Archive for December, 2011

Rethinking a Christmas Tradition

December 27, 2011 1 comment

When I was little, my family “celebrated” Christmas by giving me presents and setting up a decorated Christmas tree every year, but we stopped that tradition over eight years ago. When I think about it, my parents did that only so I could be happy at receiving special gifts from “Santa Claus” like every other kid. However I am not as young or naive as before and my happiness doesn’t depend on other people giving me presents on December 25, whether they do come from Santa Claus or not. Now the question is why do people give each other presents on Christmas Day instead on any other day of the year? I believe most, if not everyone, does it for one of the following three reasons:


Christmas commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ and gift giving is part of that tradition. That is an acceptable reason and one I will not bother to argue with. However I know the majority of us do not give others presents because of religious reasons. Even to this day I still have not met anyone who give gifts solely because of their religion. On a side note, did you know the Catholic Church had banned that tradition during the Middle Ages because they thought it had Pagan origins?

Love and Friendship

Most will argue that giving gifts shows we love our family and friends. That’s true, but then why can’t you give presents during some other time during the year and not December 25? Is there anything wrong with giving presents some other time of the year to show your love and affection? For one, it will definitely be a surprise for the recipient. I mean, it’s not as fun when you know you are going to get a present on Christmas. Saying that, I don’t exchange Christmas gifts. What I do instead is give and receive presents at random times during the year from family and friends. Sure it’s different from everyone else, but I like the freedom and flexibility to do whatever I want whenever I want. For those who have felt stressed at this time of year from the holiday shopping, would you appreciate it more if Christmas didn’t turn so much into a commercialized holiday?


Anyone else who doesn’t give presents for the first two reasons does it because society mandates it, in other words, everyone else does it. The problem with this is that the same argument can be used to justify any action one chooses to do. How would you react if I told you the only reason I voted for George W. Bush in the 2004 presidential election was because everyone in my neighbourhood voted for him? Imagine that reaction because that is the same one you are going to get from me if you ever use that society argument. Something else to ponder is do presents have meaning and if they do, is it because we choose to give them or because we are just following the status quo?

I am not against the idea of gift exchange per se. I simply question why everyone does it on December 25 and not on any other day, say April 9. Furthermore, wouldn’t it make more economic sense to do all the holiday shopping on Boxing Day and give gifts afterwards? For those living in the states, what’s stopping you from shopping on Black Friday and delivering gifts immediately after? If you guys do give presents specifically on Christmas for other reasons, do share because I would like to hear them.

Categories: Philosophy

Bulimia – More Common Than You Thought

December 15, 2011 1 comment

**Edited re-post from a facebook note I wrote last year**

Are you feeling stressed out this time of year? Tired due to lack of sleep? Have your eating habits drastically changed? Experiencing weight fluctuations within a short time period? Spending more time in isolation feeling depressed? Has your self-esteem fallen thinking you’re not good enough like other role models you see? Going through long periods of time without ingesting anything then suddenly binging and purging in a span of two weeks like there’s no tomorrow?

I’m not talking about food here. I’m talking about binging and purging INFORMATION.

If you experience all of the above symptoms, then I’m sorry to say that you have ACADEMIC BULIMIA.


Academic bulimia is common among undergraduate students affecting both males and females equally. However younger students in the IB program have also shown similar behaviour patterns. Typically the student goes through an entire semester neglecting most of his or her coursework until “final exam” season. During this two-week period the student absorbs huge amounts of information from books and lecture notes at astonishing rates, aka cramming. On the day of the final exam the student slowly expels all the information he or she has managed to memorize. After several minutes of what did u get for #3? and how many words did u write for #5?, the student walks home retaining very little memory of the course.

These series of unfortunate incidences are caused by one’s desire to fit in and conform to expectations of high grades set by others. By others I mean one’s parents. The misinformed student believes that failure will lead to horrendous consequences which explains why he or she goes through such extreme lengths to meet those demands.


It is very encouraging that this affliction lasts for only 2 weeks and future incidences of academic bulimia are very predictable. After final exam season, the student starts socializing with everyone else again and will binge on alcohol this time as opposed to information. Often the student will discard all class notes and start selling textbooks if he or she decides not to burn them. This cycle lasts until one obtains a Bachelor’s Degree. Exceptions include those seeking entry into medical school. Only the best bingers and purgers are accepted and even then, they will have to take their binging and purging to a whole new level for another 4 to 8 years.


If you see a friend or stranger exhibiting at least one of the above-mentioned symptoms, don’t hesitate to interrupt them. After all, who wants to lie in bed sick with the flu because he or she didn’t get enough sleep? You can start by directing them to this blog where I deconstruct society’s misconceptions that one has to sacrifice everything to live up to others’ high expectations. So take your studious friend outside, enjoy the sunshine and not talk about the different functions of the 12 cranial nerves or the structures of each amino acid. Ask that cute girl or guy sitting across from you in the library out to lunch so they won’t feel like a social outcast. I don’t know about you guys, but I’d pick a hot date night over a cramming session any day.

Categories: Education, Humour

Why Education Matters

December 13, 2011 4 comments

Recently, Tyler, Na’ama, Jonathan and I had a discussion on education. Unfortunately I don’t remember much since I have a terrible memory, but Tyler did take notes.  The most interesting topic we debated about was what is the purpose of education? There was quite a bit of philosophical discussion regarding

  • how does one learn?
  • what is knowledge?
  • are humans intrinsically or extrinsically motivated to learn?
To try and keep things simple, I will focus on the practical aspects of education in this post and future posts. The answer I proposed then was people learn so that they can make beneficial contributions to society. However I left that room not 100% satisfied with my own answer because I felt something was missing, but couldn’t pinpoint what exactly it was. After watching Ken Robinson’s TedxTalk (thanks Tyler for sharing the link), I have a better idea on the purpose of education.


Ultimately I believe the purpose of education is to prepare ourselves so we can live a life. I know it is a very general statement and I have only one premise: life is long. It is complete bullshit when people say life is short. After all that’s like saying the glass is half empty (more on that on a future entry). Everyday you will have to socialize with people, react to different situations, solve various problems and make many choices. Those are just a few dimensions of living a life and how you approach that is a reflection of your education whether that comes from school or not.

To quote Mahatma Gandhi: Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.

Categories: Education, Philosophy

Secrets of the Emergency Department

December 9, 2011 1 comment

I worked in the emergency department at BC Children’s Hospital as a research assistant for a year and gained a lot of insight into the health care system. It’s no surprise that one of the problems in the ED is overcrowding which leads to longer waiting times (average wait time is about three hours) before patients are seen by a doctor. Keep in mind that this is BCCH so only patients seventeen years and under are admitted.

1. Arriving by ambulance doesn’t mean that you will receive special treatment or get special status. You will have to wait in line to get triaged like everybody else.

2. Be nice to everyone, especially nurses since they are the ones who take care of you. Doctors just come in and tell what is wrong with you.

3. You will have to repeat your story several times separately: to the triage nurses, MSIs/residences/fellows, emergency physicians and possibly specialists. You will save yourself and all the staff a lot of time if you tell the same full story each time.

4. It’s not a bad thing if you have to wait for hours, that means you are not going to die. You should feel sorry for the one who gets rushed into the ED and is seen by a doctor immediately.

5. Doctors do not cure stupidity. I have seen patients that came in and said “My son ran up a set of stairs and now his heart is beating faster than usual” and “My daughter has been coughing and having a runny nose for days, does she have cancer?”. It’s comforting to know that those people are part of the reason why patients are waiting for hours in the ED.

6. Doctors spend a large time doing paperwork. I can tell you, to the second, precisely how much time physicians spend on administrative duties. Believe me when I say they do not idle around.

7. If you come in with a broken bone, be prepared to stay for several hours at the minimum. During triage, most, if not all nurses, know you will need an x-ray, but they are not allowed to order it for you. They can order x-rays for only specific body parts (I don’t remember which ones). Once the doctor calls you in, he or she can do the (re)assessment and then will order the x-ray. You will have to wait until the radiology department is free. After the x-ray, you go back into the waiting room again until the physician gets a chance to see the images and calls you back in for a casting procedure.

8. Staff at BCCH are much more cheerful and lively than staff at Vancouver General Hospital. Not sure why, but you guys can make educated guesses.

9. The staff ARE trained to deal with emergencies, that’s why they work in the ED. There was an incident where a pregnant person came and gave birth to a child. The reason it was done in the ED and not maternity ward: she concealed her pregnancy entirely from her parents until that day.

10. There are optimal times to come to the ED (by optimal I mean least waiting time). During last season’s Stanley Cup playoffs, I had a Saturday afternoon shift during a Canucks vs Sharks game. There were any barely patients that day, guess where all the children were? It’s also safe to assume that patient flow would increase slightly the very next day.

Categories: Research

IKBLC to be opened 24/7?

December 7, 2011 1 comment

A few students recently started a petition to keep the IKB Learning Center open 24/7 the entire year. The article is on The Ubyssey.

If you have to pull all-nighters, that probably means you have bad time management (more on that on a future entry) or study skills. My general advice is to study before and after lectures and to rewrite notes in your own words. It also helps to form study groups and create mock midterms. That forces you to review what you believe will actually be on the midterm. Similar to going to job interviews, it is important to be able to anticipate questions that you will get. If you don’t know what material is important that can be tested, then you haven’t really learned anything at all and should get help immediately.

There’s no need to go into detail how detrimental cramming and pulling all-nighters can be on students’ health and performances on exams. UBC’s motto is “Tuum Est” meaning “It’s yours”. I interpret that to mean UBC students are mature enough to make their own decisions and accept the consequences and I see having to pull all-nighters a result of poor choices. For students who live on campus, they can study in their dorms. Students who live off-campus can study in their own homes. I needed to take the last bus from campus at 12 am and that was never a problem with my studies (it did interfere a bit with my social life though, but that’s a different story). Whenever I wrote papers, I did it during the day so I could use library books and I finished the rest of my assignments which didn’t require library resources at home.

According to the article, it will be financially costly to maintain Irving 24/7 although the main focus is that UBC shouldn’t have to accommodate students who make bad decisions. There is a reason why exam schedules and assignment due dates are given at the beginning of courses. As the saying goes, “procrastination is like masturation, at first it feels good, but in the end you’re just fucking yourself”. If this petition somehow passes, then UBC is sending the wrong message saying it is ok to study early in the morning.

I have stayed overnight at UBC only once and that was studying for my very last undergrad exam. It wasn’t a bad experience, but not something I would want to do again. Now that I look back, of the many times I stayed late on campus, only a small fraction was for academic reasons. There are much more enjoyable (and “productive”) activities one could be doing at four in the morning instead of cramming for an exam. You don’t need to be in a library to do them.

Categories: Education, UBC

A New Beginning

December 2, 2011 3 comments

After weeks of deliberating, I finally decided to start a blog. It took me a while because maintaining a blog requires a lot of work and I’m a lazy person. However there were many good reasons for me to start a blog.  I want to edit my facebook notes because now that I look back at them, I see a lot of changes I want to make. Also it’s easier for everyone to browse through the archive on wordpress than facebook.

Believe it or not, I actually love writing and one of my life’s ambition is to write a best seller book. Those who added me on facebook know that I write really random notes and I will use those as a starting point for my blog. I also have many drafts on facebook that I will eventually publish here. I hope that some day in the future, whether that be one, ten or twenty years, I can look back and find something to base a book on. I have no idea what it will be about, but I’m sure part of the inspiration will come somewhere from my blog postings or other blogs that I follow.

The biggest reason why I joined the blogging community is not only to share my own beliefs (to everyone else, not just my facebook friends), but to learn that from others as well. There will be a lot of random blogs and rants, but my most meaningful ones will be the ones about my personal life philosophy because it has helped make my life better and I believe that it can make other people’s lives better as well. I don’t expect everyone to agree with my views, but I do ask that you critically evaluate them before judging.

Thanks for visiting my blog and I hope that you guys enjoy reading my entries as much as I enjoyed writing them.

Categories: Life, Philosophy