For a while, a circadian clock got me back on track

I read with interest and utmost fascination on a recent article sent personally through e-mail by my retired mentor. He authored and published that article (and many other beautifully written articles) after retiring from his research domain five years ago. He wrote on a very interesting subject I once indulged long long time ago and almost obliterated from my small but still actively functioning brain hippocampus. The article was on a very peculiar circadian rhythm, a natural biological phenomena that happens in all living kingdom.

I guess several and regular knocks on my head while taking a powerful nap after having a sumptuous calorie-laden brunch really did a marvelous job in erasing many my long term memories. Luckily the knocks didn’t wipe out entirely my sweet memories of my heart-thumping relationship with my significant half. That could be explained by a high level testosterone activity that vigorously kick-in once in a while, which I also believed plays an important role in preserving well our intimate ventures.

What impressed me most was that, despite having no more exclusive access to any laboratory to carry out any of his psychic experiments, my mentor is still scientifically productive . He is still keeping his prolific writing prowess alive. This ability I have not seen emerging yet in the current research prodigies. Having not enough problem in brain-drain that plagued our organization, now the new pandemic of dead-brain disease has started to crept in. Even our well-stocked library has become so ghostly eerie. Nobody seems to be interested in doing the reading anymore, what more the writing. Thus scientific endeavor can be pronounced dead.

Motivated solely by that article and my mentor’s unrelenting passion (actually more on the prospect of becoming one of the artifacts in a living museum) I started to tickle my dormant brain cells with incoherent questions. My search for answers has brought me back from my long and deep slumber into the uncharted territories I left for quite some times. With that in mind, one beautiful evening I strolled and ventured deep into the rubber forest pondering upon the questions and once again subjected myself to copious amount of mosquito bites. I believed the latter, a form of self mutilation could induce my synapses to become active again.

Rubber tree as many knows is an amazing tree. This one God-send gift that single-handedly transformed our nation from eating lempeng for their breakfast into a nation who can’t missed their cappuccino with toasted bread before punching in their working clock. That is how big the impact this tree has made into our bouncy daily life. Nobody realized that I supposed.

So unique, this tree demands to be taken on its own term. This tree has fascinated me since the first time I smell the nice scent during its flowering season after it shed its leaves twice a year. Why this tree, it place of origin (the Amazon basin in Brazil) which shares similar humid weather as ours but behaves like their cousins in the temperate regions still puzzled me and many discerning scientist around the world. Does the tree needs to ‘winter’ before flowering and later bears the fruits? How does this tree never fail to set their brain to ‘winter’ twice a year exactly almost at the same period of time? As wintering affected tapping period, productivity thus also affected. This can be 3-4 months a year. These question has been confronting me ever since.

But what puzzled me most during my recent venture into the rubber plantation (actually just at the back of my office) was how ingenious and creative rubber tappers in this current millennium are (look at those photos). These tappers are contract workers whom actually come from our neighboring countries, as many locals don’t want to dirty their hands with this sticky and smelly tree sap anymore. These creative exploits however, in the long run will harm the trees. Both the tappers and the trees will succumb economically to their natural death soon. Pity to both of them.

It is so comforting though to simply know that I still have that passion burnt deep inside me. Some kind of blood-lust hungry for answers. At the same time I always remember this saying by Sir Isaac Newton of which many have forgotten – “If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulder of giants”. Which reminded me of all my mentors.

46 Responses to “For a while, a circadian clock got me back on track”

  1. Small Hiker Says:

    Enjoyable reading… a dry subject matter… but your writing makes it an enjoyable reading…

  2. gambar 1st lawa…yg gambar last tu, macam kat tepi jalan belakang opis kita jah…dia wat gappo nge pokok tu? tak jelas napok…..

  3. aliff muhammad Says:

    Salam,Doc.Saya besar dengan hasil getah!

  4. aku pun sama…kat kampung pokok getahla sumber pendapatan utk kami.

  5. PerantauSepi1306 Says:

    Doc, sharing with you, I once studied in a U surronded by rubber tree.. nothing can compared the golden brown leaves falling of the branches which looks like fall has arrived and the green leaves so lush and fresh.. a sight that was indeed beautiful.. and then younger in life the smell of getah skrap and also the collection of biji getah to play batu seremban indeed is a fond memory that i wish to cherish always😀

  6. adiwarnatasya Says:

    DrSam…Best dapat tgk pokok getah nie…Nice pic:)

  7. small hiker,nothing inspired me most at that moment, the sweet smell is so intoxicating.Maya,ha…ha…memang betul. Saje melawat 'rumah kelambu' you yang tak siap-siap tu. Sambil meronda tu nampak pula pokok yang 'ternoda' oleh kontraktor-kontraktor dari Kemboja tu. Yang kreatifnya, satu pokok mereka toreh dua panel sekali gus, kadang-kadang panel atas dan panel bawah sekali balun. sengsara pokok dibuatnya. aliff muhammad,saya pun sekarang membesarkan anak-anak dengan bekerja dengan getah juga.besi,Kita serupa!PerantauSepi1306,Actually you are right. When the leaves fall, the sight is almost like an Autumn – minus the cold wind :)adiwarnatasya,Best lagi kalau sambil tengok tu nyamuk gigit. Ada SFX.

  8. naik menengoh, skoloh petang… alik pagi nnoreh dulu… belanja skoloh 20¢ je sari Che' beri, tu pon dok belanja mana… kita gippong…waduuh… bisa terkedu kapan terkenang…

  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. Thank you for a well-written and fascinating observation. I totally concur, sadly though, on the fact that rubber research in the country is slowly but gradually seing its demise as it has lost its bearing and socio-economic focus, and importance. Self-idolising leaders lacking in vision with no genuine interest in rubberbut more interested on self-fame game raher than uplifting the economic well-being of rural producers factor in to slowly erode the national and international reputation and prestige of this once highly- esteemed productive research body. Yet, sadly, by law, the still economically-shackled rubber smallholders cannot escape in continuing to financially sponsor its operations. What a great loss to the country.

  11. yohteh,20 seng zamang tu besor gamoknye yohteh. budok-budok llening nok gippong seposeng pun payoh.wyograd,Thank you for taking your time exploring my rambling. Reading you comment really did send chill down my spine sir. There are truth in what your are saying. The only soothing fact is our government still considering rubber as one of the strategic crops, thus effort in keeping the 'superstar' status of that crop is continuing. I bet years of working within the system and now working from outside of the system, has given you a wonderful opportunity and privilege in bringing back our past glories. We've lost many brilliant people like you sir, who care not for themselves but the many. Sadly, we the small marhains, bound by regulations and many restriction can just wish for the wind of change – hoping for the best.Nasi Dagang again sir?

  12. saya pernah mencuba menoreh masa teman ayah ke ladang kecik kecik dulu tapi tak menjadi ayah kata melukakan pokok hehe..

  13. zino,itu satu pengalaman yang berharga tu. Tak ramai yang berpelung sebegitu.

  14. zaman ambo pun bawok pitis 20 sen jah ke skoloh…ma ambo penoreh getah..besar nge hasil getah, darjah 3 skolah petang, alik pagi tolong ma ngutip susu getah..tu tahun 1986-1987..finally ambo end up kerja ngan getah jugak…hehe, bakal doktor getah insyaAllah…eerrr…netted house lum siap lagi???? dah setaun rasanya…kenapa jadi bergitu?? Apakah kerana officer in-charge melarikan diri ke down under? or apakah projek juta2an itu atas nama "glamor" belaka?

  15. Salam Doc,Saya tidak berapa tahu tentang getah selain tahu getah itu penyumbang besar ekonomi. Beruntung siapa berpengalaman dibesarkan dengan hasil getah, pengalaman itu yang mahal.

  16. Zendra-Maria Says:

    Dinda, I look forward to see your name etched upon the annals of history (if I live long enough) as the most prominent researcher of rubber Malaysia has ever known. Even have the highest grade of rubber named Suria Lautan or something like that. Go for it Doc!

  17. Tie dibesarkan di JB, tapi masih berpeluang ke kebun getah setelah berkahwin dengan suami (org klate). Takut juga, dia kata ada pacat !

  18. Maya,Semoga bakal doktor getah bertambah bergetah hendaknya :)rumah kelambu sudah terlajak dari plan asal hampir setahun. Tapi nampak gaya kesungguhan konraktor yang dah berapa kali disub itu, boleh siap Insyaallah.IRIS,Sedar tak sedar memang getah ada dan digunakan disekeliling kita. Zendra-Maria,Ha…ha…you always give a fantastic idea for me to ponder upon kanda. I too would love to see another rubber grade with that sophisticated name in the trading market. Perhaps a new grade that glows in the night :)kayteeze,takkan kita aje yang dok asyik cederakan pokok getah, pacat pun tumpang sekaki:)

  19. Salam Dr ShamI know nothing about rubber. Just curious, can't better clone rubber be tapped more frequently? If the trees become unproductive at a younger age, we can probably thru research ensure that their wood can be used to make high quality products. Easier said than done? Its a sad case if the country is beginning to lose interest in rubber. I know our coconut smallholders have for many years been left on their own. In Perak today, the number of coconut smallholders replacing their coconut trees with oil palm is steadily increasing. And they are doing this on their own!

  20. bukan pacat je yang ada dlm kebun getah…waktu saya kerja dalam kebun getah di N9 dan Klate, jumpa macam2 jenis semut, ulat, ular, monyet, mawas, rusa dan juga gajah. Di Klate ada juga kebun2 getah yang kerap dikunjungi oleh "pak belang"..tapi semua ni 1 pengalaman hidup yg saya tak leh lupa…

  21. Allow me to enlighten Mr. Temuk on his enquiries. 1) The world famous Rubber Research Institute of Malaysia (RRIM) which was renamed as the Malaysian Rubber Board (MRB) had made significant research inroads and contribution to rubber growers' imcome through development of many higher-yielding clones. One factor for this positive outcome was direct transfer of technology (TOT) from RRIM to rubber growers until 1975. But since another rubber agency took over the task of TOT from RRIM and MRB there has been setbacks in TOT to smallholders. 2) On more frequent tapping, it may negatively affect the bilogical productive nature of the rubber trees unless proper adequate process, adequate fertilization and yield stimulants are applied. 3)On growing rubber trees for timber, there are already specially-developed dual-purpose "latex-timber" clones which can be harvested for both latex and timber (at the correct girth size at age of 15 years). 4)The planting new clones are subject to rules and policies of the rubber replanting agency. Thank you.

  22. Mia's Mom Says:

    Salam DrSam :-DYep! This foul-smelling latex has played its role in upgrading our Bolehland to a better height – no doubt about that. Anyway, just wondering, any research on making it a more resilient specie? Oh yes, I do appreciate it during flowering.BTW, it is quite a struggle to get a good article – I mean a good academic writing lately. It is because the pressure of producing papers to be published to grab the higher esteem? I don't know. But it is quite frustrating to read an academic article which does not really summed up the earlier objective in the beginning. Has leaving a conclusion hanging beginning to become a trend? Or is this an invitation to a new paper? I am OK with conclusion which is contrary to the earlier standing of the writer but to leave it hanging is something else…. Whad'ya think, Bro?

  23. patungcendana Says:

    salam docselalu main biji getah masa kecil…hehehe…re:…perjuangan masih lurus…:-)

  24. Temuk,wyograd has given some rare insights into our current rubber scenario. Thank you very much wyograd for sharing your precious thought. As it is now, rubber is no longer the mainstay of the Malaysian economy it used to be. There is now a need in my opinion, in fact , to find new uses for the rubber tree to justify its continued cultivation. New experimental approaches are called for. But after almost 80 odd years of research, it is fair to say that the obvious experiments would already have been thought of and attempted. There are not any more fruits left on low branches waiting to be plucked and much greater effort is therefore required to advance research further. That is however, the responsibility of us, the sole custodian of the country precious commodity. wyograd,ramai saintis bertapa dalam makmal dengan lab coat jarang keluar menjenguk kebun getah – sekali-sekala keluar dan kena gigit nyamut ada yang tergaru-garu sampai berkudis🙂 Masokloh betul!BTW, I am of the opinion that TOT should come direct from the one who invent and create the technologies. Stakeholders (smallholders) will benefit more. Couldn't agree more with you sir. Errr…when shall we go back and revert the system sir?Mia's Mom,Now I am so used with that smell, I can almost sleep and doze of near the rubber factory. Rubber tree was first introduced to our country in the 1874 and still surviving until today. I think that is a testament by itself that the tree is so resilient.I observed that scientist, researchers, scholars today do not have the habit of publishing in the leading scientific journals. At least in my playing ground.I can't stress much on the importance of a good impression of research output through scientific publications – it IS our KPI. Publish or perish that's it. On your question, I think good writer should be able to convey his/her idea onto a readable article. Failed to do so, there is no point in doing it in the first place.

  25. patungcendana,salam. laga biji getah tengok biji getah siapa yang paling tahan tak pecah. kira terer lah tu kan🙂

  26. Salam to all,DrSam, on your opinion that TOT should be undertaken by the technology developer, I attended a national rubber economics conference once and did openly asked a well-known lecturer on agriculture extension on "whether it is more effective to house rubber research and TOT under one roof?" But the chairwoman, a board member of your organization, jested at my question, accusing me of asking a political question which she calimed only the PM can answer! Anyway, the rubber NGO I am with now had already sent a memorandum on the issue to one ministry for consideration.On Mia's Mom's posting, yes, rubber is defintely a resilient crop and commodity becuz it is omnipotent. As long we need tyres, gloves, condoms, etc, we will need rubber. World demand is growing at 2-3 percent annually. But Malaysia has been de-ranked from being the world's premier producer and exporter to third place and soon will be displaced by India and Vietnam. And sadly, Malaysia is now a net importer of both raw and processed rubber to fulfill the needs of local processors and rubber products manufacturers.So, can research revert the country's current rubber status to its past glory and fame? Thank you.

  27. DrSam & Patungcendana,teringat juga dulu saya dan kawan2buat "helikopter" guna biji getah, batang aiskrim dan gelang getah (rubber band). Sama2 challenge "helikopter" siapa boleh terbang jauh.. those were the days!

  28. wyograd,Oyoyo…now you reminded me of that auntie!On Bolehland current stand, lagging behind our neighbors, it is not at all a surprise as we, the nasi-lemak nation had been indulging ourselves too much with tempe and nuclearpowered tom yum goong and soon overwhelmed with headbanging masalla and Hanoi hot noodles.helikopter tu kiranya teknologi canggih juga. Ingat-ingat lupa pula macamana nak buat helikopter dengan getah tu.

  29. Just to share some worrying fact. By one estimate, Malaysian scientists account for only a miniscule 0.064% of the total world output of scientific papers. Compared with our South East Asian neighbours, we rank 56 in the world, falling behind Thailand (Rank 52). In terms of the number of citations per published paper, we rank 61, well behind the Philippines (32), Thailand (39) and Indonesia (48).If this is the science that will lead Malaysia to developed country status by 2020, it is as worrying as it is embarrassing!

  30. DrSam,I wonder where does Bolehland stand in as as far papers on rubber science and technology.. till the 80s this country was famous and well-looked up to in this aspect..

  31. wyograd,Having poke that question, I think there are actually many old technologies that are left on the dusty bookshelves, somewhere – waiting to be rediscovered, re-engineered and eager for a new breath of life. But alas…let the brain of the organization who sit on the pinnacle crack the head. Rubber trees need my brain more in the lab to boost their productivity.

  32. Faisal Admar Says:

    talking about library doc, i always dream to be a librarian!😦

  33. DrSam,your comment reminded me of what an ex-minister used to reprimand officers of your organization upon learning that many technologies had not been utilized or commercialized — "You fellas keep your technologies in your drawers ahhh?"

  34. Zareda Norman Says:

    saya besar dan lahir di bandar. tak merasa membesar di persekitaran kebun getah tapi amat menghargai semua penoreh getah.. meraka sangat cekal dan berani…

  35. puspawangi Says:

    Mak dan abah saya juga membesar dengan pokok getah, cuma saya saja yang besar kat bandar…tapi sesekala balik kampung, best juga main kat kebun getah. Paling best bila ikut nenek kutip kulat yang tumbuh kat batang pokok getah yang reput…sedap masak lemak campur sotong. Rindu pulak rasa…apa nama kulat tu eh? Sape-sape boleh tolong? (tahu makan je, nama tak tahu)

  36. Zareda Norman,ya.. pekebun-pekebun kecil getah kebanyakkan Melayu berjumlah beratus ribu orang adalah tulang belakang industri getah Malaysia dari dulu. Sekarang mereka mengeluarkan 96 peratus daripada keluaran getah negara dan pendapatan eksport. Tapi amat sedih dan malang sekali mereka masih ditindas dari segi harga. Mereka sekarang sedang hadapi banyak masalah. Industri getah Malaysia mungkin akan luput dalam tempoh 10-20 tahun lagi.

  37. Untuk makluman semua:Bukti2 pekebun kecil getah (banyak Melayu) main peranan penting sokong industri getah Malaysia:1) luas tananam getah Malaysia = 1.247 juta hektar,1.186 juta hektar (95 peratus) kebun2 kecil dan cuma 61 ribu hektar estet.2) keluaran getah Malaysia makin merosot, dalam 2008 =1.07 juta tonne, 1.02 juta tonne (95 peratus) oleh pekebun2 kecil.Untuk maklumat lanjut sila masuk http://www.lgm.gov.my.Terima kasih.

  38. Puspawangi : …kulat tu kalu belah-belah ambe, kita panggil "Kulat Kawang"…

  39. encik ariff o Says:

    gmbr cantik.tulisan pn best.:)

  40. Pn Kartini Says:

    Salam Dr Sam..Teringat masa dulu2..bila ziarah arwah tok'ki..mesti ada'bau harum' getah !!:):)Pernah juga kutip biji getah utk main congkak..aduhaiii…terkenangg lakk!!:):)

  41. Pn Kartini, DrSam,bau getah baru toreh memang harum bau natural nya tapi kalau dah beku dalamm mangkok dan masuk kilang untuk diproses, "baunya" dah lain macam.Saya pernah buat practical sebulan di sebuah kilang getah di Rantau, N9 (kilang tu dah lama tutup sebab "terbakar"). Tiap2 hari bila balik rambut kena syampu dan baju seluar kena rendam nak hilangkan baunya. Satu lagi pengalaman yang saya tak buleh lupa.. buat saya simpati dan hormati pekerja2 kilang getah yang cekal hadapi bau busuk tiap2 hari semata-mata untuk menyara hidup.

  42. Faisal admar,What happened then?wyograd,We always keep an umbrella ready whenever a person of that caliber speak :)Zareda Norman,Sekarang kat kampung-kampung pun dah tak banyak kebun getah. Kalau ada pun banyak terbiar aje. Pengalaman tu yang berharga.puspawangi,selalu juga tengok perkeja-perkeja pejabat kutip kulat tu. buat gulai masak lemak sedap. ada panggil kulat sisir, atau nama lebih glamer cendawan kukur.wyograd,Tq tolong kempen tempat sepermainan ambe :)yohteh,baru tahu nama glamer se lagi kulat tu yohteh. TQ.encik ariff,terimakasih. Pn Kartini,Banyak juga kenangan indah bersama getah menusuk kalbu. Kalau dikenang menggapai memori indah ni.wyograd,Orang-orang lama ni banyak pengalaman dan cerita yang boleh dikongsi dan diambil iktibar. Ehem…dah daftar blog tu, kalau rajin kongsi-kongsi le dengan kite-kite ni cerita yang nostalgik gitu. Ambe pun tertunggu-tunggu juga nak dengar cerita dan pengalaman sebegini rupa.

  43. DrSam,appreciate your responses very much.Firstly, besides an umbrella it would also be advisable to bring along a set of ear plugs to prevent any hearing impairment, not to mention brain decay, after long hours of listening to such "amanat" :-)…Seondly, wil try to pry my old brain for memories worth of mention for the reading pleasure of your blog. Memories such as being approached by one Tok Penggawa in Tanah Merah, Klate to matchmake me with one of the pretty girls in his kampong after I built a rubber group processing centre there. Also, a hairdresser was also voiced her interest to have me as her "menantu" after I helped her secure a loan to buy a new sewing machine.Not to mention my first experience of bribed by a contractor which really shocked me. .Then one of my field assistants lost his brand new motorbike, the only one of a kind at Bukit Bunga then. We managed to recover but only the frame and seat from across the border.While there I was addressed as "Cikgu" by an ever-smiling pak cik satay seller who I frequented almost every morning for breakfast. Imagine having hot sizzlingly delicious satay with toast and black coffee for breakfast..at only RM1.20! I don't blame him at all for my cholestrol problem.Those were the events of days of gone by which remain frozen in my rusty old brain.Be prepared for more…Take care y'all..

  44. Yup..old times but memories are made of these. What is life without memorable experiences? There is a famous quote, "Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take, but by the number of moments that take your breaths away".Also, a well-established Malay Tan Sri often times reminded me that "Age does not matter but what matters must not age". Memories constitute one of the "what matters".Regards to all..

  45. mizzyN,Old timers ni banyak kita boleh timba ilmu kalau rajin bertanya.wyograd,Like those quotations! very-very true…

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