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 zip.ca 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!