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Friday, September 26, 2003
Hi kids, its been almost five / six days now since the last entry / review. Well dont let this sudden hiatus (of sorts) make you shy away from making entries here: remember it doesnt necessarily have to be review-related :)

As for me I've been somewhat busy, and shall be busier this coming month :P The three moderators: Wena, Steph & Ash shall be taking over the administrative duties and such; so should any enquiries or bad html occur, it'll be well taken care of. It's gonna be a v long weekend, so take care, eh?

Drive safe too.

graceshu  # 5:57 PM


Sunday, September 21, 2003
My Side of History - By alias Chin Peng 

My Side of History -
By alias Chin Peng
Publisher: MEDIA MASTERS, Singapore.
Price: RM 70.00
Genre: Non-fiction, Politics/History
Perhaps for an ordinary schoolboy who actually opened his Sejarah Malaysia textbook, the name Chin Peng would remind him about the Baling Talk, and the name belongs to the leader of Communist Party of Malaya (CPM). That is all. His character, his contributions, if mentioned at all, would be put at a much lower significance than our so-called ?founding fathers? like Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tan Cheng Lock, etc.

The inner details and the inside story of communism in Malaya and the personalities of communists have been largely made unavailaible, made irrelevant and uninteresting. A taboo, almost.

It is time to break from the narrow and shallow descriptions in our history textbooks, and mainstream documentaries. It is time to disbelieve the jungle war stories in TV about the heroics of the Royal Malaysian Army against the communists. The recent movie 'Paloh' lent a helping hand to broaden/redefine what we know about the Malayan communists, the Bintang Tiga. For those who actually watched it, that is.

However, none would be as authoritative as this 'fresh from the oven' book - My Side of the Story.

Chin Peng tells us in this book about his childhood and family in Sitiawan, the books that he read, the paths he could have taken, and his natural participation and rise in the communist party, the wars, the Emergency, the espionage, the time spent in jungle and other countries and the many politicians and officers he has encountered.

For me, the first and final chapters are the most worthy read.

The first paragraph of its 1st chapter goes like this:-
Every generation shapes its dreams. If you yearn to make a difference you become obligated to the clamour of your time. My generation dreamed of doing away with British colonialism in Malaya. I am proud of this fact.
This shows that Chin Peng is no stupid fighter. He knows what he is doing. His depth, his political awareness, skills and ethics, I dare to say, surpasses that of many of our present leaders.

The youths of today should take this words into deep consideration. If independence is what the generation of Chin Peng dreamed for and fought for, what about youths of today? Chin Peng was only 23 when he became the No. 1 of CMP, just one year older than me now. That is amazing. Would I be able to bear the same weight of burden and threats? Would I stand so strongly for my principles and believes? What should our present generation fight for? To realise the true potential of Malaysia and to liberate us from the suppression of poor governance?

Chin Peng is an honest fighter, one who is brave to fight, not blindly but purposefully. He is not blinded by the British rewards, including the OBE which he 'rejected'. He has an interesting point about the alliance of his party and the British forces against the Japanese:-
I was never under any illusions about bonding with Britain against the invaders from the land of the rising sun. My allied status was never anything more than a transient arrangement. I knew my old imperialist masters would ultimately be my enemy again. The British were using us because they had no choice. I thought we could use them too. For both sides it was a deal with the devil?.
Till today, Chin Peng is disallowed to enter Malaysia, and he remains a socialist. To him, what he did was no mistake, not a crime. His final paragraph sums it nicely:-
I fought a liberation war. To ask whether I would do it again is idle talk. I was a young man in an entirely different setting. But the realities and the lessons I learned from that time comprise a body of values I can share with the young who may wish to look beyond their palmtops and understand how history is shaped. I would like to be involved in a forum. It is the exchange of ideas that ultimately moves the world. The barrier of views still exhilarates me. You can tell me I was wrong. You can tell me I failed. But I can also tell you how it was and how I tried.
In the end if you're like me, this book would tell us that the communists, despite the terrorist label, are mere Malayans with the same goal of achieving independence from occupation. Their commitment should be admired and appreciated. They did contribute to the process of Merdeka.

This is definitely an important book for those who value fair historical accounts, and the fight against Japanese occupation, and ultimately against the bigger, nastier British colonial masters.

fooji  # 10:34 PM


Virus Hunter ~ CJ Peters & Mark Olshaker 

Virus Hunter : Thirty Years of
Battling Hot Viruses
Around the World
CJ Peters & Mark Olshaker
I remember reading this book at in 1997 in the wake of the Coxsackie virus that was spreading throughout Sarawak. Now, with the possibility of the SARS virus coming back again, I picked up this book again today when it caught my eye.

Most of us have seen the movie Outbreak where a virus attacked a small American town with Ebola type symptoms. We saw how the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the US Army took care of the situation. However, this book is not about the movie.

Virus Hunter is a book on the people who, as the title implies, actually go hunting for the virus. It is written by CJ Peters who was formerly the Chief of Special Pathogens at CDC until his retirement. Prior to that position, he was formerly Chief of the Disease Assessment Division at USAMRIID. Now, he is currently a Professor in the Department of Microbiology & Immunology and Pathology in the University of Texas, Medical Branch.

CJ writes about what it's like to work as a detective in a field where there are endless possibilities to who, what, when, why and how does the virus spread as well as containment procedures. He speaks from his own experience and there are a lot to read in this book. The success stories as well as the ones where mistakes are made. Nevertheless, he plows onwards, learning from mistakes and guiding his team onwards.

One of the most interesting chapters within the book is about the case of the Ebola virus in the United States. Although, it's only covered briefly in the book, it provides an insight on how decisions were made and how lucky a lot of people were when they were still trying to identify what it was : virus or bacteria? Mild or deadly? If you're interested in reading the full story, Richard Preston has written The Hot Zone.

It is never easy being in a position where one has to make crucial decisions on what to do next and this autobiography gives us that. An easy and interesting read, it is one that I do pick up from time to time. And I am sure you would too.

Life is short, the art long, opportunity fleeting, experience treacherous, judgement difficult. The physician must be ready, not only to do his duty himself, but also to secure the cooperation of the patient, of the attendants and of externals. -Hippocrates

He that will not apply new remedies must expect new evils; for time is the greatest innovator. -Sir Francis Bacon

The pursuit of an idea is as exciting as the pursuit of a whale. -Henry Norris Russell

My thirty-year career as a virus hunter has taught me that there are many tests and trials, along the way, as well as dangerous and deadly curves when we least expect them. I also know there is great reason for hope too. We're not going to cure death, but the effort we put into fighting it off, and the reverence we place on the value of every human life, says more about us as a species than anything else I can think of. - CJ Peters

Wena Tan  # 8:17 PM



Title:THINK-A compelling
introduction to philosophy

Author:Simon Blackburn
Publisher:Oxford University Press
Genre:Practical philosophy
THINK. The title immediately compelled me to rescue the book off the library shelf and make it mine for the next 6 weeks. I have never come across such an intriguing title which is powerful enough to command me to devour its contents. How often do you come across such books?Sure enough, it was my lucky day.

The content is a delightful feast to a questioning mind and a sound jolt to those who haven't had mental exercise for quite a while. Completely jargon free and unintimidating, THINK provides a solid framework for those who are keen in exploring Western philosophy but do not know how to go about it.

Blackburn cleverly lays out challenging questions and then provide explanations of how great philosophers like Socrates, Hume, Kant and Descartes go about in answering them. These questions are not new, but because of the lack of attention given to them by the modern society,they are constantly left behind in the dusty ivory towers for men in long white beards to tackle. With subtopics like Knowledge, Free Will, Reasoning and Truth, readers would find themselves leading a whimsical journey of fascinating ideas and concepts. The ideas explored are also the very ideas that shape our existence and drive our motivation.
Imagination abadoned by reason produces impossible monsters:united with her, she is the mother of the arts and the source of her wonders.
A philosopher is like a conceptual engineer, Blackburn muses. Just as an engineer studies the structure of material things, a philosopher deals with the structure of thought. Afterall, it is our concepts and ideas which form our mental abode.
We may end up proud of the structures we built. Or we may believe that they need dismantling. But first, we have to know what they are.
Hence, this powerful rational reflection is the key to freedom. Only when we can see ourselves properly can we obtain control over the direction which we seek to move. It is only when we get into the space, can we know that the earth is indeed a sphere.

With that, Blackburn proves that philosophy is not a time wasting mental activity or cheap lip service. Even though philosophy cannot get the world's business done nor earn money, it certainly gives us the power to change our lives and circumstances.

Ultimately, THINK is the enemy of cosy complacency. Highly captivating and interactive, this compact book encapsulates the ancient wisdom which kept the world going. It is a pocket rocket!
The unexamined life is not worth living.

La Vagabonda Piccola  # 2:09 AM


Electronic Books 
Electronic books? The way to read in the future? Definitely looks promising with the low, low prices over the internet, not to mention that the Gutenberg website is also providing free classics for grabs.

Question is how does one go about it? Obviously, one needs some sort of programme to first open the ebook so that one can read. Below are some of the softwares used to read ebooks :

Adobe Acrobat
Palm Reader
Microsoft Reader

Please read through the requirements first as different softwares are used for desktop and PDAs.

Next step is to find a place to download the ebooks. Here are some sites that I do frequent but if you have other sites to recommend, please do drop a line in the comments section. Thanks.

Simon and Schuster
Where else to get cheaper book but at a publisher's site? Although, it's only for the book they publish and certain books are available in certain formats only, there are still bargain buys. Older books goes for US$4.99 - 6.99 and you can even get a discount if you just suscribe to their free newsletter. There is a password within the newsletter which is used to obtained said discount. However, for newer books, they charge more than what is found locally in Malaysia.

Palm Digital Media (PDM)
One can also get discounts here if one suscribe to their newsletter and use the password. This one has a lot of different books available for purchase and the reader doesn't take up much space either. Also, certain books will also contain graphics so that the reader can enjoy the book better. Downside is that if you're using a PDA, you won't be able to see the entire graphic but will need to scroll around a bit. Also, PDM doesn't keep books online all the time. After awhile, the ebook is no longer available. However, they do offer competitive prices and sometimes, free ebooks for new authors!

Definitely one of the biggest online bookstore available for ebooks. However, if you want to obtain discounts, you would need to pay an annual fee to join their book club. Urgh! Would rather check out the above two sites first before buying anything from this site.

A small and modest website compared to the above 3. Still, it has a lot of medical ebooks available online.

Knowbetter Lending Library
An online library? You bet! Ebooks can be downloaded in various formats for viewing on desktop and PDAs but be careful to check first before buying. The books will expire after a certain period of days ranging from 3 to 14 days. Annual fee is US$19.99 but I got my library card for US$9.99! :p

Hmm... now I wonder whether I can still claim the RM500 tax relief on books? :p

Wena Tan  # 12:18 AM