dal niente

Month: January, 2010

From E to O

I begin work at the Montreal Children’s Hospital Operating Room department on February 8th. I find that I’m really looking forward to it! My last possible day at ER will be February 7th, so there’s really no lull in between departments.

My soon to be ex-boss, [Mar], said the other day that she would miss me. She said it straight to my face and it totally caught me off guard, but, being smooth as I am, I managed to pull of a “I will miss this department, as a whole, when I’m upstairs I’m sure!” That’s right, high five for political correctness. I find that it when it comes to the people on “Calvin’s List of People Who Piss Me Off” I still kinda like to make it a habit of being the better person and not biting giving them the satisfaction of fighting back. Especially when I don’t care about you– if I don’t care about you, I’m less likely to fight back because I find that that’s why people use sarcasm and acid in their words, because they want to feel smarter by baiting you into reacting. Well, I can cockfence with the best of them, and my boss [Mar], though she technically doesn’t have a cock and she’s twice my age, doesn’t know jack about my mental toughness when it comes to this kinda stuff. I mean, come on– I’ve fenced wits with 8 year olds to 88 year olds. Even if you call me a traitor ‘jokingly’ in front of my colleagues (as she did, a couple of days ago, on the subject of my transfer), it’ll take more than that to rile me up. I mean, come on– I’ve read the “Dilbert Principle” and “Way of the Weasel” inside out. (If you haven’t read these books, you should).

That said, I will miss the ER. It’s going to change my life significantly in a number of ways. Not least of which will be the people I work with, especially the night crew. The nurses who work nights are my favorites in the industry; they have shown themselves to be resiliant, ressourceful, dedicated and still compassionate. During the lull times in the department, nurses often ask me to look up the status of patients not even in our care anymore, just to follow up.

I will miss all these idiot kids who show up in the ER, drunk out of their wits, choking on their own vomit, only being kept awake by their own involuntary wretching. It’s our friday night tradition– they’re rushed into the crash room, the staff joke about how we’d all rather be at the party that THIS kid was at than here at work.

Mind you, these kids who come into ER with broken, bleeding or not breathing will likely be the same ones who end up on ER, but I will miss the action and excitment of being on the front lines. Despite that I’m by profession a paper pusher, the ER gave me a unique opportunity to do that sort of job while being on the run. I have a Spectralink phone, which is basically a localized in-hospital wireless network that operates on frequencies that don’t interfere with our electronic equipment. Much of the time the things I end up doing are the results of calls I get to fix a situation, so I usually have to physically run around a lot. It’s pretty much why you’re called a coordinator– you do the legwork to make sure that things run smoothly. It’s a very hands-on job. I’ve had to do everything from repair wheelchairs to, more dubiously (from a legal perspective) splinting limbs and changing bloody bandages. I’ve worked days where we’ve been so understaffed that documents were signed to absolve us of the responsibility of accidentally killing someone. In contrast, the OR is, as far as I can tell, a real “sit down, don’t move” sort of job. I’m sure it’ll present it’s own challenges when it comes up though.

Part of the challenge will be readapting to the land of daywalkers. How long has it been now since I started working overnights? A few weeks ago, I was having dinner with [SiB] and [Mr. Oinker] at Kanda (terrible restaurant, mind you; we’re never going back). I commented at some point, “Man, this place is so damn crowded…” and they looked at eachother, before looking back at me.

“Dude, the place is only like… not even half full.”

Working overnights has gotten me into the habit of being awake while the rest of the world sleeps. I do my groceries at 8am after finishing my shift at work, or I go out to eat with people late, usually after 10pm. Every now and then I venture out downtown before noon to do some shopping. The result is, I’m not often around people nowadays– at least, not large concentrations of it.

How I managed to get out there and find the love of my life while being so anti-social is anybody’s guess– but I guess back then, I wasn’t yet as entrenched in nocturnal life as I am now. Switching to a day working schedule is going to make me work during the time when most of the rest of the world works as well– and that means, I’ll be off when they’re off, and that means crowds and lineups wherever I go. It’ll definately take some getting used to.

A lot of things will get easier though. I mean, working overnights meant that my sleep schedule was pretty bad for certain things, like runs to the post office (yes, [Zanshin], the goods are finally on their way!), dentist appointments, banking, optician appointments… etc. Simple things that don’t usually take much effort are a real hassle for overnighters, because business hours for those things are exactly opposite of my awake hours– those sorts of places tend to open late and close early.

I’ve said it before, and I’ve said it again– I’ve lived a very forutnate life. It wasn’t always in my life that I thought I was fortunate– there were many times where I thought that I’d been singled out by God or the Cosmos just as some sorta big joke, but in the end, I think I’ve been and still am pretty damn lucky. I’ve had the opportunity to live several lifetimes worth of experiences. Moving to the OR is still hospital work– but how different the world will be from up there on the tenth floor, I don’t know yet. I’d imagine it will, like many things, change everything.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

I don’t know what happened to me, but the last day that I worked was friday. It’s now sunday. I caught some sorta stomach thing I think, and I’ve been sleeping for like… 30 out of the last 48 hours. Ugh.

I will not miss catching illnesses from the ER.

Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday to [Supergirl], who today turns 22! May every year of yours
be better than the last!

Love,
[Jinryu]

Creaseless Pillows

It’s been 23 days since  [Supergirl] left for Asia, and I’m still not able to sleep properly without her.  I keep reaching out in the dark, grabbing a pillow, and trying to pretend it’s her, only to find that it’s not, and when I wake up in the morning the pillow next to my face is still empty. She’s only coming back on February 28th, so I’m barely over the 50% hump so far.

I was supposed to wake up at about 1:30PM today because I had an eye exam downtown at about 1:50PM.  I’m pretty sure I heard the notification but it didn’t drag me out far enough to stay awake.  I woke up at about 4PM instead. Missed the exam. Grrr. 

In some ways I feel like the month without her has been pretty productive: I’ve started getting back in shape; I started reconnected with some people who I hadn’t seen in a while; I got a new (hopefully better job); I finished my university application once and for all; I finally schedule an eye exam (though I missed it); I scheduled a dentist apointment (which is later today, which I have yet to miss).  That’s really not bad considering it’s been just a bit over 3 weeks.

But on the other hand?  I don’t want to do anything aside from go to work and go to sleep.  Mind you– I don’t really want to go to work either.  I’m getting into that bad habit– not dealing with feelings by scheduling myself to do more and more work.

I guess it’s been a long time since I said this, but I guess I’m depressed.  Not in a really really bad way, but just… I know the signs.  We diagnose them all the time at work.  And as much as I’d like to say that I’m not depressed right now, I think I am, in that subtle way.  Does it change anything to have that label or not? Not really.

Despite hanging out one on one with a friend here and there, the effort it takes to call someone up and just do something with them is becoming more and more difficult.  When nobody calls me out of the blue, it’s becoming less and less noticeable. I haven’t organized anything with the gang in a while– I just feel too lazy.  I just want to lie down and wake up, hoping that another month has passed, and that it’s not just a creaseless pillow next to me.

Guilty Goodness

I think that one of the things that people should probably be aware of when it comes to charitable donations to Haiti is how this basically has a band-aid effect on the situation.  I’m not saying, don’t give if it makes you sleep better at night.  But what I am saying is that we are giving with one hand and taking with the other.

Something I suggest that people read up on is Haiti’s debt to to the IMF.  So basically, you have this incredible amount of money that Haiti owes to first world nations.  It is to the point where Haiti pretty much operates on what I like to call ‘Imaginary Money’ because it owes more than it produces.  Last I checked, a couple of months ago (before the earthquake ever hit) said that about a third of it’s GDP goes into paying of it’s IMF debt.

If you don’t know who the IMF is, well, that’s what Wikipedia is for, isn’t it?

The reason why I say giving with one hand and taking with another is because of how a lot of the support for Haiti is coming from the general populace. Private citizens are being called on in a non-government, unaflliated way to give generously.  Yet, at the same time, Haiti owes an insane amount of debt to the IMF, one that our same governments are associated with.

If you want the layman’s traslation, this is a simplistic way of hearing what the government is saying: “Give money to Haiti, because then they’ll be better able to pay back the impossible debt they owe to us.”

Or, basically, give money to first world nation governments.

Now, I know that it’s true that the money you give to private and public humanitarian organizations does go straight to ground zero– a dollar here a dollar there does go to a bottle of water, a bandage, a pipe.  However, this is, in my opinion, a cost that shouldn’t be dumped on the goodwill of humanitarian ogranizations– this is something that governments of the world need to involve themselves in aside from “Haiti, come on: lets talk about the money you owe us.”

Something else you should look up is the idea of odius debt [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Odious_debt ], which is what Haiti has.  It is debt, basically, that is created by a regime for no benefit of the country.  The gajillion dollars that Haiti owes isn’t because it blew it’s money the wrong way on education or infrastructure or whatever– it exists because a couple of tyrants, the ‘Docs’, embezzled money from federal taxes into their own family fortune.  The idea of odius debt is that a so called humanitarian minded ogranization like the IMF shouldn’t be cashing in on it because it’s not debt that the people of Haiti asked for, nor is it debt that they should be responsible for.

Of course, why would the IMF want to cancel that much of debt? They don’t.  The whole world runs on debt– they say that Haiti was the first to really fight back French slavery, but did it really?  What we have simply is the evolution of slavery from on  the fields to in the checkbooks.

So of course our government (or at least the financial sectors of multnational corporations who are probably more influential, and definately outlast governments) will tell us to give generously, and conveniently, “if it bleeds, it leads” in the news media.

Why?

Because every time you give, that’s a few dollars and cents less that the government needs to cancel out of their debt.  The first world IMF nation governments are the ones who get the most out of your blind donations– for them, it’s free money. With the correct media spin, you even think that you’re doing a great thing.

-=-=-=-=-

I was at the busstop this morning and I saw some high schoolers butt in line.  It was early in the morning, I had just finished work, and I was exhausted… I just wanted to take a nap.  And I still had a few hours of activity ahead of me, because I would still have to return some late books to the library,  etc etc…

Anyway, my point is this.  I think I was in one of those rare moods where I’m tired and wanted to pick a fight, so as they inched forward, trying to cut in front of me, I gave them a stare and told them “Les gars, donnez moi de l’espace.” (Dudes, give me some space.)

To which they gave me a frowny face but did actually back off, because I used ‘that look’ that I give that specifically is used to make people back off.

Now, giving money to Haiti and butting in line are related.

It has to do with being all you can be, and being a good person even on the days when you’re not guilted into it.

In the grand scheme of things, Haiti is just another disaster.  And it’s not that we need to stop caring about this one, or the next one– it’s that we need to start taking responsibility for our own backyards before we start signing checks off and absolving ourselves of responsibility.

There is always talk of providing sustainability in developping nations– but what people think is, okay, throw some money at it and they will be able to invest in educational infrastructures, that will lead to healthcare, responsible government, etc etc etc… But that’s not how sustainability starts.

Sustainability starts with the self.  That means that you, as an individual unconnected with any responsibilities to others, need to first take a long hard look at yourself and make sure that you are as good as you can be.  Haiti is related to everything, because it is a world problem– and as people of the world, it comes down to you.

Why aren’t you switching jobs, when you hate the one you’re at?
If you think you’re not qualified enough to do better, what are you doing to get qualified?
Why aren’t you breaking out of the familiarity of this abusive relationship in search of better things?
Why are you fooling yourself into thinking that you don’t have a drug abuse problem?

Those are dramatic examples, and I can’t think of anything more mundane, but it’s because this whole issue infuriates me.  The basic jist of it is this: what are you doing to make yourself a better person?

Because let me tell you– if you can’t help yourself, you can still try to help others, but that’s more an assuagement of your guilt than an actual premenence of relief for the other party.  You best help others by helping yourself first.  Get your shit together. Because sustainability of a cause doesn’t come from a fire-and-forget missle of money– it comes from your sustained dedication to humanitarianism.

That means that you don’t butt in line in the bus queue.

That means that you teach your kids not to do that either.

I’m not demanding that we all be saints– but shouldn’t we aspire to? Doesn’t it seem ridiculous that someone can give money to a cause because it’s a good thing, and yet, cut someone off in rushhour traffic?

I am not saying that giving generously doesn’t help– but it helps less than you may think.  Being a better person isn’t easy, and I think that the hardest thing about what I’m trying to say here is that you need to give up on fashionable causes and really work on yourself first.  People are likely to think that that’s selfish, but it’s actually a question of math and efficiency– being good isn’t always going to feel good.  I don’t consider myself a good person and people question me about this all the time– they tell me, “Ah, [Jinryu] your standards are too high” or “You’re too modest.”  I have spent the last 10 years of my life working in public service.  And I seldom talk about how great the work is. In fact, those of you who have been readers for that long know that I spend a great deal of time bitching about it.

The fact is though that I don’t believe that doing the right thing necessarily yields warm fuzzy feelings inside you.  Like going to the gym, more often than not it yields a painful, self-immolative burn– that’s the pain of discipline though, to pursue that which you believe in. The warm and fuzzy feelings are a side effect, an occasional moment of reward when there’s a lull in the chaos.  Any athlete will tell you that it’s ridiculous to do something just for the glory– that’s a bonus.  You can’t aim for just that. The only way you survive in an industry, be it of career or humanitarism, is if you develop an appreciation for self-imposed duties to your self-imposed beliefs.

So I tell you, just get your shit together!  Do what you really believe in and trust me, you will give back to the world.  But for chrissakes, please shut up about tragedies and disasters.  When will you get tired of this entry-level nickel and dime bullshit?  When  are you going to get ready to join the big leagues of adult society and really take responsibilty for the pursuit of your dreams, that can deliver the real payloads of sustainability through your own self-imposed duties to your self-imposed beliefs?  Weekend warriors need not apply.

What I want out of this nation is genuine transparency from it’s people. I want people to be who they are.  Acting out of guilt isn’t an act that I consider being reflective of who you are– because quite frankly, I or the media could guilt you into anything, and you can’t be all those things at once.  The only thing I want to guilt you into being is being yourself, so you can finally really get the ball rolling.

Operation: Swordfish

Date: January 22nd 2010
Time: 02:44AM

Location: @ work
Morale: (>_<)

Yesterday, I sorted things out at work. So officially, I’m resigning my position as coordinator at the Montreal Children’s Hospital Emergency Department. I’ll starting the 8th, I’ll be working as the clerk for the Operating Room.

The whole process was pretty painstaking. HR and ER were giving me the runaround as far as how to basically seal the deal, and OR was getting antsy about hiring me because they need someone to fill the position ASAP.

I mentioned it a bit before in a previous post, but I didn’t get into much detail– but my ER manager, [Mar], tried to give me a hard time about my transfer.

The way things work is that, at this very moment, I have what’s called a ‘permanent part time position’ at ER. What that means is that, despite being one of the more junior clerical staff down here, I rank higher from a human ressources point of view because I work more specialized shifts (overnights) than the majority of the other list. Someone with a position is guaranteed a certain amount of hours of work every two weeks– I have a permanent part time position which guarantees me 7 shifts every two weeks, although because the hospital is short staffed, I often work between 8 and 10 shifts per two weeks.

Now, what I’m going to be taking upstairs at OR is called a “full time replacement,” which means that someone with a “full time position” (10 shifts every two weeks) is on some sort of leave of absence.

Normally, what would happen in this situation is that I could apply to the OR position, replace the person who would need replacing, and in turn, someone would be placed in my ER position temporarily to replace me. That way, when this Full Time Replacement gig up in OR ends in October (it’s not forever), I could come back to ER and resume my position automatically.

Well, it’s not easy to find someone who wants to work overnight shifts at the ER frankly. My ER boss, Mar, knows this. So she’s tried a few things to make the transition difficult.

First of all, the OR is in really dire straits– they need this position filled ASAP. They’ve got two candidates for the position lined up– myself, and one person who applied just a day after me.

So really, all Mar needs to do is delay the process enough that OR decides I’m not worth the wait and then they’d go with their fallback applicant.

The first thing she did was call up my friend in OR and basically attack her personally, accusing her of betrayal! Can you beleive the nerve of Mar? She called up [Chere], a former ER coordinator as well and the person who gave me the tip that OR was searching for a clerk, and accused Chere of stealing clerks from the ER.

I guess what Mar had intended was for Chere to say something like, “Oh, I didn’t realize that you guys were so short down there as well! I’m sorry. Since we know eachother, I’ll do you a favor and just close the position to [Jinryu].”

It actually backfired. Mar thinks that she’s the queen of the world, but sadly what she doesn’t realize is that most people she thinks are her friends/allies actually hate her. Chere’s response was “Well, it’s none of my business, but Jinryu can decide where he wants to work. Neither the OR nor Jinryu owe you any favors last time I checked.”

And not only that, but Chere has a lot of friends in ER, Chere actualyl came down to the breakroom one morning and started chit chatting with people, old hen style gossiping, and by the time I started the night shift everyone was grumbling about Mar for her unprofessionalism in trying to get me blocked from the position. Just as much, because Chere is pretty popular down here in ER, they disagree pretty strongly with Mar’s personal attacks on Chere.

Well, the ‘subtle’ method didn’t work. So the next step was to try and delay me through some half-truths. Basically, she explained to me that if I wanted to transfer, ER would be contacted by HR who would mediate with OR to decide when I could be transfered, since to find me a replacement would take some time. Basically, this is time that OR doesn’t have– so this was a bluff to say to me “if you wantto be replaced and keep your position here, you’ll need to wait up to a month.” Which OR can’t wait.

So you know what? I spoke to HR and they said “the shortcut is to resign.”

So I did.

I called up Mar and left my resignation in her voicemail box yesterday. Later this morning when she comes in, I’ll hand it to her in writing that I’m giving her two about two weeks to get her shit together, because I’m outta here by then.

Mar was pretty frikking upset that I quit because now she’s fucked– everytime someone leaves the department through resignation to another department, a little inquiriy is launched by the head nurse to determine “What have they got that we haven’t?” so it brings attention to Mar.

-=-==-=-=-=-=-

This situation is not without it’s risks for me. First of all, I’ve never worked at OR before, so I have no idea if the work will be backbreaking. I’m going to assume it will be, since I’m now an overnights ninja (there are PLENTY of opportunities for slacking off overnights due to lack of supervision).

Secondly, after the replacement position ends in October, I’d effectively be without a permanent job at the hospital.

Am I worried?

As I told [Supergirl], not really.

I expect to be an OR ninja by the time october gets here, so I’ll find my way. I always do.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-

This isn’t the first time that I’ve had to politically deffend myself against Mar’s power tripping– you may recall that, several months ago when I first started working as the Evening Coordinator, there was a crash room situation where I didn’t do so well because Mar had put me in a critical emergency respondent position without actually making me undergo a complete set of training simulations. In fact, clerks are usually required to attend at least two crash situations (either real or mock) before being assigned to work solo as a Coordinator. By the time that crash situation in question arrived, I had completed zero simulations, and zero real crashes. You can imagine I didn’t perform very well, and a not so flattering report was filed against me by the nurses.

However, I was new at the job at the time and frankly, didn’t know I was supposed to be trained for these things– how could I be? And this followed up the creek and landed back on Mar.

Upon hearing that I was leaving the department, [Karo] also decided, hell, this is as good a time as any! So she also handed in her resignation.

And as a goodbye present, I’m going to be releasing Operation: Swordfish on January 7th.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

If you don’t remember, Operation: Swordfish is a training manual I’m developing whose intention is to make Mar’s position obsolete. Mar’s position has mostly to do with coordinating interdepartmental administrative communications, scheduling, hiring and training. Which is fine– except that Mar keeps a strict iron curtain on the way that things she’s in charge of run. She will delegate responsibilities, but she keeps contacts and, especially, claims credit for herself.

Swordfish addresses scheduling, training, and some communications. Swordfish is useless to Mar, because it is her job– however, if I give it to Mar’s boss, it basically:

1) Makes it obvious how easy Mar’s job is
2) Makes Mar unnecessary, since other people apparently already do a fair amount of it anyhow.

I’d say, unfortunately, that Swordfish is only about a third complete, because this was actually a deck of aces up my sleeve, but since I’m leaving now and there’s so much negative gossip circulating about Mar right now, I figure I should strike while the iron is hot. Swordfish at this point is about 120 pages of documentation that is meant to serve as a consolidated SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) manual, which, up until now, has never existed in the ER. The ER’s current training materials at the moment are a stack of typewritten procedures dating from anywhere from 1992 to 2008. It’s pretty difficult to use, if not solely from an indexing poing of view.

You may think that this is a lot of work for me to go through in my spare time at work, but, it is effective. If you read back to sometime around 2005-2006 when I was working as the hospital manager at the Montreal Chest Institute, I used a similar technique of creating an SOP as a tool against a secretary who was causing a lot of problems. She wasn’t fired, but her position was closed, and she was relocated to an office without windows.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Now, I suppose the big question is, why do all this?

Well, because I care about the hospital, I care about patients. People like Mar, or the one I worked with at the MCI who was similar… their powertripping is the kind of stuff I despise. That stuff belongs in the corporate world. In a government, public service facility, aren’t we supposed to be on the same side?

I’m not intrinsically a good person, I don’t think. I know the difference between what I think is a good cause and a bad cause. I don’t naturally tend towards good causes– I do so out of discipline.

The natural reason why I retaliate to people like Mar is a lot more simple– revenge. I don’t like it when people try to fuck with me.

It just so happens that when I set myself up in a position where I do no morally wrong things, it, in my opinion, justifies my self deffence. These aren’t grey-area situations where I couldn’t 100% argue taht I’m morally justified in my actions– these are situations where I’ve done nothing wrong, where I do my just job with conviction, and where the person messing with me is only going to result in damage to the system itself. I put myself in a situation where I can realiate.

I guess you can say that in some ways, to answer the question of why I put up with this kinda stress, it’s because I like the occasional confrontation that is orchestrated in such a way that I feel morally vindicated.

Does that make me a bad person? A good person?

Or just someone who is crafty about how he burns his negative energies?

I dunno. Its too early in the morning to be thinking too coherently.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Put it this way… if I’m wrong, I’m honest enough that I won’t fight back when I’m being persecuted. I think that if I make mistakes and they are my fault, I deserve what’s coming to me.

But when it comes to things that I do right? Things I do for what I believe in? Don’t fuck with me.

-=-=-=-=-

So yeah… all this is to say– hello OR!

Legacy

Date: January 19th
Location: @Supergirl’s (although, she’s in Asia)

Every now and then, I browse through old blogs looking for some entry that I’m sure I’ve written. All the blog ‘tags’ that we now have though didn’t always exist, and I think that the majority of my best blogging was done prior to those dates when I was was a lot more emotional and a lot more sleep deprived. As is usually the case, in looking for something I usually end up not finding it. I was looking for some article on Street Fighter (the video games) as a reply to something Supergirl sent me ( http://shoryuken.com/content.php?r=66-Street-Fighter-Aneurysm ), and how they played such an influential role in my youth, and instead found some other things. For example this tidbit:

Taken from Tatsuya Ishida’s manifesto for Dec 27:

On legacy. There comes a time when a man seriously contemplates his place in the cosmos, his life, his work, his legacy. Did I do anything at all worth remembering? Did I live up to my potential? Did I wrestle alligators and kill the six-fingered man who murdered my father? One might think that being a webcartoonist, charged with the awesome responsibility of bringing shits and giggles to dozens of people worldwide, would erase such anxieties. Not so. Doubts and worries abound. Why do I do what I do? Do I make a difference at all? Maybe there’s a kid out there at the end of his rope, on the verge of doing something terrible, whose tragic path could be averted with a well-timed pimp joke. Like Schindler, I wonder: How many lives could I have saved with one more punchline about bitches and hoes? How many lost souls, how many broken hearts, desperate for a laugh, could I reach with a shake of Monique’s ass? What more could I have done? And for the love of Zeus where in the world is the six-fingered man???
-T.

What is, really, our legacy? What is it that survives us after we die?

I called my mom up earlier today. It was basically to say that I’d be dropping by my hometown tomorrow, most probably, because I wanted to visit my grandparents. What had been intended to be a 5 minute conversation turned into an hour long one. For the first time, my mom described to me what would happen if she and my dad ever died.

That’s not a subject I ever really thought of in any seriousness. And to hear my mom talking about it? It leads me to believe that me having moved out since Korea has affected her and my dad more than I thought.

I’d always noticed it, but never really thought about the consequences of it. As a human being, there are a number of ways of defining oneself. Our sense of satisfaction is derived by our self-decided conditions for victory– failure, similarly, can only affect us if we accept particular conventions for defeat.

I think my parents are getting to that age where they’re starting to realize that most of the things that they’ve gone for, they’ve either already succeeded or failed– the one remaining thing for them to work on now is their legacy, and I’m a part of that.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Date: January 20th, 2010
Location: @home
Time: 22:20pm

So, I finished my application letter to the university recently. With the help of some of my friends, I got some ideas as to how to edit it and work it into something final. Here it is for your viewing pleasure:

Dear Athabasca University Admissions Officer,

My name is [Jinryu], and I am applying to Athabasca University’s Master’s Program in Integrated Studies. This application will involve me repeating the word “community” a lot, because if there is a word that is relevant to my philosophy of life, and thus this application, that is it.

I grew up in a majority Italian town called LaSalle. My mother’s side of the family, Chinese from the Philipines, spoke the Fukkien and Hakka dialects, while my father’s side spoke a mix of Cantonese and Toysanese. Everywhere I turned my ears, I heard a different language, and as a result, I had a fair amount of difficulty mastering English and French. When my elementary school principal suggested that, as a solution to my language acquisition difficulties, I no longer be taught Chinese at home, my grandfather almost got into a fistfight with him. As a former headmaster in a private school in China, he took direct offense at the suggestion that he should be told how to teach his grandchild. My principal had meant no insult, but it highlighted an important conflict that I had to grow up with; I was being raised in a very traditional Asian family, and this would be constantly at odds with the Western values taught at school.

I choose this as a starting point because I believe that my multilingual and multicultural upbringing ties in well with the philosophy of the Master’s Program in Integrated Studies as I see it. It would allow me to leverage the appreciation for the synergy of skills and spirit that I have developed over the years as a result of that segregated, secluded vantage from which I began.

Growing up in the Montreal suburb of LaSalle, with its poorly rated public education system and deep racial divides, came with challenges. This would eventually evolve into LaSalle as it is known today– a mishmash of various traditions, cuisines and entertainment that is open to all. It has developed its educational infrastructure significantly with numerous community colleges and outreach problems for its increasingly multicultural population.

It didn’t happen overnight though. My parents raised me to respect hard work and dependability, and these values kept me on track in a rough neighborhood. I was fortunate to attend a high school in nearby Montreal West – one with a strict student code that required extracurricular activity and community service. Ranging from fundraising campaigns and volleyball tournaments to putting on annual plays, these activities helped make education and community synonymous in my mind.

I was highly active in the Montreal West community in sports and arts, but my forte was music. I was accepted into the high school band and my competition distinctions eventually gained some notice from local musicians, who enlisted me into the RCMP’s Montreal 306th Wing Concert band. There, while juggling all my other extra curricular activities and full time studies, I was the youngest among a band of middle aged musicians, and played at several benefit concerts across Canada and the United States. It was during these years that I had my first opportunity to travel, and to see how little things make each community unique and important.

When my father was laid off in the 1990s, I was forced to give up music and take on my first part time job to help support my family. Still, the jobs I took were always community-oriented. At the LaSalle public library, in the heart of my old neighborhood, I started as a librarian’s assistant and eventually pioneered the library’s previously nonexistent IT department. The library catered to mostly a lower economic demographic. Computers and the internet were regarded as a magical bullet, shadowed closely by simultaneously metaphorical and actual fears of guns. I gave free computer courses to community members – normally people who couldn’t afford computers of their own—developed the library’s first website, and drew up plans for a cost-effective wireless internet infrastructure. This was at a time when Internet access at home was highly uncommon, and more than once, people twice my age approached me with requests to use the Internet to turn their haphazard biographies, scrawled on loose sheets of paper, into polished CVs.

I did all this and more for just over minimum wage – because I believed in my work. It was rewarding to be a part of a great team of public servants, especially because it was hometown, and to be involved and appreciated where previously I had always felt marginalized. Throughout my education, which led me through Dawson College and Concordia University, I’d continue to work. Oftentimes, my grades suffered as a result of my heavy work commitments, but I persisted to work for my BA and for the financial stability of my family. Despite constant financial setbacks, I felt that I needed to complete my degree to justify it all.

The interpersonal skills, problem solving tools, and work ethic that the library gave me would be invaluable for all my future endeavours. These including working as: a nursing resources manager with the McGill University Health Centre; a federally recognized NRCAN Energy Ambassador to Montreal; a head teacher in a South Korean language institute; and an R&D projects manager developing educational textbooks. I currently work as the overnight coordinator of the Emergency Department at the Montreal Children’s Hospital, a challenge-rich environment that relies heavily on my ability multitask the complications of unpredictable critical care situations.

You have likely noticed how up I spent the majority of this letter thus far describing things aside from my academic life. The truth is, I scraped my way through university because I was working full time while studying; there isn’t much to say about my university years, except that I achieved the BA that I sought so hard to earn, but not always with the grades I wanted. At the time, I would have liked to have given my studies more attention, but circumstances didn’t allow it.

This is, I believe, where Athabasca comes in. Now that my family and I are financially secure, and that I have the backing of a solid personal and professional network, I can finally take the time to concentrate on pursuing the studies wholeheartedly and without distraction. I believe that my strength of character and willingness to get involved hands-on with my beliefs are the primary assets of my candidacy. My educational goals have changed somewhat since my college beginnings in English Literature, and I now wish to pursue a broader scope of studies that complements my interests in public service, which the MAIS program appears to offer.

My hope is that this short biography gives you some idea of my scattered beginnings, and if you review my attached resume, you’ll see my experiences are far-ranging and speak of my character. The MAIS program is ideal for me both because of its focus on cross-disciplinary synergy, and because its flexibility so well suits my professional commitments. I reviewed several universities prior to my decision to apply. My mother, [Mom], earned her Bachelor in Nursing from Athabasca in 2007, and continually praised the quality of education that she received there. Now an assistant head nurse at the Montreal General Hospital, my family owes a debt of gratitude to the Athabasca community of both educators and students, because for so many years now, that education has brought bread to our table and hope to our family. I would very dearly like to be a part of that fellowship as well.

I believe that the “big picture” is ironically self-inclusive. That is to say, for our success as a community, we have to look at the strengths and weaknesses of the individuals involved, and at the same time remember that the ultimate goal is the betterment of the abilities and conditions of these same people. That is my primary interest in the Master’s of Arts in Integrated Studies: its promise to deliver a wide-spectrum learning experience, and to further develop tools which I can use further benefit those around me. I implore you for your consideration of my candidacy so that I might empower myself, and in turn, those around me through what the MAIS program has to offer.

Yours sincerely,

Jinryu


Writing things like that is always really difficult for me, because I don’t like really having to summarize myself.  The whole process of it hurts me from the inside out– I guess it’s a pride of mine that, as a person, you’d have to get to know me to get to know me.  I’ve been writing online for over ten years, and longer than that if you could paper diaries– you could read all that and still not know who I am.  Truthfully, I write things down so that I might have chance at finding out myself, though it hasn’t happened conclusively yet.

So ask me to summarize myself?  It seems an exercise in futility.

Regardless, when the situation does arise, usually for a job application or something similar, it’s an interesting practice to basically decide what it is that you think is important to the people around you.

The way we look at ourselves is very important– but our success in society isn’t just defined by the confidence we have, but our awareness of what those around us expect. You have to “know how to sell yourself” or “how to play to game.”  The ultimate result is a result not just of our substance as individuals, but our ability to interface that substance into society in such a way that our methods, intentions and results are understood.


I mentioned earlier that I was contemplating a switch from the Emergency department to the Operating Room.  So, it’s finally rolling.  I went and checked out the OR unit earlier this morning, and everything seems on the level.  So, I decided that I’m going to make the switch.

A bunch of interdepartmental politicking is going on though so the whole process is getting really complicated really fast.  Among other things, my current boss from ER apparently called up my contact in OR and told her off for recruiting me behind her back.  This all went on without my knowing until my contact told me to watch my back because she suspects that my ER boss is going to make it verrrry difficult for me to leave the department…

It’s a big headache right now but hopefully, all this back and forthing between OR, Human Ressources, and ER will be done by noon tomorrow. I’m sick of my boss right now and her actions as of late have only driven the point home that there’s not a redeemable leadership bone in her body.

It bothers me to no end because I care very much about the jobs I work at. Not just for the pay– I believe in the ’cause’ of them, and I feel that asshattery really really ruins it.  I don’t feel that it’s the place.

Excellence

Time: 2:36AM
Date: January 15th 2010
Location: @work
Batteries: 80%
Morale: : /

It’s been a long time since I’ve run into [Mr. Oinker] and [Misty]. Pretty much haven’t seen them since [Suergirl] and I caught H1N1 way back then. It’s just hard to find things to match up, schedule wise—since Misty’s brother went to visit asia, the short staffing of one of her primary workers at the restraurant results in her working on her crazy 6/7 schedule again.

They’re going to be at dinner tomorrow with [Mao] however, so it’ll be a good chance to catch up.

-=-=-=-=-=-

We’ve got one of the slowest doctors working overnight. This has it’s pluses and minuses.

On the minus side, a slow doctor means that less patients are getting seen. If you want me to give you some numbers, a slow physician in charge, regardless of how many residents he/she has working under him/her, causes problems for pretty much every department in the hospital through this crazy ripple effect, much like the kind you have at in a peloton. Someone in the front taps on the brakes, and by the time the inch to inch train feels the change in the back, because of the compounded effect of the deceleration, the person in the back of the peloton has to slam on the brakes to avoid rear-ending the person in the front.

Same idea in an Emergency Room. Doctor slows down, and every service that’s attached one after another to him/her starts flying in all directions to avoid a crash of the entire system.

Among other things, patients’ families start getting extra agitated at long wait times and tend to keep wandering around the department, asking (or in some cases) demanding how long it will take before they’re seen. It doesn’t sound like too much trouble when a parent comes and asks you how long it’ll take, nor for you to explain how the triage system works and that as a result, you really can’t give any accurate estimation of the time, but when you multiply that by a waiting room of 50 people, you end up spending your entire time doing public relations and not nearly enough time doing your job. Whether you’re a nurse, a clerk, a tech or a PCA, everything starts getting complicated when parents’ patience inversely drops relative to their hostility.

On the plus side, working under hostility serves to build some character. It teaches me, for example, to dig my heels into the sand and get ready to butt heads. It’s not that I’m practicing to get into fights with people—on the contrary, it gives me a chance to practice the social aikido that I’m so famous for. It’s necessary: because parents who come at you don’t really mean to, they’re scared.

In most cases, people don’t get in your face because it’s anything personal– it’s because something about their sense of security has been challenged. In that kind of situation, sometimes it’s not enough to wait for them to come to their senses– sometimes it’s useful to have some sort of ability to influence. I don’t like doing it, but I recognize that it’s something useful to have, so I train it when the opportunity arises. I guess it’s just one way of making an otherwise shitty situation have some sort of redeemable parts as well.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

I don’t know if I mentioned this, but I’m a huge fan of RSS/Atom feed technology. Even before I was able to take this stuff mobile with me on my HTC G1/Dream, I had a gaggle of RSS feeds hooked up through Google Reader that I’d read on internet capable terminals at work.

For those of you who don’t know, an RSS feed of a site is like a stripped down bread and butter version of a webpage. Usually you use an RSS reader to subscribe to a feed. Think of it like a magazine subscription, but for the most part, minus the full page advertissments and having to wait for it to come to you just once a month. An RSS feed is usually available to your RSS reader the instant the website with the feed you’re subscribed to gets published. Xanga provides RSS feeds—the RSS feed for this xanga, for example, is http://www.xanga.com/jinryu/rss . If you hook yourself up to that, it’s the no frills text and images version of everything you would read on this actual xanga.

I like RSS because it’s clean and efficient, and it saves time to consolidate everything you’re interested in keeping up with in one place.

I actually keep a site the best articles I find on RSS, which you can find here:
http://www.google.com/reader/shared/13120813848458460291

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

I’m not actually subscribed to any world news RSS feeds so I’m often behind on the current blockbuster end of the world tragedies. I think Haiti is in style right now, right?

Usually I find out from coworkers, or blogs that mention it incidentally. If it’s really big, it might get through to me through on the NPR or BBC business feed if those people think it’s going to affect my investments.

My main beef with world news is that it’s so alarmist. There’s so much pressure on the media to produce something sensational because that’s how they keep the ratings up—but giving us something that shocks or awes us.

It’s the alarmism and sensationalism of everything that I find annoying—it gives me a headache because it’s too much glitz for my eyes and too much noise for my ears.

Case and point—Google’s Nexus One.

I can’t wait for everyone to start using one. Just because I’m so tired of hearinga bout how this iPhone killer is going to revolutionize this or that. All this speculation! Just wait for it to happen, and when it does, talk about what happened. But all the guessing is so boring!

My attitude towards world events like the situation in Haiti is very much the same. This earthquake is nothing revolutionary—we will deal with it in ways similar to the ways that we deal with any other earthquake.

In most cases, that probably means from the luxury of our homes, and by throwing money at a problem so that it gives us some sense of philanthropic warmth or humanitarian je-ne-sais-quoi.

If you wonder why I’m so cynical of the good intentions of my fellow man it’s because I’ve come to understand that good intentions, especially in face of sensationalism, is usually out of guilt.

I applaud the media on this front—they’ve done a great job of making you feel guilty about living in safety and luxury. You might even have clicked to donate 5$ via Paypal.

I’m not kidding—I applaud the media because the people who work in that industry believe that what they’re doing is important. And it is. I don’t applaud them just because I think their work is important though—I applaud them because they are doing it because /they/ think it’s important.

I cannot overstress how much the state of humanity relies on the individual and their involvement in their own local communities. Why care so much about Haiti? What, there’s no local oncology wards in your area? No blood drives? No womens’ shelters? No starving children?

I’m not saying that it’s not important to care about people on the other side of the world, but I do believe that simply writing a cheque is one of the most disingenuous thing a person can do in a certain scenario. That scenario is one where, after having written the check, there’s no more involvement in the situation. We go back to our daily lives and that’s it?

I guess what I’m saying is that if we really want to do something good, it can’t be an instant of it. I don’t remember where the quote on the motivational poster in my high school’s music room came from, but the idea was this: excellence isn’t an act, but a practice.

What I’m saying is that there’s no need to get in a huff if you’re doing your best everyday to make some difference. And everyone can. If you’re not, then what are you waiting for? Why aren’t you doing something either for, or towards putting you in a position to go for, what you believe will make this world a better place? Just do it every day.

It’s much like the type of person who only prays when they want something.

Must it come to bad times before we take the time to try and be good?

So quit asking me for money. I’m not saying it’s not a worthy cause– but I can’t be everywhere at once, that’s simply how it is. This isn’t me being high and mighty– on the contrary, this is me being realistic, and being fed up about all of those other people out there who get high and mighty whenever something hits the news it’s fashionable to care.

Emotional Bank

My friend, [Mao], is in town. When I came back from Korea, I made two
stopovers, one in Vancouver and one in Calgary. Calgary was to spend a week
with [Mao] (and to play Metal Gear Solid 4, since I don’t own a PS3 of my
own). We went to college together, and he’s one of those people who I spent
arguably more time gaming, watching anime and eating in restaurants than I
should’ve, considering my grades. Mind you, he’s not someone I had a lot of
time to spend with, mostly because he was someone who also smoked a lot and
I didn’t mingle with that crowd, but when we did spend time together we got
along as if we always had. We had, and still have, a lot in common.

He moved to Calgary a bit before I moved to Asia because his girlfriend
lives there. They’d met in Montreal while she was studying here, and when
her time was up, he decided that she was worth it enough to just pack up and
go. He takes a lot of flak among our circle of friends because of the fact
that he basically abandoned us all, along with his family, to go and work
out there in the middle of Calgary and be with her. I must admit—I am one
of those people was among the critics. Especially since, although I say
Calgary, it’s not even Calgary proper—it’s one of those Timbuktu suburbs of
it, where there’s pretty much nothing. It was a pretty miserable
existencewhen he started out.
Promised a managerial position, he went out there to work for EB Games, but
that fell through. He found another job at another computer place, but on
the bright side, he clawed his way up that ladder. Now things are more or
less working out for him, and eventually, he and his girlfriend plan to move
back here to Montreal. (They both hate Calgary.)

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Having dinner with him was kinda fun like it always was. Shooting the shit
at Beijing over some food, I gained 4 pounds tonight. I’ll probably burn it
off over the next couple of days, since I really gorged myself tonight. Ah,
but the good old days. Mao is one of those people who, like [Zanshin],
appreciated how some cheap Chinese food makes for a good background to some
chitchat. I miss going out to lunches where we’d just order the four-person
combos and eat between the two of us over a stretch of several hours. But
alas, Mao is a Calgary person, and Zanshin is now a Suwon (SK) person.

There’s something about just hanging out in a Chinese restaurant after the
rush hours, when all the waiters know who you stop to chit chat. It’s that
sorta event that really makes you enjoy that ghetto community feel, back
from when the word ‘ghetto’ could still be used to refer to something
positive.

At the next table was a group of badminton players I recognized from my days
at the YMCA and at RsM. It was nice to see that some things stay the same.

After eating, we did the tradionally duel for the bill.

On our way out, the waiters said their goodbyes and asked Mao if he’d be in
town for long, and wished he would come back sooner than later.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-

One of the things that Mao and I like to do is talk about our friends behind
their backs. It’s inevitable. It’s something that he and I do best because
I think that, out of all my friends, he and I shared the most similar
upbringing.

It’s also a phenomenon because he’s been in Calgary so long that basically,
all of his friendships have been on pause. They all resume now where they
left off, much in the same way that I tried to resume mine when I came back
from Asia. For him, the change is even more drastic though; he left before
I went to Asia, and he’s now visiting much after I came back from Asia.
Frankly, a lot of the friends he had that used to be friends with eachother
have drifted apart or downright don’t get along anymore.

He’s organizing a dinner on Friday, since he’ll be heading back out west on
Saturday, and he didn’t realize how many tensions existed between people.
He mentioned that he was actually a bit concerned about this; as much as the
Friday dinner he organized was with the best of intentions, after talking
with people individually he’s coming to see just how much some relationships
have deteriorated in the years of his absence.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

I’ve talked about this before, but it never grow old as a subject.
Friendship, that is. The relationships we have with people.

They fall in all sorts of different categories, even if we use the word
friend so easily.

[SiB] once introduced me to this convenient idea of the “Emotional Bank,” in
which basically everyone you know has an account balance with you.
Everytime they do something nice with you, it’s like they make a deposit on
that account. Everytime they screw you over or let you down, they make a
withdrawal.

I say it’s convenient because it’s a good metaphor, I think, for the way
that I handle how well I treat people. If your account is in good standing,
then I treat you way better than if you were in debt.

Some things that count as deposits:

– Inviting me to do something
– Keeping in touch (phone calls, emails, text messages, whatever)
– Accepting invitations to do things
– Keeping promises
– Doing me favors

Some things that count as withdrawals:

– Saying you’ll do something and not doing it (especially calling me
back! God that’s annoying)
– Not communicating (especially about things that you dropped the ball
on)
– Asking for favors
– Causing me embarrassment
– Not paying me back money

You get the idea. Of course, no relationship is really without it’s
withdrawals—I mean, a friendship is all about give and take, right? I’ll do
you favors, and you do me favors; proverbial “I scratch your back, you
scratch mine.” An account balance exists so that you can make the
occasional withdrawal. It’s a mutual thing. And, to be honest, I’m quite
lenient with the exchange rates: I’m really a giver, I think, so when I do
someone a favour, I might only charge them 1$. Everytime you do me a favour
of the exact same order, I’ll give you 2 or 3$ back!

And some things? Make me laugh and you’ll get 50 cents per laugh. If I
make you laugh? It’s free!

Regardless of a favourable exchange (which I think, indicates that I’m a
pretty easy going guy) I’m sure you can imagine from your own similar
experiences that some people somehow manage to maintain their accounts in
debt. It ranges from a zero sum balance, which means that I treat the
person basically like an acquaintance who I barely know, to people who are
in severe debt. Some people are even completely bankrupt. Bankrupt people,
you just don’t want to touch them with a ten foot pole because the moment
you do, they just take more out of you. In the metaphor of emotional banks,
bankrupt people are those who have really done a number on you, the ones who
make you feel used and abused by. They’re the sorts of people who you’d
simply be better off without.

That’s the thing about this dinner on Friday. A lot of the connections there
are zero sum relations or bankrupt ones. I can’t say I’m thrilled—it’s one
thing to not really be thrilled about going through the effort of meeting
new people (who start at zero sum) if you’re not in the mood for it (or, if
you’re at a point in your life where you kinda just feel ‘full’ enough that
you’re not shopping for new friends)—it’s another thing to meet zero sum
people who are zero sum because, even after all this time, they haven’t
managed to improve their standing with you.

Healthcare Spending

Motif visite / Presenting complaint:

Arrhythmia, asymotomatic; intermittent episodes of palpitations. Drank 8
shooters of vodka and mojitos last night. Woke up feeling unwell (headache).
Had palpitations on/off during the day. Felt “hyper” before going to bed.
Denies drug use. In no distress.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Well, I’m no doctor, kid—but my guess is that you’ve got a hangover. And it
just cost

$561 from provincial healthcare budget for us to tell you that.

Can You Hear me Now?

Time: 5:30AM
Date: January 10, 2010
Location: @work
Batteries: 50%
Morale: 🙂

Listening To:
“When You Sleep” by Cake, from Prolong the Magic

I left work yesterday at 7:15AM and went to [Supergirl]’s apartment.  Supergirl is currently in BC, so the place is empty. I went there to catch a few hours of sleep before my parents would pick me up on our way to South Shore to eat dimsum– her apartment is more conveniently placed since they were going to go to the Montreal General Hospital first to drop off some blood speciments of my grandfather’s for testing.

Since my mom is a nurse there, it’s more convenient for us to take blood samples from my grandparents from their homes and just bring them in ourselves than it is to try and cart my grandparents to a hospital and put up with the hassle of parking and appointments, especially in winter.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

I had a dream later that afternoon after dim sum.  It was sunny.  I was in bed and I dreamt that, as I opened my eyes, Supergirl was there, lying next to me the way she usually did.  She was half asleep, her eyelids slow to react to me kissing them.  When I did, despite that she didn’t move, her lips tightened in a small smile, and between the strands of her ruffled hair her cheeks blushed a bit.  The way they do in real life.

And then I awoke, staring at the empty space next to me in her bed, and I think that right there and then, that is as lonely as I’ve felt since I met her.

I closed my eyes and tried to force myself back asleep to get her back.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Later that evening, I was working on my university application.  It is the most difficult thing to be in the apartment of someone you love while they’re not there, and you know they’re not coming back any time soon.  For every square foot of the room, I see myself with her, like ghostly apparitions, reinacting things in the third person from my memory.  I tried to do what I do best– escape.  Plug myself into the computer and get some work done.  Failing that, just surf and lose myself in that ocean.

It wasn’t working all that well, so I moved over to the piano instead and started pressing down keys, eventually coming up with a catchy little tune. Before I knew it, a half hour had passed.

It’s been a long time since I’ve played any instruments.  They’ve always had that magical power– the ability to bend time– especially when my mind is preoccupied. It was nice to just let my fingers dance and stumble, and get back up again.   At some point, I decided I’d see if I could record the tune and send it to her.  It took me ten minutes to decide that my phone’s voice recorder wasn’t going to cut it, and another few to configure her computer to do it instead.  Then it took about 6 tries before I got a recording that didn’t sound like it was done by a 5 year old.

But it was done, in the end.

I hit “send” and off flew the tune, “The Bathtub Sea Captain” into cyberspace to her.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

“What time do you leave for Hong Kong?” I asked.

“Around 5pm Montreal time,” she replied softly, so softly, she was barely audible over the phone.  She was keeping her voice down because by that time, everyone in the house was asleep.

I was in the breakroom, and the lights were all out.  I couldn’t touch her of course, but to hear her voice, even if bridged across the country, it made me feel alright.  As I held my HTC to my ear, I was reminded of those HTC commercials.

“I’m getting sleepy,” she said.  This is at about 3AM Montreal time, something like midnight in BC where she was calling me from.

“Sleep then,” I said.  “Call me tomorrow when you’re at the airport?”

“Of course!”

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

I miss her, terribly. But the fact is, when I hear her voice, everything seems okay. Well, as okay as things can be.