Thursday, June 30, 2005

A generation fed on hamburgers and french fries...

Since my entry "damn if you do, damn if you don't" about how young and seemingly healthy men collapsed while exercising, there have been at least two more cases of such incidents in recent weeks and both involving young NS men in the SAF.

The latest casualty was only 19. A reader of the Sunday Times wrote to suggest that these casualties were victims of a heart disorder known as arrhythmogenic right-ventricular dysplasia (ARVD), a genetic condition in which the muscle of the right ventricle of the heart turns into fatty or fibrous tissue. He added that ARVD affects about one in 5000 people but may cause up to 20% of sudden cardiac deaths in people under 55. A series of non-invasive tests can determine if one has the disorder (more information on ARVD can be found in ARVD)

My colleagues and I have another theory. We think it maybe due to the food we eat. Fast food to be more precise. After all, such sudden death seems to be pretty uncommon during our parents' time where food are usually cooked and consumed at home. These young people belong to the generation of hamburger-munching kids.

Such death seems to go against the fact that life expectancy for men and women has gone up. According to the Singapore Ministry of Health, the 1998 average life expectancy was 75.2 years for men and 79.3 years for women. Today in 2005, the figure should be higher. So, it really does not make sense when some of my colleagues said that with the kind of life we're leading and the food we're eating, we’d be lucky if you can live past 60. You see, some of my close friends are already in the 48-50 age group. It's depressing to think that there're only 10 or 12 years more to go before hitting the bucket, a sentiment shared by Victor Koo. A lifetime is really short. So little time.... and so much things we want to do ........

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

The pre-war houses I grew up in......

My pal Victor Koo waxed lyrical about the Clark Quay of yore in his blog and how the old Singapore River brings back fond memories for him, memories of precious relationships, and memories of teochew minced pork noodles sold in a coffee shop at the river.

Though we're almost 8 years apart, I realise Victor and I have something in common. We love to reflect on the pasts.

I grew up in the vicinity of Chinatown, in a small lane known as Club Street. So did my Dad who is in his mid-70s. We stayed in the pre-war houses, in what was called "wu jiao jie" in Chinese or "5-foot path" houses until the government decided to develop the area and resettled us in a HDB flat at Ubi Avenue. The house (the one with the red arrow in the pix; the blue arrow on the highest level was where my family of six lived) where we used to live has been preserved for its historical value. The whole stretch of Club Street has been converted into a street of pubs, restaurant and advertising agencies. I'm glad about the preservation but some of the other buildings and landmark worth preserving have not been spared - the National Theatre is one and more recently, the National Library.

Anyway, back to my childhood in Chinatown. Life was hard then, but simple. The extended family of my father, totaling about 30 people, young and old, lived under the same roof, together with hordes of annoying and irritating rats and cats. There were only two toilets and two kitchens, one each on both level of the house. With so many people, it was hard, if not impossible, to live in harmony. I remember the squabbles, the shouting and screaming among my relatives. My grandma, the matriarch, could not keep the family intact when she was alive. It was only after her death, that Dad and his siblings started talking to each other and to these days, they remain close. My grandma would have been so happy. But I couldn't help wondering how much happier she would have been had her children bury the hatchet while she was still alive....

I remember the good times too. The whole neighborhood would be bustling with activities whenever the various dialect clans organised a wayang show to appease the gods. That means at least 4 days of wayang show staged on man-made wooden stage. When the stage was up, kids like us in the neighbourhood would start pushing wooden crates from some of the sundry shops nearby, sticking them high in the front of the stage to "chop" the area for a good view. As the days wore on, stalls after stalls would line both sides of the streets selling food, such as Char Kway Teow, satay, and stalls selling toys, and offering games such as tikam tikam.

Though we were quite poor then, we were quite happy and contented with what we've got. For a mere 30 cents, my mum could buy a bowl of prawn noodle from a cart stall on our side of the street in the afternoon. Without fail, she would order a bowl each afternoon with the 30 cents she kept on top of the kitchen cabinet. Once, my sis and I stole the money and treated ourselves to some sweets bought from the "ah por" whose cart was much further down the road. Needless to say, Mum gave us a beating we never forgot upon discovering the theft.

I know my Dad is also full of memories for that house. He told me once to drive him to Club Street just so that he could take a look at the changes made to Club Street over the years ......

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

"Counsellors" know best....

My colleagues and I are not lacking in lunchtime activities since moving to our new office in Science Park. We can work out in the gym; sign up for yoga lessons; and for the less physically-inclined, catch a movie at the auditorium. My office also organises lunchtime talks by professional trainers and counsellors on improving the quality of family life. Such was the attitude of the management. These days, family seems to have taken precedent over office. I'm most glad.

Last month, we attended a talk by a speaker on "Why women is always right and men are never wrong" during lunch. I sat enthralled, as the speaker talked about the differences between men and women and how men and women should recognise these differences, compromise with each other, and learn to live with each other. Easier said, then done, I must add. But I thought the speaker was entertaining and funny. His depiction of daily-occurrences between a wife and her husband and the way he brought the message across almost always left us in stitches. Perhaps what he said has struck a chord with both the women and men in the audience. And what did he say? That how men are always wanting sex, even if it's just a quickie, and how women are always complaining that we men are in the room physically, but our mind are so far away in "lala" land, always nodding our heads in agreement while burying our heads in the papers and never really listening and understanding a word spoken by the women. Hilarious.

There was another talk today by another speaker. Today's talk is about the different style of parenting and it's no less entertaining. The speaker spoke about three parenting styles - Sgt Major style (aka "Do-as-I-say-dun-argue" style), the Jellyfish style ("I'll-do-everything-for-ya style") and the Busy Bee style (aka "I'm-very-busy-fend-for-yourself style).

It got me thinking of my parenting style. I suppose most parents, like myself, don't stick to a particular style but adopt different styles whenever the occasion calls for. For instance, when imposing a curfew on the kids, I'll use the Sgt Major style. When I'm teaching my kids how to fish (as oppose to giving them the fish), I'll use the Busy-bee style approach. Again, it's really easier said then done...

The speaker also spoke of the WOO or Window of Opportunity. The WOO phase occurs when the child is between the age of 6-12. This is the time to nurture the kids. Once we miss the WOO phase, so the speaker went, the kids have pretty much been moulded and it will be difficult to get the kids to change for the better. Senior Junior is now 13. It makes me wonder ... have I missed his WOO? Can I not "nurture" him any further? Oh the angst of parenthood!

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Junior's Birthday

Junior turns 7 today. The slim lady surprised me (and Junior) with a cake she's bought for Junior yesterday. It was about 9.30 am. We lighted the candles and sang happy birthday to Junior. Senior Junior was still staying over at Grandma's.

Junior has already received lots of presents and "ang pows" from the grand parents and yiyi and ah chek. The cake is really something extra. We don't usually 'celebrate' birthday for him. The slim lady has this notion that too many birthday celebrations ain't good for the kids, in a superstitious sort of way. Whatever.

Lynn's Wedding Reception

Today is also Lynn's wedding. The wedding reception was held at Goodwood Park Hotel, one of the finest in Singapore. Lynn looked radiant and pretty today, as most brides do on their big day.

Though we were split into two tables with some of us having to sit with total strangers, the food more than compensate for this. Here's wishing Andy and Lynn everlasting matrimonial bliss .......

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The upgraded lifts that take us to a new "HIGH".

The flat-dwellers in my mum's block are ever so happy. For almost half a year, they had endured the dust, the noise and the inconvenience that have resulted from the lift upgrading works on the block. It's part of the HDB interim upgrading programme for matured housing estates. And now, as from yesterday, the spanking new lifts that have been built at both corner ends of the block have finally sprang alive, breathing a life of their own, and bringing great cheers to the folks living on the "non-lift" landing.

I was happy too, for my mum and especially for my Dad who, in his mid-70s, has to endured descending two floors to take the lift on the 6th story every morning on his way for breakfast. It's hard for him, being a former stroke patient.

On the two occasions that I've taken the new lift, total strangers simply broke into conversation with each other, all expressing gladness that finally, they have a "personal" lift right in front of their unit to call their own. The conversation goes something like this.

Scene no. 1
me : Wah, shiok hor, the new lift? (talking to a man with me in the lift).
man : Ya man. Makes our live so much easier. Er, which floor you going?
me : 8th please.
man : oh me 2nd floor.
me : oh (expressing surprise and trying to hide my comtempt for his
laziness). Er...I guess 2nd flr also take.After all you also paid for it
right? (sounding a bit unsure)
man : of course, everyone who stays in this block must pay. Oh, my floor's up.Bye
me : bye (looking at him with even more contempt as he turned to exit the lift).

Scene no 2
me : Which floor ?(I asked upon entering the lift with a tudung
Malay woman right behind me)
woman : 5th floor please. Wah so happy finally got the lift.
me : Ya, I'm happy too. But this is not my flat. I'm visiting my mother.
woman : Oh, not your flat ahh...

Before she could go on, the lift door opened and she said "bye". So you see? Everything about the new lift is positive. Besides serving the elderly and the "lazy", it's also an icebreaker, helping the shy and the uninitiated to open up to each other. Haha.

Sad to say, my flat which is just a stone's throw away from my mum's, was not in the line-up for the upgrading exercise, and I wonder why and when? Must I wait till I'm in my 70s, like my Dad? Never mind the new housing estates. On a more serious note, whoever was in charge of HDB constructions decades ago, was obviously myopic. Didn't they see this coming? The graying population? The aging workforce? To add insult to injury, we flat-dwellers have to pay for the upgrading. It's like admitting you made a mistake and making others pay for your mistake. I come in peace and no offence to the "gahmen". No logic leh....

Monday, June 20, 2005

Batman Begins (not to make much sense) ...

Caught "Batman Begins" today with the kids. Turned out that the latest movie of the comic hero by DC Comics is actually an adult movie. Yes, definitely an adult movie -without the sex parts.

The movie attempts to trace Batman's origin, devoting a good half of the movie on the slaying of Bruce Wayne's parents in a robbery, how Bruce went missing, and how he finally emerged, 7 years later, showing off his "ninja" (can you believe that?) moves. It transpired out that while missing, he was being trained by martial arts mystic. There was even a scene of him in a Chinese prison, speaking Chinese and proclaiming that he's not a criminal, "我 不 是 犯 人". Films critics on the paper commented that this movie was much "darker" compared to its predecessors. Darker because it has, or rather Batman has so much negative energy in him, and being pre-occupied with revenge in his mind. I agree. It was so dark that I've have difficulty trying to follow the movie. Somehow, I have problem coming to terms with a Batman showing off his high kicks and ninja moves.

I'm not a film critic, so I'm not going to comment more. Junior was getting fidgety, asking me several times "when is Batman going to appear"? And I bet many kids in the cinemas were asking the same question. Should have watched Madagascar instead. Hmmm....

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Table for 12

Dinner at my mum's place is usually not a "get-together" affair in the strict sense of the word. This holds true even for reunion dinner. Firstly, the dinner table can only sit 8 people. Secondly, it's difficult to get everyone to arrive punctually to have a decent meal together, hectic as we are.

Today's being Father's day, my sis-in-law, May, decided to play chef for Dad, and gave mum a "day-off". What's more, she has thoughtfully extended a small table next to the dinner table, just so that all 12 of my extended family members could have dinner together.

May did quite a commendable job, whipping up dishes such as fried chicken wings, fish balls and sotong balls, pork-rib soup. I was impressed, and wonder how the slim lady might have felt. She did muttered how redundant mum would have felt. This statement, coming from her, is understandable, considering she's the other daughter-in-law. She also happens to be "not a very good cook". I told her to just eat her food.

Of late, Nick, my bro and his wife have been trying to open up communications in the family. And what better way to communicate then during dinner? I've always said, food is a great way to bond with your friends and loved ones.

Today is also my day. Senior Junior gave me a card, a VCD(ocean twelve) and a friendship band which has my name "Chris" stitched on it. He asked me to wear it to the office, and I said I would. Not to be outdone, Junior also gave me a card and has drawn a picture of his Dad bald-headed (???!!).

Now, I wonder why Senior Junior gave me a friendship band. It seems he wants me to be his "friend". Was it because a friend won't yell at you to study hard, tidy up the room and be sensitive to the needs of others? A friend also won't stop you from spending hours on the PS2 and computers? Some people subscribe to the thinking that we parents ought to be friends with our kids. I agree, but with some misgivings. We can't be friends with them all the time. If not, one fine day, you'll find them sitting comfortably on the top of your head.

I'll wear the band, kiddo. But don't expect Daddy to be your friend, always.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

A trip of family togetherness...

I brought the kids and the slim lady to the Mainland Fish Farm at Pasir Ris today. It's a trip I've been wanting to make since Victor Koo told me about it weeks ago. Since the school holidays started, I've yet to take the kids out. So, more than anything else, the trip is really about making me feel less guilty for not having spent enough time with the kids during the hols.

I was surprised that the slim lady wanted to tag along too, cause I was quite sure she would much prefer to settle in front of the tube with her Korean VCD. What's with those Korean "auntie killers" anyway? They look like a bunch of sissies to me, to say the least. This is so politically incorrect, but what a heck. Anyway, the slim lady decided it was time for some family togetherness, too, and so off we went.

The farm wasn't that impressive. It has various ponds built into rows, housing mainly fishes such as the Japanese carps. To make the trip more exciting for the visitors, fish food at $1 per pack can be purchased over the counter to feed the fishes. Junior wasn't that excited. He was more so eating the ice-cream we purchased at the farm. Needless to say, "senior junior" (as my pal Victor would have called my elder son who is 13), was equally bored, though he assured me that the trip was certainly "not lame". There are some fishes on sales, mainly gold fish. Out of sheer boredom, I bought 4 guppies at a dollar each. Not exactly cheap, but just wanna inject some fun and excitement for the kids in the trip. Ya, they help to choose the guppies and fish them out of the tank. Still, the trip is not a total waste. If anything else, the kids did bond with me and the slim lady in that 1 and half hour we spent at the farm.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Damn if you do and damn if you don't

I'm getting back to my exercise regime again - slowly but surely. Never an exercise freak, my exercise regime usually comprises a 10-15 minutes jog about two to three times a week. Sometimes, I simply "brisk-walk", and if my wallet is with me, I sometimes ended up at Tampines Mall to do a bit of "shopping". So you see, I'm extremely adapt at multi-tasking - walking, jogging and shopping at the same time! If I'm in the mood, the jog will be followed by a couple of sit-ups and that's about it. I used to jog to get fit for IPPT (Individual Physcial Proficiency Test), always aiming, at the very least a silver award which means a reward of $100. Happy that I was no longer liable for my reservist training, I thought I could "kiss" exercising goodbye and for a year or two, I was happy and "carefree". That happiness was short-lived, for I soon found out that I'm suffering from hypertension. Daily medication followed. The slim lady (my wife) told me to stay positive and think of the pill as an M&M. How sweet! I was also told to watch my diet and exercise regularly by the doc. My daily lunch with my colleagues adds to my woes. These lunches can be quite elaborate at times -roast duck and pork, kway chap, oil-dripping-mee-pok tah and yes, char kway teow with lard cube. It's extremely difficult to resist such food; more so the company of my colleagues. You see, we love food and food, I soon discovered, is a great way to bond with friends.

So, I reckon exercising is the only way to go, if I were to continue enjoy eating my food; and to "prevent myself from eating to death". For a while, I was quite "happy" exercising. Then, two guys from my office collapsed while exercising, both within months of each other - the first, in his mid 20s was working out in the office gym when it happened, and the other, in his early 40s was out jogging at his housing estate. Both men were reasonably healthy and both death were said to have been caused by a sudden heart attack. I was shocked and saddened by their untimely departure; so were many of my colleagues. Exercising is not suppose to take away lives. If it does, then why bother? I was spooked, and put of exercising altogether.

I went for my routine checkup at the polyclinic recently. Other then the hypertension, the dear doc told me that my cholesterol level was a little wee bit high but that, he added, should not be a cause for concern and no medication is needed. Otherwise, he continued, I'm fit as a fiddle and should start exercising to keep the cholesterol level in check. When I related the incidents of my colleagues to him and expressed my fear of exercising, he said that sometimes, there are genetic factors behind these incidents. One should be able to monitor one's condition during exercising and to slow down or stop when one starts feeling uncomfortable. It doesn't feel right not to exercise with the kind of food I'm indulging. At the same time, it's also insane to deprive myself of those food that I love. Because you only life once. Becasue I've stated exercising again. And mostly because "I LIVE to EAT".

Monday, June 06, 2005

A new hobby....

I have taken up a new hobby - keeping fishes and aquatic plants. Like keeping a blog, rearing fishes can be rather therapeutic. I can sit in front of the aquarium, admiring my fishes for hours; and if I can take my fish for a walk, I would. I've added quite a number of fish in my aquarium, among them - cardinal tetra, rummy nose, guppies, green-eye tetra. Sometimes, I feel like a retiree, whose only pass time is keeping fishes and washing his car over the weekend. But my good pal, Victor Koo reminded me that I'm luckier than most retirees, many of whom may not have the means to own a car. Victor never fails to make me feel how lucky I am, to be born in the "lap of luxury".

Last weekend, Victor brought me to a fish farm. I've never seen so many variety of fish for sales. Colourful ones, and dull-looking ones; huge ones and big ones. And the price are all dirt cheap too. The lady who owns the farm was extremely kind and helpful and I bought so many fishes that I had to stay up late to care for them until the wee hours. Needless to say, I ended up with dark circles under my eyes the following day; all thanks to Victor Koo.

Here, take a look at my aquarium. Ain't it pretty??

My aquarium Posted by Hello

My fishes and aquatic plants..... Posted by Hello

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Not over the hill, and certainly not off (nor on) the pill ....

It's that time of the year again, when you see people emerging from the Boss' office, some with happy faces, some with smug faces, and yet some with crest-fallen and angry faces. It's the time when all around you, people were seen hurdling in one corner of the office, whispering in hushed tone, and time when emails from the office computers were flying across the room, faster then the speeding bullet.

It's promotion time in the office. Today's entry is not about me not being promoted. It's about those colleagues of mine who did and did so deservedly. Today's entry is a celebration of sorts, for their promotion.

VT, an outstanding colleague of mine 9 years my senior was one of those promoted. He bought us lunch at Sakura Thai restaurant today. The food was good; the company even better. VT's promotion is important to many people his age. It gives them hope with the message that men and women of 50 are certainly not "over the hill" and off the pill (for the women) nor on the pill (for the men). My good pal Victor Koo was most pleased and encouraged. You see, Victor has the notion that people in his age group have no more room for advancement in the office. Mind you, Victor is not your average employee. Fast approaching 50, he is a consultant in my office. VT's promotion has offered a glimpse of hope to Victor, and many others, I'm sure.

Victor, if you're reading this, I look forward to your treat in the very near future. Cheers!

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Me and my new toy .....

I bought myself a toy today. Ok, so it's not exactly brand new. It's a 2-month old nokia phone - Nokia 6260, a phone which I've been lusting after for sometime. I just love the look and feel of Nokia 6260. It costs me $240 from a Yahoo auction where I placed a bid and won. It would set me back by at least $300 if I were to get a brand new one from a retail store, without a line connection. Now, sitting in front of my computer, writing this blog, I wonder why I bought it at all. Firstly, the phone has too many features which I don't think I'll ever need. It features a camera with a lousy resolution, a radio which is not even in stereo, and Bluetooth connection which allows me to hook up a wireless headset and roam the earth looking like some kinda alien from Mars. The best joke of all - the gods in my office have issued strict directives stipulating that camera and video phones are not to see the light of day in the office premises. Well fine. It would be my weekend phone.

This is not to say that I regret buying the phone. There's no time for regrets. Let's just say I love to give myself bonuses sometimes. After all, the time is right for some retail therapy. It's The Great Singapore Sale, of course!!