Sunday, April 15, 2007

Recruitment Drive

Calling all doctors with an interest in writing! SMA News has a couple of spots on its editorial board and would love to hear from you. If you have a passion for important medical issues, have no qualms about putting them down on paper, don't mind doing all this for nothing, and would like to find out once and for all who the Hobbit is, come join us now!

Okay, I'm kidding about the Hobbit part. At most, you can hope to be a Hobbit suspect and get asked "So are you the Hobbit?" at some point. I've already been posed this question a number of times, which is a great honour indeed. ( Alas, I am not The Great One. Not even close. )
We recruited one new member through this blog not too long ago, and hope to do so again. If you're not up to the task, then by all means spread the word and recommend potential candidates to me via email.

Thank you. :)

Vietnam Part 4: Beauty In Unlikely Places
[ click on the images to magnify further ]
This series of photos illustrates a little-known fact about the country -- that it possesses quite a treasure trove of loveliness, if you would only open your eyes and see it. Here're a few of my personal favourites.

Here's a shot of the Dalat flower garden, which may be much smaller than our impressive Botanical Gardens, but easily rivals it in terms of flora.
From gigantic, plump orchids to yellow ponsiettas ( yes, yellow! ) to fascinating cabbage-like blooms and the elusive Keng Hua, the place is a dream come true for flower lovers everywhere.

Unlike the images you see from the Keng Hua link provided, we were treated to bright pink blossoms in their full glory. And around 10am in the morning too!

It's supposed to herald good fortune, so all the better for us, heh heh! Won't be posting those here since they're quite precious. :)
On the right we have a view from the cable car en route to the Truc Lam Pagoda ( also within Dalat ). The weather was terrific, and the ride super-smooth. That's the Tuyen Lam Lake in the distance.

The pagoda itself is also surrounded by lush greenery and gorgeous blossoms, which include fat, healthy chrysanthemums, daisies and humongous roses similar in size to those in Europe.

I was duly impressed! :)

Ah, I'm very pleased with this picture, which was snapped hurriedly as we were leaving a resort hotel's restaurant after lunch.
Just one of the many ( and I mean MANY ) modern tourist-friendly establishments located along the pristine Mui Ne beach, this particular day was absolutely perfect, with a pleasantly warm South China sea breeze and the bluest sky I've ever seen in my Asian travels.

Colourful sailboats floated close by, with jet skis playfully weaving in between. All I needed was a cocktail with a tiny umbrella sticking out of it and I would've been totally contented.

Unfortunately, that was the start of my GI upset spell. Darn.

Last but not least, my definite fave of the lot: a fishing village basking in the afternoon sun at Mui Ne.

This is just one of around 5 photos I took, from different angles, so the colours don't stand out as much with the sun in the way.

Nevertheless, if you ever come face to face with this breath-taking vision, I guarantee you will never forget it.
The real thing is a combination of bright reds and blues, multiplied by the hundreds. The vessels are all anchored and floating serenely on the water's surface, their owners nowhere to be seen. The entire scene is awesome, to say the least, and I wish I could've stood there on the beach for just a while longer.

Next entry: some good ( albeit quirky ) stuff we saw and did in Vietnam.
Cough's much better. I'm all set to party with our MOs before they leave the department! :)
Other aspects of my social life, however, will have to wait for now. So much work to do...

Sunday, April 08, 2007


*hack, cough*

I think I have bronchitis.

I've also developed pleuritic bilateral lower chest wall pain.

Lungs sound clear on self-auscultation though.
I'm whining. Sorry.

Can someone tell me why I can't access the Singapore Medical Council and Singapore Nursing Board websites from home? Never had this problem before. It's driving me crazy. Need to submit CME and CNE points for an event! Argh!!!

Anyway, after an extended absence from the spotlight, AI5 alumnus Elliott Yamin is back with an album. I'm a big fan of Elliott's, second only to Taylor in the last season, but sadly, his CD isn't up my alley, being strongly R&B-influenced, with only one piece I can actually stomach ( i.e. A Song For You ).
I pictured him recording a pop or jazz album, give or take a slight tinge of R&B. His voice suits those genres so perfectly, and served him well on songs he belted on the show ( beautiful renditions of classics from Stevie Wonder, a flawless cover of It Had To Be You, among others ).

Sorry, man, I'm not putting down money for this. But if he cuts a pop / jazz album in the future, I'd love to add it to my collection.

3rd album's due for release May 1st ( click on the link above to see the track listing -- looking really good :)), and did you catch his recent appearance on the latest AI6 results show, performing Call Me Irresponsible?

Alan Chang, his trusty friend and pianist ( who's very very good-looking up close, by the way :)), was on-stage to keep him company, and Michael just blew everyone away with his talent and charisma.

He's such a nice guy, you wouldn't believe it. ( Check out my October 10, 2005 entry if you don't already know what I'm yakking about. )

I must admit, Gina Glocksen's departure from the show proved a lot more poignant than I anticipated. Found myself shedding a few tears when she closed with a lovely rendition of Charlie Chaplin's Smile, doing much better than the night before.

Alas, Sanjaya sails through yet again. Yeesh.

Spent my MC day watching Swimming With Sharks, which I purchased from Amazon a few months ago. It's a very obscure film ( by Singapore standards, at least ), but oh sooooooooo good. :) They sent me a 10-year anniversary special edition, complete with a hard plastic outer cover with the words "This is a special edition, you schmuck". Love it! :D
It's Kevin Spacey at his megalomaniacal best, with tonnes of classic lines like "" and "protect his interests and serve his needs".
My parents, who've never seen it before, had a huge laugh when we sat down together to watch it on Good Friday. Almost made me forget about my laryngitis.
Here's something else that's interesting: try submitting questions to high-profile Time magazine interview subjects. They've already featured Hilary Swank and Jimmy Wales ( co-founder of Wikipedia ). This week it's Chevy Chase, who's a real hoot. I'm hoping they'll do Steve Martin sometime. Or Sergey Brin / Larry Page. Or Steve Jobs. Or Jeff Bezos. Or Michael Buble. Or Kevin Spacey...
Haha. :)

Scrolled through the latest MOPEX list yesterday. Got a couple of returnees, plus a name I recognize from the blogosphere. Don't worry -- there are no hard feelings. Will take good care of you. :) ( But then again, he may decide to swap, heh. )
False alarm about the pesky MO staying on. Heard he's seeking greener pastures overseas. Thank goodness.

And now, more photos.

Vietnam: Part 3

These were taken at an embroidery workshop showroom in Dalat. It's the only place they allow cameras, otherwise I would've snapped a lot more.

Housed within a beautiful flower garden setting, with lots of bridges, koi ponds and tiny waterfalls, it provides a tranquil environment for its many
skilled workers ( or should I say, artists ), who comprise young, dainty Vietnamese girls with deft hands and superior powers of
concentration. The processes involved -- even that of transferring a sketch from paper to cloth -- are painstaking and tedious, but the attention to detail is astounding, hence the amazing quality of work churned out.

These giant masterpieces take up o 6 months each to complete, sometimes necessitating multiple pairs of hands. The prices reflect the degree of difficulty involved -- upwards of US$5000 for the most exquisite ones. I had my eye on a gorgeous feline portrait, but even US$2600 is just too rich for my blood. Sigh.
Hopefully you'll be able to click on the images for full-screen perusal. The real things are absolutely breath-taking.
More to follow another time.

Thursday, April 05, 2007


3 bouts of flu in as many weeks. And this one's the worst so far, complete with severe laryngitis and GE. I give up...

So as I nurse my sore throat and down gallons of fluids, I've had to postpone dinner with friends yet again, all the while wondering where the heck I got this *&^%$#@ bug. An ER patient? One of my fellow colleagues? Or a random contagious host at a shopping mall ( or church ) -- who knows?

But for now, I guess this is a good opportunity for me to catch up on work and writing.

American Idol 6: The Greatest Farce Of All Time?

Just read on the Net that the latest casualty is ... Gina Glocksen, aka Goth Girl. No tears shed for this chick, since I've never favoured her from the get go. But yeesh, Sanjaya wasn't even in the bottom 3! This Vote For The Worst campaign is stronger than anyone thought. Let's hope the boy doesn't end up winning the competition. Even the usually impartial and supportive Ryan Seacrest made a face during his intro for Sanjaya at the performance show. Not a good sign.

Unexpected ER Surprise

Helped fast-track a friend for an eye consult last week. Haven't seen this guy in almost a year, despite repeated tries at meeting up, so this was nice -- in a way. :)

And get a load of Jade, the SGH ortho MO on the front page of Life! today. $8500 for an evening dress = my monthly registrar salary, before CPF cut. To quote a Hokkien phrase: very sim1 tiah3.

Vietnam: Part 2

Taken from a chapter titled "Highway Of Death" from Anthony Bourdain's A Cook's Tour ( I initially thought this came from The Nasty Bits, so apologies for the boo-boo. ).

"I just had the closest near-death experience I've ever had.

And I'm about to have another one. Then another.

I'm hurtling full speed down Highway 1 on my way to Can Tho, sitting with Philippe in the back of a hired minivan, horn honking constantly, heading right up the center line into oncoming traffic. There's a water truck about a hundred yards ahead, coming fast in the opposite direction, showing no sign that he intends to pull back into traffic, also honking wildly. Linh and a driver are in the front seat, with two shooters behind us -- and I'm convinced that any second we're all going to die.

...The thing is to keep up a constant attack with the horn. A beep means "Keep doing what you're doing, change nothing, make no sudden moves, and everything will probably be fine." It does not mean "Slow down" or "Stop" or "Move to the right" or "Get out of the way". If you try to do any of those things... - if you hesitate, look back over your shoulder, slow down, or even falter for a second - you will immediately find yourself in a burning heap of crumpled metal somewhere in a rice paddy. The horn means simply "I'm here!"

...We're right in the middle of the road, what would be a passing lane, if they had such a thing here. There's an uninterrupted line of fast-moving cars to our right, with no room at all between them in which to pull back in, a steady torrent of oncoming cars to our left, and the shoulders of both sides of the road are choked three- and four-deep with cyclists, motorbikes, water buffalo and scooters - all of them loaded with crates of food, washing-machine motors, sacks of fertilizer, flapping roosters, firewood, and family members.

...Just when our bumpers are about to meet, vaporizing all of us in an explosion of brake fluid, safety glass, blood and bone, two cars to our right suddenly open up a space for us -- and as if part of some hellish high-speed chorus line, we slip back into traffic. The water truck whips by with a terrific blast of wind, avoiding contact by less than a centimeter, and there's that peculiar vacuum pressure-drop effect you feel when on a train that is suddenly passed by another hurtling in the opposite direction. Philippe just looks at me, shaking his head, saying, "Are we still alive? I...I was sure that truck went right through us." He's not joking."

That, my friends, is exactly what we went through, multiplied by approximately 4 days ( taking into account the time we spent on crowded roads, NOT counting a particularly mind-bending drive along a rural "short cut" that was filled with potholes and granite slabs which tilted our bulky coach around 45 degrees at one point, but that's another story ).

Bourdain's description is based on a trip through the Mekong Delta, but as this photo taken during my 1st day in Ho Chi Minh City shows ( below ), the entire country follows essentially the same pattern, as long as similar conditions prevail.

[ p.s. make sure to click on the image for a full-screen magnification ]

It was nerve-wracking, to say the least, but sitting in a huge bus offers some advantage on the roads, so part of it also turned out to be pretty fun. :)

Here's a quick shot taken from my seat on a busy Saturday morning. You can imagine what it's like during weekday peak hours. Population 8 million. Yikes.

Bourdain's prose says it all, and it's just amazing how the Vietnamese manage to pile 2 adults and 3 children onto one tiny motorcycle, while mum straps an infant to her back. No helmets or safety harnesses of any kind, weaving through this mess without batting an eyelid.

I guess it helps that Vietnamese are almost invariably super-skinny. I don't recall ever seeing any fat natives anywhere. They work extremely hard, are extremely poor, but are also a lot nicer than some Singaporeans I know.

Navigating the streets of Ho Chi Minh is no joke, and this was especially evident since our hotel was situated in such a manner that our bus had to be parked on the opposite side of the road, with us being herded across like a flock of sheep ( with the bellboys' assistance, of course ). However, my mom and I made a solo effort one morning during a city tour, when I accompanied her on a restroom search. We scooted our way across a major traffic junction between the main Post Office and a shopping mall named the Diamond Plaza, heads spinning as motorbikes, cars, trucks and buses inched past us, honking away. Nobody cares about the zebra crossings, but it gives the pedestrian a teeny-tiny bit of so-called 'power' and sense of legitimacy, I suppose, 'cos if you try to cross somewhere else, you'll probably be mowed down in no time. ( At least they slow down a little near the crossings, even though the markings are so faded you can hardly make them out anymore. )

We had a GREAT driver, by the way. I thought our driver in Italy was fantastic ( Marcello the Invincible squeezed through the narrowest walkways and sped along tiny cliffside roads like a pro ), but Duong was such a hero on this trip, earning our respect and appreciation.

Also, if you've ever seen the film Little Miss Sunshine, you'll know what I mean when I say our bus sounded exactly like the movie's inanimate ( but memorable ) star during its forays on the roads.

And I swear, there were a few occasions when I had to suppress my mirth by clamping a hand over my mouth. It was so crazy, but how I loved it. :)

Next entry: beautiful images captured at random moments. Stay tuned.