Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Conflict Of Interest

Initially contemplated adding a question mark to the above, but then again, I'm not really asking for opinions here, just merely thinking aloud.

This is a rare occurrence, but it's happening again after years of inactivity.

There's a medical officer whom I'm sort of interested in, but I have no intention of taking any action.

For the sake of preserving his identity ( and also to save myself from major embarrassment ), I can't provide specific details.

However, he's one of our star performers, and that is certainly one of the main reasons I like him so much.

He's also currently unattached - a nugget of info learned during a totally unrelated conversation with someone else.

I'm his senior by a few years age-wise, but outrank him considerably work-wise.

Somehow, it just doesn't feel very appropriate to pursue the matter. Plus, I may end up scaring him off ( although we actually get along well and I've never once reprimanded him because he's THAT good ).

Oh well, that's life. :)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


It's been a while since I've had such a bad headache. Then there's the persistent nausea. And I'm on call.

2 doses of paracetamol haven't made much difference.

But I've got a good team on night shift and the crowds are still staying away, so yay Hungry Ghost Month! :)

I guess it's a sure sign that I desperately need a holiday. Seems once a year isn't quite enough anymore.

Less than 3 weeks to go, but feels like an eternity.


One of our MOs did something absolutely awful a few days ago. I can't go into specifics, but it was serious.
Luckily, the final outcome was decent. However, this MO's attitude leaves much to be desired.

No sense of urgency. No apology. No remorse.

Maybe s/he needs a few slaps around the head so what s/he did will actually sink in.
Some people get off easy. The potential for an actual mortality was high, but it didn't occur, so the MO escaped.

Then there're those of us who don't commit such unforgiveable mistakes, but get whacked with complaints about miniscule things like not getting a bedpan or feeding a patient fast enough. I have a knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, so relatives of patients whom I didn't even manage see it fit to vent their personal frustrations on me.

But I've gotten used to it over the years. I'm not here to seek your approval. I'm just here to treat patients.

I reserve most of my TLC for those who are elderly, neglected, destitute, and/or suffering from depression. Many sob uncontrollably, clutching my arm as they relate their sad stories, often begging for an early death.

They are also part of a dying breed of patients who still respect and appreciate the doctors and nurses who care for them. Their thanks are effusive, even if I merely took blood samples and arranged admission.
Unfortunately, they're not the sort to fill out feedback forms so you'll get a star on your resume.

But like I said, I stopped caring about this a long time ago.

Good thing my department seniors don't rely on such tools during appraisal. Hypocrisy and laziness are easily detected down here, and word travels fast.


At the risk of being accused of political incorrectness, I'm wondering if the YYLSOM's decision to allow >50% females in the yearly cohort is a wise decision.

I don't have hard statistics, but I doubt this move is really helping the government sector's manpower shortage.

Based on personal observation, many female doctors opt to go part-time, leave for private practice in some form or other, or quit entirely, once they start having children.

I'm not finding fault with their decisions -- I think it's admirable to make such sacrifices -- but it also depletes an already skeletal workforce.

Perhaps some courageous individual(s) will do a survey on this and publish the results?


A recent discussion in the papers about toilet hygiene in Singapore has, in my opinion, an obvious explanation, though it isn't mentioned in the reports.

Our society's unhealthy dependence on foreign maids is beginning to manifest itself in various ways.

Rude, undisciplined children run amok as parents act oblivious or coddle them out of some misplaced sense of guilt. Maids aren't allowed to rein their charges in, and besides, why would any child choose to listen to the hired help? ( We don't live in Comic Book Land, where some billionaire named Bruce Wayne treats his butler like a father figure. )

Littering has become intolerable -- a trend I also attribute to the maid culture. If people don't pick up after themselves at home, why the hell would they do so outside?
It's the same thing with public toilets. That plus this inexplicable Singaporean trait of peeing on the floor even when a toilet bowl in working order is readily available.

And what's with this reluctance to flush? Even at my workplace, I encountered a woman ( hospital staff, mind you ) who couldn't even be bothered to pull the flush lever after defecating. I got a rude shock when I walked into the cubicle after she emerged. I would've told her off if she hadn't left so quickly.

When I was in primary school ( Nan Hua, to be exact ), our principal rostered each class for toilet-scrubbing duty. I didn't enjoy it, but it definitely made you think twice about messing up the place. It's a lesson I remember well, and since I do my own toilet-washing at home, keeping a loo clean has become second nature for me.

Just my personal opinion here, but I don't think it's a coincidence that countries where most families don't enjoy the privilege of having domestic maids also happen to have some of the cleanest lavatories. One good example is Japan, where members of the public are known to whip out their own tissue paper to wipe the sinks. Try getting Singaporeans to do that. They'll probably just laugh or punch you in the face.

I'm only 33 years old, but sad to say, I miss the good ol' days when Singapore had kampungs and people were still pretty decent.

End of rant.


On a lighter note, did anyone notice a new link under the Humour heading?

This site is not for the prudish. I personally find it hilarious, vulgar sex talk and all ( most of it is posted by readers in the comments section ).

There's a priceless picture of Jason Mraz which I will leave you to find on your own. I don't really know what to make of it, but Hilton's many gay fans do.

Haha. :)


Last but not least, a short mention about the Beijing Olympics.

I've been working most evenings and taking early afternoon naps before shifts, so I regret to report that I've missed most of the action so far.

This includes Michael Phelps' 8 gold medal wins. I only watched him swim once, at the heats for some individual event. He came in second for that one.

But I am indeed awed by his record-breaking haul. I read a short interview in People magazine, and his determination can be quite intimidating. However, his hard work has paid off beautifully. He has an extremely bright future ahead. Look out for tonnes of endorsement deals!

As for our table-tennis team's silver medal, I'm happy that Singaporeans are happy, but the fact that the entire group originates from China has got to strike a few as ironic. It just doesn't feel the same somehow.

One thing I AM thankful for - being off ( by pure coincidence ) during the opening and closing ceremonies. The former was nothing short of awe-inspiring, and I can only imagine what wonders are in store for the latter.

Till next time...

Friday, August 15, 2008

Born Standing Up by Steve Martin
- A Review

If you don't know who Steve Martin is, you don't know what you're missing.


I grew up watching many of his movies ( didn't have access to his stand-up routines back in the '80s and '90s ). These include The Man With Two Brains, Three Amigos, Roxanne, L.A. Story, Planes Trains and Automobiles, Parenthood, All Of Me, Little Shop Of Horrors ( a huge fave ), My Blue Heaven, Father Of The Bride, Housesitter ( another great comedy ), Shopgirl, Cheaper By The Dozen, The Pink Panther ( hilarious! ), and his best work to date -- Bowfinger.

I've also read his novels, Shopgirl and The Pleasure Of My Company ( the latter is one of those rare books which can actually make me laugh out loud; others worth mentioning include anything written by Dave Barry ).

Born Standing Up is semi-autobiographical. I say "semi" because it isn't complete. Meaning it doesn't cover his entire existence. Sure, it dwells a lot on his rise to stardom, beginning with his childhood influences and progressing through high school, college, then early adulthood. However, it leaves out his career achievements on the big screen, so the story essentially screeches to a halt in the mid-1980s.

It's written succinctly in a conversational style, without the usual grand posturing or flowery language one often finds in memoirs.
Little wonder the hard-cover edition is just over 200 pages long.

Don't be fooled by this slender volume though. Martin is a whiz at compressing large amounts of information into the shortest of sentences and paragraphs, yet succeeds at communicating the essence of a scene, experience, or emotion. His writing style is similar to that in Shopgirl and Pleasure, only this time he's talking about himself, not some character he made up.

It is, I think, nowhere as good as his fictional work. But speaking as a huge fan, I found it revealing and entertaining. He shares little-known secrets like his tenuous relationship with his father, his many intimacies with a whole string of women during the Flower Power era, backstage encounters with the likes of Elvis Presley, Jim Belushi, Johnny Carson and Sammy Davis Jr, and a long struggle with anxiety and panic attacks. We read about the thousands of 'live' shows he did - both good and bad - and learn the lingo and tricks of the trade. Fascinating.

Although Martin maintains an everyman tone for almost 90% of the book, in the concluding 10%, the word "famous" creeps in. He laments the lack of privacy, but admits to enjoying the perks. However, he keeps this section short, a choice I consider laudable.

With its rather premature ending, I guess this is the perfect setup for a sequel. Something about his film career perhaps? I can't wait. :)

[ This too is available from the Tanglin Club library. But I won't be returning it till next week. Tough. :D ]

On a separate note, I'd like to say hello to the friend I had lunch with yesterday. It was great catching up! I've said it many times already, but I'll say it again -- I just think it's so cool to know someone who's married to someone who works for Google! And this friend has even visited the Google headquarters in Silicon Valley! ( Sorry, I'm a bit obsessed with Google, haha. )

Will be starting on another book this weekend. Something related to the country I'm visiting in 3 weeks' time. Am very excited - time to get out of Singapore for a bit.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Review of Powers of Darkness, Powers of Light by John Cornwell

I chanced upon this book during a casual stroll through the Tanglin Club library. That place is a treasure trove of literary marvels, I tell you. :)

Written by a former editorial staff on London's Observer, this non-fiction novel traces his journey across Europe in a quest to validate and debunk religious miracles.

Although the first few chapters start off slowly, the patient reader will be rewarded for his/her effort, as they provide important information on the writer's background, most notably his 8 years spent at a seminary, before becoming disillusioned and moving on to more - shall we say - realistic endeavours.

By Chapter 6, the book goes into full swing, as Cornwell takes a year of unpaid leave and embarks on his soul-searching trip, which sends him to far-flung villages in secluded mountains. He travels through Yugoslavia, Spain, Canada, Italy and Ireland, meeting a slew of controversial figures and becoming somewhat embroiled in political conflicts.

Each reader will find something to strike his/her fancy. For me, it was Cornwell's detailed descriptions of the visionaries' raptures and ecstasies, which are bizarre at best and super-creepy at worst. Although what he witnesses is far from blood-curdling ( staring into space, strangely synchronized silent chanting ), the first-, second-, or even third-hand accounts from those who claim to have seen these unexplained phenomena are guaranteed to cause a few hairs to stand on end.

For example, there're widespread reports of ecstatic children running backwards, on their knees, down rocky hillsides.
Some levitate until they hit the ceiling, and others become impossibly heavy and immovable, only to return to normal once the rapture concludes.

Cornwell dutifully records these stories, but remains unaffected spiritually. And while I agree with some of his opinions, I also found his consistent disbelief a little odd. Even I, a self-proclaimed major cynic, have my soft moments. :)

My favourite chapter is Dinner With Briege, where the author discusses the concept of miraculous healing with Sister Briege McKenna, an Irish nun renowned for restoring health in even the most terminal of cases. Here's a passage from their conversation:

" We often act as if we can manipulate God into doing what we want him to do - by saying the right words, or making promises, or having sufficient faith. But God teaches us through prayer that he doesn't do anything to suit us. In prayer and through prayer we change to fit into God's will.

...whenever we can say yes to God, we will never be hurt. He is a God of love and you should never put limitations on him. It is only in our resistance and pulling away and saying no to God that we get hurt."

This principle is probably the strongest foundation of Christian belief ( I'm not differentiating between Catholicism and Christianity here ), and I'm aware of many who struggle with it on a daily basis ( my mother being one of them ). Of course, I've never been in the hot seat - i.e. being struck by long-term illness myself - and I sincerely hope I'm never thrust into such a position. But I'm a fan of the Bible's Chapter of Job, with its famous verse "The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away". Ultimately, it all boils down to an issue of trust ( and I disagree with those who maintain that such a relationship with God is "child-like"; if anything, it requires maturity, not blind acceptance ).

The last section titled Powers Of Darkness fell short of my expectations, but I suppose Cornwell had his reasons for keeping this bit brief. It is, however, no less disturbing, with reports of rampant Satanism throughout the world going unchecked. A firsthand account of a cult ritual is absolutely blood-curdling. Beware of the morning 4 o'clock hour, brrrr.

I had a personal encounter which I can only attribute to a paranormal origin when I was 7 years old. I'll spare you the specifics, but in short, it occurred at home in a bedroom, and involved a disembodied voice calling my name. I still remember it vividly to this day, and have no idea how I managed to stay in that house for the next 20 years without further incident. Maybe that crucifix hanging next to my bed worked after all.

I'm returning this book tomorrow, so if you're a TC member, go look for it. :)

Monday, August 04, 2008

SingFest Day 2 Review
[ updated 9th August 2008 ]

[ click on the images to enlarge ]

Part 1 - Jason Mraz

( Btw, I've been noticing regular visits from Australian locations, which strangely correspond to JM's tour schedule. Not that I'm being presumptive or egoistic, but since I did send him a message about this review via MySpace, I suppose there's a tiny possibility he decided to drop by.

So Jason, if you happen to read this, I'd like to say a big WELCOME. :) )

He may not look the part, but I personally find him downright sexy.

I've been a fan since 2003, and became a diehard in 2006 following his acoustic concert at The Esplanade. But last Sunday, I became - I kid you not - helplessly infatuated.

Dressed in a plain getup ( as you can see in the pictures ), he nevertheless overflowed with charisma without even trying, or realizing it. He was laid back, playing his guitar and singing his heart out, totally relaxed. His voice was, as always, perfect ( those glorious high notes, held for what seems like an eternity! ). This time, however, he came with a full band, so the sound was completely different from his unplugged show 2 years ago.

The effect? A heart-pounding 60 minutes of hard jamming. I LOVED IT!

Jason opened with The Remedy ( a hot favourite from his debut album, Waiting For My Rocket To Come ). This pop-rock piece got a nice little improv in the form of some lyrics from Oasis' Wonderwall ( ingenious! ). Then it was on to songs from his latest release ( We Sing, We Dance, We Steal Things ) -- Make It Mine, I'm Yours, Butterfly, Live High, Only Human, and The Dynamo of Volition. He also threw in Geek in the Pink, from Mr. A-Z.

I was tightly packed within a huge crowd crammed near the stage, sweating my butt off, fanning myself like crazy, swigging mineral water and spraying the people around me with eau de toilette ( without their knowledge of course ). But I could see and hear Jason and gang really clearly, and there're a few bits worth mentioning.

First, the body language. While acoustic Jason from 2006 whispered and swayed, rocker Jason belted and boogied. He held his guitar close like a precious child, but danced with it like an attentive lover. He bopped his head to the beat, tapped his feet, then led us in some rhythmic upper limb actions on The Dynamo of Volition. There were also cheeky hand gestures - I think it was during Butterfly, but can't be sure ( it's the heat, dammit! ).

At one point, he did a group routine with the bassist and trumpet player. Again, I forget which song this was ( sorry ), but it was simple yet classy. Reminded me of something right out of the Motown era, done in a suave, stylish manner. Very cool. :)

Second, the music. Aside from the usual high standards fans can always expect from Jason and his band, I was thrilled by the opening a cappella rendition on Live High, reminiscent of a church choir. Beautiful! And when they hit the chorus ( 'Live high, live mighty, live righteously' ), Jason turned his gaze up towards the heavens with a dreamy look on his face. Yow. :)

Every song was arranged differently from its studio version, and worked brilliantly in a 'live' setting. And since I own 5 of his albums to date ( 3 studio and 2 concert recordings ), I can tell you that no two 'live' JM performances ever sound the same, yet they're all equally amazing.

Third, the crowd response. I was sandwiched in the middle of a mostly young group of spectators, i.e. in their late teens and early 20s. They knew all the lyrics, sang their guts out, and gamely imitated Jason's arm gestures. I was impressed! Never thought he'd have such a huge following in this particular demographic ( he's still considered a little off the mainstream, no? ). The cheers were deafening, and many screamed for more after he ended his set.

But alas, that's the downside of an event like this. Each act was only allowed up to 60 minutes of stage time, which left little allowance for encores or banter. A pity, since Jason is famous for his wit, which is sardonic and occasionally kooky. That was the main advantage of watching him at The Esplanade, where he told cute little stories in between songs, and had us all in stitches. The audience missed that at SingFest - a huge waste.

You can check out Jason's MySpace page to listen to a 'live' version of Love For A Child - a piece I find absolutely enchanting, and which sounds even more gorgeous outside the confines of a studio ( there's a bit of an echo on this recording, which I think really enhances its beauty ). Wish he could've sung this last Sunday ( or A Beautiful Mess, another favourite of mine ).

Did anyone tune in to his interview with Class 95 on Wednesday night? He spoke to Love Songs DJ Yasmin at his hotel on Tuesday, and she mentioned he's the only person from the SingFest lineup who stayed back a few days just to do interviews.

It was a lovely session, covering his music, tours, fans, even bits of his personal life. He speaks very well ( something I've known for a while now ), is appropriately described by Yaz as "very Zen", has a major ( and I mean MAJOR ) thing for avocados ( he grows them on a farm! ), and loves cats - awww.

I have a very soft spot for cats and cat lovers, especially if the latter belong to the male species, 'cos men usually prefer dogs. I know very few guys who adore cats as much as I do, so listening to Jason wax lyrical about his tabby, Holmes, was extremely soothing, especially in view of my own pet's recent demise ( I still miss him terribly, argh ).

The minute Yaz got him started about his little feline companion, Jason's voice changed significantly, and the affection really shone through. His description about how Holmes would follow him around the house then park himself in whichever room his owner was in brought back some great memories for me, 'cos I spent so many nights with my cat curled up in my arms as I watched TV / read a book / slept.

I can picture Jason cuddling cats, and like him even more now, haha. :)

The best piece of news, though, came from his manager, who told Yaz that Jason is seriously thinking of returning for a purely Asian tour, hopefully in early 2009. And of course, he fully intends to come back to Singapore for a solo gig.
A fabulous idea! I suggest the Singapore Indoor Stadium, which can accomodate his legions of fans.

And this time, I'm going to do everything I can to meet him in person.

Anyway, enough gushing about JM. If you'd like to read about his Esplanade concert from 2006, just type Jason Mraz in the search box above, then scroll down to the March 21 2006 entry.

Part 2 - the best of the rest

Rick Astley was very good vocally, but seemed lethargic physically, and appeared to lose steam early in his short set ( I think it lasted only 30-40 minutes at most ). He performed many of his biggest hits -- Take Me To Your Heart, Hold Me In Your Arms, When I Fall In Love, She Wants To Dance With Me, Cry For Help, and yes, the famous Never Gonna Give You Up.

I was happy enough just to see him in the flesh ( I managed to squeeze forward a few metres during the set changes, which explains why photos taken after Jason Mraz's performance are correspondingly magnified ), so the lack of a "wow" factor didn't really bother me.

The panty-throwing antics were hilarious though. Someone also tossed a whole bra onstage! I certainly hope that particular fan is female, heh.

The Pussycat Dolls came after Rick, and put up a jolly good show. I am not a fan, but am familiar with their work, thanks to MTV and televised music awards ceremonies. They opened with Buttons ( perhaps my favourite of the repertoire ), then pretty much barrelled through Don't Cha, Wait A Minute, I Don't Need A Man, and Stickwitu. I particularly enjoyed their cover of Sway, which was unexpected, but done very competently.

The funny thing about this set is how a large group of men ( a mixture of backstage crew, concert organizer / record company / other industry people ) parked themselves at the side ( on the same stage ) to watch the Dolls strut their stuff. I know exactly what was going through all their minds. :)

Due to many delays in between sets ( for prop changes and sound checks ), Alicia Keys started her bit an hour late ( shortly past 11pm ).

And since I was accompanied by my 65-year-old mother ( who tagged along to see Rick Astley and Jason Mraz - yes, she's quite the hipster :)), and we'd been standing since our arrival at 4pm, I agreed to leave early at her request. She was looking quite weatherbeaten by then, no doubt a result of dehydration and fatigue.

But worthy of special mention is OneRepublic, whom I almost missed due to a long queue at the entrance. Luckily, they began their performance only at 5pm, just as I found a vantage point at the back and purchased some food.

The whole band was sweating bullets in the afternoon heat, but lead singer Ryan Tedder sounded terrific -- much much better than what I've heard on previous 'live' gigs. He hit all the high notes right on the mark, and kept audiences happy with lots of banter and some spraying of mineral water into the crowd. Nice fellow.

I may not be in Singapore for the next SingFest ( am aiming to start my HMDP fellowship next July in NYC ), but I'll get my fill of good music in Manhattan. Broadway and summer concert tours galore, woohoo!

But my heartiest congratulations to Midas Promotions and fellow organizers for bringing a slew of excellent acts this year. However, a lot of credit also goes to the audience, who were well-behaved yet enthusiastic, and no doubt responsible for coaxing spectacular performances from all the musicians.

Suggestions for SingFest 2009? Better food and beverages, more blowfans, fewer delays. The parking's always going to be hell on earth, so no improvements possible in that area. I'd like to see more British acts as well -- how about James Morrison, Arctic Monkeys, Amy Winehouse?

Right then, that's it for my review. Hope you enjoyed it, comments welcomed.