Monday, December 31, 2007

An arbitrary moment

It's around three hours before 2008 officially begins in Hong Kong. I'm not going out & I don't care that I'm not going out to celebrate. Years ago I would have given a fuss about staying in and people not inviting me out. Now that I've grown up a bit and matured, I don't really care if I'm out or in. New Year's Eve is like Valentine's Day, Fathers' Day and Mothers' Day. They are holidays made up to extract money from dimwits like you and me who are stupid to notice that we should be celebrating our love for our partner, father or mother everyday instead of one designated day. New Year's Eve is just an arbitrary day - we could pick any day to signify the end of the year. The Chinese do that with the Lunar New Year and individuals do that with their birthdays.

I find people who eagerly anticipate celebrating the New Year are the one's who don't create enough excitement in their lives. These are the same people who watch soap operas and reality TV shows, read all the celebrity gossip in entertainment magazines and photograph themselves next to the Christmas lights like it is a phenomenon that only comes around once every millennia when in fact two months later businesses will set up lights for the Lunar New Year celebrations.

Yes, I have officially become a miser.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Deck the halls with bells of biodegradable holly

This year I only sent Christmas e-cards to my closest friends. Everybody else who can't be bothered to stay in touch with me can just shove it. I'm really in the festive mood now.

I only sent e-cards for a variety of reasons - they're free, they can be sent quickly but mainly they are environmentally friendly. If you think about it paper Christmas cards are a great burden on the environment. We chop down trees just so we can say festive greetings to people we don't normally stay in contact with for the rest of the year. By January most of our Christmas cards and wrapping paper is in the bin. So if you do receive the traditional form of festive greetings, make sure you recycle them. The same could be done for wrapping paper or any other stuff that you manage to waste during this Christmas holidays. If you have to put up Christmas lights make sure they're energy efficient lights and don't put them on for the entire night.

I'm not trying to dampen anybody's Christmas cheer, just highlighting what the environmental impact you are making during these holidays.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Still more whining at doctors

I previously mentioned in another blog entry about the deficiencies of doctors and medical students. After much more thinking, I thought of two more areas where doctors are not prolific. I'll probably think of more as time goes on, bare with me...

5. Doctors are not the most organized of people.

With doctors' minds usually focused on important things perhaps it is acceptable for doctors to require people to organize their schedule, such as secretaries or office staff. Yet I find it unacceptable many doctors are late for meetings, teaching sessions and any other scheduled event. They know in advance they have these meetings, including regular events that they know happen at that time. Yet doctors just have a lax attitude, thinking everybody will turn up late and it will not matter if they turn up late. Many doctors develop this attitude in medical school.

The worst evidence of why doctors are so disorganized is their handwriting. Due to our constant time constraints, doctors' handwriting is more of a squiggle than actual legible words. We need to write as little as possible with the maximum information as in little time as possible. It is amazing patients haven't sued against this, with acronyms or abbreviations only the writing doctor can understand. As a medical student, it took a while before understanding the system (or so called 'system') of how a patient's record is constructed. I remember attending a doctors' session regarding medical blunders and it just amazed me after all this time doctors' handwritings have still not improved.

6. Doctors are not environmentally friendly.

Doctors use fifteen paper towels for drying their hands when two will suffice. We throw away tons of paper but don't recycle it because of our constant fear of divulging patients' details, even though we have shredded the information beyond visual recognition. Most doctors own their own car, despite living five minutes away. That includes one of my friends who goes home when she's on call and drives back when the nurses call her.

So even if your doctor looks like Jennifer Morrison or Katherine Heigl, they do may have more flaws they you expect.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Get togethers

In an earlier blog entry, I said if you are not a Christian you shouldn't celebrate Christmas. Perhaps I was being a bit too harsh with that comment. If you use the holidays for getting together and for giving & receiving with friends, then I can find that acceptable. I know you should be doing that all the time but since most of us are working all the time in different places around the world, perhaps time should be allocated each year for this kind of event.

Since I have finished with classes, I have been getting together with people from my previous secondary schools. The first was on Saturday, getting together with the class I would have graduated with if I had stayed at Shatin College. There were a lot of people who I knew but they were a vast majority that I didn't. Some came to Shatin College after I left and even some had been with me at the same time, even back to Shatin Junior School but not being in the same class I was not that close to them.

I thought about not going and perhaps I was right. I knew I was not going to be much of a conversationalist and that I was not familiar with even the people I knew the most. My worst fears came true. I had a good time, meeting people I had seen in fourteen years, but from my point of view I could have done better. I am always too self-conscious about how I act and react in social situations. I was think I should be talking to people otherwise I look like a complete plonker. That is what happened most of the night. I know some people wanted to avoid me and I don't blame them. Perhaps we have nothing in common. Perhaps they were scared off by the way I look - I dress like I'm still thirteen, have grown fatter than an elephant and still have acne despite being in my mid-twenties. I know I have changed and maybe this frightens off people. I have become more pessimistic, more cynical and very heavily sarcastic - something not all people are use to.

I don't like to sound too down-heartening. One good point is nobody asked me where I frittered away four years of my life and I didn't have to reply that my depression was the cause. People treated me as a normal person... I think.

********

The other get together was with a guy I was with at Brighton College for four years. It is amazing that we talked like we were old friends but without having to mention much about our boarding school days. Just general things were mentioned like what we were doing and idle stuff. Again I am thankful my depression was not mentioned.

It is funny how people remember you. Nearly everybody remembers me as an Arsenal fan and having a photographic memory. If that is the impression I made, then so be it.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Hippocrates turning in his grave

As somebody who has been in medical school for nearly nine years, I have observed many doctors and numerous medical students. I wish I could say that I am heartened to be in this profession but it is sad to say that I have become more and more despondent over the years towards medical students and doctors.

For those who are not in the medical sector, I would like to highlight numerous traits which I find many medical students and doctors have but don't realize. For those who are in the health profession, maybe it requires another view to see that you are not all that perfect.

1. Doctors are not nice people

It is a startling revelation but the evidence is there. If doctors were nice people, the consultants would say they didn't need to be paid so much so it will help the financial burden of the health sector. Many doctors would be offering their services for free, for example going to Africa or remote parts of China to help those who are really in need. But what do doctors do instead? They buy Mercedes Benzes only because they are expensive and spend half their time jetting to conferences across the world.

I'm sure most medical students enter medical school eager and thinking they can change the world but sooner or later their animal instincts take over. All they want to do is graduate, get a good job, find a beautiful partner and spawn lots of mini-doctors. They will do anything and everything to achieve their goals, no matter what (which is realy quite scary). The degradation of morality starts in medical school, when peers start to hoard reading material which could benefit anybody or take out every single reference book necessary from the library. Startling to hear but I have seen it happen.

When the students enter the clinical years, their immorality affects patients more. They examine patients who have clearly do not want to be examined because a hundred other students had done so before. I know of one former peer, Eric Ng, who woke patients to practise his examination technique. I know it is proposterous to hear but medical students do that. They even insist a digital rectal examination is necessary to perform and never really explain the procedure to the patient (that it might be painful). Medical students even break the law by nicking gum labels of the patient's details and sticking it into the notebook, just because they are too lazy to write out the patient's name and age (which is all they need). They never really think they could lose their notebook, somebody could pick the notebook up and abuse those patient's details.

It gets even worse in the internship. As they are overworked, underpaid and overstressed, interns take out their frustrations on anybody - nurses, patients, etc. Interns just want to get their work done as quickly as possible so they can get back to sleep. This lack of bedside manner sometimes stays forever, as I have seen in two professors (funnily enough both surgeons). Yet this total lack of remorse maybe makes them better doctors, since they don't form an emotional attachment to their patients and do everything in a logical manner. Think Spock from Star Trek and you will understand my reasoning.

2. Doctors are not clever people and are not great conversationalists

I'm not saying doctors are entirely stupid people. They are very clever in terms of medical sciences but when it comes to other areas, we are dimwits. We cannot hold conversation in other fields such as other sciences, culture, arts, food or politics. I know a vast majority of my doctor friends cannot cook... and I'm not just talking about boiling instant noodles. One friend, Arthur, considers the hospital canteen food as the best he has ever eaten. I experience nausea everytime he says that.

It is the fact that we are so dedicated into studying medicine we don't have time for anything else. I had two recent examples of this. We had two lectures recently. One lecturer made a reference to Spain and said "it is not only the rain that falls mainly on the plain in Spain", which only I and another student (an elective from Australia) got. OK, maybe I was being a bit too harsh since it is an old movie which the current generation have never heard of but probably should since it is one of the great classics but another film reference came up, when the same lecturer remarked that normal humans should not be afraid of the X-men since the mutation should die out. Again only myself and the elective student laughed at this reference whilst it went completely over the heads of my fellow peers. It does get even worse in the second lecture, when the professor asked had anybody seen the Godfather and the same two people mentioned before were the only people to raise their hands.

So whatever you do, don't engage doctors in conversation outside their field.

3. Doctors don't have a great sense of humour.

Doctors do have a sense of humour, just one that nobody else understands except doctors since it makes bleak and obscure references to our medical knowledge. I'll use an example I always hear. Whenever somebody is absolutely hungry, you might use the phrase, "I'm so hungry I could eat a horse." Maybe not that funny but it may gain a snigger. Doctors and medical students usually will say, "I'm about to become hypoglycaemic... get me a glucose drip!" That will get most medical students laughing but will leave most people just totally bewildered.

Doctors (as well as other Hong Kong people) just don't understand sarcasm that well so don't bother using that either. In fact any form of sophisticated humour won't work. Doctors will laugh at trivial stuff, such as the toilet humour of the Farrelly brothers or the ridiculous humour seen on local Hong Kong TV. Doctors don't have a wit or a higher level sense of humour.

4. Doctors are not beautiful and have no sense of style or fashion

I'm sorry to disappoint the male population but I have not found a female doctor that is as beautiful as Jennifer Morrison from "House" or Katherine Heigl from "Grey's Anatomy" - not even remotely close. Female doctors do not put on make-up as they can't be bothered, despite the fact patient's will probably stop dying of fright in front of them if they did and will probably get patients, especially the male type, to cooperate with their work.

Also female medical students don't really have a clue what real formal wear is. They think anything they can wear to parties or going out is alright in the wards. I have found two peers who have worn jeans to wards clinics, thinking that if it was obscured by their white coat it will be alright. It just makes me think women have lower morality than men.

I just want to reiterate to the female medical students out there what is not formal wear and what is appropriate for ward and clinic duties. Silver or golden shoes are NOT appropriate - this is a hospital, not a f*cking nightclub. That recent new fad of having black leggings with a skirt/short is NOT appropriate. Wearing a t-shirt with a slogan across the front is NOT appropriate. Wearing boots are NOT appropriate - again this is a hospital, not a f*cking nightclub. Wearing casual clothing underneath a doctor's gown is NOT appropriate.

I have long accepted that ladies can wear anything they want as formal. If I was ever appointed a dean of a faculty of medicine, I would make sure ladies would have to wear dark shoes, dark trousers and a blouse. And before any without a penis complains I'm being sexist, I'm not since I would make sure guys will have to dark shoes, dark trousers and a shirt. In fact guys get it off worse since they have to wear a tie, ensure all circulation is cut off to our face.

Guys don't get it easy either from me. Wearing a tie/shirt combination as though you picked them out in the dark is a fashion no-no. I'll accept khaki pants and non-black leather shoes as formal but I'll draw the line at chequered/striped shirts.

********

When I consider whether or not I want to go into internship, the stress is one of the considerations I'm thinking about, whether or not it will affect my depression. Yet another is what kind of group of people I'm entering and whether or not I want to be part of it.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Bah, humbug!

You know it is the festive period when you see buildings putting up their Christmas lights, the shopping centres are playing "Jingle Bells" and "Silent Night" over and over again to drive most people mad, especially the store employees, and everybody is starting to think about buying Christmas presents.

I don't like to come across as a Silas Marner or an Ebenezer Scrooge but I particularly don't like how Christmas has become. I abhor how companies and business have commercialized this holiday so they make more money from witless saps like you and me. I don't like how society portray people who don't celebrate Christmas as lonely miserable bastards who order pizza on Christmas Day and spend the day with their dog sitting in front of the TV watching the entire series of '24' in one sitting. It seems you have to put Christmas lights up in front of your house and you have to outdo your neighbour. It seem so competitive when you have to announce to your colleagues how high your Christmas tree is this year. I found it bemusing when people greet the arrival of the festive season as though it is a lifetime experience, photographing every single Christmas display and every single Christmas tree in the malls as though they will never return. Yes I have turned into Ebenezer Scrooge.

I really should come at this from a religious point of view. Christmas is a Christian holiday so it should only be celebrated by Protestants, Catholics and so on. What right do non-religious people have to celebrate this holiday. At least the Jews celebrate Hanukkah and the Muslims have Ramadan at this time of year, so they celebrate their own holiday appropriately. Yet we have a large section of the population who say they are Christian but are really not or they are atheist but still go out to buy presents for other people and put up Christmas decorations. What I am essentially saying is if you are not a Christian, you shouldn't be celebrating Christmas. I don't mind you taking the day off, since it has been decreed a public holiday but you should be doing the stuff associated with the special day. If you are going to celebrate Christmas, I think you have to go to church and remember why we celebrate Christmas. I don't think many people can do that.

My attitude towards how people celebrate Christmas extends to other 'holidays' as well. Why have a Mothers' Day and a Fathers' Day when you should be loving your parents all year round? Why have a Valentine's Day at all. People who celebrate this lovers' day are just saps as they buy ridiculously priced roses which will die in a few days.

I'm quite ambivalent when concerning Remembrance Day (or Memorial Day and Veterans' Day in USA). We should be celebrating those who have fallen every single day of our lives but we don't. Soldiers have a bad rap since they are always portrayed as senseless killing machines. Yet they are like you and me - they do their jobs and are usually directed by senseless superiors who have no idea what they tasks truly entail. I think this is one holiday I want to keep and celebrated more.

So please, if you are not a Christian don't bother sending me presents or Christmas cards. Should you be staying in touch with me all year round?

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Dreaming of a White Christmas

It's getting nearer to Christmas, with only twenty four shopping days left! That means the weather is taking a turn towards the cooler side. That would mean more for people in temperate climates such as the Eastern seabord in USA and the whole of UK. These places genuinely become cold, with chilling wind, awful drizzle and hopefully snow.

Yet when it turns slightly cold in Hong Kong, everybody seems to go into a fuss like it was "The Day After Tomorrow". My mum is putting up a fuss of wearing more clothes and dressing up like I'm on Antarctic expedition but the temperature has only dropped below twenty degree Celsius. Don't ask me what that is in Farenheit - I'm guessing mid seventies for some non-mathematical reason. Back to the subject at hand, this is the normal temperature in England. I can easily survive and avoid hypothermia by wearing just an extra piece of clothing. Most of the time I'm indoors so it is not necessary to require a coat. There are some people who think that is necessary.

I'm surprised to hear from two doctor friends (Michele and Lorraine) that it is freezing, despite the fact they have lived in temperate climates before (Vancouver and South East England). I think coming back to Hong Kong has spoilt most people. When it is hot like it is most of the year, everybody goes indoors for airconditioning. When it is cold, like it is for only one day of the year, everybody turns on their heaters when they can easily just put on a sweater and save energy plus money. The same applies to Hong Kong public transport - I think this contributes to how spoilt Hong Kong people are. I would like to comment about it but probably in a latter blog entry.

I always dream of a White Christmas but in Hong Kong that is very unlikely.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A matter of (personal) faith

I was surprised the local channel was covering the news US evangelist Franklin Graham, was coming to Hong Kong to hold events. Today he was giving a press conference and handing out school supplies to a poor area in Hong Kong. I'm sure many of friends will be going to these events being devout Christians.

I'm quite ambivalent towards the topic of evangelism. It's good to talk about your faith to other people whether they are atheist or believe in a different religion. It gives them an idea how your religion works, since I always believe ignorance leads to hate and discrimination. If convert you them to your religion, the better.

Yet I start to draw the line when people start to 'impose' their religious views on people who don't want to hear about it. Some people are happy not believing in God or a particular religion, which is fine by me. They are plenty of good people in the world who are not Christian, Muslim or any other religion who are living content lives and performing good deeds.

There are also people who start to take their religious doctrine a little too seriously or distort the views of the Bible. If you start to say you view on something is based on the fact "It is in the Bible", I think you are on mushy foundations. I remember one former friend (Dora Tai) would not have pre-marital sex on the basis "It is in the Bible." If she said that her relationship with her boyfriend would be better if they did not engage in any nookie before the big day, I would accept her views and moved on. However just because "It is in the Bible" is bordering on blind contempt for me. I'm sure many young ladies in Hong Kong feel the same way, that pre-marital sex is bad because "It is in the Bible".

Before people start to write in and say I'm a Bible basher who hates all Christians and has no basis on his views regarding Christianity, let me just iterate I'm a Christian - Protestant/Anglican to be more precise. I do believe there is one God and Jesus Christ came to die for our sins. I must admit I have not been to church for quite a while - nearly four years - because of my schedule but primarily because of my depression and my faith have not been compatible.

Yet I don't believe the Bible is totally the word of God - it is interpretation of his word from his disciples which have been distorted over many millennia. Think of the game 'Chinese Whispers' and you know why I think that. I don't believe homosexuality is a sin. I don't believe animals have no souls (one fact sprung on me by Dora and one I absolutely don't believe). I do believe live is precious and I would not give my permission to an abortion but I do believe it is a woman's right to choose. I don't believe in euthanasia but I believe it is right for a person to choose whether or not he/she should die. I do not believe in imposing my religious views on other people, which is why I abhor when conservative politicians who use the Bible as their basis for their political stance start to implement these views on their constituents, whether or not they believe in that religion.

For those who believe the Bible as the only word, I like to give you a scene from one of my favourite shows of all time "The West Wing" (Season 2, Episode 3 - The Midterms). In this scene, the President meets a religious radio show host:
President Josiah Bartlet: I like your show. I like how you call homosexuality an abomination.
Dr. Jenna Jacobs: I don't say homosexuality is an abomination, Mr. President. The Bible does.
President Josiah Bartlet: Yes it does. Leviticus.
Dr. Jenna Jacobs: 18:22.
President Josiah Bartlet: Chapter and verse. I wanted to ask you a couple of questions while I have you here. I'm interested in selling my youngest daughter into slavery as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. She's a Georgetown sophomore, speaks fluent Italian, always cleared the table when it was her turn. What would a good price for her be? While thinking about that, can I ask another? My Chief of Staff Leo McGarry insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly says he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself or is it okay to call the police? Here's one that's really important because we've got a lot of sports fans in this town: touching the skin of a dead pig makes one unclean. Leviticus 11:7. If they promise to wear gloves, can the Washington Redskins still play football? Can Notre Dame? Can West Point? Does the whole town really have to be together to stone my brother John for planting different crops side by side? Can I burn my mother in a small family gathering for wearing garments made from two different threads? Think about those questions, would you? One last thing: while you may be mistaking this for your monthly meeting of the Ignorant Tight-Ass Club, in this building, when the President stands, nobody sits.

I don't mind if you are religious or not. Just don't impose your views on me. They are YOUR views, not mine. I still believe faith is personal and cannot be passed on.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Two types of headaches

I had my first migraine this week... or I think I did. I had a stomach ache, dyspepsia in nature, starting on Sunday but it progressed to a headache on Monday. The stomach ache and headache got so bad, I missed most of classes on Monday and Tuesday. I still don't think it was a migraine but it doesn't fit any other type of headache.

What was even worse was losing my phone on the minibus on Tuesday after attending my follow-up with my psychiatrist. I'm pissed off at myself at losing a relatively new phone (given to me by my mother), since I'm usually careful with these things. Nine times out of ten when I leave public transport I will check my seat in case I have left something. This time it didn't happen, probably due to my headache.

I'm more pissed off nobody has returned the phone and has already chucked out the SIM card. The person in question has probably used the phone for him/herself or sold my MotoL6i off. I'm probably naive in thinking or have an idealistic view people will return things that have been lost but this never is the case in Hong Kong. This just probably reinforces my pessimistic view of Hong Kong people being greedy. This situation may occur in other countries but probably less so.

So if you try to call me in the next few days, now you know why I'm not picking up.

********
Steve McClaren should be hung by his knob and eggs thrown at him. He couldn't even qualify after been giving a lifeline.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Ten years on

On 19th November 1997, I attempted suicide for the first time.

It was two days before the House Music Competition at my boarding school. I was in charge of coordinating our (miserable) effort. I was getting frustrated by the group not co-operating with me and not putting some effort into our entry. I burst into tears as I usually do and stormed off, with the sarcastic jeers of the rest of the house in the background. After contemplating for such a long time and with nobody coming to see how I was doing, I decided to ask a friend to slash my wrists. Fortunately that friend had the common sense not to heed to my request and retrieved our housemaster to talk some sense into me. Now is the tenth anniversary of the day I effectively mark as the beginning of my depression and I'm sort of in a reflective mood.

The past ten years have been like a rollercoaster ride with my depression, usually with more descents than elevations. Since my initial episode I have never fully recovered my ability to enjoy anything , not to the level which other normal people enjoy activities or other aspects of life. Most of the time I am a miserable bastard, having changed from an idealistic, kind person to a cynical, sarcastic gremlin who has no faith in the human race. My depression, growing up and living in Hong Kong has brought me to where I am in life.

I remember watching Stephen Fry's excellent documentary about bipolar affective disorder, "The Secret Life of a Manic-Depressive" where the comedian was asked how many depressive and manic episodes he had. Since I am in a reflective mood, I have been doing the same. In the past ten years, I have attempted suicide about four times - slashing wrists, slashing wrists, paracetamol overdose and slashing wrists. I have been hospitalized three times for severe depression with suicidal ideation - December 2003, June 2004 and April 2006. I have seen many people for my depression - two doctors (with many trainees attending), two counsellors and two clinical psychologists. I'm currently on my fourth type of antidepressants and have been on the maximum dose for each regimen. I have gained a few valuable friends through this experience but lost more people who couldn't handle the situation.

The inevitable question I should be asking myself is how do I feel after ten years with depression? I know I have to live with depression with the rest of my life and maintain constant vigilance for relapses/episodes. I know I have to change my way of thinking to avoid entering another depressive state. I know my prognosis is poorer with an early age of onset, an episode almost every year and different drug regimens.

Most of the time, I wish I never had depression. It has taken four years out of my life and lost me a lot of "friends". Yet there is a small part of me which is thankful for having depression. I know what it is like to be a patient and some part of society that is stigmatized, along with other people like different ethnic races and the elderly. I have learned to think more broadly and be more open-minded. I know which people do genuinely care about me and which people don't give a shit about me.

I don't usually celebrate special occasions such as as birthdays, Valentine's Day and holidays. I may make an exception for having survived ten years of depression.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Human nature

A friend currently doing her medical internship recently wrote in her blog about her fear of losing her empathy after a few months into her job. Demands from patients, senior doctors, nurses and herself plus the lack of patience has lead to a 'mean' streak from her. Even though I don't know what she is going through, I can imagine nearly every intern goes through this experience. However she is far better off than most as she has acknowledge the fact and has a willingness to change.

I think I wrote about this before but I'll mention it again. Human beings are not designed to be nice or kind or generous. The role of a living being is to survive, reproduce and ensure our genes are passed on. (On a side note, I don't think it necessary to evolve. The role of evolution aids our survival but it is just a circumstance of our interaction with the environment.)

Being nice does not fit into the equation. There is no benefit from being nice. We are nice to our family members because they roughly have the same genetic make-up as you and we want to ensure their DNA is passed on. This is probably why we are nice to our children but shitty to our parents once we get to the breeding stage. I don't why we are nicer to our friends than to our colleagues or strangers as it makes no behavioural sense but I have postulated a theory. We like our friends as they possess characteristics we like. Most of these traits probably are genetic and we want to ensure those characteristics are passed on.

Being nice to strangers or people we don't like is just natural. It is the same in the animal kingdom and it is the same in the human world. In essence animals are psychopaths. We are only nice if it serves our purposes, mostly because you don't want to be ridiculed for being nasty. I'll give you the example of charities. In my opinion charity work should be its own reward and you shouldn't derive any other benefit from it, not even compensation of the time, money or effort you've put into it. When people and especially celebrities start to publicize charities, especially their own, you start to wonder if there are ulterior motives.

I have no problems with people or celebrities highlighting charities to raise funds or awareness. I accept people are more likely to donate to a charity if a celebrity is linked to it but its not a particularly good way to get money. You want people to genuinely care about the charity concerned. You start to wonder if the celebrity involved gets more benefit out of the deal, since he/she probably has set up the charity despite there being hundreds of charities doing the same job plus adding his/her name on it.

There are people who I think do charity work to massage their own egos. They feel good in an unusual way when doing volunteer work. I remember talking to one honorary professor who was supposed to help me deal with repeating a year. Yet all I got out of him was the charity work he does in his spare time, which really had no relevance to me at all. I think that also applied to one of my friends Kevin when he started to publicize his charity work. I think it was partially massage his ego and make him feel good in the weird sort of sense. He really didn't need to publicize but he did and I really question it.

Being nice is probably the next evolutionary step for humans. We should break free from our genetic bond and start to dictate our own future & purpose. Otherwise just surviving and reproducing doesn't seem like a lofty goal I want to aim for.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

For fallen soldiers

Today is Remembrance Day in UK and Veterans' Day in USA. Both holidays celebrate the same idea, to remember soldiers who have fought and died in various wars around the world.

This kind of remembrance is difficult in Hong Kong for various reasons. Hong Kong has not been in a major war since World War II, so my and my parents' generation cannot begin to imagine what war is really like. This lack of awareness is further enhanced by the fact Hong Kong has no military forces. This little special administrative region depends entirely on the People's Liberation Army for protection. Hong Kong people cannot enlist into the army, air force or navy and know what it is like to fight in a war.

Whatever your views of war and fighting, you must have an appreciation for the soldiers who do the dirty words. Few will begrudge people who decide to join up and fight for his/her country... except for that little weird American family/cult who picket military funerals with placards saying the soldiers' deaths are God's punishment on liberating homosexuals. That is an exception. Soldiers just carry out their orders - "It's not to reason why but to do or die." Some question this proverb but it is extremely useful. If we started to reason why for every decision in every war, we would doubt every decision made by our leaders.

Wars are not fought between two countries. Wars are fought between two men - the leaders. There is never a referundum or vote to decide whether or not to go to war. The population entrust their leaders with the decision whether or not to go to war and sometime it doesn't work. There have only been two occasions in my recollection and my opinion where war has been really necessary. The first was World War II but we only found out on the true extent afterwards of Hitler's terror. The second occasion was the first Gulf War after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. All other wars were just to gain control or power and otherwise were unnecessary. This includes the current fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq.

As you sitting there reading this entry, just remember there have been people who sacrificed their lives for you to be able to do that.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Eye of the beholder

I know it is rude, crass and possibly chauvinistic for people to comment about appearance but I'm going to write about it anyway. Lately I have noticed how hot, beautiful, sexy or all of the above some of the people I knew have become. You don't notice this in your teenage years when everybody is growing and maturing but once you are in the prime of your life at the mid-twenties, you wish you taken more notice of them. I've put some pictures of SOME of those people I've been noticing. Before the bleeding conservatives and feminine activists start shouting and saying I'm displaying pornography or reducing these people to their appearance, I like to say I'm complimenting them on their appearance the only way I know how (a guy's perspective), I have total respect for them and I know they have great personalities, a intelligent brain and other attributes which would guys should be attracted to. There are others girls I know who are just as attractive but I don't they don't have good photos up on the web.

Yet that phrase - "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder" is true. There are certain people I find attractive that other people don't whilst the opposite is true. I cannot think of any babes I like which others would not touch at this moment in time. Yet there are a few examples I can think of women I don't want to touch. Angelina Jolie is one. I know a lot of guys will think I'm crazy but I think they should hear me out. I prefer her with light brown hair rather than the dark brown or black she normally sports. Plus its her character which bugs me the most - you know deep down she's a whore. Another lady I'm not too amoured too is Halle Berry. I just don't like her hair (what is it with me and women's hair?) - it's too short.

There are other things what makes a woman sexy apart from her appearance: her behaviour, what is she wearing (or not wearing) and her personality. I know Beyonce Knowles is very attractive and stunning. I most likely would like to have sex with her but wouldn't like her to be my girlfriend. I know that sounds weird but I just feel her character wouldn't be faithful to her boyfriend. I'm probably wrong and if I get to know her she might seem a nice woman but that is the impression I get from her.

Yet that is how guys assess gals; on their appearance. We want to be attracted to gals with a great personality, a wonderful sense of humour or kind generosity but we cannot see that straight away. If there was a rating meter over each girl displaying those statistics, life would be so much easier and fairer. Unfortunately the only way guys can assess girls is their face, tits and arse. I don't want to but evolution and genetics has engineered the male species that way. Human behaviour and thinking has lead to the belief attractive people are kind, intelligent and all the other positive features you can think of, which is utter horsecrap and loose stoolwater of the worst kind.

I know we should transcend our DNA and be attracted to the opposite sex in other ways apart from the appearance but that will take time and a lot of education.

Monday, November 05, 2007

More grieving

I knew there was something wrong. A few of my friends changed their Facebook status to 'being shocked' or 'in grieving' but I didn't know what had happened. Only this morning did I assemble the pieces together. When I went down to Starbucks for breakfast and read the South China Morning Post did I know what had happened. Somebody I knew and I had been in the same class with died in a diving accident yesterday. I heard the news yesterday but I didn't realize it was this person until I saw the article in the newspaper today.

It certainly is a tragedy, for her, her family and her friends. I prayed to God that He could find a place for her by his side and comfort her family and friends. I didn't know her that well but knew her well enough to know she was a nice girl, although a bit feisty at times (and I'm saying that in a nice way). Hopefully she has found her way to heaven.

She was only 27 years old. She's the second person I know who has died young. The other jumped off a mountain whilst on a skiing holiday. It's always a tragedy when somebody dies but when that person is somebody you know and who is young, it seems more so. Naturally (and perhaps it is a bit selfish) you start to examine your own existence and you start to notice you should cherish each day, since it can be your last. The Grim Reaper doesn't discriminate between the old and the young - he takes who he pleases.

Another thought that goes through people's mind is "Why?" "Why did you have to take her when she was so young and had her whole life before her?" Many religious people would say it was her time or something along those lines but for those non-believers they don't have the answer and unfortunately nobody does. We all like to die in our elder years pain-free but we don't live in an ideal world. This is a fact of life - some of us will die old but some of us will die young.

Although I didn't know her that well I'm dedicating this entry to her...

Friday, November 02, 2007

Funeral arrangements

I'm surprised how well my mother is handling my grandmother's (her mother) death. Naturally she was quite overcome with grief on the day she died but since then life has essentially returned to normal. All that is different the arranging of the funeral in a few weeks time - finding a place to have the funeral and findings clothes for the funeral. In a Christian-based society, one would normal have a service in a church and everyone would be dressed in black. In Hong Kong society, everybody is dressed in white with the clothes thrown away afterwards.

Some other traditions are not generally observed nowadays. In days gone by, the funeral would take place overnight with nobody allowed to leave the body of the deceased. Nowadays this custom has been consigned to history books. I'm sure the burning of paper effigies such as a house, car, money, etc. will still be adhered to since everybody likes to burn stuff.

I remember one of our psychiatry professors Dr. Jonathan Ko saying funeral arrangements are generally for the living and not for the dead. I find this mostly true. The dead won't know about your funeral arrangements and even if they did, I think they would be upset that so much time, effort and money would be spent on their funeral in such a melancholic way. For the living the funeral is their proper way to say goodbye. Societal views play a part in the equation, since nobody wants to hold a cheap funeral.

I already know what my funeral arrangements will be like. I know for sure I want my organs donated, no matter what my; family say and if they are in reasonable shape and fucntion. I would rather spend an eternity in hell rather than not help somebody have a new heart, liver or lungs. I want to be cremated in a cheap but at least presentable wooden box - it's going to be burnt so why waste money on something extravagant? Nobody can wear black at my funeral. I want people to remember the good times with me (if any) rather than be saddened at my loss. I remember watching "Star Trek: The Next Generation" when they hold a funeral for the supposedly dead Geordi LaForge (the chief engineer) and it was a celebration with food and music. That is what I want at my funeral - lots of booze and naked chicks (naked hunks for the ladies). I want half of my ashes thrown of the Palace Pier in Brighton (if that is possible) and the other half thrown over the Emirates Stadium. I find this ironic now, since I'm a hardcore Gooner but have never been to Highbury or Emirates and have only seen Arsenal play in the fresh at Wembley.

I don't know why people are afraid of death. Like the old saying goes, "The only certainties in life are death and taxes" (unless you live in Brunei where taxes are not a certainty). If I died today I wouldn't be disappointed. There are two reasons why people are afraid of death. Firstly is the pain associated. People are afraid of the pain more than the death itself. People always want to die in their sleep or without pain. Secondly is the completeness of life. People do not want to die without achieving anything or fulfilling the ambitions or goals.

In general people are not afraid of death itself but the associations and consequences.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Passing away

Yesterday evening, my grandmother passed away...

The whole family had been expecting this event for some time. My grandmother had two strokes in quick succession in 1999, just before I entered medical school. The strokes themselves were not unexpected either. According to my mother she had diabetes mellitus and had poor compliance to her medication. During one of her follow-up visits she had a carotid bruit so obvious the doctor in the clinic told the medical students attending to listen to it.

Since those two strokes she's been in a vegetative state. That's over eight years. She's been living in a nursing home and just goes into hospital when there is something wrong. Every time my family wants the condition to be fatal so she can pass on and end the suffering, not just for her but for the rest of the family. This time their wish came true.

To be honest I didn't know my grandmother that well and I wasn't that close to her but I wish I were. She was very nice to me and to all her grandchildren when we visited her in her flat in Sheung Shui. In the end when my mother told me my grandmother had been admitted into hospital and this could be the time, I didn't want to go see her. Partially because I didn't want know what to say but really because of myself. As a depressive we are constantly warned to decrease the stresses in our lives, which include employment and relationship issues but also includes death. I didn't know how I would react to seeing my grandmother lying in a hospital with all the tubes and drips surrounding her. I didn't want a depressive episode coming again so soon after receiving other bad news about my test results. I feel guilty about that decision but I eventually I did go to see her in the evening and say my final farewell.

Right now I don't know how I feel. A lot of the time I feel apathetic - I don't have any feelings at all - and that worries me. I worry that I have had depression for so long my feelings are worn out and I can't feel anything. I have been noticing it lately when meeting patients in the wards, especially toward psychiatric patients who I should respond to. Most of the time I couldn't care less about people - class peers, patients, family, friends, even myself.

It's a constant feeling of emptiness...

Friday, October 26, 2007

A mixture of emotions

I am in the final rotation of my last year and it is constantly tiring for me. Everybody says the medicine rotation is the most difficult and stressful but for it is fatigue which is getting to me. I constantly have to take a nap in the hospital library even after I have followed my morning rounds. You don't even want to know how long I nap for...

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Along with depression I constantly feel angry, disappointed and despondent about the world around me. I know I shouldn't give the time of day to these emotions but part of the problem is due to my personality and my views on life. From an early age I had an idealistic view of the world. As human beings we have been blessed with opposable thumbs and a three digit IQ. I expect us to be able to solve the world problems easily and live in harmony. What is done instead is far from my idealistic view. Humans bicker over material wealth and ideologies, leading to the four horsemen of Apocalypse constantly tramping through the worlds. Humans destroy the planet in every known way and continue the devastation even with the knowledge that this destruction could lead to the annihilation of our planet.

I know I should know better to expect this. After all we are animals in the first place and we are just conforming to our genetic makeup - to survive and reproduce. Not everybody is intelligent or bothered enough to notice about the world problems and just want to survive. I should be more tolerant of other people's views considering I did grow up in a multi-ethnic society at school.

So why am I still pouring hot water over how crap Hong Kong television is or how immature my classmates are over psychiatric patients?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Bad day

When you wake up in the morning you don't expect the next cycle of your life to go wrong. You might dread the chores or tasks you have to perform but the view is you don't think today will be a bad day. This is what happened to me - today was suppose to be an easy day but it turned out for the worse.

Today was the initial day for my Medicine rotation and started off with an orientation meeting. I was slightly disturbed to find my name off the list and had to inform the administrative staff of the department to correct the error. The matter sorted itself out without a fuss but I felt disappointed by the incident. My situation of repeating the year was known more than six months ago and the error left me with the impression my predicament was not appreciated by the department. It is not difficult to stick a name into a group and all I'm doing is attaching myself to this group - it won't disturb the earth's axis or something disastrous like that.

This little incident was nothing compared to the news I received in the afternoon, that I failed my psychiatry test and would have to repeat the examination in March. I guess it wasn't expected - I had an inkling the examiner wouldn't pass me for my interview technique (I adopted the approach of having a chat with the patient instead of directed questioning). My mother always wants to find reasons for these kind of situations - I was too casual in my studying during this rotation, I watched too many videos on my laptop, etc. I tried to explain to her sometimes these things happen, that life doesn't always have an explanation.

Naturally I felt saddened by the news. I know many people are concerned when my mood goes down. When I get depressed, it is not long before I start thinking about suicide and all those nasty thoughts. This time I know what is happening and I can stop myself thanks to the cognitive behavioural techniques I have been taught by my psychiatrist. So this time around I'm OK. I don't need people reading this blog stopping halfway and frantically contacting me just because they haven't this portion. Unusually (or this maybe usual, since I don't know if any other people have this phenomenon) I get very severe chest pain, difficulty in breathing and an indescribable sensation in my arms; an aching, tired sensation like I have been electrocuted.

What bothered me more was my group peers and the impertinent pursuit of who had failed. As you might expect, we are notified anonymously as only our examination numbers and not our names are produced. Yet there are people who try to find out who has not passed. There are two many reasons why I don't like this. They are only wanting to confirm that THEY have not failed, since they can't be bothered to remember their own examination number and are always scared it is theirs. The second reason is for their own curiosity. They are not going to be empathetic/sympathetic to the person who has failed. How do I know this? Because I pointed I was one of the three people who failed and only one person out of several had the decency to be nice.

All this was happening while the class was having their group and class photos being taken. Something which would have taken fifteen to thirty minutes was stretched to an hour, just because people cannot shut up and listen or turn up on time. Why is it Hong Kong people cannot think about these things and only think for themselves?

Friday, October 19, 2007

Nothing much happening...

I've just finished my test for my current rotation on Wednesday, which has left me free for the past couple of days. I'm trying to relax before the next rotation starts. Nothing really is going on in life and I'm just blogging for the sake of blogging. Right now I'm trying to catch up with some of my shows. I have all of season 3 of "House M.D." and half of season 3 of "Doctor Who", although I'm regularly downloading "Have I Got News For You", "Top Gear" and "QI". Hopefully I can initiate myself to watch some of these shows plus a DVD or two.

There are some topics I want to write about in this blog but lately my way of thinking has been oriented to what I want to write here. I'm just too focussed on thinking about a topic to write about. I should just write what's on my mind. One thing I have just noticed is subtitles. In Hong Kong most, if not all, English programmes are subtitled in Traditional Chinese. Unfortunately the subtitlers are not very good or are not paid very well, since they don't get many of the subtitles right. Even though I cannot read Chinese I hear my parents complaining of the poor translation. Just now I was watching one of Nigella Lawson's many culinary shows on Discovery South East Asia Travel and Living. The subtitle for 'butcher' was poorly translated into 'slaughter man' - not something you want to be visiting on the grocery shopping.

It's even worse on another show I religiously watch - "Top Gear". Even though I cannot read the Chinese subtitles, many of the car manufacturers' names of their vehicles are not translated into Chinese but left in English. Yet the subtitler cannot even be bothered to look up the names of these cars. The Chevrolet Lacetti has even been written differently in the same show, for example 'Laseti', 'Reseti', etc. It is just so poor these subtitles do not go through quality control or through somebody who is well-versed in English and Chinese. You may not like the work you do but you should have some pride in the finished product since YOU did it.

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I cannot really blame Steve McClaren for the defeat in Russia. I think he did his best but unfortunately a bad penalty decision and a poor playing surface was just out of his control. At least he has the balls to keep Gareth Barry and recall Emile Heskey in recent times. Hopefully Israel can get a result against Russia so England can qualify.

Hopefully the other England in action this week will not suffer the same fate. I wouldn't mind if Jonny and co. lost, since they have exceeded all expectations by reaching the Rugby World Cup final. I just hope they have a good performance and there will be no repeat of the earlier match with South Africa.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Blog Action Day

Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day
Today is Blog Action Day, when blogs all over the world unite to write about one single issue to raise awareness. This year it is the environment and it is appropriate given this year's Nobel Peace Prize was recently awarded to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Al Gore. I am sure this piece of news, whether or not the recipients were worthy winners, how the issue will move forward and whether or not Al Gore's documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" is alarmist after an UK court decided not to show the film in schools, will be written elsewhere.

What I will write about is how Hong Kong views and acts upon environmental issue. Hong Kong society is really driven on results and finance. Therefore it is no wonder the environment is not on the top priority on people's list, when making money and sending your kids to the best schools is what is on your mind. I think many Hong Kong people view environmental issue with a sense of hopelessness and despair. They think there is nothing that can be done by them, which is totally the wrong view. Every time the Air Pollution Index is raised dramatically in Hong Kong, it is always blamed on the weather or an incoming typhoon. Nobody actually says it is due the air pollution. I always see cosmetic advertisements on the television blaming air pollution for the poor quality of women's skin and they should buy facial cleansers to get rid of the soot and grime. Why don't we tackle the primary problem first by decreasing air pollution instead treating the secondary effects? As everybody in the medical sector knows, prevention is better than a cure. In terms of other countries and states Hong Kong is still far, far behind in terms of environmental thinking and policies. When I was in Berlin six years ago, I was astounded to find all outdoor rubbish bins where separated into four compartments - paper, cans, bottles and others. My friend recently found the same phenomenon in Seoul. Although we are starting to have this in Hong Kong, I still think it would be better to replace the rubbish bins in Hong Kong with this type of compartmentalized rubbish bins.

If Hong Kong people's views on the environment are to be changed, it is important to think how a Hong Kong citizen thinks and use this approach. As Hong Kong is results-driven society, you have to think on economic terms for them.

Tourism
Visitors to Hong Kong do not want to climb the Peak just to find their view of the harbour is obscured by a black smog which won't dissipate for days on end. Neither will they want to come back if every time they step out into the open air they are induced into coughing. It stands to reason cleaning up the air and water is important for tourism and not just for the environment.

Finance
I remember reading a 'Time' magazine article many foreign investors are turning away from Hong Kong to Singapore with air pollution being a primary concern. They do not want to bring their families to a filth-ridden place to live, even if it is only for a few years. Cleaning up the air can help bring foreign investment into the region.

People who pollute our water and our land just don't realize they eventually have to pay up for the clean up in the end. They may not have to pick up the trash or clean up the water now - that's the government's job. Yet the government are funded by the taxpayers' money and if they have to continue to clean up this mess, eventually our taxes will rise to fund these operations.

Hong Kong has some of the highest land prices in the world. With so many people in such a small area, land is at a premium. Unfortunately some of this land has to be allocated to rubbish dumps - trash has to be buried somewhere. If we started to recycle more of our garbage, less land is needed for rubbish dumps and could be used for other purposes, such as wildlife conservation or even residential housing. Panellists on an episode of 'QI' laughed when they heard the largest rubbish dump on the Earth, Fresh Kills New York, was to be turned into a golf course and remarked the situation could turn out to be like that episode of 'The Simpsons' when you see all rubbish coming up in mounds. However my local driving range in Tai Po was converted from a rubbish dump to what it is now - a very nice place to practise my golf swing (although I still slice all my balls to the right). In Hong Kong we should maximise our space and I applaud the Chief Executive to encourage schools and private buildings to put our high-rise building rooftops to good use, such as building up green areas or placing solar-panels to decrease the electricity requirement of the building

Health
All my doctor friends know air pollution can exacerbate health problems, especially respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. Decreasing our pollution will help these people, decreasing the severity of their disease on their daily lives. This can lead to more productive people contributing to our economy instead of taking sick leave. It will lead to less consultations and hospital admission, decreasing the impact on our already crippled health service system. Water pollution should be tackled, since pollutants can act as nutrients for micro-organisms to grow. This will decrease the amount of water-borne infections and food poisoning.

Energy conservation
Everywhere in Hong Kong is cooled by air-conditioning. Yet there are places who turn their airconditioning so high it is like stepping into an Arctic wonderland. Don't these people know turning up their air-conditioners uses up more electricity, leading to higher utility bills? The Hong Kong government has already suggested air-conditioners should be set at a temperature of 25.5 degrees Celsius but there are many places, such as trains and the underground, which don't seem to heed this advice. Using energy efficient lighting maybe costly at first but in the long run, it uses less power, last much longer and is more cost-effective. So why don't people see that?

Hopefully what I have written has given you more food for thought. Hopefully you will remember to switch off all electrical appliances once you've used them (including lights) and try to recycle as much as possible. One more thing to add, since you are reading this on your computer - try to use darker backgrounds or decrease the brightness/contrast on your computer screen. White backgrounds or light colours tend to use up more energy.
Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day

Friday, October 12, 2007

Doggy teams

I have quite a high disdain for the paparazzi. They invade people's privacy in order to obtain grainy photos of them doing trivial stuff. These items of "news" are the lowest form of journalism to have existed. In the grand scheme of the world, the release of Paris Hilton from prison would rank far below the conflict in Iraq and global warming but even some credible news outlets such as MSNBC deem this item worthy enough to headline their news show.

Yesterday I saw firsthand how the paparazzi can be so intrusive. Lydia Shum, a well-known Hong Kong actress. There were swarms of photographs already at the hospital when the ambulance carrying her arrived at the Accident & Emergency Department. Seeing on the news how hectic her entrance was appalling. Most of the photographers were blocking the way to the Accident & Emergency Department. What if something happened and she started going into shock or dying? Where is her privacy with her doctor? Photographers would argue the A&E is a public setting where they are allowed in and they are just reporting the truth but I think the security should have known beforehand and kicked them out.

As a public, we have tendency to perpetuate this phenomenon. By reading this type of gossip, we are just telling the newspapers we like this kind of "news" and we want you to print more. The irony is that even writing this blog entry will also perpetuate this phenomenon. The few people reading this entry will want to go and try find items regard this piece of "news". Please don't - Lydia Shum should have her privacy and she be able to recover without us having to peer through her hospital window. Just do the decent thing and pray for her. I've tried to be as ethical as possible by not posting any links or photos to this entry about the matter.

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I love autumn - it starts to get cooler and life is not as hectic. The most marvellous fact is my favourite shows are back on air - "Top Gear", "QI" and now "Have I Got News For You".

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Wanting to be a part of something

I wish whenever there is a wedding, a barbeque or a get-together at a bar, that I am invited. I wish people would tell me how they are doing and it's been a long time since we last met. I wish my old friends would contact me and reminisce about the good old days whilst reminding me of what they are doing, what kind of relationship they are in and, God forbid, if they have little munchkins running around making their life a misery.

But you don't always get what you wished for. I don't get invited to people's weddings, barbeques or drinking sessions. Not everyone wants to contact me. I always hear news about other people from someone else.

Yet there are reasons (and not excuses) for this. I wasn't particularly close to many people, so I shouldn't expect an invite to go out. I can count the number of friends I'm close to and bother keeping in contact with me on my hands (Evelyn, Poemen, Herbert, Simon, Connie, Theola, Arthur, Jasmine). Some people don't know how to contact me, having lost touch for so many years. When they do, my mobile phone is usually on vibrate so I don't often pick up or it takes me so long to reply its not worth bothering reading the answer.

And maybe I cannot go to whatever event they invite me to. I hate going to sing at Hong Kong karaoke bars. I hate the way Hong Kong people barbeque. I don't like the fact that bars are all dark so that you can never see the person if he or she is sitting right next to you and that the music is so loud it is impossible to have a conversation. I hated the last (and so far only) wedding I went to, since I didn't have much in common with the fellow guests and felt really isolated. I hate to keep hurting myself by stabbing my arm with a fork to get rid of that dread feeling of depression that washes over me when I feel like that. So many of my friends live abroad that I would have turned down their invitations anyway.

I want to be a part of a community but want to be left alone at the same time...

Monday, October 08, 2007

Irritable beyond the extreme...

I am the point when I'm getting pissed off about my mum. When my mother retired from her job last month, I thought it would be beneficial for my depression to have somebody monitoring my condition, to push me when I needed to study or to get out of bed. A month on, it has been a total nightmare. It feels like I'm in the novel "1984" with Big Brother constantly watching over me and dictating my life.

My mother "thinks" (and I use the word "thinks" very loosely) that I should spend the entire waking hours studying. She "thinks" my depression will benefit from 24 hours of constant studying, seven days of just looking at textbooks and not allowed to watch videos, movies, Internet or anything I would classify as pleasurable. She even questions me when I want to cook or bake. Every conversation is started off with the question, "Why aren't you studying?"

I can't say she is acting like a parent because I don't think she has my good intentions at heart. All she wants is my future happiness without thinking about my present state. If I'm not happy now, what use is it preparing for the future? I've tried reasoning with her but it seems she is not listening. She just doesn't understand.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Overbearing and constantly looking over your shoulders

During paediatrics, one is taught parents are always right regarding the child's health. While I find that true in most cases, it is wrong to assume this would apply in all aspects of life. Parents are not always right and do not always make the right decisions.

Parents make many decisions based on their experience and what they overhear from friends or family members. Very few parents would actually go and read up a book regarding what is right for the child or read up the latest data or study regarding what is beneficial for their son or daughter. Very few parents will ask their child if they want to attend violin lessons, football clinics or tutorial classes. Parents just assume the kids will benefit from them, which necessarily may not be the case. Parents will act emotionally rather than rationally when making decisions about their children. I would never doubt their love for their child but I always use a phrase for parents which I have used with some of my friends - "They have good intentions but wrong methods."

Parents cannot always justify their decisions regarding their children. A lot of parents will blindly use anything so their children can have an advantage in the world. Hong Kong parents send their children to tutorial classes but it does not make them necessarily smarter or happier. They do not send them out to play in the playgrounds in fear of injury but don't want them to play video games inside, fearing it will 'rot their brains' (which it doesn't). All they want them to do is study so they can get to a good university and hopefully a well-paid job. Unfortunately parents are sacrificing the present for the future in this case.

In spite of all this, I know parenting is a difficult task. Unfortunately we let too many young people have children and they are themselves too immature to take care of kids. In the most extreme I wish governments should ensure young people are capable of bringing up children. Perhaps issuing licenses to allow having children should be considered? Just a thought.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Going up and down

Just a small entry today, since I'm not in the mood to write a long entry...

I have a great deal of pet peeves in my life - little things I shouldn't give a fuss about but I do. Perhaps it is my perfectionistic personality or my negative view through depression that I have so much criteria on life. Lately one pet peeve has been on my mind - using the lift.

In the modern world when everybody has gotten so damn lazy, many people are more willing to waste time to wait for a lift to go up or down one floor instead of taking the stairs. There are instances when I can accept using the lift for this purpose - carting around heavy items or immobility of the person in question. Nonetheless there are a great deal of hospital workers who rather waste people's time in the lift by going from the first to the second floor. I rather like the lift system in one hospital where one lift goes to the even-numbered floors whilst another lift goes to the odd-numbered floors. At least it forces people to use the stairs.

Another point about using the lift is Hong Kong people are not very willing to push inside and let other people in. They just want to stay near the door so it is easier to get out. If you are going to get out at the end, why doesn't one go to the back of the lift to allow for more people to enter the lift? Yet another example of Hong Kong people not thinking about others.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Dropping off plus Burma

It's happening again - I have trouble staying awake during class. It has been severe enough that other people are noticing. This week, it has happened in two sessions. It occurred when the Early Psychosis Team was having a meeting discussing patients and another during a clinic, which was embarrassing since the patient noticed and complained to the doctor afterwards.

I get enough sleep last night, about eight hours, and the sleep was good, with no dreaming - that's not the problem. I have hypothesized three theories as to why this is happening. Firstly since I have gained weight and my neck has disappeared, allowing my head to merge with the rest of my body, I might have developed obstructive sleep apnoea leading to non-restful sleep. Secondly the last time I was on my current medication (escitalopram) I had the same problem of daytime drowsiness/somnolence (sleepiness to the non-medical). Lastly I have problems maintaining my concentration and I switch off easily, leading me to go into a slumber.

I'll address this issue with my psychiatrist at my next appointment. Hopefully we can sort this problem out. I know that some patients with depressive disorders are prescribed amphetamines to perk them up...

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The latest scenes from Burma are shocking but not really surprising. You wouldn't expect the military rulers to yield their power so easily, especially to some orange-clad monks. It doesn't surprise me that they are using brute force to achieve control, since they have being doing that for forty years.

As I see it, there are only two ways for Burma to achieve the democracy it so desires.

1. The citizens of Burma rise up and overthrow the junta. They tried it in 1988 democratically but it didn't work. Yet this time it might work. A great deal of people will die during the revoltion but the sacrifice would be worth it.
2. The governments of the world apply a lot of pressure to Burma. I don't just mean a few sanctions here and there. It would take total isolation of Burma to make the dictators realize they might need to yield some power. This solution is more peaceful but less likely. USA and UK have too much on their plate with Iraq and Afghanistan and they are too chicken to do anything. China do not want to ruin the economic ties it has with Burma.

I know countries do not want to interfere with other countries' internal politics and doing so doesn't mean good results (look at Iraq). Yet I know there are times this might be warranted, when the country is so poorly run and there is oppression of the citizens whilst the rulers live in luxury.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Back to school


On Saturday myself and another Old Brightonian Mary had dim sum with my old housemaster Anthony Whitestone. Mr. Whitestone (I still cannot believe I will continue address him as 'mister') had recently retired after many, many years teaching French & German at bRighton College and just so happened to be in Hong Kong on holiday. It was fantastic recollecting the days back in Chichester House and seeing how Brighton College has progressed and changed since I left. Both Mary and I have fond memories of Brighton College, enjoying our time there.

I know some people wouldn't say the same things about their secondary/high school. Mary didn't like the two previous boarding schools she went to and others don't talk about their past school experiences quite as fondly as I would. I think they are totally justified to say that their school life was crap but there must have been some good experiences - making friends of schoolmates or even teachers, sports events or boarding house experiences. I can honestly say not all of my experiences of Brighton Collge were good. My depression started during my Sixth Form years and I remember the day when I got the final letter I got rejected by all the medical schools I applied for. People say university is the best years of your life but so far it has been a negative experience for me, since my depression has progressed and having to stay four more years. That is not to say there have been good moments, making some good friends.

People fail to realize your school and university years are a defining part of you. One cannot erase the memories or events that have occurred but use them in later life for better or worse.

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I'm glad one of my favourite shows "QI" (AKA Quite Interesting) is back on television. I used part of my weekend downloading nad watching the first two episodes. I might agree with some fans the quality of the show may have dipped slightly but it is still better than most television shows around. It has a dedicated following even in the United States, despite not being shown there (one must love the power of the Internet). Added to that they have joined the bandwagon and now have a vodcast. If you want to watch it, just search "QI Quickies" on Youtube.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

A good week in football

I don't expect many people to be interested in this blog entry, since it concerns football and my beloved team Arsenal. So if you happen to have no testosterone flowing through your body, feel free to turn over to another channel.

It has been a good week for me in football. Arsenal, despite selling senior players such as Freddie Ljungberg and especially Thierry Henry, were expected to struggle with a group of youngsters in their team. Yet they have confound all football pundits by playing exciting football and reaching the summit of the Barclays Premier League. They also had a great start in the UEFA Champions' League by thrashing major rivals Sevilla 3-0.

Many football pundits have been commenting on the significance of the sale of Henry on Arsenal's current performance. I think they are right in saying that the pressure has gone from the Arsenal team. They relied a bit too much on Henry. Without the great footballer, the young players can show they are not a one-man team. The likes of Adebayor and Fabregas can play as they wish without having to fit another superstar into their game plan.

After the 3-0 win on Wednesday night, I thought things couldn't get better but they could. Jose Mourinho left Chelsea, either walking out or being sacked. Either way, Chelsea are in a team in turmoil - their trusted and successful manager has gone and they are playing like old grannies. I think they are effectively out of the title race, especially since their next game is against the resurgent Manchester United.

Arsenal have a relatively easier game against bottom club Derby County. I would love for Arsene Wenger to rest a few players and try some youngsters, something along the lines like this:

Almunia
Hoyte
Toure
Senderos (Song if still unfit)
Clichy
Bendtner
Fabregas
Flamini
Walcott
Van Persie
Eduardo

I know Arsenal won't be able to thrash Derby County that much (not on the par of 6-0 ala Liverpool) but I do expect them to win comfortably.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Speaking truthfully

I was just reading in the South China Morning Post here in Hong Kong that many of the world's language are in danger of extinction. Of the 7000 languages, many whom don't have a written form or dictionary and where one in Northern Australia only has one speaker left, about half will disappear soon for various reasons, including the death of the only speakers, the lack of recordings or documentation and the domination of other languages.

I found it ironic that the languages that are retained are spoken badly. Here in Hong Kong, many of the youth cannot speak Cantonese fluently. Rather they don't use Cantonese predominantly, inserting (very bad) English into their daily lives. Even my mother, who was raised in a predominantly Cantonese-speaking background, has trouble writing some Chinese characters. Isn't any wonder that with this amount disrespect for even your own language that languages over the world are dying out.

Even the proper use of English is a dying trend. With the increase use of text messaging on mobile phones and online chatting, there has been a tendency to use abbreviations of common words, such as "tomorrow" (tmr) and "your" (ur). I don't mind using this when you're text messaging or online chatting, when time is of the essence, but when you're are using this kind of language in wall postings or emails, I think I draw the line. When most of us are proficient enough to touch type, I don't think you're wasting much seconds if you can type out the whole word.

So why am I complaining? It doesn't matter what language you use as long as your are communicating your message but I would think people like Shakespeare would be turning in their grave if they knew what we were doing with the language they brilliant used. At times I struggle to understand some acronyms people make up and the bad English some of my peers use. I also struggle to interpret some abbreviations.

I'm not asking people to use the word "floccinaucinihilipilification" or "pseudopseudohypoparathyroidism" but don't use "lol" in spoken conversation (it has happened before).

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During psychiatry I have been relieved to learn one of the long-term side effects of antidepressants is weight gain. At least this fact can account for the enormous hump I see when I look down.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Growing up

In the local Hong Kong newspaper, the local universities are considering making medicine a post-graduate degree. You would get more mature doctors but the scheme would be more expensive. A number of young doctors have complained that they are already mature enough and they shouldn't mistake age for maturity.

I would support the idea making medicine a post-graduate degree. Some people will be more mature for their age but this has come through life events. There is no substitute for experience and this breeds maturity. I look at my class peers and I see a lot of them are totally immature. They don't treat patients with the respect they deserve and I don't think many make the right decisions. Their attitude and behaviour, on and off the wards, are not what I call mature. That is the reason I don't like allowing students to enter early into medicine.

At least making medicine a post-graduate degree would allow young adults to decide at a later age whether or not to study medicine. I find a few of my peers regret entering medicine. If you made medicine a post-graduate degree, maybe they could study something that interests them before deciding whether or not to become a doctor. I find it quite unbelievable young people have to make life decision in their teens. We have to choose which GCSEs we have to take, which affects what A-levels we take, which decides what degree we can study, which affects what job we can get.

When we have such a long life in front of us and our decision making abilities don't mature until we're about twenty five years old, why can't we enjoy our youth and study something we're interested in?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Reversal of state

For those who read my blog at the original site, you may have noticed that I have changed the parameters around, utilizing the full space. It looks better on a 1024x768 resolution. For those using an 800x600 resolution, sorry.

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When I enter a depressed mood, it is difficult to implement all the psychological techniques I have taught by my psychiatrist. I have been in therapy for nearly five years and have been given various methods to try to help reverse my depressed mood. THe most obvious method is not to think so negatively but to analyze the situation in a positive manner: "It is so good that you have come this far, not a lot of people can do this." Another method is to take a third person approach and analyze the predicament in an objective manner: "It is natural that the teacher only marked you as 'fair' instead of 'good' since you haven't been turning up for classes. It is something you can improve upon." Relaxation techniques have also been mentioned, trying to remember that I am in control and not my depression.

So why do I keep getting depressed moods despite being taught these methods? Why do depressives or any other psychiatric patients keep relapsing into their conditions? I think the phrase "easy to say but hard to do" comes to mind. Once I enter the pathological state, reverting back to the normal state is not so easy. Once you are in that state of mind you keep thinking negatively or bizarrely. You quickly become neurotic/psychotic and that is why you need outside help, just to remind you you're not useless or you're not crazy & think that the teachers want to kick you out of school.

I think this is the aspect what most people don't understand about psychiatric diseases. Although most people can reverse their sadness or paranoia quite easily, once a patient goes into those modes it is difficult to reverse and may require help from other people.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The beginning of a downward spiral

When I first started out this blog, my intention was to give an insight to how somebody with depression lives. Up till now I haven't had a true depressive episode which I could write about... until now.

The signs were there for quite a while. I had been having poor concentration and motivation to study when my current psychiatry clerkship started about two weeks ago. I have also started to become slightly paranoid at how one of my teachers has treated me. I don't if it is because I missed a day of teaching because I had the flu or that she knows I have failed miserably before and have depression and just wants me kicked out of medical school. She just seems to treat me differently from everybody else in the group. Seeing my friends again hasn't helped either. I like seeing my friends but when it comes down to what we have been doing, this is when I get depressed. They have amusing tales of what has happened at work, which friends are getting married, what interesting patients they have seen and where they have been on the holidays. And what do I bring to the table? Absolutely nothing. I try not to become aware of this but it just depresses me so much that I don't want to see my friends.

This has culminated in an awkward experience today which I rather not talk about (since my mother actually does read this blog) but has lead me to bring my psychiatrist appointment early. I know if I don't see anybody soon, it would all spiral downwards and in two weeks time I would seriously considering how to jump off a tall building without a parachute. People think it is easy to apply the brakes at this juncture but it is not, especially when you have this mode of thinking.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Beehives and crew cuts

It's a funny thing about people and haircuts. People are willing to go to different doctors for even the same trivial disease such as an upset stomach or flu and have their financial assets managed by different institutions and banking services but with their hair (most markedly in guys) they are only willing to allow their one and only trusted barber/hairdresser/hairstylist to cut their hair. I think it boils down to appearance and 'giving face'. If you get a crummy haircut or hairstyle, it is noticeable and permanent (at least for a few months), which can cause aggravation and much ridicule from peers, friends and family. You want hair to be managed by someone who at least won't turn treat it like a hedge and create something extravagant and a bit too eye-catching for you taste.

That is why I am always a customer of my current hairdresser, which has earned me another type of ridicule from my parents. Why continue to be a patron of his business, now that he has moved out of the Chinese University of Hong Kong to Tai Wai? I know he is now more expensive (from HK$60 to HK$120) but he is more convenient - he's just next to the KCR station whilst in CUHK, I would have to catch a bus up to the barber shop. Actually the service is much better now, with better shampooing and personal service (I cannot believe, as a straight guy, I'm writing about this kind of stuff). Yet the main reason while I still continue to see my hairdresser for a haircut, apart from the fact that he does my hair the way I like it, is the conversation. Like me, he is an Arsenal supporter and not just one who trivially looks at the results & emerges whenever we lift a trophy. He knows some of the youth players, stays up at night to watch the games (which is better than me) and can discuss tactics with me. It is difficult to find that level of conversation in some people. He also asks me how I'm doing, which is nice. It is just nice to talk somebody who has a rounded personality and is not totally focussed on medicine.

I like my hairstyle nice and simple. I ask my hairdresser to cut my hair as short as possible without me looking like some punk. After about two months it becomes too long and I have to go back to my hairdresser again. It looks fine and I'm happy with that. Other people, and especially in Hong Kong, seem to have very different hairstyles which I don't find attractive. There are guys and girls who seem to have a hairstyle where it looks like they have just woken up but they have paid a stylist HK$500 to intentionally mess it up. I have seen women who have that intentional hump in the middle of the hair. I know it supposes to be fashion but from my own perspective, I don't like it. I don't know about other guys but I still prefer ladies to have hairstyles that are plain and simple. I prefer ladies with shoulder length hair (nothing too long), with a bob (like Teri Hatcher as Lois Lane in "The Adventures of Lois and Clark" or Julia Stiles in "The Bourne Ultimatum") or in a ponytail.

I think the worst hairstyle for a lady is to have it short like a guy and I would say the opposite for a guy, to have it long like a lady. I'm a traditionalist when it comes to hair for the sexes. Yet I have always wondered why gals have to have their hair long and guys short. I remember reading from somewhere that in prehistoric times women with long hair would be easier to catch by men, acting something like a handle.

I know I would prefer to keep my hair short. It is much easier to handle - it requires less shampoo and I don't have to comb or gel my hair in the morning.