Sunday, December 28, 2008


Who am I kidding? I am worthless.

It matters not what I consider myself to be worth. It matters not what my closer friends or family think. It's all about the rules of society, and if I' in this game of life then, yes, those rules apply to me.

I don't currently contribute to society's talent pool, neither do I earn any taxable income. I'm not a stellar student in school who classmates flock to for examination answers and tips. I'm nobody.

I could disappear off the face of Earth and no one except my family would notice. In fact, some people would rather have me dead, leaving more air, food and other resources for their enjoyment.

There comes a time in life when one grows up and realises that the life and death of strangers play absolutely no part in his life, and might possibly be beneficial to himself. He then stops feeling pity or sadness whenever he hears of someone he doesn't know perishing.

Then he realises that many friendships are just vanity - that their lives mean nothing to him unless they have something beneficial to offer him, or that he had invested too deeply into the friendship. Say, if a casual friend dies, does it really affect him? No.

That's the problem. The people I know have grown up. They're cutting ties with relatively unimportant people (i.e. me) and focusing their efforts on bootlicking those who are rich and influential.

Gone are the days of 'I like to hang out with him because he's intelligent and interesting' or 'we have something in common'.

It's all 'I network with him because he knows soandso' or 'I so gotta meet up with him, he knows of all those tricks of the trade'.

I don't have anything to offer anyone, really. I'm worthless by society's standards.

It's lonely at the bottom.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Bike Crash Investigation

It's just like Air Crash Investigation, only that it involves a bicycle. And it involves me. There's the dramatic crash, the speculation and theories, then the visit to the scene and some science.

Yes, I experienced a catastrophic failure of my Shimano RS10 bicycle wheel. The front one. That's the one that makes the cyclist lose control instantly.

I should have started noticing the signs:

1. These wheels and its predecessor R550 are notorious for eating up spokes for breakfast
2. There were ominous pinging sounds from the front wheel 2 rides ago. I assumed there were just the spokes bedding into their proper position, since they were new.
3. My average speed had dropped this and last ride. I attributed it to fatigue, but it might have been an untrue rim or faulty wheel hub.

All these signs don't point to any specific mechanistic point of failure, but if I took them seriously, then maybe, just maybe, I would have picked up an early sign of failure of my wheels.

It's one of those 'just riding along' incidents, where nothing was hit, no vehicle, no pothole, no squirrel in the spokes.

The wheel simply exploded, through its own volition. I have piss poor luck these days.

5 spokes pulled out of the rim, the hub was literally floating in thin air as all the spokes rapidly detensioned, and the front wheel had effectively disappeared under me.

I'm still reeling of the shock of surviving a catastrophic front wheel failure with nothing more than 3 spots of road rash and a couple of faint bruises. No sprains, strains or fractures.

But my shifter and rear deraileur have superficial scratches. And my new jersey has a small hole on it.

The cyclist in Trek garb, the taxi driver, the bike shop guys and the bike shop customers were flabbergasted by the severity of the wheel failure. And they realise they're talking to a very obviously ok rider who isn't in any real pain. Must have been a dramatic sight.

It wasn't easy getting a road bike in a taxi boot, and $5.60 to get from one end of Ang Mo Kio to the other is really daylight robbery, what with the falling oil prices and all.

And my bike is out of action for now. Though the frame and fork are okay. No scratches, no bends or cracks.

Thank goodness for the nice and helpful guys at Chapter 2 Cycle. They're getting it replaced under warranty for me. I'm prolly gonna get my bike running again come Monday or Tuesday.

Went home, showered, convinced my parents that I was fully okay, then went out for a jog to the site of the incident. Actually I cheated, I took the bus up the steep uphill stretch. I didn't want to overtrain ad I had not run in weeks.

I retrieved 5 severely bent spokes that my wheel had ejected after the crash, together with my cyclocomputer magnet.

All the spokes that had pulled through the spoke holes were bent. They look like they were compressed from the ends rather than struck by an object in the middle. Unlikely due to a pothole (I checked again - none) or road debris then. Most likely rim failure.

But why? Just take a look at the spoke nipples.

The flanges of the nipples that rested on the rim holes were unreasonably small for a 16-spoke wheel. I compared them to conventional gauge spoke nipples. The latter had a much larger flange, despite the fact that they didn't have to handle as much tension - those are used in wheels with 32 spokes to share the load.

The taper of the flange probably acted as a punch, progressively enlarging the rim hole and subsequently pulling through. These nipples are a new design and are also used on the RS20 wheelset. Shimano's technical drawings show that the previous generation R550 had nipples on the hub end rather than the rim end, with an oversized spoke head on the rim side.

The nagging ache of road rash made me feel grumpy throughout the day.

Looks like I'll have to correspond with Shimano regarding this. Might blow up into a mass recall, if the design of the spoke nipples is indeed unsafe. Not to mention, I want fair compensation for all that had been damaged or hurt by the failed wheel. It had failed under normal riding forces so naturally it's Shimano's fault.

Speaking to acquaintances about what had happened, I'm very disappointed that they're more interested in how I fell and knowing if I was negligent, rather than even wanting to find out how I was.

If you want to know:
I wore a helmet but my head wasn't anywhere near the ground.
I did not hit anything, but the wheel failed anyway.
I wore gloves, but I didn't fall on my palms.
I check my bike before ever ride, but nothing was going to tell me that it was about to fail.
I wasn't riding at unreasonable speeds, I wasn't so foolish as to choose a lightweight wheelset, and most of all, don't talk to me like I had deserved this.

Bloody hell, are these even my friends?

The best advice and support I had gotten comes from the other side of this Earth, over the electrical cables of the Internet: Bike Forums.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Guess the headline!

Here's a quick quiz.

Click on the correct headline out of a choice of 4 possible answers. Correct answer and you'll see the actual headline from today's Straits Times, wrong answer and you don't.

The infographics:

The headline:

Congestion remains despite road pricing

Traffic falls as travel habits change
Public perception of ERP poor, but roads are less congested
Old habits die hard even with new ERP gantries

Got the answer? Probably not.

You would have expected more journalistic integrity from a national newspaper.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


I have piss poor memory.

Which makes me wonder. What the hell am I doing in a university course where students are known to have memories so good they put herds of elephants to shame. They remember mnemonics at a drop of a hat, and as for me, I don't even remember how to spell 'mnemonics'. Yes. I do use spell check.

If you attend social function and have strangers telling you 'you mean you don't recognise me?' or if you have to repeat to yourself someone's name over and over again so that you can remember it, then you probably can empathise. Sometimes, I think there's something seriously wrong with my brain. It's depressing.

Ever since I was a student in primary school, I had relied much on my logical deduction and 'smoking' abilities to impress teachers. Really, I could hardly remember the facts that I had needed to. In Chinese Laguage lessons, we had to memorise a passage of about 50 words eevry week, which we will write out and be graded on the accuracy of memorisation and the correctness of the strokes in the word. I recall that being the single most painful assignment in primary school.

Which explains how I was the lowest for the batch in secondary 2 History, a subject notorious for the sheer amount of memory haulage needed. Other subjects like Human Geography was easier - all you had to do was to have a basic grasp of the situation, then think up all the various possibilities that might happen. Sciences were a no-brainer because everything was reasonable, deducible and logical.

I had the false impression hat doctors were people who did a lot of logical reasoning and information synthesis, piecing together information from various aspects to deduce a diagnosis and think up treatment strategies. That was the kind of thing I read in Reader's Digest and watched on television. Those Reader's Digest articles almost invariably talk about some doctor who took the extra mile to research up and think about a perplexing clinical problem, eventually finding the answer through sheer intellect.

Real life medicine is not like that. In medical school, we get grilled on the 5 types of neuropathy, the list of various causes of a symptom and all sorts of regurgitation-heavy questions. There's little opportunity for critical thought.

'You do things in this order because that is what the professors in the textbook say. If you are a professor you do it your own way, but you are NOT. So follow the textbook.' was what one of my tutors told me. Just memorise. Imitate. Do what your seniors do. Don't try to stick out like a sore thumb in the name of accuracy and truth, because the senior is always right, and to demolish that illusion would end up in bitter feud.

So it's particularly painful for me when I'm this poor at remembering stuff. It's not just about motivation - I simply wasn't born with the skills to memorise. I'm at wit's end, because my inability is almost disabling - I won't be able to excel in this career. I still have trouble attaching names to faces. And it bugs me to no end.


Saturday, December 6, 2008

Q. E. D.

purpose? says:
are you going for chunk fest?
kc is in love with FIGHT LIKE APES says:
kc is in love with FIGHT LIKE APES says:
kc is in love with FIGHT LIKE APES says:
kc is in love with FIGHT LIKE APES says:
i forgot
kc is in love with FIGHT LIKE APES says:
my caps lock
kc is in love with FIGHT LIKE APES says:
and spectacles
kc is in love with FIGHT LIKE APES says:
at the same time
purpose? says:

And thus, the Swiss Cheese model of accidents and errors was demonstrated.

"The holes in the cheese slices represent individual weaknesses in individual parts of the system, and are continually varying in size and position in all slices. The system as a whole produces failures when all of the holes in each of the slices momentarily align, permitting (in Reason's words) "a trajectory of accident opportunity", so that a hazard passes through all of the holes in all of the defenses, leading to a failure."

A reply from Mcdonalds

So the mysterious call that I did not manage to pick up in time was indeed them. Here's the reply they posted on my blog, quoted in verbatim:

Dear Ms Lee,

We are sorry to hear of your unpleasant experience with our Mega McSpicy. At McDonald’s, we take all feedback on our food very seriously and will not, at any time, compromise on the stringent food safety standards in place.

Since receiving your email on 29 November, Mr Raymond Tan, Business Consultant for McDonald’s Bishan Junction 8 has been attempting to reach you on your mobile to no avail. Nonetheless, because of the strong stance we take on food safety, we have sent samples of our McSpicy for testing and would very much like to speak to you to further aid us in our investigation.

We would very much appreciate it if you could contact Mr Raymond Tan at 6462 0800, if you do not hear from him today.

Claudia Yeo
Communications Department
McDonald’s Restaurants

To Claudia Yeo and the rest of Mcdonalds. Thanks for listening. It's good that Mcdonalds is taking action.

First of all, it's Mr Lee, not Ms Lee. But you can call me KC. A harmless but very embarrassing error.

To be honest, after all that fiasco. I will still eat at Mcdonalds, but that is entirely dependent on whether its promotions are good (if not there's always the $2 Double Cheeseburger!), because I prefer other fast food chains the days I want to splurge.

Nevertheless, I will give my full cooperation when they call me, I won't call them because I don't know of anything that might be useful to them that I don't already have on this blog.

The vegetarians have something to say. They have used my experience to try to justify why meat and fast food is bad, but ended up with a non-sequitur. With arguments like "signal from the Above", who needs logic?

I love animals.

Therefore, by extension, I love all types of animals - including chickens, pigs and cows.

And by extension, I love the parts of animals - including chicken wings, pork chops and beef steaks.

Meat is murder. But it's just the way the ecology works, we can't help being omnivores, the same way the deadly crocodiles can't being carnivores.

Time to munch into my tasty lo mai gai breakfast.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Burger King's Quad Stacker

A titbit of information that I have omitted from the previous entry on the Mega McSpicy that had given me diarrhoea - I had a Burger King Quad Stacker the day before the McSpicy. And it tasted surprisingly good. And it did not give me any diarrhoea.

Here's the review which I had originally written the evening after I had the McSpicy:

Some say the BK Quad Stacker takes balls of hardened steel to consume.

Others say that those who had eaten the bk stacker are able to hide for months in the depths of the Amazonian forests before devouring their next meal.

But I had managed to eat it. And live to tell the tale.

Aptly, this thing looks like the mushroom clouds of atomic bomb explosions. It's not as good as the whopper, but the patties were juicy and done just-right, unlike Mcdonald's thin wafers of beef-flavoured cardboard.

Some have been unhappy with how soggy the burger turned out to be, but mine seems to have been done quite alright. The combination of generous amounts of beef and stringy cheese makes it tasty.

Don't even try to fathom the amount of saturated fat this monster has in its crispy turkey bacon, 4 juicy patties and 4 whole slices of cheese.

My main gripe: the lack of veges and pickles. those may taste like crap by themselves but adds to the taste of a burger.

I liked it, but to be honest, I'm more comfortable sticking to Whoppers, and hoping that the Triple Whopper might someday appear in Singapore.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

A letter to Mcdonalds Singapore

Update: As of Monday night, Mcdonalds has not gotten back to me. Not an email, not a call. Wanted to send an email to the authorities to look into the matter but I honestly don't know which jurisdiction food safety is under - Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority, National Environmental Agency or Health Sciences Authority? I'd be glad if you could help me get this message to the masses.

i.e. if you have a weak stomach, AVOID MEGA MCSPICY AT ALL COSTS.

Forumers in Hardwarezone have been experiencing the same problem with their Mega Mcspicys.


Hi, I had a Mega Mcspicy for lunch on 28 November 2008 at around 1.30pm, from your Junction 8 branch.

The service was excellent - I have nothing but praises for it. However the food gave me diarrhoea.

There's something in your spice mixture that not only stings the tongue, but also the stomach, then the intestines. I felt horrible the whole day after lunch, with this burning feeling in my tummy gnawing at me. It was as though the chewed and digested Mega Mcspicy burned whatever part of my body it was in contact with.

This cumulated into several bad episodes of very painful diarrhoea at midnight. Being medically trained, I knew that it wasn't harmful yet so I did not see a doctor.

A quick search on Google shows that I'm not the only one.

Google search of 'mcspicy diarrhoea'


Some quotes:
"I’m suffering from diarrhoea now. I should thank the McSpicy I had yesterday in school’s Mcdonalds. I don’t know why, but everytime after I finished the McSpicy, I have this tinkling hot feeling in my stomach. "

"Weak stomach my love!!
Mcspicy also will kena food poisoning =X
Stupid mcspicy chicken! Spoil my saturday night!"

"The first night I had McSpicy burger at 4am. By which I had diarrhoea shortly after."

"stupidly had a mcspicy for lunch (when the last time i had it, i had diarrhoea ), and my stomach felt alll weird. like the insides were burning."


Your company should really take a look at this. Whatever it is that you have in the Mcspicy spice mix is causing quite a few people the same symptoms of burning discomfort and diarrhoea.

Not to mention, the spicy burn really does detract from the enjoyment of the otherwise-tasty chicken pieces in the Mega Mcspicy.

It would be nice if you could look into this seriously - issues regarding food safety and health should not be overlooked - and take appropriate action.

If there are any updates regarding this problem, please keep me informed!

Also, is there a way to order a non-spicy version of a Mega Mcspicy? I have never liked spicy food in the first place, and neither do some people I know.

Thank you.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Say Hello to White Beauty!

I don't have a penchant of giving names to the inanimate objects I own. Hell, I never had names for any of the pets I've ever owned. But sometimes, certain items are just asking to be named, you know?

If it's big and has jet engines, it's hard not to call it a Jumbo Jet.

If it's green and hideous, it's hard not to call it a Green Goblin.

If it's white and beautiful, it's hard not to call it a White Beauty. Say hello to White Beauty. She's my new ride.

I've always wanted a road bike, simply because everyone else who rides in my area uses one. I don't make full use of the offroad capabilities of my old Unnamed Blue GT. The last time I had offroaded was in October 2006.

And watching the cross country mountain biking event in the Olympics on TV only galvanised my decision to stop offroading for good. Even professional racers fall and get themselves hurt badly - just look at the Swiss riders. What hope is there of me enjoying the sport whilst escaping from its scrapes, bruises and broken bones?

Unnamed Blue GT grew old. It needed a new chain, a new headset, possibly a new crankset and bottom bracket too. With the numerous parts that had been going south lately, it stopped being cost effective to keep it alive.

I needed a new steed.

I needed a road bike with componetry good enough for me to not want to swap them out. A road bike that I would be able to race should I decide to.

Something kitted out in Shimano 105, preferably.

That would be the Giant TCR Alliance Team, boasting a frame made of both aluminium and carbon fibre and fitted with 10-speed Shimano 105 components.

The Giant TCR's frame geometry has been race tested by the professional elite level cyclists of Team T-Mobile/Team Highroad/Team Columbia/whatever they decide to call themselves today.

Not to mention, it's made by the biggest bicycle frame manufacturer in the world. They don't call themselves Giant for nothing.

This particular bike uses the same livery as the T-Mobile team bikes for the year 2008. Sweet. It's only too bad that Team T-Mobile was struck with doping scandals bad enough for them to regroup as Team Highroad, followed by Team Columbia. The 2009 Giant TCR Alliance Team however would eschew the beautiful white and pink of 2008 and replace it with a dull black/silver.

I had to get that bike. I'm not getting any younger, and I have to spend my youth doing the things I want to do, and not wait until a mid-life crisis to get a bike I truly like, only to ride it with arthritic knees.

I ordered it, on Thursday, they had it in the shop on Friday, but I could only make it on Saturday. The guys at Chapter 2 Cycle rock. Ben the Bike Shop Guy said that there were people asking about my bike on Friday, and he had to tell them its not for sale as it's the last piece of that size the distributor had.

It's a pleasant surprise when I noticed that the wheelset was the newer RS10 rather than the R550 which had some pretty bad reviews online. And the tyres were a more durable (but probably slower) Michelin Dynamic.

Enough talk. How's the ride?

The riding position is extremely stretched out and aggressive, even for a medium sized frame. After all, it does share the same geometry as the elite level TCR, so you're expected to stretch and bend over like a pro. To ride on the drops, you need crazy flexibility.

Thank goodness I'm still young. Ultimately, after 45km with lots of climbs this morning, my back ain't aching. Good enough.

The carbon fibre fork and half-carbon frame soaks up all the small bumps and road chatter perfectly - even more so than my mountain bike did. The steering behaved really well over larger bumps.

I'm still trying to get used to steering on a road bike. Due to the narrow handlebars, you don;t get much leverage and have to steer almost entirely by leaning into turns. But taking bends at high speed is remarkably stable on a road bike, due to the smooth rounded tyres.

As for climbing ability, I don't know if it's because my old GT already climbs like a billy goat on steroids, or that climbing ability is more about the rider than the bike, but it didn't seem much faster on my road bike.

The TCR Alliance Team uses a compact crankset, which means its 50/34T rather than 53/39T. Not such a good idea for Singapore's terrain, considering we don't get any really steep hills here. As a masher rather than a spinner, I find myself in the large chainring too often.

This mean machine flies on the straights, cutting through the air and winds in a way my old GT could never do. Unfortunately, wrong day to ride - I got overtaken by 2 roadies. And that's in my usual route where I hardly get overtaken, even on my old GT, at a lower speed. It's especially demoralising on my maiden ride as a roadie......

I'm in love with my new bike.

More photos:

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


I made new friends. Yay.

Makes me think twice about getting the road bike. I won't be able to join them, or any slack pavement/offroad ride when I get the road bike.

But the current bike gotta go soon, the old and rusty components are costing too much to replace. I can't get myself to love my bike any more. Its blue is fading, the gears are cranky and I'm not even a bona fide mountain biker. I ride almost exclusively on the roads these days.

If there are durable tyres I can fit on my future road bike that are good enough for the occasional few yards of gravel between pavements, I'm all for them.


Been thinking about it. If we eventually die, if the very neurones that store our memories are bound to go someday, why do we bother living?

The only answer I have so far is so that we can live for the moment. Screw the greater good/precious someone/world peace, I want satisfaction now.

Because I won't know if I'll be around the next day. You can reduce your chances of dying. You can delay death. But you can't avoid death. Even in this modern world, there is no way to 100% assure that we won't die tonight. I might be killed in my sleep. I might go into cardiac arrest - who knows?

It freaks me out all the time, the idea that our very lives are so transient. Death is an eventuality, and I have no idea what death would feel like.


I might die tomorrow. I might die next week. So I might as well just buy the road bike eh?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Being an alien in my own country

I grew up in Bishan. Bishan, being a relatively new estate, is populated mainly by the younger, higher-educated people.

Perhaps it was for that reason, that people are polite here. We say hi to our neighbours, we press the lift buttons for our neighbours, and occasionally make small talk along the corridor. People are really polite in Bishan. You're more likely to hear the chirp of birds (yes, there are lots of birds in my estate) than the blaring stereo of your neighbor.

People here move to the back of the bus without prompting - it's often quite amusing how we instinctively move to the back of the bus, only to find that the empty seats are at the front (because everyone else moves to the back of the bus too).

People here speak English, occasionally Mandarin, and hardly dialects. Everyone understands what each other is speaking.

People here hardly litter - everything goes into the rubbish bins. Otherwise, they go into the recently-ubiquitous recycling points. The seats in the bus-stop are all clean and devoid of sticky, dried-up cola.

People here hardly smoke.

People on the streets walk fast. But paradoxically they are unhurried and don't brush rudely past you.

Bishan's an anomaly of Singaporean heartland living.

I grew up in Bishan. I studied in Bishan in my secondary school years. I was Bishan and Bishan was me.


So it was an extreme culture shock for me when I got into university and had various hospital attachments. I had to go to various places in Singapore and interact with the people who come from other parts of Singapore. Sure, I've been to these places, but I have not had to interact with and speak to the people there.

Every time I go to Yishun or Pasir Ris or Geylang or Woodlands or Jurong I feel like a tourist, soaking in all the unfamiliar sights and sounds.

I never saw so much un-obscured sky when i looked up. the buildings are way shorter than where I come from.

I never knew that it was so difficult to get to the city centre by public transport from the ends of Singapore. The roads are really narrow and convoluted, the landscape bereft of high-speed arterial roads.

I never knew that they are people who bought a car despite barely being able to afford it simply because public transport can be impractical at the edges of Singapore.

I never knew that most people communicated in Mandarin and dialects, rather than English. It makes me feel ostracised, since I don't speak much Mandarin and cannot understand the dialects. It makes me feel like they're hiding something from me.

I never got weird stares for trying to order food from the hawker stalls in English.

I never knew that littering is a problem in Singapore. Sure, people do litter, but I never imagined that there would be so many people who would gladly desecrate the clean streets at a whim.

I never knew there were so many smokers in Singapore. Smokers who do not consider it rude to smoke in public parks where health-conscious runners exercise.

I never knew that Singaporeans were this brash and abrasive when speaking to each other.

I never had people brushing rudely past me and scratching them with their bag buckles while rushing to the train station. It really hurts.

I never had to look carefully where ever I sit for the seats at bus stops, in hawker centres and in shopping malls. Every other seat has some gross-looking dirt or sticky dried cola on them.

I never saw so many shops blaring Chinese and Hokkien music rather than English language contemporary hits.

I never considered that most dads don't have the same Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones albums I occasionally blast on the living room hi-fi. What they have is Cantonese operas and Hokkien ballads that sound nothing like the music I like.

I never saw bicycles used for short distance (less than 4 bus-stop) errands so often, and so few bicycles used for long haul rides exercise rides.

I never knew loud karaoke in housing estates was so popular.

I never knew literacy in Singapore could be so bad, that so many queue up at the bus interchange ez-link teller to top their cards, simply because they don't understand how the machine works.

I never knew that as many people read the Zaobao and Wanbao as the Straits Times.

I never saw so many types of Chinese condiments and tonics being sold, and so few types of yoghurt and cheese in the supermarket.

I never saw jamu (Malay traditional medicine) stores before.

I never imagined that a sizeable proportion of the population consider their traditional Chinese medical practitioner as a primary care provider.

I never knew that there are places in Singapore where being alone at night can be dangerous.

I never knew that the Singapore I had grown up in isn't really Singapore.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

2008's Beautiful Songs

Use Somebody isn't even officially released as a single, but has already been considered one of Kings of Leon's best songs, having peaked at 29 on the UK charts and 12 on the Aussie charts.

Glasvegas, an up and coming Scottish band, performing Daddy's Gone. It's surreal, how they pack in so much anger and sadness in that lovely tune.

Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa, an ultra-folksy track from indie rockers Vampire Weekend hailing from New York. And here's another one by them, Oxford Comma:


I'll blog more about life when I figure it out.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

I despise old ladies

I despise old ladies. They're like the smell of shit and piss, the poor hygiene of zoo animals, the discrimination and hate of the most hardened fascists and the whininess of a spoilt brat. All crammed into one slightly less-than-human-sized entity.

Yes, I am doing a geriatrics posting in a suburban hospital. I have nothing against the posting itself - or the staff in the unit. But it's the patients that incense me.

I could handle shit and piss, I could handle zoo animals, but these shrunken beings just incite a very negative countertransference towards old ladies.

In other words, it incites a visceral hatred me, and an undying flame in me to rid the world of all of their kind.

In my first 2 hours in the geriatrics ward, I've noticed:

1) one old lady hitting her maid repeatedly with her fists when she demanded to go to the toilet
2) another old lady screaming at a nurse and insulting her for causing her (probably) minimal pain while turning her over
3) yet another old lady making snide remarks about the doctor not speaking her language "Why can't you speak Cantonese? Don't all Hakka people like you know Cantonese?"

I know I have to be tolerant - many of them are acting like little brats simply because dementia had wiped out much of their personality and cognition. Not to mention, they come from a culture where we hardly understand.

However, their values and beliefs are totally incompatible with the modern world. Take their racism for example - the old men and ladies are almost invariably racist.

"You know, the (race X) doctor who drew my blood caused me a lot of pain. I don't want her around!" And I know that that doctor is probably one of the best around when drawing blood samples.

Or sexist. "I don't care what you say, but male doctors are always better."

Or still stuck in the mentality that service staff should accede to their every whim and fancy. "Can you put that pillow here? NO. HERE. NOT THERE. YOU AREN'T LISTENING."

Or oblivious to any logical explanation that their medical procedure later requires them to be fasted. "How can you starve me like this? I will DIE! Fine. Just let me die. Give me a pill to kill me. I don't care any more."

Or having truly strange beliefs. "I'm very heaty already. Why are you still giving me sugar in my IV drip? Are you trying to make me get a fever, so that I will die faster? You young folks are evil!"

Most of the time, I don't even know what they're saying. I was brought up speaking English, and never mastered the Chinese language well.

(in Chinese)
"Erm, you know that thing at your... uh... bottom."
"Oh you mean piles?"
"Yes! Piles! So, about your piles..."

And a large proportion don't even speak either English or Chinese, but some weird dialect. They keep rattling on and on, assuming I understand, oblivious to the quizzical look on my face. Then they get angry when I don't answer their questions because I didn't understand a single word that she had said. She could be speaking in Klingon and I would be none the wiser.

Then they become well, and unleash their century-old beliefs and values on the general public. Such as cutting queues at the bus interchange because they believe their seniority accords them that privilege.

Or enthusiastically running to the bus door, shoving a couple of people in the process so that she could be the first on the bus, then slowly sauntering up the bus to her seat when she finally remembers to be arthritic.

I know I shouldn't hate them just for our differences in culture and language; and perhaps, even more so, different abilities in cognition. But I just do. Nothing personal. It's the same way I hate licorice, rock-ballads-turned-into-Muzak or puppies, just the same way these old ladies have nothing personal against me.

Monday, October 27, 2008

A Nation Cheated

In return for buying his latest book, Dr Chee has asked me to build a democratic Singapore with him. I don't really know what to make out of it. It's not likely that he'll be running for the next elections, given his financial health.

Even then, how can I vote for his party if the PAP is most likely going to win a walkover for my constituency, just like in the previous few elections?

The problem with being an opposition party member in Singapore is that no one ever takes you seriously.

Think about it. A behemoth that's so deeply enmeshed with the media and economy of Singapore, versus a smattering of motivated but powerless opposition party members. Guess who will be taken more seriously?

The odds are stacked against them. The government-controlled (and this government we are talking about consists of a whopping 90% from the same party) media would be foolish to publish any ideology or suggestions from the people who might bring itself down.

And I'm not going to delve into the government's penchant to sue their rivals until they bleed. Or the way our Ministry-sanctioned History and Social Studies textbooks are written. This is after all a book review.


The tragedy is that these very people who the press lampoons and the government denounces are Singapore's true patriots.

A patriot wants the best for his country.

A patriot dedicates his life to improving the country.

A patriot would risk his reputation, finances and freedom for the sake of his country.

Sure, sure - many of our PAP leaders are patriots. But I dare you to prove that our opposition leaders are any less patriotic.


Dr Chee Soon Juan is a patriot. He examined democracy in detail and saw how it could work for Singapore.

He fought for it. And paid dearly for it, racking up jail terms and hefty debts from losing various controversial lawsuits.

But he failed.

You see, 'democracy' is a big word. I've recited that word in the national pledge for hundreds of times, but have never exactly been told what it really means. I recall my primary school teachers shying away from the question when being asked to explain what it is.

In summary, Chee was fighting for a concept no one understood.

The PAP, however, used more familiar vocabulary such as 'economy', 'jobs', 'peace' and 'security'.

The thing about politics is, ideology doesn't rake in the votes. Popularity does, and PAP had played that game well. They used vocabulary people understood and sold itself as a safe and comfortable option.

Most importantly, when they talk about vegetable prices and upgrading HDB blocks, they managed to get to the hearts of the everyday voters.

Chee Soon Juan however spoke of issues that the common Singaporean had not even heard of - things like 'transparency', 'freedom of speech' and 'oppression'. The common man didn't understand, and had written him off as an eccentric clown.

So as long as the common man has affordable groceries, a comfortable home and a job, he will be content. He doesn't need the right to free speech (even if he did have it, what did he have to say?), he doesn't need the government to be transparent (the complexities of government and the economy boggles him anyway) and oppression doesn't happen to himself.

What the common man doesn't know is that those very same issues that he ignores are the ones that dictate the health of society and economy as a whole.

Take the California Energy Crisis for example. Something as abstract as a partial deregulation of the energy market led to the common man having to experience blackouts.

That's where A Nation Cheated shines.

Its second part of the book explains how the government's strict policies towards controlling labour unions might not have been a good idea after all, that the way Singapore's economy is heading right now might be great for short-term growth, but detrimental to society and its income disparity in the long term, and how.


A Nation Cheated starts off with Part I - an account of how Lee Kuan Yew and the PAP had gotten into power, from his viewpoint.

It's probably biased - hell, who isn't? - but it casts doubt on the PAP's (probably biased, too) version of events.

Personally, I didn't really care much for this part. History is history. We can learn from it, or draw conclusions from it, but we can't change it anyway.

Part II addresses Singapore's labour and economic policies, looking at how they might have been successful in the short term, but we're finally seeing some of their shortcomings in the form of a widening income gap, a lack of entrepreunership and the poorly-hidden fact that many of the government's foreign investments have failed.

While Chee clearly outlines the problems, the possible solutions he offers aren't convincing, considering that he had managed to squeeze all of that into a mere 5.5 page-long chapter titled 'The alternative'.

"What can be done to improve Singapore?" is the question that he had answered in that chapter. However, what we really want to know is, "What are our opposition leaders going to do to improve Singapore?". The book, and possibly Chee's strategy, fails in this aspect.


A Nation Cheated ends off with a speech, and an appendix of questions and answers.

It's an informative read, provided you understand that books by political leaders - opposition or otherwise - are inherently biased.

A pity it doesn't tell us what they can do to improve Singapore.

Or for that matter, what I can do to build a democratic Singapore with Chee.


A Nation Cheated is available online at SDP's website (email them) or from Kinokuniya or Select Books in Tanglin.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A New Me

The days of aviation ended the moment I landed the Boeing 737 on the taxiway, rather than the runway of Bangkok's old Don Muang airport.

It was only a while after I had switched off the autopilot on final approach and was about to line up with the runway, when I realised that I was no longer able to roll the plane right.

(Stock photo showing outer Bangkok from an Airbus A320)

My bloody Logitech Dual Action gamepad's analog stick had died. Again.

So with differential thrust and aggressive rudder inputs, I tried to line it up with the runway again. Yay. Resourceful KC. You rock.

But alas, it was too late, so I headed for the taxiway instead. And got the plane to a stop without veering onto the grass.

Unfortunately, it isn't cheap to replace a gamepad, and I have no immediate need for one, so I'm laying off flight sims for now.


And in other news, I've finally decided, yesterday on a sunny Saturday, to overhaul my life.

I could write paragraphs upon paragraphs here, about how I 'm not doing enough with my life, how I'm not meeting enough people and how I've left my physical form to ruin.

But they all mean the same thing - that I've been sitting on my fat lazy ass for too long.


Granted, I was fatter and lazier in the past, but this is the Real Live Action Adult World and the expectations are different.

It's not OK to while away my time any more. Sure, it's a comfortable, peaceful situation to be in, but it's not going to get any of my needs fulfilled.

Especially love. It's corny. But everything is love. Love brings us to do things we normally won't. Love brings us to break our boundaries.

Yes. I could do with love. But love has somehow evaded me for a really long time.

And I'm going to change that.


I'm gonna become fitter and leaner.

I'm gonna work hard in school and get the results.

I'm gonna do new things.

Things WILL change.


And from yesterday onwards, I decided to start taking academics seriously, eating right, and exercising enthusiastically.

I tried swimming again after a 5 year hiatus, and I seemed to have made good progress with just one session. Still far from being decent. But it's quite impressive to me. And I'm aching all over while I type this.

I still need to lose a few kgs from my 71kg frame and gain some muscle to look better and more love-able.

Went for a slack bicycle ride with Aiks and Yee. Glad it did not rain despite the positively weird-looking clouds.

As for eating right, it ain't going to well but I'll figure that out.

Academics. Ah, the test on Saturday morning is going to be a reminder to me of how much better I would score if only I knew my facts well.

I, after all, still do want to become a doctor.

A good one.

All for love. Love for myself. Love for others.

And most importantly, for others to love me.

If there should be any universal unifying theory of this world, it would be love.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Avolition and aviation

It's pretty hard to get myself motivated to do anything these days. Inertia and mass - I have loads of it.

Been spending some of my time piloting virtual A321s and 747s around the world, getting them from tarmac to tarmac (hopefully), then realising that piloting a plane involves an intimate understanding of physics and mechanics.

It's not just about pointing the nose at the runway. It's about going in the right direction at the right altitude, with the correct speed and vertical speed.

Too fast, you crash. Too much vertical speed, you crash. Miss the runway, you crash.

It ain't easy, so don't go around wondering why they get paid so much.

Gosh. I really should go out and exercise more. I'm on my butt for too long.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The morning of 9 October was a foggy one

The cool, damp muggy air. The blurry buildings in the background. The amorphous cloud that shrouds the end of the road from your view. The shiny condensation on the pavements. The cylinders of light projecting from car headlights. Goodness knows how much it made me miss my Melbourne holiday.

From the paroxysms of thick fog that the aircraft taxied into and out of in Melbourne International. To the humidity in the air condensing onto the cold wings of the 747.

To the balmy morning.

To the nice people there.

To the scenery.

To the food.

I miss that place.


Fog forms when the dew point approaches the ambient temperature in the presence of particulate matter in the air.

The moisture in the humid air condenses onto the particulate matter, essentially forming a very low-lying, homogeneous cloud.

This was the weather for that same foggy day in Singapore. Note how the temperature and dew point met in the morning, coupled with the lack of wind:

Meteorology's fun!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Beef

Being the metrosexual sensitive new age guy I am, I watched a cooking show and got inspired to do my own steak.

Essentially, what the show said was: use a frying pan at high heat to brown the surface of the steak, and then bake it in an oven, covering it with bacon to keep the meat moist.

I went to NTUC and bought some frozen ribeye to try it out. Planning to use real fresh beef should this be a success. Judging by the truth in what the government had said in the past few years, I wouldn't bet on frozen meat being as good as the fresh stuff.

Marinated it with nothing but a sprinkle of salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper. On retrospect, I should have used some sugar, so as to cause the Maillard reaction.

Then I did exactly what the show mentioned - brown the surfaces of the steaks to a crisp, cover with bacon slides, then bake it using the grill function of my microwave.

The problem with frozen beef is that it leaks alot of water while it cooks, gotta use that water for making gravy instead. Added chopped portobello, onions and red vinegar sauce and simmered the gravy until it was thick.


End result? Not bad at all. pretty impressive for frozen beef. Just slightly pink in the centre, i.e. a nice toasty medium-done.

Yay! It was moist and flavourful. The sauce was better than expected too.

Serve it with healthy food, to temper the unhealthiness of bacon and beef.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Saturday Qualifiers

As I pen this, Lewis Hamilton is making his last preparations to the qualifiers tonight. Reviewing the advice given to him by the tech guys who had analysed the way he had handled the practice sessions.

It takes a huge amount of absolute cool to take the wheel calmly and throw the car around the turns at high speed. That's something that would normally come only with maturity.

And yet, he is only weeks older than me. And I have barely passed my driving test a few months ago.

Racing in a Formula 1 race? Add that to the growing list of things I'd never be able to do in my lifetime.

When we were little kids, we could be anything we wanted to be. There's no stopping to what we could choose. Want to be an F1 driver? Not likely. But possible. Even Hamilton was once a 7 year old with no automotive racing experience, no?

But no one ever starts racing at 23 years old and nets a F1 pole finish before he's too old to race. Never.

It's unnerving having our choices being whittled away by the passing of time. A top Olympic sprinter, I'd never be one no matter how i train. A rockstar - that's probably out too.

And in a few decades I'd be laughing at myself silly for whining about that while reminiscing how I used to be able to walk and be continent.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Of blood, shit and piss

There are very few professions on Earth where one can say that their work is bloody, shitty or pissy - and mean it literally.

My past week was spent at another internship, and again, it's 4 weeks of long hours and hard work. Argh.

On Friday, I stayed the night in hospital, shuttling between various wards doing various random errands, handling various patients who had bloody shit, bloody pee, bloody puke, obstructed shit, obstructed pee, uncontrollable shit, uncontrollable pee and various iterations of those few words (a few days back there was even a case of shitty pee but let's not go into there).

I think I know what specialities to avoid now. Namely, the shitty ones and the pissy ones. You know, I'd gladly have longer hours and a higher workload, than to endure shit and piss.

It's another 3 more weeks. Weeks seldom feel this long. And weekends this short.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

More Drivel

I'd spare you the usual shit about schoolwork.

Hung out with a bunch of online buddies. Ikoi in Miramar Hotel. Ala carte buffet for $38.85 after service charge and the Government's cut of your hard-earned money. Pretty good stuff, except that their soba noodles are starchy and tasteless, and that the sushi rice isn't vinegared properly. Sashimi is fresh, tempura is excellent.

Mom's birthday's celebration was a couple days back, and we ate at Sakura restaurant. Another Japanese buffet, though of a much lesser price, and corresponding standard. It's just... price-appropriate fodder. Nothing to shout about.

And the cake, from Pine Garden's Cake, Ang Mo Kio Avenue 10. Durian moose, with real durian mixed in. They make especially light and fluffy cakes.

Reminds you of a certain architectural embarrassment in southern Singapore eh?

Delicious food is not good. Especially when one is just days into embarking into a fat loss/fitness journey.

I'm going to lose all that lard. Eating sensibly and not gorging on food whenever and wherever.

Including interval training in cycling and running to break out of the rut that I was in.

Pushing myself to exhaustion at least twice in a week.

I hope it works!