Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Travelog - College Visits

New York University.
Columbia University.
Princeton University.

These were the colleges we visited during our trip. We wanted to give our older boy a feel of these higher institutions of learning, since he will start his college applications process in the coming two years.

Columbia University

I know, I know...very lofty aspirations we parents have for our children, but hopefully, by showing our boys what's out there, they may be inspired to reach for the heights! Haha, just kidding. Seriously, these colleges are just a handful of so many excellent schools here in the US, not just Ivy Leagues, but also smaller & academically rigorous ones like Lehigh, Renselaar, Colgate, just to name a few.

Stanford - Corridors of learning

The ones we visited this time ranged from State universities (Berkeley) to private ones (NYU & Stanford) to traditional Ivy Leagues (Columbia & Princeton). All were excellent schools but had very different curricula with foci on different aspects of education. The Ivy Leagues tend to be more liberal arts-centric while the private universities had more professional courses to offer.

UC Berkeley

They all offered information sessions for students & parents, which outlined their curricula, admissions process (generally holistic although given the kind of applications they get, scoring at least 1400 in the SATs is the norm rather than the exception!) & financial aid. College costs are hefty - in these colleges, they were around the USD50K per annum ballpark. Hence schools which give a lot of grants & scholarships (to US citizens) like Stanford & NYU sound very attractive to us parents!

Campus tours were also useful in giving the potential students a sense of the size of the school as well as the atmosphere. For me, I found Stanford, located on over 8,000 acres of land (!) to be less "cosy" than Berkeley or Columbia, while NYU was very vibrant, since its buildings are not confined within the typical college campus, but rather, become part of the landscape of the Village in NYC. Basically, you step out of a school building on to the New York city sidewalk!

Columbia, with its old historical buildings & Grecian columns, had a very academic feel to it. For those looking for a good liberal arts curriculum, this is the place for you.

My personal favorite is Princeton. With a smaller campus than Columbia, it had a more homey feel to it, with the added plus of being surrounded by quaint neighborhoods & nice restaurants :). If I had to do it all over again, this would be my first choice (assuming that I could get in!!!)

Princeton - my favorite!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


We were in the US for about 2 & a half weeks.

And watched SIX movies in that time. Told ya we were movie buffs.

Indiana Jones 4 - watched it for the sake of nostalgia (and Harrison Ford, of course!). Thoroughly entertaining.

The Incredible Hulk - I preferred this version to the Ang Lee one. I still prefer Spidey, the FF & the X-Men though, among the Marvel movies.

Get Smart - rather juvenile humor, if you ask me. That's why my two teenage boys liked it. I wish there could have been smarter dialog...Steve Carrell is such a great comedian, his talent was wasted in this one.

Iron Man - we liked it so much the first time around, we couldn't resist watching it again. And enjoyed it just as much!

Wanted - I'm not a huge fan of graphic violence but was outvoted (perils of being the minority in a testosterone-laden family). James McAvoy was great in it, but I really didn't have to watch bullets piercing heads, knives slashing flesh etc etc in slow-mo. I know it sounds strange coming from a doctor, but I hate watching gore. Performing surgery, I can deal with. Watching traumatic injuries on the big screen...ugh.

Hancock - disappointing despite all the hype. The storyline just didn't cut it for me, although Will Smith & Jason Bateman did the best they could with the material.

We would have watched Wall-E, the Love Guru & The Happening if we had more time, but we didn't so I guess we'll just have to make do with the DVD versions.

We look forward to more movie-watching in Singapore. More specifically, The Mummy - Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (yay, Brendan Fraser!), The Dark Knight (in the trailers, it looks like the late Heath Ledger did a tremendous acting job in this) , Mamma Mia (yay! I watched this 3 times in 3 different countries & thoroughly enjoyed myself each & everytime. It's such a fun musical, that makes you just want to sing & dance along. I guess for those of us who grew up in the 70's & 80's when ABBA was HUGE, it's more meaningful), Journey to the Center of the Earth (Brendan Fraser again :)), The X-Files (I watched every single episode of the TV series). A couple of quirky looking films also look promising when we saw the trailers : Burn After Reading, a Coen Brothers film starring George Clooney & John Malkovich; and Step Brothers, starring Will Farrell & John C. Reilly

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Travelog - GOOGLE

We visited the Googleplex in Mountain View (part of the Silicon Valley corridor), an astounding complex of about 30 buildings in Mountain View. 

It has the feel of a college campus cum holiday resort cum condo, with its casual atmosphere, cafeterias that serve gourmet food (free for employees!), a beach volleyball court, pingpong tables in the staff lounge, and lap pools. Any company that provides massage chairs & free massages in their massage center has got me sold! I can see why it was voted into the Top Ten Best Companies to Work For, & why this company receives thousands of job applications & resumes per day (out of which less than 1% is successful).

Extremely environmentally friendly, it encourages employees to use bicycles, electric scooters, & funky looking vehicles like this conference bike.  

Employees are allowed to bring their pets to work (and they do), there are special parking lots for expectant mothers, and you can even do your laundry for free. 

If only more employers were half as considerate...

Travelog - California Dreamin'

It was wonderful to smell (or is that not smell) the odor- & fume-free fresh air of San Francisco, and to see the blue blue skies that we have been missing for too long. Almost as soon as we disembarked, I noticed the subtle absence of "bogginess" in the air, and I swear my lungs felt more "refreshed" than they ever did in Beijing.

It's been two years since we came back to the USA.

It is so nice to be able to cross the streets at pedestrian crossings where cars actually stop for you.

I appreciate the simple pleasure of browsing through the seemingly endless aisles of Borders, where the books are arranged in logical order.

We love Target, a store where you can literally find everything under one roof at reasonable prices. From pajama bottoms, to chewing gum, to facial wash, to the latest romance novels, I was reluctant to leave the store!

It felt good to shop at Old Navy for reasonably priced, trendy CLOTHES THAT FIT ME. It is great for my self esteem to find sizes which are too big for me in the "Regular" section of the store.

We've missed shopping at supermarkets with wide aisles & huge variety of food that cost a fraction of the prices in China. We had to restrain ourselves from grabbing boxes of cereal, cartons of chocolate milk, & Jello off the shelves, in view of the limited luggage space we will have after taking into account the amount of shopping we will do by the end of our trip (see paragraph about Target & Old Navy above).

More later...

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Impressions from China - Friday the 13th

We could have gone fishing... our basement.

The night before we were supposed to leave for our vacation, there was a HUGE downpour. And thanks to the superior quality of Chinese construction, our basement was flooded. Fortunately, my kids' musical instruments & equipment were saved in the nick of time, but our handwoven wool carpet...well, we'll just have to wait & see...

After an hour and a half of scooping water into buckets using cups, a dustpan & floor towels, we finally managed to clean up the mess.

There are now sandbags sitting outside our garage door, & at the door that leads from the garage to the basement. Hopefully, the next deluge that hits us (summer is usually the wettest time of the year in Beijing) will not result in another wading pool in our basement.

We are in San Francisco now....will try to post from time to time, as long as we can get free wi-fi. :)

Friday, June 13, 2008

See ya later, alligator

Well, not fishing actually. But will be gone for a while on our summer vacation in the US of A.

Back in a bit!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Feeling the Pain

I only read this article written by SMA President Dr Wong Chiang Yin this morning. Thanks to the wonderfully efficient China postal service, I only just received my APRIL SMA News yesterday afternoon. Grrr.

Anyway, Dr Wong gives a very detailed overview of what kinds of obstacles & risks GP's face when they take on Managed Care contracts. This article reinforces the disillusionment that I was starting to face when I first contemplated stepping away from clinical practice a few years ago. It makes me wonder how my GP colleagues can "tahan" the day to day slog of having to deal with all this c**p, & at the same time try to make a decent living. And I can see why the lure of aesthetic medicine is all the more appealing.

In another article in the May issue of the SMA News (which I had to read online, otherwise I would have to wait till July to get the hard copy), Dr Wong talks about the pain that is being felt by the Medical profession in Singapore. He writes optimistically that, with the SMA, we will be able to work through & learn from the pain.

Me? I think I am more skeptical than him in this respect. The SMA alone cannot do it. They have to get buy-in from The Powers That Be. Otherwise, they will fight a losing battle.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Music to my ears!

I was buzzed when I saw that Jason Mraz & One Republic are both going to be performing at Singfest 08.

What a treat that will be!


Friday, June 06, 2008


My latest fave - OneRepublic. Check them out.

My younger son recently wrote a song for his friends who are leaving his school for good. A soulful melody with heartwrenching lyrics, it makes me want to cry when I listen to it, especially since I will also be saying farewell to a few good friends this week. I will try to post it on this site once he has done a recording of it. Get your tissues ready.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

"4 legs good, 2 legs better" *

I read this letter today in the ST online forum:

Shark's fins menu: Why the double standards?

WHAT Resort World Sentosa has done to promote goodwill and highlight its commitment to the environment is very heartening, 'No shark's fin served here' (May 30).

I am a nature lover. I have attended seminars on the environment and learnt how sharks have been thrown back into the sea after having their fins cut. Why must there be such cruelty to sharks?

However, I was disappointed to read that shark's fins will be served to high-end rollers at the resort. Why the contradiction?

Ace Kindred Cheong

I am surprised at Mr Cheong's naivete. Hasn't he learnt by now that in Singapore, soon to become the capitalists' capital of the world, money talks the loudest? From all-business class flights to an all-A-class wards hospital, it has been proven time & again that those with money are pandered to, high moral standards be damned.

Another example is how the no smoking ban in public places is exempt for the casinos. Why? Well, the *ka-ching* of the cash registers will tell you why.

Dr Huang has blogged about the plight of the FDW & how the government still refuses to impose a mandatory day-off policy - another example of how things are done in Singapore. No high road here.

Until the day comes when the government itself realizes that doing the right thing applies to everyone, & not to just certain people, things will not change.

*from "Animal Farm" by George Orwell