Wednesday, May 23, 2012

These are the Podcasts I Listen To

"'Silent' and 'listen' are spelled with the same letters."

Author Unknown

Wow, I can't believe I didn't notice this piece of lame-ass superficial profundity before now.

Etymologically, the word "podcast" is a neologistic portmanteau of "iPod" and "broadcast". It is an episodic audio or video production of what is basically people talking about stuff, which other people download and listen to on their computers or portable audio devices. I am a voracious consumer of this form of media. When I'm driving, shopping, or waiting for something - which must make up hours of pointlessly wasted time in my daily life - I would plug myself into my MP3 player and listen to one (and I always have a couple to a dozen episodes of my favourite podcasts locked and loaded at any given time). I am frequently amazed that not many more people have picked up the habit. I mean, whatever it is that your sphere of interest envelops, there's a podcast out there for you. It sure beats the merde out of what we hear on Malaysian radio stations these days which consists exclusively of endless loops of seven or eight current chart hits, inoffensive vanilla content, and stupid DJ banters that I'm convinced are cyanide to brain cells.

In another one of my random lists of stuff I dig, I present to you - in alphabetical order - my nine current favourite podcasts,

Winterfellas Diredonkey
And their sigil is the Dire Donkey.

It's no secret that I love George R. R. Martin's seven-book-epic, A Song of Ice and Fire and its HBO TV adaptation that's named after the first book, A Game of Thrones - and not just because it's full of gratuitous chesticles. While looking for a decent podcast which reviews the telly series, I happily stumbled onto Cast of Thrones which is indulgently bloated at almost 2 hours per episode and features a panel of geeks who love Westeros as much as I do. Their gimmick is this: four of the five hosts, Nick Bristow, Jennifer Cheek,  Michael 'Thrifty Nerd' DiMauro and Tim Lanning have read all or most of the books. The fifth, Mike Dao, is what the other hosts consider to be a "social experiment" because he is not allowed to read the books past the point where the TV show had progressed story-wise and so is able to offer a virginal perspective to the discussions. Also, they play a game called "Stump Mike Dao" where they basically ask Mike questions about how he would predict the story would go and then gleefully make fun of how wrong he gets it.

This podcast is not as tightly-formatted or well-produced as most of the others I listen to but what it lacks in those departments it more than makes up for it in funny (the laugh-out-loud variety). I'm still relatively new to this podcast so I haven't check out their entire catalogue yet, but I saw they have interviewed the actors who played Loras Tyrell and Hodor, and also runs a mini-sidecast called the Spoilercast in which they discuss book five, A Dance with Dragons. Goody.

Caustic Soda
Note the melty-face guy.

The closest description I can offer you on what this podcast is about is that it's a weekly hour of horrible, disgusting, gruesome, macabre trivia on a random subject discussed between its three hosts - Joe Fulgham, Kevin Leeson and Toren Atkinson - and usually a fourth guest who is an expert on said subject. Their list of featured topics thus far includes cancer, shark attacks, axes, shit (literally), being buried alive, leprosy, Hitler and a two-parter on sex, and they managed to make it all hilarious. If you are a fan of grotesquery and enjoy indulging in your inner sociopath, you are going to love this.

Caustic Soda was nominated in the 2011 Podcast Awards in the Best Produced category (probably because there isn't an award for grossness) and the quality shows. They even recorded their own theme songs which are "caustic" versions of The Muppet Show intro music and Mr Roger's It's Such a Good Feeling, and they are catchy as hell. This podcast is the only reason why I look forward to Mondays.

George Hrab
"That is what my podcast is called."

This podcast has nothing to do with geology. Let's just get that out of the way first.

The Geologic Podcast is one of the few one man acts out there that actually isn't boring or lame. George Hrab is the sharply dressed man behind it and he is... many things. He is a solo indie musician, the drummer for the Philadelphia Funk Authority, an atheist and sceptic, and the emcee of a couple recent Amaz!ng Meetings (TAM), which is the biggest yearly convention of science, scepticism and critical thinking in the world.

His podcast is an audio variety show with a few cycling segments. There's the staple Ask George where he answers listener questions, usually about music. There's also the Religious Moron(s) of the Week where he laments the hypocrisy and bigotry of religious people in the news. The only other semi-regular voice on the podcast is his mother, who he invites to the mic occasionally to recite rap songs in Geo's Mom Reads Jay-Z Lyrics. In between these segments, he peppers the podcast with funny asides, stories about his gigs and general nonsense. He also does accents in Dr. Damian Handzy's Facts That’ll Fuck Y’up, Minoishe Interroberg’s To Make with the Good English and Rupert McClanahan's Indestructible Bastards. If all of these sound like they would appeal to you, you should probably give him a try.

Science Sort Of Banner
Their mascot is a brachiolope.

Science... sort of is weekly podcast hosted by paleontology Masters student Ryan and his fellow working scientist friends (which includes another paleontologist, a couple of physicists, a parasitologist and an aerospace engineer). It starts off with a science segment which was then followed by What We've Been Drinking where they discuss about the alcoholic beverages they are imbibing while recording. Next, they move one to Trailer Trash Talk where they review film trailers before discussing more science afterwards. Finally, they cap off their show with listener feedback. If you know me, you'd realise that this podcast has almost everything I enjoy - and that's science, booze and movies. Science... sort of has a much less formal (i.e. stuffy) tone compared to most science podcasts I've came across and that's just how I like it. I like my science stuffed liberally with banter and baloney.

Tip: It's pronounced "Slashfilm".

My go-to blog for all things film industry related is /Film and the /Filmcast is its official podcast. It has the distinction of being the first ever podcast I listened to and it's hosted by Dave Chen, Devindra Hardawar and Adam Quigley - with a few rotating guest hosts from other film and geek sites, or from within the industry. Notable guest hosts include directors Rian Johnson, Vincenzo Natali and Kevin Smith, and character actor Stephen Tobolowsky. I also occasionally listen to other movie podcasts like Filmspotting and The Flop House, but I always return to Dave and co. because I felt that I am most attuned to their level of discussion. They have struck a very comfortable and relatable balance between highbrow and low, between arthouse and mainstream, if you ask me. The occasional host-to-host combat really makes for great entertainment as well.

Their main show is split into three acts; the What We've Been Watching segment, the splashiest film news featured on their mother blog, and an in-depth review of a film (or two) currently playing in theatres. Apart from that, they also have an occasional After Dark show where they continue recording after the regular show is wrapped up to talk about random topics related to films, filmmaking or the film industry.

There are times when I would go out and see a movie just so I can listen to an episode of the /Filmcast. True story.

The Bugle
Two British guys and a podcast.

I thank Rewarp from The Stray World blog for drawing my attention to The Bugle which is a satirical news and political podcast hosted by British comedian Andy Zaltzman and English comedic actor John Oliver of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart fame (though I knew him as Professor Ian Duncan from the best television series in the world forever, Community). Every week, the two get together to lampoon global news stories, but mostly UK and US news items. There is a good chance of pun storms, spontaneous bursting into songs, and the ripest bullshit from either side of the Pond.

Okay, this is not their usual logo - but it totally should be.

If you ask me what's the biggest influence in my sceptical and empirical worldview, I'd name The Skeptic's Guide to the Universe in a heartbeat - it pretty much taught me how to think and that changed my life forever.

The SGU is hosted by, Dr Steven Novella, clinical neurologist at Yale University School of Medicine along with his two brothers, Jay and Bob (no relation), Evan Bernstein and the Skepchick herself, Rebecca Watson, and it's a weekly 80-minute podcast on all things scientific and pseudoscientific i.e. alternative medicine, ghosts, psychic powers, cryptozoology, conspiracy theories and other assorted claptrap. Like all the other podcasts I enjoy, the SGU is conversational and lighthearted while making no compromise on content. The middle of the show is usually mounted with an interview with a who's who in science and scepticism and past (often recurring) guests includes James Randi, Adam Savage from Mythbusters, George Hrab, Phil Plait the Bad Astronomer, psychologist Richard Wiseman, theoretical physicist Michio Kaku, and Jimmy Carter, the former 39th president of the United States.

At the end of every episode, the Rogues (as the SGU hosts call themselves) would play a game called Science or Fiction where Steve would present his panel of sceptics with three news items, two real and one fictitious; and using their knowledge and critical thinking, they are suppose to sniff out the fake.

My other favourite segment is Name That Logical Fallacy where Steve reads an argument, usually from an opponent of science and supporter of pseudoscience, and the Rogues are invited to point out the flaws in it. Hey, it's my idea of fun, alright?

Tobolowsky Files
You have permission to call him Tobo.

Two things you should know about this one - it's the only podcast to have ever succeeded at making me tear up every other episode, and it's my favourite. I've already written an entire review of this podcast last year so I think I have said enough. Incidentally, The Tobolowsky Files is also hosted by David Chen from the /Filmcast.

Weekly Weinersmith
They are still working on the "weekly" part.

This is a sister podcast affiliated with Science...  sort of, and it's kind of a spinoff of the latter. Kelly Weinersmith is a PhD student in parasitology and apart from being a regular fixture of Science... sort of panel of hosts, she also co-hosts The Weekly Weinersmith with her husband, Zack Weinersmith (who you might recognise as the writer and artist of the hit webcomic, Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal).

It's a much more compact show compared to Science... sort of in which the Weinersmiths would discuss an interesting scientific paper or two, or interview someone within the scientific community for insights on a particular subject every week (the length of said "week" varies, of course). Besides that, the two would also speak briefly about what they are doing professionally at the beginning of each episode. SMBC fans might want to check this out.

P.S. I just noticed that three out of nine podcasts I've listed here have that one-chick-with-a-bunch-of-dudes lineup. I wonder if that's some kind of special winning formula.

Podcast junkie,
k0k s3n w4i

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mission Accomplished

"That's it, it's split, it can't recover
Just frame the halves and call them a whole
And chip at the bricks and fill up your pockets
With the pieces of the wall that you stole"

Call Them Brothers (2011) by Only Son and Regina Spektor

This is an informal POV account of the May 11 meeting.
For a more official report, you can read Chan's piece on the Malaysian Atheists webpage.

All the previous meet ups of the Malaysian atheist community I was able to participate in had been social in function. They are often peppered with half-baked echoes of the ghost of an agenda, but the strong individualistic personalities that had allowed us to break from hand-me-down beliefs of our families and society actually work to our detriment because none of us can ever agree on anything. We are not followers by nature. We consider it beneath us to dance to the tune of wannabe catherds.

This time however, I travelled with a purpose and a direction, and while I wasn't optimistic that anything substantial could possibly be borne out of an informal meeting with politician and member of the government, I recognise that that's the very attitude which had defeated most of what we as a community had been trying to achieve. So, I stowed it away and just went with it in the venturous spirit of "Who knows?" Hard to do for a know-it-all, but I did it.

The bloke with the straw hat, bow tie and malignant facial growth is Chan Ju Ping.
The be-scarfed bald chica is Cheryl Cheah - y'know, just in case you couldn't figure it out.

The three of us, Chan, Cheryl and I first assembled at my go-to hangout on the island, Ingolf's Kneipe, for a pregame huddle. While getting our agendas straight and presenting a unified front is crucial for any special interest platform, I was looking forward to it more as an opportunity to meet other members of our "core group" for the very first time; screen names I have only ever interacted through social media and mailing lists. Chan is based in Penang where he is currently freelancing as a thesis proofreader, Cheryl's working in Singapore as a business journalist while I have to fly in from Kuching.

You can't say we aren't committed.

Team Awesomesauce
Now, I wish I packed my eye-patch and peg leg with me. I'm so ordinary.

We may or may not be inebriated by the time we returned to our hotel room slash command center where we freshened up before walking to our nearby rendezvous point in the Georgetown heritage zone. We were punctual and so was our host.

I am still uncertain just how much I can disclose about the person we met but I'll say this much: he is affiliated with the current ruling party, the Barisan Nasional. I will also say that he shattered the stereotype I have in my head of a Malaysian politician completely, which wasn't hard because I tend to picture them as scheming, semi-literate parasites. In my defence, most people do. Mr T (which is how I would be referring to him for the rest of this writeup) is intelligent, erudite and surprisingly insightful - a sentiment shared by other members of our little delegation. Through the power of observation, he deduced that I'm a doctor and also the company Guan works for. Impressive.

Hobnob Central
From left to right: Cheryl, Chan, Guan, yours truly and Mr T.

"I came because I wanted to see for myself - a group of people who voluntarily call themselves atheists," he told us candidly. "In my experience, freethinkers are only found in mental asylums and amongst people who have not considered religion seriously. To make a positive announcement of non-belief, that's new to me."

This is representative of the kind of misconceptions the man-on-the-street have about the atheistic worldview and it's something we strive to correct in this opportunity handed to us by simply turning up and showing him what atheists are really like. We are often people who had considered religion seriously - perhaps far more seriously than people who actually believe in them - and is well-versed in the teachings of most faiths, and one must also remember that the overwhelming majority of atheists started out as believers. If our delegates are any indication, we tend to be be free from psychoses as well.

Mr T also brought up two other popular derogatory misconceptions about atheism, the no-atheists-in-foxholes myth (that unbelief is a fair-weather stance and a person would turn to religion in the face of adversity) and the lack of any moral compass (because he apparently thinks that religious scriptures is the sole source of moral values). From sheer practice, I reflexively demolished the first by pointing out that there are in fact a hell lot of atheists in foxholes, and suggested that foxholes tend to create atheists rather than deconstruct them. I also explained how people can make moral judgments without the need for dogma by illustrating how modern Christians selectively chooses to follow certain Biblical values, while ignoring antiquated commandments like abstinence from pork and shellfish due to their ethical irrelevance - so evidently, people are following an internal, rather than an external, code of ethics when they cherry-pick from their holy books.

Seeing that Mr T is Buddhist, we made a gift of a framed print carrying a passage from the Kālāma Sūtra for him. In a way, it is also an answer to his question about morality: it's not about what one can or cannot do but rather, it's about how one can know the difference. It's also a deliberate message of critical thinking and scepticism which we endorse wholeheartedly.

Reverse Psychology
I threw this together a few hours before I flew to Penang.

The bulk of our discussion banked heavily on the machinery of politics because as much as we I would like to consider ourselves above it all, it's the game we have to play in order to be heard. As he pragmatically pointed out to us, no one would champion our interests if we do not represent a competent electoral voice. Though ideally, the rights of the majority should never be derived at the expense of the minorities, we are realists and recognise that we do not live in an ideal world.

Mr T also asked a few more hard questions which, if we are to generate any traction at all within the public's mind, had to be answered first. Concerning the primary human rights endeavour of our group - the championing of the right of the murtadin to leave Islam - how do we convince the Malay Muslim majority of this country that we are fighting for additional freedom and options for them, and do not actually present a threat to their faith? In a country where most Malays flipped the fuck out when a Christian group wanted to use the Arabic word Allah in their Malay language publication, this poses a formidable challenge indeed.

What looms most direly in our eyes as atheists and apostates of Islam is the creeping Islamisation of Malaysia, a country which is secular as per our constitution even though it confers Islam a special honorary position. There used to be a time where the most powerful constituent of the reigning party, UMNO (United Malays National Organisation), champions a more moderate and liberal form of Islam while PAS (Parti Islam Se-Malaysia) from the Opposition Coalition tugs from the conservative end. In recent years however, this had decomposed into a full-frontal fundamentalism arms race from either pole in an attempt to out-Islam each other and win the loyalty of the voting Malay Muslim majority. In just the past one month, PAS had made it unlawful to challenge or question any fatwa issued by the Mufti or Fatwa Committee, effectively conferring unlimited power to the clerics chairing said committee, while the National Fatwa Council operating under the auspices of the ruling government had issued a fatwa saying that it is haram or forbidden for Muslims to participate in "unlawful assemblies", a clearly politically-motivated counterpoint against the Opposition-supported Bersih 3.0 rally which shook the foundations of our capital city a couple of weeks ago. I do not see piety at work here - only strategic machinations which are both bad for politics and bad for Islam. I've seen the animated film Persepolis which tells the story of how Iran, a formerly liberal Muslim country, was plunged into fundamentalism through their Islamic Revolution. I am seeing it happen before my eyes in Malaysia and I am afraid.

"The trick is selling the idea to the Malay Muslim majority that advancing a more liberal form of Islam actually works to their benefit," said Mr T. Another difficult question he posed was how we propose to do that? And in attempting to answer his own question, he gave us the idea for our next project, and it was damn fine one. The biggest surprise of the night came when he volunteered a substantial (RM 5000) amount of funds he commands, which he is free to bestow on any non-governmental organisation undertaking he considers to be beneficial to the public he serves, should we choose to pursue his suggestion.

"I consider your group and your aims to be something of a sociology experiment," he told us, twinkling. "I like to see how this pans out."

While I personally profess to no party loyalty, I would honestly be glad to give my vote to Mr T in his next run for office. Yeah, you heard me. As for the Malaysian Atheists, we got our work cut out for us. Let's get to sewing this mother together.

P.S. We have a tight-knit core working group. If you would like to join our super special secret online club meetings, let me know. I'll teach you the secret handshake initiate you into our mailing list. If you're only interested in meeting other like-minded individuals, you can join our original group on Facebook, the Malaysian Atheists, Agnostics and Freethinkers - we have recently reached a member count of a thousand.

k0k s3n w4i

Thursday, May 10, 2012

On a Mission to Penang

"People walk a tight rope on a razor's edge
Carrying their hurt and hatred and weapons
It could be a bomb or a bullet or a pin
Or a thought or a word or a sentence"

Ain't No Reason (2006) by Brett Dennen

Yesterday, I escorted an old Chinese gentleman to the cardiovascular specialist hospital in Kota Semarahan for an MRI scan to confirm that his lung cancer had set up shop in his brain. He was always alone, this man. I've never seen any visitors by his bedside - so I make it a point to talk to him briefly everyday. I don't do these sort of things because I'm a good guy or because I care a whole lot about the wellbeing of other people besides myself. I do it because I would feel awful if I don't. That's how empathy works, and apparently mine works the way it's supposed to. When we return back to the Sarawak General and were waiting for the elevator in the lobby, he suddenly reached out from his gurney, grabbed my hand, and held it close to his chest. On the verge of tears, he told me: "You are a very good doctor."

"Just doing my job," I said, smiling wearily. I was at the end of my 30 hour shift.

He shook his head and insisted, "No, you are a very, very good doctor."

In a few hours, I would be boarding a flight and leaving the island of Borneo for the first time in almost a year. My destination is Penang, a place which I have vacationed at several times before because my most recent ex-girlfriend happens to study there. This time however, I am travelling with a brand new purpose. I am representing a minority which I belong to in a rendezvous with a local politician.

Chan Ju Ping from The Stray World blog and founder of Malaysian Atheists was the one who arranged this date with He or She Who Politely Requested Not to be Named, and this is probably the first time a member of the government deigns to meet the freethinking community, learn about us and find out how we wish to be represented as citizens of this country - which is kind of a huge deal because our very Rukunegara openly discriminates against our demography. I mean, we are so maligned that even our representatives in the parliament would only feel at ease meeting us anonymously lest it injures their careers.

"No, you are a very, very good doctor."

Chan is a newly-minted biology major (I think) BSc of Forestry Captain Planet and had taken a year six-month sabbatical after graduating to volunteer for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animal - an act which I admire him greatly for because I would never do that. If I have a year, I'd spend it bumming out in some foreign mountains, hiking and going native. He's vegan too, which was a major lifestyle decision he had made for environmental and humane reasons. That's also something I would never do because meat is just too fucking delicious to give up.

Joining us in this little session of hush-hush hobnobbing is Cheryl Cheah, who you might remember seeing in the papers very recently,

Cheryl Cheah Shaving for Pussies
I secretly refer to her as the Crazy Cat Lady™ in my head

This week, she gave up her tresses for the love of cat, and became pretty much the media face for the Cat Welfare Society and its Spay Day campaign.

Chan too had a dalliance with the razor for a charitable purpose, but he didn't quite make the same splash in the dailies. All I can say is that I'm glad he's no longer wearing his awful goatee to the meeting. I was wrong. Holy crap, was I wrong.

You might notice a lack of representation from the murtad (or Muslim apostate) segment of our group, but that's not because they don't exist. They do and in staggering figures but due to religious persecutions from the Islamic authorities and risk of ostracisation from their families and communities, they couldn't very well air their unbelief freely. Also, the politician we are meeting had pragmatically requested that we leave the murtadins out of it for fear of damage to his or her reputation should word get out. I don't understand it but somehow, being associated with individuals who merely stopped believing in God is considered to be as disreputable as high-fiving drug lords, paedophiles, street criminals and other despicables. I find it baffling that simply having a sceptical attitude towards fantastic claims found in books written by ancient unscientific mystics could be so despised by so many.

Atheists like Chan, like Cheryl, like me are regular people. We are your relatives, your friends and your neighbours. You may have walked past us on the streets, sat beside us on a bus or inadvertently read about us in the newspaper. When you go to a hospital, you might even unwittingly receive treatment and care from us. We are no more likelier than God-fearing people to lie, steal, rape or murder. We live, we love, we work, we dream and we die just like everyone else.

Maybe one day, our elected officials would stop being ashamed of representing us.

P.S. The meet will be held on Friday (11 May 2011) on the island of Penang in an undisclosed location at 8:00 PM. If you are in the vicinity (i.e. on the island) and have the evening to spare, do join us. For more information, you can reach me at We godless peeps are probably going to meet up for lunch prior to that as well.

Atheist and citizen,
k0k s3n w4i

Sunday, May 06, 2012

This is Going to be a Dark Year

"Yeah, I
I saw your ghost tonight
The moment felt so real
If your eyes stay right on mine
My wounds would start to heal"

Ghost on the Dance Floor (2011) by Blink-182

I went out with a couple of my colleagues on Friday night to a bar slash poor man's club called The King's Arm and re-educated myself on why I don't club. The drinks are too expensive. The music's too loud and too popular. The air is smoke and the atmosphere stinks of the shrill desperation of fading youth. Instead of unwinding, I felt more like I was chaperoning two teenage daughters on a night in town.

At King's Arm
My two teenage daughters.

I feel aged. I felt like I should be in a quieter bar somewhere having conversations over a decent drink. I miss the Himalayas, the lonely walks and dialogues with my thoughts, and the pervasive sense of perpetual holiday. I now have enough in the savings account to disappear for months and every new day dares me to do just that. These days, I'm drinking more than I should and it's threatening to become a problem - if it hadn't already.

A gray haired bloke who is outgrowing his middle age started chatting up one of my companions and bought her drinks - and I started feeling that familiar envy I get of beautiful women and cute girls. I always say that if I'm an attractive lady, I'd take advantage of it any way I could. Anyhow, he looked overly eager (and my friend certainly didn't come out to talk to old farts) so I intervened and immediately regretted I did because he then latched on to me instead for the next half an hour to complain about that perennial favourite subject of opinionated elderly men: the government. The worst part was that he didn't even buy me a drink for listening to him shout in my ear for 30 minutes over the orgiastic din about how much The Man sucks, bro. I can't give less of a fuck, pops. In fact, I give less fucks than all the eunuchs who ever lived in China.

I realised that my liver had grown in capacity over the last few weeks because I was still in possession of most of my senses after five drinks in quick succession. The fact that I could still report to work three hours after I left the club and do a 28 hour weekend shift was testament to my liquor-tempered constitution. Maybe I'm far more depressed than my initial self-assessment had let on. Maybe I was looking for resolution at the bottom bottles much like people who have lost their keys kept looking in the same places as if their missing keys would magically materialise there if they check more than once. Unrewarding futility is starting to be a running theme in my life. It's wearing me down, rubbing me raw. There are moments at work where I feel like screaming and screaming and screaming and screaming and screaming, and only that modicum of self-restraint and self respect I still hold on to checked me from giving in.

Why does the lack of a lover, of intimate companionship unbalance me so? Is it because for the most of my last ten years of life, I did not have to do with the inconvenience of living without it? Am I really so spoilt?

I need sleep so badly.

On the road to ruins,
k0k s3n w4i

Tuesday, May 01, 2012


"Black clouds are behind me
I now can see ahead
Often I wonder why I try
Hoping for an end
Sorrow weighs my shoulders down
And trouble haunts my mind
But I know the present will not last
And tomorrow will be kinder"

Tomorrow Will Be Kinder (2012) by The Secret Sisters

Today, I squeezed two navel oranges dry and produced about 150 mililitres of fresh juice. To that, I slung in a 50 mililitres shot of vodka and floated a half shot of Galliano on top of it. The resulting Harvey Wallbanger tasted almost like it's actually good for me. Fresh juice is surprisingly a lot milder compared to store-bought OJ's, but it's probably because I'm using navels. After a night in the belly of the on-call whale, it was positively rejuvenating.
Harvey Wallbanger
My homemade Harvey Wallbanger.

One of my bosses like to brag at me twice daily that back when she was a house officer, she used to come to work at 5:00 AM to review all the patients under her care and laboured to ensure that all the blood-works' formal reports are ready by the time the specialists turn up leisurely at 8 o'clock. It's all that good ol' days jazz when folks are more honest, work harder and music isn't the ungodly din the young 'uns listen to these days. I am always sorely tempted to remind her that children in Victorian Britain used to work 16 hours a day crawling through tunnels in coal mines too narrow for adults and ask her if I can stick a pickaxe in her kids' tiny hands before shoving them down a hole somewhere. Just because something was done in a certain way in the past doesn't necessarily mean it's not a fucking stupid idea.

Senior doctors also like to talk about how house officers are being too pampered these days because the on-call system is in the process of being abolished in Malaysia - completely ignoring the fact that I, and my colleagues, are still doing calls in much the same way they did. They talk about it like it's a good thing, forgetting the fact that the soul-breaking work hours of doctors were invented by a junkie surgeon who kept himself going using cocaine and decided that everyone else should follow suit. But to avoid anyone from accusing me of poisoning the well, there is actually good evidence in the scientific literature which shows that sleep deprivation can significantly increase the number of medical errors executed by a doctor and if my supervisors honestly give a soaring coitus about the wellbeing of our patients, they'd be championing the reduction in work hours.

There's a recent half-assed institution of a policy to allow house officers to go home at 8:00 AM the next day after an overnight call but in the two weeks in which it was in effect, I was only allowed to go home at noontime, earliest.

Last Friday was one of those post-call mornings where I spent it accompanying a patient to the radiology department to get a computerised tomographic angiogram of both her legs, which were rotting to bits. The old girl was quite far along down the path of dementia and had been confined to a bed of some kind or other for more than a year. Her knees had stiffened so much from arthritis and infection that the mere act of touching them would send her screaming in pain and weeping like a year old child. The specialist whose team I work for once saw her in one of these moments and remarked, almost to himself:


With the help of some sedatives, I managed to straightened her legs enough for the scan without her remembering it clearly enough to hate me later. After that, I volunteered to escort her to a private hospital where she usually undergoes haemodialysis because her kidneys had failed. Transfering her from a gurney to a chair there also sent her into bloodcurdling howls of agony, and after that was done, I was just glad that I could finally ride the ambulance back, head home, and rest.

Just as I was saying goodbye to her, she suddenly looked up to me and in one of those rare flashes of lucidity, she said:

"Thank you, doctor."

Four days later, that still haunts me. I left work today at 2:30 PM after another night's call. When I said goodbye to her before I left the hospital, she was waiting to get both her legs amputated.

She doesn't know that.

Feeling that he had somehow failed at something,
k0k s3n w4i