Sunday, January 31, 2010

My kind of game

Best comment ever:
What worries me is at what point did Apple start making military hardware?

The iSoldier.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Doctors don't get snow days

...just dirty looks.

One of the things I really miss about studying at Undergrad U is living on campus. I could speed-walk to any given building within 7 minutes if I had to (I mean straight across campus). I could roll out of bed, hit up an hour of lecture, then meander my way back home for breaks.

When I returned to Toronto to pursue higher education and based myself out of my parents' house in the suburbs, many of my classmates called me crazy. They weren't all wrong. The fact of the matter is that even though some people live a 20-minute walk from school, and I live (on a good day) a 20-minute drive from my base hospital, 20-minutes walking and driving are totally different. Yes, walking is cold and driving is warm. These distinctions aside, the farther away you live, the more unpredictable your travel time.

If you live a 20-minute walk from where you're educated, a 20-minute walk is a 20-minute walk (25 tops). Come sun, rain, or snow, your walking speed doesn't change. The sidewalks don't get congested beyond your ability to maneuver.

If you live a 20-minute drive from where you're educated, a 10-minute difference in when you get out the door can mean a 30-minute difference in arrival time. That 20-minute commute can turn into a 50-minute commute if you hit that rush hour traffic.

If you live a 10-minute drive from the subway plus a 40-minute ride? That's 50-minutes on a good day and "you're f*cked" on a bad day. Traffic accident? Snowstorm? TTC fail? Give up now. The further away you have to commute, the wider the standard deviation of your commute time. You're annoyed on a good day, having a heart attack on a bad one (read: exam day).

This morning, my clinical skills course was scheduled for a downtown session, taking advantage of all the excellence in neonatal care concentrated in the downtown core. The session was 8:30 AM. I got out of the house at 7:40. 15-20 minutes to the subway. 30 minutes down. Good?

Hardly. Traffic was backed up like there's no tomorrow and it was snowing! At one point, the snow came down so furiously the road was pretty much whited out. Cars were moving by inches every time the light turned green and I was going nowhere fast. Frustrated, I finally arrived at a the junction from which I could detour from Yonge Street's obscene congestion and turned off onto a parallel side-street, which usually serves me well when the going gets tough.

The minute I turned onto the street... lo and behold - flashing lights. Traffic was backed up until the first traffic light because of several firetrucks and police cars. You have got to be kidding me! Stuck at the light, I quickly texted one of my friends for the mobile number of one of the girls in my clinical skills group. Thankfully, she texted back promptly, providing the number I needed to call my group-member. I informed the group-member that I was stuck in traffic and to let our tutor know I would be late by at least 10-15 minutes. The light turned green again, and I quickly truncated my conversation and put down the phone. After all, there were several police officers in the intersection just ahead, and the last thing I needed right now was a ticket.

I finally made it to the subway station and parked at an alternate parking lot (because of my detoured route). I stepped out of the car: Holy frick it's cold! I walked as fast as I could to the station, my tibialis muscles burning from trying to stabilize my speed-walking towards the station on the traction-reduced snowy ground without PK-ing. I had recently switched back from wearing dress boots all the time to wearing normal dress shoes and runners. Why had I done this?

I contemplated tweeting on my walk to the station, but decided not to. I wish I had because it wasn't until I got to the station that I realized I had left my BlackBerry in the car. Not keen on losing my window, I speed-walked back (already tremendously late), picked up my phone, and high-tailed it back to the station. FML.

I caught the first subway that I could, which was of course packed. I stood for the ride downtown. One of the benefits of catching the train at the end of the line is that you almost always get a seat. From a seat, you're comfortable and relaxed for the whole ride. Standing, you get packed uncomfortably against other bodies, pushed around by rapid accelerations, and it's virtually impossible to sleep. This was particularly tragic today since this week has left me hypervigilant, overstressed, and underslept. My eyes have started to resemble raccoons and dreams have started to inject themselves into my waking world during lecture.

Luckily, my tutor took my tardiness with a grain of salt. In fact, he took the opportunity to buy my peers a cup of Joe (and that's where I caught up with them when I finally walked in). He asked me if I wanted anything, but I waved off the suggestion - already feeling guilty for having wasted so much of their time. I wish I had agreed though. I could have damn used that coffee. I think, just maybe... I need to move closer.


Another entertaining anecdote from today:

E: What's your real name, Andy?

A: My real name? Well................

M: How do you know that Andy's not his real name?

A: Yeah, how do you know that Andy's not my real name?

E: Well, now I know, given how long you just paused.

A: Fine. Well actually, my birth name is Awesome.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A day with the doctor

This Monday, I had my first shadowing experience with a family physician. It was a lively afternoon clinic in the suburbs of Toronto.

As the clinic wound down, the waiting room emptied little by little and eventually the nurses took their leave as well. I hung around to see the last patient with my preceptor and then to reflect on our session and chat a little bit about future visits.

I had left my belongings in an office upstairs right beside a two- or three-foot tall felt doll in a hockey jersey (like a Muppet or the Angel puppet from Smile Time). When I had arrived in the early afternoon, the room had been filled with natural light, and I had noted the creepy puppet man. When I returned to retrieve a clipboard from my backpack in the late afternoon, the sun had almost completely set, leaving the room with only a glimmer of light. The light switches themselves were not in working order (presumably due to a popped lightbulb), so I ended up sifting through my bag staring face-to-face at this sinister-looking puppet in the dark.

"You're not the first one to be alarmed by him," my preceptor commented with dry amusement.

I have to admit, puppets creep me out. I probably watched too many episodes of Goosebumps and saw too many posters for Chucky as a child. When I was little, I used to set my action figures up for display on my bookshelves - but I always made sure to balance the good and evil ones in case they came to life at night (à la Indian in the Cupboard or Toy Story) so that the good ones would stop the evil ones from offing me in my sleep. When I returned upstairs to pick up my bag to leave in the early evening, even the glimmer of light filtering through the blinds was gone and the room had become pitch black. I fumbled around in the dark for my bag and jacket, fixing my eyes on where I knew the puppet was hiding just in front of me (though I couldn't see him). I indulged my imagination for a moment and allowed myself to picture the puppet having snuck into my backpack in the dark only to pop out and cut me when I opened it back at home...

I made my way back downstairs, bag and jacket in tow. "Found everything?" my preceptor called out from the back. "Yup, I got it. Thanks again," I replied, already on my way to the door.

By the time I stepped out the door, the clinic had more or less gone to sleep. The reception area had only one or two lights left on, casting a dim yellow glow on the area. All the staff and patients had cleared out and the small parking lot was pitch black. From the outside of the building, I could see the lights on in a couple of the examining rooms where my preceptor was finishing up his paperwork for the day.

Parked on the driveway leading up to the parking lot was a silver sport utility vehicle, presumably my preceptor's. I turned the corner towards the back of the building where my own car was parked. Parked beside it in the dark was an unmarked minivan with the trunk open. Surrounding it, four or five black people, probably in their twenties or thirties were loitering about. As I walked by, my throat tightened a little. I could feel a pair of eyes tracking me, but I got into my car without issue, and I drove away. As I passed by my preceptor's silvery SUV, I noted three of the strangers had made their way from the parking lot and were climbing the stairs to the darkened clinic. Foot to gas, and bye bye.

About five minutes out, I was still thinking about the situation that I had left behind. I realized I was stereotyping, but the scene had looked somewhat concerning. The clinic was closed, and all the staff had gone home. The only one left in the building was my preceptor (who held a special pain clinic on the side and so probably had a wealth of painkillers in his office). It was dark, deserted and a whole cadre of strange people had just walked into the clinic.

I wanted to go home and not stick my nose into this situation. I mentally crunched the possibilities both likely and absurd. Perhaps these people were friends of my preceptor and had arranged to meet up with him for some after hours advice. Then again, maybe they were troublemakers or addicts going in to gank my fam doc while the clinic was empty. Indulging my ferocious imagination even further - maybe my preceptor was doing a little drug dealing on the side with non-prescription use of opioid analgesics!

As I considered the possibilities, I felt distinctly uneasy. I wanted to drive home, but what if something nasty was afoot? How would I feel if I found out my preceptor's office had been broken into and he had been left bleeding on the floor of his clinic knowing that I had walked by the assailants on my way out? I recognized that this was an unlikely possibility. Obviously, my preceptor had being working for a long time and the likelihood of something sketchy going down the one day that I was with him was slim. But could I chance it in good conscience?

I turned the car around and headed back to the clinic for another drive-by. It wasn't very instructive though since both cars were still in the parking lot and the lights were still on in the clinic. There was a daycare next door and houses lining the street, but the whole area was quite dark and carried a secluded feel. If something unsavory was afoot within the clinic building itself, it's quite possible that nobody would even notice.

Still, what could I do? Having completed an inconclusive drive-by, I turned the car homeward bound once more and drove back the way I had come for another five minutes.

But had I satisfied my tingling concerns? I needed another brain on this. Who should I call? Parentals? They'd probably be worried about my safety first and tell me to come home. Friends? I decided to log a long distance call to Sandlot, my trusted and loving girlfriend and a woman with a determined social conscience, forsaking the minutes on my Pay as You Go plan. No one picked up.

I deferred to my second line - should I call Mello or J-Rock? I decided that J-Rock was more likely to provide the gutsy answers I might need in this situation. He agreed that the scenario - dark, isolated clinic with a lone doctor being descended upon by four or five young, stout strangers - was due some concern. He recommended I try calling the clinic, and I worked up an excuse with regard to scheduling one of my future visits. Of course, the clinic telephone went straight to answering machine since the office was closed. I didn't have my preceptor's mobile.

No further ahead, we plotted what would be a satisfactory course of action. After all, it was unlikely that anything bad was going down, but at the same time I couldn't think of any legitimate sounding reason for the strangers' presence. It wasn't that any bad case scenario was likely, but rather would I be able to absolve myself on the off chance that it was actually the case?

J-Rock laid down three courses of action: Go back and check what's happening. Call the police. Go home, and pray that nothing bad happened.

With the first choice, I was concerned on a number of levels. If something bad was happening, I could get caught up in it. If nothing bad was happening, my preceptor would think I was stupid, not to mention quick to judge for pegging the strangers as something malevolent. To be honest, both scenarios were equally unpleasant - though J-Rock thought that if I was straight up, my concern would not be considered against me by my preceptor.

The second choice would be even worse if nothing bad was going down. In fact, if these were people my preceptor had expected, he'd probably be extremely perplexed and unhappy with the commotion. The strangers would be irked as well, and it wouldn't be hard to reason out who called in the coppers.

The third choice was my gut instinct: feign ignorance and hope for the best. However, I wasn't sure that would satisfy my conscience.

In the end, I drove back and parked on the street. Unexpectedly, the SUV that I thought belonged to my preceptor was gone, but the van that belonged to the strangers was still present. The lights in the clinic were still on. Had I mistaken whose car was whose? But the strangers had obviously had access to the van. Still, if my preceptor's car was gone, it was unlikely that anything bad had befallen him. I didn't think it was likely that robbers would steal the car if they already had their own... especially if it was painkillers or medical goods that they wanted. Wouldn't a quick in and out smash and grab operation be the likely course?

After some wrestling with myself, I decided to go down and take a look, with J-Rock still connected on the other side of my mobile. If my supervisor thought I was silly, that was an acceptable price for knowing that all was well. If things panned out for the worst, at least J-Rock could call me an ambulance before I bled out and died.

As it turned out, I caught a glimpse of one of the strangers walking on the inside of the building, and another one showed up behind the curtain of the window. I stood outside and peered in. The stranger appeared to be doing something inside one of the exam rooms and they seemed to know their way around. The strangers were obviously still there, so the van was definitely theirs. Therefore, my preceptor was probably gone. My index of suspicion went down as I reassessed the threat level. The strangers? Probably cleaning staff. My supervisor? Probably gone home.

Reasonably confident that all was well, I walked back to my car and went home as well. Neither the strangers nor my preceptor had seen me, and my conscience was set easy. In the end, the crisis had been only hypothetical.

Sure enough, my preceptor e-mailed me later that night undamaged. Good thing I didn't try calling the cops!

Of course, when I told Sandlot the story later, she just laughed: "Ah, you never call me from your cell phone. I thought you were in a life or death situation or something!" True enough, looking back at my half-hour moral dilemma over the clinic cleaning staff seems a bit silly, but it sure felt dramatic at the time!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Lord Leader of the Opposition

Michael Ignatieff, leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition, finding himself with a bit too much time on his hands now that Parliament is prorogued, has been taking his message of cheaper education for all from campus to campus. He is, presumably, wooing the crowd that is most likely to support him - the educated.

But far more compelling is his uncanny resemblance to former James Bond actor Timothy Dalton's portrayal of the supreme Time Lord Rassilon, the Lord President in the Christmas special of the acclaimed British serial Doctor Who.

Perhaps we should be calling him Lord Leader of the Opposition, or if Sandlot has her way - Lord Prime Minister.

Monday, January 25, 2010

How my brother almost killed me

There are a number of sketchy stories from my childhood that involve the shenanigans to which my older brother got up to at my infantile expense. Most of these stories I know of only from the telling, having been too young to remember the actual events myself. One such story begins as follows: My brother, watching baby Andy sleep as I gently breathed in and out through my nose, thought it would be an interesting science experiment to determine what would happen if this airway was suddenly occluded.

Two fingers snaked towards my diminutive nasal passages, applying pressure on each side.


Then, a few moments later, an adorable gasp as my head tilted back and my mouth dropped open - breathing resumed. To this day I blame my nocturnal mouth-breathing and occasional snore on my brother (however unscientific that may be).

But in the Pediatrics unit of my Clinical Skills course, I learned a disturbing fact this week: newborns are obligate nasal breathers. That is, they cannot mouth-breathe. In fact, there is a pathological condition called choanal atresia whereby the openings between the nose and the pharynx at the back of one's mouth are closed at birth. This leaves the baby with no way to breath (being unable to breathe through its mouth) and is a medical emergency.

In other words, brother, had I been a wee bit younger... I could have died (or at least been severely handicapped). Gee, thanks.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Confessions of an emo child

I hate being overly personal and gratuitously vulnerable on my blog, but this song just got itself stuck in my fuzzy head on this inexplicably brooding day. I had to write it.

To the tune of Usher's Confessions Part II:

Everytime I was in T.O., I was planning to study
Everytime we talked I told you,
"Baby, you're lovely" (So!)
And when you were stressed out (Oh!)
Stopped and gave you a shout
I just want to see you, hold you, and be there like clay
Not spendin' a day without you
So far (I know)
My heart (Just listen)
Thinkin' I got time and left my books on the shelf
Thinkin' you and me
Bein' a shoulder to cry on
And I'm tryin' to show that I'm a good man
A man that always makes you smile and never brings the mood down
Brace yourself
It ain't good
But it would be even worse if you thought I was somebody else

I know it's weaksauce
But at least it rhymes
'Cause there's more


Watch this

These are my confessions
Just when I thought I had stresses at bay
I woke up this morning to a damned emo day
These are my confessions
Man I'm cheesed and my head is in a fog
I guess I gotta write a blog on my confessions
If I'm gonna drop my guard then I guess you oughta know
That sometimes I just need someone to hold
I'm so cheesed and my head is in a fog
So I'm writin' a blog on my confessions

My school life's in a mess with CREMS, DOCH, and FMLE
Getting pimped in peds for ASCM makes it hard for me to see
All that stuff from FMP I told y'all I was puttin' off
(Puttin' off)
Now there's seven weeks worth, imma choke and cough
The first thing that came to mind was, "Sh*t"
Second thing was what's the license of that truck my head just hit?
Third thing was me wishin' that I had read ahead like I said
How I ain't ready for no test and bye bye to the weekend ahead

These are my confessions
Just when I thought I had stresses at bay
I woke up this morning to a damned emo day
These are my confessions
Man I'm cheesed and my head is in a fog
I guess I gotta write a blog on my confessions
If I'm gonna drop my guard then I guess you oughta know
That sometimes I just need someone to hold
I'm so cheesed and my head is in a fog
So I'm writin' a blog on my confessions

See when I talk to you I'm tryna figure out
Why the name Michael Ignatieff makes me wanna pout
Said I ain't speak no Singlish
But I need to stop thinkin', bein' nervous
Take a joke and just get over it (over it)
I'm riding Toyota
Racin' to the Hill
Talkin' to myself
Preparin' to bunt his dog or face
He opened up the door and had his bodyguard tase me
I said why? Iggy?
He ain't sexy

These are my confessions
Just when I thought I had stresses at bay
I woke up this morning to a damned emo day
These are my confessions
Man I'm cheesed and my head is in a fog
I guess I gotta write a blog on my confessions
If I'm gonna drop my guard then I guess you oughta know
That sometimes I just need someone to hold
I'm so cheesed and my head is in a fog
So I'm writin' a blog on my confessions

This is by far the hardest thing I think I've ever had to do
To tell you, the blogosphere
That some days I attention whore and could really use some love
I hope that you can accept the fact that I'm man enough to tell you this
And hopefully you won't think less of me
This ain't about school
This ain't about rhymes
It's who I am

These are my confessions (confessions)

And why, yes, I do bear an awful resemblance to Usher when shirtless. /jks

Saturday, January 23, 2010

You drive me crazy

[photo credit: thieved from Brutus' AsianAvenue circa high school]

My friends and I sat in the cafeteria discussing our future prospects for hospital placement during our clerkship years. Mello, who like me has uptown parentals, commented: "If I get Sunnybrook, I can just live at home and have my parents drive me in the morning." Valid.

We then segued into a discussion of whether Mello could drive herself to the hospital. I quickly chimed in that despite having a legit license, Mello could in fact, not. Mind you, I've never actually seen Mello drive a car, but she has self-admitted on more than one occasion that she seldom does so and is, in fact, not very good at it.

J-Rock, putting faith in Mello, instantly disagreed with me. He turned to Mello to ask her whether or not she could drive. "Yes, of course I can!" Mello replied with furrowed eyebrows announcing her wounded pride. To the hospital? "Oh... probably not."

"OH SH*T!" J-Rock exclaimed. "I was trying to be on your side, but..."

"Hey..." Mello injected, "I could pick you up from the subway, though!" [a shorter distance]

"No, that's okay," he quickly bit in.

"Well, if I practiced over the summer I probably could..."

"Wait, but you have a full G, right?" I queried.

"Yes, of course I have my G!" Mello answered - her eyebrows furrowed once more as she puffed out her elbows and dug her fists into her hips in disapproval.

"You have a G?!" J-Rock gasped. "Where did you do your test - ORANGEVILLE?!"

"Hey... no... I did it at Morningside, but I failed the first time at Aurora."

"What?! No way, I did my test at Morningside," claimed J-Rock.

I did my test at Aurora, heh.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Cabin fever blues

I just want to go home home.

If I could read Sandlot's mind, this is what I think she'd say:

(to the tune of Michael Buble's Home)

Another winter day
Has come and gone away
In London, T.O.
But I wanna go home

May be surrounded by
Undergrad students, I
Still feel all alone
I just wanna go home
Oh, I miss you, you know (I know)

And I've been keeping all the abstracts that you wrote to me
Filled in the blanks with glee
"Yes, our results agree"
Well I would publish them but I don't know where I should go
Nature would be a start
While we research exploding hearts

Another transcription
Research with ambition
I'm lucky, I know
But I wanna go home
I've got to go home

Let me go home
I'm just too far from where you are
I wanna come home

And I don't want to facilitate a lecture hour
Or even leave the shower
The world alone seems so dour
And I know that we are only just a text apart
With me on the phone you'd stay
But your arms are so far away

Another lecture day
Has come and gone away
In even London, T.O.
And I wanna go home
Let me go home

And I'm surrounded by
Undergrad students, I
Still feel alone
Oh, let me go home
Oh, I miss you, you know

Let me go home
A year left to run
I wish I were done
I gotta go home
Let me go home
It will all be all right
I'll be home fortnight
I'm coming back home

I'll be waiting with a Coffee Crisp in hand.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Not a girl, not yet a woman

Stewie was the subject of intense lunchtime discussion today, having pen-tattooed the word "Pharmacokinetics" onto his arm during lecture, complete with loopy cursive handwriting and an affectionate-looking heart. We'd all chalked it up to Yuffie's doing (who was sitting beside him in class), but apparently Stewie had done the deed himself.

J-Rock commented that he had learned never to take Stewie's maleness for granted. Our friend Sherry took things a tad farther:

Sherry: Stewie is totally a girl. Look - the flowery handwriting on his arm, his cute thermos, and his fingernails which are nicer than mine! I pay a lot of attention to fingernails, so I should know. I'm jealous of those fingernails!

J-Rock: [to Stewie] Oh, that doesn't say good things about you.

Stewie: Actually, I think it doesn't say good things about her either.

J-Rock: Oh, true.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Hit the road, Jack

The English word "jack" has varied and diverse connotations and uses.

For instance, it can be used as a proper noun and popular men's name:

Hit the road, Jack, and don't you come back no more no more no more no more.

It can be used as a common noun such as as for the game of jacks or the so-named tool.

But the word "jack" also has a number of verb uses. Of particular significance is the distinction between "jack" and "jack off."

Jack, used alone, refers to being robbed, ganked, or mugged.

Thug: Get out! This is a carjack!

Greg Brady: Well, of course this is a car. But my name's not Jack.

Jack off, used in tandem, refers to manual (i.e. by hand) stimulation of male genitalia resulting in jizz.

If Jack helped you off the horse, would you help jack off the horse?

And now, the story: This weekend, I visited the Queen of Awesome (and my heart), Sandlot, at her graduate school university via Greyhound bus (a mode of transportation decidedly more ghetto than train and infamous for being populated by ex cons and crazy decapitating schizophrenics).

In reference to my somewhat unkempt appearance today:

Andy: It's okay, I don't need to impress anyone on the bus.

Sandlot: What about all those sketchy ex-cons?

Andy: Yeah, well if I look too nice then I might get jacked.


Andy: That's not what I meant...

Sandlot: But you got what I was thinking.

Stupid, Jack. Get your mind out of the gutter.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Keep your tongue to yourself

Cystic Fibrosis (CF), a congenital disorder of the body's chloride (salt) channels is tested for in modern times via a chloride sweat test (a lab diagnosis). However, we learned in lecture that CF was historically tested for by physicians licking babies to see if they tested salty. Obviously, this practice has fallen out of vogue.

Upon hearing this, I turned to J-Rock...

Andy: Can't you picture Mello saying that?

Andy: (pretending to be Mello) My sister tastes salty!

Yes, he could.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Imma cut you good

The second-year medical class is an ocean of ubiquitous and iconic blue backpacks. Even so, we all need a way to distinguish our own.

J-Rock: How come your backpack has three pins now?

Andy: Because I got new ones for Christmas.

J-Rock: But what if you lose them, like what happened to your Superman pin? Then you'll lose all three at once.

Andy: Don't worry, they aren't coming off this time. I learn from my mistakes.

J-Rock: Well, they don't necessarily need to fall off by themselves... someone could steal them.

Andy: ..................

Andy: Why, are you planning to steal one?

J-Rock: I was thinking of stealing the Batman one.

Andy: Anyways, they aren't coming off by themselves. Take a look.

[ J-Rock leans in for a closer examination ]

J-Rock: Pfft... glue isn't going to keep them from coming off! You glued them shut, right?

Andy: Yeah, with a glue gun.

J-Rock: Ah, I have a Swiss Army knife in my bag. I could cut that off easy!

Andy: ..................

Andy: Well obviously if you cut it...

J-Rock: Although, you'd have to stand still otherwise I might accidentally cut you.

Andy: Typical Scarborough upbringing.

So G.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

We surveyed 100 people...

So, it's come to pass that at twelve noon in the student lounge of my academy hospital, back-to-back episodes of Family Feud air on television. It's the favourite of our undergraduate medical education coordinator, and today I overheard her boasting of we the medical students, "I've trained them so well that if I walk in the room and they're watching something else, they immediately reach to change the channel."

Yes, watching John O'Hurley pit one family against another family against America while he swoops in to fondle his female contestants is a thoroughly entertaining exercise. We approve or disapprove answers and shout our own at the TV, swearing that we could do better.

The premise behind Family Feud is this - 100 people are polled for their answers to a particular question. The top answers appear on the board and families have to guess what they are. Now over the last year and a half I've watched a fair share of Family Feud, and some of the answers are just plain awful. Here are some of the highlights:

Q: Name a famous tiger
A: The Lion King

Gee, how could I have ever thought the two were different? The top answer was Tony the Tiger.

Q: Name something you don't want to see come out of your closet
A: A shirt

Amazingly, this actually appeared on the board for 8 points. Even the host was flabbergasted. The top answer was a person.

Q: Name a country in South America
A: Africa

This one came courtesy of our coordinator, who commented, "I know it's hard under pressure, and it could have been understandable if they at least named a country in Africa... but Africa?"

Q: Name something people like to walk bare feet in
A: Snow

Sorry, wrong season, pal.

Q: Name something you can do with one finger
A: Drive a car

One finger, not one hand. Oh dear...

Interestingly enough, the top answers for both the question "How fun do you think it would be to be President" and "How fun do you think it would be to be famous" was 1/10. I think I definitely would have picked 10/10 to both, but maybe that's just because I'm a narcissistic bastard with megalomaniac ambitions who was born to be attended to by the world.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Mechanical advantage

Yesterday, Mello and I hit up our friend Molly's party for some intense SingStar and Taboo action. I came out bitterly defeated on all counts - destroyed by Molly's pitch perfect rendition of Hoobastank's the Reason (of which I am king) and part of the ineffective XY team in Taboo (our score was undermined by a couple of Molly's friends who had a less than optimal command of the language). At the end of the night, Mello and I walked back to her condo where I had parked. My sister was also downtown and was expecting me to pick her up by car.

Mello: Andy, stop walking so fast.

Andy: Oh, sorry. I have to pick up my sister, and she's waiting outside.

Mello: Oh, okay.

Andy: Are you wearing heels?

At this point, it's worth interjecting that the first time that Mello commented on my walking speed, she told me that I walk too slow. I guess I had taken to keeping a leisurely pace while with her, because I most certainly do not walk slow usually (Brutus can attest to this - he consistently tells me to slow down). I obliged by picking up the pace. I guess Mello is used to walking fast in light up her upcoming medical career. Doctors tend to walk quickly because they're always in a hurry. My summer supervisor in undergrad, who was a small Chinese lady about 5'4 in height, once urged me to walk faster as she hurried along at an inhuman pace, "C'mon," she goaded, "You have such long legs."

The second time Mello commented on my walking pace, she told me to slow down. Of course, this was the opportune time to bring up the fact that she had previously chastised me for walking too slowly. This time, Mello used the excuse of wearing heels. This is a reason that all well-trained boys respect because, well, we don't have to wear them (re: My Sassy Girl).

This time Mello was not wearing heels and so had little excuse for her lagging behind save for the fact that she was now subject to the full fury of my natural walking pace (and not my leisurely one). /evil laughter

Mello: It's not fair. You have a mechanical advantage. (read: long legs)

Andy: Mechanical advantage? No, this is mechanical advantage.

I proceeded to pick up my walking pace, taking full advantage of my stride length. Mello yelped as she picked up to a bubbly little skip or jog beside me.

Andy: See, now I'm still walking, and you're running.

Okay, so that was a little bit evil, but irresistibly amusing.

Mello: Grr, how tall are you?

Andy: Mmm... 5'9?

Mello: See! I'm 5'3 - not even, like 5'2 and 3/4. Whoa............

Mello: I'm really short!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Riding Canada like a cowboy

Dear Canadians,

Please shake off your apathy and grow a pair of eyes and ears. Your country is here, not south of the border, and it would be in your best interests to care. For those of you who have been asleep through the latest round of Canadian politics, pay heed to the recap:

[ # 1 ] Parliament is currently prorogued.

That is, the government is on holiday. Stephen Harper has asked the Governor General to dismiss parliament early and have them reconvene in March. Harper did this last year as well, to save his government from a coalition poised to topple him shortly after being elected. True to his strategy, a few months with no government allowed Canadians to forget about all the shit that Harper had done. In fact, most Canadians don't really pay attention to begin with.

Why this time? There are two reasons. Firstly, it will give Harper time to shore up support by seizing on the Vancouver Olympics. By taking every opportunity to take credit for this joyous event and taking every chance to squeeze in a prettifying photo-shoot, Harper's popularity will shoot up as it often does. Secondly, it will put off the messy inquiry regarding Afghan prison transfers. Embroiled in calls for an inquiry into whether Canada knowingly handed over prisoners to be tortured, the easiest way to scuttle the problem is to dissolve the parliament in whose hands these proceedings lie. Well played, Monsieur Harper.

[ # 2 ] Stephen Harper can get away with murder(ing democracy)

Michael Ignatieff (a gifted scholar, though not a gifted politician) summarizes Harper's recent record quite neatly:

"Just over a year ago, he prorogued Parliament just weeks after an election - in order to rescue himself from an unprecedented political and constitutional crisis of his own making.

He has lashed out at public servants - like Richard Colvin, in the case of the detainees - for daring to speak the truth, and cowed others into silence.

He fired Linda Keen, the head of the Nuclear Safety Commission, for blowing the whistle on the repairs needed at Chalk River to ensure the reactor's safety.

He starved Kevin Page, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, of the necessary resources to do his job because he was critical of the poor management of our public finances under this Conservative government.

He let go the heads of both the RCMP's Public Complaints Commission and the Military Police Complaints Commission. Both were competent individuals, doing their job with distinction. But both had a serious flaw in Stephen Harper's eye: they were critical of the government.

He cut off public funding for the ecumenical charitable group KAIROS, despite their lauded work and broad public support, because, according to one of his ministers, they held dissenting views from the government on foreign policy.

This approach to government - intimidating all who stand in its way - can have severe and corrosive consequences. Look at our nation's capital today: a cowed and demoralized public service and a constantly bullied national press gallery, both trying to serve a disenchanted public."

[ # 3 ] Canadians are easily distracted

Whether it's singing the Beatles with Yo-Yo Ma or taking tea with Dashan, Harper knows how to brush off his political woes with media shows. Canadians, for the most part, eat it up.

[ # 4 ] Our Governor General is bollocks

Michaelle Jean is the Queen's representative in Canada. It's a solemn and (at least in title) important role. With it come a variety of vestigal powers and parliamentary responsibilities. Yet, while Jean presents a warm and lovable persona to the GG role, she seems to know (and care) so little about what is proper.

Led by emotion, rather than protocol, she can often be caught tearing up over a variety of topics, or making a big media fuss over smallscauce (like eating seal meat). Jean's predecessor, Adrienne Clarkson, who performed the role with a much higher degree of knowledge, professionalism, and gravitas commented at that time: "I've eaten raw food here since 1971. It's nothing new to me, okay?"

When it came time to greet Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, Canada demonstrated its general lack of tact through the Harper and Jean duo. Harper stole the speech lines right out of Charles' own. Jean got all touchy feely with the royals, which apparently is a big no-no. Wait, as the Queen's representative, shouldn't she be familiar with these basic protocols? Oh, you know, that's just the sort of gal she is: touchy feely and improper. I'm sure Charles was left wondering what had happened to this polite little former-colony of ours.

So when it came to proroguing parliament, Jean has done more or less what one would expect she would - accede to Harper's wishes.

[ # 5 ] The alternatives are slim pickings

Let's face it, Ignatieff has done little but sit on his hands (his good looks, according to Sandlot, won't save him from that); and sad as it is, nobody is going to elect the NDP into government (not while their policies involve things like immediately shuttering the tar sands and crippling Canada's economy). As James Travers astutely notes: "In the absence of a persuasive alternative, even Canadians cool to the Prime Minister and his policies have no compelling reason to roll the dice on change. A country that considers muddling along a success is content with a Conservative leader taking care of business."

Canada is a nation that lives and dies with the principles of peace, order, and good government. Will this be the end of more than a hundred years of parliamentary tradition? It's your job to care.

Your concerned fellow citizen,

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

500 Days of Christmas

This Christmas break, I took the opportunity to vegetate aplenty on comfy couches in front of oversize displays of all sorts. My holiday watched-list includes Sherlock Holmes (entertaining, though disparaging to the actual Holmes mythos), the Princess and the Frog (classic style, though ultimately unambitious), 500 Days of Summer (to be further discussed), and the first four episodes of V (well produced, though thoroughly typical).

While seeking viewership of Sherlock Holmes to celebrate Brutus' birthday, we discovered a wonderful thing - Telus Tuesdays. Yes friends, cheap movie Tuesdays have returned... and at the whopping deal of half price. $5.19 for a theatre movie in this economy? Excellent.

I still have to take issue with the ticket-buying interface. For instance, even though it was Telus Tuesday, we still have the option to purchase full-price tickets. The first three options on the ticket kiosk were Telus General (14-64), Telus Child, and Telus Senior. All three of these options were the same price ($10.50). If we're all getting charged the same price, why stratify the age categories? Probably to push the discounted prices further down the list. Options 4, 5, and 6 were Telus Tuesday General, Child, and Senior - again, all at the same price ($5.19). But sneaky shenanigans aside, $5.19 for a brand spanking new film in a Cineplex theatre is a great deal.

I have to contrast this with my quest to watch 500 Days of Summer with Sandlot. After scouring two Blockbuster Videos for 21 rented out copies of the movie, I ended up "renting" the film off of Rogers on Demand. RoD is a pay-per-view digital cable service that beams recent movies and television shows direct to your TV. I picked out an HD version of the movie to grace my television screen for a whopping $7.99. Now, I don't mean to complain (who am I kidding?), but having a movie rental cost more than seeing a movie in theatres is a little bit wrong. I know HD is great and all, but I doubt it qualifies as being worth more than the theatre experience. Apparently, convenience comes at a premium.


Let's not take my economic complaints to indicate that I didn't enjoy 500 Days of Summer, however. I did, and it was worth my $7.99.

The movie begins with a warning: This is not a love story. Sandlot took this to mean that I wouldn't enjoy it - myself being a champion of cheesy mush, relational sanctity, "true love and other associated crap." But while 500 Days of Summer was not a love story, it was a story about love - a quietly understated film that was chronologically confusing but thematically easy to relate to.

It reminds us that love is a product of two people, and that not everything goes as planned. It teaches us that even our unsuccessful endeavours are part of the story that is our life. And in the end, it whispers that love is something unpredictable, elegant, and beautiful.

[warning! spoilers ahead...]

If I had any beef with this film, it was that such a tangibly authentic and complex narrative ended so simplistically. Summer (of the eponymous 500 Days, get it?) leaps into marriage after her breakup with Tom, despite being a jaded and complicated individual who doesn't really seem to buy into this whole "love" thing. How did this happen? It's not impossible, but the viewer is left to guess at what has changed. In some ways, we can brush this aside as empathizing with Tom. After all, 500 Days of Summer is really a story about Tom. Sure, we don't really understand Summer, but neither does Tom. We're standing in Tom's shoes, feeling what Tom feels. Fair.

But then there is Tom, who finally getting his life in order bumps into his presumably next love interest. The one? She's far less ordinary looking than him and, oh yes, she's been watching him. Her name is, conveniently (sorry, it's not convenience, it's fate), Autumn. While I certainly appreciated the silver lining, pot of gold at the end of the rainbow approach, the entire affair seemed too rushed and too simple - as though an entire film was built on deconstructing Tom and Summer's relationship and then the shattered pieces were brushed away with one careless stroke. Too easy.

Nonetheless, I quite liked 500 Days - its narrative, its style, its themes, and the fact that I watched it huddled beside most remarkable person ever... in the middle of winter.

P.S. Tom's last name is Hansen. In case you were confused, people's bosses don't usually address them as "handsome."

Sunday, January 3, 2010

There's a log on the fire

Tomorrow came and took you away
I wish that you, that you could stay
Girl I know you had to go... oh
Lord, I wish it wasn't so
Save tonight...

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