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Monday, December 12, 2011

Not for me

A lot of times, I see people studying with their big textbooks in Gerstein library and I kinda wish I could do that too. Just my textbook and notes and study my ass off. No need to figure out complicated math or programming or theory stuff. Getting a good grade seems so much easier that way. Just learn it all by heart and tadaaa. No scratching your head to understand how the heck neural networks weight sharing works mathematically. I was wrong. It's harder. At least for me. Maybe I'm just lazy or burned out or something. The course itself was quite interesting and I enjoyed it. I just don't like regurgitating content on exams. Result: I can't take bird courses.

Why I don't like bird courses.
  1. Wordy textbook that beats around the bush and makes things sound complicated when they really are dead simple concepts.
  2. On top of being wordy, it's also hard cover, heavy and glossy to the point where I can't read it with my lamp next to it because it reflects light so much.
  3. Participation marks. Clearly, if not attending a lecture already loses me 20% of my participation mark, that does NOT motivate me to participate in class. What's the point. Duh.
  4. Just can't find the motivation to put effort into a "bird" course. Rather take a "hard" elective. More likely to get a good grade.
Conclusion: bird courses are evil.



Thursday, December 1, 2011

About Me is About To Change

 I think I wrote this on my facebook "about me" when I first joined in 2007. Can't believe it's been more than 5 years already. I don't want it on my wall anymore, but didn't want to completely scratch it either. So I figured I'd keep it here. Note that there are lots of rhymes and stuff in there that, when I read them now, make me go "eww". But whatever. Here it is in all its imperfection. Don't judge my writing on that piece of junk, I've gone to university since then  =)

Sherry-Lynn's her name
Words are her game

She sings and plays guitar
and piano-plays mozart

She is no longer a teen  )'=
Often thinks of what could have been

SHe's so complicated
Often frustrated

But always finds a way
To get past obstacles thrown her way

Her friends know best
That for them, she'd give her best

Always stays up late
And trying to think straight

Writing or composing in the middle of the night
Trying to say things she feels just right

Often locked up inside her swirling mind
Searching for answers she cant find

She has her secret garden
With all its joy and burden

Part of it will never be trespassed
And simply fade into the past

Spends her time observing the world
As feelings, actions and thoughts whirl

Wondering what makes human logic
So twisted to the point of being ironic

She doesnt go with the flow
She doesnt just follow

She leads and sometimes gets lost
Having only a coin to toss

She is different though not intentionally
And finally, she is simply me.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Am I Good Enough?

As far as I can remember, I have never felt like I needed to prove myself academically until now. I was lucky enough to be a nerd since kindergarten. I would plead my mother to give me math homework so that I wouldn't have to go to bed. The kid who'd get scolded for reading her book secretly at night when she should be sleeping. I was also lucky to be in schools where, although nerds were not necessarily liked by everyone, we were not bullied. Yay all-girl schools. I did incredibly well on all national exams, ranking among the top 10 students in the country several times, studying at the top national school and earning straight As for my A-levels. I got easily accepted to all universities I applied to, which was quite expected from my entourage. I was just known to be this hard working kid. The truth is I slacked off a lot until the month before the final exam (worth 100%) where I would successfully cram hard core. Homework and term tests were not worth any credit. I believe this system makes students lazier.


In university, however, everything counts! I hated having to actually care about my grade in assignments. I quickly realized that there are people far smarter than me, more experienced than me, more passionate than me in every corner. It's incredible the amount of talent around U of T's campus. Success stories keep amazing me every day. I do admit that a few bad experiences and having two passions has distracted me from academia for most of my 2nd and 3rd year. By then, I had lost most of my academic self-confidence, feeling like I'd just never be good enough. Still haven't failed any course, but I've come close enough to feel what it's like. It's not a good feeling but I wasn't the only one. My friends were not too far so I didn't feel that bad about it.

After a one-year internship, I've finally gotten a deeper understanding of a particular language. So far, I had only dabbled in various languages but wasn't very proficient at any due to the limited exposure in class. In my spare time, I was far more interested in building a fan base and creating music than learning more about other technologies. But come my last year of school, important decisions impose themselves. What do I do next? Where do I wanna work? What value can I bring to a company? For the first time ever, the feeling of inadequacy is very real and constantly shadowing my thoughts. What if I'm not good enough? What if people actually think I'm really dumb? Do I have my place in this game? Can I be a good researcher? Can I be a good entrepreneur? Can I even be a good employee?

The fact that my internship has gone well (I'm still working there part-time) is encouraging and makes me think that maybe I'm just being a bit paranoid. Times of transition are full of uncertainty, it's hard to know where you stand. The fear makes me more prone to having a "fixed" mindset (I'm just not good at this) instead of a "growth" mindset (I don't know much about this but I'm confident I can do well if I work at it). I suppose anyone is scared of rejection to some degree. But I really feel like it's the first time when I've had to ever prove myself academically and I'm scared that I slacked off too much in those math courses to succeed. But I also know that, judging from my past experiences, I perform best when under pressure to prove something. So maybe this is all going to work out.

At the end of the day, I'm trying to remind myself of how big obstacles have been my best motivators to
1. become a songwriter at 14
2.. create a music club at school (at 17) and pull off a show with a cast of 22 in front of a sold out venue of 700 people
3. change subjects "erratically" and still doing great on the final exam even though I missed two trimesters
4. get the attention of a local label, which gave me enough credibility to launch my own EP
5. put together a CD release in 2 weeks and collect MUR 10650 for charity (giving 50% of revenue)
6. recover from open heart surgery without letting scars bother me

In each of those situations, people told me "you don't know how to do that" or "you won't be able to pull it off", "it's too risky", "you're too late", "you're too ambitious and unrealistic", "you'll never get noticed", "you should hide your scar", "there's not enough time".  People just wanted to prevent me from being disappointed. Instead, I was even more adamant on pursuing whatever I had set my mind to. I was not discouraged but pumped. I was ready to prove them wrong. I strongly believed in something and I went for it. Along the way, I suppose some people saw my vision and became supporters who played a key role in my success. Looking back, I smile and say to myself.. We pulled it off! We actually did even when no one believed in us. Maybe this is another case where public opinion will turn out to bring out the best in me.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

optimism

In times of transition, things can get depressing and the end of the tunnel is just a myth. People and things seem to be shooting you down from all directions. In those times, it's wonderful to find that much needed optimism from unexpected people and things. You don't always get what you need from who/what you want. But remember that it doesn't mean you can't get what you need at all. Be open to change.
And for god's sake that's the worst time to make pessimistic friends. Keep the ones you have but don't make new ones unless you've got self destructive tendencies lol.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Machine Learning is blowing my mind away!

This semester I'm taking CSC411 (Intro to Machine Learning & Data Mining). This is by far the coolest course I've ever taken. I can see so many potential applications for it, and the ones that exist already are really exciting. These techniques are the foundation of intelligent systems, so no wonder it's this cool. (Now you're thinking "damn i never knew she was that nerdy". oh yeah.)

U of T researcher uses an artificial neural network (ANN) to do face recognition on an app and allow users to try out makeup on their face before buying! The Toronto Star wrote an article about it.
http://www.thestar.com/news/crime/article/1078393--math-geek-becomes-beauty-maven-with-virtual-makeover-app

Patrick Meier and a bunch of people in Boston created this mapping site. It has helped save lives of thousands after earthquakes in Haiti, and is now often used by official sources to locate people who need help in crises. Their algorithm intelligently filters incoming sms/twitter feeds that volunteers verify/translate in real-time. Not exactly sure what they use, but he mentioned clusters at the Q&A :) After watching this presentation I wanted to jump up and down to celebrate humanity lol. If you lost faith in mankind, watch this! Incredible how people came together.




Complementing my existing interest in human-computer interaction, machine learning and data mining seem to be an area in which I might spend quite some time exploring after graduation. I can't wait for CSC401 (natural language computing) next semester! Passion revived.

Yes, I'm still a geek :)

Friday, November 4, 2011

Reinforce or Reinvent

"What got you here won't get you there" - Dr Marshall Goldsmith



In the light of changing environments, entities can do one of two things. Reinforce who they are, or reinvent themselves. Which is more appropriate depends on a lot of things. It applies to individuals, organizations, artists...To see how it applies in software development, see this article.

Tomorrow I'm going to a Mauritian student event. I haven't attended their events for the past 3 years because I was usually too swamped with school work. It's probably also because I did not choose my inner circle to be primarily Mauritian, although it could easily have been. This is not to say that I do not appreciate them. They are a truly amazing bunch. Mauritians have the reputation of finding a way to figure it out, no matter what :)

The main reason why I hang out mostly with non-Mauritians is because I came here to experience different cultures and mindsets. If I spend all my time with people who have the same background, I will keep thinking that the way I perceive everything is "the normal way" and assume I know about other cultures just from what I can observe. But there's so much more that you can only pick up through constant interaction with people. I suppose I wanted to reinvent my perception of the world because there is no point in reinforcing lacking frameworks.

The same applies for organizations. The team I currently work on once had bad management and a not-so-good reputation in the organization. However, a change in leadership revived the team with ambition, focus on efficiency, initiative, and high standard expectations. Now, it seems like we are one of the most reputable teams in the organization. We are known for our fast turnover and quality of work. Speaking to some of the members, I can tell that they are constantly looking for ways to improve things. Our mantra is something along the lines of "great work is followed by more great work". I love it and I truly respect all these employees who work overtime of their own will to make things happen. Who would have thought federal government teams could be so productive? The team reinvented itself into something great and it's just awesome to be part of it.

Now that the team has established effective and efficient processes to ensure maximum productivity, I suppose that, going forward, we will be reinforcing more than reinventing for a bit. However, sooner or later, things change and call for reinvention again. This could be, for example, implementing AI techniques. It might seem far-fetched now, but now only lasts the blink of an eye.

In U2's documentary "From the Sky Down" (TIFF 2011), Bono said "You have to reinvent yourself. But in between, you have nothing". When I think about it, it sounds like a big risk. But it proved to be important to them in order to succeed again. Starting from scratch was part of what made them better. Pink started out as an R'N'B artist. Then she reinvented herself with a more rock-sounding album. I thought it was a weird shift at the time, but I loved both albums. Her latest "reinvention" was to align her skills as a gymnast and performer during her live shows. She blew everyone away at the grammys and has since earned much deserved respect worldwide.

I guess the lesson here is that, while reinforcement is good for a certain amount of time, one day, we will know and feel that we can't continue down that path. "What got you here won't get you there" . The arguably easy way is to ignore it and just keep reinforcing and "adding bandaids" as my team would call it. But there are clear indications that it is worth all our while to learn to change and adapt. Reinventing ourselves can be scary but so all the most rewarding things in life. Buying a house, falling in love, investing in stocks, starting your own business, letting your kids grow up.. So why not? Would you choose guaranteed failure over potiential hard-earned success? I know I wouldn't. Status quo is my long term enemy.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Identity

This blog is inspired by the course I'm taking on Organizational Behaviour... Today we talked about individual differences, culture, personal and social identity. I realized that my identity was very hard to pinpoint. Call it complex/unclear/inexistent if you wish:

Over the past few years, I've learned a lot about different cultures, especially about my own. Cultures/ethnic groups I associate with: mauritian (mix of indian, chinese, french, english, african), canadian (whatever that is), chinese (island version). In Mauritius, I'm considered Chinese. In Canada, the white people say I'm Asian. Asians think I'm African. Africans think I'm Asian. Chinese think I'm not Chinese. I don't really care. I think race/ethnicity and all that stuff is just useless things humans came up with that adds unnecessary discrimination and drama. But such is human nature.

I've also learned a lot about social groups. I'm a musician and a computer scientist. Typical musicians, I'm told, are expected to party hard, get drunk, sometimes smoke a thing or two, and idolize the rock star lifestyle. To my musician friends, I'm the computer nerd. I don't get drunk/smoke/want to live the rockstar life. To my computer science buddies, I'm often seen as the musician, the artsy one. I'm probably looked down upon by some of them for that (and for being female) but who cares. The point is, again, I don't know how to identify myself. Am I more of a musician or a computer scientist or none? And does my opinion even matter? Or do people just care about how THEY categorize me? I think it's the latter.

I used to think that I'm an extrovert because I like being on stage and performing under the spotlight. I was wrong. I like being on the stage, alone (or with few people) , away from the crowd that could otherwise overwhelm me/ turn me into a doormat. I used to think I'm a pretty social person, the life of the party, but I realized that it doesn't apply to parties of more than 5 or 6 :) Even introverts are social with people they know well. I used to think I loved parties but I've come to realize that I enjoy deep abstract conversations more. I used to want to belong but now I value difference. I'm not sure whether I changed or I just discovered more about myself.

Some people tell me I'm too nice, too selfless, that I take too much time listening to others vent. They even say I should stop making other people's problems mine and being overly concerned about them. Many people have thanked me for being such a supportive, honest and caring friend. Yet, some people have told me that I'm a terrible friend (well very very few, but still, it hurts). It made me wonder whether I really am this terrible human being. I'm still not sure of the answer. Instinctively, I try to be as good a friend as I can. But I suppose as a human, there are areas of friendship where I can improve that I don't even know of (until someone hates me for it). I'm not perfect, I know it. No one is. That doesn't mean I'm not working on it. Working on it doesn't mean I won't fail.

The artist and the scientist in me have been debating all my life, but now I think they might not be polarities at all. At the end of the day, music is mathematical and so is computer science. It does make sense. Computer science is actually a very creative field and more CS students than you think are hobby artists. I also know very tech savvy musicians. The skill sets do complement each other. But at the end of the day, I will have to choose one. The past few years, I wanted to choose music, but the geek in me is rising again and I'm now more passionate about CS than ever. I really want to bite the bullet and dig into those intense courses and catch up. I do believe that human-computer interaction will allow me to leverage my creative energy and logical skills to make the world a better place. But is it too late? NO. I don't believe in "too late". I don't believe in giving up.

Back home, I used to think I'm smart and that I had a bright future ahead. When I came to the University of Toronto, I was quickly overshadowed by people who were way more experienced in the field and I got intimidated. I felt dumb and my academic self-confidence took a blow. Perhaps that is why I turned to music. But after taking a year off to work as a programmer, I've had time to think. I still believe I'm a below average programmer, I have very little experience compared to most people in my program. But I've changed my mindset, and I believe I have potential to be a successful computer scientist if I work hard at it a few more years. I have rekindled my curiosity for the subject and learned to compete only with myself.

All in all, four years of university abroad does give you plenty of opportunity to grow up psychologically and professionally. It also forces you to survive on less sleep than you thought was possible :P I believe that I did a decent job of adapting and that my pro-change attitude has had a lot to do with it. Let's see what the future bring. Now I'm off to read some Machine Learning (academic suicide 101 for the math-weary student).

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Update

Internship year over, I'm back to school more pumped than I remember being in the past 4 years. Let's see how long the steam lasts this time. Decided to take on some challenging courses and drop extra-curricular activities this year (for a change). My recovery is about 90% now and things are going great. Looking forward to making the most of my last undergrad year. Yay :)

Saturday, July 2, 2011

What kinda friends are we?

"We're not real friends unless we're friends on facebook"

I have 726 friends on facebook. But how many of your facebook friends do you really consider as really good friends? For me, I'd estimate <25. And that's already a big number in my opinion. What is a friend? What do you expect from a friend? Here's some types of friends I identified from my list of 726. In the real friend category we have:
The friend at first sight

There are the friends that you immediately get along with and relate to. Sometimes you barely have any common interests but you don't even realize it. You're too busy agreeing on how much you're alike. They're the type of friends whom you feel connected to right on the spot, from the very first conversations. They're almost a mirror image of your soul and you know what to expect from them because they're just like you. They get you, and you get them. It's the kinda peeps you go years without talking and just resume the conversation like it was yesterday. It's magic.

The friend by situation
When you're on a difficult path and you meet someone on that same path, it's easy to relate to each other. It's also easy to team up and watch each other's back. With time, a great friendship develops as you start caring for each other almost like family.

The alter-ego

He/She seems like your complete opposite. Except that part of you relates to that personality. You get along so well because you complement each other. You barely have anything in common but somehow always have fun together. It's the kinda friendship that you don't really question. It just works.

The friend by gratitude

You do something nice, and the person is ever thankful and wants to be there for you whenever you need one. And there starts a circle of care and gratitude that, over time, grows into a real little team. The kind you go out of your way to help and vice versa. We're in it together and we're getting out together kinda deal.

The Oracle
He/She isn't always around, is possibly not very good at keeping in touch, but will always be there when needed. Always picks up/returns your calls to give you a shoulder to cry on, an honest opinion, or much-needed advice. Usually calm, optimistic and encouraging. The kind that checks on you when you're sick and remembers your birthday.

In the other category we have:

The illusionist
You know all about their lives... because that's all they talk about. I know I have been a "real friend" to people who I don't consider as my "real friends". In other words, I gave without expecting anything in return. No regrets, I love being able to give people a new sparkle of hope. But as long as our friendship is based on me helping you, in my dictionary, I'm your friend but you're most likely not mine. When the friendship starts showing some two way motion, then we can talk real friendship.

The memory
You know. The people you haven't seen since you were 10. You kinda add each other because of the good memories. Sometimes you catch up. Sometimes you don't. Just for nostalgia's sake.

The social butterfly

You're a friend of a friend so you're their friend. Networking is big these days. Why not. You never know who they know. However, if you never meet in person, it's pretty much useless.

The peers
Same career paths/ hobbies/ passions/ employer. Whatever it is, there's a good reason for you to network and that's what you do.

A rant about people who ask me to help them but refuse any help

Quick note:
I can't help you feel better about anything if you don't want to feel better
You can't expect anything to improve if you categorically refuse any change in life

Do you think that it is your responsibility to keep yourself in good physical health? You know, getting enough sleep, food, exercise, and keeping your environment clean and healthy? I think most people would agree to a yes. Most of us know that physical and mental health go together. People who are positive heal faster, people who suffer from depression also develop physical symptoms affecting their health, etc.

So isn't it obvious that if you want to stay physically healthy, you need to stay mentally healthy too? Of course, once you're clinically depressed, your judgement might be (very) impaired. I know life gets tough and anyone can get depression. I've known many who have. But before you get to that point, seriously, don't we know when we're going downhill? And when we see that trend, why don't we go to the doctor for the mind i.e therapist? Is it the ego? Is it fear of judgement/stigma? Or is it plain ignorance of its importance and its impact on our surrounding?

I recently got myself into a tricky situation with an acquaintance who, for whatever reason, decided to tell me, of all people, that she was suicidal. On the spot, I got really worried and decided to try and be her friend. She sounded serious, so all I wanted was to keep her from doing something stupid. I had met her ONCE before that. I still don't know why she chose me. I sometimes get calls about 5 times a day and at some point, it gets really tiring listening to someone rant about how much everything and everyone sucks. I'm a positive person and so much negativity gives me the itch after a while. It's contageous too. I found myself complaining about having to listen to her complaints. lol.

What's really frustrating is that, at this point, she has no idea how much stress she's causing me. I tried to get her to seek professional help, but she said "I'm not depressed, I just need someone to talk to every few hours". She doesn't realize that, for an entire week, I couldn't focus at work. I spent an entire weekend researching about suicidal people and how to deal with them, trying to understand what's going on in her mind. On top of that, I had to bear with her 2h phone conversations that went in circles. I'm not sure if the worst would be when she'd ask me for advice that she didn't want to hear, or when she'd answer questions I didn't ask. In either case, as much as I talked to her, I couldn't get through. Maybe I'm not a good enough communicator. OR MAYBE I'M JUST NO FREAKIN PSYCHOLOGIST.

I guess what I really want to say is that I felt so helpless. As much as I tried, I couldn't understand her. I promised myself to never give up on life and I don't like quitters. It's hard to relate. It's even harder when it's a stranger. It doesn't help that everybody else just washed their hands clean from the case, leaving me to deal with her for as long as I could bear. I gave her someone to talk to, hoping to talk her into helping herself, but she wants no help. She just wants the easy way out. She just wants everything to end. She just wants a fairy tale or heaven. I'm not sure I believe in any of those options. AND I CAN'T HELP SOMEONE WHO DOESN'T WANT TO BE HELPED. So if I can't help, what's the point?

The only reason we're "friends" right now is because I felt she needed a friend, and nice as I am, decided to try and be that friend. If she decides to help herself, I will bear with her, and let her talk to me as much as she needs. If not, I'm giving up on her right now, and if she does something stupid, I will not feel sorry at all. "I'm nothing more than who you allow me to be for you" - The Brighter Side Yes. You heard me. I will not fight a battle I can't win, especially if it's causing me so much stress and opportunity cost is high. Time is precious and I have a life I, on the other hand, want to LIVE it fully.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Work in progress - "Should've Known Better"

In the singers playground workshop today, Micah talked about us artists being very childish sometimes about our wants and need, and the fact that we blame the wrong people for us being stuck. While my problem is quite different, I was reflecting about that and this came up. PS: PLZ leave some comments, I'd love some honest feedback/ suggestions

Should've Known Better (work in progress, recording 5) by sherrylynnlee

[verse 1]


Oh I know, I should've tried harder I know, sometimes Am
I act like a child when I'm bitter G
Oh I know, I could've done better I know, my mind Am
Is the one that has been, holding back G

[prechorus 1]
I tried to change everything around me to fit me Am G F
Yeah I tried to change everyone around me except me.. Am G F

[chorus]

Should've known better Am G
Should've tried harder on at things that matter Am G F
Didn't know better Am G
Than to try to change and blame everything Am G F
Around me, except me, almost lost it all F G Am G F
Should've known better E

[verse 2]
I burned, many chances
Holding on to my fears like treasure
I've learned, through the dances
That I To let go of pride to find pleasure

[prechorus 2]
Now I'm trying to change everything so I see, why I'm stalling
And I'm trying to change so I see, everything you are

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Stage lethargy

Theres a talent show coming up at work. Normally I'd sign up asap. However i dont really feel like it this time. I kinda wanna play but no idea what. Kinda lost the enthusiasm. Gotta decide by lunchtime. Suggestion?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Why

As i re read my blog yesterday i wondered why i wrote all about the surgery. There was no definite answer. I did it so that people can know what to expect of surgery? To show that if i can get through it then so can they? To help me remember the details when i look back in a few years? To remind me that i'm lucky and surrounded by a strong and caring support system? I suppose its a bit of everything.

If you've seen me since march you will know that i walk around shamelessly with my scar. My family thinks i should hide it.  But i'm not embarrassed by it as i thought i would be. I wanna show people that it's normal and nothing to be ashamed of. Sure its not pretty. But if i cant accept it for myself then how can i expect others to do so? I think i can even be proud of it.  It's part of me now. And i wont hide it.

I'm glad this adventure happened when it did. Timing could hardly have been any better. Of course its never a good time to be sick and under the knife but there are certainly worse times it could have happened at. Everything sort of came together after that. I have a new place, i got to meet family i've never even heard of before, i didnt lose on tuition fees, and made new friends along the way. Could it be any better?

Looking back - Surgery Adventure Part 8

It's been almost three months. Today, I met with my surgeon for the first time since the operation. He said I looked very healthy. When I asked why it happened, he said it just does. With a septal defect, sooner or later, it just gets bigger and requires surgery. Just a matter of when it's gonna happen. So NOPE, the late nights are not at fault.

After that I went to pay a visit to the nurses in the cardiac unit on the 4th floor where I stayed post-surgery. They weren't sure of my name but they sure remembered me. One of them said "Oh yea, I remember you, you were in room 114!". Woah, good memory. Dr Degen also dropped by and was delighted to see me out and about. Brenda gave me a big hug.

Next we went to the CICU where I got to see Kim again. She said they don't usually get to see the results of their work. It's pretty rare for patients to go back and see them so she was really happy to see me. She forgot my name but remembered I'm from Mauritius. She helped me find Dr Thomas by paging him. He was also very glad to see me. It seems like I was quite the memorable patient for nurses and doctors alike. Maybe I am weird :)

Anyway, it was really cool to see everyone again while feeling 10 000 times better. It was amazing to see how happy they were to see a patient come back and thank them for their hard work. They truly deserve all the gratitude in the world, especially the nurses who were there 24/7. It's good to be back to normal life, but this sure was an interesting adventure. My mom disagrees fully. But she's my mom, she'll never agree that having surgery at 23 is cool.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

How come we never met before, family?

Life never gets boring. As the buzz about cutting meat dies down, the next "thing" was the family reunion. I was about to meet a side of my family that I've never met before.

My grandpa lives in BC. I saw him once when I was 12. Busy businessman he is. One of his sisters lives in the UK, and we met several times back home. I knew he had at least one other brother in Mauritius. I had no idea how big the rest of family was! People came from Montreal, Vancouver, London and Toronto. They hadn't had such a reunion for almost two decades. Three generations sharing a meal, a moment, a dance floor and making their own memory of this rare event.

To be honest, I wasn't sure what to expect of it all. Will they be welcoming? Will I feel out of place? Do they really want to meet? Many questions, and only one way to find out. So off we went and damn I'm glad we did! No matter how indifferent I could've been in the past towards those practical strangers, the moment we were introduced as relatives, we were family. Everyone was so welcoming and caring, and it felt so natural to care about them back. Numbers and emails were exchanged, and so were promises to keep in touch. God knows whether we will, but I'm sure that, at that moment, we all meant to.

I do hope that the next reunion will not take another two decades. It was really nice meeting everyone and, although we might have very different mindsets, I'm sure that we really do care, each in our own way and capacity. After all, family is family. Or so I think.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Lessons from a Computer

Become a programmer. I just realized that a programmer's job is based on failure. If things didn't fail we wouldnt need to work much. 70-80% of our time is spent fixing bugs, correcting logical and semantic mistakes. We are reminded daily how much we suck. But it doesn't make us feel bad most of the time. We often even have fun figuring out where we screwed up.

In an introductory course in software engineering, the prof taught us that most projects fail.they fail not because of the lack of technical skills, but rather, because of management and other issues. So as developers we eventually get used to the idea of things not turning out the way we'd want them to. Yet we keep learning and developing eagerly, building on past failures and successes alike.

In a way, I feel that the path is similar for any succesful artist. There is no need for failure. Only for learning and development. Things barely ever go as planned but true passion finds a way of finding opportunity in every obstacle. And so the most persistent learners triumph on the scene while the easily discouraged decide that this is not a suitable career for them despite the passion.

Sometimes, all it takes is some humility to see our need for improvement and hard work. 10 000 hours is only a couple years away. Let's not be quitters.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Seventeenth Hour

I remember crossing that intersection to meet you halfway on Front Street. Your card didn't really have much to say. I already knew what you were thinking. We strolled along the lakeshore, remembering the last time we'd been there. We ended up on the patio at Porticello. Meatloaf got you excited. I smiled.

It's funny how little things make people's day. And how making people's day makes your day. But we can't afford to do that now. We can barely make it through our own day and endless list of things to be, and things to accomplish. Ultimately, we just want the best of everything. Of our life, of our youth, of each other, and of ourselves. And it always takes time to get the best of anything. And with time it would've gotten the best of us. It's not easy to gamble on the future but we're risk takers. I wonder where this will take us.

Will it be an old spaghetti factory? Will there be another wish upon a passing Train as we walk on that bridge? Maybe the pennies will pile themselves up and the scripts will be written. Maybe there'll be glitter in the air. Maybe we're made of the most solid Rock in Ages that can defy the 5th Elementt. Even Shrek would be impressed. Maybe some day we'll sell out Massey Hall. Coz.. Everybody Needs a Hero.

Maybe it won't take us anywhere at all. Maybe we were there for a reason and maybe the reasons are gone. But anything is what we make of it. So we'll make this one be for the best. We both know where we want to go. I hope we get there some time soon and I wish us luck. You can be a Survivor but don't be a celebrity apprentice. Trump is losing credibility :P

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Recovery of the Entourage - Surgery Adventure Part 7

From the very start, the news about my health condition got my family a level of stress that I could only imagine from my hospital bed. While I entrusted my health and faith in the hands of the experts, my entourage was anxiously waiting for events to unfold. They were perplexed by my lack of concern. Now that I think of it, I realized something that's quite bizarre. Not a single time have I wondered "what if things go wrong?" or considered any other negative outcomes. The only thing I remember being slightly upset about is the idea of having a scar for the rest of my life. But that quickly went away.

I wish I could have taken care of everything by myself but it was physically and practically impossible. Such a big operation is something your surroundings cannot run away from and while I score the biggest physical scar, I don't believe I'm even in the top 10 emotionally impacted. It has been a very trying time mentally for everyone around me and to this day, I can still feel it, 2 months after the surgery.

Fear is an enemy that I've learned to ignore or keep under control. Being an optimist, I'm just happy that everything went well and I'm still alive. From now on I will be healthier than ever. Instead of being a girl with a "broken" heart, I'll be a girl with a scar. For some time. The scar goes away. I'm not physically 100% recovered, I still can do strenuous exercises. But mentally, I'm 100%. I can't wait to resume normal life and achieve everything that I could have missed the chance of doing.

Yet it seems difficult for everyone else to let go of the fear that has overwhelmed them upon hearing that I had to undergo surgery. Instead of being enthusiastic about me getting better, some people get worried sick about the possibility of some sort of relapse. Instead of encouraging me to increase my capacity every day, some would feel safer having me stay home until I'm physically 100%. Luckily, not everyone is like that. As much as I love everyone, I got to the point where I was really irritated every time someone tried to restrain me from doing anything. Their fears have lasted enough. They need to move on and let me move on.

My entourage has been very supportive throughout and continue to be. Sometimes a tiny bit over the top, but that's just how much they care and I appreciate that. It's sometimes hard for us to see eye to eye but we each make efforts to understand each other. Everyone has considerably improved their attitude towards me having a normal life again, although slightly against their will. For that, and everything else, I'm forever grateful.

Hey world, don't be afraid. I'm one tough cookie.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Work!

Today, I went to work. I was literally grinning from ear to ear as I walked to the building. It was so exciting to see everybody again! And it seems like everyone was happy to see me as well. That always gives you the warm fuzzy homey feeling xD

I was eventually sent home because the director insists on a doctor's note, but I got to visit almost everyone and hang out for a bit after soooo long. Didn't realize how much I like the place and the people. Loving your job is priceless =)

I can't wait to officially go back but for the time being, I suppose "forced vacation" it is.

Let's get some muuuuuuuusic done. Booked a co-write session this week. Hope we can make things happen :)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Celebrating 10 years of friendship continents away

Double post today because it's one of my sisters' birthday!


Happy birthday Deborah. We've come a long way since our shy first encounters. We started out as rivals but became best friends. Throughout the years, you, Wendy and I have celebrated many a birthday together and have shared so many epic milestones of our high school drama :) The fun, the stress and the tears, we've shared them all and we continue to do so continents away. I hope we can reunite for our birthdays some time in the future. They're much more fun when we're together.

However, whether it happens or not, I'm sure Wendy's prediction of us getting together as old grandmas to complain about our kids and grandkids will come true at some point :P No matter how long we go without talking, it feels like we just talked yesterday. One of those golden priceless friendships :)

Miss you both, especially today and every birthday of ours.

Love,

Titi (aka bo)

Recovery of the Self - Surgery Adventure Part 6

It is somewhere between my 3rd and 6th attempt at writing this part on recovery. I've gone through so many physical and mental states that it's hard to write about it in a precise and concise way. I've decided to split it in two parts: Recovery of the Self, and Recovery of the Entourage. The reasoning behind it? Surgery does not only affect the patient but everyone around.

This photo was taken on South Beach, Miami FL on Feb 4 2011. Who would've guessed that exactly a month later, I'd be on an operation table? Another way to look at it is who knows how awesome life will be in a month in comparison to today? :)
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Recovery of the Self
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The team at the hospital had been very nice to me and my stay at the TGH was very pleasant in comparison with what it could have been. However, I was so happy to leave on March 8th. To be honest, I shared my mom's slight anxiousness about it being possibly too soon for me to go, but there was no way I would pass up the opportunity of leaving though. Maybe I have a low tolerance for pain, but the needles twice a day were starting to drain every ounce of my courage.

The ride home was short, slow and full of bumps that I had never noticed in Toronto's streets before. My upper body was very sensitive. On arriving at my uncle's place, I felt at home yet not quite. As I had dreaded, normal homes are not suited for post-surgery patients. The comfy couch was too deep and not hard enough for me to rest my back. Most chairs were the same. I mostly sat upright with no back support. Even that was uncomfortable. It was like having torticollis from the neck down to my chest. So stiff. It was worse when I hadn't had pain killers in a few hours. I couldn't lift my arms above my shoulders, let alone carry anything with any significant weight. I could only go up and down a flight of stairs once a day. I needed help to lie down and get up. I could do it myself but with much more pain. I also had to hug something when getting up, pressing it against my suture. For about a week since the surgery, I couldn't shower without help.

Every meal was accompanied with about 5 pills. They made me nauseous. There were more pills in between the meals too. I needed narcotics every 4 hours. Alarms that I'd set on my phone as reminders seemed to go off all day. I suppose they did. For the first few days at home, all I did was sleep, eat and pop pills. My family was hugely supportive. They did everything they could to make it easier for me. Everything. But, as expected, I was still in pain and nauseous.

Given my physical state, even the super amount of love and care could not spare me from some mental turmoil. I felt frustrated because I couldn't do anything and I wasn't comfortable, no matter what I was doing or what position I was in. I felt guilty for causing so many people to go out of their way to tend to my needs. I was lonely (that I'm not sure why). I was told what to do/not to do on a regular basis. I felt like I had no decision-making rights. It felt like being treated as an incapacitated individual, or a kid. I absolutely hate it when people decide for me when I feel I can do so myself. I suppose at that moment, it bothered me more as my physical limitations already toyed with my morale. Constantly being around people while being so uncomfortable in my own skin also gave me an urge to get away. The noise was irritating me. In fact, almost everything started to irritate me. The first stages of recovery are painful and should be private. Being in a crowded place made it overwhelming, despite all the love and support. I broke down and cried that I wanted to go home.

Upon moving to my apartment, I immediately was at least 10 times happier. As a result, my body seemed to feel better too. I was still in a lot of pain and took as many narcotics per day as Dr. House does in an episode but immediately, things were getting better. The quieter environment helped tremendously. Soon, my whole family was here. I was getting better each day and having mom, dad and my brother here was comforting. We have always been quite the funny bunch and the house was filled with jokes and laughter. I started walking. Small distances. Then longer and longer. At first I got tired/out of breath easily but I craved for a speedy recovery. I didn't force myself, but I believe my will to get back to normal couldn't have hurt the progress.

Now 5 weeks since surgery, I can walk almost normally (not as fast as I used to), I can go up and down the stairs without much trouble, I can get stuff from overhead cupboards, and carry a bit of groceries. Things are looking better. My suture is pretty much healed now. It doesn't feel like my bones are exploding anymore when I cough/sneeze/have the hiccups. I can sit on the couch or sleep comfortably. I can sing (very important!) and I can lie on my stomach again! The latter used to feel like something really heavy inside my body was threatening to break my bones open. In a nutshell, I'm ready to start living again.

In the mental department, there have been ups and downs. Mostly ups. But sometimes I missed my friends. I wondered whether my surgery will affect my relationships with certain people. There were times when people wanted to visit and I didn't feel like seeing anyone. Many a time I've felt marginalized in a way. It reminded me of my late friend Sonia, who was often sick. I never could imagine how hard it must have been for her, socially. On the flip side, a handful of my closest friends squeezed in some time in their busy schedule to visit or to check in on me every so often. I was truly touched when my team at work sent a gift with flowers and a card signed by everyone. Even through the dark days, I felt lucky to have such a strong support system around me consisting of my precious family, relatives, friends and colleagues.

Fortunately, I didn't have much time to get bored. I started working on a personal project, I caught up a lot on readings, I wrote some posts… Then more issues came along pretty quickly (but they're irrelevant to the story so let's leave it at that). In fact, the past few weeks had been so busy that I ended up at the hospital again last weekend with a ridiculous heart rate and some chest pain. Yes they couldn't find my vein again. Twice. After hours of waiting and more blood work, they discharged me. The diagnosis was heart inflammation, common in post-surgery patients. I got another cocktail of pills to take, including 650mg of aspirin every 6h. I got a lecture from my parents on being more cautious about my fragile health. But I seriously don't think I overdid.

The good thing is, while I was having trouble getting a follow-up appointment with a cardiologist before, the fact that I ended up in ER with high heart rate landed me an appointment within the week! So on Friday, the cardiologists examined me and said that I have been doing very well. Everything is normal. I stopped the medication and can't wait to get my life back. The older of the two cardiologists said "it's looking good. You can take another month or so to rest…" and I kinda cut her mid-sentence saying "but I wanna go to work!" to which she replied "Oh, if you wanna go then sure. You can go after the six weeks. Just don't strain yourself too much."

Victory. I go back to work in a week! Hello social life, income, and sanity. I really do feel like I'm going insane the longer I stay home. More on that in Surgery Adventure Part 7. In two weeks or so I will meet the mighty man who opened up my chest to patch my heart, then sowed it shut. I have another appointment with the cardiologist in August. I'm sure there will be nothing but good news. I do not believe in worrying. At least not in these situations.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Things I miss

Sleeping on my stomach (bones)
Wearing a necklace (scar)
Stretching my arm to get sth instead of moving my butt (pain)
Independence (paranoid family since surgery)
Having my place and space
Work n colleagues
Friends
Shallow things I enjoyed nonetheless
Not knowing how much my veins suck


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Homeward Bound - Surgery Adventure Part 5

This was March 8, 4 days after my surgery. After getting back 45% of my blood, I felt much better. Later during the day I was able to walk around my room, go to the bathroom by myself, and slept less. My mom and brother landed in Toronto on Monday night. They dropped by for a quick visit at around 1am and said they'd be back the next afternoon with some home made food. YUM.

Dr. Degen was very happy to see that I was doing much better on Tuesday morning, thanks to the two units of blood. He said I could leave in a couple days max. I couldn't wait… Later, he saw the results of yet another painful set of blood tests (they do it every morning) and came to deliver good news. I could go home that very day, or the next day, whenever I felt ready. The final test was whether I could walk to the atrium and back without any problem. WHAT? OF COURSE I WANT TO GO TODAY! So I went for a walk and discovered the beautiful atrium that overlooks University Avenue. There were plants and sofas, and a grand piano! I wasn't surprised but quite disappointed that it was locked. On my way back, Dr. Degen said I could go home!

My mom, who had been getting ready to stay over at the hospital that night was slightly worried that it was too early. Merely 4 days after this big heart surgery. However, the doctor made it clear that there was no reason to keep me on observation anymore. My HB level, oxygen level, blood pressure and temperature were all back to normal. My heartbeat was still a bit high but within normal range. The only thing was a little fluid in my heart following the surgery, revealed by an x-ray but it wasn't a major concern. I just had to come back for an echo the following week. The doctor added that the night sweats were probably just because the mattress was plastic. It would probably stop once I sleep on a real bed. YAY! I was good to go!

The nurse gave me a booklet titled "Homeward Bound" with instructions on what to do once I get home. A bunch of exercises and health recommendations. Then the pharmacist came to explain to me each one of the 8 different types of pills I had to take several times a day for the next week or so and their possible side effects. I was just so excited to be going home. It felt like I had been in the hospital for a while. An hour later, my concerned mother and brother came to help me pack up everything to leave. We donated most of the flowers to the hospital for patients who don't get a lot of visits to enjoy.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Glitter In The Air (Pink cover)

Pink is one of those artists that blows my mind, especially her live performances. If you haven't seen her perform this song at the grammys last year, you HAVE to check it out. You really do!

This song reminds me of last summer when I performed this at a contest. I have a lot of good memories associated with it. And no matter where things are today, I'm grateful for these happy moments. Thanks to those who came to support me, and a special thank you to RSD for everything.




Lyrics:
Have you ever fed a lover with just your hands?
Closed your eyes and trusted, just trusted?
Have you ever thrown a fist full of glitter in the air?
Have you ever looked fear in the face and said, "I just don't care"?

It's only half past the point of no return
The tip of the iceberg
The sun before the burn
The thunder before the lightning
The breath before the phrase
Have you ever felt this way?

Have you ever hated yourself for staring at the phone?
You're whole life waiting on the ring to prove you're not alone
Have you ever been touched so gently you had to cry?
Have you ever invited a stranger to come inside?

It's only half past the point of oblivion
The hourglass on the table
The walk before the run
The breath before the kiss
And the fear before the flames
Have you ever felt this way?

La La La La La La La La

There you are, sitting in the garden
Clutching my coffee,
Calling me sugar
You called me sugar

Have you ever wished for an endless night?
Lassoed the moon and the stars and pulled that rope tight?
Have you ever held your breath and asked yourself will it ever get better than tonight?
Tonight

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Bloody Pricks and Pills - Surgery Adventure Part 4



The second day after surgery, I received more visits and more flowers. I remember still feeling crappy and weak. My hair was greasier than it has ever been. I was craving for a shower but wasn't sure that was physically possible at that point. Yeah that's another thing about hospital living. Showers are a treat. I tried not to think about how many of my pores were getting blocked. Later during the day, the nurse offered to help me shower and boy did it feel good to be fresh again. I usually wash my hair every single day, so imagine… They were giving me normal food again but were still very conservative about the fluid intake. Ice chips were my best friends. Apart from the pretty flowers that soon filled up the space, people brought me books and magazines but my brain didn't want to process anything. Apart from my phone, I had no distractions. Not that I needed any. I slept most of the time. Again the cycles of sleep, sweat, feel cold, wake up, dry up, sleep. All day, all night. No fun. And I was still somewhere between 66-68 kg.

When the blood technician came after breakfast, I panicked again. They never find my vein the first time… Mary convinced me that this guy was good. Indeed he was. Got it the first time. Dried up my tears. Too bad it's a different technician everyday... The needles were much more emotionally draining than the idea of surgery itself. At least to me. They told me that most heart surgery patients are older, their skin isn't as tight, and their veins are more visible. Surgery ain't for youngsters… Blood work is done every morning when you're in the hospital. Sometimes, they would try one spot: the nurse pricks the needle in, taps it and gets no blood. She'd then move it around prowling under my skin trying to find a vein. No luck. She'd take it out and try another spot. At some point they ran out of spots and tried near my wrists instead. It felt like the needles were poking holes in my bones. I was traumatized. If there was one reason why I wanted to leave the hospital ASAP, it was my dread for blood work every morning, and my dread for the belly injection every afternoon.

On Monday, Dr. Degen came to see how I was doing. He said that I had lost about 45% of my blood during the surgery and my HB was at 70. I would feel better if they gave me two units of blood. The only thing is there's a tiny risk of HIV. In my mind I said "wth are you waiting for?!". I was given two units of blood and sure enough, I started feeling better. However , I was still nauseous from all the medication. At each meal I had a cocktail of 4-7 pills to ingest. Pain killers, blood thinners, diuretics, and a whole bunch of others to counter the side effects of the above. It seemed all I did was sleep, eat, take pills and munch on ice checking facebook and messages. Thank god for smartphones. Keeping in touch with the outer world somehow made me feel a bit better.

As I wondered whether I would be depressed and hate the world post-surgery, I thought about how it would have been if this had all happened in Mauritius instead. The hospital stay would have been much more depressing. Or the clinic stay would have been ridiculously expensive and just as depressing as a result. I was lucky to have landed at TGH instead, yay OHIP. Any consolation is good. As much as possible, I do try to see the brighter side of things in each situation. Being negative brings us down, makes us unproductive and causes us harm in so many ways. Sometimes, it's easier to be negative. It's tempting. But resisting is usually worth it (from personal experience). So I try, I try. Needles hurt, but they're making sure I get better. I can do this. Not without tears and momentary hatred for the nurse but I can do this. I kept telling myself that every time I closed my eyes, turned away making a face as someone attempted to find a vein under my skin.

The Irony of Fluids - Surgery Adventure Part 3

I'm gonna be bold and just say it. My average weight is about 60 kg (+/- 2) and that's what it was on Feb 26. When I arrived at the hospital on March 1, I weighed 66 kg. I secretly hoped their scale was not well calibrated but it was true. I learned later that, because of my heart problem, my whole body has been accumulating fluid all over. I was a giant water balloon. A day after surgery, I was at 68 kg. I gained 8 kilos within a couple days, that's INSANE! I felt fat and horrible. But I guess after surgery, with a long scar from the bottom of my neck all the way down my cleavage, with 8 kg of fluid inflating me, that was pretty normal.

In the evening of Friday March 4th, I woke up in the ICU feeling like I had been hiking the desert or something. My first word was "thirsty". My relatives were there. The nurse said that they had just removed tubes from my throat and that I should wait two hours or so before swallowing anything. Instead of water, she gave me a foam cup full of ice chips. My cousin fed me some ice chips. All I kept saying was "more" and "thirsty". They mentioned people coming to see me and motioned to a plant and a flower pot on the ground next to my bed. The ICU is not very roomy. There were no tables to put flowers or anything. After they left, the nurse kept my foam cup full of ice chips that I greedily munched on. Two hours in I finally got a cup of water, but nothing seemed to quench my thirst. More ice chips please.

As I became more aware of my surroundings, I looked around myself. I was on oxygen, I had an IV in each arm (one for pain killers, the other might've been empty, can't remember). I also had a tube for urine and there were wires sticking out of my stomach. There was also something taped to my neck and my sutures were also all taped up. I could move my arms and feed myself ice but apart from that, it didn't seem like mobile was an option. I just lay there phasing in and out, dying for water. I pressed the pain killer button every 5-10 minutes as the nurse had advised me. I'm not sure if I felt any pain at the time. I don't remember.

At one point, the nurse took a break. I ran out of ice. That made it the longest break ever taken by any human being on the planet to me. I pressed the button trying to call the nurse next door, who could see me through the glass pane. I called out to her too. She completely ignored me. I continued to press the button frantically and she finally gave up and came to get me some ice. She then explained that her patient is really sick and I should wait for my nurse to come back. I spent the night in the ICU and then towards the afternoon on Saturday, I was moved to the 4th floor where my two best friends from the university were waiting for me with a bouquet. I was told I looked in pain and weak that day. I don't remember.

I was lucky to have a room to myself. It had a large window and was very bright. I also had my own bathroom and lots of space, which was soon to be filled with flowers from visitors. They had removed the urine tube at some point. The nurse asked me to try and go pee whenever I was ready. When I felt like I could go, I sat there trying really hard. Nothing. One nurse came and said they should probably put the tube back in. That sounded painful. Another nurse came behind her and encouraged me to try again to avoid the tube. She was right. I didn't need it. So relieved… They gave me a diuretic to get rid of all the excess fluid accumulated in my body. So much fluid in my body, and yet I was so thirsty.

My aunt, uncle and two cousins dropped by to see me. I don't remember much of what happened. I remember three of them leaving and Nicolas stayed behind chatting a bit. Then my nurse Mary asked him to leave coz I needed an injection. Another one of those belly injections. I didn't want it. I remembered how painful the last one was and started crying. She took my hand and tried to reassure me. Finally I gave in. Surprisingly, it didn't hurt quite as much. I was tired. Food came in. It was just soup and jello. My throat was still recovering I guess. My cousin came back in and, after seeing me struggle a bit, fed me soup.

Later that day, a colleague came to visit me. I remember him dropping by, but don't remember much of the visit. When we talked about it later, I vaguely remembered that the nurse came in and did some checks on me and she dropped something on my leg that hurt but I can't remember what it was or what she was doing or even which nurse it was. I totally forgot a nurse had interrupted his visit until he mentioned it to me later. The first two days after my surgery are kinda fuzzy. Even as I write this, I'm doing a lot of thinking to try and sort events chronologically. Woah alzheimer must suck so bad.

I woke up in the middle of the night drenched in sweat. It wasn't the first time. It was quite customary since my admission to hospital. The first time they told me it was because of the Tylenol I took for fever. I had no fever anymore but I was literally soaked, and I was cold from the wet hospital gowns and sheets sticking to my skin. It was kind of like getting rained on and having no clothes to change into. It was uncomfortable. I was still thirsty as ever. Ice chips were still my most common option. I only had water to swallow pills and on rare occasions when they felt sorry for me. I dried up and I fell back asleep. I woke up again, drenched in sweat and craving for H2O like a lost traveler of the desert. Fell back asleep. Woke up again in a few hours, drenched in sweat and thirsty. After a few cycles, it was 7 am and I woke up for good. I was gonna say I woke up for breakfast but I don't remember if I had any.

Photo credit: Desert Water by Chris Ribbon (MaidenHead Camera Club)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Thought of the Day

So far, 2011 hasn't been lucky but I still think it's gonna be the best year ever. It's not about what this year takes away from you, but what you take away from this year, what you make of it all :)

The Colour of Surgery Is Blue - Surgery Adventure Part 2

Image by Francis Vachon, a photographer from Quebec. His blog: http://www.francisvachon.com/blog/

With my sparkling new blue wristband, I watched movies and waited for surgery in the Coronary ICU. The idea of being cut open, having my heart patched, then closing the rib cage again, and being sowed back up did not bother me. The only things that I dreaded were the scar and how long it would take to recover. I just felt bad for my coworkers who would have to take up my work for who knows how long. I wondered how painful waking up would be. I talked to my nurse Kim about it in the CICU. She said the scar goes away pretty nicely these days with vitamin E, and that I will be able to recover fully, and will have pain killers. Problem solved. I wasn't worried at all going into surgery.

Another reason why I stayed so calm is because I knew that, if I panicked, my inner circle wouldn't know how to deal with it. So they would freak out. And then it would be panic-snowballing and unnecessary stress on everyone. This way, they were curious about how I could remain so zen about it and they tried their best to do the same. No stress, no heart attacks, better atmosphere and environment for recovery. I hate it when people freak out. Freaking out makes you annoying, agitated, paranoid, irrational, and most importantly (and sadly) makes you do dumb things sometimes. So next time you wanna freak out, please don't. For the sake of those around you :)

So on March 4th I took a picture of my scarless chest (my phone saved me from boredom and beyond, you have no idea), disinfected the area they were about to cut, then got ready for surgery. My relatives came and kept me company until I was taken in. My parents emailed me a document from my previous cardiologist at the last minute. I printed it off at the nurse station computers, joking around with Dr. Thomas. He's cool. "How come you never told me there's free internet here?!?!" I asked. I was so chipper the whole time the team probably thought I was weird. They said we should hang out. I'm probably a welcome change from their usually panicked and gloomy patients.

12:45 finally came. In my blue hospital gown and Dr. Edward's blue pen initial at the bottom of my neck, I was wheeled in on a stretcher to the surgery room. It was a very large, cold room with bright lights. Lots of blue everywhere. The uniforms and all their protective wear, the disposable drapes hanging around all their huge machines, they were all blue.

They aligned my stretcher with a very narrow metal operating table and asked me to move onto it. I recognized one of the students who visited me earlier during my stay at the hospital, as well as a few other faces. The cardiac surgeon wasn't there yet. They asked me if I was okay, and after that I don't remember much. They shot the anaesthesia through my intravenous and I was out before I knew it. The surgery lasted about 4 hours, after which they let me sleep another 5 hours or so to recover. I woke up in the CICU in a dimly lit room, thirsty like I've never been before. Guess what colour the nurse was wearing?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Diagnosis of my Obnoxious Heart - Surgery Adventure Part 1

On March 1st at around 2am, I was admitted at Toronto General Hospital. I was coughing pretty bad, had just fainted in my apartment, was having trouble breathing and had a ridiculously high heart rate (118 bpm at rest). Also, whenever I put my finger about 10cm below my collar bone, I could feel my heartbeat, or rather heart murmur. Instead of a regular "doop, doop, doop", I could feel an obnoxious "VROUP, VROUP, VROUP". I always had a heart murmur but it could never be heard without stethoscope. For any med/cardio student out there, I later learned it was a 5/6, meaning it could be heard with the stethoscope about 1cm away from my skin.

I had to wait hours for tests but the x-ray revealed some spots on my lungs. Doctors diagnosed a pneumonia and gave me Tamiflu and antibiotics while they tried to figure out if it was bacterial or viral infection. How in hell did I get pneumonia? I was worried I was starting a bronchitis, but that's skipping a step there! Oh well, lucky me. I was subject to a myriad of tests, many involving needles shoved down my arm as the nurse vainly tried to find my vein. Ha. Blood work had me begging for mercy every day. Apparently young girly skin is no good for finding your vein to prick a needle in it and get 3 tubes of blood. Then they gave me an intravenous blood thinner… in my belly! That was the most painful injection of my life.

On March 2nd, all sorts of cardio people came to listen to my heart and ask me to recount my story all over again. Then they spoke cardiologese before saying "We'll discuss it and we'll be back". A bunch of newbies and students also came in for "educational purposes". In fact, it seems the entire cardiology team must have dropped by at some point. I joked about charging $500 per person for the "educational value". Man I'd be rich by now. I felt like I was in an episode of House M.D. My case was "interesting" and no one had a definite idea of what the heck was going on with me. Suddenly (Finally), they were focusing on that weird "vroup vroup" instead of the pneumonia.

I was moved to the Coronary ICU during the night. There, they cut off my horrible yellow wristband for a shiny plastic blue one. I told my nurse Kim that it looked better anyway. They were so nice and fun there. She asked me if I wanted a radio and when she couldn't find one, she brought me a small flat-screen TV with a DVD player, for free! How awesome is THAT.


On March 3rd, after a test involving a tube down my throat, they finally knew that the spots on my lungs in the x-ray were not signs of pneumonia. They were actually fluid accumulating in there due to my heart murmur problem. Turns out the little 3mm hole in my heart dilated "somehow" and became the size of a dime. That caused blood to flow in places it wasn't supposed to, and my right ventricle pressure was about 70 when the normal range is 30-40. Surgery was the only option. Dr Ralph-Edwards came to announce their findings to me. He said he wanted to perform the operation the next day. I was cool with that.

Strangely enough, I was very calm and even chipper throughout this whole thing. I was joking with the doctors and wasn't really scared or panicked when they announced surgery. As I expected, my close friends and relatives started to freak out when I told them what was going on. I tried to reassure them, telling them it's okay, I'm not scared, it's gonna be fine, don't worry. It seemed to have worked, but I'm not sure if they were just faking it so I don't worry about them. I personally felt that, at TGH, they had the best team I could possibly get and I trusted their experience. In my mind, this was mere routine for them. Dunno if it's true but who cares. The last thing you want on your mind when you're not healthy is more worry. For all I knew, the next day, I'd have a heart healthier than it has ever been :)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

No Perfect Goodbye

No matter how life decides to take someone away, it will always seem too soon, unfair, and sad. We wish people we love could stay with us forever but they never do. We expect children to outlive their parents, but they don't always. The loss is even more tragic in such cases. When I heard of the two 19-yr-olds drowned at Tamarin (Mauritius), I couldn't help but feel it was too soon, unfair, and sad. I felt the same way when, a year ago, I lost a dear friend who succumbed to her childhood illness. Before that, I've seen people I care about lose someone they love and it has inspired me to write "No Perfect Goodbye". Loss brings back and intensifies every emotion we have felt towards the person: love, regret, guilt, happiness, everything. It's probably the hardest thing any of us ever face in our entire lives. So to those parents who have just lost not only a son, but an entire lifetime of emotional, social and financial investment, I wish them to be strong enough to get through this cruel phase of their life. My deepest sympathy to the families and friends of the victims.



No Perfect Goodbye lyrics:

Is this the moment we realize we're all equal and all human?
Is this the point where I have no energy left for hate?
I feel I lost so much time away from you or fighting you
I hope that I didn't take you for granted

Oh, please don't go
It's too soon, it's too sad
I guess there can be no perfect goodbye
No perfect goodbye

Now it's clear I have to cherish those around me before they leave
I hope you're near, I hope you're happy and proud of me and all I am
I'll remember the words you said, the jokes you made and your way of thinking
I'll remember your smile

Oh, please don't go
It's too soon, it's too sad
I guess there can be no perfect goodbye
No perfect goodbye

Sooner or later you'd have to leave this world and go
Today or tomorrow the pain would still feel so unfair

I guess there can be no perfect goodbye
No perfect goodbye

Thursday, February 17, 2011

What do you see?

One thing that we often don't realize is that we only see what we want to see and hear what we want to hear. And that's a very inaccurate representation of reality, whatever that reality may be.

For example, think of one person that you think is (or thought was) the most charming person on earth (or something close).

Now write down or think of 10-15 qualities that you think that person has that makes him/her so amazing.

Now for each of these, think of an example of an incident, a gesture, an action, something they said that proves that they have this quality. Is this getting hard yet?

Now can you recall observing that same person 1) reacting to a stressful situation 2) in an argument that he/she is passionate about 3) under social/political/peer pressure 4) in a delicate situation 5) in an emergency situation... ? Do they still have all those qualities you thought they possess in those situations? If you don't know, that's not a yes. It's not a no, but it's not a yes.

My point is that we don't know someone very well unless we've seen them and know how they react in extreme conditions. The problem is that, until that happens, we don't really know much and our brain cannot stand it. It makes up stuff. Hence we fantasize on the heroic qualities and assign them to our "idol". In our mind, if they're awesome in a certain way, they're probably awesome in that way too, and that way too. It just makes sense!

But it really doesn't. Our mind confabulates. We create this image of people in our heads. And that image is not who they are, but who we want them to be. Sooner or later, the person will do things that will contradict this perception that we have of them. Hello disappointment.We got tricked! But not by the person we thought... By our own mind!


Problem number 2 is that our  brain is a little stubborn and messed up when it comes to corrections. We can find lots of flaws in our initial perception and yet, we are still attached to it. We don't wanna let it go. It's too hard to accept the fact that we were wrong all along and that all we saw was merely a reflection of our own desires, nothing to do with the actual reality. So we hold on to the fantasy and hurt ourselves and possibly the person too.

For now, I'm trying to keep in mind that, whoever I think people are, it's possible that they are not. Even when I am strongly convinced otherwise. We cannot start accepting people for who they are when we only like them for who we want them to be. So this is my effort to get to know people for who they are. It's really hard not to make any assumptions. We're wired that way. But I'm gonna try untangling some wires and see how much floor space gets cleaned up in the server room :)

I'm not sure if this is clear or making sense. I know for some of you, your perception of me indicates I don't need sleep, but I do right now :P


If it makes any sense and is of any insight, please feel free to tweet, post, share, whatever you call it.


Over and Forever. Happy 17th

Not so long ago, I was looking forward to this day. Very eagerly. It was going to be full of happiness and warm fuzzy feelings and all that crap. Of course, things never turn out the way we want them to. However, since 2011, everything has been going for the better and I felt like it was getting easier faster than I expected. A few weeks ago, I was happier than I had been in months. I felt free, alive, and content. When surrounded by the right people, things get brighter. But a bunch of stupid dates can mess up your mind so much it's not even funny. The good part is that this was the last thing I had been looking forward to. It can all be buried, burned, drowned or otherwise destroyed from now on. There is nothing left that can hurt me anymore. This was the last thing that I knew would poke at my mended wounds, but no bleeding this time. That was all so 2010. We're 2011 now. Time for newer, bigger, better, faster and easier. Lol I can't believe I just said that. MA ftw?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Change Me As We Go

Resolutions. What are they but a bunch of changes that we want to achieve in our lives, hopefully for the positive. When I chose the title Change Me As We Go, I meant to let others change me for the better through feedback, critiques, inspiration and just observation on my part. But I think it also means the personal, intentional effort to find out what we don't like and do something about it. There is no such thing as too old to change. All it takes is will.

Inspired by a friend of mine, I decided to make a to do list for 2011. I just jotted down whatever came to mind at time of writing and the list came out scarily long for something that I barely thought of. Woah. We'll see how much I get done. The new mantra is "do not leave for tomorrow what you can do today".

1. Finally make my website
2. Write and record new demos
3. Write a mobile app
4. Sell more Change Me As We Go CDs through live gigging
5. Play more shows than 2010
6. Go to more open mics
7. Do more vocal exercises and improve technique
8. Learn a classical piano piece
9. Learn new guitar techniques
10. Contribute more to the community than 2010, which was not bad to start with :)
11. Make a difference in someone's life
12. Figure out what I want to do after graduation in 2012
13. Be more efficient than in 2010
14. Be more active. Take up dance again! Or sports
15. Write more and better and daily
16. Read all these books on my shelf!
17. Work on 2 major side projects in programming
18. Remember more people's birthdays
19. Figure out something with my current gear
20. Come up with as many ideas as possible for songs, scripts, businesses
21. Finally get my freakin business cards?
22. Discover 25 new artists from different genres
23. Cook more and eat healthier
24. Find collaborators in music and CS
25. Catch up on those movies that apparently I should've watched :)
26. Get my Canadian driver's license
27. Update my youtube and myspace accounts and video infos
28. Post more videos on youtube
29. Work on my mailing list
30. Brush up my French and maybe learn a bit of Mandarin

The year is not starting off great for me. The past 5 days I've been rooted to my bed, coughing painfully and incessantly. Had to postpone my birthday celebration and might have to re-postpone or downright cancel them come this weekend. Being on sick leave, I feel terrible for letting my team down at such a crucial period of the release cycle, which ends this Friday.

However, I'm trying to see the brighter side and take this opportunity to work on some things on my list! I played around a bit with the VST instrument libraries, started thinking about my don applications and my back pain is pretty much gone! It's the first time I'm getting so much rest since... Ages. I caught up on some movies as well!

It's a brand new year, a fresh start. It's the time when we're best prepared to embrace change. Get inspired, take the first step, reach out, adapt, help others, help yourself, make a difference, etc. The possibilities are endless! So take in a deep breath, smile and change yourself as you go :) We inevitably change. It might as well be conscious and for the better!

Monday, January 3, 2011

A very blunt winter opinion

If you can't handle dry sarcastic and possibly offensive humour, please do not read on. I don't mean to offend anyone. Just food for thought and a good laugh.

I hear many people say that, given a choice between good-looking and warm clothes, they would choose good-looking.

In tropical Mauritius, totally. In freakin Canada?

I was thinking about it... And came to the conclusion that it was not a worthwhile sacrifice when it comes to everyday dressing. I emphasize EVERYDAY. When going out it's a different story... But overall, the taste of people doesn't change according to what you're wearing on a daily basis. What you wear should reflect your fashion taste, sure, but I think it should also reflect your brains.

Suppose you think you're hot. Even if you wear something not very good looking, people who think you're hot will still think you're hot. You'll be warm and still hot to the eyes of your admirers. Wearing nice but cold clothes will not make more people think you're hot. So it's pointless. Unless you care about the "external benefits" of your beauty on people around.

Suppose you think you're ugly. Even if you wear something hot (and are freezing), people who think you're ugly will still think you're ugly. Except that now, they'll also think you're dumb. Not a good combo to have. If you really are ugly, your best bet would be personality and your brains. Don't kill your brain points trying to impress people by freezing your butt for the sake of being beautiful...ly dressed.

If you're average, the same thing applies. People who find you hot will still find you hot, and people who find you horrible will still find you horrible. It's just life. People have different taste. And that miniskirt in -20 celsius doesn't change tastes.

Conclusion: for everyday stuff like going to work, or school and what not, dressing warm is the smarter option.

Now if you're going on a date, or to a party that you really care to look good for, go all out if the need be. But then again. Remember that people also judge your brain by the looks.