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?

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Powder Room

Unless you personally design your own mansion from the ground up, you'll generally find that most housing developers here build surprisingly small bathrooms into their cookie-cutter generic designs. No matter the size of the house, or even the bedroom in question, you'll find toilets here remarkably minuscule. With the recent trend leaning towards vast sumptuous mini spas in the home, I simply cannot fathom why they would insert a singularly cramped cubby-hole - almost as a forgotten aside - as the supposed ensuite bathroom for an extensive bedroom.

I mean I don't expect to organize a full-on mind-blowing orgy with the entire football team in the bathroom but at least give me reasonable space for one broad-shouldered quarterback and me!

All I can think of is that toilets are customarily considered negative places that should be closed off or ignored in traditional feng shui - all thanks to the days where bathrooms tended to be horribly derelict outhouses left forsaken in the farthest reaches of the manse. Surely that's the reason for the tiny toilets, yes?

So I can strut across the bathroom tiles dropping clothes like this?

Whatever it is, I have decided to knock down part of the bedroom to allow space for the adjoining bathroom. I don't see why I should have a severely restricted closet to have a shower and shave! Along with the imagined plans for Hartfield, I sketched in a larger window right next to the shower area - which prompted a horrified response from Charming Calvin.

Calvin : Is that a window? 
Paul : Yeah, I figured I needed more light in the bathroom so why not get large windows that stretch almost to the floor. 
Calvin : It's right next to the shower!
Paul : Yes, I know. I drew that. 
Calvin : Your neighbours can see right in!
Paul : I can wave hello. 
Calvin : You'd be naked!
Paul : So? I don't have body image issues. 
Calvin : What would the neighbours think!
Paul : Am I supposed to care? 
Calvin : They might take pictures!
Paul : Well I hope I look good in them. 

Which sufficiently explains why toilets here have such miserably microscopic vents for windows.

Frankly I don't really care. So what if the curious neighbours peek in? Seems I get less bothered about what the rest of the world thinks the older I get. What's wrong about having a shower en déshabillé in the privacy of my own home? There are times when I'm barely dressed at home, especially with the infernal heat of the tropics. In my time I've even gone skinny dipping on some of the secluded beaches - without the interference of our overly judgemental moral police.

Honestly if I had a sculpted physique like Chris Evans, I would probably be parading naked all the time.

But compromises have to be made, at least to satisfy Calvin who's practically up in arms over the shocking impropriety of said bathroom. For my prudish Calvin's sake, perhaps the windows would only come down to about waist level. Surely that's enough to placate the delicate sensibilities of everyone in question?

Friday, August 22, 2014


Ten years into the job and very little surprises ye olde cynical me anymore. From the ludicrous to the macabre, we've seen the farcical mysteries of life spin through the halls of the hospital. Surprise long-hidden stepfamily creeps out from the cracks at the deathbed? Seen that. Miracle infant pops out from teenage girl after months of mysterious stomach ailments? Seen that. Nurse and physician, both supposedly married, having an afternoon delight in the linen closet to burn calories? Seen that.

Rather than have my nurses assume I've turned into a dispassionate android, I've even managed to school my usually impassive features into at least some animated semblance of surprise, ready to activate the moment something seemingly impossible happens. At least have a ready gasp of amazement.

Then I get something like this. 

Friend : Hey, are you free this weekend? 
Paul : Sure. What's up? 
Friend : Do you know where I could score some weed? 
Paul : What? 
Friend : You know. Weed. 
Paul : What? 
Friend : To smoke with?
Paul : I know weed but what?
Friend : So you know where to get it? Or at least a fella who deals? 
Paul : OMG.

Yes, things still do surprise me apparently. 

Though I might usually appear worldly and quite sophisticated, some questions still leave me completely non-plussed! Gosh I felt like I was back in college. Sure I might have some vague idea where to find such contraband products - we tend to have a motley crew of patients from all walks of life, even some of the darker byways - but do I appear so shockingly permissive that I would condone such reckless behaviour?

I'm gay, not irresponsible.

Dammit I told her not to smoke that reefer in the office.

Generally having sane adults getting high and stoned doesn't bother me, as long as it's within limits. So go ahead and smoke it in Amsterdam, even bake it in delish brownies if you want - but don't do this at home, especially if you're here in Malaysia. In case some of us have casually forgotten, the Malaysian legislation provides a mandatory death penalty for convicted drug traffickers. Individuals arrested in possession of 15 grams of heroin or 200 grams of marijuana are presumed by law to be trafficking in drugs.

It's illegal. So kids, take this as a friendly warning. 

And yes, even if you're a reasonably mature adult, you never know when you're just gonna go over the brink when it comes to an addiction.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Enabler Parent

With helicopter-parenting being ever in vogue, is it any surprise that modern hospitals have scrambled to accomodate the ever-growing crowds of parents wishing to accompany their children into the operating theatre? Supposedly it reduces psychological trauma for the child and eases the induction process. Honestly there's so much pressure to keep up with the perfect parenting Joneses that it seems almost taboo for any supposedly caring parents to admit that they would rather remain patiently in the waiting room.

Of course that all depends on the discretion of the anaesthesiologist. 

For me, it all depends on the parent. There are certain tough yet tender disciplinarians who actually manage to successfully allay their child's increasing stress just by being present in the room. With a touch, a glance,  a word, that's all it takes for them to get their anxious child in order. I've even seen one military father who just stood at attention at the door while keeping a stern eye on his son who literally frogmarching to the operating table. Seems almost like parenting magic. 

Keep steady, boy. 

And then there are the enabler parents. 

What can I say? I assume they would be the ones desperately trying - but woefully failing - to corral their screaming brats in shopping malls. Since not only do these enabler parents fail miserably in pacifying the paediatric patient, they actually amplify their child's distress by adding their own. 

Nurse : Could you come look at the patient? 
Paul : That small boy? Isn't his mother with him? 
Nurse : Yes. And that's the problem.
Paul : He was perfectly alright a moment ago. Said he wasn't in pain at all.
Nurse : That's not the problem at all. 
Paul : Oh, what is it? 
Nurse : I think the mother's a pain instead. 
Paul : Oh. 

And rather than help with the child's anxiety, the mother just gets increasingly more agitated. Which serves to excite the child, which... yeah it enters a hysterical cycle. So much so that we usually feel like sedating the parent instead. 

So yes, if you feel yourself unable to handle the stress, don't feel obligated. Please remain outside instead. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Finding Hartfield

Since there's a significant lease tagged to the house keys, Netherfield was always meant to be a temporary domicile till a new one was secured. Never expected for us to remain so long - has it really been almost three years? - or for any of us to grow so much attached to this bit of land with lush tropical backwoods to spare.

But it isn't forever.

Despite being a farflung outpost on this side of the Big Puddle, the fair city has never run short of housing projects. In fact there seems to be far more developments than there are honest citizens in this city, so much so I have no idea how they would ever manage to make a sale. But wealthy merchants there are aplenty here so they need never fear.

Quick stroll one afternoon through one of the neverending housing fairs here was all it took for me to pick out a place. Location was right, size was right, price seemed alright...  Never been one to haggle for long over a sale so I signed for the house before the loudly overenthusiastic salesman could even finish his usual spiel.

Yes, this looks like Hartfield. Or at least it shall be. 

Which is how I found Hartfield, a relatively new area of town repurposed from the swampy wetlands that makes up most of the city. Boasting of a new road to the city which would make it roughly the same travelling distance to the city centre as Netherfield!

Now that all happened a year back, which is about the time it took to get the place ready. Keys haven't been handed over yet but I've already taken several pictures of the area with more than a few idea on how to decorate the place. Slightly large in size than Netherfield yet much more modern in outlook, Hartfield just needs a few tweaks here and there to make it largely liveable. Have plans to extend most of the ground floor, enlarging the dining and living areas. Perhaps even a grand kitchen with a bartop ( or a banquette ) breakfast area.

Sometimes makes me wonder about my choice of career when I find far more joy and fulfilment trying to rearrange the upstairs bathroom - with a view to having a clawfooted bathtub by the window - than in my normal everyday work. But then perhaps it's usual to enjoy designing and building your own space.

Will of course try my best to avoid falling into the Chinese towkay design pitfall of flashy, shiny ornaments.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Day I Starred in Porn

Let's not deny that the various drugs used regularly in general anaesthesia could also be used for other more ... thoroughly recreational purpose - which is why most of the seemingly harmless ampoules in my hand are labeled dangerous drugs where daily usage is closely watched and strictly monitored. Though the infamous accidental death of the Prince of Pop might have given the poor sedative hypnotic agent Propofol quite a bad name, that doesn't change the fact that it does have some surprisingly risque effects.

Namely for the patient.

While under sedation with the drug, medical reports have documented cases of sexually charged euphoria with shockingly vivid erotic dreams unlike those caused by other more modest sedative agents. Though I myself have not undergone such a procedure, I have encountered innumerable patients who awaken with pleasurable moans and sighs so I would have to agree with that particular hypothesis.

Something to that effect I'm sure.

Confirmed without a doubt today when I found myself the target of such a susceptible patient. Turns out the pretty college co-ed remembers me from my regular gadabouts around town though I can't recall her at all. Sure, she might be uncommonly beautiful but still, she's just a girl. Could have been any Toni, Dora or Harriet to me. Perhaps if it had been her strapping brother, I might have been a tad more flattered.

Perhaps it was her vague recollection that ignited some of her more charged feminine emotions - for her subsequent awakening turned out to be quite the event.

Paul : OMG. 
Nurse : I think she's moaning. 
Paul : I can hear that too. 
Nurse : And she's sighing too. 
Paul : Asking her to keep it down won't help, would it? 
Nurse : I think she just cried your name. 
Paul : No!
Nurse : There. Again. That's clearly your name. 
Paul : I'll pretend not to have heard that. 
Nurse : You must have been pretty good.
Paul : Obviously I do try. 

Such sweet irony that I took the starring role in someone's licentious fantasies - only to find myself literally unmoved apart from a faint flush of my cheeks. If it had been a virile twenty year-old of the male sex, who knows what might have happened.

Seriously. Now that I have you tied up, I don't know what else to do with you. Do I braid your hair? Apply some make-up for you? Is that what you like? 

Fortunately my name only left her breathless lips that one time with no clear recollection after she came out of her dreamy reverie - though that was more than enough for my irreverent nurses who spent the entire morning trying to take the piss out of me by repeatedly sighing my name within earshot.

So moral of the story : kids, don't do drugs. At least not without a licensed anaesthetist around.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Just Wave Hello

"There is hardly any personal defect which an agreeable manner might not gradually reconcile one to."

Apparently a quote attributed to the infamous observer of manners, Miss Jane Austen herself. Though in these modern days, I wonder whether that still holds true.

Hate to sound like a crotchety old fogey - which I certainly am - but in my days, my far too conservative though evidently wise elders put a high value on good manners. When it came to having civil company around, we were expected to present ourselves in the living room with our best behaviour, make some cordial chit chat and generally refrain from being a monstrous nuisance.

Undoubtedly no annoying fidgeting.

And that goes for the occasional public appearance as well.

Since otherwise it would be the birch. Or a smack. Whichever was closest for my parents. Say what you will - and yes, I may be biased - but I don't think we had that many whiny brats in public spaces back then.

Getting to know you

So why did I suddenly bring that up? Because I had a getting-to-know-you conversation just the other day which I found simply... exhausting.

Paul : Hi, you're new here?
Newbie : Yes. 
Paul : Where do you work?
Newbie : Here. 
Paul : How are you enjoying the place? Got used to the roads yet? 
Newbie : Yes. 
Paul :  Have you been to this restaurant?
Newbie : No. 
Paul : Do you like the food? 
Newbie : Yes. 

I should have just come out with a welcome-to-the-neighbourhood survey form to tick and cross.

It was less an introductory conversation and more an information mining expedition. In colloquial Malay I frequently dub it as 'mencungkil emas' - which basically means digging for gold - since every word he uttered seemed to be precious treasure uncovered. Come on, a monosyllabic reply does not a conversation make. If I'm asking all the questions, I might as well bring along some ropes, a taser and an interrogation lamp.

If I had done the same surly treatment as a kid, my parents would have gladly walloped me from being just plain rude. Don't think I would blame them.

Beyond the simple handshake, there is more to knowing a person. Yes, it does take time - and it also takes exchanged words since my psychic powers are still very much nascent.

David : Maybe he's shy!
Paul : Being shy doesn't mean throwing manners away. 
David : Maybe he just doesn't know what to say!
Paul : He could just ask the same questions we did. It's just general questions. I wasn't asking what intimate sexual positions he enjoys. 
David : Oh. 
Paul : He probably doesn't even know your name. Or your job. Or where you live. Or where you come from. Basically he knows nothing about us - and I already know about his sister's favourite pet. 

Seriously. What did their parents teach them about social interaction? Is saying hello so difficult for people these days?

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Vive la Famille

Surely the ambitious motto of my aspiring family patriarch - though I'm sure the much exploited grandchildren don't think much of his grand designs. But when it comes to an aspiring famille hoping to leave a lasting legacy during the baffling upheavals of the French Revolution, can you blame the determined fellow?

Which is basically the theme of our latest game. Legacy: The Testament of Duke de Crecy lets us step into the shoes of an upwardly mobile French noble in 1729 and compete for lasting honour by establishing a powerful dynasty with marriage ties to many different wealthy and powerful families.

Years back as a kid playing endless reruns of largely competitive games such as Risk and Monopoly with my brother, I already surrendered myself to the notion that such games obviously weren't suited to my taste. Barbaric hordes tearing across borders to plunder and pillage simply isn't my idea of fun.

Evidently I tend to lean towards thematic cooperative games with lots... and lots of witty narrative. So a game such as Legacy where gambling on the fickle vagaries of the marriage market ( like my all-time favourite Georgette Heyer regencies ) forms the basis of the game sounds made for me. Just imagine Crusader Kings with the endless Machiavellian manipulations of the hapless family members but without the blood-soaked warmongering on a mini board game.

Which is what I immediately set out to do as the future Count Philippe of Malacca. Though resources were few for his family wasn't all that well-to-do, he managed to gain the hand of the far more politically astute courtesan Arianne. Fortunately despite the unpredictable medical facilities of those times, a string of successful pregnancies ensued with a handful of promising though oddly identical offspring - Patric, Paul and Paige.

Philippe : Well congratulations, you survived the birth without complication.
Arianne : You were hoping otherwise?
Philippe : Did you expect bouquets? There's no love lost between us after all.
Arianne : You would have carried on the affair with the handsome footman from Provence?
Philippe : Certainement! Well I might have publicly mourned for a week. And fucked him thoroughly in private.
Arianne : Before searching for a new bride the week after?
Philippe : You know me too well.  

Feeling that times would be getting better despite noble heads getting summarily lopped off at the bloody guillotine, Philippe purchased a grand title for himself along with a gracious country chateau. After all where else could he throw his grand fetes to beguile high society. Along the way his socialite wife eagerly arranged advantageous marriages for his children. Even a match where poor Paige was sacrificed to a petty court blackmailer - who nonetheless, through whatever nefarious means, brought in several influential friends to the social circle - which paved the way for her more fortunate brother Paul, then the city mayor of Paris, to be engaged to a lovely Castillian princess.

Things looked up with the third generation as one grandson attained the status of a Duke while another granddaughter married a finance minister's son. The rest Philippe bartered off for whatever benefits they brought to the family - though one handsome suitor caught his eye... well just because.

Certain patriarchal entitlements Philippe surely didn't see fit to share with the rest of his family.

Philippe : The son of a mere baron for our beloved granddaughter Patience! My dear, you are certainly addled. I see at least one hunchback duke and two cross-eyed ministers who would be more advantageous.
Arianne : Take a good look at the boy before you judge.
Philippe : Vraiment! I finally see his undeniable charms. Certainly gifted. Now that's a virile stallion I would be glad to introduce into my stables.
Arianne : At least wait till after the wedding, my dear.
Philippe : Certainement!

Perpetually trying to gain more prestige along the way as the family picks up advantageous alliances. With a penchant for marrying intellectuals and scholars, soon enough the family gained the attention of Madame de Pompadour who became the family patroness.

Which is more than I can say for my lesser-connected rival families, one of whom had a motley crew of butchers, maids and stableboys in their hodge-podge lineage. Even a wandering Cossack! How shockingly bourgeouis!

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Everyone's an Eeyore

For those who are wondering, Eeyore's the tragically despondent donkey usually found at the edge of the Thousand Acre Wood ruminating about the daily miseries of life.

These days reading the online media with everyone sounding unhappy I am starting to wonder whether I am surrounded by hundreds of them. Charming Calvin included. Compared to them, I'm practically the bouncing interminably optimistic Tigger. Almost annoyingly so sometimes.

Unsure who exactly is to blame for all the unhappiness, whether it's our modern age of jaded despondency where being happy seems almost ludicrously unhip, or whether it's our wildly encouraging mass media that has given everyone unrealistic expectations of life in general. Seems like everyone's forever wanting and wishing, dreaming and hoping for lottery wins and diamond rings to be happy in life. And when that doesn't come true - which unfortunately is far more common than such limited occurrences, they find themselves hopelessly in the slough of despond.

So what if there's a pea in my bed!

Which I simply can't fathom. I'm healthy, I'm alive, I have food and shelter - generally that makes me happy. After all fireworks and birthdays don't come every day! Most of the friends whining about their endless sorrows already have so many blessings that I find it hard to believe that they could possibly be at all piteously miserable.

Consider this a reiteration. Perhaps it's my unconventional upbringing - due to the fact that I spent quite a large portion of my growing teenage years wandering in empty hospital hallways - or from my work - where I deal with life's numerous miseries, but I find myself inordinately cheered by the little things. It doesn't have to be the big things.

Just that surprisingly well-brewed cup of coffee in the morning from the nurses.

Or perhaps the unexpected cancellation of a morning case leaving the day free for my many pursuits.

Or finding that exceedingly luscious fruit from that long forsaken mango tree in the backyard of Netherfield.

Or getting that uncommon lovey-dovey message from Charming Calvin.

The little things make me happy, certainly eclipsing whatever small disappointments of the day there may be. Life is short so we should cherish all the lovely things that happen all the more. Don't worry so much about the bed having the occasional disconcerting pea but be happy that there's a wonderful down mattress instead.

And if you're lucky, even a handsome prince beside.