Sunday, May 31, 2009

Lamentations of a Jook-Sing

Today, I went to my church's Cantonese service, because HK pop star Jade Kwan was going to sing. That was kind of neat, but I didn't understand most of what was going on. Trying to grasp any significant speech in Cantonese requires a lot of attention on my part, and even then I miss most of it. If I don't pay attention, then my eyes glaze over and my brain just filters it out.

Where is the patient soul who will speak Cantonese with me and help me to hone my deficient language skills?

...

I ate lunch at Richmond Court, the quintissential cheap HK-style eatery. I spent the meal tracking the multiple means by which I could contract some kind of infection - the dirty chopsticks, the crusty bowl, the streaky window, the grumpy waitress...

Thank you...

I wish you guys could know how awesome you are...

...

Memorable moments from my 23rd birthday:
  • Having Evey import the Alone in Love soundtrack from Korea for me. I have been working to fully legitimize my music collection, including imports. Alone in Love was a soundtrack I decided I needed to have but couldn't find on any English-language import sites.

  • Not having time to go to Bluenotes while shopping with Evey and then having Kushima, Kon, and Maximus give me a gift card for said store later that evening.

  • Having J-Rock and Mello come in with a Winnie the Pooh birthday balloon. They made me wear it around my wrist all throughout dinner and out into the parking lot.

  • Evey ordered a volcano cake for me at Rainforest Cafe, Kushima praised their pasta as the best he'd ever eaten, and children were jealously eyeing my balloon.

  • Our waitress somehow ignored Zo when taking orders. I leaned over and asked Zo whether we should wait for her before eating, whilst already chewing a French fry in my mouth.

  • It was pouring rain when Evey and I went to fetch the car. When we arrived at where we thought the car should be, there was an empty parking spot. We ran around in the rain for five minutes freaking out that my car had been jacked before realizing we were looking in the wrong row. After we got inside the car, it stopped raining.

  • On the way back to my house, there was a beautiful rainbow. Evey tried to take photos of it, but we were all green all the way, so the car never stopped moving. Once the rainbow disappeared, we started hitting red lights.

  • Pomme bequeathed me a book of Insults & Comebacks: Pithy Proclamations For All Occasions. "Ever wonder what life would have been like if you'd had enough oxygen at birth?"

  • Stewie arrived late after a "road trip" with his parents (who had flown in from Vancouver)... around Toronto.

  • Someone wrote "Mello" as an item to be acted out during charades. The clues came down to "long hair" and "likes to fart."

  • Kon convinced me that "rising sun" was a slang term for "morning erection." My impeccable acting allowed people to guess both "rising sun" and the meaning, but it was news to us. I think he might have made the whole thing up.

  • Yuffie trying to act out "lion tamer." /rofl

Friday, May 29, 2009

He's back...


Spectres aren't trained, they're chosen.


This entry was
adopted by Brutus.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Dreams of Ragnarok


It's when you need to work that you most want to play games. With my final Year 1 neurology exam looming just over the horizon, I am acutely aware that I don't have time to actually play them (except to gather my daily ingredients in Restaurant City)... but I want to.

So in my break time (during which I do not have time to play games), I instead think about playing games. I lurk through forums, I plan, I plot, and I scheme. For this particular exam, I am acutely aware of the amazing experience event that I'm missing in that black hole for time, Ragnarok Online. Thats right - while Evey's off hitting up level 95, I'm stuck reading about Broca's aphasia and hemispatial neglect...

How do I cope? Well, ever since I discovered a little Japanese character simulator, I take quick breaks to fantasize about the high level character that I could one day have. I generate a character class that is thousands-of-grind-levels out of reach and dress him up with some equipment that I'll never be able to afford. Then, I throw the images into PhotoShop and generate some Messenger avatars of characters that I won't be able to achieve for another zillion hours of never.

After I'd created the third of these display pictures, I paused and considered my state of affairs. Here I was, essentially playing dress-up with virtual dolls on my computer for study breaks. Cripes! I thought to myself, I'm a girl! And not just any girl, but a prepubescent elementary school girl playing with Barbie dolls. Oh dear...

My mind, still travelling down this uncomfortable road, paused once more to ponder. You know, I reflected, I'm simulating these characters because I'm dreaming about in-game achievements that are far far beyond my reach. I wonder if little girls playing with dolls are doing the same thing. Do they play with Barbie because she is trendy, tall, and has a curvaceous rear-end that is far far beyond their reach? Food for thought.

In any case, come summer time feel free to join me and my knight, Penrith, on iRO's Loki server as we reach for Barbie-esque perfection. Together, we'll have a real party.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

It ain't over 'til the fat lady sings

C: Any plans for tonight?

A: Yeah, I have a big date... with Brain and Behaviour.

C: Sounds hot.

A: Not really. She's a cold, frigid old b*tch.


This entry was adopted by Brutus.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

North Korea: Kim Jong-Il's plaything

Empty streets betray empty stomachs. This is ruler Kim Jong-Il's plaything - the nation officially known as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). More commonly known as North Korea, the DPRK is neither democratic nor a republic, but a hostage under Jong-Il's dictatorial boot. It is a wasteland of poverty and stunted development.

(NB: North Korea does in fact hold elections, but only a single state-picked candidate is run for each office, making the act purely symbolic.)

Today, the world stands once again flustered by Kim Jong-Il's narcissistic overtures for international recognition. Yesterday, the impoverished nation conducted an underground nuclear test, flying in the face of international agreement, and launched three ground-to-air missiles. This has raised understandable concerns not only over North Korea's potential nuclear capacity but also where that technology could spread given the country's unstable inclinations.

North Korea's actions have always been about showmanship. The country is gripped in the iron first of propaganda, which blares out across the nation at all times. False newspapers, outdated maps, and misinformation teach citizens that the North is in control and deeply respected by the international community. No matter how bad things might be, North Korea is head and shoulders above the world. Four-lane highways and posh hotels exist as testaments to North Korea's great prosperity. Yet they lie empty, as vacant as the affluence they represent.

Despite the nation being closed to the world, reports trickle out of North Korea every now and again. A couple of years ago, a Globe and Mail reporter snuck in along with a Chinese tour group. He reported desolate streets, trucks blaring out propaganda at all hours, and false shrines of Western admiration. He reported a people so impoverished that they would leave their homes daily to collect twigs and grass to eat. Malnourishment has made stunted growth so rampant that the army, which once had a height restriction of 5'3, now regularly includes soldiers in the 4-foot range.

Starting in the mid-1990s, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il (who reportedly wears elevator shoes to enhance his 5-foot-3 height) ordered people to do special exercises designed to make them taller. As a result, it is not uncommon to see students hanging from rings or parallel bars for as long as 30 minutes. Basketball is also promoted as a national sport to instill the yearning for height.

"Grow taller!" instruct banners hung in some schoolyards, defectors and aid workers say.

[source]

Meanwhile, Jong-Il languishes as one of the world's largest consumers of French wine while sending his sons to study abroad in Switzerland.

Another report came in when a delegation of 400 people was permitted to accompany the New York Philharmonic Orchestra into North Korea. An article in the Toronto Star described how reporters were taken on a tour of a laboratory facility, with dozens of North Korean citizens diligently working away at machines. One machine, the reporter noted, seemed to be broken and unplugged; but that didn't stop its worker from industriously keeping up the facade. When the tour moved on, the reporter snuck back for a second look - all the workers were gone. The show was over.

Kim Jong-Il spends his days trying to garner attention from other countries - making flamboyant displays of anger and defiance. His nuclear posturing is merely the latest (and most dangerous) manifestation of this behaviour. To the community of developed nations, such bravado is frustrating and tiring. To neighbours such as Japan and South Korea, it is downright unnerving. Surely, this pithy nation must realize that in a bona fide conflict it would be blown back to the stone age. But then, perhaps such threats have little punch in a nation where most citizens are already living there.

While its ruler lives in the lap of luxury, citizens of North Korea starve and die. On the rare occasion that one of these unfortunate individuals should escape, they bring with them stories of horror and revulsion.

She went on: "When one is very hungry, one can go crazy. One woman in my town killed her 7-month-old baby, and ate the baby with another woman. That woman's son reported them both to the authorities.

"I can't condemn cannibalism. Not that I wanted to eat human meat, but we were so hungry. It was common that people went to a fresh grave and dug up a body to eat meat. I witnessed a woman being questioned for cannibalism. She said it tasted good."

[source]

Of course, little action can be taken against this rogue nation so long as it maintains the support of its communist bosom buddies within the influential People's Republic of China (another misnomer, as the Communist Party of China maintains control over the entire electoral process). Yet even China must eventually recognize that North Korea is increasingly the odd man out. Communist solidarity cannot be used as an excuse to support megalomania... it just looks bad.

Kim Jong-Il, you not-so-sneaky bastard. We know what you're up to.

Monday, May 25, 2009

He who knows syphilis, knows medicine

I always arrive 15 minutes early for class. It's a buffer zone I provide myself for a number of good reasons:
  1. Out of habit
  2. A few minutes can make a big difference in terms of traffic
  3. I have a long commute, and should the TTC decide to choke and die (which it frequently does), I need time to reroute myself
  4. My vindictive British anatomy prof scarred me for life
That is, I'm always 15 minutes early for class except when I have an exam. You see, on exam days, Big Red telephones the Big Guy Upstairs and says, "It's exam day. Can I mess with Andy just a little? Or will that cause you to strike me down with lightning?" An affirmative grunt later and away we go. Without fail, exam day is heart attack day, and that's not just from exam stress (of which I have plenty).

I've seen a lot of close calls - from subway delays to traffic jams - and today was no exception. One the way to the subway station, my mom was trapped behind a recklessly sluggish delivery truck making perhaps 20 km/h. Finally, after what seemed like eternity, the truck turned away, freeing up the path before us. Lo and behold, the truck was not following tardy traffic but rather holding it up, and ahead lay a gorgeous straight of free road. My mother, being the measured driver that she is, grumbled something unkind about the truck driver then put the pedal to the metal... only to be quickly ground to a halt by a police officer neatly tucked away on a nearby side street. Damn you, Big Red. (Wait, that's a bit redundant, now isn't it?)

"You were going 67 km/h in a 50 zone," the officer said. "Any reason you were in a hurry?"

"I have an exam," I groaned from the passenger side. I've been told that a hospital badge can do wondrous things when you're pulled over for police. Allegedly, it has something to do with the fact that wounded officers get treated by these magical pixies called doctors. I momentarily wrangled with the idea of exhibiting my ID, but decided to avoid sliding down the slippery slope of power abuse before even being conferred the honour of an MD (apparently our dear Sandoval, however, has already found occasion on which to put this rumour to the test). Instead, I got out of the car and caught a bus to Finch Station.

Having already lost 10 minutes of my extended exam buffer time (I leave even earlier than usual for just such contingencies), I boarded a subway train bound for school. Incredulously enough, it decided to chug along at some 10 km/h for the duration between Finch and North York Centre (two stations that are respectably far apart). I was seriously afraid that my encounter with the police was to be compounded by a subway delay. Luckily, all my heart palpitations came to naught, as the subway sped along after reaching the second station. Just to be safe, I exited at Wellesley station and cut across to University Avenue on foot, incidentally meeting Mello along the way. I think this was the Big Guy Upstairs' way of assuring me that my potential tardiness had all been some cosmic joke and that I was not, in fact, late.

Meanwhile, my mother received not one but two tickets - one for speeding and one for having a photocopy of the ownership in the car. While the officer insisted that an original is required, I am assured that this has never before been a problem since the beginning of time. In fact, the officer was kind enough to tell my mother (in all earnestness) that she should fight the ticket and was kind enough to provide her with the nearest office at which she could book a court date. This all, of course, left my mother with the bitter aftertaste that she had been had - the victim of a police officer who wanted to meet his quotas and finish off his 9 AM shift. She was also aggravated by the recognition that demerit points can only be awarded for speeds in excess of 15 km/h and was deeply convinced that her 17 km/h judgement was an miscarriage of the truth. Because I inheritied my angsty constitution from my mother, it was no surprise to me that she spent the remainder of the day agonizing over her encounter with this jerkish Scarlem police officer. For my part, I considered the huge waste of tax dollars that would be exhausted on sending this case to court and mentally chastised the irresponsible officer who himself awarded a ticket (or two) that he sincerely thought would (and ought to) be thrown out.

My exam was harder than I thought it would be, but afterwards my friends and I headed over to Fran's Restaurant at Yonge and College for lunch. Fran's, like Denny's, is a comfy, all-day-breakfast, open-24-hours eatery with mediocre cooking but enormous portions.

After downing 3 grease-laden sausages, a number of scrambled eggs, and a passable proportion of my homefries, I felt rather full. My friend Kaiba, on the other hand, had finished eating his similarly sized meal and was still roaring to go. Apparently, he has quite the reputation as a hefty eater despite his relatively slim Asian appearance.

I decided to offer, then, the remainder of my homefries, my one remaining sausage, and four half-slices of toast in Kaiba's direction. Surprisingly, he obliged. Not only did he manage to finish the rest of my food but also cleaned off Ting's enourmous poutine (which she had shared with another male colleague, and the two of them together had been unable to finish it) and a handful of scraps from others around the table. I was thoroughly impressed and commented that perhaps Kaiba had missed his true calling by going into medicine. He should have started his own one-man-show.

Satiated, we returned to class for another four hours of post-exam lecture where we learned about seizures, memory loss, and of course, neurosyphilis. He who knows syphilis, knows medicine... or so they say.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Neighbours called noise pollution

I have new neighbours (new being a relative term, they're several years old). We're not on the best terms (unlike our old neighbours). Bad blood started boiling from the moment their boorish construction crew began building their house and has done little to abate since then.

Tomorrow, I have an exam, and I really need to study. Here I am, listlessly trying to drag my brain through the joys of Chandrakant P. Shah's Public Health and Preventative Medicine in Canada and my neighbours won't shut up. You see, these folks spend something like eighty percent of their life standing outside their garage (or nearby, I can hear them from their backyard too). They're incredibly loud such that I can hear virtually every word they say as if it was inside my own head. This is compounded by the fact that they have a little boy in that developmental stage where he can't quite speak English and likes to scream a lot, "Oh look, Daddy - RED! WHEEE!!! OOOH!!! YAAAA!!!" Meanwhile, his Dad offers the same obligatory compliments that you might offer your favourite canine, "Good boy! Good job! Do you want to go again, huh, huh?" To top off this noise bonanza, the little boy also owns a little gasoline powered car - it is essentially what would happen if you took a lawnmower and put a chair for a little kid on it... and it sounds just like a freaking lawnmower.

It's a beautiful day out, and leaving my window open so I can feel the brisk spring breeze on my face usually helps my studying quite a lot, but I went off to university for undergrad, and when I came back... it was noisy. I thought that the noise would settle down once the construction was over (which also took years, proceeded very slowly, woke me up early on summer mornings, and was continually on-and-off because apparently the family was bleeding themselves dry of cash here and there). Then the family moved in. Screaming children, motor cars, and screaming children all right outside my window... forever! I respect your childhood, son, but my window was here first. Could you please stop screaming at a volume level that makes me feel like you're inside my flipping bedroom?

In my readings today of our most-beloved Shah, page 290, I found the following:

Noise has been shown to act as a general stressor leading to changes such as increases in blood pressure, heart rate, and vasoconstrition. Noise also induces irritability [hence my rant]. It is not believed to be a direct cause of mental illness but might accelerate and intensify the development of latent mental disorders. The evidence relating noise to mental illness is scanty and much of it is based only on clinical impression. Despite its weaknesses, the evidence points to possible negative effects of community noise on mental health, manifested in the presence of medical drug use, psychiatric symptoms, and mental hospital admission rates.

So after enduring many minutes of child-screaming noise pollution, I decided to go to my window and check out what this kid was doing. I tend to actually avoid my window when my neighbours are outside it (i.e. a lot) because I don't like to make eye contact with them - I mean, staring out your window at your neighbours when they're several metres away is paramount to spying. That's just not polite.

On the driveway was the little boy, and he was trying to ride around on a shiny new two-wheeler bicycle. He was having limited success. He would put his foot on the pedals, allow the wheels to make one revolution, then put his foot down to stop from falling over. In bravery, he decided to try two revolutions (all the while squealing in pleasure), but that led to a genuine fall as his bike came tumbling down and incredibly ear-drum busting screaming ensued. The fall didn't actually look that bad, but I quickly ducked my head back inside the room - I figured if his parents caught me staring they might think I had something to do with it.

He ran inside, still screaming, to his unsupervising parents. I guiltily enjoyed this moment of reprieve from his unfailing childhood lungs. Several minutes later, however, he returned with reinforcements as his parents tried to coach him on the nuances of riding a bicycle.

I think you might want to try some training wheels... in the park. Far far away. Please and thanks.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

This hospital is broken

Hi. My name is Andy, and I have a problem.

I have two exams next week, and I've watched a helluva lot (too much) of Grey's Anatomy these last two days. I am what psychology theorist James Prochaska might call a "chronic contemplator" or, more accurately, a "behavioural procrastinator."

But personal problems aside, I can't help but apply my ever scrutinizing medical student eye to this addictive yet highly flawed television show. I'd like to preface this diatribe by letting you know that the thing I love most about Grey's is that it is a medical drama - emphasis on the drama. That's right. It's not particularly medical. That's okay.

That same lack of accuracy, however, also drives me up the wall. These people do not act like doctors! They pretend to, but they don't. Every taboo is broken - attendings abuse their power relationship to sleep with interns (and marry them!), physicians rant and rave to patients, and doctors provide treatment for their own friends! But that's okay too - that's the drama.

What's really killing me today is twofold:

Number One: Surgery is the world. What kind of hospital is this? Surgeons do everything. They man the ER. They administer chemo. They cut. They counsel. They're the one man band! What, does Seattle Grace Hospital suffer from an unusual shortage of medical oncologists?

Number Two: Every word out of a patient's mouth is golden. Because this is a drama, everybody's life is broken. I get that. So while they agonize and fight and act all conflicted and emo, along comes a patient. The patient invariable gives some deep and meaningful speech about how their own life works, and the doctor gets all watery eyed and realizes that this extremely timely and wise insight must be immediately applied to their own broken life! Sure, I understand that doctors are people too and they can learn neat things from their patients, but not every freaking episode... What, you can't solve your own problems, and there always happens to be a patient talking about the same issue you happen to be facing at the exact same time? Well la-dee-daa, since it came out of their mouth, you should definitely go apply that immediately.

/end rant

Friday, May 22, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire

The first time I heard of Slumdog Millionaire was on the bus returning from Medgames back in January. The film had not even hit theatres across Canada yet, but some cunning medical student had brought along a pirated DVD for on-the-bus consumption. I remember watching about 10 minutes of the movie before surrendering to the blinding glare coming through the bus window and the itty-bitty subtitles which were painfully impossible to read. I could barely see, and what I could see didn't impress me all that much. So I fell asleep.

Fast forward several months, Slumdog Millionaire has stolen away with not one, not two, but eight Academy Awards. Given the film's enormous popularity, and the endorsement of friends and family, I decided to take another stab at watching it.

This time, I said to myself, I'm going to watch it properly - on a proper television with proper audio. So I ran by my local Blockbuster Video and picked up a copy, Evey in tow. Mind you, my expectations for the movie were not very high - my sister (who enjoyed the film) had characterized it as nothing spectacular and likened it to Forrest Gump set in India. After half and hour of gruesome police beatings, anti-Muslim riots, and street urchin disfigurations, I ceded to Evey's this-is-yucky discomfort and put the movie aside. I had to admit, the movie was not off to a pleasant start.

Up to this point, then, my experience with Slumdog consisted of one uninspired bus ride and one alienating date experience. All the while, the movie itself had failed to impress. Perhaps then, it is because the bar of my expectations was set so abysmally low that when I did manage to finish watching the movie, I quite liked it. Indeed, the more I ponder the film, the more I like it (quite the opposite of how time has weathered my sentiments of the Dark Knight).

Yet when I pause and consider what makes the film likable, I'm quite at a loss. It was, for all intents and purposes, not that remarkable. Sure, I did like Iffran Khan's police inspector, but none of the other characters really made an impression. Upon further reflection, I think the moment that clinched it - the moment that really left me with an enthusiastic feeling - was the credit roll. That final moment, that upbeat Bollywood dance in the train station, really made me happy. It was a silly feel-good scene and the reward for all Jamal's pain and sweat. Plus, it was entertaining to watch the stoic main character really cut loose. End on a high note. That's the key to success.

[Spoiler warning! The following video includes the ending of the movie!]


I think I should go out and buy the soundtrack.


P.S. Sadly, five minutes of fame have not elevated Slumdog's childhood stars out of poverty in the slums of India, where they continue to live helplessly. Thanks for all the Oscars, now goodbye.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Hygiene first!

The first real test of my clinical exam skills is coming tomorrow - bright and painfully early in the morning at an unfamiliar hospital. I am a bundle of nerves. Under pressure, I tend to forget the golden rule (as if I were some old and habituated physician). So, to you aspiring doctors (myself included), remember as your brain frantically works to recall how to do what (under the unnerving stress of a 10 minute clock):

THOU SHALT WASH THY HANDS BEFORE TOUCHING THY PATIENT.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Beds are for sleeping...

"...and adult games."

Stick to these two functions, our lecturer explained. Using a bed for reading and other activities may generate confusing associations. When you plunk down on that mattress, your body might think you want to read rather than sleep.

Get up and read elsewhere (in the dark, he suggested, though many a ophthalmologist may disagree), but don't go to the computer - the blast of light will be a powerful waking stimulus.

He also informed us that our sleep requirements do not shrink as we age - most adults require 8-9 hours of sleep a day. Most adults get 5-6 (that's me!). The most common cause of tiredness is lack of sleep, and in fact, waking up to an alarm clock is a solid indication of insufficient rest.

But don't fret! Your sleep deprived body will increase the efficiency of your sleep the deeper in sleep debt you are by increasing the proportion of time you spend in the restorative N3 stage of sleep. You'll be back to your baseline clumsiness in no time!


This entry was
adopted by Brutus.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Aggressive entitlement

Call me sensitive, but running into jerkish strangers who glare you down, take sheepish sideswipes at you, or honk their gas-guzzling sport utility vehicle (alternatively: pseudo-tricked out ricer trash box) horns at you really can sour my mood and ruin my day.

I can only hypothesize that most of these people share one very important trait in common - they think they rule the universe. In their demigodhood, they can do no wrong; and if something did go wrong, then it must be your fault. Thou art the careless, half-wit stranger that has crossed paths with thy ruler - now grovel for forgiveness or meet with a swift barrage of expletives and fist pumping!

...

Today as I was exiting the subway station, I hurriedly inserted myself into a compartment of the revolving exit behind the previous bloke. As I wedged myself in, the exit abruptly stopped. The man in front of me had caught his bag between the door and the wall. "Oops, I'm stuck," he uttered. I instinctively reached for the door and tried to pull it backwards. No dice. These doors are not designed to rotate backwards - otherwise, you might try to sneak in without paying your fare simply by running the exit in reverse. Luckily, a few tugs dislodged the offending accessory and we began spinning our way to freedom once more.

As we emerged on the other side, the man in front turned around and muttered in vaguely accented English, "Whoa man, you're trying to kill me." Clearly, he was blaming me for his own careless conundrum - i.e. being stuck and not being able to reverse the door. Wait, do you think I was pushing the door closed? For what - in order to trap you and your bag... because I have some irrational desire to remain trapped between the interior and exterior of the station with you? You can't learn from mistakes you blame others for, you clumsy twat.

...

Because I'm such a vindictive bastard (I'm working on it, I swear...), this brief, one-sided dispute reminded me of another such blame game in which I was recently caught up at a local Roots store. While waiting for Evey to shop around, I sat myself down at the edge of a table displaying a variety of wearables, my feet hanging into the aisle.

Along came a large fellow, with two rowdy children and a piece of luggage in tow. It was a typical travel piece with two wheels, dragging behind Mister Dad by a handle. "Excuse me," the man said gruffly. I stood up to let the little troupe pass by. As the man went by, his two little terrors skipped and leapt around, tripping on the suitcase and causing it to tumble over onto its side.

Immediately, the man turned around, with an audible "humph" and a flash of anger in his eyes. I watched as his hand snaked out, ready to push me away for having the gall to obstruct the path of his most sacred of travel pieces. Inches away, he recognized the offenders were in fact his own pair of boys, disengaged, turned around, and hurried on his way with an indignant growl. There was nary an acknowledgement of his near-miss encounter.

Thanks for ruining my day, jerk.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Get your mind out of the ghetto

Evey's nine-year-old little sister is cute as a button. So when I hear stories about how her MSN name has changed to "gangster~ ^^", and when she sends me Restaurant City mail in which I am referred to as "homie", there is still some semblance of "I'm a nine-year-old - find me adorable, dammit!"

But there will come a time when her girlish charm will no longer be able to cover for her slum-inspired linguistic leanings. And while I myself have been known for the odd surfer-boy "dude" and "man", I felt it my duty to prod her away from the precipitous lexical black hole known as ebonics. So I fired off a reply: "Homie, eh?" (Notice how I am simultaneously educating her on proper Canadian vocabulary)

When an unrepentant "Yes, homie ^^" returned, I shot off another one: "I do not approve of this ghettoism." Is ghettoism too complicated a word? Do nine-year-olds understand made-up words using the suffix -ism? Do they even grasp the connotations of the words "ghetto" or "gangster", for that matter?

The next day, I received a more sombre reply: "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to. You're very nice." Boy, I felt rather guilty. But I stand firm in the hope that my preemptive strike will lead to a future in which Evey's one-day-teenage sister will be able to string together a sentence without referring to her girlfriends as "bitches" and her boyfriends as "gangsta."

Watching gangsterism and the ghetto rise up onto the pedestal of pop culture has been one of the most mind-boggling disappointments of my short twenty-two (soon to be twenty-three) year lifespan. I certainly appreciate the utility of using art as an outlet for social frustration, discrimination, and abject poverty; but this window into ghetto culture should open society's eyes to the challenges and horrors of ghetto life, not infect us with them. The topics embraced through rap music - gun violence, rape, and social disorder - are side-effects of discrimination, poverty, and social stagnation that we should be rectifying, not romanticizing.

It seems appropriate then, on this fine Victoria Day, to redouble our efforts to reinforce civilized language and civilized society. So if you should catch yourself in such utterances as "homie" or "gangsta", do us all a favour - wash out your mouth with soap and water and belt out a few chords of God Save the Queen. We are not amused.


This entry was
adopted by Brutus.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

In your eyes...

On Friday, we had a session on ophthalmology - i.e. medicine of the eyes. I, for one, have always paid a great deal of attention to eyes. This is not so much because I have a fetish for anatomy and physiology, but rather because eyes reveal a lot about what people think of you.

While I generally consider myself to be an introverted individual, brash extroversion becomes the name of the game under two sets of radically different circumstances - when I am very comfortable with my surroundings, and when I am not at all comfortable with my surroundings. The latter is an attempt to assert myself as an amicable and interesting guy faced with novel and unfamiliar social territory. It often leads to you-should-have-thunk-before-you-spake tomfoolery.

To add insult to injury, I tend to express an inappropriate level of laughter in uncomfortable social situations. This is not to be confused with nervous laughter - I don't start giggling when a patient tells me that their wife just passed away and they're having trouble coping. I just happen to have a lower threshold for chuckling when I don't feel at ease, which can lead to a few ha-ha's at the wrong time.

So when our Vision Week coordinator dropped by at the end our ophthalmology demo to discuss what aspects of the week could be improved, a slight chuckle earned me a curt glare and a defensive I'm-not-joking tone of voice.

Because of these social disabilities, my life can be traced from one awkward situation to the next, each of which in retrospect makes me want to bury my head in a hole and die.

Take, for instance, my high school years. Back in those days, I careened from store to store in Pacific Mall looking for a pair of flared shoe-swallowing FOB-style jeans - the kind of jeans that, when worn by a white person, make you look like a punk rocker, disco child, or maybe even a cowboy. When I finally found the jeans in question, I found that they couldn't quite engulf my toe-bearing appendages the way that I wanted, and decided to blame this problem on the size of my feet (which, in fact, are average or smaller).

As I pondered this unfortunate turn of events, I unloaded these complaints on a random classmate, and the following awkward conversation ensued:

Andy: Damn Asian people and their small feet.

K: Wha... wha... what?

A: I've been trying to buy these FOB jeans that completely cover my shoes, but the pair I bought won't do so. I assume this is because Asian people usually have tiny feet.

K: Oh... Geez. I thought you were talking about something else.

A: Like what?

K: You know what they say about people with small feet...

A: No...?

K: You know... small hands, small feet...

A: ...

K: ...small dick, okay?

A: Oh... okay...

Like I said, one awkward situation to the next - each of which can be tied to an uncomfortable look in someone else's eyes.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The conspiracy theory

Popular Liberal MP Dr. Ruby Dhalla has found herself embroiled in controversy after being accused by two former caregivers of working them to the bone, treating them like furniture, and stealing their passports. If the allegations prove to have teeth, Dr. Dhalla - a chiropractor by trade - will not prove to be the first health professional nor the first politician to be undone by their undue sense of entitlement.

The alternative? That these imported hired hands are lying through their teeth. Indeed, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney's office has taken an inexplicably heavy hand in smearing Dhalla since the incident erupted, blowing smoke into the air of a Conservative conspiracy...

But before Ruby irrevocably damages her political career - before the verdict is in, and all semblance of imagination is removed from the situation - let me pose to you my conspiracy theory. A hypothesis so wild, so implausibly woven from stories so astonishingly unrelated, that it just might be true.

Picture this. Filipino maids, crying in front of a Parliamentary committee, accusing Ruby Dhalla of being a fascist slave-driver. Off the teleconference cameras, they wipe their smeared make-up away and smile. Yes, those are not tears of anguish, but rather, tears of joy at the prospect of immigration rights, bars of gold-pressed latinum, and reams of dirty porn movies that have been promised them for sullying this opposition MP's good name.

If you think this is implausible, I submit Exhibit A. My aunt once had an incredibly likable Filipino maid. She was polite, cheerful and well-mannered. One day, my aunt found reason to enter this live-in maid's room only to find all manner of pilfered possessions. In fact, not only had the maid been stealing from her employer, but she had been trading with other like-minded maids and had accumulated a stockpile of foreign goods including... you guessed it, reams of dirty porn movies. Mind you, this experience didn't deter my aunt's family from finding a replacement post-haste.

Yet this seems like a ludicrously risky game for the Conservatives. What should happen to them lest they get caught their their hand in the cookie jar? They'd be finished quicker than you can say "Liberal sponsorship scandal." But is there a way to posit this as a win-win scenario?

Picture this. Should the caregivers succeed in the case of Slaves versus Dhalla, the Conservatives would have discredited a formidable figure in the Liberal party and have once again crippled the integrity of an opposition still trying to find its footing after its last major stumble. Meanwhile, if the caregivers should be exposed as lying, conniving opportunists, there would no doubt be a public backlash which might dim the increasingly rowdy voices calling for more stringent nanny rights. In recent months, the government has been hard pressed to explain their regulatory lapses as public awareness of genuine nanny abuse has bubbled to the surface. Such abuses have indeed included nannies being overworked, underpaid, misrepresented, and illegally employed, as well as having their passports confiscated. The public pressure might lighten up, however, if the public was led to believe that these stories are fanciful fabrications.

Would that not suit the small town Conservative ideology just so? Pandering to backwater constituencies where immigrants are viewed as a blight on what was once a nation composed of "true Canadians" - that is, rural Anglo-Saxons, not Native Americans. Constituencies that are busy tipping over Asian fishing boats, beating up old men, and expelling Korean schoolchildren who defend themselves from violent bullies uttering racial profanities at them and smacking them around. Constituencies busy building "firewalls" against the perverse influence emanating from the rest of Canada. In the words of a particularly challenging patient that my peers encountered in the hospital wards, "I mean, I'm an immigrant too, but at least I'm white."

Shocked that such racism could exist in today's enlightened, integrated urban society? I submit Exhibit B. A blog snippet recently outlined a tragic story which occurred in China. One man, identified only as Wang, attempted to break the fall of his suicidal girlfriend who had thrown herself off their apartment balcony. In the process, Wang was killed, though the girlfriend survived. The first readers to register comments on the story opted to ignore the sad tale, and instead amuse themselves by poking fun at Wang's name. These included such obscenities as "poor Wang fell for the 'wong' woman…and the 'wong' woman fell on the Wang man…. [sic]" and "I had a fantasy about a woman falling on Wang but it ended a little differently…"

But hold your horses just a minute! Even if exposing Dhalla's caregivers as Conservative cronies served to discredit the heavily exploited nanny population, wouldn't it still be against the party's best interests to dismantle its own integrity? Not if you could dethrone your putrid leader and scapegoat him in one fell swoop.

Picture this. Harper has set himself up as a one-man-band. His narcissistic face is plastered all over every Conservative website, poster, and policy. He is the Conservative party. Iron-fisted, fascist-leaning, sweater-vest-wearing, true-blue Conservatism. But should he slip - should his party be defeated over, say, a fraudulent-nanny-bribing scandal - out come the knives. Being the only noteworthy Conservative face, he might even be able to absorb all the blame. Not an unattractive prospect given a Prime Minister that has eroded the Canadian democratic system and who has reopened old wounds within his own party over his mistreatment of former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.

And so our fledgling conspiracy theory takes shape. Caregivers, bribed by all manner of Conservative trickery to turn on their old master Dhalla. Conservatives, drooling at the prospect of driving Ms. Ruby to ruination; yet equally nonplussed by silenced nannies and a Harper coup d'├ętat. It's win-win.

...

DISCLAIMER: The above theory is sensationalized political commentary and conjecture, and has been assembled for your amusement. It does not claim to be the truth of the matter, nor do I, in reality, hold any presuppositions regarding Dr. Ruby Dhalla's innocence or guilt.


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adopted by Brutus.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A matter of size

The following joke came up during today's lecture on vision:

Mrs. Jones' Grade One class was learning about the five senses. As a primer to her lesson, she posed a question: "What body part grows to ten times its normal size when excited?"

Little Sally stuck up her hand. "Mrs. Jones, that's disgusting! What kind of filth are you trying to teach six-year-old schoolchildren? I'm going to tell the principal about this!"

Mrs. Jones paused, then turned to little Sally and reprimanded, "Sally, please, put your hand down and be quiet. Try to show some respect." Then she continued, "Now let me ask again, does anybody know what body part grows to ten times its normal size when excited?"

Sally burst out again, "Mrs. Jones! Ew! You have a dirty mind! You better stop or I'm going to call Children's Aid."

Mrs. Jones, becoming exasperated, again chastised, "Sally, please be quiet. Now I'm going to ask one more time - does anyone know what body part grows to ten times its normal size when excited?"

Little Johnny put up his hand, slightly red in the face. "Yes, Johnny?" prompted Mrs. Jones. "Well... I think I might know the answer..." began Johnny. "It's... the pupil!"

"Yes! That's correct," gushed Mrs. Jones. Then, turning to Sally, she frowned and added, "As for you, young lady, I have three things to say. First of all, you should learn to read your homework before answering in class. Second of all, you have a very dirty mind. And thirdly, you're going to be very disappointed when you grow up."

Monday, May 11, 2009

Would you like cake with that?

Last week, we sleep starved medical students took a brief post-midterm reprieve to cut our overgrown hair, bathe, and take a new breath of fresh air (that pre-midterm gasp I took was getting stale). Then we reconvened at Spring Rolls to celebrate my friend (whose-blog-pseudonym-is) Mello's birth, all those years ago. In celebration of this momentous occasion, I gifted Death Note manga Volume 7, which is the first appearance of the character Mello.

[Mello reads her birthday card and prepares to unwrap her gift]

Yuffie: What book is it?

Mello: I think it's a comic because it's supposed to have Mello in it.

Kaiba: Oh, Death Note! ...but Mello sucks!

Mello: Oh no... /gasp

Kaiba: What? It's true.

Mello: But I'm Mello!

Wrex: Somebody doesn't read your blog. /smirk

The conversation on our side of the table fell into a fury of joke-telling and brain teasers. Kushima posed the following conundrum:

The king summons you and places two drinks before you. One is poisoned and the other is not. In front of each drink stands a man - one who always tells the truth, and one who always tells a lie. Each man knows the content of their own drink (and thus, by extension, of the other drink as well). You can only ask one question to one man. What question can you ask to determine which beverage to drink?

As we pondered this problem, Ting arrived, late for the party. The question was repeated for her benefit.

Ting: I think I've heard this one before.

Kaiba: [excited] Oh did you hear it from Yu-Gi-Oh as well?!

After teasing Kaiba a bit, conversation somehow turned to a discussion of Sailor Moon. It eventually became clear (embarrassing as it is) that we had all watched it at some point in our childhood years. I'd like to debunk urban legend and clarify that Sailor Moon was not based on Japanese porn - although it did contain such controversial plot elements as gay villains, lesbian heroes, and transsexuals.

Star Trek : Go boldly...

I see what you did there - you reset the universe without cracking the canon in half, you cheeky bastards. I love you.


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Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Grade Divide

I recently attended the year's final meeting of my favourite extracurricular club (an amateur volunteer choir of sorts). After the meeting's conclusion, we had the occasion to go out for dessert at the club's expense. It was a brilliant opportunity for chatting and getting to know one another. For all four+ performances and numerous practises that I had attended, there was very little opportunity to fraternize with upperclassmen, one year our senior. Yet it was easy to see that I would have been happy being friends with many of them, based on their demeanour and range of interests.

But while the first and second-years may have had an easy time intermingling today, it's doubtful that this signals any significant change in dynamic. Next year, the second-years will disappear to their clerkships, never to be seen again. Little opportunity to nurture more than superficial relationships exists - the clique lines have already been drawn, and they've been drawn down class lines. Nobody is likely to stretch out more than an occasional hand across that line and ponder, "Well, that Andy kid seemed kind of cool, we should invite him to our next outing."

I was left to reflect upon the nature of this schism. Was it age and maturity? One might be tempted to think so. However, I soon realized that many of my fellow classmates had a Masters or PhD... and some of them were just plain older. There was no challenge to familiarity or congeniality there. Instead, the issues are seniority and proximity.

The latter is easy to grasp - you become close with the classmates with whom you see everyday. Others are secondary, and hence are unlikely to break in. But the dynamic is further complicated by seniority. I respect second-year students, and they realize that they've been through what I'm going through - they're not there anymore. This generates asymmetric power relationships, which challenges the optics of friendship. The challenges become increasingly pronounced as you step up the hierarchy. Achieving closeness with a second-year? Challenging. Resident? Unlikely. Staff? Impossible.

The great absurdity with this situation is its utter disregard for past experience. There are second-year students who attended my undergraduate program but were admitted after third-year. While we were on the same level at some point, they now deserve a place upon that second-year pedestal. It's difficult to see them as my peer, though we are the same age coming from the same place. Alternately, there are first-year students who are several years my senior and have completed graduate degrees, but because of our current standing, we are able to interact with peerage. When looked at through this lens, the situation becomes quite bizarre.

Yet the ability for students of varying ages and experiences to comfortably bond within a class demonstrates that if somehow we could overcome the barriers of seniority and intellectual knowledge - penetrating to the core of life experience, interests, and personality - we'd probably be able to form the friendships that seem attractive between classes.

It's unfortunate then that the grade divide is a great divide indeed.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

May the Fourth be with you...

Above: Alec Guinness says, "J-Rock ain't no Obi-Wan... or Gandalf either."

Sunday, May 4th, as J-Rock brought to my attention, was Star Wars Day - a play on that age old (i.e. circa 1977) invocation, "May the Force be with you." While my inner-geek bristled with glee, I was far too preoccupied with anxiety over my upcoming neurology exam.

The wise Jedi Master Yoda once admonished young Luke that, "When 900 years old you reach, look as good you will not." He may well have been right.

The stresses of first-year medical school have taken their toll. While it's not quite the all-consuming commitment it's stereotyped to be, my life does now consist of apprehensively stumbling from one exam to the next, with little in the way of recovery time. And this is nothing, my fully licenced M.D. sister reminds me. This is only a drop in the bucket compared to the horrors that are to come.

A second-year student once commented to me that third and fourth-year medical students tend to look immensely older than first and second-year students. That's because the trials and tribulations of clerkship take a tremendous toll on them. For my part, Evey's mother recently commented that I looked as though I had aged since she last saw me. While I attributed this to my new hairstyle, Evey's mom was convinced that my skin had lost some of the plump spring in its step. Is medical school already exacting a price on my youth?

I had been studying for my neurology midterm intently since Tuesday. By Sunday night, the day before the exam, I was livid with fear. I paused to consider my situation. In undergrad, a term consists of approximately 12 weeks, with each course demanding 3 hours of lecture a week for a total of 36 hours. My neurology course crammed 33 lectures and 16 hours of lab into one month. My undergraduate courses tended to be sufficiently surmountable after a day or two of intent study. Yet after six days of concerted effort, my neurology course still seemed alarmingly out of reach.

Why? Had I become less effective at studying? More likely, the sheer amount of material covered per lecture had gone through the roof. All I knew was that I was feeling more stress about this exam than I could remember about any exam prior. In fact, for the latter hours of the evening, I could virtually feel the chest palpitations from my elevated "fight or flight" responses. I pondered the years of life I was losing due to this cardiovascular strain...

Even after all that work, I walked into the examination and was crushed by the laboratory component. I wish that I could at least say that it was all over now, but I have little to look forward to this month except running the gauntlet of another three sizable exams - one of which is the neurology final, based on another 30+ lectures that we will be blitzing through over the next three weeks.

Star Wars Day proved a cathartic outlet for my unease, as I put together the following modified quotations:

Leia: What are you doing? You're not actually going into a medical field?
Han: They'd be crazy to follow us, wouldn't they?

C-3PO: Sir, the possibility of successfully navigating Brain and Behaviour is approximately 3,720 to 1!
Han: Never tell me the odds.

Yes... strong am I with the Force. But not that strong.

Monday, May 4, 2009

A whiff of election

Who'd have expected that I would have the chance to dust off the old "election" label again so soon? But with Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff signalling that Liberals may be readying themselves for a June election, the air is once again becoming thick with the smell of politics.

Still, if these threats prove to be more than mere posturing, Ignatieff will need to cough up some serious substance, having done little so far define his leadership. Spending millions of dollars on back-to-back elections in the midst of an economic recession will require due justification, and it needs to be better than, "My name is not Stephane-freaking-Dion."

I myself am rather unenamored of Ignatieff's slimy aura and inability thus far to challenge Conservative policy with any meaningful alternatives. In the next election, I will be seriously considering swaying my vote towards the NDP or Green. Though without proportional representation, such an action is tantamount to throwing my vote away in a historically-Liberal-but-newly-minted-Conservative riding.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Here comes the train...

A scraggly-looking mister stole my window seat on the train back from Kingston. Excuse me, it's assigned seating - D is for Window and C is for Aisle. Geez louise.

When the concession cart came around, scraggles ordered a cheese plate and white wine. I quickly updated my mental picture of mister-window-stealer from "scraggly" to "pretentious." There's nothing really elegant about getting an assortment of cheese on a styrofoam plate, covered in plastic wrap, with a cardboard juice box of white wine...

In any case, I didn't miss the window much since I decided to spend the duration of my trip in a deep jaw-dropping slumber. When I woke up, two older men were talking about their weekly commute. They both lived out in the country (one on the Thousand Islands, the other up by Upper Rideau Lake), and commuted weekly to Toronto for work, leaving their spouses behind. It was an unfathomable life choice for me. Why live so close, but apart from your loved ones every week?

Meanwhile, mister wine-and-cheese was staring aimlessly at his personal Facebook page on his HP netbook. Good times...


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