Thursday, October 30, 2008

This is your TTC operator speaking...

"We will begin moving again momentarily. I just need to scratch myself.......... okay!

No I'm just kidding - there is a train in front of us that needs some work so there is a bit of a backlog. We'll be moving along again now. Thank you, and have a nice evening."

True story.

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The Sound of Laughter

A friend of mine was lamenting that they had been teased about the way they laugh. Apparently, the said friend was told that when they laugh they actually say "ha ha ha."

Now I have heard this person laugh, and I can see where this observation is coming from. However, their laughter is no less normal than that of any other person. The reason we write out laughter as "ha ha ha" or "hee hee hee" is because these are approximations of the sound that most people make when they laugh.

It's true! In fact, I paid special attention to the laughter of random strangers today, and all of them made a distinguishable "hah hah", "heh heh", or "huh huh" sound (depending on the natural pitch of their voice).

So does my friend make a "ha ha ha" sound when they laugh? Yes. Is that normal? I think so.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

September bites back

I finally remembered to take my September MetroPass out of my wallet! Let me explain why this is important. You see, I stash my MetroPass in a pocket of my wallet behind a whole bunch of cards. It is always the last card, so I slide it out easily, and slide it back in easily. Last week, there were not one, but two occassions where I had accidentally pushed my October MetroPass back into my wallet in the middle of my stack of cards instead of at the back, leading me to pull out the next card (my September MetroPass). This of course led to some confusion as I tried to cross through the turnstile, which, much to my chagrin, would not let me through. Frustration only mounted further as I swiped a few more times, much to the annoyance of the ever growing line behind me...

Well despite all that, I still forgot to take my September MetroPass out of my wallet. It was today's third incident that truly made it unforgettable. Usually in the morning, the TTC open up a locked door at Finch and have an attendant sit by it with a dropbox so that people can more efficiently stream into the station during rush hour. Despite this, there is usually quite a line up to get in. Beside the attendant is an Automatic Entrance that only takes tokens and MetroPasses. Opting to pass around the line, I went for the Automatic Entrance, swiped my card, walked in and... KAPOW! Face to glass. Yes, I'm sure people aplenty must have seen that one. I gingerly pulled out the stack of cards from my wallet, pulled out the October MetroPass, and slid through again, this time without damaging my face.

So yes, I finally removed that pesky September MetroPass from my wallet today. But go figure, November starts in 3 days.

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Today Mello and I finished our final Community Health visit to individual patients. We will present on it next week and then begin our second block of visits, which is to community schools. After finishing up our interview, we decided to go grab a snack together with Mello's boyfriend, "Lucky", who met up with us in the area.

We picked a restaruant called "Keung's Delight" near the T&T SuperMarket at Warden and Steeles. It was in time to catch their "High-Tea Special" running from 3 to 5:30. I was infinitely amused by their menu. Take a look:

[#1] "Pig blood jello with vegetable". I'm sure this is a legitimate dish... but seriously, it sounds really bad in English. Although I guess with my semi-Westernized sensibilities, it may not sound much better in Chinese.

[#2] "Tasty Jello Fish". I wonder if it's made with the pig blood jello? Obviously, they meant jellyfish. I love jellyfish. However, when I declared this, Mello assured me that they did not in fact mean jellyfish. Since Lucky and Mello can read Chinese, and I cannot, I deferred to their judgement - even though Mello did not know that jellyfish are not actual fish. But when I went home, I passed this photo by my parents, and blurry as it is they were one-hundred pecent clear: this is jellyfish. I love jellyfish. And love knows.

[#3] "Pig' stomached in special style". Stomaching is a brand new cooking technique for a whole variety of animals whose names end in apostrophes. It's a very hype culinary delight.

This is what we actually ended up ordering. Lucky assured me that I would be "fascinated." Fascinated, to me, means blogworthy... so I couldn't pass up the opportunity. It looks like fried tofu, but in fact it is deep fried milk with sugar. How do you deep fry milk? I'm not entirely sure... Lucky said it involved adding gelatin to milk and then freezing the combination. I think adding gelatin sounds an awful lot like cheating (and false advertising). I mean, we don't call Jell-O "deep fried food colouring", do we? In any case, it was plenty tasty, which was enough to appease my criticisms.

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Final thoughts

For those of you who might have missed it, the title to yesterday's post was a reference to the 1968 science fiction novel "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" by Philip K. Dick. I've never read it, but I was always fascinated by the title.

Secondly, I've noticed an increase in the number of people posting comments anonymously. While I'm thrilled to get any comments (anonymous or not), it would be even more awesome if you could fill in a name. You don't need an account and can fill in any name that you like. Fascinated by this, my friend who had previously posted a comment as "haha" exclaimed, "But then you could use a different name every time!" "Yes, that's correct," I replied.

"So you could use like 'ha ha' one time... and then next time you could be like... 'ha ha HA'"

Well yes, you could... if that's really what you want.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Do doctors dream of prosected sheep?

Didactic, I think, would be the word of the day. Today we finished our lecture series on anatomy of the Head & Neck. Having completed the associated dissections yesterday, our lab periods for the day were filled with a very drawn out set of tutorials. That meant two hours of lectures, and five hours of tutorial (with our day cut one hour shorter than usual).


Let me tell you a bit about my tutorials. Our lab instructor is an aged Oriental man, and former surgeon, by the name of Ming. As a result, our lab group has the nickname "Ming Dynasty." His dissection is so fast and incredible that it makes the rest of us look like children fetuses by compare. His knowledge is vast, and he certainly takes every opportunity to teach us (old school, via chalk board and overheads). In fact, he's a rather amazing artist, and puts together these rather incredible and impromptu anatomy teaching diagrams on the chalkboard. To top it off, he has a very warm and caring demeanour as well as a rather quirky and amicable sense of humour. In fact, he's kind of cute in that way that elderly people can be in almost a regression to an aura of childhood innocence and charm.

This all sounds pretty good, so I admit with a little bit of guilt that I fequently have difficulty staying awake once he begins to talk. There are a number of reasons for this. First of all, the classrooms in the Medical Sciences Building are gross. They have that windowless, crammed, yellow-lit, concrete sterility that is all too common among Cold War era architechture. Just sitting in our tutorial room for a long time makes my head kind of swell up in agony.

Second of all, Ming likes to talk. His English is heavily accented and slow, and he teaches in kind of a circular motion - once through, twice through, thrice through. In tutorials where there are fixed number of questions to answer, there is a blitz to the end in the final few minutes because Ming can spend an hour piecing together the answer for a single question for us, when four or five more questions are waiting. In a way, he's kind of like Stephane Dion. Smart. Amicable. We love him, but sometimes it's just hard to listen to him speak for hours at a time.

So yes, I was nodding off today. Something that has come to the forefront of my attention recently is how warped my sense of reality becomes when I am nodding off. The first time I expressed this in verbal terms was to my friend "Zo" sometime last week. We had the lab period off, so we headed over to the library to study. But in my state of chronic sleep debt, I found my mind gradually drifing off as I sat in my chair. As I snapped back to reality, I had a little sense of what my dreamy state had been before coming to attention.

I tried to describe this feeling to Zo, but I found myself struggling for words. While I had a general sense of this quasi-attentive state, I had no solid examples. This makes sense, because as you fall asleep you start to dream; but if you violently interrupt that progression, your mind is left dazed, and the components of that dream are left completely shattered.

Since then, I have been trying actively to retain pieces of my semi-dream state from when I am nodding off in lecture (or, in this case, tutorial). Essentially what happens is that reality merges with reality to become fiction. I have the material that I am learning in my mind, and then my mind drifts tangentially off topic. Often what happens is a humanization of the learning material, as anatomical parts begin to take on the characteristics of people or even organizations.

Let me give you an example from today. Ming was heartily describing the innervation of the face. One of the major nerves of the face is Cranial Nerve VII, the Facial Nerve. The Facial Nerve does a big job innervating virtually all the muscles of facial expression. As Ming was wrapping up his talk on the Facial Nerve, he described a very small branch that was given off at the bottom, the Chorda Tympani, which innervates the submandibular salivary glands (just under your skull, in front of your neck). As I was already drifting off at this point, I had started thinking of the regions of the face as having human feelings... so in my mind the submandibular glands were like a very tiny region of the world (think Blind River, Ontario... a town so tiny that you are unlikely to know where it is unless you live there). It's unlikely to get what it needs, except for this big important nerve (like a rock star) taking an interest in it, and sending over some of its attention. As I popped back into consciousness, I thought to myself, "Wait a minute... this doesn't make sense at all."

I quickly scribbed this down as blogworthy material (that I was already rapidly forgetting) onto my hand: "VII - Big nerve takes pity on local region"

Sounds like a headline in the morning news. And so, as I drift in an out of consciousness during lectures, I often find strange intersections of realities to generate fantasy. Like most dreams, they don't quite make sense when put under scrutiny. In fact, in my quest to pin down a solid example of these quasi-dreams, I have sometimes tried to piece my thoughts back together, only to find that the items I was trying to remember were based on ideas that were also dreamed up... and at that point the trail went cold (the dream had been too completely lost to my unconsious to put it back together). I call them quasi-dreams because I'm never quite fully asleep, it is a cyclic state of concentration and de-concentration as I try to stay awake.

So what else happened while I was nodding off? Well I forgot the tutorial package today, so I was peeking off Yuffie's notes.

Andy: What happened to part h)?
Yuffie: Huh?
Andy: Did we already do h)?
Yuffie: We're on part g). g) is after f)...
Andy: f)... g)... h)... oh yeah...
Yuffie: You should write that on your blog.
Andy: No no... it'll make me look too stupid.

In the end, I thought it was amusing enough to post. Besides, it's only fair, since I post other people's funny stories like this one and that one.

One last one: On our way out of class, someone asked another friend if they had seen my blog. He paused, and then turned to me to say:

"You have a blog? I hate bloggers! ...No offense."

Ouch...

Monday, October 27, 2008

The mind is willing, but the flesh is weak

Today I had my Embryology exam. It was in the University of Toronto's new examination building (the old... school board building, or some such thing), and they instructed us to arrive 20 minutes early. This meant that I had to get up at 5:30 AM, half an hour earlier than usual. This is what the world looked like when I arrived downtown - I felt like I was getting up in the middle of the night to catch a plane.

The exam itself pulled no punches. It was not easy, but it was of the expected difficulty level. At one point during the exam I flagged the professor down to ask a question. Before I had even said a word he interrupted, "Sorry, I can't answer that." "What?" I barely managed to squeak out. He took control of my paper and flipped to the first page where it said, "No questions will be answered during the exam." "Oh," I replied gingerly.

When it came time to hand in the exam, I saw people trying to hand in both the exam paper and the Scantron answer sheet (standard procedure), only to have the proctors inform them that they could actually keep the exam paper. I wracked my brain to think if I could remember any other exam where I had been allowed to do this, and while I was fairly certain I could recall at least one, I couldn't quite remember when. Of course, actually having the exam paper in hand, I couldn't help but compare answers with a few of my friends after getting out. Some of them were not so eager to open that particular can of worms, but even the ones who didn't want to participate eventually caved after watching the rest of us compare.

As it turns out, the answers to the exam were posted on the bulletin board by the time our final dissection period was over. During our last lecture of the day our professor proudly declared that, "the exams are all marked" and then proceeded to show us a graph of the distribution, which was surprisingly high. Having now been assured of my mark, I can really stop thinking about Embryology now and relax for a moment before switching gears to Gross Anatomy again. The exam was a total data dump. Unload then purge. I had studied Embryology so intently for all of Saturday and Sunday that by the time I went to bed last night I felt like I genuinely was breathing Embryo.

The tricky part about getting through today has really been health. I'm still sick... and in fact, I think that while my immune system has been busy fighting the battle in my throat, the resilient little buggers have moved on to my airways. As a result, yesterday and this morning I had an uncontrollable and often involuntary cough. Luckily this morning I finally caved and took an Advil Cold & Sinus. I was loathe to take it because I vaguely recall my fourth year Pharmacology professor telling us that most of those over-the-counter cold medications don't work. But I swear, either my immune system kicked into high gear or that little pill is a miracle worker, because I felt surprisingly better after taking it.

Still, I was rather irritable for the whole day. My head was hurting, especially after hanging out in the lounge where there was a bake sale going on - it was destructively loud in there. My throat has also been hurting for almost the last week... and there's only so long you can deal with that before getting a little cranky. But the worst I really do think is the smell. You know that weird smell you get in your nostrils when you're sick? I don't know if it's cells dying or just a artifact of your nerves under attack... but it is killing me.

I think I didn't really look that worse for wear though, since people didn't really seem to think I was actually that sick. I found myself at the butt of a lot of jokes, which usually I would have jabbed back at, but today I was just kind of dead weight.

A lot of my class is out partying tonight, and listening to Orbital Groove, the Meds band. But I really kind of felt too lousy to be out today. I was itching to go home even while classes were still going on. But don't worry, I'll party with the new episode of Heroes (and My Own Worst Enemy, which airs afterwards).

I also spent a few hours tweaking the website, so pretty much all the minor layout errors that I never got around to fixing are fixed. Hooray!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Where attention meets deficit


Get your own playlist at snapdrive.net!

So we're coming down the the wire here. Sunday afternoon before a major exam tomorrow morning at 8 AM? There's not much time left to make this work.

Still, I can't help but pause and ponder. Actually I pause and ponder quite a lot, and that's really the problem. When crunch comes to crunch, I usually can bunker down and study pretty well hours upon hours. But that doesn't stop my attention from wandering (or my brain from swelling up from the attempt of absorbing so much information). Often I'll do a very small amount of work and feel the need to take a break (to browse, to eat, to listen to music... to blog).

This is a problem for a number of reasons. First of all, I do believe that breaks are important. But a large number of micro-breaks not only pushes irrelevant information into your head while you are trying to study, but also fragments your attention from the task at hand. That is, it takes a certain amount of time to concentrate on studying, and the more frequently breaks are taken, the more time I waste getting "back into the zone." Secondly, breaks often take longer than I expect them to. This is especially true with music, because songs last between 3-5 minutes each... and because I'm so absolutely in love with music I usually feel compelled after the first song has ended to listen to another one (and browse in the meantime) and another. So we can see where a large amount of time could be lost if I, say, listened to a whole album that way.

But in the end, these are all kind of excuses. They're true - to be certain: I do waste a lot of time listening to music for that very reason, and in fact I do procrastinate far too much (often because there's so much material that it seems so overwhelming to jump in, which of course makes it only more damning when I finally do). However, when the pressure's on there's no choice but to apply that extra level of concentration - that mental power to drag your body away from the distraction it's moving toward and back toward the desk. But what an effort...

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So I had planned, in the absence of any amusing photographs, to share with you guys one of the songs off the album I've been listening to lately (the Macross Frontier anime soundtrack), which has been distracting me so well.

This actually proved to be a lot of work. You see I use Norton Internet Security to keep my computer squeaky clean, and it has a neat new feature whereby it reviews just about every website under the sun, and flags them as safe or unsafe. This, understandably, gives me a great sense of security. However, every once in awhile, Norton gets a little overzealous.

For instance, it once blocked my website because it was hosted under Sympatico. Someone else had posted something evil on their Sympatico website, and so Norton blocked Sympatico totally. This I complained about, and it was fixed in about a day. Similarly, someone clearly had hosted some kind of viral document on their Snapdrive account, and so Norton blocked the whole website. This was inconvenient for me, because I had to access the website with Norton giving me this big yellow warning screen everytime I navigated to a new page.

The point is, I got the song up, and I hope you appreciate the effort... although I know most of you probably don't click the music anyways.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Heroes of Fan Expo

I was recently distracted from my frantic Embryology study by my friend who was gushing about the promo for Heroes Season 3, Episode 7 (which will air Monday). Intrigued, I went in search of the said promo.

My first stop was the website for NBC, the network which carries the show in the United States. They did in fact have the promo, but were lame enough to block Canadian viewers from accessing it. I subsequently went to the Global website, which is the network which carries the show in Canada. I couldn't find the promo there at all, but what I did find was an even more interesting video.

Earlier this year, my friend Sydney and I went to the 2008 Fan Expo convention. At that convention, Global had set up a booth where you could stand in front of a camera and tell them what kind of superpower you would want to have if you were a hero. Syd and I passed on that, but plenty of people did not. Now a few of those people are featured on the Global website.

One of those featured people was a particularly noticeable attendee of the convention, dressed up as Marvel Comics' Namor the Submariner. Virtually every guest star at the convention picked him out of the crowd. Kate Mulgrew paused her Q&A session to point out, "Wait a minute, that man is naked!" and then paused for another minute to take it all in. Michael Rosenbaum constantly teased Namor by calling him "Naked Spock."

I had actually met this guy, because he happened to be a friend of someone I had met in one of Fan Expo's innumerable line-ups. He was a pretty nice fellow, but I have to admit, he wasn't the most pleasant smelling. In fact, I sat beside him during one of the Q&A sessions, and I rather wish I hadn't.

In any case, when I saw him in a video on the website of a major television network, my first reaction was, "Hey, it's that guy!" followed by, "Hey, I met that guy!"

Oh, and in the end, I did end up finding that preview... on good ol' YouTube.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Put a smile on your face


Background


Today in my Clinical Skills class I role-played a depressed, unemployed 24-year old actor in order to help my colleagues hone their ability to respond to non-verbal cues during patient history-taking. Afterwards, I was discussing this with Mello. I mentioned that it is a lot easier to play a depressed patient than an angry patient because I find it easier for me to tone down than to get angry at my colleagues. In fact, I could see myself actually being depressed if I weren't so happy. I went on to say that I probably seem depressed even when I am acting out patient roles that are not specifically supposed to include clinical depression.

When Mello heard the last statement, she thought I was talking about my life rather than my acting, and agreed that I indeed do seem like I could be depressed often. This took me aback quite a bit. It was one of those "What do you mean you think I look fifteen?" moments.

Though I'm not one of those people who is chronically happy, spreading joy and love everywhere I go (I look up to those people a lot, though), I'd never been pegged as being a sad-looking person before. In fact, I have on a number of occasion pointed out people I thought looked particularly tragic because they looked perpetually sad. Yuffie once explained to me that these people look this way because their "neutral" face is more like a frown (mouth pointed downwards) whereas my "neutral" face is more like a smile (mouth pointed upwards).

On at least three separate occasions, people have commented on my predominant state of smileyness. In high school, another student noted that it was impossible for me to stop smiling and called me "Smiley", somewhat goadingly, from that point on. In undergrad, one of the cafeteria workers also noted that I was always smiling, and similarly called me "Smiley" for the duration of the year. I received the same comment from one of my contemporary peers, though I can't really remember who, probably because they have refrained from calling me "Smiley", for which I am thankful.

Materials and Methods

So, rightfully upset by Mello's accusation of sombreness, we began an informal survey of our peers with the following question: "If you had to characterize Andy with either the adjective 'happy' or 'unhappy', which would you choose?"

Results

As expected, the majority (6) responded "happy." Many could not qualify a reason for their answer other than "You seem cheerful" or "You don't seem unhappy", but at least three answered "He's always smiling!" A couple (2) including Yuffie answered "happy, except in the morning." Their familiarity with me allowed them to note that early in the morning I am usually tired, lethargic, and mellow. J-Rock responded that I was "reluctantly happy", but I think he was just being difficult. Mello and I also tried to ask people one at a time to minimize cross-contamination of results.

Conclusions

So in the end, most people still thought I was a pretty cheerful person who smiled a lot. My world was not shaken, and I can return to going about my life in an overly smiley way.

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After classes were over for the day, I took the subway back to Finch with J-Rock and Mello who were headed up to their parents' places for the weekend. While we were waiting for J-Rock to grab some stuff from his place, I talked to Mello's roommate about the recent federal election. It's amazing how carried away I can get with politics (though I doubt any of my frequent readers are surprised). Still, it was good to remind myself of all the reasons why I think Harper is slimy, why Dion was a great leader but not a cunning politician, and why I think the Liberal party is headed down the tubes.

We spent the subway ride up talking about cranial nerves like the big nerds that we are. Really I suppose it would have been more clever to talk about Embryology, with the big bad exam looming on Monday. By the way, I am still sick, sadly. I think I will have to give up on my plan of resting up until I am better and then studying. I have no choice but to kick up serious studying today - since it's already the weekend - sickness or no sickness.

People often ask me if I enjoy living at home. I usually indicate that it has pros and cons. The cons are that I can't hang out with my buddies the way I could if lived downtown, I suffer through a long commute day in and day out, and the subway is frequently delayed. The pros include parents that take good care of me and the fact that I don't have to cook (because I can't). I should probably start adding to this list that the TTC provides me with one of the most plentiful subjects for blogging!

Today when I was walking to catch a bus to my Dad's office after classes, there was a large crowd around one of the subway station performers. Now this is highly unusual, so J-Rock and I went in closer to investigate. What did we find? Some random Oriental lady singing operatically along with the accordion player! I couldn't help but snap a photo for you guys.

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Drawing conclusions

So sadly, I am still sick today. In fact, I think my sore throat was even worse this morning than it was yesterday. I drew the above sketch in my ethics seminar. It is a testament to how dependant I was on hot drinks today - I drank two green teas (one from Timmy's and one from Starbucks) and one honey-lemon tea (in which I could barely taste the honey). They provided some much needed relief to my aching throat.

I have found myself doodling a lot these days before or between classes, sometimes during classes that don't require my full attention (generally the ones that a lot of people skip). I decided to scan a few of these in, in case you guys were interested.

Click on a thumbnail to view fullsize




In the first drawing, I tried to incorporate some nice clothing texture effects. She kind of reminds me of Princess Leia in Cloud City. The second sketch was of a professor who gave one of our Community Health lectures. There was general agreement that he really looked like that. The third and fourth drawings are products of my riveting ethics seminars. The last drawing actually started out as an attempt to draw Mello (I have gradually been sketching each of my friends), but soon after starting the face I had already decided that it was a failure in this regard and took it in a completely different direction.

So today during my Ethics class, the professor put up a picture of the FedEx logo. Then, with some primitive PowerPoint animations, he drew our attention to the arrow that is formed between the "E" and the "X" (which I had never noticed before). He then reverted to the original image and told us not to see the arrow. Of course, he noted, this was impossible. It's just not the way we're wired. We naturally draw conclusions from our experiences and memories. He was making a point about mindsets, but it made me think of an event that occurred earlier today.

During lunch, a bunch of us were sitting around with J-Rock. He had read a particular blog entry of mine and had made a particularly inappropriate interpretation on how I had phrased something. Nobody else had thought of it this way, but once it was said, we all got it. Similar to the FedEx logo, what was revealed could not be unrevealed. The moral of the story? Umm... I think it's that J-Rock is dirty.

While we were still on the topic of my blog, the issue of the pseudonyms I use for my friends came up, as my friends tried to figure out who was who. One of them asked why I had given Mello a guy's name. This line of conversation led to the following entertaining exchange with Yuffie:

Andy: You like the name Mello don't you, though?
Mello: I do... Maybe I will name one of my kids Mello.
Yuffie: Don't do it! You will be one of those Chinese parents...
Yuffie: Who give their kids ridiculous names, like Candy!

Perhaps this is not the best time to discuss my plans to name my first-born son Cha Siu Baau...

On my way back from classes, I heard some kind of commotion coming out of Finch subway station. It was that grating sound of a dozen little children screaming and yelling all at once. However, my feelings quickly turned to those of delight as I realized that these children were in fact Girl Guides selling Girl Guide Cookies. If you have never tried Girl Guide cookies, then you probably don't know that they are in fact the best cookies ever. I had a lab tech who helped his friend sell these cookies all year, and he himself must have consumed boxes of boxes. As for me, I was elated to pick up a box on the way home.

I think I'll save them to reward myself when I'm not sick anymore, though.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Spent

...like a shotgun shell. I woke up today deadly tired and with a sore throat. Sleep debt is starting to creep up on me again, and I guess illness is me paying it down with interest. I got home a bit early today, thankfully, at 5 PM. I immediately hit the sack and didn't get up until 10 PM. I was reluctant even to do so, but I needed to shower, eat dinner, and prepare a few things for class tomorrow. My head is still throbbing a little, my throat is still a wee bit sore, and my eyes feel a bit dry and bulgy (exophthalmos?). Hopefully, I've given my body enough rest early enough that I can make an expedient recovery. I'm actually quite impressed that it took me this long to get sick seeing how people around me have been getting ill on-and-off for the last month and given my often weak immune system and lack of sleep.

Today the top button fell off my leather jacket, which is rather upsetting. I have no idea where the button went either. The jacket is something I got around Grade 10, but always seemed a bit big despite it being the smallest size. I rediscovered it this year and have been wearing it nonstop for the last couple weeks to tide me over between warm and cold weather. In keeping with Murphy's Law, it is logistically impossible for me to mend the jacket this week.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A revolution in dance dance

Yesterday I registered for MedGames 2009. It is supposed to be the event of the year. Not being particularly sportive myself and having passed up on the opportunity to buy the incredibly ugly University of Toronto MedGames t-shirt, I had considered not attending, but finding out that DDR is a competitive event in the games was enough to change my mind.

For those of you that don't know, while I'm not particularly good, I do like DDR (Dance Dance Revolution) a whole lot. I even co-founded a Queen's DDR Club in my third year of undergrad, which I'm proud to say is alive and well even now that I've moved on.

One thing that concerns me though is that DDR is listed as a "Parasport," which makes me feel kind of like a disabled person for participating. Other parasports include Rock Band, foosball, and cheerleading.

All this Dance Dance Revolution talk reminded me that I wrote an article about DDR in my third year of undergrad. I've now posted it, so please check it out under Writings in the Fantasia ection of the website. Boy, I'm going to have to brush up on my DDR before MedGames!

Oh my goodness! Today it snowed! The other day, I was talking to my friend Mei, and she said it already felt like winter. I said that she was crazy because it has generally remained pretty warm (about 12 degrees Celsius in the afternoons quite consistently). But Murphy's Law being what it is, the weather has taken a dramatic turn for the colder. When I got to Finch station to pick up my car this evening there was a layer of frost on the windshield. I couldn't see anything for quite a long time while I waited for the engine to heat up along with the defoggers. It does remind me though that with winter comes snow, and with snow comes Christmas!

I had to stay downtown until around 8 PM today because I had a Healing Tonics concert. Healing Tonics is a club where medical school students get together and sing to cheer up old folks, sick folks, and disadvantaged folks. Today we sang at Soujourn House, which is like an apartment for refugees. Even though we totally sucked (it was our first concert and only third time singing together), it was a feel good experience and the audience seemed just happy to have us there. There were even a few people taking camera-phone photographs of us.

At the end, the administrator for Soujourn House said a few words about us, and how as medical students we were singing as a way of giving to the residents of Soujourn House, build up friendships, and show them that they are not alone. He also said that hopefully it would embolden the residents to one day share their talents with this great nation of Canada, since they too all have talents. It was really quite touching, so I put on my warmest smile.

The scary thing about today was that when I drove to the subway in the morning it was pitch black, and when I picked up my car in the evening it was pitch black. I lost all my daylight hours at school!

Monday, October 20, 2008

A day of awkward

Today was a really weird feeling day for me. Perhaps it started while driving to the subway station in the pitch black of a morning that felt like night. Perhaps it started when I got lost during my anatomy lecture, and after pushing my brain to remember what I had missed, I found myself only farther behind and with a scrambled feeling that stayed with me throughout the whole day.

You know that feeling that you get when you say something really stupid and embarrassing? It's that weird buzzing at the back of your head as your face turns red. Sometimes it's accompanied by a desire to make some kind of reflex excuse, like "I'm tired..." You want to bury your head in the sand and pretend you're not there. I had that feeling today, except with no particular reason. I just had this feeling like something was wrong.

Hopefully it's just lack of sleep.

Funny story though... today in class I was doodling as usual during the break, and this time I was sketching a random lady in a short skirt. Yuffie walked by and grabbed the paper.

Yuffie: Yo stop drawing slutty girls!
[Shows it to a couple other people]
Yuffie: Isn't this skirt slutty?
Andy: Hey... you wear skirts that length!
Yuffie: Yeah, but that's for clubbing.
Yuffie: You're supposed to be a bit slutty for clubbing!!

All I could really do was roll my eyes. I'd like to note also that in a showing of male solidarity, my friend "J-Rock" agreed that my sketch was not that slutty (due to her relative lack of cleavage, I believe).

Standing on guard for the True North, strong, and free

I'm sorry, readers. I really don't mean to bore you with politics again, even now that the election is over... but there are so many things on my mind. Our Confederation is a proud nation with an impressive history of contributions on the world stage in its short life. Yet Canadians remain ignorant and apathetic, and in doing so they undermine the very spirit of this great country.

Let me begin with some points about Canadians. I firmly believe in Canada and its inclusive nature. But I also love Canada and its heritage. It burns me up inside to realize that citizens of this country, young and old, immigrant and Canadian-born alike, cannot find it in themselves to care about their adopted homeland - its history, its culture, its triumphs and failures. Despite teaching about Canada's role in the World Wars in high school, Canadians know shockingly little.

A poll administered by the Dominion Institute which coincided with the Canadian war epic "Passchendaele" found that less than 16% of Canadians could pick out Germany and Austria as our enemies during WWI from a laundry list of 5 nations. Even worse, 50% of people aged 18-34 were ignorant of the fact that Canada entered the war before the United States, and 25% of Canadians didn't know that we had a greater proportion of our population serve in the war than our neighbours to the south. We have a proud history as a nation, but our citizens know precious little about it.

But the release, along with the news that fewer Canadians took the time to vote in Tuesday's federal election than any time in history, does summon other spirits to the table. We don't mean to nag, but could it be barely possible that what seems to be a growing indifference to Canadian current affairs and citizen engagement might just have something to do with our shameful lack of grounding in our own history?

[Source]

Today, Stephane Dion agreed to step down as leader of the Liberal party, leaving the subtly backstabbing, divisive, and generally undeserving Bob Rae and Michael Ignatieff as the front runners once again. My friend "Pomme" left a comment on the previous entry where I lamented the recent federal election results expressing similar disappointment but predicting another election in the near future.

Sadly, this is unlikely to be the case. The political pundits have predicted that an election is unlikely to take place for at least another two years. The Liberal seats have been so depleted that even in a coalition with the NDP they would be unable to wrestle power from the Conservatives. It would take a coalition government of the Liberals, NDP, and Bloc united to do so... and who knows if these three very different parties could ever do that.

One day when we are able to look back at this election with some perspective, we may realize that the big loss in this election was not the millions of dollars spent in administering it nor the result of a second minority Conservative government, but the loss of Stephane Dion within a party that never fully supported him to begin with.

He also lamented the fact that Dion is not likely to get another shot at an election to prove himself, noting that other party leaders – notably Lester Pearson and Wilfrid Laurier – did and succeeded.

"If this advice had been given to Laurier or Pearson, we never would have had two great prime ministers because they lost the first time out," Wilfert [MP Richmond Hill] said.

[Source]

Numerous Ontarians have spoken out in writing against the treatment of Stephane Dion by his own party. Sadly, it does seem as though the Liberals are destined to remain the kind of party that caused them to be ousted in the first place. A party that sees itself as entitled to be the "natural governing party" of Canada without the solidarity and responsibility that it could have had under Stephane Dion's leadership had they embraced it. In the next federal election, I fear I will be hard pressed to locate a political party that I believe can represent my interests with both integrity and competence.

If Mr. Dion departs now, it will demonstrate that there is no room in Canadian politics or the Liberal party for honest, decent people, a suspicion that the Liberals have tried to dismiss since the Sponsorship Scandal. Secondly, it will reinforce the notion that the hopes, dreams and aspirations of the grassroots, and young Canadians in particular (who strongly supported Dion), are not important to the Liberal party. Rather than improving the fortunes of the party, Dion leaving will lead to more internal divisions, alienate more Canadians and prolong the Liberals' time in the political wilderness.

Roy Coulthard, Edmonton


As I pondered these things - Dion's ouster, Liberal party's backroom politicking, and Canada's lack of national pride - I swelled with a sense of Canada, and what it ought to be. I thought back to Canada's national anthem... when was the last time I had heard it? I sang it out a few times, just to get a feel for it again, and I realized what a beautiful testament it really is.

O Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.

With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!

From far and wide,
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

I ask myself... what happened to this country's ambition? When did we stop caring about it? And when did tax breaks become more important than being something to this world? What happened to our "true patriot love" and why, O Canada, are we no longer standing on guard for thee?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Andy Goes to Hamilton

Day 1 - Friday

This weekend was the 2008 Ontario Medical Student Weekend (OMSW), hosted by McMaster University. After lab on Friday, my friends and I headed for Union Station so we could catch the GO Train to Hamilton. The GO Train is a short-distance commuter train, and I had never taken it before.

The three guys I was rooming with and I bought our tickets from the teller and then went over to rejoin the rest of our group. We had just asked the teller for tickets to Hamilton, and had not specified the mode of transport. Glancing at our tickets, we saw in bold print "4:50 PM." Having checked the schedule earlier, we had also noticed that there was a bus leaving for Hamilton at 4:50 PM. When we checked our watches, we noted that the time was almost exactly 4:50 PM, which led my friend to exclaim, "Hey the bus is at 4:50! How are we going to make it?"

We rushed over to the rest of the group and I proclaimed worriedly, "Did you guys get 4:50? We got tickets for 4:50...!" Our friends looked at us quizzically, then replied with amusement, "That's the time you bought the ticket, you idiot." Confused, I looked down at the ticket again and in finer print along the bottom it read, "One-ride take trip within 4 hours of issuance." Okay, so I have no idea how GO Transit works... I got an earful about this incident the whole train ride to Hamilton.

The train ride was pretty neat except that our group got split up from each other in our rush to make it on board, and we ended up fragmented into three groups across the cars. GO Trains are double decker, so that was kind of fun for me. They're pretty comfy too considering tickets are $9... but I guess if you need to ride them twice a day, that's still quite pricey.

We arrived in Hamilton, checked into our hotel, and registered for OMSW. Then we decided to eat dinner. A couple of our friends were craving McDonald's, which was next door. However, on our way there, we ran into another friend who had actually studied at McMaster and he suggested another restaurant. The group quickly deferred to his experience.

We ended up eating at a Japanese slash Chinese restaurant. Most of us opted for the Japanese food, though a couple ordered dim sum dishes. The food was generally pretty bland and the dim sum came out tiny, shrivelled and dry looking (except for the cheong fun which were drenched in soy sauce and soggy). Overall, we non-Hamiltonians were not impressed. When we expressed this to those who had actually done their undergrad at McMaster, we were generally greeted with, "Really?" followed with assurances that this was one of the best places in Hamilton (not a great sign) and finally with, "Well, it's pretty good for Hamilton, isn't it?"

While I admit that sometimes I too have used the excuse, "Well it's Kingston..." when attending Queen's, particularly in relation to Chinese food, overall the food in Kingston is actually excellent. So I was a little bit disappointed with my limited Hamilton experience, Hamilton being a city many times the size of Kingston. However, a friend later informed me that Kingston itself is exceptional in having the highest restaurant density in Ontario, though I can't be sure of the veracity of these claims.

After dinner, the girls in our group came back and hung out at our hotel room for a bit before heading off to locate their own lodging and prepare, as girls do, for the night's festivities. Immediately after the girls set off, one of my friends started complaining about how lame the environment had become now that only us four guys were left. Personally, I thought it was a good guy bonding opportunity, but my friends didn't seem particularly interested.

We headed out for Koi Lounge, an atmospheric feeling restaurant/bar/club type scene. McMaster had arranged for four such venues to be open to OMSW attendees. It was a pretty nice place, but was soon packed in pretty tight. I spent some of the night talking to classmates (which was not optimal due to the loudness of our surroundings), getting shoved around by strangers, and having drinks spilled on me. The floor by the end of the night was completely and somewhat disgustingly adhesive. At this point, four guys in a club might have benefited from some girls, but my friends who had seemed rather at a loss without the girls in our hotel had oddly enough decided that we didn't need girls for the club. I couldn't help but feel this was somewhat of a backwards approach.

We did end up checking out two of the other venues: Sizzle and Diavolo. Sizzle was a really energetic clubbing venue. I've never actually been clubbing... so for me, seeing all these people shoved into the centre of a high walled room, with people looking down from an upper floor, and lights flashing and strobing all across the room was like something out of a movie. Unfortunately, not many our classmates had chosen this particular venue, which made it less attractive. Diavolo had more of an urban bar feel to it. It was more geared towards hip hop, with most of the clientele wearing baggy clothes and baseball caps with that punkish swagger and scowl that made it look like they were going to knife you at any second. We didn't stay there very long.


Day 2 - Saturday

Saturday was the OMSW conference proper. I had three workshops.

The first workshop was a lecture on Cultural Competency at 9:30 AM. Supposedly 30 people were registered for this workshop, but only 3 (including myself) showed up. The lecture itself was mildly interesting, but extremely vague and overall not very helpful.

The second workshop was on the ABC's of Vital Signs. This was relatively interesting as we learned about pulse and blood pressure. We had our chance to try taking blood pressure readings using a sphygomanometer, but I have to admit that I suck and will need lots of practice yet. The instructor for this workshop seemed very on top of things - he was a fellow, having done his medical and residency training at UofT.

My third workshop was on Dressing. We briefly went over how to dress a cleaned and sutured wound and then learned how to drain and treat an abscess (a local inflammation filled with pus, white blood cells, etc.) with an orange serving as our abscess. We anaesthetized, cleaned, opened, drained, flushed, and stuffed our orange abscess... but obviously, I didn't feel qualified to actually do so on a real abscess by the end. Still, it was certainly interesting. While doing the workshop, I couldn't help but think my patient had breast cancer, due to the peau d'orange (or orange peel-like skin) they were expressing.

In addition to the workshops, there were a number of speakers scheduled throughout the day. I caught one talk about private versus public health care as well as the keynote speaker on providing medicine abroad. While the topics were interesting, the talks were not particularly so, but they certainly helped to fill the time between workshops. There was also a pizza lunch, though the pizza was chronically missing (I could barely get my hands on a piece).

Lastly, there was an information fair where lots of different companies and organizations tried to get us to join up or buy their insurance, etc. There were some pretty neat handouts, including a reading light slash laser pointer that was short in supply and the envy of all who didn't get their hands on one. Apparently there were a number of draws for prizes too that I did not know about and hence did not sign up for. At one particular booth they had a bunch of spongy skeleton pieces that were supposed to be put into place like a jigsaw puzzle. I picked up and inserted a leg bone commenting to the friend beside me, "Hooray, I got the tibia." The person at the booth exclaimed, "Hey, good job!" I could tell from their voice that they were a little bit impressed that I knew the term "tibia" and I couldn't decide how I felt about that.

I left a bit early so that I could shower and get ready for the evening gala. The dinner and dance venue reminded me a lot of the locale for my high school prom, complete with picture slideshow (although since it was medical students only, virtually nobody had a date). The food and the deejay were quite good, and a bonus was that there was a live band opening up the night.

I picked up an interesting fact while I was at my table though. Apparently, because the fourth row in lecture where I sit is occupied almost exclusively by East Asians, we've earned ourselves a particular nickname, which is the "Great Wall" [of China]. I have decided to take this positively and actually remain pretty amused by it. It's kind of neat to be part of something so infamous.

I really enjoyed the dancing after the dinner, which was extremely packed but highly energetic. My friends are a lot of fun to dance with, despite the fact that a couple of our usual number had decided to skip out on the gala altogether and go home. I have to admit though that after the night of serious dancing, I went home today and spent a few minutes dancing in front of a mirror to try and determine if I had made a complete fool of myself the night before by letting myself cut loose.

After the dance my friends and I went back the hotel and played cards for about an hour before packing it up and sorting out what time we were planning to leave in the morning.


Day 3 - Sunday

Back to reality. We caught the 10:30 AM GO Bus back to Union Station, where I picked up a couple of Chicken McNuggets (fulfilling the McDonald's prerogative from Friday). Things felt a bit strange once I made it home (completely beat), and even though I didn't take a nap it really felt like I had been in Hamilton yesterday rather than earlier today. I guess travel can have that disorienting effect.

Now if you don't mind, I have to go back to watching anime studying for my Embryology exam next Monday.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A long goodnight

So yesterday I was planning to finish watching Iryu Team Medical Dragon 2. On Tuesday I had watched like seven episodes (oh, the week after exams is sweet), and I only had three episodes left. However, after barely being able to keep my eyes open after watching one episode, I decided maybe it would be a good idea to take a time out. I have been suffering from chronic sleep deprivation due to studying and procrastinating (often more of the latter than the former, sadly). The Thanksgiving long weekend didn't really help, since I forsook sleep in order to spend as much time with my siblings as possible (Youngest Child Syndrome - I hate missing out on anything).

In an attempt to pay down some of my sleep debt, I decided to take a nap. So somewhere around seven o'clock, I turned out the lights, pulled up the covers, and went to sleep. Usually when I nap, I wake up after an hour or two, but in this case I didn't wake up until the phone rang at about eleven o'clock. It was Evey calling to figure out what had happened to me, but being greeted by my groggy "I just woke up voice" she generously let me go back to sleep. After some intense dreaming I woke up again to a pounding at the door. "I think you better get up now," called my Mom's voice. "Is it morning already?" I asked groggily. "Yes, it's 6:20." Holy crap! 6:20 AM is about 10 minutes later than I usually wake up for school.

An unfortunate consequence of living so far away from school and having 8 AM class every day is that it's still dark when I wake up in the morning. As things went, it really didn't feel like I had been sleeping for that long - but I had managed to sleep all the way through the night. I guess I was paying back sleep debt with interest.


Team Medical Dragon 2

When I got home today, I did finish the last two episodes of Iryu Team Medical Dragon 2. I have to admit, I love Japanese drama, although I've only watched two of them in my entire life. They have this hyper-dramatized style to them, that is completely unrealistic, but entirely compelling. I don't however, love Japanese hero archetypes who are usually either a quiet, emotionally challenged tough guy or a loud, undeservedly cocky jerk (the former rather than the latter in this case).

Iryu Team Medical Dragon
essentially follows the exploits of Asada Ryutaro, an exceptionally gifted surgeon, as he gathers to world's most incredible surgical team and skirts around hospital politics. For some reason, all the most amazing medical staff work at the fictional Meishin University Hospital, but generally have significant personal demons that Asada must help them overcome before they will lend him their talents.

While the show was very entertaining, I did take exception to the accuracy of what was going on around. Of course in this kind of hyper-dramatized, emotion-driven environment, I'm sure medical accuracy was not their primary concern. I didn't actually have the medical expertise to critically evaluate the procedures that they were doing, though I did note numerous anatomical inaccuracies, which admittedly could have been due to the translators' lack of knowledge.

The show did raise a lot of questions for me... for instance, is it really possible to perform concurrent lung and liver transplants on a nine-year old child with a piggy-back procedure that leaves two hearts in the chest cavity? Probably not. As for liver transplants, television shows tend to make it sound like the donor is living with one half a liver for the rest of their life (and hence that part of the liver has to work a lot harder). However, the liver is actually one of the few organs in your body that will rapidly grow back, thus restoring normal function. My sister pointed this out a few years ago when I was watching a particularly dramatic Chinese movie on Hong Kong television with her. One more thing that I really took issue with when watching the show was how Asada always promised his patients that he would "cure them for sure." Of course, he never ever failed because he was super doctor... but in real life, making those kinds of claims is rather dangerous and can provide an unjustified sense of security, which can backfire all the worse if patient's medical condition goes downhill.

I did love watching the show though, and all the characters did manage to come off as really cool. There were lots of group shots with doctors walking in slow motion down the hall to dramatic music with their white coats flapping in the air like some kind of caped superhero. The show was all about the character drama (sensationalized, unrealistic, captivating drama). I can't wait for Season 3!


A new Uchida Yuki fan is born

After watching Season 2, one last thing I have to add is that while I often find Japanese stars to be cool and stylish, I seldom find them to be particularly attractive. However Season 2's Uchida Yuki playing the role of Kataoka Kazumi is undeniably gorgeous. That's all I have to say about that.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

I love toys

Today, Mello and I had our second Community Health field visit. It was a lot of fun actually, meeting some patients and learning their stories, though some were very sad stories. And unlike our previous preceptor, this lady was really on the ball and made our experience very positive from the outset.

We were told to meet our preceptor at the entrance to Zellers for a particular mall at 1:45 PM. Being the good students that we are, we budgeted more than enough time to travel (in order to avoid being late). We arrived around 1:20 PM. With a bit of time to kill, we ended up looking around Zellers for 20 minutes or so... which was surprisingly insightful.

The first thing I learned was that Mello is easily amused. She had enthusiastic exclamations towards everything from candy jars, to cake pans, to toaster ovens, to mirrors (and one could also gauge her enthusiasm by how she reached out her hand to touch everything). "Ooh popcorn!" Mind you, I'm not putting down her enthusiasm - I think it is an excellent trait - I was just itching to get to some of the more interesting sections of the store.

We breezed through the electronics section, which I had expected to be more entertaining. I guess with little time to play video games anymore, and advance knowledge of all the good ones before they come out, I just don't get the same kick out of browsing anymore. I did pause when I got to the music section though. You know those pop music mix albums titled Now!#? I have Now!3, Now!4, and Now!5. They release one a year, and now they are on Now!13. This is the first time in my life I have felt old.

Now when we had first walked into the store, I had commented to Mello that I hadn't been inside a Zellers in years. In fact, when I walk into Zellers it instantly brings back memories of my childhood (since they still look exactly the same in that cheaper version of Wal-Mart type way). As a child, faced with a store like Zellers, I would always make a beeline straight for the Toys aisle. So it was much to my delight, many years later, to explore this section again.

What did I find? Well first of all, I found that toys don't suck anymore. There was a period of time after I stopped buying toys where they really started to suck. I blame video games and the fact that kids don't play with proper toys anymore. But walking through this toy aisle I found all the things that I really liked when I was a kid again: impressive looking action figures (my ultimate vice as a child), Nerf guns, action figures... action figures... Yeah well I guess what I really mean is that the action figures and Nerf guns have officially shaken off their slump and do not suck again. (As a sidenote, Evey and I walked through a Toys'r'us a few months ago looking for a present for her little sister, and found that Lego has also shaken off its slump and stopped sucking. Good job, toy makers.)

While I was browsing these action figures, I mentioned toys' renewed coolness to Mello and said, "When I have kids, I hope they have toys like these." Of course, what I meant is that I hope toys can remain cool like this until I have kids. But Mello, cleverly detecting the hole in my language replied, "Um... well all you'll really have to do is buy them for them." Then, after I had explained what I meant and agreed that I would indeed buy these kinds of toys for my future progeny, Mello quipped, "And for yourself." I had no witty comeback for that. She's right. She's completely right. Don't tell anyone.

Secondly, I really want the new edition of Risk. For those of you who have never played it, Risk is the ultimate game of world domination, and it produces hours upon hours of fun. My particular copy of Risk was borrowed indefinitely from my next door neighbour many years ago. It is old, uncool, and technically not owned by me. This version of Risk, by the looks of it has been updated with plenty of pretty new pieces and rules, which made me really want it. However, because they do keep updating the stupid thing, the price never drops below $35. As things go, I've always felt that $35 for a board game was pretty steep.

One final amazing toy I found were these Galactic Heroes figures from Star Wars. They were little shrunken Star Wars characters who were made all round and cute looking (kind of like Japanese chibi, but American style). I ooh-ed and aah-ed over these for a good few minutes, which led Mello to remark that I also am easily amused. But in my defense, I love Star Wars and always have, so my being uncontrollably amused by these figures is not evidence of my being amused by everything-in-the-store, but rather by my own focussed interests. And just because I share interests with six year olds doesn't make me easily amused either...

Something that I think both Mello and I learned today (other than about patients) is not to underestimate Zellers. It's cooler than you'd think.

Oh, Canada... What have you done?

Thank goodness for Toronto is all I can say. Across Canada, citizens of this fair nation have imbued Stephen Harper with a stronger minority government than he previously had, up to a projected 140+ seats from 124. The Liberals down to an astounding 70+ seats from 103.

But at least Toronto stayed red, which made me proud to be part of this progressive, urban landscape. As expected, two ridings went to the NDP (Jack Layton's and Olivia Chow's - did you know I met her on the street the other day?)... but the big shocker was that my riding of Thornhill went blue. Thornhill, which has been red since its inception and has elected Susan Kadis twice consecutively went to newcomer Peter Kent by heaven-knows-what failure of judgement by the rich families in my area. My riding is this blue tumour in a sea of red Toronto, and I am so ashamed right now.

Alberta gave all its seats up to the Conservatives, at this moment having surrendered 27 of 28, which makes me wonder in my frustration why we even pretend to be a giant confederation of provinces when the East/West divide is so jarring. The Atlantic, particularly Newfoundland, did a great job of electing Liberals, but account for fairly few seats altogether.

I wish I knew what else to say, but I don't. I'm just disgusted... pulling my hair out, wretching... disgusted. We've elected (again) a giant liar and control-freak with a policy of confrontation, bullying, reduction of government, and tax cuts and snubbed an honest (though not charismatic) leader with intelligence and vision. And to put the icing on the cake, those guys out in Central Nova put that sleaze Peter McKay back into the House of Commons over Elizabeth May.

I think it is as good a time as any to remind Canada that we have elected another Conservative government with only 37% of the popular vote and denied the Green Party any despite 6% of the popular vote. And with that, I'd like to conclude, democracy fails (and with Stephen Harper in office, possibly will be dead sometime in the future).

Ah Dion, I'm so sorry.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

What's new, Tuesday?

University feels a little sketchier this week...

My friend, "Yuffie" (after the enthusiastic ninja girl from Final Fantasy VII), formerly referred to just as "T", arrived at school today to find her locker jammed shut. Apparently, over the weekend someone had tried to cut into her locker and failed, leaving both the lock and the locker deformed. Luckily the lockers are sturdy, so nothing got stolen.

She had to skip one of our classes in order to report the incident to police and to accompany the maintenance people as they attempted to repair her locker so she could get her stuff out. They were still at it when the class finally ended, and the lady who was overseeing the process said that it had been a good test of the security of the lockers in the Medical Sciences Building. Apparently, they have had locker break-ins before and had spent something like thousands and thousands of dollars replacing the lockers to have double steel-plated doors and reinforced locks - hence the culprit wasn't able to crack the locker.

Still, I find it pretty disconcerting that there are people around that are willing to go to all the effort of cutting into lockers for... a handful of textbooks and some roller blades? I'd like to note actually that often when I come back to my locker, the lock is flipped outwards facing perpendicular to my body, whereas whenever I close it I walk away with it flat against the locker (parallel to my body). It makes me a bit nervous that there is someone frequently fiddling with my lock, but I generally give the benefit of the doubt that it is someone just playing with my locker while they wait for an adjacent friend. Who knows though? Could be some nefarious person planning some sketchy heist of... my jacket and a pocket reference book?

[As a sidenote, I am finding it increasingly difficult to think up names for you guys...]


Purple is here to stay


The votes are in on my purple shirt, and a whopping three out of three of you voted that I should keep it. I've taken your advice to heart, so I guess purple is here to stay. What opportunity I should take to actually wear it is a different story.

Now I know for a fact that somewhat more than three people have read my blog since I posted the poll, and I can only say that I hope a greater proportion of Canadians vote in the Federal Election today than the proportion of people who read my blog and voted on my poll. I never expected voter apathy to hit me quite so personally.


AndyLand update

Some of you may have noticed the changes to the website main page. Ever since the site went live, I've been looking for a mini MP3 player to replace the one that I had - the white player was a jarring contrast to the black sidebar and was incapable of looping. I found what I was looking for on a Flash marketplace website and purchased it. However, it turned out it was extremely poorly documented and required a working knowledge of Flash (and the software itself) to customize and edit for my purposes. Luckily my friend was kind enough to help me get everything sorted out smoothly. My many thanks go out to them.

Monday, October 13, 2008

How far would you go for a sandwich?

Today the last of my siblings left Toronto after the Thanksgiving weekend. My mom drove my sister and brother-in-law to Finch station so that they could take the subway to Union and catch their train from there. However, a few minutes after they had been dropped off, my mom realized that they had forgotten to take the sandwiches that they had packed for the train.

Since cell phones don't work in the subway station (a major flaw of the Toronto transit system), her attempts to call them were rebuffed. Not to be discouraged, she parked her car at the passenger pickup (which you're not supposed to do) and went down into the station after them with their bag of sandwiches.

However, it seemed that they had already passed the turnstiles and gone through to the station proper. My mom, being the silly woman she is, asked the collector whether she could just go in and find them... to which the collector replied, "No." Ever persevering, my mom bought some tokens and dropped one into the fare collection cup - just as she heard what she thought was the subway leaving.

As luck would have it, she was mistaken, and found my sister and brother-in-law sitting on a bench down at the subway platform. She received some incredulous looks from them, which she replied to by handing them their sandwiches.

After the whole debacle, my mom went back up to the collector and asked her, "Um... could I have my token back?" The collector, amazingly, agreed (although she said that my mom should have called my sister and brother-in-law back up... but as we already mentioned, this is impossible). So that was that - an awful lot of trouble for some sandwiches. What can I say - my mom is committed.


Tomorrow's Federal Election


Don't forget that tomorrow is the Federal Election. Take advantage of your civic privileges and cast a ballot! If you don't have your voter registration card, you can still register at the polls. Full details about the requirements to vote can be found on the Elections Canada website or by calling 1-800-463-6868.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Stephen Harper's spurious grasp of the English language

Earlier this week, Stephane Dion fumbled a CTV television interview. Asking to start over, the network agreed but later aired the blunder anyways. Stephen Harper jumped on the mistake, calling a snap press conference to tell Canadians that this was proof of Stephane Dion's lack of leadership ability. Let's take a closer look at Stephane Dion's error:
CTV: Mr. Dion, the economy is now the issue on the campaign, and on that issue you’ve said that today that Harper has done nothing to put Canadians’ mind at ease and offers no vision for the country. You have to act now, you say; doing nothing is not an option. If you were prime minister now, what would you have done about the economy and this crisis that Mr. Harper has not done?

SD: If I had been prime minister two-and-a-half years ago?

CTV: If you were the prime minister right now and not for the past two-and-a-half years.

SD: If I am elected next Tuesday, this Tuesday, it’s what you are suggesting?

CTV: No, I am saying if you were hypothetically prime minister today …

SD: Today.

CTV: … What would you have done that Mr. Harper has not done?

SD: I would start the 30-50 plan that we want to start the moment we have a Liberal government. And the 30-50 plan, in fact the plan for the first 80 days, I should say, the plan for the first 80 days once you have a Liberal government. Can we start again?

CTV: Do you want to?

SD: Sure.
Let us dissect the question: "If you were prime minister now, what would you have done about the economy and this crisis that Mr. Harper has not done?" It's no wonder he is confused, there is a nonsensical change of tense in this question. So Dion asks for clarification - i.e. if I had been elected instead of Harper in the last election? The interviewer replies no, not two and a half years ago, but now. Dion then makes the logical jump - So you mean what if I get elected? No, today. Essentially the interviewer could have had said yes to the second clarification, because what Dion would do today is unlikely to be different from what he will do on Tuesday if he is elected - he will take action.

My brother-in-law, in ridicule of the question said he would have replied, "What, you mean like if I was in power since yesterday? Well I don't think I could have done much then."

Contrary to commentary, headlines, and Harper's own propaganda, Dion did not become flustered during the interview. He was simply asking for clarification and the whole exchange seemed very calm. Indeed, the sensationalization that has occured over this incident demonstrates Stephen Harper's lack of character and integrity. Dion was perfectly correct to be confused by the question - anyone who was genuinely listening to it would have been. The interviewer's negative responses to both probes by Dion demonstrate that he himself likely did not understand the question he was asking, and probably, neither did Harper.

Dion's major mistake here has been taking the blame for the incident. He has proposed that the confusion could have been due to his slight hearing impairment or a misunderstanding because English is his second language. I can see, English being his second language, why he might have cause to doubt himself - so someone should really tell him that the problem was with the question.

Yet Candians have latched onto this small blunder. Harper has nailed home that in managing the economy you "do not get do-overs." However, this is why Dion has worked hard to produce a comprehensive plan, thoroughly measured and costed. He is not ready to jump into things unprepared, and a failure to understand one question is not an indication of anything to the contrary.

Recent polls show Harper's Conservatives regaining a solid lead over Stephane Dion's Liberals after a rough week. Does this have to do with Dion's blunder? Will it cost him the election? If it does, it will do so by the will of a Canadian public who do not understand the issues - a public who still believes Harper is trustworthy and innocent (because he tells them so) and that Dion is a bumbler and not leadership material (because Harper tells them so) - the same public who watch Dion's CTV interview and ridicule him because they erroneously believe that their own tenuous grasp of the English language is that much better than his.

Oh, Canada...