Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Yesterday I went to Phillip Island with my family, my visiting relatives and another family friend. It was a perfectly beautiful sunny day (too sunny, in fact!) and the sea was so, so blue! It was a deep, rich, dark blue, and in some parts it was a mesmerizing aqua blue. Words fail to describe the beauty of it! I was mesmerized. It beats the stunning blue seas that you see in Pirates of the Caribbean! :D

When we arrived, we had some fish and chips at the bridge to Phillip Island and saw the pelicans and 2 stingrays in the clear blue-green waters near the pier. After that, I suggested to visit Cape Woolamai, a place I read about in the tourist book. Cape Woolamai is a well-known surf beach and if you walked along the coast and took a trail up the cape, you’d reach the highest peak in the island. This excited me most. =) I wanted to see the interesting rock formations along the coast and the expanse of the blue seas around the island and beyond. Ever the nature lover and adventurous gal, I wasn’t planning to just laze on the beach like everyone else!

So we travelled a short distance to Cape Woolamai and after my dad found out where the trail was, we set off. It seemed like the only people who were most interested and game for such scenic adventures were me and my dad – and usually our whole family. My Aunt Rachel also came along with her son, Mark. A few of the younger kiddoes came along too. We walked and trudge along the inner bare landscape under the blazing hot sun (there were only small bushes and shrubs). Thankfully, the cooling sea breeze kept us going.

I must say, the cool air fooled me to think that the sun wasn’t so hot. My skin was literally burning without me realizing it! When I looked in the mirror this morning, I got a fright! My arms and neck were burned so badly – it was all red and sore. Thank goodness I did put some sun block on my face; otherwise I’d be abnormally red in the face. The sun was especially harmful yesterday because we had no cover on the trail, and there were no clouds at all (that explains the exceptionally blue seas).

Although walking to the peak and back was about 10 km, and I came back with a bad sunburn, I still have no regrets doing it. Good exercise, too. But it really was worth it! When we walked along the cliff sides of the cape, the view was simply stunning! My aunty came back teasing me that through the whole walk I kept saying “Oh my gosh, this is so beautifullll!” or “My gosh, so nice!” and “Oh my gosh” again and again. But it really was such a fantastic view. Even the photos taken doesn’t do justice to the real thing, the real experience – which includes the sea breeze and the sun on my face, the sound of the wind and the crash of the waves! Hey it rhymes, too. =)

Okay, now enough of meagre descriptions that don’t match up to the real thing! Here are the pictures we took. =)

Taking a shot with aunty Rachel and Janna at the pier under the bridge that crosses to Phillip Island.

We saw two stingrays in the shallow blue-green waters at the pier!

The pelicans were huge!

Haha, my dad and his cowboy hat =)

At the Cape Woolamai surf beach.

I was so mesmerized by this!!! It was unlike any beach or sea view I've ever seen before!


Better than the seas in Pirates of the Carribean, right? I've always wanted to see something like this! And this photo was not edited or contrasted in any way.

The group of us who hiked up the long way! I think it was well worth it, hey!

Jirene and my mum couldn't join us three unfortunately because Jirene wasn't feeling well. So it was just the 3 of us that day.

I really like this photo! It so happened that where my dad stood on the rock, his arms "touched" the edge of the sea's horizon!

This was a candid shot that my aunt took while Janna and I were actually posing for my dad! But it somehow looks so cool cause' of the sky as well.

Another beautiful part of the cape =)

I could see the whole coast line from up there! It was the awesom-est view ever! I could see all the waves crashing one after another from different parts of the shore. Soooo nice!!! :D

:D :D :D Beautifullllll.

I luv this one, too. =)

All beautiful photos, aren’t they? Anyone can take a great shot up there! The view makes it so easy and thoroughly enjoyable. =) Hopefully before school starts we can visit other unexplored spots around Melbourne.

Have a great New Year’s, peeps!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Forever Today

My dad once told me, “You are the sum total of your memories.”

That makes me think, what am I if I have no memories?

Who am I
if I do not have a past?

I’m horrified to even try to imagine life without being able to hold memories!


What you just read 3 seconds ago is now history. What you are reading NOW is the present. What if you read this now and you have forgotten what you’ve previously read about 6 seconds ago? What if you suddenly can’t remember what happened yesterday, as if there were a large hole in your mind’s memory bank? If you find that confusing, well take this, something like that actually happened to a man named Clive Wearing, the man with the SEVEN SECOND MEMORY. I read his story in his wife, Deborah Wearing’s memoir, Forever Today – a remarkable memoir of love and amnesia.

In 1985, Clive Wearing unknowingly contracted herpes simplex, the cold sore virus. By the time his wife realized the gravity of her husband’s illness, Clive was already in a delirious state. He couldn’t remember his wife’s name or his house address. Soon after the doctors realized what the root of the problem was, the virus had already caused encephalitis, a fatal inflammation of Clive’s brain.

But the herpes virus did not stop at inflaming the brain; it ventured on to damage its key structures. And inevitably, it arrived at its main target area: the sea-horsed-shaped structures named hippocampus, which are used for recalling and remembering, and laying down new thoughts. The hippocampus is the critical part of the brain that stores memories.

By the time the doctors discovered the real situation in Clive’s brain, all he had left were sea-horse-shaped scars where his memory used to be... But life was not done with Clive yet, for he soon recovered from the virus. However, he had to live with the most fatal blow of all: the lost of his ENTIRE PAST and his ability to take in and store new memories. A doctor said that “information coming into his brain melted like snow alighting on warm ground, leaving no trace.” I was horrified when I read this. How can anyone live without holding memories…??!

Not only had Clive lost his past forever, he also lost his ability to store any new memory. Doctors deem his case of amnesia to be the worst ever recorded. And take this: each time Clive blinked, his eyelids opened to reveal a new scene. How? Because the view before the blink was completely forgotten! As unbelievable as it sounds, I feel utterly dreadful to think that it is a reality for Clive and his wife Deborah, who faithfully cared and loved him for the next 20 over years and probably longer.

I was close to tears when I read that Clive really had a memory span of less than 1 minute! Deborah encouraged Clive to write his immediate thoughts in a diary whenever he was “conscious”. Nearly each time he managed to update his diary (in his short conscious time span), Clive would write that he was “awake for the first time… have been unconscious for many months”. But in actual fact, the “many months” equalled his split-second blink! And sadly, each time he opened his diary, he would read in astonishment the sentence he had previously wrote countless times: “Awake for the first time,” or “NOW awake for the first time” or “Finally awake and conscious for the first time”.

Unbelievably, Clive’s mind was constantly being restarted (no, RESET) every few minutes! He didn’t even have time to take in his situation, his surroundings, and find any meaning in it. So even after reading his diary of similar statements, in one blink, he would have forgotten what he had read and again repeat that statement – the experience of “awakening for the first time” being so real to him. When Clive’s wife, Deborah, realized how hopeless his situation was, this is what she wrote:

“This concept of nothingness was too ghastly to comprehend for more than a split second. It made me nearly pass out with fear. And now Clive was in something like that, a great big blank nothing all of the time, seeing me and perceiving the world around him, and yet being unable to get a purchase on it, unable to live in a continuum, to move through from one moment to the next.”

Reading Deborah’s memoir felt like watching a terrifying nightmare, which unfortunately was reality for them. Deborah wrote that she tried to imagine how it was for Clive: “Something akin to a film with bad continuity, the glass half empty, then full, the cigarette suddenly longer, the actor’s hair now tousled, now smooth… It must have looked as though the world were ending, the earth falling apart.” I can’t imagine it myself. How can anyone possibly lose all memory of the moment that was just before the blink of an eye? It’s utter madness!

I realize now that I take for granted my brain’s ability to store information and recall them whenever I wish. I take for granted that God had created our brains to be able to absorb new memories and retain old ones. (How can a function so complex be deemed a work of chance by so many ignorant people?) WE ARE THE SUM TOTAL OF OUR MEMORIES. Without a past, we are nothing. Without memories, we almost cease to exist (at least to ourselves).

Reading Deborah’s memoir Forever Today has taught me to value memories and to value my mind’s God-given ability to think. To think continuously with memory of what I was thinking one minute ago. (!!!) To have a life that has good continuity, with an ongoing story that makes sense to me.

Thank You God for the memories that I have!!! Good and bad, they both make me who I am – right NOW.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Real Summer Hols – Finally!

Finally, this one week has been a real summer holiday for me. My family has been hosting our relatives from KL – 3 cousins and our aunty Rachel and aunty May. It has been great having them over! They brought over a lot of stuff that we needed, and the stuff are much cheaper in M’sia. Also, my aunties bought us some really fancy black dresses for my orchestra performances and other occasions. I also needed some big shoulder bags and backpacks for travelling to the city next year and I’m really glad I didn’t have to shop for the stuff over here!

I can’t believe they have finally arrived! Just a year ago we waved goodbye at the airport before flying to Melbourne. Thank God so much that they can join us here for a 1 month holiday! So nice, right.

This week alone, I went to the city 3 times! Just yesterday I went to meet up with 2 new girls I met at the VCASS orientation, Tatjana and Justine. I was really glad that we felt so “at home” with each other although this is only the 4th time we’ve met, and only for a short time. Tatjana agreed that there were hardly any “awkward moments” like we would usually have when meeting people we hardly know. But in our case, we clicked almost instantly. =)

These few days I’ve been walking so, so much! And we’ve been eating out a lot.
Today my sisters and I, with my aunties and cousins stayed at the city for one night. We did a lot of walking and visited different parts of Melbourne city. I’m much more familiar with the tram routes and train lines now. It’s a really good thing since I’ll be going to the city everyday soon. Today we also went to the St. Kilda Beach, which is the nearest in the city vicinity and only 15 minutes tram ride from VCASS. I had the best time just taking a nap on the beach and sun-basking with the cool breeze blowing constantly, and my iPod playing!

Now we’re back home, and we’ll be relaxing and sleeping late the next few days before Christmas comes. Man, it’s been going too fast! Now I only have 6 more weeks before school starts, instead of 8. =( I need more time to chill before things get busy again! Haha.

I also just realized that I haven’t been progressing in photography! I’ve been so busy and occupied with other things. And before we had our relatives over, we spent a few days shifting stuff to a newer rented house. Then it was a lot of packing and all that. I regret that I haven’t found time to enjoy some macro photography and to discover new subjects to snap! But now that I remember, I’ll make it a point to brush up on photography soon.

So anyway, this has been an update that’s pretty much “all over the place”. I’ll get organized again soon – but its holidays after all!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

For Goodness Sake, Use Yours Ears!

This year, my ears have been opened to a whole new world. I would say it’s going through an “awakening”! Hahaha. Suddenly, I’m exposed to all sorts of beautiful and foreign musical sounds, instruments and timbres. Also, I’m starting to love listening to classical music cause’ the music that an orchestra makes is so, so different compared to the noisy, funky, pop and usual rock music we hear on radios and etc. Those are all becoming so boring for me (it always had) because it sounds so simple, so empty (not rich and full), and in many cases, digitally altered or enhanced.

So I’ve been telling myself, “For goodness sake, use your ears!” Previously, I seldom listened to music other than what I played on piano or violin. Now I’m learning that (thanks to my iPod) I need to expose my ears to all sorts of music, and even so, not only restrict myself to orchestra and piano music.

Now, I must tell you about a book I’ve been reading called Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain by Oliver Sacks (my previous post was about a book written by him, too). Musicophilia is a compilation of true stories based on Dr. Oliver Sacks experience with patients who’ve had the musical part of their brain "fired up" after an accident or illness! It also includes patients who, on the contrary, have a problem with music (such as a fear of music – how sad (!!!) – or having music playing in their heads 24/7). Hmm.

The first story Oliver Sacks recounted is the best of all. It’s about a man who got struck my lightning and died for maybe 2 minutes – but he was revived. For 2 weeks, he suffered memory loss. Thankfully, he recovered after that and resumed his life. But heaven wasn’t done with him, I suppose! He began to feel a great urge to listen to piano and classical music. Note that before his accident, he never bothered with such music, and he never played any instrument other than some brief piano lessons when he was young.

After the lightning strike, the great part was he started to “hear music in his dreams”! He would wake up with them resonating in his ears and mind. But alas, he didn’t know how to compose or to notate the music he was inspired with. Also, he could barely play the piano (although he started learning a lil’ on his own). So he started lessons and in a short time, learned to notate his own music. A year later, he could play Chopin’s Scherzo in Bb minor, which is diploma-level stuff ya’ know. And he was 42 years old, for crying out loud! Fingers would’ve been stiff long time ago!

It amazed me that a lightning strike could do something so miraculous to an otherwise ordinary guy who never got to realize his musical potential. You know, I think everyone, every child, has music in them. It only takes the right teacher, the right parents, and the right learning environment to stimulate the musical abilities. And of course, with all this in place, it takes much practice and music training. Even prodigies have to be exposed to music first in order to discover their gift. And although they may not need 10 years of practice to master a difficult piece, they would still need hours of training from young in order to develop the musical parts of the brain.

The most important body part that music needs to work hand in hand with is the ears. Once again, I’m amazed that my ears actually have given me so much LIFE. We take it for granted, I tell you! Do you ever realize how amazing it is that our ears can ‘home in’ on a conversation or someone’s whisper in a noisy restaurant? Or when listening to music, we can somehow “zoom in” on an accompanying instrument or back-up voice? We choose to do that. If we don’t send that signal to the brain, we’ll just be listening to the music ‘as a whole’.

My ears have given me my whole life! Without it, I don’t know what I’ll do. Interestingly, a few of the stories in Musicophilia tells of people who have internal hearing problems. Some begin to hear music in their head that sounds as clear as day. That’s cool, but the problem starts when the music doesn’t stop for 24/7! For some people, it like “background music” cause’ when they occupy themselves in a conversation or with other tasks, the music is soft. But for others, the music becomes annoying and unbearably loud – how scary!

Still, there were some who listened to music with ears and a brain that could not piece the music as a whole. One woman couldn’t bear to listen to orchestral works because the instruments sounded like “individual voices” – her brain could not register them as fitting together. More bizarre, the author himself once experienced amusia, a condition where the brain does not register music as music. One would listen to a piano, and no longer hear a song as a beautiful melody and harmony weaved together – instead, it would sound like a hammer banging on strings or a metal sheet! =O

I now realize how blessed I am to have ears that can register music as a whole, music with its intricate melodies, music with colour (various instrument timbres), music with meaning and emotion. Moreover, how incredible that God gave us TWO ears, not one; because with two ears, we can recognize sounds by a measure of distance (same for the eyes).

And did you know (to my astonishment) Darwin once said that, “The ear is the miracle of evolution.” Man, how ironic, how ignorant, how utterly stupid that I feel sorry for him! He unknowingly admitted that it is obviously IMPOSSIBLE for evolution, a purposeless evolving of organisms, to come up with an organ so intricate and complex and useful!

Now, even if you don’t believe in a “bigger force” that probably instigated the Big Bang, or a God that bestowed us with such fantastic abilities, you would surely agree with me that the ear cannot possibly be a “miracle of evolution”, right?

So after reading this, I hope it changed your life! For goodness sake, use your ears in a whole new way and begin to hear for yourself how greatly blessed you are to be able to digest all the sounds and actually find meaning in them. Astounding! Even now, I’m still marvelling at the abilities that God has given me (and you) – which I so often do not develop to its fullest potential!

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat

I came across a very, very interesting book mysteriously called “The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat”. It was a compilation of true stories recounted by Oliver Sacks, a professor in clinical neurology. The stories come from Oliver Sacks’ encounters with patients who are lost in the bizarre and apparently inescapable world of neurological disorders.

The first story, which is also the title of the book, caught my attention immediately after I read the first page.

It is an account about Dr. P. , a music genius who is intelligent in many ways. However, his only problem is his inability to recognize faces or people of whom he should be familiar with. Even scarier, he would sometimes see faces where there were none. When on the street, he might pat the heads of water-hydrants and parking meters, seeing these as the heads of childen. He would also greet carved knobs on furniture and be surprised when they did not reply.

Dr. P. consulted an ophthalmologist, who examined his eyes closely and found there was nothing wrong with it. But he did say that there was trouble with the visual parts of Dr. P’s brain. He was then referred to neurologist, Oliver Sacks. Dr Sacks started a series of simple tests that yielded rather strange results.

In one test, Dr Sacks handed Dr. P. a glove. “What is this?”, Dr Sacks asked. Dr. P. carefully examined the simple object and announced at last, “It’s a continuous surface, infolded on itself.” (Hmm, a strange observation eh.) He hesitated, but continued to say, “It appears to have, five outpouchings, if this is the word.”

Dr. P. did not at all relate the glove to himself, or to a part of his body. No child would have the power to see and speak of “a continuous surface, infolded on itself”. But any child would simple see a glove as a glove, and immediately relate it to be worn by a hand. Dr. P. however saw no connection. He didn’t see anything as familiar. Visually, he was lost in a world of lifeless abstractions.

The interesting lesson I learn from this strange, but true story is something that Oliver Sacks addresses concerning judgment and identity. In Dr. P’s case, the visual part of his brain is missing cognitive judgment. He cannot recognize faces or expressions on faces because he no longer relates what he sees to himself. He lacked judgment and identity.

Oliver Sacks said, “Judgment must be the first faculty of higher life or state of mind. Yes, the brain is a machine and computer, but our mental process which constitutes our being and life are not just abstract and mechanical, but personal, as well – and involve not just classifying and categorising, but continual judging and feeling also.” Our human minds are meant to process information based on judgment and identity of oneself in relation to others or the objects we see.

I was amazed as I read all this. I was thankful to God for his creative brilliance in creating us. What separates us humans from animals? It is our God-given identity and our inner judgment. Oliver Sacks said, “A judgement is intuitive, personal, comprehensive, and concrete – we “see” how things stand, in relation to one another and oneself.” Sadly, it was precisely this seeing and relating that Dr. P. had lost.

Thank God for fashioning our brains unlike a machine or computer. He created us to feel and love. He created each of us with a unique identity, which enables us to see other humans and objects around us in relation to ourselves. That's really the only way that one can live. By living out our true identity, which we can only discover by going to the Creator of that identity. Otherwise, our existence will be sadly likened to senseless animals, mere mindless creatures whose sole purpose in mind is to survive

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