Jeffrey Low

Thursday, June 24, 2010


Just as I thought I had already paid the price in full, for all the years of self inflicted abuse on my health, the kelong referee from above had without good reason, decided to show me another yellow card last Saturday morning - 19th June, soon after the England-Algeria match.

"Bad refereeing! Curry chicken! @#$%^&*+_*%$#@!!! "


For smoking, I was already punished with a pair of bad lungs. My liver is bad too, from past indulgence in alcohol and panadol. I don’t sleep much, probably a habit formed from many years of gambling through the nights and for whatever other sins that I am not aware of, I have been continuously suffering the pains from a slipped disc. But I have no high blood pressure, my cholesterol is only slightly higher than what is deemed to be the good level and I am not even overweight like most people my age. SO WHY THE **** DO I HAVE TO GET A HEART ATTACK AS WELL?

It must have been sometime around 5 a.m. and I had just fallen asleep when the first wave of pain came. It was bad, like a knife being thrust into my chest pushing the pain right to the back. I had thoughts at first that it was all just a bad dream but the pain was too real and building up fast. I found myself clutching the chest with one hand and propping myself up with the other. As the pain subsided after a few minutes, the first thought that went through my mind was whether if it was an angina pain or just simply heartburn. I was pretty sure it wasn’t heartburn. Other thoughts soon followed quickly in succession.

You see, death is not something I am terrified of. Of more concern to me is that dying from a heart attack for a person that lives alone would be a bad way to go. I often read in the papers of dead people being discovered only after the stench of death was noticed by the neighbours. To me, that would be the most impolite way of announcing one’s demise.

My daughter who stays in the university hostel do come back to see me every now and then but I can never be sure if she will come back soon enough if I were to go this way. Then there is always a remote possibility that my friends may come and break down the door if I have not answer their calls after a few days but a few days may be all it takes for the body to start to decompose. Believe me, all these were running through my mind then.

As I was putting on my clothes, the second wave of pain came. I knew I have to act fast. This time the pain was worse than the first. I wanted to get out fast but somehow, the pain was slowing me down both physically and mentally. I could hardly move towards the door and I had difficulty trying to concentrate. I had managed to get the keys and the cell phone and fighting against the excruciating pain, I tried to think straight, contemplating whether or not to call the ambulance. The nearest hospital is only about 15 minutes away and I would have a better chance of reaching the hospital faster if I were to catch a cab from downstairs. The last time I saw someone called an ambulance from my block, they took like forever to arrive. I would be damned if I were to depend on those assholes. This is not the same as someone having an asthma attack. Time was running out fast.

The thought of getting out of my flat quickly, kept on ringing inside my head like an alarm bell gone crazy. If I were to collapse, at the least it would have to be outside my flat. I must certainly not allow myself to die and stink inside my own home. But it was getting increasingly difficult and the pain was reaching unbearable, as if someone had his hand inside my chest and was squeezing down on the organs. Out of frustration and anger, I heard myself swearing out loud and then the second wave of pain disappeared.

By the time I had gotten downstairs, the pain had already returned for the third time.

At this hour, there are usually lots of empty cabs plying the main road just outside of my block. I had counted on this to be the fastest means of getting to the hospital and sure enough, as soon as I had stepped out of my block, I saw one approaching from a distance. Just then, a man ran out from about 50 feet in front of me, stopped the approaching cab and boarded. I sat down heavily on the curb by the roadside, once again drained and exhausted by the clutching pain coming from the inside of my chest. I had wanted to lift up a hand to show the middle finger to the guy who had beaten me to the cab as it drove by but I could not. So I sat there confused by the pain, regretting not calling the ambulance and desperately wishing not to be left to die by the roadside.

The pain had again disappeared by the time the next cab came along. I had wondered then, how many rounds of pain I would have to endure before I will finally succumb. All the swear words uttered in protest must have been heard by someone up there and so I was in a way, blessed with a cab driver who drove like I was his own brother when I told him that I was having a heart attack. He had passed a few red traffic lights when he was sure it was safe to do so and we arrived at the hospital in less than 10 minutes.

For the fifth time that morning, the pain came again, half way to the hospital. This time round, it returned with a vengeance as if in protest for my surviving the previous rounds. Cold sweat was breaking out all over and I was finding it difficult to breathe as I stumbled into the emergency room. I was barely able to tell the nurse that I was having a heart attack and had to try very hard not to collapse into her arms. I was put on a wheelchair and pushed into a room to be given a quick ECG. A patch was slapped onto my left chest to ease the pain. I was also fed some dissolved aspirin through a straw but the pain only subsided when I was given some morphine later on.

They had put me on a bed and I was wheeled into what I thought was a preparation room. There were conversations going on outside the curtain partition and for a while, I was straining my ears trying hard to hear what the cardio doctor was saying to a junior medical officer regarding something on the reading of my ECG. What the **** is wrong with medical schools? Do they really have to train doctors to write prescriptions in hebrew and speak in martian tongue?

A lady doctor with pretty eyes gave me some papers to sign. She was wearing a mask and her face came quite close to mine as she explained very quickly that they would need my consent to proceed. Just as well that she had a mask on for I thought my breath must be smelling worse than my fart as I had not brushed my teeth that morning. Someone else was fussing around putting me on a drip and having a tube wrapped around my face to supply oxygen through my nose. By then, they had also taken some blood and had a few more ECG readings churned out. I was being prepared for a procedure called percutaneous coronary intervention to relieve the narrowing and obstruction of the coronary arteries through the insertion of a balloon catheter via an artery at the wrist. I had also given consent for them to do an open heart surgery if necessary. The lady doctor was very comforting as she assured me that the risk involved for the procedure will be minimal. She had this ugly doctor’s gown over her but I could tell she was voluptuous and those eyes were sexier than I had thought earlier. Then someone started to strip me down.

Naked and covered only with a thin blanket, I shivered a bit. The nurse that had stripped me began shaving my inner thighs all the way up to where they meet the scrotum. She had explained that the catheter could also be inserted through an artery via the inner thigh areas should there be difficulty doing it from the wrist. That was how my sexy 'sideburns' were gone.

It was getting really cold in that room and I was thinking that something might have shrunken a great deal in size due to the cold, as it always does. I wished that the nurse would not make a ‘small’ joke out of it during the morning break. Holy cow! she ought to know better that it was freezing cold in there! 

The procedure was completely painless, to my surprise. I was fully awake and could see what was going on from the monitors. As it turned out, one of my arteries had completely collapsed and another in very bad shape. The cardiologist performing the procedure was a nice guy and he took me through each step of the way. He inserted two stents to support the arteries. They act like scaffoldings to hold up the walls and will remain there for the rest of my life. There are other areas that were also partially blocked but for those, I would have to rely on the oral medications.

So I survived my first ever heart attack and joined the ranks of those who carry sublingual nitroglycerin tablets in their pockets.

Humble Pie - I don't need no doctor 

Sunday, June 13, 2010


Good singing ability is very much an inherited trait, as I have found out with captive-breds. From my experience, training can also improve variety of songs to a certain extent.

Sharing my method of encouraging the build up to a better variety of songs for taimongs:

The taimong is first exposed as much as possible to the songs of adult male shamas that are good songsters. If there isn't any good adult shama songsters at home, borrow from friends or arrange to board the taimong for a few days every now and then with friends that own good songsters. When the taimong is exposed to the songs of other good shama songsters, he will remember the songs. Until they are into first molt, taimongs won't be intimidated by adult males nearby but it is still best not to be in close visual contact with adult males for long periods of time, especially when they are approaching the first molt. The taimong can also be exposed to other songbirds if the owner wishes for him to learn the songs of other songbirds. The earlier the age this is started, the better will be the songs when they mature. If a nestling is taken from the nest, hand raised and isolated from the songs of other shamas throughout the taimong stage, he won't be a good songster.

I prefer shama songs to have variety and I do not care very much about melodious quality. I do not mind them having rough songs and so I expose my birds to all kinds of sounds, natural or mechanical. I also take them to park fringes and road sides filled with traffic noises and all sorts of foreign sounds. If this is not desirable to the owner, they should be minimised.

After a period of time of exposure this way, and when the bird is approaching his first molt, he is then kept in a room, near to a radio with the music channel turned on for many hours during the day. The cage should preferably be covered with the cloth cover and distraction should be minimised throughout the molt. This is to encourage him to sing his subsongs.

These are what I believe and they form the basis for my training method for a better variety of songs:

Besides being able to learn easily the songs of other shamas, a male shama is also able to pick out the sounds in his surroundings that are suitable to be used as song materials. At any time during the day, he may pick out the songs of other species of birds and some other foreign sounds from his surroundings and match them to the song template in his brain to select those that are suitable as song materials to be used to form shama songs. He will then add these into the existing store of song materials in his brain. When he sings his lengthy subsongs (which will be when his stomach is full and when he is not threatened by his surroundings and in a relaxed mode), he is in fact, mixing and combining song materials from his store in a way much like a musician/songwriter composing or arranging songs. Guided by the song template in his brain, the selected songs of other species and sounds from his surroundings when included into his repertoire will be arranged in such a way that when they are sung, they will sound typical of the songs of his species. Perhaps limited by his vocal range when he is singing his loud songs, some of these song materials will always remain only in the subsongs and will not be reproduced in the loud songs. Others will be used to form loud songs or added into formed songs. He may sing some of them soon or store them in the brain until the right time to recall and reproduce them vocally.

An additional thought to share:

Each male shama will have his own set of primary songs. These are the songs which he will sing often. When he is not in-form, he is often heard singing mostly only his primary songs. When he is in-form, he will be very willing to sing much more than just the primary songs as well as adding more vocal aggression and loudness to the songs, all these to intimidate his rivals. This is why a no-form bird can be quite often repetitive and an in-form bird is more varied, especially when the latter is challenged vocally by other males.