The human-hamster divide has been breached

Is it bad to find the possible implications of treating critically ill humans with hamster cells comedic?

Oliver Moody was lacking an enzyme that breaks down harmful chemicals in his organs. A £300,000 a year treatment developed by US scientists using genetically-modified Chinese hamster cells [insert joke about medical science cutting costs by using Chinese hamsters here] was finally brought to the UK, and ten months on, the boy can play sports with his friends.

I suppose it’s when he starts storing boiled white rice in his cheek pouches that we should start worrying (actually, when he starts developing cheek pouches is probably a good a time as any).

(This is not to say I think little of the boy and his parents — no one can blame parents for trying everything to help their children — although I do wonder who’s footing the bill.)

Crunchy on the outside

A couple of food (and eating) -related links, sure to get the mouth watering:

  • Got a taste for testicle? Oakdale fete for you — via Terry. The fact that one has to mask the flavour of calf testicle with ‘heavy seasoning’ and breadcrumbs kinda tells me that calf testicle doesn’t taste too good.
  • If you’ve enjoyed your calf testicles as much as your neighbour but you put on more pounds, It’s in the genes: breakthrough confirms DNA link with obesity — so the chubsters who want their cake (and pizza and ice cream and burgers and chips and chocolate) and eat it will blame their genetics, not the fact that they’ve never done more exercise that reaching for the phone to call their local delivery service. Putting them on a diet of calf testicles might actually get them moving.

Lunchtime can’t come soon enough!

Dangerous People with Severe Personality Disorder

The UK government is trying a research and treatment programme to see if the worst violent psychopaths can be ‘reformed’:

Psychopaths at a specialist unit within Frankland prison in Durham, UK, are being subjected to the most intensive treatment plan yet devised. Known as Chromis, it employs individual and group therapy to try to shift ingrained patterns of thought and behaviour. Rather than just relying on short sessions of therapy, it recruits the entire staff of the unit to turn prisoners’ lives into a continuous exercise in cognitive-behavioural therapy.

I think it’s important to note these psychopaths cannot be rehabilitated, since they have always been psychopaths (i.e. they’ve never been ‘habilitated’ in the first place — read Stanton Samenow’s book Inside the Criminal Mind).

Chromis pays particular attention to engaging psychopaths by identifying things they want from life that might be obtained by taking part. This focus on “what’s in it for me” may be vital, because psychopaths typically see no problem with their behaviour.

It will be very interesting to see if this enjoys a measure of success. Would you, however, want to be living near someone who underwent Chromis and may or may not have been affected positively? Psychopaths are very good at manipulating people, so the Chromis programme should have very powerful safeguards against patients gaming the system. (The article does note that this programme is for violent psychopaths who do not respond to conventional treatment.)

We’re paranoid FOR YOUR OWN GOOD

Wow, they’re trying to make paranoia sound like a GOOD thing.

This was a Government, he said, that “worries all the time”, and with good reason.

Singapore was not born as a First-World nation 42 years ago. Said Mr Lee: “It did not happen automatically. It happens through a systematic and deliberate process. There is career development, both in service and from the outside. We search nation-wide for Members of Parliament, have exhaustive tea sessions. Ministers — there is a systematic headhunting of talent.”

The Singapore model is a paranoid one because it prides itself on being “totally committed” to improving the lives of Singaporeans, said Mr Lee, who explained that the decision to increase the salaries of ministers and civil servants now was to “produce the best Government” for all.

Note the employment of the usual tactic — none of the country’s achievements would have happened without _____ (translation: be grateful and stop asking questions). Not sure about the tea sessions, though. I’ve heard they’re euphemisms for nefarious activities at karaoke lounges. Perhaps they should try some other caffeinated beverage when searching for ministers. Coke sessions? Heh.

I have a feeling their definition of ‘paranoid’ and application to the Singapore model is markedly different from those who live in the real world.

My body is my temple

I’m a real cheapskate. There was a yoga class on at the gym and I was going to go, but wanted to use the treadmill first, so I called to find out the cost.

£3.90 for yoga and £2.30 for the gym. EGADS. £6.20?! That’s over S$18!!! For less than two hours* at the leisure centre? That’s daylight robbery, that is. So I decided to walk the 20 minutes to the gym and think about running another day (and I’m on the brink of yet another cold).

My impression of my first yoga classI got to the leisure centre a little early, and the taekwondo class was still using the squash court where the yoga class would be held, so I waited outside the main hall for Carene, who was taking the Salsacise class before yoga. Now, I didn’t see any Salsa happening in the dying moments of the class, and techno is NOT salsa. Other people may enjoy these led aerobics classes, but I am not co-ordinated. There are years of incontrovertible empirical evidence to support this theory. The other really negative thing about this class was the instructor was waaaaaay too perky — after an hour of bopping around I don’t need perky to remind me how unfit I am.

So. Yoga. Things started out great when the instructor said she’d been listening to Marilyn Manson. Not one of those Zen fakers. I like. She took us through a ‘relaxing’ session, which, at one point, involved headstands while balancing our knees on our elbows (I managed a one-second headstand — wahey!). There were lots of poses (not that I could ever catch the names of any of them) that I think were complicated by my gangly arms and legs**.

My favourite part (well, the bit that made me giggle — not focused!) was when we were sitting cross-legged with our hands on our knees, palms up, and the instructor said, “Say to yourself, My body is my temple.”

Neil usually says that when he buys sugary baked goods. Or chocolate.

So I think I’ll go back to the yoga class, as it’s on twice a week (I’ll go on one of the two days). Hopefully I’ll get better at it, and it’ll help me with my flexibility and stretch me out after running.

About the running. Neil identified an open, well-lit route along the main streets of our neighbourhood well before I arrived in Scotland. I’ve jogged it a couple of times, and while the distance is ideal (just under two km per lap), something’s not quite right about it. I think I need to be able to KNOW exactly how long I have run, and to be able to do my version of speed training according to specific distances. There is a running track on the other end of town (it’s actually too far to walk there and back by any practical means), so I’m going to try and visit this evening to see what time the gates get locked. If I can get in an hour’s go at the track, three times a week, I will be a happy girl.

Update: I just called the club that owns the track. Access to the track is only available during the day. This entire country is set up to be a disincentive to work, I swear.

* That’s really all the time I can manage.
** I’m gangly for a short person.

The totally typical Singaporean post about food

Wow, I really miss seafood.

I’m eating an M&S pasta salad with prawns and tomatoes, and I MISS EATING PRAWNS on a regular basis. And crab (soft! shell! crab!) and mussels and stingray and crayfish and pomfret and clams and squid and cuttlefish (NOT battered calamari).

My mum suffers from an ailment I’ll call Food Fatigue. She’s fed up with trying to think of new things to eat because her disease is a particularly aggressive strain, it’s Fatigued Of Eating The Same Food More Than One Day In A Row Or Even Twice In The Same Month. She would probably D-I-E if she had to take on my daily diet, which consisted of a sandwich every weekday for three months, and I’ve just swapped to salads every weekday a fortnight ago.

I don’t think I’m difficult to please in the food department; I’m just as happy eating the second- or third-best _____ in town rather than queueing up for ages to get a bowl or plate of the best. Everything is good, unless it is bad enough to make me physically ill. For this reason restaurants should PAY me to be a reviewer and I’ll be set up for life.

Oh wait. I don’t like coconut. At all. Unless it’s in curry. Coconut juice taste like warm diluted seawater with a bit of sugar added. Dessicated coconut tastes and feels like bits of plastic raffia.

Yeah. I had a point I wanted to make. Which is.

Although I’m not generally too fussy about food (well, fussy for a Singaporean but a practically a gastronome here in the UK), I, too, am beginning to feel Food Fatigue. Lunches are, as I’ve described, sandwiches or salads (i.e. foods not requiring any sort of cooking or long preparation), and dinners are baked pastas or dry chicken or overly salty fry ups or meatballs and pasta or soggy fish. Complaining about someone else’s cooking is really not my style, so I’m feeling some mega guilt at not being able to finish my dinner because I’m bored with it.

There are days when I long for the soy sauce chicken wings, corned beef fried rice, half-boiled eggs with a dash of Maggi Seasoning, Teochew-style steamed fish (with all the bones!), even stir-fried broccoli (boiled mushy broccoli just doesn’t do it for me) or pork rib and winter melon soup. Or the Saturday arvo special, rice porridge with tofu ‘cheese’ and boiled peanuts.

I need a slow cooker.

I miss seafood.

Just having a decent service would be better

Public transport doesn’t have to be free, it has to be comprehensive in order to be an effective alternative. I am more than willing to pay a fair sum to get access to regular, efficient, and punctual trains and buses*. The problem is Scotland is so spread out, and getting affordable service to remote areas is going to be a major issue. I shudder to think how much it will cost to extend commuter services to the back of beyond, even in Central Scotland.

* For instance, the £96 I would pay per month for a ZoneCard is fair AS LONG AS the bloody train arrives when it should and isn’t stuck waiting for a platform at Glasgow Central for ten minutes in the morning. Or make my connection a more frequent service. Hell, make the first leg of my journey a more frequent service.

We don’t have a dark side

The Singapore government is banning a documentary on a former political detainee, citing its “distorted and misleading” portrayal as possibly undermining confidence in the government.

Said Zahari was arrested in 1963 and held without trial for 17 years under the Internal Security Act. The Singapore government says all copies of the documentary, filmed by Martyn See (no relation, although I have communicated with him via e-mail in the past), are to be handed in by Wednesday.

According to the government, the documentary seeks to clear him of “his involvement in activities against Singapore”:

“The Government will not allow people who had posed a security threat to the country in the past, to exploit the use of films to purvey a false and distorted portrayal of their past actions and detention by the Government. This could undermine public confidence in the Government.”

We’ve always been at war with Eastasia.

I continue to be puzzled at why the government is so incredibly insecure that only THEIR view can be published. If there hasn’t been any sort of organic development of a credible opposition (because of a lack of fertiliser, or perhaps fertiliser is being reserved only for pro-PAP views — aren’t you loving the gardening puns), surely confidence in government could stand an airing of history that deviates somewhat from the official line?

Said Zahari has always denied the accusations. Surely a 78-year old should be given the chance to present his side of the story? Are Singaporeans not able to weigh differing opinions and come to their own conclusions? Are we not supposed to?

Or are we to deny that in getting to our current stage of development, Singapore has endured some rather dark periods — and not only the ones the government uses to justify the ISA. We’re not a fucking theme park (with tax breaks, hubs, and -polises for investment).

This is what disappoints me when I think of all the positive things about Singapore and why it’s a good place to live. Why can differences of opinion not be tolerated and openly debated? Is our social order so fragile that an alternative view of a historical event* cannot be broadcast?

The government likes to trumpet its record in creating social, racial, and religious harmony. If something this minor could destabilise order, the real record must be kind of shite.

See Said Zahari’s 17 Years trailer on YouTube.

Note: zero results (as of 11/4) when searching for Said Zahari on both the Media Development Authority and Ministry of Information, Communication and the Arts sites.

* It’s intensely personal as well — it’s not as though Pak Said and Martyn See are denying the Holocaust.