Monday, September 15, 2014

Malevolent Medical Monsters

Think it's common knowledge these days that ingenuous house officers practically outnumber the ailing patients in our hospitals. In fact, some of my senior colleagues have taken to shutting the windows tight lest the overflowing number of house officers threaten to tip out of them.

As they are wont to do - whether due to suicides or other reasons unknown.

After all medicine is a course infamous for having an improbably high attrition rate, quite a few possibly due to the startlingly high rate of suicides for physicians. Though I am pretty sure that the working environment has mellowed some due to my more tolerant peers - no longer do we have the dark days of demonic surgeons tearing up the scribbled notes of a lowly intern in front of everyone followed by a vicious profanity-spiced diatribe - but still we have some of the more gentle souls who are trampled along the way.

Patient : Hey, where's my regular doc?
Doctor : Oh, he's long gone.
Patient : He left this hospital?
Doctor : I would say he did. He stepped off the tenth floor of this hospital.
Patient : OMG.
Doctor : Eh, it happens. 

One of whom I met just the other day. It didn't take me long to suss out why Meek Martin was suddenly voluntarily taking up an entirely different course. After all no one does repeated postings during their housemanship in different hospitals unless there are extenuating circumstances.

Paul : So you quit? 
Martin : Yes. 
Paul : Horrible times during your housemanship? 
Martin : Yes. 
Paul : Had someone tear your notes and make you rewrite them? Berate and call you names in front of everyone? Force you to take more oncalls?  
Martin : No. They just weren't nice to me. 
Paul : That's all!?

Ooh were they mean ole doctors?

Unsurprisingly our locally graduated house officers, used to our far more taxing environs, tend to last longer with the rigorous taskmasters here. 'Cruel to be kind' seems to be their motto here - definitely not what those abroad would be used to. Acclimatized to the more genteel, benign lecturers abroad, the house officers who return here find themselves exposed to the sweltering jeremiads of the heated tropics - certainly enough to have even the strongest wilt.

Anything you see dished out by the fierce Miranda Bailey in Grey's Anatomy is almost negligible compared to some of our malevolent dragons here. Unfortunately weakness is something they tolerate only in their patients. Amongst their colleagues in the medical fraternity, it's almost an anathema.

What monsters they be, you'll say! Back then as a houseman seeing that horrible surgeon tear up the notes of my colleague, I thought pretty much the same.

But along the way I met up with one of those monsters we had and realized that he had done it truly out of kindness. Yes, I was almost apoplectic in shock myself. Though I don't agree with his abhorrent Machiavellian methods, I think his ideas are relatively sound.

The Monster : It's a stressful job. If I hadn't done so, they would have continued for the next few years and burned out eventually. Better they leave sooner than later. 

Which is exactly what Martin did.


Posted by savante at 10:05 AM 3 comments

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Another Suitcase in Another Hall

At that very moment, betrayal was all she could think about. Staying out till past midnight with that other.... though she shouldn't have thought in such degrading terms about someone of her own gender, damned cheap floozy was all she could say!

What could he have been thinking? Not her that was for sure; otherwise he wouldn't have spent the entire night talking only to that girl while spinning pitiful lies about a tedious work dinner that dragged on just a little too late.

Which was why she had her suitcase out in the hallway all packed at 2 in the morning despite his persistent pleas to stay.

Quick substitute of the gender and it could have been miserable old me more than a decade ago. Deny it all you may but seriously, time really does heal all wounds - since now I can actually look back and have a chagrined laugh over it. Has it really been that long? Was I ever that brash?

And how the hell did I successfully stuff all my rubbish bric-a-bracs into one tiny suitcase in less than ten minutes! What a magnificent feat! It's a wonder my ISO didn't reward me with a standing ovation - but I guess with my hair practically aflame with fury, he probably daren't come any closer.

Of course it doesn't seem like a laughing matter to my new friend - the much younger Cotton Candy - as she commiserated with us over the cellphone, while undoubtedly sitting cross-legged on top of her packed suitcase with plane tickets ready to flee in her pocket. Disconnected from the rest of her friends and family across the Big Puddle, I could only imagine how vulnerable and alone Candy must have felt. Finding herself left alone in the tower while her supposed Prince traipses off for a midnight outing wasn't the happy ending she'd imagined.

Can we talk? 

Thanks to the benefit of hindsight - and of course my ISO, I knew exactly what to say to calm her down. These days, the Disney magic of mass media advertising would have you imagine that relationships are born of syrupy ballads, blazing fireworks and sparkling champagne which, though wonderful to think of, is generally patently untrue.

What makes a relationship last is plain hard work. And lots, and lots of compromise.

It's of Prince Florian finally coming to terms with the curious fact that Snow White comes with seven grumpy dwarves that he can never get rid of. It's Belle finally realizing that there are days when even her usually docile husband falls into beastly PMS rages - she probably hides in the great library. It's the Prince knowing that his palace maids would have to deal with an infestation of plague-bearing rodents - especially with his wife Cinderella communing with them daily. It's our valiant Prince Eric who comes to realize that even the hundreds of rooms in the castle might not be enough for his hoarder wife Ariel who seems to be picking up nonsensical thingamajigs all over the place - maybe just toss them back into the sea when she's not looking?

If they all took off the minute things got bad, there wouldn't be much of a happy ending for these fairy tales.

And they certainly would never make any good decisions at 2 in the morning.  

Labels: , ,

Posted by savante at 4:38 PM 1 comments

Monday, September 08, 2014

All About the Bonsai

Perhaps it all started when I was but a child dreaming up fantastic little tales of heroism and bravery in the small plot of land in front of my house. Under the forgiving shade of the blooming guava tree, I dug out simple country paths and lanes for the rudimentary twig houses I built. Dried guava leaves and torn palm fronds were woven into makeshift thatch roofs for the miniature figures that peopled the hopeful village at the crossroads. For everything else, there was always tape and paper around.

After all despite my large, clumsy hands, I've always been great at paper crafts.

So it's obvious that the miniature world has always held a fascination for me, what with designing DIY wooden houses to crafting mini paper lanterns and ... yes, even to keeping bonsai trees. But with my green thumb always in doubt, the paralyzing fear of maintaining those terrifyingly fragile zen gardens always kept me away. Didn't want to subject the poor bonsai tree to my dubious arboriculture skills lest I be deemed the local bonsai murderer.

However that certainly never stopped me from admiring those perfectly manicured and pruned miniature trees, occasionally even decorated with tiny temple shrines or the lonely wandering figurine.

Wow, that's one ginormous bonsai tree. 

So when I saw a friendly neighbour offering some of his potted bonsai trees for sale online, I just couldn't help myself. Not knowing how much to offer in exchange, I just came up with a particularly low price since I wanted a really, really tiny plant to start with. Several inches high perhaps?

Neighbour : Got a lot ah. What type? How much you want?
Paul : Just one should do. Something small for the office. 
Neighbour : Sure got one! How much you want?
Paul : Maybe about a hundred or so? 
Neighbour : Definitely. You wait here, I get for you. 
Paul : A small one yeah?
Neighbour : Small, small yeah. 

I assume he understood what I meant. Well that teaches me not to overestimate the skills of locals in determining size and length - and to severely underestimate the general price of items in the future. Turns out his version of small wasn't the dainty size of my palm as I had expected - but closer to the size of an overfed toddler.

Paul : OMG. 
Neighbour : You like ka? I got more. 
Paul : That's quite enough, I think. Didn't expect it to be this big!
Neighbour : You pay more, I give you more lo! 

Well perhaps the sole figurine would be seriously dwarfed by my alarmingly large bonsai tree - even with me immediately attacking it with pruning shears - but that wouldn't stop me from starting a little village beneath the shade! Maybe a small family of retired geishas setting up a ramen shop!

Oh the possibilities are endless!

Labels: ,

Posted by savante at 12:02 PM 0 comments

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Cupcakes for the Moon

The Mid-Autumn Festival came just a tad earlier this year, or at least the party did. To coincide with my mother coming by for one of her irregular visits, the annual Mid-Autumn party in Netherfield had to be brought forward a week or so.

One day if I do finally retire, I just might offer myself as a volunteer party planner! Soirees at Netherfield have become such a routine that it took less than half a day to plan the menu with the new caterers and to order up the expected dishes for the guests. Twenty seemed like a good enough number, not too many that it would overwhelm yet not too few to seem almost deserted. Decorations were easy enough when I finally decided on a pink lantern theme. With my penchant for papercrafts, it took me a few days to assemble enough paper lanterns to bedeck the entire living room, with plenty left to spare for the other rooms.

Then came the hard part.

Paul : You're the patissier?
Patissier : Oh yes. 

With everyone I know fearing for their expanding waists - and subsequently eschewing the traditional cholesterol-laden mooncakes, I figured having smaller-sized cupcakes would be quite the sweet treat. Anyway having pretty pastel-coloured fondant decoration on the cupcakes would be an easier match for the theme of the party. Minutes was all it took for me to decide on the menu for the dinner table but trying to decide on what to place on the cupcakes certainly took some brainstorming.

Paul : Yes, I want cupcakes. 
Patissier : I should hope so! I don't do mooncakes!
Paul : Maybe a moon on top? 
Patissier : That's all? Quite sad, no? 
Paul : Maybe the moon goddess? 
Patissier : Anything else?
Paul : I guess the rabbit pounding the mortar and pestle?
Patissier : That takes care of two, what about the rest? 
Paul : A lantern maybe? 
Patissier : Three cupcakes. 
Paul : So I have to think of the other twenty as well?
Patissier : I only bake 'em. 

Having the cupcakes resemble the traditional mooncakes except smaller would be impractical since they already have them in a myriad of shapes and sizes.

So what designs to make out of fondant? With other festivals, we seem to have a rich plethora of vivid images to draw upon; from garland-bedecked trees and white-bearded philanthropists for Christmas to scarlet banners and booming firecrackers for Chinese New Year. But when it comes to the Mid-Autumn Festival, I could barely come up with anything - well except for the moon goddess, the rabbit and the lantern.

Thoughts that would plague me for the day... would a ceramic teapot made out of fondant look out of place on the cupcake?

Of course getting cupcakes for the party didn't stop me from getting double-egg yolk lotus paste mooncakes only for myself. After all I'm still very much a traditionalist.

Labels: ,

Posted by savante at 9:24 PM 0 comments

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Once Upon a Ramen

Once upon a time, there lived a little prince in a secluded castle far, far away. With him were his parents, both ardent lovers of all things horticulture and bucolic which was why they brought their little son with them to live miles away from life in the bustling capital. In that wooded castle built on miles of rolling hills, sheltered from the rigors of city life, our prince grew up tutored in all the arts of music, math and principles. 

Peculiar principles which were taught to him almost on a daily basis - one of which included the abject warning from his loving but stern parents NOT to play with his food. In fact above the family altar there was a golden spoon with that particular motto emblazoned on the handle. 'Play Not With Thou Food.'

Calvin : Oh that's a vegetable. They don't really talk much. Definitely can't dance.
Friend : Hmm. 

Calvin : My parents usually grind and crush them so they can't possibly rebel. 

For whatever reason the little prince never knew for he was a quiet, obedient child who never saw fit to question his occasionally authoritative parents. And after all, there was little he could do to even talk to the food placed in front of him - nutritious, vegetable-laden meals who didn't seem to have much to tell him. Surely he would never have a chance to even play with the food. 

But one day when his parents were away to do whatever royal parents were wont to do, the little prince was left very much to his own devices. Eschewing the prepared meal left behind by his mother - a grainy, mealy green gunk supposedly full of fibre and vitamins, our prince decided to step outside for a look to see what there was to enjoy. 

And lo and behold, there was a bowl of noodles right at his doorstep. A bowl of spicy, scrumptious ramen to be exact, adorned with layers of heavenly pork. No one knew exactly how long it had been there, or who exactly had delivered it but the scent of the spices seemed to draw the little prince in. 

Rather than just sit still in the bowl as the nutritious meals were wont to do, the noodles crept out of the bowl and decided to dance a waltz. Curiously enough! Never had the prince seen such a shocking sight for who could ever have known that there would be a Waltzing Ramen Monster. Was that what his parents had been talking about? 

Taken aback, he rushed back into the castle searching for a weapon but found only the golden spoon. As the noodles reached to draw him into the dance, he smacked it with the spoon which caused it to fall to the ground lifeless. Little did he know that the golden spoon had been used by his ancestors to clear the forests of rampant noodle creatures centuries before. 

Seeing his returning parents about to come over the rise, he packed the noodles back into the bowl and hurriedly buried it. At least now he knew why his parents had always told him not to play with the food. Obviously they liked to dance, something his parents expressly forbade in the castle. 

So from that day forward, the little prince decided to stay away from ramen. 

And definitely never to dance. 

At least that's what I think must have happened to Charming Calvin in his youth. No doubt the Waltzing Ramen Monster must have haunted his dreams ever since. Otherwise how to explain his peculiar aversion to ramen?

Labels: ,

Posted by savante at 4:49 PM 0 comments