| October 2003 |

Halloween Trivia


It’s Halloween and Dinga is all dressed up for trick or treat. However, I forbid him to venture out alone tonight fearing someone might kidnap him; sometimes I feel that Dinga is just too cute for his own good.

We had a Halloween trivia quiz yesterday during my OB course; in fact, I got Dinga his cool skeleton spectacles from Professor Riznek as a Halloween present.

Here are some interesting Halloween trivia:

  • Mexico celebrates “The Day of the Dead” instead of Halloween.

  • Halloween is celebrated on the eve of All Saints Day.

  • Halloween originated from a festival celebrated by the Celts, an ancient European tribe.

  • Samhainophobia is an intense fear of Halloween.

  • In Scotland, turnips are traditionally carved into jack-o-lanterns.

  • Triskaidekaphobia is an irrational fear of the number 13.

  • Paraskavedekatriaphobia is a specific fear of Friday the 13th.

31 October 2003 · Fun · Comments (0)

Suicidal Thoughts

It’s ironic that antidepressants might raise the risk of suicide in children and teenagers with major depression, since one of the main reasons these kids are under medication is to reduce the possibility of suicide attempts. This reminds me of my own experience with drugs that cause depression.

I went to a skin specialist to treat my acne problem when I was in secondary school. However, I was unresponsive to various drugs and antibiotics commonly used for acne treatment. The doctor then suggested Accutane as a possible treatment, which was not suggested before because of its high cost ($5 per capsule).

My parents weren’t as concerned about the treatment costs as the possible side effects of Accutane, and the doctor assured us that the side effects were minimal; the only significant side effect was its risk of birth defects which only affects pregnant females. He wasn’t exaggerating when he claimed Accutane was the best available drug to treat acne; its performance was simply amazing.

However, there was a problem. Unlike most people who usually recover from their acne problems fully after taking Accutane for a couple of months, my skin condition can only be kept under control by continual Accutane intake. This led me to have taken a much higher Accutane dosage than others.

I stopped going to my doctor after 3 years of treatment because I was frustrated about not being able to cure my acne problem after spending so much money. He was a good doctor; my acne problem was just too severe and unique to be cured by conventional means.

I didn’t realise serious psychiatric disorders were associated with Accutane until 1999 when I went to National Skin Centre for a medical checkup during NS. After the doctor found out that I had taken Accutane without knowledge of its possible side effects, he started listing them out. I was very surprised to know that depression, suicidal ideation and aggressive behaviour were among the possible side effects. Suddenly I found an explanation for my behaviour during my adolescence years.

I’ve always attributed my suicidal thoughts during my secondary school days as part of growing up. I guess some of us must’ve thought about attempting suicide, but usually as a passing thought when faced with serious personal problems. However, I had suicidal thoughts all the time. It didn’t matter whether I was chilling out at home or completely stressed out by exams, I was always thinking about killing myself.

The only reason why I didn’t attempt suicide was to know how heartbroken my family would be if I were to kill myself. I even thought about ways to die without hurting my family; none was really satisfactory.

My mother would be able to testify that I was a difficult teenager to handle when I was about 15 years old. I was emotionally unstable and was susceptible to anger fits. I really meant it when I told my friends I had a dark side.

Once again I attributed my behavioural change to hormonal changes during puberty. I used to be a sweet little kid that everyone loves; I was the easiest child to bring up among us 3 siblings. And when I became an extremely optimistic and cheerful person when I entered the army, which was unusual for a guy who was conscripted, I thought it was a sign of maturity.

I can’t be certain that Accutane is the main cause for my suicidal ideation or mood swings, but it’s too much of a coincidence that my behavioural changes coincided nicely with when I was taking Accutane. My belief was further confirmed by the fact that there’re now over 500 formal adverse reaction reports of suicide, suicide attempt and suicide ideation recorded by national and international health agencies for Accutane. It has the fourth highest record of adverse reaction reports in the US where more than 500,000 prescription medications are sold.

I started taking Nimegen, which is a generic form of Accutane, about 2 months ago and guess what, my suicidal thoughts are back. It’s not as serious as it used to be, maybe because the doctor has prescribed me with a lighter dosage this time.

There should be no cause for concern since I’m in control of my condition. Coincidentally, the results of the personality test I took for my organisational behaviour course showed that I am very emotionally unstable but have a very high self-monitor, which in layman’s term means I’ve a poker face.

Being a guy who daydreams a lot, I’m capable of distinguishing between irrational and logical thoughts.

28 October 2003 · Health, My Life · Comments (3)

Shortest Essay

An English university creative writing class was asked to write a concise essay containing the following elements:

  1. Religion
  2. Royalty
  3. Sex
  4. Mystery

The best essay read:

“My god,” said the queen, “I'm pregnant; I wonder who did it?”

25 October 2003 · Fun · Comments (0)

Day Trip to Algonquin Provincial Park


Ray skipped school last Friday to join the law exchange students from Singapore for a visit to Algonquin Provincial Park, hoping to catch the fall colour before the trees lose their leaves. Equipped with a Chevrolet Impala from Hertz, whose clerk noted it was my birthday but gave us no special discount, we set off on a 628 kilometres road trip.

We didn’t realise we needed a permit to drive on the stretch of Highway 60 known as the Parkway Corridor, which runs through the south end of Algonquin Park, or we would have gladly paid $12 to help maintain the park. The scenery was spectacular; it was a sea of colours for as far as we could see. Little wonder why Algonquin Park inspired much of Tom Thomson’s artwork.


Lunch was taken beside a scenic lake; I wasn’t enjoying the meal or the scenery much due to the freezing weather, although it was quite an experience to eat outdoors on such a cold day. As I munched down on the Snickers bars and stuffed my mouth with Oreo cookies, I tried to convince myself that I needed the sugar and fat to keep warm; the fact was I’m just too lazy to prepare sandwiches for the trip.

I didn’t feel that our trip to Algonquin Park would be complete without some trekking, and it was by chance that we came upon a trail called Lookout Trail. Although we all agreed the name sounded cheesy, I doubt we would have made the trek if we hadn’t seen the word lookout, which promises great scenery.

During the trek I saw a chipmunk for the first time; but it was moving so fast that I only managed to get one good shot with my camera. We also discovered a giant rock shaped like a peach; as much as I would like to believe that there’s a legend or story behind it, there was a more scientific explanation: the rock was disgorged from the glacier which melted back during the last Ice Age 11,000 years ago. Sometimes science and logic just spoil all the fun.


The view at the cliff top was beautiful; we marvelled at the wild, rugged country that lay before our eyes. We were busy taking photos on one side of the cliff, only to discover the view on the other side was even better. That’s when a digital camera comes in useful: delete the redundant photos and you’re good to go again.

I would love to visit Algonquin Park again for an overnight stay in one of the lodges. I wonder how it’ll be like to look up at a sky full of stars and listen to the mournful howl of a wolf in the middle of the night.

21 October 2003 · Travel · Comments (0)

Born on the 17th of October


My plan to keep a low profile on my birthday was foiled. Friends at New College organised a surprise birthday party for me, and took every chance to remind me how old I am; at 23 years old, I’m one of the oldest guy living on our floor. It’s also such a coincidence that the T-shirt Samuel sent me from Australia arrived on my birthday. As usual, I received a birthday card from my parents, but this year with lots of Chinese newspaper clippings that I asked them to send over periodically.

Thank you all for making my 23rd birthday such a happy occasion. Growing old never felt this great!

17 October 2003 · My Life · Comments (2)

Gambling Culture

It may come as no surprise that Singaporeans gambled away $6.2 billion last year. After all, it’s not unusual to see long queues outside Singapore Pools outlets and Singapore Turf Club branches, especially those which have sold winning tickets before. And let’s be honest, S.League would not have been possible without SCORE. But just how serious do Singaporeans take gambling?

The percentage of household income spent on gambling in Singapore is 8.4%, which is calculated using data from Singapore Census of Population 2000 and IRAS Annual Report 2002.

Consider this: we spent more on gambling than health (3.7%), education (7.8%) and clothing (4.7%); and Miss Chua Lee Hoong claimed that we Singaporeans have the ability to plan and save for our own retirement because we’re far more educated today than 40 years ago.

Let us compare the percentage of household income spent on gambling in Singapore with other countries:

  • Australia: 3%
  • Singapore: 8.4%
  • South Africa: 2%
  • US: 0.6%

Since gambling is a high-risk pursuit with little returns, it appears that Singaporeans are greater risk-takers than most people. Unfortunately, Singapore ranks below many countries when it comes to risk-taking in entrepreneurial activities.

Community Chest raises money to fund 130 social service programmes and support 314,000 beneficiaries, and it received $38 million in donations last year. That’s 0.6% of what Singaporeans spend on gambling last year.

Says a lot about our gracious society, doesn’t it?

13 October 2003 · Money · Comments (0)

Friday Five IV

This week’s Friday Five:

  1. Do you watch sports? If so, which ones?

    I watch NBA and EPL, although I seldom watch them in Canada because I don’t have a TV in my room. Having some soccer knowledge is useful because it’s a great topic to strike up a conversation with guys; unless you’re in Canada where everyone talks about ice hockey.

  2. What/who are your favorite sports teams and/or favorite athletes?

    Arsenal is my favourite soccer team in EPL, but the team will have to win the Champions League to prove that it’s among the elites. My favourite NBA players are Larry Bird, Michael Jordan and John Stockton. Bird played very well for a guy who can’t run fast or jump high, and I admire Stockton for his intelligence and consistency. Jordan is Jordan; except his last 2 seasons with Washington Wizards.

  3. Are there any sports you hate?

    I don’t hate any sport. Rather, there are many sports I don’t understand. I can’t understand why players are allowed to throw punches at one another during a match (ice hockey), or the joy in scrubbing ice (curling), or men who choose to spend the entire weekend away from family pursuing an expensive sport (golf).

  4. Have you ever been to a sports event?

    I’ve been to several soccer matches back in Singapore, the first being an exhibition match between Singapore national team and Nottingham Forest. I’ve also seen Toronto Raptors play at ACC, and they suck big-time. Baseball is fun, but so boring to watch that Shawn and I have decided once is enough.

  5. Do/did you play any sports (in school or other)? How long did you play?

    I’m not the athletic type, but I enjoy playing all kinds of sports. Basketball and badminton are 2 sports I still play regularly.

10 October 2003 · My Life · Comments (0)

RJC Scolding Incident in Retrospect

I watched the infamous RJC scolding video clip for the first time yesterday. Interestingly, it was very different from what I expected it to be like after reading so many news reports about it.

The tutor did told the student that his homework was “outdated and irrelevant” and called him a “sly, crafty old rat,” before tearing up his homework. But putting the incident into perspective after I’ve watched the entire video clip, rather than gathering bits and pieces of second-hand information from news reports, I feel that the incident has been blown out of proportion by the local media.

The student who captured the incident using a PDA with a built-in camera and posted the video clip on a website got what he deserved: a stern reprimand and a warning that such an incident should not be repeated.

He should be punished for inappropriate use of PDAs in class, and not for invading the tutor’s privacy; this was a lame argument raised by those who defended the tutor’s actions. She could’ve scolded the student using the same harsh words and tore up his homework in the privacy of her own office, but have chosen to humiliate him in front of the whole class instead. Regardless whether she lost her temper at that moment, which was unacceptable for a professional educator who has undergone proper training, or that she was using public humiliation to motivate the student to work harder, this wasn’t a private moment. However, I don’t feel that the tutor deserved to be criticised.

I wasn’t exactly the model student in class; in fact, I was usually the one giving the teachers trouble. Because of this, I had my fair share of public humiliation by teachers: badly done homework tore up and flung into my face, chalks flying into my talkative mouth, and being told to go “fly a kite” for scoring 23% in my math class. It’s worth remembering that there’s no smoke without fire; and I was the guilty party each time. Did the teachers manage to motivate me to work harder using public humiliation, or were there other less extreme methods that could’ve been used? I’m not sure, but I did turn out alright.

Different teachers have different teaching styles. Although some teaching methods are more controversial than the rest, I believe our education system has enough safeguards to prevent abuse of authority.

Education is a tough and noble career; we should just let teachers do their job well.

07 October 2003 · Education · Comments (0)

Culture Trouble

I learnt in my marketing course that a company has to be sensitive to the culture or heritage of its target market; failure to take enough precautions in this regard can often have humorous results.

Here are some real-life examples:

  • The Dairy Association’s great success with the “Got Milk?” campaign led to a decision to expand the promotion into Mexico. It wasn’t good news when the association found out that the Spanish translation for the tag line is “Are you lactating?”

  • Coors beer also decided to use an existing slogan in the Spanish marketplace. Somehow the slogan “Turn it loose” was interpreted as “Suffer from diarrhoea.”

  • Scandinavian vacuum cleaner manufacturer Electrolux used the following in an American campaign: “Nothing sucks like an Electrolux.”

  • Clairol introduced the “Mist Stick,” a curling iron, in Germany, only to find out that “mist” is slang for “manure”. Not too many people had use for a “Manure Stick.”

  • Pepsi’s “Come alive with the Pepsi generation” translated into “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave” in Chinese.

  • When the Pope visited Miami, a T-shirt manufacturer, in an attempt to cater to the large Spanish population, printed T-shirts that promoted the visit. But, instead of “I saw the Pope” (el papa), the T-shirts displayed “I saw the potato” (la papa).

02 October 2003 · Fun · Comments (1)

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