Wednesday, March 30

Calendar of Agenda (March)

A look-back on what I busied myself with in March 2005...

7 Mar
Deadline for JAE Application (extended)
Help out Sec Sch Maths Programme
10 Mar
Synergy Nite II (School Concert) @ Victoria Concert Hall
11 Mar
Secondary Class BBQ @ East Coast Park
19 Mar
Cycling @ East Coast Park
& HSBC TreeTop Walk Outing @ MacRitchie
15-17 Mar
"Child-sitting" @ Aaron's house (phew!)
21 Mar
Help out Sec Sch Maths Programme
22 Mar
Posting Results of JAE Application
25 Mar
Good Friday
27 Mar
Easter Sunday
30 Mar
Checked out Singapore Poly. with Sec. Sch. classmate

Monday, March 28

For life.

Have you ever suddenly got out of a seat after sitting for a prolonged time - and felt the world around you spin, as you try to regain your balance? Well, I have. It's been almost a year since I went for my blood test and discovered that I carried the Alpha Thalassemia trait.

Alpha thalassemia: A blood disorder, thalassemia is not one disease but rather a group of disorders that have a single feature in common: they all have a genetic defect in the production of haemoglobin, the protein that enables red blood cells to carry oxygen. The alpha thalassemias are caused by a decrease in production of alpha globin chains due to a deletion or mutation of one or more of the four alpha globin genes located on chromosome 16.

Basically it's just a condition in which the blood lacks haemoglobin. Lucky for me I didn't have the disease. Only the trait. Thus I'm only a carrier.

I felt that something was wrong with me about two years back when I was in secondary school. In preparation for the National Annual Fitness Award, or NAFA test, we often had to run rounds around the perimeter of the school compound. It was these 2.4 kilometre runs that I felt awkwardly exhausted, lacking stamina to run a certain distance without stopping. My heart raced like a bullet train even hours after I had completed the run. I had apparently undergone "asphyxiation", quite similar to suffocation, according to my doctor, because there was too much carbon dioxide in my lungs (thus a shortage of oxygen and the rapid breathing to expel the carbon dioxide).

Another instance where I was late for school, I had to stand/line up at the canteen as part of the late-coming punishment. Fatigued as I was because I had rushed from home a few hundred metres away with a heavy bag, I suddenly felt the world around me "white out" as I struggled to regain my conscious vision (apparently a lack of oxygen to the brain).

I had a 50-50 chance to get alpha thalassemia when I was still a foetus, as the image below shows.

Thalassemia is a genetic disease. This means that a person can only get Thalassemia disease or trait by inheriting the genes for Thalassemia from their parents. Genes determine what we look like, such as hair colour, and are also responsible for many diseases. Inheritance of Thalassemia happens purely by chance – there is nothing that parents do, or do not do, that will cause their child to inherit Thalassemia. Thalassemia is never 'caught' by another person in the way that a cold or flu is transmitted. People with Thalassemia disease and trait are born with it.

And thus my doctor orders me to take a 5 mg tablet of folic acid (Vitamin B9) every morning after breakfast - LONG-TERM. It's a supplement to counteract any derogatory effects the trait may cause to my body - not medicine. I don't want to be labelled SICK FOR LIFE. I'm also advised to limit my intake of foods high in iron content, as my blood already has a lot of iron in it.

When I enroll for National Service in a few years' time - I have to show the officers my blood test results - just in case they put me on some demanding Commando course or something.

My prospective wife and I will also have to go for check-ups first to see whether we're "compatible" - in a sense that because if both of us carry the Alpha Thalassemia trait, there's a chance that our baby will have Down Syndrome. Depressing as it sounds, we have to take the necessary measures/precautions.

A 5 mg tablet every day? That is so troublesome - now don't complain 'cos there're many other people out there who take LOADS MORE pills than you every day. More than ONCE a day.

Very well then. Cheers to folic acid! For life.

Sunday, March 20

An exhausting day of exercise

Argh - knee cramps and jelly legs - all that exercise I had yesterday.

Woke up rather early in the morning (8am) - well maybe you don't consider it early, but I'm not really used to waking up early (especially since it's a Saturday and also because I don't have school for now). Took a bus to Marine Parade and waited a full half hour for Evon (my cousin) and December (my ex-tuition friend) - and I thought I was going to be real LATE. We went for breakfast at the nearby MacDonald's since none of us had eaten yet, and there ate my first fast-food meal of this year. December was down with the flu, sneezing and sniffling regularly, so he had more of tea than breakfast. Then it was around 10.30am already, so we decided to leave for the nearby underpass connecting Marine Parade to East Coast Park.

I thought they could skate - well, at least cycle. What fun (and "distress") we had from 11am to 2pm. Both initially rented skates at first. Whoops - wrong choice. They ended up struggling to balance and nearly crashed bumfirst into a few passers-by. It was just hilarious (Evon aptly describes a scene where beginner skaters should hang an 'L' plate attached to a cushion on their bum - so that people would know and it wouldn't hurt if you fell). *laughs out loud* There was even a point when December crashed into Evon, and her to me (I nearly fell). It was a tangled mess of bodies. *I was stunned, they were laughing, passers-by were grinning (some nearly crashed into us too)*

Later December changed from skates to bike, but it wasn't of much use. He could go faster (though uncontrollably) with his skates than his bike. I had to hold his bike and ask him to look straight ahead, while he tried to balance with two feet off the ground. Not much use too. I ended up spending the remaining half-hour of my rental trying to cover as much of East Coast Park on my bike as I possibly could (to and fro).

By 2pm, I realised there wasn't enough time for lunch because we had to rush off to central Singapore for the TreeTop Walk. December didn't go because he was not feeling under the weather.

Two and a half hours later...

We arrived at the HSBC TreeTop Walk entrance after a tiring final climb up the steep slope of Bukit Peirce, where the suspension bridge started.

The shaky suspension bridge offered a scenic view but also a tummy-ache for those who had acrophobia (the fear of heights). I took a number of shots while up in the sky.

It was claimed that birds and different types of trees could be seen way up there, but for us non-botanists lacking sharp eyes, all we saw were a few birds flying in the distance, indistinct batches of green and an airplane.

The bridge was a mere 250 metres long (it seemed very short up there) so before we knew it, we were at the end of it. Then came flights after flights of wooden steps and planks after planks of boardwalks. The last time I went with Aaron, we counted 400-500 steps and gave up. You get the idea. No wonder the walk is not recommended for the elderly and young children (old citizens in the pink of health and "hyperactive" are another thing).

We caught many monkeys on our way out, the photo of the cute monkey below is the clearest and best among the ones I took.

Evening fell and after parting ways with our trekking compatriots (people from my current church), Evon and I took a lift to Junction 8 Shopping Centre at Bishan, where we had dinner (a chicken rice set for me and oyster omelette for her). That few plates of chicken, rice and vegetables made my day/stomach happy/full. My day happy and my stomach full. Haha. And so ended the exhausting day of exercise (and this exhausting typing for me).

More pictures of the Walk (and us humans) in the sidebar to the right, if you haven't noticed yet.

Information such as the background, tips and getting-there details of the HSBC TreeTop Walk can be found here.

Saturday, March 12

Synergy Nite II - Out In Full Force!

The Symphonic Band during their own concert, Impressions 7 (2004)

St. Hilda's Secondary School presented its second Synergy Nite on 10 March 2005 at Victoria Concert Hall, fuelled by the ensuing success of the first Music Synergy held at CHIJMES in 2003. The long-awaited evening featured performances by the school's Choir (Hildan Chorale), Handbell Ensemble, Symphonic Band, Guitar Club and Dance Club. These aesthetics groups came together in a showcase of their talents, spurred on by the eager support of the students who were part of the audience.

The night kicked off with two enchanting pieces by the Handbell Ensemble. No matter how beautiful the twinkling melodies of the handbells were, what the audience was apparently more interested in was the dazzling silvery dress worn by the handbell instructor. As some aptly put it, she was dressed in "aluminium foil".

Next, the Dance Club debuted with "Passages", their first public performance since their inception in early 2005. The modern, thought-invoking dance portrayed the transition of day to night and the contrast of being by oneself to being in a group. A great display on their first try.

Guitar Club, which followed, expectedly but honestly bored most of the crowd out. With two foreign pieces with tunes that not many knew, it was easy to lose the audience's attention. Even so, it was a rather fair performance for a musical group that only started out in 1999. Maybe choosing more popular pieces would do fine, even if this idea itself might sound clichéd.

The Hildan Chorale, its history going way back in the school's history, was probably the group which fought for the second loudest applause. Having obtained a Silver Award at the 2003 Singapore Youth Festival Central Judging (Choir), its high standard was expected.

The Symphonic Band appeared last and, without argue, earned the loudest applause with the fast rhythm of "Yiddish Dances" and the ever-popular "Phantom of the Opera".

The finale was an informal version of "Joyful, Joyful" - a combined item by all the performers. Led by a Band Ensemble and the Hildan Chorale, it was inadvertently a flop. Yes - a FLOP. It all started out alright, with the piano maintaining tempo and the voices of the performers ringing out clearly. All too suddenly, the tempo escalated and before the audience knew it, they were snafued into a garbled cacophony of mixed-up lyrics. The grand piano couldn't be heard at all (they should have "miked" it up), the occasional brassy interference of the Band Ensemble and the cushy voices of the Choir contributed to the amalgamation of noise. Please - get a lead singer or two next time to make the lyrics more pronounced (even if it's not the same song). And don't forget to inject emotion into the finale to liven up the mood.

Oh yes, before I forget - the school song came last of all as a tradition to close the concert. What happened at the back of the hall? Students were already trying to leave before the song began because they were not interested in it (how did you think the parents and other guests there felt). Not to mention that the concert started at least ten minutes later than scheduled because there were not enough seats (or was it because the students did not settle down quickly?). Whatever the case, I'm pretty sure the parents and guests will consider twice for any future concert because of their negative impression of the students.

Wednesday, March 2

JC Lightbulb Jokes

How many JC students does it take to change a lightbulb?

Q: How many Raffles JC students does it take to change a lightbulb??
A: 4 whole faculties. One fac. to design the new bulb, one fac. to test it out, one fac. to market it and one guy to write a stupid e-mail about lightbulbs.

Q: How many Hwa Chong JC students does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: The whole compete with Raffles JC...

Q: How many Victoria JC students does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: The whole school... one to screw it in and the rest to cheer and wave flags and banners to give him/her support.

Q: How many National JC students does it take to change a lightbulb??
A: NO LIGHT STILL CAN STUDY!!!!! (you know, the brand of lightbulbs - National)

Q: How many Anderson JC students does it take to change a lightbulb??
A: They're too busy trying to be one of the top 5 JCs...

Q: How many Anglo-Chinese JC students does it take to change a lightbulb??
A: None... they use all their money to employ Yishun JC to do it for them.

Q: How many Yishun JC students does it take to change a lightbulb??
A: None... only one teacher to tell them what a lightbulb is in the first place and to demonstrate (how do you think they're able to change it for Anglo-Chinese JC?).

Q: How many Catholic JC students does it take to change a lightbulb??
A: They'd prefer it darker...(hmmm...*raises eyebrow*) ...(rumoured to be the school with the HIGHEST abortion rates)

Q: How many Jurong JC students does it take to change a lightbulb??
A: None... their Physics is so bad that they make their male teachers cry... (academically-weak)

Q: How many Tampines JC students does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: Would they bother?? (show no attidude, heck-care)

Q: How many Meridian JC students does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: None. They're too busy keeping themselves from being retained (high-pressure school system).

Q: How many Saint Andrew's JC students does it take to change a lightbulb??
A: None... they believe in praying for it (being an Anglican school).

Q: How many Nanyang JC students does it take to change a lightbulb??
A: None... they are still using oil lamps (found prominently in the school).

Q: How many Serangoon JC students does it take to change a lightbulb??
A: Huh, what lightbulb... (they don't know what a lightbulb is)

Q: How many Innova JC students does it take to change a lightbulb??
A: None. They're more worried about the about-to-drop-fans in the learning studios instead (their school environment is relatively run-down).

Q: How many Pioneer JC students does it take to change a lightbulb??
A: Heck care about that - let's all do 300 jumping jacks as punishment for improper attire.

Q: Don't you guys wonder who wrote this?
A: Temasek JC!

Q: How many Temasek JC students does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: None. They think they are very bright already.