Garfieldhug's Blog

This & That Including What Ails

Squirrels – Limited Edition


I miss my walks along Dalvey Road. I used to power walk daily unless it rains and would eagerly peer into the wooded paths to try and catch a glimpse of a squirrel running along the fence or leaping from one bough to another of a tree.

As I do not bring my mobile phone with me, I am unable to catch these critters on camera.

The photo used in this post was taken in Brighton UK near the museum. I was happy to see this little fella rummagibg through the dried leaves on the lawn…happily frolicking and oblivious of what goes around it.

Yes, I miss seeing the squirrels and would be glad to be able to power walk again one day. Wistful thinking till I fix my faulty spine 😦

Bummer to have a spine that does not co-operate and often leaves me with limitations in mobility.

I fully sympathise with those with disabilities or physical challenges!

Leave a comment »

Garfield Buddies Galore


Whilst shopping at John Little’s last evening ( I should say….poking around the Marina Square Mall) I chanced upon my favorite cartoon character Garfields!

Nothing gets me all happy like a kid than when catching sight of Garfields…loads and loads of Garfields!


Pity I have no more space at home for them. Yup 425 Garfields has taken up a lot of floor space in my home. They are literally everywhere, with my favorite sharing my bed keeping me snuggly safe.


I reflect back on orphans or those living in poverty. They who have no food or little subsistence, much less toys! Toys are a luxury to these poor tots!

Garfield is blessed as he can bring much joy to a child or an adult. He is Jim Davis’ creation and will continue to surprise me either in comic strip or a great snuggly stuffed toy.

Leave a comment »

The Rains Are Falling

The monsoon season is definitely back and it is pouring cats and dogs now. As I watch the falling rain, one cannot help but ponder on life’s vicissitudes!

It reminded me of ducky weather in Eugene Oregon. I had to experience the rains as I dodged from building to building on campus to get to class. But those rains were fine drizzle with rarely buckets of rain coming down hard and fast as if the skies were on strict instructions to empty the clouds!

I reminisced on the days at Ferry Street, holed up revising on my notes for exams or mid terms. In those days, my life was uncomplicated. It was to school, course work, laundry, getting meals and TGIF at the mall, Safeway or Kings Table. Rarely would I go to Guidos for calzone as it was not cheap being on a foreign student budget.

In Singapore, the weather was either sunny, rainy or hot and hotter 🙂

No seasons to shout about. No need to wear bulky jackets but we are a society of slippers and shorts. Yup, we are the most chillax crowd. We do not have airs…at least not for the crowd I am in.

Of course we do have dress codes and if necessary we would doll up or suit up as you would say.

The rains have produced lesser vegetable crops in Malaysia and prices have soared. Usual year end pricing. My sister in NZ was sharing with me that she buyscwhatever is in season. In a way living in Singapore and being Singaporean is a blessing in terms of proximity to cooked food, groceries and amenities including health care.

Most countries have a long wait to get scheduled for an MRI or CT scan. Here if it is medically required, there is always this service readily available. Ur healthcare workers do not sleep!

I remember in Eugene, we were lucky to have a hospital a block from where I lived. An ENT was 3 blocks away and it was in a quiet area. But if I had no insurance, it would have been a bummer effect.

The rains in Eugene usually came in Winter with the cold. Summers are Indian summers….hot but not too humid and if I stayed under the shade of an oak tree, I would feel cool and somewhat chilly. Maybe it is due to me not being accustomed to the sudden drop in temperatures and having lived in 32 – 33 degrees celsius island state for most of my life.

The rains bring back good memories of my university days in Eugene, Oregon. I do not scold the heavens for dampening my weekend as I know the importance of rainfall and the much needed water.

Give me cool wet weather anytime. I would vote for it anytime than hot, muggy and humid days.

Have a terrific weekend all 🙂

Leave a comment »

Volunteerism & Good Corporate Governance

Being a volunteer is not an easy task. Having done more than 10 charity golf tournaments, 8 fund raising dinners and giving time over the years, I have begun asking self why do I do it?

I don’t really know. Except that it makes me happy and gives me a strange sense of pride and achievement.

The end result was a whopping sum of $12 million which helped financed the elderly poor and mentally challenged.

I behaved as a professional beggar each time. I had to balance donor fatigue and identify guest of honors that gave me clout to raise the much needed funds.

I particularly enjoyed being a part of Chinese New Year lunch hosted for vegetarian seniors living in Buddhist Lodge. Seeing their toothless smiles as they get excited over a nice 10 course vegetarian meal comprising veggies and mock meats.

Entertainment is a mix of comical acts or the inmates putting on a skit or their care givers doing a musical segment.

Runned by Buddhist Ven Kuan Yan, she is from the Philippines but lived her life in Singapore, devoting her time and love for the seniors.

Sometimes not all charities are well managed with robust checks and balances. Yes, there has been much adversity and adverse publicity for a few bad apples. For these people, the long arm of the law has caught up with them and they have paid their dues.

Is volunteerism truly altruistic? Not for all would be my take. I have seen power struggles amongst committee members as they jostle for power or status in the charity arena! Sadly it can get ugly too!

I question altrusim. With tax rebate at 2.5 times amount donated, donors give with the carrot dangled to entice donors.

The receipt of recognition for eg name etched on an honor roll, going up on stage to receive recognition of their generosity – is volunteerism truly altruistic?

I asked myself if there were no tax incentives in terms of rebates, would one be motivated to give?

If there were no recognition plaques or medals, would volunteers want to give as readily?

I heard someone telling me that he wanted to be chairman of a “Huay Kuan” ie clan group. To this chap, if he was elected chairman, it meant he was the chairman of all clansmen with successful businesses! I applaud this man’s interpretation of a simple role of a clan chairman into that of the “Lord” status symbol, lording over fellow clanmen! Sadly, a selfish personal gain is foremost in this cotton picking brain!

Being cynical and candid, I have seen how honorary positions are so contentious as grown persons jostle for a man made self glorified unpaid position!

So, in truth and with hand to heart, I ask of donors and volunteers if what is done is absolutely altruism at its best?

As for self….I am single and no matter how hard I aspire to climb this volunteer hierachy, I gain nothing as I am not eligible for priority government housing or elite schools for my non existent children. I give time, money and much sweat and tears to achieve my voluntary goals that is event based.

I only gain happiness in that fleeting moment of seeing the beneficiaries enjoying the fruits of our voluntary labour. Now, that is reward in itself to me 🙂

To some it is time consuming. To me it is an opportunity for me to give back to society and how it has blessed me with a roof over my head, 3 square meals a day and a set of wheels to go to my job each day!

Happy Thanksgiving folks 🙂

I will one day be old and in a home for seniors. I hope then, a volunteer would come make days pass easier, happier and meaningful for me in my declining years 😉

Leave a comment »

How To Manage Dead Weights In Office

From chatting with people in the work scene, I have come to hear of dead weights within offices. I am sure this may be the case for others working in offices around the world. There are always some such specimens around in any office setting!

For clarity, “dead weights” are personnel who remain within their jobs but are categorised as “untouchable”. Hence they remain as they are, job secured. Lucky dogs! (No offence to my late pet Doberman named Gretchen or Snoopy, Charlie Brown’s best friend – dogs are best friends for sure!)

Dead weights are also called Dead Wood! I pity the trees as they have been maligned in this instance. Dead Wood are dead weights and it has nothing to do with the poor trees. At least literally, the real forest dead wood becomes natural fertilisers for the forest floor whereas the human “dead wood” are of no material use other than currying favours.

No one likes dead wood in the office. Dead Wood in the office cannot be removed or replaced. Therefore, they are tagged as “untouchable”

Dead wood takes up budget – well-meaning budget for the more deserving ones. If they are deemed untouchable or furniture or antiquities, they are “precious” – HA! You ought to read my earlier blog on Performance Appraisals to appreciate the definition of “precious” 🙂

A WISE MAN [names are changed to protect the innocent 😉 ]once told me, ignore these dead weights! They have antiquated value and so it is best not to touch them, not even with a 10 foot pole! I like this WISE MAN.

He often shares with me that if he could, he would give a lot of people the boot! Productivity is expected to be at its peak despite carrying dead weights!

I admire his ability to still get productivity up and manage to deliver the output expected.

WISE MAN has ears in every department. His Secret Squirrels lurk in every corner and I find him a useful source of information. He has become my mole. Hmm I sound like I work in the line of espionage….like James Bond, 007 except ha ha, I ain’t no spy but am  a humble employee in an SME.

HR is a thankless job! For those in HR, they will understand. If HR gets no complaints, then HR knows they are doing a good job. If HR gets brick bats then something has gone awry 😦

HR is someone’s best friend when someone needs HR’s help. HR is immediately forgotten once the aid is given and or the HR matter resolved, only to be remembered when the next urgent need arises. Everyone usually wants something from HR as it was due yesterday. But hey, if HR wants something, it falls on deaf ears.

HR is best described as “5 minutes on the lips, forever on the hips” – imagine eating chocolate. It tastes great for the 5 minutes on the lips and then it manifests as fats on the hips 🙂 LOL!

I was at a meeting last evening. I keep hearing buzz words of HR world. Enabling, Empowering and Enhancing!

How to enable when $ is a major budgetary issue and empowerment is literally dead as power vests in the one and only mighty boss of the business!

I had a laugh when someone told me today that he had the misfortune of running into the boss. He expected all to give way, as if royalty expected lowly subjects to make way for his royal footsteps!

In turn, lowly subjects received a grunt of acknowledgement of his existence.

So why HR as a preferred choice of occupational role? Hmm maybe because people need HR as the H stands for Human and R stands for Resources. Together HR is Human Resources. We cannot do without HR.

No humans, no organisation and exist, much less the entrepreneur continuing to have a business! So welcome to the world of HR. It may be a thankless job but hey, HR people have tenacity and gumption with a never say die attitude. OR in plain speak, it seems HR are suckers for punishment 🙂

HR personnel are important 🙂


Performance Appraisal Time

Zoicks! The year has flown and now it is time for the dreary task of doing performance appraisals. Just what the heck is “performance appraisal” and what does it entail? To a HR practitioner, it is a serious act of assessing staff performance as our Singaporean Work Culture is supposedly based heavily on meritocracy 🙂

But aaah, no one told you that there is a big difference in how employers see it and again, it depends on what sort of business size you are in. Yes, it is back to comparison between an MNC and SME time again!

Again, no disrespect to SMEs (one broom cannot sweep all in one sweeping and there may be gems out there I am sure) but they tend to be a bit more penny-pinching.

How so you ask? Well, for one, SMEs look at all sort of lines; top line, bottom line and any other line to save funds being moved from their pocket to the employee where possible. Remember now, an employee has to multi task harder in an SME than compared to an MNC as Job Descriptions (JDs) differ.

The JD for a person in an MNC is more defined with specific infrastructural support whereas for an SME, it is as we say colloquially, “One Leg Kicking” ie you get hired probably for one task but you end up doing more than just the task you may be hired for.

From a positive HR aspect, one can say, “ooh, this staff is hardworking and has potential to grow” – true I can agree if this was the case. Instead, it is often time said that, “hmm this person can do it, let us load up more duties for this person” since we paid such a “high”salary for this person!

Meritocracy then fades in SMEs as it is usually the case of “precious” versus “less precious” with “precious” being defined as people who are or may be relatives, or friends of friends of the “you scratch my back and I scratch yours syndrome” – hey you say, networking! I wish that was true 😦

The truth is, monies find it hard to end up in the pockets of employees of some SMEs (okay, one or two SMEs that I know of) as it means an opportunity cost foregone for the owner to divest the monies elsewhere or maybe pay cut to themselves 😉

In this instance, it is truly the case of who you know and not what you know. If you are “precious”, chances are even if you fail your performance appraisal, the “attitude or character fits” – zoicks!! Clap Clap there you go, we should shred the Performance Appraisal and just give it all to precious beings LOL 🙂

In MNCs, I am not saying they are better off. But chances are the owners are not the CEO per se (there is a board you see) and may be a hired hand. True, they will also have their own cronies within but hey, with the benchmark for a range say 5% – 8% on announced profits to be shared by divisions, this is still a formula to create a better performance appraisal process as there is a pot of the proverbial end of the rainbow of hope!

I am grappling with this Performance Appraisal time as I am a juggler, animated speaker, typist, manager, headship role, IT, administrator and short of being a chauffeur, it is hilarious. Will a maximum be announced for the expected number of bonus months in terms of monetary value? Of course not!

I have to pull a straight face – I have to be very serious in teaching employees how to complete and assess a performance appraisal exercise. But deep down inside of me, I know that I have to be a crying clown as precious could take it all whilst those who toil and bubble, would end up with crumbs.

As the old adage says, “Pay peanuts and you get monkeys…hey but just make sure you do not get gorillas ha ha :-)”

I hope you find the humor in this performance appraisal exercise that hits all employees at the end of the year and again in March or June as financial results are released then.

Good luck to you or yours for your own performance appraisal assessment!


1 Comment »

Dr Boey Wah Keong

I cannot remember if I met Dr Boey through whom. But he is a fantastic anaesthesiologist.

I was ignorant of the role of an  anaesthesist till I was enlightened by a few short words by Prof Fong Kok Yong ( this is why I hugely admire Prof Fong. Simply said, no baloney but saying as he meant it) ” he/she is most important person during any surgical procedure. He/she defines if you live or die”

It then dawned on me how Michael Jackson died. Yoicks! My light bulb with thanks to Thomas Edison lighted in my brain box!

I have met many anaesthesists. But none treated me with follow up care like “Uncle Boey” – yup, I prefer to call Uncle Boey as he is an elder and much experienced.

Humbly dressed always and with a kind disposition, I am comfortable in his care.

Uncle Boey, unlike most if not all anaesthesists I have met and gone to sleep and woke up with ( hello get brains out of gutter here haha…surgical table remember!!) does not disappear after surgery is done.

He continues to follow up with me till my discharge. Others saw me a day before or hours before a surgery to ask a few questions and then POOF!! DISAPPEARS like David Copperfield. 🙂

Uncle Boey is good and careful throughout and I appreciate it. When I had corpectomy done, he explained that with my neck in such a vicarious situation and if the tube to be inserted into my throat was not done deftly and carefully, I would be paralysed at that point. Surgery would then be unnecessary!!

I remember someone whom I thought was a good friend and mocked me on hearing this, saying I was making it all up ;-(

Uncle Boey ticked this good friend off and for once, this good friend was tongue tied 🙂

Well, you would have guessed, good friend became casual friend and now friend in absentia ha ha….so much for friendships or relationships….hence my cynism on friendships!

Back to Uncle Boey. I saw him on Saturday. I got a call from his clinic. I had asked Uncle Boey to study my MRI and CT Scans. I had wanted to know if I could avoid an upcoming surgery on my spine. “Unfortunately not” said Uncle Boey “and the sooner you do it, the better for you lest you lose the nerve and have permanent pain despite surgery”

So, it is back to the chopping block for me. Bravely or Afraid….I am numbed from emotions. I do not know what to feel anymore.

All I know is I will be in hospital on Boxing Day and will not be out for a month ;-(

I hope it is going to be uneventful and less painful than the one I went through in 1992/3. Now that was a bummer!


Why Catholicism Failed For Me

I am,as Catholics say, a cradle Catholic to begin with as I was born and baptised a Catholic.

I went on to study in a Catholic Kindergarten at Church of the Holy Spirit before going on to do my primary and secondary education at Marymount Convent, Convent of Our Lady of Good Counsel and St Joseph’s Convent.

Every morning before class started I would go to the school chapel or church next door to pray, faithfully attending first Friday masses and abiding by all days of required mass attendances.

My relationship with God continued on and I would be at St Alphonsus to pray in the quiet evenings or whenever I had time.

By age 28 yrs, after a major car crash and almost reporting to heaven, I did not see any bright lights or God’s booming voice or escalators! 😉

Instead I saw self crucified as one of 3 thieves and was being brought down and held in Mother Mary’s arms like in the Pieta scene!

My bluetooth connection to God then went dead. My wifi connection to God disappeared as if he terminated my subscription.

I became despondent as I was hit left right center on major medical issues. He abandoned me and hid.

Instead the more I prayed, Buddhist and Tibetan monks appeared. They chanted sutras for me.

I came to discern the difference in blind faith and teachings of Buddha.

I cannot make sense of what I saw when I almost died.

I am in spiritual limbo and totally disbelieve in God’s existence, much less the Catholic community. I cannot fathom why God abandoned me and decided to send me to be surgically cut up year on year each year 😦 sigh!

So much for being a Catholic journeying from cradle catholic to pious catholic to Sunday catholic and up till some years back, a “bo chap” catholic or cannot be bothered catholic.

I do not believe in God anymore. The church is within us and I am no closer to this God if I make the trip to mass and behaved that hour!

As to why he abandoned me, I am clueless and angry. Catholicism is much dead in my heart. There is no God. But there are spiritual beings; good and bad. Thank goodness my final resting place is adjacent to a temple – my continued spiritual limbo till in death.

I believe in these beings behaving like medical specialists, each with supreme power to treat a spiritual ailment that best matches their expertise. Hence Taoism, Buddhism, Allah’s blessings, Goddess of Mercy and my favorite Lim Tai See, Tua Ya Peh and God of Heavens!

Good bye God. Since you disconnected my connectivity, I have moved on ( HA! The only time I would use this crap statement spouted by motivational speakers!)

Leave a comment »

Dr Oon Chong Teik

Dr Oon is an accomplished Thomas Cupper Badminton, Iron Man, Marathoner and triathelete.

I first met Doc Oon through my brother who both ran the triathelete circuit.

Throughout my childhood, I hardly saw doctors, other than Dr Fernandez and Dr Vaswani for common cold or fevers.

Things fell apart after my 6 car pile up at AYE and my spine became an issue.

I then began my arduous journey with doctors at age 28 years!

Doc Oon was practising at Mt E with his lovely wife, Dr Chung Sook Yin.

Both are a delightful couple and Dr Chung is extremely sharp on diagnostics.

To cite an example:

I had a cough, fever of unknown origin and ENT, chest physician were baffled.

As they ran tests, Dr Chung (whom I called Fair Maiden) brought out her medical books and went through my symptoms and blood test results.

Before 10 minutes passed, she pointed to Sjorgren’s. She told me to have my chest doc run several tests to prove including a lip biopsy.

I was labelled an autoimmune sufferer of Sjorgren’s when the tests returned. I was then introduced to Prof Fong Kok Yong.

They specialised in internal meds and infectious diseases. Most malaria or dengue cases from the region were medi evacuated to Mt E and he would take care of them with positive outcomes.

My first spinal surgery failed at Mt E and I almost died. Dr Oon helped me make sense of my medical complications that arose from meds, adhesives, rubber items, food etc that complicated my recovery.

He provided me with medical information to read up and taught me to register meds I take that agreed or disagreed with me. He told me to ensure I show this to any treating physician to save my own life.

Dr Oon taught me to sign my advance medical directive as we both agreed it would be too painful to be hooked up to tubes. He saw how I suffered during those 3 months in Mt E. He encouraged me to buy the best medical insurance policy I could afford as well as critical illness policies. I did. Without doctor Oon I would have been clueless!

Dr Oon is a practical doctor and he was my mentor as I was his student.

We talked of drugs and efficacies of the humble vitamin C. In 1988 he told me the humble C would make a big impact on fighting diseases. He told me how he infused high doses of C to help dengue patients overcome.

We experimented on me whenever I was down with say Leukopenia or bronchitis. Vitamin C in 1-2gms helped me recover faster and quicker.

I was very sad when Doc Oon suffered a major stroke 10 years ago (I think) and it robbed him of mobility and speech.

I miss chatting with Doc Oon as whenever I was hospitalised, he would visit me in hospital before he ran clinics, lunch time and before he went home.

He is to me, an irreplaceable doctor, a great father of internal medicines and my mentor who taught me meds to save my own life or spot when a wrong medicine is prescribed.

I owe what I know today of my own allergies to Doc Oon and I am grateful.

I wish Doc Oon the best of health always and though he remains speechless, he remembers me as I remember him.

Leave a comment »

Familial Insomnia

I first met then former minister of state, Mr Chan Soo Sen in late 1999 or 2000. (Anaesthesia wiped out days or dates for me unfortunately)

I was then working at the Institute of Mental Health/Woodbridge Hospital and was championing the cause to de-stigmatize mental illness. Many of the donors gave anonymously but would not want to be associated with this cause.

So when I wanted to kick off  a charity golf to raise funds for the destitute mentally challenged, I was in a bind on a Guest of Honor to lead the tee off at Raffles Country Club.

Ministers I approached turned me down. I finally chanced upon Mr Chan.

Mr Chan did not think twice and immediately said yes! I was encouraged but then he said he did not play golf! Sigh! I thought there goes my feel good moment. Instead, he said to me, ” don’t worry, I will be there to tee cannot be that hard and I will stick around by riding in a buggy to mingle with golfers on the green!”

That is exactly what Mr Chan did. Down to earth and practical, always with a nice wide warm smile and a good handshake.

I felt sad for him when his spouse recently passed from a rare genetic disorder that caused familial insomnia. Reading an article on how he coped before pulling the plug when she finally succumbed to it. It was her heart that gave way.

After Mr Chan’s event, I managed to elicit the support of Jardine Cycle & Carriage who donated a 40 seater bus for us to take inmates to the zoo.

Yes, I felt proud to leave the Woodbridge Endowment Fund with some pretty pennies and a bus to boot.

My 1 year stint at IMH ended when I left to join a law firm. I am happy to have made a difference to the lives of the mentally ill then and I owe it to Mr Chan Soo Sen for giving me the much needed support to get the ball rolling.

I wish Mr Chan and his family much needed comfort during this difficult time.

Leave a comment »