The EMO Blog

February 13, 2012

So They Say…

Filed under: Whining — Brian Chong @ 11:55 pm

Ask any doctor about the ups and downs of his career and you’ll find his eyes misting over as he regales you with stories of triumph over insurmountable odds. Oh yes, the rural general surgeon will no doubt remember the ruptured aortic aneurysm he saved, the gynaecologist will never forget the time he failed to sever a patient’s ureters (gynae bashing – check), and the orthopaedic resident will always reminisce about the time he managed to get a medical consult before 3pm (physician bashing for GREAT JUSTICE).

But as diverse and unique as these success stories are – and you’ll probably find that, long-buried under considerations of income and glamour, the possibility of doing something great in a speciality you love is what drove one to choose that speciality (I mean why else would one do psychiatry) – medical people are united by that one dark period in their lives when we felt completely useless on the wards. It is a time when we just tag along with the teams hoping to learn something useful but invariably don’t; patients and their families ignore us because we appear lost and untrustworthy (and heaven forbid you ask for permission to perform a physical exam); and when we try to be as unobstructive to actual clinical work as possible so as not to incur the wrath of consultants, thereby running the risk of being asked a medical question the answer to which we can’t remember (stuff of nightmares this). It is a period everyone endures, the distant prize being that one will, one day, become a real doctor.

I speak, of course, of internship.

The first day of work is invariably terrifying, though everything happens so quickly that you only remember the mounds of paperwork that you had to fill in, the rest of the fear being shoved into the subconscious such that all that remains is the occasional nightmare and uncontrollable shuddering whenever you walk into hospital. One hopefully remembers a bit of what he learned in medical school (where to get cheap food, how to hack the uni computers to access Facebook, how to get attendance signed off), but then has his enthusiasm in prescribing 100mg of morphine slightly dampened by the fact that the patient may actually die. For a proper simulation of what one should feel like, imagine someone harming the kitten in the photo below. While you’re at it, also imagine that I linked a photo of a kitten below because I can’t really be bothered lol.

This obviously makes the first few weeks of work incredibly challenging. Prescribing panadol becomes a potential career-ending move – requiring the approval of your registrar, consultant, a NATO and UN conference, as well as full informed consent from the patient – the first time one has to do it. You jot everything down in the patient notes on ward rounds as if the lawyers were staring at you (‘patient farted, consultant tried to ignore out of politeness, cubicle evacuated for 10 minutes’). And, naturally, you take two hours to fill in your first death certificate, hoping that the next one won’t be yours.

After a few weeks, one becomes more confident and competent at basic ward work. It is then that one actually has time to worry about the patients, their test results, and their observation charts. A small rash becomes a life-threatening emergency requiring the administration of moisturising cream NOW. That mass on that patient’s chest x-ray promises to eat up the patient’s lung and your medical degree, then you ask someone for an opinion, they tell you that the mass is in fact a breast, and you feel so embarrassed that you wish you could kill everyone else. But the most important lesson one could learn – after running around looking for a senior to interpret some abnormal test, then coming back and realising that the patient is, in fact, not breathing – is that one should always have a look at the patient.

Things get better after a couple of months, then suddenly it’s the end of the term and you’re whisked away to a completely new team, with different expectations and protocols. You get slapped about, at different times, for being too reliant, too independent, writing too much, writing not enough, talking too much, listening too much etc. and there comes a point where you start to become sick of it but somehow manage to learn to adapt and it’s all good again.

Finally, the end of the year approaches and one starts to develop a slight spring in his step. You start initiating treatment realising that patients are actually quite a resilient bunch, your team begins to have some measure of confidence in your work, you start approaching families and families start to listen to you, and you begin to talk to patients about death and the dying process. Maybe this job isn’t so bad after all.

Then you move up a level and it starts all over again.

Maybe one day we’ll be real doctors!

March 29, 2010


Filed under: Whining — Brian Chong @ 8:14 pm

Hello, it has been a while indeed.

There is a theory that we exist in an infinite number of dimensions and realities simultaneously, and that these parallel universes exist to cover all possible choices that we make in life. Many of these alternate ‘realities’ are lost every single second, and indeed, why would any of them except the one we exist in matter (apologies to our alternate selves)? Therefore, while it is true that with old age comes experience, and that experience is golden, arguments could be made for youth, because the possibilities are still endless.

I suppose it’s easier to think of time-lines on a yearly basis, with the end of a year bringing forth introspection and regret over the sins of the past year. It is also probably entirely coincidental that it is typically at the end of the year that exam results are released and dinner parties with distant relatives are organised. But fear not, for soon enough a new year will come, allowing us to make new promises and to say ‘tomorrow’ 364 times. Nevertheless, a new year brings forth hope, and opportunities abound.

For the university to screw me over.

It was with a distinct sense of foreboding that I opened my university e-mail inbox, sifting through all the spam advertising penis enlargement pills, magnifying glasses etc etc (I… err… heard from a friend that they don’t work *shifty eyes*). However, I was pleasantly surprised when I finally found my GP attachment e-mail and saw that I had been assigned to Stratford-upon-Avon, birthplace of the great playwright Shakespeare himself! My my, think of the possibilities!

The next time I looked at the e-mail, it said ‘Cronulla’.

What a BUMMER.

I would like to take a pause to thank one of my course-mates who, in trying to console me over the fact that Cronulla is 1.5 hours away by public transport and also for the conspicuous lack of hyphens in its name, said to me that ‘hey Cronulla has nice beaches’. A short and bitter pause.

Thus begins the daily commute to Cronulla. The bus. Typically crowded. Guaranteed to have left the stop 1 minute before you arrive, with the next bus coming in 15 minutes whether you attempt to rush there or not so why bother. Guaranteed to have at least one retard hogging two seats by himself, which would be entirely forgivable if he were actually physically capable of doing so. But no, he’ll be some kid listening to Nickelback via oversized headphones, sitting on the aisle side of the bench with his schoolbag at his feet completely blocking off any attempt to get past him. The ‘I need my personal space’ look on his face completes the effect. One would think that the empty space is occupied by his imaginary friend. Hmph. At least mine has the decency to stand.

Central station. Even more crowded. Filled with stalls selling hot food which serve as a potent distraction. Has its fair share of people asking for a few dollars to pay for their train ticket. Guess who they tend to ask. Guess who they would be tempted to beat up for money if they were really desperate for it. Guess who tends to capitulate. ZZZ.

The train. Typically NOT the nice new air-conditioned ones they have in the central business district. Impressive range of graffiti, including what I must say are some of the most anatomically accurate sketches of male genitalia I have seen. I pass the time by reading a book, normally bearing a title like The Color of Magic or something like that. Out of the corner of my eye, I occasionally spot a person or two eyeing me weirdly. They must be wondering why my book has the word ‘colour’ spelled wrong. Out of the corner of my other eye, I spot someone cleaning his ears. A mental note is made to buy a bigger book next time.

The clinic. An exercise in contrived communication. I try to vary my greetings a bit while seeing patients, but sometimes make the mistake of asking ‘what’s your problem today?’ Putting an emphasis on the word ‘your’ doesn’t help things one bit. After awhile I start realising that emphasising any of the words in that sentence isn’t any better. Experience gained in dodging the inevitable punch that comes from hot-tempered patients. Experience needed in dodging the follow-up punch. Could try asking them ‘how can I help you today?’ but I have visions of patients breaking into tears and, in halted speech, asking me ‘HOW CAN YOU HELP ME YOU’RE JUST A STUDENT?’ or, even worse, morphing into some cacodemon, and, with a curved nail pointed my way, bellowing ‘YOU SHOULD FIRST THINK OF HOW TO SAVE YOURSELF, MORTAL’.

Upon further thought, I’d rather take the demon than the crying patient.

And since it’s apparently in vogue to leave readers with food for thought, here’s some. If a person loses his weekly bus ticket, searches everywhere for it, then after retracing his footsteps, finally realises that he must’ve left it in the front pocket of the shirt he wore to the clinic, a shirt that is now hanging out in the sun after a stint in the washing machine, and he searches the pocket, finding nothing but a small scrap of paper with a magnetic strip on it, should he be happy that his powers of deductive reasoning bore fruit, or be pissed because the #$@% card cost twenty dollars?

January 15, 2010


Filed under: Whining — Brian Chong @ 9:11 pm

This is a shameless attempt to reduce the average word count of my posts.

Of Attics And Basements

Filed under: Whining — Brian Chong @ 12:52 am

As some of you may have found out by now, I have a mild interest in computer games. Also in understating things. But I’ve never really bothered to go into detail about games that I play even when people ask about them, mostly because doing so would have the unfortunate result of making their eyes permanently roll up into their sockets as I go on and on about combat mechanics, class roles and so on and so forth. Not what they have in mind when they ask a polite question about my hobby, I gather.

In the end most people leave the conversation with the impression that gamers play in their parents’ basements. In the dark. Completely motionless except for their eyes darting back and forth as the scrolling combat text indicates that yes, they scored a critical hit with Magic Missile; and their hands moving surprisingly little, for one learns to conserve energy by making only the most efficient movements because who has time to eat now (energy drinks are your friend)?! They fail to notice that they have left their window open, and that the winter air is seeping in, because even their hearts have become cold over the years NOOOOOO. But over time I have grown tired of this generalisation and make it a point to tell people that I, for one, play in the attic, and not the basement.

And even revealing my tastes to other gamers would occasionally lead to me being on the receiving end of a tirade about how ‘game x is mass-produced, derivative trash from designers that were trash after they left their original company, and you should be ASHAMED of actually paying for that poorly designed shell of a game that all but guarantees that your leisure time will be low-grade. Your money will go towards funding other dismal games, thereby dooming not only yourself, but also your children and your children’s children to bad entertainment. Are you happy now?’ Nowadays I just tell people I play FarmVille and slip away while they recover from the shock.

So yes I suppose I should move on to talking about one of the games I played for the better part of two years, which is, surprise, World of Warcraft (WoW). It’s an MMORPG, which essentially means that there will be many, many people playing online at the same time, which is kind of weird because we play games to GET AWAY FROM PEOPLE. So instead of spending time in real-life arguing with people about things that don’t matter, I pay money to spend time online arguing with people about things that matter even less, except that this time I’m well out of reach so I can use the most creative insults I can come up with, which isn’t really saying much.

I started playing because a few friends from uni, many who quit early on *narrows eyes*, wanted to play together. I continued playing because the game, having already been around for two to three years before I even started playing, had decently complex mechanics, lots of stuff to do after you reach the maximum level, and a stable population, which meant that there was an abundance of people to pick fights with. I shall spare you the trouble of reading about the content of the actual game itself, which would be akin to having a golfer talk to you about undulating greens and plunging bunkers and how the number of dimples on the ball results in different spin zzzz but suffice to say that there was enough to keep me playing for a long while before I actually got good at it (how good I’m not sure, more on that later).

WoW, being an MMORPG, encourages group play, having in place encounters that required 10 or 25 people in a group to have a chance of succeeding. So, in an effort to see everything in WoW, I joined two different raiding guilds over the two years I spent playing it. Which meant that I was expected to be online at specific times on specific days of the week. Every week.

(If you were ever doubting my sanity, there’s your confirmation!)

But when you spend so much time playing with the same group of people, and using voice-communication software to talk to each other (typing out my inspirational speeches just didn’t seem right!), it’s inevitable that you end up talking about unrelated crap, log on to talk shit when you have nothing to do, and develop friendships. And through countless chats while running back to your corpse after the in-game dragon kills everyone, or while fishing for the umpteenth time for that damn turtle mount, or while complaining about how the game designers messed up your class again, you learn Warrior A’s real name, what Priest B does for a living, what Paladin C’s other hobbies are, that Hunter D and Warlock E are married in real life. And then you realize that you probably know these people better than many other people in real life. Then you don’t feel like missing raids because to leave them without one player would be like not turning up for your weekly football session with your mates, and although it’s easy to tell them to find someone else on short notice, I suppose in the end they still wish you were there.

Although I’ve stopped playing for pretty much half a year now, I still talk to some of the players on a regular basis, and a group of us went to have dinner when I was in Singapore. The stereotype of gamers only talking about games even when meeting in real life holds true for the most part, but coming from such diverse backgrounds (secondary school students, businessmen, computer programmers, married ones, single ones, people of questionable sexuality) it’s easier to fall back on the one thing we are guaranteed to have in common. And were it not for playing the game we would not have known each other in the first place.

Our group, though we performed decently, never did manage to complete the hardest encounters the game had to offer, which is a source of some regret. And we knew that we as a group would never be at the cutting edge of progression, so we did not push for it lest we sow bitterness and dissent among members. So at times, I wondered whether I was personally able to play at the highest level, given the fact that I was at least above average in terms of ability. But to attempt that would mean leaving the group for one of strangers. And I was never that confident anyway. So ah well.

January 13, 2010

On Dead Kittens

Filed under: Whining — Brian Chong @ 7:23 pm

Hello. No, I am not dead, a fact which must surely disappoint some of you out there, damn you all. On the other hand, I suppose having my untimely demise celebrated by the masses in a manner Saddam would be envious of would be better than having it pass by without fanfare, so err, damn you all who don’t care (world population remaining un-damned: 2). My my, what an excellent start!

Now, having not posted anything for the past few weeks (I could blame writer’s block, but I hardly think that the writers’ guild would deign to let me taint their sacred hallways by referring to myself as one, though in my defence I’m there to make everyone else look good. Or I could say that my brain’s juices were running dry, but I could hear the retort ‘hey there’s only so much juice a rock could contain’ coming from a mile away so let’s just leave things unexplained shall we now), I think it would be good to do a recap of what I actually did in Singapore over the past month, lessons I learned (mostly out of hospital), as well as post photos of me posing with a curry puff. Then I could save time and just paste a few random passages of text from the internet after this paragraph because all of you are going to close your browsers anyway. But I guess I could spare you the torture and deliver an allegory which of course contains lessons that went completely over my head so please tell me what they are. Details of the Singapore trip will come as filler when I run out of ideas, which will probably be in ten minutes.

So having settled down in my aunt’s place in KL, I went to have a meal at the local food establishment. Cue overly florid descriptions of the place and atmosphere (‘the smell of pastry and the dulcet tones of the lady at the counter, presumably the boss, combine to conjure images of coffee shops closer to home’, ‘the desperate screams of the child having his head dunked repeatedly into the nearby swimming pool by his brother brought back childhood memories of me nearly drowning to death when I was OH NO AHHHHHHHH’) which I was supposed to skip but oh well. But anyway, I ordered the first thing on the menu, it arrived without much fuss, and I proceeded to FEEEEEDDD. I did note that while everything was in order, the lady at the counter seemed to be barking more orders than seemed necessary (OK I lied when I said dulcet tones), trying to keep everything going smoothly.

Issues occurred halfway through the meal when one of the assistants (not in uniform like the rest of the workers, probably family of the owner) approached me and requested that I first go to the counter and pay for my food. I suppose I looked like I couldn’t really afford it and was going to run away or something like that so I agreed and proceeded to do so. I mused that since I was alone and the restaurant seemed a bit disorganized, I would not be surprised if the workers cleaned up my table while I was paying. However, being an idiot, I completely forgot about this and engaged in some banter with the counter lady. And when I turned around, my food was gone. LOL. Now, being a very nice person in general (I merely made a mental note to strangle some kittens when I got home), I caught the attention of the assistant earlier on and explained to her what happened, the intent being, naturally, an altruistic notion of helping them improve their business by suggesting that they do not make people pay halfway through their meals. I was not bitter about the missing food at all. No nonono (kittens killed: 3). Her unfortunate response was to kindly remind me that I should inform the staff if I am leaving my table to do something else. Which made sense in some twisted way because I didn’t actually do that. Because I was asked to pay. AHHHHHHHH.

I then set about on a search throughout the restaurant to look for something belonging to the assistant, something like a bunch of hair or a piece of cloth worn by her so that my voodoo doll at home would be fully functional. In my efforts, however, I discovered that the place was actually either newly opened or under new management. The decorations appeared somewhat new, though I couldn’t really tell; the wall directly next to the mee goreng cooking area was nearly pristine white; and there were flowers from friends wishing the establishment well (considering how long fake flowers last though…). I suppose I could’ve just asked the owner but I didn’t want to be proven wrong SO THERE. Anyway, whatever was left of my rage dissipated with this revelation, although dead kittens shall remain as such.

Being a paying customer certainly comes with its privileges. We can expect a certain level of service, be it the decadence of having our mouths wiped by attendants after every bite or the luxury of at least not having our food vanish when we turn around to sneeze. And it is in a business’ interest to maintain that level of service commensurate with the charges levied (if I asked a mamak stall operator to wipe my mouth he would happily do so with his fist). Performance does not always meet expectations, however, and when such events happen, although it does suit my temperament more to not say anything, I suppose it is indeed better to inform the staff politely because being a student it’s easier to see that feedback drives improvement. Notable exception being the uni which seems to be clinging on to the portfolio exam for dear life despite feedback so negative you’d think that the exam itself was responsible for the deaths of our families or something.

But anyway, there is a chance that comments may fall on deaf ears, as it did in my case. One solution would be to deliver them in such a way that the intent is unmistakable, I suppose, but there is no reason to draw public attention to what may be a singular problem, and I tend to be more sympathetic towards family-run businesses, having worked random days in my father’s clinic occasionally meeting patients so idiotic that they complain when the baby with an asthma attack gets seen before them. The typical Malaysian way of speaking does not help such situations much, with stuff like ‘excuse me sir, I ordered my food 20 minutes ago and I’m wondering why it hasn’t arrived’ being shortened to ‘eh why my food not here KNN *bangs table*’.

Another point of note is that we tend to let isolated incidents dominate our view of certain places or people. Discussions among friends often gravitates towards descriptions of how this fellow once did this and that and lol lol lol but in the end it isn’t really fair to anyone if we let such comments shape our view of the party under discussion, particularly if we don’t know the person at all, and in the end once we get to know that person, our interactions with him/her may yet result in us being good friends. To everyone else in the discussion however, that person will forever remain ‘that guy with the blanket fetish’ or something. Unfortunately for businesses, such comments, which may be floating around anywhere on the internet, may result in a loss of customers, and though they may have improved in the five years since you’ve been there, what good are the improvements if no one is there to see them?

December 2, 2009

On Electives

Filed under: Whining — Brian Chong @ 9:42 pm

So holidays have officially begun and I will soon start my elective term in Singapore, a term that gives international students the ever so rare opportunity to pay the university for an education in which it plays no part. I suppose the extreme effort required to actually read through our elective proposals, coupled with the intellect needed to understand what we mean by ‘integrating with the locals’ in the elective report somewhat justifies this raping of our parents’ wallets, but even the most optimistic students have to admit that in this case, the glass is completely empty.

And of course, year after year our university and the state remind us that international students are important, a statement supported by newspaper articles citing the millions of dollars of loose change we bring in. A statement we can vouch for as authentic, given the amazing improvement our library has undergone in recent years, and the awesome new cancer research centre which is by the way completely funded by private donations. And the thick biomedical sciences guidebooks they give out to all students which probably cost a crapload to print. In the Sahara Desert.

But I suppose you get what you pay for and what we get is a quality education in a first world country where things are so advanced we have moved on from mere learning which is oh so 1990s to learning the concept of learning which is so zen and of course it sounds so cool when you can tell your friends in Malaysia ‘Malaysian universities teach you how to drink water. UNSW teaches you how to FIND it.’ Then you realize that information is hard to find, and you start wishing that there was a worldwide network that links computers everywhere together so that you may access information from anywhere in the world and you wake up and realize that YES IT ACTUALLY EXISTS. And you start wondering why you’re paying 8500 a semester to learn how to search journal articles.

Back to electives, I agree that in concordance with the theme of self-directed learning, it is only fair that we continue to pay the university for the chance to seek our self-improvement, and of course to paint the town red in the name of UNSW, which unfortunately can already be done for a mere few hundred dollars at the annual AMSA conferences. And it is indeed testament to the university that having attracted what is in theory the brighter subset of the population (physics, law, architecture, business, math, IT, and all other students may beg to differ), it then manages to make them pay a semester’s worth of fees for an attachment to another hospital, which is… a revelation, I suppose.

But, you say, in the end it’s probably worth it because having slogged through 6 years of medical school in a country that apparently needs doctors, we would be welcome with open arms into the workforce to gain back some of what was lost and to perhaps specialize here. Then you find out that spaces for internship are now actually limited and we are not actually guaranteed jobs in Australia after we finish. So having paid ridiculous amounts of money to learn how to work in an Australian hospital, and actually spending a term called ‘preparation for internship’ in hospitals we’ve spent our past few years in, we face the prospect of not actually having any jobs and having to return to our home countries which is still a good thing if not for the fact that we’re completely unprepared to function in those hospitals, a weakness the faculty admits to and will fix. Soon.

At least we get a nice looking degree.

November 25, 2009


Filed under: Whining — Brian Chong @ 6:49 pm

So exams are finally over and now I can play games because I have nothing to do, which is arguably an improvement from playing games despite having to study. However,  this glut of time also has the somewhat distressing effect of sapping the feeling of urgency I had in the past few weeks, a period where I had to complete in-game objectives as fast as possible and skip all the cutscenes and dialogue which tend to involve voluptuous female cyborgs expressing their love to silent protagonists whose answers are limited to ‘…’ THE ENTIRE GAME so I guess it wasn’t a huge loss. And with so much time on my hands I could probably learn a new skill or explore the world but instead I just spend my time trying to move things through pure force of will, a power I hope to shape into a weapon that will kill stupid people but I’ll probably end up being the first victim so I suppose it’s a good thing I haven’t gotten far with this. Yay.

And I just spent the past hour deciding on a new layout for this site along with the proper font choice and size, only to settle on the. same. layout but never mind that because time is a currency in abundance and who cares AHAHAHHAHAHAHHAHA but then I’ll probably receive the e-mail saying I failed the exam so horribly that the uni has decided to never take in IMU students again which is probably a good thing. For the IMU students. I’M KIDDING SIRS. But of course one has to be ever ready for that e-mail that may come any time informing him that there is a resit TOMORROW, a resit that one will have no time to prepare for barring some rituals involving dead fetuses.

And then of course there’s the post-exam blues where everyone sits around a table and cries about unfair questions that came out and how this question was not technically in the syllabus for the renal system but then we flip to the relevant page in the study guide and it says right there ‘EVERYTHING ABOUT THE KIDNEYS’  and then we realise we’re in the wrong course and for our entire life our superiors will laugh at us for things we do not know so lol. And then you flip through your book and find out that the question you couldn’t answer is in the small red box in the corner of the page that no one reads because it’s not important and you regret such things so the next time you take care to study whatever is in that small red box but then they ask you something in ANOTHER red box which will have sprouted out of nowhere, probably in the latest edition of the book and then you resign yourself to a life of mediocrity in medicine. A LIFE YOU CHOSE WHEN YOU SIGNED UP FOR THIS.

So the two cups of coffee i downed are now starting to wear off and I promise to use shorter sentences because this headache is killing me. And now it’s time to settle into a routine of eating, playing, drinking and sleeping, a routine that is suspiciously similar to what I do even during the course, except that this time I get to go home and tell friends in Malaysia that I will be a final year medical student, which of course changes their perception of me from ‘lol he got into medicine wonder if he will make it past the first month’ to ‘oh my he’s finishing soon I’d better get his details so I know which hospital to avoid’. And of course, telling people that you’re 5th year med tends to give them the impression that you can actually do doctorly stuff like drain that cyst in their arm  when all you can tell them is to maybe try hitting it with a bible. Or they ask you for health advice which invariably leads to situations where you tell friends to eat healthily, cut down on fat and eat lots of veggies in between spoonfuls of your pig innard congee which is SO GOOD.

November 15, 2009

On Self-Worth

Filed under: Whining — Brian Chong @ 5:21 pm

Hi, in recognition of the upcoming exams and the mood that often accompanies the state of having to do actual work, this will be more brooding than the usual post you will see here. Not that it’s a really hard thing to do considering the fact that my typical writing has the depth of a kids’ swimming pool. After a fat lady has jumped into it, splashing everything out.

So it is often the case, and more so when you’re a medical student bumbling around on the wards, that a person’s self-worth is called into question. Usually by an annoyed patient who thought we were actually going to do something useful after asking about his fracture for half an hour, or an emergency department consultant who repeatedly bumps into us as he makes his way around the resuscitation bed doing his thing and oh my god wherever he turns these two boys are standing in the way, between him and the oh-so-important drugs trolley.

And it always turns out that no matter how hard you try to avoid annoying the doctor, you always end up doing something wrong like stepping on the patient’s oxygen supply tube, raising the ambient temperature by breathing too quickly or just simply occupying space like a cancer. Then the patient is patched up and you hop along to the next bay, to piss more people off.

Similar questions pop up during arguments with parents and family members, arguments that inconveniently tend to happen as you’re crashing from a Sunday meth session when you’re trying to relax and mull over lost opportunities in life. Arguments that invariably end with you saying ‘hey at least I’m not stealing the drugs’, a comeback that will in later years regress to things like ‘hey at least I don’t murder’, ‘hey at least I don’t rape people’, ‘hey at least I’m not a cannibal’ and in the end, all you will be able to say is ‘hey at least I’m not a lawyer’. WOW NEW AND EXCITING JOKE BRIAN WE HAVE TOTALLY NOT HEARD THAT BEFORE. Sorry. Have a cookie (>^_^)>#

So you win the argument, at least temporarily, but the question lingers in the back of your mind, coming to the fore whenever you see some lives being saved (not by you obviously) or when you come home from hospital having learned nothing yet again. And then you try to justify your existence.

An existence that so far has amounted to nothing much but being a complete parasite, living off money you didn’t earn and checks that you did not write, having no duties except to study about some disease in the potentially misguided hope that you will one day make some meaningful contribution to society. And pass exams. Something which you occasionally do with flying colours but in the grand scheme of things means nothing because having (Hons) appended to your title probably means that you managed to draw a rhombus in the math exam whereas others managed a mere parallelogram. Weaklings. Then you start working as an intern and find out that results and academic ability don’t mean anything when you’re treating a patient. Except for maybe being able to remember the exact dose of a drug to give rather than having to look it up. And half of the time you’ll get it wrong anyway so lol.

So you ignore the field of academia and look elsewhere, hoping to find something from which to derive a sense of satisfaction with yourself. And you find nothing but weaknesses in the areas you would consider most important, and strengths in minor things that no one cares about.

But then you look around and realise that, with a few exceptions, people before you have had an entire lifetime in which to accomplish their achievements and make their mark on the world. And for every important discovery that makes the headlines, there are many more who work without hoping that their work will be glorified and who may not receive any recognition in their lives, yet undeniably play an important role in their society. And they weren’t exactly setting the world on fire at the age of 25 either.

So you find hope in such things, and be that as it may that you are currently not of much use to anyone, the potential is there, potential that may be squandered but means that for now you are forgiven for being useless. And it is in such potential that your parents are gambling on in fear that you will disappoint them in the end.

Then you feel less terrible and go play some video games before falling asleep. Yay.

November 7, 2009

On Charity

Filed under: Whining — Brian Chong @ 11:20 pm

So you can tell that I look somewhat innocent because random people on the streets ask me for money. It is often the case that out of the 200 people standing around in the train station I’ll be the one they pick to beg from, usually for a dollar or two to ‘buy a ticket home’. As soon as I oblige, they call out to their comrades and legions of poor people emerge from nowhere clawing at my wallet but it is a credit to Lady Luck that a train to Central Station will arrive at the platform that very moment and I barely escape with my life, beating their grabbing hands out of the way of the closing doors. As you may have sensed by now, the previous sentence was completely made up.

Similar situations tend to pop up even in urban areas, and I always try to look like I’m rushing to an emergency surgery whenever I spot people in some uniform talking about donations and stuff. Being an amazing actor, my façade ends up failing more often than not and they will make a beeline for me, having spotted someone obliging. On occasion, it’s easy to avoid them by entering the closest shop or alley and pretending to window-shop until they attempt to chat up a busy businessman who spends the next 10 minutes swearing at them, but sometimes it’s just not possible either because they’ve positioned themselves right at the exit of a shopping mall or because my only chance of salvation happens to be some sex toy shop which is a complete bummer.

So I end up chatting to them for a while, nodding as they describe their cause which invariably involves starving children dying of leukaemia in Africa as their HIV-positive single mothers struggle to make ends meet and support their drug-addict former husbands via seal-clubbing in the rain-forest or something.

And they always happen to carry guilt-trip paraphernalia with photos of said children mouthing something sweet, a tactic which is SUPPOSED to fail on me because guilt-trips tend to fail on people who are:

  1. Poor
  2. Heartless

And I fit both of the above criteria perfectly (a brain is not the only major organ I lack!) but it’s a damning indictment of my stupidity because my money often comes out even before they start flipping the pamphlets. Then they give their thanks and write out a ticket for some raffle which I tear up and dispose of as soon as I walk away because I never win these things. Or we both end up discovering, after the volunteer delivers a 15 minute speech, that I’m a student and there is no way that I can afford that $30 MONTHLY charge to my credit card for donations to the Sydney Children’s Foundation, and I walk away leaving him in a state of disappointment. ‘Oh from the way you were acting busy I thought you were a doctor’ ‘lol no’.

I suppose the lesson in all of this is that I should probably start ignoring people on the street, given that most encounters result in a lighter wallet and a most-likely misguided feeling of having done something good. But again naïve as I am I almost always stop and talk for a few minutes, if only because I understand the feeling of being ignored when I’m trying to do some work, having a younger brother and all (HA IVAN). One day I’ll learn to just walk past without remorse, or start talking about the number of bodies I’ve left in ditches when they ask how I’m doing, but I fear that they’ll respond in kind. O_O

So that is all I have to say about charity and donations.








The issue I have with charity is that while it is true that you feel good about having helped some poor child in East Timor go to school and learn how to be racist (assuming some idiot official doesn’t squander your donation), or I suppose the more immediate gratification of helping a beggar buy his meal for the day, in the end there is nothing you can do to change their circumstances or world politics, and regardless of how much you donate or the amount of goodwill you put into the donation, the fact is that that person is still stuck without a job, education or something that’s actually useful. And regardless of how well or generous the people soliciting the donations make you feel, and how much it elevates your self-worth as a human being, you end up realising that the net amount of change you’ve made is zero. And all that is assuming your money or things even end up going to the right people for the right uses rather than being used to fund that beggar’s meth habit or buying that train ticket for someone only to hear the next day that the train got de-railed and exploded killing everyone inside it. Or that the blood you donated ended up being used to resuscitate that drunkard who continued drinking despite liver problems and vomited ten times the amount you donated.

And while it is true that charity is charity, and you shouldn’t discriminate organisations based on their cause (‘helping Palestinians? Narrrr’), it is irritating when you have some group protesting the maltreatment of baby aardvarks or something expecting you to help out or support their cause because of this this this and that and it ends up being a spiel about how aardvarks play an important role in the ecosystem (that of being the first word in the dictonary probably) and how you should be damn SORRY if you are unwilling to help. I suppose the concept of charity has now shifted towards ‘guilt trip people so they donate’, and it IS pretty effective (especially on me zzz) but then I go home and it pisses me off to no end and I end up clubbing a baby seal to de-rage. And then there are the causes that are especially heartwarming like fulfiling the wish of a kid dying of cancer but then you look at the list of wishes that have been fulfiled and oh my god it’s stuff like going with their family to Disneyland (TOKYO, no less), seeing an Aerosmith concert live etc etc and you think oh my if 10000 dollars were given to charity wouldn’t it have be better spent on cancer research or buying books for schoolchildren rather than funding that kid’s roller coaster ride. And then you look at the pamphlet and you feel absolutely horrible for thinking like that. At least tickets to see Michael Jackson will be free.

November 6, 2009

On Exams Again!

Filed under: Whining — Brian Chong @ 8:29 pm

My laptop has recently been in a state of flux, having been subject to various interventions intended to cure it of its ailments. Some of the more scientific ones were stuff like nudging the exposed monitor cable through the battery slot and turning it on and off repeatedly as I tapped various locations with not-inconsiderable force (housewife intervention #1), which surprisingly worked, if only for a few moments.

The tech support guy finally relented and replaced the motherboard on his second visit, probably fearing another visit to the house of horrors. The transplant seemed to give the machine a new spark of life after repeated attempts at resuscitation, and although it was obvious that it was far from being brand-new, it was at least in a state of undeath.

Having bid the repairman goodbye, I spent the next hour or so consoling my laptop as it poured out its emotions saying that it didn’t feel like itself anymore now that its internal organs were different and how it was worried that the soul of the transplanted motherboard (undoubtedly a vengeful spirit killed and raped mercilessly by a group of hobos in its previous life) would take over its body and use it to commit unspeakable acts of horror. So to summarise, it was a bunch of emo crap that I hated paying attention to and I merely nodded as I play Super Mario on the DS, handing the laptop an occasional tissue. I then had to make promises that I would love it forever regardless of what happens and to never buy another laptop unless I got permission. A mental note was made to drop the laptop from a suitable height when I am done with it in a few years.

So after a few hours spamming people with irritating messages on Facebook as I am wont to do, I happily went for a nap musing that if my laptop was undead, it was probably feeding on my life essence that very moment. I awoke from my nap to find that it was again DEAD, probably having starved to death or something but the significance of that moment will probably be lost on me until I am on my deathbed and my eyes widen in realisation. Important life lessons aside, I am again laptop-less.

The uni library has thus become a favourite haunt of late, with internet access and actual books that I could very well have read ONLINE without having to flip through them by hand !@#%^. And obviously other library goers have noticed the presence of a shifty looking guy sitting at the workstation in the very deepest corner of the computer area, muttering to himself as he types what seems to be erotic material. Curious beings that they are, some of them linger around more than is necessary to appraise which computers are available, probably close enough to see what I am typi- HEY, you in the red shirt standing behind me and to the right, I know you can read this. Go away.

OK he’s gone yay! ^_^ So exam preparations are underway for most of us and many are stumbling their way around the wards due to lack of sleep, occasionally bumping into the random registrar or hot patient/nurse xoxo (good thing is they’re sympathetic). Accidents involving consultants are rare because they’re never on the wards. A minority of students are on a hair-trigger, having overdosed on coffee and a random shout from behind them often has hilarious results, as likely as it is to get you in trouble with the nurses. Regardless of mental status, one fun thing to try is to use obscure questions as greetings, and a simple ‘hey so what causes cat-scratch disease?’ instead of the usual ‘hi’ is enough to send everyone hurtling for the nearest Oxford Handbook. It is unfortunate that I often do this in situations where a swift escape is impossible, resulting in a few punches from the offended party as he finds out that my answer to that question is ‘I dono mb cat scratches lol?’

A common result of exam preparations is that we end up knowing information that is mildly interesting (and will probably score a few points with the pathologist assessing you) yet is completely useless in real life. The course guide for our year aggravates the situation with demands that we learn how to describe what a rheumatoid nodule looks like under a microscope, a task which requires some effort, effort which results in me being unable to remember how (if you haven’t noticed by now, my brain space is what could be charitably described as ‘a vacuum’) to explain the process that leads to this doohickie or how the hell it changes the situation for the patient even one bit. Or how smoking more than 1.5 cigarettes a day leads to increased risk of hair cancer or something among hermaphrodites in Timbuktu, which is probably an amazing and important fact IF WE WERE IN TIMBUKTU. But you will memorise this fact, oh yes you will, if only to ensure that it doesn’t come out for the exam because nothing you study ever does.

Another thing is that we end up having to learn stuff that is outside the scope of most interns, which again is interesting but completely useless to an intern and which will undoubtedly be lost in the deepest recesses of your mind along with all the suppressed childhood memories. So we remember stuff like how to treat patients with some rare variant of leukemia and the side effects of AIDS medication, things which will definitely come in handy on the first day of internship as we waltz into the haematology wards to treat our very first AIDS patient. And it is encouraging to hear that your exam questions have been proofread and certified by the consultants from the respective specialties, people who have had years to study the ins and outs of a particular condition, when it is only fair that consultants should proofread questions from specialties completely unrelated to theirs to see how they fare.

And as lengthy as some of my passages tend to be, it is always comforting to know that writing in this manner always ensures that even if the computer were to crash just before I hit submit, no real work will ever be lost.

November 1, 2009

On Tech Support

Filed under: Whining — Brian Chong @ 8:48 pm

So my laptop died yesterday, which was somewhat of a surprise given the fact that there are 9 months to go on its warranty and I expected it to at least last until the day the warranty expires. The silver lining in this decidedly crappy event is that my lap will no longer suffer third degree burns as I play World of Warcraft in summer, gleefully ignoring the fact that I have a perfectly nice desk and that my potential children are either dying or mutated. All that is worth it for 100 more damage on Patchwerk. Mmm… Well, at least now I can safely say that the laptop is in a place where it is loved, A FEELING IT HAS NEVER KNOWN UNDER MY OWNERSHIP.

Having isolated the fault to either the motherboard or the monitor, an extremely hard task requiring in-depth knowledge of the workings of a computer, C++ programming skills and some divine intervention no I was kidding I turned on the laptop and it wouldn’t load the BIOS what else could it be? Anyway, I proceeded to call tech support, an encounter which has been a perennial source of jokes and complaints from various parties, but which I shall complain about AGAIN, because doing so is one of my favourite activities which is exemplified by the following actual combat log from WoW:

>You< beat >Horse< with stick

>Horse< takes 50 damage

>Horse< dies

>You< beat >Horse< with stick

>You< beat >Horse< with stick

So having been on hold for 10 minutes, a period in which I discovered my inner self and also the fact that a spider big enough to eat a bird had crafted an elaborate web in one corner of my ceiling, I finally heard a human (female!) voice on the other end of the line and blurted a cheerful hello followed by an invitation to cyber. That went well and I was hastily put on hold for a further 10 minutes before I was transferred to a man with a burly voice. Bummer.

I explained the situation to him, and asked him what I should do. Cue frantic flipping of protocol book on the other end of the line and it was not long before he answered ‘ok we need to try to isolate the fault, now I’m going to tell you how to remove the hard disk, RAM, DVD drive and wireless card from your laptop so we can be sure that they are not causing problems.’ I started protesting, partly because there were a LOT of screws to remove, but mainly because of the fact that the laptop refused to even load the BIOS and thus the fault should be somewhere in that area. However, the burly man was not to be moved by my tactics of seduction and promises of millions of dollars from Nigerian diplomats, and I yielded to him soon enough.

After spending another 10 minutes fulfilling his wishes, which included removing and replacing the battery; praying to the gods to resuscitate it (my earlier attempts to obtain divine favour were apparently from the wrong deity); and performing a modified version of the African rain-dance (which DID succeed in making it rain), he finally had a stroke of genius and told me ‘OK I think the problem is in the BIOS, we’ll have to send a technician to replace it’. I was like ‘WOW I couldn’t have guessed that’ but the sarcasm was lost on the phone and we exchanged pleasantries before hanging up.

In the end, I suppose I would have been more critical of the event (I might punch the walls in frustration but past experience has taught me to punch something soft like a pillow or a brother) were it not for the fact that medical students tend to do the same thing to patients. In uni, we are taught to ask about everything and anything related to a patient’s body, religion, hobbies, whether they live in a swampy area full of mosquitoes downwind of an asbestos handling factory downstream of a chemical plant etc. because everything MATTERS because anything can cause everything in medicine. In actual practice, doctors can get away with omitting some details on the basis of clinical judgement because hey common things are common and the 10% that have a UTI due to weird sexual positions can be dealt with when they come back… I think…

However, in teaching situations, you’re pretty screwed if you take a near-perfect history but forget to ask about a patient’s mode of transport because chances are that the nice garden the patient walks past whenever he decides to walk rather than take the train to work (which is every other Monday) is the source of his asthma exacerbations or something. There will undoubtedly be a tut-tut from the consultant as he mentions this oh-so-important detail which he has gleaned from the patient over time due to the fact that the patient has been seeing him for 10 years and all you can do is skulk away in silence. The situation is even more grim in exams (especially IMU ones) because there will occasionally be classic stuff like ‘what is the patient’s phone number?’ or ‘which grandfather does the patient live with, maternal or paternal?’ which are really fun questions to be thinking of when you have 5 minutes to perform an interview.

this does not apply

On the flip side of things, I suppose that snarky customers can be really irritating to talk to because in the end you’re just following protocols and have a job to do. It’s not surprising that tech support is trained to go through the REALLY simple stuff considering the various horror stories of people not plugging in their appliances before calling to complain or not realising that the cup of hot coffee is, in fact, hot, and should not be gulped. And you feel sorry for patients who have to talk about their diet or favourite author for the tenth time in one day because one doctor and eight other students before you wanted to be thorough. And then you tell them to suck it up because you have a job to do.

October 30, 2009

On Wha?!

Filed under: Whining — Brian Chong @ 11:34 pm

One of these days, a post will be written that is so good, you will be busy picking up pieces of your jaw from the ground by the time you’re done reading it. Encompassing ethics, science, religion, and the future of mankind, the post will be of such significance that calenders will be reset to start counting from zero the day the post is made, and it will be the standard to which all future posts are compared AND FOUND WANTING. The writer will be hailed as a genius, a man ahead of his time by his contemporaries, yet go unappreciated by most of the world until the time of his passing, when, in the process of carrying out his will, his hidden body of work is released to the public.

He will finally gain recognition as schools, national parks and universities are named after him and scholars will mourn the fact that he did not share his work with the world earlier, but what they will not realise is that by publishing that initial Post, the writer had created expectations that were impossible to meet. Rather than cope with the potential disappointment of others as well as his own, he chose to sidestep the issue, only revealing his work as a parting salvo to the world.


Today is obviously not going to be one of these days. Sorry. 😦

So this will be a post about various sayings that pop up in daily situations and cause me an undue amount of distress, despite having heard them a mind-numbing number of times over the past hundred years of my life.

1. ‘Hi, how are you?’

Having hailed from Malaysia, I’m used to greetings involving just the word ‘Hi’ followed by a handshake or a fist pound (in ‘cooler’ social circles, a phrase I never thought I’d be able to use in plural form being a basement-dweller and all), the latter being a frequent cause of hand injury as my over-enthusiastic friends interpret the term literally and use just a bit too much force. Repeated hospital admissions aside, the above scripts kept things simple and within 5 seconds or so both parties could be on their merry way pretending that they’re not in Petaling Street attempting to score some porn, leading to somewhat awkward silences as they keep meeting at various stalls.

In Australia, the more common way of greeting someone is by saying ‘how are you?’ which is a trigger for the exchange ‘fine, how are you? ‘fine’. The mistake I make is that being unused to such forced dialogue, I assume that the source of such greetings is actually interested in my current state, leading to a 45 second monologue in which I explore the dreams of the previous night, their interpretation as well as the colour of the stool I passed out this morning and what it means. Typically, I look up and realise that the person I thought I was talking to is already gone, having bought a voodoo doll from the lady selling them for ‘charity’ and planning to cause me undue harm later that night.

Such social graces tend to land me in lots of good books of course and it doesn’t take much time before I become someone who can make a whole room go quiet whenever I enter one, the subject of discussion prior to my appearance being the latest faux pas I have committed. Great.

2. ‘It’s ok. You tried your best!’

I typically hear this statement from well-meaning friends after a spectacular failure of mine, of which there are a lot of, usually involving me nearly bleeding a patient to death or trying to console a friend who has just been through a break-up by saying ‘oh don’t be too sad at least your parents still love you’ only to remember that both his parents died in a car accident a month ago or something. The next day, a couple of new posts on will appear, with public opinion overwhelmingly in favour of ‘you totally deserved it’.

In certain situations, it seems that being told that I tried my best worsens the pain of defeat because of the realisation that my performance was pretty damn horrible, and that if THAT was my best…. heaven knows what horrors I would have inflicted upon humanity had I turned in a sub-best performance. Imagine a retarded kid trying to join a history quiz, only to be unable to answer anything and getting laughed at on national TV after falling asleep while trying to sing ‘God Bless America’ while trying to answer the question ‘which country has committed the most atrocities in the world?’ Now, imagine that kid is me, only you don’t have to imagine it because it’s true NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO…

3. ‘The grass is greener on the other side.’

I’m sure that Tony Stark is tired of his billions and the fact that he can fly around shooting missiles at airplanes, or that Cyclops wishes that he could not SHOOT EYE BEAMS, and that they both wish that they could be a medical student with nothing but the ability to churn out posts filled with crap, but I doubt it. 😦

October 27, 2009

On Studying Overseas

Filed under: Whining — Brian Chong @ 6:47 pm

So one of the advantages of writing in this manner is the fact that if I ever made any new friends, they would be hesitant in bugging me to type a post about them because in this case, having their wish come true is a potential source of regret and embarrassment on par with having your mom publicly congratulate you on Facebook for ‘scoring with your girlfriend OMG I didn’t think you would ever get any *fist pump*’. My current friends, who happen to be sitting next to me as we speak (and who my former therapist dared to say were imaginary, that witch), know what’s best for them and tend to just nod in agreement to whatever I say so yeah.

Where I come from, going to study overseas is an event of medium to large significance (a Tall/Grande/Venti in Starbucks speak). A decade or so back, it would have been a huge event, with jubilant throngs filling the streets in their very best attire and the royal band playing traditional Kelantanese music. The scholar would be paraded through the streets of Kota Bharu, carried on a throne by slaves raised and fed JUST TO ONE DAY CARRY A SCHOLAR (after which they are executed) and at the palace, he is given a royal commendation and the honour of  slaying the royal bull. He is then served the testicles which are to be consumed as a buff to fortitude, and the bull is served to the public. In traditional folklore, the scholar will narrowly escape with his life from the stampede that ensues as everyone rushes forward to grab a piece of meat, ignoring the town crier who is shouting ‘calm down everyone there is enough for all of us’. That was a decade ago. When it was my turn to come overseas, the people present were my family and girlfriend. Bummer. BRB making phone call(s) with apologies.

I'm Sorry


OK back! So what are the benefits of an overseas education besides the fact that I get to relieve my parents of the money they were saving to buy a nice BMW/retirement home, forcing them to commute with a bicycle and thereby making the world a safe place for our kids to live in because there is less pollution? I suppose one of them is getting to interact with a larger variety of people than in Malaysia. One of my favorite activities is debating with a Singaporean about which of our countries is better, an event which usually begins with faux intellectual arguments regarding the state of the economy, government policy, public education what have you but soon degenerates into thinly-veiled insults about who is more kiasu, standards of English, standards of cooking, standards of living in trees and then we have a field day begging questions, building strawmen and making ad hominems. I usually end up barely winning when I start flinging actual mud at the opponent. Go me. But putting aside emo stuff like ‘oh my I wouldn’t have met you guys if I stayed in Malaysia cry cry tears tears cutting onions cry more’, it’s a bit pretentious to say such things because what interactions you lose by not going overseas, you make up for by meeting new people in your home country or strengthening old relationships. That said, Aussies are a jolly lot and I have a good time answering questions about whether Malaysians live in trees and whatnot, something I have experience in considering the fact that Kelantan is to Malaysians what Malaysia is to Aussies, and my friends in KL often looked at me in a mixture of pity and disgust as I described how often we had to move from tree to tree as lightning struck them one by one.

So apparently ‘improving your English’ is listed as one of the many benefits of studying abroad, and I suppose it is true that English is a language of significance, used in international trade, medical literature, and coming in mighty handy when you end up having to plead for clemency from an international court for crimes against humanity. However, improvement in English is something debatable because aside from differences in accent and common expressions (‘you have a good day now’   ‘is that a demand you’re giving me sir?’ *narrows eyes*), the vocabulary required of a person to survive in Australia is the same as it is anywhere else, and therefore people do not see a real need to make any improvement in English, returning to their homeland 3 years later with mildly improved grammar and a tendency to say ‘G’day’. Being in medicine doesn’t change things much except for the fact that you’ll probably go further in medicine if you learn Latin instead of memorising idioms and proverbs. Also, coming to Australia doesn’t change the fact that my written Chinese is crap and that one of the best ways to shut me up is to demand that I write in Chinese, a demand that I could only fulfill my writing 你好 multiple times followed by vague sexual innuendo before typing an ‘lol’ and running away.

An essay on the effects of studying abroad would not be complete without some passing mention of the quality of the education itself *mumble grumble*. So it is true that depending on the rotation and hospital you’re attacked to, you may get what you pay for, and the professors are amazing and force you to learn and think about things, something I try to avoid doing in the misguided hope of auctioning my brain off at a higher price after my death because it is unused. And it is times such as this that you feel that the money you pay is going somewhere besides being used to buy equipment for that nice cancer research centre they’re building nearby. But on many other occasions, you get the idea that the trudging you do on some ward rounds is the same whether you’re in Australia or Burkina Faso, and you feel like calling your parents to apologise for that $8500 you made them cough up per semester, and they get so pissed that they demand that you return immediately before realising that if you do so, you will never be able to recover that money because you’ll be working in Malaysia and so they let you stay.

Final point: portfolio exam.

October 24, 2009

On Consultants

Filed under: Whining — Brian Chong @ 8:10 pm

So I should be studying, and I am (really), just with… significant breaks in between. It’s amazing how staring at the ceiling intently in the hopes of developing my latent ability to shoot eyebeams has slowly crept its way up the list of things I’d rather do than study, but there it is sitting happily, having joined the ranks of activities like stalking solitary ants to see if they would lead me to their fortress, watching mold grow in that cup that has been sitting next to me for ages, and staring at that squiggly line floating around in my eye. I would talk to my imaginary friend but I scared him away when I invited him to watch Ghostbusters. Exciting times indeed.

Today’s dissertation focuses on the consultant, a position that is the pinnacle of all achievements in medicine and life for many. It is a position made all the more sweeter by the fact that it is the first time in a doctor’s life that he is truly free of exams. Message to everyone considering medicine: never ever believe other people who tell you ‘do medicine, people will respect you and you will live a comfortable life’ because you’re just an intern when you graduate and even patients have to think twice before taking your medical advice into consideration, more often than not tossing it into the ‘extreme short-term memory’ section right beside the daily gossip about Paris Hilton. And even the news about Paris Hilton stands a chance of being promoted to the long-term section. Go interns. But yes, it isn’t after a few years of internship that a doctor gets to choose a specialty (or rather prays for a specialty to choose him) and slog through a few more years worth of exams before he finishes as a consultant and the medical board actually sends in some laurels for him to rest on.

Which one to choose?!

Which one to choose?!

Consultants are easily identified by virtue of the fact that they often wear suits in the hospital, and patients often remember them as ‘the people in suits who come on ward rounds early in the morning and ask weird questions when I’m half-awake’ or ‘the people who bark orders at the other doctors’. Consultants have the ultimate say in what should happen in the management of each patient, while residents, interns and nurses more often than not suffer from the consequences. I’m not discrediting consultants because it is obvious that the decisions they have to make tend to be extremely complicated rather than stuff like ‘err doctor, his kidneys are smashed’ ‘well fix them!’ but you have to pity the nurses who have to administer the 25mg of cyclosporin three times a day, but only twice on weekends and not if there is a full moon above the skies of Egypt or the patient will die and WHAT IS THIS WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME THE PATIENT HAD ANAEMIA THIS CHANGES THINGS COMPLETELY *&@#(&@.

As a medical student, opportunities for interaction with consultants tend to be limited to stimulating things like following them around, answering (or attempting to answer) the questions they fire at you, and handing in the assessment form at the end of the rotation, fervently praying that he does not fail you or you’ll have to repeat this god-forsaken geriatrics rotation (joking, no really). The amount of useful stuff you can learn from tagging along on ward rounds remains a subject of debate, with opinions ranging from ‘oh it’s really good I get to see how elderly patients with dementia are managed’ to ‘oh my god why am I learning about how to treat a patient with AIDS therapy induced pancreatitis when I don’t even know what pancreatitis is QQ’. However, it remains true that no matter how fruitful your daily shenanigans (BIG WORD OOOO) with the consultants may be, most of them have the amazing ability to completely ignore you as they go about their business, yet sense your absence whenever you can’t attend ward rounds because you have important stuff to do like clipping your dog’s toenails and you can be guaranteed that when you return the next day, smarmy comments like ‘oh did you have something else to do’ will be hurled your way.

The random question and answer sessions with the consultant are always nerve-wracking experiences. A typical scenario is this: you’re idly following the team around with your brain in auto-pilot mode, taking note of the way that nurse’s skirt lifts ever so slightly with the breeze (ya rly) when it suddenly becomes obvious that everyone is looking at you, because the consultant just fired a question at you and you manage to collect your thoughts just to catch the tail-end of it – ‘…medications would you prescribe?’ At this point you’re pretty screwed because asking him to repeat the question means you weren’t paying attention, but past experience has taught me that cases like this, you should just fire off any answer you want because the odds are that you would not have known the answer even if you HAVE been listening. So just do it. The consultant starts snickering even before you finish the answer, gives you the volume and issue of the journal article that contains the correct one (he will occasionally dignify you with a clear answer) and moves along merrily.

And if, by chance, a consultant asks you what specialty you intend to pursue after you graduate, never, EVER attempt to mention another specialty or (GASP) a RIVAL specialty because all you’re asking for is for him to put on his monocle and get started on things like ‘oh my how could you think of doing that specialty scoff scoff scoff eyebrow raise worthless peasants and our training is so much better we used to run to hospital uphill barefoot in winter carrying bags full of scalpels on our backs and we were thankful for it because that was all we had *sips tea* blah blah blah’.

October 23, 2009

On Patients (Patience?!)

Filed under: Whining — Brian Chong @ 11:03 pm

Hi. This post will be about boring medical stuff, so read it before bed or something.

Medical courses are designed around the fact that you’ll have to interact with other human beings as a doctor (WOW). Now, this isn’t an entirely good thing, given the quality of your average day to day conversation with people who aren’t even ill. Add to that the realisation that a full 50% of your interactions are going to be WORSE than the average one and you have a recipe for great success.

In an effort to train us to become reasonably decent human beings (nothing is worse for a uni’s reputation than to have random aunties you meet going ‘aiyerr you’re from IMU ah no wonder’, which is still a source of comfort because although it is true that you shattered their expectations, at least they had expectations to begin with), as well as to show us that patients never present as textbook cases (which makes you wonder why the cases are in the textbook in the first place), most unis have started using simulated patients as part of clinical training. The idea is that whatever social atrocities you commit stay in whichever room you use for clinical practice, and you don’t have to slam your head on your desk or whip out a cilice in guilt because you can comfort yourself with the fact that the patients are paid to take this kind of punishment.

Of course, one of the major flaws of this system is that it gives you the impression that patients are highly-educated people who speak clearly and can tell you that their pain started right below the sternum and radiates to the occiput in a spiral around their body, and that the pain only comes when they contort their bodies in a particular sexual position or something like that. What you’re more liable to get in real life is an old lady who speaks well, but unfortunately only in Greek, and (oh thank goodness) carries a list of her regular medications with her but oh my god you open it and it’s a huge list of weird alternative medicine which could be KFC’s 11 secret herbs and spices for all you know. She also carries a big stick which is used liberally whenever you piss off her pet cat by looking at it the wrong way or something (one of the games the cat likes to play is the one where it will get pissed off if you violate a rule, but the rules can change anytime).

And god help you if you were planning on getting a nice focused history because her chronic pain will be due to some injuries sustained in a World War II bombing which recovered but reappeared elsewhere and since then has fluctuated in intensity in a manner which could only be described by breaking out the graph paper. And family trees start looking like family forests as she starts telling you about her second cousin thrice removed who died of a heart attack, but she also had a third cousin twice removed who died of arm pain (?!) and before you know it the nurses are here to wheel her to her CT scan.

Picture break!

Picture break!

So you get to one of the later years in medical school, having barely scraped through the previous exams, and start having to interact with real patients, which is supposed to be a Good Thing, because they now trust you to be able to stick things into people without eviscerating them. You start off pretty excited, with a huge empty notebook in one hand (bought just for histories!) and an exposed hypodermic needle in the other; the magnitude of your enthusiasm (the exposed needle probably playing a significant role as well) pretty much ensures that no one will stand in your way and you run around bellowing ‘MAKE WAY GAIZ I KNOW MEDICINE HUR HUR’.

However, unless you’re a retard (and even I realised in the end!), it won’t take long for you to notice that many patients aren’t really down with the idea of talking to people who have no possibility of helping them whatsoever. Some patients (usually the old or the bored) oblige in the hope that they may contribute to the future of mankind (‘now you go practice more you’ll be a good doctor’ etc) which is a really misguided notion because I never ever learn from mistakes. However, a decent proportion of patients only bother to talk because of the multiple signs around the hospital saying ‘THIS IS A TEACHING HOSPITAL OBLIGE THE STUDENTS OR DIE’ and you can tell that they’ve been doing this multiple times because they can give you a complete history with all relevant negative symptoms as soon as you say ‘so tell me about why you came to hospital’. And woe is the patient who has a classic clinical finding on physical exam because by the end of his stay, the lump in his scrotum would have been fingered a hundred times.

Most patients are still somewhat willing to talk because hey, talk is cheap and at least the students are not sticking needles or stuff like that into them and DID SOMEONE SAY HE NEEDED A PROCEDURE DONE? Students love procedures, patients hate them, and patients hate them even more when students are doing them. The experience is something like going to a high-class restaurant and having the waiter inform you that ‘the trainee chef will be preparing your food today instead of the triple-Michelin-starred one you travelled two hours here for’ or getting into a taxi and having this 16 year old boy tell you that ‘hi dude I’m getting my license soon sorry if you die’. General expectations are to be cannulated/intubated by people who have qualified for these things, but I suppose it’s a good thing that people still have altruistic notions of indirectly bettering the healthcare of future generations (who will still have to be cannulated by future students). That, or the fact that when I ask if I may draw blood from them the first thing that goes through their mind is ‘hey he’s just drawing blood how bad can it be’.

Hopefully it’s not the last thing that goes through their mind… *cue ominous music*

October 15, 2009

On Exams (I Think…)

Filed under: Whining — Brian Chong @ 5:22 pm

Hello again to everyone who reads this thing. Yes, both of you. Hi. Sorry for not having posted anything for one entire month. You see, I’ve been extremely busy at school doing super serious things like learning CPR, memorising drug dosages, not being a complete parasite on the wards and oh shit I think I just set off all the lie detectors in Australia. The fact is that one can only talk so much crap before he begins to slip down the slope to damnation (a harrowing experience, which, depending on your choice of religion, runs the gamut from burning in eternal fire to burning in eternal fire), but I suppose I should increase my online quota, given the fact that I’m completely serious and truthful in real life (stop laughing).

So I sort of noticed that the end of the year is approaching when I received an e-mail informing me that I actually have exams coming up. For once, the events that I’ve noticed around me began to make sense – the fact that fellow students have started to become more serious and showed signs of sleep deprivation, the fact that registrars seem to be more forgiving if you fail to turn up to ward rounds, and of course the fact that some students have been studying since long ago, seemingly in the anticipation of some big exam or something like that. Me being me, I’m obviously as ready as ever for this exam and once I received the good news, I did the only remaining thing I could and that was to curl up in the fetal position in my bed and cry. A few hours later, I recovered and assessed the situation. The optimist in me immediately picked up something encouraging – there is no portfolio exam this year.

‘But wait Brian. When did you switch to arts or architecture?’

GRATS ON ASSUMING THINGS (rule number one is to never associate me with anything requiring drawing skills). See, a portfolio exam in an arts course would make too much sense for me to have anything to do with it. A portfolio exam in my course is a written assignment/interview where one explains to the examiner the progress one has made throughout the year. The course is designed such that there are 8 capabilities to be ‘addressed’ while levelling up, which is fine and dandy except for the fact that carebear stuff like ‘teamwork’ and ‘ethics’ are included. To be fair, I suppose a chance to truly show the examiners what one has learned in medicine can’t be all that bad. One could only hope that future generations can be assessed more objectively but alas, these objective exams have yet to be invented. NO WAIT THEY TOTALLY DO EXIST AND UNIVERSITIES HAVE BEEN USING THEM FOR DECADES.

The problem with this ‘exam’ is that it not only requires you to have learned stuff (a debatable point), it also requires you to be sufficiently emo to score points. I mean, ’emo’ wasn’t listed as one of the criteria to enter med school, but then I flipped through the university prospectus for 2010 and there it is, in bold print, above other less essential requirements like interest and parental pressure. What is more heartbreaking is the fact that a student can pass every other exam, and fail the year because he failed to impress the examiners in the portfolio exam. Compare the following actual recorded statements on the importance of teamwork in patient care (jk I’m making these up as I go along):

Option A:

‘I attended team meetings and stayed on the wards, therefore it would be reasonable to assume that I understand the workings of the allied health team.’

Option B:

‘Prior to my attachment in the surgical ward, I was a heathen, an unenlightened one who thought that the ward was a sentient being that took care of its own business, the humans moving about inside it foolishly believing that their actions had an impact on illnesses and sprained ankles. The ward craved recognition, being somewhat responsible for curing every patient that stayed in it for all the ten years it has existed. However, regardless of all the miracles it has performed, it remains a building, forbidden by the Code of Buildings to reveal its workings, because if the illusion that humans were doing anything useful were to be shattered, our already loosening grip on our notions of superiority would be catastrophic.’

‘I thought wrong.’

‘During a regular ward round with the registrar, I noticed that a patient’s fluids had run dry, and he had been charted for more. The doctor was delivering his usual spiel to the patient about discharge dates blah blah and I couldn’t help but look around in hopes of catching a glimpse of the workings of the surgical ward as it swapped the bag of fluid for a new one. My hopes were shattered when a medical looking lady, I think people call them nurses, walked in and did the job. I nearly stopped her, for it is not her job, but something caused me to falter: what if I was wrong?’

‘As we continued the round, I spotted a patient entering a toilet unsupervised. Aha! That must be where the building provides healing, because that was not under direct surveillance of medical staff. I was about to sneak a peek into the toilet, in the hopes of catching the building in the act, but alas, the doctor summoned me to see another patient.’

‘Throughout the day, I observed the happenings around the ward in wide-eyed wonder. Patients were receiving treatment from different medical teams, taking medications at various times throughout the day, getting help with movement from physiotherapists etc. No human could coordinate all of these! I marveled at the work of the surgical ward in making sure everything goes smoothly.’

‘My illusions were shattered when I first attended a team meeting. Representatives from each department were present, and they discussed among themselves the management plan of every single patient. It was then I realised that what happened in the ward was no magic, but a result of teamwork from members of multiple disciplines. I now fully understand the importance of teamwork in the management of patients on the ward.’

‘But maybe that’s what the ward wants me to think.’

Sorry I got… carried away there. The point is that in the portfolio exam, option A would probably fail or get a conceded pass, whereas option B would net the student full marks, along with a psychiatry referral, but it’s worth it for full marks.

September 19, 2009

On Confidence

Filed under: Whining — Brian Chong @ 2:33 am

Hi, I’m feeling lazy at the moment, so here are some nice photos in lieu of a long essay:


So we begin with the quote of the day:

If you hear a voice within you say “you cannot paint,” then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.

~Vincent Van Gogh (renowned artist who obviously did not observe my attempts at painting)

Confidence is a quality that seems to elude me in most situations. I suppose I’ve always erred on the side of being apprehensive; I tend to agree that it’s better to lose opportunities or be accused of being arrogant/retarded/sohai due to this rather than overstep my boundaries and fall face first into a pile of mud in a public place while birds mercilessly pelt me with shit (at least that’s what I’ve always imagined the punishment for hubris would be, but I may be wrong here). On the extremely rare occasion that I actually do manage to muster up some confidence to do something out of my comfort zone (in some cases I was forced out by well-meaning friends), good things seem to happen, but being a pessimist, I don’t see myself pulling these stunts in the future because one can only be lucky so many times in a row.

One could question what it is exactly that I’m afraid of, and I wouldn’t be able to give a good answer because I myself am not really sure. I most certainly have no reservations about making a complete fool of myself, especially in front of people I know (oh fun times), and very often with strangers, so that can’t really be the root cause of the issue. On the other hand, put me in a room full of strangers (or worse yet, in front of a room full of strangers) and you can be certain that things will not go well. One of the more noticeable things besides the obvious nervousness is that I’d develop a speech impediment, reducing the level of my English to that of an typical Chinese-ed Malaysian (I WAS CHINESE-ED DON’T HIT ME PLEASE), which isn’t a good thing if I’m giving a case presentation or some other mildly important thing. All that adds up to a situation that I can manage with some discomfort, until a microphone is shoved in front of me, and then it becomes a life-threatening emergency. I… err… may or may not have some issues with public speaking.

On the other hand, a short review of Malaysian forums will reveal choice specimens that make me glad I’m on the other side of the spectrum. Ignoring the 100000 threads consisting of ad hominem attacks in poor English (your mother was a erm… very classy lady), one could find topics started by actual real-life people bemoaning the bad taste of the opposite sex because girls/guys are not clinging to them despite the fact that they have smoking hot looks/nice car/nice tattoo/multiple level 80 WoW characters. Now, one could still be forgiven for thinking that, given the above circumstances (having multiple level 80 WoW characters is a predictor of a good partner indeed *nod*), but a quote that really filled my rage bar was this:

“well, i had a friend who is richer than me, always carry around his LV wallet and wear gucci/prada/etc clothes and girls seem to take interested of him more.. I’m a not-so-materialistic guy though, i’m just form 5 but i’m given like 1.2k/month to spend.. but I got this girl who’s going out with me the other day, and my this friend like approached me and the girl seems to take attention of him, ONLY HIM..”

I… I think I’ll happily live with being under-confident thanks.

On the other hand (we are now BACK TO THE MAIN HAND YO), lack of confidence is due to, according to Wikipedia, emphasis being placed on the outcome of an activity. I probably fear failure more than most (being a medical student should have erased this long ago), and it is in situations where failure can occur, or matters to me (somehow, the sting of failing at knitting isn’t very painful) that the confidence issue arises. I…  err… blame my kiasu Malaysian roots, but lazy bums have to accept the fact that their chance of failure is most likely higher than the average population, so yeah. That, or I blame mercury poisoning.

September 13, 2009

On the Effects of Gaming

Filed under: Whining — Brian Chong @ 11:21 pm

So in the ultimate demonstration of the follies of youth, I asked Sandra for some ideas so that I may have something to write about (and a good excuse to avoid studying… oh anything but studying). A dramatised account of the conversation is as follows:

Brian: Greetings Sandra

Sandra: …hi

Brian: May I humbly request inspiration from you, the aim being the expansion of my internet collection of essays?

Sandra: What?

Brian: Should I regale the audience with my tale of how a young boy, hailing from the countryside, comes to the big city with nary a penny but with a big heart, makes a name for himself, and teaches the world that it is not through riches, but through love that one achieves happiness?

Brian: Or should I write about the dashing rogue who breaks multiple hearts and moves on with nary a glance, yet, in a stunning role reversal, ends up pining after his one true love, a love that is unrequited, because the subject of his love is (cue dramatic music) a HAMSTER?!

Brian: Or, better yet, the story of the boy born with superpowers, who swore his entire life to only use his powers for good, but in a tragic twist, kills his best friend by accident, an event which scars him for life, splintering his psyche and giving birth to the villain known as GORBO?

Sandra: …I think you should stick to what you’re most familiar with

Brian: Ah and which of the above do you suggest?

Sandra: I was referring to computer games

Brian: …

And here we are with a post on the effects of computer games. Sandra, this face is reserved for you the next time we meet:

Ah yes, computer games, the hobby of distinguished youngsters and future gentlemen, an elite group of which I (as you may have gathered from the content of 99% of my posts) am part of. There was apparently some research done on the beneficial effects of playing a shitload of video games on the performance of surgeons (not that we actually NEED benefits to justify spending all our time on them ^_^), the results of which were pretty interesting. I can’t personally vouch for the validity of the data, but I’ll be sure to update everyone after I have performed surgery which involves shooting zombies in the face repeatedly with a shotgun.

Be as it may that the benefits of video games are still unclear, what is clear is that there definitely ARE effects, some of which are detailed below:

  1. Decisions seem to have less of an impact

Anyone who has played a video game must have encountered choices in the game. Choices that were meant to be momentous, to challenge your beliefs about life, religion, the appropriate drug to spike a girl’s drink with (this is not an admission of guilt) etc etc. These choices were intentionally put in place by the designers so that we, the players, may feel the problems faced by our avatars:

Game: World of World of Warcraft

Setting: Your character has to go to the toilet REALLY BAD while playing World of Warcraft

Choice: To run to the toilet or continue playing (your character’s character is pretty close to levelling up)

The obvious and logical decision would be to go to the toilet immediately lest you crap your pants, and that is what a logical non-gamer (*hiss*) would do. Anyone remotely acquainted with the mechanics of video games, however, would say ‘I would save the game and then choose to continue playing, to see how far I can go before crapping my pants’, which is pretty much the perfect answer.

Unfortunately in real life, there is no save button, and we have to allow the consequences of our decisions to play out, not being able to hit the quick load button if we don’t like them. Sometimes I trivialise choices, not giving them enough thought until after I have made them, and by then it’s a bit too late to change my mind. Thankfully I still take note of the SUPER SERIOUS choices, and haven’t done anything really stupid… yet.

Many of you will have lost faith in humanity when you first found out that I am a medical student, soon to be unleashed upon unsuspecting patients. Even more of you will lose faith in humanity when you learn that med students have probably killed off more hypothetical patients in tutorials than the two world wars combined.

Professor: So a patient comes in for surgery, and he seems somewhat dehydrated, what do you do?

Students: Give him fluid.

Professor: Patient has heart failure. He dies. Grats. Next scenario, patient comes in for surgery, he seems somewhat dehydrated, what do you do?

Students: Don’t give him fluid.

Professor: Patient gets renal failure and dies soon after surgery. Grats.

Students: …

As medical students, we learn to fire off answer after answer in tutorials hoping to get the right one, but I suppose it’s pretty scary once we realise that if we were dealing with actual patients, we would’ve inflicted enough damage to kill them fifty times over. It’s still all fun and games until we graduate though ^_^.

Which brings me back to a point I was going to make. Medical student: bad with decisions. Gamer: bad with decisions. Medical student gamer: walking disaster waiting to happen.

The rest of this article will come another time because fresh paint will have dried by the time you reach this point.

September 6, 2009

On Comparisons

Filed under: Whining — Brian Chong @ 9:10 pm

It is human nature to have the urge to compete with other members of your species, because what is life without some competition eh? Millions of years of theoretical evolution have occurred, the end result of which is that we can claim dominance over lesser species like cougars and sabre-tooth tigers (but only if a rifle is within reach) because we have moral values, higher mental functions (lol) etc. However, up till now, we have yet to be able to shake off the irresistible urge to push a fellow man’s face into the mud.

I suppose this urge stems from a deep-seated need to attract members of the opposing sex, because obviously whoever has the better job/muscles/brain/ability to eat as many hot dogs in a row as possible is going to have better genetic dice to roll with, and obviously the better your dice, the higher the chance your future child has of rolling 18’s for every stat, as well as being able to spec into the correct profession. Said child would then find the cure for cancer, win the Tour De France in his spare time and be good at cleaning up after himself (the dream of every parent). Members of the opposite sex picked up on this trend soon enough, started sending out feelers for people with AAA genes, the kind that guarantees your future, and the race was on. People had to somehow show the world that they were good at something, but it wasn’t long after the human population expanded beyond 20 that it became obvious that being number 15 in cave modeling or animal hunting wasn’t a good selling point, which is why we now have world records for catching jellybeans in your mouth while jumping through a ring of fire on a unicycle sort of thing, so everyone can be number one at something.

TANGENT 1: Stags like to compete as much as humans, and the way they decide things is through their horns. They apparently fight for mates by ‘circling each other, bending back their legs, lowering their heads, and charging’. THE HUMAN RACE COULD SIMPLIFY THINGS MASSIVELY by cutting out all the crap and compete where it counts: penis size. Think about it: we can throw out all the manliness equations we’ve been using (winning one PGA = winning one boxing match = 10 x being a med student = 100 x being good at video games), and reduce it to one simple measurement, and it happens to be the one guys think about the most anyway. The only downside to this is that I’ll be relegated to last place, and asians will become extinct.

Ultimate test of manliness

Ultimate test of manliness

While I agree that some degree of competition is good, I disagree with it being present in every aspect of life, especially Malaysian life. Parents seem to focus too much on moulding their children into future scientists or rocket surgeons (the hardest form of surgery!), the result of which is that kids end up going to tuition 25 hours a day, surviving on a regimen of ginkgo biloba and Brand’s essence (not sure whether it works but it tastes GOOD HAHAHA), while learning to play the trombone, clarinet and guitar with the same hand. My parents didn’t really have to do this to me because I always was sort of competitive (a trait which slowly dissipated in high school, mainly in academics, ask my classmates for details), but I can imagine. Many people of the uncle and aunty generation also bemoan the loss of childhood fun, but I disagree on the finer points like ‘being able to run around in paddy fields’ and ‘being able to play with the cows’ (somehow I don’t see that as realistic seeing as we’re in CITIES and all). What I really support though, is being able to act like a retard in class (ah memories), something which people tend to not do when they’re trying to focus on learning.

TANGENT 2: I never really figured out what all the studying we did in high school was for. Obviously the stuff that we learned there (the names of the four stomaches of the cow, geometric proof) don’t really apply to real-life situations, and it’s only if you end up taking a course related to any of those subjects that you seem to benefit from SPM (doctors use math to count money HAHA NO), and by the time you’ve been through college you’ve forgotten everything and have to relearn it anyway (or at least, relearn in ENGLISH ASKLDJASLKDJS EDUCATION SYSTEM). I’ve tried to consider the benefits of high school education in a more abstract manner (science and math is where you learn how to apply concepts, history makes sure you learn how to study hard, and moral education teaches you how to swear at the government), but never really got close to an answer because my head started hurting. I am by no means rubbishing the education system completely, and I get that it’s ‘good’ for us in some way, I just can’t really explain to people why.

Back to competition, I suppose the competition that really matters is the one between siblings. It’s bad enough that your brother beats you in academics, wit, and every video game imaginable (ZING IVAN), and it can only get worse because your relatives start comparing. I’m sure every chinese child has sat through horrendously long family gatherings where aunties and uncles start comparing each and every one of their children against each other like some Pokemon fight (Brian I choose you! Note: strong against math problems, weak against sunlight), and while the uncles and aunties are busy enumerating their children’s strengths, the children have decided enough is enough and go off to play football.

It’s all nice and fun if these games only affect the older generation, but it isn’t really good if the kids start getting affected by these things. Thankfully, my brothers and I are different enough to avoid overly anal comparisons between us, and we mostly just shrug them off, but I can feel how. irritating. it. must. be. to. have. relatives. or. parents. rubbing. it. in. if. you. do. worse. in. exams. than. your. brother. Occasionally I poke fun at academics and stuff I suppose, but I try to make it very well clear that they shouldn’t stress out over exam results (a mistake I tend to make EMO).

In conclusion (yeah you can tell it’s long if it needs a conclusion), I’m all for healthy competition (especially those that I win HAHAHAHA EAT THAT AGAIN IVAN), but I really do not see why it has to be a prominent part of childhood. Especially Malaysian childhood.

August 26, 2009

On Nerds

Filed under: Whining — Brian Chong @ 10:11 pm

The term ‘nerd’ seems to have gained popularity as some sort of insult in recent times, and I can just picture the hordes of promising young minds running home crying to mommy after being called one by their peers. Their unimaginable crime? Passing an exam (perish the thought). These deviants have strayed from the one true path to adulthood (which involves eating lots of paste and repeated head injuries in the playground), and therefore it would seem prudent to label them, call them out so that they MAY REALISE THE ERROR OF THEIR WAYS AND REPENT:

A child transformed into a man after seeking forgiveness

A child transformed into a man after seeking forgiveness

Moving on into adolescence, the term is used to mark those who refuse to partake in socially acceptable activities, a partial list of which includes:

  • trading head injuries via rugby
  • ‘hanging out wit da boyz in da hood’ (you can even tell where the head injuries are)
  • bragging about said injuries
  • drinking retarded amounts of alcohol
  • comparing dick sizes in the toilet

Humans (nerds are sub-human, genus homo species sexual) have, after millions of years, evolved the ability to hear sounds as faint as a book flipping in the distance, detect the familiarity inherent in a person used to working with computers, and spot the awkwardness some people have at parties. Like bees, humans can communicate without speaking, and it is only a matter of time before the nerd in the group is smoked out of his hiding hole, and forced to endure the ultimate punishment of saying something in public/force-fed alcohol till he wets himself.

While the weak nerds are hunted down quickly (a process biologists term ‘culling of the weak’), others have learned to cover up signs of their underground activity. Pre-medication with some alcohol before a party is essential (to generate the bravado and slurring one gets with brain damage), as is some reading on pop culture. Learn to feign interest in sports, resist the urge to talk about math or your level 80 tauren shaman/perfect Starcraft early game build, maintain appropriate trough levels of alcohol, and you should be fine for the night.

As a potential sub-human, I understand the predicament my fellows are in, yet I do not agree with their actions. What’s embarrassing isn’t the fact that they like overly complicated game mechanics, math, or studying, but the fact that they’re trying to hide it. There is absolutely no reason to be afraid just because you like different things. Everyone has a right to do whatever they want to do in their spare time, and nerds can socialise as well as humans, it just so happens that we don’t socialise with you. HAH. The only possible downside to these sedentary pursuits is the lack of exercise (do not mention the Wii as a source of exercise or I will KILL you), but this is made up for by the fact that we can play with 20-sided dice, because we can actually count that high.

August 22, 2009

On Contentment

Filed under: Whining — Brian Chong @ 8:18 pm


“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”

Epicurus (Greek philosopher, BC 341-270)


“Contentment is a kind of moral laziness; if there was nothing but contentment in his world, man wouldn’t be any more of a success than an angleworm is. Also, up yours, Epicurus!”

Josh Billings (with embellishments) (1818-1885)

I’ve always sort of admired the people who were truly content (today’s word is C for Content!) with their lot in life: the kind you tend to read about in fiction books or see in period films where a farmer whistles his way through daily chores, handling various obstacles with great aplomb before heading home, where a hot wife and a delicious dinner await him. Said farmer then spends quality time with his children sitting on the front lawn and naming the constellations; he tucks them into bed with a goodnight kiss, then proceeds to bang his hot wife all night (probably why he’s so happy in the first place -_-).

The hope of finally being content, I suppose, is what drives us to fill our time with activities that are anything but fun: working extra hours to buy that car; studying extra hard to get that A so your parents will buy you a PS3 which causes your grades to drop till the next time you need a new console; GRINDING ENDLESS HOURS TO LEVEL WEAPON SKILL IN WORLD OF WARCRAFT (a desperate cry to Blizzard). And when we finally achieve what we’ve been working for, we are content for ~10 minutes, for the sole reason that there is always something out there to work towards: now that you’ve got that car, you need to work the streets to land that hot chick; you have a ps3, but no new games SADFACE; you will finally get a weapon upgrade and realise that your weapon skill is 0/400. And the cycle repeats itself. As soon as one leaves the playground, where nothing really matters (except bullies f@#% them), we are trained to start working on those achievements, because it is a long list indeed (grats on level18!).

All throughout this process, we are constantly reminded by people that it really doesn’t matter if we don’t do well in exams, fail to get that high-paying job, fail to down that new boss (yes, even with the NEW WEAPON), because in life, it’s the journey, not the destination, that matters. Whenever I hear such things, I have to excuse myself ‘to the toilet’ where I kick the wall repeatedly/stab voodoo dolls of that person/wipe off the froth in my mouth, because in many cases, the journey was not an enjoyable at all (I fail to see how reading/grinding 100 hours remotely resembles fun). However, regardless how competitive I may be in certain aspects (aka the wrong ones), there are always people who are in far worse circumstances, yet far more content with their lives, and this is something I’ll have to learn (eventually).

However, all is not well in Contentment Camp, because there exists a school of thought represented by Mr. Billings’ quote above. Personal attacks aside, I suppose it is true that we would not be where we are without the efforts of our predecessors. I, for one, would be EXTREMELY PISSED if the inventors of the computer were happy with whatever they had at that point in time (calculators? abacuses?!), and the strive for progress has been the driving force behind modern medicine, improvements in pimple cream, accurate DPS spreadsheets etc. The fact is that although everyone is striving to achieve that one last thing, humans would never have reached where we are right now, and we would never move forward, if suddenly (by magic!) everyone became content. Life would also be horribly boring if we already had everything we need, and just go through the same routine every day. I suppose one has to learn to soldier on for things that may or may not happen, and accept the fact that if we end up not achieving anything, it was not meant to be. C’est la vie. EMO

I’m sure there was a lesson somewhere in there, but I can’t be bothered to read through what I wrote. LOL

August 16, 2009

On Board Games

Filed under: Whining — Brian Chong @ 10:26 am

Board games are a staple of the growing-up process, and I guess most people have deep-seated memories of being stomped repeatedly at checkers (or backgammon for all you high-class people, cos’ I never really understood that game) by merciless elder siblings. Being the eldest son, I am probably responsible for turning my brothers off such intellectual pursuits for life, thereby dooming them to a youth filled with such disgusting interests as basketball, playing musical instruments, and socialising (ugh such a dirty word brb washing mouth with acid).

Board games start fading from people’s lives as they grow up, and get delegated to the position of ‘Time Filler After Family Dinners While You Think Of An Excuse To Go Home’. A small proportion of people maintain some competency at board games, and soon become as feared as Voldemort at family gatherings (after all, who wants to play against someone impossible to beat?!). An even smaller proportion become damn good at them and become professional chess players, committing their lives to the study of opening moves, gambits and end-games (aka ‘going insane’).

There exists, however, an industry dedicated to making board games targeted not at parents who wish to get their children off their back, but at mature, post-pubertal people who should know better. Worse still, there actually exists a population large enough to support this industry, as evidenced by the ever more elaborate ones that come out each year. I’m talking about stuff like the World of Warcraft Boardgame, or Twilight Imperium. Yes, not only can you waste countless hours of your time playing a video game where you slay dragons, you can now waste countless more hours playing a BOARD GAME SIMULATION of that video game. And these board games are not your typical pedestrian board game with 10 pieces or so, these things are SRS BSNS like so:

JUST LOOK AT THE NUMBER OF PIECES IN THAT THING. As if the hazard of killing off 1000 young cousins by choking was not enough, you now have to contend with the worry of having your dog eating one single piece, AND TAKING ONE HOUR TO FIND OUT WHICH ONE.

Sad to say, the idea of coming to terms with (and mastering) the complex mechanics of such a game appeals too much to the inner geek, and I actually found myself paying decent money for it. EMO.

The game itself was as complex as one could conceive, and I would later learn (through countless hours of experience) that it was a pretty damn good simulation of what goes on in the computer game. It was pretty fun, a good way to finish off a few hours after dinner, and, being set in the Warcraft universe, was good for a few oohs and aahs as players get to replay famous incidents and quests in the Warcraft storyline. Come to think of it, it was perfect, except for one thing: no one else wanted to play it.

See, the problem with board games that actually cost money (as opposed to checkers, chinese checkers, backgammon, monopoly and what have you) is that it takes a certain amount of geekiness to actually sit down and play them. I turned to my computer game playing circle of friends for respite, but their responses ranged from feigned interest (‘i’ll try this game, for 5 mins, then GTFO lol’) to ‘fuck off lol’. I managed to get a few games going in the end, but the idea of playing board games never really took off in our group, and in the end I managed to offload it at a slight loss. I suppose such pursuits would have required SUPREME NERDINESS (aka bad smell and bad acne) to be enjoyed, and it was indeed food for thought that even people who spent shitloads of time playing computer games (aka the outcasts) would not embrace board games. That must make me a super-pariah among medical students:

The despair on my face as I realise my position

In conclusion, while board games are immense fun, I’m not sure if they will ever become mainstream, or remain the hobby of a dying breed (love for board games is unlikely to be passed down the generations because people who play too much boardgames don’t get to reproduce LOL).

August 15, 2009

On Drinking

Filed under: Whining — Brian Chong @ 12:11 pm

Drinking is an interesting alternative to playing video games. A much more expensive alternative -_-. It’s actually looks pretty fun when you see others doing it and having a good time (and creating a racket when I just want to eat my steak in peace KNN), and being a medical student (what’s with doctors/future doctors and drinking O_O) with indian friends I pretty much couldn’t avoid consuming some in the course of my err… studies.

Other than having an interesting first exposure on my 18th birthday (THANKS HOUSEMATES) where i developed a weird rash and pissed off my liver, results of my drinking have been pretty disappointing. See, when other people drink, they get all high and excited, and come out of their cocoons. Docile guys become talkative, talkative guys get out of control, and those who are already out of control under normal circumstances get involved in fights/die in spectacular car crashes on the way home/contract STDs and die a slow death. That is how it’s meant to be, and it’s (imo) a pretty decent return on the investment.

Unfortunately, the above doesn’t apply to me. When I drink, I undergo a regression from my usual persona (mildly conversational if you know me well, WALL OF STONE if not) into a sloth:

So my mind just slows down, I pretty much stop talking and I just sit there doing NOTHING. There have been impulses to do some really stupid stuff (that would’ve gotten me into serious trouble) but the part of my brain that says ‘DO NOT EMBARRASS YOURSELF IN PUBLIC’ (what happens in private is a different matter altogether) seems to last way beyond my capacity to walk straight. It’s a good thing if I were a hugely famous businessman/politician with a reputation to protect, not so much if you’re looking at me for some form of entertainment. Many a time I have been mistaken for being emo after consuming alcohol (brb 5 mins applying black lipstick!) when all I want to do is just sit down, sip drinks that don’t taste like crap  and not be disturbed.

By now you would’ve noticed that the previous paragraph consisted of me telling you how I pay good money to drink stuff that doesn’t taste fantastic and SIT DOWN DOING NOTHING. Indeed, it wasn’t long after the first session when I realised that I could do the same at home, drinking celery juice. And that is why I don’t find myself drinking terribly often, barring occasions where friends don’t mind having a WALL OF STONE around.

On Video Games

Filed under: Whining — Brian Chong @ 9:56 am

One thing I’ll be remembered for (regardless of what I’m going to fail to achieve) is playing an unhealthy amount of video games. Now when I say UNHEALTHY, I mean:

  • playing long hours, skipping meals
  • abandoning neatness and order in my living area
  • spending an inordinate amount of time READING about video games
  • going ‘ooh-aah’ over the latest games/consoles, wishing I had ALL of them, ignoring the fact that I would probably be too distracted to finish even one game if I did
  • having messed up priorities in life

Note: I suppose the second point (being untidy) isn’t a direct result of me spending too much time playing. I was well-known for being FUCKING MESSY even in my pre-gaming super-nerd days (as opposed to gaming super-nerd HAHA), but gaming has probably contributed to the subsequent decline in self-maintenance.

The most common argument against playing games is ‘games are a waste of time’. I’ve never disagreed with this statement, but put my faith in the counter ‘what isn’t a waste of time?’ My view has been that unless an activity does one of the following:

  1. keeps you alive
  2. earns you money
  3. benefits the world in some way (now I’m just asking for the retort ‘why don’t you go kill yourself Brian that will benefit the world’ LOL)

It is a waste of time. The debate is then reduced to how one chooses to waste his time. Whether one reads books, goes bowling, goes to the pub or plays games, the purpose is to pass time, and to have fun doing it. The benefit of reading tends to be overstated I think (nourishes the mind, ‘the indulgence of great poets and writers’, ‘expanding your vocabulary’ (lol)), and people, especially people in Malaysia, think it’s a really good thing if you read more than 2 books a year or something like that. However, I don’t really view reading as a means to an end. I used to read a lot when I was younger (OLD MAN WOOT) because I enjoyed reading, and I occasionally buy a fiction book if it looks good, but I enjoy playing video games more.

(As an aside, a medical student saying he doesn’t like to read just for knowledge is fail-blog material)

I concede the fact that I could be studying medicine way more than I am currently (read: more than I ever have), because SHIT I’m going to be an intern in just over a year, and it’s pretty daunting to have a patient come in, needing help, while you (fresh intern) are stranded alone with no one to save you, no consultant standing beside you to laugh at your mistakes and set you on the correct path. One gets used (after 5 years of medical school) to being in the student role, where responsibility is on the shoulders of someone else, and our job is to stand there and fire off answers whether they’re right or wrong because to us, it doesn’t matter, and nothing is going to happen to the patient even if we don’t know something (or worse, remember a completely wrong treatment). But one year later, I’ll have to deal with patients with a misplaced sense of trust in ‘medical people’, and hopefully I don’t mess up. EMO.

I suppose a good thing to do would be to convert some playing time into study time, but I learned long ago that the only way to even attempt to learn everything possible in medicine is to be a perfectionist, and perfectionists know very well enough to avoid medical school. In a way, the lowering of the bar from ‘perfect knowledge’ to ‘just enough knowledge’ has made me slack, and even if I pass all my exams, I know I’m shit at this medicine thing. EMO.

It’s a bit funny how many people put so much effort and time into their hobbies (gamers, golfers, piano players, you name it) and strive to perfect their craft more so than they do their own jobs. You know the people who wish they could rush home so they can head to the golf course, students who leave the lecture hall early because they found this new strat in a game (not me I swear) etc. It’s healthy in a way (people who obsess purely about their jobs are pretty scary), but it shows that not many people TRULY, TRULY love their jobs, because it’s just a means to make ends meet. EMO.


Filed under: Whining — Brian Chong @ 9:19 am

Don’t know why I’m actually doing this, but I suppose it’s a good way to rage at stuff/have something to laugh about in the future/upload compromising photos which then get leaked to hometown friends.

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