Saturday, December 18, 2004

I never thought this day would come. It feels good. :)

Finally finished up 6 weeks of ENT, ending off with a big bang -- aka the Mother Of All My ENT Calls -- last night. Sure, I got roughly 3 hours of sleep, but factor in the crummy 10 hours I had prior to the actual call ( which officially starts at 5pm ), followed by another 10 hours of non-stop activity ( who would've thought an ENT patient would suddenly decide to stroke out, or that the anterior ethmoid artery of another would choose that very precise moment -- 1:15am, just as my head hit the pillow -- to bleed? ), and you've got one half-dead MO trolling the SGH corridors.

I used to HATE internal med clinics, but ENT takes the cake. 50 patients per MO session in the mornings, 30 in the afternoon. With medical patients, you can just talk to them, write prescriptions and order the necessary tests. Not so in ENT. Here, you have to do nasoendoscopic examinations for almost everybody, not to mention lengthy aural toileting, with the odd minor surgical procedure crammed in the middle of the whole mess ( care of a minor OT located at the back of the ENT Centre, hurray ). Another thing I'm not too happy about is how certain consultants have a habit of sending us their cases, even when we're hanging by a thread ourselves. "Language barrier"? What the heck are the nurses for?!

Anyway, why complain any further when freedom beckons? Ahhhh. 10 days of brain-rotting relaxation amidst the tranquil beauty of Tasmania. National parks, vineyards, good food and liquor, trips on the lake... just what I need after a year of absolute hell in the work department.

I've never spent Christmas overseas before, and am greatly looking forward to it. Was contemplating a trip to more temperate climates, but why suffer cold weather when I'll get plenty of that during HMDP? :P

January promises a new set of challenges. Will be posted to the Singapore National Eye Centre, with a few stints at the SGH ER here and there to re-acquaint myself with the new system ( and force me to revise a little, heh heh ). In the past week, my responsibilities have suddenly quadrupled, with assignments for the SMA News, Singhealth, and some webmaster thingy for the local and Asian Emergency Physician chapters. I said yes to all of them, even though in the back of my mind, I realize I may be piling too much on my already small plate. The reason? They're tasks which I know I'll definitely enjoy. One even provides opportunities for doctors to do a lot of good in the community, especially for those much less fortunate than ourselves. Funny thing is, this happened quite by chance. Almost as if by divine intervention, haha. I hope I won't let anyone down.

As 2004 nears its end, I can't help but look back on the past 12 months, and marvel at just how much has occurred. I don't think I've had such an eventful year in quite a while. Passing the Part 2, meeting celebrities ( and shaking their hands :)), being guest editor, writing for The Lingual Nerve, and now these additional responsibilities.

Not too long ago, I wondered if I SHOULD whack some unsuspecting guy on the head and embark on a relationship. But now, I understand that this isn't who I am, and isn't what my life is meant for. One of the lessons I've learnt from Christianity is how God leads you in every aspect, and how, despite the doubts and occasional loneliness, you have to trust in Him and thus discover your purpose.

All through medical school, I had a plan for my future: get married by 26, complete my family before I hit 30, everything else being pretty much secondary. As you know, none of that ever panned out. And only now does it all make perfect sense.

To my well-meaning friends, don't worry about me. And please don't ever try setting me up. :)
To my parents, whose love is infinite, and whom I travel with not because I have to, but because they're the only people I can hang out with constantly and not drive me completely insane, I only wish I could say how much I care for you both. But then, that's not our style is it? :D
To the readers who don't know me personally but who visit regularly, thank you for taking the time to plough through the whiny drivel I produce.

Apologies for long overdue reviews of books and other assorted things ( but I will tell you that National Treasure was DISAPPOINTING ). I can't promise an improvement come 2005. Work commitments will put a damper on the frequency of blog entries, while a growing yearning for anonymity may just prompt me to leave this site dormant, and post my opinions elsewhere ( close friends will of course receive that new address :)).

But that can be left for another day. In the meantime, a very Merry X'mas and Happy New Year to all. I'm off to get some R&R. :D

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Review Of Learning To Sing

... is going to be slightly delayed. No Blogger at the hospital, hence I can't post anything even if I'm sitting around twiddling my toes during a quiet call ( not that I EVER have quiet calls, sigh ). I just love this book, and want to lift quotes, discuss my impressions, etc. Doing this pre-call and post-busy-day-of-clinics is close to impossible.

But here's one I found on the Net. Not the most flattering, but hey, it gives me a chance to rebut it later. :)

Beavers On Idol Review


Monday was horrible -- the ENT registrar actually drove us all out for lunch so I wouldn't be so "moody", haha -- but the evening ( despite my exhaustion ) was therapeutic.

If you read my blog faithfully, you may recall a particular character I mentioned previously -- a guy who reminds me of Jesse from Gilmore Girls, and who drove hospital nurses wild even though he wasn't a flirt or even remotely friendly. This is the same person who had a habit of playing MP3 songs from his PC during phone conversations. Cool fellow, very opinionated, and -- in my personal opinion -- really sweet. :D

Met up for dinner after a 2-year hiatus, and he hasn't changed a bit. Spent 3 hours catching up, gorging on pasta and ice-cream, then took a leisurely stroll down Orchard Road in the light drizzle. He's still moderately grouchy, but I noticed he was making an obvious effort to "chit-chat" ( most unusual ). However, the best part, I think, was how we rarely broached the subject of work, mostly because he absolutely HATES discussing it. It was refreshing to hang out with a fellow doctor and have animated debates about everything from religion to politics to hobbies, without the expected exchanges on work-related issues. He also let me fiddle with his iPod, which holds 10,000 songs, some transferred from his collection of 1000 CDs, others downloaded from the Internet. There was a song by a group called Ass Ponys, heh heh. Didn't listen to it though. :)

Half an hour after we parted ways, he sent me an SMS, which was again very out of character, never mind its contents. :) He's single. No girlfriend for as long as we've known each other. And guess what, I think he's cute, and he's always been extremely accomodating towards me, without the trademark you're-female-and-may-misunderstand-so-no-i'm-not-going-to-be-nice-to-you attitude.

Will this lead anywhere? Let's not dwell on that. :D

The Pleasure Of My Company

Steve Martin's latest novel is my current reading assignment. Aside from being a comedic genius ( ie. The Man With Two Brains, All Of Me, Housesitter, Bowfinger, Roxanne ), he's also a very intelligent writer. Shopgirl -- which I read years ago -- was engaging, but Pleasure is a complete turnaround, and totally hilarious. Think Adrian Monk from that terrific TV series, but with 10 times the neurosis.

More on this later. Learning To Sing will come first. Naturally. :)

Allow Us To Be Frank -- Westlife

Long-overdue review of the album, argh.

In short, it's great, buy it!

As for the longer version of the story, here're my favourite tracks:

Summer Wind
Let There Be Love
I Left My Heart In San Francisco
That's Life

I've basically been alternating this CD with Clay Aiken's Merry Christmas With Love for the past few weeks. Drives my parents crazy ( "Can you play something ELSE already!? ). :)

But I can't get over Westlife's effortless transition from boy-band pop to big-band posh. I can't believe lead singer Shane Filan can sound so smooth and classy -- not to mention almost unrecognizable if not for his famous vibrato. Or how the rest of the group is able to carry classic tunes so competently. Style is a vital component here, 'cos Shane is clearly the only strong vocalist among the 4 ( Brian McFadden has officially gone solo ). A major saving grace is the supporting big band / orchestra, not to mention whoever was in charge of arranging all the music.

Will be blasting this on my Discman when I tour Tasmania. Have to pack my bags soon. Shall also include:

Merry X'mas With Love ( was there ever any doubt? :))
Measure Of A Man ( another Clay Aiken must-have )
Closer - Josh Groban
On The Moon - Peter Cincotti ( as well as his self-titled debut album )
Twentysomething ( special edition ) - Jamie Cullum ( it's got a cover of Frontin', which is just soooo sexy :))
Hopes and Fears - Keane
MTV Unplugged - George Michael ( Star People is one of the best songs EVER )
Ladies & Gentlemen ( a greatest hits compilation ) - George Michael
All This Time ( excellent "live" concert recording ) - Sting
Sing When You're Winning & Swing When You're Winning - Robbie Williams

Wish I could bring Michael Buble along, but a friend of mine is still holding onto it. She reads my blog, so CY, if you see this, please return it soon! :D

I Dream

Just happened to hear Singapore Idol winner Taufik Batisah's single on Class 95, and boy does it sound good! His voice has a slightly different quality to it when heard through earplugs. More grownup, fuller, richer, and indistinguishable from any other Westerner ( I didn't even realize it was him until the chorus ).

Must pick up a few copies ASAP. Gonna mail them to a few key people overseas -- friends from American radio stations, music industry insiders... :)

On call tomorrow. Better rest up. Long day, long night, crappy luck. :/

Sunday, December 05, 2004


Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science -- by Atul Gawande.

Full review available here.

I just made an entry on The Lingual Nerve as well.

The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-time

Finished it a couple of days ago. Easy to read, quite funny in the first half, but got a little tedious towards the end. Still, its novelty is a strong point, and Mark Haddon's writing displays great insight into the autistic mind.

The protagonist, Christopher Boone, is a memorable character who will prove a huge challenge to play on the big screen. To date, only one name comes to mind -- you guessed it: Haley Joel Osment. But Jamie Bell ( from "Billy Elliot" ) may be a surprise choice ( his performance on cable's "Nicholas Nickleby" -- based on a Charles Dickens tale -- was laudable ).

In any case, reading The Curious Incident was enjoyable partly because I was constantly reminded of Clay Aiken, whose lifelong work with special needs children ( in particular, Mike Bubel, who has autism ) has gained significant prominence since his profile shot sky-high on American Idol 2.

And speaking of Clay...

Learning To Sing -- by Clay Aiken

I just got this book from a fellow local Clay fan yesterday ( thanks, M! ). I'm currently halfway through it, but at the rate things are going, I'll probably finish it today, and use up every Kleenex in the house before I'm done.

A proper review will follow soon. So far, I've read chapters where Clay relates experiences from a painful childhood plagued by family conflicts, violence, alcoholism, and cruel schoolmates. It WILL get better, I'm sure, since we all know how the story ends, don't we? :)

The Kleenexes started disappearing last night as I sat in bed, riveted for more than an hour ( had to stop reading at midnight 'cos of church this morning ) by Clay's narrative, which switches easily from the past to the present, alternating between despair and hope, tears and laughter. Some stories have been told before, but others are new -- and heartbreakingly so.

Clay just turned 26 five days ago ( I failed to mention this on my blog, aargh! *smacks forehead* ), but his maturity and strength never fail to amaze me. Here is a young man whose ability to inspire and teach far exceed that of most many years his senior. And his mother, Faye, has indeed done extremely well in inculcating the right values and, more importantly, the conviction to live by them no matter how strong the temptation.

Last I heard, Learning To Sing recently sold out at Borders and Kinokuniya. Pre-order yours ASAP, 'cos it's going to fly off the shelves again, and this is one book no-one should miss out on.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Backdated Entries

It seems SGH computers have banned Blogger from its list of approved websites. How annoying.

In any case, there're a couple of new posts here, so scroll down if you don't want to miss them.

The day after the Singapore Idol finals, breakfast with fellow MOs revealed that one senior ENT trainee actually voted! For Taufik! And you thought only squealing young girls bother. :)

My call yesterday was -- to put it simply -- crappy. Started out with a busy day of clinics, which gave me a throbbing headache by lunchtime, then got worse as the afternoon wore on. Finally finished seeing everyone at 5:45pm, after which I camped out in the call room, unable to sleep and ploughing through Mark Haddon's novel, before venturing out to grab some dinner chow from Delifrance, then disposing of an A&E referral ( from a fellow A&E trainee who's done 6 months of ENT before some more; eh, don't like that lah ). At midnight, I was paged to resite two IV plugs. and by then, I felt ready to lie down and get some shuteye ( my biological clock has been hotwired after 18 months of ER postings, such that I can only doze off after midnight, and wake after 8am. Which, of course, has wreaked havoc on my system this past month, since we routinely start work before 8 and finish after 5. )

So there I was, sighing as I lay on the pillow, when my pager went off. It was my on-call registrar, informing me he was about to perform an elective tracheostomy, and would I like to come into OT to see it? You see, earlier that same morning, I'd told the head of department at a meeting that I very much wanted to see this procedure. True, I was present during an emergency trach last month ( read 210 Minutes on The Lingual Nerve ), but it happened to fast I didn't even catch it. All I remember is: Get me the tracheostomy set! Jab, slash, shove ETT in. The end.

The leisurely version was much more useful ( though I would've preferred that it take place at a less insane hour ). I got to see the neck structures in proper detail, and my reg assured me that should the need for an emergency surgical airway ever arise in the ER, if the patient is already flat, just cut and stick the tube in, and worry about haemostasis later. I feel more confident already. :)

The rest of the call, sadly, was quite eventful. Anaesthetist's spouse admitted for an oesophageal foreign body necessitating rigid scope for removal. A page at 3am for something I can't even recall ( hope I didn't order the wrong drug in the process, haha ). Then another trip out of bed at 5:30am to submit an OT chit via computer for the aforementioned patient. Not a busy call by conventional standards ( those I did in medical departments were the WORST ), but I wasn't feeling too well to begin with, so it felt like Torture. more whining about my love life. For now at least, heh heh. Who would've imagined that a JC mate's innocuous comment would trigger such a major response from readers? Must tell him the next time we meet.

Will now take a long overdue nap. Have the whole weekend off, yay. :)

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Wedding Conversation

[ Since my private life has generated more hits lately. :) ]

No two wedding dinners are ever truly alike, despite the monotony of 10-course menus, yam-seng's, video presentations set to mushy songs, and even mushier declarations of love.

I've found that my mood totters between the extremes of immense happiness and a newfound faith in Love, to utter discomfort and lamentations over the Hopelessness Of Ever Finding Love.

Last night was a case example of the latter. Most unfortunately. ( But nobody's fault. Really. )

I can't explain why. It was a rather posh affair celebrating the union between a med school friend and another doctor a few years our junior. My friend's relationship history has been a tumultuous one ( sorry, I refuse to reveal details ), and the strange part is, although we hardly spoke to each other during our university days ( we moved in different social circles, and besides, he was attached in every sense of the word ), we became close during our housemanship stint in general surgery, often discussing the complexities of life during our many night calls together, even "illegally" sneaking out of the hospital for lunch at Eastpoint's Jack's Place during a particularly long, boring Sunday, frantically fielding pages while stuffing steak down our throats. :)

Watching him walk down the aisle with his wife yesterday, I was -- as usual -- filled with a great sense of joy. And when he whipped out a guitar to serenade his bride with a Chinese love song ( causing her to burst into tears ), I too was moved ( after recovering from the initial shock, that is, heh heh ).

So why the melancholy, you ask? I suppose it's because everyone at my table was either married or "with someone", and I realized I'd become the proverbial Odd One Out. As in The One Who Doesn't Belong In The Equation. Or whatever _expression you may prefer.

But more importantly, I began to wonder Why. Why was I still single after all these years? Was there something wrong with me? Was I sabotaging myself on some subconscious level? What?!?!

Thankfully, I caught up with a fellow classmate -- now a paediatric registrar, female and single like myself, and equally perplexed. A sample of our little conversation:

"So are you dating anyone?"
"Nope. You?"
"Nah... Y'know, I sometimes wish I had someone."
"Yeah. But you can't rush these things. Better to be patient than to end up with the wrong guy."
"But it would be nice... to have someone to share things with, y'know?"
"Sure, I feel the same way too. Sometimes . *laughs* Hey, don't think about it so much. Let's meet up on New Year's Eve. Have a blast."
"*smiles* Good idea."

Well-meaning friends and relatives have offered their takes on my singlehood over the years. Am I too picky? Am I restricting myself to doctors? Am I being a bit too stand-offish? Am I frightening prospective suitors off because of my writing / reading / blog-ranting, etc?

Yeesh, how the heck should I know? Ask the guys lah.

Potential suitors... one thing I can say is this: I seem to attract men who are, err, over-enthusiastic. One guy was convinced I was his dream girlfriend/wife after meeting me ONCE. Another made up his mind before we even actually went out, telling me over dinner that "I NEVER ask a girl out unless I'm SERIOUS about her." ( I spent the rest of the evening suspended between a state of paralyzing fear and an overwhelming urge to bolt for the horizon. ) Yet another used to tail me all over the hospital on the pretext that we were MOs in the same team ( Although I must admit he was generous to a fault. Not that I ever took advantage of it. )

Maybe I'm so "scary" that only borderline psychopaths are daring enough to approach me. O-kay, looks like I should just throw in the towel right now.

So this other guy -- another fellow I did general surgery with as a house officer -- drudged up memories from 4 years ago, when his long-drawn-out pursuit of another female doctor stagnated and we sort of developed a liking for each other.

Me: So is it true you're dating someone now? ( I overheard this when someone practically interrogated him earlier. )
Him: Um, yeah.
Me: What does she do?
Him: She's a lawyer. Friend of a friend.
Me: Is it serious? Is the next wedding going to be yours?
Him: NO LAH. I'm not even close! ( pause ) So do you still watch movies? ( He knows I'm a film buff. We both are. )
Me: Yep. Just watched "The Incredibles" recently.
Him: I want to watch "Saw" actually. You interested?
Me: ( reeling but hiding it ) Don't you see movies with your girlfriend?
Him: She doesn't like horror films.
( I can't remember what I said next -- must be all that reeling, heh heh -- but it was probably something to the effect of "No, thank you." Too complicated. )


None other than Sex And The City -- The Novel.

Picked this up from the Tanglin Club library ( ooh yeah, they actually stock books like this! ), and despite the facts that (1) Candace Bushnell is no Jane Austen ( like some crazy reviewer gushed ), (2) the female characters are bitchy sex maniacs, and (3) the male players are horribly caricatured ( one is nicknamed The Bone, another Mr. Big ), I did draw some positive energy from my reading experience, purely because hey, these are successful, single women in their 30s and 40s, yet also suffering from my ailment: Wondering If There Are Any Good Men Left In This World, And If Yes, Where The Hell Are They?

I don't want this blog to turn into some angst-ridden Lonely Hearts Journal -- which it ISN'T. Let's just keep it the way it's always been, shall we: Single Female Doctor With No Social Life Complaining About Idiotic Patients And Waxing Lyrical About Clay Aiken On The Odd Occasion.

( And by the way, Merry Christmas With Love has sold out all over Singapore. BMG is ordering a second batch as we speak. Woohoo. :D )

Quack advice welcomed, except if your name begins with "U" and ends with "h". :)

Current Bedtime Companion

The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time by Mark Haddon.
Beautifully written. Three words for the ( inevitable ) movie adaptation: Haley Joel Osment.

Friday, November 26, 2004

"Just Whack"

Cradling coffees and hot chocolate with college friends a few nights ago, I was given the following advice by a recently married fellow:

"You know ah, (my name), if you are interested in a guy, JUST WHACK LAH."

Laughter all around, then silence. They were waiting for me to say something, but I chose to say nothing. ( Thank goodness another friend arrived a few seconds later, taking the uncomfortable focus off my sorry state. :))

But to be fair, I do realize that men nowadays wouldn't be totally averse to being pursued once in a while. And believe it or not, I've done my share of "mild whacking" on a few occasions, with mixed results. However, at some point in the not-so-recent past ( a year maybe ), I decided to avoid it altogether.


1. It's just too d*** tiring.
2. Certain guys like to play games. I hate that.
3. Being the "whacker" puts you in a strange position and skews relationship dynamics, so to speak. And if the guy has a big mouth ( happened once before, eep ), it's just plain embarrassing. And annoying.

Or maybe I've just made a slew of bad choices on whack-able men. But then, I'm not a smooth operator like some of my contemporaries. I really suck at this, sigh.

So there's my ( delayed ) reply to my friend's comment. He meant well, but I'm a lost cause in that department. :/

To Continue...

Some extra stuff here -- since I'm stuck in the ER and hey, the computer's free! :)

Right then. Apparently, guys I consider whack-able may not be "right" for me.
This should be an interesting discussion point for those who actually know me well.

Male traits I find attractive ( for some reason or another ):

1. Slim / athletic physiques ( no gigantic bulging biceps please )
2. Beautiful hands ( I try to do this subtly, but in truth, it's the one thing I scrutinize closely. I just find doctors' -- especially surgeons' -- hands fascinating. Same goes for those belonging to musicians and artists. :))
3. A sense of humour ( exuberant, but not excessively so )
4. Intellect, without the high-and-mighty attitude ( i.e. the ability to "agree to disagree", and to respect our differences )
5. A level of comfort. Funnily enough, I had this with most - if not all - of the guys I "whacked", with each reciprocating in various friendship-transcending ways. Why it never progressed further is a mystery. Didn't bother to ask them the reason(s) either.

Experience-wise, they've run the gamut from outright playboys to guys who've never been known to have girlfriends. In terms of looks, their features span a wide spectrum ( but none resembles my ex -- a major criterion, heh heh ). Interests include extreme sports, fast-car fetishes, compulsive clubbing, the usual music / books / film / comics.

Although... one guy used to spend time simply blasting MP3 songs over the phone, while our conversation screeched to a halt. It was really funny ( but in a good way ), precisely because of that Level Of Comfort.

The above list isn't exhaustive, of course. Attraction can be immediate, yet its true nature intangible. It's that "certain something" that draws two people together, that tells you: Hey, the possibility is there.

Was I imagining things? Let's just say these guys gave not-so-subtle indications that they were indeed aware of my ( rather feeble ) tactics, and returned fire. But somewhere along the way, the momentum began to wane, and in a couple of cases, I could actually see them battling some internal conflict ( what exactly, I didn't ask ). It was like taking one step forward, then two steps back. Perhaps I wasn't aggressive enough. Maybe I should've just yanked them by the shirt collar and yelled, "Stop pussyfooting around already!" But then... that isn't my style.

My problem? At midnight, after a long day in the wards and the ER, my judgement may be clouded. But I suppose it stems from a combination of a reserved personality which requires time to penetrate, a reluctance to exert force of any kind, a few cases of missed opportunities ( some of which were my fault, I admit ), and -- cheesy, but not entirely without merit ) -- an element of Fate. You know, right timing, favourable conditions, etc.

So, no more whacking for me. Getting too old for all that, and lack intuition on "reading the signs".

In short, I'm the one who needs to be hit on the head.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004


A check with the comments box for November 15 showed a post from ( I presume ) a member of Budak Pantai.

It goes:
"sad that you missed our concert, but our 3rd and Live Xmas CD is out @ Esplanade shop, thanks ."

Okay, now I'm obliged to link to them lah. :)

Budak Pantai Website

I haven't been following their careers very closely, but do remember them from a talent competition some time back, and watched them during the Esplanade's open house as well.
By the way, isn't there a doctor and a lawyer among the dudes?
In any case, very very nice a cappella fare. Must sample their album and attend their concerts, haha. :D

That's it for today. Have you bought Clay Aiken's CD yet? No? WHY THE HELL NOT?

Sunday, November 21, 2004

For those of you who don't want to read about Clay Aiken's X'mas album, scroll down till you see the words "End of review" in bold type. Don't accuse me of not giving you fair warning, ahem.

Merry Christmas With Love -- Clay Aiken

THAT CD Shop outlets at Pacific Plaza and Great World City haven't even gotten their stocks yet, and I picked up a copy at... Sembawang Music. At a neighbourhood mall ( well, it's a rather large mall, heh heh ).

I just bought it this afternoon, but have already heard it from beginning to end at least 5-10 times. Get ready for a track-by-track! :)

O Holy Night -- From the first moment I heard his voice, I've waited patiently for him to sing this classic, preferably with a full orchestra and backup choir. With this version, I was far from disappointed! Kicking off the very traditional feel of this CD, Clay's vocals and inborn knack for making even the most beloved songs all his own breathe new life into this cover, with the trademark glory notes, emotional delivery, and perfect diction. Breath-taking!

Sleigh Ride -- Always a fun piece. Clay breezes through effortlessly, giving it a fresh yet romantic tinge. You can easily visualize his gorgeous smile as he sings this. Ahhh. :)

Silent Night -- Another familiar favourite, but goosebump-inducing nonetheless. Give it a listen and let the music speak for itself!

Medley: Hark The Herald Angels Sing / O Come All Ye Faithful -- Have I mentioned his fantastic pronunciation? :D This is a prime example of how Christmas carols SHOULD be arranged and sung. None of that edgy hip-hop / rock / pop-disco nonsense other artistes like experimenting with, yuck. Imagine this track "live". In a gigantic church hall. By the way, I love the piano accompaniment. Wonder how I can get my hands on the score.

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas -- Lovely lovely lovely. Enough said.

Mary, Did You Know -- First time I've ever even heard this piece, and what a privilege that it's a Clay Aiken version. :) Absolutely exquisite, with poignant lyrics and a haunting melody, and delivered flawlessly .
Mary, did you know that your baby boy would one day walk on water?
Mary, did you know that your baby boy would save our sons and daughters? ...
This child that you delivered would soon deliver you...
The blind will see, the deaf will hear
The lame will leap, the dumb will speak the praises of the land

A perfect TEN, this one. :)

Joy To The World -- Grand and uplifting.

The Christmas Song -- One of my very favourites, done by everyone from Nat King Cole to New Kids On The Block, 98 Degrees and Michael Buble. Clay sounds good as always, but I felt the tempo could've slowed down a tad to allow more room for his lush vibrato. But still, it's a nice transition to...

Don't Save It All For Christmas -- He first sang this Celine Dion-penned piece on last year's American Idols X'mas Special, knocking all our socks off with his powerful performance. Here, his lower register shines through ( and it's such a pleasure to listen to this through my headphones and on my car stereo -- full blast! :)), then gradually escalates to the higher octaves, before hitting The Glory Note. Bear in mind that he's fully capable of doing this "live", which is exactly what happened during the AI X'mas Special taping. This guy has the most amazing pair of lungs!

Merry X'mas With Love -- Sweet and wistful. Clay captures it all wonderfully.
Now a heart that for years had been silent
Was suddenly filled with the song...
Merry X'mas to all who may dwell here
May the joy of the season surround you
Merry X'mas with love.

Winter Wonderland -- Not one of my favourites, but hey, Clay can sing the phonebook and I'd still love it. :D

What Are You Doing New Year's Eve? -- A romantic ballad through and through. Ack, what're you doing to all your female fans?! :P
Maybe it's much too early in the game
Oh but I thought I'd ask you just the same
What're you doing New Year's Eve?
Wonder whose arms will hold you good and tight
When it's exactly twelve o'clock that night
Welcoming in the New Year's Eve?
Maybe I'm crazy to suppose
I'd ever be the one you chose
Out of the thousand invitations you'd receive
Oh, but in case I stand one little chance
Here comes the jackpot question in advance
What're you doing New Year's Eve?

This may be a Christmas CD, but the quality is far superior to that of his commercial album, Measure Of A Man, in terms of production and song choices. Some say it's because he had more time to work on this second offering. Or maybe the pieces are tried and tested, and you can't possibly go wrong there, right? Or perhaps Clay's sales success has given him more clout, and hence, more say in vital aspects. In any case, this is a must-have for anyone who'd like to add an excellent X'mas album to their collection. I'll be bringing this to Tasmania. Can already imagine plugging it into my CD player, then sitting back in the coach seat as the countryside or national park scenery rolls by. Only a month more, and I'll be outta here! :D

*End Of Review*

CD Overload

I'm going to leave the above review here for a while. Partly so it won't get lost 'cos I've asked a few other people to read it. Partly 'cos I need time to get through 6 other albums I bought in the past 2 days, heh heh. :) Couldn't resist -- Westlife's jazz compilation Allow Me To Be Frank ( preliminary assessment: FABULOUS ), Peter Cincotti's On The Moon ( this guy just gets better-looking with each CD cover :)), Jamie Cullum's special edition of Twentysomething ( with bonus tracks Everlasting Love from the Bridget Jones sequel, and Frontin', yow!!! ), the soundtrack to De-Lovely, Russell Watson's latest ( You Raise Me Up exceeds Josh Groban's ), and *pant pant* 1 Giant Leap ( which has been out of stock FOREVER, till I grabbed the one and only copy at Great World, hah! ).

A Good Day

Ever have one of those really exceptional ones? The last time I was this happy was last December, during a quiet afternoon spent at the edge of Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown, NZ.
But today... today I was in Singapore, and on a major high. :)
Started off with a gorgeous morning sky, then witnessing a Singapore workout session at a basketball court nearby ( blasting Cliff Richard, Elvis Presley and the song That Thing You Do! from the PA system ), then a moving sermon from renowned Armenian missionary Revd Samuel Doctorian, who reduced many to tears ( including myself ) despite a relatively simple story involving his need for a specific amount of funds to rebuild an orphanage in Beirut.
Following that, a trip to the gym ( endorphins overload, haha ), a delicious dinner spent with parents, a hilarious episode of Gilmore Girls ( Luke makes his move on Lorelai! Jesse's back and ready to rekindle with Rory! ), and major catch-up with friends at the Clay Aiken Singapore forum.
Oh yeah, Clay's birthday is 9 days away. Yes yes, re-minisce, I see your eyes rolling all the way to London. :D

In case you're wondering, Friday's call was HORRIBLE, but I've thankfully recovered from it, after 12 straight hours of snoring from 7pm Saturday to 7am this morning. I'll probably write about it on The Lingual Nerve at some point. But not tonight. Can't think straight after hearing Clay's album, heh heh.

Have a good week everyone.
[ freshman: still hunting for reliable info on that plastic surgery question you posed. ]

Friday, November 19, 2004

Boy Does It Sting

The past 3 days were extremely fun, thanks to a well-organized and fascinating HAZMAT course conducted by fellow A&E colleagues. 2 days of lectures ( and a test!? ), followed by Day 3 -- spent at a very ulu location in Western Singapore, involving training in spacesuit-wearing, time spent in a tear gas chamber, and sharing of "state secrets". :)

I dedicate this entry to the tear gas experience because... it HURTS. Don't know why I always had the opinion that it only stung a little, because this couldn't be further from the truth. We sat in the chamber in full PPE gear for about 5-10 minutes before our instructors asked us to take turns removing our masks before walking out of the room. The very moment you take the headgear off, you feel it: the pain, the HORRIBLE PAIN. And your eyes are on fire. You stumble out because the tears cloud your vision. Out in open space, the tears continue to flow unabated, and your face feels as if it was just dunked in a pail of chilli padi. 5 minutes later and you're still suffering. And the guys are faring even worse.

Earlier this year, I remember a Fear Factor episode where the contestants were placed in a similar chamber, but sans protective suits / masks. One guy lasted 5 minutes. I have newfound respect for this person! :)

As for the "state secrets" bit, let's just say some scenarios, no matter how far-fetched, really aren't so at all. I found it very amusing that our manual has the words "Not to be released to the press" printed on the front, heh heh.

Singapore Idol -- The Final Two

Sly made it, woohoo! But honestly speaking, even though I'm a fan, I firmly believe that Taufik deserves the title, and will do Singapore proud at World Idol. Sly has the X factor, but needs to hone his vocal skills a while longer. He sings Mandarin songs well, so maybe he should branch out in that direction.

When it comes down to crunch-time, I'm voting for Taufik. Sly, you've come as far as your fans could've hoped for, and will no doubt carve a successful career for yourself, but Taufik's appeal is a potentially global one. Who knows, perhaps he'll beat all the top dogs and do a Kurt Nilsen by winning the competition. Wouldn't THAT be something! :D


As usual, the local government could care less about what we think. Or they do care, but won't change their minds despite our protestations.

Polls indicate a 50-50 split on this issue, but Minister Vivian Balakrishnan practically scolded Singaporeans in his press statement, saying we should be ready to take responsibility for our actions and face the consequences, etc.

The morning this appeared in the papers, Class 95's Morning Express DJs had an animated discussion, and I was one of the listeners who called in. Basically, I told them my stand: I'm TOTALLY against the idea. Then, I mentioned how I've had close personal experiences with compulsive gamblers, who include highly-educated people who should -- technically -- "know better", but are unable to resist the temptation nonetheless. I told them how gambling not only destroys the person, but his/her family as well. Then The Flying Dutchman asked if Singaporeans are ready to take responsibility for their actions, to which I replied: Some of us are, but there will always be those who will give in, even if they know it's wrong.

And the potentially inflammatory comment I made? "If the government feels we're ready to take charge of our own financial situations, why don't we do away with the CPF?" DJ's response: Whoa...
They didn't comment further on this, however. Not that I'm surprised. :)
And I sound different on radio, hmm.

Busy Lah

On call, and have been running around the whole day. Very tired right now, but at least I had dinner with a fellow ENT MO, and watched the Singapore Idol results show. Just hope for an uneventful ward round tomorrow, then an early departure from the hospital.

The good news, though, is that I removed 2 fishbones from the base of tongue today. Have acquired a tongue-depressing skill which allows me to pick bones using only a Tilley's forceps through the mouth. Cool. :)

Another referral beckons, sigh. Don't tell me I'm going to take a shower at 3am AGAIN.

Monday, November 15, 2004


Yesterday was officially The Best Night Call I've Ever Had. Two A&E referrals around 9pm, then totally nothing thereafter. But I still woke up at 4am for no particular reason. Checked my pager just in case, then dozed till 7. Unbelievable. :)

I usually have really bad luck on-call. Must be my reg who cancelled that out, haha. Got another one with him this Friday. Let's see if the winning streak holds.

The Incredibles

*spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers*

On-the-spur-of-the-moment decision to go catch this after reading re-minisce's glowing review. GV Grand was all sold out, so I settled for the theatre near my home this time round. So bloody crowded. So many ^&%* kids. Somehow, GV Grand doesn't gnaw on my nerves as much.

Good seats notwithstanding -- final row aisle, unobstructed some more thanks to the funny staggered arrangement -- I found it lacking when compared to Finding Nemo, which remains my favourite "modern animated feature" to date. ( This is in contrast to older cartoons, No. 1 being Disney's Sleeping Beauty, No. 2 Cinderella, and No. 3 The Aristocats. Ask me to recite dialogue or sing a few songs and I can probably do so off the cuff. Not that I actually would, of course. :))

Maybe I went into this with too many expectations. Or maybe Finding Nemo is simply the better movie. Or perhaps -- and this may be the clincher -- I don't like humans as much as I do fish / turtles / seagulls / other assorted sea and land creatures.

But there were a few memorable moments. The harrowing plane crash over the ocean; Dash's dramatic escape from pursuers through dense jungle and across a wide vista of water and rock formations; Elastigirl's Mission: Impossible-esque confrontation with enemy guards as she neutralized each man with a separate limb while sandwiched between at least 3 different doors ( if that makes any sense to you ).

The best one, though, involves baby Jack-Jack, whose superpowers are unveiled in the last 5 minutes of the film, and is an absolute riot! Alternating between demonic fire-child, a red-faced devil with horns and, at one point, a vibrating human drill, it had the whole audience in stitches.

However, in terms of humour, I'd give Finding Nemo the ultimate thumbs-up. I laughed a lot harder at that one. But then, that's just me.

Next up, the Bridget Jones sequel. :)

The American Music Awards 2004

Missed the first hour while at the gym, aargh!

Terrific line-up, as usual. And with some wonderful collaborations in true AMA tradition -- remember Alejandro Sanz and Destiny's Child a few years back? Yowzah :)

This year, there was John Mayer -- mesmerizing; Alicia Keys -- gorgeous and edgier than usual; Josh Groban -- so handsome and intense ( and playing the piano, yes! ); Gretchen Wilson -- a relative newcomer who ROCKED with Redneck Woman ( take that, Shania ); and Bon Jovi -- sounding a little off, but scoring high with their overall energy.

Duets: Alicia Keys and Usher ( delish ); Snoop Dogg and Pharrell ( minimalist but very effective ); Rod Stewart with Dave Koz ( can't tahan the former, but love the latter -- too bad he's gay ); and the biggest surprise of the night: Jamie Foxx doing a Sexy Jazz / Soul Man routine. Some of these Hollywood actors are so gifted musically, the acting bit seems a bit of a waste. Kevin Spacey and Kevin Kline have beautiful voices ( and Kline plays the ivories ); Alfred Molina ( Doc Ock in Spiderman 2 ), Jonathan Pryce ( the villain in that Bond film with Michelle Yeoh in it ?title ), Victor Garber ( Jack Bristow in Alias ) and Hugh Jackman ( who can miss Hugh Jackman :D) are Broadway veterans; then there's Glenn Close ( Sunset Boulevard ) and even Antonio Banderas ( not too bad a voice, dances VERY well ). And though I don't like her much, I will admit that Catherine Zeta-Jones is an accomplished performer.

Clay Aiken also made an appearance with Kathy Griffith to present an award. Wearing black-rimmed glasses and looking a little sleep-deprived, he still got Griffith all hot and heavy under her wedding dress ( I kid you not ), and eventually pacified her with a mock proposal.
( Earlier in the evening, the AMA host ( Jimmy Fallon is it? ) also took some liberties with poor Clay, joking that Anna Nicole Smith has stolen his virginity. By force. I thought it was quite funny, but my mom said it's in poor taste. Wah, quite protective eh. :))

Fantasia Barrino sang her new song, which sounded awful. She totally overdid it, blech.

Will be away from the wards for 3 days starting tomorrow. HAZMAT course. Promises to be loads of fun.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

This Is The Life -- Not.

Yeesh, it's been the longest 12 hours ever .

Am on call today. Rounds began at 8am. Took rather long despite the short list -- 13 patients, I believe -- but by 10:30am, everything was done, my reg ( who, in conformity with the department's culture, doesn't stay in-hospital for calls ) bade me farewell and "good luck for the both of us haha", and I've been wandering aimlessly ever since.

Lunch, followed by a couple of hours reading in my room, followed by a trip to the ER to meet up with a good friend ( who just turned reg ) and catch up with a few consultants and nurses, help see patients, take blood, set plugs ( yes, I was that bored :)), then back to the ward for a venepuncture ( 4-year-old kid who needed vanco levels and a plug!!! ), dinner with A&E friends, back upstairs for the peak vanco withdrawal, then at present, since I can't figure out what to do next, a blog entry.

You wish you were in my shoes, you say? How can I complain when I'm earning good money for doing nothing? I suppose this is precisely why I chose to do emergency medicine, with its unearthly working hours ( 5-day work weeks don't apply to us, the only "dang it" in my book ), insanely busy shifts ( especially in this particular institution ), call requirements up to senior consultant level, and low remuneration. ( And funnily enough, the number of traineeship applicants continues to increase with each passing year. )

Suffering comes in many forms. Being idle is one of them. :/ ( This is why my parents always scold me for dragging a book along wherever we go. 5-minute wait for a meal, and I whip out a thick novel, reading maybe 2 pages before I have to put it away again, but feeling pretty darn good about it. :D)

How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days

This was on HBO last night. Have seen it before, but the perfect pairing of Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey is something I just can't pass up. Like Ashley Judd and Hugh Jackman in Someone Like You. Great stuff.

But seriously though, it raises an interesting question. How does one lose a guy anyhow? Too clingy, too distant, too dependent, too independent -- you think women are complicated? Men sometimes ask too much of us as well -- although a certain Mr. Wong Hoong Hooi ( aka Singapore's -- or more accurately, The Straits Times Forum Page's -- resident misogynistic anti-feminist-movement chauvinist ) will heatedly disagree. If Mel Gibson's film poses the "What Women Want" dilemma, then I wonder: what do men want? Really?

Never mind that. Sometimes the answer is obvious. The dangerous part is when the man changes his expectations somewhere along the way. You start out in a relationship and slowly enter a "comfort zone". Then one day, the whole arrangement falls apart. He wants somebody who's the total opposite of yourself. He wanted to tell you so many times, but couldn't bring himself to do so, so instead he bought you an engagement ring and told your parents you were going to pick a wedding day, and took you house-hunting... How very interesting.

How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days doesn't address the above issue, of course. It's one of those whimsical romantic comedies with silly storylines and ditzy scenes. The wardrobe is 90% blue-with-black-stripes, the acting occasionally forced, the script a little ludicrous at times. But McConaughey has never looked better ( even better than in EdTV, A Time To Kill and The Wedding Planner ). And I just love that Southern accent.

Something to add to the "What Women Want" list perhaps? ;)

Sex And The City -- Aleksandr Petrovsky

I once said this series is worth following only because of its male characters, and I stand by that statement 100%. :D

Mikhail Baryshnikov. Need I say more?

Well actually, I want to say more, haha! I don't read reviews for plot giveaways, so when he suddenly popped up 2 episodes ago, I was over the moon. He's short, no doubt, but ages beautifully. Late 50s, but with a full head of blond hair, a lean physique, that delicious Russian twang, and an eye-popping scene where he bounded after a taxi for about a hundred metres, leaping over a stack of trash cans in the process. ( He's a famous ballet dancer -- along the lines of the late Rudolph Nureyev -- which explains this deliberately staged sequence. )

How many episodes will he stay for? Maybe Xena can tell me, heh heh. :)

Singapore Idol - The Final 3

So far, my gut instinct has been correct. Sylvester Sim has "something", as the judges so succinctly put it. And now, he's made it to the top 3. To be frank, I agree he isn't the best singer when compared to Taufik and Olinda. But personality draws the crowds, and this applies even to Clay Aiken.

You can win the title like Ruben Studdard and Kelly Clarkson did, but still fail to topple Clay's triple-platinum record sales. Think Fantasia Barrino is also faltering. If Sly plays his cards right, he may walk away from this the biggest winner even if he isn't crowned the Singapore Idol. I know I'll pick up his album if he releases one. Quite a feat, considering the fact that I've never once taken an interest in anyone who looks remotely like him. Weird, ain't it? :)

*looks at watch*
Hmm, think Charlie's Angels is on. Okay then, time to go to the staff lounge for a bit. Only 12 more hours to go. Sigh...

Friday, November 12, 2004

I am exhausted.

Read this to find out why.

A fellow ENT MO told me that earlier today, he'd developed "a bad feeling". It turned out to be "the right feeling".

Fresh Blood

We have a new member to The Lingual Nerve, ie. Maria, who runs a terrifically written blog (her 8 Nov entry is fantastic ).

Still working on the "guest writer" feature. Hopefully that'll be up and running soon, 'cos we've got an exciting line-up. :)

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Living Up To Re-minisce's Description Of Me On His Blog -- Yet Again :)

--> xncmksdlwpalqkwmdmcfnvkfkgollljosoidhjnf

O Holy Night was MADE for his gorgeous voice. :)

James Galway's Concert Nov 9 At The Esplanade

A legend if there ever was one. I watched this gentleman play his flute on television even before I started primary school. Memory's a little fuzzy, but didn't he toot the Pink Panther theme or the Baby Elephant Walk at some point?

Anyway, seeing him "live" on Tuesday night was... surreal . Like seeing Michael Jackson, Barry Manilow, Cliff Richard and The Chieftains -- all successful musical artistes with huge followings, and more than 30 years ( each ) in this tough business.

As you know, I'm not a connoiseur of classical music. So yes, I can't recall much of what I heard -- pieces unfamiliar to me, but wonderfully played by the Munich Chamber Orchestra. The opening number -- an Elgar composition -- was especially moving. The closing -- Serenade For Strings by Tchaikovsky -- was exquisite.

I realized halfway through the concert that having only string sections can be quite an advantage. For me at least, I prefer the purity of tone, without the noise ( ie. all those bass and percussion instruments ). A friend told me our local Tang Quartet is pretty decent. Maybe I'll give them a try one day. New hobby. :)

When Sir James Galway stepped onto the stage, I literally got goose pimples. Clad in a golden waistcoat with elaborate embroidery, and an outer long coat ( which looked a little like a robe, haha ) coloured a deep wine red with intricate patterns, he beamed and waved at the audience before conducting the orchestra for their first piece. Then, it was his turn to shine as he performed two Mozart works, then a Cimarosa duet ( with his wife Jeanne -- a very regal blonde ).

Galway, despite his 65 years of age, has remained sprightly and energetic, treating us to his signature style of acrobatics combined with effortless emotive skills. Completely at ease on the concert stage, he even broke tradition by bantering with the audience a few times, cracking subtle jokes in his Irish accent.

Highlights: his stunt with a Chinese flute thingy, the encores ( which included an Irish jig and rendition of Danny Boy ) and -- my absolute favourite -- another duet with his wife, none other than the Turkish March from Mozart's famous Sonata In A ( aka my Grade 8 piano examination piece -- man, lots of late nights practising that one! :)). Everyone around me began to hum the melody on cue, and did the same for Danny Boy later. The lady to my right even knew the entire Tchaikovsky Serenade by heart. Whoa. :)

The autograph session took almost an hour, but Sir James was accomodating till the very end, giving each of us a jolly greeting, then bestowing meticulous signatures, followed by the chuckle "Step inside the studio" whenever someone brandished a camera ( the "studio" being the space behind him and his wife, that is :)). Lady Jeanne was equally lovely and friendly to a fault. Wonderful couple.

Not sure if the Galways will ever perform here again, considering their age. The reception was warm, but for some reason, only a handful of concertgoers obliged with standing ovations. Still, I'm very glad I got to see him in person. It was an unforgettable experience!

Check these out:

Greatest Hits album -- sample of the Pink Panther theme available ( scroll down )

Complete Discography

Return of the King soundtrack -- in particular, tracks 15, 17 and 18

Singapore Idol -- The Final 4 -- awaits. Good luck, Sylvester!

Monday, November 08, 2004

Trying to hotwire my brain back to a normal sleep cycle -- and failing miserably.
Blame it on 18 straight months of shift work.
But to be honest, I really enjoy irregular hours. Lounging in bed when everyone else has to rush to the hospital, strolling around town or having a nice cuppa on a weekday when the shops are quiet and the service outstanding :). Watching a movie in the morning then off to work with a skip in my step. Or a relaxing swim, perhaps a stop at the gym, which keeps me well-energized for the next 8 hours.

Now that it's the usual 8-5 routine, I can tell you with 100% confidence that I am definitely NOT a morning person. Waking up before 8am EVERY SINGLE DAY makes me extremely grouchy. I half-doze through my breakfast, then fight through the inevitable traffic jam on the highway, yuck. Teaching rounds tend to begin at 7:30am, which is a bit of a torture when you're an insomniac who can nod off only after midnight most of the time. I emphasize yet again that the people I work with are absolutely wonderful. BUT no matter what, I can't stand clinics, ward rounds and calls that exceed 12 hours. Sorry.

Oh yeah, that and having to see the same FON patients on a daily basis, as opposed to different FON people whom you can dispose of in various ways in the ER.

11:30pm, and I'm wide awake. Have my trusty David Eddings tome at the bedside -- am re-reading The Diamond Throne to relive some of my best memories from pre-med school days, ahhhh :) Just watched "Road To Fame", a terrific showcase of Hollywood stars pre-celebrity status. Keanu Reeves looking adorable in a cornflakes commercial, John Cusack intense even as a teenager during an audition, Tom Cruise and Heather Locklear trying out for the same play ( she definitely has had plastic surgery ), Kelsey Grammar and Bill Murray with hair (!!!), Drew Carey when he was thin ( double !!! ), Jerry Seinfeld and Jim Carrey doing stand-up in tiny clubs, etc. How far they've all come.

Had an interesting breakfast with a surgical professor this morning. We MOs were asked to "air our grievances", and when it came to my turn, I naturally brought up the issue of how the A&E doctors are required to refer even the most obvious appendicitis cases to the general surgeons for approval prior to admission. On good days, the process is speedily carried out and the patient sent up to the ward pronto, and the appropriate treatment given. Worst case scenario -- which has happened before -- the case is cooked for 2 hours, reviewed only when the surgeon finally gets out of the OT, then the patient waits another 2 hours before a bed is obtained. Seems a nasty complaint letter came out of just one such situation, and for what, I ask? Sheesh, just get one of the senior ER physicians to vet the admissions lah. Imagine a surgical registrar second-guessing an A&E consultant. It's just plain wrong.

Anyway, back to the issue I brought up. The professor -- who has a reputation for being, err, abrasive, but whom I actually like ( and even referred my father to for an operation 3 years ago ) -- gave a vague answer along the lines of "the A&E side needs to work closer with the surgical side", and that was the end of that discussion. Oh well...

The light at the end of the tunnel :)
X'mas in Tasmania is confirmed, yeeha! Hobart and Launceston, Cradle Mountain, Port Arthur, Tamar Valley, Cataract Gorge and Richmond, here we come!

Ahh :)

Aaahhhhh :)

Double Aaaaahhhh :)

Now I'm even more wide awake. Shouldn't have blogged at this late hour. Especially about Tasmania :D
Time for some David Eddings...

Friday, November 05, 2004


Reason #1: President Bush has won a second term. No comment.

Reason #2: My first ENT call is turning into quite the fiasco, because (1) I'm in my 4th day of the rotation, (2) I have NEVER removed a fish bone from anyone's throat on my own before ( and therefore need pratice in order to become successful in the future ), (3) I had, as a nice "induction experience", for my very first A&E FB throat referral, a lady who had a 2.5cm metal wire lodged at the base of her tongue, thanks to a meal at a reputable 5-star hotel. She had minimal gag reflexes, but unfortunately enlarged lingual tonsils, which partially obscured the view, hence requiring the summoning of my registrar, who later used a bronchoscope and stylet to fish it out.

Wait, there're more.

(4) 5 "??FB throats" followed in quick succession thereafter, but these had normal Xrays and negative scopes. Still, the whole group kept me occupied for a good amount of time.

Now, the whammy.

(5)At around 10pm, a man in his 60s was referred to me for -- you guessed it -- ?swallowed fishbone. Lateral neck Xray was positive for an FB base of tongue, confirmed on flexiscope. Problem is, he's got a major gag reflex, precipitated even by nasoendoscopy ( which seldom causes such problems ). So I couldn't attempt removing the bone -- because I couldn't even keep him relaxed enough to stick anything down the back of his throat to grab the **** thing. 45 minutes of coaxing and manoeuvring passed, and I contemplated calling my poor registrar yet again.
Luckily, a visiting consultant rang at that very moment to tell me he was coming down to the A&E to personally attend to a friend with an ENT problem. We spent about 30-45 minutes settling everything, then I asked if he would help with this particularly difficult patient.
The VC, who is unbelievably obliging, immediately agreed. But alas, the Insurmountable Gag held strong, and he too failed, recommending removal under GA.
So right now, at 1:30am, during my very first ENT call, I'm waiting for my registrar to come over ( again ) to give it ONE LAST SHOT, before conceding defeat and resorting to wheeling the guy into OT. I can't believe a 1cm piece of fish bone can be such a pain in the ***. And the patient just told me he's never going to eat fish EVER again for the rest of his life. You and me both, pal. :/

Reason #3: Grand ward round 7:30am. Aargh.

Reason #4: Urgh's persistent whining. Hello, stop reading if you can't handle your emotions lah.

However, there's a silver lining to this dark cloud. I go post-call tomorrow at lunchtime, then it's 2 full days off, HAH! :) Will be spending it... doing a powerpoint presentation for the A&E basic trainee tutorial next Friday. But I don't have to show up at work the whole weekend, which is GREAT. :D

Another silver lining: the A&E's ENT room has Internet access. Broadband some more. :D

And last but not least, I've got tickets to Sting's January concert at the Indoor Stadium. Woohoo!

Can't think straight anymore. Wish me luck for the rest of tonight. Or should I say, this morning.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

A New Chapter

After 18 months straight of ER postings, I'm back in the wards, and in a surgical subspecialty, no less.

ENT, to be exact. I had major reservations initially, to be honest. 6 months of General Surgery in 2001-02 was fun, but left me exhausted ( though well-fed, haha ). 3 months of orthopaedics in mid-2002 was action-packed, but I always felt like an intruder, and a lot of the terminology ( I spent my fair share of time in the theatre assisting in loooong spinal ops and the like ) often sailed right over my haze-filled head.

But I still considered those relatively "mainstream" postings. This, however, departed quite a fair bit from that area. Didn't I spend only 3 weeks of my 5 years as a medical student in this department way back when? At least ortho lasted a minimum of 2 months, with an additional short revision posting in final year. Hmm.

Day 2 of the new rotation... and things are looking pretty good. :)

7 MOs, most of whom are surgical trainees ( with one who's passed his Part 2, and another Clinical Associate ). An average of 30 patients at any given period. A 20-strong department comprising all guys ( except myself, imagine that! ). And best of all, extremely nice colleagues at every level.

Yesterday was filled with hospital orientation activities -- the usual sleep-inducing lectures. Today, we eased into part of the usual routine, beginning with a speedy ward / teaching round, followed by changes ( with 5 of us handling bits here and there ), a tea break, a trip to the ER to familiarize ourselves with the equipment, lunch, a clinic visit for a quick rundown of commonly encountered ENT emergencies, more ward work, then home. MO clinics were blocked for our benefit, but this will restart tomorrow, and is always busy, so that'll be a challenge. My first call will take place sometime later this week -- hope it won't be too horrible.

But I guess the greatest relief arises from the fact that I'm officially "the supernumerary MO", which also makes me "the floater", so that I do rounds with the whole group in the morning, then am essentially left to my own devices, being rostered in clinic but also free to hang out elsewhere at my own discretion. AND NO OT TIME!!! Sorry, nothing personal, but I just CAN'T stand in one spot for hours on end, fixed in some uncomfortable position, in a freezing environment, unable to go to the toilet when I desperately need to. Unless I'm on holiday, enjoying a nice winter view. :)

Also, we were informed the department has alternate weekends off. FULL WEEKENDS, including Saturdays ( unless you're the on-call team ). I can't believe it! My first entire weekend free in 18 months! Okay, don't regret choosing A&E, don't regret choosing A&E, don't regret choosing A&E... :D

Another unexpected turn of events: a highly possible first Christmas spent overseas. I initially projected leave for end-January, but a rotation to the Eye Centre during that month prompted my A&E HOD to request that I bring it forward by 30 days. No problemo. I'd be more than happy to get out of this country during the festive season -- I never venture out anyway; mobs grate on my nerves. Especially Singaporean mobs.

Choice of destination? Limited, since I fare badly in cold climates ( HMDP anxiety, aargh ). NZ is out 'cos I went there in 2003, and not many other places can rival its beauty and offer warm temperatures at this time. Was considering the Maldives, but everything's water-related over there -- not an issue for me, but my parents aren't swimming enthusiasts, so I'm obliged to entertain their tastes to some degree.

Right now, Tasmania is a very very strong contender. Missed out on it in 2001 when I visited Melbourne -- holiday was unexpectedly cut short by my then-HOD, who almost drove me out of my mind with his last-minute demands. So now, I just hope I can get a flight yeesh. Hobart Festivals, the Royal Botanical Gardens, Mt. Wellington, the Tasman National Park... my mouth's watering something fierce! :)

In Other News

The US Presidential Elections has begun. My bet is on Kerry-Edwards. Wasn't wrong with Clinton-Gore in 1992. Let's see if I'm right again this time.

Some guy just won a $90,000 Subaru vehicle from Mediacorp, after standing in the sun and rain for 75 hours straight. Without sleep. And only three 5-minute breaks per 24 hours. Eh, someone please offer him some big bucks to join the medical profession. Where he belongs, haha. :P


freshman: I haven't forgotten your earlier question about plastics. Now that I'm better placed with regards to access to surgeons, I'll try to get round to answering your queries.

ann & huh: The giddy-schoolgirl bit comes out only on the blog. Kinda like an alter-ego thing. In person, people tell me I'm "quiet", "reserved", even "mousey". And even more so now that I'm surrounded by a big bunch of high-powered surgeons and surgeons-to-be. My writing's always been thus. Just that not many people knew about this site till the SARS epidemic raised its profile somewhat. It's my outlet. Always has been, always will be. :)

urgh: heh heh :)

Friday, October 29, 2004

Sylvester Sim is through to the next round :)

Enough about that then. Change of subject haha. :P

O Captain, My Captain

A fond farewell to a certain surgeon who just left for HMDP. A wonderful mentor during my surgical attachment 3 years ago, he taught me well and always had such confidence in my abilities ( even though I felt I didn't deserve that kind of trust sometimes, haha :)). This guy pushed me into my first solo appendicectomy, let me suture the omentum ( even when I told him it was okay for me to "just serve as a retractor-holder, really" ), and once even ordered me to stay on the staff office's sofa and "REST!" while he went into the OT to remove an appendix when it was actually my job to do so ( I was post-call that day, and not feeling too well, I recall ).

He was also a close confidante and a good, good friend. Well-known and well-loved by all who've had the privilege of working with him, life will not be the same without his dry humour, immense generosity and calming presence ( "Don't worry, RELAX. Get 2 chest tubes ready. Call the blood bank for 4 pints stat. Prep the OT. DON'T PANIC." ) Really cool dude. :)

And of course, he's the inspiration for my blog title. When I first decided to start this site, I dedicated its website address to Kevin Spacey ( hence "spacefan" without the "Y" ), and decided on the title without hesitation, thanks to this surgeon's almost-daily intonation of " ** ( my initials -- he never called me by my full name ), IT'S A ZOO I TELL YOU!" ( usually reserved for bad calls, ward rounds or operating lists ).

Have a good year abroad, stay safe and healthy, and most importantly, have lots of fun ( not a problem, I'm sure )!

Hack, Cough

I've been hit by a kid-bug yet again. The flu this time, and it's making its rounds within the MO population. One guy just recovered, then I got it, followed by another female doctor. 2 straight days of oversleeping, honeyed brews and comic-reading later ( was too concussed to absorb actual novels ), I'm feeling better, thank goodness. Changing hospitals come Monday, and not a moment too soon. I'm fully convinced that being in KKH ( or within a 100-metre radius ) will render you susceptible to the invisible germ-infested sphere surrounding the building. Bet the police officers in the adjacent station would testify to that.

Anyway, the next batch of MOs is extremely shorthanded, which doesn't exactly bode well for waiting times and night shifts. Don't ask me how this manpower problem came about. I gave up on deciphering such mysteries a long time ago. But apparently, The People Upstairs aren't very sympathetic towards my current boss's predicament. "Long waiting times aren't a by-product of fewer doctors, but of inefficiency." Huh??? Not too long ago, I was on morning shift with 2 fellow MOs. The 3 of us are consistently the top 3 scorers in the department in terms of patient loads, with a peak rate of 5 minutes / patient for uncomplicated cases, which works out to 12 patients / hour, give or take a few. So we were seeing at an overall rate of, let's say, 25-30 cases / hour, together with a senior doctor ( whose rate I can't estimate ), and the queue was STILL raging full-steam at a constant backlog of approximately 10 waiting. Everytime we cleared a handful, another crop would show up. And for total nonsense, like "cough, flu", "fever for 1 day", "fell 1 week ago, requests skull Xray" and the like. And these people aren't that easily disposed of either. The parents ask a thousand questions about even the simplest of conditions.

"The symptoms will last about 3-4 days," you recite like a spinal reflex for the &*^%$ umpteenth time.
*incredulous look* "Oh IS IT? You mean, he won't recover by THIS AFTERNOON???"
*resist strong urge to slap said parent*

Yes, best not to put me in the paeds ER. Not too good to have a violence-prone doctor seeing you. :)

Laying Off

Believe it or not, I've completely stopped watching...

Survivor: Vanuatu -- because all the hunky men got voted off. Boo.

The Bachelorette 2 -- because it's getting lame lah.

All those cable TV series, like The Grid, Carnivale, etc. -- gimme Angels In America! And that other one with Alan Rickman in it!

In-theatre movies, even the ones I'm really keen on -- nothing personal, "Sherman". I just can't find the time or energy anymore. And fighting weekend crowds makes me nauseous. DVDs rock. :D

Life Of Pi by Yann Martel

Didn't have time to talk about this till now. Finished it earlier this week, and found it very enjoyable, probably because:

1) I'm an animal-lover
2) I love Martel's writing style
3) it's one of those rare works of fiction that enthralls till the very end, and provides a highly satisfying conclusion

Vividly detailed yet never dull. Encompasses all 5 senses yet seldom overloads. At turns horrific and endearing, hilarious and depressing, always mesmerizing. It's been a long while since I last came across a novel this delicious -- think the last one was Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil in, let's see, 1998. Fantastic.

Right. Another day beckons. Think I shall go watch bits of Troy again. ( DVD costs only $29.90 ) Adonises in togas. Yum. :)

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Guess Who I met just before dinner at a nearby coffee shop today? :D :D :D

It happened so suddenly I'm still having some trouble letting it sink in. :)

The usual post-call blur, coupled with an urgent hunger, often leaves me oblivious to my surroundings. But running an errand at the mall this evening turned out to be a fortuitous event!

Had just dropped off some laundry, and was tapping my feet while waiting my turn at the SAM machine, when lo and behold, I spotted a guy who looked very familiar. Man, he's a dead ringer for Sylvester Sim! But I could be hallucinating.

Dressed in ordinary denim jacket and jeans, the only thing that really stuck out in the crowd milling around us was -- you guessed it -- his hair. :) Even though he recently dyed it back to a more, err, natural shade, the shaggy do set him apart immediately. With his lack of distinguishing facial features, however, I found myself eyeing him at length for a few minutes before confirmation occurred.

An SUV carrying a group of young adults came to a halt at the traffic light just beside him. A window rolled down, revealing a grinning female. She said something, and Sly took a few steps toward the vehicle. Words were exchanged, he waved in recognition, then the car zoomed off.

I couldn't believe what I'd just witnessed. Or who I was looking at. Aaaaaaaaaaaa!

I poked my mom so hard she thought I'd just seen my ex ( heh heh ).
"What?!" she protested.
"Look!" I gesticulated wildly, almost whacking a passerby in the face. "That's Sylvester! Sylvester from Singapore Idol!"
"Are you sure? What makes you think that?"
"Some fans just stopped to talk to him, and he acknowledged them! It's the same hairstyle! It's him!" I was losing it. :P

"I HAVE to go and say hello," I stated matter-of-factly, and before any hesitation could get the better of me, I strode across the 10 metres separating us, and came face to face with my favourite Singapore Idol finalist.

He was staring straight ahead. Waiting for a friend probably.
"Excuse me," I began. His head swivelled in my direction. "Are you Sylvester?"
The smile appeared instantaneously and easily. Friendly. Perhaps a little shy as well.
"Yes, I am."
I started to ramble. "Hi! My mom and I are huge fans of yours!" ( point at my mother who's still next to the SAM machine ) "We've been voting for you since the beginning, and hope you'll win the competition!" Blah blah blah, I forget the rest of it.

Somewhere after the 1st sentence, he stuck his hand out and I took it. His grip was firm, his palm dry and cool. Direct eye contact, and genuine gratitude in his gaze. A man of few words, he kept saying "Thank you" over and over again, before I bade him farewell and returned to my earlier task. A quick recap for my mom, then I practically shoved her over. Ever the good sport, she gamely introduced herself, then spent the next few minutes conversing with him. What song are you singing next week? Do you live around here? We predict you, Olinda and Taufik will be in the top 3, etc. Answers to the above: Big Band theme( song title not known yet ). No I don't live in the neighbourhood, but am here to meet some friends. Thank you so much for your support. I'll do my best not to disappoint you.

Another handshake, my mother back at my side, then he's gone.

It was a case of unbelievable timing, and amazing odds. Who would've ever thought I'd meet this guy here? Today? And aargh! I was dressed like a slob, I didn't comb my hair before leaving the house, had no makeup and wore glasses! Plus, I probably had a whole colony of dark rings around my eyes, ack.

No regrets though. It was a terrific experience, and I'll never walk past that particular spot and look at it the same way ever again. :D

Darn it, now I can't sleep.
It's Official

5am. Last night shift of the rotation -- thankfully -- and I realize: after 5 years of back-breaking postings, I've found one I actually HATE.

With a vengeance.

Not because of the people I work with, of course. They're a great bunch. No, this takes the whole crappy cake because I've finally reached breaking-point, and at just the right moment too. Don't think I would've been able to handle another night after this proverbial straw that broke the camel's back.

Surprisingly, counter to my previous runs of bad luck -- my last night shifts in any department are infamously BAD -- I was greeted with small queue numbers, and a slow trickle of patients starting at precisely 1am. And the kids ( and parents ) I've seen so far were pretty nice as well.

Things came to a head about 30 min ago, when -- after the initial consultation with anxious parents of a crying 6-weeker with no abnormal physical findings and a normal urine test -- I strongly recommended admission to evaluate the infant's recurrent bouts of crying. ( Better safe than sorry is our motto. Especially when anyone less than 3 months of age is involved. )

But noooo. Let us try to feed her first, doctor, then we'll let you know. Unbeknownst to me, they went to the triage nurse to recheck the baby's temperature, which turned out to be somewhere around 38 degrees Celsius ( it was 37.7 on arrival at the ER, and 37.5 at home ). Before I could screw my head on the right way -- I was really exhausted, due to some disrupted sleep earlier in the day -- the mom and dad stormed back into my room, lambasted me for failing to pick up the fever ( despite my earlier advice to ADMIT THE KID ALREADY ), then demanded to speak to the consultant. Fine. We paged her, and I left for my locker to glug down half a litre of water at one shot. Watch for the complaint letter.

Looking back, ever since housemanship, I've been through quite a bit of hell. Paeds, general surgery and internal med as an intern, followed by gastro, haemato-onco, cardio, ortho, 2 adult ERs, another cycle of surg and int med, before landing in the children's ER. Despite all the suffering -- long hours, high stress levels, at least 2 episodes of burnout, HO/MO duties -- I've never actually detested any of my rotations. I may not have been the happiest in some of them ( for various reasons ), but I definitely never sank this low in terms of morale.

It's the screaming, isn't it? I keep asking myself. All those sick babies bawling their eyes out, and the older ones putting up gargantuan fights over something as simple as a b****y throat exam %^&*^%$. Or maybe it's the parents, and only the parents. Anxious yet defiant. See my child first! But don't admit him! Hello, is anyone home?!?!

Oh I know. Let me put my finger on it right now: it's the past-midnight consults. That has GOT to be the clincher. I did 3 nights in 7 days last week, and 2 this week. Phenomenally bad. No rest. One fever after another. Countless lengthy explanations. And worse, the need to constantly speak in a high-pitched, soothing tone to both patient and family, even if I can't stand their antics.

*kid kicks me in the chest* "Oh that's okay. Just hold him tighter, mummy, all right? Good!" *force a smile even though I'm SO tempted to tie someone's arms to the bed*

Or tonight's prime example:

*kid sticks a styrofoam piece of his toy airplane up his nose, then screams the hospital down even before I put the forceps inside to retrieve it*
"Don't cry lah. I haven't even put anything inside yet! See? I'm still holding it! Why don't you look up at the ceiling? Oh, what's THAT? A dolphin? Or over there! Aren't those stars?"
At 2am in the morning, this sort of thing grates on my nerves. I try to understand the child's perspective, and granted, his parents are very nice people. But honestly, I can't take any more of this...

I was never built for paediatrics. And never will be.

Wow. I actually miss seeing adult patients. Even the NS boys. Major reality check, haha. :)

Since I'm on the topic of worst posting, let me provide the answer to the Best Rotation question. It's a bit of a tie between General Surgery and Orthopaedics, even though I've never been inclined towards either as long-term options. Rather, I enjoyed these because they were the best among my ward postings, with short morning rounds, speedy clinics, high patient satisfaction, and protected post-calls. The welfare and camaraderie provided are well-known, so I don't have to mention something that obvious, I hope. :D
Plus, I got my first A grading in ortho. A huge surprise, and very much appreciated till this day. :)

Just 30 minutes more before my break ends, then it's back into the fray. Only 2 1/2 hours to go before I say bye-bye to nights in the paeds ER. Shall celebrate with some sinful feasting later today. :P


Friday, October 22, 2004

Marathon (Wo)Man

Suspect I'm stretching myself a little thin. But surprisingly, I haven't felt this invigorated in... well... I guess eons.

With the recent whirlwind of activity -- both social and work-related -- the accompanying exhaustion has been somewhat tempered by a constant flow of relative highs; the frowns eased by enjoyable evenings spent with a variety of fascinating people, the prospect of hitting my 3rd decade of life tinted an almost rosy pink by a few "calculated risks".

I cannot say this enough: aside from family, good friends are essential ingredients to a happy life. Catching up with an RGS classmate who still calls you by that almost-forgotten nickname; a hurried yet intimate meal with my oldest pal; emails and SMSs from various sources, filled with good wishes and the occasional cheeky sarcasm; last night's highly enjoyable dinner with 3 fellow ER physicians whom I deeply admire and respect... is it some freak coincidence it's all happened within the last 3 weeks?!

Then, there are The Other Fascinating Characters. One, a roguish fellow who's almost done it all, and whose penetrating stare often prompts me to avert my eyes in case he somehow manages to extract some deep secret from within the very depths of my soul. The second, a colourful personality with numerous God-given talents and an enigmatic discrepancy between his behaviour towards me at work and outside of it. The third, the quietest among the three, and also the most unfathomable: someone who bares his heart to strangers, yet keeps choice portions of his life story hidden to those he knows.

Time spent with two of the three followed -- at least from my limited experience -- conventional practice. Discovering similarities first, followed by differences. After all, isn't it always the former that draws you to say yes to the invitation, and the latter that makes you keep saying yes thereafter?

The last, however, is the complete opposite. Differences first, similarities later. Refreshing in a way, but occasionally a little too obvious for my liking -- especially since the former seem to vastly outnumber the latter.

Still, at this point in time at least, it is this very last character who holds my interest most effortlessly, and whose mind and heart I would very much like to explore in greater detail ( that is, if he doesn't coil up like a startled hedgehog first ). In my younger days, when push came to shove, I stepped up to the task with great fervour. A lot of good that did me, heh heh. :) Well, not anymore. If the past 10-15 years have taught me anything, it is the lesson of Patience, and the simple virtue of Waiting. If it happens, it happens. If not, I have no doubt he'll make some lucky woman out there very, very happy.

Or maybe I'm just getting old. :)

Have found a new jazz singer to gush over. He's featured on a swing compilation album I bought yesterday, and sounds like a cross between Peter Cincotti and Michael Buble. The song "Miracle" almost did me in. If you want to see me reduced to a stuttering idiot, try playing it in my presence. :D

Enough emoting for one day. Time to nap in preparation for my night shift -- the last of the posting, YES! No more 3am fevers and crazy parents!

Monday, October 18, 2004

I just had The Worst Night Shift Ever ( at least for this current rotation ).

After two 4-hour-long naps, I'm still reeling from the after-effects of 9 hours of continuous talking, thinking and ( worst of all ) pacifying. Singaporean parents have a nasty habit of showing up at the ER past midnight for even the most insignificant complaints. But nothing beats the mindset that accompanes this insanity -- pure paranoid psychosis. For the LAST TIME, 37 degrees Celsius isn't a d*** fever! 38 degrees WILL NOT harm your kid! IT'S A B****Y COLD, D****T! ( Am refraining from my usually obvious swearing, after a particularly effective church sermon yesterday. :))

At 3am in the &*%^$# morning, there were -- count them -- 25 patients still waiting. The afternoon shift had already left -- even though many of them stayed back at least an hour to help us out -- which left 3 MOs and 1 registrar to hold the fort till 8am. The crowd finally cleared at around 4:45am, but even then, the trickle never ceased. Fortunately for me, I got off at 6am, or else I would've probably ended up hitting someone ( likely a patient or a parent ).

With my entire post-call day gone in a hazy flash, I'm now trying to salvage the hour or two I have left before forcing myself to go to sleep in preparation for the 8-4 shift tomorrow. This sucks.

Still, at least I had a really good Saturday evening. :)

The Klazz Brothers and Cuban Percussion Concert ( 16th October 2004 at the University Cultural Centre )

Website: www.

Another one of those impulsive decisions, thanks to a friend / colleague who told me about it about a week ago. As you can guess, it wasn't sold out. We were 3rd row centre, which proved to be a huge advantage.

By the way, the UCC is one heck of an ugly concert venue. A show of this calibre deserves better, but sadly, violinist Maxim Vengerov was already booked at The Esplanade that night.

The Klazz Brothers and Cuban Percussion troupe comprise 3 Germans ( pianist, bassist, drummer ) and 2 Cubans ( on congas and timbales ), blending classical and jazz with infectious Latin beats to delicious effect. Hearing them for the first time was an out-of-body experience!

Seated only a few metres from the stage, we had unobstructed, close-up views of the stage and musicians. The Forster brothers -- pianist Tobias and bassist Kilian -- were on the left, drummer Tim Hahn in the middle, and Cuban percussionists Alexis Herrera Estevez and Elio Rodriguez Luis to the right. From the moment they started streaming out one by one ( led by Hahn ) to add layer after layer to the intro of their opening piece ( can't provide the specific title at the moment, sorry ), I knew the next 2 hours were going to be special.

This is one of the very best concerts I've ever been to, and worth every single penny. Who would've thought classical and Latin could mix so well? From Mozart to Brahms to Schubert to Beethoven to Bach to Bizet, the thrills came fast and furious as the audience clearly recognized the opening bars to each piece, applauded enthusiastically, then gasped at the sheer artistry of their improvisations. A work by Mozart became a hot Mambo number, Chopin's Tristesse Etude a sensual rumba, Beethoven's Fur Elise a festive salsa, and the beautiful Pathetique Symphony ( which literally took my breath away ) a dreamy combination that easily conjures up images of smoky dance clubs. Familiarity with the original works can, of course, work for or against you. In my case, it was the former. And for that, I give full credit to the band's impeccable interpretations of these otherwise conservative compositions.

As for the jazz element, it comprised less than half of the entire repertoire, but was no less enjoyable. George Gershwin's Summertime stands out for its upbeat tempo and hot percussion. And during the encore, Charlie Chaplin's Smile made an unexpected appearance during a medley ( which, by the way, also included a Brahms lullaby :)). So cool :D

Lots of interaction with the audience, mostly via bassist Kilian's frequent commentaries and subtle yet hilarious jokes ( e.g. "People say we always play only famous pieces, so here's a REALLY OBSCURE Beethoven number, which NONE OF YOU know." They launched into Fur Elise next. Haha! )

Even though the other band members didn't speak during the concert, they were equally friendly in various ways -- flashing smiles, gyrating animatedly, encouraging us to clap along, grabbing a few people up on stage during the encores and joining them for a Rockettes-style routine. This extended to the post-show autograph session, and I've got a nicely posed photo with the German fellows to prove it! :)

But don't for one second mistake their music for light classical jazz. It definitely helps if you're a musician yourself. My friend is proficient with string and wind instruments, and I play the piano. We both detest the likes of Bond ( 4 scantily clad girls whose "skills" make my hair stand ) and my friend says the 12 Girls Band ( a group of overrated Chinese women wielding everything from the pi-pah to the erhu ) have successfully ruined the genre of traditional Chinese music.
The Klazz Brothers, thankfully, do none of the above. There's ample credibility since they're all extremely talented ( Tobias, especially, is a joy to watch on the ivories ), and they've got a keen ear for what works and what doesn't. In less able hands, the delicate process of fusing classical with Cuban might have been disastrous, but they've managed to take well-loved pieces and actually improve on them. Purists may howl at the blasphemy of it all, but I consider it a fitting homage.

Another highlight would definitely include Tobias' original composition, titled Ballad No. 1, which he played solo during the 2nd half of the show. My jaw dropped during that performance! Initially a simple melody, it gradually escalates to Liszt-Rachmaninov proportions, defying laws of physics, yet executed so perfectly that every single note was crystal clear and wonderfully in sync with the the one preceding it. Flying arpeggios, whizzing chromatic scales, and exquisite technique -- it's gonna be on their upcoming 3rd album, so you MUST give it a listen!

Standing ovations greeted their encores and curtain calls, followed by a long line of autograph-seekers thereafter. With a promise to "return next year", they posed for a few pictures ( mine included, yay :D) then left, exhausted yet pleased. I've been playing their CDs in my car ever since. Come back soon, guys! And thanks for a magical evening!

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Mortal Thoughts

A nod to the late Christopher Reeve in a fellow blogger's recent entry has sparked this one, though on an entirely different note.

I got to thinking about mortality a lot this week. Not just about death in general, but specifically my own. There comes a time in all our lives when dying hits a little too close to home, so to speak. It creeps up on you --e.g. the odd grand-relative's passing -- then before you know it, you've lost a whole bunch of aunts and uncles, your parents hit their 60s, and you start contemplating whether to check your blood glucose and cholesterol levels ( my turn's this Sunday at an NKF event, heh heh ).

But for me, reality bites most when celebrities start dropping like flies.

10 years ago, River Phoenix, that golden boy of the 1990's who would've been Leonardo DiCaprio's toughest competition, collapsed from a drug overdose outside The Viper Room. Barely into his 2nd decade of life, with an Oscar nomination under his belt and a well-received turn as young Indiana Jones, his star had never shone brighter. From gritty performances in Stand By Me and My Own Private Idaho, to heartbreaking roles in Little Nikita and Running On Empty, the premature snuffing-out of such a promising life hit me hard. I was only 15 or 16 at the time.

Over the years, so many others have followed that I can't recall most of their names offhand. Childhood favourites, however, always touch a sensitive nerve -- John Ritter, John Candy, etc. How I will miss them.

But Reeve... he has always had a special spot in my heart. Superman was one of the first films I ever saw, and thanks to him, I found out what a crush is at the tender age of 6. The fact that he wore leotards and a cape held no significant meaning at the time. :)

13 years ago, when he met with that terrible accident, everything almost came to a complete standstill for me. And over the past decade, as the once athletic giant slowly shrivelled in his wheelchair, I realized how quickly time had flown right by us.

Earlier this month, my mother heard on TV that Michael J. Fox, who's suffered from Parkinson's Disease since his 20s, is now experiencing intractable tremors despite aggressive medical treatment. Like Reeve, Fox is a childhood favourite of mine. I grew up with Family Ties, watched every single episode of the Back To The Future trilogy multiple times, memorized lines from The Secret Of My Success, applauded his more serious works ( Casualties Of War ), and forgave his mistakes ( Life With Mikey, The Hard Way, Doc Hollywood ).

A fierce advocate for stem cell research ( like Reeve ), he was prominently seated beside Teresa Heinz Kerry at the 3rd US Presidential Debate, looking slightly haggard but still extremely boyish. I couldn't help wondering when his time would come. And as an extrapolation, mine as well.

During dinner with a friend the other night, I was told to "live my life to the fullest" before it's too late. An outdoor enthusiast who's done so much more than I could ever imagine for myself, he couldn't believe his ears when I related details of my own boring life. And with my 30th birthday looming ( June 2005 ), I do realize I've missed out on many opportunities, partly because of parental anxiety, but ultimately, I think, a result of my own fears and insecurities.

Is it too late to change old habits, I wondered. At the moment, the answer is, sadly, yes. Family commitments deter me from commiting random acts of outright recklessness, but things may very well change once I'm beholden to no-one. Although my mother always says she'll turn in her grave should I choose to go down this path after her demise. Guilt trip, aargh!

Still, on deeper reflection, I admit I'm content, restrictions and all. I'm grateful for parents and relatives who love me unconditionally, for old friends whom I can always depend on, for a successful career with exciting opportunities, a botched relationship that terminated before it had the chance to imprison me in an eternity of misery. I treasure every moment I spend with my parents, every holiday we take together, and all the wonderful places we've visited as a threesome. I revel in the joy of weddings, even if my own seems a distant dream. I soak in every experience, be it a great piece of music, a tasty morsel of food, or (ahem) holding Jamie Cullum's hand within my own. :D

My car shakes on a daily basis as I blast my hi-fi, I get chills every single time I eat an ice-cream sundae, and nothing -- NOTHING -- makes me happier than an afternoon at home with a good book and my beautiful cat on my lap ( excluding all the usual mushy stuff, that is ). Missing out on the really good things in life? Methinks that's a matter of opinion. :)

Although sometimes, routine can be a dangerous thing. Having lost touch with the going-out concept for the past 5 years, I'm finally taking a plunge of sorts, and have started hanging out with different people who appeal to me in different ways. So far, it's been rewarding, and I'm grateful that these friends ( I hate the word "dates" ) have given me their time and attention, yet refrained from making demands on my personal space. It's been the total opposite of the first and only relationship I've had thus far. If only I'd known better all those years ago. :/

Life is short, but mine's been a happy one so far, and hey, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Besides, I think I've still got a few surprises coming my way -- whether good or bad, I welcome them. In the end, I think the trick to facing mortality head-on is being happy with the time you've been given, instead of the regretting the things you missed out on. On that count, I'm pretty sure I've already won. :)