Friday, March 28, 2003

Just another short update.
As I predicted, the kids are running around town and maybe even infecting each other. Get a load of the photos in the papers this morning, depicting hordes of students playing arcade games. And when asked why they're out when they're supposed to stay at home, one smart fellow replied, "I don't think I'll get SARS." Ooooh, I can just imagine what the Singapore government will be like 30 years from now. ( "We decided to spend the nation's entire economy on something really stupid, 'cos we didn't think we'd be affected by the global recession." )

Anyway, the quarantined people are back at work, and apparenty, a lot of my classmates who just got out of NS are being shunted to TTSH or the CDC to help out. I'm told this caused a major uproar, but in the end, I suppose our $300,000 bond won out over individual freedom. The fever ward started functioning today, and there's been a huge reshuffle of teams, which is pretty confusing, but overall, less taxing in terms of manpower.

Last but not least, Clay Aiken has progressed to the next round yet again! Yay! His performance last night was the best, IMHO, though Simon Cowell thought otherwise. But in my mind, Clay sounds great singing anything -- even the alphabet song -- and he's my choice all the way for emerging as this season's American Idol. Go Clay!

Thursday, March 27, 2003

Before I go on, let me just apologize to everyone who's sent me emails asking if I got theirs, or how I'm doing, etc. Due to the craziness at work recently, I've put my emailing on hold, and only write via this blog for now. So please read this to find out what's going on in my horrible life during this period, and feel free to post comments, which I definitely check up on, and usually reply to. Thanks!

Yes, I guess you can tell from the tone of my writing that things haven't improved. The tally in the papers this morning was 74, but it will no doubt continue to climb for some time.

We had yet another mass briefing with our infectious diseases specialist this morning, and learnt quite a few interesting points that involve one particular index case ( who seems a lot more infectious than the rest ), and a primary contact whose profession I shall not mention or else SIA will go bankrupt, haha. Anyway, additional measures are being implemented, including the setting up of a "fever ward", which will accept and cohort all febrile A&E admissions, and sort these out before letting them loose on the general ward populations. 3 lucky young doctors have been arrowed for the honour of covering this ward -- they asked for volunteers, and one of my fellow MOs actually offered himself, wow! So they'll have to gown and glove up, wear special scrubs and masks, and are not allowed to go to other wards during the day.

The good news is, the quarantined bunch is returning to work tomorrow, a fact that was met with a collective sigh of relief, more because we'll have more manpower again, but also 'cos the last time the ID people checked, these guys were well and asymptomatic.

Last, in the context of my growing irritation with the moronic behaviour of some Singaporeans, below is an email I sent to The Straits Times Forum Page yesterday. As you will know, if you read the papers, it was not published -- though I expected that, since I blast the ST on a regular basis, but still...

Singaporeans' Sense of Responsibility
Speaking as a medical professional who's currently involved in the melee of the SARS epidemic, I'm appalled by your accounts of how some adults are callously allowing their children to go to school, even when they've been exposed to confirmed SARS patients, or recently returned from trips to endemic areas.

All the hospitals here are currently taking necessary measures to contain the outbreak, aided by ample media coverage to raise awareness, and even expert advice from the WHO. Therefore, when some Singaporeans -- whom I assume are well-educated and read the newspapers -- behave in such an irresponsible manner, not only is it detrimental to our efforts to halt a fast-spreading disease, it's also downright stupid.

Just last week, a patient was admitted to a government hospital with flu-like symptoms, but failed to tell the doctors that her sister was already warded at the CDC for SARS. This vital fact was discovered only after the CDC called the hospital with the information, thus delaying timely isolation of this new case.

And with the current "home quarantine" programme, I can only imagine how these few thousand people, who no doubt think they've hit the jackpot by being excused from work and school, are taking the opportunity to run around town instead of staying put in their homes as instructed.

Singaporeans need to fully grasp the gravity of the situation, and stop behaving like naive kindergarteners.

Dr. Oh Jen Jen

By the way, as I was going to work this morning, I saw a teenage boy all dressed to the nines, walking out to the main road, probably on his way to an outing with his friends, as all the schools in Singapore have been shut down as of today. What's the use of not having classes if the kids are gonna mingle in malls and arcades anyway? My advice: everybody stay home if you want to live on!

Well, I'm glad there's something to look forward to today. Can you guess? It's... Clay Aiken! Don't forget to tune in tonight!
Before I go, let me just say that Aaron Buerge from The Bachelor 2 is simply divine. He sounds so much like Ben Affleck, has a beautiful smile, and was pretty impressive on the ivories. The lady he later proposed to -- I won't reveal her name unless you want me to, of course -- is really bubbly and pretty, so no wonder she won his heart. But overall, the gals this time round are a lot more beautiful than the last batch. Only one of them annoys me -- Frances, the Asian-looking one ( ?Filipino ), who chose the moment when he offers her the rose to hesitate, then ask him whether he likes to dance. Hello? You had the ENTIRE NIGHT to ask him that question -- a question that's important enough for her to reconsider accepting his rose -- and she didn't think of it earlier? Poor Aaron just stood there and gave her this puzzled look as she pondered. It's kinda rude, don't you think?

Okay then, more another day. I'm still well, so crossing my fingers!

Monday, March 24, 2003

Apologies in advance for the following venting session.
I can't take this anymore! Tan Tock Seng's diversion of patients has resulted in chaos for the other hospitals, and the situation in my department continues to deteriorate. One medical officer has been down since last week because of a very bad back -- my sympathy goes out to the poor fellow, who's been limping for the past 2 months. Then with the SARS scare, 3 fellow doctors who were exposed have been told to go on "forced leave" till the 1-week incubation period is over, leaving us extremely short-handed. Then, the MO who's covering clinic full-time, and who took maternity leave plus sporadic annual leave this posting, is now racked with a headache and ear pain from otitis media, and is also going on medical leave! So, the other MO in my team has been deployed to run the afternoon clinic, leaving me to care for the 70 patients (70!!!) on our ridiculous list.

I don't grudge people their leave -- if you're sick, you're sick -- and I feel that post-calls are sacred ( heck, I wrote an article in the SMA newsletter about this after all -- it's in the November issue, I think ), so I'm the last person on the planet who'd even suggest asking people exhausted after a long night to stay back -- road traffic accidents happen for a reason, you know. But things are getting out of hand here, and we need locums, darn it! Locums to run the clinics, locums to help cover night calls if necessary. The UK has them, and I know for a fact that Singapore's crawling with professional locums, so why can't we get them to help out till the outbreak dies down? I even suggested closing the clinic this week, but was told that "it can't be done", whatever that means. The other alternative is for the seniors in our department to step down and cover MO duties, which will no doubt be met with great protest. So we're essentially back to square one...

Those of you following my blog, thanks for reading, and I repeat, please pray for all of us. I'd advise you to stay away from public air-conditioned areas ( especially hospitals ), but if you're familiar with Singapore, you'd realize that if you tried doing this, you'd have to migrate or move to an offshore island.

More updates another day.

Saturday, March 22, 2003

American Idol never fails to brighten my day, and for only one reason: Clay Aiken! :) I spotted him during the quarter/semi-finals, and was ecstatic when he got through to the final 12. Now, he's so popular it's almost confirmed that he'll win this hands down. Even sulky Simon Cowell relented, saying Clay's "the one ( the others ) have got to beat" in the latest episode. Woohoo!
But of course, detractors will ask why Clay's so well-loved, when he's not hunky, gorgeous or particularly sexy in a conventional way ( like Corey Clark, for example ). In my opinion, though, I adore Clay 'cos to me, he's like a ray of sunshine, and has a wonderful personality and character. Just look at his face, and you can immediately tell he's got a heart of gold. I also applaud his humility -- even when being showered with the highest praise in front of millions of viewers, he still looks shocked each and every time, and never puffs up with over-confidence ( like Kim Caldwell ). Last but not least, his voice is exquisite! This is a guy who really, truly deserves to win this competition. And even if he doesn't ( which I hope never happens ), when he releases his album, you can be sure I'll be the first to buy it.
Clay, if you read this, you've got lots of fans here in Singapore, and we're all rooting for you! Good luck!

Thursday, March 20, 2003

The department is officially going nuts. One poor MO ( that's medical officer for short, aka resident in American terminology ) has chronic back pain from prolapsed intervertebral discs, and has yet again gone on medical leave for an indefinite period. And another is aggressively clearing her annual leave, and disappears on and off, albeit in a rather disruptive manner -- which is understandable, and none of us grudge them their leave. But morale is low... People are going on MC in spurts, and depending on your luck, you may not get to go post-call, or worse, end up doing rounds for 50 patients by yourself, if the situation is really bad. What we need are locums! Any of you out there who are up to the task, please call our secretary Jesline at 68503560, thank you.

The Bachelor 2 is finally here, but there's no fun this time since I already know who he picked. However, Aaron Buerge is tonnes cuter than Alex Michel, and so much more eligible and accomplished. He's the heir to the First National Bank empire, and plays the piano -- I'm such a sucker for men who play musical instruments. :) But he's also very charming, with just a tinge of a Southern accent. Not to mention a certain resemblance to Ben Affleck in both body build, facial features and speech. Aaaaah, my Wednesday nights are so much more interesting now. :D

Tonight's American Idol 2 is split into 2 parts, which I don't exactly get, but who's complaining? Last week, I was totally blown away by Clay, Trenyce and Corey, and I'm rooting for Clay all the way. He's the most talented, though not Simon's favourite. Let's hope the American audience agrees with me.

And watch out for the champions' edition of Fear Factor, which is super-exciting. So far the stunts have been ho-hum, but next week, there's gonna be some swimming with alligators, and God-knows-what weird cuisine. It can be anyone's game, essentially, and with the doubling of prize money, you can bet they're all geared up to fight to the death.

The US-Iraq war has officially begun, despite millions of protests and questioning from the UN. The last battle took place when I was 16, and I didn't even bat an eyelash that time. This one's different somehow, especially in the wake of 9/11. I anticipate an uprising of Muslims all over the world, and since I live in a country that's virtually surrounded by Muslim nations ( ie. Malaysia and Indonesia ), and which has its own share of Malays, there's some tension in the air. The Singapore government isn't helping things by regularly spewing forth support for the US. I think we should just lay low and wait for the storm to blow over. In any case, I hope the good guys win. Start praying, everyone.

Latest news on the SARS scare in Asia: the name of one of the cases has been revealed, and it's someone I know, both during my med school days and after graduation. My heart goes out to his wife, who's in critical condition. They're both nice people, so let's hope they recover soon.

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Get a load of Lionel Seah's comments in Life! today, in his review of The Michael Jackson Interview : The Footage You Were Never Meant To See. His criticisms of MJ are his own personal opinions, and who am I to tell him he's wrong, right? But I'm concerned about his defence of Martin Bashir's journalistic methods, practically saying that it's okay to lie in order to get your interviewee to open up to you -- ie. it's all right to be evil as long as it boosts your career. And reporters wonder why they're universally loathed.

Anyway, I saw the above programme, and Bashir is truly an ass. His remarks "off-screen" are the total opposite of what he retained in the final version, which is a detestable thing to do. MJ may be weird, but he doesn't deserve to be treated this way. No-one does.

I shall end on a happier note. Tune in March 19th for the pilot of The Bachelor 2, featuring a very good-looking Aaron Buerge. I already know the ending -- but shall leave that out for now, for the sake of those who don't want to have the suspense ruined -- but who can resist some trashy reality TV on a quiet weekday night? :)

Last but not least, check out this website for a bit of clean fun. Taken from Dave Barry's Blog. Cheerio!

Sunday, March 09, 2003

What a week it's been. New ward, new team, not helped by the inexplicable humidity, despite the floor above and below ours being really windy. Anyway, I'm starting to feel really old nowadays, but then it IS an internal medicine posting, which is famous for making even the perkiest people feel jaded. Only 2 more months to go before I return to the emergency department -- and shift hours. Can't wait to get the chance to drink iced mocha lattes at Takashimaya's Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf on a Tuesday morning once again. :)

Anyway, my apologies for dwelling on TV shows most of the time, but I have no life, so the tube is my sole sustenance.

Fear Factor this week was extremely extreme, and I'm not mincing words here. The first stunt was - get this - walking butt naked in front of a private studio audience. And better still, they ALL completed the task without even blinking! The second challenge was the worst I've ever witnessed in this series -- EATING LIVE MADAGASCAN COCKROACHES. I'm so averse to these insects I can't even be in the same room with them, let alone pop them into my mouth, AAAAARRRRRGH!
But yet again, out of the 6 contestants, 5 got through to the next round. Wow! The last stunt paled in comparison, of course, but all in all, it was an eye-popping episode. Next week features the ingestion of live worms, which probably grosses a lot of people out. But nothing beats munching on cockroaches, brrrrr.

The wild card edition of American Idol indeed lived up to the hype generated by the judges. It's definitely the best group of the lot, starting out with hot favourites Kimberly Caldwell and Clay Aiken. The former is certainly beautiful, but she couldn't match Clay in terms of vocals. I was initially rooting for Julia DeMato, but with Clay on board in the finals, he's my choice all the way. Good luck!

Last night's Survivor:Amazon was rather dull. I just don't understand where all the sparks went! No trash talking either -- but trailers for next week's show indicate otherwise ( ie. rocket scientist Dave will get up close and personal with swimsuit model Jenna ). This week, Joanna - aka the African-American whose constant hymn-singing and nagging got on everybody's nerves - got the boot, while hottie Shawna became irreversibly depressed ( but wasn't voted off, go figure ). The guys won 2 challenges in a row for a change, and Dave is starting to grow on me :) Does anyone think he sounds a lot like Russell Crowe?

If you haven't started watching Monk yet, please do so ASAP. I've already seen 3 episodes, and they're all superbly written and well-acted. Tony Shalhoub is 100 times better than Jack Nicholson at portraying symptoms of OCD ( ie obsessive-compulsive disorder ), and cable is showing a special 75-minute mini-movie version ( check your catalogue for the dates and times ). Picture a detective who climbs ladders by covering each rung with wet wipes, then freezes at the top because of vertigo, or who continues to religiously count off parking metres while being pursued by a killer. It's a riot!

Looking forward to Michael Jackson's rebuttal special tonight. Remember to tune in.

Till next time then. Thanks for reading!

P.S. Dave Barry's blog is getting funnier by the day. Don't miss any more of his priceless entries!

Monday, March 03, 2003

Review of Daredevil ( spoilers ahead ):

I saw this without any prior knowledge of the comic book version, so I'm not sure if that would've altered my opinion.
Overall, I enjoyed the movie. Ben Affleck is well-cast as Matt Murdock, the blind lawyer who uses his other 4 heightened senses to fight crime in Hell's Kitchen. Equally engaging is Jennifer Garner ( most famous for her role in "Alias" ) as Elektra Natchios, a wealthy heiress who matches wits and kungfu skills with Daredevil. Villains-wise, we have Michael Clarke Duncan as Kingpin, plus an over-the-top Colin Farrell as Bullseye.

As you can imagine, with a cast like that, any movie is bound to be exciting, and that's precisely what works best for Daredevil. Sure, the action sequences aren't bad, but "Spiderman" far surpasses in that category. I liked the little fight scene cum mating dance between Matt and Elektra in a school playground, as well as the showdown between Daredevil and Bullseye ( don't blink during that one! ). But the film is extremely dark, both in content and cinematography, so be prepared to squint as you try to make out who's who through all the rain and darkness.

Affleck, who ranks high on my list of favourite actors, is sweet yet heroic as Murdock. His boyish good looks and towering frame make him convincing in his role. Garner, who's absolutely gorgeous and very spunky in so many ways, exudes loads of charisma, generating red-hot chemistry with her co-star. Their scenes together are romantic and tender -- watch out for the one with them standing on the rooftop of a building, while the rain pours down, allowing Murdock to use his sense of hearing to see her face. It's little details like these that can make all the difference in an otherwise run-of-the-mill action flick.

I was disappointed with Clarke Duncan's portrayal of Kingpin. He's got a unique look, no doubt, but he came across as rather bland and uninspiring. Farrell, on the other hand, is excellent as Bullseye, with his oversized ego and nervous tics. His snarling "He made me miss. I NEVER miss." is hilarious! Here's a fellow who, though a self-confessed playboy-alcoholic, has been springing all sorts of nice surprised on us over the past few years ( e.g. American Outlaws, Minority Report, and the upcoming The Recruit ). He's a veritable chameleon who should continue to do well in future projects.

So the verdict? Spidey still rules, but if you're a fan of the stars in Daredevil, it's worth the time and money. Or if nothing else, here's your chance to see two rarities in Hollywood: a lawyer with a heart, and a reporter with a conscience. :)

Saturday, March 01, 2003

Looks like I've got closet obsessive-compulsive tendencies like Adrian Monk! Have been scratching my head over John Mayer's age issue, and upon analyzing a recording of his thank-you speech, realized that what he said at the Grammys wasn't that he's 16 years old, but that he feels like he's 16 years old. Ohhhh...
So that makes him 26, which certainly reduces the guilt factor for me, 'cos I didn't feel comfortable having the hots for a teenager, haha! :D

Who would've thought Survivor could turn into a comedy? Last night's episode became the safari version of Sex And The City, with all the trash talk, eye signals and flirtatious body language going into major overdrive. Daniel ( the Asian-American who was predictably ousted at tribal council ) made his move fast with Shawna, while Rob lusted after Heidi, and Dave ( who's getting cuter with each passing day -- is it his stubble or the fact that he's lost weight? ) was "engaged" by Jenna. The reward challenge was filled with sexual innuendos and cheeky smiles and winks, and even though the guys lost that one, they were so high from their encounter with the lovely ladies that they returned to camp in an ecstatic mood. Even the older men got into the action! It certainly was like high school all over again -- "Does she like me? I think she likes me. I hope she likes me, etc." It was hilarious!

But cheers to the women for winning the tough immunity challenge -- they've won 4 out of 5 challenges so far, woohoo!!! And I'm glad Daniel was kicked out. He's lazy, sulky, and easily distracted -- during the reward challenge, he made a big mistake because he was so busy staring at Heidi's boobs he completely missed the question asked by Rob just a few seconds earlier. Who knows, if he had gotten it right, the men may not have lost. He wasn't a team player, and deserved to be voted off.

Will be watching Daredeviltonight. More on that in my next entry.