Saturday, April 28, 2012

On Being Crazy and a Book Review of Sorts

When I was a school-going teenager, there was a man who used to walk along the streets of the neighbourhood. He looked dishevelled at most times, and walked aimlessly day after day. People said he was *crazy. I always hoped that I'd never have to cross paths with him as I made my way back home from the bus stop after school activities. So, why was there this strangely deep fear of someone who was  rumoured to be crazy? 

When I was even younger (7 or 8, maybe), I sat with my family one night and watched this film called The Lunatics. Despite only getting by with subtitles, the film was visual enough (as kids, my parents never really shielded us from violence on TV, and back then neither did the Malaysian censorship board - if there was one back then) to scare me into believing that while they were not fully in control of their condition, they were capable of violence. It's impact was so immense that one of the final scenes keeps playing in my head as I'm typing this post out.

The sudden recollection of the past was due to this: 

About a week ago or so, my sister lent me a book that went by the name Henry's Demons. 


It is a true account of a family's journey through the son's battle with schizophrenia  mostly from the point of view of the father (although quite a lot of it is also from the mother's point of view as well, it was written by the father), from the time he was first diagnosed till today, how he went through all the different hospitals and facilities and how he seemed to have this incomprehensible desire in running away from the hospitals and the putting himself in danger by entering extremely cold bodies of water. What makes the book even better is that the son (Henry) himself contributes a few chapters as to how he perceived what he was going through and how for him, everything (including having trees and bushes speaking to him) was as real as say, having a cup of coffee.

The book subtly also lets you know that not all people diagnosed are a danger to the public and how they are more of a danger to themselves, especially in Henry's case. It evokes sympathy - how someone could be so 'normal' one day and turn into someone you hardly know the next day. How mental health care works, or how people perceive those with mental illness, that family members rarely speak about it. In whole, it was a rather splendid book, so if you happen to get your hands on this book, do give it a read. 

* Many years later while we're talking about the disappearance of the man, my sister tells me that the man once used to be a cop, and he fell down, injured his head and was never the same again. Naturally, he lost his job and his family also left him soon after. I think my heart broke a little when I heard this story. The least they could have done was get him some help, right?

The Awkward Question

We have a lot of team based long term projects where I work. It's like being in school, except for the part where we actually get paid, unlike real school kids who end up getting involved in projects for the sake of getting good grades. Ahem.

So, one of these projects involves about four of us, where all of us are between 32 to 34 years old. I don't know if it's the age or our personalities, but we seem to get along pretty famously (despite being from 3 different departments) But then again, we have been in a team together since July of 2009 in a different project which ended last year and we were automatically chosen to get involved in this new project because our bosses too could see that we worked well as a team. 

Something very odd happened towards the end of last week's meeting, though. Only three of us were left behind to remove the laptop from the projector, turn off the air conditioning, and rearrange our chairs and ensure everything is locked before we left the room.

Out of the blue, whilst unplugging the cable that connects the laptop to the projector, Levin, one of the members asked me:

 "Hey, if Tivenka (the other member who was not in the room at that time) was the last guy on Earth, would you marry him?"

While I'm usually able to answer most of Levin's weird questions without batting an eyelid (and there have been plenty of those), this was one question that caused raised eyebrows and a nervous laugh. Why would Levin phrase his question in such a manner? Even worse, why did such a question even cross his mind? Did he think that Tivenka was not man enough to have anyone want to marry him that he's be the last (presumably single) guy on earth? Or did he think that Tivenka would outlast all the other men on the planet and actually be the last guy around? 

The two seconds of silence (which felt like an eternity, trust me) was interrupted by Canoska, the team leader who saved me from having to answer this awkward question. She suddenly said something about how Tivenka could hook up with this other girl who was single as well (Canoska clearly didn't get the question -probably only hearing half of it), but by then Levin had ceased looking for the answer to his question (thank goodness!) and we were all hungry (it was a few minutes into lunch time at the time) and so we all walked towards our own destinations.

Point of this post? Nothing. It's just one of those pointless ones. 
P.S: Not their real names, of course.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

MacGyverism

An innocent paper clip, an old hair pin and a cable tie
It was a *secret that hung over me like a dark cloud. Knowledge of a missing key and locked drawer **haunted my obligatory 8.75+x hours at work almost every single working day. A few months back, I blogged about how some personal things were disappearing from my desk drawers, and how I thought I'd misplaced them, etc, but the inner Sherlock Holmes in me asked a very important question: "How (or why) would I misplace a Hard Rock Cafe coaster and not the bag it came in? (No, I have never had the need to use coasters on my desk, and even if I did, I'd probably not use one I received as a gift)

All problems need some form of preventive counter measure. In this case, I started carrying the drawer key with me wherever I went (before this, I'd just leave it in the office itself, hidden under an unused in/out tray) Now, as a person who misplaces stuff on a rather regular basis (I've been known to have lost things as tiny as hairpins to something as large as gym shoes. True story. I even lost my glasses in a bus once when I was 9 years old, because I left it in my pocket instead of wearing it) this act of carrying around the key was bound to result in a series of interesting disasters. True enough, I realised one fine day that my key had gone missing. It was then I scolded myself for procrastinating on my initial idea of adding it to the bunch of other keys on a keychain. Too late. I searched the place where I empty my pockets each night after work, I searched in the car, I searched in the office itself, and no key was spotted hiding itself whilst laughing at my silliness in misplacing it.

About a week ago, I decided to put an end to the misery of not being able to access said drawer, and I figured I might as well try doing something my childhood hero would have done. Enter MacGyver.

It all began with the theory that you could use a flat and somewhat flexible object to push the locked mechanism down (MacGyver wannabe has performed such an act on a crazy cabinet in the recent past)

Part 1
Trial #1: Flexible plastic ruler - failed
Trial #2: Random piece of flat metal from the unused (and disassembled) in/out tray - failed

Next, I figured that I might as well attack the lock with the end of an innocent paper clip. Other than being bent even more out of shape, the paper clip did nothing else. Also while searching frantically for the key in my car, I found an old hairpin stuck firmly on the carpet from the days of my disasterous haircut, and figured I'd give that a try as well. That failed too. In the end, in a rather half baked attempt (just to say that I tried doing something three times), I inserted the flat end of a cable tie into the hole. What can I say? Third time's a charm? Probably not.

Part 2
Trial 1: Innocent paper clip: Failed
Trial 2: Old hairpin: Failed
Trial 3: Cable tie: FAILED! (Otherwise known as what was I thinking??)

I gave up, cursing how everything looked so simple on TV, and resigned to the fact that I'd have to get one of the maintenance guys at work to help me out the next day although my sister did suggest I use a prong from any fork - I didn't have one at hand, though. It's with a huge sigh of relief to note here that even his attempts at MacGyverism failed (he used a test pen, a flat head screwdriver and maybe some other stuff which I didn't get to see as I had to run off for a short meeting) Upon returning, he told me that the locked drawer finally only relented after being (ahem) violated by a drill. So yeah, I have a brand new lock and set of keys now and have been reunited with my much loved paper clips and post-it notes.

* Drama
** I think the thing I missed most about not being able to have access to the drawer were paper clips and post -it notes. Of course all I needed to do was ask our steno for new supplies, but I have an affinity towards overdramatising rather mundane stuff, so I just waited to see how long I could last without new paper clips and post its. Turns out, life goes on with or without them!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Crashers, Singers and Thieves!

I've noticed that weddings in general have provided great blog fodder throughout the years, from the time a friend and I misread the date of a friend's wedding, and consequently missed it, to the time where friends and I have observed favourite uncles (probably after a drink too many) who are known to have sung karaoke style at weddings, and even where unsuspecting friends (that's us) who wanted to have a nice Chinese dinner have accidentally crashed a stranger's wedding dinner (although they paid for their own food, the unexpected entertainment was free!) 

A few years ago, a friend casually remarked (coincidentally this was at another friend's wedding) that Malaysians had the tendency to even invite someone they had only met the day before to their weddings. That, and the fact that certain communities choose to have their weddings at home instead of a hall was probably the reason why the very first wedding thief thought that this would be a pretty good modus operandi.  Yes, you read that right. Weddings are now the target of thieves.

I first heard this story from my boss, whose wife was a victim about two years ago. They had gone back to their hometown in Kelantan for a wedding at their relative's house. As usual, they'd thought that weddings were a community gathering, everyone knows everyone, and thus they could be trusted. All the women collectively chucked their handbags into one of the bedrooms in the house. They even probably locked the room with a key, but the sight of a forty something lady walking along the corridor asking for the key so that she too could leave her handbag there while the ceremony was going on was greeted  without any suspicion. After all, forty something ladies at a wedding were definitely bound to be someone's relative, right? 

Not in this case, apparently. 

After the wedding, ladies of the house were baffled at their missing purses (those who kept them in the safety of the room, that is) It was only later they discovered a trash bag full of purses hidden near one of the parked cars. Upon further inspection (and probably information from the police), they found out that the purses were stolen during another wedding from a neighbouring vicinity. Weddings also seem to be clustered around school holidays.

I thought it was just the few isolated cases in Kelantan. About two weeks ago, my colleague's daughter got married in the town I live in. It was a similar setting, lots of people were invited, it was in held in a house, etc and things got stolen. What was really creepy about the whole thing was that this woman happily mingled around with the guests and shook hands with them as though she was one of the relatives. Wait, that wasn't THE creepy part, really. What was REALLY creepy was the fact that no one noticed or realised that she was not supposed to be there in the first place. It was only after she left and had stolen quite a bit from the house and the guests that people realised something was wrong. By then it was too late. My colleague had even posted up a photo of her on Facebook, warning others who were going to get married to be careful of her.  


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Vanity and Vexation of Spirit:

In LM Montgomery's book, Anne of Green Gables, Anne dyed her hair green by accident because she hated her red hair and was promised by a travelling salesman that the hair dye she purchased from him would turn her hair black. Vanity? Maybe.

Last weekend, this blog looked like a mutant for a few good hours because the vain owner was bored of her white and black theme and didn't really like the idea of using any of the different combinations of templates and backgrounds provided by blogger itself. No, she just had to do it the old fashioned way by downloading third party templates and trying them on the blog one by one like one would try dresses in a shop. Vanity? Definitely. After all, shouldn't a blog be more about the content and not how it looks? 

(But then, blogs that have been black and white for way too long can be depressing)

Sadly, all of them were major failures on the blog, whereby the blog title multiplied, gadgets from the sidebar moved to some strange location, posts moved to the bottom and the sudden increase on the number of things occupying the sidebar that she thought she had deleted!

She thought everything would return to normal if she just reinstalled the template she had backed up before the experimental disaster. It didn't. She still had two titles, one on top of the other, all the weird things on the sidebar, and duplicate copies of her blog posts! She worked feverishly on the HTML (after reading up because she's not too good with HTML either), but all the kings horses and all the kings men couldn't put her blog together again. Finally, after some time, the title gave in and allowed itself to be removed, but the duplicate posts still remain (editing the HTML gives an error report, which someone said is a problem with the new blogger editor, so I'm just gonna wait it out)

I am done with the white and black theme, though. Instead of a whole template, I downloaded a background and a header and added those into the blog. So now, I have some colour. And duplicate blog posts! Oh well.

Edit: Solved the problem AFTER the post is up for almost an hour. How embarrassing! (In case you have a similar problem, the method IS to get back the old blogger interface)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

This was funny yesterday afternoon

How often do you accidentally spill some coffee on a copy of a minutes of meeting regarding spillage?


Friday, April 06, 2012

5.5 KM

There was once a girl who thought she was turning reclusive
So she went ahead and did something quite impulsive
She signed up for a run
Because she figured it would be fun
But now she thinks she may be becoming obsessive!