M203 Diary

Sunday, February 26, 2006


I've recently been exposed to all manner of florid depictions of diseased skin, as would be expected during dermatology week. Eventually though, I realized that I could've passed off some of the pictures as my own, so I've got a lot to be thankful for, growing up with atopic eczema. Other than that, I feel sorry for the people who get some of these drastically mutilating diseases. Most of the time, it happens for no other reason than having never challenged the immune system enough, such that it seeks a challenge of its own in the living tissue of the body itself. The mystery of autoimmune disease

During this first week of class, I also sampled Problem-Based Learning, albeit in a different environment to the one i'm naturally accustomed to. And when it comes to differences, there are several aspects to it. But two important points shine through above the rest;

a) I actually learned something
b) I actually feel I need to learn more

So what's gone wrong with the system? It's not too different from the ones we've been through for the past two and a half years. There are tables and chairs. There is a room with four walls. There is a trigger, a facilitator, and a group of students eager to discuss. Yet once again, there is that one distinguishing variable that changes the face of the entire environment. However, this single factor encompasses all other factors involved in the whole; the quality of each part.

Tables and chairs
Okay, maybe not all parts.

Room has four walls
Nope, nothing here. Five walls is just a waste of space anyway.

Finally, something relevant. The triggers have pictures. Graphic imagery tends to give a better idea of what you're dealing with, and also throws in a certain sense of being in a clinical environment.

Hm. This is kind of touchy, so no names. I'll just go as far as to say that we don't have any biomedical science students watching over us (or playing snake while we discuss), just solid, experienced, qualified doctors who know what they're talking about, and also what we're talking about.

Group of Students eager to discuss
I think this is where the main problem lies, to be honest. While i'm pretty sure that blaming yourself is listed under some psychological condition, this has to be an exception. I remember walking into a Phase 1 PBL, and everyone would clearly be in the mood to chat. Until the facilitator comes in. Suddenly it's cold and quiet. Everyone looks at each other, waiting for someone to say something.

Phase 2 PBLs are different in that participation matters. PBLs were probably engineered to suit students who are willing to express their opinions out loud. The quality of your teammates really come into focus here, because if none of them are willing to speak up, your PBL isn't gonna go anywhere but downhill. And if you don't speak up, nothing will change. The bottom line is, if your PBL sucks, it is in some way, your fault.

Everyone complains about PBLs at some level. I say everyone has some reflecting to do.

Anyway, as a parting gift, I give you the most grossest picture yet. Tell me what it is, and you'll get: a fair chance of getting it in the future.

Warning: icky
Hint (in the event that you're blind): dermatological condition


Friday, February 24, 2006

A Little Msg

Three of us, a junior, a non-IMU friend and I, were out at a mamak a few days ago when the junior said certain things that I felt I should share.

We were talking about orientation when...

Junior: "Your batch left some very large shoes to fill. I think... and I'm not the only one... that no other batch currently in IMU can fill your shoes."

Me: "Huh? We didn't even orientate your batch."

Junior: "No, not just orientation, in other things as well."
(I don't think there's any event in particular that he's talking about... just us in general, I guess)


We were talking about Elephant Cup when...

Me: (to non-IMU friend) "It's this cup that's given during IMU Cup to the batch which displays the most sportsmanship..."

Me: (to junior) "Haha, we must have created history, giving it to Sem 5s."

Junior: "And you guys really deserved it. There's no disputing that."


Thursday, February 16, 2006

Friendly.. I'm Mister Friendly..

(Unless they changed things anyway.. Then I wouldn't be very friendly to the committee..)

Orientation's started. In fact, its going on right now. But I'm in the library, blogging. I suppose I'm really not very friendly, although other documentation might suggest otherwise. Most of the time, I just feel kinda out of place with all the first years sitting around. I feel old, so at the moment, I'm quite content to limit my social interactions to chatting with Calvin, a Japanese girl who can't understand half of what I say, and Rick.

Rick, and his partner Gerta, are 2 of the most wonderful people I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. And I'm not just saying that because I stay with them, or because they put me in a studio that is currently my bedroom. Anyway, Rick is a truly weathered traveller, having done so most of his life. Along the way, he's acquired a taste for fine art and culture, which can be seen in much of the decorations in his little mansion. More often than not, I find myself absolutely caught up in conversation with him and the wealth of experience he is ever so willing to share.

The first thing I've noticed, having been in Newcastle for over a week, is the people. For starters, they're genuinely friendly, no plastic greeting and welcome like you get most of the time back home. The second being their candor, something I've grown to appreciate and come to love. It pretty much describes Rick's attitude towards life; realistic, yet lived to the fullest. And its not just him, more often than not. People tease you and expect you to know they're joking. I feel right at home.

One fine day (and there are few that are not), he began to relate his journeys to Asia, particularly the Middle East. I should've known what was coming next.

"You don't have any Malay blood, do you?" he asked. I shook my head, smiling. Yet I wondered why he should have to ask. Would he look at me any different? Would he treat me any different? Would I be any different?

In the end, he only wanted to be sure I wasn't offended, as he launched into a tirade of frustation and disappointment against an entire religion. Obviously they didn't give him a good time while he was amongst them. I suggested that he was over-generalising, but I knew I wouldn't be able change the mind of a man so set in his principles. The bigger question, is whether it was wrong to feel the way he does, having been through what he has.

I guess I haven't worked it out yet personally. Due in part to the fact that complacency has grown over like mold, having never been in country that considers me alien for as long as I can remember. It's obviously natural, and as instinctual as human nature can be, to be offended by any form of aggression. Particularly when it is due to something that you cannot or will not change. Even more so when it had nothing to do with you to begin with.

Somewhere along the line, there'll be someone who hates someone else, because someone else did something awful to someone else, who did something nasty to someone else. This makes no sense at all, until you put them into groups, based on commonalities and distinctions. Then it becomes racism. Because with every way there is to classify, inadvertently there is yet another opportunity to discriminate. And it seems so much easier to place the blame by stereotyping; judging the whole based on an encounter with a single part.

I am inclined to believe that an instance of good predominates every community. I also have no doubt that there is an entity of evil existing in similar fashion. It's almost as if it has to. A common enemy, to give us a reason to come together. Then when that runs out, we get what we have now. It's such a shame that in order to maintain such a balance, we end up waging a war against ourselves.

All I wanted to say was that I'm really thankful to be where I am. Newcastle is really quite cosmopolitan, especially the university, where there are students from what seems to be all over the world. Besides, the locals are so friendly to virtually everyone they meet, to the point that they typify a world without boundaries, something that appears more like fantasy these days. At the moment, I couldn't imagine a better place for someone like me.

Fuh.. That was intense thought. I can't wait to talk to Rick again.


Friday, February 10, 2006

Customer Service

This is somewhat verbatim; the pricing might be a bit off, but its close.

TCS: ... Thanks for registering your provider service with us.

kenJ: Sure.

TCS: Ok. Would you like to activate MessageBank?

kenJ: (TheHellIsThat?) And what might that be?

TCS: It's an additional service we provide for our customers that allows people who call in to your phone to record short messages if you aren't available. We charge a connection fee of 40c and an additional 16c for a 9sec recorded message.

kenJ: (YouGottaBeKiddingMe..)Uh-huh.

TCS: So.. Basically, you pay an arm and a leg for this service when you'd still get a missed call flashing on your screen. This is how we make most of our money to be honest.

kenJ: (?) ...

TCS: So.. What'll it be?

kenJ: ... Don't you work for these guys?

TCS: Sure I do.. So what'll it be?


Wednesday, February 08, 2006

"K for Kanada. No, wait, I mean.."

If ever the frailty of my language were to be exposed, it should happen in a place none other than Australia.

And that's where I am! Greetings from Jewells, Newcastle. I'm settled in now, and I'm surprised by the fact that it only took two days. Things seem to be going well at the moment. I really feel quite at home with the surroundings, mostly perhaps due to the fact that the people are sooooooo friendly! It's a kind of hospitality you might not even hope to expect back home, even if you were paying for it..

At the moment, I'm living in this really big place just off a highway. In fact, its so huge I'd say it covers as much ground as the IMU building, if you count in the front porch, the lawn at the side, the acres of grass at the back and the duck pond behind that. My room is probably about as big as one of the Seminar Room, if not bigger. I'm not even going to bother comparing the Newcastle University campus with the one back home. The difference, incidentally, can be safely measured in km, or acres, as they do here in Aussieland.

You can probably tell, by this point, that I'm really comfy and enjoying it too. I almost feel sorry for the people who actually fought for their place in the United Cramped-up Kingdom. Muahahaha.

Well, that's all I can offer at the moment. I'm actually on 56k dialup and I'm too shy to stay on for too long. This really was just to let you know that Calvin and I are still alive. Maybe when I'm finally in the university on a more regular basis..


Friday, February 03, 2006

Announcement: US Residency Talk

Remember the talk by Dr Khoo regarding residency in the US? There's going to be another talk by Dr Khoo on the same topic in mid feb. Details are as follows:

Date: 14th Feb 2006
Time: 10.30am to 11.30am
Venue: Come on, IMU isn't that big. :P

"I'll talk about getting into a US residency. Simply put, residency is the postgrad specialization. So i suppose in short you could explain it to people as how one gets to specialize in the United States. I'll talk about how the US system works, how one applies, including the USMLE exams and other tips. I probably could answer questoins about the Uni of Calgary too."
-- Dr Khoo

I'm going, anyone else? Maybe we can have lunch together after the talk. (I miss the batch!!!) And Caryn, I remember what you said about helping you since you'll be holidaying in East Malaysia... *wink*... laalaaalaa...