Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Homeward Bound

I climbed up the hill to the medschool for the last time in 2005 today, as tomorrow morning I head home. I won't have internet access at home, so this will also be my last post for the year.

2005 was great for me, starting with my quitting Boston and heading to İstanbul for the summer, and culminating in getting accepted into meds here in Calgary in July... just-in-time medschool admission, very efficient. Well, as the year is coming to a close, I'd like to say thanks to everyone who helped me get here, from providing inspiration, or encouragement, or getting me to put in the effort to get through mcats and admissions successfully. You know who you are, so thanks.

I still can't believe that I got in, despite their actually considering my complete undergrad CGPA. Wow!

Anyways, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone. May 2006 be as good a year. Peace.

Monday, December 19, 2005

The good old days are back for a day

My friend Rich is in town; we'll hang out tomorrow. What to do in Calgary? Lunch, perhaps Vietnamese? Follow with comic book shopping, arcades, and the Greenhouse Tea Room. Oh wait, subsititute that last one with some other bubble tea place... and, I don't know any arcades here... nor comic book stores...

My bathroom is spotless. I'm very happy about that. On top of that, I caught up with my laundry, and bottled my beer. Now, if I could just clean up my office, I'd be set.

Summer Dreaming

I really wanted to go to Mongolia again next summer for my elective, but now I think that I've decided to go to Tanzania instead... hmm, what to do?

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Communal Living

Yesterday about half of our medschool class headed south of town to High River, to go to a skills workshop put on by the docs in the hospital there. We practiced suturing, intubation, casting, and good old IVs. It was a great session.

Afterwards, we headed out to a Hutterite colony not far from High River. They're a Germanic religious group, originally founded in 1528, apparently. They're basically a reformist Protestant group with a strong anti-war philosophy, explaining their movement to the US from Russia (where they had eventually ended up) back in the 1870s; it also explains the move of seventeen of their eighteen colonies from the US to Canada during the first world war. Funny enough, anti-communal laws established in Alberta in the 1930s eventually led to their reexpansion into the US. I knew that they lived in colonies, but I thought that was for religious and customary reasons. I didn't realize that they were communal, with all income going to their colony leader, who then budgets it out on farming equipment, housing, carpentry and metalshop equipment, supplies, allowances, etc. The reason for their belief in communes is due to references to communal living in the Bible.

Pretty nice bunch of people, and it was interesting to see that they still read and write German using Gothic script, something you almost never see anymore. When I was a kid, I read a lot of books in Gothic, so I enjoyed myself reading stuff posted on one of their fridges.

You may wonder why a medskills trip was combined with a visit to the Hutterites, but it makes sense. Hutterites are one of those groups that makes for interesting genetic analysis, and so the conditions carried within their community is something that docs around Calgary need to be aware of.

I need to clean today...

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Night of Union

Tonight (the 17th) is the 732nd anniversary of the Night of Union. As Rumi said:

"Come, come again, whoever you are, come!
Heathen, fire worshipper or idolatrous, come!
Come even if you broke your penitence a hundred times,
Ours is the portal of hope, come as you are."

What a concept.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Vacation All I Ever Wanted

I'm now officially on vacation until January. Just in time.

Saw 'Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire' at the local IMAX theatre yesterday. Good stuff, great on IMAX. Potter needs a haircut, though. Actually, there was a lot of long hair in that movie. I guess I could use a haircut as well.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


I went orienteering this evening, for the first time in many years (probably nine or so). It was a simple street course around part of Calgary, and ended up being about a 10 km run. Weird to meet people I haven't seen since '93.

Beer and cookies

I started up a fermentation of 22 litres of wort last week, on Wednesday night. However, it is acting strangely, in that my fermentor isn't producing much (i.e. anything) in the way of gas. So, either the fermentation is just going really slowly, because my kitchen is too cold for the yeast to grow quickly, or the yeast I added was dead, and my fermentor is completely sterile. Both of those answers are unlikely, so that leaves me wondering.

I will open it up early next week to see what happened.

That same night, I also baked up about fifty cranberry and white-chocolate oatmeal cookies, and forty dark-chocolate oatmeal cookies. They were for a bake sale on Thursday, for AIDS week. My cookies ended up being a big hit. I wish I had kept some for myself...

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Taken to heart

Yesterday I held a beating heart in my hand for the first time.

I followed it up with eight straight episodes of 'House'.

Sunday, December 11, 2005


We had our class Christmas party last night. Was interesting to see everyone dressed to the nines.

Had fun trying to get my vehicles inspected during the day. I was told that Canadian Tire did out-of-province inspections, so I headed up there on my bike. "Sorry, we do out-of-province inspections, but not for bikes." (They do do the federal bike inspection, though.) "Okay," I said, "I'll go home and come back with my car." I did that, and I when I got back, I got: "Sorry, we do out-of-province car inspections, but not on weekends." Hmm, couldn't I have been told that when I said I was going home to go get my car and I'd be right back? Normally, I would have laughed it off, but I hadn't had a coffee yet. :) Instead, I was miserable about the hour and a half I had wasted driving back and forth.

So, picked up the boyz, we went for a coffee and a drink, and hit the Christmas party. Fun ensued.

Friday, December 09, 2005


On Monday night, I was walking home from the hospital, at around 3:15 a.m. or so. The temperature was sitting around -20 C, and it was snowing lightly.

The snowflakes were extremely fine, such that they weren't really visible as distinct objects in the darkness, as they floated on the wind. Instead, they were only visible as tiny sparks of light, reflected from the street and city lights. It was incredible, like the sky was full of little sparkles, almost to the point that it was like brilliantly shimmering pure white fireworks...

I don't recall having ever seen snow like that before in my life. I hope I experience that again sometime.

In a completely unrelated note, watching 'House' the other day, I noticed that he has the exact same desk lamp as me, the Antifoni from Ikea! I am more like the guy every day.

December 6th

I didn't get around to posting on the 6th, but I wanted to mention it, because it is a pretty important day up here in Canada. In 1989, at the École Polytechnique at the Université de Montréal, Marc Lépine killed 14 women, in a personal war against feminism.

That event completely changed the dialogue on women's rights in Canada. Violence against women is only a small part of this debate. Equality for women in society and in the workforce would seem to be such a basic right, and yet it remains denied to them.

Whenever I hear people say that they hate feminists or feminism (especially when I hear women say this), I can't help but think of those poor fourteen. Their deaths, though, did wake up Canada, and serve as a constant reminder of why feminism is so important in the present and to the future.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

War is over, if you want it

That may sound simplistic, but he and Yoko had it right.

Twenty-five years, since the world lost its biggest advocate for universal love and oneness.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


Oh, I wanted to talk about my shower last Friday. There I was, thinking about life, and how I've lived so many lives at this point; I must be on life number five now. Then I thought, five lives? A human only has one. A cat, on the other had, has nine, so that must mean that I am actually a cat living out some kind of feline fantasy, and I have four lives remaining in this world.

Why was that significant? Because, they say that curiosity killed the cat. That explained my activities of the previous night. 2 a.m., having met my study goals for the day, it was time to go to bed. Or was it? No, it was time for me to find out what happened to Ross and Rachel. That's right, after all this time, I needed to know the answer to that question at 2 a.m. on a 'school night'. I ended up going to bed at 4, having finished season 8 episodes 1-6.

Canada Post is mocking me, though, by failing to deliver the next disk in the series to me, even though it was mailed out last Thursday. Ditto for my cardio textbook, by the way, which I have been eagerly awaiting since last Wednesday.

Luckily, I have an exam in another course tomorrow (I guess that's later today), so I had something else to read over the weekend. Plus, the first 'House' DVD came in the mail yesterday...

I was also reading Yunus Emre over the weekend. Perhaps I'll post a couple of quotes next weekend.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Sugar Pie

Yesterday, I spent the afternoon baking. I started by heading over to the medschool to download some recipies. My intention was to bake a pumpkin pie, specifically this one, that I came across while reading one of my favourite food blogs. First I was frightened by the crust, but then I got over that by deciding on a graham cracker crust instead. However, the powdered nutmeg and powdered cloves made the recipe a no-go. Nutmeg would have been possible, but I would have had to find and buy a little nutmeg grater. Powdered cloves, though, defied imagination. I couldn't do that with a grater; I would have needed some kind of mill. I guess a peppercorn mill would have done the trick, but seriously, who eats powdered clove?

Anyways, I instead decided to just buy a pumpkin pie. I headed over to the local Co-op, and bought a ton of ingredients for making some cookies too, and then headed over to the condensed milk section, as I had a hankering for some. When I took a can off of the shelf, there on the label was a recipe for sugar pie! Wow! So, I headed home, baked a few dozen cookies, then started the sugar pie. It turned out quite well, although the graham cracker crust could have used some pre-baking to prevent it from being dissolved away by the filling.

For breakfast I had two slices of pie. It's great, but is a real test of one's body's ability to process simple sugars. I don't think I'll ever make this again, unless I have to feed some hungry voyageurs.

I also have a litre of whipping cream in my fridge now. I'd better start on that tonight.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

No Free Lunch

My neighbour finally smartened up and put a password on his network. :( Suddenly, once again, all I have at home for time-wasting are my books and laundry!

I learnt something in the last day. I need snow tyres for my car. My American summer tires just don't cut it up here on the unsalted streets. I barely made it up a gentle incline last night, after dropping off a friend on the south side of town.

Friday, December 02, 2005


First CV textbook down. Next!

I'm tired. Can't wait until Saturday morning, when I have penciled 'sleeping in' into my schedule.

I have successfully slowed down my pace of movie watching, thanks to my love for the EKG.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

If I can be sirius for a moment...

I don't know why, but I spend a lot of time looking up at the sky these days. It helps pass the long nights, I guess.

So, last week, I think on Tuesday, as I was walking back from the hospital, I did my usual stop'n'stare into the sky from the Bow valley's edge. It was about 4:15 a.m., so Orion had swung off to the west, giving me yet another picture of the sky above my neighbourhood. I noticed a star, incredibly bright, in a nice constellation that just jumped out at me. I didn't know what it was, so when I got home, I looked it up in my little book of stars. It turned out that it was Sirius, and the constellation was canis major. All these years, naturally I had heard of Sirius (a.k.a. the dog star), but had never bothered to actually look for it, and it had never jumped out at me before.

Anyways, I hope we get a bit of aurora borealis action going over the winter. I have a need for entertainment.

Saturday, November 26, 2005


I forgot to mention, it was sad to hear that Pat Morita died on Thursday. For those of you in Boston, ask Yoko to do her Miyagi imitation for you; it will bring a smile to your face... followed by a tear. (;_;) Daniel-san!!!

Friday, November 25, 2005

Novel idea

I wish I'd heard of this before: November was the 'National Novel Writing Month'. I've never wanted to write a novel before... but why not? Sounds like fun. Maybe next year? In my spare time, of course.

Hmm, that reminds me, I was planning on getting work as a film extra, but forgot about it. I don't want to miss out, the next time Brad and Angelina are filming in Calgary. What do you think, should I take a shot at making the small time?

I'm on chapter two of 'Rapid Interpretation of EKGs'! Fun! Go go go!

Thursday, November 24, 2005


I had an anatomy exam today. By all rights, I should have failed, given the effort I've put into the subject, but managed to memorize 90% of what I needed to during the last three days. I overlooked a couple of subjects while studying, but overall had very few weak points. Basically, I managed to jump out of the fire...

...and into the frying pan. I have another exam tomorrow, and I've put even less effort into it than I did into anatomy. Good one!

I really let my hand ruin my flow, for the last six weeks. No more; this week I went back to my old ways. Next week: no going home before 1 a.m. at the earliest! I must have mastered the basics of cardio by next weekend. No movies except on weekends, or as special rewards for extra-intense extreme studying.

Okay, back to work. I have a Takashi Miike movie waiting to be watched post-exam.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Che and Bolivia

Here's something interesting from the NY Times: 'Che's Second Coming?' As you know, Che was captured and killed in Bolivia by government troops, with assistance from the CIA, back in 1967. He was there to get a revolution going, but wasn't able to get the local support he needed, at that time. It seems that he went to Bolivia 35 years too early; his efforts now appear to be coming to fruition.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Too much film

I finally got those pics uploaded, that I had scanned before my last post. One nice stereo pair from the Galata Mevlevihane. Good. :) Needless to say, I didn't stay up until 4 to process them on Thursday night, nor on Friday night. Should I start on the next roll? I actually have exams on Thursday and Friday, so I should be studying more than playing with old film. :)

Speaking of film, I've watched 22 movies within the last 30 days. I don't think I can keep up that pace, and still keep my marks in a satisfying range. Man, I want to see the new Harry Potter and Wallace & Gromit movies, but haven't gotten around to it. Maybe next weekend?

Anyways, right now I'm just baking some cookies to wind down, and I should cook some dinner so that I don't just eat cookies. Then, I should finally get down to studying. Or, should I watch another movie, 'Born into Brothels'? Tough call.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Nights of Stereo

I was up until 4 last night, scanning in a roll of stereo film. It's funny, I get so much pleasure out of those pictures. My camera is very hard to use; getting the exposure right is not easy, and if that wasn't enough, focus is a matter of 'I think that's about 14 feet'. Well, this last roll was mostly well exposed, starting with some decent pictures from Prague. Next, though, was a string of photos from the Czech republic, New Hampshire, and Six Flags, all out of focus. Finally, a series of photos from a sema in Galata Mevlevihane. Those last ones I was most excited about. I knew they were underexposed (it was low light, and I wanted to not have the dervishes washed out by their spinning), but how bad they were, I didn't know. That drove me to keep on scanning, relentlessly. I was pleasantly surprised to find that one or two of those Mevlevi pics were decent. It will take me another long evening of processing to get them into final shape.

Anyways, it's interesting to me, that even when the pictures are out of focus, that little bit of stereo effect that you get brings so much life to the image, I don't worry so much about the problems of exposure or focus. Reflections on marble or in windows, shadows underfoot, all become essential parts of the photo.

In unrelated news, I discovered how to find out that when it comes to international health, it's easy to find out who in your medschool class talks the talk, but doesn't walk the walk. Hold a global health interest group meeting a week before an exam, and see who shows up! Apparently, there are very few true revolutionaries in my class. A luta continua!

Two more movies down so far this week: 'The Motorcycle Diaries' and 'Sideways'. I enjoyed both; the first was inspirational (making me want to hit South America on my bike), the second amusing and freakishly depressing (making me want to take up drinking large quantities of only the finest wine).

Monday, November 14, 2005

Today's Film

Another day, another exotic movie. This time, the movie is... wait for it... 'Ice Princess'. Yes, you read that right. What, I'm supposed to not see a Michelle Trachtenberg movie? The big thing I don't understand about this movie, is why we are supposed to be happy for her when she blows off Harvard? That's so nuts, I don't get it at all. Hmm, I noticed that in the results list for one of the competitions, they spell 'Worcester, MA' as 'Wooster, MA'. Funny stuff, makes you wonder, was it on purpose, or is it just that the person who typed it up lacked a Harvard education? Anyways, I hate to say it, but I'm afraid that Ms. Trachtenberg needs to unlearn some of the acting skills she learnt from Buffy.

Yesterday was a good day. I started with finally figuring out a nice method for patching together the stereographic photographs from my old Kodak. Finished processing my first roll, all the way from back in 2003, then moved onto scanning in a roll from 2003-2004. I processed this film in Prague, and when I got it back, saw that most of the film was terribly overexposed, to the point that I thought it was junk and unsalvageable. Well, my scanner rescued out a lot of the photos, and Photoshop helped with some nice level correction. One of the shutters on the camera is a lot slower than the other, so one photo from each pair is always more exposed than the other. Photoshop lets me match the colour palette on the bad photo in the pair to the good photo in the pair, which makes a huge difference. Next, Corel Photopaint lets me stick the two photos in the pair together very easily, without resolution loss, something that is a lot less easy using Adobe software.

I followed that up by hitting Ikea to buy a lamp for reading in bed: 'Antifoni' was my choice, to match my desk lamp.

So, I spent my evening scanning photos, baking cookies, and reading books of 12th-century philosophy in bed. Ah, life is good.

Saturday, November 12, 2005


Today I wandered into the local Chapters, just to kill a bit of time. I was actually going to get a coffee, and sit around reading for a while, but the coffee shop was crowded enough that I lost that desire.

Instead, I just browsed through the store, and ended up in philosophy. There, to my surprise, I found a translation of the Maarif, a.k.a. 'The Drowned Book', of Bahauddin Valad (1152-1231 AD), the father of Rumi. To say I was happy to find it was an understatement, since I didn't even know that it existed. So, I bought it and am now partway through reading it.

However, I have to admit I'm somewhat irked by the translation. Yet again, this book features the technique of 'second translation', where a poet will rework the text to make it 'better' than the straight, literal translation. You see this all the time with Rumi translations as well. Augh, I understand that this would appeal to some people, but what about the rest of us, that want to hear these works from the horse's mouth, so to speak. Why do I need someone who isn't Bahauddin or Rumi to 'improve' his works? Anyways, as I read, I always wonder what the truth behind the work is. Where does Bahauddin or Rumi begin, and Coleman Barks begin? At least include the original translation in an appendix or something... :(

Despite the problem I have with these translations, I think that in the current world-state, with interreligious strife due to the dominance of literal, soulless religion (think al Qaeda or the intelligent design people), people need to look back and critically evaluate current religious doctrine. In other words, once again nail some theses on the door of the Castle Church of Wittenberg. The works of Mevlana and other sufis reveal a depth of understanding about life and belief far beyond current religious groups. Me, I'm not religious, but Rumi allowed me to understand why people believe, and to respect them for the sincerity of that belief. At the core of religion you should find 'love'. When this is not the case, religion has been perverted to benefit greed and anger.

Anyways, interestingly, in the notes on translation of The Drowned Book', the authors offer up Leonard Cohen's work as an example of modern sema. Hmm, they've got that right. Here's a Leonard quote that is pure sufi:

I asked my father
I said, father change my name.
The one I'm using now it's covered up
With fear and filth and cowardice and shame.
He said, I locked you in this body,
I meant it as a kind of trial.

That's from 'Lover Lover Lover' from 'New Skin for the Old Ceremony', where I swear that he is using lover in the sufi sense. To finish off this post, let me quote a passage from 'Hidden Music', one of my favourite Rumi translations.

I said, what about my eyes?
Keep them on the road.
I said, what about my passion?
Keep it burning.
I said, what about my heart?
Tell me what you hold inside it?
I said, pain and sorrow.
He said, stay with it.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Battle Royale: Thumbs Up!

It was a holiday here today, so it was movie time: 'Battle Royale'. It arrived in the mail yesterday morning, but I used the technique of delayed gratification to increase my enjoyment of the film. I placed the disk on my desk, looked at it, let it breathe overnight, and sat down with it this afternoon, after finishing some paperwork. Wow, it was great: I laughed, I cried, I reflected on love, trust, growing up, death, and murder. All the things you want out of a movie. I recommend it.

I'm using a neighbour's wireless network. Is that bad?

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Starry Night

I have been wondering for the last month or so, why I had never once seen Orion in the sky since moving here. Why? Was it avoiding me?

Well, last night I left school at around 3:40 a.m., and when I arrived at the top of the hill, on my way back down into the valley and my apartment, there was Orion in the sky, leading me home. The sky was crystal clear, and the southwestern sky, which always seemed tainted by clouds or light pollution, was instead as beautiful as the northern sky.

I stood there for ten minutes or so, awestruck.

I wondered whether Orion was my favourite constellation or not. The challengers would be the good old reliable big dipper, or the mysterious tortured Cassiopeia. I guess that I love all three, in different ways, and all powerfully. Sigh.

Still, though, the beautiful night sky here in town just makes me want to get back to Mongolia ASAP. The night sky there was unlike any I'd seen in my life, so brilliant and vast and incomprehensible. In Mongolia, they should charge admission to go outside at night.

Did van Gogh ever experience a sky like that, or was Europe in his day already too polluted by the industrial revolution? It must have still been that pure night sky, and I imagine that Pierre also looked up at a similar sky at the entrance to Arbat square.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


This morning, I climbed into the shower, and discovered something interesting (to me). I had two almost-finished bars of soap in there, one a bar of blue Dial, and one a bar of white Zest. Well, I had left the two sitting on top of each other yesterday, and so they had now fused together into one bar, half blue and half white! I felt like I was washing with Aquafresh! So, that made my day.

Anyways, this afternoon I watched two movies, first 'Cursed', and then 'Contempt', which I mentioned yesterday. The latter turned out to be a great movie for a guy to watch, if he wants to bring himself down.

But, what brought me up again was that has shipped me 'Battle Royale'! Wow, I've wanted to see that movie for about two years, so I hope that it isn't a letdown.

Last and least, I've switched browsers again, if anyone cares. Back to Safari!

Always more

I watched a few more movies over the weekend. 'Aragami: The Raging God of Battle' had neither enough raging nor enough battle to satisfy. Style was good, substance was lacking, and the end of the movie was a predictable letdown. I followed it up with 'Sanjuro', which, after a few minutes, I realized I had seen before, perhaps ten years ago or so. A great movie, though, and I'm glad to have watched it again, because Toshiro Mifune was awesome, all belligerent and strutting around and enigmatic. I need to act more like that. Plus, you have to love those camellias.

Which reminds me, earlier this week I mistakenly watched another movie that I'd seen before, 'Another Heaven', which was appropriate for Hallowe'en, I guess. However, I think I've seen too many hypnosis movies recently.

Oh, I also watched 'The Adventures of Baron Munchausen' on Friday. I saw that in a theatre when it first came out, but felt the desire to see it again, and you know that I fulfill all my whimsical wonts. Now, I have Jean-Luc Godard's 'Contempt' waiting for me at home, but I'd better study another hour or two before I head home... gotta keep up that average, 'cause life is all about the marks, and I'm all about life.

Saturday, November 05, 2005


The run in Banff turned out to be quite fun. I ran with my upperclassman and mentor, Albert. The temperature wasn't too bad, at least for the first half of the race; it was just a few degrees below zero, maybe -6 degrees Celsius. We kept a slow pace, partially due to the density of runners, and finished alive and well. That was my personal goal. At the finish line, all the runners got two beers. Funny, I wanted something non-alchoholic, so I was out of luck!!! There was water somewhere, but I couldn't find it. How bizarre is that? How about something with electrolytes in it, besides beer, people? Granted, the beer was light beer, so I guess it would have been acceptable, had I not been driving back to Calgary afterwards. Had half of a banana and a cookie, though, which was dinner.

I desperately want some prime rib. Maybe next week sometime.

We are bacs. Resistance is futile.

Heather, a former physio in my class, checked out my hand today. Another positive review.

I also met with my faculty advisor. Can't wait to shadow him in surgery. He had a copy of an aviation magazine (the AOPA magazine) on his office coffee table, so he's obviously a pilot. I need to get back into that; fuel prices have dropped over twenty percent since the post-Katrina peak, but my cash flow is poor, due to recent excessive textbook purchases.

A Leonard Cohen quote from a Juno awards show in the early nineties came up in a trivia game tonight (Cranium, actually). I had it after three words, "Only in Canada..."

Tomorrow I run an 8 km road race in Banff. How will that turn out? I'm fat and out of shape, have my left hand in a splint, and the race will be at 4540 ft of altitude, at night time, in sub-zero conditions. "Only in Canada..."

Friday, November 04, 2005

Important Step

As of yesterday morning, with my left hand, I can once again give the finger.

I guess that means I can safely drive again.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

1092 minutes

Today I received my latest order from amazon in the mail: the complete DVD collection of Degrassi Junior High! That's right, 1092 minutes in total.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


Came home after a dinner neurosurgery information session, and took a nap.

Woke up: total silence. The Venetian blinds, bright. Only one thing could cause that, snow with accumulation. Ran to the window, 'threw up the sash,' yes, there's an inch of snow on the ground. Got out there, walked up the hill to the hospital through the snow-covered grass, flakes blowing around me, paradise.

There is no silence like that of a snowfall in wintertime.

In the Tom Baker centre, the muzak is Billy Joel -- I love you just the way you are. That's Rich for you; welcome to Calgary.


Today I went for physio for the first time. The good news is that, based on my current active motion range, my physio predicts that I will easily regain full hand motion and control. I'm happy to hear predictions like that. On the other hand, my fingertip sensation seems a bit off, but I'm not sure that is a direct result of the injury, and if it is, whether it is long-term. Still, it seems adequate already.

Anyways, the physio started by asking me to list three activities, which I can't do now, with my injured hand, but which I would like to be able to do again. Basically, they are meant to serve as signposts in my recovery. My mind blanked under the pressure. "Typing," was my first response, but then I felt that that was too easy. I then thought about my studies, and said, "Perform a physical exam." I'm supposed to be starting with that next week, so it's directly relevant. However, once again it seemed like something really basic, for which I would just need some strength, but not much more. What could I say, for my third objective? I tried to imagine my left hand doing something that required fine motor control. The physio waited for an answer. "Knitting!" I declared. No, not something manly like 'perform neurosurgery' or even 'play guitar.' Well, I was immediately embarrassed. My physio, hoping to make me feel less silly, offered, "My wife loves to knit."

Well, I no longer have to wear my splint, except at night, or in situations where I could inadvertently hurt my hand, like walking around, etc. In fact, at the moment, I am touch typing this entry! At some point this evening I resumed normal typing, without even noticing the switch!

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Why splints suck

I wish that there was some way that I could post the smell of my splinted hand, because it is very gross. Hopefully, extensive washing can remove this odour from my life.

In other news, I have developed a most interesting typing technique, where my right hand touch-types as normal, but my left hand is held rotated with the thumb pointing straight down, in the standard thumbs down position, and the extended thumb is used in a hunt-and-peck manner for all left-hand keys. Looks very cool, like my left side is an industrial robot.

Friday, October 28, 2005


Today, I had my first follow-up appointment with my plastic surgeon. First of all, my passive range of motion was surprisingly good. Secondly, the bone itself appears to have already healed a once-again-surprising amount. Physio starts Monday, and the splint will be gone in two weeks. Frisbee forbidden for eight weeks, though.

Evidently, I'm a superhealer who should be studied.

Or, maybe my rapid healing is thanks to the bearded guy I ran into in an entranceway of Foothills last week, who used his healing hands on the fracture.

Thursday, October 27, 2005


Another night at the study centre, and once again I'm jacked up on coffee beans. This is the last time, 'cause I don't understand the dosage of these things. More Avril.

Watched the original 'Dark Water' today. Scary. I notice that a lot of the successful Japanese horror movies appeal to the fear that adult males have of children, like 'Ju-on: The Grudge'.
Note to self: no longer accept chocolate-covered coffee beans from fellow medical students. If accepted, do not combine with caffeinated beverages.


Watched another great movie tonight, 'Cure'. Kôji Yakusho, he's so trustworthy.

Good news, I guess: I've noticed that I am listening to less Nick Cave these days. That must be a positive thing for anyone's mental health.

Bad news, definitely: tonight I've had Avril Lavigne on repeat play. That must be a negative thing for anyone's mental health.

Okay, don't worry, tonight has just been an anomaly. Actually, early Bowie has been my thing recently. I've finally understood why Heather, Sara, and Steve were so hunky dory back at GHS. It took me a while, but better late then never.

By the way, it turns out that more than 10% of the out-of-province students in my current class are GHS alumni! How's that for a quality high school? Okay, there are only two of us, but still, that statistic is accurate, and we're far from Gloucester out here.

It's snowing out there again. I want some accumulation to jump into and roll around in, though.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Yellow and Blue

Those are the colours of my left arm, mostly yellow from the forearm to the fingers, with touches of blue at the wrist and knuckles. I can barely move my fingers anymore, after just one week of immobilization. It should be even worse, when I am finally free of the splint. Yowzers.

To encourage my hand in its healing, I mentally projected a slightly-modified Yoko Ono lyric to it today, from 'Milk and Honey'. With my best mental Yoko accent, of course.

My hands, so beautiful
My hands, I even dream about them
In a day, no matter how many times we meet, it is not enough
In a lifetime, no matter how many times we meet, it is not enough
My metacarpals, so beautiful
My metacarpals, I even dream about them

I hope that helps healing along. Six weeks like this? Neo-Plastic Ono power to the rescue!

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Last Life

I joined last week, because I could no longer go on without foreign films in my life. My standard technique for movie selection is to just select anything in the foreign language section with a good title; I never check the synopsis, as that ruins it for me. This is how I 'discovered' the films of Takashi Miike, back in Boston. So, on Friday I watched a great film, 'Last Life in the Universe'. The high point for me was Takashi Miike brilliantly playing a yakuza. What a surprise that was. Recently, I had a similar surprise watching 'EM Embalming', which featured the spectacular Seijun Suzuki as the lead embalmer's aged sidekick. Which reminds me, I still need to see his latest film, 'Racoon Princess' with Zhang Ziyi.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Shaving 2.0

On Wednesday, as I was shaving in the morning, I realized that last Friday, I had misinterpreted my shaving gel incident. Rather than it having been some general life lesson that I was being given, it was instead a direct warning about the events of the following Sunday. Indeed, that was the last time I shaved before breaking my metacarpal, and so that was the last opportunity to send me that message.

Think about it: what do autumn leaves do? They throw themselves at terminal velocity to the frozen ground. Don't look down; I did look down, to watch my hand twisting away underneath me, in a way it never had before.

So, that immediately raises the question: who attempted to warn me not to wildly pursue that frisbee to my doom? Why did they choose the medium of shaving gel and an obscure Leonard Cohen song? The first name that comes to mind, naturally, is Leonard himself. I assume that while meditating on a mountaintop somewhere in California, as the sun broke over the horizon he foresaw my injury, and immediately attempted to warn me. I submit to you, the first miracle of Leonard Cohen.

Had a rough week? I sure did. There's no better way to finish things off on a good note then by rereading 'Super-Frog Saves Tokyo' by Haruki Murakami (who is apparently currently on a tour of the US northeast).

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


Was overjoyed to be able to feel my left hand when I woke up this morning, including all the fingertips. Prognosis looking good; can't wait until I get to move all my fingers again. Hurrah!

Why do 'the abled' laugh, when you tell them that it was frisbee that almost ruined your life? I will never leave the study centre again; it's just too dangerous out there!

Monday, October 17, 2005


Have you ever seen the movie 'Patch Adams'? I watched it on Saturday night, and was left wondering about the guy in the psychiatric hospital, who always had his hand up in the air. What was his story? Well, today, I think that I have figured it out. I am pretty sure that this is how his life went:

After years of making his way through graduate school, he found his life energy being drained away by prep after prep of insoluble protein, nickel column after nickel column, miniprep after miniprep. Surely there must be a better use for my brain, he thought to himself. So, with a dose of inspiration and fortitude supplied by those around him, he rose up from the ashes and achieved the impossible: acceptance into medical school, a dream long ago abandoned, now come to life. Upon beginning at medschool, he found that it suited him exactly, and that this was what he was born to do. So, with his mind in Nirvana, and his soul floating through the clouds, one Sunday he went to play frisbee, and broke his left fourth metacarpal, with an ugly spiral fracture with displacement and shortening. As he sat at his desk post-plastic-surgery, wondering whether or not he would recover the feeling in his fingers and the full use of his hand, his friends made fun of his needing to continuously hold his hand high in the air, to avoid swelling. And so he remained, sitting in a stunned silence, his dreamy existence shattered, and his hand held high for evermore.

The only good thing that came out of the event for him was being able to watch the surgery on his own hand, with the skin and muscle cut away, to vaguely feel the screw entering his bone, and watch all his own tendons sliding up and down as he tried to open and close his fist post-op, with the skin all still pulled back.

That's my best guess, anyways.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Bread 2.0

The baking went well. I found a recipe on the web that needed just flour, yeast, salt, and water. I had no idea how much kneading you're supposed to do, but it seems I got it about right. I split my dough into two loaves, one of which I kneaded over a bit more than I think I should have. That one ended up looking very nice and puffy, but the other was a bit more 'artisanal' looking.

Anyways, it's a lot easier than I thought, and the flavour and texture are great.

I think I forgot to mention why I needed to start baking stuff. I went to the Co-op a few weeks ago, to buy a kilo of flour for spätzle. I figured that a kilogram would last me a few months, maybe more, given how often I tend to cook. Well, 5 kg was only a buck more than 1 kg, so I was going to buy that. But, 10 kg was only 30 cents more than that! Wow! So, now I have a 10 kg bag of flour in my kitchen, and it needs to be used.

Saturday, October 15, 2005


Today, my mission is to bake a loaf of bread. I've never done that before. Have yeast, will travel!

Had a big exam yesterday, hematology. Next up: the musculoskeletal system! Fun!

Friday, October 14, 2005


This morning, as I was about to shave, Leonard Cohen's 'The Smokey Life' cycled into my iTunes playlist.

Take a lesson from these autumn leaves
They waste no time waiting for the snow

I failed to pay attention to my can of shaving gel for a second, and instead of shooting some gel into my hand, instead a thin blue line of gel flew across the bathroom. It was as if the shaving gel had understood the lyrics, and was taking this chance to make its break.

So don't look down, the ground is gone
There's no one waiting anyway

Unfortunately, the gel ended up splattering itself all across the far wall of the bathroom, its struggle for a life beyond its can or my face denied.

That's when I understood that the gel was trying to teach me something. You've broken free from your can, it told me, but watch out for the bathroom wall. O Teacher, I hear you, I will not allow myself to follow that same fate.

After all, to Gaia, what are humans but some facial lubricant?

Sunday, October 09, 2005


Oh, I got that photo library website going. Message me for the link & password...

It's Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. To celebrate, I cooked up dinner for the usual crew on Friday night, as our current exchange students go back to Sapporo next Saturday, after our hematology exam. I cooked up a big five pound pork roast, with potato dumplings with crouton filling, along with red cabbage and spätzle on the side. It turned out great, although it's been a long time since I've cooked a roast. The gravy worked out very well, which is a change from Boston. We followed up the roast with pumpkin pie and Saskatoon berry pie, along with a good bottle of ice wine.

Anyways, to prepare for people coming over on Friday, I spent a couple of evenings finishing unpacking and cleaning up my apartment. It is now spotless and most awesome. I went to Ikea to try out couches, but decided to forget about a couch, and just go with my pillows, just like my place in Toronto...

Basically, I decided that what I really wanted was a leather couch, and if I couldn't afford one now, then no couch until I can. It's basically the same deal as for my future TV: it's either a 50" widescreen LCD or plasma, or nothing. Looks like it will be 'nothing' for a while.

Oh, now I remember why I mentioned all this. As I was looking around for a guitar tuner during the party, I found my copy of 'Smoochy', that I haven't seen in several years, despite searching for it repeatedly in Boston. It was with my motorcycle title, that I have unsuccessfully searched for for the last two months. Nice!

Monday, October 03, 2005


When I left for school this morning, it was snowing. It was a fine granular snow. It started up again in the afternoon, but had changed over to bigger flakes. Wintertime is here. I started chapstick use a few days ago, 'cause my lips hurt real bad!

Sunday, October 02, 2005


Today I went running after waking up. It was pretty cold this morning, so very few people besides runners were down by the river... maybe ten non-runners on my whole circuit. No fair-weather rollerbladers, the wimps. I noticed that 95% of the runners were running alone, though. That made me wonder, are the runners alone or are the alone runners?

In any case, I think I figured out the 'train noise, it's a good thing' thing. It's self-evident: it's a reminder of life in the womb. What else could it be? The low rumbling heart-beat-like sound; the clunk of the wheels over seams in the tracks even gives you your first and second cardiac sound separation.

Anyways, I was thinking of that because of a conversation I had yesterday. Chihiro, Shuntaro, and Takeshi threw a dinner party at Chihiro's apartment, which is down the valley about 2 km, and also on the river side of her building. It was just the three of them, me, Kent, Marcel, Diane, and at the beginning, Chihiro's landlady and her friend from down the hall. Somehow the conversation got onto train noise (something to do with the level of street noise in that area), and the neighbour said that he loved the sound, and was happy to have recently moved from the north side of the building to the south side, because that meant that now he could hear the train. That is pretty weird phenomenon.

Anyways, my last story for the week is that I went speedskating for the first time on Wednesday night. I rented a pair of those really old-school skates, with the low-cut ankle support. The blades were pretty dull, so it wasn't easy, but even with dull blades, you could feel the speed difference. With minimal effort, and even less control, I was about even with the fastest people on regular skates that were there that evening. So, it would be interesting to try out a pair of modern speed skates.

But, that reminds me of my biggest problem with Calgary so far: lousy skate sharpening. The last time I had my blades sharpened, I was still living in Toronto. So, they were getting pretty dull when I started skating again here in Calgary. I had them sharpened at the oval, and instead of some expert doing it, the girl at the counter went into the back room and sharpened them. The result was a disaster. The edges were completely gone. She had actually managed to remove any and all sharpness from anywhere on the blade. I could have used the blade as a pillow, even (perhaps replacing the Turkish-English dictionary I used as pillow for the month of August). Well, I then brought it to a sports store, hoping for something better. Again, a teenager went to the back room and sharpened them. The result that time was passable, but not great. At least it is currently a bit better than it was when I got to Calgary. However, back in Ottawa, I remember that skates were always sharpened by middle-aged guys with mustaches and long hair (or at least a mullet), and they always had a Hattori-Hanzo-like devotion to the skate blade. If you rubbed your hand accross the blade, it would be cut.

Okay, there was one more thing I wanted to say. Speedskating in that rented pair of skates, I wore off a circle of skin on my foot about 8 mm in diameter. It was quite painful walking on Thursday, and so I was walking with this limp, dragging my right leg out straight, with the foot swung out, so as to not irritate the foot at all. I told people that I felt like Gondo in 'A Taxing Woman' (I could hear the soundtrack in my head as I dragged myself along), but nobody had a clue what I was talking about. What's wrong with society that people don't understand these things?

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Get Smart

It's sad to hear that Don Adams passed away. The doorway into the Foothills hospital from the medschool has a motion detector sensor that picks you up from a good distance, and the door swings open extremely slowly, just in time to let you through. Just last week, I was telling people that I felt like Maxwell Smart arriving at headquarters, every time I walk through that door. :(


So, as I said I would, I went to Edmonton on Sunday. The purpose was seeing the finals of the Ice Bowl medschools hockey tournament. Chihiro, Christine, and Shuntaro came along in my little green car. First we hit the West Edmonton Mall, former 'largest mall in the world'. We rode the roller coaster, which was a blast. A lot of G-forces going on there, more than my neck remembers from Six Flags New England. That was a lot of fun. WEM has a spectacular-looking indoor water park, that must be awesome in mid-February. We'll be back then, bathing suits at the ready...

Then, we went downtown to the provincial legislature, where all that Alberta oil money ends up. There was some kind of Mountie event, so I took a photo of Chihiro and Shuntaro with a guy in full Scottish regalia, and another guy in the traditional Mountie crimson. Reminded me of the mountie on horseback that I had as a kid.

Anyways, after all that, we went out to the arenas in the east end of town, to watch hockey. Unfortunately, we had decided to skip the men's competitive finals, and just go to the women's and mens 'noncompetitive' games. Of course, U of C didn't make the finals in those two divisions, but they did win the men's competitive division. So, we had just missed the relevant game. No probs, though, WEM was worth it. A fun drive back to Calgary was followed by a 'guiltless' vegetarian burger with broccoli at Chili's, and then poutine at midnight, back at the medschool.

Oh, I picked up running again, to combat the curds and gravy. I'm training for an 8 k in November up in Banff. Running along the Bow is awesome. I haven't run on dirt through the woods for so long. Also good is running along the CPR tracks; what a rush when a train goes by, 250 wagons or more in tow. I was thinking the other day, when I was a kid in Ottawa, at night you'd always hear the train running way off in the distance, south of Blackburn Hamlet, and I loved that sound. Now, I have that back, with the trains running on the south side of the river at night. Why would that sound be so comforting?

Saturday, September 24, 2005


I ended up completing my research on the availability of Vachon products here in Calgary. Six-packs of Jos. Louis and Passion Flakie are available for $3.89, which is 65 cents each. Not bad; that US$0.55 each.

I went ahead and bought a six pack of each, along with a big bottle of Pepsi. Passion Flakies remind me of the summer of '87, when I took grade 13 Relations and Functions in summer school, out in the southwest of Ottawa. Got 100% in that, with not a single error on any of the midterms or on the final exam. I was on fire. I ate my first Flakie in the first week of that course, during the morning break, and after that, I must have had one a day for the duration of the course. I've rarely eaten Flakies since that summer...

Oh, by the way, I verified that the hospital burger joint (the garden cafe) does, in fact, use real cheese curds in its poutine. So, I'm very happy about that. I've picked up the habit of late-night poutine during breaks from studying; a Montrealer in my class (Marcel) and I are now called the 'Midnight Fryboys'. You can get poutine 23.25 hours per day here, thank God. There are, in fact, many Quebecois around, but I am not sure whether they consistute the majority of the market for poutine. Eastern Ontarioans, after all, have just as much poutine history as the Quebecois, but they're harder to spot in a crowd.

I'm going to Edmonton tomorrow to watch the finals of an inter-medical-school hockey tournament. Hopefully, U of C will dominate.

Monday, September 19, 2005

The stars

I came in to work tonight for a bit of extra haematology studying. The northern sky was crystal clear, with the great bear bright over the hospital. A satellite crossed Andromeda.

The Bow valley is beautiful from the ridgeline, a mix of golden desciduous trees with evergreens. We're about to reach the peak of fall colours here. The fields are covered in frost as I walk to work in the mornings... ah, I'm back in Canada.

I promised Alex a report on the availability of Vachon products out here, but haven't gotten around to doing a full study yet. The local 7/11 (the post office inside it is actually open from 7 to 11) stocks *Super* Jos. Louis and *Super* Passion Flakie, although I haven't tried either. I don't need *Super* products. What am I to do? Well, the answer is easy. Safeway has the normal Jos. Louis and Passion Flakies in larger boxes.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005


I've been spending a lot of time at Ikea recently. On Saturday, the desk that I bought there last week was delivered, a Galant corner desk, with an 80 cm extension on the skinny end. It's awesome. Nice and solid feel, telescoping T-style legs that I have at maximum height, it's just great. Beech, with dark grey legs. I put it together Saturday evening, and man, it wasn't easy flipping the thing over once it was all assembled. But, I managed to do it all without scratching it, thanks to my carpets; I got my carpets out of storage; they haven't been unrolled since I left Toronto. Two semicolons in one sentence is definitely a faux pas.

On Monday, labour day (originated in Toronto, btw), I hit Ikea again, but it was so busy that I didn't feel like waiting in line. So, this afternoon, as I had the afternoon off, I headed back over there, and bought two Billy bookcases, again birch. Ikea here rents vans, so you can bring stuff home, if it doesn't fit in your car. It's CAN$19.99, plus $0.10 per kilometer as a gasoline charge (you don't have to gas it up), for two hours. I was thinking, 10 cents per kilometer is probably less than the current cost of gas, which is $1.14 per litre here in Calgary at the moment. Anyways, I rented a van, and brought my bookcases home, no probs.

My point? Any city worth mentioning has an Ikea. If a city doesn't have one at this moment, it means that the city sucks bigtime. Take that, Boston.

I don't have net access at home at the moment, so that's why my postings are currently non-existant. I have to go to school to connect to the net, which sucks. At the moment, I'm sitting at my beautiful desk, listening to Godspeed you black emperor, and I'll head in to school later to actually post this thing. I'll put together one of my shelves before I head in, though... peace out.

P.S.: I'm happy to report that my favourite instant noodles, neoguri, are only CAN$0.634 here, which is US$0.534. They were 75 cents US at the Japanese place by Central Square, and US$1.25 at the Starmarket in Fenway. So, I'm doing well.

Monday, August 29, 2005

So, I discovered the downsides to my new apartment today. First of all, the water pressure in the shower isn't the greatest. I guess I'll survive. Secondly, it is considerably cooler down in the bottom of the river valley, as opposed to up on top of the ridge, where the university campus is. You really feel it if you descend into the valley on a bike.

Still, it's nice to have so much space. My apartment looks like a hollow shell at the moment. Once all my stuff is there, it will still look hollow. For the first time in my life, I feel like I should buy a sofa. I guess I need to buy bookshelves and a desk too; I'm setting up the second (front) bedroom as my office.

Man, September is just around the corner, and that should mean new Apple product announcements! Excitement.

I guess I had nothing to say today. The highlight of the day was running into the Japanese contingent from school when I went to Blockbuster to return a video. They were just leaving a pub, so they had had a few beers and were in a party mood. We went to Safeway to celebrate our chance meeting, then I drove Go and Hiroshi home, after discussing the genius of Takashi Miike with them. Funny enough, I am not they saved any time or effort, what with the long walk to my car on campus...

I got the keys to my new apartment today. It's down in the Bow river valley, below the hospital. It turns out that out of eight apartments in the building, three are inhabited by medstudents. Anyways, I moved a few things in there, but won't move everything in from storage until Tuesday.

Oh, I watched 'Shaolin Soccer' this evening. Funny stuff, good movie.

Sunday, August 28, 2005


Today I went to Globalfest. Specifically, I went to see the Vietnamese pavilion. They put on a funny and touching play/musical/dancefest telling the story of a Vietnamese immigrant to Canada. It's been 30 years since the fall of Saigon, and I guess people are starting to forget about Vietnam and the bad years they went through, especially now that things have changed so much over there. Well, the performance was great; my favourite scene was the cycling.

So, why did I go in the first place? Well, my mentor Albert was involved as a volunteer, and I like this kind of thing already, so that was all the reason I needed. My mentor is age 20 and in second year of meds, which I think is awesome. I should start calling him big bro or something.

Anyways, I went there by subway, which reminded me of yet another free thing here. Public transit! Yes, that's right, we don't get reduced price or even cheap monthly passes or anything like that at U of C, we get free public transit from late August until May sometime. Not too shabby, eh?

One last thing I wanted to mention. Remember my reference to Mme. Lalonde a couple of days ago? Well, I googled her, and here's the result.


Just got back from the Garbage concert at MacEwan Hall. I went with Go and Koji. It was awesome; we were about four meters from the stage, dead centre.

I need to see Nick Cave in concert.

Saturday, August 27, 2005


I just got back from a nice Saturday afternoon of skating with a few fellow medstudents.

There are few things in life more enjoyable than going for a skate. Well, it turns out that if you believe that first sentence, then the University of Calgary is the place for you. U of C is blessed with the speed-skating oval from the 1988 Olympic winter games, and unbelievably to me, skating is free for students. They have public skating every weekday from 7:30 to 9 p.m., which makes the oval a great place to head after dinner, as well as at various times on weekends. When I'm out there on that ice, I thank Toutatis that I was accepted into meds here. Back in Boston, I had to dish out to skate at MIT, so I only went once in total after they introduced the entry fee. Anyways, my skating drought is over.

Which brings me to thinking about how many things are free here at U of C. First of all, there was the skating oval. There, helmet rentals are free as well, which is also a bit of a surprise. The huge gym on campus, the rock-climbing gyms, the swimming pools, the gym at the hospital (much nicer than the HMS gym, btw), they're all free. So, for a cheap guy like me, this may result in me not going down the road to obesity, despite the number of burgers in my life these days.

Anyways, getting back to the topic of skating, once again I am reminded of high school, where going skating down on the canal in the evenings was the thing to do on Friday nights and weekends. It turns out to be ditto for medschool, but with the Olympic Oval substituting for the Rideau canal. Good times are here again!

Friday, August 26, 2005

Okay, so I was thinking of running for class AV rep. Yes, apparently they still exist. I remember being the AV guy in history class with Mme. Lalonde back in high school, ah good times, and I'd like to recreate that here in medschool. However, I am afraid that the days of the film projector are over. Oh how I want that title on my CV, though.

I imagine that an AV rep would have the power to organize things like movie nights on the big screen at school, or could 'borrow' an LCD projector for big-screen gaming at home... but all of those activities show the corruption that power will lead you into, and lord knows I hate the corrupt, so the inner conflict that would be created would not be good for me. Not even Natalie Portman could control my brooding.

Anyways, a guy in our class seems to have the position wrapped up, and I can't be bothered to go print out the form.


Testing the blog

As a good practitioner, I need to see how the damn thing will react if I probe it.

So consider this entry as my first "temperature taking" of the blog-oh-sphere.

It's getting late ... looks like I'll need to call my maid.