Saturday, January 29, 2005

30th Birthday Updates - sort of

1. Catch Sting in concert -- check
2. Catch Norah Jones in concert -- 27th Feb, akan datang but check
3. Sing on national radio - twice -- first round's over, but second one's on the way; not something I planned, but it's kinda fun. Check! :)
( Those interested in hearing me crow on air can SMS me to find out when I'll be put on the spot again; the prize is HUUUUUUGE and I've already overcome major odds to secure leave should I somehow win. Wish me luck! )

What I Think Of Tasmania - Part 2

Okay, it's hard to say bad things about a place -- even though I hated the food, the weather, and the Sleepy Hollow feel -- when your holiday photos turn out looking like a million bucks. I kid you not.

My camera's 4 years old and of the manual Advanced Photo System variety, but the pictures are amazing . Some of them are even more fantastic than those I snapped in NZ. What the... ?

Favourites of the lot:

Russell Falls at Mount Field National Park ( Hobart )-- A surreal three-tiered waterfall surrounded by little trees. Unbelievable on film. Top on my photo list.

Cataract Gorge ( Launceston ) -- An oasis of lakes, rivers, cool rock formations and a babbling brook, not to mention an outdoor pool, garden cafe and chair lift ride ( the last is extremely dangerous, if you really think about it -- ie. no locking mechanism on those "restraining" bars ). Beautiful.

Port Arthur ( Hobart ) -- An historic site where an old prison and various staff residences can be found, the sprawling grounds and gorgeous weather ( thank goodness for that! ) make this my favourite place Tasmania-wise.

Nature Shots -- Collected from a number of places, including the abovementioned. Flora and fauna are abundant on the island, and I'm particularly fond of my pictures depicting a wild echidna and wallaby ( the latter was successfully coaxed to nibble from my hand ), as well as a field of poppies ( never mind about the surrounding electric fence :)). The St. Matthias vineyard and Sorell cherry farm also turned out very well.

Best of all, my parents and I actually look happy and younger than usual. Hmmm.

Reading Material

Haven't finished the Poor In Singapore feature in today's Straits Times yet, but will discuss this further another day. I get so PO-ed when I see people throwing good money away on frivolous pursuits. Spare a thought for those in need, yeesh. Even if you're not the donating kind, at least save some of your dough.

The House Of God & Mount Misery by Samuel Shem; Complications by Atul Gawande -- Found them at a good price at the medical bookshop located in SGH. I just love that store. They even carry Christian fare! :)

That's it for now. Am suffering from a bout of nerves due to the upcoming singing thing. But hey, if you don't do this at least once in your life, what's the whole point eh? :D

Sunday, January 23, 2005


I think Urgh is a Woman. Check out her ( well, it could still be a Him, who knows... ) comments here.

A Memorable Sunday

Got confirmed today, and received my first holy communion. It was wonderful. :)

A Question of Money

There's a debate raging on re-minisce's blog, about the "right to spend", or more accurately, the "right to splurge because it's my money dang it".

I totally agree that no-one can or should dictate what you should or shouldn't do with your own hard-earned cash. I have my personal opinions about paying ( IMHO "too much $$$" ) for food that -- as someone so eloquently put it -- ends up in the toilet anyway. But then, that's just my opinion.

I'm sure a number of you shake your heads when I write about Clay Aiken's albums, books, T-shirts and concert programmes ( which aren't cheap ). I own way too many CDs, and don't really believe in bargain-hunting when it comes to overseas trips. Guess we all have our weaknesses.

But seriously, just as re-minisce has his idea of The Perfect Evening -- which apparently includes fine wine and food -- my idea of A Great Night Out is pretty simple in comparison ( and since I don't date much anymore, it's okay to post this online 'cos guys can't use this info anyhow :D ):

1. I must already find the guy attractive in a significant way.
2. Any place with nice, fresh food which doesn't cost an arm and a leg.
3. Ambience that won't make me uncomfortable -- ie. snooty waiters / maitre'ds, or worse, nasty patrons.
4. Easy conversation ( preferably NOT revolving around medicine ), lots of laughter ( that's what REALLY gets me :))
5. Maybe a stroll along a quiet, scenic stretch after the meal.


6. Concerts are also great in my book. Especially jazz -- that revs me up big-time.

This list is mostly based on trial and error, and believe it or not, I've had a couple of evenings which had at least 5 out of the 6 above points. One of which occurred quite recently, in fact, but then, neither one of us wants to admit it was an Actual Date, heh heh.

So carry on with the jaunts to posh restaurants, my dear re-minisce, and don't let the comments get the better of you. But my personal favourite is still Mezza9 at The Grand Hyatt. Pretty reasonable prices, and that chocolate fountain during champagne brunch -- absolute heaven....

Not in the mood to talk about Tasmania today. Maybe some other time.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

A long overdue entry, with apologies.

Before I begin, let me just mention that we've activated the Guest Writer feature at The Lingual Nerve. Click on the link to find out who our first contributor is.



1. Learning To Sing – Clay Aiken

I initially planned to write extensively on this, but am repeatedly limited for various reasons, so this is the truncated version.

As you know, I really enjoyed reading Clay’s autobiography. Wish I could say it’s toppled Midnight In The Garden of Good and Evil from its top spot on my personal list, but the two novels are so different, it just wouldn’t be a fair comparison.

If you’re a fan, LTS is a definite must-have. But even if you’re not, I urge you to get it anyway. Of course, if you detest all things associated with Clay, then don’t bother, because the book contains deeply personal stories, which will either inspire or nauseate, depending on your own proclivities.

Personally speaking, I was extremely moved by his words from beginning to end – remember a comment about the Kleenexes? :) I don’t think I’ve shed tears over any novel since, let’s see, maybe Schindler’s List. ( TV and movies don’t count. I bawl over everything whether it’s on the big or small screen *bows head in shame* )

Clay starts off with a rundown of life events, from his early childhood to his current stardom. There’re things we’ve heard before, but also a significant number of new revelations, most shockingly those concerning his stepfather. ( If you want to know what exactly, go read the book! )

The second half dwells on his work with children with special needs and his religious convictions – immensely uplifting, especially for new or struggling Christians. But let’s not forget his large following of young, impressionable fans. Over the years, I’ve read numerous posts from those belonging to this subgroup, describing how Clay’s fine example propels them in the right direction, and brings a refreshingly moral touch to the otherwise degenerating media industry.

LTS has so many valuable lessons to convey. I couldn’t find copies of this book the last time I was in town, so I’m hanging onto mine for now. Maybe I’ll pick up a few paperback versions to give away in the future. :)

2. Kitchen Confidential – Anthony Bourdain

I actually brought this with me to Tasmania. I usually end up hating all the books I read overseas, so it’s interesting that I really loved this one. Especially considering that fact that the whole thing revolves around food.

Bourdain, to put it very mildly, is a colourful character. Self-confessed ex-drug addict, previously alternating between stylish gigs in 5-star restaurants and periods of doped-out unemployment, he’s managed a comeback of astounding proportions, and penned an autobiography that easily rivals those written by our generation’s literary giants.

Boasting an edgy, almost gleefully egotistical style, he effortlessly leaps from dingy diners to posh patisseries, unloading truckloads of information about ingredients, dishes, fellow chefs and his many bosses.

Much has been said about his “pearls of wisdom”, namely why you should never eat seafood on a Monday, and how a restaurant’s toilets act as red flags.

I, for one, love his character pieces. Some of the cooks are portrayed as veritable sociopaths. One in particular, a guy named Adam, is a genius with bread, but otherwise drives his colleagues raving mad with his erratic behaviour. There’s a whole chapter on this guy. I strongly suggest that you read it, even if you decide to give the rest of the book a miss. ( And if you’ve seen Northern Exposure in the past, you may draw parallels between Bourdain’s Adam and the show’s own chef extraordinaire of the same name. Coincidence? )

Another funny thing about KC is the innate similarites ( at least that’s my opinion ) between cooks and – get this – doctors. Something about boys’ clubs, the wielding of sharp objects, the glamour of the profession, even vigourous training through “college” ( with its own share of quirky teachers ).

The last bit falters a little, but the first 3/4 more than make up for it. A chapter on Bourdain’s rampage through Japan is worth mentioning as well. His gorge fest at a certain tiny eatery is a masterpiece! :D

3. Searching Issues – Nicky Gumbel

This was given to me by my church vicar, but for the main purpose of passing it over to a friend whom I’m witnessing to. However, I still consider myself a very young Christian, and often grapple with tough questions posed by non-believers, so I read through this in order to educate myself a little more.

For a thin volume, the book sure packs in a lot. From God’s role in suffering, to the issues of premarital and homosexual relations, Gumbel offers clear explanations, yet leaves the reader space to ponder further.

The eventual conclusion? The Bible does provide some answers, but in the end, there’s no way any of us can fully understand the Lord’s intentions. The big question is: Can and will you still trust in Him in spite of this?


[ No current ones to review. Will probably avoid cinemas until I’m back in the ER, or when Harry Potter 4 arrives. ]

1. The Day After Tomorrow

I realize this didn’t do very well at the box office, but if it’s somehow re released, it may make pots of money this time round, due to its significant relevance post-Asian-tsunami.

I was surprised to find myself perched on the edge of my seat throughout the movie, which offers everything from hurricanes to tornadoes to tidal waves. The last disaster is particularly frightening. Who needs Godzilla when towering bodies of water decimate New York City to much better effect?

Like Independence Day’s immensely likeable cast, Day After Tomorrow also has its share of admirable characters. Jake Gyllenhaal shines in an understated yet poignant performance, both as stranded son to Dennis Quaid’s frantic father, and as courageous saviour to Emmy Rossum, for whom he carries ten gigantic torches.

2. Fahrenheit 9/11

Heard of the dramedy ( e.g. Ally McBeal )? Now meet the docu-comedy. Michael Moore’s painful jab at the Bush administration has more laughs than some of Jim Carrey’s films. Boy does it pack a wallop! Tonnes of footage weaved seamlessly into a tapestry of gaffes make for compelling viewing. Add Moore’s sarcastically humourous voiceovers, interviews with parents who lost children in the Iraq war, and a few priceless stunts ( reading a bill Congress passed over the loudspeaker of an ice-cream truck, asking a Congressman point-blank if he’d like to enlist his son for army service in Iraq ), and you’ve got quite a piece of work.

Moore’s style hasn’t changed much since Bowling For Columbine ( the small-town visits, the deeply personal interviews, the stunts ), but the subject matter sure has. BFC addressed the breakdown of values in rural America, but Fahrenheit now goes straight for the American President’s jugular.

The biggest shock of all, however, isn’t the revelation that Osama Bin Laden’s relatives were flown out of the US just 2 days after 9/11, or that the Bush family has strong ties to the Saudi royal family, or that the administration so obviously LIED THROUGH ITS TEETH in order to justify a war. The biggest shock, my friends, is how, despite the allegations and the administration’s feeble defence, Bush still got re elected. SIGH.

3. The Bourne Supremacy

Somewhere in the middle of the film, I wondered if the sequel could possibly surpass its predecessor. It’s definitely terrific, with all the elements of the original that I love, but can I actually say that it’s BETTER? Shortly after the second car chase began ( the first took place in India ). Bourne, at the wheel of a taxi, shot through the streets of Berlin ( at least I think it’s Berlin, haha ) with a hired assassin hot at his heels. Traffic is heavy, the police are also in pursuit, then at an intersection, as Bourne turns his head to the right to reassess the situation, a patrol car slams into him from the left. That’s it! The moment I was waiting for! Yes, The Bourne Supremacy IS better than The Bourne Identity! ( cheesy, I know :))

Get a load of Joan Allen, who looks so much younger with longer hair, and generates great chemistry with Matt Damon even though they never appear together in any scene. The villain’s essentially the same ( Brian Cox ), while the assassin ( Karl Urban ) fails to live up to Clive Owen’s menacing coldness in the first installment.

Still, Damon’s excellent, and his biceps seem to have gotten bigger. What do you think? :P


1. The Apprentice 2

If the pilot is anything to go by, the second season is going to be a blast! I caught only the last episode in Tasmania, so I can’t possibly miss out on all the fun now, can I?

A priceless twist came early this time, with one member from each team ( men vs women again ) crossing over to the opposite side to act as project leader. The hilarious part? Bradford ( The Guy ), after puffing his chest out and promising to put the women in their place, is intimidated into quiet submission during a group discussion ( hahahahaha! ). Even his attempt to make an “executive decision” ( euphemism for “I’m the boss, you’re the cockroach under my shoe.” ) falls flat when his suggestion for a new toy receives a cool reception from Mattel representatives, and he has no choice but to accede to the suggestions made by the females instead ( surprise, surprise, their idea won in this first tussle, woohoo! ). On the men’s side, Pamela ( aka the Ice Queen ) had no problems with leadership, but failed to come up with a good idea of her own, preferring to let the guys derail the team with their moronic Crustacean Nation pitch. ( I’m no guy, but c’mon, who the heck wants to play with action figures depicting sea creatures?! )

Rob, the first casualty, would not have survived long in this motley crew. And let me insert one tiny spoiler now: Andy, the Harvard grad who’s also a nationally ranked debater, won’t either. ( In fact, he’ll be out-talked by a pair of gals, heh heh. )

Ah, how I’ve missed this show.

2. Manhunt

Available only on cable, this is essentially the male equivalent of Tyra Banks' The Next Top Model. Here, Baywatch slut ( I mean, Babe ) Carmen Electra plays hostess to a group of hunky hopefuls in their quest to secure a contract with a reputable agency.

Sounds tasty, yes? Funnily enough, I fell asleep during its pilot episode, which doesn't bode well, heh heh. Well, maybe I was just tired. :P

Best of all, Manhunt provides some prime examples of undesirable male traits, namely stupidity, vanity, promiscuity, and really dumb facial expressions ( in one hilarious scene, the contestants are asked to imitate Ben Stiller's Blue Steel impressions from Zoolander ). Absolutely classic! :D

3. American Idol 4

They're baaaaaack. If you have cable, you'll get to see it a full day before it's screened on local TV -- Jan 19 instead of 20. I watch only because I'm waiting for them to discover the next Clay Aiken, but deep down, I don't really want them to, so I'm content to shout "You're no Clay!" at the screen every week. :)

4. The Amazing Race 6

The 5th season sucked ( boooring ), but this new one rocks. Much more interesting tasks, lots of drama, and many good reasons to hate certain people. Watch out for intra-couple tension ( lots of it ), inter-couple tussles ( even more ), and ick factors ( one guy puked into his bowl of soup, then had to drink his own vomit, yuck!!! ). I've reached the point where I don't even like any of the remaining teams. Terrible, yet also fun. :P

5. The Bachelor 5

I'm ashamed to admit it, but I'm addicted, aargh! But let me just state, for the record, that Jesse what's-his-face isn't that cute, IMHO, so I'm tuning in for the Women, people! ( My favourite has always been Andrew Firestone. Pity about him and Jennifer Shreft breaking up, darn. )

Look out for Trish, the gold-digging, kid-hating, sex-hungry model. Even Jesse's best friend, who was planted within the group to act as a spy, couldn't convince him to drop her. A stunt to increase ratings perhaps? Hmmm...

This entry has gotten a little long, so more on Tasmania another time.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Review of Sting's Concert, Singapore Indoor Stadium, January 10 2005

[ Please don't read this if you're not interested, or if you're doing so only because you want to post nasty comments. Thank you.
And now, back to our normal programming. ]

Let me say this right now: STING IS HOT.

Let me also say that up till last night, I had never once thought of Mr. Gordon Sumner in such a manner. Sure, I've been a fan for almost 10 years ( missed his last show because I only started listening to him a few months AFTER that, aargh ). Since then, I've bought maybe 5 or 6 of his albums, including Mercury Falling, Brand New Day, Sacred Love, The Best Of Sting, and All This Time.

I've also got one of his concert VCDs, but didn't really like it 'cos he kept hitting high notes and sounded a little whiny doing it.

To my very pleasant surprise, his voice was nowhere near Irritating Level yesterday. In fact, he did so well I've developed new appreciation for his music, and am now playing his All This Time CD over and over again in my car. Unbelievable stuff. :)

The Indoor Stadium was filled to the brim with 10,000 fans, ranging in age from pre-teens ( I'm not joking ) to geriatric. Comprising mainly young professionals and a significant number of expatriates ( hence the tight security measures ), it was an extremely rowdy bunch, especially when you consider the fact that Sting is in his 50s ( 53 to be exact ), isn't a conventional rocker ( like Robbie Williams, who drove the crowd wild ), and last visited us about a decade ago ( the music industry is a terribly fickle one, but this show still managed to sell out within a month ).

I was seated to the left of the stage in the tiered section, about 10 rows away from centrestage. Superb view.

Things kicked off 45 minutes late, but we could all care less, judging from the deafening reception. The moment I saw him stroll to the mike and pluck at his guitar, my jaw literally dropped.

Like I said before, Sting is HOT. Tall, lean, and sporting longer-than-usual hair, he was clad in a slightly loose but still flattering dark suit with a white dress shirt. Very simple, with no further costume changes. The stage was equally no-frills -- just the band, giant speakers, and a 360-degree view of the audience ( yes, even the stands BEHIND the group were filled to capacity ).

No pyrotechnics. No elaborate attire. Just an ensemble of amazing talent and 2 hours of phenomenal music. And of course, the VERY HOT STING. :)

He opened with Send Your Love, then followed with a non-stop repertoire including ( just to name a few ) Fields Of Gold, Fragile, Shape Of My Heart, Brand New Day, Desert Rose, The Hounds Of Winter, If I Ever Lose My Faith In You and Never Coming Home.

The audience devoured it all and howled for more ( I kid you not ). 10,000 rabid fans were on their feet for most of the concert, some even head-banging ( to Sting! ), and EVERYONE efforlessly belting out lyrics to classics such as Roxanne and Englishman In New York. The latter, in particular, was very amusing. I was shouting at the top of my lungs, of course, but as I looked around the Stadium and watched my fellow concertgoers ( some of whom were dressed to the nines and very proper in all respects ) rabidly screaming "Whoa-oh, I'm an alien / I'm a legal alien / I'm an Englishman in New York", a huge grin crept across my face, and I joined those sitting around me in raising our arms and punching at the air. ( Shhh, don't tell people at work. :))

Sting's energy is infectious. And boy does he have tonnes of it. This guy hardly broke a sweat during his physically demanding performance, effortlessly carrying difficult tunes, even grooving to the music from time to time ( did you catch those gyrating hips on Desert Rose? Ack! ). Where he gets the stamina, I have no idea. ( Never mind reports about his abilities at Tantric... ahem. :))

For the encore, he obligingly did 4 songs ( but I can only remember 2, thanks to my brain becoming mush after the first 5 minutes, heh heh ) -- there was Every Breath You Take ( naturally ), then A Thousand Years. Personally, I would've loved to hear every single song on All This Time, but I was YEARNING for him to at least do Moon Over Bourbon Street, Mad About You, ( If You Love Someone ) Set Them Free, It's Probably Me, We'll Be Together and Love Is The Seventh Wave. I also have a soft spot for All Four Seasons from Mercury Falling, but it's a really obscure piece, so there's no chance of ever hearing that on a world tour.

Now for the HOT bits. :)

#1: Roxanne
#2: Whenever I Say Your Name
#3: Sacred Love

#1: He already exudes animal magnetism, but when he sang this, it just hit the roof. I was so overwhelmed I can't even describe any of it. :D

#2: A duet with his backup singer, Joy Rose, but matches ( perhaps even surpasses ) the original version with Mary J. Blige. Rose has a powerhouse voice, and her chemistry with Sting is awesome. During the intro, she stood with him and they swayed to the beat. Then, he took her hand and placed it on his chest, tenderly holding it there as he stared at her with a dreamy smile. Yow. Trudie Styler you lucky woman, you. :P

#3: "This song is about sex." -- that's his description of this piece. One of the best songs on his latest album of the same name, Sacred Love boasts lyrics that go: Take off your working clothes / Put on your long black dress / And your high heeled shoes / Just leave your hair in a mess.
With his flawless diction, there was no doubt everyone heard this loud and clear. Bet a lot of guys got some after the concert last night. :)

For a 53-year-old, Sting sure doesn't look it. All those pictures ( magazines, CD / DVD sleeves ) and TV footage don't do him justice. In person, he is GORGEOUS. Not in the conventional sense, but there's just Something there you can't deny, and you get swept up in it and it lingers sensuously like a cloud of fragrant perfume.

Last night's gig was Sting's very first one for 2005, and he told us how thrilled he was to be back here again, even apologizing a little sheepishly for not returning sooner. "I was 24 the last time I came here," he joked, and the crowd cheered for a prolonged period to indicate a warm welcome and complete, unconditional forgiveness.

Rock on, Mr. Sumner!

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

What I Think Of Tasmania -- Part 1

Yep, this is going to be serialized, heh heh.

The Bad

I'm talking about this first because it's my Pet Peeve. Tasmanian food SUCKS. And this is coming from someone who knows what good food is, but whose stomach is strong enough to withstand the sorry meals she has to wolf down in every single ER she's ever worked at.

#1: What oil do they use over there?!

It tastes funny, but in a horrible way. The cooked breakfasts, with their scrambled eggs and grilled mushrooms, made me nauseous. And I've eaten such fare in places ranging from the UK to NZ to Bali. Even the cooking oil used in Sydney and Melbourne didn't give me the urge to barf. Plus, cooked breakfasts at some Tasmanian hotels apparently don't come as a package with your accomodation. Which means you have to fork out AUS$20 per head if you want to eat eggs, some pieces of charred meat, veggies, maybe some toast, with beverages on the side, when all of this actually costs only a few dollars. Highway robbery! Which is why we made a beeline for the nearest convenience store, stocked up on bread loaves, peanut butter and jam, and cup noodles, and elected to stay in our rooms and have our own breakfast for 1/10th of the cost. Plus, it tasted much better.

#2: Nothing beats fritter-izing.

Okay, this appears to be a Tasmanian trait -- and it needs to be changed, pronto. They fry almost everything in batter. Even "sweet and sour pork". And it isn't even nice batter. It isn't the soft, flaky, melts-in-your-mouth, juicy thing. Instead, it's a hard, better-insure-what-remaining-teeth-you-have, impregnable iron-like shell, which may I remind you, TASTES FUNNY, THANKS TO THE HORRIBLE OIL THEY DIP IT IN.

What's worse, the seafood doesn't live up to its reputation. You MUST try their fish / prawns, etc, everyone says. I ate at more than 10 different restaurants while I was there, and only one -- the Me Wah restaurant in Launceston -- served up truly good ( ie. fresh and well-cooked ) seafood. Nothing's worse than chewing through all that yucky batter and getting equally yucky fish / prawns inside. Bleah.

#3: Even the Chinese food isn't up to par.

I've noticed how, no matter which ang-moh land I'm in, I can almost always chance upon really good Chinese eateries. But Tasmania is a virtual desert in this aspect, and I started feeling very deprived just 48 hours after arriving on the island. ( Yes, it's that bad. ) The cuisine is mostly home-cooked, and often drowned in soy sauce. Even my favourite among the group, the aforementioned Me Wah restaurant, can only measure up to some of our better HDB estate coffee shop establishments. Nothing quite beats the likes of, say, The Soup Restaurant at Paragon. Ahhhh. :)

#4: Everything costs an arm and a leg.

Meals approximate AUS$40-50 each for the 3 of us, and this includes the fact that we usually order only 2 main courses, and maybe one starter like a soup. And don't even step into their "food courts", mini-Kopitiams / Food Junctions but without the quality or low prices. Again, everything's super-salty ( to cover up the blandness of the ingredients ), and a simple plate of "Asian noodles" costs AUS$10. And did I mention their EXPENSIVE breakfasts? Yeesh!

#5: I hate sandwiches.

Sandwiches are big with Caucasians -- something I will never understand. I mean, they're cold, tasteless, and not very substantial. At least that's my opinion. I got a lot of sandwiches while I was there. As picnic lunches provided by whichever tour I was with that day, and as *sob* my Christmas Day lunch, since every single restaurant in Tasmania ( save for hotel kitchens ) was closed that afternoon. ( Thus my vow to NEVER spend the holidays overseas ever again. Unless someone gives me tickets to a Clay X'mas concert, haha. )

#6: You'll feel your cells aging.

Waiting for food in Tasmania is... intolerable! And it isn't even because the cook's busy! There's one place in Hobart where we had to wait 30 minutes before our RICE arrived, for Pete's sake. And we were the ONLY customers.

At all the other eateries, the same interminable wait was unavoidable. If there's a crowd, better give yourself an hour. Being used to the 5-minutes-and-4-dishes-are-on-the-table efficiency so typical of Singaporean restaurants, this change of pace almost killed me.

Enough of The Bad for now. ( Yes, there's more. Later. )

The Good

Tasmanian television saved me. Literally.

My first night there, I caught the 2nd season of Nip/Tuck. As a doublebill. In its uncensored glory. ( Let me take a moment to savour this. :))

My second night, I saw the final season of The Practice -- the one with James Spader in it ( for which he won a Best Actor Emmy ). Fantastic. :)

My third night, I saw the finale of The Apprentice 2. So yeah, I know who won. And he's absolutely adorable. :D

I also caught "live" telecasts of Carols By Candlelight, an annual X'mas concert held in Melbourne, and featuring luminaries in the Australian entertainment industry. One guy to watch out for is Australian Idol 2 runner-up Anthony Callea, who looks like Adam Garcia ( the hunk from Coyote Ugly and Bootmen ) but has a voice that rivals Clay Aiken's in terms of clarity and power. His signature tune, a cover of The Prayer ( previously done by Celine Dion / Andrea Bocelli, Charlotte Church / Josh Groban, and Lulu / Russell Watson ), is a solo effort, but astounding. Guy Sebastian can't measure up at all.

In Other News

I'm now at the SNEC, which is HUGE, with 80 doctors in just one department, 4 floors of clinics and OTs, an entire floor of clinical offices, and apparently, no five-day work week.

As one senior MO pointed out to me the first day: "People don't see us very much, so they may think we lead senang ( Malay for "easy" ) lives, but we actually work very hard." I've seen firsthand what goes on over there, and I can tell you right now that HE'S RIGHT.

Clinics, for example, start at 8:30am on the dot. Without exceptions. Not showing up on time will probably get you blackmarked in some significant way. Morning sessions last till 1pm, followed by a very hurried lunch, then afternoon clinics from 1:30 - 5pm. With 6 rooms functioning and close to 10 doctors fielding cases continuously, it's a mad flurry of activitiy from beginning to end.

But still, I don't think the intensity of these clinics matches that of the ENT department, with its patients complaining of tinnitus, giddiness, rhinorrhoea, and "throat discomfort". There are some extremely neurotic people attending ENT SOCs. Cannot tahan.

Thanks to some sick passenger on the plane I took from Sydney to Singapore, I've now come down with a viral infection, complete with sore throat, fever, and severe myalgia. But it's the lethargy that always gets to me. Still, better now than when I'm overseas.

My cat, who was boarded with a pet hostel for 2 weeks while we were away, has gone into affection overdrive since we brought him home. He's given himself a hoarse voice after meowing too much, and is practically glued to us whenever we're at home. So cute. :)

A friend of mine is currently in Aceh as part of his military assignment. Hope he's doing all right over there.

I have serious doubts about the handling of huge donations in the tsunami afternmath. Call me cynical, but giving money to countries like Indonesia, Thailand and India isn't a good idea. And the relief supplies aren't finding their marks easily either, whether due to ground conditions or warfare issues. I know they need the funds, but I just can't bring myself to write a cheque. Best to leave this to the respective governments, if you ask me.

Book reviews are pending, with apologies. Will try to do them when my brain clears up.

He Just Isn't That Into You by Greg Behrendt

Caught this on Oprah today. Quite an eye-opener, even though some of the things mentioned are mostly common sense.

Behrendt worked as a co-writer on Sex And The City. Yet although his views from a male's perspective appear simple on the surface, the more telling thing about this episode is how many women are in a state of denial, which is the true root of the problem. Sure, the guy is blowing hot and cold, unwilling to commit, etc, but the girl keeps making excuses for his behaviour, coming up with her own reasons to explain her insecurities away and keep the man looking good in her eyes no matter what.

I know this because I was guilty of it once, heh heh.

Anyhow, there're a few valuable lessons to be learnt as well.

1. If a guy doesn't make the effort to call or see or spend time with you, he just isn't that into you. Even Bill Rancic, who won on the first season of The Apprentice, made a short appearance via video, and stated that, "If a woman I'm into is on the phone, I'll put The Donald on hold to take her call." Awwww. :)

2. Let the guy make the first move. ( A man said this, so there. :))

3. It's okay if a guy doesn't like you as much as you like him, or if he's unsure. He has a right to be unsure. Just as long as he doesn't lie about it.

4. Sometimes a man will string a nice girl along, the same way author Behrendt has a closet full of shirts, some okay-looking, others really gorgeous, but he never wears the gorgeous ones, preferring to wait for the perfect time to put them on. But he keeps them around anyway, because he's hoping that The Right Moment will present itself, then he'll be ready. ( Funny analogy, but kinda works, no? )

5. If you know the guy you're with isn't a good person, drop him pronto. ( I'm with you there. If only I'd known better 5 years ago. )

More ramblings another time.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

A Close Call

So my parents are probably going to dangle this over my head for the rest of my life, but for once, I'm happy about it.

News of the tsunami was beamed on Tasmanian TV on Boxing Day, and the first thing that hit me was: we originally intended to spend the holidays at the Maldives, but my mum and dad vetoed the idea at the last minute, 'cos they're not fans of beach resorts / snorkeling / sunbathing, etc, and we ended up going to Australia instead.

I'm still in a state of near-shock -- yes, even now -- and even though Tasmania didn't feel anything significant in terms of tremors or aftershocks, the ocean was turbulent, and the annual Sydney-to-Hobart yacht race saw many experienced sailors bowing out of the competition due to bad weather. Temperatures in Hobart hit half of its usual average, causing our teeth to chatter even in the midst of summer. Not fun.

The day the earthquake hit, I was at Salamanca Place visiting its famous weekend market. Located next to a wharf and adjacent to an area of open sea ( ie Sullivan's Cove ), I can still remember standing right next to the coast, a few metres from lapping waves, snapping away with my camera, just hours before Asia was turned upside down. If the quake had occurred any closer, I most definitely wouldn't have survived.

Contrary to my earlier declaration to party on New Year's Eve, I spent it curled up in bed, praying for those who perished, for those who lived through the tragedy, and for those who've lost loved ones. Today, as I attended a friend's daughter's church wedding, conversation at the lunch reception revolved around only one single topic: the Asian tsunami. People asked me what drowning is like, what smell corpses bloated with fluid and decomposition emanate, whether I know any of the medical volunteers being sent to Sri Lanka and Aceh. It was a grim reminder of so many of life's lessons: how human existence is a truly fragile entity, how merciless Mother Nature can be, how one must never take anything for granted.

My church vicar has already conducted funeral services for two Singaporeans who died in Thailand. And there are others who either directly or indirectly know a number of the missing. A few members related tales similar to mine -- life-saving choices such as deciding not to spend Christmas in Phuket or neighbouring areas... tourist hotspots now decimated in the blink of an eye... muddy graves suffocating thousands.

Two of my friends recently went diving in Malaysia over the X'mas weekend. I wasn't sure where exactly, but a frantic check with one of their blogs revealed the location of an island off Sabah which -- if Google searches can be trusted -- isn't affected by the tsunami. Unable to reach either person via phone, I'm still anxious about their safety. I hope to hear from them by tomorrow. Call me already!!!

I apologize for the rather sombre nature of my opening entry for 2005. Perhaps, when the disaster situation has stabilized, I'll write a little about my trip to Tasmania. I've read recent comments requesting that I continue posting here, and fret not, I'll certainly take them to heart. :) Also, I'm wondering what the HECK happened on 28th December -- according to the site meter, almost 500 people visited my blog that day. WHY???

In any case, the year has so far gotten off to an, err, interesting start. Came face to face with James Lye and Diana Ser at the church wedding this morning -- they look even better in person, wow. Watch for some exciting developments at The Lingual Nerve, thanks to Victor ( a member of the original Magnificent Seven, heh heh ) who's set up the Guest Writer feature, thus enabling us to collect entries from our more illustrious medical counterparts. Then of course, there's the charity project.

But best of all, a childhood friend of mine has agreed to start going to church, after straying ( as I once did ) for more than a decade. Quite a miracle, even by my standards. :)

God speed, dear readers.