I was listening to their album (Lungs) and St Vincent’s album Actor on the plane. :) Both great.
I can’t believe I won’t be in Auckland for the Laneways music festival — both The Xx and Florence will be there. UGH. I have nobody to go with in Melbourne. None of my friends are into alternative music.
Besides which, how much easier would it be to get a ticket in Auckland than in Melbourne? :’(
Rollicking hills, crisp air, a sense of water in the soil and earthing that has eluded me for the year, an obligatory family gathering slash weekly LAN party with the gang of boys I grew up with: I woke Boxing Day morning and knew I was home.
A surprising amount of people fly on Christmas day. The airport was packed! Three flights took off within 15 minutes of each other, all headed toward New Zealand, two of them to Auckland.
Unable to sleep, excited about having a kitchen - a real kitchen! - and a family to want to do things for, I got up at 6am to make pancakes. Apparently, the golden syrup I bought last year was still in the fridge too (that stuff doesn’t go off). A pleasant surprise.
I think most people take a stocked fridge for granted. In my house in Melbourne, the fridge is mostly empty; not only that, living with only myself to feed the food goes off oftentimes because I don’t use it fast enough. I feel wasteful. Otherwise, there is single servings of vegetables for whatever meal I’m planning - two tomatoes. One potato. One red capsicum. Thoroughly unimpressive stuff.
Contrast: mum’s fridge of BBQ mussels, fish, prawns, marinaed grilled beef, Christmas ham, potato salad, vegetables of all kinds, butter, 2 cheese types, 2 types of milk (skinny and non-skinny), puff pastry (?! why the hell did we have puff pastry), leftover Greek salad, various Chinese foods and spices, 2 different types of soft drink, cranberry juice, a freezer with 3 different types of iceblocks (icy poles!), one tub of chocolate ice cream and ice cream cake leftover from my brother’s birthday. Plus, the obligatory of frozen fishballs, seafood, meat.
Don’t get me started on the pantry: arborio rice, normal rice, 3 different types of flour types (my fault, I keep adding to the collection each time I’m back), mixed herbs, a million seasonings and oils (3 types of cooking oil?!), 9 types of chocolate (Gillian, Ferrero Rocher, scorched armonds, Roses, Cadbury favourites, cadbury milk chocolate block, this random one, Lindt) in individual jars/boxes from the Christmas season, roasted almonds, trailmix, museli, colourful snack foods, crackers, all the baking needs ever…
Plus, a fruit basket with 6 different types of fruit.
I’m sorry, I’ve clearly not lived at home for a long time.
For example, I’m slowly getting reacquainted with the concept of a lounge. To explain: when you flat you start to develop weird quirks? Because I’ve spent a lot of time flatting with people I don’t really know that well, we stay in our rooms a lot. The living area is way too sparcly furnished and too public. This would be fine except I found myself a few years back visiting a close friend in Auckland and feeling really weird when they didn’t invite me into their bedroom and we spent the time in the lounge. It felt like a snub, as to me lounge areas are for impersonal guests. Like if I were to entertain religious evangialists that knock on the doors into my house we’d be in the lounge. Friends are definitely more personal than a lounge.
It took me a while to figure out why I felt slightly offended, and how weird it was that I felt that way.
Small things too, make a huge impact: like being able to make whatever the hell you wanted because you had all the kitchen equipment you needed and then some. Randomly decided to make cherry tomato, zucchini and rosemary risotto cake and marshmallows from scratch yesterday, for example. Who the hell keeps gelatine in the pantry? Apparently our family does. I have no idea what we would even use it for. Nobody’s made marshmallows here before (was I making another kind of dessert some year, perhaps?).
It’s also exciting that New Zealand doesn’t have a water shortage, so washing one’s own car is not a phased-out passtime. I did dad’s car today and got soaked because my brother decided he wanted to help and I assigned him the hosing job. It was sunny and hot so I felt like I was in an American college movie, except I was clearly the geek doing the cheerleader’s job at a fundraiser and I did not make it look cool.
A good friend from high school came back from a continent-spanning half-decade away on the way backto the States just after Boxing Day, staying in town a little bit longer than me. It’s exciting for all our high school friends - a reason to get together, say hello.
We threw Mandy a surprise party - I was the obvious bait, having previously arranged with her to meet very early on in her arrival coincidentally before Athena had hatched this plan. I just moved the date of our meet to the date of the party and she gullibly walked in on it. It was nice seeing people I hadn’t seen for a long time - people from school, etc.
Made me realise this small irony: life was actually fairly complicated back then. It was me who was simple. Nowadays, I’m a more complex person than I was at 15 but life is pretty simple.
Each time I go back it’s a snapshot of the same people in different poses, ages of life. Like Noah and his 365 days in photos, animated on youtube.
I met a man on the plane over here. Christmas night, he had the window seat and I had an aisle seat in a 3 seat row of a small airbus and he had his laptop out, with 2 Word documents up simultaneously, typing. He seemed like the kind of person who would have a partner or children waiting at home. I felt bad for him, so I worked up the nerve to ask him why he was working on Christmas night (or specifically, what he did that required work to be done on a plane to New Zealand, Christmas night when everyone should be eating and celebrating with family).
It turned out he worked as a lawyer for Legal Aid in Melbourne, working in family law. Which made him pretty much the equivalent of a selfless hero. He was going to New Zealand at the last minute due to a family emergency.
We ended up having a long chat about his job, my future one and growing up, life in general which…saved Christmas for me. :) I dunno. It’s a sense of being connected with someone else on Christmas of all days of the year. I appreciated it so much so much.
Thanks, Paul, wherever you are. Hope you got home safe and sound and the stuff with the family turned out alright. :)
“Take time by the forelock. Now or never! You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this, or like the like of this.”—from “The Writings of Henry David Thoreau, Journal XII, March 2, 1859-November 30, 1859”- Henry David Thoreau
Sigh. A hot, humid day. All the chocolate that people have given me to give to my parents/grandparents in New Zealand have probably melted (which makes me tempted to open the boxes and eat them. I woke up too late to prevent the mass destruction. Daylight had done its damage by then).
I was supposed to meet Padma at her office to get some articles off her for my literature review this summer but she was held up and said she’d email me instead. Having unexpected day off, I wasted it trying to find the best possible place in the house to exist given the tremendous heatwave (Answer: staircase).
More people-watching than ever has occurred in the last few days, what with numerous lunches, coffees and suppers with friends.
I was thinking about this yesterday when catching up with someone: People are fascinating.
The thing I find most interesting in general is all the different ways they came to be the way they are/the reasons people do the things they do (rather than what they do in particular).
Even though human beings often do some bizarre, horrible things, motivation is more universal. For example, if you are starving, you would get food. You might get it by going to the supermarket and buying some potato chips. You might get it by going to your garden and picking a tomato. You might walk to your backyard and slaughter a pig. You might steal something in a bakery window. You might eat your recently deceased grandmother. The point is, same reason, different actions.
And of course, a bunch of actions defines behaviour. And a bunch of behaviours defines character. Character defines a human being. I love that.
In my life I’ve met heaps of people who do the opposite: they do not want to hear a story for the reasons why people do things, but just to gather facts like a judge gathers evidence and weighs it on a scale of probability.
I kind of admire that way of thinking too. Impartial. Fair. Scientific. All things I admire if combined with compassion, like my father (my mother is more emotional than factual) whereas I find it extremely hard to be angry/hate someone if I feel I can understand where other person is coming from. Even if the thing they did was horrible, and even if it’s to me (perhaps especially if it’s to me).
Apparently feuds, grudges and the silent treatment are just not in my cards. I wonder what it’s like. It must be exhausting. I tried once as a kid because I wanted to stay mad at my mother. It lasted all of 4 hours.
Hmmm. Sigh. Other than that it’s been uneventful.
Something horrible happened the other night. Some creepy person started following me home. I crossed the road and started walking faster but the results of both weren’t reassuring.
I kept thinking about that huge news in New Zealand a few years back where an Asian student was found murdered just 10 metres from her front doorstep. Luckily, there was another girl on the street after I turned the corner and he suddenly decided to give up after I made it look like I was almost home. I made a run for it the minute he started to walk the other way.
I don’t usually mention anything that seriously bothers me so I must have been quite upset. Kinda just… unloaded on people without meaning to. I’m so grateful for Josh, Winnie and Andy.
I will say this: why is it dodgy people always have a weird gait? I felt like something was wrong with the guy even when I saw him walking at a distance. They should give it a name. In my unimaginative world, it would be called the rapist shuffle.
(I shouldn’t joke about this, I know).
It was awful. But it’s nearly Christmas so I’m going to think about other stuff instead.
….again, as it turned out. I put in an online application with a hardcopy to be posted only to discover two days later when visiting Jing’s place that I’d actually enrolled the night I got my citizenship - only, I never got the confirmtion letter because by then I’d moved house and Jing forgot to forward mail to me.
I don’t have a strong opinion about things concerning government. If pushed to describe myself, I would call myself centre-left, but I’ve been brought up with centre-right values (My parents have always voted National in New Zealand because, to simplify things down, they wanted to keep the money in the economy as opposed to placing lots into the welfare system).
It makes me wonder at the origins of political opinion in my family. My parents are first generation immigrants so they knew poverty when they came here (I was too young to understand this, and they were great parents in that they shielded me from stuff like that). Back in the day, there was no welfare for immigrants. My mum worked several menial jobs and gave up a career to support us, even though her family was fairly well off back in China.
Now my family is middle-class affluent. It makes sense they feel the way the do - most of their opinion is based on the financial/economic policies, I suppose. They don’t oppose the left stance on any other issue - at least not verbally or to me anyway.
As for me…I grew up in a fairly comfortable environment. We were poor when I was a child, but I never understood the difference. Either I was completely oblivious/not very observative, my parents did a damn good job keeping it from me, or I was spoilt - possibly a combination of those three things. I don’t really have the same kind of attitude to economy as them.
I have to admit I really don’t have an understanding of Australian politics - I was more mindful of New Zealand ones; since moving, and since I legally couldn’t vote, I hadn’t really been following anyone or anything in terms of policy and movement.
The last and only politician I liked here was Paul Keating who was in power when I was in primary school for 2 years here. That’s pretty much based on the attitudes around me being absorbed by me as a child rather than an understanding of what he did in power, however. Wasn’t a huge fan of Howard’s overall, but I can’t say I know all the nitty gritties.
Now that I have to vote, I’m going to pay more attention. :) One of the arguments for compulsary voting, I suppose.
That’s the thing about moving countries: there’s always new rules. This reminds me of having to learn AFL all over again.
I’ve just been slacking off the last 3 years.
One thing I would like to bring up, speaking of political issues, is the cost of healthcare in China. I’ve always known it to be (people always give their doctors a bit of money “hong bao” to jump the waiting list, or even to be seen), but nobody’s really hit it home like the other day. Even discounting ‘hong bao’ money, it’s pretty horrific.
A family friend, JS, who also happens to run her own general practice here, was talking about it, having recently returned from an urgent visit to her hometown there. Her mother recently fell ill. Weight loss, painless jaundiced. No need to say more - her mother herself is a doctor also.
For example, O2 sat and ECG monitoring: the machines that people are linked onto all the time is charged at an hourly rate of 20 dollars an hour. If you need continuous monitoring, the charge per day is $480. It’s hard to fathom - how many times have I walked past patients here with continous traces (In Emergency, for example)? I try and imagine what it would be like if everyone, including the patient, knew there was a going rate of 20 an hour. That’s like watching money go down the drain; I’d be counting the minutes.
Everything is out of pocket. They give you a bill at the end of each day, just like picking up a bill at a restaurant, with items to be paid for. PICC line instead of IV lines. Each blood pressure taken by the nurse is worth 2 dollars. Oxygen costs - even if you don’t need it and you’re on it, it costs. And just like any restaurant, you can run a pre/post-paid tab. A nurse calls you if your account is out of credit.
If your family’s not medical, who’s to argue whether you need things or not? JS was telling me that she’d gone through the list on the first day and cancelled the nasogastric feeds post-op (palliative surgery) for an oral diet of mushy foods. She advocated an earlier discharge home rather than keeping her mother in hospital for a week for observation (completely unnecessary).
"They wanted to keep her in there," she said. "It’s more money to them. My mother was stable. I won that argument, but I had to go back to Australia. I told my brother, if they make her do unnecessary medical treatments, just say you can’t pay. If you can’t pay, you are discharged home. They won’t argue with that."
The JS is one of my favourite family friends. I stayed with their family the first few months I moved to Melbourne. I love her bluntness, honesty, and the way she says things like they are. She’s generous, but she is mindful of the other people who depend on her.
She’s constantly giving me advice. I’d always wondered why, until today she said, “I see some of myself in you.”
To clarify, she meant my stubbornness. I should mention she’s really stubborn too.
JS has a very frank way of putting things. She said, “The moral of this story is, enjoy life. And, when you suspect a patient has something, follow up. I left my mother’s condition too late. She wasn’t jaundiced but I knew it was weight loss and fatigue a few months back and I urged her to do bloods. They were all normal. She cancelled the scan because of it and I didn’t argue with her. I didn’t follow it up. Always followup, Melissa, always.”
I thought about it. With patients, sure, ok. But if my mother seemed not-right and the bloods came out reassuring, would I follow up? Or would I have this urge to be coddled, to be reassured by something like that because I would want to believe everything was going to be fine so much?
I don’t want to think that far into the future.
One thing I do know though: if my mother were seriously ill, the last thing I would be doing would be imparting some advice to a medical student in my car. She did this also with the passing of her father, something I found out about at dinner at their place just a month afterward (weird, my visits which are few and far in between, always happen to be after the death of someone, or some crisis in her family).
If you met her, you would know: I’ve never seen someone so brisk, so full of determination to wrestle life into her favour and make the most of it.
In other news:
1. Oh my God. I’m rich!
Felt particularly spring-cleany last night so I emptied all my bags, pockets and swept around the corners of my room to discover over sixty dollars worth of loose change, and an uncashed cheque from 2 years ago (How did that get there!?).
YES! YES YES YES. :D
II. Exam results
Exam results came out last week and I’m not particularly happy.
I wouldn’t be too hard on myself over it as it’s still a Distinction and I’m not that anal usually except - I’ve been trying to keep up a cumulative High distinction average for my degree. So far so good…until this year.
Given the triple weighting of 4th year, I have scraped just below it by possibly point something of a percent. To make it worse, for 3% more on my grade this year I could have been sweet.
My response at the time:
WHAT THE HELL, ARE YOU SERIOUS?
Are you sure it’s not some kind of computer glitch?
I think I deserve a HD for the year, at least. My GP/Psych average (including in-semester assessment) worked out to be roughly that much. Did I do that badly last semester? I actually worked quite hard. AND I liked Paeds/OnG as opposed to GP/Psych. AND there was not sexual harrassment involved this time.
If this turns out to be due to the OSCE I am going to be super mad. Those 2 written stations are going down. a;skdfj
Clearly I’ve mellowed out a little bit.
I’m sorry I’ve been a bit weird lately. I did something fairly out of character and a bit…horrible…last month so I’ve been trying to come to terms with it.
I was going through my iTunes the other day and found all the CDs people made me when I left New Zealand.
I can’t believe they’re obsolete, I think they were the sweetest thing. Forget music sharing, make me a mix-tape anyday!
A brief and inaccurate history of the mix tape
Mix-tapes have evolved now of course in that 1) People don’t have casette players anymore and even if they did 2) You probably don’t own a tape player that will record something simultaneously with your CD player/radio (at least, that’s what I used to do when making mix-tapes as a kid).
Buying blank tape is hard to do these days too, just like buying polaroid film or floppy disks. My laptop doesn’t have a floppy drive - but I still hand all my assignments in on floppy. Back when I studied on campus and had assignments to hand in, I often found that the library gave out floppy disks for free because nobody else used them. Nowadays they let us email the soft-copy in.
Enter: the CD-rom. Those shiny bastards learnt to save the day.
The awesome thing about the old mix-tapes though was that you couldn’t really know what’s coming up next. Not really, anyway. Although the fast forward button is there, you’re not sure when exactly the next song will come up so you’re forced to listen to the other person’s music. With a CD or USB, you pick and choose. Also, because everyone is so impatient these days (me included), if they don’t like something they will skip it. Usually this decision is based on the intro. Sometimes, even on the band name or title (yes, it does happen when I browse through music on Hype Machine Superficial, much? :S)
Kinda sucks for all the effort you might have made in putting it together.
Even more recently, with the phasing out of CD roms and the entry of mp3 into the field, people don’t really make mixes anymore. They just plug a hard-drive in and load entire CDs.
Did iPod kill the mix-tape?
Not saying that mp3 isn’t awesome too though. Mmmm. Mp3 and iPods win over discmans and walkmans anydays.
But I vow to like you just a little bit more if you give me a mixtape. I also promise I won’t skip a song and to listen to everything in order. ;)
To the friends who made me CDs to take to Australia when I moved, you guys were awesome. Kinda had a unique little slice of people — like a musical photograph, in a way. I love how Chris gave me 2 CDs - one a mix of songs like any old mix tape; one a CD of New Zealand music to remind me of home.
I’m not sure why mammography guidelines is at the top of their list when you look at the rest of the stuff on there. Maybe it’s numbered arbitarily. Anyway, see below:
1. New Mammography guidelines: Based on new calculations weighing the risks and benefits of routine screening, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force’s new recommendations advised women to begin routine mammograms at age 50 instead of 40 and to switch from yearly to biennial screenings; it also advised women to eliminate breast self-exams altogether.
2. AIDS Vaccine: In September, a $105 million trial of a novel combination of two older vaccines was the first to show protection against HIV infection. The results of the trial, which involved more than 16,000 volunteers, suggested that the vaccine was 31% effective at preventing infection among those who were inoculated. Suggestions that the study might not be that reliable are abound, however. Should whip out the publication and check it out.
3. Funding ban lifted on stem cell research: On March 9, President Obama rescinded his predecessor’s Executive Order prohibiting the use of federal money to fund research on stem cells. A congressional law still prevents scientists from using government funds to create new lines of embryonic stem cells though, so they can only play around with adult ones.
4. H1N1 vaccine: Otherwise known as Swine Flu vaccine. Do I really need to cut and paste a bit from the article about this? It’s self explanatory. I got mine - the nurse who did it hurt me. She believed in slow injections. Ow?!
5. Stem-cell created mice from non-embryonic stem cells: Birth of mice using induced pluripotent cells (iPS) — adult cells (usually skin cells) that scientists reprogram back to their embryonic state by introducing four genes. The reprogrammed stem cells are then programmed again to develop into mice. Previously they’ve only been able to do this with embryonic stem cells.
6. Prostate cancer screening: Man, this made it onto the list?! I wrote an EBCP assignment on this. Basically, evidence from a large study came out saying that screening wasn’t that useful anyway. Now the guidelines say don’t screen, essentially. (Can you tell that I can’t be bothered writing about this after an entire assignment on it?)
7. New research on autism: According to new data released by the Federal Government in October, 1 in 100 American children is now affected by an autism spectrum disorder, up from the previous federal estimate of 1 in 150. The roots of the increase are still unclear, but researchers this year identified one possible genetic clue: variations on a region of chromosome 5, which appear to play a crucial role in about 15% of cases of autism.
8: New drug for osteoperosis: A new compound under review by the FDA tackles aims at curbing the formation of the osteoclasts. In two studies published in August, the experimental compound denosumab was shown to reduce the risk of fractures in postmenopausal women as well as men being treated for prostate cancer. What’s not clear, however, is how the new drug, if approved, would compare with existing osteoporosis drugs.
9. New alzheimer’s genes: Two groups of researchers, working separately, homed in on three genes linked to the late-onset form of the disease, the type that hits people in their 60s or later and accounts for 90% of Alzheimer’s cases in the U.S. Two of the genes are known to interact with the amyloid-protein plaques that build up in the brain of Alzheimer’s patients and eventually cause nerve-cell death and cognitive problems. The third affects the junction of nerve cells, where various neurochemicals work to relay signals from one nerve cell to another. It’s not clear yet exactly how the genes increase Alzheimer’s risk — in fact, most healthy people have some version of the three genes.
10. Brown fat in adults: But now it seems that adults retain more brown fat than previously thought, in deposits in the front and back of the neck, according to a study by Swedish researchers, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in April. Two other studies published in the same journal found that lean people tend to have more of these deposits than obese folks and that brown-fat cells are more active in the cold.
It’s grey today, and humid. In the garden, the leaves are being tumbled by the tempid wind.
I couldn’t sleep last night for the heat. After switching sides of the bed a couple of times, I ended up lying on the floor. The window was open - I felt the turning of the heatwave when the air washing over my tummy became calming instead of warm and fell asleep there till dawn when, upon waking, I crawled back into bed.
The air was layered, turgid, like the inside of a dream.
Catrina, Maddy, Rob and I went to the night markets - a thing that runs on Wednesdays in Melbourne over the summer season. Such a small world! We kept walking past one of the girls in Catrina’s year from high school (Catrina and I went to the same high school in New Zealand), and I bumped into L too, purely coincidentally.
It might just be that I’d had two cups of sangria in a relatively short period of time but everything seemed so decadent. Too much sun. Too many interesting smells coming from the food stalls. Live music. Fairy lights. Friends. We sat on the concrete still warm from the day listening to African salsa music.
People watching is so much more fun because people are so much better looking in summer. Rob and I were talking about this - it’s because they wear nicer clothes, show more skin, and their posture opens up because they’re not all hunched to preserve body heat.
Amusing moment: a woman fainted and a group of paramedics came round to check her out. Catrina and co. (newly graduated doctors) hovered around it like it was a crime scene. As an aside, I always feel completely weird in those situations too, like I should be doing something, but completely not wanting to do something because other people more qualified are probably doing something.
If anyone were to ask me the biggest difference in how I perceived doctors when I was in first year compared to now would be that I realise that they are as nutty, messy or jerkish in their other life just as much as people who aren’t doctors are in theirs. Maybe even moreso at times — medicine can train you up to be pretty arrogant sometimes. Arrogance leads to ignorance: you never really learn about or from people who you think are below you.
I wonder if kids whose parents are doctors have the same viewpoint change between first and final year. I suppose not, because nobody really holds their parents on some kind of subconscious pedestal when they’re a teenager. Or maybe it’s that I started med when I was still 17 so I had a concept of “them” and “me”. People in their 20s still seemed more adult than me. Therefore, their decisions seemed wiser. I thought they’d have more maturity, at least.
Not always the case, I’ve found, it seems :)
On the way home a crazy man started picking on a poor Indian person.
I’d seen the guy get on the station, accompanied by someone who looked like an undercover cop. The cop figure told him that he had to get on the train and pretty much took him onto it, sat him down, then went out. I’d purposely sat away from him but he’d moved to the set of seats beside mine a few minutes in.
He started yelling. Everything the Indian person said to defend himself (“Please leave me alone”) seemed to make him angrier. Nobody seemed to know what to do. People were doing the ‘don’t make eye contact’ thing while trying to eavesdrop and stare.
During this, the man in his 40s asleep next to me in a shirt and suit pants suddenly woke up, turned around after like 10 minutes of this, figured out the situation in 5 seconds, and told the guy quietly and with great [fatherly] authority, “That’s enough now, mate. You’ve said enough”.
And just like that, the guy shut up.
I love that. The quiet, calm authority. A way of reminding you of a stern, kind father figure telling you off no matter what time in life you are. I think some men never attain that, whatever age they are. And women — they never have that. (It’s unfortunate, but it’s true. Probably due to how genders are perceived, in general. A long debated inequality).
Hmmm. Someone with quiet, calm authority. That’s who I’d like to be someday (disregarding the thing I said about women). :)
“There is neither happiness nor unhappiness in this world; there is only the comparison of one state with another. Only a man who has felt ultimate despair is capable of feeling ultimate bliss. It is necessary to have wished for death in order to know how good it is to live…..the sum of all human wisdom will be contained in these two words: Wait and Hope.”—from ‘The Count Of Monte Cristo’ - Alexandre Dumas (via blacklies)
I was buying coathangers when this came on in the store. It’s not that this is the greatest song in the world. It’s just that I find it adorable when people rhyme a noun with the last word in a sentence.
You just slip out the back, Jack. Make a new plan, Stan. You don’t need to be coy, Roy, just listen to me. Hop on the bus, Gus. You don’t need to discuss much. Just drop off the key, Lee, and get yourself free
Whenever people talk about dodgy Santas, I think of the giant Santa figure built every year in my hometown of a winking, paedophile santa that beckons with his index finger. It stands several storeys tall at the Whitcoulls on Queen Street, Auckland.
We call him the Whitcoulls Santa for short. There’s even a facebook following.