Thursday, August 31, 2006

Alien Nation

In the USA, when you become a PR, they give you a card that identifies you as a Resident Alien. This is widely known as the Green Card (although it’s not actually green, but pink; maybe once upon a time it used to be green). I got this card almost a decade & a half ago, when I got married.

Theoretically speaking, I have been an alien* for more than half my life. My parents moved here when I was barely out of toddlerhood. My dad was, what you would today call, a foreign talent, who left his home country to seek a better life for his kids. He & my mom landed here, liked it & decided to call it home. With his qualifications, he found a job here, & made a comfortable living. He became PR of this country & by default, so did my sister & I (mom was already Singaporean by virtue of birth). I only naturalized when I turned 21 due to some sexist ruling that said that only a Singaporean dad can sponsor a PR minor to become a Singaporean. So I had to wait till I became an adult before naturalizing on my own merits (i.e. doctor-to-be – therefore desirable citizen, I assume ☺).

Growing up, I was never made to feel different by my Singaporean friends. For all
intents & purposes, Singapore was home to me, despite my different colored IC & foreign passport. There was no talk of whether foreign talent was good or no good; my family & I were accepted for what we were (& still are!).

Hence all this recent discussion about foreign talent bemuses me. When did it become such a controversial issue? And why?

I remember in the 70’s, construction workers & cleaners/sweepers were made up mainly of locals. Somewhere between then & now, foreigners took over these “undesirable” jobs, presumably because Singaporeans were unwilling to take up menial jobs & dirty work. Hence foreign workers filled this niche. I didn’t hear anyone make any noise about that.

If the government hadn’t made it an issue in the recent years, would it be so hotly discussed now? Would people be more accepting of the fact that sometimes, you have to look at the person & what he/she can do instead of looking at his/her passport before deciding if he/she is deserving of working in this country?

After all, if these people are willing to uproot their families to make their living here, & there are employers who are willing to hire them, why the fuss? Could it be that the jobs being talked about now are higher paying ones, & not cheap labor.

I truly believe that if you have the ability, the desire & the qualifications to do a job, you WILL be able to get the job that you deserve. So I don’t see why Singaporeans are making such a big deal over it, unless they are not confident of their own abilities to get the aforesaid jobs in the first place. But then, that is a different kettle of fish altogether, innit? ☺.


*part of the reason why I adopted the moniker “aliendoc”

And he's out...

In a shocker elimination, Ryan Star was the next contestant booted out of the competition in Rockstar: Supernova. It seemed like everyone had their mouths gaping open when this was announced by Tommy "Hatchet Man" Lee, including myself. I had expected Storm to be the next one out.

Never fear, I think Ryan has enough to talent to make it without Supernova. I suspect that he may even out-shadow them eventually, judging from the 3 tracks I've heard so far from Supernova.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Rockstar: Supernova

Things are really heating up at the rockstar mansion! After Dilana's booboo with the media hounds, emotions ran high when they got home, culminating in Dilana breaking down & Magni ending up with a "flesh wound" on his head! Drama, drama..ooh, I love it!!!!

Performances this week were based on fans' votes - we got to vote on who should sing what. I think Ryan, Toby & Dilana nailed their performances. Magni was good but could not outshine these three.

Storm was struggling with her song "Bring Me to Life" by Evanescence, while Lukas did a very energetic version of Lithium despite his "dislike" of the song. I don't like him though...too arrogant, IMHO. Yes, you can be arrogant during a performance, but if you carry that attitude off stage, you end up p***-ing off many people. I don't see Storm fronting Supernova; she just doesn't fit. I think she will be the next to go.

Darn website...can't seem to vote online!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Dear Diary

The summer vacation is finally over, & the kids went back to school a couple of weeks ago. Has it been only 2 weeks??? It seems longer than that. They are in full swing, with a hefty amount of homework almost daily.

Z, a freshman in high school, is starting to realise that high school work involves a lot more depth than what he did in middle school. He is joining a gun club (!!!) & a performing arts club (the appeal being that he & his "band mates" can jam together in school). I hope he can cope with the extra activities. I was hoping that he could also involve himself in a community service club, but don't want him to get overwhelmed. Maybe he can do an adhoc type of thing during the school year, if something pops up.

W, 7th grader, is "joining a band". Not sure how this will work out, because at this age, a lot of it is talk, & high hopes which may eventually not end up the way they want it to. His band is supposed to audition for a talent show, but have yet to have a full fledged rehearsal. It will be interesting to see how this will turn out.

Me

I am going to be doing a locum job next month, once a week. Already did one session a couple of weeks ago, & I can honestly say that I do NOT miss work. I had that "been-there-done-that" feeling. At this point, it's hard for me to picture myself going back to full time clinical work. The passion is just not there. I have been considering the possibility of setting up my own business offering a consultancy service to interested parties to help them optimise their health-care needs. That way, I could use my knowledge & prior experience to do some good. Darn, I wish that med school had included a module on business studies.

Just found out that my Art teacher is moving to Jakarta. Aaahhhh! So sad! I really loved the art lessons. Now I will have to go look another class that is just as flexible & just as fun - I think it will be hard to find.

Am rather starved for good, non-depressing movies. We watched "Love Wrecked" starring Amanda Bynes last weekend, to our regret. I had hoped for a light-hearted romantic comedy, but ended up with a silly & rather juvenile storyline, with pretty bad acting. "The Devil Wears Prada" starts this week; with Meryl Streep, Stanley Tucci & Anne Hathaway, I hope that this will be more enjoyable.

Am also hoping that some world-class acts will head this way. Had wanted to watch Westlife, but my 'kaki' had some prior engagements & couldn't make it - I didn't fancy going to a concert on my own as I expect that most of the audience will be comprised of teenyboppers. Robbie Williams - tickets are so expensive + he is performing at the National Stadium which has sucky acoustics & not a great place to hold rock concerts (I had attended 2 concerts there before, by Michael Jackson & David Bowie - not worth the money). I refuse to pay $300 for it. Am considering watching "tick, tick Boom!", a musical based on the life of Jonathan Larson (who produced Rent) - will need to check out reviews on this before deciding.

Whom do I wish was coming here to perform? James Blunt, Jason Mraz (again), Nickelback (surprise - I really like their music), Green Day (another surprise - they're good!), just to name a few. I wouldn't mind watching Supernova, no matter who wins the contest. I have grown to appreciate Tommy Lee's antics & rather manic expression on his face when he is playing his drums. At this point, my faves to win are Dilana & Ryan Star.

I found my old English Lit books from Sec 3 & 4 - an anthology of poems, & Animal Farm by George Orwell, among them. All my scribblings & notes on the edges & in between the lines are still there & legible (although my aging eyes are finding it a bit hard to read some of it!). What great memories I have of our English Literature lessons. It was one of my favorite subjects as it allowed me to pour my heart & soul out on paper when asked to analyse certain poems or certain areas of the books. I didn't realise it at the time, but I think this helped to balance out the rote-learning & regurgitation we had to do with the Science subjects.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Survivor 13

The upcoming season of Survivor: Cook Islands will see an added twist, when the teams are split up according to race.

This should be very interesting to watch; race is a sensitive issue in the USA (& here as well) & many people like to tiptoe around it & pretend that it doesn't matter. It shouldn't matter, but in reality, the color of our skin is the first thing that is seen & often dictates how we are perceived (& sometimes, how we are treated).

It will be very telling to see how this will play out in Survivor. It will either highlight glaring differences, or show that underneath all that pigment, we all belong to the human race. I hope it's the latter.

"...and it washed over me for the first time in my life just how much importance the world had ascribed to skin pigment, how lately it seemed that skin pigment was the sun and everything else in the universe was the orbiting planets...
...It seemed to me it would have been better if God had deleted skin pigment altogether."

Excerpt from "The Secret Life of Bees" by Sue Monk Kidd

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

crocs



Damn ugly.

But damn comfortable.

Especially for people with plantar fasciitis (like me!).

I luuurve my turquoise blue flip flop crocs. ☺

Monday, August 21, 2006

Mind-boggling

My jaw dropped & I could hardly believe what I was reading today in the Straits Times. One of the Singaporeans interviewed about what their hopes & wishes are, & their reaction to PM Lee Hsien Loong's National Day speech was a working mum, Mdm Kimberlie Chong. She is a mother of 4, & director of a business she runs with her husband. I reproduce part of the answer which she gave that had me gasping in disbelief.

Madam Chong was also pleased with the stress placed on schools to teach young Singaporeans to acknowledge their roots.
"Parents these days simply don't have the time to teach their children such subjects as moral values and Singapore's post-independent history."

Is it a wonder that the kids are growing up the way they are? The "Me" mentality, materialism, etc. With parents like Mdm Chong who do not make the time to teach moral values to their kids, I'm not surprised. I had previously blogged on this very issue, & Mdm Chong's statement seems to support what I am seeing in parents & kids today, with child-caring being left predominantly to their domestic helpers.

Being a parent is not to be taken lightly. That's why I feel that the Baby Bonus is not something that is beneficial in the long run in producing a society that we want to be proud of. If one can't make time to raise your kids right, then don't have kids at all. Period.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

MHC

Attended the SMA convention on MHC yesterday.

Take home message: MHCs are here to stay. And GPs will need to put their brains together & come up with a way of managing their practices in order to manage the managed care companies in a way that won't compromise on quality of care or cause them to lose their livelihood.

How did the local situation in the private GP sector arrive at this stage? $5 consults? Losing money because reimbursement for medicine is less than cost?

I have never set up my own clinic. Never wanted to because I knew the sacrifices it would entail as far as my personal life & quality time with family is concerned. But I never foresaw that competition would heat up to the point where docs would be willing to sign up with money-losing MHC contracts just so that they would gain (or hope to gain) market share.

One of the speakers mentioned that we need to include an accounting module in the GDFM course. I wholeheartedy agree. Perhaps it's even time to include a Business module in NUS's Medicine curriculum called "The Business of Medicine". Let's face facts. Medicine is not all about altruism; in order to survive in this dog-eat-dog world, we need to be wise to the ways of the world.

After all, doctors set up clinics to treat patients, and yes, there will be patients who may not be able afford to pay for medications, and I know that doctors DO give allowance for this; but they also need to earn enough to pay their rent, their staff, feed their family, pay their monthly mortgage installments etc.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

A Doc's Life - More Memorable Moments (P.S. 8)

Scenario: 4th year Med School; infectious disease rotation

At that time, the infamous Middle Road Hospital was still around (this is about 20 years ago). Patients with skin problems or STD’s were managed there. (I've always wondered about this strange combination ☺).

As part of our posting, we were supposed to go on a field trip to a red light district to see how prostitutes are “managed”. There were 3 main districts: Johore Road, Desker Road & Geylang. I think most of us were hoping to see Geylang, where it is supposed to be the most “high class” of the 3, with specially designed beds & other contraptions in the brothels (whether this is true or not, I have no idea ☺).

Anyway, my group was sent to Desker Road with a social worker. Basically, what the medical social worker needed to do was to make sure that the “workers” had been keeping up with their regular visits to Middle Road for tests to ensure that they were “disease-free”. Those who were cleared were given green ID cards, which they had to show to the MSW who did spot checks.

There is a widely held misconception that prostitution is illegal in Singapore. Well, that’s not true. As long as the sex worker worked in his/her registered brothel & was holding a valid green card, it was OK. However, if they solicited their services on premises other than the brothel, they could be arrested. I am assuming that this, or a system similar to this, still holds true.

Desker Road is in a not too great area of the city. The brothels were located in old pre-war shophouses. Inside, the space was subdivided into spartan looking cubicles each containing a bed & a sink. Each brothel had its own “type” of sex workers:

a) Women
b) Old women – and I mean old. The lady whom we saw there looked like someone’s grandmother. In fact, she was wearing a traditional sam-foo type of outfit. We later found out that she REALLY WAS someone’s grandmother. When we asked her why she was still doing this kind of work, she said that she needed the money to support her (useless, IMHO) son who was already in his 30’s, and toddler grandson. Sad, really.
c) “Women” – transvestites, who looked more female than the real women; they were beautiful with gorgeous slim & toned bodies. They also tended to have exaggerated feminine gestures, & dressed in extremely revealing clothing (think: blouse made of some kind of net-like material, with no undergarments). One of them told us that "he" was saving up for gender reassignment surgery.

Surprisingly, the highest rate for service was for category c. At that time, it was between S$30 to S$40 per session. The poor old lady only earned $5 to $10 per session, while the “regular” women earned about $25 per session.

On leaving the brothels, we walked through the alleyway behind the shophouses, and there were vendors with tables set-up there, selling different kinds of devices supposed to enhance one’s erotic experiences! We were really quite surprised to see these things being sold openly although we (innocents that we were * GRIN*) couldn’t figure out how some of those things worked or where they were supposed to be fitted/worn!

An eye-opening experience.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

A Doc's Life - More Memorable Moments (P.S. 7)

Scenario: Pediatric Surgery Department of a large local hospital

This was where I did a 6-month rotation. This is where I:

• found out I was pregnant with my first son; had hyperemesis gravidarum due to aforementioned pregnancy, resulting in my having to run out during ward rounds to throw up, asking the nurse to jab me with IM Dramamine during one of my calls, and almost throwing up on a patient when I was assisting the on-call consultant in a laparotomy. The sight & smell of gas-filled loops of ischemic, necrotic intestines which popped eagerly out of the neonate’s abdominal cavity was not a pleasant one, pregnant or not;

• saw my first (& only) omphalocele;

• learnt how to do laser circumcision. And I am proud to say that my handiwork was pretty good too. Thing about using lasers is that you have to have good hand-eye-foot co-ordination. Hand because you have to target the laser, eye because you have to see what you are doing (duh) & foot because that’s how you turn the laser beam on & off (or shoot the laser, as a layman would say). There was a fellow from another Asian country who wasn’t terribly good with his hands, & one time, when I was assisting him, I saw him inadvertently “shoot” the laser at the glans penis – he didn’t lift his foot off fast enough. My eyes widened in horror & I cringed in empathy (although I am female, I could still imagine how sensitive that area is). Fortunately, it was a very small, very superficial burn.

• was taught how to differentiate between abdominal guarding & voluntary rigidity (in babies & children, who tend to be more sensitive to being palpated, this can be quite hard to do).

• developed a phobia of calling up radiologists on call to help confirm & manage intussusception. For some reason, certain radiologists were terribly unfriendly, and seemed to do the barium enemas very grudgingly. I often wished I could have told them: hey, I don’t like waking you up in the middle of the night either, but this kid is in pain, & signs point to a likely diagnosis of intussusception, you know!

• learnt that projectile vomiting in babies with pyloric stenosis is REALLY projectile, if you know what I mean;

• realized that many “head injury” patients tended to be admitted at night. I think the parents had no time to worry until after dinner, when fearsome thoughts & scenarios start flashing through their heads about the bump on their DDC’s* heads although the bump may have been sustained a week ago.

*DDC = Dear Darling Children

Goosebump moments

OMG. Wow. More goosebump moments this week on Rockstar Supernova - Ryan Star singing Phil Collin's "In The Air Tonight" & my fave, Dilana singing the classic "Cat's in the Cradle" by Harry Chapin. Awesome.

It's strange isn't it, how your body responds to certain moments of a musical performance or a movie - chills start to run down your spine, & goosebumps form on your skin, & sometimes you even feel the sting of tears in your eyes.

"The Sound of Music" - when the von Trapps performed Edelweiss before fleeing Austria.
Watching Jason Mraz perform live at the Esplanade.
Watching & listening to my sons perform an acoustic guitar version of "Sweet Child of Mine" in perfect synchrony.
Hearing the Vienna Boys Choir.
Singing along to ABBA songs during Mama Mia.

Goosebump moments, all of them.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

A Doc's Life - More Memorable Moments (P.S. 6)

This letter to the papers today reminds me of the naivete of some of the patients when it comes to matters related to their health or bodily functions.

Scenario: 3rd year Med School - Community health project for SMPH (Social Medicine & Public Health, now known as COFM - Community Occupational & Family Medicine). My clinical group did a project on hypertension & obesity; to gather data, we had to go to various units in HDB estates to measure BP, take height & weight etc.

Head of this particular family was a gentleman in his 40's with 4 daughters. As we were about to leave after gathering the neccessary info, he pulled me aside & asked: "I only have daughters. Is it because I only eat fish & don't eat meat?"

Me: "Er, no."

Him: "So what kind of diet should I take so that I can have a son."

Me: "Er, doesn't matter, what you eat won't affect the sex of your child. But for your health, please eat a balanced diet."


Not sure if he believed me or not.

Hearing Things

Hmm.

I wonder if I am hearing things. I thought I heard on the news on radio yesterday about scholarships being offered by A*Star to foreign students with a condition that they become Singapore citizens. I looked for it in the Straits Times yesterday & today. Nada. I tried searching for it on the Channel NewsAsia website. Nada. I tried looking for it on the Today Online website. Still nada.

Hmm. Perhaps I am having auditory hallucinations.

Either that, or the Powers That Be are trying to spin it such that it will sound more "acceptable" to the average Singaporean before publicising it in the print media.

After all, citizenship is something that should be something held dear to one's heart; you can't buy patriotism or loyalty with material rewards (with the cost of higher education these days, a hefty sum in this case). And in order to become a Singapore citizen, these scholars would have to renounce their original citizenship as part of the process. Not something that should be done lightly.

That's why I was looking for details in the news on how this would be implemented.

Will we be attracting people who would change loyalties at the drop of a hat? What will happen if a few years down the road, after they have completed their studies, they decide that they are not willing to be Singaporeans after all? What will the authorities do? Confiscate their passports? Fine them? Make them pay $xxx,000? Can you really put a price on this?

I guess I really shouldn't be surprised if this is true. Sporting talents have already gone this route.

I anxiously await to hear more.

Friday, August 11, 2006

World of Terror

I wonder if this will ever end. At the moment, I have great doubts. Terror begets terror.

Technology, the Internet, science - all this is literally at the fingertips of those who are warped in their minds. They think they are fighting for the greater good, whatever that may be. But all they do is create fear, and wreak havoc on society.

Perhaps that is what they want to achieve. To make us all afraid; to change our way of life; to do away with the peace of mind that most of us have. If that is their objective, I am afraid that they have already succeeded.

No more liquids on airplanes. Parents have to do taste tests on their children’s food before they are allowed on planes. Yeah, I think they have succeeded.

Will it ever end? Maybe. But it will take a wake-up call of unprecedented nature like a huge catastrophe of massive proportions. Or divine intervention.

That’s how optimistic I am.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Rock Star: Supernova

This show airs every Wednesday night at 8 pm...the same time as Singapore Idol. I hate to say this but, everytime I tune in to this program, I switch to SI during the breaks, & almost immediately, I switch back. How do you compare?

THIS...is talent.

One word: Dilana.

She. Rocks. Big. Time.

Check out her version of the Johnny Cash classic "Ring of Fire". "Ring of Fire"??? you may ask yourself. But if she released this as a single tomorrow, I betcha it would be a hit.



Not convinced? Check out this...her rendition of Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time"...



Or this...



No matter what kind of music she chooses, she makes the song her own. She has been the most consistent of all the performers (although Ryan Star did give a very sexy, soulful version of REM's "Losing My Religion" last week) & every week, her performances with her powerful throaty vocals have not failed to deliver.

Goosebumps, every week.

Monday, August 07, 2006

For Trekkies...

All you Trekkies out there, check out this video which was created when a rumor went round that Matt Damon is going to be starring as Capt Kirk in the next Star Trek movie! It's a hoot! Goes to show how strongly Trekkies feel about this beloved franchise.

I admit that I consider myself a Trekkie as far as Star Trek: The Next Generation is concerned, & have even attended a couple of conventions in the US, but I'm not as fanatical as some of the weirdos out there!!!

Sunday, August 06, 2006

A Fairy Tale

For those who went to watch "The Lady in the Water" expecting a tale of paranormal twists a la The Sixth Sense, you will be disappointed. M. Night Shyamalan's latest production is a modern day tale, a fairy tale, if you must.

I went in with an open mind, after having read the rather dismal reviews it received, & was rewarded with a story of faith, the restoration of hope & belief in the goodness of humanity. I have always enjoyed Paul Giamatti's performances, & he doesn't fail to deliver as the unlikely leading man with a tortured past of loss & suffering.

Mr Shyamalan slyly includes in his story, a character - a movie critic, no less- who, in a suspensely moment, narrates the developing storyline as if he were outside the story, before coming to a nasty end. I could appreciate his dig at the movie critics of the world!

I liked it.

why

"conflict in the middle east"
a recurrent headline
from as far back as i can remember

why?
i didn't understand
i don't understand

jews
muslims
christians
killing
and being killed

the hatred ripples
far & wide
now our neighbours
are sending "support"
more lives
to kill
& to be killed

so much hate
too overwhelming to understand
why?

Friday, August 04, 2006

Entourage

I find myself strangely hooked to a new HBO series, Entourage.

Season 1, comprising of only 8 episodes, is currently playing on Tuesday nights at 9 pm on HBO (Starhub Cable channel 60). Season 3 is now being screened in the US.

This Emmy nominated series is about the celebrity lifestyle of a movie star, Vince Chase (played by pretty boy Adrian Grenier) & his entourage of childhood pals comprising of his brother, Drama (Kevin Dillon), best friend/Manager, Eric (Kevin Conolly), and Turtle the “COO” of his household (Jerry Ferrara). On the sidelines are his agent (ably played by Jeremy Piven), and publicist (Debi Mazar).

At first glance, one is surprised at the success of this series of half hour episodes. After all, how many of us can relate to the extravagant lifestyle of the rich & the famous. But I guess celebrite is such a draw these days as evidenced by the appeal of gossip newspapers, & the way papparazi is drawn to taking otherwise mundane pictures of Brad Pitt crossing the street, or Britney Spears drinking a cup of coffee – The People want to see such things.

Anyway, it is interesting to watch this supposed insider look at how the celebs really live (after all, Mark Wahlberg is one of the executive producers). Loose women & one night stands, smoking pot, spending ridiculous amounts of money (eg splurging >$300,000 on a car, then returning it to the dealer the next day) – all the clich├ęs by which we think of how these Others live, you name it, it’s there, & couldn’t be further from how we plebians live.

It’s probably morbid curiosity that draws us viewers in…