Tuesday, August 27, 2002

"Integrity: Doing the right thing, even when nobody's looking."
Got sidetracked by yesterday's round, which ended at 5pm, thankfully. :) There appears to be a virulent flu bug going around, and some of the consultants and registrars are down with colds. Today, my consultant's baby got sick, so he couldn't come to the hospital. Reminder to myself: double dose on Vitamin C when post-call tomorrow!

In continuation... yet another call today, hopefully a good one. Have been lucky so far, but the Hungry Ghost Festival may have a part to play in this anomaly. Quite a few patients in the wards have turned bad recently. And a few of those left upstairs aren't too well either. One of them, an elderly lady with dilated ischemic cardiomyopathy and an ejection fraction of only 15% ( normal being 50% ) was admitted last weekend for fluid overload -- yet again. She's got end-stage renal failure, diabetes, infected leg ulcers, but refuses dialysis, so her kidneys are shutting down and everything we give her isn't helping. It's terrible for us to see her day after day, sitting up in bed, gasping away, unable to eat or sleep or talk. Her family seems indifferent, and I've yet to meet any of them. In fact, last Saturday, when she arrived in the ward and I went to see her almost immediately, her children had already left. It's hard to believe that such people exist. Certainly not one of the finer moments in the life of a doctor.

Which reminds me of a comment I heard on "C.S.I." ( a link is provided below ). A pathologist on the show, upon hearing the grisly details of a victim's death, said," Sometimes I'm glad I only deal with dead people." Hear, hear.

The July issue of Reader's Digest features excerpts from the autobiography "Lucky Man", written by Michael J. Fox. I've followed his career from the beginning -- used to watch "Family Ties" in primary school, followed by the "Back To The Future" trilogy, "The Secret Of My Success", "The American President" and "Spin City". Like millions of his fans, I was shocked when he announced he has Parkinson's Disease, as he only recently turned 40, and has 3 young children to bring up. His account of what happened is both touching and honest, as he reveals how he battled alcoholism and withdrew from his loved ones. He also has a surprisingly good writing style, and his words are entirely his own, unlike other celebrities who enlist the help of professionals in writing their life stories. An inspiring story.

Okay. Here're links to my favourite websites, which can also be found on my homepage. Check them out.

1. Josh Groban - aka Grobania. Great site that gives you the opportunity to sample Josh's entire CD. The forum is practically overflowing with daily posts, with quite a number from the young man himself. I'm actively involved in the Asian Grobanites thread. Page 19 has a transcript of a recent Asian Grobanite group chat ( my nickname is
"spacefan"). Somehow, it's more hilarious reading it on the forum. A bit embarrassing too. :)

2. Blogger.com - enough said. Mentioned before in an earlier blog. Promises endless hours of amusement!

3. C.S.I. - This one's based on the TV series which has overtaken "ER" in the ratings race in the U.S.

4 Website for Emergency Physicians - for ER-philes only. I use this to check up on the latest developments in emergency medicine, but it also has a cool evidence-based medicine tutorial, which links to some pretty interesting pages. E.g. they define confidence intervals using polls in the U.S. presidential elections -- very clear and concise, and better than any tutorial I ever got in med school!

5. . My homepage - just being opportunistic here. :D I update this regularly, and it's got a few things some people don't know about.

6. Website for Singapore Doctors - came across this last week, and thought I'd mention it. Still relatively new, and a bit quiet, with 200 members but most of them keeping silent. Areas of interest include the forum for houseman and medical officers -- night calls being a hot topic. Medical students are apparently also allowed access.

7. Movies.com - haven't visited this one in a while, but I used to be addicted to it while doing surgery at Changi General -- all that time idling in between cases can really bore me to death! It's a great site for viewing trailers for upcoming movies, and reading reviews.

Monday, August 26, 2002

Waiting for an afternoon round with my consultant, so thought I'd update this a bit -- tried to do this last night but made the HUGE mistake of watching "Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows" on cable, and sorely regretted it. Not many movies suck, but this is one of them.

Got word from a penpal of mine from England who just started a traineeship in surgery, that they've implemented a shift system. This means there're 3 shifts each day, even in the wards. Obviously this is done to reduce doctors' working hours, which have apparently been implicated in a number of lawsuits over there -- he tells me the lawyers dig up medical records and find out exactly for how long the doctors involved have been staying awake, so as to build a case for possible negligence. This follows the recent trend in the U.S., which has also cut doc's hours to 80 hours a week, and no more than 24-hour shifts each time. I submitted a piece on this to the SMA newsletter a couple of months ago, which will probably be printed in the september issue, so more details then.

Friday, August 23, 2002

Here're a couple of good jokes from a recent issue of Reader's Digest.

A young man spots a bottle in the sand one day while strolling along the beach. He picks it up, uncorks it, and releases a genie.
"You now have 3 wishes," the genie says.
"I wish I were a billionaire!" says the man. Poof! He opens his eyes to see a piece of paper with a Swiss bank account number in his hand.
Now for his second wish. "I wish I had a cool sports car!" Poof! He found himself standing next to a brand new red Ferrari.
For his last wish, he exclaimed, "I wish I were irresistible to women!!"
Poof! He turned into a box of chocolates.

A man sits at a bar drinking beer. Suddenly, he hears a voice saying, "You have lovely ears."
He turns around but sees no-one seated near him, so he continues drinking.
A few minutes later, another voice says, "You have beautiful eyes." Startled, he looks around again, but he's still alone at the bar.
He stops the bartender, and asks, "Am I crazy, or did I just hear someone say I have beautiful eyes?"
"Oh, don't worry," the bartender replies. "It's just the peanuts. They're complimentary."

Here's something that made headlines this week. In his National Day Rally speech, our Prime Minister, Goh Chok Tong, turned emotional, saying Singaporeans are either "stayers" or "quitters", and too critical of the government for not changing policies even in the midst of overwhelming negative response from the public. He went on to say that the PAP ( Peope's Action Party, which has ruled Singapore forever, to the uninitiated ) "welcomes feedback", but will continue to make necessary decisions if they are deemed necessary and for the good of the country. He calls it "bitter medicine", and likened it to a patient having to take his doctor's advice as long as it's the right treatment, no matter how unpleasant it is.

I have a lot of respect for the PM. I believe he's a genuinely good person and a great patriot. But I also think his views are very misplaced -- whether they are his own, I'll leave that to speculation. And since he's comparing the situation to one many doctors face, I'd like to point out a few things.

First, Singaporean patients love to exert their autonomy. They can be young and educated, or old and illiterate, but there's a significant number of individuals who will question our treatment, and if they're not happy, refuse procedures/tests, default follow-up, discharge against medical advice, or seek a second opinion. Saying Singaporeans are "patients" who will understand and accept government policies if they know they're for the good of the people is plain wrong.

Second, no two doctors will ever have the exact same opinion. Even with guidelines and numerous evidence-based studies, no two patients are alike, and therapies have to be tailored to each and every one of them. This is why we have combined meetings, where complicated cases are discussed and a concensus agreed upon. Sometimes, heated arguments arise as one doctor interrogates another on his choices. Therefore, I ask, what are the opposition leaders in Parliament doing? Are we to assume that they fully agree with everything the PAP is implementing? I admit I don't read the papers very regularly, but if there's dissent within the political system, is anyone even listening?

Third, lumping Singaporeans into stayers and quitters is myopic and, quite frankly, mean. Like patients who don't comply with treatment, locals who decide to leave the country always have their reasons, and good ones at that. People I treat will tell me they cannot afford the medications we prescribe, or are unable to tolerate their side effects. Others have job and family commitments which prevent them from keeping appointments no matter how hard they try. A few even cite religious reasons. Likewise, Singaporeans migrate for good reason. I personally feel the standard of living here is unbelievable. In the near future, it may be impossible for a single young professional to support his parents and own a home, let alone a car. Throw in raising a family and the average monthly savings is close to zero. Small wonder that some of us dream of moving to places where a car costs $10,000, a house $100,000, with a much more relaxed pace of life for us and our stressed-out children.

Last but not least, the issue of welcoming feedback. Let's see, a few years ago, a feisty group of NUS undergraduates staged a peaceful protest, wearing black ribbons around campus. This was promptly halted by the authorities. Opposition leaders continue to be hauled to court, sued to to point of bankruptcy, and occasionally exiled. The Speaker's Corner, introduced to allow citizens to voice their unhappiness, has been repeatedly ridiculed in the media, is located in an obscure area of town, and has all but faded from public memory. And of course, numerous complaints from Singaporeans about the ERP ( Electronic Road Pricing ), transport fare hikes and so on haven't resulted in any policy changes. I'm still driving to work at 7am every morning -- my day officially begins at 8 -- so I don't have to pay 3 times as I travel along the CTE to the city. At its worst, this works out to $2.50 per gantry = $7.50 for a 5-minute drive, along an expressway that was built primarily to ease traffic jams and cut down travelling time, might I add.

I recently emailed the Forum editor with my opinions, some of which are listed above, and received a reply that it will not be published. Not that I'm surprised. The letters I've seen printed so far have either been supportive of PM Goh's sentiments, or mildly critical. One even talked about bar-top dancing, for pete's sake. Well, you can't blame me for trying.

Wednesday, August 21, 2002

I really wish I could add pictures to this thing. Well, maybe in the near future. Gonna buy a much-needed digital camera next month, along with a printer, after which I will swamp the Internet with numerous photos and be the first to cause the World Wife Web to implode -- worth a try. :)

Calls have a weird effect on me. And yes, I'm on call again today. I'm usually muted on such days, but not so at the moment, as you can see! Maybe it's because I just visited a blog which is hilarious. Click here and prepare to be greatly amused.

Anyhow, life goes on and except for the occasional liquor consumption and extravagant spending at a swanky restaurant, my programme is pretty much fixed.

What I do after work:

Monday -- Watch comedies on cable, followed by "Friends", "Alias" and "Ed" on Channel 5. I used to record "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" but the latest season has yet to arrive and I'm starting to get withdrawal symptoms.

Tuesday -- Watch "Ally McBeal" and "Gilmore Girls".

Wednesday -- Watch "Philly" on Channel i ( a cool new legal drama which has replaced "The Guardian", and stars Tom Everett Scott , from "That Thing You Do!" and Kim Delaney , from "NYPD Blue" ), followed by my all-time favourite, "C.S.I."

Thursday -- No good shows on Singapore TV, so might catch a good film on cable, surf the Net or read a good book.

Friday -- same as for Thursday.

Saturday -- Most of the time, it's either relaxing at home or cramming a whole lot of errands into half a day, ranging from grocery-shopping to buying CDs/clothes to meeting up with friends. Pubbing occurs once every 3 to 4 months, usually when I'm depressed. :)

Sunday -- Swimming in the morning, with the afternoon left free for maybe going to the cinemas, updating my websites, or doing some writing. I particularly enjoy sitting in the garden with my cat in the early evening. That's when the warm evening sun comes by the front porch, and it's prime time for jogger-watching -- mostly young good-looking men around my neighbourhood. :D

Recently acquired a "VIP" patient with end-stage renal failure and fluid overload. He's currently very ill and unresponsive to external stimuli. I take blood from him daily, and sometimes do other invasive procedures like catheterizing, and every time I look at him, it's sad when I realize who this man is, and what he used to be. Obviously someone who was a distinguished figure in his earlier years, he is now totally dependent on others and bedbound. Makes me think hard about my own mortality.

Right then, it's nearing 5pm, so will make a beeline for the call room, change into slippers, and hope the next 14 hours won't kill me.

Sunday, August 18, 2002

Met up with a group of friends last night for dinner and some catching up. Had a great meal at mezza9, and though I've been there 5 times in the past few years, this is one place where the food and wine is exceptional and the standard meticulously maintained. Their best dishes have got to be those from their Japanese and Thai menus. The sashimi platter is a must, and we sampled their padthai noodles from this fortnight's special selection -- a delicious mix of spicy sauce, giant juicy prawns and other seafood.

Thereafter, we adjourned to Blu, a famous jazz bar at the Shangri-La Hotel here in Singapore. It features live jazz music in the form of a trio -- an African-American female singer, a pianist and a cellist. It wasn't particularly crowded last night, which was unusual, but we didn't mind as we ended up being the only ones in the entire restaurant after midnight -- the majority of patrons was parked at the bar next door. The repetoire consisted of old favourites like Fever, Hit The Road, Jack, and L-O-V-E, and were crooned to perfection. The liquor wasn't too bad either -- the Oasis Blu cocktails were refreshing -- but the margaritas were smeared with salt around the rims of our glasses and a tad too, er, salty. But it's a great place to go to after dinner. Better still if you're with a large group, especially since you can make requests for your own jazz favourites.

Also had the opportunity to have a drink and a chat with Dr. Wong Ting Hway, whom I met a year ago when we worked at the Singapore General Hospital A&E department. At that time, I knew very little about her, but did hear that she'd graduated from Cambridge and had an adventurous spirit. We used to converse with each other over hurried lunches in the staff pantry or during lulls in the usually busy ER, and soon after, she left for Angola, Africa for a stint with Doctors Without Borders. She returned a few months ago and is currently working for the Dover Park Hospice, making house calls, doing rounds, etc. This coming Friday, she will fly off -- yet again! -- to Iraq, on a year-long trip with the International Red Cross organization, ensuring that POWs get adequate medical attention, as well as treating other victims of war crimes.
She just appeared in today's edition of The Straits Times, as she's the first Singaporean ever to work full-time for the Red Cross.
The reason I mention her is because she's one of the most humble, unassuming people I know, despite her great accomplishments ( being only 2 years older than myself ). If you've read the article, believe what she says, 'cos that's the unadulterated truth. I can't think of anyone else more deserving of this honour, or more suited for the job. I thank her for taking the time from her busy schedule to join us at Blu yesterday, and wish her all the best in the year ahead. I'm certain she's destined for even greater things in the near future!

On a lighter note, I recently caught a few episodes of The Osbournes -- yes, that vulgar MTV reality show about that dysfunctional (ie. white trash with money) family, the head of which is Ozzy Osbourne ( how he can sell any CDs with a voice like that is beyond me ). Anyhow, the fact that this series has become phenomenally successful is plain sad. The first time I saw it, more than 50% of the dialogue was bleeped out because of the "F" word, 25% of it involved various forms of swearing over dog excrement ( there're maybe 5 yappy dogs running around the place, all of which aren't toilet-trained, believe it or not ), and the last 25% consisted of inane remarks about really dumb topics.
Friday night, while battling a bout of insomnia, I stumbled upon yet another episode while channel-surfing. And guess what? This one was 90% identical to the last one! The 10% difference was 1) a blonde dog psychiatrist/therapist/trainer with tight buns and a super-thick European accent, 2) a special in-depth focus on Lola, the female bulldog responsible for most of the soiling of the house -- the cameraman particularly enjoys doing close-ups of her when she's doing it, which is awful, yet painfully addictive, and
3) an unexpected visit from Elijah Wood, whose sister is the friend of Ozzy's daughter Kelly.
This family is really off its rocker. And I can only imagine what the mansion smells like -- if it isn't dog poo, then it's really strong carpet cleaner. And here's a novel idea: Want to make a quick buck? Try being the sole supplier of monochromed towels for the Osbournes. They clean up the canine messes with brand new towels each and every time, throwing them in the trash instead of washing them I reckon, so they probably go through 10 of these a day.
So will I catch the next episode? If I'm unable to sleep and need to lose some weight, then yeah!

Thursday, August 15, 2002

I seriously think I'm getting too old to do calls. I really don't know how some of my friends, and especially my seniors, can find the energy to even go out or play with their kids after a 36-hour shift. Kudos to them! Things were tolerable in surgical postings, where rounds last an hour at most, and the rest of the morning is spent clearing cases or, if you're lucky, sitting around having breakfast. :) Medical rounds, through no fault of their own, typically last 3 - 4 hours, and sometimes you have a load of patients with 10 or more concomitant problems that all need to be solved in 10 minutes. Today, for example, I faced an elderly gentleman with severe cardiomyopathy ( ie. a failed pump ), sepsis and possible liver failure. At the end of all the running around taking urgent bloods, arranging urgent consults and scans, I felt like I was 80 -- no kidding. For me, emergency medicine will always be the right choice. Regular shift hours, and like Prof. Peter Manning ( chief of the ER at NUH ) once said, " You'll be able to sit at a cafe in Orchard Road on a Tuesday morning, sipping coffee and watching the world pass you by." I did that once, but at The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf at Takashimaya, on a Thursday afternoon -- and it felt great!

Some other good news. Josh Groban, my 2nd favourite singer ( after Robbie Williams ) has confirmed he will be coming to Asia, and Singapore, in the next few months. For those of you who haven't read about him yet, look through my earlier entries for the full story, or just go to his website.. The best thing about Josh is that he regularly posts on the discussion group, and this little bit came directly from him. His song, "To Where You Are" is now #1 on the adult contemporary chart in the U.S., and he will appear this September 11th for a tribute concert. He's only released one album so far, but I predict his next one will shoot through the roof in terms of sales -- he's sold over 15,000 copies in Singapore alone, unheard of for someone who sings semi-operatic numbers and is really decent. :) Looking forward to seeing him soon.

The Life! reporter I mentioned is none other than Helmi Yusof. And to my pleasant surprise, he was very gracious in his reply, thanking me for my input and agreeing that some of my views were "cogent", despite my huffing and puffing in my email. His response is markedly different from that of his colleague's, Tommy Wee, who once sent me a irate and sarcastic email when I criticized his put-down of boy bands. ( I pointed out his own obsession with blonde, leggy female singers, but I suppose he believes he's only interested in their music ). Bravo, Mr. Yusof. You've gained a fan. :)

Just going to add a link before I sign off. If you're interested in Josh Groban, then you will definitely like Michael Ball, a wonderful singer who made his mark on Broadway, and whose trademark song is "Love Changes Everything" from "Aspects of Love". His website is a veritable treasure including sound clips from his numerous CD recordings. I own 3 of his albums, but only because I couldn't find more at the music stores here. Here's a guy who can sing "The Phantom of the Opera" as well as "Millenium" ( that cool number by Robbie Williams ).

Will end off with a portion of "Love Changes Everything". A truly beautiful song that celebrates all that is good, and bad, about this thing called love.

"Love, love changes everything/
Hands and faces, earth and sky/
Love, love changes everything/
how you live and how you die/
Love can make the summer fly/
Or a night seem like a lifetime/
Yes, love, love changes everything/
Now I tremble at your name/
Love will never never let you be the same

Love, love changes everything/
Days are longer, words mean more/
Love, love changes everything/
Pain is deeper than before/
Love will turn your world around/
And that world will last forever/
Yes, love, love changes everything/
Brings you glory, brings you shame/
Love will never never let you be the same.

Off into the world we go/
Planning futures, shaping years/
Love bursts in and suddenly/
All our wisdom disappears/
Love makes fools of everyone/
All the rules we make are broken/
Yes, love, love changes everything/
Live or perish in its flame/
Nothing in the world will ever be the same."

Sunday, August 11, 2002

Just adding a link to the official "Signs" website where you can read a load of glowing reviews from the likes of Rolling Stone magazine, CNN and Roger Ebert, among others. I've also just sent an email to the Life! critic with the address. Let him/her learn a lesson or two. :)
Yet another good call! Okay, it didn't start that well -- 7 admissions within an hour, 3 hours of non-stop clerking and passive work, followed by a hurried dinner and a review round with the registrar-on-call. But at least both of us got to rest after midnight, 'cos believe it or not, the cases suddenly stopped coming in. Who knows how much longer this anomaly will last? :)

Next up, a really loooong piece about Signs, which I watched yesterday. Get ready for a tirade, actually, because I'm really PO-ed by the lousy review from a local movie critic in Life! a few days ago.

First of all, I'm a huge fan of M. Night Shyamalan. "The Sixth Sense" ranks among my top 5 favourite films -- the others being "Swimming With Sharks", "Dead Poets' Society", "The English Patient" and "Gladiator". I also loved "Unbreakable", which didn't sit well with a lot of people, but retained the distinctive style that is Shyamalan's alone.

So far, he hasn't been quite able to reproduce the phenomenon that "The Sixth Sense" became. But through no fault of his own, Shyamalan had the misfortune of making his mark with such an exceptional film, and now has to live up to that standard, or be branded a fluke. This isn't helped by the marketing ploys used by major studios -- "Signs" is currently being touted as a thriller cum horror movie about crop circles and aliens, when in truth, those aren't its main themes at all.

Spoilers ahead, so proceed at your own risk!

The plot is simple: a priest (Mel Gibson) loses his wife in a terrible car accident, loses his faith, and retreats to an isolated farm with his two young children and his younger brother ( Joaquin Phoenix ). While ensconced in the middle of acres of wheatfields, they suddenly come face to face with crop circles outside their doorstep, and are later terrorized by alien beings ( rather crudely depicted though, in this age of computer-generated effects ).

The abovementioned film critic panned its bad ending, and felt "cheated" thereafter. My take? If you walk into the cinema expecting to be scared out of your wits, or to see a "War of the Worlds" type of thing, then don't even bother, 'cos you will end up hating the movie.

As evidenced by his 2 previous works, Shyamalan is a very special breed of film-maker. Unlike most other directors/writers, he prefers quiet to rowdy, understated to flashy, and excels at delving deep into human nature -- notably that of children -- and exploring our perceptions of life and death. I particularly like his uncanny ability to write insightful and touching dialogue for his various young stars -- Haley Joel Osment ("I see dead people") in "The Sixth Sense", Spencer Treat Clark in "Unbreakable", and Rory Culkin in "Signs". In Shyamalan's world, children aren't spoilt or stupid. They are intelligent, mature beyond their years, and best of all, not predisposed to yelling or throwing tantrums.

Another trademark he retains is that of intimacy. He is truly one of the few in Hollywood -- despite his relatively young age and inexperience -- who can stage a scene with 1 adult and 1 child, make it last 10 minutes, and still keep you completely engrossed. He did it in his previous films, and does it just as well here. My favourite scene takes place in the kitchen during their "last meal" before an alien invasion, which ends in a tearful group hug where even Joaquin Phoenix is forcibly yanked into.

Mel Gibson, who's made a name for himself playing mentally unbalanced ("Lethal Weapon"), angry/revengeful ("The Patriot", "Braveheart") and lustful characters ("What Women Want", "Bird On A Wire"), goes against type and gives a muted yet poignant performance this time round. Phoenix demonstrates an affinity for acting with child stars, while the young ones almost steal the show from the adults with their witty one-liners.

Which brings us to the pet peeve of critics -- what exactly is "Signs" about? I can tell you this: it has little to do with the mystery of crop circles or aliens, and I doubt that Shyamalan ever intended it to be. In my opinion, he just wanted to make a film about a family, and to tell their story. The bigger story is purely secondary, and sadly, he's being criticized for it.

Major spoiler below. Stop now if you haven't seen the movie!

In the climactic finale, the message conveyed is that of how coincidence is actually a sign that someone up there is watching over you. Though not the type of ending one would expect in a story like this, it should strike a cord in anyone who's ever had any profoundly life-changing event in their lives.

I am an atheist, and anyone who knows me will tesify that nothing short of Christ coming to Earth and shaking my hand can make me believe. However, I subscribe to Shyamalan's message, and though contradictory to my atheism, I believe in life after death, and how strokes of good luck are indications of protection from spirits that watch over us. My own experience in this is recent. In May this year, I was involved in a bad car accident on the CTE turnoff to Ang Mo Kio Ave. 1. A young whippersnapper of a probation driver rammed into me at the traffic junction and sent my vehicle spinning. As I was the only car at the front, the force would've naturally propelled me forward into the middle of a very busy intersection. I managed to avert this disaster because moments before the car hit me, for some strange reason, I looked into my rear view mirror ( something I never do at a traffic light ), and spotted the guy charging at me a split second before impact. As a result, I stepped hard on the brake and instinctively swerved to the right, hitting the traffic light instead and coming to a stop at the side of the road.
Nothing unusual? Then I should mention that a few days prior to this incident, I felt a presence sitting at the foot of my bed every night -- not a sinister one, but one I felt I knew. I suspect it was either my late uncle ( who passed away from a stroke last year ), or grandmother ( who died this year ). Interestingly, after the accident, the presence did not return.

My tirade will end shortly :) Bottomline? Obviously, not everybody will like "Signs". Of all his 3 films so far, it may be the least satisfying. But for me, it brought back memories of loved ones, and reinforced my belief of how coincidence really isn't coincidence at all. And for that, I think Shyamalan is one of the best writers/directors Hollywood has ever had the good fortune of acquiring, and will remain so for many years to come.

Monday, August 05, 2002

It turned out to be an atypically good call on Saturday, but heck, I'm not complaining. :) Cardiology is definitely one of the more interesting postings around, but it's also very specialized, so 3 months here will not be enough to pick up on its finer points.
Got some good news today -- we have a new resident joining us, yes! Haven't been formally introduced yet, but was told she's a German lass and will be with the department for 6 months. From a practical point of view, that translates into extra manpower, fewer calls and better post-call coverage. From a more human perspective, it'll be fun to have a nice conversation with her and learn more about her previous experiences. We've got a lot of foreign residents here in Singapore, but don't think I've met any from Germany yet.

Watched The Affair of the Necklace on a rented VCD last night. This is an obscure little film which didn't make any impact at the box office, but which I borrowed because of Hilary Swank and a guy named Simon Baker.
For those who went "Huh?", Swank won the Oscar for her portrayal of a woman with a sexual identity crisis in "Boys Don't Cry", while Baker is currently heating up the TV screen on "The Guardian" which airs every Wednesday night on Channel i.
I first saw Baker on TV when he took the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a TV Drama Series last year. So when "The Guardian" arrived, I started following it religiously, and it has been worth it. Unlike "Ally McBeal" -- which makes lawyers look dumb -- or "The Practice" -- which makes lawyers look godly -- Baker plays a legal eagle with immense talent, but also so many flaws and such a terrible sense of timing, I'm surprised his character is still breathing.
Thankfully, the central plot is original: rich kid Nick Fallin ( Baker ) works for his hotshot dad who owns a huge law firm in Pittsburgh, and gets slapped with community service after being arrested for taking drugs. His life takes a turn for the better when he starts working for social services and represents the likes of abused and homeless children. He even develops feelings for a fellow co-worker, but gets rejected when she elopes with her fiancee in order to get over her infatuation with Nick -- really stupid, but makes for compelling TV.
The latest episode is an indication of the series hitting melodramatic proportions -- Nick becomes embroiled in manslaughter just after his father becomes a federal judge, and the firm is passed on to a sleazy senator. However, the performances all round are wonderfully understated, so there's no yelling or bawling. In fact, in a rare show of emotion, Nick breaks down only when he calls his dad and leaves a message to apologize after unwittingly killing a club dancer. I can't even imagine what's coming next week!

Anyway, back to The Affair of the Necklace. This one claims to be based on true events, and relates how Jeanne Valois, a young countess whose father's estate was usurped during the French Revolution, attempts to take back what's rightfully hers. Along the way, she meets Retaux ( played by Baker ), a gigolo who shares her mission to keep the monarchy on its toes, and they embark on an elaborate scheme to deceive and cheat the 2 most powerful figures in France at the time -- Queen Marie Antoinette, and the Cardinal.
Masterfully directed by Charles Shyer, it is lusciously filmed and intriguing to the very end -- despite being post-call, I remained wide awake till the end-credits. Swank, who played a tomboy in her Oscar-winning role, is the total opposite here, complete with dollish curls and ruffled dresses, making you sit up and exclaim, "Wow, she's a knockout!".
Baker, on the other hand, gives an admirable supporting performance as her loyal partner. "Guardian" fans will be happy to know that he smiles a lot in this film, unlike sulky Nick Fallin. Which goes to show that he's actually quite versatile. :) Too bad he lacks the height, a la 1.9-metred Heath Ledger and Hugh Jackman ( his fellow Australians ).
You can rent this if you're curious, but I would suggest it mostly to Baker/Swank fans, or anyone who loves period pieces as much as I do.

Also bought -- yes, bought! -- the DVD for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. It's just been released here, and
I just couldn't resist when I spotted it at the rental shop! I got it for $45, and got a free giant poster as well! I looked through the bonus features last night, and there's a 10-minute preview to "The Two Towers", plus a music video of "May It Be" -- a hauntingly beautiful piece by Enya, brought to life with equally gorgeous snippets from the film. The only problem is it's a widescreen version, and my DVD player can't expand the picture on-screen, so the top and bottom are cut off. Really sucks. But this is one DVD everyone should add to their collection. Don't bother with the VCD or video. It has to be DVD or nothing at all.

Saturday, August 03, 2002

Well, believe it or not, contrary to what I thought, I've actually found some time to log in and make an entry!
Yes, I'm in cardiology at NUH now. It's a major culture shock -- completely new hospital environment, no housemen/interns to help us, and rounds last at least 3 hours each day. Plus, this place is all the way in the west, whereas I live in the northeast, so it takes me 40 minutes each way, and mostly because of the crappy traffic jams.
It's my first call today, and thank goodness it's been relatively quiet. Oops, it's only 8pm, so hope I didn't speak too soon, aargh! There's this superstition that if you say a call is "quiet", all hell will break loose. Eating buns is also bad luck during calls, while showering is believed to be protective -- I've tried all of them, and they don't work for me. :)

The upside is, NUH is one of the few hospitals here with full-time phlebotomists. I was surprised to hear about this, but also relieved. All the hospitals I've worked in so far don't have this service, and my internship was therefore riddled with tonnes of daily bloods to take after legthy ward rounds, and nightmares about difficult veins and fussy patients who scold you even if you miss once. But I survived, and so did my peers. Personally, although I support the idea of having other people take blood for me, in retrospect, I feel that interns should learn to do venepunctures themselves -- how to handle problematic veins, how to take blood in the most efficient way, etc. It builds character, and once you turn resident, there isn't any blood you can't take. This will prove useful when someday you're confronted with a really sick patient in the middle of the night and his veins are collapsed from hypotension. It's also a good skill to have if you're an emergency physician -- hence my opinion. :)

Sequel to my earlier comment on doctors' heavy workloads in Singapore. A few days ago, a registrar, aka senior resident, whose name I don't recognize but who works in a government hospital, also complained about the sorry state of affairs. I really admire his courage -- I've been told that doctors in the public sector are not allowed to air their views in the national newspaper without prior clearance with the Ministry of Health or some other higher authority. I'd like to know what happened to him after his letter was published. Is he still alive? ( Just kidding :))

Looks like I did speak too soon. There's an admission! Work beckons, so will write again some other time. Hope I live through tonight.