Monday, September 29, 2008

Setting off the airport sensors

The last three trips I made this year had me setting off the airport security sensors.
It happened once at the Budget Terminal, once returning home from Tokyo Narita and once at Phuket. The reason?

Gory, isn't it !!!
That's the platinum implants in my spine to correct the slipped disc problems I had last year.

Got the X-rays off my doctor today when I went for that 'see me in 6 weeks' consultation. And the prognosis? "Nothing seems wrong, continue with the medication, acupuncture and come back in 2 months."

The screws and pins will make the 2 vertebrates fuse in about 2 years time.
Medically, it's termed as L4 and L5. This is the most common place where slipped discs occur. It's there permanently and need not be removed. I hope.

And it's what's been tripping off the sensors each time I pass through the security panels at airports. I get stopped every time and each time when they do a manual scan on me, they always think it's my belt buckle that set it off. Of course, I'm not going to bother telling them my medical history, so long as I get passed.

Strangely, it had never happened at Changi Airport; not counting the Budget Terminal.
Hmmm, I wonder?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A painful trip

Warning: The accompanying picture may make you squirm!

On August 10th, 2008, exactly 10 months to the day that I had my spinal operation, my bliss ended with a most unpleasant trip. This trip unfortunately brought back nothing but pain.
This wasn't a trip to anywhere. I tripped and fell, sprawled flat on my face.

First thing I did was to check that everything's OK.
No problem, up and atom.

Then five days later, the pain down my right leg was so bad that my ortho specialist had to give me a fast pass to his office. X-rays showed nothing out of place. Everything was intact. The surgery was healing well. The platinum implants were still secured but the pain was still excruciating. Maybe just a contusion, said Prof Hee, I'll give you some painkillers, see me back in six weeks time. Total damage: $85 for the x-rays, $120 for the consultation and $35 for the painkillers...see me in 6 weeks! hello?

For the next two weeks, the pain became really unbearable. I simply couldn't get out of bed without pain shooting down the length of my leg. But the strange thing with this daily morning ritual was that once I managed to get up and about, the pain slowly diminished and after an hour or so, I was able to walk almost normally.

Finally, on the advise or more like threats from the missus, I decided to seek adjuvant treatment. This was to the neighbourhood sinseh for acupuncture! This young China trained practitioner, Dr TK Neo, at Bukit Batok Funan TCM had treated me last year before my surgery.

Four days after the acupuncture treatment, the pain was completely gone! I just couldn't believe it myself but I was so relieved.
Went for a second session today just to touch all bases.
And the cost? just $20! Take that NUH!

This is a picture of me undergoing acupuncture today. It's not a pretty picture (see the big tummy?). Total of 17 needles. Six on the legs, one each on the head and hand, and the rest on the tummy! ouch!!

Argghhh!!! that's really me! Ouch Ouch Ouch!

By the way, here's something really funny to watch......
It's in Teochew even.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

I'll drink to that !

For years, the accepted view on drinking whilst in flight has been that you will get drunk more easily due to the high altitude, cabin pressure, changing time zones , etc.
Well, all that's been debunked now with the studies conducted by the Federal Aviation Administration and reported by The New York Times, Sept 1st, 2008 (click here for the article)

In that study, researchers tested subjects in simulated high level and ground level conditions. They found NO difference in blood alcohol levels.

This means that you won't get any more lightheaded in flight than you would on the ground.

And all these years I've been holding back! Reports of dehydration, air sickness due to excessive alcohol intake must have been a ploy by the airlines to lower costs and maximise profits! hee hee.

So the next time the stewardess asks "coffee or tea", take the Dom Perignon. Afterall, it's still free and with the rising fuel costs, who knows how much longer that will last.

Just hope that the pilots didn't read the New York Times article.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Monja at the Ginza

Flashback to 1996.

You know how you sometimes get flashes of nostalgia?
I had just picked up my Japanese dictionary when out popped a photograph which I had all but forgotten about.
It was a group picture taken in 1996 at the Dai-ichi Ginza Hotel in Tokyo.
Well, this picture sure brought back some memories.

We were the official delegation sent by the Singapore government's then Trade Development Board (TDB) to showcase Singapore at the Japan Data Show, a major Japanese IT convention.

I was there to present a video conferencing system using PCs over the ISDN telephone connection. (The internet was too slow at that time to do real video conferencing)

There were 4 delegates, Raphael & Thomas (centre) and Winston (at right) accompanied by Karen Tan, the TDB officer. The gentlemen with the ribbons on their lapels were the commercial secretaries from the Singapore Embassy in Tokyo.

For most of us in the group, it was either the 1st or 2nd time in Tokyo. It was only my 2nd visit and at that time I could hardly manage more than a few simple phrases in Japanese. So imagine us trying to sell technical products in a country where the people hardly spoke English! Thank goodness we were assigned interpreters for the trade show.

The Japanese are very strict time keepers and the Data Show ended promptly each day at 5. This meant we actually had a lot of time visiting places in Tokyo after the show. One of the places we went to was the Ginza, where we had a most unusual dining experience.

Winston, who is an architect, was most interested in those pencil thin buildings all along the Ginza. Back in 1996, real estate in Ginza was priceless and every inch of space was utilised. This resulted in buildings hardly more than 15 to 20 feet across in width!

Curiosity led us up to some of these slim buildings, which we realised were not used only for offices but had boutiques, restaurants, pubs, bars, banks as well as apartments.

At one particular building, we were welcomed at the door somewhere on the 6th floor.
It turned out to be some sort of restaurant but none of us knew what kind of restaurant it was!
The staff did not speak English, none in our group of five could read the menu, there was no plastic food showcase to point at, so we all just tried our hilarious best.

Turned out that the restuarant specialised in, and served only MONJA.
What in the world is Monja??! Up to then, even we didn't know.
Monja as we slowly found out is a very fun food and should be eaten in groups.
It's the Tokyo version of Okonomiyaki ! (Get it now?). Well, sort of anyway.
Remember, this was when even okonomiyaki was still an unknown entity in Singapore, not like it is nowadays. But whereas, okonomiyaki is served more like a pizza or pancake, monjayaki certainly is not!

It's a 'what ever you wish, what ever way you want it' dish that you cook yourself on a hot plate griddle set in the table. You are given the basic ingredients, batter, fish, meat, lots of cabbage, other vegetables, and whatever else you want.
Mix it all up, pour in onto the hot plate, it let cook till a bit burnt and then using really tiny tiny spatulas cut off bits and eat straight off the griddle! A dash of mirin or soy sauce, or even mayonnaise, adds to the flavour.

There's no right or wrong way with Monjayaki. But it can be really delicious.
Best eaten with good company and beer.
Here's how it looks like.......
If you are ever in Tokyo, you must try this. Just remember to tell them you want to try real Tokyo monjayaki and not okonomiyaki which is actually from Osaka.

Ja neh.