Thursday, 27 January 2011

Crystals... what?

It was 12:30 am and I'd just switched off the TV after an interesting rerun of Mean Girls when..

"Piii! tengok Bear ni ha.. something's wrong with him!"

Bear, one of my four precious hand-raised kittens (pictured above) seem to have finally come home after disappearing the entire afternoon. I'd been checking the front and backyard all evening, hoping he'd turn up at some point.

I was very worried, because not two weeks ago his little brother Chume was found dead in the bushes at the back of my house, and I wasn't able to identify the cause of death. My cats were the kind that roamed, and the residents of my neighborhood exercised little restraint in the use of pesticides and rodent poisons around their homes. I've lost more than a few of my beloved feline friends to their ignorance. Bear's mum was one of them.

I followed my mum out into the backyard to see him standing on the cement, both front paws immersed in the large bowl of water we used to supply drinking water to the cats. He was wet all over; it looked like he'd been trying to empty the bowl of every last bit of liquid it contained by pawing them out.

The scene was weird enough, but I continue to look for other signs. I called out his name, to which he responded with a soft huff. His movement was slow and he seemed in a daze, almost sleepy-like. But when I saw his back legs start to wobble and give way, I knew he was in trouble.

As per usual my mum lost her mind and hyperventilated around the kitchen, blaming idiotic neighbors and their ignorant use of chemicals. I had to tune her out as I scooped Bear up in a dry towel and quickly arrange a cat carrier to house him for the night. After he'd settle down, I rushed up to my room, turned on my laptop and googled the nearest 24-hour vet clinic. Thank God, there was one near Jalan Pekeliling, downtown KL.

The trip was surprisingly calm. I made it to the vet in under 15 minutes, and I had Bear registered and on the examination table in less than 5. He was plenty scared, coming close to me and mewing every few seconds. After the initial check-up, I found out he wasn't poisoned. Nor was he having a viral infection, which was the next common thing.

"He's got crystals in his urethra, which makes it hard to pass urine. See the spasms in his back legs? toxins are being recirculated in his body and it's affecting his muscles and balance."

Well, that's a first.

Apparently cats can develop something like kidney stones from eating processed catfood such as Friskies and Smarthearts. Although high-end brands such as Science Diet may reduce the risk, some cats still develop them due to the high content of sodium and oils in these foods. If not treated, it will cause damage to the kidneys, and in most cases lead to death. According to the doctor, we were the third case that night. One of the cats that were brought in didn't make it.

A five-day treatment was prescribed. Have you ever 'warded' a pet before? It's not cheap, I can tell you that.. I ended up splitting the bill with my mum. The deposit alone was RM600, and because Bear was my baby, it's only fair that I share the cost.

It's a price I'd pay to make sure he's alright though. I've spent money on him since he lost his mum at two weeks old. The baby wipes, the feeding bottles, and 1 kg of Dutch Lady's Honey powdered milk every two weeks.. Not to mention the time and care I'd given. After all that, I definitely wasn't going to lose him to some effing crystals!

To the producers of Friskies, Whiskas, Smarthearts or what have you... please, please, pleeaase do some actual R&D work on your products. We spend loads buying them - they aren't exactly cheap! - only to spend loads more rehabilitating our pets because of them. How is this fair?

Anyway, starting next week I'm buying fresh fish for my kitties. Believe it or not, it's actually cheaper than buying catfood. What's surprising though, is that the doctor doesn't recommend fresh food, because it doesn't have "complete nutrition".. O_o

Can you spell r-u-b-b-i-s-h?

Seriously, if I can eat rice and fish and still live, I doubt my babies will have much of a problem! :)

Chumie-yah, omma ga chungmal pogo shippuh suh..
Chume, mummy miss you so very much..

Wednesday, 26 January 2011


Why does this always happen when I leave the office to get some labwork done?

Boss : Hey.. so I'll see you tomorrow at 3pm?

Author : Hm? what's at 3pm?

Boss : ....... haven't you been checking your email?

Author : I have! but I haven't seen anything from our unit lately..

Boss : We're leaving for Pasoh tomorrow. There's a dinner tomorrow night and a meeting the next morning.

Author : What!? but I've lined-up all my labwork up till the end of the week. How..?

Boss : *sigh* you really need to get out of your cave and come back to reality sometime..

Just so you know, it wasn't entirely my fault. My email address was left out of circulation when the announcement was given out. I'm still kind of bummed out to be missing the family dinner tomorrow. The past few months I finally felt like I was connecting with my colleagues at the office.

Just my luck. I am the ecologist slash molecular biologist slash MSc student, and it seems that whenever I retreated to labwork, other realities fall apart, without me wanting it to.

I feel like such a coelacanth.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Happiness and Meaning

The ways of happiness and meaning are not the same. To find happiness, a man need only live in the moment; he need only live for the moment. But if he wants meaning - the meaning of his dreams, his secrets, his life - a man must reinhabit his past, however dark, and live for the future, however uncertain. Thus nature dangles happiness and meaning before us all, insisting only that we choose between them.

Jed Rubenfeld
The Interpretation of Murder

What does it mean to give meaning to life?

I thought it was all about taking responsibility, about making it count, about taking the less traveled and necessarily harder path of existence. Experiences from these certainly make for interesting tales and reminiscence. And that, in its essence, is the true meaning of life.

Or is it?

In the larger scheme of things, I'm beginning to wonder if it would it be so wrong to have it simple and easy..

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

France: Montpellier

Montpellier was our actual destination in France. My mum had a five-day discussion and conference with a French counterpart she was working with. This place had a really nice small town feel. There weren't really big skyscrapers or busy traffic or people rushing all over the place..

Just sunny weather, and really warm and polite people.. Unlike Paris, I absolutely loved this town! ^^

Kyriad Hotel has a chain all over France. I'd hoped to be staying at the same chain in Paris. Their services are to die for.. ^^

Breakfast at the Kyriad.. and this is just one third of the dishes served! But, on the downside, I only got to have hotel breakfast twice the entire time I was at Montpellier. You see, while our rooms were paid for two people, breakfast is only provided for one person.. so my mum and I gilir2. An extra person for breakfast would cost EU10 per day.

Something worth mentioning: Since our room didn't come equipped with a fridge, I kept my butter from melting by placing it on our windowsill during the day.. it was that cold!

I went on my first excursion through the town on my own. One thing about France, you'll often see these chalkboards placed outside shops, restaurants and cafes, listing their offerings. And what does this particular cafe serve? various tartines (toasted breads with toppings), assiettes (platters) and of course, wine..

I don't know why, but I've noticed that temperate countries tend to have bluer skies... I loved the color, and the leaves are of one of my favorite trees: Maple! Haih, I haven't had maple anything in so long... (-_-)

Walnuts! I was so excited when I saw this that I actually ended up buying some to bring back home. Of course, my dad wasn't too ecstatic about them since the darn things were so hard to crack..

My one and only dinner out the entire time I was in Montpellier! My mum's colleague took us to a halal Morroccan restaurant in downtown Montpellier. This is a traditional vegetable stew that you eat with...

Couscous (this used to be something I ate often when I was in the US)..

And berbecued beef and lamb..

Middle eastern desserts! I had the one in the middle. It's made with fine semolina and dates, and then drizzled in sugar syrup... Highly diabetic, but yum!

On other days, this is what I usually had for breakfast, lunch and dinner.. baguettes with butter and jam. Of course, there were also the obligatory sambal ikan bilis, serunding and instant noodles, but those didn't look too pretty or interesting on camera.. ;p

Despite being a small town, Montpellier has very good public transport. This is an above-ground train called the tram, and it functions just like our Komuter. The only difference? our Komuter is less user-friendly.. (-_-)

There are fountains all over the place, especially in courtyards and public squares. I took this one because I love the pigeons that bathe there. They would circle the fountain rim for a while and then slowly dip a foot in... these two were following each other for fifteen minutes.. cute!

An apartment complex in the Antigone district. I want a house like this one! ^^

This is called Place de la Comedie (Comedic Place). Some parts of this place is very old.. Somewhere around 1200s..?

This is probably the building this place was named after: the Comedic Opera. I guess this is the entertainment center back then...

A roman aqueduct. What is that? it's an ancient waterway system that uses gravity to provide water to the residents of a town. These can be found all over France, as well as Europe and India. This system is no longer in use obviously, but many of the structures still stand..

I forgot who this is, but he might have been the founder of Montpellier. I just love the horse sculpture.. so detailed to the point of including veins! (I can't even draw a horse..)

Chateau D'eau... aka the Water Palace. Remember that aqueduct I showed you? well, this is the reservoir. And because aqueducts uses gravity to channel water, Chateau D'eau is made to stand on a hill overlooking Montpellier..

Porte du Peyrou (the entrance to Peyrou). I guess romans really love arches. You can find these everywhere in France. Historically, this is the entrance to the city, and to the Place de la Comedie..

Saint Anna's Church. I wasn't very sure if I could go in, so I didn't risk standing in front of the entrance. I love the rose windows that are featured here. Although present in many churches throughout Europe, stained glass and rose windows are French in origin. These windows are usually placed on the west side of the building..

Ah, I love flowers! they seem to be blooming all over Montpellier, even in the cold! Many of the houses and apartments sport some sort of greenery on their balconies and porches, so I've taken the liberty to capture some..

Helianthus! Amazing colors, but I wonder where the seeds are...

I don't know what these are, but they were planted side by side, and they make beautiful contrast against one another..

And that's all from Montpellier. I didn't get to go to many of the places, like the Aquarium or the Zoo, or the Mediterranean beach for that matter.. I was alone, and I didn't think straying too far from the hotel on my own was such a good idea, so I had to make do with the nearest attractions. I'd like to come back here, more than I would to Paris, actually. I heard that from Malaysia you can take an Air Asia flight to London, and then a local flight straight to Montpellier! :)

AND, you can extend your visit to Italy or Spain, the countries that border France! ^^