Busy as a bee

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Busy busy busy! That is how I would describe the past 2 months.

Business-wise, we have been swamped by RFQs as we jostle for a share of the early childhood education market. MOE and MCYS are inviting eligible preschools to submit their applications for grants given for purchases of educational products and other teaching aids. With tight deadlines to meet, I have been working late into the nights to rush out quotations.

Well, I am not complaining. Being kept busy with constructive tasks is a good sign.

In the business world, everyone seems to agree that it is all about profits. I would like to position ourselves as different. Yes, staying profitable is importable but we desire to be successful through honourable means. I desire that my character and soul to be kept from being tainted by any thing that shuns the light of day.

Sometimes, because of this stand, we lose out. And so I have been asking the Lord to bless my business, to bring in successful deals. I wanted the Lord's goodness and His glory to be manifested through what I do so that even my work can be a testimony of God's blessings.

Food for Thought

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


July 30, 2008

Doing what's right without fear or favour
By Lee Wei Ling

I WAS born and bred in Singapore. This is my home, to which I am tied by family and friends. Yet many Singaporeans find me eccentric, though most are too polite to verbalise it. I only realised how eccentric I am when one friend pointed out to me why I could not use my own yardstick to judge others.

I dislike intensely the elitist attitude of some in our upper socio-economic class. I have been accused of reverse snobbery because I tend to avoid the wealthy who flaunt their wealth ostentatiously or do not help the less fortunate members of our society.

I treat all people I meet as equals, be it a truck driver friend or a patient and friend who belongs to the richest family in Singapore.

I appraise people not by their usefulness to me but by their character. I favour those with integrity, compassion and courage. I feel too many among us place inordinate emphasis on academic performance, job status, appearance and presentation.

I am a doctor and director of the smallest public sector hospital in Singapore, the National Neuroscience Institute (NNI). I have 300 staff, of whom 100 are doctors. I emphasise to my doctors that they must do their best for every patient regardless of paying status. I also appraise my doctors on how well they care for our patients, not by how much money they bring in for NNI.

My doctors know I have friends who are likely to come in as subsidised patients. I warn them that if I find them not treating any subsidised patient well, their appraisal - and hence bonus and annual salary increments - would be negatively affected. My doctors know I will do as I say.

I remind them that the purpose of our existence and the measure of our success is how well we care for all our patients - and that this is the morally correct way to behave and should be the reason why we are doctors. In NNI, almost all patients are given the best possible treatment regardless of their paying status.

My preference for egalitarianism extends to how I interact with my staff. I am director because the organisation needs a reporting structure. But my staff are encouraged to speak out when they disagree with me. This tends to be a rarity in several institutions in Singapore. The fear that one's career path may be negatively affected is what prevents many people from speaking out.

This reflects poorly on leadership. In many organisations, superiors do not like to be contradicted by those who work under them. Intellectual arrogance is a deplorable attitude.

'Listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story,' the Desiderata tells us. It is advice we should all heed - especially leaders, especially doctors.

I speak out when I see something wrong that no one appears to be trying to correct. Not infrequently, I try to right the wrong. In doing so, I have stepped on the sensitive toes of quite a few members of the establishment. As a result, I have been labelled 'anti-establishment'. Less kind comments include: 'She dares to do so because she has a godfather'.

I am indifferent to these untrue criticisms; I report to my conscience; and I would not be able to face myself if I knew that there was a wrong that I could have righted but failed to do so.

I have no protective godfather. My father, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, would not interfere with any disciplinary measures that might be meted out to me.

And I am not anti-establishment. I am proud of what Singapore has achieved. But I am not a mouthpiece of the government. I am capable of independent thought and I can view problems or issues from a perspective that others may have overlooked.

A few months ago, I gave a talk on medical ethics to students of our Graduate Medical School. They sent me a thank-you card with a message written by each student. One wrote: 'You are a maverick, yet you are certainly not anti-establishment. You obey the moral law.' Another wrote: 'Thank you for sharing your perspective with us and being the voice that not many dare to take.'

It would be better for Singapore's medical fraternity if the young can feel this way about all of us in positions of authority.

After the Sars epidemic in 2003, the Government began to transform Singapore into a vibrant city with arts and cultural festivals, and soon, integrated resorts and night F1. But can we claim to be a civilised first world country if we do not treat all members of our society with equal care and dignity?

There are other first world countries where the disparity between the different socio- economic classes is much more extreme and social snobbery is even worse than in Singapore. But that is no excuse for Singaporeans not to try harder to treat each other with dignity and care.

After all, both the Bible and Confucius tell us not to treat others in a way that we ourselves would not want to be treated. That is a moral precept that many societies accept in theory, but do not carry out in practice.

I wish Singapore could be an exception in this as it has been in many other areas where we have surprised others with our success.

The writer is director of the National Neuroscience Institute. Think-Tank is a weekly column rotated among eight heads of research and tertiary institutions.

I read the above article with interest as I pondered over the ideas championed by the writer. Interest, based not just on the content material, but also because she wrote knowing who she is and the weight of her words.

I admire her altruistic care for patients that cross her path, paying homage to the Hippocratic Oath. I love the way she so succintly penned down her beliefs and in such a diplomatic yet strong stroke of the pen.

She might have said that she obeys only her conscience and indeed, she has been an example of overcoming set traditions to practise what she preaches. While it may not be that she is using her name to make a statement, yet I wonder....the other way round.....if she is not who she is by way of parentage, would she have been allowed to have her way of things?

Customer Service or the lack of it!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Goodness! What is this world coming to?

Hubby went to a certain GP at E**** Mall, enquired about the flu vaccine and was absolutely stunned at the service, or should I say the total lack of service he received.

He walked through the door, saw a lady cleaning the glass panels and stood there for a minute, waiting for her to attend to him. She decided that the glass panels were more important and continued on with her task. "Ahem...excuse me, may I know how much does this clinic charge for the flu vaccine?" She finally turned her attention from the panels to Hubby for a split second before rewarding him with a blank stare.

Then, a voice boomed from within the confines of the clinic, "$45". Hubby glimpsed the back of a man sitting at a desk in a farther room and deduced that he must be the doctor.

"Oh? I though it is usually about $20+?", asked Hubby.

"Sure, if you have 100 people taking the jab, I can charge $20+."

"OK, never mind then. Thanks."

However, the doctor continued jabbering on "...and if you have 200 people, I can even go lower...."

The whole exchange took place with Hubby looking at the doctor's back. The good doctor did not feel it was necessary to turn round to make eye contact. Nope, he was not attending to any patient. In fact, there were no patients at all. We thought it is basic courtesy and good etiquette to look at the person you are speaking to. Apparently not everyone agrees with us on this point.

Oh by the way, Hubby took the flu vaccine at another clinic on the same day.....for just $25.

First school fight

Monday, July 14, 2008

The school called up to inform that Big Buddy was involved in a fight with his friend. His first school fight!

The Scenario
Everyone was in class, working at the table on the worksheets Teacher set for them.

The Incident
Big Buddy looked at J's work and commented that it was "Not nice!". J got upset and threw Big Buddy's worksheet onto the floor, Big Buddy retaliated by crushing J's worksheet and that started the fight. Teacher had to intervene to separate both boys and make each apologise to each other.

The Result
Big Buddy received a tiny scratch on his nose.

When Big Buddy came home, I asked him why he told J that his drawing was not nice. "It's really not nice what!" was his reply with a frown on his face. Well, I give him credit for his honesty but err....zero for his sensitivity. Using simple language and plenty of examples, I explained to him about loving and being nice to his friends and how exercising sensitivity is one aspect of respecting our friends.

Big Buddy looked at him with a serious look as he digested all that I said but seriously, I do not really know if he fully understood it all. Anyway, he is just a 3-year-old boy, some concepts may just take more time to be grasped.

In fact, looking around, some adults do not seem to have learnt this lesson yet too.


Friday, July 11, 2008

After a bout of illness, I had been away from the gym since April. No justifiable reason for the long absence, just pure laziness. Somehow the longer you stay away, the harder it is to get back. I am not giving excuses but hey, I am sure you experienced it yourself, have you not?

Well, something someone said recently jolted me into action and so I went back to my gym workouts this week. This time round, I included additional routines into the sessions - leg raises and time on the exercise bikes.

Nautilus Exercise Bike

Cycling on this exercise bike is quite therapeutic. I was actually contemplating bringing a book to read while peddling away on this machine. However, my favourite piece of gym equipment is still the elliptical. I love the jaunty wide-ranging movements and when the right workout music comes on, I caught myself almost dancing away on it!

So far so good, for this week. I managed to hit the gym for an hour and a half before settling down to work. Let us see how I fare in the weeks to come .....

An excellent dinner

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Hubby and I went to the much raved-about Morton's The Steakhouse to celebrate my birthday. We had heard about its steaks and wondered if they were really that good.

Instead of making a statement with its entrance, the restaurant went against the norm with a nondescript-looking wooden door set along a dimly lit corner of the lobby, hidden behind a pillar. The ambience inside was cosy with dim lightings but suggesting a jovial non-stuffy mood. The reception was warm, staff immediately greeted me with a 'Happy Birthday' upon realising from their reservation system that we were celebrating my birthday.

We were led to one of the booth seats lining a wall; we were given one right in the centre of the room, according us an excellent view of the restaurant going-ons. To our surprise and pleasure, instead of leaving us to slide ungracefully into our booth seat, our server moved the whole table, enabling us to sit down with ease.

Not fancying any liquer, we ordered mocktails for pre-dinner drinks - Bull Sour for Hubby and I had Passion. After a short while, we had a preview of Morton's offerings when a waiter brought a whole trolley of raw meat and vegetables and proceeded to rattle off the whole dinner menu while displaying the full range of cuts. For appetisers, we decided to go with the Colossal Shrimp Cocktail and Lobster Bisque. We were recommended a single serving of Filet Mignon for each of us and we had Lyonnaise Potatoes and Sauteed Mushrooms as sides to go with the entrees as Morton's does not serve sides with their steaks.

Shrimp Cocktail

The Shrimp Cocktail was not too bad, the shrimps were sweet, fresh and huge. I did not quite like the Lobster Bisque though as it had a bitter aftertaste although it was rich and thick. They were thoughtful enough to split the order into two dishes when informed that we would be sharing the soup. The complimentary Onion Loaf was delicious, with a wonderful aroma of warm baked bread infused with onions.

The steaks were excellent, done according to our preferences. It had a slightly charred look on the outside but tender and juicy on the inside. The mushrooms were pretty run-of-the-mill but the Lyonnaise potatoes were tasty, albeit slightly on the oily side. We were warned by our server that portions were going to be large but when the steaks arrived, they did not look too daunting. In fact, we thought we should have no problem finishing them together with the sides. How wrong we were! Halfway through, we suddenly became conscious of how our stomachs were filling up. So try as we did, we had to leave some of the sides unfinished.


We did not want to leave without trying some of the desserts and so we had the Key Lime Pie. I was also presented with a complimentary serving of the Morton's Lengendary Hot Chocolate Cake. The servers did the usual cliche thing of singing the Happy Birthday song but with a difference as they proceeded to snap a photo of Hubby and I, which was later given to me as a souvenir of our visit.

Both desserts were wonderful. The chocolate cake satisfied my sweet tooth while the tangy Key Lime Pie was a fitting finish to a great dining experience.

Angela's 35th Birthday Dinner at Morton's

Birthday Thoughts

As my birthday rolls round once again, I seem to be in a more reflective mood this year.

I ponder over the past years of my life and wonder what the future beholds. I savour my past achievements with a mixture of pride and nostalgia, and wonder what new milestone has my name on it. I look at my children and see my future in theirs too.

Over the years, I have mellowed down a lot. I see my character refined with each significant event, my maturity developed with each situation I encountered and my perspective of life moulded by the experiences I had been through. I am now more introspective, valuing quiet moments over boisterous partying, treasuring a few good friends rather than a sea of acquaintances.

Last weekend's sermon touched on God's covenant and anointing for a new season. How apt it was for this phase of my life. I felt that for the past few years, I have been in a phrase of repose. Whereas over the past few months, I have sensed that I am on the brink of something big and about to ride on the crest of the next big wave.

Oh Lord, bless me and lead me. Bring me into the next chapter of my life.