Tuesday, November 27, 2007


I'm guiltier about my disengagement than the sardonic glibness below implies. To name something and to joke about it is to make excuses.

Read this.


Sunday, November 25, 2007

6 hours of election coverage later...

...I want to claw out my brain. So, we have a PM named Kevin. I don't know how I feel about that. hehe.

Current feelings: totally unsurprised, a little hopeful, a little apprehensive, and ready to take the piss. Rudd is an awful orator, so passionless. Also, count the number of times he said "nation" and "future" in his victory speech. Dude, they're called SYNONYMS!
eg. "This task as well, to remain ever vigilant in defence of our nation's national security."
Nation's national security! That's almost Bush league. Kevin '10, if you need a snarky apathetic speechwriter, I stand ready to serve.

I'm even vaguely sorry for John Howard (though I do not forget - oh yeah, VSU was dumb too!). My mum is in mourning. I don't really understand her almost visceral hatred of Labor and emotional attachment to the Libs. The Team A vs Team B battle isn't meaningful to me. I think the more crucial battle is The Little People vs The Powerful.Why be blinded by party loyalty? We've got to be vigilant against manipulation and use the powerful for our needs rather than vice versa. Everyone should be a swinging voter.

In response to one of Chez's points- with the balance of power, I think that the senate/reps division is more important than state/federal cos if one party dominates both houses, it's a legislative free-for-all (see also: Work Choices). So I'm very interested to see how the senate seats pan out - go go random third parties! With state/fed, I reckon that the states will act in their own interests rather than according to party lines (see also: kerfuffle over water policy) so there's no great threat to balance.

PS. Voted below the line again for the senate cos damned if I'll let other people decide how my preferences flow! 79 boxes, man. Gotta say, when you get beyond the top few parties, it's all a bit "eeny meeny miney mo". I may have accidentally voted for the Shooters' Party above the Carers' Party. Um, oops. Down the end it gets to "do I hate Pauline Hanson more than Fred Nile?" (Think I split the bottom spots between them)

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Election

So Chez wants me to write about the election. To be honest I've been paying attention to the form of ads more than the content (verdict: almost uniformly crapola). I'll be voting, as I think most people do, on vague gut instinct. I know, I know, the West Wing fan and former PoliSci/Law kid in me is ashamed at my lack of engagement but....INTEREST RATES ARE BORINGO! I can only bring myself to care about politics when interesting moral questions are at stake. I'll care about the economy when I actually have money. I think my leanings were set back at the time of my political awakening, circa Tampa. And what I remember from that period was the cynical fearmongering. The Pacific Solution was the most assbackward absurd policy ever. Labor was gutlessly me-too at that time though, I recall. WorkChoices also seems dodgy - where was this mentioned before the last election?

Sooo where does that leave us? I was a Democrats fan til they slowly went under - they're a little bit less lefty-loopy "pass the peace pipe yo" than the Greens. But I will prolly vote Greens anyway, preferencing Labor, reserving the right to bitch about whoever wins. Unless someone hands me a particularly pretty how-to-vote card tomorrow.

Man, I can just see Martin Sheen shaking his head sadly at me right now.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


  • Feh is the new favourite word of the week.
  • It sucks being the lone singleton in a house of couples. Cue violins!
  • Talked to my dad about the crazy grandpa thing a while ago. There's been some progress made on the "go to the damned doctor" front especially since my great-uncle has just come over from America and has been harping on at him. Today he had an appointment but backed out at the last minute - still, baby steps.
  • On the JFSS/BMP project, I've decided that maybe it wasn't the blinding flash of genius that I always think my ideas are (snort). Sent it off to the National Rural Health Network who should be natural allies in this, and their council considered it and decided against. Sent me some (rather hollow) reasons why.
    The NRHN supports conference funding being available to BMP students, and does not believe that this should be replaced by other schemes. BMP students are currently eligible to apply for JFSS scholarships under the same criteria as other students and so the aims of the JFSS program ie to increase the number of rural practitioners is open to all interested students, are best met...The NRHN believes that should be avoiding comparison with JFSS, or attempting to get a BMP allocation of JFSS scholarships. The NRHN believes that we should be pushing for rural mentoring on an individual or small group basis, and expressing a need that face-to-face meetings with mentors is important. It would be hoped that face-to-face encounters would include some clinical time, but merely seeing the work environment may be sufficient to convince BMP holders to stay with the programme and not buy their way out.
    Bolded bit translated: "shut yo piehole, ignoramus!" Ok I concede that group mentoring is a good idea I didn't think of. But jeebus, they think EXCURSIONS are sufficient to deter students from bailing. And "pushing for rural mentoring" - hello, John Flynn is already in place and set up for that! Feh I say. Come to think of it, maybe my idea isn't pure inspiration, but their arguments aren't strong. It seems more like conservative guarding of their own position and protecting the sacredness of the JFSS (which isn't actually under threat, gah). Maybe I communicated badly. Will I take it any further? Meh. Drawing is funner. Being told to STFU grates though.
  • On HES, Mauritius was my first choice but the grapevine says that even interns there hardly get to do any meddy stuff, just trail in the wake of senior docs taking notes and doing scutwork. So that's up in the air again. Que faire! ?
  • My housemate's boyfriend doesn't know which party Rudd and Howard belong to. The election is in a week. He is a med student. Errrr. And dear Millionaire woman, "wherefore" is WHY!
  • Translated said housemate's letter for her HES in Madagascar to French this evening. And discovered that a) my fran├žais has gone down the crapper despite NINE HARD YEARS of study and b) despite a), translation is one of those things I love doing and can lose track of time. Even Latin. Hell, especially Latin, cos even though it's sometimes frustrating - "WTF is the verb doing 5 lines down from the subject?!" - at the end you get the "woah, I just understood something thunk up 2000 years ago and it's still funny or moving or beautiful despite my godawful mangling" feeling. I was always more into the process than the result...don't ask me anything about Tacitus now.
  • Went shopping at Charlestown today. And in possibly the nerdiest development ever, the most exciting time was when I bought some 4B and 6B pencils for my new inner artiste. Resisted the temptation of sexy thick-papered sketchbooks because there's no guarantee I won't get bored of this hobby in like 3 days (as you can prolly tell, I have hot flushes of passion which quickly fizzle). When we got home, my friend and I plonked ourselves on the couch and sketched. Very therapeutic.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Pencil > sword

That's what I'm listening to at the moment. My mum copied some of her CDs to iTunes on her work computer, which I used to back up my collection. This is the music of my childhood - maybe not this exact song, they all sound the same to me. It evokes lazy summer Sundays at home, just mum and dad and I pottering around the house. I never listen to this stuff of my own accord but I'm always tickled when it comes up on random.

Two things have sort of rocked my world lately. First, I decided I'm learning to draw. Came across some excellent sites that say that anyone can draw and I figure it's just a perceptual and motor skill that needs to be practised. Talent schmalent. We shall see if my decidedly unvisual brain (see also: total inabilty to read a map or navigate any of the three cities I call home) can get the hang of it. There are these classic drawing texts available online by Andrew Loomis - oldschool but awesome. With the "Fun with a Pencil" one, you start drawing decent-looking cartoons within the first five minutes so tis very positively reinforcing. Just started last night and already it's changing the way I see things. Suddenly the view from my window is no longer just of my grungy neighbour's yard, but made of shapes. The sky is divided by the vertical lines of my Venetians, intersected at right angles by power lines. The best thing is that it's a hobby that only requires a piece of paper and pencil, superbueno. Slightly less involved than hang-gliding and less risk of gruesome death by gravity. Quite a bonus.

The other thing is mind mapping. I've always pooh-pooh'd it because it's so messy and imprecise. In Year 10 our teacher made us do essay brainstorming with spider maps and it was torture. I told her I think linearly and in hierarchies (internal: LIKE A RATIONAL PERSON) and she said she knew, I was too boxed in, that's why I had to try and EXPAND MY MIND and I said yes yes ma'am (internal: feh, BA hippies). But now I find they're actually useful, and more accurately reflect how people think. Sooo...Ms Tulk / BA hippies 1, moi 0.

La vie est spiffy at the moment. Exams done, nice weather, clean clothes and room, food in the house. Ahhhh. MedBall was...interesting. Good food and far too much good drink. Too much = 4 in 9 hours, stupid acetaldehyde dehydrogenase. Maybe those puritans are onto something. A firstie had to be ambulanced because of alcohol poisoning and we saw a drunk girl bashing up her boyfriend. She tried to steal our cab, but the cabbie was on our side- not knowing that moments earlier, my friend and I were plotting what to do if I had to puke (window? move my stuff to her bag and chuck in mine? luckily, neither plan had to be tested). Heh.

Oy, another pointless post. Can't give you a nice dovetail ending all the time peoples. Learn to draw is the point maybe.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Can't sleep

Cbf studying either. So so sick of my notes.

Let me tell you how med is ruining my youth and health. My room looks like a warzone and the kitchen bins are overflowing so that there's a tide of garbage gradually encroaching on the kitchen floor. Our resident cockroach population is booming. I can't remember the last time I had a fresh vegetable or fruit, slept 8 continuous hours, went to bed before 3am, or had any exercise. Today's diet consisted of instant noodles cadged from housemate Alex (who I thought was Israeli, but disappointingly isn't), fruity roll cadged from housemate Katrina (training to be a nutritionist!), Coke Zero cadged from housemate Mincho (#1 supergenius in all of med who is also cool, funny and nice so we can't even hate him) and packet pasta from my own collection. Usually not such a leech, but supplies are low. Somehow in my twisted mind procrastinating on the computer is ok cos I can start studying any moment, but going to the shops is verboten. There is no logic. On the plus side, haven't started talking to myself yet. HOWEVER, in about 9 hours....FRRREEEEEDOM! Dear god, pass my sorry ass.

Alex and I share a bathroom that connects between our rooms. Classic setup for slapstick, n'est-ce pas? A couple of days ago there was an almost-incident when I stripped off and bounded into the bathroom only to see that he had left his door open...and he was in his room! I will leave it to your sordid minds to imagine the rest of the story.

Random thought for the day: knowledge of other people's characters is never fact, it's just a hypothesis that's tested and tweaked every time you interact with them. Mostly I'm never that wrong. Even people I think are awesome never fail my ridiculously rosy image of them. There might some kinda cognitive bias there, but I think I'm open to all evidence. Then there are some peeps for whom hypotheses are totally useless!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Plenty of people are bad cooks....

...but it takes a special talent to screw up boiled eggs. I am talented.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Quack hacks

So I've been surfing the productivity blogosphere while.....procrastinating on my work. Ferric, innit.

HAHA ferric, ironic, geddit? I will go kill myself now. We only children have to amuse ourselves.

Did you know there is a significant proportion of the human (hipster) population addicted to Moleskine notebooks? (googling "Moleskine porn" came up with this) I would be one of them, but I'm too stingy. My friend did give me this bright red silk one for my birthday once, which I used as my Vietnam travel journal. A little red book in one of the last bastions of Communism, oh the wittiness! They are sexy though. Not communists, Moleskines. Well I'm sure there are some sexy communists. Fidel does it for me.

I had a point somewhere...the productivity and the lifehacking blogosphere. Apparently there are shitload of blogs telling people how to improve their lives every day in every way. Came across a post by Scott H. Young about holistic learning, which involves interlinking ideas between subjects and understanding the concepts behind knowledge by visceralisation and metaphor. Food for thought indeed, cos I feel I've lost the knack of studying deeply and internalising concepts. I wondered if his ideas could be applied to the study of medicine, which has a lot of rote memorisation and arbitrary info (looking at you, anatomical pathology).

But the gist I took from it was that medicine shouldn't be as hard as it is. It's just that the teaching, both in books and lectures, is horrible. Just one effing thing after another. Often no overviews of the topic, no attempt to present narrative and links rather than bare facts. People don't think in lists! The only thing I've come across that is remotely sensible is the Made Ridiculously Simple series which has silly cartoons and visual mnemonics (eg. the spider of Willis).

So, an idea for a blog: Quack Hacks, or Medicine for Dummies. Med is the combination of a number of disciplines, each of which can be deconstructed and which have their own tricks. Pharmacology, for example- I wish I'd been told at the beginning that all you really have to know at first/second year level is name, mechanism, uses and side effects (inc contraindications and interactions). And for the blocks we're doing this semester, neuro/endo/psych, drugs can be grouped by neurotransmitter, mechanism or disease. I haven't figured things out in other areas yet, like biochemistry, which is a blur of cycles and loops. Wtf.

Yeah, no good ending here. Go back to drooling over Chairman Mao, that fox.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Maybe Daddies

(dry-blogged from Sydney a few weeks ago)

So I was telling my mum how I semi-fancied Pharm Guy, but didn't know wtf to do and my instinct was to run away (yep, my genes are doomed). Anyway, we got to talking about her conquests. Dudettes, she started at EIGHT. Boys were chasing her from then. One guy followed her home from school from age 11 to 16, waiting years before even talking to her. She was a svelte little thing, with enormous doe eyes that gave her a look of perpetual innocent wonderment, it's little surprise that they were all trying to woo her. I dunno how she spawned the clumsy lu

She named three people who were her "might have beens". First was that stalker suitor. They'd finally started talking and things were going well. Except then the Communists came in and he was thrown into jail for years, because his family was wealthy and owned a chain of petrol stations. She too was sent away. It might also have been because they were involved in some fledgling anti-VC activities - student meetings sort of thing, hardly La Resistance. She got out soon enough, and didn't wait for him. He's now married to a friend of great-aunt #9 (my great-grandparents were busy!). Rumour has it that he told his wife he would've married my mum if she'd waited.

The second was another boyfriend who vuot bien'd (boatperson'd?) before she did. He arrived at the same Malaysian island as my other great-aunt #8, the one my mum is closest to (she's only about 5 years older). Unmindful of the spies and not thinking that my mum would soon escape as well, he chased skirts all day long. Needless to say, my great-aunt passed on word of his behaviour and her disapproval. When my mum arrived in Australia, he camped outside her door for days but she refused to speak to him. Turns out he is the brother of my childhood GP, married now as well. Mum says she saw him once in a pho restaurant - I was there too apparently, but she didn't say anything!

The last was the most serious. He was in the same engineering course as my dad and to hear her tell it, they were almost on the brink of marriage. He'd already asked her. However, great-aunt #8 disapproved of him, and mum didn't like his horrid mother. At the same time, my father was courting her shamelessly. He'd invited himself along to one of their picnics - later he cut out pictures of himself and her from that day and grafted them together. My great-aunt was very keen on him, possibly because my grandparents were very charming. My grandfather, a supplies officer in the war, hadn't yet lost the plot and was very gentlemanly, even if he looked down on less educated people like my mother. Grandma is and was an awesome mother-in-law, not to mention woman. More on her some other time. Anyway, things came to a head when a false rumour spread that my mother was pregnant. Knowing that it couldn't be his, and that my dad's side were making a move, the guy backed out quietly. Mum was angry he didn't even put up a fight, so she let him go. She found a photo of them all on that picnic day, in a boat. It shows a lanky, geeky fellow looking at the camera, as is my mum. She's blocking the faces of the two other girls there who were invited because of my dad's presence. He, of course, is looking at her. The rest is history. They married when she was 20, he 25. Six years on when she was pregnant with me, she saw the guy on the tram, then never again.

I'm not sure how reliable these stories are. I'm sure they're coloured by the bitterness of what came to pass. The photo-graft is interpreted as a sinister portent and the ruthless courtship as a sign of caddishness. She blamed my great-aunt. I told her to take some responsibility, because she did make a choice. I don't know though. It's impossible to compare her and me. While she was more knowing about boys and had to survive in the more dog-eat-dog world of Vietnam, it sounds like she really was a wide-eyed ingenue at age 20.

We ended up looking through some of the other photos as well, from my mum's childhood. Pretty amazing that they've survived war and crossed oceans. They speak of a different world. Black and white mostly, some garishly colourised. There are many of my uncle Lanh, who was lost at sea. He was the second-youngest, practically raised by my mum, the eldest child and only daughter. She says he was the best of her brothers. Their pictures are there too, features hardly changed over the years. I see echoes of my cousins' faces. There's a cute one of them all lined up, with the youngest still in my grandma's belly. Five kids and widowed at around 30. My grandfather is absent from the album altogether.

It's amazing how much the world has changed in basically a historical eyeblink. My mum describes an old-fashioned society. Even though this was the 60's, boys and girls would hardly kiss before marriage. They went on bike rides together, that was courtship. Who could envision internet dating then!

Bella vita

I've been having a mid-exams holiday the past few days. Should probably be studying for the MCQ's on Thurs and Fri but whatever. The worst is over!

No really good stories to share (actually yes I do, coming later) but yesterday I went for a walk at the beach on my lonesome, on a whim. First day it hasn't been bucketing down for about a week and the longest exposure to the great outdoors I've had for waaaay too long. Gorgeous. Blue sky with a mild breeze, not too warm, lots of families and old people and their pets. I smiled at some babies, some dogs smiled at me. I saw strange rocky area where there were three dead birds within a five metre radius and wondered what had happened to them. Hunters? Caught up in the storms? Flu? (back away) Two were seagull size, but another was larger. I wanted to say cormorant, but names of birds, like those of trees and flowers and geological features, are things I only know in books. One of my distant life goals is to associate these names with pictures, so that when viewing the natural world I have a greater conceptual vocabulary instead of "that's a purdy...green thingy". I saw people flying, swooping in the sky on hang-gliders and some form of seated parachute and was tempted to fork out cash right then and there to feel the freedom of it.

I walked for an hour and thought what a great thing it is to have a young, healthy (if unfit) body and a clear mind, and no serious cares in the world, and the future ahead. I made plans for a reshuffling of my life once the exams are over - just how to get organised and study smarter and spend time on what's important. And I decided I love Australia, not in a flag-waving way, because borders are arbitrary and ridiculous. Just the peace and beauty of the country, a beach walk on a Saturday afternoon.

Monday, November 5, 2007

It is a truth universally acknowledged...

...that a single man in possession of a BPharm must be in want of a wife.

At my step-cousin's 5th birthday party today (fairy themed, if you must know, and the first time I've been out of the house in a terrifyingly long time), I met the kind of guy my mother would love me to marry one day. The essential criteria being:
  • Vietnamese. Glory of glories.
  • Pharmacist. A Doctor (*cue sounds of ethnic parentals swooning*) would be preferred, or a dentist, cos we don't have any in the family and we want fillings on the cheap, dammit! But the hierarchy goes Y Nha Duoc (med, dent, pharm - ask any Viet and they will know this holy trinity) and 3rd place would do. Think of the ten thousand pounds a year! Marry out of the law, commerce, health or engineering faculties, on the other hand, and you'd be personally reponsible for the Apocalypse.
  • Mostly harmless.
And probably prioritised in that order as well. On the plus side, he was nice enough, tall, had a deep voice, and could play with kids. On the minus, he was in need of deodorant. But you know what they say about judging a book by its...odour.

One of my theories about why there seem to be craploads of Asian female Janeites is that we are STILL LIVING in the land of 19th-century rigid unspoken social conventions. Girls are still groomed to have "accomplishments" - piano-playing, BMeds - and concerned relatives are still plotting about how to marry them off advantageously. P&P tells us we can find twue wuv even within the confines of convention. Plus ca change, plus ca doesn't.

Friday, November 2, 2007

A view of a room

Yeah, nudging the world's going to have to wait. The whole universe has shrunk to the size of my study. I've got to figure out a way of passing exams without locking myself indoors for a month and going mad and fat and reading for 16 hours at a time. Seeing as I'll be having exams until about age 30 at the very least, god help me. It might involve...hmmmmmm...not procrastinating until the very last minute? Duh! I say this every semester.

Things keeping me sane:

.....I got nothin'. Actually, the piano and geetar. Today I realised I am grateful to my folks for all those years of lessons. It's a great thing to be able to sit down at a piano and play something randomly for yourself.

I had an idea once for a short story set in the future when instead of getting a jail term, criminals get sentenced with a neurological condition. Like bank robbery: Parkinson's, 3 years. Paedophilia: life with ALS, aka what Stephen Hawking has, with a sadistic robot carer. I did a science assignment on that in Year 10, and I don't know how people can stand it. You gradually lose the ability to move, while retaining your senses and intelligence. You can live like that for decades. The cruelty of it. If there is a deity: what the frig?!! Our teacher made us look into how neuro conditions affect people, and I came across a blog by an ALS patient (though I didn't know to call it a blog then). He'd begin every post with "things I can't do" and "things I can still do". One list kept getting longer, the other shorter. Tried to find it again and couldn't, but there are plenty like it, just google. It's almost unfathomable. Going from being an everyday person with a mortgage and job and kids and hoping you have a quiet, decent life, to your existence revolving around things like...how to swallow food. How to shift yourself in bed. Whether your wife who cares for you 24/7 is about to crack. Or you are that wife and this wasn't what you dreamed of being when you grew up. These could be people two doors down from you going through this hell. The heroism and bizarreness and tragedy and sheer unimagineable variety of normal human lives...bloody baffling, innit?

Baaaaack to the grindstone.

*PC disclaimer (I believe it too) - I know disability isn't all helplessness and despair. Diving Bell and the Butterfly much.