to call it by its full name might somehow incite the wrath of the god of acronyms and bring about an earlier end for the victim.
At the other extreme, cancer also brings with it a whole unsavoury smorgasbord of technical vocabulary. There are abbreviations that require early familiarisation, cold-sounding terms such as HCC, AFP, CT, MRI, TACE, PEI. You also learn very early on which words are your friends and which ones are your enemies: metastasize, for example, is not a friendly word. And even when the doctors use big powerful terms like Interventional Radiology, Chemo Embolization and Radio Frequency Ablation, one gets the feeling that these action words promise so much, but yet deliver precious little. In the end, there is only one term that matters, and it is associated with a number. Unluckily for my father, his initial diagnosis cited Hepatocellular Carcinoma with a Staging of 4 – which basically means, he was fucked from the word ‘Go’.
I’m spending a second night with my dad who is in the palliative unit at Mount Miriam Hospice, Penang. I’ve heard people talk about the fragility of life before but never really understood its meaning but here, in this dark room I get it, I mean I really get it.
Imagine this setting: initially, your senses are drawn to the comforting hum of the air-conditioning unit which provides a calming backdrop for the oxygen pump which adds a water feature to this happy landscape with what sounds like bubbles dancing on an icy lawn. But this audial nirvana is short lived because you soon learn to look out for the little mechanical ‘whizz click’ sounds made by the automatic timed dispenser as it releases more morphine into the bloodstream. You look out for these tiny clicks because you know that they will take away the frowns from the forehead of a man who is trying not to wince from the pains of cancer that has already consumed his liver, lungs and bones.
But the sound that rips through the quiet hospital corridors in the early hours of the morning and reverberates incessantly around the room is the dyspnea – the hopeless and most pitiful sound of a short-breathed man who is using his entire torso to draw every last molecule of oxygen into his body in order to stay alive.

bokehlicious …

almaviva

What happens when you combine an old pastime (getting phissed on nice wines) with a new hobby (photography) … well, you get this of course ūüėČ It is so much sweeter when the new hobby came about as the result of winning a new Canon EOS 450D digital SLR on a Swoopo bid for next to nothing.
So peeps, look out for more of the combo above … especially as we are visiting Paris next week.

a new hope …

A wonderful day indeed Рespecially if your name happens to be Barack Hussein Obama. And what a speech! You go boy … the world is in awe of your ascent to greatness and we are expecting you to deliver on your promises. Not bad indeed for the son of a man who 60 years ago might not have been served in a restaurant in some states in the US …
p.s. Did anyone else think the prayer before the swearing in ceremony was a tad over the top for what is afterall a secular event – you know, references to Israel and the full Lords Prayer. And as for the Aretha Franklin number sung to the tune of ‚ÄėGod Save the Queen‚Äô – what was that all about?!

on proposition 8 …

Ok, so this is a much debated issue in blogosphere and social networking sites … but I’m bored with it now. And quite how a local ruling affecting Californians was allowed to achieve limelight status on the global stage is just beyond me. Yes, banning gay marriages is probably unconstitutional – but only if you are American and you behold Jefferson’s declaration that “all men are created equal” as your pillar of faith in freedom, truth, justice and the American dream.
But here in Blighty, we have no constitution, and like it or not, our laws are founded on biblical laws¬†(arguably past their sell by date) yet we are not immune to similar prejudices, for example the¬†ordination of gay priests. In fact, I’m inclined to believe that because of our historical baggage, Americans through their Founding Fathers had the advantage of a unique opportunity to separate affairs of the State from those of the Church when drafting the Constitution: Proposition 8 is just one of¬†many thorny modern issues that no one could have foreseen at that time.
So fellow Americans – count yourselves lucky! And just because progressive thinking appears to be drowned by bigots and zealots in the state of California does not mean the system is broken. The fact that you have a constitution should make you better placed to lauch a (hopefully) successful 3rd vote …¬†but spare a thought for other less fortunate citizens around the globe who live in a environment that is still bogged down and handicapped by religious proprietary and legal precedents.

when to say sorry … not

I am confused. It doesn’t happen to me often, but today I am baffled … and for all my efforts to try and untangle and understand recent events, I find myself falling deeper and deeper into this … quagmire of very dark thoughts, drowning in an angry soup of paranoia that I never sought nor deserved. Yet, I must have caused offence somewhere … somehow … sometime. Otherwise, why would I be the recipient of such callous (or perhaps it’s deliberate) treatment from someone who purports to be a good friend?
William Blake observed that ‘It is easier to forgive an enemy than to forgive a friend’, which if you look at it another way, sort of translates to ‘It is easier to hurt a friend than an enemy’ – hence a friend’s forgiveness is that much more difficult to secure. Well, if that’s the case poor William couldn’t have had many good pals because my definition of a good friend is one I can afford to offend, and yes, sometimes hurt – without intent or malice of course, and more importantly I should be able to be myself, say the things I I feel passionate about, without fear of any recrimination, nor should I feel under constant pressure to apologise for the titchiest remark made, whether in bad humour or questionable taste.
There is a line of course, a boundary of tolerance one should never cross … but for crying out loud, I’m not Russell Brand … I haven’t bedded anyone’s grand daughter nor have I taunted her grand father in public, on live radio … and this is definitely not a resignation matter!
So, I shall soldier on … in ignorance of the cause of this tension, and beligerant to point of becoming an arse that my principles on friendship are sound: that friends are there for hurting, and the best ones are those you can afford to hurt the most, and to receive nothing but forgiveness in return.

the demons of capitalism …

Unless you have retreated to a yurt in deepest Mongolia, it would have been difficult to miss the headlines of meltdown in the global financial markets in recent days. But, tucked in a corner of yesterday’s FT was a curious rallying call by David Cameron to not allow the ‘lefties’ to destroy capitalism by putting the blame of the recent crises on ‘this important part of the British and world economy’. Excuse me???
When Gordon Gecko espoused the virtue of greed in the 80’s, Wall Street was awash with city yuppies with fast cars, and faster incomes. Two decades later, it seems not much has changed – the financial instruments have evolved in technicality but the basic desire to get rich quick is more prevalent, albeit a little less transparent. Today, simple debts have been transmogrified into complex securities and bonds, to the point that no party in the food chain fully understands the risks … until it’s too late, when bad creditors default on mortgage payments and savers like you and me start withdrawing our hard earned cash from the banks, thus fueling a bank run like the one we witnessed on Northern Rock. But as someone observed, banks buy long and sell short – that is what a bank does – so when they to use funds from their retail business (our money, and ultimately our pensions) to gamble in complex products in the wider financial markets … AND lose, should we feel sorry when we see images on the telly of jobless bankers and their sad office boxes walking out of the building of a collapsed bank? I think not!
I suppose the irony of the Lloyds and HBOS merger is not lost on the ‘lefties’ either: in the golden days of capitalism, mergers were used to promote growth and now they are being used for reasons of survival, and in the case of HBOS, handed on a silver platter to Lloyds TSB with the full blessing of the UK government. Whilst I agree that administrations have a duty to maintain financial stability, I can’t help thinking that perhaps it may be worthwhile to do nothing, thus sinking the economy in order to teach banks a lesson in liquidity and risk management. The only problem is that the collateral damage in these sorry times are folks like you and me – people who would feel the pain from a greed we never subscribed to. And the medicine used by governments to cure this ailment? Oh, that will be taxpayers’ money too. Someone please explain to me how this is good …

leisure – a myth …

Do y’all know this poem by William Henry Davies?

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

Surely there must be more to life than the weekly commute to London/Milton Keynes!!! Ummmm, I so need another holiday …

social networking 2 …

I had hoped to break radio silence with a more uplifting post rather than returning to an old paradox that has been playing on my mind these past few months Рthat of online friendships. Loyal readers of this dusty corner of blogosphere may be familiar with a previous entry where I contended a somewhat cynical explanation for the explosion of social networking sites; that we use them to actively seek out long lost friends to satisfy ourselves of our comparative position on the social ladder, so that we do not need to feel inadequate in any way about our own modest achievements. 
What utter poppycock!
Perhaps experience hardens our hearts and age softens our judgement but I must admit surprise at myself sometimes for writing some of the drivel I write. You see, on the question of online correspondence, there is and can only be one simple purpose – it is the opening gambit in a game of chess, a prologue to a yet unwritten book, a precursor to something that may become very special, or putting it in terms of today’s financial language – it is an investment for a future wealth that cannot and will not be realised … until friends actually physically meet!
Someone once said, if you want to bring someone into your life, you need to take a step into theirs. And last night, I made a move which hopefully will earn me a place in this person’s life. It helped that we shared some memorable times in the past, but we could have easily continued to ‘message’ each other without ever meeting and in doing so, lose the opportunity to become great friends.

3 skypephone …

I am absolutely loving my Skypephone from 3 – see review here. Ok, it has a few bugs here and there (the most annoying being having to turn it off/on again after losing the dialup connection when using as it a modem) but on the whole, it’s a great gadget and definitely worth the ¬£45 (I bought the discounted twinpack so SWMBO didn’t complain ;)) for the handset on Pay As You Go. A ¬£10 top up every 30 days gives you free skype calling, even abroad in any 3 Like Home countries (e.g. Ireland, Hong Kong etc). You can use the top up to buy the ¬£5 fair use data pack giving you unlimited Internet access at 3G speeds, which you can use with any laptop or PDA equipped with bluetooth. ¬£2 gets you a number of mainstream TV channels (or you can stream live TV from your Orb/Slingbox/Webguide setup) and when you just want to sit back and enjoy some music or a podcast or two, the A2DP profile delivers stereo to your bluetooth headset effortlessly.
Can’t wait to hook this up to my new toy (on order now for over a week) – the ASUS Eee PC … if retailers ever receive any from Taiwan this February, apparently the snow in China is playing havoc with logistics ūüôĀ

on social networking sites …

So, good people – are sites like Facebook, MySpace, Friendster and dare I mention Bebo a curse on modern society or an asset? Discuss.
I’ve procrastinated my deliberations on this very topic until now for a couple of reasons: firstly, it was necessary to amass enough entries on one’s ‘my friends’ list to enable useful analysis (afterall, one swallow does not a summer make!) and then, I needed to find and get in touch with an old friend the old fashioned way, i.e. by picking up the telephone.
It is recognised that humans are a gregarious species, so why do we cower behind our computer screens, preferring to deliver one-liners to friends we have recently rediscovered, rather than pick up the phone to arrange a reunion? I partially accept that physical vanity may be to blame – faces do get wrinklier, breasts inevitably succumb to gravity, and tummies and hairlines do the inversely proportional thing of enlarging while the other recedes. Or perhaps, I suggest, there is another more sinister explanation.
The Singaporeans call it kia su [lit. fear of losing] which loosely translates to that western nirvana of not only just keeping up with the Joneses, but to excel and be king of the hill, top of the heap. And whereas it might have been possible for friends and colleagues to disappear after school/university and retreat to places where one is considered a bigger fish in a smaller sea (e.g. the so-called White flight of city dwellers to the countryside, emigration to Australasia etc), today the phenomenon of the Internet has brought us back together with a big awakening bang. Not only has it shattered all geographical boundaries (real and notional), it has also created a global village where peer pressure is now on steroids, and living an ordinary existence is about as appealing as a fungal infection in the groin ūüėČ You can run, you may even choose to hide … and succeed … but god help you if the commit the mortal sin of coming out and admitting to mediocrity, online or worse, in person!
Tomorrow I have an opportunity to telephone someone I have not seen in over 25 years. Back in those carefree days and what seemed like a lifetime ago, we didn’t have much to worry about – hell, we didn’t even worry about worrying! But I wonder – will we be more guarded on the phone or perhaps there is something to be said for getting through the ice breaking ceremony semi-anonymously via email. Churchill once observed We are stripped bare by the curse of plenty – his comment may yet have some relevance in our 21st century techno-rich world …