Sunday, November 30, 2008

Bella a capella

I spent today hanging out with my siblings, who are back in town for the weekend. We spent much of the afternoon shopping for Christmas gifts for extended family. I had actually hoped that I could convince them to go with me to see a concert by Onoscatopoeia, the Hart House Jazz Choir. I had seen them perform at Earthtones last weekend, and I had been completely blown away. They sing all their music a capella, with various members acting as "vocal percussion" and otherwise replacing the role of instruments. We missed the concert to meet up with my Dad for dinner, but we did manage to swing by for the end of the event. I picked up "The Eh List", Onoscatopoeia's second and latest CD recording. I've uploaded the first track, Gordon Lightfoot's "If you could read my mind", for your listening pleasure.


Get your own playlist at snapdrive.net!

Later in the evening, I was pondering aloud whether Onoscatopoeia was a real word. My sister immediately refuted this idea. "Scat", she explained, is a type of jazz improvisation where nonsense syllables are used to sound like a musical instrument. "Onomatopoeia" are words that imitate the sound they are describing (e.g. "oink" not only describes but is supposed to approximate the sound that a pig makes). Onoscatopoeia, the group's name, is a play on these two words. Nifty.

[Edit: While I've only heard the word "onomatopoeia" two or three times in my life (and immediately forgot what it meant), it appeared today (just hours after I posted this entry) in Gamespot's review for Valkyria Chronicles on PS3. Uncanny!]

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Destination: Coalition?

More than six weeks after the Canadian federal election (the results of which were highly disappointing), politics remains my second most blogged about topic. Stephane Dion currently rounds off the list at number five. With the Liberal leadership race gearing up and Dion gearing down, I had expected this label to gradually fall to the depths of obscurity. But it is not so - Dion is ready for one last dust-off.

With Harper's second minority government still fresh in its mandate, with words like "cooperation" dripping from its lips - the political landscape is poised to change yet again. The cause? A non-confidence motion being tabled by the opposition to bring down the government and form a coalition between the Liberals and the NDP. If such a coalition succeeds, Stephane Dion would replace Stephen Harper as the Prime Minster of Canada.

The catalyst? Stephen Harper's plan to axe public funding from official political parties. Public funding of political parties was something introduced under the Chretien government to level the playing field and reduce corporate and interest group donations (which could unduly influence the political process). The Harper government has tabled the cuts as a responsible "belt tightening" for government. However, the truth is that the government has yet to take any solid action on the current economic crisis. The cuts to party funding would save the government a paltry $30 million - peanuts at the level of the federal government (essentially $1 per person). What the cuts would do is give the Conservative party and enormous advantage - their own coffers full from independent donations. They would also cripple the opposition, who might find themselves distressingly incapable of running in future elections due to lack of funds. It's not difficult to see why it is difficult for the opposition to stomach such actions.

What this amounts to is more Harper bullying. In the previous parliament, Harper bullied his way through all sorts of unpalatable legislation while the Liberal opposition, unprepared for an election, abstained and let him have his way. This time around, the Liberals made clear that the free ride was over. Harper kept pushing anyways, and now he's reaping the reward. My sister giggled at the prospect that Harper could go down in history as the "Prime Minister who was defeated over $30 million."

A coalition government could indeed be a positive change for the country. For starters, it would provide a government that has committed to take action on the troubled economy. Secondly, it would loosely unite the centre-left, but would require a balance so as to offset some of the more radical ideas proposed by each party. Thirdly, it would put Stephane Dion in power. I still believe Dion to be a man with the right ideas, just not the ability to sell them. A coalition government would forgo the need for an election, and therefore to sell. Fourthly, if Stephane Dion does become Prime Minister at the head of a coalition, it will become more difficult for the Liberals to run a leadership race. Dion has integrity, and to be honest, the current prospects for the Liberal party post-Dion make me sick to my stomach and leave my heart yearning for better representation. I hope Dion can stick around until either he proves himself or the Liberal party finds some new blood to steer the ship (and I do not mean Justin Trudeau, yuck!). Of course, the Liberal party could still try to pick a new leader anyways, which would only prove how dysfunctional they have truly become.

There are of course some issues with the coalition government idea. The intrinsic problem is of course the trouble involved with getting the opposition parties to agree with one another (heck, to get the Liberal party to agree with itself even...). The extrinsic problem lies with the Canadian people who elected Harper in the first place. Sure 60% of Canada didn't... but the fact of the matter is that when it comes to politics, Canada is disappointingly disinterested, uninformed, and easily manipulated. The synthesis of parties may not sit well with either NDP or Liberal supporters. As for Alberta, who gave themselves mind, body, and soul to the Conservatives... who knows what they would do in response to a coalition government of NDP and Liberals? Canada could end up looking a lot like the game board for Risk 2210.

But for now, the coalition is only a vague threat buzzing around Stephen Harper's ear. Only time will tell how far it gets and how it pans out.

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Diversions
While shopping for a friend's birthday present, I stumbled upon these interesting items: Stress Chest! There's something unpleasantly awkward about the prospect of using a disconnected breast as a stressball. It also uncomfortably reminds me of anatomy prosections.

[Edit: My camera-phone photo of this item in-store was removed for violating PhotoBucket's terms of use. You can see the item online here.]

Friday, November 28, 2008

Lessons in Cookery - II

Okay, so yesterday I napped all the way through my cooking lesson. But I had the determination to squeeze one more in before my mom left for the States. Today's lesson...

It's a staple of household food. It's quick, it's easy, and it tastes marvellous. Every young man ought to know how to make spaghetti and meatballs from prepackaged bits, right?

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How to cook Spaghetti & Meatballs and be a sweet guy too


I began by reviewing how to cook Chinese vegetables, which we covered last lesson. Feel free to review for yourself. [Go there now]

What you need:
Cooking the meatballs & sauce:
  1. Apply oil to wok and heat (~1 minute)
  2. Add 1/2 bag of meatballs and stir until cooked
  3. Add entire jar of spaghetti sauce and stir
  4. Continue until sauce begins to boil
  5. Stir additional 5-10 minutes
  6. Add 1 tablespoon (3 teaspoons) of sugar
  7. Taste, and if necessary, add another more sugar (1 teaspoon at a time)
  8. Serve and eat
When adding the spaghetti sauce at step 3, remember to pour it from close to the wok. If you pour it from high up, it will splash, and you will regret it. In step 5, the amount of time you continue stirring the sauce after it boils depends on whether your meatballs were frozen and how high your heat is turned up on the stove. You may want to consider wearing an apron (I did not) - it will make you feel more chef like and keep your clothes free of red stains (I wish mine were).

Cooking the spaghetti:
  1. Add water to pot (enough to cover spaghetti)
  2. Add a pinch of salt
  3. Heat until boiling
  4. Add 1/5 bag of spaghetti to pot
  5. Cook at low heat
  6. Stir infrequently until fully cooked
  7. Drain water by pouring into colander
  8. Rise with water to wash away loose starch
  9. Serve and eat
My Mom told me that she didn't actually know why we added salt, she just did as she was taught. I told her it was to raise the boiling point so that the water would be hotter (boiling point elevation!) - I felt clever. In step 4, you may need to break the spaghetti in half so that it will lie down properly in the pot. If you do so, put your thumbs together in the middle so that they are touching while gripping the spaghetti. If you put them farther apart, as I did originally, your spaghetti will splinter into many pieces and fly in every direction when you try to snap it in half. Remember to continue stirring while the spaghetti is cooking or it will stick to the bottom of the pot, which is not a desired outcome.

You can test if your spaghetti is cooked by fishing out a strand and tasting it to see if it is still hard. I saw a method in the movie Il Mare where they throw the spaghetti at the wall and if it sticks, it's ready. I don't know if that works - it sounds like a fun but messy method. I don't think my parents would go for it.

I'm also fairly certain there is also supposed to be a formula for how much water to add (1.5 litres of water for 100 g of dry pasta), but I like the "enough water to cover your spaghetti" method a lot myself. I've been instructed that too much water is okay and too little water is a no-no.

And we're done! Mmm... meatballs...

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A little bit of OCD

Today, several of my friends were with me at my locker as I was getting ready to proceed to the library. While we were conversing, they noted me carefully folding my scarf in half, ensuring that both ends were equally just so, before swinging it around my neck and passing it through the loop (European style). They found this need to make certain that both sides were equal was most peculiar and thus commented that I had a little bit of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder).

I replied, as I tend to do, that we must all have a little bit of OCD or else we would not be where we are today (that is, in medical school). Some of these friends understood and agreed but the others found this statement quite queer (and I don't mean so in a modern sense, but rather in the original meaning of the word - that is, quite strange). Now, I should stop and make clear that I did not mean this as an insult in the least (i.e. if you do not have a little bit of OCD you do not belong), but as a statement of fact - that irrespective of whether my peers recognize it or not, there is a little bit of OCD, as I define it, in all of them. Let me explain.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, as a pathological process, is as I perceive it, simply an obsession with perfection. OCD, in a clinical sense, is such an obsession that it overtakes your life and prevents you from going about your daily activities. A person with OCD might wash their hands until they are raw or check if the door is locked, and then recheck, and recheck a hundred times. Neither the act of hand washing nor the act of locking the door are wrong. In fact, they are good and proper procedures. It is the anal compulsivity of ensuring perfection, which overrides all other impulses, that makes it a disorder.

OCD on a mild level, then, would be a slight preoccupation with perfection. We may describe this as the "perfectionist" or the "Type-A" personality, though we almost never say this to mean that a person ought to be institutionalized or that they have some kind of significant psychiatric illness. The opposite of a Type-A personality adopts a laisse-faire style of being - letting things come and go as they were. They would not be preoccupied with marks and minutia, but would rather go about their business and let all other things fall as they may.

In order to enter into medical school, and indeed, into most other competitive fields, there must be a preoccupation with achievement that exceeds that of the ordinary person. Sure, it is key that one has the empathy and desire to aid as well. But such desire alone will not propel one to be a competent physician. Our obsession with knowing the right answer, our ability to learn and recite minute details... our tendency to read and reread, check and recheck - to not be satisfied with 70%, but requiring that 90% - has assisted in our attaining this position. (And it's only natural for such obsessiveness to spill over to other aspects of our lives in small ways)

[Edit: I do not mean to say that more easygoing persons cannot and do not achieve 90's, though in their case they would not be preoccupied with the attaining of the mark itself]

It is true that in the practice of medicine, these things will become less important. There will be greater emphasis on patient care, teamwork, and critial thinking; but these remain skills and character traits that each individual possesses. And that, my friends, I believe is a little bit of OCD.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Living in the shadow of war crimes

Above: A Japanese soldier stands among bodies from the Nanking Massacre, one of the most atrocious war crimes of WWII, and one vehemently downplayed in Japanese society and literature

It's a conversation I've had before. Everybody loves Japanese things - pop music, anime, automobiles, clothing, etc. Few in Asia love the Japanese. Many Chinese and Korean grandparents are unable to even say the word without contempt, having experienced the horrors of WWII first-hand.

This is something that Westerners may find shocking, many of whom are smitten with Japan-o-philia. After all, the war was some sixty years ago! We blame the Nazis for their crimes in WWII, but we don't blame the Germans. Isn't bearing malice against a generation that doesn't have anything to do with those crimes simply racism? Well yes, it would be save for the fact that many Japanese today continue to deny the magnitude of their nation's crimes and extol those soldiers who took part in heinous crimes against humanity. In doing so, they form a bond between themselves and their fallen warriors, who rightly deserved contempt.

There is a difference here, and it's not subtle. The Germans recanted and bore the responsibility of their actions during the war. They had little choice, being the primary aggressor against the victorious powers such as the United States, Britain, and Russia. Even today, there is a lasting wariness and shame regarding Nazi aggression. The Nazi emblem of the swastika is banned in Germany - in German versions of WWII video games, the swastika has to be swapped out for another symbol.

The Japanese, on the other hand, have never needed to to take full responsibility for their actions in WWII. In fact, they have consistently downplayed their role and detached themselves from it. Their aggression was largely limited to Asia, and thus was not as tangible to those who emerged world powers at the end of the war. As a result, there was a lessened pressure to be held accountable. Instead, they were quickly rebuilt and cut deals.

Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers, secretly granted immunity to all the physicians of Unit 731, an infamous covert biological weapons development unit responsible for unthinkable evils, in exchange for their research data on biological weapons.

The distance between Europe and Japan, combined with an ongoing collective guilt over the use of atomic weaponry on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, made it possible for the Japanese to largely forget their war crimes. In fact, they are often painted primarily as victims.

But why am I dragging this up today? Could I be just a bitter, racist Chinese Canadian condemning a people who had nothing to do with a war that I never lived through? This is not the case. I have no qualms with Japanese people - in fact, those that I have met are very nice, and I'm sure that many are. However, there are forces at work here, as there have been since the end of the war, spreading hate and lies and false history throughout Japan. They must be held accountable, lest in their arrogance history should repeat itself. At the very least, it continues to turn Asians against one another.

This topic has been dragged up from the depths of my heart today in response to a Toronto Star article on the front page of the World section. Here are some highlights:

This month, Gen. Toshio Tamogami was sacked from his position as air force chief after he took top prize in a contest in which he suggested Japan should cast off the widely held views of its World War II culpability – and "regain its glorious history."

The general asserted Japan was not an aggressor, Pearl Harbor was an American trap and Japan's brutal occupation of other Asian countries – which by some accounts claimed 20 million lives – wasn't really all that bad.

In fact, he wrote, "many" Asian nations reflect positively on it.

China was stunned by the statement – it had borne much of the brunt of that brutality.

...

Tamogami was sent packing, an investigation into military officers' training was launched and the dark and persistent forces of Japan's World War II revisionism were once again thrust into the spotlight.

...

[About Yushukan – the nation's most hallowed museum of militarism and a memorial to the nation's war dead]

Inside the museum, in film and state-of-the-art displays, are many solemn and uncontroversial commemorations in keeping with the museum's function of honouring those who died.

But there are also many of the very same ideas put forward by Tamogami in his controversial paper. And they're viewed by thousands here every day.

One film, We Won't Forget, presents a version of the war that few in the West would recognize. It emphasizes, as many of the displays do, that the Japanese tried every means to avoid war and ended up fighting only reluctantly and defensively, solely for their own survival.

As for the highly politicized Tokyo Trials, a narrator in the film explains, against a background of tasteful orchestral music, that charges against Japanese combatants were "groundless," the trials were based on "distorted history" and the only true hero was dissenting Indian judge Radhabinod Pal.

On the other hand, in wall displays, Japan's massacre of Chinese civilians in Nanjing in 1937 is vaguely touched upon but not explicitly dealt with in detail. One display refers to "confused battles."

Historians say those "confused battles" were actually a rampage that left between 100,000 and 300,000 Chinese civilians dead.

...

They're not happy that Tamogami is able to walk away with his $725,000 pension. "It's not a proper dismissal if he's still going to receive his 60 million yen," said 61-year-old Mari Sagara. "This is taxpayers' money. I can't tolerate it. They should have just let him go."

The general's essay not only caused an international embarrassment, but brazenly contradicted official government policy.

In both 1995 and 2005, Japan formally announced its remorse for its wartime conduct and apologized.

But speaking before Parliament earlier this month, Tamogami was unbowed.

He said he did not "see anything wrong in what I wrote."

"I was fired after saying Japan is a good country," he told Parliament. "It seems a bit strange."

It makes me sad. Sad that some Japanese today can still trivialize their country's conduct during the Second World War. The mass killings, rape, eviscerations, biological weapons testing... Prisoners were dissected out alive without anaesthesia at university departments of anatomy. Yet the culprits walked free. The nation forgot. The nation forgot, but their victims did not. And so we stand here still, living in the shadow of these war crimes.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Lessons in Cookery - I

Fellow students often comment on my lovely looking lunches, to which I can only reply earnestly: "I didn't make it." Indeed, one of the benefits of living at home (and having lived in residence for my four years of undergrad) is that I don't have to cook. This is beneficial because... well... I can't really.

However, my Mom is going to be heading down to the States for two weeks to visit my aunt, who is unfortunately grappling with serious illness, leaving my Dad and me to fend for ourselves. This seemed like as good a time as any to pick up the spatula and make something of my life.

For those who have been standing by in silent admiration of my Mom's cooking, let's learn this one together. Today's lesson is what I have from childhood known affectionately as "the corn stuff."

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How to make the Corn Stuff and look good doing it

What you need:
Cooking the veggies:
  1. Rinse and tear the Chinese vegetable
  2. Slice mushrooms into thin slices
  3. Apply oil to wok and heat (~1 minute)
  4. Put mushrooms into wok and stir until cooked
  5. Put mushrooms aside
  6. Re-apply oil to wok
  7. Put Chinese vegetable into wok and stir until cooked
  8. When approaching readiness, add a pinch of salt
  9. Add 1/2 a teaspoon of sugar
  10. Put mushrooms back into wok with vegetables and stir
  11. Serve and eat
If you washed the wok before cooking, remember to dry it off completely before adding oil. If you don't, the oil might splash out at you, giving you a nasty burn. The vegetables, however, should be a little bit damp when cooking. If they seem to be crackling too much, add a little bit of water. Turning down the heat while cooking can also help.

Cooking the main dish:
  1. Defrost the ground pork
  2. Add two pinches of salt and mix into pork with a fork
  3. Apply oil to wok and heat (~1 minute)
  4. Put ground pork into wok and cook
  5. Beat the pork to break it into smaller pieces while stirring
  6. Continue until pork is fully cooked
  7. Open a can of Green Giant Cream Style Sweet Corn
  8. Apply on top of pork and stir
  9. Add half a can of water (to flush out remaining corn)
  10. When mixture begins boiling, add a pinch of salt
  11. Test the sweetness of the sauce with a spoon
  12. If not sweet enough, add a pinch of sugar
  13. Put 3 teaspoons of cornstarch in a bowl
  14. Add water to the cornstarch, and mix together
  15. Add the cornstarch to the wok
  16. Quickly stir as the sauce thickens
  17. Continue until fully cooked
  18. Serve and eat with rice
Now we can enjoy the satisfaction from eating something that I made tonight that didn't come out of a microwave and didn't have the word "instant" in the title. Hurrah!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Snap your fingers

...and watch the days go by. Boy oh boy oh boy - where did my weekend go?


Saturday began in a flurry of frustration. I had signed up for this volunteer program running workshops for underprivileged children between the ages of 5 to 12. Our program was a one-time activity, but the children had their own volunteer mentors (kind of like Big Brothers/Big Sisters) from another program. Hence, besides us, the child:volunteer ratio was already 1:1.

One might imagine that having such attention available would make the day proceed smoothly. It did not. The older children were uninterested and disruptive. The younger children were rowdy and uncontrollable. At times, I rather wished that I too could be young, so it would be acceptable for me to make socially irresponsible banter.

Little girl: This game sucks!!!
Andy: Nooo... You suck!!!

[Edit: No children were harmed in the imagining of this immature fantasy]

Anyways, as it turned out, the activity that I was responsible for was the final one of the afternoon - an exercise workshop. We had prepared three games following a brief warm-up stretch. By this point in the day, the kids were pretty much bouncing off the walls, acting belligerently, and expressing limited interest in anything that we had to say. As we tried to set up for the first game, this little boy kept running around and grabbing whatever I put down on the floor for the game. Eventually I chased him down, picked him up by his torso, and dragged him back to his mentor. I glared pointedly at my colleague, who was doing little more than meekly telling their child to settle down. I mean with 1:1 child:mentor ratio, shouldn't they be able to exert some degree of order?

In any case, the game collapsed, and we moved onto number two. Number two required less set up, and we actually managed to pull off a round. Despite this, the kids still did their very best to derail the whole process, including trying to cheat once the game was over. And when we tried to do a second round... well let's just say it was so impossible that we gave up, let the kids take their loot bags, and sent them home.

Afterwards, I talked to one of my friends who was a volunteer mentor. They expressed the that the children had been increasingly rowdy, but if we saw what kind of homes they grew up in, we would understand. So yes, I do deeply appreciate the work that is being done in giving these children a mentor and some much needed attention week after week. I think it's an incredible undertaking. At the same time, I was frustrated - frustrated that we had put in so much work to put together a workshop that the kids could have enjoyed if they had given it a chance. Frustrated that they had been so rowdy and that the mentors had done so little to reign them in. Frustrated that we had bothered to try teach these children something when they clearly would have had more fun just going about their usual Saturday program without us. I mean... why work so hard and then force this upon them when they were not at all interested? I joined this volunteer program to make some kind of positive impact on these children, but instead it felt like the whole thing was an unwanted, futile gesture.

Following the disaster of my volunteer experience, Mello and I hit up J-Rock's place where he was preparing his clarinet performance for the Earthtone's reception. Earthtones is a musical concert performed by medical students, residents, and fellows. After I had helped to blow up some 200 balloons for a reason that still escapes me, Mello asked me if I was planning to change before Earthtones which was being held in a semi-serious venue. Of course, this was silly, because the performance was in an hour and there was no way I could go back uptown to change... nor would I really want to, because that would be a massive waste of time.

Still, after all of Mello's poking and prodding, I did feel like I would end up looking rather conspicuous. This was especially in light of the fact that I was wearing my most grungy of clothes (hoodie and cargos) for my volunteer exercise workshop. As it turned out, Mello's boyfriend Lucky joined up with us for Earthtones, and happened to have a change of clothes on him, which I ended up wearing. Now Lucky and I are approximately the same height, but with me being the freakishly slim boy that I am, we are not exactly the same size. Because of this, I spent most of the night feeling conspicuously like a fish out of water or like a man dressed up in another man's skin (think the roach from Men in Black). Awkward...


What really put the night together though was the Earthtones concert itself. It was hosted by Sheila McCarthy, a Canadian actress of some acclaim for her role in Little Mosque on the Prairie. She was hilarious and extremely amicable, which almost makes me want to check out her TV show. The performances themselves were absolutely brilliant, including an a capella performance of "If You Could Read My Mind" by the Hart House Jazz Choir and a violin/piano performance of Zigeunerweisen by two Toronto Symphony Orchestra level musicians.

Yes, some medical students cultivate professional level musical talent in their spare time. I write blogs. What about it?

As we were leaving Earthtones at the end of the night, there was some kind of crowd on the field outside. While we wondered what was going on, the truth was laid plain for me today in the newspaper: a bunch of students had organized some ludicrous Facebook event with the plan to string LED lights to helium balloons and float them up to an altitude higher than the CN Tower. Needless to say they failed - garnering themselves little more than a few frozen tushes and an embarrassing newspaper article.

Sunday involved mostly cleaning up my room, my clothes, and my life followed by yummy all-you-can-eat sushi uptown with J-Rock, Mello, and Lucky. Four full bellies and several cheese-filled wontons later, the weekend was over. Snap snap. End.

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Anonymous comments and the like

Okay, so I know some of you guys are starting to have fun, finally having realized that you can post comments under just about any name that you like. While I do appreciate all your comments, I'd like to ask you guys to refrain from using full names (in particular my full name) in your comments. It rather defeats the purpose of anonymizing all identifiers to begin with, and makes my life feel rather exposed. Oh, and yes, I have deleted the offending comment already.

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Where no man has gone before...


It's here! A non-teaser trailer for Star Trek XI. My inner geek is scintillating!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Let's make sleep poverty history, together!


Above: "Nobody" by the Wonder Girls, which was recently sung with pizzazz at karaoke by my friend "Yubin."

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Even though there have been no exams for most of the last two weeks, that hasn't stopped my sleep debt from accumulating. Habits of procrastination and late nights combined with the necessity of early morning commutes have shortened my nightly repose to 5, sometimes 4 hours.

Tuesday morning, I rolled into class in an even more lethargic state than usual. I had stayed up pretty late after watching James Bond, Heroes, and My Own Worst Enemy. While I was collapsed on the table waiting for lecture to begin, dark circles beaming out a black aura, Yubin stopped to hover over me.

"I'm going downstairs to get coffee. Do you want any?"

"No thanks," I replied. This is my prototypical answer - I don't believe in drug dependence or giving myself ulcers, and am generally of the mind that if I'm going to become tolerant to caffeine, I should at least save it for the taxing years of residency that are to come.

"Are you sure?" she prodded.

I grunted in return. She took another look at me, then sympathetically answered, "I'll get you a Double-Double."

"Ok..." I responded weakly.

Wednesday did not far much better. I had intended to sleep early on Tuesday... but somehow 12 AM turned into 2 AM... Yubin again took pity on my rather pathetic looking morning-state and offered up a Double-Double. Coffee helps...

This time, she took the extra step of coming online later that night to tell me to go to sleep, acting as the guardian enforcer of my ability to stay awake. I assured her instead that I would try to sleep by midnight. Nonetheless, I slept at 1 AM, for which I received a rather solid punch the next day.

Having virtually slept through all my bona fide lectures today, and completing the Clinical Skills assignment that had kept me up last night... I'm making a genuine effort to sleep at a reasonable hour tonight. But somehow just blogging has shifted my sleep from 11:50 to 12:25 AM. Still... that's an improvement, right? 6 hours is better than 4!

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Christmas comes to AndyLand! On Tuesday, my late sleeping was a product of extreme website productivity. Please feel free to comment on the lovely new Christmasy atmosphere...!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Quantum fails to make the leap

I caught up with 007 in his latest silver screen adventure, Quantum of Solace. Like a pi interaction, James was high in energy but produced the weakest Bond. Contrary to the funky title and my ill-fated puns, this super-spy has nothing to do with chemistry...

Quantum of Solace superficially provides everything we have come to expect from James - girls, guns, and gadgets (though he bucks the 007 trend by not having sex with the lead Bond girl). However, it falls flat as it is laced together by a paper thin and fragmented plot of revenge, with James working to foil the plans of the secretive organization known as Quantum.

A victim of its own flashiness, Quantum of Solace stumbles from one action scene to the next without giving itself time to expound on what is going on. In the end, you're left with the bitter aftertaste that while there were lots of neat firefights, James really didn't accomplish anything (other than winning Judy "M" Dench's undying trust) and that Bond's "licence to kill" has really gone to his head. What did James contribute to the Bond lore? To world security? And for that matter... where is Q? Miss Moneypenny? All I can say is that if this Quantum organization is the pillar of a third Bond movie, I'll be rather irked.

One more thing that was rather disappointing is that they seem to have taken the "super" out of super-spy. Is 007 talented? Certainly. Is he silky smooth and indestructible? Hardly. He's hard, gritty and utterly human (except when it comes to wooing women... at least some things don't change). And what about the gadgets? It seems with the omission of Q, James can't even find a good defence mechanism for his sexy Aston Martin (rocket launchers would be nice?).

Don't get me wrong. James Bond is a franchise that demands watching simply by virtue of being James Bond. The production values are slick, the action is frenetic, and Daniel Craig is a strapping specimen (and I say that in completely heterosexual envy). So as an action movie, Quantum delivers. As a compelling story, it's stuck at the ground state.

If it's any consolation, that already puts it ahead of the pack.

Special thanks to Evey for the refresher in the proper use of Chemistry terms.

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Diversions

I found the most incredible toys ever - giant, stuffed versions of microscopic pathogens. Be prepared to get Chlamydia for Christmas. Oh yes, it's coming your way.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Inspect, Palpate, Auscultate... Pain

There is a method to the madness of physical examination in medicine. The key steps are often cited with the acronym IPPA - inspection (look), palpation (feel), percussion (tap), and auscultation (listen). It all sounds quite simple in theory, but it's been giving me surprising difficulty. Let me explain why...

I'm sure most people have been percussed by a physician before, or at least have seen a doctor percuss a patient. This involves putting down the middle finger of one hand on the patient, and then tapping that middle finger with the middle finger of the other hand. The sound that results can alert the doctor as to whether the underlying structure is air-filled (like the lungs), fluid-filled, or solid tissue. Its diagnostic relevance is significant, as it can notify the physician if there is fluid in an air-filled space, air in a soft tissue space, or enlargement of an organ.

So what's the problem?

Fingernails.

As I practiced percussion, I found that I really don't make the loud, hearty sounds that one would really like to hear when percussing (it's not easy to interpret a sound if you can't hear it). This is largely due to the fact that I have been angling my finger to avoid stabbing myself with my fingernail. You might think this could be solved quite easily but simply cutting my fingernails, and perhaps that in fact as a male member of our species I should actually be careful to maintain short and presentable nails.

The problem is, my fingernails are short already. In fact, they're less than a millimeter. It just so happens that I have a genetic disposition whereby my fingernails finish perilously close to the end of my finger. Lovely if you're a lady who wants to grow long, beautiful nails. Not so great for percussion (or piano playing... as I produce clicking on the keys even when my nails are fully cut).

In any case, I decided that since percussion is a key technique, I needed to triumph over these defiant fingernails. I clipped my middle finger nail down to an infinitesimally short length so that I could drop it down with the appropriate perpendicularity. It worked. That extra millimeter actually made my percussion sound better!

The only problem is that after a few goes at it, my finger started to hurt like heck. In fact, it was traumatized by just about everything that it subsequently touched. By the end of the day, my finger was actually bleeding between the fingernail and the finger from the distress. So while the nail might be the right length so that I can percuss skin to skin, the pain makes such a procedure unreasonable.

Whoever came up with the method for percussion was obviously rather clever, but they certainly didn't have me in mind. Right now, I'm more inclined to believe that second P in IPPA stands not for percussion, but pain.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Adventures in Kingston

Day 1 - Friday

After making it through my clinical skills session and the subsequent classes, I was pretty excited for the weekend. I was going to Kingston - the home of my alma mater and, currently, of my beloved girlfriend Evey.

I arrived at the train station, and it was packed. Even though I was half an hour early, there was a huge line waiting to board my train (which hadn't even arrived yet). I guess I shouldn't be surprised that Friday afternoon is a popular time to ditch Toronto. While I was in line, I noticed for the first time a fogged window one floor above the Departures floor. Behind the window, I could see the silhouettes of people walking by. I was intrigued, and I still don't know what area of the station lies behind there... I'm inclined to think it is part of the GO Train Station, though Evey suggested it might be part of the Via Rail boarding platform.

Now the train is the mode of travel for champions - it's smooth, safe, and comfortable. As a result, I enjoyed a relatively uneventful ride to Kingston, which I used to become reacquainted with my PlayStation Portable (PSP). Over the course of the summer and the first few months of school, I had forgotten what a robust gaming system this little wonder is. First, I sneaked my way through the demo for Secret Agent Clank - a platformer that concluded with a nifty rhythm game, requiring me to hit a sequence of buttons to the beat of music in order to navigate a challenging series of laser trip-wires. This had whet my appetite for more rhythm game action, and I had loaded a whole new set of MP3's onto my PSP in anticipation of this moment. Beats is a game that takes your own MP3 collection and with clever beat detection generates a set of steps (or in this case, button combinations) to match. It's like portable DDR, except you get to use your own music - making the replay value endless. Not to mention the production values are pretty slick and it retails for $5 off the Playstation Network (PSN) online store. After this, I had just enough time to try a few minutes of Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords before my train arrived in Kingston. Puzzle Quest blends RPG elements and Bejeweled-style puzzle aspects to produce what has been lauded as an incredibly addictive experience. I was itching to try it out, and it sounded like just the kind of thing that Evey would be interested in, so I had actually purchased this game off the PSN store with the intention of playing it on the long train ride. As it turned out, I didn't get to play it that much, though Evey had a pretty entertaining time with it while I was packing on Sunday and while I was busy sleeping in.

Evey was there to pick me up from the train station. It was too late to go out that evening, so we bought some chicken tenders and poutine from the Lazy Scholar (an on-campus food retailer) and kicked back for the evening, allowing me to catch up on some of Season 5 for Grey's Anatomy.

Day 2 - Saturday

While Friday was mostly just arrival and settling time, Saturday was going to be our real day out. We started the day with brunch at Megalos. Megalos is one of Kington's many fine dining experiences. I know many of you may be dubious that a city of 116,000 (smaller than Richmond Hill) whose population consists primarily of university students and prison inmates can have much to offer a Torontoian when it comes to food - but you'd be dead wrong. For a city of it's size, Kingston more than holds its own when it comes to restaurants. If you need a demonstration of just how key food is in Kingston, just check out this online directory of restaurants in Kingston as well as information on their menu, delivery, and whether they are open or closed. How many university cities have this level of claim to convenience?

Megalos is a trendy little place with a warm feel and modern style, complete with a stylish metrosexual waiter. While I wasn't blown away with their dinner, their brunch (served until 3 on Saturdays and Sundays) always hits the right spot for me. It's not that the food is overly elaborate, it's just cooked to perfection.

I ordered "the Original" for $6.99. It offered toast; homefries; your choice of bacon, ham, or sausage; and two eggs cooked however you like. I went for the breakfast sausages (because I love them) and two poached eggs. This photo really can't do the taste justice, but eating this meal was totally worth the new zit that magically appeared on my face the next day.

Evey ordered the "Oscar" - Eggs Benedict with asparagus and homefries. Again, it's not the most exotic looking dish, but we can't fault the taste or the presentation.

I just wanted to also mention that this meal was my first opportunity to ever use Orange Marmalade (which, by the way, was awesome). This, of course, is amusing because it immediately made me think of Paddington Bear. If you don't know who Paddington Bear is, then... well... shame on you.

After brunch, we headed over to one of Canada's many RioCan shopping centres to do some boot shopping for Evey. After hustling back and forth between Winners and the Shoe Company, we dropped by Future Shop just for fun. We were shocked by the sheer number of accessories being marketed at people who play Rock Band. The above set looked more like Maximus' Halloween costume than anything that I would want to wear playing a video game... It's complete with wig and shutter shades.

Our shopping trip also served as a pungent reminder of what retarded drivers people are. This included a whole line of cars parked in spots that were not actually parking spots (despite there being plenty of spaces just one row down) as well as this fella parked shamelessly diagonal.

While we're on the topic of retardation, I had another "what the heck" moment walking by this important looking box outside Stirling Hall (the Queen's University physics building) to see this Wendy's trash stuffed inside. Yes, I did go to this school. And yes, there are a lot of stupid people here. Reminds me of one time someone hung a running shoe from the telephone wires running down the street - how they managed to get it up there is completely beyond me. Undergraduate antics were actually one of the reasons why I wasn't sure if I wanted to drive up to Kingston and park my car on campus overnight. But seriously, stuffing garbage into what may be an important electrical thingamabob doesn't seem like a good idea to me, even if we ignore the littering. Somebody needs a lesson from Captain Planet.

After our shopping extravaganza, we ate dinner at Queen's Leonard Hall cafeteria. There we met up with some of Evey's friends, including one of my buddies from Queen's DDR Club (may it live ever so long and prosperously).

Then we headed over to Chalmers United Church to catch a special choir performance being directed by Evey's music professor. Evey is doing a minor in music, with her instrument being the organ. I think that's pretty neat, since organ is a pretty grand but relatively rare instrument these days (though I'm sure it was completely ubiquitous back in heydeys of Roman Catholic influence).

We closed the evening with a little downtime, and of course, I fully caught up on Grey's.

Day 3 - Sunday

We barely made it in time to St. James' Anglican Church, which always holds a very charming service. I wish I had thought to bring my camera, because it has the most gorgeous stained glass I've ever seen.

After church, we went again to the cafeteria, this time for brunch. Brunch was always my favourite meal of the week throughout four years of living in residence, and I have to admit that the Queen's cafeteria's offerings are pretty solid. But while you might be tempted to think that this food actually looks better than my meal from Megalos, looks can be deceiving - the two meals are not even on the same level in terms of quality. What I was impressed with is that Queen's got some fancy new juice machines for the cafeteria. I guess they got sick of the old ones breaking down all the time, not to mention the nasty, sticky gutters that always got filled to the brink.

We spent the rest of the afternoon just chilling out. I packed up, and we did some reading together. I also practiced doing vital signs for my clinical skills course on Evey, since I have been feeling ill-prepared for my patient interactions. We finished the evening with Japanese food from Asha Sushi. I got my typical Bento A... Mmm.... Although it seems they jacked up the prices recently. After that, it was time to head home. We said our gloomy goodbyes at the train station and then off I went.

It was a terrific weekend filled with fun, bonding, and realizations of my Puzzle Quest suckiness.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Houston, we have a problem...

Last week, I ranted about the group exercise that I needed to complete as part of the Manager component of my curriculum at school. Part II of this exercise was completed this week, and much to my surprise... it didn't suck.

The professor began by discussing the exercise, and the strong feelings it had evoked - in particular, the part where we had to choose the strongest and weakest member of the team. No surprise there - I myself had been strongly opposed to this component of the assignment. After a brief discussion, it was acknowledged that approximately 50% of the teams had "gamed the system" (as my team had done) by developing an equitable system of assigning strongest and weakest members.

He continued by reviewing the goals of the assignment and by pointing out that according to the instructions, the only way to actually fail the assignment was to not hand in the project on time - that was the one clearly specified goal.

Then, as promised, the presentations began. As it turned out, the presentations were essentially the "remedial action" he had alluded to as punishment in the first session (certainly not as ominous as he had tried to make it sound). Only four groups presented, though he pushed each group fairly hard.

One group in particular suited his needs as an illustration. They had opted to race in all scenarios and had rated their performance as a 9/10. Revealing that the group had in fact submitted the assignment 1 minute late, the professor then asked them if they would consider re-evaluating their performance on this particular exercise. They refused to budge, instead arguing circles around why their team's performance was still excellent despite missing the defined deadline. It's hard to convey through writing the experience of witnessing their adamant position, but quite a number of classmates were clearly uncomfortable with it.

It was a matter of fact that the goal was indeed to submit the assignment by the specified time. Quoting from my previous post, it was clearly stated at the beginning of the exercise:

"The activity will take place between 3 and 5 PM. If you do not complete the activities in time, you will fail this component of the course and will have to complete remedial action."

Faced with this information and the fact that the professor had further honed the question to ask not about "team performance" but "team performance on this exercise," the result seemed irrefutable. In their position, I would certainly have admitted that our team needed to accept the reality a failing grade on this assignment... but they refused to budge.

The professor then went over the correct answers to the exercise. Based on fiscal expectations from scenarios A and B, the decision should be to race (though more information should be requested). Based on the additional data provided in scenario C, it becomes clear that engine failure was indeed related to temperature and that at the current temperature failure was guaranteed - therefore, the decision should be not to race.

Then, the professor asked the aforementioned team: knowing that they had not only submitted their assignment late but had also arrived at the incorrect answer, would they even consider that they deserved a mark lower than they had given themselves? Again, they adamantly refused.

What was this scenario really about? It was about the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster. NASA, an organization of near limitless resources was faced with the exact same situation as the fictional Carter Racing group. They were faced with extreme pressure to launch and with a single dissenting voice telling them that they could not. That single engineer was ostracized and the mission continued, leading to the death of all seven crew members. In retrospect, it was painfully clear that the evidence predicted this outcome... so how could all the brilliant minds at NASA have gone ahead?

The answer was Groupthink - the same phenomenon to which the Holocaust is attributed to. That is, when you have a strong, cohesive group of people it is easy to ignore dissenting opinions for the maintained solidarity of the group. Disagreeable voices are not listened to, but rather pushed outside of the group. In medicine (and NASA), this is further compounded by the fact that physicians (or engineers) are highly trained, highly intelligent professionals. Because they are so highly trained, they are loathe to be contradicted or admit they are wrong; their are confident in their role as an expert. Similarly, because they are so intelligent, they find it easy to convincingly rationalize and argue their way out of responsibility for a negative outcome.

This was illustrated quite well by our group of colleagues, who were all intelligent, capable people with an excellent team. However, they arrived at the incorrect answer and failed the only measureable objective - yet still refused to accept any responsibility for these failures. Furthermore, there were those that, faced with the full evidence, would have opted to race. Shocking. The professor's point was clear.

The class' anger at the assignment had melted away by the stimulating demonstration being made. I got it. We got it... well, most of us.

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Afterthoughts

The professor made a few further points that I found it necessary to personally reflect on. Firstly, he said that teams that "gamed the system" were more likely to fail the exercise than those who did not - reflective of an inability or unwillingness to address their weaknesses.

On the contrary, some groups that had gamed the system, like ours, did in fact arrive at the correct conclusions and submit on time. But I did consider that many of the most pertinent and mathematical arguments arrived via the one member of our group that chose not to "game the system" with us.

It was further suggested that those who did not want to "game the system" would feel immense pressure by the group to conform - a characterisitc of the cohesive group and Groupthink structure that formed in these situations.

I had previously expressed that, "We did this, except for one of us who decided that they indeed did want to formulate their own opinion of who was strongest and who was weakest. We respected his choice." However, concerned by the implications of the second session, I went back and asked that group member whether he had felt pressured by us to conform. To my relief, he said he never had.

In spite of this, our discussion did not end there. I still felt that the "strongest-weakest" question was unreasonable. The professor himself had admitted wording the question this way so as to evoke a strong enough response that many groups would opt not to conform to the instructions. That in itself was almost an admission that the request itself was not necessarily the best approach, but was necessary in this case for the purposes of illustration.

Indeed, I do not think that the fact that we did not want to isolate a strongest and weakest member of our group indicated an inability to recognize weakness in our group. I'm certain all of us could detect weaknesses in one another... but we all had weaknesses, and they were all different weaknesses. Certainly it is possible to evaluate and work on weaknesses, but it is not constructive to single out a single person as the weakest.

While this might be reasonable from a practical point of view, we must also consider the social aspects of such an action. First of all, by isolating a weakest member, cracks are made in a cohesive group structure. Furthermore, approached in such a manner, the "weakest member" is unlikely to respond favourably to the criticism. This is not necessarily because that member is unreceptive to criticism in general, but rather because we are not wired to accept such singular and broad-ranging finger pointing.

Certainly, we all make personal value judgements (that may or may not be accurate). Thus, we may, in our mind, cognitively isolate a person who we believe to be the weakest member over the lifespan of our team. However, even in this case, it is usually not ideal to try and address these weaknesses through such charged labelling.

I wanted to know, then, did the group member that had not participated in our "gaming" of the system still believe that the question was fair? After the above discussion, we agreed that in most situations the "strongest-weakest" question was not the most tactful approach, though there are some situations where such an evaluation might actually be appropriate (for example, in deciding which employee to let go or in choosing a limited number of staff members to accompany you in a particularly difficult surgery). Nonetheless, for the illustrative purposes of the exercise, the question had served its purpose.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Insert foot in mouth

Above: A doodle of a stylized bird I drew on my PowerPoint slide notes during my Community Health large group session today.

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It's Yuffie's fault.

But wait, let's back up a moment and start from the beginning of what could easily have been my most embarrassing moment this year... Yuffie and I were in the same group for our respiratory physical exam seminar today. Our group, for some reason, finished half an hour early and ahead of most other groups. We headed upstairs and parked ourselves in the lounge to eat lunch.

Because it was so early, we were the only two people in the lounge except for one other girl who was using the computer. I made a beeline straight for the microwave, but Yuffie went and sat down beside the girl, identifying her as our mutal friend Rociel (another lady named after an effeminate anime male?). "Hey Rociel," she greeted.

Rociel had recently started a Facebook thread asking if anyone was interested in watching the new James Bond on Monday. Thus, as I was waiting for my food to warm up, I turned towards Rociel. At this moment my brain was registering a vaguely discomforting feeling, which I chose to ignore as the words spilled out of my mouth, "So, are you going to see James Bond on Monday?" Rociel looked up at me, and the buzzing in my mind got more frenetic (Was Rociel wearing that today? Rociel looks a bit different today...). Yet the combination of sleep deprivation and tunnel vision from Yuffie's greeting had disallowed my acceptance of the truth. As Rociel and I locked eyes, my brain was busy asking itself the wrong question: How come I don't recognize this person as Rociel?

The response came smooth and naturally, with not a shred of awkwardness, and with all the congeniality in tone of a stranger responding to the friendly overtures of another stranger, "No, why, is there a movie night or something?"

Smack! This person is not Rociel, my brain screamed. "Oh. No. Nevermind..." I replied delicately and quickly made an about-face to stare at my food with as much intensity as I could muster. Inside, I wished that I could somehow stick my head in the dirt and bury it several feet underground.

I took my food and sat down beside Yuffie, facing phony-Rociel's back.

"Didn't you say, 'Hey Rociel' when you came in?" I asked.
"Yeah... Rociel is right there," Yuffie replied innocently.
"That's not Rociel..." I whispered.
"Oh really!?"

We whispered for a few minutes more about how awkward the situation had suddenly become (sitting in the lounge alone with phony-Rociel). Phony-Rociel, also feeling the chill, picked up and left several minutes later... leaving me feeling a bit guilty and extremely red.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away...


"Yoda," Zo said.
"Yoda?" I replied.
"Hehe... that's my way of saying hello!"
"Like the little green alien from Star Wars?"
"The wise one, yes."
"You can use names as greetings now?"

That was enough to unleash my inner geek. For those who don't know me well enough to realize how uncool I am, let's just set the record straight right now: I love science fiction - Star Wars... Star Trek... Battlestar Galactica... Doctor Who... I can virtually quote the original Star Wars trilogy verbatim, and I go all wobbly at the name Brent Spiner. Yes, I am a geek.

While I was intrigued by this opening, I still wasn't sure if this was more than just a casual dropping of names. I mean... Yoda is pretty famous. I'm pretty sure even Evey remembers who Yoda is, and her interest in science fiction must be at a chilling -1 on a scale from 1 to 10.

"You should be named Yoda instead of Zo on my blog," I prompted.
"LOL! If you call me Yoda, I will call you Chewbacca!"

Two Star Wars character references in one conversation. I was impressed.

"Nah... You can be Yoda. I'll be Darth," I quipped.
"You don't deserve to use the Force like Darth. That's why you're Chewbacca... or you can be my young Padawan!" Zo parried.

Padawan? Now we were citing both the original and prequel trilogies. My geek-o-meter was activating.

"Of course I deserve to use the Force," I countered, "Didn't you see my action figure?"
"No action figure can save you now, my young apprentice. Only the dark side of the Force. Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger lead to hate. Hate leads to suffering!"

By this point, I was almost toppling off my chair in laughter. The Star Wars obsessed little boy in me seldom gets this much air time. Still, despite that impressive showing of science fiction dialogue, I opted not to counter-quote. Intense displays of shameless fanboyism are hardly a habit of highly effective people... even though I could barely contain the Star Wars trivia demanding to spill out of my grossly misappropriated memory cells.

"Well if I'm your Padawan, and you're Yoda... that must make me OBI-WAN!" I replied with enthusiasm (Obi-Wan is one of the greatest characters ever, and probably had the only compelling role in the prequel trilogy).
"You are wrong, my young Padawan. You are actually Darth Sidious, for Obi-Wan is actually the Padawan of another Jedi Knight with long hair," she countered defiantly.

Some of you may be getting lost by this point... That is because we had crossed the threshold from the realm of the casual movie-watcher into that of the well-informed fan. I was ecstatic.

"Obi-Wan told Luke to seek out Yoda, the Jedi master that instructed him!"
"Ah, Yoda may have handled Obi-Wan after Qui-Gon died, but he never referred to him as his Padawan. He only referred to Darth Sidious as his Padawan."
Confused, I answered, "Yoda never referred to Darth Sidious as his Padawan... do you mean Count Dooku (Darth Tyrannus)?"
"Sh*t... Count Dooku. You're right. Aww..."
"Haha... still I'm warmed by the little Star Wars geek I've discovered in you."
"Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? Hmm. And well you should not. For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is."
"Whoa... did you copy paste that?"
"Oy... Andy, J-Rock took over the computer and he knows even more quotes."

Well, that rather burst the bubble - this wasn't the geekiness of a single person, but rather the combined efforts of Zo and J-Rock (together with Star Wars quotes looked up on J-Rock's iPod Touch, which while not copy-pasted were most definitely cheated)! I was rather relieved at that point that I hadn't completely let my inner Star Wars geek off its leash.

Still, on Monday (during our post-exam festivities: karaoke & all-you-can-eat Korean barbecue, which is the most unhealthy meal option possible), J-Rock and I had plenty to talk about. Eventually we settled into an argument as to whether Stormtroopers are Clone Troopers. I firmly asserted that they are not... and that this is official Star Wars canon.

J-Rock insisted that the prequel trilogy accounted for the origins of the Stormtroopers and that they were all clones. The canon I was referring to was Expanded Universe, which was no more than fan fiction and therefore invalid. I am adamant that Expanded Universe, being intricately woven together (much better than George Lucas' own disastrous prequels) and officially accepted, are valid canon.

In the end, I think I will have to settle for a compromise as the Expanded Universe folds inward to accept George Lucas' new ideas.

Following the rise of the Empire, the military cloning program expanded to include new clone hosts. By the time of the Empire consolidated its power by dissolving the Senate, the ranks of the Imperial stormtroopers would include cloned infantry from multiple sources as well as birth-born conscripts and recruits from various worlds.

[Source]

For those of you who were simply overdosed with geekiness in this post, you now have my permission to go wash your eyes.

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Remembrance Day


I wanted to take a moment to remember the soldiers who have fought and continue to fight in the name of our nation - from the soldiers who repelled the United States in the War of 1812, to the brave soldiers who changed the world through their service in two World Wars, to the men and women of valour who have acted as peacekeepers across the globe, to those risking their lives even today in the battle-hardened landscapes of Afghanistan. When push comes to shove, they stand between us and those who would do us evil. Canada remembers.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

You're being watched

Because my girlfriend, Evey, is out of town for school, we often find ourselves using Windows Live's video conferencing features to keep in touch. Unfortunately, while the built-in camera for my laptop is decent, the microphone is atrocious and can barely pick up anything that I say (unless I yell). As a result I recently installed my old Logitech webcam, which I used to use with my old laptop. Indeed, its superior microphone solved our audio quality conundrum.

As with most webcams, my Logitech camera has an indicator light on the front to signify when it is active. Usually, the light will turn on when I am in a video call but is otherwise off. However, yesterday, whilst going about my business I noticed that the indicator light was on. I wasn't entirely sure what was causing this, and tried closing a number of programs I was running to see if they were inadvertently mobilizing my camera. In the end, I opted to point the camera downwards, uncomfortable with the possibility that my webcam was being externally accessed. Today the indicator light is off.

Unintentional activation by a background program or webhacker espionage? ...probably the former, but sort of creepy nonetheless.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

A Week of FOOSH


Monday

In my final dissection, I fell off my stool.
Got not only a foosh, but I looked like a tool.
In two separate pieces my scaphoid bone lies,
I'm counting the days 'till the proximal dies.

Tuesday
Thinking of race cars, I tripped and I fell.
A foosh I did earn, both to show and to tell.
Had my median nerve destroyed by my lunate,
Now I can't feel my fingers or make my arm pronate.

Wednesday
On the Sunnybrook shuttle, fell asleep and collapsed.
Suffered foosh yet again, as the bus driver laughed.
In a Colle's type fracture, my radius did break.
Now my arm, quite unsightly, takes a "dinner fork" shape.

Thursday
Drowsy from study, I fell off my chair.
A foosh was all I accomplished right there.
Dislocating my elbow was no easy feat;
and with median nerve damage, I had the odds beat.

Friday
While delaying my studies, I slipped on the ground.
When I picked myself up, another foosh I had found.
I popped out my shoulder, with some bones broke in full.
With his foot in my armpit did the doctor then pull.

Saturday
Waking late in the morning, I fell off the bed -
So tired of fooshes, I wished I was dead.
My coracoclavicular ligament snapped;
The joint was displaced and my energy sapped.

Sunday
My exam was tomorrow and the outlook was bleak,
But I'd learned 'bout six fooshes in only a week.
Still I felt like there might be yet more I might gain,
and that's when it struck me - Ow! Referred pain.

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When nerds write poetry...

Glossary and Explanations

FOOSH - Falling On OutStretched Hand (A common injury)

Scaphoid - One of the bones of the hand; when fractured, the proximal part of the bone may lose its blood supply, causing that part to die

Proximal - Closer to the start of an appendage

Distal - Farther from the start of an appendage


Lunate - One of the bones of the hand; dislocation of the lunate bone can push on and damage the median nerve, which lies in front of it

Median nerve - Nerve of the forearm, responsible for, among other things, sensation to three and a half fingers and pronation

Pronation - The action of flipping your hand from palm up to palm down

Radius - One of the bones of the forearm

Colle's fracture - Fracture of the wrist joint causing the shape of the hand to resemble a "dinner fork"

Coracoclavicular ligament - Part of the joint between your shoulder blade (scapula) and collar bone (clavicle)

Referred pain - Pain that originates from an injury at one point in your body but is felt somewhere else

Why did the doctor put his foot in your armpit? With a dislocated shoulder, the muscles that usually hold your shoulder in place go into spasm. In order to overcome the force of these muscles, the physician may leverage his foot against the armpit in order pop the shoulder back into place.


Correction: While the median nerve is responsible for pronation, damaging it at the wrist would not actually affect this motion. The nerve would need to be damaged higher up for this to occur.