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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

2017 SA2 Results





This one did badly at SA1 too.











This child is one of the few who are dyslexic.


This one topped the cohort. She is writing short stories for me.

When this one started, I thought she CMI (cannot make it). She had such an awful attitude to work.






Friday, November 3, 2017

Hyatt VS Shangri-La, Singapore

The Waterfall Cafe made me a special gluten free dessert.

In February this year, a friend and I went to 10 Scotts at The Grand Hyatt Singapore, where I experienced gluten poisoning. We had asked for gluten free bread but (1) when we tested it with the NIMA, there was gluten and (2) by the time we tested, I had already eaten a fair bit, so I had diarrheoa.

The hotel refunded us the money for the meal. Someone called and apologised nicely. The poor chef who was put in charge of providing us gluten free options had done his best. He could not know that the gluten free bread that The Hyatt hotel had bought from a 3rd party supplier had gluten. He also told us that the gluten free bread was heated up in the same oven as normal bread. This can result in cross-contamination.

Frankly, for celiacs, cross-contamination can be very serious. Celiacs experience a wide range of symptoms in reaction to even tiny powder flecks of gluten. Some are as mild as rashes. Others break out in boils on the scalp, experience thyroid malfunction, become suicidal, have diarrhoea and develop muscle ache.

A 5 star hotel needs to be more responsible than this when placing a dish on the table, calling it gluten free.

I did not want to make a big fuss so when Customer Service called. I praised the chef for his efforts and requested that somebody get back to me about their investigation into why their gluten free bread contained gluten. Oh well... nobody did ever get back to me. I guess they were not sincere about offering gluten free options. Once they knew that I was not angry, they stopped worrying.

I guess it really is up to the hotel to decide whether the dollars from the gluten free crowd is worth their effort. It is, after all, a business decision. I mean, I don't expect businessmen to care about whether their food harms me or not.

Then, I experienced The Shangri-La. The Shangri-La in Sentosa had an entire breakfast section that was gluten free. The morning buffet had allergen labels clearly marking each dish - dairy, nuts, gluten. Every single waiter was trained and knew what to do when told that I am celiac. The Head Chef explained to me the kitchen processes he had instituted to prevent cross-contamination. I was not just impressed. I was overjoyed. The hotel really cared! I did not expect them to, but they did! I was used to starving in places full of good food that I cannot eat. So, I was overjoyed.

The Shangri-La Sentosa's Singaporean Head Waiter told me that he had worked all over Europe, and was very familiar with allergen serving processes. I then discovered The Waterfall Cafe in Shangri-La, Orange Grove Rd. You can see that The Waterfall Cafe is SERIOUS about gluten cross contamination. Unlike the Hyatt Hotel, The Shangri-La has professional kitchen processes that go beyond any individual chef. You can tell from the small things such as the one below.

The gluten free desserts are on the very top shelf. This means that crumbs from the other gluten-full desserts will not drop onto a gluten free dessert.


I eat at the Shangri-La once, sometimes twice, a week. On weekends, I bring my whole family there  for gluten free pasta. When I go out with friends, we always go there too. My friends are kind enough to let me choose where I can eat safely. If only 1 person in a group of 10 is an allergy sufferer, it is often that allergy sufferer who will pick a venue for meals. At least, that has been my experience.

Needless to say, I am disappointed that The Grand Hyatt, Singapore never got back to me on their investigation. I don't think they even cared to investigate nor put in allergen friendly kitchen processes, after my experience. I am sad too because I don't dare to ever eat in any one of The Grand Hyatt, Singapore's restaurants again.

I am also sad because whilst I have every confidence that every one and any one of the Shangri-La Hotels internationally are allergen friendly, I am not sure of The Hyatt... even The Grand Hyatts. I had wanted to book a stay at The Grand Hyatt in Bali, Nusa Dua. I waited and waited for The Grand Hyatt, Singapore to get back to me on my experience of gluten poisoning. They never did. So, I never booked their hotel in Bali.

I was also waiting for an update from the Hyatt Hotel so that I could update on the local celiac FB group (with 1,434 members in Singapore alone and visiting celiac members who join because they are heading into Singapore for their holidays, and need to know where it is safe to eat). Celiacs know they have few places to eat safely. So, when someone posts that a place is safe, ALL OF US make a trip down.

Similarly, when 1 person gets gluten-poisoned, NO ONE else dares to go to that same place anymore. No one wants to break out in boils after a meal.

If all 1,434 members in that FB group have 4 family members who, even though, not celiac, must eat at celiac safe places, that is a total of 5,736 paxes lost to the The Grand Hyatt's restaurants. Occasionally, the Waterfall Cafe at lunch, is fully booked because of corporate bookings. 2 people in that group had food allergies. As a result, all 25 people had to book the Waterfall Cafe.

Then again, this is perhaps too small a market for The Hyatt to worry about. So, thank heavens we have the Shangri-La.



Friday, October 27, 2017

Cashew Cream Cheese and Cashew Cream Sauce



Vegan cashew cream sauce on gluten free gnocchi.

Cashew cream on buckwheat crackers.

Thanks to going 90% vegetarian, my LDL-C (bad cholesterol) dropped from 5.66 mmol/L to 4.26 mmol/L in 3 months. My HDL-C (good cholesterol) dropped from 1.36 to 1.19.

I decided to explore dairy free alternatives too. After all, I learn more as a cook and if plant-based creaminess can be achieved, why not? So, I experimented with cashew cheese. It is mind-blowingly good! Melted into a sauce for pasta, it really gives normal carbonara sauce a good bang for the buck, minus the animal fat.

HERE is the recipe.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Petunia's Wildlife Rescued/Cooked

We have a small patch of jungle nearby where birds roost and monitor lizards hide. In the past 6 months, there have been building works in there. The animals are all hiding in my house. We found a baby monitor lizard running around frantically in the middle of our living room floor, launching itself desperately at the full length glass doors. ACRES came and let it loose in the small patch of jungle near our house. The day after, it promptly came back.

Zebra doves like to fly into the house looking for a place to build nests and roost. They also like to forage in my garden for seeds, leaves and insects. Milo had killed one before. Last night, he killed another in the garden. Our Myanmarese helper made zebra dove soup (carrots, tomato, onions, ginger and turmeric).

Baby water monitor lizard.

Zebra dove soup in the thermal pot.

Zebra dove plated and served. Do I dare to eat it? Should I eat it?




Monday, October 23, 2017

The Farting Drunk

When most children reach Primary 4, they develop some sense of decorum. Not this one. He farted loudly in class one day, which melted all the other children into giggles. Apparently, he enjoyed being able to make his friends laugh so the week after, he farted and farted and farted in class.

Loudly farting with great aplomb is such a socially unacceptable behaviour that the other children laughed embarrassedly, and my facilitator was at a loss how to address the issue with the child. After all, some people are naturally gassy and they cannot help it. Besides, everyone farts right? How do you scold a child who has bad digestion? He cannot help it, can he?

It got to a point where the child was doing it on purpose. He enjoyed being the centre of attention. He was starting to irritate his friends with his loud anal explosions. It took some firm counselling to put it across to the child that Dr. Pet's classes are not communal toilets à la ancient romans. The old convivial practice where upstanding Roman Senators would adjourn to the communal toilet, seat themselves nicely and discuss important political decisions to the accompaniment of loud bodily exertions from the other end died with the ancient Romans. Thankfully so. Else, I imagine that I might be conducting class with students on potties in order to socialise them into the practice of making important decisions whilst shitting together.

Lesson learnt. Problem solved. The child in question learnt that loud melodious farting worthy of the best operatic traditions was to be done in private and preferably in the toilet, or somewhere outside where there are strong monsoon winds.

I sighed with pride. I had taught a little boy good manners. From fart-itesse to politesse, as it were. I sighed too soon.

I arrived in class to the sight of the child's beatific smile. He looked very happy. He swayed from side to side. Then, he pointed an unsteady finger at me and grinned joyfully, saying, "Dr. Pet, you are like gollum today." I wasn't quite sure how to respond and what was wrong with this child. I looked at him and then left the room.

As class progressed, his exuberance irritated his classmates. He kept telling one that she was wrong. When the facilitator confirmed the answers, he pointed a finger at her and said, "I told you so!" When he got a difficult question right, he punched the air with a loud "Yes!" This prompted another very irritated child to say, "Ok! Now you can apply for a President's Scholarship."

I was mystified by what I saw on the CCTV. He looked drunk and immensely jolly.

It turned out that he was, in fact, drunk. He had taken dragonfruit enzyme just before class and gotten a nice shot of alcohol into his system, which relaxed all his inhibitions. As such, he went from politesse to simple pest.

Moral of the story: Do not feed your children alcohol before class.


Friday, October 20, 2017

Desmond Kuek Should Resign?


Somebody sent me the above picture. At first, I laughed. It was such an ingenious piece of art. Then, I became sad.

Wreckage at the Bottom of Ocean
If truth be told, Desmond Kuek is not capsizing a healthy ship. Desmond Kuek took charge of the SMRT ship at a time when the SMRT ship was already at the bottom of the ocean. He has spent the last 5 years raising it from the depths. We all know that raising a ship from the depths is an exercise fraught with danger. Lui Tuck Yew's political career died in that process.

Khaw Boon Wan saw his friend Lui Tuck Yew's career go down into the depths of the ocean. Yet, Khaw bravely took on the Ministry of Transport. Surely he must know it is political suicide? At the time Khaw took the helm at the Ministry of Transport, the SMRT ship was halfway resurrected from the depths. Under Khaw's watch, 2 men died on the tracks and a flood overwhelmed the system. This did not happen on the watch of the Naughty Saw Phaik Hua and whomever the forgettable-did-nothing-to-prevent-problem Minister was at that time. It happened on the watch of a man (Khaw) who dove in to raise the ship from the depths.

Why?

Really, if you leave the SMRT wreckage sitting at the bottom of the ocean, nothing will go wrong.

At most, there is no SMRT ship lohhhh... then, people will walk, cycle, drive to work lohhhh... They have to go to work mah... They will find a way. Just leave the SMRT ship to rot quietly, its decks colonised by fish and coral. Why not? The SMRT railway tracks can be turned into cycling paths. Its tunnels can be used as storage or underground homes. Imagine living in an underground bunker home surrounded by a gigantic fish tank on all sides. You look out your windows and see blue water and fish. Fully private and so exclusive!

However, when a ship is halfway up towards the ocean surface, that is when things can go wrong spectacularly. Things have. Men have died... a flood and pregnant women walked on train tracks in deep, dark, dank tunnels. All that was laid at the door of one poor man - Desmond Kuek. If he had stayed a Permanent Secretary, he would today, still have his stellar reputation as a committed and loyal government servant. He can hold his head high in front of his children, wife and relatives.

He took on the challenge of raising the SMRT ship from the depths. As a result, his name has been dragged through the mud. His reputation is in tatters. He will be remembered in history as a spectacular overpaid FAILURE.

The whole world clamours for his resignation. The whole world wants to see him bow. Frankly, I find this bowing business super ridiculous. How many of you, when you make mistakes at work, need to bow to your boss? You lost a deal. You bowed to your boss? You sent out a wrong email. You also bowed? Why not prostrate yourself too? They do it in Japan, you know. Are you Japanese?

We forget that Rescue Missions are those most fraught with danger. If you don't rescue, nothing will go wrong. If you choose to rescue, anything can go wrong.

Desmond Kuek's Hard Work, Another's Glory
Believe you me. The next person who takes the helm of the SMRT is one lucky person. He/she will have glory poured on him/her that rightly belongs to Desmond Kuek. This is because in the past 5 years, Desmond Kuek has worked hard and well. The ship is almost reaching the surface. You cannot tell? Nobody has been paying attention to reports on how many kms of sleepers have been replaced, how much of the 3rd rail has been replaced, how much of the signaling system has been renewed? Whomever replaces Desmond Kuek merely is in the right place, at the right time.

Retrench or Re-educate
I saw people complain that American CEOs have 9 months to change the culture of a company. Ahhhh... but consider this. American MNCs are notorious for retrenching people. It is easy to change a culture when you choose to hire and fire. When Desmond Kuek first replaced SMRT Senior Management with people he thought had the right attitude, the whole world excoriated him. Look now at the abuse heaped upon Ng Yat Chung because of the SPH retrenchments. If cannot retrench, the only way to change a culture from sloppy to high performance, is to re-educate sloppy people.

It is very hard to do that. I know this from experience.

Parents entrust me their children to teach. Necessarily, their children imbibe their parents' values. In some families, people are just sloppy. Everything is sloppy except their clothes. For some reason, they always dress well. The parents are sloppy and the children are sloppy too. When these children do HW for me, they are sloppy. Week after week, HW comes in without full stops and in incomplete sentences. In cases where the parents share my values, I can change the child. In cases where the parents do not share my values, I can do nothing but refuse to teach the child.

It is close to impossible to change a sloppy adult.

So, Desmond Kuek cannot retrench staff BUT he must miraculously change the company culture from ultra sloppy to ultra high performing, via re-education in just 9 months. If you can do it then why aren't you the CEO of an American MNC? If you can't, then why abuse Desmond Kuek?

For those of you who think that Desmond Kuek should have retrenched people so that you can get to work on time, think a bit about the lives of those who work in SMRT - the old technicians, the old managers, the old station staff. They all have dependents - children, wives and parents. In some cases, they are the sole breadwinners. In the wider scheme of things, does getting to work on time measure up to the intensity of pain each of these old timers (and their families) will go through if retrenching was done so that Desmond Kuek would have a shortcut to glory? Is it not better to re-educate, and only get rid of those who stubbornly refuse to change?

Re-education takes time.

Bullies! Bullies! Bullies!
People, it is nothing short of BULLYING that we are doing. We are bullying men who put their entire lives' STERLING REPUTATIONS in jeopardy (eyes wide shut) to help resuscitate the SMRT wreckage lying at the bottom of the ocean. We are bullying men with lifetimes of sterling public service. Khaw turned around MoH and MND. He is the reason why I can walk into Khoo Teck Puat Hospital and receive a quality of healthcare that people in England envy. When I visit my public healthcare oncologist, the waiting room has apples. In many public hospitals around the world, the waiting room has mould. Yet, it looks likely that Khaw too is headed towards an early political death. Khaw will be remembered as a failure too.

The person who made the picture above is a gifted artist. Why not use your gifting to uplift and encourage instead of bully?

I think people are such hypocrites. When Lui Tuck Yew left politics, people lamented - the same people who abused him whilst he was in office were suddenly full of kindness and compassion. So now what? You wanna chase away Khaw Boon Wan and Desmond Kuek too, so that you can show more hypocritical kindness and compassion? Wouldn't a change in leadership jeopardise the SMRT recovery at a time when the ship is so close to surfacing as would triply benefit from a steady hand?

For the Record
Whatever the public record states about these 2 men, I want to leave a trace on the internet that celebrates both men as Lions among men, and modern day Heroes. We are blessed to have such men among us, not that we deserve them.







Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Gluten Free Onsen Eggs Benedict

Since it is close to impossible to get gluten free eggs benedict, we decided to have an Outside Breakfast at home. I put in extra effort to make a pretty display.