Thursday, May 31, 2007

Let's Revise Your STIs

Play / Pause


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Microsoft Surface

I really don't want to turn my blog into a tech blog, but one can't help but to share something as amazing as this...

Introduce to you, Microsoft Surface!


Google Map Street View

Google Map has recently added a "street view" feature where you can view street-level images of major US cities.

You can begin with this link. Within the street view, you can navigate around the image by pressing the arrow keys. If you want to change a location, just click on any road which is highlighted blue on the map.

It's currently available in:

  • Denver
  • Las Vegas
  • Miami
  • New York City
  • San Francisco Bay Area
It's absolutely amazing! And hey, I have just come back from my sister's apartment and the hospital my brother-in-law works in. :P

p/s: Oh ya, this is apparently how they do this thing:


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

100 Words Every US High School Graduate Should Know

Apparently some editors of a dictionary decided to compile a list of 100 words that all US high school graduates should know. Let's see how I fare:

p/s: I have enabled AnswerTips in my blog. Just double-click on ANY word in my blog, and you will get a dictionary / encyclopaedic definition instantly!

laissez faire
Hell, 68. Those words that I didn't know, I have never seen before. Siao eh. No wonder people who took SAT complain all the time. I guess if you go ask Eric, Ren Jie etc, they will tell you the meaning of synonyms of every single term in there. :P


Thursday, May 24, 2007

The End of Uni Life

Today will be the last day I officially study in the Parkville campus of Melbourne University. It's the end of semester 5, which means I have already completed two and a half years of biomedical studies in the campus.

Starting from tomorrow, I will have one week of swot vac (study week), followed by four consecutive exam days. After the exams will be exactly one month of holidays, and then I will be starting the much awaited AMS research year. in Royal Melbourne Hospital. One thing good is I will still pass through university everyday, as RMH is just opposite the university. But I guess the feeling will be different. Different group of people, and gone will be the scene of us playing bridge and gossiping in the medical library.

After the AMS, I will be doing clinical years in Austin Hospital for two and a half years. More on that later.

It's not the end, but it's probably the end of the beginning. I look forward to the future.


On Religion

When I do good, I feel good; when I do bad, I feel bad. That's my religion.

- Abraham Lincoln.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A Reflection - Melbourne and Its People

Reflection is never my piece of cake, so no, I am not going to write a reflection here. Instead, I would just like to direct you to a blog article I have just read, written by a Melburnian, on Melbourne and its people, in particular the immigrants.

A Few Hundred Meters - The Duality of Man

I have seen both people he described in the story, and reading his reflection conjures up the vision of walking on the streets by myself. It is a good perspective on Melbourne.


Monday, May 21, 2007

A Random Thought

Just wondering, when the day comes where it's feasible to transplant a brain, is there a practical value for this procedure? Who would want a brain transplant?

If someone wants to swab brain with you, would you like to try it? Would the whole brain-transplantation be banned? If it could be done, how would it transform the world?

Mind-body dichotomy, huh. Interesting.


Resource - Doctors and Medical Students

I often come across emails and chat messages which ask me things like: "Hey, please tell me about the medical course", "Can you tell me is it stressful to study medicine?" or "Is it good to study medicine in Melbourne?". Throughout the years, I always try to ascertain those questions to the best of my ability; however, sometimes it's just hard to do so, especially when I am busy or when things get excessively repetitive.

In the process of reading questions and writing responses, sometimes the irony strikes me - some people write to my email, saying that "Hey I found your email address through your blog, and I would like to ask you about the medical course."

The irony is that, I am expected to write about my life in brief in a single email, when they could have gotten all the info right away where they came from - my blog, the best place they could learn all about my life, the place where I pen down all my cheers and tears in the most minute detail and the most genuine expression. No amount of summary in an email is going to give them more details than what I have written in my blog throughout the years. Glimpsing through my previous posts, I have shared quite a fair amount of my life experience. Among others are my first encounter with dead bodies in anatomy class, our funny practical classes involving urine, some complaints about some dreadful aspects of my course, how I got deeply touched by some stories and so on. Nerdy as it seems, I even did some "post-exam reviews" after the previous two semester exams. Who knows, some people might find them useful.

Apart from my blog, there are countless blogs out there, written by real doctors and real medical students. Each of those blogs is a diary, where these people's personal lives are well chronicled in the cyberspace, waiting for you to discover. Instead of reading general e-mail responses like "doctors are generally busy and exhausted"; by reading real-life stories, you are able to understand why they are busy, why doctors enjoy or dislike their jobs, and by that you could decide whether or not you should choose this career.

Some people might find it hard to find medicine-related resources, so I decided that I would write this post as a sort of "portal" to people who would like to find more information about medicine, life as a medical student, or in particular, life as a medical student in Melbourne.

In my blog:

Some of my coursemates:

Medical students in other universities:


Just a few words to wrap up this post: while this list is compiled for the convenience of people who want to read more about the life of people involved in the healthcare system, I would like to advise everyone to avoid e-mailing those people before you read their posts. If you really can't find what you are looking for in their posts, please write to them politely, and do include specific questions instead of vague open questions like "Tell me about your life as a medical student in Adelaide University". This kind of question is too hard to answer. And the bottom line of asking for help is, while it's reasonable to expect courtesy from people whom you write to, it's not their obligation to answer all your inquiries especially if you are not polite or sincere in the first place.

p/s: If your blog is listed here and you would like me to remove it for any reason , please write to me and I will delete the link immediately. I respect your privacy.


Saturday, May 19, 2007

What is Wrong with ReCom?

As you guys might know, I am one of the so-called "moderators" of ReCom, the Worldwide Malaysian Student Network. Recently ReCom has been facing many troubles with the connections, and many people have been making many inquiries about the condition of ReCom.

Currently ReCom looks like this:

There seems to be a problem with the MySQL server, sorry for the inconvenience.

We should be back shortly.

There has been a messy technical problem which can't be sorted out at the moment. We are facing a great deal of problem now, and after one week of intense troubleshooting by a few dedicated site-developers, everything is at a dead-end - they have already done their best, yet they can't find out what the hell is wrong with the site that caused the problem.

For a detailed explanation of the nature of ReCom's problem, please visit Jiin Joo's post here. If anyone is able to help out with the coding, please let us know. We need as much help as possible now.


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Of Famous People and Their Quotations

I used to love quotations from famous people like Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Mark Twain, Mahatma Gandhi, Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King Jr etc. Their words carry great weights, because they are the culmination of their lifetime achievement and insights that can only be seen with a keen eye. Time and over again, we stand on their shoulder so that we could look further. Like beacon, their words give us guidance and direction.

While quotations used to be my favourite collection items, as time goes by, I begin to have a mixed feeling about them. Eerm, actually not all quotations, but I start to doubt some quotations, especially those that are improvised, overused and abused in our society. In particular, I am talking about this quotation by the US ex-president John F. Kennedy in his inaugural address (video, full text):

Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country
I am sure most of us have heard of this immortal sentence somewhere. It's made its way into all quarters of our lives: history text books, politician's rhetoric speeches, organized brainwashing sessions, clubs and societies, or even fiery debates about the moral justification for someone to leave their homeland in search for a greener pasture.

And seriously, I hate it when people just throw out this sentence without second thought.

To begin with, I do not deny the aesthetic and the patriotic value in those words. In fact when I heard it, it did strike a chord in me deep inside, somewhere. It sounded nice when put in the original context, when John F. Kennedy was urging his countryman to build a brighter future by collective, selfless efforts, when the US is at the strange post world-war era and was waging a cold war with the Soviet Union.

However, underlying this line is an unspoken principle: when everyone works for a common goal, the common goal works for everyone. It's this reciprocal relationship that makes this line acceptable, when we come to terms with reality. In other words, elaborating the sentence, it might just mean:
"Ask not what your country can do for you - you should ask what you can do for the country instead. When everyone starts asking what they can do for the country, everyone will be actively playing an integral role in the country's development, and thence everyone actually benefits much more compared to the situation where everyone chooses to be on the recipient end. "
Of course one might argue that Kennedy didn't mean it that way at all, instead he's just saying it on the ground of "unconditional love" - a boundless affection, a love that one gives even if it could be unrequited. Unconditional love, while often held as the noblest of human virtue, is widely doubted to exist outside the framework of family ties and romantic affection. Even with the family and romance, we could very well argue that the love has a biological basis, but I'm not going into that right now. What I'm getting at is this:

What warrants an unconditional love? Is there an innate responsibility among us to love certain things unconditionally? Is that our country? Our culture? Or even our family?

How do people live up to their claims, when they say things like:
Chinese who love the Western culture but dislike Chinese culture are despicable bananas who don't deserve to be Chinese!
What says that every Chinese is born with immense moral responsibility to love a culture which they happen to be categorized in?

What about:
No matter what, you must love him, he's your dad after all!
What if your dad has been abusing you all the time, and he does not treat you well at all? Does he still deserve this unconditional daughterly love, just because "he's your dad after all"?

The last thing, and also the main thing I'm getting at, is this thing called "patriotism". Is patriotism an unconditional "love burden" that everyone must shoulder? Give a few minutes of thought into it.

I am not encouraging people to "betray" their country at their whims, no, not at all. Certainly patriotism, as with any other type of loves, is a virtue which deserves praise and acclamation. What irks me is, who are we to speak of patriotism as a nature-given responsibility, when to some people their country has not been worthy of love, just like the dad who's been abusing the daughter? I shudder.

Summing it up, this line by Kennedy is an idealistic statement, and taking it at the face value without considering the context, as many people do, does not make your point any stronger or your rhetoric more elegant. It just means that you have just abused another quotation without giving much thoughts. Today, whenever I see discussions surrounding decision, contribution and organization, regardless of the suitability, at some point someone will post up this line as some kind of veritable truth.

And I always flinch when I see it.


How Do You Stop an Addiction?

I have an addiction.

I need to stop homing in computers wherever I go, library, my house, Xuan Ni's house, computer lab, tutorial rooms.

I need to stop frequenting websites which has nothing to do with my studies. I check my Google Reader (An RSS reader) wherever I go so that I can see whether there are updates from my friends blogs, Digg (an "interesting news" website), Lifehacker (tech-related tips and tricks), Good Maths Bad Maths (to keep me mathematically literate), Pharyngula (biological stuff) and so on.

I learn stuff like how the Church of Scientology creepily prey on BBC reporters and look stupid in front of cameras, how a mirror would look like when you scan it with a scanner (it's surprising), how Carlton (the place I live in) used to have a train station, and how some states in US are against the law that makes HPV vaccine mandatory for young girls. Oh well, the last one might be slightly related to me, but then it's not going to be in the exams.

At the same time, I am not doing that much of work on this week's topic, acute lymphoblastic leukemia, and also leukemia and lymphoma in general. Every night I tell myself "I'm going to start studying at 9", but I end up doing all sorts of stuff online and study for only half an hour before going to bed.

I visit ReCom to read and "patrol" the discussions because I am one of the moderators of the forum. When I got tired of the immature comments, I spend hours typing retorts and warning members when they go overboard. After three years of involvement there, to date my post count is 1836.

All that, and my exams are three weeks away. I should at least cut down Digg and ReCom in my daily addiction fix. They are killing my time, and probably my score too. Wish me good luck.

p/s: By the way, all the stuff I linked to above are strongly recommended websites and articles. If you think that the Internet is a boring place, have a look at those websites and you might have a second thought. :)


Monday, May 14, 2007

Automatic Translation

Have you got a family member who is not good at English? Does your grandma read only Chinese, and is interested in reading the Angmoh websites that you frequent everyday? Ever wonder how you could help them enjoy the depth of information in the Internet?

Here you are, the ultimate "automatic translation" buttons!

Use Google Translate: English to Simplified Chinese
Use Babelfish: English to Simplified Chinese

To use them, just follow the simple steps below:

  1. Right click on either of the link above.
  2. Choose "bookmark this link" (this is for Firefox, there should be an equivalent option for IE and Opera)
  3. Choose a place to keep your button, and you are done!
  4. Next time when you come across a website written in English, and wish to translate it to Chinese language, just click on that bookmark, and you will get the translation automagically!

To do it faster, you can simply drag the whole link to your bookmark toolbar (the toolbar below your address).

Let's set up this "magic button" in your house PC, as a gift to your english-not-so-literate family members! :) Beware that the results are not perfect, but hey, even when it's not accurate, it could be quite hilarious. Give it a try!

p/s: If you do not intend to keep it in your bookmark, you can simply click on those links right now to see how it works.


Sunday, May 13, 2007

Surf BBQ

Blogger has a unique feature where you are required to type some "random" characters to prove that you are indeed human. Normally it's just a chunk of gibberish, but today I came across this one when I was commenting on Boon Phiaw's post:

Interesting. (I know, I am bored.)


A Dedication

Congratulations Owl! This is my gift for you, the ultimate blend of you two. :P

I would like to congratulate another person too, but since that guy wants to keep it very, very secret, I would just dedicate it telepathically. You know who you are. ;)

I wish you guys a "happy ever after". :)



Why do we always hear statements like:

Malays are racist.
Teenagers like to make generalisations.
The irony.


Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Ctrl - Z

Have you ever typed a long post in your blog, but by some freakish accident you deleted the whole paragraph or the post?

Fret not. Ctrl-Z to the rescue - just press Ctrl - Z and everything will come back, assuming that you haven't closed the whole browser. Ctrl - Z will also work in your address bar - for example, let's say you typed a long URL but for some reasons you deleted the whole line, you can get back what you typed by simply undo-ing by Ctrl - Z.

It's a gem that could save so many hairs but remain unbeknownst to many. Hope everyone makes the full use of it. :)

p/s: You could try Ctrl - Y as well. It's quite hard to explain what it does, but basically it goes hand in hand with Ctrl - Z.


Monday, May 07, 2007

Cash Cows in Australia

That's us. The international students.

Each year thousands of international students throng to Melbourne with the aspiration for a better, world-class education. We come from Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Indonesia, Brunei, Taiwan, Botswana, India, Ghana, among other countries. We stay here, study here, walk on the same street as the locals, study the same thing as Australians, and we adorn the Chinatown. Everywhere in Melbourne, that's where we are.

International students, or students who come from overseas, have a common trait. We are either freaking rich or very lucky. It's not hard to understand why, as they are just a few possibilities:

  • If you hail from developed countries, you wouldn't bother to come to Australia because there are good universities right on your door step. Or within two hours journey from your home. And you are actually in a dilemma whether to choose between the one that's one hour away from home and the one fifty minutes away. Who bothers to go to that Howards land?

  • If you are from the developing countries, in particular South East Asia, the currency exchange rate is so high that your parents need to be a millionaire to be able to afford your education here. Oh probably not millionaire, but your moderately-rich dad and mum need to sell at least a few properties and/or take some loans to fly you down here. And deep inside, they pray that you will repay their kindness when they are at their twilight years.

  • Or you got lucky - you got a scholarship.
While the currency rate is a big headache for us, it is not the whole issue here.

Take me for example: I'm studying a six-year medicine course in Melbourne Uni, and I'm paying something like 280 thousand dollars (equivalent to 785 thousand Ringgit) for the tuition fee. The locals pay something like 40 thousand dollars - that's like what I need to pay for one year, and what an average Australian earn in one year.

Things are not helped with the public transport. While the local students happily pay concession price which is like half the amount of full fare; we international students need to pay the full fare every time we travel. It's as if they feel the compulsion to squeeze as much money from us rich brats, with the assumption that international students here are by definition rich brats, which isn't always the case. It sometimes seems as if they never earn enough money from us.

While we are obligingly paying that much of money, when the inspectors are checking tickets, they almost always check the international-looking people first. A-L-W-A-Y-S. Yes admittedly a lot of international students do evade fare for transport; but the way these people cast their sceptical look upon us is ugly. There was once Xuan Ni and I were taking a tram home from the market, and we didn't validate our ticket on the tram since our two-hourly tickets were still valid. Halfway through the journey, a nosey, old local woman came to us and asked us to show her our tickets. We were quite taken aback so we didn't say anything at all (and we didn't show her our tickets too); but on hindsight, we should have just told her off to mind her own business. She didn't even have the right to see our tickets, and her judgmental attitude leaves much to be desired.

So, having experienced all that, one can't help but to wonder, why are we here? Are we, the rich brats, merely cash cows to milk from, to fuel this country's development at the expense of our home countries' brain drain? I remember one year ago, while yours truly was agape watching the Commonwealth Games fireworks explode in Melbourne's night sky, a thought dawned upon me: how many of those fireworks were bought with our money?

To begin with, let me first make something clear: it's unfair to simply accuse Australia as a bad country which is greedy beyond imagination; and I don't mean that at all. It's understandable that a country needs to attract talents from other countries in order to drive its economy, and Australia is precisely doing this. Nevertheless, while I could objectively empathize their policy, I could only imagine: what do the locals think about us? What's in their minds when they see Asians and Africans making up half the crowd in the city, joyously eating chocolate waffles in their favourite chocolate boutique? Are we welcome? Or are we a necessary menace to fill the tank of their developmental engine? And seriously, how much are we treasured, or I venture to say, considered, as a part of the multi-cultural Australian community?

It's a hard question. It's especially hard to talk about community participation, when not many of us really assimilate in the local culture and people. According to a recent The Age article called "Foreign students live a sadly separate life", we, international students as a whole, are a group of marginalised population living in our own community.
The students are effectively segregated from their local peers and the community from the day they arrive. Many do separate bridging courses and orientation programs, and their numbers are concentrated in particular courses, often tailored to their needs, with few local classmates. Such is the social and educational segregation that surveys have found students said they had rarely visited a local person's home
I have to openly admit that I'm one of them. Yes I actually visited a few locals' homes, but they are either an Australian PR from Malaysia (Ka Lip), or people whom I tutor. I have never really gone to an Australian friend's house, as a friend.

Since the day I arrived in Melbourne, I have had stable groups of friends which consist of mainly Malaysians and some Singaporeans. In particular, I tend to spend time with friends who came from the same college as mine back in Malaysia. Yes I do know Australians, I talk to them sometimes, and we say hi when we meet each other; but I have never really gotten close to any of them. There is my part to blame, certainly, I'm not sociable and all that; but international students generally are indeed segregated from the locals. From The Age's "There's small and then there's small, says tenant":
There's definitely a cultural barrier - it hasn't been broken yet after so many years. There are not many chances for interaction," she said.

"It has somehow got to a stage where we can't be bothered anymore - it's not that we're not willing to try but it's just so segregated it's too hard to break through. When you have your stable friend network you just don't look.
So most of us are all by ourselves, apparently. And cultural challenge is not the end of our issues. International students in Melbourne are geographically challenged. No I don't mean that we don't know where Brazil is; what I mean is, a lot of us live in quite pathetic places.

A typical international student's apartment room is like this: a two-hundred square-feet room, a small desk holding up a little laptop, shirts and socks strewn about on the floor, a little bookshelve, a couple of chairs, and a squeaky single bed with crackling bed frames. Of course not everyone's that bad, but that's how many people's rooms look like. It's usually crampy, heaty in summer, freezing in winter, and the worst thing of all - grossly expensive. When we first came to Australia, a lot of us had our houses conveniently arranged by our agents. Most of those high-rise apartments are located within 10 minutes' walk from the uni, and as I had testified quite a few times in the past, many of them are made of plywoods.

Of course I can't complain much, because I know that many counterparts of mine, back in Malaysia and in other countries, are living in worse condition. But the problem I'm highlighting here is, we, the international students in Melbourne, are happily becoming the local housing industries' source of cash - and in the process we don't gain much out of the exorbitant fees we pay. According to The Age's "Foreign students living on the edge of society":
Over the past seven years, 31 apartment blocks sprang up in the area, many on Swanston Street, creating a spine of high rises between RMIT and Melbourne University. Nearly 10,000 students live in them. Almost none are Australians.

"There is a process of segregation going on here that seems to us to be utterly avoidable," Dr Shaw said.

"We're finding these international students isolated in this housing that's being aggressively marketed in South-East Asia by the housing providers."

Most apartments are small and among the most expensive real estate in Melbourne... They are being stereotyped as ghettos.
Haha I should stop painting too much of a stark picture about life as an international student. From reading what I said above, if you got the impression that being an international student is pitiful, I apologize for having misguided you. The reality is just the opposite. I must say that most international students including myself enjoyed our lives tremendously. My only concern is that amongst all the joy and quality education that we enjoy, at the end of the day we are just a marginalised community in the actual society, a league of our own.

Am I thinking too much? So what if I'm a cash cow, right? :P I shall go back to my studies now. It's expensive to be a cash cow, in any case.

Recommended reading: The Age articles I linked to above, Metroblogging Melbourne.
Image credit: BBC News, Melbourne University, Cash Cow Clinic.


Thursday, May 03, 2007

Why Are Many Guys Single?