Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Did You Know?

Why Is A Square Boxing Area Called A Ring?

The answer is that ‘ring’ was first applied not to the boxing area but to the spectators who formed a ring around the combatants, according to Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. Although hand-to-hand combat was probably invented by the first two-year old boy to discover he had a younger sibling, the first public boxing matches took place in early 18th century England. These were bare-knuckled affairs with no time limits, no ropes and no referees. The winner was the last man standing0

The ring of bloodthirsty fans formed an enclosure for the pugilists.

Eventually, as boxers started to make more money for their efforts, small arenas were built that featured rings demarcated by wooden barriers or heavy ropes. The current ring, with four (or occasionally three) ropes tied to turnbuckles on the corner posts, is the descendant.

Although sanctioning bodies mandate the size of boxing rings, professional wrestling has no such requirement. In many venues, the same rings are used for boxing and wrestling. Amateur wrestling is done on mats laid across a floor. Ironically, the action in amateur wrestling is demarcated by a circle, yet it isn’t called a ring. None of this makes sense without the historial perspective. That’s probably why the most common slang term for the ring in professional wrestling is ‘the squared circle’.

Do you Doodle?

Good News! Doodlers: the next time you are caught scribbling away in a meeting or lecture, explain that you are improving your concentration. A study by a UK psychology professor has shown that people who doodle have better recall. Professor Jackie Andrade asked 40 people to listen to a very dull message and write down names of people mentioned. Half were told to doodle naturally while others simply sat and listened.

Lo and behold, the doodlers were better at concentrating and recalled more information. The reason, she says, is because doodling stops daydreaming and helps people pay attention. “We know that daydreaming takes a lot of mental energy,” she says. “The best thing is to concentrate on a single task, but otherwise try doodling to stop your mind wandering.”

Spotlight On A Hidden Cancer Risk

Night falls, so you flick your lights. But a theory has been gaining support in the past few years that artificial light at night may contribute to cancer, perhaps because it slows production of the hormone melatonin. Now two studies add weight to the idea.

One from Israel’s University of Haifa, analysed satellite measurements of night-time light and cancer rates in 164 countries. The most brightly lit had the highest rates of prostrate cancer, more than double those in the dimmest nations. Meanwhile, Harvard researchers who tracked more than 18,000 postmenopausal women reported that those with the lowest night-time levels of melatonin were about 60 percent more likely to develop berast cancer.

So how can you minimize the possible risk posed by modern lighting? Sleep in as dark a room as possible. Use blind or shades if you live on a bright street. Keep a night light in the bathroom for midnight visits instead of turning on the overhead. Even brief exposure to light can suppress melatonin. A red bulb is best: red wavelengths cause a less precipitous drop of the hormone.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Skip Breakfast, Gain Weight

(Answer to last riddle: CHEWING GUM while peeling onions will keep you from crying).


Forgoing breakfast is the wrong way to go if you are trying to lose weight.

You have heard this many times before: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. A new study underlines this belief yet again. It says that people who are trying to lose weight may hinder their odds of success if they skip the first meal of the day. That is because it biases your brain towards craving high-calorie foods over low-calorie foods.

“When people are fasting – in the case of skipping breakfast – it leads to people being hungrier and it also leads to greater activity in the areas of the brain involved in the reward,” Dr Anthony Goldstone, of Imperial College London, Britain, told The Endocrine Society’s annual meeting in Washington, DC.

“In addition, we find that when people are fasting, the prefer high-calorie foods to low-calorie foods’” he added.

The findings were based on brain-imaging studies performed on 20 non-obese healthy people who were shown pictures of low-calorie foods (salad, vegetables and fish) and high-calorie foods (cake, chocolate and pizza). The subjects were asked to rate how appealing the pictures were after a filling breakfast or after no breakfast at all.

Dr Goldstone noted that past studies had shown that people who skipped breakfast on a regular basis tended to be heavier, had a tendency to get more of their calories from fat, and were more likely to gain more weight over the years than those who ate breakfast regularly. The new study suggested a possible mechanism by which this might occur.

“It may be that when you miss meals, and maybe particularly breakfast, your brain reward system is biased towards these high-calorie foods over the low-calorie foods,” Dr Goldstone said, “and this is an entirely appropriate responses of the body in a defence to try to maintain calorie intake.”

“This mat then be an explanation for why people who miss meals in an attempt to lose weight – something that is used by 30 to 40 percent of people trying to lose weight – may find it hinders their weight-loss attempts. It may have an opposite effect and they could gain weight,” he said.

He said that the results supported current medical advice to eat a healthy breakfast to prevent weight gain and aid in weight loss.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Urban Legend Feature - hungry For Revenge

Some believe evil will befall anyone who steps on food offerings for hungry ghosts. Could it all be in the mind?

When he was 7 years old, Mt Teo Chai Leng walked over some food offerings placed along a dark lane during the seventh month of the Chinese Lunar calendar. That night he developed a mild fever that lasted two hours. This recurred at the same time over the next three days. Hi father, a Taoist priest, concluded that the fever bore the hallmarks of a ghost encounter, so he prayed over him and had him drink water mixed with a burnt joss paper. The child recovered the next day. Now 43, Mr Teo, himself a taoist priest for the past 25 years, has learnt his lesson: Woe betide anyone who offends the spirits, especially during the seventh lunar month when the Chinese observe the Hungry Ghost Festival.

Offenders may run a light fever and suffer sleepless nights and loss of appetite, or they could face a bout of bad luck and run into financial trouble, he warned. In more serious cases where the spirits enter and possess a victim, he may become mad or even die, said Mr Teo. To sidestep possible ill fortune, he advise people to keep a safe distance from offering sites. If you have to walk by them, be sure not to look at or utter careless words about them, he said. Instead, say differentially: "Excuse me, please let me pass."

Some may dismiss all this as superstition. But for years, the Chinese have been observing such practices, which have become stuff of urban legends associated with the Hungry Ghost Festival. they believe that food and paper money meant for wandering spirits during the festival, which falls on the 15th day of the seventh lunar month, are not to be trampled on lest the spirits are offended. The term 'hungry ghost' is actually a misnomer as the festival is an occassion for all ghost.

During the seventh lunar month, the Buddhists offer prayers to express filial devotion to their dead ancestors. They commemorate the filial piety of Mu Lian, a mythical character who was able to find his dead mother in hell only with much effort. When he tried to feed his starving mother, other hungry ghosts grabbed the food. But with the intercession of Buddha, who was touched by his devotion to his mother, he finally succeeded in feeding her.

The Buddhists celebrate the festival as yulan Penhui, which is derived from the Sanskrit word "ullambana", meaning "emptying out of hell". They believe that "hell beings" are allowed to wander the world in search of food and other necessities during the seventh month. To Taoists,
the festival is a time to pray for ther estless souls that have no one to pray for them, giving rise to the English label "Hungry Ghost Festival".

In multi-religious Singapore, even members of the Malay and Indian community are mindful to keep a safe berth from road side religious offerings. Respect for spirit offerings should be shown throughout the year, Taoist priests said. One could offend the roaming spirits at any time - there just happens to be more of them around during the seventh lunar month, they added. And one is more vulnerable to the supposed ghosts if his 'yangqi' or life force is low, said Mr Teo.

The Chinese believe that the 'yin' world is populated by ghosts and spirits, while human beings make up the 'yang' realm. Upon entering a person's body, the ghost can throw one's system off balance, resulting in physical and emotional illness.

Mrs Sandra Tan, 50, a retired financial controller, witnessed such an episode. Her elder sister was preparing soup as a food offering more than 30 years ago during the seventh lunar month when some of the ash from the joss sticks she was holding fell into the soup. She yelled in dismay that it had been contaminated. Later that day, she developed a fever, supposedly because her utterances had offended the spirits. Already distressed by her husband's infidelity, she also suffered daily migraines, panic attacks and a loss of appetite after that. Despite peace offerings made by her mother and visits to mediums, her condition continued to worsen and she died five years later. Although she was diagnosed as having died of a brain tumor, her family believed her brush with the spirits led to her undoing.

To shed more light on this myth, devotees at several temples here were approached but many declined to comment, for fear that they may say 'the wrong things' and offend the spirits, as one put it. Such a response is not unusual, given that the Chinese view the world as being divided into good and evil. Acts that offend the spirit world invite retribution in the same way that evil begets evil, said Associate Professor Lo Yuet Keung of the Department of Chinese Studies at the National University of Singapore. So to placate vengeful ghosts and have peace of mind, it is customary for Taoist priests to offer prayers, food and paper money during the seventh lunar month.

Retired teacher Lee Lih Tyng, 51, said that traditional beliefs validate the existence of ghosts. When the ghosts are said to be released from hell (during the Hungry Ghosts Festival), this induces fear in the minds of believers. It is pure psychology. They are trapped by their fears, suffer illusions and paranoia and then develop psychosomatic illness. A former Taoist, she used to subscribed to such beliefs.

Seen in this light, the death of Mrs Tan's sister could have been triggered by her guilt over offending supposed spirits, said Mrs Lee. Her inability to find a cure despite repeated visits to Chinese mediums convinced her that she had been possessed by a vicious and powerful ghost. This, in turn, led to a spiral of fear and paranoia that led to her eventual death. "If no one told you to be careful of these things, you would be ignorant and nothing actually happens. It's in keeping with the Chinese saying, 'bu zhi zhe bu zui' (the ignorant are without fault)," said Mrs Lee, recounting how beggars in her neighbourhood have eaten food offerings for spirits with no consequence. Still, many prefer to err on the side of caution.

Insurance agent Heng yun ying,46, who claimed to have seen ghosts in the past said: "That you cannot see ghosts with your eyes does not mean they do not exist. There's much power in the spirit world."

Fear is not the only reason behind offerings to ghosts. NUS Dr Lo said others include respect for and devotion to the dead. The Chinese, he added, regard the ,iving and the dead as one continuum. Offerings to the ghosts are a symbolic expression of filial love for dead
ancestors. "Underlying all this is Chinese altruism, a call to treat one's fellow beings, even those not related by blood, in a generous and gracious way." he said. He likened this to 'educating people by the use of spirits".

So the warning not to step on food offerings could be seen as a way to encourage reverence for the dead. It is impossible to prove a link between an offence that displeases a ghost any any ill effects that follow because much of this is tied to a person's belief system, he said.

But no matter why people make offerings, the result is the same - it spurs people on to show compassion and love. "There's a didactic purpose to all this that's rational and not superstitious,: he said. "What is superstitious are human perceptions and understandings."

H1N1 Update

This update comes while I am still on leave. As such, I am not able to provide further information on what new directives have been adopted by the hospital.

However, on the national front, the news is that there are a number of clusters of cases which impress that there is a community outbreak - and one which is ongoing - for an indefinite period. The total number of cases in Singapore stands at 220 with 26 new cases from yesterday's report.

What's hot in the news is the possibility that some schools will be closed if the the number of infections are significantly high. The present measures are as follows:

Alert level: YELLOW
Stay at home for seven days if you are returning from:
- Australia
- Argentina
- Canada
- Chile
- Dominican Republic
- Hong Kong
- Indonesia
- Japan
- Mexico
- Panama
- Philippines
- Spain
- Thailand
- United States
- United kingdom

From Monday 29 June 2009, schools will:
- check temperature twice daily
- suspend assemblies
- stagger recess times
- scale down co-curricular activities
- hold classes on hygiene and H1N1
- screen visitors for fever
- alert parents to take students home who have fever but have not been to affected countries
- send students who have fever and have visited affected areas to hospital

Appreciate if anyone in the office could provide an update on what's happening over in the hospital.

Thanks =:

Friday, June 19, 2009

Urban Legend Feature - A Thorny Issue

Drinking alcohol with your durian could kill you, Or is it just a pungent tale?

Kings of old have been known to make heads roll, but this king – of fruits – can make your insides churn. And that is not because some find the pungent durian hard to stomach. Feast on the fruit, wash it down with alcohol, and you could well end up dead, so goes the old wives’ tale that has been circulating in the tropics for years.

Marrying durian and drink is said to cause indigestion, flatulence, stomach discomfort and even death in some cases. Rubbish, you say? Not if you hear service engineer Mike Thiah tell it. The 35-year old once drank vodka at a barbecue after having durians at home. “I threw up the whole night and my lungs felt as if they were being squeezed,” he said. The ordeal left him with a sore throat and a cough for a week.

Some say the problem lies in the compounds found in the two, which can cause havoc when mixed. Others believe that since both are considered “heaty’, the body is unable to cope with the surge of heatiness. The Chinese believe that food falls under two groups: heaty or cooling.

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) expert Zhu Wen Jun said there is no scientific or chemical criteria when classifying food, “It depends on the effect the food has on balancing the ‘yin’ and ‘yang’ forces within the body. Any imbalance of the two forces will result in illness or pain,” said the dean of TCM College at Pearl’s Centre.

The College was set up jointly by the Singapore TCM Organisations Committee and the Ministry of Health (MOH) in July 2002. Durian, he added, is high in vitamins and protein, and is a “heaty’ food which boosts the body’s ‘yang’ energy. Alcohol is also heaty, so the two could clash and cause discomfort. “But I don’t think it will lead to death,” he said.

And not all alcoholic drinks make bad company, it seems. Durian seller Goh Kwee Leng, 54, said “the combination seems to cause discomfort only when the alcohol content of the drink is higher”. He has seen some people down beer with durians to no ill effect. He owns 717 Trading, a major durian importer and wholesaler here. He reckoned that mixing the fruit with hard liquor, such as whisky and brandy, produces gas, which can cause discomfort.

A check with vice-professor Zhu seems to support his stand. The physician said beer is considered a ‘cooling’ food while hard liquor is ‘heaty’ and so clashes with the equally heaty durian.

We ran this story by the Health Promotion Board, which said there is little scientific evidence to support the belief that durian and alcohol make a lethal combination. Most reports are anecdotal, said Dr Annie Ling, who heads the board’s Nutrition Department. “There have been a very limited number of studies done to verify the effects of mixing the two, and these have yielded findings that are contrary to common belief,” she said.

Doctors referred us to an article in the December 1969 edition of the Singapore Medical Journal, which described an attempt to investigate the potential dire effects of durian and alcohol in mice. The study concluded that there were no dangerous effects on the mice that had been given both durian and alcohol.

A check with MOH to verify reported deaths or complications arising from washing durians down with alcohol was also unfruitful. This is because deaths here are recorded based on what killed the victim, such as heart stoppage or loss of blood, and not the action that caused death.

But Dr Dede Selamat Sutedja, senior consultant at the Department of Gastroenterology & Hepatology at NUH, had a rational explanation for how the urban legend might have come about. Durian, he said, contains about 30% carbohydrates, of which half are simple sugars and the other half, complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates may not be easily digested in some people and may cause abdominal discomfort.

The addition of alcohol, which has a direct inflammatory effect on the stomach wall lining in some people, may worsen the abdominal discomfort caused by durians. There is however, not enough evidence to draw any definite conclusion.

Mr Tan Siew Mong, A TCM physician with more than 20 years’ experience, also advised against mixing the two. Durian is heaty and alcohol raises the blood pressure, so mixing the two is not advised, However, the extent of discomfort will depend on the amount consumed and the individual’s body resistance, he said.

Leaving aside life and death concerns, the marriage of durians and alcohol does not have the blessings of nutritionists either. Dr Ling pointed out that four seeds of medium-sized durians and a can of beer provide about 420 kilocalories, or more than 20% of an average person’s recommended daily energy allowance. This will lead to bloated stomachs and higher body fats.

So, like Romeo and Juliet, it seems the match is doomed, however you look at it.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Urban Legend Feature - What's In That Satay Gravy

Ask Singaporeans what they remember about the now-defunct Satay Club at the old Esplanade, and the answer would probably be: cool breeze, smoky air and delicious satay to die for. The cluster of 28 stall there, of which 21 hawked satay, was the favourite haunt of foodies and night owls during the 1970s and 1980s.

The Satay Club first opened in the 1940s off Beach Road, near a bus terminus in Hoi How Road, which no longer exists on the map. It then moved to the Esplanade in 1970, and began doing roaring business. By the late 1980s, however, it has lost much of its charm. Dogged by customer complaints of bad hygiene practices and rampant touting, it eventually closed for good to make way for the arts centre Esplanade – Theatres On The Bay and the Nicoll Highway extension.

But not every memory of the Satay Club consists of mouth-watering chicken, mutton and beef satay by the way. In fact, there is an unsavoury tale about the place that could put you off the sticks of skewered meat altogether.

Rumour has it that to keep customers coming back for more, satay hawkers went to great lengths to spice up their gravy. The story went that they borrowed from black magic rituals and added “special ingredients” like dirty underwear and soiled sanitary napkins.

“I’m not sure how it began,” recalled bank officer Janice Chen, 32. “but when I was a kid, I heard from a friend who, as usual, heard from a friend’s friend and so on, that someone had gone to the gravy pot for a second helping and fished out a soiled sanitary napkin. “from then on, I was quite wary every time I had satay. It didn’t put me off entirely, but I was sure to check for strange items”.

Mr Charles Goh, 37, the founder of Asia Paranormal Investigators (API), a Singapore group that studies paranormal activities and urban legends, said: “I used to eat there a lot and did hear people talking about the rumour. I agree that the satay there seemed to taste better than those elsewhere. But then again, this could have been due to the atmosphere.”

We first checked with Mr Fahmi Rais, who heads the department of spiritual research at Singapore paranormal Investigators. The group, which had about 500 members, also deal with paranormal activity. Mr Fahmi, 38, has studied Malay superstitions and magic for the past 25 years. He was not aware of the Satay Club rumour, but said the use of “personal wares” like underwear and sanitary pads to win favour with people is a popular Indonesian ritual.

These rituals, he said, date back to pre-Islamic times and are steeped more in tradition than religion. For instance, a popular custom that some still practices is for newly married women to cook a pot of rice and place it between her legs. She lets the vapour seep into her clothes and genitalia, then back into the pot again.

The belief is that once her husband eats from that pot of rice, the couple will enjoy a smooth marriage. “Genitals, underwear, sanitary napkins – they are all considered dirty things. The dirtier something is, the more potent the magic is said to be,” said Mr Fahmi.

Mr Kamil Kassam, 49, a Malay folklore expert with API, had a theory about the power of soiled sanitary napkins. “In black magic, blood is needed to summon evil spirits,” he said. His late father, a satay seller on Bedok North, was a non-practising bomoh (Malay for healer or witch doctor). lthough he was familiar with the Satay Club story, he dismissed it instantly. “Someone probably started the rumour about a competitor to cause the other guy’s business to suffer.”

So while these accounts confirmed that there was some basis to the story, did the hawkers at Satay Club ever act on those beliefs?

Tracking down former Satay Club hawkers was the best way to crack the mystery, but this proved to be an arduous task. After the makan haven shut down in 1995, many of its hawkers moved to other food hubs like Lau Pa Sat and Clarke Quay. Admittedly, stalls that claimed to be from the original Satay Club – either from Hoi How Road or the Esplanade – are aplenty. Many, however, are run by second- or third-generation hawkers who have no recollection of the old days. Others have long been taken over by outsiders.

But at Makansutra Gluttons Bay at Esplanade Mall, an open-air food centre with 12 stalls that opened in 2005, hawker Kamis Decon was able to shed some light on the rumour. The 62 year old, who claims to be the oldest living Satay Club hawker still in business, runs the Alhambra Padang Satay stall which was set up in 1962 in Hoi How Road.

At the old Satay Club, his stall number was 16. He shook his head incredulously when we asked him if the rumour was true. “It’s nonsense. In the old days, everyone used ingredients of better quality,” he said. “Although the same ingredients like coriander, tamarind and lemongrass are used now, they are of poorer quality. That’s why the satay tasted better then.”

He added, “The story about using underwear or sanitary pads, that’s all gossip.” Like Mr Kamil, he had heard of it, but believed it was simply the work of a disgruntled saboteur among the hawkers. Still, after some probing, he revealed that it was not uncommon for hawkers then to resort to black magic to ward off competition.

He recounted, to our surprise, that he “kena sabo before”. One day in 1972, he found his stall surrounded by ground kemenyan, a kind of fragrant crystallite used by bomohs to cast sharms or spells. Undaunted, he gathered the kemenyan and threw the particles into the fire. The culprit, he suspected, was a neighbouring stall owner whose plan of sabotage backfired. That day, Mr Kamis sold all his satay in one hour.

Another former Satay Club hawker, Mr Martoyo Ngawan, 49, had also heard of the story but never witnessed it. He used to help out at his late father’s business – Stall #1 at the Satay Club – and now runs Fatman Satay at Lau Pa Sat. “What I know is that hawkers sometimes use pieces of white cloth to skim off the ingredients from the gravy so that customers won’t end up biting into the spices,” he pointed out. This white cloth, he reasoned, may have been mistaken for a sanitary napkin or underwear.

We also checked with the National Environment Agency (NEA) in the hope that securing something more solid than an educated guess. Formerly the Ministry of Environment, it regulates hygiene standards at food centres, including the old Satay Club.

Surely the unlucky customer who had fished out underwear or a sanitary napkin would have lodged an official complaint? Archived newspaper reports from 1970 to 1995 showed that the ministry often stepped in to deal with errant hawkers who flouted hygiene regulations.

However, the NEA came back to say that its checks on Satay Club “yielded no returns as the records were irretrievable”. This deepened the intrigue and left us none the wiser. But whether or not “special ingredients” were ever used, Singaporeans’ stomachs are surely made of sterner stuff.

Said sales manager James Lee, 36: “Who cares, really? People go for good food. As long as they don’t end up getting food poisoning or a tummy ache, they won’t care what goes into the satay gravy.”.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Latest TTSH development on H1N1

It has been reported that the H1N1 virus has mutated into a new strain. How much stronger or weaker this strain may be is still unknown. We are keeping our fingers crossed that the new strain is not one that is any stronger than the current one. Whatever, it is, the Influenza A virus is here to stay and we can be sure that we have to continue to battle it from day to day.

There is a new requirement coming out from our HR department as communicated in the Townhall talks yesterday and today. To facilitate manpower planning, all staff are to provide information relating to the following conditions:

chronic heart disease
chronic kidney disease
chronic lung disease (eg asthma, COPD)
metabolic conditions (eg diabetes)
impaired immunity (eg: on corticosteroids, chemotherapy, immunosuppressants such as cyclophosphamide)

Also, the previous collation of overseas travel plan was done in Apr 2009 for travels up to Jul 2009. In view of the current influenza situation and the number of changes to the previous collation of the leave plan, we would need an update of our staff overseas travel plans for the period starting from NOW to the rest of the year.

HR requires to all staff that when they apply leave in the iHR System, they are to indicate in the COMMENT field - the country where the leave will be taken in (eg: Singapore, USA/Texas)

Singapore is expecting a communal outbreak anytime soon because the latest cases involving active social workers who have been mingling with large groups of people upon their return from abroad and after being infected with the H1N1 virus.

Looks like we are in for quite a fight this time around.

Monday, June 15, 2009

My Son Wins Silver At Singapore's 3rd National Taekwondo poomsae Championships

(Answer to riddle: Rats and horses can’t vomit.)

One year after winning the Gold medal at the 2nd National National Taekwondo Poomsae Championship in 2008 in the Open Yellow 7 category, Ezra was again selected to compete under the Bukit Purmei banner for the B Division Blue 3 (Red tip) category.

Held at Yishun Sports Hall on Sunday June 14, competition standard for this year's Championship was much higher with most competitors scoring high scores of between 6.5 and 7.3 points. Last year's tournament had average scores of about 6.3 to 6.6 points, and such scores had won for the competitors gold medals on most occassions. This year's tournament were mostly evenly contested and the winners were decided by the minutest details during their performances. Such was the level of competition, with most competitors so well prepared to win.

Of course, as parents, we did not want Ezra to shoulder the pressure and just told him to go out there and enjoy himself for he is already a National Champion and it did not matter if he did not win the Gold medal this time around. The main focus was to do his club proud by giving his best performance on the floor mat. Our target score for him was 6.5 points. And his score of 6.833 points, surpassed our expectations and was well into Gold medal territory for this category.

However, the winner was a 9 year old boy, two years older than Ezra. Of all the 1500-plus competitors throughout the day, the boy was the only one who marched onto the floormat, in military style, and bowed to every single one of the four judges and the referee. This was part of his coach's game plan who had sheilded his boy by sticking so closely to him and dishing out instructions after instructions all the way to the competition mat, just to make sure that his protege did not falter during his routine. It was a must-win situation for the coach. It paid off for him, and deservedly so, as his winning score underlined the fact that such details mattered to the judges and he won by the narrowest of margins.

Performance wise, there was nothing to separate between both competitors, and it still could have gone either way, but the added details was the telling difference. Ezra did not lose the Gold medal. The other boy had to work for it. The Bronze medal boy was also not too far off the scores and it just goes to prove that this year's competition standard was much higer.

Ezra was delighted with the silver medal and he said it would not have mattered even if it was bronze, well, if it had came down to that. He was just happy to be selected to compete. Kudos to him for having such spirit of sportsmanship. My wife and I are so proud of him, not so much for winning the silver medal, but more for showing the sportmanship spirit of a Champion.

It was a very tiring day with lots of major delays. His routine was scheduled to begin at 3.10pm but he did not take to the mat until 6pm before he completed his routine at 6.30pm. The medal presentation did not begin till 10.30pm and Ezra received his glittering medal at 11pm.

We got home close to 12 midnight, but it was all worth the trouble. Looking forward to next year, where winning is certainly not the target. Taking part is more fun when there is no pressure.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

TTSH Latest Travel Directive

With the current holiday season where many of us have made overseas holiday plans and the increasing number of cases internationally, we would like to step up our precautionary measures for staff returning from overseas travel. With the high human traffic converging at the Hospital, the probability of flu clusters forming within the Hospital cannot be overlooked. As healthcare workers, it is our responsibility to be vigilant to help prevent flu clusters starting within healthcare institutions.
The following will apply to all staff travelling to affected countries. Please refer to the TTSH Intranet under Swine Flu Alert for the most updated list.
All staff returning from affected countries need to wear a surgical mask from arrival at Changi Airport, and for the next seven days should they have to come to work.
Staff working in hot areas will continue to observe the PPE guidelines.
Temperature Recording
All staff returning from affected countries are required to record their temperature twice daily from arrival at Changi Airport, and for the next seven days.
Medical Treatment
Staff are required to seek immediate medical treatment at CDC2 Screening Centre and alert TTSH Surveillance if they exhibit all the following conditions:
Temperature reading is equal or higher than 37.8 deg C;
Exhibit any of these symptoms: cough, sore throat, runny nose, headache and body ache;
Had a travel history in the last 7 days to any of the affected countries.

Kitchen Fire by Koh Sai Fong


This is a great fire prevention video. And it could save your life. This is stunning - please read first and then watch the very short clip. A wet dishcloth can be a one size fits all lid to cover a fire in a pan!

This is a dramatic video (30-second, very short) about how to deal with a common kitchen fire ...oil in a frying pan.

Read the following Introduction, then watch the show ...It's a real eye-opener!!

At the Fire Fighting Training school they would demonstrate this with a deep fat fryer set on the fire field. An instructor would don a fire suit and using an 8 oz cup at the end of a 10-foot pole toss water onto the grease fire. The results got the attention of the students. The water, being heavier than oil, sinks to the bottom where it instantly becomes superheated. The explosive force of the steam blows the burning oil up and out. On the open field, it became a thirty foot high fireball that resembled a nuclear blast. Inside the confines of a kitchen, the fire ball hits the ceiling and fills the entire room. Also, do not throw sugar or flour on a grease fire. One cup of either creates the explosive force of two sticks of dynamite.

This is a powerful message----watch the video and don't forget what you see. Tell your whole family about this video. Or better yet, send this to them.


The Human Brain Tricks Us Whenever It Can

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Helping Your Kids Find Happiness - by Ritta Rayan

Original writing by Philip Chang, Centre for Fathering

Whenever I ask parents what they would like for their children, invariably their answers revolve around the issue of happiness. "What I want is for my kid to be happy, is that so difficult?" said a father of a 14 year old son. This is the reason why parents work so hard and spend long hours in the office. This is why they camp over night in front of a school gate to enrol them in the best schools, and send them to ballet classes, music and other enrichment programmes. They do all these things and more so that their kids would be happy.

Happiness however is not found in external things. True happiness is not just in the good times but also in the difficult times. When we learn that tears are good to help us to be in touch with our humanity, then we have achieved the state of happiness. We can never give our children, or anyone for that matter, happiness without spending time to cultivate three essential life skills which are

1. ATTENTION SPAN - to be able to maintain focus on things that are not particularly interesting to the child;
2. DEFERRED GRATIFICATION – to grasp that rewards for actions are not always immediate and sometimes people have to "knuckle down" to dreary, repetitive tasks because the "pay off" only comes later; and finally
3. EMPATHY – to balance the needs and interests of others against their own.

Let me share some thoughts on the first skill of attention span.
Why is attention span important? Because TV and electronic games have shortened our children’s attention span to flickering seconds. This in turn has led children to cry for attention because they are easily bored. Indeed boredom is a huge issue in the home. I see parents scrambling to keep a fully booked calendar so that their kids are constantly engaged. One parent proudly said "Jeremy’s schedule is full. He has no time for TV."
Ironically the problem is not the TV. It is boredom brought on by short attention span which means it is a lifestyle problem. Today’s electronic influence is multifaceted. Along with the ubiquitous TV monitors, children are trained to shorten their attention span by the computer internet and the mobile phone. Phone SMSing itself is terribly efficient in this regard because of its instant messaging nature.
So the next time you plonked your baby in front of the TV to keep him occupied while you do your own thing; just stop and ask yourself, "Am I helping him expand his attention span?
When your child comes to you on a lazy Sunday afternoon and said "Hey dad, I am bored". Take heart, he is actually inviting you to teach him how to improve his attention span – a very vital life skill to survive in our world.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Medical Advice from Doctor May Chua

(Answer to previous puzzle: Leonardo Da Vinci invented the scissors)
How your organs age at different times (interesting fact)

A story of our body anatomy! Interesting article and it is worth reading!

Time: When your body really starts going downhill

There's no denying the ticking of a woman's biological clock - but men are not immune, either. French doctors have found that the quality of sperm starts to deteriorate by 35, so that by the time a man is 45 a third of pregnancies end in miscarriage. Here, with the help of leading clinicians, Angela Epstein identifies the ages when different parts of the body start to lose their battle with time.

BRAIN Starts ageing at 20
As we get older, the number of nerve cells - or neurons - in the brain decrease. We start with around 100 billion, but in our 20s this number starts to decline.
By 40, we could be losing up to 10,000 per day, affecting memory, co-ordination and brain function.

In fact, while the neurons are important, it's actually the deterioration of the gaps between the brain cells that has the biggest impact, says Dr Wojtek Rakowicz, a consultant neurologist at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust in London .

We all assume Grey hair and wrinkles are the first signs of aging, but some parts of your body are worn out long before you look old. These tiny gaps between the end of one brain nerve cell and another are called synapses. Their job is to ensure the flow of information from one cell to another, and as we age we make fewer.

• GUT Starts aging at 55
A healthy gut has a good balance between harmful and 'friendly' bacteria.
But levels of friendly bacteria in the gut drop significantly after 55, particularly in the large intestine, says Tom MacDonald, professor of immunology at Barts And The London medical school. As a result, we suffer from poor digestion and an increased risk of gut disease.
Constipation is more likely as we age, as the flow of digestive juices from the stomach, liver, pancreas and small intestine slows down.

• BREASTS Starts aging at 35
BY their mid-30s, women's breasts start losing tissue and fat, reducing size and fullness.
Sagging starts properly at 40 and the areola (the area surrounding the nipple) can shrink considerably.

Although breast cancer risk increases with age, it's not related to physical changes in the breast.
More likely, says Gareth Evans, breast cancer specialist at St Mary's Hospital, Manchester , our cells become damaged with age - as a result, the genes which control cell growth can mutate, causing cancer.

• BLADDER Starts ageing at 65
Loss of bladder control is more likely when you hit 65. The bladder starts to contract suddenly, even when it's not full. Women are more vulnerable to bladder problems as, after the menopause, declining estrogen levels make tissues in the urethra - the tube through which urine passes - thinner and weaker, reducing bladder support.

Bladder capacity in an older adult generally is about half that of a younger person - about two cups in a 30-year-old and one cup in a 70-year-old. This causes more frequent trips to the loo, particularly as poor muscle tone means the bladder may not fully empty. This in turn can lead to urinary tract infections.

• LUNGS Start ageing at 20
Lung capacity slowly starts to decrease from the age of 20. By the age of 40, some people are already experiencing breathlessness. This is partly because the muscles and the rib cage which control breathing stiffen up. It's then harder to work the lungs and also means some air remains in the lungs after breathing out - causing breathlessness. Aged 30, the average man can inhale two pints of air in one breath. By 70, it's down to one.

• VOICE Starts ageing at 65
Our voices become quieter and hoarser with age. The soft tissues in the voice box (larynx) weaken, affecting the pitch, loudness and quality of the voice. A woman's voice may become huskier and lower in pitch, whereas a man's might become thinner and higher.

AFD• EYES start ageing at 40
Glasses are the norm for many over - 40s as failing eyesight kicks in - usually long-sightedness, affecting our ability to see objects up close. As we age, the eye's ability to focus deteriorates because the eyes' muscles become weaker, says Andrew Lotery, professor of ophthalmology at the University of Southampton .

• HEART Starts ageing at 40
The heart pumps blood less effectively around the body as we get older. This is because blood vessels become less elastic, while arteries can harden or become blocked because of fatty deposits forming on the coronary arteries - caused by eating too much saturated fat. The blood supply to the heart is then reduced, resulting in painful angina. Men over 45 and women over 55 are at greater risk of a heart attack. A recent study by Lloyds Pharmacy found the average person in the UK has a 'heart age' five years older than their chronological age, probably due to obesity and lack of exercise.

• LIVER Starts ageing at 70
This is the only organ in the body which seems to defy the aging process. 'Its cells have an extraordinary capacity to regenerate,' explain David Lloyd, a consultant liver surgeon at Leicester Royal Infirmary. He says he can remove half a liver during surgery and it will grow to the size of a complete liver within three months. If a donor doesn't drink, use drug or suffer from infection, then it is possible to transplant a 70-year-old liver into a 20-year-old.

• KIDNEYS Starts ageing at 50
With kidneys, the number of filtering units (nephrons) that remove waste from the bloodstream starts to reduce in middle age. One effect of this is their inability to turn off urine production at night, causing frequent trips to the bathroom. The kidneys of a 75-year-old person will filter only half the amount of blood that a 30-year-old's will.

• PROSTATE Starts ageing at 50
The prostate often becomes enlarged with age, leading to problems such as increased need to urinate, says Professor Roger Kirby, director of the Prostate Centre in London . This is known as benign prostatic hyperplasia and affects half of men over 50, but rarely those under 40.

It occurs when the prostate absorbs large amounts of the male sex hormone testosterone, which increases the growth of cells in the prostate. A normal prostate is the size of a walnut, but the condition can increase this to the size of a tangerine.

• BONES Start ageing at 35 AFD
'Throughout our life, old bone is broken down by cells called osteoclasts and replaced by bone-building cells called osteoblasts - a process called bone turnover,' explains Robert Moots, professor of rheumatology at Aintree University Hospital in Liverpool .

Children's bone growth is rapid - the skeleton takes just two years to renew itself completely. In adults, this can take ten years. Until our mid-20s, bone density is still increasing. But at 35 bone loss begins as part of the natural ageing process. This becomes more rapid in post-menopausal women and can cause the bone-thinning condition osteoporosis. The shrinking in size and density of bones can lead to loss of height. Bones in the back shrivel up or crumble between the vertebrae. We lose two inches in height by the time we're 80.

• TEETH Start ageing at 40
As we age, we produce less saliva, which washes away bacteria, so teeth and gums are more vulnerable to decay. Receding gums - when tissue is lost from gums around the teeth - is common in adults over 40.

• MUSCLES Start ageing at 30
Muscle is constantly being built up and broken down, a process which is well balanced in young adults. However, by the time we're 30, breakdown is greater than buildup, explains Professor Robert Moots. Once adults reach 40, they start to lose between 0.5 and 2 per cent of their muscle each year. Regular exercise can help prevent this.

• HEARING Starts ageing mid-50s
More than half of people over 60 lose hearing because of their age, according to the Royal National Institute for the Deaf. The condition, known as presbycusis, happens due to a loss of 'hair cells' - tiny sensory cells in the inner ear which pick up sound vibrations and send them to the brain.

• SKIN Starts ageing mid-20s
The skin starts to age naturally in your mid-20s. According to Dr Andrew Wright, a consultant dermatologist with Bradford NHS Trust, as we get older production of collagen - the protein which acts as scaffolding to the skin - slows, and elastin, the substance that enables skin to snap back into place, has less spring and can even break. Dead skin cells don't shed as quickly and turnover of new skin cells may decrease slightly. This causes fine wrinkles and thin, transparent skin - even if the first signs may not appear until our mid-30s (unless accelerated by smoking or sun damage).

• TASTE AND SMELL Start ageing at 60
We start out in life with about 10,000 taste buds scattered on the tongue. This number can halve later in life. After we turn 60, taste and smell gradually decline, partly as a result of the normal ageing process. This can be accelerated by problems such as polyps in the nasal or sinus cavities. It can also be the cumulative effect of years of smoking.

• FERTILITY starts ageing at 35
Female fertility begins to decline after 35, as the number and quality of eggs in the ovaries start to fall. The lining of the womb may become thinner, making it less likely for a fertilised egg to take, and also creating an environment hostile to sperm. Male fertility also starts to drop around this age. Men who wait until their 40s before starting a family have a greater chance of their partner having a miscarriage, because of the poorer quality of their sperm.

• HAIR Starts ageing at 30
Male hair loss usually begins in the 30s. Hair is made in tiny pouches just under the skin's surface, known as follices. A hair normally grows from each follicle for about three years, is then shed, and a new hair grows. However, with male-pattern baldness, changes in levels of testosterone from their early-30s affect this cycle, causing the hair follicles to shrink.

Each new hair is thinner than the previous one.. Eventually, all that remains is a much smaller hair follicle and a thin stump of hair that does not grow out to the skin surface. Most people will have some grey hair by the age of 35. When we are young, our hair is coloured by the pigments produced by cells in the hair follicle known as melanocytes. As we grow older, melanocytes become less active, so less pigment is produced, the colour fades, and grey hairs grow instead.