Saturday, 23 June 2012

A Lesson on the Plague

I was looking for the meaning of 'Messrs' and I landed at a website for Online Readers under Project Gutenberg. There are so many old online books for reading (for English classes), for school holidays and stage plays. I like this particular critic on Robinson Crusoe of 1719, and the biography of the secret life of its author, Defoe. I have included the critic on The History of the Plague in London which should be a useful read.


Of the two hundred and fifty odd books and pamphlets written by Defoe, it may fairly be said that only two--"Robinson Crusoe" and the "History of the Plague in London"--are read by any but the special students of eighteenth-century literature. The latter will be discussed in another part of this Introduction. Of the former it may be asserted, that it arose naturally out of the circumstances of Defoe's trade as a journalist. So long as the papers would take his articles, nobody of distinction could die without Defoe's rushing out with a biography of him. 
In these biographies, when facts were scanty, Defoe supplied them from his imagination, attributing to his hero such sentiments as he thought the average Londoner could understand, and describing his appearance with that minute fidelity of which only an eyewitness is supposed to be capable. Long practice in this kind of composition made Defoe an adept in the art of "lying like truth." When, therefore, the actual and extraordinary adventures of Alexander Selkirk came under his notice, nothing was more natural and more profitable for Defoe than to seize upon this material, and work it up, just as he worked up the lives of Jack Sheppard the highwayman, and of Avery the king of the pirates. 
It is interesting to notice also that the date of publication of "Robinson Crusoe" (1719) corresponds with a time at which Defoe was playing the desperate and dangerous game of a political spy. A single false move might bring him a stab in the dark, or might land him in the hulks for transportation to some tropical island, where he might have abundant need for the exercise of those mental resources that interest us so much in Crusoe. The secret of Defoe's life at this time was known only to himself and to the minister that paid him. He was almost as much alone in London as was Crusoe on his desert island. 
The success which Defoe scored in "Robinson Crusoe" he never repeated. His entire lack of artistic conscience is shown by his adding a dull second part to "Robinson Crusoe," and a duller series of serious reflections such as might have passed through Crusoe's mind during his island captivity. Of even the best of Defoe's other novels,--"Moll Flanders," "Roxana," "Captain Singleton,"--the writer must confess that his judgment coincides with that of Mr. Leslie Stephen, who finds two thirds of them "deadly dull," and the treatment such as "cannot raise [the story] above a very moderate level."
The closing scenes of Defoe's life were not cheerful. He appears to have lost most of the fortune he acquired from his numerous writings and scarcely less numerous speculations. For the two years immediately preceding his death, he lived in concealment away from his home, though why he fled, and from what danger, is not definitely known. He died in a lodging in Ropemaker's Alley, Moorfields, on April 26, 1731. The only description we have of Defoe's personal appearance is an advertisement published in 1703, when he was in hiding to avoid arrest for his "Shortest Way with the Dissenters:"
"He is a middle-aged, spare man, about forty years old, of a brown complexion, and dark-brown colored hair, but wears a wig; a hooked nose, a sharp chin, gray eyes, and a large mole near his mouth."


In the years 1720-21 the plague, which had not visited Western Europe for fifty-five years, broke out with great violence in Marseilles. About fifty thousand people died of the disease in that city, and great alarm was felt in London lest the infection should reach England. Here was a journalistic chance that so experienced a newspaper man as Defoe could not let slip. Accordingly, on the 17th of March, 1722, appeared his "Journal of the Plague Year: Being Observations or Memorials of the most Remarkable Occurrences, as well Publick as Private, which happened in London during the Last Great Visitation in 1665.
Written by a Citizen who continued all the while in London. Never made public before." The story is told with such an air of veracity, the little circumstantial details are introduced with such apparent artlessness, the grotesque incidents are described with such animation, (and relish!) the horror borne in upon the mind of the narrator is so apparently genuine, that we can easily understand how almost everybody not in the secret of the authorship believed he had here an authentic "Journal," written by one who had actually beheld the scenes he describes. 
Indeed, we know that twenty-three years after the "Journal" was published, this impression still prevailed; for Defoe is gravely quoted as an authority in "A Discourse on the Plague; by Richard Mead, Fellow of the College of Physicians and of the Royal Society, and Physician to his Majesty. 9th Edition. London, 1744." 
Though Defoe, like his admiring critic Mr. Saintsbury, had but small sense of humor, even he must have felt tickled in his grave at this ponderous scientific tribute to his skill in the art of realistic description. If we inquire further into the secret of Defoe's success in the "History of the Plague," we shall find that it consists largely in his vision, or power of seeing clearly and accurately what he describes, before he attempts to put this description on paper. As Defoe was but four years old at the time of the Great Plague, his personal recollection of its effects must have been of the dimmest; but during the years of childhood (the most imaginative of life) he must often have conversed with persons who had been through the plague, possibly with those who had recovered from it themselves. He must often have visited localities ravaged by the plague, and spared by the Great Fire of 1666; he must often have gazed in childish horror at those awful mounds beneath which hundreds of human bodies lay huddled together,--rich and poor, high and low, scoundrel and saint,--sharing one common bed at last. His retentive memory must have stored away at least the outline of those hideous images, so effectively recombined many years later by means of his powerful though limited imagination. 
 * * * * * 
Defoe had the ability to become a good scholar, and to acquire the elements of a good English style; but it is certain he never did. He never had time, or rather he never took time, preferring invariably quantity to quality. What work of his has survived till to-day is read, not for its style, but in spite of its style. His syntax is loose and unscholarly; his vocabulary is copious, but often inaccurate; many of his sentences ramble on interminably, lacking unity, precision, and balance. Figures of speech he seldom abuses because he seldom uses; his imagination, as noticed before, being extremely limited in range. That Defoe, in spite of these defects, should succeed in interesting us in his "Plague," is a remarkable tribute to his peculiar ability as described in the preceding paragraph.


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Common health problems

Ada apa sakit? Sakit mana? Sini kah? Sini kah? Sini kah? Mana sakit? Bila sakit? Sini ada sakit? Yes, got sakit hati!!! Blinking idiot doctors!! They keep asking you the same routine questions, over and over, as if you are a stupid patient. I will bring my handphone next time and playback readied answers if I go to the doctor. Any better ways for doctors to ask patients? Ask the doctor. That is how I look at doctors. I think they are parrots. Nothing wrong with that. Just that I think doctors are a weird species, and so are professors like me. If you think professors are weirdos, doctors are even weirder than professors. You know, weirdos exist!! We need weirdos - doctors and professors.

I wanted to upload a photo of me at the wax museum in Los Angeles (LA) watching Jerry Lewis working in the lab, but my eldest daughter and my husband say: 'cannot lah, nanti aurat terdedah'. How many of you remember Jerry Lewis, the weird professor? I do. I still like his movies but ASTRO doesn't have this. I haven't checked YouTube. It was from Jerry Lewis movies that I double-majored and one of them was Chemistry. That is how powerful Jerry Lewis movies impact had on me. You can laugh but I became a professor partly because I learned from a weirdo (Jerry Lewis) that experiments are a great way to any discovery. Very true, I think.

I want to bring your attention to a group in Facebook that looks at medicinal plants, everything that grows in the ground and in pots. This group is good because there are experts who help out others with identification of medicinal and beneficial plants. You can even upload your pics and they will help you to identify what you have in your backyard.

This is the link to the medicinal plant interest group:


This is one post that attracted me:
Nik Idris Nik Yusoff Salam Tn Hj student PhD saya dulu ada buat kajian genus tumbuhan ini. Genus Thottea atau Apama family Aristolochiaceae iaitu Thottea corymbosa renik berbanding species T. grandiflora dan T. tomentosa.hati2 dalam mengguna sebab mungkin mengandungi Aristolochic acids yg boleh menyebabkan renal failure yg pernah heboh dulu melibatkan actress Singapore tunang pelakon Phua Chu Kang? Allahu'alam.

I was combing the supermarket shelves for all types of tea and coffee. I tried all. What did I find? I found that a lot of the claims are nonsense. I also found that a lot of the imported teas gave me pain in the kidneys if taken at night. What is my conclusion? The foreign teas are deleterious to my kidney function. In one case, it was extremely painful that it also affected my breathing. I guess this had to do with the bicarbonate and other renal mechanisms in the tubular processes. Because it was so painful, I took dry dates and took a bottle-full of air zamzam. I also took a lot of cooled boiled water for 2 consecutive days and that helped. Because the pain in the kidney also affected my sleep, I also had to rub Tiger Balm on the the skin area near my kidneys, so I could go to sleep. I did that for 2 days. Now the pain is gone from both kidneys. Phew! I almost killed my own kidneys. 

What have I learned about tea? Foreign teas must be thoroughly checked and trialled by our MoH and whoever is in-charge of food safety in Malaysia. The local teas are safe, night and day. Boh tea, Teh Cameron, Sabah tea - these are safe local teas. A wise advise is don't take tea at night as they contain a lot of acidic stuff that do affect kidney function somewhat. Drink lots of water if you do experience kidney pain, whether daytime or night time or can't sleep because of kidney pain.

Another advice is not to take fruit juices, fruit acids and fruitty ice-blends at NIGHT. Apple juice is the worst to take at night before bedtime. The acids are so strong that they practically suffocate your kidneys - boleh mati punyalah sakit. So don't take fruit juices at night, take fruit juices in the morning and in the afternoon, but not at night. Many people suffer from kidney problems, especially diabetic patients. Don't give them orange juice at night.


In the Facebook group too, they are discussing about a cure for sinusitis and headaches arising from sinus problems.
Pak Din Ini orang Melayu panggil Lemuni pantai (Vitex trifolia). Banyak khasiatnya untuk lelaki dan perempuan. 
Pak Din Two interesting things about this plant. 1. Good for those suffering from sinusitis and sinus headache. 2. Good for those who find it difficult to sleep. And very good indeed in putting you to sleep without having any interests in doing anything else. 
Pak Din Pak Engku: the leaves are aromatic. It is the aroma of the leaves that has the value of clearing off the sinuses. We harvest the leaves in the morning dan dry them under the shades preserving most of the essential oils. You can then sniff on the leaves. My crafty wife had made it into tiny pillows for people to carry in the pockets or hand bags. 
Pak Din In the mediterranean region there is another similar plant called the Chaste tree (Vites angus-christi). According to folklore, during the roman times, when the husbands go out to war, the wives would lay the leaves of this plant on their beds and sleep on them. This is suppose to prevent them from being promiscuous. The Roman Catholic monks who are celibates grow this tree in the grounds of their monastaries and consume the fruit (Monk's pepper), which is supposed to suppress their libido. Pak Engku, the leaves of Lemuni pantai has very similar effects. A cautionary note for those who intend to use this. However, this side effect is reversible.
Photos of the plant(s) are in Facebook.

I have a lot of sinus problems when I get up, perform solat and prepare breakfast. I have a stuffy nose and that lasts till about 10 a.m., then I can breathe nicely. I guess the cause can be plenty - dusty bedroom, linen, books lying about, the tissue box next to my pillow, my blanket, my towel that hangs nearby, my sejadah, my telekong, the books nearby my sejadah, my table-fan, my ceiling fan, etc. I also find that I am sensitive to perfumes. You read that right - perfumes. My husband is a perfume addict. He wears all the perfumes in the shops, the perfumes people gave him, and the ones he bought. I am a secondary perfume sniffer. I don't wear any perfume at all. If you came close to me and smelled the perfume on me, that's actually my husband's perfume. I succumb to all the volatiles from all his perfumes - for 30 years, come 25 June 2012. I become practically totally asthmatic that I think the next best thing is to have a separate perfume-free bedroom. Of course that can spell trouble. I can smell his perfume draft through the living-room now as I write this post - it's very strong. It's 10 a.m. now, so I can smell it as my nose is clear.


Many people develop asthma at weird times. I become asthmatic when I take nuts (almonds, hazelnut, pecans, peanuts) mainly. So kuah sate and peanut-butter give me breathing problems. I do take sate & peanut-butter chocolates but in limited amounts.

I have a female colleague who cannot consume cantaloupe or honeydew. I find this strange and I have never known people to be sensitive to such fruits.

I have a male colleague who cannot consume buah nangka. He said he has a lot of problems consuming fruits, such that his menu does not contain fruits. Poor man!

I can consume almost all local fruits but during daytime only. I cannot take them at night or I get terribly asthmatic. I eat a  lot of pineapples, some watermelon, a lot of nangka and durian, some pisang (any pisang, any version), some nona (which I grow), and rarely soursop (if I see a good one). I have not eaten chiku for years now. Nobody sells chiku in Kelantan. I hardly take imported fruits except for the occasional avodaco, passion fruit, pomegranate, persimmon, grapes, oranges, and apples. I take quite a lot of foreign dried fruits - all types of raisins, figs and dates.

I had a male colleague long time ago. He had a large fruit farm which he inherited from his father. One day he took leave and returned to Johor where his fruit farm was. He plucked so much mata kucing and consumed them, I guess throughout the day and into the late night, with story-telling with his kampung folks (long time no see etc). He died one night after consuming a lot of his own mata kucing which he grew on the farm he inherited from his own father. He was 52 when he died. His father too may have died from asthma arising from mata kucing. Now every time I buy mata kucing, this haunt of death from mata kucing scares me, so I buy very little mata kucing for my children and I tell them not to consume any mata kucing at night. I warn them of the danger of asthma which can get out of hand and become fatal.

Getah is rubber


Getah is rubber or rubberband. Pokok getah is rubber tree. Susu getah is latex. Bergetah is cheeky or sexy (a description for girls, ladies and young mothers). Getahkan is to stick together or to apply a rubber compound to an object, usually fine sticks, skewers or lidi which ware used to catch flies and birds. Tayar getah is rubber tyre, not necessarily pneumatic tyres. Ladang getah is a rubber farm or eatate or smallholding. Golek getah is rolling rubber sheets in a roller, to squeeze out water. Tikar getah is a plastic mat but not necessarily made of rubber.

Two early Malay doctors who mentioned 'getah' in their biographies are Dr Ariffin bin Ngah Marzuki and Dr Pandak Ahmad bin Alang Sidin. Both doctors are from Perak. Dr Pandak Ahmad bought a 16-acre rubber land upon his retirement from govt service. This land is to house his descendants today. His house (built in 1933) still stands, strong and sturdy, despite the annual floods. What is special about these 2 doctors? They are related by marriage of their grandchildren. Dr Pandak Ahmad gave his stethoscope to Dr Ariffin, which was Dr Ariffin's first.

How many of you have touched a rubber tree? How many know the dimensions and characteristics of the rubber tree? How many of you know how to tap a rubber tree? What else do you know about the rubber tree.

Below are photos of a small rubber holding near Machang in Kelantan. This small holding is off the main road as you turn from the Machang-Tanah Merah-Kuala Krai-KB junction. This rubber small holding is on a hillock and facing Kota Bharu. The trees are tapped on one side, which side, north/south/east/west? The trees are tapped on the sunny side, not the side with the lichens or mosses. Look at the shadows and the flora on the tree trunks. The pics were taken at about 1 pm when I went to makan gulai at Machang.

rubber tree and coconut shell receptacle
half a coconut shell, as big as my palm
why is the coconut shell receptacle tilted? Is it heavy? No, it is light
the coconut shell is not horizontal to the ground, it is tilted. The camera was adjusted to capture as much tapped surface and the receptacle. Don't know how else to capture both. The orange flora can be seen on the tree bark.
Coconut shell as a receptacle for collecting latex. Why is it black? What is that green liquid inside the black coconut shell? Why is the fluid green - from the moss or reflection?
just rainwater - breeding ground for mosquitoes, anyone? I didn't see anything wiggle in there
Close-up of a porcelain cup (which is expensive, and naughty boys steal these cups)
latex almost dripping from a metal piece into a porcelain cup filled with rainwater from previous night, but the ground was paper dry. Rain fills all the cups?
porcelain cup and all the other rubber trees in full view, all well-spaced from each other. Which tree to tap first, and how to proceed?
a loose porcelain cup that came off the hook and fell down to earth below. I don't know how to fit the cup back, no idea how to re-install it. Maybe place it on the lower metal piece first and then push it as far in against the tree trunk?
rubber latex (white strand in middle of pic) flowing down a tapped groove. The tree is tapped on the sunny side which has less growth on the bark. Right side show the rubber tree wood.
looking up at a rubber tree. I really had to lie almost flat on the ground to get this shot. Here the receptacle is on the sunny side of the tree trunk which has less orange moss.
fresh rubber pod with 3 compartments
fresh rubber pod with 4 compartments
fresh green rubber pods
dried and fresh rubber pods
empty rubber pods on the ground
empty rubber pods
Mature rubber trees with fresh and dried pods at left. It takes at least 5 days to go from green to the dried pods. The green colour disappears within 2 days and the dried skin splits open as you can see in the pic. It looks dark as you go towards the rear of the trees but it is actually clear and quite bright, not dark as in the pic. It did feel like a dangerous place because thin crooks can play hide-and-seek and suddenly jump in front of you. Tigers are also known to roam rubber plantations.
Undergrowth (vegetation) of a rubber smallholding. It looks like a difficult place to walk but it is not. It is quite easy to walk from tree to tree. 
Fresh rubber leaves. These are useful for additional income. They are collected and soaked for 1-2 months with regular changes of water and the flesh green bits are rubbed off and just the veins left intact. They are washed and left to dry. Then they are soaked in different colours and left to dry. The dried colourful rubber leaves are used for art & craft, mostly for flower display, for weddings, etc. The do fetch a high price. I also make my own vein-leaves in my backyard. Then I laminate the small ones. Anymore ideas?

Rubber wood is white, just like pinewood. How do you tell rubberwood from pinewood? Go to the furniture store and ask them. Rubberwood is used for making doors for clothes cupboards, for making side tables, chests, cabinets, etc. They are lightweight and can be painted or varnished.