Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Pale Blue Dot

Carl Sagan wrote some of the most wonderful short stories, articles and non-fictions I have ever come across. In my brief encounter with some of his works, the "Reflection on a Mote of Dust" from Pale Blue Dot turned out to be the most captivating, and shall I say, humiliating. It puts everything in a universal perspective. The "Bad Astronomy Blog" described it as "the required reading of every human on this planet", and I couldn't quite object to the superlative.

It's something that should be shared with everyone. As a lead, this picture was taken by Voyager 1 in 1990, from more than 6 billion kilometers from Earth. Carl Sagan was so moved by the immensity of this picture that he wrote down the following:

Pale Blue Dot (by changyang1230)
We succeeded in taking that picture [from deep space], and, if you look at it, you see a dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever lived, lived out their lives. The aggregate of all our joys and sufferings, thousands of confident religions, ideologies and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilizations, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every hopeful child, every mother and father, every inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every superstar, every supreme leader, every saint and sinner in the history of our species, lived there on a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam.

The earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and in triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of the dot on scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner of the dot. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light.

Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity -- in all this vastness -- there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us. It's been said that astronomy is a humbling, and I might add, a character-building experience. To my mind, there is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.
We are always humbled by the observation of the natural world. The sheer scale of astronomy, and the minuscule world of the microbiology are the two extremes of the physical spectrum, but they are both sources of inspiration to us. We always think of ourselves as the most important beings that have ever existed, ignorant of the fact that both the universe and the bacteria could exterminate us in a matter of seconds. How lucky we are to be here at all.

Perhaps they are some good reasons for us to be humble.


Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Bad Lecturers

We don't want to know that *the rate of infection of Serratia marcescens in your RCH neonatal ward dropped from 32% to 11% (p < 0.001) in June 2004 after infection control using Chlorhexidine Gluconate, two out of three nurses who washed their hands got less G- bacteria in their finger nails, while a patient with Leuconostoc infection presented with fever on the third day of admission - we only want to know what we can learn from them. We only want to know what we could do to help our patients, not the fastidious detail of your glorious studies.

youngyew, 10.59PM, February 27, 2007

So everyone has heard complaints about bad lecturers, but how do we really know whether a lecturer "sucks ass"?

Having just had a suck-ass lecture this morning, I gained a whole new insight in this issue. The lecture was about "Infection Control in Hospital", and the lecturer needs some serious re-education in his presentation skills. As the title said, the lecture was about infections in hospitals, how we could contain them, and the results achievable by some of the common infection control methods. Well, if you think the title sounds boring enough, you are just about getting there. The fact is, it turned out to be much, much worse than what the title promised to be.

So here goes the story. It was 12am 12pm, the lecturer came in and started the lecture, as usual. After some initial setting up, he began mumbling through his slides. Initially it was rather easy-going, because he was basically repeating some of the background knowledge which we had already gone through in the past few weeks.

5 minutes into the lecture, things changed. The quality of the presentation deteriorated into a string of words, so was the our level of alertness. Those who were prone to fishing were slipping into their oblivion, while those who are scared of missing a single word in the lecture were struggling along the slides.

The lecturer was bad.

He basically talked about everything and anything that came to his mind, and his powerpoint presentation was about the same as his speech - incoherent, disorganized, verbose, and dry. Can you imagine how he droned on about 5 different studies about infections in the hospital, and showed us every single detail of the date, time, events of each study as if it really mattered or we really cared? It seemed to me as if he was trying to condense his whole research career into an hour of lecture and can't wait to tell us about every detail of his research studies.

If he had the faintest memory of what a medical student expects, he should have done better, so much better.

The fact is, nobody cares about the details of your study. We hate lecturers who simply cut and paste the results and discussions of their research papers without synthesizing the information. We don't want to know that *the rate of infection of Serratia marcescens in your RCH neonatal ward dropped from 32% to 11% (p < 0.001) in June 2004 after infection control using Chlorhexidine Gluconate, two out of three nurses who washed their hands got less G- bacteria in their finger nails, while a patient with Leuconostoc infection presented with fever on the third day of admission - we only want to know what we can learn from them. We only want to know what we could do to help our patients, not the fastidious detail of your glorious studies. We don't want to listen to you zoom through 70 slides copied from your research paper, and end up with a knowledge constipation. We don't want to listen to lecturers who only spew information indiscriminately instead of instilling knowledge.

If I were to operate a university, I would personally listen to a lecture from a lecturer before I let him / her teach my students. Those who have presentation skill problems or don't care about teaching, should go back to their office and concentrate on their research.

*Note: I made up those details, but the actual content was actually along those lines.


Sunday, February 25, 2007

CNY in Melbourne & Uni Activities

Whenever I stop posting for a few consecutive days, it's always been indicative of a busy life or procrastination. Surprisingly, this time it's the former reason. Since Chinese New Year, I have been rather busy in studies and extracurricular activities. Studies are the uninteresting part, certainly; but the extracurricular stuff has been rather fun.

For the past week, I have been participating in the preparation of the Fotoholics booth for Orientation Days. Basically Fotoholics is a photography club in Melbourne University which was established one year ago. During the Orientation days, there were two days allocated for clubs and societies where all clubs went on their fronts to recruit new members. So we set up a nice exhibition booth with gorgeous pictures, badges and name cards; but the main attraction was the giant cardbox camera which we carried around the university trying to catch some glances from the naive freshmen. We walked and talked under the sun to entice attention from our potential members. It was such a success that at the end of the first day we were running out of member application forms. On my part, I had a lot of fun bringing the huge-ass camera around and ambushing strangers.

So off to the much awaited pictures. Chinese New Year in Melbourne:

Gong Xi Fa Cai! In the morning, Yong Chin, Xuan Ni and I went to a "new year brunch" in Malaysian Hall. It was organized by Sze Mei, Ee Syn, Chong and other residents. It's the first time I went to the Malaysian Hall, and being there in the CNY kind of cured my home sickness a bit.
They even folded some fishes with Ang Pow! Way to go for a CNY celebration. We didn't even put up any decoration except Yong Chin and Wee Loon who wrote some 对联 for their rooms. :)
And finally, there's a 福 tiled with Ang Pow at the entrance of Malaysian Hall! Gorgeous.
After the nice brunch in Malaysian Hall, we went to the Chinatown. As you can see, there weren't many places to go in Melbourne during Chinese New Year, so as expected Chinatown was again at its peak crowd capacity. Chinese and Angmohs from all walks of life thronged to watch the event of the day - lion dance performances.
What I figured to be thousands of people were gathering to watch four lions do something which I couldn't quite figure out. Dawned upon me was a perpetual question that always lingered in my mind - basically with such a large crowd, only the first three rows of people would get to see the real thing, so what are the rest of people doing there? :P
This is a short video clip of what the lions were doing. It's nothing special actually, just something we never see in Malaysia.
So you might ask, how did I get to take the pictures of the crowd from such a vantage point? This is the answer - we went up to the top floor of a multi-storey parking building which was located right beside the Chinatown. Captured in the picture are the people on the floors below us. :)
The lion dance ended with the lions revealing the calligraphy that says "龙马精神". There are many other pictures, do view them in my photo album in Flickr.
It's beyond me why people would come to see lion dance and stuff in Chinatown when the sun was literally burning them. While the thermometer reached 38 degree Celsius on the CNY (and the CNY eve as well, actually), all we see were exuberant crowds who visited various booths with an array of goods and services.
This was an evidence of how thirsty people must have been. It used to be the Slurpee dispenser in 7-eleven.
We weren't thirsty but we went to pee. It's an obscure public toilet in Chinatown where a character "L" was suspiciously missing.
After Chinatown, we took a train to visit Ka Lip's house. Due to unknown circumstances, I don't have any picture taken there. However, do read about our visit to Ka Lip's house in a fantastic post written by Jian Wey who also went there. In one word, the visit was FUN. It was doubly meaningful as it's our first visit to his house since we knew him two years ago. His family was so hospitable, and until now I still drool when I think of the food we had there! :P
In short, CNY in Melbourne was interesting but I wouldn't want to spend my time here every year. It was a bit commercialised, and apart from the two-day show in Chinatown and Crown Casino, there wasn't that much of an atmosphere at all. And obviously all of that was made worse by our distance from home. On such a special day, our family is who we want to be with, no matter how interesting or mundane it might be. Yes we did have a celebration with friends over here, and in the process we gained some special experience; but at the end of the day all we thought of was home. I called home at night and all I saw was dad, mum, brother and sisters walking by in the little webcam window. It was bustling with activities as New Year songs played in the background. A tinge of melancholy swept over me as the thought of me being 7000 km away gripped my heart. And to think of the vivid possibility that I won't be at home for two out of three CNY in the coming three years...

It was a short-lived CNY. The celebration was actually over on the first day itself as we went back to routine life on the next day. To those who are still celebrating, Happy Chinese New Year; and to Hokkien Lang, Happy Jade Emperor's Birthday for tonight!


Sunday, February 18, 2007

CNY Eve in Melbourne

I am so bad at descriptive writing, so I would let pictures speak for me.

This year I am celebrating Chinese New Year in Melbourne because my course started last Monday.
There are many events in Melbourne Central Business District (which is just the fancy word for "city centre"). The one that instantly caught my eyes was this "lantern dance" performed by grandmotherly figures. I was amazed by their spirit and thoroughly entertained.
At night, we had a Malaysian student "reunion dinner" in College Square. It was attended by more than 40 people. After the reunion dinner there was this "lao shang" that was orchestrated by Yong Chin.
Near 12am, we visited the Chinatown again for the Chinese New Year eve countdown. It looked glorious with the lighting, and the street was very crowdy.
They had lots of firecracker burning and also lion dance in the city. It was quite different but nonetheless interesting.

It was my CNY eve. Happy Chinese New Year to everyone!


Friday, February 16, 2007


I don't like stupid blog-taggings where you are so-called "tagged" and are expected to write "interesting" things about yourself or your friends. It was fun for once or twice, but when you get tagged for more than that, things get a bit stale.

But I admit it. This one looks quite interesting. Shou Farn tagged me this time, and it's a book-tag. It's a tag to write about a book. So here we go:

1) Grab the closest book to you.
Bill Bryson's "A Short History of Nearly Everything"

- When I read the "tag" this afternoon, I was doing the weekly PBL research. Incidentally, the closest book to me was a medical textbook - Robbin's Pathologic Basis of Disease. It is as heavy as your regular bricks and the texts are tinier than the newspaper print. And I don't want to put it here because it's too boring for anyone to appreciate. Hence, the subject is changed to this book which is on my desk at the moment.

2)Open to page 123, go down to the 4th sentence.

3) Post the text of the following 3 sentences on your blog.

Brand became convinced that gold could somehow be distilled from human urine. (The similarity of colour seems to have been a factor in his conclusion.) He assembled fifty buckets of human urine, which he kept for months in his cellar.
By the way I strongly recommend this book to everyone.. It's meant to be the history of the universe, but you can easily read this book as the history of science as well. The author was a layman to science before he set out to write this book, and he lamented that all the scientific books and texts out there are too dry to be digested, and it hindered people from appreciating its beauty. So in a moment of epiphany, he decided that science needs not be as dull as he grew up to believe in. And he set out to "re-learn" science by his own effort, and produced this history of science / universe in a series of stories. In his own words: ...
It was as if he [the textbook author] wanted to keep the good stuff secret by making all of it soberly unfathomable. As the years passed, I began to suspect that this was not altogether a private impulse. There seemed to be a mystifying universal conspiracy among textbook authors to make certain the material they dealt with never strayed too near the realm of the mildly interesting and was always at least a long-distance phone call from the frankly interesting.

... I now know that there is a happy abundance of science writers who pen the most lucid and thrilling prose ... but, sadly, none of them wrote any textbook I ever used. All mine were written by men (it was always men) who held the interesting notion that everything became clear when expressed as a formula and the amusingly deluded belief that the children of America would appreciate having chapters end with a section of questions they could mull over in their own time. So I grew up convinced that science was supremely dull, but suspecting that it needn't be, and not really thinking about it at all if I could help it...

... [After a moment of epiphany] I decided that I would devote a portion of my life - three years, as it now turns out - to reading books and journals and finding saintly, patient experts prepared to answer a lot of outstandingly dumb questions. The idea was to see if it isn't possible to understand and appreciate - marvel at, enjoy even - the wonder and accomplishments of science at level that isn't too technical or demanding, but isn't entirely superficial either.

That was my idea and my hope, and that is what the book that follows is intended to do.
I am only one third through the book, but I find it so well-written and provides a really good introduction to science for science lovers, science haters and science indifferent-ers alike. So if you have some free time, grab a copy from your local library. It's worth your time.

Now for the tagging part... I would just tag a few people whom I think read interesting books (this sentence is plagiarised from Shou Farn's post since I am lazy to think of something clever to write). I hereby tag:

1. Wee Loon
2. Yee Pin
3. Winson
4. Jasmine
5. Eric
6. Ka Lip

Tell me when you are done. :)


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Chinese Mandarin? Orange? 柑? What's that?

Lu GanAs we all know, it's St. Valentine's Day and everyone ought to spend romantic hours with their loved ones. I am not so romantic but at least I did spend some hours or so with my dear. But guess what. We spent it walking under the heat of the scorching sun, looking for the 芦柑 (a.k.a. Chinese Honey Orange / lu2 gan1). It turned out to be interesting.

In Malaysia, the lugan is a must for every Chinese family during the Lunar New Year. Come January or February each year, every supermarket with their right business mind would start importing cargos of lugans, nicely packed in boxes of 36, 48 and so on. The price ranges from 10 to 30 Ringgit, and needless to say being such a popular fruit species, they taste wonderful. Every Chinese in Malaysia must have grown up eating those lugan (another popular mandarin last time was 蕉柑 jiao1 gan1) every year.

Since Chinese / Lunar New Year is around the corner, naturally we started looking for it since we arrived in Melbourne. To begin with, nobody is allowed to bring any single shred of fruit into Australia, so you can be fined heavily even if you ventured to smuggle as much as a seed. But in most cases, you can always find any tropical fruits or most other overseas fruits in the groceries. You can even find durians sometimes. So I was positive that I could find lugan here. And we went out to look for the much coveted fruit.

Knowing my writing style and my inclination to make a fuss of a dissatisfaction... you should have known what ensued later wasn't smooth.

The title above was how five Chinese groceries responded to our enquiries regarding lugan. Yes, nobody knew what lugan is, let alone sold it. In the groceries, they had all the weirdest Asian foods and snacks you could imagine, but they didn't know anything about the most popular CNY fruit in Malaysia!!

What a surprising fact that I learnt for Valentine's Day. In some tinge of frustration, we could only console ourselves with some pre-packaged dried gan slices. And that turned out to be sweet jellies instead of dried gan.


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

(Almost) Free International and Outstation Phone Calls

Quite recently, I was surprised about the long period I wasn't informed about the existence of extraordinarily cheap international calls. As someone who spends half his day online, I was rather humbled when I was told about the so-called VoIP calls by my family members.

So when I was told about VoIP calls, I was utterly overwhelmed. Of course I have heard about, and have been occasionally using the free Skype calls for a long time; but its SkypeOut service, i.e. computer-to-phone calling was relatively expensive back in the early stage. It sounded to me like a cool technology in its infancy, and something which still lacked economic feasibility.

Then came along other VoIP companies. My second sister who's staying in US started using a service called "VoipStunt" which claimed to give free calls to all landline phones in the major countries of the world, including Malaysia, Australia, UK, USA, Singapore etc. In other words, I could use this service to call my Malaysia house phone without spending a single cent. Of course I was skeptical at first, as it seemed like yet another online fraud which is out there to earn some quick bucks from unsuspecting customers. However, when my sister successfully called me in Australia a few times, I was gradually convinced and converted. It sounded too good to be true, to be honest. But it was a real deal.

Last December, I became an official VoipStunt customer. I bought myself a 10-euro credit which was the basic requirement for initiating an account. That credit earned me 120 of so-called "freecall days" in which I am allowed to make free calls to aforementioned countries for free. As for mobile phones, landline in other countries and non-freecall days, the fee incurred is still so low that all IDD cards sold in Melbourne suddenly seem like a daylight robbery.

I have been using it since then for all International calls and even outstation calls. I don't know about others, but for me the overall experience has been satisfactory. There are times when the lag (the time needed to transmit the voice from your microphone to your counterpart's speaker) is high, but for such a price it's still a bargain. The voice quality is pretty good most of the time, and the price more than make up for the lag.

If you are overseas, I invite you to join the VoIP bandwagon. It saves your money.

Note 1: If both you and your family have access to broadband, then using Skype call is an even better alternative as its quality is better and you can have video call too.

Note 2: There are some fineprints behind the word "free", but for most intent and purposes, yes you don't have to spend a single cent when you make a call.

Disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated with VoipStunt or Skype. I am just a satisfied customer.


Monday, February 12, 2007

Looking For The Toilet

It was 1 am in the morning and the first night in my new house. I was staying in this 10-square-metre room and all my boxes were strewn about across the space. I was recollecting and recomposing myself from the holiday mood after writing my blog post.

It was when I got the nature's call.

So I looked for the toilet in the new house. Naturally a toilet is located at the back of the house, so I tip-toed along the corridor to the pitch-dark kitchen to look for a trace of the toilet door. I used my age-old handphone to illuminate the kitchen as I couldn't find the light switch. It was a scene so unfamiliar to me, the eeriness all the more aggravated by the feeble blue light emanated from the keypad. The curtain was glowing due to the moonlight. And it quivered, as if it was sniggering in contempt as it managed to send some chill up my spine.

I couldn't find the toilet. There just wasn't a toilet downstairs.

The family I am staying with were already asleep upstairs, so I didn't dare to venture that area. I wasn't even told whether I was allowed there yet. Things were getting awkward. I even sent a message to Yong Chin (my housemate who's not in the new house yet) to ask him "where is the toilet". But he must have been asleep, because there was a long silence afterwards.

I gave up, and my bladder sphincters got their obligate exercise for the whole night. The next morning, I found out there was a toilet outside the house, built as a separate structure in the rear house compound. So much fun for my experience at the first night of my new house, huh.


Melbourne - A New Beginning

I am back in Melbourne, as tired as a dog.

The past few days have been taking such a great toll on me. Although it's only 12.23am now, I am already feeling like I have stayed up for the whole night. To cut a long story short, since I arrived in Melbourne on Thursday night, I have been helping Xuan Ni and myself to move our Kleenex and IndoMee boxes between houses. Besides, I learnt the hard way that Ikea furniture is harder to assemble than it is supposed to be - especially with the not-quite-the-right-size screws.

Personally I just moved to my new house (view my new contact here) which is a double-storey terrace shared with a migrant Chinese family. I was a bit wary at first, you know, to stay with a family whom we have no idea about. However, after spending a little time with them, the comprehension kind of wore off quite naturally. They are so hospitable and friendly, they even invited Yong Chin and I to join their reunion dinner this Saturday. Needless to say, I look forward to having a great time staying in this house, and from the looking of it now it's definitely worth the price I am paying for. Oh ya it's the first time I saw the house when I moved in with my boxes, because Yong Chin helped me with the house rental throughout the holidays.

Academically, the new semester for medicine starts tomorrow. I am already ready to learn more, and to meet my coursemates. It's going to be a tough year, as usual, but with the change of environment and a new start, I am sure I will be able to do better.


Wednesday, February 07, 2007


A 7000-km journey

I am leaving tomorrow morning from Penang to KL and from KL to Melbourne. Thanks for all the memories in Alor Star and KL, I cherish them wholeheartedly. I am sure I will miss my family and my nieces. :) I initially thought of not coming home end of this year, but now that I'm leaving, such a decision suddenly seem too hard to make.

Melbourne, this time I am going back with more vigour and a refreshed outlook. I look forward to more challenges in the coming year. There could be a rough path ahead of me, but I will tread each step with care and confidence.


Monday, February 05, 2007

Three Psychics in My Blog

Are you guys psychics? :D I am thinking of calling the police, haha...


A Doctor Who Called the Internet

In a few days' time, my 2-month holidays will be over. As I scrolled through my posts throughout the holidays, I realized that I have had zero posts under the category of "medicine", and the last "medicine" post was about the boring exams. I can't help to notice the stark contrast between my blog and Wee Loon's which is packed with medical info and experience.

Coincidentally I stumbled upon this "tech support" story via See Hua's blog. So hey, I do talk about medicine also, okay? :P

I worked in computer support for a medical staffing company. One day, a doctor called and said that he "wanted to call the Internet." I instantly knew it was going to be one of those kinds of calls. I instructed him to open his browser. "What's a browser?" he asked.

After a brief walk-through, he was ready to go. Then I told him to type in an address.

  • Me: "Type 'http://...'"
  • Him: "It didn't work."
  • Me: "Ok, read me the address you typed."
  • Him: "H-T-T-P-C-O-L-O-N--"
  • Me: "No, no. Colon, on the keyboard."
  • Him: "What?"
  • Me: "Do you know what a colon is?"
  • Him: "Of course I do. I am a doctor."
Fortunately I still know the right colon.


Sunday, February 04, 2007

A Tricky Question

Updated 05/02/06: See below.

Imagine you are standing in front of a mirror, facing it. Raise your left hand. Raise your right hand. Look at your reflection. When you raise your left hand your reflection raises what appears to be his right hand. But when you tilt your head up, your reflection does too, and does not appear to tilt his/her head down. Why is it that the mirror appears to reverse left and right, but not up and down?
This is allegedly one of the questions from actual interviews conducted by Microsoft. Some of the questions in that page are simply assessments of creativity and out-of-the-box thinking, and that means there are no "right" or "wrong" answers, but only "good" or "mediocre" answers. However, this question is different, and it really stumped me throughout. We all know that a mirror image inverses the left-right direction of an object, but why does it do so on the left-right axis selectively, without affecting the up-down and the forward-backward axis? This is not a "fancy" mind twister, it's in fact one of nature's peculiarity that stares at us all the time.

It took me several "day-dreaming sessions" to figure out a rigorous answer for that. All of a sudden I felt lucky for not pursuing careers that require tremendous ingenuity and creativity. Somehow I think that I have become blunter and slower in mental capacity as I grew up. Does the brain grow old? It might have been so in my case. Sometimes I even blame the medical course for "dumbing and numbing minds", but that was not exactly a good excuse.

Anyway due to time constraint I will just leave the post here and let any interested minds spend a few minutes in that question. I am interested to hear great and elegant answers from anyone. I will post my answer when I am free (if anyone is interested), but it might be a week or two from now, considering that I will fly back to Melbourne this Thursday and prepare for the new semester on next Monday. If you aren't interested in this particular question, the page I mentioned above contain many more questions that could keep you busy for weeks. So I invite everyone to spend some time twisting our brains to keep them sharp and shiny! :)

Update: I haven't had time to put up my own answer in my own words. However, when I was googling randomly I came across one of the explanations for the question. To be frank that explanation was too wordy to my liking so I didn't really finish it. But from what I got at a glance, it seemed like a great explanation. Have a look at some other Q&A inside too. Remember this question? "On Earth, from where can you walk one mile south, one mile east and one mile north and return to the starting point" The answer is surprising.


Friday, February 02, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

The last book of the Harry Potter series is slated to hit the shelves on 21 July this year! Now that many people are wondering why is the date not 7 July, one of the possible reasons is that the London bombing happened on 7 July two years ago. So releasing the book on 7 July would be akin to releasing a fantasy on the September 11th, since JK Rowling is a Briton.

Anyway this post is about nothing, I just thought of sharing this "spoiler":

Voldemort and Harry 1 on 1.... then....


Hiro with his sword raised and Voldemorts head on the floor. Save the muggles, save the world!

LOL. You would get this joke if you watch Heroes, one of the most popular series in US.