Tuesday, January 31, 2012


a queen of england.

a state in australia.

a railway station in london.

wife of david beckham.

a reknown lingerie brand.

and the new australian open tennis women's champion & current world #1.

so, it was coincidental that my daughter would be enrolled into victoria junior college for A-levels. according to the students, the top 3 ranking JCs are raffles, hwa chong & national. they joked that those who fail to enter hwa chong end up in national, while those that couldn't enter raffles would settle for victoria.

she quipped that she'd be considered a raffles drop-out. i reassured her that she'd be less stressed in an environment where expectations aren't sky-high & just to enjoy herself in the last 2 years of formal schooling. i know i did.

i just hope the boys won't be too much of a distraction.

Monday, January 30, 2012

at the crossroads

5th formers are spoilt for choice these days. there are so many paths they can take to pursue their career dreams.

those who can afford private education, go on to foundation courses or A-levels, either locally or overseas, based on their forecast results. foundation courses fast-track on to university within a year while A-levels exams may be taken in june of the following year, allowing entry into UK universities in september.

yet others wait for the SPM results & then apply for matriculation or 6th form. these are the government's equivalent of foundation courses & A-levels, respectively.

amidst all these, there's the annual saga of government & private scholarships & the long-drawn issue of the fair disbursement of these awards.

so many choices. how would you choose what's best for your kids? how would they choose?

This is what the LORD says: “Stop at the crossroads and look around. Ask for the old, godly way, and walk in it. Travel its path, and you will find rest for your souls. 
Jer 6:16

Friday, January 27, 2012

killer breakfasts

this is typically what N takes for breakfast. today, it's nasi lemak. tomorrow, it may be mee goreng & the next day, a burger. but it almost always goes with a 500-ml bottle of carbonated drink. coke today, maybe sprite tomorrow.

N is a 20-something male nurse who graduated a few years back. the health lectures he listened to during his training days must have been lost on him. or maybe, he wasn't paying attention. or worse, he couldn't care less.

he is already grossly overweight but he's ok for now because he's still young & (looks) healthy. give him another 20 years on this diet & he'll be another health statistic. you know, hypertention, diabetes, stroke & coronary artery disease. he must have overlooked the fact that we've had patients in their 40s coming in for heart bypass surgery.

we've already repeatedly drummed into him, warning him of his folly but the advice has fallen on deaf ears. maybe he's stubborn & couldn't care less.

but this isn't an ideal world & we all know it. because in an ideal world, doctors don't smoke, lawyers don't cheat, accountants don't embezzle & politicians speak the truth.

what do you think an ideal world is like?

“There is no ideal world for you to wait around for. The world is always just what it is now, and it's up to you how you respond to it.” Isaac Marion, Warm Bodies

Thursday, January 26, 2012

ground zero

i've not been to JB, where i was born & bred, for over 3 years since the old man passed on. so, it was a homecoming of sorts when i met up with my remaining relatives & friends this lunar new year.

catching up gave me a glimpse of my past again - rediscovering my roots &  experiencing a sense of deja vu. it was all too familiar, this JB town - the dirty streets, the crowded food courts, the recognisable faces. & yet JB the city felt strangely foreign - flyovers appeared where there once was only roads congested with traffic, residential areas that were previously considered "ulu" are now townships in their own right.

this trip also provided the opportunity to speak my native teochew again - words, sentences & their intonation that were kept in the back-burner all these years jumped to the fore. but alas, they sounded foreign to my kids & for that, i take responsibility for not passing down the clan's legacy. i consoled myself that millions now speak mandarin instead of dialects.

i foresee that these trips to JB would be less frequent in the future. once the old guard fades away, there's no reason for their kids who now have their own families & who do not reside in JB, like me, to return to their place of birth.

JB would be like ground zero. a happy place once alive with people i know & loved, but soon to exist only in distant memories. i felt a sense of belonging & yet the detachment from the images that i know & remember so well is obvious.

i smiled knowingly, chuckled to myself at people & events past, & then move on.

**my profile picture was taken at my great-grandma's attap home in jalan ngee heng, right where danga city mall now stands**

Sunday, January 22, 2012

like a lottery.

a lottery, as we all know, is a game of chance. whether you choose a series of numbers or buy numbered tickets, you win by a lucky draw. there's no intelligent thinking or effort that determines the outcome, except only by chance.

like sending your car to the workshop. if you go to a manufacturer authorised workshop, you'd expect a certain standard of service. you'd think the mechanics are well-trained, the equipment up-to-date & the spare parts genuine. but is it possible, by chance, one day you are allocated a mechanic who has some personal problems that affects his work? imagine what could go wrong after he's done with your car.

like going to the emergency department. you find out that you require urgent surgery & the surgeon, by chance, needs to attend an important dinner that very day. so, he hurriedly tries to complete the surgery in time for his dinner date. imagine you are that patient & what could possibly go wrong.

things happen, often randomly, but by the grace of God, we are mostly spared the dire consequences.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

a bird in hand.

you know how the saying goes  - that it's worth 2 in the bush?

i just found a new meaning today.

Y is a 77-yr-old man with severe heart disease complicated with renal failure. his wife has left him & his 4 children are not the least bothered about him.

that's because he has a 2nd wife. she's on her own because her own family doesn't know about this marriage, if one was ever held. she has not been seen since Y was admitted 2 days ago.

that leaves Y all alone floundering in the ICU. his heart is giving way & his kidneys are packing up. he's hooked up to a ventilator & there are tubes galore sticking out of him. he won't last the day.

what a way to end the year - dying alone.

yet, isn't it a paradox when they say 3's a crowd??

Monday, January 16, 2012

it's in the genes....... isn't it?

we are all familiar with the tradition of assigning a child's physical appearance to either parent or even to a grandparent, sometimes even down to a particular feature of the face. remember kirk & michael douglas's trademark chin?

sometimes we dissect the child's character & habits as well. take my daughter for example. she takes after my looks, is introverted & often melancholic like me, & has inherited my (ahem!) brains.

but, alas, she drives like her mum.

she failed her driving test again. sigh, now i have to go home & lend her my shoulders.

oh yes, like her mum, she doesn't take failure too well.

but my son, conceived 8 years later, is altogether different. he doesn't look like either of us, has a dimple on his cheek like his grandma, has a gentle disposition like his uncle (my brother). he only takes after me in our common interest in watching & playing football & he enjoys helping out his mother in the kitchen & housework.

such is the mystery of the human character. only God knows why we are made the way we are.

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.

psalms 139:13-16 (NLT)

Thursday, January 12, 2012


the media reported a gold rush of sorts in johor baru yesterday. with gold price at a high, it's understandable why people would pan for the precious commodity.

as it turned out, it's only granite imbedded with iron sulphide, which glitters under sunlight.

i got a call from a nurse very early this morning about a patient in the ward who was restless from a head injury. i had seen him earlier yesterday & prescribed the appropriate medication. however, the nurse didn't adhere closely to the prescription, which resulted in the patient getting restless, & which got me all riled up.

at 2am.

instinctively, i gave her a mouthful, which could have been worse but for the fact that i'm a natural late-sleeper. i've ranted about incompetent nurses before here, here & here.

but some nurses are really good, although sadly, they are few & far in-between. like male nurse D. he started as a clerk & the hospital sponsored his nursing diploma. after completion, he served his bond faithfully - willing to learn, accepts criticism, is hardworking & has a nice personality. one of my colleagues Dr K took him under his wings & trained him up to be his (Dr K's) assistant in OT. D is good at what he does.

now that his bond is near completion, D has found a better paying job elsewhere. we threw him a farewell lunch today. i told Dr K: you're going to lose your right-hand man soon.

Dr K replied, rather crudely : he's only my left hand little finger.

i thought that was uncalled for. it's so hard to find decent nurses these days & doctors should appreciate when they get good ones. for that matter, hospitals should similarly try to retain their staff, especially so those that bring up their good name.

after all, many things glitter, but only real gold has intrinsic value. all the best to your new job, nurse D!

**image from the star**

Sunday, January 08, 2012


that's what the "O" stands for in O-level exams.
my daughter doesn't feel it's all that ordinary. in fact, it's giving her the jitters as the day of reckoning arrives. 

those days, we all went to the school office & queued to get the result slips. no one else would know the details if we chose not to reveal.

in my daughter's school, they will assemble in the school hall. the top students (7As & above) will be called up by name & the number of As announced. then, they will go up on stage to collect their slips.

the other less successful students will just get their results individually & with much less fanfare.

no wonder, the girl has jitters!! but i guess she will just have to get used to the pressure-cooker pace, because that's the way it is & i don't envy her one bit.

on the day i got my results, a bunch of us walked from school through the botanical gardens towards town center to catch a bus home. on the way, we monkeyed around, ate ice-cream & joked. there wasn't much pressure. none of us did exceptionally well but we all did enough to get into 6th form & that mattered the most.

ah, life was ordinarily simple then.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

still an "L"

the girl went for her driving test this morning. i had hoped she would pass 1st time but she didn't.

did she knock into a pole during parking?


did she slide down the slope?


did she forget to put on the indicator light when changing lanes?


so, how did she fail?

she ran a red light.

i'm still reeling from the shock - there's a potential speed demon in the family.

Monday, January 02, 2012

old school

i know it's odd to talk about old when it's less than 2 days into the new year, but a member of the old school has passed on.

i read the obituary of prof sengupta, head of orthopaedics when i was his student. his department has this to say about the good professor:
there's no doubt the prof loved to teach. as students, we used to dread his teaching wards rounds, only because he could spend a whole session on just 1 patient, elaborating on clinical signs, diagnosis, treatment & how such a patient may present during the exams. his morning round would often stretch through lunch & the part we dreaded the most was that he could stand throughout the whole proceeding by the patient's bedside, so we had to stand as well. he would end at about 1.30pm & we would have to grab a quick bite before afternoon classes commenced again at 2pm.

such diligence & dedication is rare nowadays.

so, dear prof sengupta, on behalf of the class of 79/84, we all salute you, together with the late profs karim, raman, dhanaraj & bosco,  as pillars of our medical education.

you've taken our hands, opened our minds & touched our hearts. you've made us into who we are today & we thank you.

may your soul rest in peace.