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.