Thursday, December 31, 2009

Super spy me


As some of you know, my brother has spent the last four years of his career working on the oft-delayed, up-and-coming video game blockbuster Splinter Cell: Conviction. It's a stealth action game featuring Michael Ironside reprising his role as the voice of one very angry and Jack Bauer-esque secret agent, Sam Fisher.

How this ties into my Christmas holiday is as follows: Recently, we had new vertical blinds installed in our television room to block out some of the ridiculous glare that makes it impossible to watch TV during the day. My brother vaguely noticed these as he came home for Christmas. Rather, he noticed that room had become rather dark, and moved to open the blinds so that light could stream in. Later in the night, after the sun had set, I hurried to close them.

You see, peering out a window into the pitch black makes me rather uncomfortable, and it always has. When the outside world is brightly lit, windows allow people inside to see outside, but not vice versa. However, when the outside world is dark and the inside world is brightly lit, windows allow people outside to see inside, but not vice versa. This first came to my attention during my undergrad at Queen's, where some residence-dwellers would leave their blinds open 24-7. At night time, walking towards the cafeteria, you could note how strange it was to be able to watch so-and-so studying diligently at their desk while simultaneously reading the posters on their wall.

Whilst I explained this phenomenon to my brother, he commented that this sounded exactly like his game. In fact, players are trained to this exact functioning of windows during the initial segments of Splinter Cell: Conviction. And why not? It's hard to be stealthy when everyone can see you all creeper-like.

My point? Even super spies pay heed: close your blinds when the world goes dark - unless you enjoy creepers:

Sandlot: ...if their blinds are open, then it's an invitation to peer inside.

Andy: Wait wait, do you actually walk up to the window or do you just look in when you're walking by on the sidewalk?

Sandlot: YO I'M NOT THAT CREEPY! I just look in when I'm walking by.

Andy: Okay, well I don't think that's a big deal. I agree if the window is open then... /shrugs

Sandlot: Haha, finally - someone who understands.

Andy: I always close my blinds when it gets dark because I know at night people can see in and I can't see out. During the day the glare makes it the other way round. If you're really worried, then you should close them.

Sandlot: Haha, I never thought of it like that. I just close it because there's no sunlight.

Andy: I feel very exposed sitting in this lightbox, knowing people can see in.

Sandlot: Paranoiddd...

Monday, December 28, 2009

Smash it up!


Today, my sister and her fiancé returned to the States. Before they went, they smashed up their painstakingly crafted gingerbread train.

My oldest sister and I were chagrined to learn post-mortem that many parts of this "from scratch" gingerbread train were not as they appeared. For instance, the wheels were crafted out of ready-made biscuits and the cargo car carrying rock-shaped chocolates was actually mostly stuffed with popcorn.

"This kind of deception is a holiday tradition," my brother defended. "It's like when you bite into a chocolate bunny and find out it's hollow inside."

Well, Sandlot's and my gingerbread shack may not have been impressive, but at least it was honest... and awesome. Heh.


EDIT: So, I originally posted the video set to the Offspring's Smash it Up. However, YouTube worked quickly to identify the background track as copyrighted to WMG and muted my video. I was then forced to sift through dozens of obscure artists via YouTube's approved "AudioSwap" feature for finding background music. I eventually settled to a punk metal song by (who the heck are...) Spit for Athena. Rock on.

EDIT2: Holy smokes! Check out the name of their latest album!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Sibliminal messaging

Last year, my family acquired a copy of Settlers of Catan, a popular strategy board game. Shorter and less aggressive than Risk, it quickly became a favoured activity for family get-togethers. (It's also quite popular with the upper-year medicine class. However, the inability to attack other players and my personal inability to win have dampened my enthusiasm for the game.)

This year, a number of Christmas gifts addressed to me did not quite make it home in time for the holidays. My oldest sister told me that since my gift from her was still in transit, I could have to the pleasure of opening a special gift that she had bought for the whole family.

Offhand, I commented, "Hah, is it like a Settlers expansion?"

This caused a sullen expression to cross my sister's face.

"Well, I guess you don't have to open it now," she replied. Then she added, "You know how sometimes it's great when we can read each other's minds? ...Yeah, sometimes it's not."

Oops. My bad.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Gingerpwned

This Christmas, Sandlot and I decided to partake of the jubilant couples-bonding exercise of building a gingerbread house. We opted for an easy ready-to-assemble kit, probably due to my lack of baking abilities. While our plan seemed sound, the actual task was fraught with challenges. For instance, the house arrived with the corners of both roof panels broken. Then, upon assembly, the icing refused to harden sufficiently to keep the roof panels on the house itself. After fighting gravity for the umpteenth time as our roof caved in, we arrived at this wonderful monstrosity. Let Sandlot and me guide you through its risqué avante-garde design:

  1. "Usually, people like sun roofs, but instead of a sunroof, we have a sun corner!"

  2. "Some people can't decide whether they want a horizontal roof or a vertical roof. We decided to put both." Actually, they both look kind of angular and neither of them looks horizontal nor vertical. But I guess what Sandlot was trying to say here was that one of the roof panels is stacked with the long side up. Trust us, this is a very cutting-edge design.

  3. "We also have this man here who comes with the house... free of charge!" Yes, one of our more desperate solutions to our roof problem was to wedge in a person to keep the roof propped up. This person is apparently me, although covered in icing I barely look like a person. If you look carefully, you may also note one white and one blue gumball on the ground. Those are supposedly my breasts (which fell off) - a failed experimentation with plastic surgery?

  4. So we never actually got around to decorating our house. Because of its structural problems, we eventually gave up on assembly. The gingerbread wasn't very tasty either.

  5. "We have... yeah, that's about it."

Of course, the random globs of icing and intimidating holes only serve to add character to our house. You know, a few bullet-holes... "Bullet-holes? Where do we live?!" Scarlem, of course.

The story of this house that Sandlot and I built (affectionately known as the "House that Awesome Built") made the rounds amongst my family members. In an attempt to further demonstrate her superiority to me in every way, my sister decided to undertake her own fantastic gingerbread project. Opting for a gingerbread train, she printed out a design from the Internet and proceeded to bake the gingerbread from scratch. Days later, this impressive beast reared its steam-powered head:

Four cars long and able to stand on its own for more than five minutes, my sister's gingerbread train capably shamed our gingerbread shack. Wait, what am I saying? Our shack was awesome.

Still, I have to give credit where credit is due. The train was a breathtaking baking feat complete with surrounding foliage, a snowman, candy cane logs, functioning cargo cars, and popcorn steam coming out of the smokestack. Amazing.

Friday, December 25, 2009

This is Christmas

Food, family, and more food. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

  1. Turkey - white meat

  2. Cucumber and tomato salad

  3. Roast beef

  4. Carrots

  5. Turkey - dark meat

  6. Salad

  7. Lamb

  8. Dates wrapped in bacon

  9. Sushi

  10. Corn on the cob

  11. Croissants

  12. (not pictured) Potatoes and sweet potatoes


And dessert...

  1. Yule log (à la Quebec)

  2. Homemade toffee

  3. Fruit salad

Hoo yeah... time to loosen that belt.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A day at the AGO

On Saturday, Sandlot and I partook of an outing to the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO). While walking through the halls of this beautifully renovated gallery gave us warm and fuzzy feelings of high culture, these impressions were quickly quashed by our realization that art appreciation is not among our many fine qualities.

Not only did we not understand many of the exhibits (slash what made them special slash what qualifies you to be showcased in a gallery), but I actually found many of the exhibits slightly distressing. Those artsy types are kind of twisted if you ask me. The frequent juxtaposition of religious icons and sexual imagery made me particularly queasy.

The really neat stuff hit us once we made it up to the fourth floor contemporary art exhibits. One particularly attention-grabbing showpiece was a three metre tall statue of sorts called "Stretch #1" by Evan Penny. It was essentially a giant stretched out head made of silicone and hair... but it looked so eerily real. One could be led to believe that the face was in fact a real head that had been stretched out by inhumane and indecent means. Sandlot and I were deeply tempted to touch it but refrained mostly due to the "Do Not Touch" sign and the hawkish security camera above, but also because the thing was pretty damn creepy.

As our time at the AGO wound down, we found ourself sitting in a room with two projectors displaying two very slow moving films. The films for the most part involved a stationary camera capturing the daily going abouts at particular locations, much like watching security camera footage (they had a distinctly stalker-like feel to them). Apparently, the films were deliberately paced to feel "slower than real life" in order to make viewers pay the same kind of attention to this moving media that they do to still photographs. Neat.

However, the room was entitled "Three Films" by Mark Lewis. "Where's the third film?" I pondered aloud. Sandlot commented on how one of the films was actually split into two halves (capturing two halves of the same location at different times of day). Therefore, the first film must count as two, and the second film as the third. Made sense to us.

We spent the next little while reading about the exhibit and admiring the films. Then, having had our fill of this abstract cinematography, we walked into the next room... where a third projector awaited us. "Oh, I guess that's the third film," I snickered.

I'm not sure, but I think the AGO employee standing in that room must have given us a funny look.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Please pardon my blubbery

On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me...

six pins très geeky

five doting hugs

four racing fails

three gleeful dates

two awkward laughs

and Dr. Horrible on DVD

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Smaller than I thought

That's what she said...

So my height has been a matter of some debate this year. Until now, I was more than happy to tell people that I clocked in at a respectable 5'10". This in itself was based on an estimation of an estimation. A couple of years ago, my family compared me to my brother. Even after years of playing catch-up, my adult growth peaked out about an inch shorter than him. He's about 5'11", which made me about 5'10".

Then came the doubt. A particular friend of a friend of mine measured up at about 5'3". Because of his self-consciousness, he had become quite adept at gauging height, and upon meeting me he confided in my friend that there was "no way" I was 5'10".

Today, on my way home, I stopped off at my Dad's office to put these myths to rest. Much to my chagrin, I measured up at a paltry 175 cm (or just about)... equivalent to... yes, 5'9". After years of telling people (and myself) that I was 5'10", this was of course, devastating news. I'm sure it will be equally devastating for Sandlot, who has spent an equivalent number of years telling people that she's 5'9".

Kushima: See, everyone overestimates.

I shared this revelation with Kushima, who reassuringly reminded me that I ought to measure my height in the morning rather than in the evening as I'm liable to be slightly taller.

Andy: That's a good point, but I doubt it's a whole inch.

Kushima: Probably not, but if it's half an inch off, you can round it up.

Or maybe it's time to think about shoe lifts...

Monday, December 14, 2009

Never say no to Tricia Helfer


...not that she's ever asked.

Seriously though, this game is like a smörgåsbord of actors from every major science fiction television show in the last two decades. Impressive.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

If I ignore you long enough...

...maybe you will go away, DOCH exam.

My classmates all across the board are racking their brains (note to Mello: this is not the same as "raking") in both boredom and trepidation over our upcoming Community Health exam. I apologize to Kon for not posting an exciting and controversial blog entry today. I wrote today off as an outing with my summer research friends since Yee is leaving for Hong Kong (for school and forever) next week.

While it's been exciting to learn that I can rap the lyrics to any song ever made (even if it's not a rap song) in a stunningly embarrassing show of awesomeness, this unfortunately leaves me with two slightly truncated evenings to get through a wallop of lecture notes and biostatistics lessons. Maybe if I just close my eyes, tap my shoes twice, and wish real hard, my exam will go away on its own.

There's no place like Christmas... There's no place like Christmas...

Saturday, December 12, 2009

I am T-Pain

Okay, you caught me. I should be studying for my Community Health exam on Tuesday, but instead I've been getting my snow tires installed, watching Korean drama, and otherwise goofing off.

In the latter category, today I downloaded and installed a 10-day trial version of Antares Autotune, the voice manipulation plug-in popularized by T-Pain.

You see, J-Rock and I have often lamented that our vocal abilities don't match our love of singing. I figured, the only way I was ever going to let my voice appear on this blog again was to a) get an expensive mic, b) take vocal lessons, or c) bludgeon the crap out of the recording with Autotune. I picked option C. Can you think of a better way to procrastinate?

I recorded a short clip of Heart's Alone. Check it out:


Get your own playlist at snapdrive.net!

Universal Music Group here I come!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Ode to an all-nighter


Some 200 km away, an incredible young lady is furiously writing a report. Her distress is palpable. While I can do naught but let her work, this one is for her...

To the tune of Journey's Don't Stop Believin' (a Glee favourite):

Just a Western girl
In an academic world
She passed the midnight hour going on all night

A Toronto boy
Finding PBL no joy
He passed the midnight hour going on all night

A student in a study room
Working hard to flee her doom
For her smile he would write a song
That goes on and on and on and on

REEEEMIX
This is the song that never ends
Yes it goes on and on my friends
Some people started singing it
Not knowing what it was
And they'll continue singing it forever
Just because...

Students fretting
As they rant on Windows Live
Their brains are melting in the night
Stressed out people
Fighting just to meet the deadline
Typing, reading in the night

Dropping rhymes to make you glad
Looming projects drive you mad
Payin' anything to hand it in just one day late

Projects come, projects pass
Seems we've never seen the last
Oh, our schooling never ends
It goes on and on and on and on

Students fretting
As they rant on Windows Live
Their brains are melting in the night
Stressed out people
Fighting just to meet the deadline
Typing, reading in the night

Don't stop survivin'
Add oil and get through it
Stressed out people

Don't stop survivin'
Add oil and get through it
Stressed out people

Don't stop

Thanks to Stewie for sharing with me Nick Pitera's cover of Don't Stop Believin'. Pitera is apparently a Disney sing-along winner whose claim to fame is tackling both male and female vocal parts. "He sings like a girl, but deep inside he's a woman."

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A word to the winter wise

Today was Toronto's first legit snowfall of the year.

I suppose it being late-early December and all, I should be thankful that we've managed to avoid snow all this time. Furthermore, this raises the possibility of a white Christmas, which is a key component in acquiring the proper level of seasonal festivity. Even better, nobody called the army.

But as for me, the pitiable commuter from the suburbs, today was a disaster. I got out the door at my usual time. My parents usually give me a lift to the subway, which I take down to UofT's St. George campus. As it turned out, the day before my Mom had brought her van in to the dealer in order to fix the ABS braking system for the umpteenth time (the mechanics have no idea what the problem is - apparently the ABS system has 16 parts, 4 of which they've changed so far) and ended up with a Toyota Corolla in the meantime. That's a great car right there, and in fact it's basically the same car as the one I usually drive (the Toyota Matrix). Built on the same wheelbase with virtually identical interiors, the Corolla and the Matrix are set apart merely by their name (and that sexy hatchback).

However, given the several inches of snow littering the as of yet unplowed street, the 4-cylinder Corolla failed to even make it past the driveway. In the end, my Dad drove me to the subway in his van (yes, we have two vans, and I think it's disgusting... but I guess in this case, it worked out). Traffic was abysmal, and a 15 minute drive took 30.

Somehow, bad weather also makes the subway go slowly. This meant that every subway car was jam packed. I was left standing (therefore without my much needed 30 minute nap) in a very claustrophobic and damp space for... over an hour. This morning also marked the first time I was actually present on a train when someone hit the passenger assistance alarm, which makes an annoying whine throughout the train. A special constable came by looking for who triggered the alarm, and as the train resumed its course I saw him talking to an old lady sitting on a bench who looked like she was about ready to throw up. That said, I was impressed with the speed at which our train got back on it's feet - find the person in distress, get them off the train, and get going. That's the way it should always be, and having witnessed it firsthand, I don't see why it doesn't usually work.

I got off at College instead of taking the loop around to Queen's Park and walked the rest of the way. By this point in the morning, it was raining, leaving a puddle-laden, slushy mess. My feet got wet. I was not happy. Somehow, my commute had morphed into a two hour beast, and I missed my first class entirely.

On the bright side, the entire kerfuffle had brought two words to the forefront of my Mom's consciousness: snow tires. I was somewhat keen to switch over to these seasonal behemoths of traction, well aware of their ability to reduce skidding and decrease braking distance by two to six car lengths. Last year, I had garnered my first serious experiences with winter driving and there had been a near miss early on, skidding down the off ramp of Highway 407. It scared the life out of me and taught me to drive with respect for the winter, but it also highlighted the limitations my light and nimble Matrix.

My parents, on the other hand, have never been impressed with the idea of snow tires. They were unenthusiastic about the additional cost and required storage space. Besides, they argued, I don't drive that much anyways - not like my brother in Quebec.

There are, of course, a number of flaws with this argument. First of all, I may not drive every day, but I would hardly say I drive seldom. I certainly plan on getting out there and enjoying my Christmas break (twice as hard as Brutus, because he gets twice as long, lucky guy). Besides, it's not about the frequency of driving - even driving once in snowy conditions would benefit from snow tires. It's a safety issue. There's a reason they bothered to pass a law making it illegal not to have snow tires in Quebec.

Of course, with the added traction, that poor Corolla probably would have made it off the driveway this morning (though I still would have been late). The conclusion of the matter is this: I'm getting snow tires on Saturday.

...

As an aside, I have a tendency to fall asleep when I'm a passenger in a car (i.e. not driving). I've decided this must be a defence mechanism because riding in a car that my Mom or Dad is driving actually makes me really agitated with my eyes open. I mean, in the end, I always arrive alive, so might as well just doze off and not have a heart attack.

My Mom is a classic soccer mom (minus the soccer), and she refuses to drive anything smaller than a minivan. It makes her feel more secure to look down on everyone, I guess. Riding in the Corolla with her today was a veritable gong show. For some reason, little cars freak her out (she never touches the Matrix) and she got flustered at everything from how to turn on the wipers, how to open the windows, how to get the key out of the ignition, and how to open the gas flap. "Where is it? Where is it?!!! AAAAH!!!" /freakout

I couldn't help but smirk every time she reached for the wipers when she wanted to change gears. I'm bad, I know.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Inking the Milky Way

So, I picked up this "White Milk" pen at a high school fellowship Christmas gift exchange (one of those things where everyone puts a gift in a big pile and then draws one at random). It came with some Bible verse stationary. I never really gave it much thought, but I started using it this year to scribble down notes during exam studying, and as it turns out... it gives off this quite pleasant aroma as you write. I think maybe this is supposed to be a "milky" smell? In any case, it's quite likable. Although, since the pen is "Made in China," one has to wonder if I'm secretly inhaling toxic levels of melamine.

This reminded me of Mello's blog, where one entry read:

ps. my sister smells like milk!!!! *slurp*

Seriously, that's just freaking creepy.

As an aside, does anyone remember those Micro Machine trucks that you could shake up and sniff, and they were supposed to smell like whatever the truck was carrying? (e.g. if it was a Cream Soda truck, it was supposed to smell like Cream Soda?) Those were damn amazing. I am not a druggie.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

That's how we roll

Friday brought with it a desire to wash away the tears of PBD and extend our sleep deprived zombie state by just one more night. We started off at J-Rock's condo with Chinese takeout and a miscellaneous brand of beer courtesy of Maximus.

J-Rock: What kind of beer is this?

Maximus: I don't know.

J-Rock: You don't know?! [But you brought it...]

Maximus, J-Rock, Mello, Stewie and I made a valiant effort to chug down these Arizona-Iced-Tea-sized cans of fluid, but ended up having to take two goes at it. Wrex sat this one out, presumably because some people just don't chug. But if there's anything that I've learned from life experience and Korean drama, it's that drinking alcohol as fast as you can distracts from the fact that beer tastes like piss. Always a plus.

Fun Fact: Maximus gets buzzed after half a beer, which I find intriguing, since he seems to be the one that brings beer to all the parties (e.g. Medgames).

We took the evening over to Hart House, as Kushima had convinced us all to buy tickets to the Grad House semi-formal. As it turned out, a room full of UofT graduate students is hardly the most happening crowd (Mello: "What does 'happening' mean?"). We mingled awkwardly while Kon helped himself to a variety of desserts. But a couple of tequila shots later, we all hit the dance floor (for better or for worse).

At this point ensued the best conversation of the night. I had reeled J-Rock and Kon into karaoke post-semi and was now trying to solicit Maximus' participation. Mello, on the other hand, had elected to be uncool and head to the club with Yuffie and Yubin. She also wanted Maximus' company. Maximus requested that we both put forth our arguments:

Mello: There will be hot... girls!

Maximus: Hot girls. That's pretty good. What you got?

Andy: Bros, man.

Maximus: Hmm... Bros before hoes. That's true. What about you?

Mello: You can be a... good friend!

Maximus: Good friend... before bros?!

Game set and match. We hit Bar Plus for karaoke until 3:30, but sadly none of our audio recordings are blogworthy - not unless you want your ears to bleed. I crashed at J-Rock's for the night and then got kicked out so his mom could come over and do his laundry. Heh.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Captain Kirk is climbing a mountain


Today I received a FB message from Syd that William Shatner walked by her desk! In my excitement, I sent her the above video, which is now stuck in the heads of a number of CBC employees. Brilliant.

I'm currently in the midst of climbing my own mountain - it's called my final PBD exam. Challenge the rock. Challenging death.


"Why do I climb the mountain? Because I'm in love."


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

I'm a medical student, and I am Canadian

The other day, one of my classmates posted a news article regarding incoming legislation aimed at putting foreign professional immigrants to work as professionals in Canada (including MDs by 2012). The article made particular mention of how, "Media reports have long highlighted the problem of doctors working as pizza makers or cab drivers, for example. Many provinces and territories are struggling to make do with too few physicians, especially family doctors."

He accompanied the article with the caption, "Ugh."

The news became a lightning-rod for quick support from a number of classmates. A selection of their comments are included below:

It's about high time. It pisses me off to see international doctors forced to work in jobs barely requiring a high school diploma. So much for Canada, land of opportunity.

...

I am totally with [the comment above] on this one. I don't think international education is not as "good" as the Canadian one. It is much better to allow people to use their full potential and contribute to society instead of discriminating them based on where they studied.

Yet at the risk of sounding unfair and non-inclusive, I have to admit that as a future physician, this makes me fairly uncomfortable. Obviously, as the offspring of immigrants myself, I recognize one of Canada's most endearing features is the opportunity it provides to migrant families. At the same time, these opportunities need to be balanced against the needs of the nation itself. A country can't provide opportunities for others when it can scarcely provide opportunities for its own. Now I'm not saying that this will be the inevitable conclusion of such legislation, but I admit I think it could be. I, therefore, bucked the trend and submitted the following response:

I agree that it's wrong for Canada to advertise in other countries that they want professionals, when in fact they have no intention of recognizing those credentials, and when they actually want pizza makers and cab drivers.

It's also true that foreign education doesn't mean an inferior education, and it indeed is fair to recognize on par or superior foreign credentials, so long as you plan to control the number of such professionals that actually come in (and have some kind of QA system in place).

The major concern I would have is that it feels somewhat shortsighted to permanently fling wide the gates to foreign professionals to make up for a "doctor shortage" whose origin lies in the past slashing of medical school enrolments and which is currently being addressed by a restoration of larger medical school class sizes.

When all these extra Canadian doctors start graduating, I think it'll be pretty hard to tighten the tap without someone crying foul.

What I attempted to highlight was twofold. Firstly, Canada recruits immigrants in other countries, and often does so by appealing to the educated class. However, upon arrival, the nation often does in fact relegate such professionals to manual labour and other unrelated fields. Indeed, it would seem more morally acceptable to seek migrants looking for blue-collar work if we intend to parcel them into blue-collar jobs.

Secondly, however, while internationally trained physicians may (and this obviously requires qualification) possess the same or higher abilities as domestically trained physicians, the nation also needs to take care of its own (especially given the not inconsiderable investment that is made for medical education). When we talk about a "doctor shortage", we're discussing a direct consequence of policy in the 1990's which led to the slashing of medical school enrolment by 10%. This came about based on recommendations by the so-called Barer-Stoddart report which projected a surplus of doctors and raised the solution of cutting medical school admissions.

Today, the result of that misguided policy is seen is physician shortages across the country. Yet as Canada responds by ramping up medical school class sizes across the country while simultaneously trying to put boots on the ground through increased immigration, we ought to stop and question the long term ramifications of this policy.

If our doctor shortage is caused by decreased class sizes, and in a few years larger classes will start graduating, then theoretically this shortage will be self-limited. At the same time, if we fling open the gates to foreign-trained doctors, we may very well end up with a surplus shortly.

Stewie, ever the shit-disturber, replied to my comment with the following:

I absolutely support a meritocratic system, where your profession & income are based on your skills & experience, not your seniority, whether you belong in an union or what passport you have.

Let's face it - if you are Canadian-born or grew up in Canada, attended a Canadian highschool, university and medical school, then you have a number of advantages over a FMG (including language skills, cultural awareness, professional connections). If, despite all this, you STILL can't compete with an FMG, it tells me that either a) the FMG is freaking awesome (what's wrong with having more awesome doctors?) or b) you freaking suck (what's wrong with not having sucky doctors?). Either way, suck it up and go cry to yo momma, biznatch! =D

Obviously, this is a good point. While competition may make me and my peers more uncomfortable, it may be positive for the system itself, right?

But the problem is not one of quality, but rather quantity. Jobs for physicians don't magically appear, and once filled they may remain filled until vacated by retirement (which is coming ever later due to recession economics). Canada puts specific limits on the number of medical students it trains each year, and therefore, the number of new physicians entering the system.

However, if foreign-medical grads are simply funnelled into the system at the rate at which they can immigrate, how will that impact the system? These are some of the concerns I think need to be addressed when crafting policy.

Certainly, I think it's fair for an immigrant physician with the correct qualifications to work as a physician in Canada. But if we're going to set up this paradigm, then the nation itself will have to be ready to put the brakes on the immigration of physicians. Be ready to say: "Stop, you can't immigrate because we already have enough doctors this year, and if we let you in, we also have to let you practice because you're qualified. So even though you meet our economic criteria, you can't come in." Is that realistic? Over to you.

This is a very contentious topic, indeed it steps on a lot of nerves and balances the needs of the nation against discrimination against foreigners, the opportunities afforded-to we are all standing on. In the end, I'm not arguing against fairness for migrant professionals, but that such policy has to be robust enough to look out for the country itself and not be an open tap as it may turn out to be.

Kushima put gave his two cents in support of this view:

Kushima: I don't think they should be allowed to practice medicine so easily. Not sure about other fields, but medicine is always a protected field in each country. Which country out there recognizes foreign credentials in medicine without extra exams/training? Each country's healthcare system is different, and it is an expensive area too. Aside from good or bad education elsewhere, there is so much difference in the way healthcare is delivered from country to country and different emphasis based on different cultures.

Kushima: It's possible for them to practice here, just very difficult, which I think is reasonable becasue only the best of the best should be allowed to pass the threshold.

Andy: Well I think it's reasonable to accept foreign professionals, but if you're going to do that you're going to have to be tight about how many you let in. We control how many doctors we train... If you're going to let doctors practice from foreign countries, you better control that too.

Kushima: Exactly.

It's obviously not a simple issue, and it boils down to more than just our itchy equality fingers. As the poster of the article noted, "This is currently one of the top-commented articles on CBC. While it's important to extend opportunities to all, there are also many of cons that have been raised and are better expressed by commenters in the CBC article."

Of course, trusting Internet comments? That's a little dicey in my books.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

No school is an nation

Sitting in our ivory towers, we assuredly pat ourselves on the back in confidence that our institutions of learning, which have endured over a hundred years, will be forever respected - that when we invoke alumnus status at Toronto, Queen's, Western, McGill, UBC, and the like, we can be proud.

While I've done my fair share of scholastic-bashing this weekend, it doesn't come anywhere close to the anguish that I found Stewie in on Sunday evening. He'd been following UBC politics all day as the student government sought to impeach their President and Vice President (External Affairs) over a cockamamie scheme that he was worried would tarnish the authority of the student body and the reputation of his alma mater irrevocably.

The gist of the story is this: the President and Vice President (External Affairs) took it upon themselves to draft and submit a formal human rights complaint to the United freaking Nations over rising tuition fees. Forget Darfur, there's a human rights crisis right here in Canada, and we're not talking about Afghan prison transfers. What's worse is that they took this action without properly consulting the rest of the student council. Their fellow councillors only discovered the UN petition when a press release came out, affirming the complaint as an official student government position (thus implying their own complicity).

Stewie was up in arms:

Stewie: In other words, not only did they do something stupid (file a UN complaint), they purposely did it behind the backs of the execs.

Stewie: And Tim went on record as saying they did it that way because they were worried if they went through council it would be rejected.

Stewie: WELL GEE MOTHERFUCKER, MAYBE THATS WHAT COUNCIL IS FOR. TO REJECT FUCKED UP PIECES OF SHIT IDEAS LIKE YOURS.

Andy: You're pretty excited about this, eh? I guess that's sort of a big deal, though.

Andy: That sucks... but at least you don't go to UBC anymore?

Stewie: Yeah, but I really look forward to the day when I say, "Yea I attended UBC," and have people say, "Oh, aren't you guys the ones who complained to the UN about tuition fees?"

Don't worry too much, Stewie. Nobody takes the UN seriously anyways.

Stewie: Oh and it's on Fail Blog...