Wednesday, 10 August 2016

NUS Orientation

This link from Straits Times 1st August refers.

Teach kids to walk away from uncomfortable activities

(Hey! I don't write the headlines)

Having just returned from a conference at an Italian university where I spent much time "getting lost", I recall my own university orientation as I mull over reports on "sexualised" orientation events at the National University of Singapore.

I had opted to join a group of "seniors" from the Varsity Christian Fellowship who were taking us around the then-new Kent Ridge campus.

Although this batch of seniors had themselves only just moved from the Bukit Timah campus, they did their homework and pointed out to us the yellow ceiling that connected the whole campus, where to find the toilets, how to use the library, where the departments for our intended majors were located, how to sign up for tutorials, and even the shuttle bus system.

For this, I am eternally grateful.

The "sexualised" orientation activities I read about are more about rituals - of rebellion - although some call these "rites of passage". The organisers have the mistaken idea that such activities would help in team-building, "spiritual bonding" or the making of fictive kin.

Those who succumb to peer pressure to "perform", no matter how humiliating the rituals, become an "insider". The "outsider" tribe is deemed squeamish and uncool.

Parents should tell their children to walk away from activities that make them feel uncomfortable for whatever reason.

Someone, somewhere (perhaps even a potential spouse) will notice that the individual is not prepared to compromise personal principles for a few minutes of "easy passage" into a community that they may not actually wish to belong to.

University is an exciting time of life to explore ideas.

The objectification of a woman's body (or man's**, for that matter), however, is never acceptable. Rape, even if only simulated and thus "institutionalised", must never be condoned.

Lee Siew Peng (Dr)

Even the beggars beg in Italian

Why should this be surprising?

Only in the context of how Italian was spoken by all (except tourists) in Milan where I had the privilege to attend a conference at a new university built on the former Pirelli factory.

On the morning before my conference started, several others and I were taken around the city on a free walking tour (google Frog Walking Tour) by a graduate of the Milan State University. He impressed on us how Italians love their language.

Everywhere I went Italian was being spoken by people who might appear to be foreigners in Milan.

At the restaurant where my new Italian professor friend took me, the owner is Italian but all his staff are ethnic Chinese. But they spoke impeccable Italian.

Around the Duomo I found several beggars: an old lady with twisted ankles and walking stick, several younger people just sleeping with signs in Italian, people selling knick-knacks for pocket money, etc. Incidentally these older ladies with twisted ankles and walking stick (and begging cup) seem to be at every Duomo I came across. (They also look remarkably alike. Clones?)

Even the beggars spoke Italian.

This is a very strange experience to me. The only time I visited a place where I understood everything that was being said was in Guangzhou where everyone spoke either Cantonese (my mother tongue) or Mandarin (which of course I learned in school). I cannot tell you how exhilarating it felt to know exactly what people around me were talking about.

I have never got that feeling in Singapore, Jakarta, Amsterdam or London, all those cities where I've worked. And the many more cities I had visited for work or pleasure.

In north-west London where I now live, I could walk past 10 people between house and station and chances are they would be speaking Gujarati, Arabic, Polish, Romanian or some other East/European language rather than English. I can feel very 'lost' linguistically in any English city.

In Singapore, due to our language policy there will almost certainly be someone speaking a different language or dialect which I won't understand.

So my recent Italian sojourn had been very interesting that way. And I suspect that should I decide to take up residence any where in Italy I will soon be speaking the language too.

In comparison:

The ridiculous situation in London re: Uber drivers and English


Sunday, 17 July 2016

JC: I will give you rest

As I write, information is emerging that the driver of the truck that mowed down and killed 84 (current death toll) in Nice was, allegedly, "not a Muslim ... was a s*** .... beat his wife ... a nasty piece of work." (Source) Maybe they are trying to distance this act from any religious motivation.

Was he 'radicalized'?

Or did some people just made him feel guilty and ashamed that he had not done according to a religion that he was supposed to adhere to?

The remedy? Do something to prove that he was worthy.

This is pure speculation on my part but again and again I read of purposeless wayward men -- not those middle-of-the-road ones who stick more or less to religious convention -- who somehow were made to feel that they have somehow 'missed the mark' and must make amends ... by becoming more religious and evangelistic.

I mourn with these, their families, those they have hurt and killed, the families of those they have maimed and killed and I can only contrast this with what Jesus said while he walked on earth:

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.
(Matt 11:28-30)
Jesus offers first of all REST.

There is a yoke and there is a burden. Jesus did not offer trouble-free and pain-less futures. Let us be clear. (Or x number of virgins, for that matter.)

But first, Jesus offers REST for our world-weary souls, souls that might have been defeated by racism, inequality, poverty and every kind of personal, social and political injustice.

After our salvation (being rescued or 'salvaged', and therefore set free, from sin) which comes about only by faith (belief) and not by any amount of 'doing good' (accumulating merit, etc because this God is gracious, not vengeful) comes the 'sanctification' (being made holy).

Nowhere in the Christian Bible does it teach those who have been thus salvaged to go massacre others of other or dubious beliefs.

So if you are afraid that people around you might become 'radicalized' (whatever that means), do yourself a favour: look out for those in despair and point them to the rest that Christ offered.

It does not matter whether you are a Christian or not. Offer them the rest that Christ offers.

Would you rather the 'weary and heavy-laden' person working next to you be given rest in Christ than be radicalized by some other set of beliefs?

It is one way of securing the peace that you need.

This morning at church I was alerted to this story of a young man who was one of the most dangerous young prisoners in the country. You can view a short version here: Shane Taylor. Or a longer version here.

He could have been radicalized in a different way. Instead he was radically changed when he found REST in Christ.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

I'm a 'qualified disabled'

I have a new physiotherapist. Long story. (See previous post on possible corruption in the NHS.)

He tells me that he used to be a case manager handling claims for ESA (Employment and Support Allowance = sickness benefit) and PIP (Personal Independence Payment = until recently disability benefit. Name changed to 'independence' to encourage people to get better).

Said he used to ask what the prospective claimant did for a living. Some of them tell them they are 'qualified disabled'.

He explained, "Some are qualified doctors. Some are qualified lawyers. These are the qualified disableds."

He explained why my physio treatment was rationed. If it is a problem with my joints, it means I could do something to make it better – through exercise – so treatment is rationed. 

Being an alcoholic, however, is a result of a "disease" that the patient cannot do anything about(!). So he/she gets all the treatment they need – as well as a tranche of  disability benefits – to get better.

In reality, those who works on ‘qualifying’ to be disabled – like those who work to qualify as doctors and lawyers – are not going to try to get better. Their goal has been to be certified ('qualified') as disabled so that they can forever draw on public resources.

He felt frustration. As a physiotherapist, he is trained to get people better. Instead, he kept meeting people who just wanted him to certify them as being ill and unable to work. He left that job to work privately.

He's an immigrant from an ex-colony and voted 'Leave'.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Why I 'sacked' my physiotherapist

I had suffered intermittent pain for several months. When the pain became more frequent and I was finding it increasingly difficult to do the things I used to be able to do, I went to see my GP.

The GP knows I don't usually kachow him unless I really needed to. I was referred immediately to physiotherapy, as I hoped.

It was several weeks later before I was called by a private physiotherapy service (APS) to make an appointment. I assumed that the NHS physiotherapy service was overwhelmed and they had to farm out services to the private sector.

Fine, so long as I am not paying for this privately. Saw the physio a month after I saw the GP.

The GP had given me the impression that I was 'entitled' to six sessions. The physio (VS) told me I had five. OK. I was not going to argue.

What was my problem? After lots of questions and testing for range of movement and muscle strength VS told me I was suffering from 'inflammation of muscle/s'. This has restricted the movement of the joint thereby causing the pain. Or maybe it's the other way around.

He demonstrated the exercises that I should do (pendulum swings, wall presses, etc) and gave me printouts on exercises to do.

I said, "Is this is?"

"O yes, physio appointments are usually 15-20 minutes."

(It takes me half an hour to get to the clinic and another half an hour to get back.)

Why then did the GP tell me to take co-codamol before appointment in anticipation of pain, I wondered, but did not say anything.

So many friends and colleagues seem to have had, or known someone who has had, frozen shoulder. I was asked repeatedly, "Is it a frozen shoulder?"

The next session I asked VS, directly, "Is it a frozen shoulder?"

He said it was not a frozen shoulder. What is it then? He refused to tell me in simple English. To paraphrase: It could be this. It could be that.

By this time I was in a lot of pain, much more than when I first started physio! Pain was constant. Sleep was difficult. My movement was getting even more restricted. Writing by hand was too painful. I could not even sign my name! I had to stop some of my voluntary work as a result. I was suffering spasms in my right hand making me fearful about driving. I was dropping and breaking stuff because I had lost so much muscle strength in my right arm.

I had three other sessions. Each time he would start by asking how I thought I was doing, was I any better followed by "Any questions?". Then he would 'test' to see how well I was doing my exercises, pointing out if I did those wrong. Each time he gave me new exercises and more printouts. I had to do Set A three times a day, Set B two times a day, and Set C once a day. You get the picture.

The last session was a bit weird.

Earlier that day, I was teaching a class of old people how to use the laptop. One student was late. I helped her to remove her polyester coat. I felt static and I jumped. That sudden jerky movement caused me to double over in pain. The rest of the class looked on in horror as I took minutes to recover. (One was a retired nurse, so I would have been OK.)

VS applied ultra-sound which was supposed to relieve me of the pain. It did not. This was the only time he performed any 'therapy' on me.

He spent much of the time at the beginning of the session talking about being 'signed off' because I had finished my fifth and last session. I could continue as a private patient paying £42 a session. I could go back to the GP to ask him to refer again. Or VS could 'change the numbers' and I could have three more sessions.

Surely 'changing the numbers' = 'creative accounting'? The taxpayer is supposed to have paid for five sessions of physio treatment. Why would this private company provide three more 'for free'?

It suggests to me that this company (APS) was mis/representing itself as providing 'five sessions' and hoped to get away with 'five sessions of 15-20 minutes' when the taxpayer is paying for 5x30 minutes (150 minutes). Unfortunately I am a stubborn patient and they have to do a little bit more. Having been seen for 5 x 18-minute sessions (on an average), I am still 'being owed' 60 minutes, equivalent to about 20 minutes each.

I opted to have another three sessions.

But I also returned to the GP as there was no real improvement. By this time I was feeling quite anxious as to what could be the cause. VS said my spasms had nothing to do with the shoulder as 'nothing' connects my shoulder to my fingers (!!). I was mystified by this statement.  He also hinted that surgery might be an option, in which case I needed an orthopaedic who specializes in upper limbs.

To cut a long story short:
(1) GP requested X-ray and referred me to a specialist (this was at the end of April).
(2) X-ray showed minimal wear-and-tear.
(3) VS gave me three additional sessions during which he actually manipulated my arm and shoulder causing some pain. The irony was I felt better for it. I was signed off again.
(4) Finally, in mid-June, saw a specialist (JK) who quickly diagnosed frozen shoulder. He would refer for more physio (hopefully not with VS's company, but he could not actually designate), ultra-sound scan and steroid jab.
(5) Returned to GP to tell him I had lost all faith in VS. Please refer to a different one, which he did.

After seeing the specialist (4, above) I was relieved but very angry. I have lived in distress and anxiety for more than four months thinking that something sinister was happening to me and that I might require complex surgery under general anaesthetic. It was merely a frozen shoulder, which would eventually unfreeze.

So I sacked VS. The specialist JK's referral for further physiotherapy resulted in my being sent back to VS's company (APS). I refused to go back. I am now paying for private physiotherapy at another private provider recommended to me by a fellow gym member.

Incidentally I could have been assigned to this new provider (PL) in the first place on the NHS under the 'choose and book scheme'. For some reason I was not given this choice. Instead I was simply told to attend APS. It caused me to wonder if there is a bit of corruption going on in that someone was sending NHS patients to a certain private practice despite it not being the one closest to where the patient lives. That 'someone' is also depriving patients the chance to 'choose and book'.

It is possible that my husband's private medical insurance might cover this new physio. Even then, there is an excess to pay. Speaking to the receptionist at the PL practice, I have confirmation that the GP practice has referred (the second time) to this same private physiotherapy service as requested. But there are -- wait for this -- 300 people on the waiting list. It would take eight to ten weeks for me to get to the top of the list if I did not have the resources to pay.

Such is the beauty of an 'all-free' NHS which our taxes have, ostensibly, already paid for.

My new physio RP is great. He causes me a lot of pain but I can see almost immediate improvement in my range of movement and for that, I can only be thankful.

Still it is going to be a long time before I can get rid of the bingo wings that have developed as a result of my not being able to exercise those muscles.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Brexit: the sequel

Update 13/07/2016:  Democracy and prosperity are closely linked

Update 30/06/2016: Concessions from France and Finland

First of all, this post refers: Owch! Should have bought Euros on 23rd June*

Referendum day last week was a very, very wet day for most of us.

Some of us struggled to the polling stations to cast our votes. Others, mainly young people, were having a great time wallowing in mud ... and either did not bother, or forgot to vote. My heart bleeds.

So, a week after, they are still out on the streets protesting the results, asking for a second referendum, etc.(O, maybe they have stopped, as it is raining again.)

No, young people, that is not how the real world works. You had one chance, just as everyone else in this country who is eligible to vote.

You took the trouble to ensure you got yourself the £228 (+ £5 booking fee) ticket to get to Glastonbury. But you were too lazy to make the arrangements to vote (by post or proxy). Tough.

You whinge about us 'old people' not caring for your future, when the exact opposite is the truth. Hopefully, in 30 years' time, when you get to my age, you will understand the personal sacrifices we (the 'old people') had to make.

Such as my shares losing value, big time, overnight. Sadly Richard Branson lost a bit more in his Virgin empire. My heart bleeds, again.

Or that the value of our properties would go down, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer so accurately predicted with his crystal ball. (In reality, no one knows.)

While some banks were losing share value as they gambled with other people's money, I was here, watching my personal nest egg haemorrhaging away. Just how much further could it fall? Some of us saw that the future of Britain was important enough to accept that we will take a personal hit.

So DON'T even dare say that I am being selfish.

Truth is, everyone was expecting volatility after the vote if 'Leave' resulted. However, as Lord Digby Jones said (paraphrased), "Hurray for the people who -- despite knowing that homes and shares might lose value -- there is something far more important than ... value of shares and homes."

There is something called 'democracy'. (See Video.)

Simple question: What IF the Remain vote has won by the same margin? What IF the Leave voters are the ones now out on the streets?

Would the Remainers not also say, 'Suck it up. You voted 'Leave'. 'Remain' won.'

While we are imagining things, let us also imagine that Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to leave, and for some inexplicable reason England and Wales voted to remain by exactly the same margins. What then?

Would England and Wales be made to leave even when England and Wales wanted to remain?

I suspect if 'Remain' had won, the 'Leave' campaigners would just accept that this was the will of the people and carried on. (It is far easier to maintain 'status quo', inertia, whatever.) Why can't the Remainers have the same grace?

This mirrors what happened in my gym. (I am diligent in going to the gym due to early-onset arthritis, just in case you are wondering.)

A few gym members have been intransigent in attending instructor-led classes when they had not booked or had been too late to book. These few people kept disrupting the classes, arguing about why they should be let into the class/pool. Eventually the gym management implemented an onerous booking system requiring booking online, collecting a physical token, submitting the token to the instructor, etc. This was all down to a few members not having the grace to accept that if the class is full, there is no room for those who have not booked. Try to remember to book the next time.

The poor staff members now have a lot more to do. Instructors continue to receive verbal abuse, etc. from these few vocal people. At least, at the gym, the management could terminate their membership. But British citizens on British streets??!!

I made one other observation: many 'Leave' supporters were reluctant to make their stand clear on social media. My one friend who did was shouted down by others. Bullied, even. Not until after the 'Leave' result did 'Leavers' 'come out of the closet' on social media to explain why they voted 'Leave'. That was how toxic and intimidating the situation had been.

Why did the bookmakers fail to pick up this trend? A simple and perhaps simplistic answer is that these 'Leavers' are not gamblers, unlike the bankers and others who are.

I am also appalled by how people were going, "What about my house in France?", "What about my holiday this summer?" and "Who is going to pay for this?", etc.

Why should I care if you own a house in Britain and another in France when lots of young people cannot afford to buy their first home? (Rather like Singapore where people own both HDB and private properties and then complain that their children cannot afford to buy their own flat.)

If, as Mr Osborne said, property prices are going to drop, those young people who previously could not afford properties are more likely to buy one now.

When the banks do move their businesses abroad, they could always take their British staff with them. If they or the EU staff now working in Britain sell up, the house prices will come down to benefit the young people.

Worse, still, are the many British nationals who live abroad most of the year and do not pay any tax. They swan back to Britain whenever they need medical attention because it is free on the NHS. (There are in fact restrictions for those who have been away for more than six months.)

What about your summer holiday? Shame on you if you jet off somewhere instead of supporting local business. Incidentally, due to the weaker sterling, lots more tourists can now be expected. hospitality businesses can look forward to more custom. Is this not good?

Who is going to pay for your EU-funded research? Actually, Britain has been paying that all this time through what they pay into EU. It just comes to you 're-badged' as EU funding. Ultimately, the funding will be returned to British students.

Incidentally, if the pound continues to slide, lots more parents outside the EU can now afford to send their children to university in Britain, not only the rich and spoilt children of Chinese and Russian oligarchs. (Uhm, the pound is rebounding.)

I've said in the previous post that this country has, for a long time, been too lazy to train their own professionals: doctors, nurses, etc.

See what has happened to English football. Labour ministers around the world, take note. Train your own precious people instead of relying on foreign talent.

Meanwhile, for the young people who insist that they want to live in the EU: The last time I checked, the EU is still open to them. They could pick any of the other 27 countries and move there before they stop this freedom of movement between Britain and the EU.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Owch! Should have bought Euros on 23rd June*

But it was raining a lot, and I was aching from a physiotherapy session.

Friday morning, checked my phone and was shocked that the 'Leave' vote was ahead of 'Remain'. Someone from Singapore Whatsapped to comment. I still thought, maybe they have got it wrong. Surely, 'Remain' were going to triumph! Surely, I thought.

I voted weeks ahead by post. I have been called an 'economically-illiterate racist'. Here's why I am an 'Outer':

Having studied south-east Asian history and Singaporean (ie foreign), the ideology of self-rule is important. The sovereignty of a nation is important.

How could a country like Britain allow itself to be subjected to the diktats of Brussels? Imagine Johore telling us how to spend our money!

Never mind that the EU is run by overpaid, unelected bureaucrats. I went to school with one. He flew into London every week to attend class. Nothing against him personally (except that he thinks Foucault is the answer to everything). It was an illustration of the waste of money that Brussels and Strasbourg expect British taxpayers to tolerate.

[Much of local and national governments departments and QUANGOS are also money-wasting agencies.]

Immigration was touted as a major issue. I have no problems with immigration. I am an immigrant myself, albeit a reluctant one.

When controls were lifted on new accession countries, my local area was suddenly flooded by what can be best described as beggars.

How does a man with no legs (only thigh stumps) sitting (standing?) on a bit of wood on castors manage to get to Britain? Had he come to Britain for work? He had clearly been shipped in here by people traffickers or gangmasters to make a living by begging.

In the short 50 yards or so that he rolled himself with hands protected by some bits of fabric or bandage on his specially-designed wooden device, at least five well-meaning Britons dropped money into his begging cup.

Freedom of movement means that the vulnerable can very easily be exploited.

The other 'evil twin' in this equation is the generous benefits system.

Most parents get more in Child Benefit alone in one week than they get for a month in whatever Eastern European country they come from. Theoretically there should be no 'welfare tourism'. In reality, lots of EU migrants come over to the UK simply because they can and claim benefits as soon as they can.

My voluntary work has led me to encounters with many such migrants who simply rock up to Britain 'because I prefer the education in Britain' and expect us to provide for them and their children.

[NB. There are different types of EU migrants: most of my EU friends work and work very hard, pay taxes, interact with Britons, buy a home here, etc. Another would do the minimum work and claim maximum in-work benefits, sending most of these back home, to build their villas. There is another group with few resources to work in this country like the man on wheels described above. There are possibly other types.]

It is possible that I deal with the worst of the economic migrants and welfare tourists. With every additional one of these, the British public becomes less willing and able to deal with the genuine asylum seeker.

If the benefits system were scrapped tomorrow, I might have voted 'Remain'. Why are there thousands camping in Calais trying to get to Britain. France is a safe country. Why do they not seek asylum there?

If migrants want to come to Britain despite not getting any social benefits, then they are very welcome.

There is another effect of this mass legal and illegal in-migration: complacency and laziness.

Why invest in nurse/doctor/other professional training when we can easily import EU citizens?

Indeed why invest in education at all when we can depend on eager EU migrants to staff farms, cafes, restaurants, factories, care homes, supermarkets, bus companies, etc?

Meanwhile, thousands of Britons are left to rot on the welfare system as they cry, "No jobs, there are no jobs."

If there are no jobs, there will not be such high in-migration from the EU.

So which is true? There are jobs or there are no jobs. They appear to be mutually-exclusive conditions to me.

For so long as we remain in the EU, corporations and government will not bother to think where they could draw literate and diligent labour from. If these supply lines are cut, there is a chance that there will be a re-think of how we teach our children.

Better still, scrap the welfare system, so that children will aspire to be successful in something when they grow up. It is heart-breaking for me to see how in a country where everyone gets free education and health care, there are families who have spent generations on the dole.

This cannot be right. Our generous welfare leads to a poverty of the soul. Hence the obesity and mental illness.

Another classmate noted 'we shouldn't have come to this', and she is right. The intransigence of Brussels has led to the referendum. If they had been more amicable in renegotiation, then the result might have been different.

But the EU bureaucracy has grown so cumbersome. It has, like many organization with good intentions, suffered mission creep. Not being accountable to the people who fund them (they are unelected), there is no way we can keep them in check.

Perhaps Brexit will make Brussels think again about their mission goals.

Meanwhile, 'self-rule'!

Sadly Britain does not seem to know what to do at the moment.

I try to imagine how our forefathers felt as we cut our umbilical cord from our colonizers. Not just in Singapore, but elsewhere in the world. It will be great if more Britons could feel a little more like that.

Video: Former (economically illiterate?) director of the CBI, and business minister, Lord Digby Jones tells BBC Breakfast that the UK has a "golden opportunity"

Me, economically-illiterate? I am probably guilty as charged. But it goes against every fibre of my body to think that a nation like Britain is not able to thrive on its own again. Interestingly, some of my 'settler' friends from other ex-colonies think like me.

This is an opportunity for Britain to reform so much of its social infrastructure that is so wrong, and in so many other areas of public life.

There are many of us who are keen to work with you on that. We can put the 'Great' back in Great Britain.

Update: 27th June 2016 -- Way forward? A cross-party group to work on exit, taking into view the opinions of cross-section of electorate, including those who voted remain.

Update 2: 27th June 2016 -- businesses threatening to leave. Like the rich individuals who threatened to leave if a particular party comes to power, only people with the power and money can afford to leave. Just as many 'refugees' in this country are the richest and most powerful from where they originate. Those without the resources are left behind. Just as many Britons do not have the wherewithal to do that. Leaving is not an option. Threatening to leave shows these agencies do not understand the plight of the common people.

Update 3: 27th June 2016 -- There is one downside to this result: that of racism rearing its head and possibly extreme right-wing activists who have mistaken a vote to leave the EU for a right to abuse those who look foreign. This is tragic.

*It was fascinating to hear how some Britons were only concerned about the value of their holiday money, European football and whether we could still compete in Eurovision.