…So, as you may know I went on a 10-week elective to Malta, with a healthy dose of travelling on the side, and the awkward part is I’ve been back in NZ for 2 weeks now without any blog updates. OTL
In my defence, I got home on Sunday night 1:30am and had to go to radiology classes 7 hours later, then it’s been a week of radiology, then another week of ACLS simulations and procedural skills, plus catching up with friends and rapidly readjusting to day-to-day life and getting over jet lag sooooo yeah I’ve been a bit busy. But I think two weeks is all I can let myself get away with and alas, I must start living my normal life now (even though my head and heart are still in Europe).
I’m starting general medicine tomorrow and I have no idea how intense or busy it’ll be, but I will officially resume blogging and following my two ARK posts per week rule from this week onwards regardless. Hopefully all that time away from home has sparked up a fresh list of ARK ideas :)
On the matter of my travels itself, well, I think it’s safe to say I suck at writing travel summary blog posts in a timely fashion (as seen from my past two big trips), so I’ll try my best to write a post sometime this week but don’t hold your breaths. All you need to know for now is that I really did have the best time of my life and there were so many stories and memories that I’ll cherish forever. I don’t think I really have a shred of regret from my elective trip, except maybe losing my travel diary in the last few days (sigh). Oh well, it doesn’t change the memories in my head, the feelings in my heart or the photos in my camera :) I think I’ve also grown quite a bit from my travels, in more ways than I could’ve imagined before leaving for Europe. Yup, a legendary trip indeed!
If you’re Facebook friends with me, you’ve probably been bombarded with photos for the last three months, but photos will keep coming! And I need to rewrite my travel diary…got like 8-weeks’ worth to write up o_O And it looks like I still have about 1,000 photos to sort. Wish me luck…?
Anyway, welcome back to my blog! See you soon in another post~ Here’s some photos to entertain you until then.
147 hours of travel, through 22 cities in 13 countries. Here’s an Indiana-Jones-esque map summary of travels during elective.
Throw in delicious food, amazing people, breathtaking views, tons of awesome photos and that makes my elective the best time of my life.
Goodbye Europe and my elective! I will cherish you forever.
Anonymous said: Hi - I stumbled across your blog while scouring the inter webs, and I just want to say: you seem to be an incredible person. I find your intelligence downright attractive in every way possible. Sorry to be so forthcoming, but I just thought I should let you know that someone out there is very enamored with you. I'm sending good vibes to you from across oceans tonight!
I’m very touched, that’s among the most beautiful compliments I’ve gotten. Thank you Anonymous! :)
In spring and summer, everything is green and idyllic, with every tree boasting its own coat of leaves. But in winter, the trees are stripped of their leaves and are forced to show their bare branches. A once lush, beautiful forest becomes a field of bony, crooked wooden skeletons. No matter how magnificent a tree may be in the summer, you can see its true form in winter.
But are the trees ashamed to show their true selves? The reason trees bare themselves in winter is so that they can store up energy and chlorophyll to produce more leaves in spring, when there is more sunshine. The branches continuously reach upward and outward, biding until better time has come.
It is the souls of the trees we see in the winter - continuously struggling to survive, but always holding on until it can bloom its flowers and leaves again. No matter how tough the conditions, these souls live on.
So I know there hasn’t been much life update here, but I’m going to- wait for it - Malta! I’m doing an 8-week elective there in Accident & Emergency, then taking a 2-week holiday in Europe. At the airport right now actually haha. I’ll try update parts of my trip here!
Until I come back, ARK is on hiatus…But got one more post queued up for Saturday!
(See below NB for a simple guide to musical notes and tones)
In music, depending on what notes you use in a single chord, you can produce beautiful harmonies as the tones complement each other. The opposite of this is called dissonance and it results in a harsh, unpleasant sound. A famous example of this is a tritone- a chord made from two notes exactly three whole tones apart. In a standard C major diatonic scale (which doesn’t involve any flats or sharps), there is only one tritone per octave: F and B. But on the chromatic scale (all keys), any number of tritones are possible.
Historically, the tritone has been the black sheep of music theory due to its dissonance crashing any harmony of a song and being difficult to sing. It sticks out like a sore thumb among the sea of beautiful harmonies that other tones make. The tritone was hated so much so that it was named diabolus in musica (“the devil in music”) or the devil’s interval since the Middle Ages, even being banned in the production of music prior to the Renaissance. To this day, the tritone is suggested as an “evil”, “scary” sound.
Over time, composers worked around the tritone until they realised that thanks to the connotations, the tritone was a useful way to express “evil” in a musical way. The cultural association was exploited freely in works such as Franz Liszt’s Dante Sonata, where the tritone is used to depict Hell. The association is found in modern music as well to produce an unsettling feeling, such as the opening notes of Jimi Hendrix’s Purple Haze. The tritone is a common feature of heavy metal bands such as Black Sabbath.
Even though these songs use the devil’s interval, they are not at all inferior to “normal” major scale music. They are still beautiful in their own, interesting way. Perhaps the notion of good and evil have no place in judging whether something is beautifulor not.
NB: Musical tones are noted using the alphabet: C, D, E, F, G, A and B, with a flat(b) to denote a semitone lower, or a sharp(#) to denote a semitone higher. This is easy to visualise on a piano keyboard, where a single tone interval involves a white key, a black key in between and another white key. The interval between a white key and a black key is a semitone.
(Image: Portion of Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights depicting musicians’ hell)
Imagine a situation where a terrorist has planted a nuclear bomb in a major city and has it rigged to explode in 24 hours. Only he knows where the bomb is and how to disarm it. The authorities successfully capture him but he is not volunteering the information after hours of interrogation. Millions of lives are at stake because one man hides behind his rights and the control of his tongue. In such a scenario, is it morally justified to torture him until he gives away the information needed to prevent a catastrophe?
Torture is an unacceptable violation of a human being’s most fundamental rights. By inflicting pain and terror, the torturer systematically destroys the victim - physically, emotionally and psychologically. However, in the above scenario, not torturing the bomber will result in the death of countless innocent lives. Is the right of a murderous madman equivalent to a million other human beings? When asked this, the majority of people would answer that yes, in this scenario, torture can be justified.
However, this scenario is a hypothetical philosophical model to outline the argument that torture may be morally justified in certain situations. It is not a way to prove that governments should legally use torture as part of interrogations. The ticking bomb scenario has many weaknesses, such as the fact that such a scenario where all the elements line up so perfectly is highly unlikely to arise. But even so, it may be used as a base of a slippery slope, with people arguing that if a million lives can be saved by torturing an individual, what about a thousand lives? A hundred lives? Or even five lives? What if we have a legal system in place where a judge must issue a warrant after assessing the scenario? Then surely an argument can be made that in certain scenarios, there is no time for this process and lives are at stake. Ultimately, the legalisation of torture is an extremely dangerous slippery slope that can facilitate the violation of human rights with ease.
An alternative system is the so called Dirty Harry case. In this case, torture is still illegal, but a single individual in law enforcement decides to go rogue and takes the matter into his own hands. Because he decides to torture the suspect as an individual, not as part of an institution, he will be committing a crime for which he will be tried in the future. If the jury finds him guilty, he will be punished by being imprisoned. Therefore, the “Dirty Harry” must weigh the potential benefit of torturing the suspect (i.e. saving lives) versus the potential risks (i.e. going to prison), giving him incentive to make a more careful decision.
In theatre, there is a superstition that wishing good luck to an actor or actress brings them bad luck instead. Because of this, theatre cast around all around Europe have traditionally wished bad luck on each other or cursed to counteract this. This superstition is likely the root of the phrase “break a leg”, which is an expression used to wish well for a person who is about to perform. Similar customs are found in other European countries, such as “merde!” in France (meaning “shit”). “Merde” is also used frequently in professional dancing circles, especially ballet dancers.
The exact meaning of the phrase is not known, but there are many theories. The “leg” may be referring to the side curtains of the stage. In the past, actors were not paid unless their act made it onto the stage. Therefore, “breaking” the “leg - as in stepping past the curtains on to the stage - was an act of success and a guarantee of a paycheck. “Breaking a leg” may be referring to the act of bending one’s leg and bowing - something that is done repeatedly at the end of a show, especially if it was successful. More obscure theories include the story of a famous British actor in the 18th century literally breaking his leg while passionately acting out a scene from Shakespeare’s Richard III.
Is it better to have a skeleton inside the body, or on the surface?
In the case of insects, the skeleton is on the surface and takes the form of a shell that protects them from external damage. The flesh is protected by this shell and becomes soft until it becomes fluid-form. Therefore, when something sharp penetrates the armour, it causes critical, irreversible damage.
I have met many people who wear an intellectual shell made from remarkable knowledge and intellect, protecting themselves from attacks made by people with different ideas. They appeared much more robust than normal people. They would laugh at everything else, saying “I don’t care”. But when a different opinion would penetrate the hard exterior of their mind, the blow to their ego was indescribable.
I have also met people who would be hurt by even the smallest, insignificant confrontations or dissonance. However, they were sensitive because their minds were open and they learnt something from whatever attack they received.
(from The Encyclopaedia of Relative and Absolute Knowledge by Bernard Werber)
Werber spoke of the “skeleton” of the body and mind, but human beings have one other thing that needs a sturdy skeleton - the heart. Many people protect their heart from being broken with hard armour. They do not open up themselves easily and always give an image of strength and stability. But there is no such thing as a life without pain. People who put a skeleton on the outside of their heart tend to be those who have been hurt badly before and trying to protect themselves from being hurt again. This may be effective to some degree, but if you close off your heart, you cannot heal your wounds and you also shut off the happiness of connection. If they suffer pain greater than their armour can withstand, their heart is shattered and they fall into a pit of despair, unable to recover.
On the contrary, some people open up easily to others, exposing themselves to frequent pains from social interactions. These people are sensitive to pain and heartbreak. Hence, the world considers them frail and weak. But as these people have a strong skeleton inside their hearts, they can recover from any wound and they become stronger like well-developed muscle. They grow through pain and their heart - like a warrior who has fought countless battles - becomes strong and resilient against the pains of the world.
We mustn’t avoid suffering and pain and instead try to overcome it. Through this we learn how to bounce back and through experience, we develop ourselves. Suffering is hard, but it is a catalyst that helps us grow into a strong, resilient person.
With exercise, muscles get bigger and bigger to generate enough power to meet the demand. This is called hypertrophy, where the cells in tissue divide faster to increase their numbers and build mass. When you do not use the muscles as much, the body decides to recycle the precious resources by breaking down the extra muscle. This is called atrophy - also known as wasting.
Muscles are not the only things that atrophy. The less you think deeply and explore your curiosities, the more your intelligence and wisdom atrophies. As you care less, your heart and ability to love atrophies. As you smile and laugh less, your happiness atrophies.
Like much of nature, the human body dislikes the status quo and strives to avoid stagnation. It continuously breaks down old, unnecessary things to make way for new, different things that will help you better adapt to your environment.
Unfortunately for us, that means to maintain the parts of us that we like, we must train and use the relevant “muscles” - whether it be lifting weights, reading books or laughing heartily for no reason.
It is recorded that one day, Confucius was presented with a small marble that was filled with tiny holes with twists and turns. He was challenged to try thread the marble with a piece of thread. Confucius tried and tried but could not complete the challenge.
Feeling lost, he asked for some time to think and took a walk. A passing woman noticed him and asked what was wrong. Upon hearing the story, the woman said: “Think quietly, quieten your thoughts”. This gave Confucius an idea, so he thanked the woman and returned to the puzzle. In Chinese, the character for “quiet(密, mi)” sounds the same as “honey(蜜, mi)”. He found an ant, tied a thread around its waist and then placed it on one hole. He smeared some honey on the hole on the other side of the marble and the ant followed the scent, threading the marble as it travelled through the twists and turns.
Thomas Edison famously said that “Genius is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration”. Although this quote is usually used to stress the importance of effort and striving to succeed, you still need that 1% of creativity and out-of-the-box thinking to achieve true success. The inspiration can be from anywhere - a small memory in the recess of your mind, the casual remark of a passerby, an insignificant detail in your surrounding… What is important that you open your eyes and be open to such inspiration, no matter how silly or lowly you think the source is. You never know what or who will inspire you to have a eureka moment.