Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Friday, March 2, 2012

the first week

I thought I might just share with everybody how first week of going back to university was like for me. Many will agree that I am taking the road less traveled. My first week felt quite daunting to be honest. Here's a few reasons why:

1) I missed the whole of induction week

Not the whole of induction week was useless. There was also department-specific induction telling you about department-specific coursework. Missing it was bad especially when...

2) The department I'm in is quite disorganised

I missed out on ALL their e-mails. I didn't use uppercase letters for 'all' for no reason. They failed to send me so many crucial e-mails and documents. Sure, all would've been rosy if I had been to the induction, but I didn't. Nevertheless, they should not have missed me out of the mailing list. How on earth did that happen? Because of this debacle, I missed classes for the whole of Monday. Funny thing is, not even my supervisor was aware of it. These are also the same people who book rooms for tutorials few days before the tutorial.

3) I have no research background

Coming from a degree that I can say is part art and part science - yes, and this includes medicine and engineering - the amount of laboratory work I've done is equal to the amount of expressions on Kirsten Stewart's face. Put simply, I'm quite lost and I'm still feeling my way around.

4) I am venturing into the unknown

Apart from not having the clear picture or the level of technique that I need to conduct proper research, I also am not sure of a lot of other things. For example, I'm not sure of how pesky I'm allowed to be to my supervisor; I'm not really sure how much time I actually need to spend on my work to do well; I'm not sure how much guidance I'm allowed to ask for from people because I'm meant to be independent. I have no old friends to look to this time although even if they were here, everyone would be doing a totally exclusive project with different supervisors and departments. Good ol' Frank's shrouded in the fog of war.

5) Honours year as a whole, is quite stressful

The stress Honours year brings as compared to the stress my BPharm brings is different. Doing Honours year is like doing a year-long assignment - and I hate assignments. I have plenty of deadlines to meet; I have to find a balance between coursework and research; my learning material stems from journal articles by the world's leading scientists. This year, there are no 'lecture notes' that have pretty pictures and notes nicely panned out. This year, the depth of knowledge I am expected to have is that of world-changing scientists. Whilst what I studied in the past four years has something to do with what I am dealing with now, it is simply not sufficient. Learning in an undergraduate Bachelor's degree is like a blast from a shotgun - you cover a big area but you don't go deep - where as learning in a research degree is like a shot from a sniper rifle - you hit a relatively small area but you penetrate deep. Intellectually, I will say that a research degree is far more challenging because of the level of depth and complexity of knowledge that I am required to breach. Covering the surface of a body of knowledge is hard too but just not as.

I have now have a new-found respect for good scientists - not that I never had. They need to be at the frontier - the edge of the cliff, if you will - of current knowledge and their mental capacity everyday to do what they do. And they get little to no recognition for it.

As for me, I just hope to survive. Day by day, I will trudge on. Hopefully, I'll find some momentum soon. That said I still need to find a work-life balance. I need to try not to take my worries home or it will drive me crazy. I love pure science and research, I have found what I am truly comfortable and happy with; Now, I just hope I do well enough to persevere and proceed.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Nine most facepalm-worthy things you see on your facebook homepage

Disclaimer: This post is intended for humour and not a direct assault on anyone in particular. If in any way you are offended by this post, [insert empty juvenile threat].

#9 Photos by proud 'cooks' of bad 'cooking'

I must be on a lucky streak today because I have seen about three of these on my homepage. This one is simple: somebody posts up a photo of horrible food and very proudly announces, "my dinner *proud*" or "for/from my dear xoxo". The irritating part (would you believe) is not that these posters are totally oblivious to their failures but that their friends actually 'like' and commend them!

These 'meals' I've seen so far by our aspiring cooks range from spaghetti, broccoli and sunny side up egg - homogenised - for dinner to a 'romantic' meal for the boyfriend consisting just-put-in-the-fryer chips and potato cake with ketchup. My favourite so far is a Valentine's day surprise for the girlfriend - an exquisite dish of torn up white bread lined to form the shape of a love heart with the centre filled with the most romantic food possible...

...baked beans. Lots of it.


#8 Photos by proud students of their assignments, academic results or certificates

Do you really want to show the world how under-performing, mediocre and uninspiring you are? Do you really want to let the world know about your 'earth-shattering' three-year business degree from a 'world-beating' top 1200 university? Oh, please show us your completed assignment on 'How To Be An Average Student Lulz' because we do give a damn, frankly my dear.

I suggest you keep your joy to yourself, like most other facebookers who have better things to show but decide not to.

#7 Passive-aggressive status updates

Most of us are already too familiar with this one. These are often conjured by people still undergoing pre-pubescent mental development or people with the hormonal stability of a menopausal weightlifter on anabolic steroids. No matter their chronological age, these people are filled with pent-up rage but are too timid to confront directly. So instead, they post up cryptic facebook statuses riddled with empty threats and swear words in a pathetic attempt to display badassery and their colourful - albeit often very limited - vocabulary. I have a mental list of common offenders but I won't be showing you examples of their Nobel-prize-winning literature. These statuses often include passive-aggression against friends, partners or strangers even. What's more chav? The comments that follow from their fellow troglodytes to show support. These are no better than the original status itself, as they are often filled with expletives and moronic 'words of wisdom' that could drop Steven Hawking's IQ points to 105.

So to my dear friends who love filling my facebook homepage with your laughable, toothless threats:

#6 'Watch out, we got a baddass over here'-type status updates +/- photos

This one may be conceptually hard to define and understand but let me give it a go:

"anyone want to buy chivas? i got 1 new bottle. msg me."

"anyone got any beer? ran out :("

"all i want now is just some alcohol."

"i hope the idiots who scratched/dented my car abit just coz u dont know how to control opening your door gets the same thing happen to you. idiots."

"as of about 3 days, i've blocked 3 people. awesome."

Douchebags ;)

#5 Shared spam photos, notes and statuses

We all have a few of these friends who just love to share with us their often-inappropriate trash. These span from photos of decapitated elephants and naked whores to annoying religious chain mails that prey on your guilt. No! I do not want to see your disgusting photos of abandoned foetuses and harlequin ichthyosis. No! While I know Jesus loves me, I'm not forwarding that garbage to my other contacts just because you put me on a guilt trip. Oh and you're probably going to hell for misusing God's name. Better start repenting and don't forget to forward your apology to726,349,837 friends in the next 30 minutes or... you and your male family members will be neutered by a poltergeist with an affinity for garden shears.

If you really cared for whatever it was that you just shared, get your ass off your computer chair and do something meaningful rather than sharing it and doing nothing about it.

#4 'Artful' photographs

If the people who post these are anymore self-absorbed, they'd be a sea sponge.

Do you seriously think that just by grayscaling your photographs, you can turn your otherwise dry, boring, uninspiring and meaningless shots into hipster masterpieces?

Don't get me wrong, there are people out there who take beautiful, sincere pictures without even trying or boasting and I respect them. Unfortunately, there are also those who just have an overpriced camera but absolutely no sense of photography. The worst of these ones even pride their 'art' on facebook, sometime with hipster captions. Oh dear, a black and white photo of a homeless man half cut out from the picture or a photo of the back of man in a flannel shirt in front of a Subway sandwich shop is NOT ART. That's like saying toe jam is beautiful and fragrant.

Please wake up and spare us your 'art'.

#3 Philosophical or political statuses that are actually not so enlightening

To be honest, once in a while I do appreciate a bit of philosophical quotes and intelligent political opinion in facebook.

What's highly irritating is when you post up ten paragraphs of your own philosophical dribble that happens to be highly insensitive and obviously targeted at subgroups of people. What's more annoying is that you try to patronise said subgroup of people to soften the message of your doctrine. I get it, you are proud to be atheistic and dislike religion; you don't have to post up an essay on why, twice a day for a week.

The same goes for the more politically-inclined population of facebook. I have seen wonderfully written pieces and intelligent statuses on politics in facebook and have also seen uncivilised rants. Whilst entertaining to read, I can't help but feel ashamed for these people of the uglier end of the spectrum. A typical mindless rant has two parts: a swear word and the name of a politician or a political party. Of course, there are more elaborated versions, but don't be fooled for they are no less retarded. A good example in Malaysia would be anti-BN or pro-DAP rants. A lot of them (most definitely not all) do not contain a speck of respectable, valid argument. I am no fan of BN but allow me to say this: do your research so that you don't shame us with your foolish babbling and for goodness sake, use spellcheck!

#2 Engrish status updates

Sometimes I get very emotionally conflicted when I set my sight on one of these status updates. I do not know whether to pity or be annoyed. Fair enough, English may not be your first language but checking your grammar and spelling can really boost your credibility. I can actually understand and forgive people who are aware of their weakness and are genuinely trying their best to communicate in English. The same cannot be said, however, for people who are ignorant and oblivious to the fact that their command of English is deplorable at best. In fact, they wield the language LIKE THEY KNOW IT - and they certainly don't.

#1 Attention-seeking, tell-me-all-about-your-life updates

Once again, I'm sure we all know a friend or two who can't stop posting updates and photos of what they are doing or where they are. Do we really need to be reminded constantly of how unexciting and ordinary your life really is? Do you really need to pull all those lame stunts to catch people's attention, you attention-seeking brat? If only facebook allows you to 'poke a friend' with a syringe filled with Ritalin... or a lethal dose of heparin...

Here's a cute, harmless and definitely non-murderous picture of two cats. Enjoy:

And there you have it folks: nine most facepalm-worthy things you see on your facebook homepage. Why nine? Because ten is too mainstream :P. Forgive me, if the post seems to be diminishing in quality towards the end; I finished this at 2:30 a.m.. Regardless, I hope you (the reader) found this interesting.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Unprofessionalism in a typical Malaysian pharmacy

Yesterday, I decided that I had enough of hacking like a mad man. The plague spreading within my home finally caught up to me a few days ago and while at first I tolerated the wild coughing, it started to affect my sleep, and so I decided to do something about it.

The most logical thing to do in my situation would be to visit a pharmacy for a bottle of cough medication. Seriously, who should visit a doctor and pay a hefty sum for the consultation for such a minor complaint? After breakfast, I went straight to the pharmacy.

At the counter, I was served by a young man, most likely younger than myself, and obviously not a pharmacist. Since it's just cough medication that I wanted, I let him serve me, and I wanted to see what happens. Besides, I know my stuff, so I was not worried about anyone killing me with malpractice. Basically, I asked for cough medication and said that I had dry cough. He asked in return if I produced any phlegm, to which I replied, "No". He was contented and proceeded to the backroom to 'procure' me something to relieve my dry cough.

Soon, he emerged from within and proudly placed a box of something to relieve my dry cough - supposedly, allegedly, purportedly or whatever word you like to express assumption - on the countertop. Truly and honestly, I hoped he got it right, so that I don't have to completely lose faith in these untrained, unqualified pharmacist's henchmen. I picked the box up and looked at the trade name and displayed a grimace of concern. Without pausing, I quickly searched for the active ingredient... and found it...


Of all the things you could've given me to relieve COUGHING, you gave me a SEDATING ANTIHISTAMINE. The last time I took motion sickness pills, I got zonked out for 6 hours. Do you just want me to sleep and forget about my problems? Oh wait, I forgot, I don't wish to sleep all day! Besides, the coughing's keeping me up at night anyway!

After the nuclear meltdown in my brain, I composedly looked at him and said, "This is not cough medication?".

He replied, "Yes, it is".

"This is antihistamine (you foo I just graduated last year don't tell me what it's not)".


"An antihistamine isn't going to fix my cough".

After observing the entire spectacle, my mother (who was with me at the time) decided to tell the boy that we wished to speak to the pharmacist. I went straight to the point telling him I have dry cough and I wanted pholcodine or dextromethorphan. He acknowledged my request and asked the same boy to obtain me some dextromethorphan. I checked the box again and this time I gave a satisfying nod, happy that I had got what I wanted. The boy proceeded to write in pen, the dosage of the medication, on the box.. and that was it... I even decided to let go of the fact that he didn't ask if I was on any other medications simply because I knew what I was doing. For people untrained in the arts of pharmacy, dextromethorphan and most antidepressants interact to cause what we call Serotonin Syndrome, characterised by palpitations, profuse sweating, tremor, diarrhoea, tachycardia, mental confusion etc.

Upon reaching home, I opened the box and looked for the directions leaflet in the box. That's right, I did not even consider reading what the boy wrote; would you trust someone who think's a sedating antihistamine is suitable for someone complaining of only dry cough? To be extra safe, I decided to search the Australian Medicines Handbook(AMH) for the dosage and found the information in the leaflet to be consistent albeit not identical. I decided that I would take 10 mL (30 mg) every 6 hours, maximum dose of 120 mg daily as per AMH and the information leaflet. What was written on the box by the boy was shocking. He wrote 15 mL (which exceeded the maximum single recommended dose), 3 times daily... totaling 135 mg/day, exceeding the safe recommended daily dose of 120 mg.

I'm not saying that I could've died. It's a relatively harmless drug ( things like warfarin, digoxin and suxamethonium) but I can say that experiencing side effects would be imminent - as opposed to being fairly unlikely - at that dose and nobody likes side effects. Heaven forbid, if someone were on a tricyclic antidepressant, he would be admitted into the emergency department with his body in overdrive.

We really need to improve the standards of our pharmacies here. There is nothing wrong in pharmacists hiring unqualified staff to help run your pharmacy; just play it safe. At the very least, train your staff properly and formally to know what to ask, look out for and say when dispensing 'minimally critical' medications. For other drugs, make sure they always ask for the pharmacist's permission before giving it out. Most other drugs should be off-limits and should only be handled by pharmacists.

Working in retail isn't easy especially when some know-it-all customer comes into your shop and tells you to stfu, I'm a nurse/medical student/doctor and just give me what I want. I've experienced plenty of that and it really throws you off-balance. I don't think I was harsh at all to the boy at the counter; I gave him a chance to speak and a chance to give me what he thought was the appropriate drug. I did not come into his shop, stamp my authority and tell him what to do. I just let him do his stuff. I only got defensive when I didn't get what I want and I think that's justified.

Oh and if you think what happened in the pharmacy was a debacle, wait till you hear about poor prescribing and dispensing in THE CLINIC; as my f0rmer employer would say, "they give me the sh*ts".

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Year number twenty three - Part 1

Existence has defined me for the 23rd year as of 36 days ago. All that talk about time flying wasn't hogwash after all. In the blink of an eye, you go from diaper-wetting to diaper-changing - and then back to diaper-wetting. Myself? I'm in between phase 1 and phase 2 although the minority of my peers have entered phase 2. Living for more than two decades, you start to enter the part of life where you see the world backed by cognition rather than emotion. Of course, this doesn't apply to everyone as clearly, some have missed the boat are still stuck on the island of teenage drama. I digress.

Every once in a while - I swear, without the aid of a psychotropic drug - I take time (usually when bored silly) to articulate my observations and thoughts in something slightly more technologically advanced than a stone tablet - I'm talking about my blog obviously. So, here's what I prepared earlier:

1. Stereotyping is dangerous but is also necessary and fun at the same time.

Stereotyping is something I am unfortunately, prone to doing. It is a dangerous sport and I know it. When you get it wrong, the best thing (and the usual thing) that happens is you feel a bit silly; the worst is you end up hurting yourself and someone else. Stereotyping however, is important for learning. A child learns that a man is fat because of all that lard around his waist; the child also learns that eating too much fried chicken and sitting around all day makes you fat. The child will associate both premises and conclude that fat people eat too much and sit all day. Of course, we know that not all people are fat because they eat like a pig but without this 'stereotyping' if you will, the child will never know what a fat man is.

So what makes stereotyping fun? The fact that it's true a lot of the time ;)

2. The happiest people in this world are children and grown fools.

Little children know naught of the perils and suffering of this world because they are born innocent, pure and naive.

The same cannot be said for big fools though, for they are better described by the words: ignorant, stuporous and thick. Some of us may have found the secret to humble joy but these happy idiots are already in a perpetual state of nirvana - the ignorant bliss variety. Fools never worry of what they say or what they do and the consequences of their action. Literally, they do as they please and they take things for granted. Even as karma hits them on their thick cranium, they continue doing what they do best. To put simply, the happiness of a fool stems from the fact that he/she can do whatever he/she pleases without being aware of what he/she really did. People of wealth and power are able to most things but only if they are wise enough to maintain that wealth and power (not stress-free I assure you). Just ask Colonel Gaddafi (rich, powerful, murdered by the people he oppressed) and Steve Jobs (rich, powerful, chose alternative medicine to treat cancer).

Do you choose conscious suffering or stuporous bliss?

3. People change

I believe most of us know this. You become more aware of it though when you start disagreeing more with your close friend, when someone high achieving shows signs of turning into the next Hitler or when someone who used to be innocent and vulnerable becomes a party monster, sex maniac, drug addict and a yobbish miscreant.

4. Nightclubbing

My idea of social fun is not wiggling your body awkwardly - 'dancing' in clubbing terms - in a space packed with sweaty, drunk people, with noise so loud that it is impossible to have a meaningful conversation (saying 'WOOOOOOO' to your friend does not count as meaningful). If anything, all that achieves nothing at best and becomes a hindrance at worst. I conclude that with alcohol, the nightclub provides the illusion of fun.

...Part 2 to follow if I feel good about it......

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A week begins anew

As I continue to go through my adult years, I wonder more and more if I'll ever have a brief respite from the hustle and bustle of life before I die. When I'm not busy doing something, I'd be worrying about other things; sometimes they are things that I would be busy with the day after, other times decisions in life that are life-changing.

Last week I thought to myself: the week has barely begun and yet I've had next week filled with activity already. Gone are the days where my holidays consist of nothing but blissful languidness. Apart from being physically busy and planning and anguishing my schedule, I also have the tendency of pondering over my life's directions and decisions - what was, what is and what is to come.

This year and the last, I think I made quite a few serious, life-shaping plans and decisions. Some of these involve lots of risks and difficulties but also sweet nectar (hopefully) at the end. Where am I going with this blog entry, I know not, but what I can say is recently I've been pondering (more so than usual) on whether my decisions were actually sound, or was I just being too brash when planning and deciding. I constantly call out to the Lord to reveal to me his wisdom because I know the limits of my own wisdom and the limitlessness of God's. May the Lord give me the patience to persevere and strength, should my plans and decisions be revealed as mistakes and require rectification.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A brief update

- I am currently waiting for my examination results after which I will graduate given that there are no 'shock' results.

- I have already started exposing myself to the laboratories that I may be using next year for my research degree. I feel like I have so much to learn. It's like starting from square one again. Sometimes, it does feel overwhelming but I have to remind myself that I've not even (officially) graduated from my undergraduate studies and that I am actually learning 3 months ahead of the planned commencement of my next course.

- Funny how so many immigrants in Australia who have the command of English equal to that of a brick, no intention to assimilate and no real loyalty and skill are given residency yet highly skilled, young workers who speak at least decent English and want to contribute to Australia are shunned.

- The first world's gone mad with so many 'Occupy' and worker's union movements going on these days. They need to be thrown into less fortunate countries to see how hard people work to survive and how little they complain (if at all). This is what happens when you overprotect your citizens. They become sheltered and forget that it's actually normal to work hard for money.

- Dragon Age: Origins is quite the bomb. I haven't been addicted to a game quite as intensely since FFXIII.

- I am most likely quitting my part-time job next year. My research course is likely to be very demanding: full-time work in the weekdays and probably even some work on Saturdays. They've offered me a casual position but I'll have to see.

- December will be very 'full-on' for me. I've got friends and family to entertain and my own graduation (God-willing) to attend. I also have slightly more work shifts in the pharmacy and will also volunteer to work more in the lab on days I'm not working in the pharmacy.

- More to come next time.