Thursday, December 22, 2011

Arthur Christmas: Biographies

So, Sandlot and I watched the holiday cartoon Arthur Christmas today. We were hoping for something good thanks to Rotten Tomatoes having compiled a critic rating of 92% fresh and an audience rating of 82% fresh.

For those of you unaware of Arthur Christmas, the film follows Santa's family composed of Santa, his father, his wife, and his sons Arthur and Steve. Christmas has become a high tech affair, with armies of elven commandos rappelling down from the space-age SR-1 flying fortress to deliver gifts. Santa is of retirement age, with his brilliant son Steve already in a de facto leadership role while misfit Arthur bides his time in the mail room.

Having now seen the whole movie in its entirety, I'd give it a 7/10 if only because of the creative approach it took to the Santaverse (watching commando elves in action) and for the awesomeness of seeing a cartoon depiction of Toronto. I don't, however, think I would take small children to see this movie - seeing a bickering, selfish Santa clan ruling the elves as some kind of military dictatorship is hardly the kind of idea I want to instill in small people.

Seriously, the most flawed aspect of this movie are its characters, who even up to the last five minutes of the movie when the "moral of the story" is bright and shiny, still seem tremendously... bad! Let's break it down.


1) Arthur

Voiced by the young Professor X from X-Men: First Class, Arthur is the young and clumsy younger son of the current Santa Claus. His accident-prone nature can often be more than a mere nuisance - it's noted that he once tripped over an electrical wire leading to a disaster that flooded the elf barracks ("I lost everything in that flood!"). He also has an unhealthy dose of father-worship, which borders on obsessive.

You can tell from the beginning that Arthur is poised to become Santa - he's the underdog, he cares about the family, and most importantly he's the only one who seems concerned about keeping the spirit of giving and belief in Santa Claus alive! Even so, it's hard not to spend the whole movie hoping he won't become Santa, because frankly, he's completely useless!

In the end, it's hard to feel that Arthur deserves the Santa mantle for delivering a single present when his brother successfully delivered a billion. Yes, he has the Santa spirit, but is he really competent enough to be running the show? Hard to believe.

2) Steve

Voiced by Hugh Laurie a.k.a. House, Steve is Santa's older son. He's a technological whiz and commands the elves with the iron fist of a brilliant executive. He's the brains and the brawn behind Christmas, but cares more about efficiency and praise than about the actual children and their gifts. He has a typical materialistic attitude and is covetous of the Santa mantle. Probably, this all has to do with the fact that his father takes all the credit for his work. His pinstripe, designer Santa suit and Christmas tree beard are really a bit much.

In the end, he cedes being the next Santa, despite his father's admission that he "deserves" it. It's true he doesn't really have the same spirit as Arthur, but let's face it - he's the only one who has his sh!t together enough to run the show.

3) Grandsanta

A cantankerous and stubborn old mule who treats the elves and reindeer like furniture, this old man is completely unable to take advice and is hellbent on proving that he's not just a relic, irrespective of the consequences. Watching his sad existence sans Santa is the reason his son doesn't want to retire.

4) Santa Claus

Despite the fact that Arthur worships him as the most giving person of all, Santa is probably the most useless character in this entire movie! He's the official "Commander-in-chief", but really his son Steve has been running Christmas for years. Despite this, he refuses to step down after his requisite 70 Christmases, stubbornly clinging to the Santa mantle despite clearly being past his prime. In fact, he's quite unable to do anything on his own but continues to take credit for all of Steve's successes while placing the blame for any failures squarely on Steve's shoulders. He's a hugely negligent father, a poor leader, and (apparently) a disrespectful husband too ("And I'd like to thank my wife for doing... whatever it is women do while their husbands are at work.").

5) Bryony

Bryony is an elf, and elves are the real movers and shakers in this movie. Despite the fact that there are hundreds of them, they unwaveringly answer to Santa - flying the ship, wrapping gifts, delivering presents. Bryony is a gift-wrapping elf, but she's eager to head into the field to deliver that one missing present once it's discovered that a child has been missed. She can run as fast as Arthur can bike and she's able to offer advice when Arthur has no idea what orders to give. In other words, she could pretty much function without the Commander-in-chief.

Overall, the movie paints a pretty grim picture of the elves - subjugated slaves who do all the legwork in the Clauses' military dictatorship, with skills vastly outstripping those of their overlords, but whose psyches are entirely dependent on their benefactors. The elves at one point go into total meltdown when they think the Clauses have abandoned them.

5) Mrs. Claus

Probably the most well-rounded character in this movie, Mrs. Claus actually cares about the well-being of her family while also being on top of things - formulating a plan when Santa needs to hop into action and being level-headed enough to read the instructions while Santa is being his usual incompetent self. It's sad that she's sidelined by her ridiculous husband.


Conclusion: Arthur Christmas was an entertaining-to-watch yet wholly frustrating movie, presenting a unique picture of Santa Claus, but reducing the Santa dynasty to a bunch of selfish, bickering good-for-nothings and placing the Santa mantle on the most useless (though warm hearted) of the bunch.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Chronicle Style

make custom gifts at Zazzle

I just made a Zazzle store. Ladies t-shirts for Brutus' blog now available.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Risk: The Game of Domination

Yesterday, I went to Toys'R'Us with my Mom whose new preoccupation is shopping for her grandchildren. While there, I saw an updated copy of Risk - the greatest board game ever - for $17! My copy of Risk is hopelessly out of date and permanently on loan from my next door neighbour circa 1998, and I've been waiting years for this sucker to drop under $40. Needless to say, I picked it up.

My Mom lined up at the cashier while I ducked away to take a look at video games. When I got back, she had thoroughly examined the box, which reads: "Risk: The Game of Global Domination."

Mom: Is this a dominance game?

Andy: Dominance game?

[ Lady in front of us in line turns to look at us ]

Andy: What does that mean...?

Mom: Well it says domination...

Please, Ma. These are not topics to be discussed with parents... or in public. Sure puts a new spin on "bring your foes to their knees", though.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Grammar Nazi: Mock

So today I went for a practice interview for my application to medical residency programs. Technical glitches aside (the interviewer had not been told I was coming), it went well.

As a side note, however, the interviewer told his secretary to tell the guidance office that students should not be told they are going for a "mock" interview but rather a "practice" interview. The rationale was that there is "nothing mock" about these interviews.

The definition in question is as follows:

mock [mok] adjective
  1. feigned; not real; sham: a mock battle.

I pondered this on my subway ride back home and considered whether this was a legitimate claim or not. It seemed to me that there was, in fact, plenty "mock" about these interviews. They were not real residency interviews and therefore were fake residency interviews.

On further thought, I considered that the interview itself is real - I am myself being interviewed. I am not feigning being interviewed. In that sense, I am practicing, but it is not a "mock" interview - it is a real interview. In that case, perhaps it is not a mock interview but it is a mock residency interview.

Yet according to the World English Dictionary (and common usage), the aforementioned use of the term "mock interview" seems perfectly legit:

mock [mok] adjective
  1. sham or counterfeit
  2. serving as an imitation or substitute, esp for practice purposes: a mock battle ; mock finals

So, mock interview it is. If you care.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Blood, sweat, and tears

So I've been working furiously on my applications for specialty training, and I guess I've been burning the midnight oil a little too intensely because today my nose started bleeding for the first time in my adult life. Now, if I actually make it into a specialty I can literally say I paid for it in blood, sweat, and tears.

I also realized that when your friends aren't quite sure what to say, they can be kind of jerks. Hah.

Now if my damned nose would stop bleeding, I could get back to work.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Don't judge a book... its cover.

So yesterday, I wrote about an interaction I observed between the Radiology resident-on-call and a scrub-adorned, ESL-accented Asian male who wanted to take a shower in the on-call room. This morning, I woke up early for Interventional Radiology teaching rounds, and you will not believe who showed up to teach them: a scrub-adorned, ESL-accented Asian male.

"HOLY CRAP!" I exclaimed internally. Was this the same guy? I was initially positive that it is. But after sitting in lecture for an hour questioning my original gut feeling, I'm slightly less confident. Maybe I just can't tell one scrub-wearing, strongly accented, short, glasses-wearing Asian male from another? No, I am not racist against my own kind!

Since I was at first sure it was the same character as the one I had seen yesterday, I spent the first fifteen minutes trying to sort out whether this man was a technologist or a radiologist. Techs can know quite a lot about their domain, but this man seemed to speak with confidence about procedures, research studies, and what sort of material would be covered on Royal College examinations. I was suspicious.

But my hypothesizing vanished once the presenter ended the informal part of the teaching session and moved on to his slideshow. This man was not a technologist, he was the frigging Head of frigging Interventional Radiology!

I felt a lump in my metaphorical throat. I was suddenly very glad I had not piped in to defend the on-call resident yesterday evening (I had previously considered that I maybe should have pitched in something along the lines of, "You know, it's totally rational that the shower in the on-call room should be reserved for the on-call resident."). Despite the fact that this argument still actually makes sense, speaking that way to a power figure could be a career limiting move! (That's kind of sad, isn't it?)

But more importantly, shouldn't a third-year resident know who the Head of Interventional Radiology is and what he looks like?

Then again, there are so many residents and staff being shuffled between different sites (and so little Interventional Radiology in residency) that it seemed vaguely conceivable that he did not. If that was the case, the conversation from yesterday must be read very differently:

Staff: Hey, do you know the password to get into this room? It's locked. I need to shower.

Resident: Uh, that's the on-call room.

S: I know. I need to shower.

R: Well, it's only supposed to be for the resident.

S: What are you talking about? [I'm a frigging staff, why are you barking up the hierarchy?] I just need to shower.

R: Well, who is going to clean it?

S: Who is going to clean it? [Do I look like a janitor to you?] I need to shower, who said this room is only for residents?

R: Uh, the department? Look, it's like you wouldn't walk into someone's room and sleep on the bed, right?

S: I'm not going to sleep on the bed. I just need to use the shower. [Are you dumb or something?]

R: Look, if you want, I can open the door.


S: What year are you?

R: PGY-3 (third year)

S: What is your name?

R: Rocky.

S: Rocky. Perfect... [Your career is over, insect.]

Scary. This story also warns us about the dangers of making assumptions as to who someone is and about being short-tempered. You might really shoot yourself in the foot. In fact, doctors in scrubs get mistaken for other professionals all the time. My resident on General Surgery once told me that because she was ethnic (Indian) and wore scrubs all the time, patients would often confuse her for a nurse or an orderly. "Oh, you're my doctor?"

I have to admit that I was quick to jump on the conclusion that the person in question was a technologist (not that I have anything against technologists - I have friends in training to be techs!). But in my defense, it made sense. They were unlikely to be a nurse in the Radiology department, and the odds of them being another resident or a staff-member without the on-call resident recognizing them seemed entirely implausible! Plus, why would a staff need to shower (why would anyone need to shower on their way home)? And why in the on-call room?

The original logic of the resident's poorly construed argument still stands (and I still think he was in the right at least logic-wise). But nobody in their right mind would have talked to the Head of Interventional Radiology that way. A powerful reminder why we should treat strangers (or perhaps everyone) with respect, and try to keep a lid on our negativity.

Then again, it might not have been the same person at all. In fact, as I continued to listen to this morning's lecture, I swear that the speaker's accent had a bit more of a British HK slant to it than the gruff Peter Chao I had originally recalled. Although, I have to wonder whether this is recall bias - i.e. knowing that the speaker was in fact the Head of Interventional Radiology made me perceive his accent to be more refined or vice versa (thinking that the speaker yesterday was foolish made me perceive their accent as more rough). No, I am not an elitist bastard!

But seriously, moral lessons aside, they could have been the same person; they could not have been. Put two myopic Asian men in scrubs and it's pretty hard to tell them apart. How do I know? I've been mistaken for any number of my colleagues countless times: Kushima, Kon, and people who I don't even bear the faintest resemblance to.

I mean for real, y'alls look alike.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The shower fiend

I'm currently on Radiology elective, and today I stayed a bit late at the hospital working on an assignment. I commandeered a computer in the Residents & Fellows room which, sensibly enough, is connected to the on-call resident's room (the room in which the Radiologist trainee can stash their stuff and can theoretically sleep on nights where they have to stay at the hospital reading overnight films - I say theoretically because there will, in fact, be no sleep).

The on-call resident was also in the Residents & Fellows room, snacking on a bit of light dinner and preparing to read films and field the barrage of pages he was going to receive all night. In walked an Asian guy, dressed in scrubs (who I can only presume was a technologist). He started jostling the doorknob to the on-call resident's room which was, understandably, locked.

A conversation thus ensued between the tech (who sounded like Peter Chao) and the resident:

Tech: Hey, do you know the password to get into this room? It's locked. I need to shower.

Resident: Uh, that's the on-call room.

T: I know. I need to shower.

R: Well, it's only supposed to be for the resident.

T: What are you talking about? I just need to shower.

R: Well, who is going to clean it?

T: Who is going to clean it? I need to shower, who said this room is only for residents?

R: Uh, the department? Look, it's like you wouldn't walk into someone's room and sleep on the bed, right?

T: I'm not going to sleep on the bed. I just need to use the shower.

R: Look, if you want, I can open the door.

The shower in question was en suite to the on-call resident's room, and accessible via said room. It wasn't hard to read the mood. The resident was flabbergasted and exasperated that this tech had muscled his way into his on-call room to use the shower with a seemingly inexplicable sense of entitlement. The tech was frustrated and angry that the residents were somehow acting like they owned the place and claiming this shower as their own.

I turned to the resident:

Andy: Well, that was gracious of you.

Angry resident: Great, now I'm going to have some guy's pubes in my shower.

Andy: Try not to think about it.

Seriously... ew. Why would you think about that? I thought about introducing myself, but the resident didn't really seem like he was in the mood to play nice anymore.

Meanwhile, the tech finished his shower, got changed, and came back in:

T: What year are you?

R: PGY-3 (third year)

T: What is your name?

R: Rocky.

T: Rocky. Perfect...

Then he walked out. No doubt he had plans to complain about these stuck up residents and their attitude. Now, maybe I'm missing something, but in my head it makes sense that the shower that is inside the on-call room is for the on-call resident.

This crud is going to go down one of two ways:
  1. The on-call resident gets informed that he was mistaken and that, not very intuitively, the shower is actually public and that he should avoid antagonizing the techs.
  2. The tech will get all up and at 'em defending their tech pride, complain to the Radiologists, and subsequently be smacked down.
Personally, I'm hoping for numero dos. Now the sense of entitlement, I suppose, comes from using the shower freely during the day or perhaps after hours when the on-call resident has not yet appeared to lock the door.

Seriously though, man... why would you think of pubes?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The thing that I hate about MS Word

...Is that it's racist! Now I'm not talking about racism against illegal Mexican immigrants or African American ghettos or even against Asian Americans in institutions of higher learning. In fact, what I'm referring to might be more appropriately labelled "nationalist", except that the word nationalist has already been commandeered to mean someone who believes in a strong national identity (rather than someone who is biased against other nations).

What I mean is that MS Word treats Canadians like we're weird. Something that's long irked me when trying to "Insert Date and Time" in MS Word is that if you have the language set to "English (Canada)", you end up with a date option that looks like "Sunday, August-28-11" - because... you know we all stick hyphens between our dates and abbreviate our years. If you select "English (US)", you end up with something more recognizable, like "Sunday, August 28, 2011". See for yourself:



Honestly, I think it's some kind of punishment for our spelling "colour" and "centre" properly and adopting the metric system used by the rest of the bloody world. What's that? You're Canadian? Well then say goodbye to the option of inserting the date the way that everyone else uses it... forever.

Now, I might be overreacting here, because it's possible that my computer decided to muck something up (because I swear that the date was not always messed up like this). However, I do remember having this problem at some point with my last computer as well so, I'm sticking to my guns with that age old adage - Blame Microsoft.

Oh wait, that was from South Park, and it went "Blame Canada."


Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Punt/Bunt Incident

When Sandlot and I first met, I once told her that I would never want to own a pet that was so big that I would be unable to kick it across the room should the need arise. This isn't because I believe animal cruelty is funny, but should my pet rabbit some day become rabid and decide to try eat me, I'd feel reassured knowing that I could send it flying out the window.

This quickly became one of our earliest and most enduring inside jokes. Every time we see a small dog, Sandlot asks me, "Do you want to bunt it?" When I feel jealous of other boys, I describe getting my "bunting foot" or "bunting leg" ready.

This continued for over a year, until one day Sandlot's roomate's boyfriend was privy to a conversation in which Sandlot referred to me "bunting a little dog." He smoothly interjected, "Wait, do you mean bunt? Or punt? I think you mean punt, because bunting would indicate hitting it lightly with a bat."

All of a sudden, I was at a loss for words (no pun intended). Could this be true? Had I been using the wrong verb all this time? My ego reeled and scrambled to recover, but I said nothing and chuckled quietly. "Well... you know, if someone pitched a small dog at me, I think bunting it with a bat would probably be enough to incapacitate it."

"True," he replied, and that was that. This boy would never know the earth-shattering impact this casually short correction had had on my now debunked inside joke. As someone who prides himself on his command of the English language, his more than adequate vocabulary, and his entertaining writing style, a correction of this magnitude was almost unheard of. It is I who frowns on the asinine grammatical degenerates populating the Internet and corrects vocabulary. But to have been using the wrong word consistently and almost daily for over a year? Good heavens.

Yet I've had some time now to come to terms with the error of my ways. Indeed, the fault is indisputable:

bunt1 [buhnt]
verb (used with object)

  1. (of a goat or calf) to push with the horns or head; butt.
  2. Baseball . to bat (a pitched ball) very gently so that it rolls into the infield close to home plate, usually by holding the bat loosely in hands spread apart and allowing the ball to bounce off it.

punt1 [puhnt]

  1. Football . a kick in which the ball is dropped and then kicked before it touches the ground. Compare drop kick, place kick.
  2. a small, shallow boat having a flat bottom and square ends, usually used for short outings on rivers or lakes and propelled by poling.

The only argument that I will make in my defense is that football is a stupid sport that I know next to nothing about. Yet, having been corrected, I immediately recognized that I should be able to distinguish between a "bunt" and a "punt", and part of me felt ashamed. Why?

Well if Freud had his way, he'd associate every negative feeling in adulthood with a negative experience in childhood (at least, the pop culture Freud with whom I am familiar). In this case, my feeling of shame was associated with one single childhood memory in which I experienced the same feeling.

When I was in Grade 6, I was walking down the hall with a friend discussing this book or another, and I dropped the word "subtle", pronounced "sub-tle".

"It's pronounced 'sut-tle'," my friend corrected.

Perplexed, my reflex reply was, "Really? Well, it can also be pronounced 'sub-tle'."

"No, it's 'sut-tle'."

And that was that. It was one of those moments in my life where I realized that I had heard a word used in speaking and had read the same word in writing, but I had never made the association between the two words. I had always read it the wrong way and assumed that "sub-tle" and "sut-tle" were two separate words. When I realized the silly error I had made with a word that receives common usage in the English language, I was ashamed. I felt ashamed that at age 11 or 12, I didn't know this. I felt ashamed at the sheer force and casualness of the correction. I wanted to push back. Argue. Assert my correctness. Except I was wrong.

But I'll tell you, I never pronounced the word "subtle" wrong again. I guess in that way, I accepted that one moment of shame in exchange for avoiding a whole lifetime of it. Similarly, I should probably correct my "inside joke" to accommodate the fact that I intended all along to punt that little critter, not bunt it. Dang.

Played by Carlos Pestana

So while studying for my surgery exam, I drew from a set of review questions composed by Dr. Carlos Pestana, a retired professor from the University of Texas and the author behind the Kaplan surgery review course. I couldn't help but draw mental associations between this high-yield surgery guru and another famous Carlos...

Nurses and docs
Turn on your iPads to the
Words of Carlos Pestana
At the UofT
OR people - from the Surgery gang

Oh, Hernia Hernia
She reminds me of an OR story
Poking out from your inguina
We're taking her out via laparoscopy

Oh, Hernia Hernia
She fell into a metal tray
To the strokes of scalpel blades, yeah yeah
Held by Carlos Pestana

Stop the masses, stop the classes
Studying in the corner
See as the smart is getting smarter
The dumb is getting dumber

Inguinal hernia in the summer
Risk factors, trying to remember
In my inbox, there's an assessment letter
Staff surgeon just said, "Please do better"

Debakey Bonney Kocher Adson Kocher Adson
Debakey Bonney Kocher Adson Sick Kids

Debakey Bonney Kocher Adson Kocher Adson
Debakey Bonney Kocher Adson Sinai

Hernia Hernia
She reminds me of an OR story
Poking out from your inguina
We're taking her out via laparoscopy

Oh, Hernia Hernia
She fell into a metal tray
To the strokes of scalpel blades, yeah yeah
Held by Carlos Pestana

I'm working with the fellow with the suction
Cautery's getting hotter
There is no saline to wash out the bleeder
Surgical tempers flaring

A ventral Hernia on the case list
Thinking of ways to make it happen
Then I called up to PACU
Hoping the day will still have time

Debakey Bonney Kocher Adson Kocher Adson
Debakey Bonney Kocher Adson Western

Debakey Bonney Kocher Adson Kocher Adson
Debakey Bonney Kocher Adson North York

Debakey Bonney Kocher Adson Kocher Adson
Debakey Bonney Kocher Adson T.O.

Debakey Bonney Kocher Adson Kocher Adson
Debakey Bonney Kocher Adson open up your site

Hernia, you know you're bread and butter
In the clinic, I will see you
Through the belly, and even when you fall apart
I'll stitch you back together, Hernia, yeah
She reminds me of an OR story
Poking out from your inguina
We're taking her out via laparoscopy

Oh, Hernia Hernia
She fell into a metal tray
To the strokes of scalpel blades
Held by Carlos Pestana

Cuttin' them up, y'all
Carlos Pestana with the surgery gang
Sandlot, J-Rock, my dawg, Mr. Pestana, UofT

Friday, July 1, 2011

Grammar Nazi: Tomato

One of my Facebook acquaintances posted today a mirthful status update along the lines of:

"Is it pronounced tomato or tomato?"

I found this to be quite clever, since it's an oft repeated statement, but underscores that both pronunciations of the word "tomato" are "tomato", with no written distinction between the two. Written out with correct spelling, this statement just looks silly.

A responder replied with the following attempt to clarify:

" 'to-mato' or 'tom-ato' "

Apparently, this is supposedly clearly read as "to-may-to" vs. "tom-ah-to". This is because the word breaks determine the pronunciation such "mato" produces the "ay" sound as in "mako", as opposed to any other sound (such as the soft "a" sound of "matto"). Similarly, "ato" should be the "ah" sound as in... Well, there aren't really any analogous words.

In fact, even in the first example, you could probably have read things the other way around and put "to-mato" as being attributed to "to-mah-to", just as "mako" can be pronounced as "mey-ko" (more common) or "mah-ko".

Thus, breaking "tomato" into "to-mato" and "tom-ato" does little to clarify the dichotomous possibilities in pronunciation, but in fact merely does much to introduce an error in word emphasis. As any Grade 1 who has learned to clap out syllables will tell you, "tomato" is built from three syllables "to-ma-to". Whether you choose to pronounce that as "tuh-mey-toh" or "tuh-mah-toh", you can't drag along the "m" with the first syllable.

In the end, all you end up doing is breaking a three syllable word erroneously into two syllables. Now I don't know who Tom is, but I doubt he has anything to do with tomatoes.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The New Amazing Spider-Man

Next to Sandlot, Spider-Man is my favourite person, and his new Fantastic Four threads are EPICCC!!!

But wait, when did the Human Torch die? Sorry, spoiler!