Tuesday, June 30, 2009

When H1N1 Hits Home - Day 1

There has never been a post more difficult to start than this. And I'm not even sure how to proceed.

Maybe I can begin by saying that true to the title, the H1N1 virus has indeed found its way to our very home. It's just too bad that my six-year old cousin, Matthin, had to be its first victim. What worries me is that he has asthma and is therefore considered to be among the higher risk group.

They arrived here in Singapore last Wednesday, June 24, Matthin and her mother. My aunt had to rush home because his father had suffered a heart attack. She had to take Matthin with her because no one could take care of him if he was left here. They came back after making sure aunt's father —who's undergoing therapy because his right side from head to toe was paralyzed— was on his way to recovery after a few scary days in the ICU. As if that unfortunate event wasn't enough, they arrived here to find out a few days later that Matthin had somehow caught the virus.

What purpose does it serve if I share this with the rest of the world? Well, apart from simply telling a story, I think there are lessons to be learned from this. Let me stall no further.

For starters, for anyone who has been outside the country, I think it serves Singapore best that you isolate yourself from society for a few days after you arrive. Actually, even before that, and this has been stated in the news over and over again, travel outside the country only if it's really necessary.

Going back to the idea of self-quarantine, I simply opine that it's the responsible thing to do. Going one step further, maybe it's a good company policy to implement this for employees coming from overseas. One of my clients even require their employees to wear masks for a number of days in the office, after the quarantine period. This idea is also applicable to schools, but I think they're doing a much better job.

In our case, the first judgment error was assuming that there was no way Matthin and his mom could have contracted the virus because they weren't going out too often when they were overseas. Some would conclude that's so naive, but it's a more common conception than we think. It's so easy to be careless. What a cliche, but hey, just because you don't see it doesn't mean it doesn't exist and won't find its way to you.

Because of that initial wrong assumption, another case of bad judgment was bound to occur. Despite us being aware that not going out of the house for at least seven days was prudent, Matthin and his dad went out to watch Transformers that Saturday. He got home in the midst of an asthma attack along with coughs that didn't sound good. He also had a high fever late that night. Once again, because of that wrong premise, it was easier to rationalize the cause than suspect H1N1 was the culprit.

The next day, Sunday, Matthin's parents finally decided to call the hospital and report his condition. An ambulance arrived after about two hours to pick up Matthin and his mother.

"Mommy, I'm excited to ride the ambulance!" Matthin stated.

I saw them being handed a mask before they were allowed to step into the ambulance. Fast forward, about three hours later, they were back at home announcing that the results would only be out after two days. It had become a waiting game.

Day 1 is today, Monday, June 29 — the day we learned of the results. I was in the office when my aunt called me.

"Bad news. Results are out and Matthin is positive." She gave it to me straight.

For a minute there I thought she was kidding and I was waiting for the punchline. She even told me guys from Cisco where coming to that house later at night to install cameras so they could monitor the patient. When no punchline came, I had to ask directly if she was pulling my leg. I believed her when she told me it was no joking matter. When she told me to buys masks, the little doubt or hope inside me dissipated.

I gave myself a few minutes to think things over and decide what was my best course of action. Soon thereafter I informed my boss about the news and I was immediately sent home. It took me three blocks to find 3M N95 masks from a Guardian store in Raffles — a box of which containing 20 pieces cost $60.

When I got home, they've started trying to quarantine Matthin in their room. No one was yet wearing masks. I handed out what I bought and we all tried it out, Matthin included. I found it a bit difficult to breathe through the mask and there's a certain kind of smell that never really goes away.

We started segregating our utensils after dinner. Matthin was told he wasn't allowed to leave the room. My uncle moved one of the TV sets along with the Xbox from the living room to what would be Matthin's own little world in the next few days. Except for his eyes, Matthin looks fine. Well, Matthin is a strong boy. He'll be fine. We're praying for his speedy recovery.

As for Cisco, we waited for them to arrive until way past midnight. They never came.

This is the end of day 1.

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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Another Sunset At Pasir Ris Park

So one day I had gone to Pasir Ris Park to take a few pictures during sunset. I thought it was a good idea to come back, with the area nearer to Downtown East as my target.

I was lucky to catch bus 403, luckier still to have made it in time to watch the sun disappear in the horizon.

I fail not to notice the strange syzygies in the view above. There's the child sitting, a man fishing and a lad swimming, then there's the three fishing rods which are almost perfectly aligned.

I tried to cover as much ground as I could. But there was never enough time. The moon was out before I knew it.

My last stop had to be the moored ships. I could get no farther. I had reached the boundary of the Pasir Ris Park.

Bedok Reservoir sounds like a good place for the next sunset adventure.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Sunset At Pasir Ris Park

With the sun out and no signs of rain coming, it was a good day to take a walk in the Pasir Ris Park. It was a perfect opportunity to catch the sunset and take photos too.

We had barely entered the park when we began putting the camera to work.

Well, sunsets have always been a favorite subject by photographers. Not without good reason of course.

But rather than attempting to explain why, I'll just post a few pictures here. But then again, I'm not a photographer. Even so, I know that the tired cliché is undoubtedly true: a picture is worth a thousand words. So let me say no more.

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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Conquering Mt. Faber: The Mizuno Mount Faber Run 2009

A number of friends decided not to register for the Mizuno Mount Faber Run 2009 for either of two reasons:
  • there was a negative review of a previous run by the same sponsor, and

  • Mt. Faber didn't sound like a fun, easy, flat terrain for a 10 km run.
In my case, I'm at a stage where I'd take almost every opportunity to run in preparation for my 21 km challenge by the end of the year. I registered before I gave myself enough time to realize what I was getting into, although I've once been lost in Mt. Faber so I knew it was going to be a serious challenge if the event was going to live up to its name. This sounds naive, but I only found out on the race day itself that Mt. Faber was indeed part of the route.

On that day, my alarm managed to wake me up at 5 a.m. despite the fact that I only had a little over two hours of sleep. I went straight to the shower contemplating whether I should go through such self-inflicted punishment. When I couldn't find a pair of shorts to wear, I thought things had been decided for me, but of course one eventually showed up after a few more minutes of frantic searching. So I was going to run half-awake. What the heck? Each race is a new adventure.

From the Tiong Bahru MRT station, I followed a trail of moving green shirts to the assembly area — a huge open space between HDB buildings. It was a little past 7 a.m. and people were scattered all over the place. It occurred to me that the atmosphere was very different from those of the other runs I had taken part of. Perhaps it was the lack of exciting music or perhaps the inability of the announcer to get the crowd moving. Maybe it was just my zombielike state.

Getting hydrated is an important thing for runners before they start any race, but so is the opposite. I joined the queue for the loo, my unforgettable experience from my first run looming in my head. There were a number of announcements, including one which said participants should be behind the starting line by 7:25. Then, before I knew it, when I had barely finished what I had queued for, the race had already started. There was neither a countdown to warn of what was to come nor a loud horn to signal what just happened.

With the lessons from my recent run still fresh in my mind, I was off to a slow start. Dozens of runners overtook me. I caught up with some of them at an intersection, the first of many, where we were asked to stop to allow cars to pass. The first slight ascent came only after a few minutes, and I thought running without adequate sleep was torture enough. I took my time warming up, after which I began to increase my tempo a bit, only to be slowed down with more stops and uphills.

Like an unexpected gift, a long downward slope was suddenly in front of me. I zipped past more than a hundred runners, wondering why they chose not to take advantage of the rare opportunity being presented. I was thanking the heavens for giving me lots of practice running down steep hills and mountains when I was a child, praying at the same time that I wouldn't slip and become the laughing stock of the event.

Then it was time to head up Mt. Faber. I initially tried to maintain my pace but weariness soon overtook my body. Tens of other walking made it look fashionable. How could I resist from doing the same? It was at this stage that I remember having pocketed my remaining caffeinated energy gel from GNC. At the pace I was going, I had no trouble getting it open and consuming its content.

As if a direct answer to my complaint that I could still feel the sticky fluid halfway down my throat, the first drinking station came into view. I was in no rush drinking as much liquid —first H-Two-O and then the real H2O— as I could, Mt. Faber wasn't going anywhere.

It seemed like the rest of the route was pretty much upwards from thereon, which only meant I did a lot of walking. When the road went downhill, again I was one of very few who dared to go full speed. During the agonizing ascents, Confucius' words kept echoing in my head — "It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop." Wise words indeed.

Of course, all good things must come to an end. I reached the finish line in a little over an hour. Partly to my own doing, it was the most challenging run I had participated in. I guess Mt. Faber will be seeing more of me in the coming years as I aspire to complete the same run in a shorter time.

Next run: POSB Run for Kids 2009, July 12.

Photo credits to Joan "MoJo" D.G.

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Sunday, June 7, 2009

Sarcasm, Feigned Incomprehension And Plain Ol' Rudeness

Paul says his sarcasm has toned down a bit ever since his experience in the dentist's chair as young boy where he woke up to find his face black and blue after a simple tooth extraction. Paul realizes sarcastic remarks are not taken too well by dentists and has since decided to use them sparingly, even on people outside the dental profession.

Mike is one of those people who can be sarcastic but chooses to be nice almost every time. We discussed what hypothetical verbal responses he could have given in various dialogs where he originally played nice but would have wanted to play dumb, be sarcastic, or just plain rude.

All responses below given by P1 in italics are therefore hypothetical.


Food Center

P2: "May I clear you plate?"

P1: "Certainly not. I'll do it myself. Go buy your own food."


Food Center

P1: "May I have some ketchup please?"

P2: "Here you go..."

P1: "Not chili sauce, ketchup please."

P2: "Oh, tomato sauce?"

P1: "Uh, no. I would have gone to the supermarket to buy ingredients if I wanted to cook spaghetti."


A Fried Chicken Fast Food Based In Kentucky. In White Sands, Pasir Ris

P1: "May I have some gravy please?"

P2: "What's gravy?"

P1: "Are you serious? Do you even work here?"



P2: "By right the file should be in this folder everyday. By right the server should automatically dump it there. By right even if there was no data there should still be a file."

P1: "What about by left?"



P2: "Just one more question also can or not?"

P1: "Okay, I'm confused. But that sounds like a question already. You've had your chance."


A Sandwich Store In Downtown East

P1: "One Italian BMT please..."

P2: "Oh, I'm sorry we ran out of bread."

P1: "Again!?! Why don't you just close down?"


A Vietnamese Cafe In Boon Tat Street

P1: "Can I have plain water please?"

P2: "I'm sorry, we don't server plain water."

P1: "Not even without ice, straight from the faucet?"

P2: "Boss says we're not allowed to do that. You need to buy your drinks so we can make money out of it."

P1: ????

Mike says he's still figuring out what he could have said to this one.


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