Monday, November 26, 2007

Why Malaysia Rocks

Char Kuay Teow Seller, Penang Back Alley
ISO400 f/1.4 50mm Kodachrome
What can i say about Malaysia in comparison to Melbourne?

1) Driving is fun. In Australia there are traffic lights everywhere. There are drop dead boring 40 km/h school zones and the speed limit is only 80 km/h on the Princess Highway. In Malaysia, the speed limit is how fast you dare to drive. Forget the monotonous traffic light grid of the Melbourne suburbs. Malaysian roads are dynamic. Potholes pop up here and there daily.

2) Food is free. Well, practically free. After getting used to paying 20-odd ringgit for a meal, I dont think twice before ordering that extra bowl of chendol during lunch.

3) Toilets have hoses. My arse has never felt so clean!

It's good to be back =)

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Futile Pursuit of Happiness

The Hedonic Treadmill.

Money cant buy happiness. Well, it could be argued that people who say that dont know where to go shopping. Ladies love new shoes and guys love new playstations. Boys toys and girls toys may be different, but fundamentally material possessions do bring happiness.

But do those possessions bring lasting happiness? No. Studies of lottery winners show that after merely a year, lottery winners are back to their former pre-win happiness levels.

Human beings are designed to chase material/worldly wealth and possessions. But as one gets more wealthy, the amount of new wealth required to get that feeling of happiness starts to increase exponentially. In the end, whatever material wealth obtained will stop bringing happiness as in the case of lottery winners.

You could live in mansion, playing playstation on your 72" plasma screen while listening to tunes on your Bang and Olufsen audiophile setup yet you will still eventually reach a stage where those things will no longer bring you happiness. You can run the hedonic treadmill, but your run will lead you nowhere - stop running and the treadmill stops spinning. You then realize that you havent really gone anywhere.

After one can well afford basic needs and simple luxuries, running the hedonic treadmill is a futile pursuit of happiness.

The hedonic treadmill is distracting. too much focus on material wealth and the happiness that is harder and harder to get achieve will inevitably lead to neglect of other aspects of life. To be sociable and extroverted actually means putting thought/mental-focus to the existance/needs/feelings/happenings of others. An introvert caught up in the hedonic treadmill does not do that.

As a kid, an influential figure started telling me that 'friends are temporary' and 'come and go'. My emphisis on social interaction was never the same after that. I was suspicious of the intentions of others and proud of my own flawed constitution and ideals. An introverted worldview during my teens practically destroyed my social life.

It is only now that I realize i should have put more thought/mental-focus/effort in interacting with others. I had been too caught up with myself, too introverted and too focused on the hedonic treadmill that I neglected a very important part of life - friends.

The next stage of the development of me as a person will revolve around social networking. An excellent opportunity awaits next year for I will be Richardson Hall's international rep.

ESSENCE of happiness and wellbeing
  1. Education (x)
  2. Spirituality (x)
  3. Stress Management (x)
  4. Exercise (x)
  5. Nutrition (x)
  6. Connectedness (O) next year's focus
  7. Environment (x)

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Too Little Too Late.

Anatomy Workstation

When i first approached the subject of anatomy, I was completely lost. My first attempt at the subject involved staring at atlases (Netter's). Bad idea. It's impossible to remember anything at all or their relevance to the bigger picture. Imagine looking at a map of France. With dots representing towns. Then try memorizing the name of each dot. Lack of depth. No understanding.

I then tried to read a very comprehensive, descriptive, surgical textbook (Last's Anatomy). I referred to the Netter's atlas to picture what Last's was describing. Trying to comprehend the book was a glorified page-flipfest. Flipping pages of an anatomy atlas over and over was not much fun. Reading two pages took me half an hour! That was no fun.

After months of trying, I am finally able to study the subject at a reasonable speed. Reading Last's was really helpful in giving "depth of meaning*" to descriptive anatomical nomenclature/language. However, it was still one big glorified page-flipfest.

Finally, the page flipping festivals ended with the arrival of the A.D.A.M. Interactive anatomy DVD. It usually costs $150USD, but i managed to get it bundled with a book for only $70USD from Amazon online. It is spectacular. You could dissect a human body from all sides just as you would a cadaver simply by moving a slider bar or rolling the mousewheel.

Now i could study anatomy faster. Covering two pages of Last's in about 15 minutes. But still, I could not cover all that needed to be covered in time for the exam.

Last's is an awesome textbook, but does not give much information about the pathology of clinical conditions resulting from the relevant anatomy it explains.

I ended up using Dartos, a wonderful piece of software by Monash's own lecturer Gerry Ahern. It is brought to us by the Dartos Contractors, as Dr Gerry jovially points out (link). The dartos contractors are amazing. They work hard in the cold! Anyway, it has within it a compilation of interactively labelled images from cadavers and medical imaging (X-ray, CT, MRI). The newest version even has a voiced narrative of each cadaver dissection.

Dartos + A.D.A.M. + Last's is quite possibly all i'd need for anatomy these coming years as an undergraduate. Pictured above is the latest incarnation of my anatomy workstation. A.D.A.M. is running on the monitor, showing multiple views (different angles) of the thigh. Each view can be individually dissected layer by layer with a click of the mouse. Last's is the reference when i want to know more about any muscle/nerve/vein/bone/landmark described in Dartos. A.D.A.M. let's me understand what Last's is describing.

I received the A.D.A.M. DVD a week before the finals. In the end, I only managed to cover about two fifths of the anatomy scyllabus.

Damn. I will not let this happen ever again. When i look at the map of france now I go on a virtual roadtrip. A.D.A.M. labels all the towns and cities vividly and makes each place easily serchable. Last's textbook lays down detailed information about the roads that connect the towns and cities. Dartos describes to me important landmarks. For redundancy, I keep an image of my computer's hard-drive (flourescent orange external disk in the picture). So even if my hard disk suddenly dies, and is replaced with a blank one, I could get my workstation back in less than half an hour.

*Thoughts/Understandings invoked when i read a particular word.