Thursday, June 30, 2005

Adios, Amigos!

Didn't think I'd find an opportunity to post an entry before leaving Singapore, but these Free Internet kiosks at the airport are fantastic. :)

Yep, am 2 hours away from flying off for a well-earned holiday. It's been a busy day though, so I'm kinda worn out at the moment. Hoping to get some sleep on the plane, but I never rest well during flights, so I'll probably feel pretty crappy later. :(

A Few Thoughts Before I Go

To my overworked compatriots in the ER: hang in there.

To Y, who got me Michael Buble's autograph during his Seattle stopover, THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU once again! ( MB's signature is one major indecipherable scrawl - rather unexpected, but also quite cool, heh heh. )

To the members of the SMA News editorial board - dinner on Tuesday was a blast, and I had a great time brainstorming and sharing gossip. Who knew our eminent professor had such wit? And that we'd have a prolonged discussion about different genres of music with an endocrinologist who's interviewed the likes of Sonic Youth?

( By the way, I can't seem to find fresh blood for recruitment purposes, so if any of you readers are local doctors interested in writing for the newsletter, let me know. We veterans are getting older and busier by the day. Help... :))

May not write here again for the next 3 weeks, but feel free to check in if you'd like - will post something if I can.

Otherwise, see you all in 20 days. Highlight of the trip: most definitely meeting Peter Cincotti in Rome! :D

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

D-Day July 17th :) Posted by Hello
I Give Up

It appears that Singaporeans, no matter how well-educated they seem to be, no matter how excellent their English is ( sometimes deliberately switching to it when I mistakenly start rattling off in Mandarin ) - are just... plain... weird.

Yesterday was a good example. I spent quite some time explaining in great detail my management plan for 2 patients - one whom we later transferred to another hospital, and a second who was critically ill with a complicated array of conditions, all of which were wreaking havoc with each other.

I don't think I'm a poor communicator - 6 years of practice should've ironed out the wrinkles by now.

Neither do I think I said anything susceptible to misinterpretation - it's too early for my memory to start failing.

Most importantly, however, the relatives I spoke to repeated ( I repeat - REPEATED ) a few of the things I told them, for example: "No guarantee of admission even after transfer, yes yes yes", and "Not for ICU or high dependency, okay okay".

So why is it I was told by my staff nurses that these "understanding" relatives later turned around and claimed they "were not told that the patient wouldn't be admitted", and worse, that "the doctor told me my mother was going to ICU"?

Someone please shoot me now.

A senior MO and I had a nice venting session during lunch, whereby I related this problem to him and he recounted a few stories of his own. His insightful observation: Singaporeans have Third World mentalities but demand First World service.

This comment may offend some people, I'm sure. But if you've seen as much as we have, you'll know we're telling the truth.

A Silver - Wait, Make That Gold - Lining

Shifts have been hell since March. Now they're getting from bad to worse - and what, pray tell, is worse than hell? Let me know so I can put it in.

We're going to FAIL. You know what I mean.

If we pass, it'll be a miracle of unprecedented proportions.

However, there is a way out - coming to our department at, say, 8-9am in the morning. Perfect conditions right there. Great photo op. The foreign visitors will be thrilled.

I won't be around though, so I won't have to clench my teeth and pretend everything's fine. Note to self: take leave during the next exercise, whenever that may be.

Oh yes, the gold lining.

:) :) :)

After 6 long weeks of waiting, I've confirmed a later flight back, and will be attending Peter Cincotti's concert in Rome after all. *YES!!!*

What's most amazing, though, is that someone put me in touch with Peter's manager, and she's generously offered me backstage passes to meet Peter after the show. *WOOHOO!!!*

My mom called with the news in the midst of my horrible shift yesterday. The ER was jammed up, everyone was cranky, and I was starting to lose steam. A patient's daughter stopped me as I passed her and asked a question, then the phone rang. It took every ounce of self-restraint to keep me from ripping my mask off and hopping out into the corridor pumping my fists in the air for a few seconds ( it would've been extremely therapeutic, trust me ). Instead, I had to keep my voice level, repeating the words, "Yeah", "Uh huh" and "I see" over and over again.

"You're with a patient, right?" my mom guessed.
"Oh yeah," I replied.
"Okay, just thought I'd call to let you know. I'll leave you to your work now." *click*

I finished my conversation with the lady, then proceeded to do a venepuncture for an old fellow with a possible stroke. Good thing my mask was on, 'cos I was grinning from ear to ear like a fool. I just couldn't help it. :)

Only 1 more week to go, then it's R&R in Paradise for 20 days, topped off with an up-close chat with one of my favourite jazz musicians, whom I'm going to pepper with questions about my favourite actor, Kevin Spacey.

Following that, plans for another trip to New York City with my fellow registrar and good friend in October, to join a course, take in the sights, savour the music / food / wine, meet a few friends, and visit the Bellevue Hospital for a possible HMDP in a few years' time.

It's turning out to be one heck of a 30th birthday. :D

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Review Of Batman Begins

**spoilers beware, as usual**

Does everyone in Singapore have the flu?! Watching movies in the theatre is proving to be a health hazard.

But still, I stoically braved the germ clouds swirling around me, and received a great payoff.

Batman Begins is, to put it simply, a magnificent film.

Not in terms of cinematography - dark, depressing, filthy and wet.

Not in terms of visual effects - next to none.

No, I love this movie because of its minimalist approach - strong actors, a beautiful script, impeccable direction - all of which come together in a perfect mesh of masterful story-telling.

No point delving into the plot details unless you've been living under a rock this past year. Let's talk about the players instead.

Christian Bale excels as the tortured protagonist. The old soul from Empire Of The Sun has always made bold choices in his career ( except for the foppish Laurie in "Little Women" ). His performance in "American Psycho" was absolutely chilling, and he infuses Batman with that same intimidating glint in the eyes. Bruce Wayne isn't an easy role to play, but Bale manages to succeed very admirably. Definitely the best so far.

The supporting cast boasts so much talent my head was practically spinning. Michael Caine as loyal butler Alfred, Morgan Freeman as genius inventor Lucius Fox, Liam Neeson as vigilante warrior Henri Ducard, Gary Oldman as police sergeant ( and later Commissioner ) Gordon, even Rutger Hauer ( check him out in "Ladyhawke" with then-unknown co-stars Michelle Pfeiffer and Matthew Broderick - a real treasure ).

Standouts, however, aren't even A-listers.

Tom Wilkinson, aka quietly unhinging dad from "In The Bedroom", is perfect as a drug-smuggling mob boss, complete with Brooklyn accent and a whole lot of attitude.

My favourite, though, is Cillian Murphy, an actor I don't think I've ever even seen until now. His Scarecrow is almost tacky ( mask comprising an old tattered sack, weapon of choice a hallucinogenic powder ), but he swings between composed psychiatrist Dr. Crane and crazed lunatic with such skill it's just a huge pleasure to watch. Just as I spotted Colin Farrell in "Minority Report", I'm predicting great things for Murphy in the near future. Wouldn't want him to get typecast, but villains might actually be his forte.

Katie Holmes is a nice distraction to round off an otherwise all-male ensemble. She didn't flex her acting chops much here, but I've seen her do better elsewhere, so you may want to rent a few a few of her other shows if you're curious ( e.g. Abandon, The Gift, Dawson's Creek ).

Chris Nolan became one of my favourite directors after "Memento", the same way Steven Soderbergh did with "Traffic", and M. Night Shyamalan with "Sixth Sense".
Nolan demonstrates awesome vision, especially in scenes depicting horrific images - all those hallucinations induced by Crane's drugs, and a nail-biting chase at a harbour where Batman picks off targets like a vampire swooping down from the sky.
He handles the emotional content deftly, and draws the most gentle yet powerful performances from the entire cast.

In a word, WOW.

It just wouldn't be right to leave out any mention of the script, which was co-written by Nolan himself. I haven't heard such poignant dialogue in quite a while - especially in a film about a caped crusader ( although "Spiderman 2" comes to mind ).

One of the best lines that I remember:
"Criminals thrive on the indulgence of society's understanding."

Take a moment to absorb the sheer poetry. :)

Was hoping to catch "War Of The Worlds" before I leave for Italy, but it may not be possible if this intractable exhaustion continues.

The good news is, something's being done about it. And about time too.

Eye For A Guy 2

I haven't been writing about this much lately, but truth be told, I really feel for Howard, who came in second in the final episode.

All I can say is:

1. Wolfgang isn't my idea of the better guy, but Denise made the right choice.

2. What's with Denise's sudden onset of tics and uncontrollable shoulder-swaying? A little irritating, but could just be nerves.

3. Howard seems like a sweet fellow - heck, even my mom likes him. Judging from the votes for the upcoming Eye For A Girl series, he looks set to be the next Bachelor. Here's hoping he'll find a nice lady, whichever route he chooses.

Great Medical Disasters by Richard Gordon

This is a darn fine book, I must say. Hilarious, educational, occasionally shocking, but always beautifully written, it's got me staying up way past my bedtime - not that it makes my reading any faster.

Am now in the 'Germ Warfare' section ( other categories include 'Disastrous Doctors', 'Malpractice Madness' and 'Sexual Entrapments' ), which deals with Typhoid Mary, tuberculosis and the Spanish flu, the last described as "a malign Puck" which "girdled the earth".

More terrific quotes to follow - I have to log off soon to catch "Lost". :)

My New Weapon

A metallic blue Nikon Coolpix 5900, purchased in less than 30 minutes at a Funan Centre shop which is extremely well-known within medical circles. Lots of freebies, great service ( if you know the right names to mention ), and ahem, surreptitiously lengthened warranty periods.


Reading his blog entries made me realize that... he was being boring ON PURPOSE.

Why did he even ask me to dinner in the first place then? Yeesh.

The Days Are Numbered

14 left and I'm outta here. Throw your worst at me. Nothing can possibly get me down. :)


It's the Turned-Thirty Syndrome.

Just did something that might blow up in my face, but went ahead with it anyway.

I must admit I'm feeling quite proud of myself. :D

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Before I begin, it just wouldn't be fair to NOT draw your attention to another much more worthy site. I mean, even I went to take a look. Didn't like it of course, but c'mon, it's loads more interesting than all my boring ramblings, wouldn't you agree? :)

Reviews Ahead

And spoilers beware.

Mr. & Mrs. Smith

Was rather disappointing ( wow, I think Life! reporter Ong Sor Fern and I share the same brain ), but you know what, it wasn't really a waste of time either.

Why I went to see it:

1. I like Angelina Jolie ( post-slut era, that is ). Ever since she became a U.N. Ambassador, she's transformed from a vampy coked-out hooker type to a classy, beautiful lady. And she can act circles around most Hollywood actresses.

2. I like Brad Pitt. No, not for his washboard abs, megawatt smile and blonde waves. I've always admired his quirky role choices ( who cares about Troy when you have Snatch? why bother with Ocean's Eleven / Twelve when there's the much better Se7en? ).

3. Director Doug Liman, who helmed the very excellent The Bourne Identity, takes the reins. Now who can possibly miss that?

4. John Powell is listed as the composer ( he also did the music for the Bourne films, Evolution and The Italian Job ).

5. And of course, all those rumours about a possible relationship between the 2 hot leads. This could be the movie that started it all.

The good bits:

1. Brad and Angelina SIZZLE. And I mean REALLY COOK.
They're both gorgeous. They have great chemistry. They do action effortlessly,
and deliver their lines with just the perfect combination of deadpan humour and
venomous hatred.

2. The high speed chases. That highway sequence is way cool!

3. The script isn't too bad either.
"Come to daddy", coos John Smith.
*Jane Smith proceeds to whack him senseless*
"Who's your daddy now?" she sneers.

"I was married once," John confesses in a moment of guilt.
*gets whacked - again - by Jane*
"What's her name and social security number?" she demands.
"No, you're NOT going to kill her."

Heh heh.

4. That tango scene in a posh restaurant. Eat your heart out, Al Pacino and Arnold

5. A really nice one: John and Jane face off with guns pointed at each other. John
slowly lowers his weapon and tells her, "I can't do it." She yells at him to
bring his gun up, but he refuses. Cue goo-goo eyes and make-up sex. Corny, but
hey, Brad and Angelina pulled it off.

True Lies meets War Of The Roses ( Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner - go rent it ) meets Tomb Raider. It's that insane.

But fun. :)

The Aviator

I ain't a Leonardo DiCaprio fan, but rented the DVD anyhow.

Proved to be quite a good movie, though way too long for my taste, and a little draggy during Howard Hughes' breakdown periods.

I suppose the best parts come in spurts, where you realize how Hughes' passion for aviation almost cost him his fortune, yet his ambition and great vision never faltered, and the world benefited greatly from his innovative creations.

Similarly, his ability to overcome an almost cripping battle with OCD is inspiring, as is his close relationships with Katherine Hepburn and Ava Gardner, both of whom loved him unconditionally and never abandoned him even in his darkest moments.

Don't miss the terrifying crash where Hughes comes this close to losing his life after an emergency landing in a residential neighbourhood.

Not a bad flick at all, but not to be viewed unless you're wide awake and able to concentrate.


Let me just state for the record that J.J. Abrams is one of my heroes.

This guy started out with college drama "Felicity", but quickly did a 180-degree turnaround with the hard-hitting action TV series "Alias", and now, has once again revolutionized the industry with his latest offering.

He's also won a new fan in Tom Cruise, who invited him to direct "Mission Impossible 3".

Talk about a fast rise up the power list.

"Lost" made a very good impression on me in its 2-hour premiere. The lead protagonist appears to be Jack, a doctor I'm guessing to be an orthopaedic surgeon, played by the boyish Matthew Fox ( who used to be a regular fixture in my life thanks to "Party of Five" ). Here, he reprises his big-brother role, this time playing nanny to 47 other plane crash survivors who can't stand each other for various reasons.

The plot twists are guaranteed to glue you to your seats. Acting is commendable ( Naveen Andrews is from the soft-porn film "Kama Sutra" but plays a Gulf War veteran here; Dominic Monaghan leaves his Hobbit days behind and relishes his role as a druggie rock band member; Evangeline Lilly is prettily fragile yet tough ), but of course, everyone will be wondering what creature lurks ( or should I say, stomps ) around the island day and night, devouring pilots and other assorted humans.

Tonnes better than the ridiculously vapid "Desperate Housewives". You want a good mystery and a REALLY good time? "Lost" is the one to watch.

Minos by Marcos Villatoro

I never thought I would find a 2nd all-time favourite book ( the first being John Berendt's incomparable Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil ), but I finally have.

"Minos" had me biting my nails from start to finish. Exceptional writing, memorable characters, unexpected twists in every direction, and puzzles that are both intellectual and terrifying.

If your interest is piqued, then get a load of these teasers:

Romilia Chacon is a homicide detective on the trail of The Whisperer, a serial killer who brutally impaled her sister to her married lover on their bed 6 years ago.

The killer models his murders after scenes in Dante's Inferno, with its list of sins and circles of hell. Details are down to a T, and each victim is carefully selected, sometimes taking weeks to lure and then capture.

Romilia inadvertently garners the affections of a notorious drug dealer being pursued by the DEA, after she accidentally saves his life and almost loses her own head ( literally ). This usually ruthless criminal strikes up an almost romantic relationship with Romilia, even providing her with restricted information on The Whisperer so she can investigate the case on her own.
Dynamics between the two are never dull, with Romilia using it to her advantage, yet also never losing sight of the big picture. Some super tense moments in there, but I'll leave you to read about them yourself.

A nice excerpt for you to sample:

"Minos is huge; he takes up most of the engraving... His crown is pressed over his head, tucked into thick blonde curls that flow into a beard. His left leg is crossed over his right thigh, effeminate, relaxed. A constrictor-like tail snakes over and under his body... It curls over his left forearm; he holds the end of the tail in his right hand... Minos waits to hear what the penitents have to say, which sin they must confess. This confessor is calm. We see him now, before he wraps his tail around them and flings them into their appropriate circle ( of hell )."

The buildup is relentlessly exciting, and the climactic finale totally satisfying ( another major twist included ).

Good stuff. Highly recommended.

Check out Villatoro's other work at his official website.

About My Birthday

The lunch and dinner with friends wasn't the REAL celebration.

My trip to Italy in, let's see, 19 days' time, is. WOOHOO!

Rome, Venice, Florence, the Isle Of Capri, Assisi, Pompeii, plus countless other places I can't even recall offhand.

An Angels & Demons tour with the people who officially started it all - and which was featured on the BBC.

A possible ( crossing my fingers hard for this one ) attendance at Peter Cincotti's Rome concert as well.

Yep, the party isn't over yet!

My day off is half gone already. But on the flip side, I've got fewer hours left till I leave this crazy country for a nice time away from fellow Singaporeans.

Give and take. Ah, life.

Friday, June 03, 2005

A Fond Farewell our elective medical students, most of whom ended their posting with us this week, and probably swore never to do emergency medicine ever again, haha.

It wasn't always like this. You know why things changed, right? Now if only we could change them right back.

My greatest regret is not being able to teach them more. 2 months ago, when they first joined us, I was raring to go, and told a number of these eager beavers that our aim was to train them to take good histories, hone their clinical skills, generate a list of provisional and differential diagnoses, propose management, and of course, acquire a whole slew of practical skills which will prove very useful once they turn housemen.

I'm not sure just how much of the above they finally accomplished. It's been so hellishly busy of late, I've become cranky and tired, and hence, extremely quiet. No more mini-tutorials or short clinical sessions. I'm so bent on clearing cases I often ignore the students hovering within the same cubicle. ( Not proud of that at all, by the way. )

I guess that's another valuable lesson to learn: how the medical profession ( and I stress, this is completely different from the undergrad educational process ) changes you and even makes teaching quite impossible and painful.

Still, I wish you all well in your futures as our next generation of young doctors. The best advice I can give you is probably this: you're gonna HATE some of your days at work, mostly because of external factors ( e.g. patients, families, administrative snafus ), so for goodness sake, PLEASE choose a specialty you truly enjoy. 'Cos when there's nothing else left to look forward to, at least you'll have that.

And to the student who gave me a thoughtful personal thank-you card, I appreciate the fact that you're not offended by my stiff silences and occasionally gruff demeanour. And thanks for reading my blog. :)

As for Liss, who seems to have made up her mind to join the local ranks of ER physicians, good luck! :D

Rules #1 & #2

No details...

But I have to say I'm beginning to lose respect for some fellow colleagues whose tactics are frankly getting on all our nerves.

Do you have any idea what chaos you're causing elsewhere? And if you do have an idea, do you care?

It's one thing to be given a sacred privilege. It's entirely another to abuse it.

Please stop. Soon.

Extra Tutorials

A good friend is interested in learning more about music. In particular, jazz.

I can give you a few pointers, mostly from a woman's perspective, haha. :)

But I suppose it's all right, since my friend's female too.

We shall start off with Michael Buble and Robbie Williams, then move on to Jamie Cullum and Peter Cincotti, perhaps some Matt Dusk later on( just got his CD a week ago, and it's not too bad at all ).

And considering we may hop over to New York City together in October, I think an introduction to jazz is quite appropriate preparation, eh? Maybe take in a concert at the Lincoln Center while we're there. Ahhhh... :)

Now if only we can secure the necessary leave, hmmm.

Latest Reading

Not "Greatest Medical Disasters" as yet, but "Minos" by Marcos Villatoro ( also from The Tanglin Club library ). It's about a serial killer who fancies himself the mythical demon from Dante's Inferno, being pursued by the FBI and a hotshot detective from the Nashville Homicide Unit.

Crisp writing that hasn't disappointed so far. Character development is terrific, with lots of insight into the killer's motives and methods. My kind of thriller. :)

I totally see it translating onto the big screen, with Jennifer Lopez in the lead.

Turning Thirty

Weekend celebrations will be kept low-key, but fun. No carousing. No self-destructive tactics. Never been my style. Never will be.

Birthdays aren't usually big deals for me. When I turned 21, I had dinner with my ex and my family, and that was it.

But 30, now that's a milestone.

I think it's because I once set this age limit for the completion of my family. Believe it or not, I was all ready to have 2 ( or 3 ) kids before hitting my 3rd decade of life. Until the guy decided to break his promise.

But that's okay. Singlehood has its benefits, and I'm reaping them everyday. I've done so many things I never previously thought I'd be able to accomplish, met loads of exciting people, lived as fully as I could ever hope for ( barring parental anxieties, that is ).

Yet at the same time, I also realize I've grown old. Cynical. A little lonely but also cautious and suspicious. I think about my days as an idealistic innocent. Of my rosy outlook of the world and how it's disintegrated.

A tragedy indeed; but then, we all go through it. We have to. I suppose what's more important is how you cope with the fact that yes, REALITY BITES. I didn't do too well at first, but I got back on my feet eventually. No matter how much pain I've gone through, I wouldn't change any of it even if I could. As for the future, the sky's the limit ( well, barring parental anxieties at least, heh heh ).

People I'd like to thank as I journey to the land of 30-something's:

My parents and close relatives, who've been my inspiration and pillars of strength.
My good pals, who mean more to me than they will ever know.
My friends from church, who never fail to guide and support me intuitively.
My fellow A&E colleagues, who are a great bunch of people and make all this suffering bearable.
The total strangers whose random acts of kindness will stay with me forever. And of course, the celebrities who accomodated my various requests. :)

And last but not least, the fellow who shall remain unnamed, who did something which profoundly affected me 5 years ago, but is to this day completely oblivious to that fact. He unknowingly helped me through a period of almost incapacitating depression, and will always have a coveted place in my heart.

And to everyone who's turning 30: be of good cheer, for this is merely the beginning, and not the end.