dal niente

Month: July, 2010

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A few weeks ago, I sent the Opera technical liason a message asking, “is there any progress on the bugs in Opera?” Opera is the software package that we use to do all of our operating room bookings and post-operative report data entry. It is of paramount importance not only to my job, but to the functioning of the hospital as a whole– it compiles statistics from surgery data, which gets picked up by the government every now and then.  These stats are what the ministry of health uses to select their health program priorities, and, bottom line, budgets.
A few weeks ago they upgraded from Opera v3 to v4.00 SP2.   And frankly, it sucks.
I mean, Opera v3 worked more or less fine. We could do our job.  But v4SP2 crashes when I digitially sign my entries, forces manual input of calendar dates (clicking the calandar crashes the system) and has this problem with following sequential entry of the data– imagine going into excell and trying to enter data in a row of cells from left to right, and the cursor randomly jumping up a few cells.  Then jumping down.
Here is her response:
Bonjour [Jinryu],

J’aimerais beaucoup que tu me parles de “ces bugs” dans le système.  Il n’y aura pas de nouvelle version de Opera. Il serait important d’aviser un des super-utilisateurs lorsque tu rencontres des problèmes. Il existe une adresse courriel pour rejoindre les super-utilisateurs; l’un d’entre eux te répondra et pourra faire le suivi avec toi.


Good day [Jinryu],
I would like it if you could tell me about these “bugs” in the system. There will not be a new vern of Opera. It is important to advise one of the super-users when you encounter problems. There exists an email address to contact these super users; one of them will respond and could follow up with you.
Thanks, [Joe].
Okay, so first of all, she’s pulling an iPhone 4 on me– “bugs?” Translation: “There is no spoon!”
Okay.  What about the screenshots of “An error has occured. Please try again.” (Translation: Fuck you! I’m going to erase the last 10 minutes of your work now.)  What about the details I gave you about the exact steps to reproduce the broken surgeon alphabetization? The unrecognized Urgent Categorization status? The dropping of the supplemental data field?
God I wish I send an ass kicking through email.


Peels!” she would yell.  And then somebody would sleep.

Pots!” she would command.  And someone would stop, frozen in time.

Zatana’s use of incantations dervied from backwards spelled English doesn’t really fit in with what we normally associate with the paranormal– that, along with her top hat, Playboy Bunny-esque tuxedo and fishnet stockings– because, frankly, it just feels cheap and stereotypical.  The archaic getup (sometimes she even has black wand with white caps)  has a purpose though– to draw, by association, on our idea of magic.  The very ability of garb to evoke thoughts in our heads is already a form of command over our subconscious.

Have you ever wondered how anything of interaction happens between people?  It’s not simply a push and pull affair, it is also a be pushed and be pulled affair.

Magic, when I think about it, is actually communication.  The magic begins with an idea in the magician, whose purpose is to push this idea into the head of someone else.   The magician’s domain is manipulation, or, at the very least, influence.

When you meet them, if they’re good magicians, you can’t help but be swayed, maybe even be convinced to their ideas.  They’re like magnets:  they also have the ability to align and your insides so that you, like some ferrous material, become charged like them– and then they can either keep you attracted and enraptured, or push you far away with a wave of their influence in your head.

There are lots of command words out there that have incredible potency as far as their influence go.  “You’re fired.”  “I love you.” “”That’ll do, pig.”

I think that becoming better at lives has a lot to do with understanding where the words come from.  Whether the content of that spell is a good thing or a bad thing, the important part is that the influence on our lives has a source– the people who first utter the words– and those people are the ones we need to understand.  If we’re to learn to use magic, or deffend ourselves from its influences, we need to study magicians.


“It is lack of confidence, more than anything else, that kills a civilisation. We can destroy ourselves by cynicism and disillusion, just as effectively as by bombs.”-Kenneth Clark


The ancestor of all human woe: fear.

Fear is an amazing thing, when you think about it.  It is something so surrounded in taboo in my own mind that it’s really  hard to approach it, because fear is, fittingly, like those things we fear most: surrounded in mystery, damning to the touch, something we wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole, much less come close enough to have a discourse with.

Fear, in itself, is not something with substance– it is a sympthom.  It causes us to raise shields in deffense, to dig our feet into the ground an brace for impact.  This tires us out, and it also cuts down on mobility and visibility.

Is fear useful?   Fear in as much as it makes us cautions, is useful.  The only difference between bravery and idocy is that one of those two has a better idea of what’s going on before jumping in. 

Yet sometimes, no.  Fear is meant to get us out of problems, but the momentum of that initial flight, if undirected, leads us into corners.   Our survival isntincts are nearsighted.

For example, we shrink down and become submissive in the face of bullies– this is because submission is easier to take than a beating, even though in the end, we actually suffer more in the long run.

Conquering fear usually has to with either removing the source of the threat, or removing the fear itself (which is just sympthomatic of the threat itself).

So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory.” -Franklin D. Rosevelt.

The Shaving Inspector

Some time in March, 2010:

Shaving inspector!” she chimed, grabbing me by the face.  Handling it as one might examine a cantaloupe, she checked for imperfections. Her nose turned up,  eyes focused in appraisal, paying no heed to the limitations of my human neck.  (A human neck does not bend 180 degrees.)

“Ow! So, what do you think?”

“Only two papercuts this time.”

That was a record.  I was getting better at this, little by little.  It was during my stay in South Korea in 2008 that I started paying more attention to shaving– mostly, because I had to buy shavers.  Previous to that, living with my family in LaSalle, I shared Daddy’s electric Braun.  That electric razor was, and, still is,  older than I am.

Life on the flipside of Montreal then meant that little things like shaving were now a concern.  Not because anyone back home shaved me– I did that myself– but because there wasn’t automatically a shaver there for me to use. When I one of my weekly looks in the mirror, I realized that something was wrong, but not definitively.   Usually, the inspired solution would come to me when I pulled the mirrored door to the side.  It’s the kind of solution that becomes a solution because it reminds you there’s might be a problem, like the way seeing a broom might remind you need to sweep, or seeing a phone might remnd you to call someone back.

I didn’t usually notice that I needed shaving so much as that I noticed that it’d been a while since my shaver had been used.  You might say that usually, I realized more emotionally than intelligently that I am looking scruffy.

I don’t have the genes for a full face of lumberjack steel wool, but I do get these little scattered hairs here and that simply look dumb because there’s no order to their placement.  Not only that, but my hairs are extremely sharp– they’re not soft or fluffy like some peoples’, but rather, coarse and prickly.  So it was in SK that I bought my first shaver: a cheap double bladed safety shaver by who knows what brand.  Back then, I would shave out of professionalism; didn’t want to show up like a neighborhood busker.

Fast forward to the early months of 2010.

Shaving is one of those things that I do for her.  I’ve gone through single blade shavers to dual blades to those fancy Mach 5 Fusions with the battery powered vibration function– and then went back to a Dannyco straight edge, with a german blade made in Solingen.  Though the quality of the blade, and the skill with which it is wielded are important, what is more significant is the person it is used for.  This  is always a testament of character and acheivement in a gentleman, whether we’re talking about shaving razors, kitchen knives or sabres.   Call me old fashioned, but if I could use a sabre, I’d probably use it on her behalf too.  Not that the Shaving Inspector needs help– she’s certainly tough enough on her own!  I’m just saying, in the words of James Brown: it may be a man’s world, but it wouldn’t mean a thing without a woman.

I orignially bought the straight edge shaver to be the last shaver I ever buy because the blades were cheaper.  But I found out later that, whether you find them cheesy or not, those razor commercials about the closeness of your shave affecting the closeness of your lady are true.  I was pleased to find that this razor because it gives me the closest shave I could ever get.

As a Shaving Inspector, her duties are many, but I can list a few of the more important ones.  The first it to critique the work.

Going after a close shave is not without its perils!  As much as one endeavors to become more kissable, a face that’s covered bloody cuts is likely to draw reactions other than attraction.

The second of the Shaving Inspector’s duties however is, in spite of the actual quality of the work, to love me for my efforts to improove for her, and for us.

She is great at her job.

Like any industry inspector, her charge isn’t the dismissal of amateurs; it is the constructive criticism that helps the industry.  She may make disaprooving frowns when she finds a defect, but she always follows up with “be more careful next time.”

When I first started using the straight edge, not only didn’t I get the close shave I wanted (I’d often miss hairs), but I cut myself all over the place all the time, even though I moved slowly and with two hands on the razor.  Nowadays?  Three or four fingers are enough to handle the blade, and I can even shave without looking in the mirror.

And I wonder sometimes if that’s what true purpose of proficiency in anyhing is– where you’re not just doing it for others, nor are you doing it just for yourself.  It’s where doing something, anything, is excuse for a connection to someone else.

post number zero

This site begins as an anniversary present to CM, who made the mistake of saying “I like the Kevin’s writing!”

I say it’s a mistake because flattery, or rather, my ego, has always been the source of all my problems.  Yet, one might argue of anyone, it is thanks to problems that drive, ingenuity an passion spring.

When you’ve been writing as for as long a time (double digit years) and with and with as short an attention span (what? You said what first?) as I have, what happens is that at some point, you look at everything you’ve written and you wonder– what is all this?  This… endless snake of characters flowing from right to left, stacattoed by punctuation, beheaded by carriage returns but survived by the next idea… this is all the process.  This isn’t a product of imagination– this mess is imagination.  What you see is the process.

A painter picks up a paintbrush to show you something on a canvas.  But does the painter show you? Or ultimately, does that in the canvas show you?  You see, the product isn’t the painting– the product is the idea that comes nests itself in your head.  Does it go in the pile of things to keep you warm?  Is it just something shiny?  Is it something soft upon which to lay your eggs?

For Me, one of the major pitfalls of blogging has always been the ease and acessibility of it all.  It remains easy to this day to just shit something onto the screen, no matter how vulgar or useless the idea.  Is that thoughtful? Is it worth recording?

Like my life, the body of my writing is a collection of bastard interests, without the ongoing responsibility of excellence.

Dal Niente is not a fresh begining, but rather, a revisiting of some of the most worthwhile of stories.  Here, I intend to do my best to polish old ideas from dinner napkins to loose leaf.  What I’m trying to do here is make some sense of my ideas, and tell you, my new audience, about them– so that you don’t need to know who I am to understand my eccentricities.

I started this site because falling in love with CM happened dal niente.  And from that came everything.

Here shall tell you the stories I’ve collected in between the void and the fullness.


I was wondering if like, the way that the internet has permeated the world has really changed the way that culture works.
Like, things like manners— somehow, whether it’s because of the anonymity or the distance, people just don’t care mucha bout manners.
In person, when one meets strangers in a social setting, the default mode is to be polite.  If you end up playing a game of Taboo or Scrabble, win or lose, most decent people will just take it as it is: a game that is won or lost.  There’s always something to take with you with an experience like that– on some level, at least you had a bit of fun, right?  The nature of the game is social.
But there are certain things that become more than games.    Other factors become important, perhaps more important than the social aspect.  Pride?  Self-appreciation?  A sense of place in a society?  When a game reaches certain levels of importance, then that’s when a game stops becoming a game in the childish sense of the word– then it becomes something scientific, with an almost martial obsession.
So, can we judge people by their actions towards strangers?  Or shall we accept this capitalist mentality towards relations, that we just get what we can out of anyone and that people who engage in this medium to begin with accept the rules?
Who has the commendable attitude– the ones who who treat strangers with politeness and fairness, no matter how naive the treatment, no matter how undeseving the recipient; or thoe ones who treat people shabily, with a utilitarian minimalism that relies on professional commitment rather than personal decency?
Does anyone care about anyone but themselves?
An ECMO is a procudure that’s rather uncommon.  It has a kinda cool sounding name to it.  Extracorporeal membranous oxygenation.  It’s what happens when you’re born, and there’s a defect in your heart or lungs, such that the blood going to your brain doesn’t have the right composition– there’s not enough oxygen in it, and there’s too much carbon dioxide.   What happens is, we basically run a bypass through your neck.  We hook up a machine to the upflowing blood coming from your jugular, then hook the output of this machine to your carotid vein that goes right to your brain.  The result, in theory, is that “stale blood” coming up gets de-crabonized and re-oxygenated before it goes to your brain.  That way, your brain doesn’t asphyxiate.
One of the main pros about working at Montreal Childrens’ Hospital in the departments that I do, as opposed to back when I worked at the Montreal Chest Institute, is that I have to deal a lot less with death.
Death is an incredible thing– it’s one of those things that is absolutely fascinating to observe, like a building on fire, yet the destructive nature of it is completely different from any other kind of deconstruction.  The extinction of a life is, for every ounce you of wisdom you gain from, a pound of poison of such metaphysical constituency that you wonder if you’d rather not learn those kinds of things about the world.
The trick is to put those ounces to good use, and collect more of them, without completely poisoning yourself.
As a clerk, I meet geometrically more people on paper than I do in person– but that doesn’t mean that I don’t know them, to a certain extent.  Last Christmas, while I was working in OR, there was a girl who came in after a skiing accident.  She hit a tree with so much force that she broke almost every bone from her neck down in at least once place.  Ribs.  Arms. Legs.  Her hands, feet, skull and spine were intact, but she had pretty much crushed her rib cage and had bone fragments floating around.  I see her name a couple of weeks ago in the OR followup logs.  The books say she’s doing fine.  Walking, according to reports!  Not even a limp!  Isn’t that great?  It’s really something amazing what they do in there.
I don’t know who she is, but I’m happy for her.  Truly.
Is there a prerequisite, I wonder?  What is it that allows humans to connect with one another?  Is it the information?  How much does it take, to know about someone, to care about someone’s well being?
How much information does it take about someone to know that you care for someone other than yourself?
When a child is born, they aren’t always given a name right after birth, because sometimes, the parents’ haven’t yet decided on a name.  In that case, the teddy-bear patterned identification braclet, fastened lightly around a baby’s pudgy ankle (but not flush, so as to prevent skin problems) usually identifies them as Smith, BB.  Well, it could be any last name, not just “Smith,” but the first name of an unnamed newborn is always BB.
There’s one such BB who was here last week.  She showed up on my emergency list a couple of weeks ago, booked for a category 3 (not extremely urgent) case.  Went through fine.  Had another category 3 last week, we took care of that also.
She underwent a category 2 ECMO decannulation today.
About an hour after it was done, one of the surgeons called me up to rebook the same patient as a category 1 : ECMO recannulation.
Ten minutes later, the same surgeon called me up to tell me to forget about it.
Eleven minutes later, I was informed that BB had just passed away.
Couldn’t tell you right now much more what’s on my mind, it’s kind of blank.  It’s an ounce heavier, a pound heavier.

She’s givin’ it all she can, Cap’n!!

“[Jinryu], it’s about 25 degrees in Theatre 6! And the humidity… god…. Check with boiler room, and try to get the temperature down to 19!! We’re dying in here!” Theatre 6 is the General Surgery operating room. Just a half hour ago, Theatre 4 was also getting way too much heat. I called down to engineering—er… the boiler room– and asked if they could drop the heat in 6.


“Impossible!!” comes the cry in French, shouting over other panicked voices. [Cell], the boiler room dude, explains hurriedly that nobody is getting any cool because the whole hospital is operating on maximum cooling capacity… if we try and generate any more cool, we’re going to blow the coolent systems completely.


“Elle fait d’son mieux, P’tron!!!” (“She’s giving it all she can, Cap’n!”)