Sunday, December 31, 2006


Happy New Year, everybody!

I just got back into town. I was quite surprised to see how clean I'd left my apartment.

Anyways, for the New Year, I leave you this quote from Basho:

Another year is gone
a traveller's shade on my head
straw sandals at my feet

Friday, December 29, 2006


Well, merry fifth day of Christmas. I still have two more nights here at home out east. I got my parents hooked up with a cable modem yesterday, so I'm back on the net... phew!

Christmas has been pretty good to me. Two notable things: first of all, my friend M. Tabernac gave me a call, and we got together for the first time in about four years. Recently, he posted his first ever Youtube video:

The other good thing was that my nephews got a book of 'string games' for Christmas. Now, I can do 'cup and saucer', 'Eiffel Tower', 'Cat's Cradle', 'Soldier's Bed', 'Jacob's Ladder'; you name it, I can do it, and I'm awesome.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Night of Union

It's the Night of Union again, the 733rd anniversary of Rumi's death. I'll offer up a quote from Mevlana:

If you want everlasting glory,
don't go back to sleep.

If you want to burn with love,

don't go back to sleep.

You have wasted so many nights!

Tonight, for the love of God,

meet the dawn,

don't go back to sleep!

That translation is by Maryam Mafi and Azima Melita Kolin in 'Rumi: Hidden Music'.

Saturday, December 16, 2006


The gastroenterology exams yesterday went well. It was interesting stuff; I wish I had studied harder. With that, our Christmas break has begun; we have two weeks off. Our next vacation won't be until Christmas of 2007, so I will have to try and destress as much as possible over the next two weeks. Frankly, there's almost no point, since January will easily be the busiest month of medical school.

Anyways, I head back east on Tuesday, so I have three days here to clean up the detritus of my life. I started with some movies. First was 'Magic in the Water', a movie starring a friend of mine from my Boston life. She was very impressive. Next was 'The Million Dollar Hotel', which I rented because it was directed by Wim Wenders. I didn't realize that it starred Mel Gibson, nor Milla Jovovich, neither of which I would have expected to see in a Wenders movie. It was also a surprise to find out that the story was cowritten by Bono.

Anyways, I now have Wender's 'Wings of Desire' in my drive, which I don't think I've seen since 1993 or so.

Oh, the big success of the day was finding a restaurant that serves jajang myeon; it's less than ten minutes drive away from home. Wow, what a relief.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Livin' on a Prayer

I had two brushes with technological disaster in the past 48 hours.

First story: I sitting in small group yesterday, and was just opening up my notes on my laptop. "Where's that crazy buzzing sound coming from," I asked myself; "How are we supposed to work with kind of noise in the building?" I then noted that my computer was vibrating quite strongly, and that it had actually hung. At that point, I realized that the source of the incredibly disturbing noise and vibration was not construction, but my computer, notably my hard drive. Not good! Rebooting resulted in a few loud clunking noises, like a hammer being dropped onto a metal table. Later attempts resulted in a weird opening-and-closing metallic zipper sounds. I thought I was screwed; naturally, I don't have backups. Well, the happy ending to the story is that when I got home, and I tried again, it just sat there for 15 seconds, then booted up as if nothing had happened. I ran off to buy a spare hard drive, and backed up all my files. Phew. Everything's going to be o-kay.

My other mini-story occured the night before. I got home, after a long day at school, and went to try and wash the formalin smell off of my hands. I turned on the bathroom light, and was greeted with the flash of a bulb burning out. No probs. I had a low-wattage flourescent bulb that I had wanted to install anyways. I screwed out the old bulb, and put in the new bulb. I hit the light switch. Boom! There were some big sparks out of the light fixture, and part of the fixture fell out of the ceiling, smashing the bulb into a million tiny shards on my bathroom floor. Examining it later, there must have been a short circuit inside the thing that you screw the bulb into; it had blown its ceramic shell into two parts, and parts of the metal around it had melted away. Excitement! The happy ending to this story? It forced me to clean my apartment, so that I wouldn't be embarrassed when the landlord came by to fix the fixture. Spotless!

Monday, December 11, 2006

El derecho de vivir en paz

I thought I'd comment on the death of Augusto Pinochet.

Back when I was in middle school, my sister brought home a record from the local public library; it was 'Pongo En Tus Manos Abiertas' by Victor Jara. I loved it. This was soon followed by the rest of his albums that were available from the library. To this day, I can sing along to 'Preguntas por Puerto Montt'.

I quickly realized that the library didn't have any albums from after 1974. I did some reading, and found the reason (we couldn't just wiki back in those days): he'd been killed in a military coup in 1973. He was taken prisoner, tortured, and murdered. The man responsible for his death: Augusto Pinochet.

Last year, I was happy to find that Victor Jara's work has been rereleased as an eight-disk CD collection.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Almost there...

I've made it to the last week of school. Exams are Friday. Of course, Darth Vader is right on my tail as I head to the end of the trench, so I must be in top form for the rest of the week.

Last week, we finally finished off the 'Culture, Health, and Wellness' project that had been sucking up so much effort. What a relief that was. Unfortunately, the recent drop in stress levels induced immediate slacking on my part, and I watched a stack of movies. Chief among these were 'Paris, Texas' and 'The Great Yokai War'. Having potential was 'Sympathy for Lady Vengeance', but it got a bit sappy in parts. I also watched 'Slackers', by accident, since I had actually meant to rent 'Slacker'.

Anyways, time to hunker down...

Saturday, December 02, 2006


It's been a while since I last posted. December and Advent have arrived (well, Advent arrives tomorrow).

Last weekend, I spent both afternoons in a Starbucks at the local Chapters, just doing some 'Culture, Health, and Wellness' work; they were playing Christmas carols the whole time. Three songs jumped out at me; one was an uninspired cover of 'Happy Xmas (War is Over)'. I kept thinking, is that Sarah McLaughlin? She's killed this song. Well, it was her, and she did kill it. The second song that jumped out at me (a personal favourite): 'Hallelujah' by LC. Of course, besides use of the word 'Hallelujah', it is in no way whatsoever a Christmas song. Anyways, the third song was 'Reggae Christmas' by Bryan Adams. I actually have the 72-rpm 'Christmas Time' single from 1985 back home, printed in glorious translucent green vinyl. Ah, that took me back to happy days.

Unfortunately, this weekend, I've been too busy to make it to Chapters. Instead, I've had a couple of Christmas parties to go to. I can't get into the mood, though. We're so busy at school; it sucks, really. Oh well, two more weeks, and it'll be vacation time. January will be ugly too, but February should be nice and relaxing. I can't say that I've ever looked forward to February so much in my life.

From the news, it's interesting to see that Stéphane Dion has been elected as the head of the Liberal party. Looks like Ignatieff was viewed as being too soft on the Iraq war back in his Harvard days. This should heat things up this winter...

Thursday, November 23, 2006


Lately, I've been pretty apathetic, about everything. For example, eating has been tedious. I don't want to eat anything in my cupboard, so I hop in my car and start to drive. KFC? No. The Bell? No. Wendy's? No. Arby's? No. Chicken on the Way? No. Not even Timmy's! Two weekends ago, I ended up deep in the southwest part of town, before finally eating some popcorn.

Fortunately, GI class has turned things around for me. Weird that the vagaries of the intestinal tract would get a person excited about life again. Plus, classes reminded me of the pleasures of a fibre-containing diet, and so I have hit a local sub shop for the last two nights, for a tasty vegetarian sub. Mmm!

Funny enough, when I went in to the sub shop for dinner last night, I recognized Helena Paparizou playing on their radio; it was a song I'd never heard before. As I ordered, I thought to myself, "This is destiny. How many people in this city could instantly recognize Helena Paparizou's voice?"

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Educational Reading

I didn't get very far in my GI text this weekend; just a few pages.

Instead, I finished reading the story of Buddha... in comic book form. Made me want to go to India.

I wish that we had textbooks in comic book form.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Down and Out

The repro/obs/gyne exam yesterday was not an easy one. GI starts on Tuesday, and will hopefully catch my attention better. Textbook reading has begun, although once again, I find that the text is an inappropriate length for the amount of time we have. 815 pages in one month? Hmmm... at least so far it looks better organized than either of my obs/gyne textbooks.

It turns out that this is the Remembrance Day long weekend over here in AB, so we have Monday off. Rococo, Magic Pants, Bejeweled! and I are starting things off right, by heading to Nellie's to work on a skool project over breakfast, dealing with the influence of socioeconomic status on choice of medical specialty.

In other news, Stephen Lewis came to talk at our medschool last night; Car Hermit organized the whole thing. Lewis is a former Canadian ambassador to the UN, and is currently the UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa. Pretty interesting guy, obviously. Apparently, he's a big fan of Bill Clinton; he had just met with him on Wednesday, after the US Democrats' big gains in their midterm elections. Apparently, the Clinton Foundation has been crucial in the negotiation of lower prices for antiretrovirals. Lewis sees this week's power shift in the US as potentially resulting in a big changes in their policies in regards to sub-Saharan Africa. We'll see.

On the Canadian side of things, our current Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, has also been floundering on international health issues, but I'm guessing that he'll be dumped by Parliament sometime in spring. Hopefully, Michael Ignatieff will do a better job. He did, after all, work at Harvard for a few years, so he should be a smart guy!

In contrast to last night, tonight's agenda is Borat.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Wasting Time

So, once again, I find myself with upcoming exams; this time, it's repro on Friday. Once again, I can't get into studying. Thus, I'm writing this post, despite having no subject to write about.

Hmm, we had a bizarre heat wave this week (by default, we Canadians like to talk about the weather). All the snow that we had sitting around all of last week quickly melted away, even on the north side of my building. Today, the temperatures dipped a bit again, and when we left the anatomy lab this evening, we were greeted by a gorgeous snowfall, with huge, soft flakes, gently coming down in mass quantities. Tonight, after killing time by browsing myspace, I headed over to 7/11, to spend a bit of time in the cold and snow.

Oh, I've acquired a new nickname: *** Needledriverhands.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Forwards to the Past

Yesterday, I spent six hours in labour and delivery. Now I know that I can cross obstetrics off of the list of potential specialties.

The (only!) problem was that I was the only male in the entire ward, for those six hours. Everybody was super-nice (to use the parlance of the region), but I just got the feeling that I wasn't supposed to be there. I realized that that was how women must have felt in medicine thirty years ago. Perhaps it was just my overactive self-consciousness, but I have to wonder if other males in my class had similar experiences.

Anyways, Rococo pointed out to me, that that is how the women in my class felt over in Africa. The docs were super-nice to them, but the paucity of female docs made them feel like intruders into a male world. Hmm, I recall that a big percentage of the residents there were female, though, close to 50-50; just the older docs were all male.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Goose is Getting Fat

On Saturday, the high was supposed to be around 15 ºC, but instead, it rose above broke freezing. Wow, what a misprediction. So, as I was coming home from a party at about 1:30 this morning, there was a fine ice 'mist' in the air; I took it to be a positive omen. Lo and behold, when I woke up this morning, it was snowing heavily, and there was a good three inches of snow on the ground. It snowed all day. I love the twilight in wintertime; everything seems grey and dark, and for some reason, that gives me this intense feeling of contentment, like I'm 'at home'. I guess my love of extremes is why I enjoy the dark of a Canadian winter so much, as well as its antithesis, the wonderful heat of an İstanbul summer.

Speaking of İstanbul summers, for some unexplained reason, I went nuts over yogurt this weekend. I walked past the dairy isle on Friday, as I was shopping for baking ingredients, and saw that yogurt was on sale. I immediately bought 3.1 litres. Today, I went back and bought another 3.3 litres. Mmm, life should go smoothly for the next few days.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Tied Up

You know you're having fun when you spend Friday evening practicing tying one-handed knots. One hundred forwards, one hundred backwards. Repeat for the other hand, to attain ambidexterity. Do this every night, before going to bed. It reminds me of knitting.

Why did I begin this regime this week? I began my 40-hour pediatric surgery clinical 'encounter' this week. I also spent a couple of hours in obs/gyn surgery. I think I'm mostly over my fear of screwing up, and I'm ready to actually become helpful... anyways, I'm really excited about all this upcoming OR time.

Meanwhile, my apartment has turned into a pigsty lately. I rectified the problem today, and did some baking too, to top off the day.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

All is Well in the World

This week, we began our repro course. In concert with that, on Friday afternoon, it was well woman time for my well-person-partner Running Man and me. Well man had made me nervous, when we went through it last school year, but this time around, I didn't have the lead-up time to get nervous.

In the end, it was uneventful and went well. It was a lot more difficult that a good old DRE, but who doesn't like a challenge? Running Man maintains his cool in all situations, so that helped out.

Afterwards, I could really have used a beer. Instead, I had Harvey's twice, and was reminded of why I used to love them so much.

I really have gotten down to studying, btw. I've already put in more hours than I did in the first five weeks of neuro. Hurrah!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


Another course has come and gone; we had our neuropathology peripatetic yesterday, and the final exam today. Neuro completely failed to grab my attention; I guess the problem was that I already had a rough idea about a lot of the diseases involved, before the course started, so the full seven weeks really wasn't necessary.

Luckily, the ophthalmology section was interesting, primarily because I now know how to spell 'ophthalmology'. What a great word.

Unfortunately, not so great, was that after the exam, we headed to the local pub for a couple of drinks. They have free peanuts, so I ate a lot of them. One tasted exactly like blue cheese, which is not how peanuts are supposed to taste. Now, I have this terrible feeling in my tummy.

It actually snowed most of the day yesterday, and into this morning. Still no accumulation, though, since the ground remains too warm.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Sweatin' with the Oldies

On Friday, I went camping with a few people from the medschool, about 45 minutes out of town; it was a native health pathways club thing. We set up, and slept in, a Blackfoot-style tipi, which was a fun, obviously. The only downside was that it was pretty darn cold overnight, quite a bit below zero. Happily, the sky was incredible; the best I'd seen since central Asia, all those years ago. As a few of us sat around the embers of a campfire with an elder, having her tell us the story of the wolf trail, I watched two shooting stars fly overhead.

In the morning, we got up at 6:30 to enter the sweat lodge. Sweat was a bit of an understatement; I can't remember being that hot in years. Perhaps the minibuses of İstanbul were a similar temperature? It was a great experience, and reminded me in many ways of a Mevlevi sema. Afterwards, we rinsed off in an ice-cold creek; my skin was all pruney for at least half the day.

As the evening set in, we were back at the hospital, and found that the clerkship schedules were out. I have to start setting the elective wheels in motion after this week's exams...

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


Well, if I can't go to Thanksgiving, then Thanksgiving will come to me. As I mentioned in my last post, I backed out of Big Poppa's dinner to freak out over neuro. Well, Big Poppa brought a complete meal of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatos, mashed yam, beans, a bun, and cranberry sauce to school today, which I enjoyed for dinner. I broke open a bottle of 2003 Mouton Cadet Bordeaux to enjoy along with it. Wow, a great meal, which reminded me of warm memories of Thanksgivings past. Thus, today's title.

To top it off, I've had a couple of good days musically as well. Yesterday brought me a shipment that included a couple of Faye Wong disks that I had been missing, along with the special edition of 'Smile Again'. This evening I picked up a package from the post office, that completed my original-release Pizzicato Five collection. I had been missing 'Ça et là de Tokyo' up until now (okay, it's a rerelease, but what can a guy do?). Also, I've recently been thinking of submersing into Québécois rock, and lo and behold, today Fluorescent Boy introduced me to a couple of tracks from Anik Jean and Les Cowboys Fringants. It reminded me that I've been meaning to invest in a Beau Dommage album, to rekindle my youth. If that wasn't enough, this aft, Ché slipped me some rips of Cuban and latin tunes he picked up over the summer.

Anyways, to finish off this post, I've been tagged by Med Neophyte, and am supposed to list twenty random things about me. Twenty is a lot of random facts, so I will cut it down to ten useless factoids; otherwise, I'll run out of mysteries.

1) Okay, where do I start? I believe that life is way, way too short. I was just thinking, I often think of my Glory Days (à la Bruce), and yet here I am currently living another complete set of them, as we type. Lucky!

2) One of my favourite pastimes is shovelling snow.

3) I liked yellow as a kid, then moved on to green. That change of heart may or may not have been related to snow.

4) I enjoy glycobiology more than any other form of biochemistry.

5) I am an Apple maniac, as if you couldn't tell. I spend my days waiting for the perfect Mac to be released.

6) I like cars and planes that have plenty of leg room, and houses with high ceilings.

7) I'm a foreign film addict; if only my textbooks were subtitled. :(

8) I lack drive. I am where I am today, only through the efforts and inspiration of others. Without certain people in my past, I'd be a computer-game-playing comic-book-reading bum (oh wait, that describes me quite well).

9) Sadly (or happily, depending on your feelings about evolution), nobody wants to see me in short shorts.

10) Next week will be rough.

I could pass on the tag to Marysienka, but Anna's already tagged her!

Sunday, October 08, 2006


It's been another quiet week. Just studying or wasting time, these days. It's actually Thanksgiving today, and I was invited for dinner by Big Poppa, but backed out for an evening of study instead. Happily, I really have gotten down to it.

The only event of note is that I have suddenly become engrossed in the Trashcan Sinatras. A fellow former Endersian supplied me with an mp3 from them about five years ago, and the song finally got through to my limbic system this weekend.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


My life has become rather boring recently. The high point of the weekend was that I came down with a throat infection. It sucked, of course, being feverous and sore, with a general malaise about me. I noted a drop in my cognitive ability. 'Obtund' was the best word to describe me on Sunday.

Monday was worse, as I started the day by wacking the back of my head so badly on the bottom of the door of my medicine cabinet that it still hurts. My deficits now focused on attention and concentration. 'Confused' would describe my behaviour for the rest of the day.

In this state of mind, I'm still trying to figure out my future. A week ago, I was set on general surgery. Now, I'm having second thoughts, and trying to organize my clerkship to allow internal as a backup. How about paediatrics? I can slip that in too. The next year and a half will not be easy.

On the plus side, it kind-of snowed again on Monday morning, although it was still too warm for it to settle on the ground. Oh, and I've pretty much defeated whatever virus it was that had the nerve to infect me.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Poor Focus

Many things have happened in the past week, none of them important. I'll tell you about a few of them anyways.

First, I did some catsitting over the weekend. This involved me spending time with a cat, feeding and playing with him, and observing him. That was quite interesting. Speaking of entertainment, the person I was catsitting for has cable, which drove home the fact that I haven't had a television since coming to Calgary. I recognized very little of what was on.

I also watched a few movies. One of them was 'Vital', a bizarre film about a guy who suffers complete amnesia after an auto accident; after being taken home by his parents, he realizes that he remembers everything in the anatomy textbook in his cupboard, so off he goes to pursue medical school. Dissection, frenzied drawing of anatomy, and a love triangle ensue. In the end, not the most rewarding movie.

Let's see, what else to report? I played my first game of floor hockey in probably 13 years tonight; I joined a local team, succumbing to the peer pressure of Bejeweled! and The Chauffeur. I wasn't great, but I think I held my own; afterwards, a girl asked me whether I was a marathoner or a sprinter, she couldn't tell; perhaps I was into triple jump? She just knew I must do track. Boy, can people be wrong in their analyses.

To top off the evening, I got an extra-large double-double on the way home, and watched 'Der Untergang'. Wow, what a movie; I kept thinking about what my own ancestors were going through at that moment in time. Bruno Ganz is great. Oddly enough, I don't think I've actually seen a movie with him since 'Der Himmel über Berlin', a.k.a. 'Wings of Desire', which is a favourite of mine.

Ah, time for bed. :)

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Worms 3D

So, I got some exciting news today. It turns out that two of the nine of us that were in Tanzania this summer have been diagnosed as having intestinal worms. What species, I don't know. Probably a hookworm, but perhaps some kind of roundworm?

I had a friend a few years back who loved the video game 'Worms'. Now, I am wondering whether just such a war is currently being fought in my own intestinal tract.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

More Pics

It was another long day today. I was pretty beat by the time we things wrapped up at school. We had a thing in the evening concerning our clerkship: we have to rank our preferred schedules next week, which essentially means committing yourself to a specialty, since you have to choose a schedule that will put your favourite career choice right there, front and centre. Really, this is the number one reason why three-year medical schools should be eliminated. Why are people always in such a rush?

Anyways, I added a couple of photos from my pre-med-school wanderings in Turkey to my picasaweb gallery, just to kill some time.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Eau de Formaldehyde

It was a long day today. I got up early to wash my white shirts, so that I could wear one to school (still moist, when I headed out to school in 0 ˚C temps). Then, it was two hours of lecture, two hours of small group, four hours of neurosurgery clinic, and another two hours of dissection. All that, with just two coffees and three cookies to serve as fuel.

That last part of the day, dissection, I'm very happy about. As I mentioned in a comment a few days ago, I managed to get our main anatomy prof (and probably my favourite prof here), to oversee me in a dissection project. As a result, I'm happily spending time downstairs, dissecting away, in the pleasant company of my classmate Narco. Today, Rococo came on down too, just to check out the lab, as I freed up a greater auricular nerve from its overlying platysma.

Anyways, today I also started on the paperwork to write the USMLE step 1 next spring. I am not exactly sure why I'm writing it, and it will cost me a pretty penny, but I guess I don't want my options to be limited in the future. It should be like studying for the MCATs again, only this time sans study partner. I wonder if I have it in me; we'll see. Of course, studying for the USMLE should make studying for my later MCCQE part I exam a simpler exercise.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Snow Snow Come Again

SIt's snowing outside right now. After brainstorming ideas for a project with Magic Pants, Rococo, and Bejeweled! for a few hours, it was time to call it a week, and MP, Rococo, and I headed over to 'Chili's' for dinner. Once we were seated inside the restaurant, it began to snow outside, and so I rushed out to commune for a few minutes with the first flakes of the year.

Oh, I finally got internet access at home this week. Hurrah! My life should be a bit easier from here on out. I also almost bought a 1-V, but it didn't work out; oh well.

Hoo, I love snow. :) Maybe I should head out for a walk... :)

Saturday, September 09, 2006


The neuroanatomy peripatetic exam yesterday went too easily. In a bit of cosmic payback for that, Telus has held out on providing me with DSL service. I decided back in mid-August, that I'd had it with wardriving (and warwalking), and so it was time to graduate to having net access at home. Well, installation has turned out to be maddening, with delay after delay by the phone company. They said yesterday, that they would absolutely, positively, hook me up today by 5 p.m., but 5 p.m. has come and gone. :(

Anyways, today I completed my watching of 'Felicity', with the last two episodes of season 4. Ah, it's a sad life. What series to watch next?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Image is Everything

I came in to school this evening to go over some CTs and MRIs before Friday's neuroanatomy bellringer. Well, I found the lab quite crowded, so I decided on a bit of websurfing first. I'm looking into a new camera, so I dug around a bit on what was out there. See, I bought my current camera, a Canon EOS A2E back in 1993 or so, and although it's a decent camera, I'm not happy with its auto-exposures. This summer, I had to resort to manual exposure for about half my pics, which slows things down considerably, and results in a lot of lost shots. I see so many nicely exposed pics on el cheapo digital cameras these days, that I think I should be able to find a film camera that does a better job than my current one. Anyways, first I noticed that my current camera body sells for about CAN$100 on ebay, which isn't great.

When I looked at current models, I found something interesting. The Canon EOS 1V, which is six years old at this point, records all the exposure and time info for all pics you take, and you can download that info to your computer. This would solve my other big current photo problem: all my photos are time-stamped with the time I scanned them, not the time I shot them, which sucks, database-wise. So, if I bought a 1V, all I'd have to do is write a little program to take that info and write it into my image headers, and I'd be a happy camper once again. Throw in some GPS tagging, and nothing could stop me! Anyways, all that is just a moderately expensive dream at this point.

Oh, and after actually looking at those MRIs, I finally set up a little photo gallery for public perusal, but unfortunately, it seems that google locks out everybody that doesn't have a picasaweb account, so it's kind of useless. I guess I should try flickr next...

Saturday, September 02, 2006

September, I'll Remember

September has arrived. Last night was cold, and tonight will be cold too. Luckily, we will make it back into the mid-twenties for the Labour Day weekend. Still, the leaves have already started to change colour, and I've gotten out my winter coat (heck, I'm wearing it as I type this, and yeah, it's still Bil's old jacket with my green hoodie underneath).

Oh, the psych exam last week went fine, although I could have studied harder. I think I'm done with my self-analysis for a while. For the week before the exam, I was like some modern-day Freud, lying back on my Lillberg couch from Ikea, conducting psychodynamic psychotherapy on myself.

I meant to get some summer photos up, especially now with autumn upon us. Maybe next weekend...

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


I have my 'The Mind' (a.k.a. psych) exam tomorrow morning. I did a great job studying over the weekend, but really let things slide since Monday afternoon. That day, I made the mistake of having four Arby's Juniors with cheese for lunch, and followed it up with a Wendy's Wild Mountain Spicy Chicken for dinner (Biggie sized, no less). What followed, was two days of indigestion. I am thinking that perhaps my continued use of my anti-malarial doxycycline has something to do with that indigestion...

To refer to Alanis, I think that I need to get off of these antibiotics. The prescription runs out next week. :)

Anyways, I have also been reading 'Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman', since receiving it on Tuesday afternoon, which has also not been good for my studying. I had forgotten that it was a book of short stories, and not a new novel. I had actually already read a fair number of them in the past, but I am enjoying them nonetheless. With all the psych classes and clinics of the last three weeks, I have a whole new perspective on Murakami's work.

I have also been stuck on a particular song for the last three days: 'Chelsea Hotel #2', by LC, of course.

I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel
you were famous, your heart was a legend.
You told me again you preferred handsome men,
but for me you would make an exception.

And clenching your fist for the ones like us,
who are oppressed by the figures of beauty,
you fixed yourself, you said, "Well never mind,
we are ugly but we have the music."

Maybe some body-dysmorphic traits visible there...

Monday, August 21, 2006


I just got an email from Chapters that they've shipped 'Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman', the latest book by Haruki Murakami. I thought that it wasn't out for another week. Well, I can't wait.

At the moment, I'm trying to make my way through The Maarif again. I stopped halfway through on my last read, as I have trouble dealing with 'second translation' new-ageism. Still, I wanted to finish it off, as I just bought 'Portable Nietsche', and want to get going on it. Fun!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Out of Shape

I went for a run yesterday morning, I think for the first time since the Banff-to-Calgary relay. My quads are really sore today.

Today, I need to exercise my brain. Four days until our psych exam, and so I need to know 50% of the material by tonight, as we have other distractions before Thursday, like an informatics "exam" (a.k.a. quiz) on Tuesday, and more psych clinic time on Wednesday.

I'm off to Tim Horton's to begin my exam prep. :)

Friday, August 18, 2006


On Wednesday this week, I joined up with Magic Pants' and UroVision's dissection group, to replace absent members. Here, we don't actually do dissections in class; instead, we work with prosections prepared by the anatomy professor and a couple of his assistants. This also avoids the problem of obtaining donors; they are quite rare, and needless to say, bodies obtained from foreign sources are not necessarily true donors, if you know what I mean. However, students who wish to dissect can still do so after hours, as part of the dissection club. However, due to limited availability last year, we ended up having to join the dissection group via a lottery, and of course, I didn't get in. Well, with people dropping out all the time, I have finally gotten my chance. The lab is deep in the basement, hidden away from the eyes of all. It was good to get in there; my anatomy knowledge is terrible, so I always felt that this would be crucial to my learning.

In unrelated news, I need to eat less kimchi noodle soup. I had something else to say, but I forget what it was...

Monday, August 14, 2006

The Good

One and a half weeks left in psych, and I'm not back in the groove yet. I should be studying pharm right now, but instead, I just watched 'Blackmail is My Life'.

I wanted to contrast my last few summer posts with something positive. So, I am going to list off some of the best things that happened to me this summer:

  • The bats outside of the New World Cinema, in Dar. The cinema is inside a walled compound, of course. I saw a few movies there: 'Poseidon', 'Inside Man', and 'Superman Returns'. An interesting thing about the theatre was, that you would order dinner in the food court, and they would bring it to your seat during the movie. What a concept. But, the best thing about the theatre was the huge flowering tree out at the front of the parking lot. The flowers attracted bats like anything; on the trip there, every branch had a bat on it, with it's long winged arms, crawling, grabbing, stretching, staring at a tall human, digging into the flowers. Amazing to watch.
  • Animals in Lake Manyara, the Serengeti, and the Ngorongoro crater. The photo is of a young guy in Manyara, living life to its fullest. I never knew that they put so much effort into brushing the dirt off their food.
  • Birth. Rococo and I had the pleasure of watching a woman, with no pain killers, give birth to her third child. That was a first for both of us. She was lying there, grunted a bit, told the nurses she was ready, and gave birth right there and then. To see a baby arrive into the world was magical. 'The miracle of life!', I thought to myself. Sure looked easy! What a priviledge, to be there at the moment that life begins for a person, the meeting between the mother and child. When we walked out, we saw the happy-looking father waiting in the hallway. What a smile he had. Rococo, however, was traumatized; she said something about 'screams' and 'liquids'. I have to say, the delivery of the placenta caught me off guard. The thing looked like a watermelon from space. I guess I'd never thought about it before.
  • The east coast of Zanzibar. Like I said before, it was paradise. What a peaceful hotel, my favourite of the trip. Vibe, Rococo, and I really needed the relaxation, after four weeks of intense ups and downs. Closer to Dar, Bongoyo island was pretty amazing too; so close to town, and yet you feel like you're on Gilligan's Island.
  • The auto parts market in Dar. It was a maze of 30-cm-wide pathways containing at least one hundred tiny little used-part booths. It was invisible from the street, with the entrances completely unmarked. I wonder how many tourists end up in that place every year. Probably none.
  • Bananas. I think I had bananas every single day I was in Tanzania. In a related subject (food), seeing clove trees, cinnamon trees, and vanilla vines was amazing too. It changed the way I think about those spices.
  • Pain au chocolat. In the afternoons, it was nice to head over to 'Épi d'or' for some nice French baking, and perhaps a coffee or a tonic.

I guess I should have written this post earlier, when my mind was closer to the summer. Here's a funny tidbit. Somehow, street salespeople always knew we were Canadian, on sight. At the end of the trip, a guy told me how they knew: if a group of people was mixed-race and English-speaking, it was probably Canadian.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Seeing Things

I got new glasses today. I have been trying to figure out how they look. I think that 'classy nerd' is the best description.

My new prescription feels weird, though. Before, my glasses were so scratched, that I saw the world in soft focus. Now, it's all hard edges and solid colours.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

The Ugly

I am still really tired from my trip. My coherency for the last week has been weak, at best. Last night, I slept around 11 hours. I need to quickly reestablish a more rigid schedule, since our psych course is but three weeks long.

Anyways, let me finish off my downer posts with some examples of the terrible things I saw while in Tanzania.

  • A girl of about 11, who was admitted with abdominal pain. The resident apparently decided on exploratory surgery instead of imaging, and cut her open from her xiphoid to her pubus, leaving a big ugly zig-zagging scar. He found nothing conclusive, save signs of peritoneal infection, and had not yet made a diagnosis. On rounds, he couldn't explain to the head surgeon why he decided to do surgery, why he used a huge vertical incision, that will make pregnancy problematic in the future, nor did he have a differential. A smile and respectuful silence were all he needed to be let off the hook.
  • A young boy only a few years old. He probably had malaria, but the resident decided to do exploratory surgery on him, and found nothing. Oh, and he forgot to order a blood smear, so there was still no diagnosis. Again, the resident got away with it. As with the previous case, the resident had basically used the patient for personal experimentation, and if I may simplify the situation, it was 'okay', since the patient was from the lower classes.
  • A baby a couple of months old, with pyloric stenosis. The baby was one of a set of twins; we saw them together. The other twin was nice and chubby, a picture of health. The sick twin was much smaller (textbook 'failure to thrive'), with terrible signs of dehydration, with his eye sockets deeply burrowed into his skull. The baby had been in for over 24 hours, and had not yet been given anything for its dehydration. No IV drip, not even oral liquids to supplement the breast-feeding of the mother. The diagnosis was not made by the resident handling the case, who had not yet bothered to take a history, but by the chief surgeon doing rounds. Why was the baby not given an IV? The resident smiled and kept a respectful silence. Why no proper history, and no attempt at diagnosis? Smile and stay quiet, and the problem blows over. In this case, there are three possibilities, as far as I could tell, as to the resident's malpractice: (1) the resident was simply too lazy to examine the baby, (2) the family had not paid a sufficient bribe to the resident, or (3) the resident was simply malicious.
  • A young woman failing to recover from a hysterectomy. She had had a backstreet abortion, which had resulted in a crisis requiring the emergency hysterectomy. She had been 'doing well', but apparently, the staff had forgotten to feed her for a few days. She was very dehydrated, with tachycardia and severe tachypnea (i.e. she was gasping for breath). From her appearance, I would guess that she was not simply dehydrated, but probably also in sepsis. I doubt she survived. Again, I wonder why she was allowed to fall into that state, and malevolence and greed are at the top of the differential. Okay, that's enough for examples of malpractice (all of those were at the government hospital, by the way, and all offending docs were residents, working under almost no oversight).
  • A mother with very bad oral thrush, breastfeeding a young infant. This was probably a first presentation of AIDS. The doctor gave her something for the candidiasis, and booked a follow-up appointment, where she would be counselled for an HIV test. Of course, according to statistics, the baby had about a 40% chance of having HIV, as well. Obviously, seeing a young woman with HIV is heart-wrenching; to see a baby with HIV, and knowing they will never know a life without antiretroviral therapy, is indescribable. I saw so many cases of parent and child visiting the local HIV clinic together; I can't begin to imagine what life is like for them. Luckily for them, the world is waking up to the situation, and the HIV clinics I went to in Dar Es Salaam and Arusha were excellent. Still, I don't have a handle on what a lifetime of ARV treatment is like.
Well, enough of that. Let's change the subject.

One song by Leonard kept entering my head on my trip, to the dismay of Rococo and Vibe, who were forced to listen to my rough voice:

Un Canadien érrant,
Banni de ses foyers,
Parcourait en pleurant
Des pays étrangers.

Un jour triste et pensif,
Assis au bord des flots,
Au courant fugitif,
Il addressa ces mots:

"Si tu vois mon pays,
Mon pays malheureux,
Va dire à mes amis
Que je me souviens d'eux."

Thanks again to Mr. Cohen for writing a song appropriate to my mood du jour.

Posts from here on out will be more optimistic. :)

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Bad

I'm sitting in class now. :) Psych; it seems like it will be interesting. I spent the last few days readjusting to life at home. I started by buying myself a new razor on Saturday, to reward myself for having survived the summer. I finally tried it out on Monday morning, and man was it awesome. I also hit Nelly's for breakfast on Monday and then Tuesday before class; mmmm.

Anyways, I have also been spending a lot of time ruminating about the summer. As part of the process, I'm currently reading, "Petals of Blood" by Ngugi wa Thiong'o. It's full of all the problems that were so obvious in Tanzania today; the book was written about post-independence Kenya.

I think I've already mentioned how the setup of society in Tanzania was so shocking to me. The education systems and health care systems are set up in such a way as to deny the lowest classes the possibility of hope. Education beyond primary school is priced beyond the means of a large percentage of the population, and health care is another problem altogether.

First of all, let me say that I met a lot of terrific, dedicated doctors there. Docs work for a piddly income compared to anywhere in Europe or North America, primarily out of a drive to help their patients. Our primary preceptor was really inspirational, given the hours he worked, and the skill and caring he showed in dealing with his patients.

However, those docs were primarily working in the private system, where patients are primarily the wealthy: either they are rich enough that they pay for all their health care with cash on hand, or they are lucky enough to have health insurance provided by their place of work (this would only be a small percentage of the population).

The government system, on the other hand, is supposed to be accessible to the majority of the population, serving even the poorest people, with fees waved according to need to pay. (For Canadians, I'd have to say that the system closely resembled the Alberta government's proposed, and abandoned, 'Third Way' of public-mixed-with-private health care.) Great, it sounds like everyone in the country has access to health care, right? The rich get to go to private hospitals for enhanced services, while the poor still get a basic standard of health care provided to them at minimal or no charge, correct? Wrong.

The problems begin with the minimal up-front payment that patients must pay, in order to see a doctor. Typically, this is in the range of US$17; half is to register, and half is to see an actual doctor. This is in the same range as your typical co-pay in the US, or as the now-illegal user fees were for a short time in parts of Canada. That may not sound like a terrible amount to a North American, although even here co-pays are primarily designed to prevent people of lower income from going to see a doctor, thus lowering costs to insurance companies. But, in Tanzania, where your typical lower-class person is lucky to make $50 a month, and lucky to save 1/10th of that, that is a huge quantity of money already. Next, that inital fee doesn't cover any tests whatsoever, which all must be paid for by the patient. So, need a CBC? Gotta pay for it. Need an X-ray? Hope you have another $20. A biopsy? Good luck. Don't have the money? Then, sorry, no tests for you, and a clinical diagnosis is all you'll get.

An expense I haven't mentioned so far is tea money, a.k.a. bribery. Doctors and nurses at the government hospitals are paid very little, and so a system of bribery is well established, with service often being withheld or delayed if the appropriate bribe of a few dollars here, a few dollars there, is not paid. It starts at the registration desk, where a bribe can get your up-front fees reduced or partially waved, continues with the nurses, where a bribe can mean the difference between getting that IV put into your dehydrated baby or not, and finally with the doctors, where a bribe can make the difference between being seen today or tomorrow or next week.

I said that based on need, you could be given free health care. In theory, that's great, but in practice, the system is almost non-functional. Noone was able to explain to me how people could qualify... I suspect that you qualify by bribing the correct people. In a sad twist, financially the best diseases to have seemed to be HIV and TB, where a positive test resulted in free medication and doctor's visits, provided for by foreign governments, pharmaceuticals, and Bill Gates.

I'll finish off this subject in the next post.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

No More Macon

I'm chewing a nice piece of bacon right now, once again safe and sound at the café by my apartment in Calgary.

Between hopping into a taxi to the airport in Zanzibar, and getting dropped off at home last night, was slightly over 48 hours. I felt sorry for the poor guy who sat next to Rococo and I on the plane into town last night; talk about two smelly people.

Anyways, I have a lot to say about my summer, but it will take a whole bunch of entries to cover them, bit by bit. I'll start by saying that I started the week at the Paradise Beach Bungalows in Paje, and if that was what Paradise is like, I want in. As I was sitting on the beach, I thought to myself, how the heck did I get here? Got frustrated at work in Boston one day, and boom, here I am staring out at the clouds over the Indian ocean.

Spent the last two days in Stone Town, though, where a batik salesman threatened to beat up Rococo as soon as he saw her without my company, because he knew how Asian shit thought. I haven't been challenged to a fight in years... the guy was, apparently, known in the neighbourhood as being a bit deranged, though, so I suppose he was just another victim of a health care system designed to screw over the poorer population.

I had better go pay my MasterCard bill before I anger some collection agent here...

Thursday, July 20, 2006


I've got one and a half days left in Arusha. But, I think I'll tell you a short story about Dar Es Salaam.

We were staying in a hotel in a pretty rough-looking area, but it was actually not a bad part of town. There were two cheap tourist hotels within two blocks of each other, and inbetween, a restaurant named 'Chef's Pride' that catered primarily to the foreigners staying there. It was run by this super-friendly guy who went by the name Ali Baba. He always called me 'Michael Jordan', laughed when I bent down walking through their doorway, called one of the other students from my school 'Woody Allen'; a funny guy.

Anyways, on the typical evening, my crew and I would head there for dinner, or perhaps to Jambo Inn, and have dinner. After, on the walk home, I'd generally stop and talk to some of the homeless guys that slept behind plywood crates on the main street near the hotel. These guys had lots to say about the government, the police, the education system, the health care system; they painted things quite pessimistically. One of them, 'Allan', said he had finished two semesters of a diploma in counselling, and was hoping to finish it again at some point, when he had more money. Of course, he was hoping I'd give him something around $150, which would cover six months of rent for an apartment with a floor and running water. Well, he bugged me about it a few times, but dropped the subject after a couple of evenings.

One week before I left, he disappeared. I was wondering what happened to him, and finally found out on the day we left. Apparently, early in the week, a waiter at 'Chef's Pride' had needed change for a 5000 shilling bill (about US$4), so he gave it to a security guard to go get change. The security guard gave it to Allen, to go get change. Allen, apparently, never returned with the change. So, it was time for punishment.

The security guard and four friends found Allen, took him behind 'Chef's Pride', stripped him naked, and beat the crap out of him. This was, apparently, with the knowledge and consent of super-friendly, super-nice, Ali Baba. At some point during the beating, someone came along and complained that it wasn't right to treat a guy like this, so they should just bring him to the police. That they did, telling the police that he had stolen 30,000 shillings. So, he was languishing in jail, with his court date coming up on the Tuesday after I left.

Naturally, when the other guys from the street heard about this, they weren't too happy about it. They talked to the 'Chef's Pride' guy, who offered to drop the charges, if they would pay him 30,000 shillings, as a further punishment; the alternative was that Allen would be convicted, go to jail, and who knows what would happen to him there. So, Allen's friends were collecting money to pay the bribe; they were at 20,000 shillings, and needed just 10,000 more to get him free.

Who can you trust? Super-friendly two-faced guy? Homeless guys who want your $10? Who knows.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Lost in Dar

I thought I'd put up a quick post. I'm in my last week in Dar, and thanks to a few days of illness on my part, and an upturn in the tourist traffic in the last week, I'm finally being left alone by the grifters, and I'm settling into things here. I am known to the locals as the tall person; they can see me coming from hundreds of metres away.

This place is weird. Today I saw a girl of about five, recovering from a lion bite. I wondered what was worse, being bitten by a lion, or being in hospital...

I watched the World Cup final in the lobby of our hotel. Now that was an odd grouping of people. My hotel is full of mysterious south Asians, there with purpose unknown.

Next week I head back to Arusha for a week, then I'm hitting Zanzibar for five days or so. That should make for a change of pace.

I wonder if my Powerbook misses me as much as I miss it. A longer post will follow my return...

Wednesday, June 07, 2006


The last exam for the year is over; whew. Afterwards, we had a bit of a wine and cheese thing, to say goodbye to our associate dean, who is leaving the position this summer. It's too bad; he was a great guy.

The last few weeks of school have been focused on our 'integrative' class, where in small groups of six, we practice our interview, diagnosis, and physical exam skills with standardized patients. It was a lot of fun. One thing about small group work like this, is that we have to dress professionally, i.e. a dress shirt, tie, and dress pants. So, I've had to wear my Seidensticker shirt every day; after class, I generally change into a pair of jeans, but I now love wearing that shirt more than anything, because it's so incredibly comfortable. I often wear a tie with it, with a typical maroon and gold pattern on it; naturally, after finishing class, the tie is loosened, and the top button on the shirt undone. The result: a rebellious prep-school look, that apparently suits me well, given the response of waitresses (and waiters!) around town. Unfortunately, I think I'm going to give up the look, as I have realized that with the addition of some eyeliner, I'd be easily confused with Avril Lavigne.

Anyways, I doubt I'll post again before I leave town. I still have a bunch of details to look after, such as buying something as a gift (like this) for our preceptor in Dar es Salaam, as well as trying to get Massachusetts to stop taxing my car!

Monday, June 05, 2006

Sunset, Sunrise

Yesterday, I came in to school just as the light was fading in the western sky over the mountains, around 10:30 at night. When I finished up my evening of homework, I headed back home; the eastern sky was already very light, at around 4:45.

Let's see, I was going to give a report on the month in meat, but never got around to posting about it. Basically, I want to empty my freezer before I leave town this Friday, so that I can unplug it for the summer. That required my eating up to five chicken breasts per day, about two weeks ago, to finish off what was in there. That coincided with the return of my love of Arby's, who have a four-junior-burgers-with-cheese-for-$5.50 special going on, as well as my classmate Gold Standard's 50-pounds-of-galbi barbeque. In other words, there has been a lot of protein in my life recently.

In other good news, my ophthalmoscope head will be replaced tomorrow with the correct model. Good stuff! I also got a cheap haircut today, that I am very happy with, shockingly so.

I finally have that OSCE tomorrow, that was cancelled due to our SP strike about a month ago... I'm rather unprepared, but oh well, I think that I am good enough to wing it now. Wednesday is our final exam for the year. It'll be the sunset on my first year of medschool; sunrise of second year will be in east Africa, in 2.5 weeks. :)

Friday, June 02, 2006


I bought an ophthalmoscope this week. I have tried fundoscopy a few times before, but with no success at all; I guess that my problem is partly due to my glasses and my weird astigmatic vision. Anyways, I got a PanOptic scope (at the moment, I'm wondering if they sent me the correct model; I'll have to check that when I get home). I tried it out today on Rococo, and it was incredible. I saw a fundus for the first time, absolutely crystal-clearly.

Went to Montana's for dinner in celebration; dessert was apple crisp.

I see in the NY Times that Shohei Imamura died a couple of days ago. Coincidentally, I just saw 'Warm Water Under a Red Bridge' last weekend. He made some strange movies; 'Unagi' (a.k.a. 'The Eel') was an interesting one. Both of those starred Koji Yakusho.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Everybody's Working on the Weekend

I had a busy weekend. Saturday morning, I woke up at 5:15, and since I had wanted to actually get up at 6:15, I was afraid to go back to sleep, lest I not wake up again. So, I got up and watched an episode of Felicity, then got to school in time for the 8 o'clock bus to Brooks, about two hours east of Calgary. There, we had a procedural skills practice day, doing some suturing, fibreglass casting, airway, and IV/IM/SC stuff. An interesting town with an extremely high refugee population. Apparently, there is a huge meat-packing plant in town, with big numbers of unfilled positions, that ends up being an easy starting job for refugees. Few language skills required for a job there, living expenses are low, and health services are excellent, so it's a good place for people who are starting from nothing. Also interesting is the landscape in the region: flat, flat, flat grasslands, with the occasional copse. I suspect it's mostly cattle country, explaining the big meat packing plant, but I'm not sure.

Sunday, I picked up Magic Pants at the crack of dawn, and we headed into northeast Calgary for an all-day CPR course. Despite my best efforts, I was unable to animate any of the ACTAR dummies.

Now, it's time to prep for tomorrow morning's integrative session... :( All work and no play makes me a dull boy.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Victoria Day

It's a long weekend up here. I'm celebrating by studying neuroanatomy. I should study a bit of PE later in the day... after which, we'll see if Albertans can walk the walk when it comes to fireworks. I'd hate to have to inform people that Toronto does it better.

BTW, the sun is setting around 9:30 these days. That means it's light until after 10, and midsummer isn't for another month. I'm almost a bit sad that I'll be so far south when midsummer does roll around.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Time keeps slipping

A year ago today (the 20th), was my last day on the job back in Boston. I was at work until 7 or so, then went to see Star Wars III with Bil, Sam, et al, bought some #2 coffee filters at the Star Market in Fenway, then spent the night cleaning and packing up my apartment. In the morning, I was off to the airport to catch a flight to İstanbul. I had no distinct plans, no future, no past.

Lately, I've been doing a lot of wardriving for late-night internet access. Right now, I'm sitting in my car, down by the river. There's a thunderstorm in the distance; the occasional flash of lightning is lighting up the northeastern horizon.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


Yesterday in small group, our preceptor randomly picked me to quickly demonstrate a lid lag exam on... and great, I had lid lag. Later, I had Rococo confirm the observation, and then looked for it myself in the mirror in the evening. At that point, I noticed lid retraction as well, but I think that was just brought on by me staring at the mirror repeatedly looking for lid lag.

I suspect this ties in with my mitral valve prolapse somehow, being an adrenergic symptom. Does that sound right?

Today is hot hot hot, true midsummer weather. Gotta go coop myself up in my room to study; thank goodness, once again, for the TO notes. Again, other textbooks failed. For example, the Crash Course textbook was riddled with errors in its diabetes section, even referring to HONK as a hypoglycemic state at one point! Unbelievable!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Pre-exam Quiet

Not much happening here these days. I've got my endocrinology final exam next Thursday. Hormones are interesting, but I am not looking forward to be tested on them.

So, at the moment, I'm hunkering down with my textbooks and notes. Oh, I finished watching season one of 'Felicity' this week... what a depressing series. I borrowed it from Rococo, of course. Sadly, she doesn't have seasons two through four.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Spirit Guide

I've really let myself go for the last two months. I don't think I've gone running in at least seven weeks. Which wasn't such a good thing, since yesterday a bunch of us from class were entered into the annual Banff-Calgary relay race. I was supposed to do the easiest leg, being the un-fittest of the bunch, but due to last minute injuries, I was bumped up to the third-hardest leg, a 10.9 km section, 5.5 km of which was a big climb. I wasn't great, but I survived. :) We ended up 29th out of 102 teams, a decent result.

My leg started at Lac des Fées, and then passed the area of Mount Yamnuska, at the foot of which were the races I first came out to Alberta to run in, back in 1985...

On the way home, I was passing over Kananaskis Creek, and saw a huge bird soaring low overhead. I slowed down, and looked into the eyes of a gorgeous bald eagle, hovering motionless on the wind, just five metres above me. Beautiful bird.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

School's Out

Today was supposed to be the first day of our two-day first year OSCE final exams. Basically, we get tested in communications by interviewing a standardized patient, then we have to follow that up with a set of physical exam maneuvers. Tomorrow would have been similar, with either suturing or IVs added at the end.

I was scheduled for an 8:20 a.m. start time. Physical exam is by far my weakest subject this year, so I was pretty nervous about things. I love precordial and resp exams, but MSK leaves me cold. Anyways, I spent the last couple of days freaking out about it, and finally got everything necessary into my brain last night. Slept terribly, dreaming about the exam, and that it somehow involved bicycling, followed by an essay. The essay I wrote was great, but I had trouble coming up with a good ending for it...

Got up at 6, made it to school on time. They signed us in for the exam, told us to wait a few minutes, then told us that there would be a slight delay. I was crazy thirsty, so I eventually went to go get a drink of water. On my way out, I overheard the profs talking in the hallway, and heard the words "cancellation" and "inflame the situation". Not at all what I was expecting to hear.

About an hour later, the whole thing was cancelled, due to the standardized patients being on strike. Tomorrow is still up in the air, but my bet is that it'll be cancelled as well. The result? A big super-stressful exam has just become a four-day weekend.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

In The Mood

Another weekend, another batch of films. Unfortunately, I've hit my account's eleven-film limit for the month again, and I'm only two weeks in. So, I had to head over to Blockbuster to rent 'In the Mood for Love'. I'm not the biggest Wong Kar Wai fan, but I loved 'Chungking Express', so it was time to finally see this movie; I almost went to see it in the theatre in Boston, back in early 2001, but never made it. Anyways, perhaps the plot was a bit slow, and not much 'happened', but it did deal some nice emotion, especially towards the end. Nothing like some repression of love and desire to make you connect with a character. Best of all, though, had to be Maggie Cheung's hair and cheongsams. A lot of love was obviously put into making those dresses and filming them; it appears that they were all tailored by one guy, Leung Long Kong, a tailor in Hong Kong (the only information about whom I can find, is directed at Korean tourists). Tony Leung's suits and ties were pretty inspirational as well.

'2046' is sitting on my desk at home...

Thursday, April 27, 2006


Yesterday, I got Leonard Cohen's newest book in the mail: 'Book of Longing'. The first 1000 people to preorder it through Chapters/Indigo got a signed copy, so Leonard's sig is right there on the title page. :)

I just read the first few poems, though, as I had other forms of entertainment on my agenda. First, I finished watching the loooong television version of Ingmar Bergman's 'Fanny och Alexander', which was good. I wonder if I should still bother to see the theatre-release version. Next, I watched 'Crash'. No, not the Oscar-winner from last year, but the David Cronenberg movie. Wow, that was one screwed up movie. Fun to pick out the filming locations around Toronto, though. Playing 'spot Boyd Banks' was fun too!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Ice Cream

I went for ice cream with Rococo yesterday afternoon (after getting my meningococcus and yellow fever vaccinations). We drove to the southwest, to a place highly recommended by peers. Well, it was okay, but nothing special, ice-cream-wise. It was, however, incredibly expensive, given that it is run-of-the-mill ice cream. More expensive than going for ice cream at Harvard Square, maybe 1/3 higher in price.

Some googling has revealed three more ice cream places in Calgary, and one way out in Cochrane. The Cochrane place I heard about as a teenager already, and I can't recall if I ever actually went there at some point in my distant history. The thing is, I don't really want to drive 75 km round-trip, just to get ice cream.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed, but I have to admit, my hope for good ice cream in Calgary is fading fast.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Diet time

Last week, I couldn't take it anymore, so I got rid of the beard, and went and got a haircut on Saturday (after it stopped snowing). When your beard is always getting in the way of eating, and your hair is always in your eyes when you're trying to do some physical exam, it is pretty annoying, to say the least. Anyways, after the haircut, I went straight to a photo shop to get a couple of passport photos.

I saw two more movies over the weekend. First, 'Deadly Outlaw: Rekka', which was another unbelievable Takashi Miike movie. Next was 'Super Size Me'. We were going to get dinner from McDonalds to eat while watching, but instead picked up a BBQ chicken dinner from a local supermarket, along with an apple pie and a four-litre bucket of cheap ice cream. It was fat enough to make all three of us pretty ill, especially as we watched Morgan Spurlock go downhill. I have to say, it really made me feel sick. I swore I'd take up running again the next day. Of course, it was too cold on Sunday morning, so I successfully sidestepped the movie's effect. :)

Friday, April 21, 2006


You know you're in meds when you get you start getting invitations to golf tournaments in the mail. Got my first one last week. Should have listened when I was told to start playing golf, back in Boston. At least I bought a glove at that time, even though I never actually hit a ball.

Saw another two movies last night. 'Fantastic Four', which was a real stinker, and 'The Delicate Art of Parking', which was a low-budget mockumentary filmed in Vancouver, and wow, a funny movie that caught me completely off guard. I'd never heard of it before. I also saw 'Omen' on Wednesday night: who knew that there were Thai boy bands big enough to have movies made purely to showcase them ('D2B' in this case)?

Monday, April 17, 2006

Stress: The Wellman Agenda

Well, had an intense day so far today. Last night at 2 a.m., I finally figured out that I don't owe US taxes for last year, which was nice. Once that was done, I was able to study for the 'well man' thing I was scheduled for this morning. It turned out to be good, and I shouldn't have gotten so stressed out over it...

Not that I was stressed out enough to hunker down and work harder over the weekend. I still fit in 'Madagascar' and 'Derailed'. Madagascar was pretty funny, and was everything that 'Ice Age: The Meltdown' was not. 'Derailed' was a bit of a dud. We rented it under the impression that it was some kind of relationship drama or something, and instead was more of a crime movie. What sucked, was that the major plot twist was completely predictable. I mean, I love Jen as much as any North American, but it wasn't really worth it.

Speaking of Jen, I finished 'Friends' season six, and realized that I hadn't actually seen season seven yet. So, my future still holds some excitement.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

The Week in Review

Hmm, I forgot to post about so much stuff this week.

First of all, I finally got my plane ticket to Tanzania. I had waited too long to book it, and was about to get screwed on the price. I woke up Monday morning, and got a call from a classmate: she had found a cheap ticket, had gone ahead and booked it for me (it was the last seat out of Dar at the end of August), and all I had to do was pay for it. Sweet! No effort required on my part, just the way I like it. She even got the dates right on the stopover I wanted in Frankfurt.

Next, on Wednesday, I had a class in a room that I rarely enter, and when I put my bag down in the corner of the room, I saw the scarf that I had lost on March 1st, just sitting there, neatly folded, in a window bay. I loved that scarf, and was pretty depressed about it disappearing, and now, it had come back to me, after six weeks. Nice!

Anyways, I spent the rest of the week happy about the weather, and getting psyched about summertime. What to do in my two weeks of vacation while I'm in Tanzania? Ngorongoro? Serengeti? Zanzibar? Kilimanjaro? Kilimanjaro is probably out; I don't think I have enough free days in a row to make it up.

I even got excited about a one-night stopover in Dubai. It will end up being a big pain, though, since I'm only there for nine hours.

Anyways, this morning I woke up, and thought that it was Monday and I'd slept in. That meant, I had to run to school ASAP and perform a DRE for the first time. Oh man, was I glad when I realized that it was still Sunday... things aren't looking so rosy for tomorrow.

Saturday, April 15, 2006


I finally saw 'Hotel Rwanda' on Thursday night. A powerful movie. It's incredible what some people are capable of doing. Talk about courage. Last night, I went to see 'Ice Age: The Meltdown'. Another story of courage, but somehow not as powerful.

This morning, I went for a ride on my bike. I noted that the run-off from the snow in my back alley had almost completely dried up. This afternoon, it was snowing again. Big, fat, coarse chunks of snow.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


I was happy to get renal exams over with last week. The weekend was a time to relax a bit. I watched 'Brokeback Mountain' and 'Robots'; despite being an Ang Lee fan, I preferred 'Robots'. Also, I started on 'Friends' season six, the last season I haven't seen. Finally, I slept a lot, and ate quite a bit: Saturday night was tanuki udon. Nice, although not Toronto quality.

Finally, to bring a bit more excitement to my life, I decided to shake things up in the shampoo department. I had a set of shampoo and conditioner given to us by some local salon during the first week of school, and I busted them out of the closet. The shampoo had an intense coconut smell, and when I put it in my hair, it lathered up like crazy, unlike any shampoo I've tried before. The result was, that I was able to mold my hair up into a single big white spike on top of my head. It was fun. I thought at that moment, what a pity it was that there was nobody there to see it.

When I told a couple of classmates my shampoo story, it was suggested that I wash my hair in a sink, so that other people could enjoy the big white spike. I have to say, that statement really made me realize that there is a serious lack of quality entertainment around here.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006


I've got my renal/urology anatomy/histology/pathology exam this afternoon. At the moment, I'm sitting in a café, listening to Prince, and doing some last minute studying. I'm currently wondering what the other customers think about the powerpoint slides I'm looking at...

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Saturday, Saturday

It's a beautiful day out there. The sky is blue, with just a few clouds on the horizon. The grass fields on the valley wall have acquired a greenish hue. The puddles are covered with a thin layer of ice, but the ice will be gone soon...

Finished 'Lost' season one yesterday. I'll grab some breakfast now, finish 'Zouzou', and then hit the books for my renal/urology exams. :( Rococo refused to lend me 'Friends' season six until after this weeks exams were over. :(

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


Once again, here I am blogging instead of studying. I got out of my midterm OSCE last week, thanks to my bad back, and so I've got it tonight instead. Yesterday, I ended up finishing up season five of 'Friends', then watching another four episodes of 'Lost' season one (just four episodes left), and then went to sleep instead of studying. This morning, I got up early, came to school, got coffee, and now here I am instead of studying. So, I'll make this a quick post.

As promised, I am now going to report to you the things that I most miss about Boston. Let me start with a story: it's an unhappy story about the state of Calgary ice cream affairs, so skip to the next paragraph, if you don't want to see it. Me, I'm an ice cream lover. In undergrad, I used to love having ice cream and apple pie for dinner, since ice cream could be had for $1.00 per litre, and pie was ultracheap (under a dollar) at the end-of-week baked-goods sellout at the local IGA. Eventually, I discovered Greg's Ice Cream, which was pretty awesome. It made for the occasional tasty treat during my years there, and set me on my path of searching for the finest ice creams possible. I found myself in Calgary last summer, and so began my search for the best ice cream in town. I started with a place located right near my apartment, that I was told had great ice cream. Atmosphere was nice, but the ice cream was nothing special at all. Next, through discussions with classmates, I was told that the best ice cream in town was at another store, a short drive away. I went there one evening in November, and was overjoyed to find a fantastic selection of flavours. I bought a tub of chestnut, taro, and some other flavour, now forgotten. That night, I began with the chestnut. I love chestnut purée and chestnut pudding; this ice cream was nothing like that. Instead, it was bitter and flavourless. The next night, I moved on to the taro. I love taro; there was this chinese delivery place in Toronto that used to know me as the guy who ate a bucket of taro with every meal. This taro ice cream was atrocious, having only purple in common with that awesome root. Yuck. To top it off, that night, I was pretty sick. Refusing to believe that ice cream could make me sick, I tried it again the next night. The flavour was as bad as the previous night, and I became sick once again. Just to make sure, I had it again the next night, and got sick again. Well, by then I had finished the taro, and moved on to the last flavour. It was gross too, although I can't remember what it was supposed to be. I threw out the rest. I never throw out ice cream, so that was a first.

Anyways, that brings me to my list of things I miss about Boston:

1) Ice Cream. Ah, Boston has two spectacular ice cream places: Toscanini's and Herrell's. I loved both of those places, and have many happy memories about both. The flavours, the friends, the good times. My sister had a high-school friend living near San Fransisco, who married a guy who had gone to MIT. He would have their favourite flavour shipped in on dry ice from Toscanini's. Anyways, both of these places are located near...

2) Harvard Yard. No place in Boston has the atmosphere that Harvard Square does, and no place feels as good to walk through as Harvard Yard. How terrible to work at Harvard, and be located at the medschool, instead of enjoying the trees and grass of the yard, the activity of the square, and the pleasantness of the undergrad residences. The Harvard campus is definitely the best thing about Boston.

3) Boca Grande. There was a location not far from our Harvard lab, and another close to the apartment I lived in for a couple of years. Both were great. A lot of Bostonians liked Anna's, but I have no idea why. I have found nothing mildly resembling Boca Grande here in Calgary.

4) Pho Pasteur. I know there are a lot of good Vietnamese places in Calgary, but I guess I just liked the atmosphere of Pho Pasteur. Again, on Harvard Square, although I liked the Newbury location too.

5) Korean food. Three places come to mind: Café Han River at St. Mary's, Korea House in Chinatown, and best of all, Buk Kyung II in Alston. At that last place, I was introduced to jajang myeon, which was spectacular there. Interestingly, one day while in İstanbul last summer, I succumbed to the urge to eat jajungmyun, and walked from Taxim across to the only Korean place I knew in town, in behind the Blue Mosque in Sultanahmet. I had my jajang myeon (coincidentally with a Korean family from Boston sitting at the next table), and then headed home, stopping by an internet café on the way; that café stop was where I found out that I had gotten into medschool. So, medschool and jajang myeon are now forever linked in my mind.

6) Walking everywhere. I guess I miss living in a town where I walked pretty much everywhere. Partly that was because I disliked the mass transit system, but still. Calgary is a car town, no doubt about it.

Hmm, that's all I can think of! :) Anyways, if I was to make a list of things I love about Calgary, public health care would be near the top. You know, I was thinking that I wish that I had watched more 'Friends' before moving to the US. I would have had a better idea of what a dog-eat-dog world it was out there...

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Back Again

Today, my back is finally good enough again for me to get back to my regular life. I ended up missing three days of school this week, and spent most of that time flat on my back on my sofa, watching some DVD or other. I made it 2/3 of the way through season 1 of 'Lost', got to the end of season 3 of 'Friends', watched 'Batman Begins' (finally found out who the heck Katie Holmes was), and last night, got around to watching 'Crash'. It wasn't a bad film, but it felt very 'TV-movie', so in retrospect, I'm a bit surprised that it managed to win the Oscar for best film. Looking back at the nominated films, it's the first of the bunch that I've seen, funny enough. Hmm, I need to spend more time at the cinema.

Oh, one of these days, I will write a blog entry listing all the things I miss about Boston; I had cheesecake for dessert last night, and it got me thinking...

Just looked up Crash on the imdb to get that link above. And, surprise surprise, writer/director Paul Haggis' career has been completely in television. No wonder it had that TV feel.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


I got tagged by Marysienka. :) I'm supposed to list six weird facts about me. That is a tough question for me; I'm so very normal. I'll list what I can.

1) Degrassi, I love everything Degrassi. 'Kids of Degrassi Street', 'Degrassi Junior High', 'Degrassi High', 'Degrassi:TNG'; I love them all. That is weird.

2) Comic books. I have too many, and spend too much pre-exam time reading them.

3) Textbooks. In the case of textbooks, I buy them, but never read them. Well, I read a third of them, I guess. The rest just sit there and say, "Hi, I was a waste of good money."

4) Similarly, I have a collection of musical instruments. Three guitars, one bass, a nice electronic Yamaha piano, and a violin. No, I can't play any of them. Actually, now that I think about it, I left the violin and one guitar out east, since it was a bit silly to lug them around. I regret not buying an electric saz last summer, though. That would have been cool. Next chance I get, I will buy one.

5) I have a weird obsession with languages and orthography, despite having no ability to learn them. On my shelf are textbooks for German, Hindi, Inuktitut, Korean, Lakota, Latin, Manchu, Mandarin, Mongolian, Swahili, Turkish, Tuvan, and Uyghur. Of all those languages, I only have skillz in two of them, and those are very basic skillz. I should probably get a Persian or Arabic text next, or perhaps something closer to home, like Blackfoot.

6) I guess that I hate furniture. That's abnormal. When I grow up, I want to minimize the amount of furniture I own. Unfortunately, peer pressure is strong, when it comes to furniture.

So, who should I tag in return? Hmm.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


Yesterday, my back went out on me. I woke up fine, noticed some sacroiliac pain while shaving, had trouble lifting my backpack, but made it to school. When I tried to get to lunch across the street, my back became so painful, I could barely move forward anymore. Note, however, that I could still move sideways, i.e. abduction and adduction were okay, and walking backwards was easier than walking forwards. So, what muscle did I screw up, I wonder? It took me fifteen minutes to get back across the street & parking lot to get back to school...

I was supposed to have my midterm OSCE exam in the evening, but got let off the hook by my preceptor (a great doc, btw), and was lucky to have Rococo give me a drive home. Magic Pants carried my superheavy backpack... Ah, it's nice to have friends who care. :)

Anyways, today I stayed supine all day, watching Friends season 2 (now finished, bring on 3) and a really really stupid movie. Now, though, I am up and about, able to walk normally, but unable to bend over or pick up anything heavy. Happily, I made it to the postbox to mail off that movie, and have found that the café across the street has wireless access! Schwing!

Friday, March 17, 2006

More Hair

This morning, as I was combing my hair post-shower, I realized that my hair now comes down past my nose, to the top of my upper lip. So, it's probably longer than it's been in six years or so. Meanwhile, the hair on the back of my head is a pretty decent length as well. I haven't had a haircut since July, in İstanbul.

Actually, I haven't shaved my goatee since that beard-growing contest that started up in February, so that is getting pretty long as well. I wanted to get rid of it a few weeks ago, but now I'm used to it, and I'm a bit afraid to get rid of it.

In summary, I look like a total bum. So, now I desperately need a haircut. I don't wanna look like a nerd, though. :(

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Mountain Man

Yesterday was a good day. I headed up to Banff, then through the Kicking Horse pass to Emerald Lake, then back to Lake Louise, and finally back to Banff for dinner. I swear, Lake Louise is one of the more perfect views on the planet. That you can get unlimited coffee refills, including a biscotti, for $4.95, overlooking that view, is a good thing.

Anyways, I had a half-bound bison burger for lunch, and had a generous cut of prime rib for dinner, so I ended up pretty full. This morning, my friend Rich was in town, and we tried to hit the Keg for lunch, so that I could feast on prime rib two meals in a row, but unfortunately, they were all closed until dinnertime. So, instead we went to Red Lobster. I used to hate that place with a passion, so this is the first time I've gone to one in at least five years. I ended up really happy with it, surprise surprise. I shall return.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Pork Barrel

Nobody, and I mean nobody, can cook up a pork roast quite like me. I stuck one in the oven on Tuesday evening, in time to eat a nice big juicy slice at midnight. Mmm, mmm.

Unfortunately, now I've had pork for almost every meal since then. I should run out on Sunday night...

I finished reading 'Memoirs of a Geisha' tonight, so I can return it to the person who insisted I read it. Next up, maybe I'll read an actual renal text. Sadly, the textbook I bought for the course has the definitions of molarity and molality wrong. They tried to simplify the concept so that we dumb medstudents could understand it, but they simplified it to the point where their explanation was completely wrong. Oh well, I have found errors in most of the textbooks I've used since entering meds, so I suppose this isn't much worse. However, if they get the easy stuff like molality wrong, then how much can you trust the more complex stuff?

Okay, forget textbooks for a moment. Tomorrow should be a good day, since I'm going to head up to Lake Louise and Banff. Where to eat? Last time I was up there, I dragged Magic Pants, Rococo, and Bejeweled! to tea at the Banff Springs, against their will. Hmm, where can I find some nice pork in Banff?

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Looking Sharp

I went skating up at the oval again on Sunday. We have a new batch of exchange students in town, so a bunch of us (Magic Pants, Rococo, Lightweight, Bejeweled!, and Mr. Taboo) went skating with them. I've complained about the poor quality of skate sharpening here in Calgary before, and finally found a solution to the problem. Mr. Taboo, who plays a lot of hockey, always gets his skates sharpened at a specific place in Edmonton. So, I sent my skates up to Edmonton with him on Friday, and so Sunday, I was good to go with freshly sharpened skates. Thankfully, the sharpening job was, in fact, quite excellent. My skates haven't felt that nice on the ice since leaving Toronto way back when. Amazing what a difference it makes.

Unfortunately, the oval is now closed for the next few months. There are some big races there next week, and after that they're keeping it shut until July or so. Not sure why... maybe renovations?

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Busy Bee

Yesterday was the last day of interviews for next year's class. After seeing all these people coming to interview, and after many discussions with people about what makes a good candidate and what doesn't, I am now once again wondering how the heck I got into meds. As the interviews proceeded, we found out what questions were being asked; they turned out to be your typical medschool questions about ethics, empathy, truthtelling, etc. Going over my answers from last year, I realize that I gave the 'wrong' answers for most questions. However, I don't know if that was good or bad, since I also didn't give the 'standard' answers, that it seems that almost all applicants give. I am thinking of going over my application file in the admissions office, just to find out what it was that they liked about me.

Anyways, evidently, things have been pretty busy, as I haven't had time to post recently. I'm way behind in personal email, phone calls, etc, as well... gotta catch up this week.

Oh, the moon was incredible on Wednesday night. The crescent seemed to be at a very strange angle... Have I not been paying attention?

Monday, February 27, 2006

Fat, not.

I wonder if I already mentioned this in an earlier entry... I recently bought a battery for my bathroom scale, and weighed myself for the first time since last May. I found that I now weigh less than I ever did in my entire time in Boston. My BMI is sitting at 19.5. Not too shabby, but I don't understand how it happened. I haven't exercised much, my diet is pretty atrocious; I should be getting fat, not thin.

Anyways, in related medical trivia, it turns out that I'm a walking, talking, poster child for pneumothorax. I'm told that if I take up smoking, I'll quickly end up a great patient for my peers to examine.

In unrelated unimportant news, Rococo, Magic Pants, J, and I went to see 'Match Point' at the theatre after the exam on Friday. It was a pretty good movie; I left thoroughly satisfied. Afterwards, we hit Montana's for rib tips and dessert again; I think that just about does it for the Montana's routine, though. :(

I also recently made it through Rococo's entire DVD collection of romantic comedies, so it seems I should have more time to study in the future, unless I finally borrow seasons 1 through 6 of 'Friends'. Decisions, decisions.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Le Week-End

Had exams today, in resp. Survived another course: whew. What I need to do, is cancel my membership. Anyways, it's time to go intense on renal.

This weekend, we have the first round of interviews for next year's class. It will be interesting to see the process from the other side of the battlements. It turns out that around 900 people apply from out-of-province, for the 15 spots available to them; I had no idea there were so many o-o-p applicants. Meanwhile, around 700 apply for the 85 in-province spots. Neither is great odds...