28 Jan 2010


The post-eighty generation has become the focus of the recent political turmoil and is even considered as a social problem. This kind of crude classification often creates trouble. In Identity and Violence, Amartya Sen elegantly demonstrated that such narrow view was central to the current international conflicts. Think about Muslims. Commonly stereotyped, they can actually be viewed as members of other groups such as by citizenship, residence, gender, class, profession, employment, food habits, etc. Some of them may even be fans of FC Barcelona like me.

I will not talk more about politics, but it is interesting to share what my mentor taught me about generations. As usual, this is a brilliant utilitarian view.

The baby boomers (born roughly in 1946-1964) are hard working and hold key positions in many organizations at present. People from Generation X (roughly 1965-1980) generally receive better education and have high aims. On the other hand, people from Generation Y (roughly 1981-2000) are relatively egocentric and look for fun. Of course, this classification is crude and the years vary among societies depending on the pace of economic development. Anyway, this is not the main point of my mentor.

His point is since your supervisor is often one generation immediately before you, you will be recognized by him/her and be successful if you share the characteristics of that generation. For example, the most successful people from Generation X are hard working and good team players. In contrast, people who quarrel about workload all the time can hardly be appreciated and given chance.

Inevitably, our conversation turned to the future of our children. Generation Z is born in a wealthy and high-tech world. The children learn to use iPhone and Facebook faster than any of us, but they also lack face-to-face social interactions. To be recognized by Generation Y, these children must develop passion in some areas and be able to make friends with others.

21 Jan 2010


We moved house earlier this month. The trick is not how to pack things, but to decide what to abandon.

Words of wisdom? Angela obviously did not think much of it. She thought my main contribution in the process was taking care of books. Of course, my simple response was the books were my only possessions.

When it comes to books, the selection is utterly simple. My rule of thumb was to bring only books that I would read again or I expected Angelina would read in the future. Most books did not fulfill these criteria. As an example, I only stared at the A Textbook of Medicine for five seconds. First, some contents were outdated. Second, it no longer represented the lousiest textbook of medicine. It should go.

In Noruwei no Mori (Norwegian Wood) by Haruki Murakami, Nagasawa said he only read books written more than fifty years ago. Life was short and one should not waste time on unworthy works that could not stand the test of time. On the other hand, for works that were worth reading, one could read them over and over again and never got bored. In fact, one could read any page at random and always be satisfied.

This view is obviously not welcomed. If everyone does so, how can authors earn a living? Nevertheless, when I looked at the bookshelves in our new home, most books were over ten years old. Not bad.

14 Jan 2010


GW asked me what books I borrowed from the university library. I just answered novels but did not elaborate further. I was too embarrassed to explain my recent habit of crosschecking stories from Disney movies.

As a father of a four-year old girl, I watch countless cartoons. With time, I realize that I have mixed up most stories. For one thing, the Disney version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame cannot make sense without describing the lust of Claude Frollo toward Esmeralda. On the other hand, children probably would not accept the fact that the beautiful Gypsy was betrayed by her love, Captain Phoebus. As if this is not enough, in the latest version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream that we watched, Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck and Daisy Duck were starring the four Athenian lovers. In The Three Musketeers, four Barbie dolls were shouting the famous motto “tous pour un, un pour tous”. Getting more and more confused, I have no choice but to read the original works.

When I was an undergraduate student, I often feared what I read from textbooks might be inaccurate or even misleading. My predecessors only suggested that I should make my life easier by sticking to and believing in one textbook. I could not take that and ended up reading multiple books on a similar subject. The obvious advantage was the development of critical thinking which built my interest in research. How can one find what is not right without viewing from different angles?

This is probably similar to the study of antiques. According to KL, all collectors have to go through three stages.

Stage 1: Being fooled by others
Stage 2: Knowing he has been fooled by others
Stage 3: Fooling others

7 Jan 2010


Szeto and BM described the schedule of my blog as the publishing day of the New England Journal of Medicine on different occasions. I am always happy to meet regular readers of the Journal. I developed the habit since my first medical clerkship. Upon KL’s encouragement, I started reading Lancet as well since my last year as a medical student. To maintain the habit of reading every issue, I glance through the content on the day of publication every week.

For young readers, below is a list of weekly journals that I read regularly. I left out Nature Medicine and the journals of my specialty, which are monthly publications. But I think KL is right. One should be pretty fine just by sticking to the two general medicine journals.

Wednesdays: JAMA, Annals of Internal Medicine (twice per month)
Thursdays: New England Journal of Medicine, Nature
Fridays: Science
Saturdays: Lancet, BMJ