Monday, October 31, 2005

Ramadhan and Eid?

As the month of Ramadhan comes to a close - or so I'm told- preparations are underway for the great big celebration that is Eid il Fitr (the three day long shindig celebrating the end of the fast). Great time to be at home.. you get to see all sorts of family and friends, wear brand new clothes and have balalee6 oo baidh (sweet noodles and omelettes) for breakfast and goozi (a feast for the senses.. 'nuff said) for lunch on the first day. Yummy.

So how's my Ramadhan been? Don't ask. I haven't been back in Bahrain for Ramadhan or Eid for the last five years. I forgot the taste of that month's special food (thireed, harees and the rest of the gang).. I forgot what it felt like to have a big family gathering on the first day of Eid, such a joyful day, a day where I used to recieve money from the elders for the occasion. A dinar here and a dinar there and at the close of business, at around 7pm, a counting session to see who got the most money. My first year in university my mom assured me that she had saved my Eid money in the bank for me.. over the last four years the amount has shrunken considerably (God, isn't he old enough to start making his own money by now? Why do we still keep giving him Eidiya?) with only my parents, Allah ya7fidhum, still making sure I get my Eid money in my account for when I come back on vacations.

As children we used to get Eid gifts in a very special way. I remember getting my GameBoy on the first day of Eid. This kerrr-aazy new gizmo that I can carry around with me to play games with.. my parents would put the gift next to my bed after I went to sleep so that I'd wake up in the morning and find it on the bedside table. Naturally, I'd wake up at around 5am to play with whatever I had gotten that year.. nothing works better as an alarm clock than a burning sense of anticipation in an 11 year old boy.

I miss all of that. Ramadhan is so damn desolate when you've got no atmosphere around you. It takes some serious determination and strength of faith to be able to fast by yourself, eat by yourself, and continue with the same timetable of normal days without food or drink. And then if you actually manage to fast the whole month, what do you get? Eid! Guess what I'll be doing this Eid? Well, it could potentially fall on a Wedensday or Thursday so I'm going to go absolutely nuts.. I'm going to go to my tutorials and various educational activities at the hospital, and then I'm gonna come back home, do some reading, eat my dinner and go to sleep so I can wake up and do it all over again on - you guessed it - the SECOND day of Eid!

Last year's Eid I think I took the day off from the hospital and went to watch a movie with a friend.. I don't think I can afford to do so this year, my consultant certainly wouldn't appreciate it if I did. I went down to see my brother in England a week ago and I managed to fast two or three days. It was nice, there's a good Bahraini group of kids there and they cook if6ar and are living in (a slightly excessive) Ramadhan mode: they stay awake until 3 or 4 in the morning watching Arabic tv shows on satellite, then wake up at 3pm the next day. Having that whole atmosphere made it easier, even though I was waking up at 10 I could still get through the day with the promise of a nice, home cooked meal. What do I get if I decide to fast in Dublin? A headache lasting from 7am to 5pm and a rushed pizza in the oven, that's what.

I know, I know.. I'm just being weak. It can be done, and Muslims all over the world do it in foreign countries. The feeling of Ramadhan has always been the clincher for me, and when I don't get that its very hard to live the month. Maybe its my fault for not surrounding myself with Arabic or Muslim friends. The past 26 days have just been the 4th to the 30th of October for me, in truth. All those feelings of guilt I used to get for not fasting are becoming easier to sweep away each year. Maybe someday I'll get it all back, and I know its going to feel fantastic. And on that note I'm going to end this disjointed, disillusioned rant.

Hope you had a great Ramadhan, 9iyamin maqbool if you've fasted, and Eidkum Imbarak to all.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Guys' Rules

You probably have read this in a forward somewhere.. I just got this in my mailbox today and I thought I'd share it with everyone out there who hasn't seen it already.


We always hear "the rules" from the female point of view..
Now here are the rules from the male side.

These are our rules. Please note.. they are all numbered "1" ON PURPOSE!

1. Men ARE NOT mind readers.

1. Learn to work the toilet seat. You're a big girl. If it's up, put it down. We need it up, you need it down. You don't hear us complaining about you leaving it down.

1. Sunday sports. It's like the full moon or the changing of the tides. Let it be.

1. Shopping is NOT a sport. And no, we are never going to think of it that way.

1. Crying is blackmail.

1. Ask for what you want. Let us be clear on this one:
Subtle hints do not work!
Strong hints do not work!
Obvious hints do not work!
Just say it!

1. Yes and No are perfectly Acceptable answers to almost every question.

1. Come to us with a problem only If you want help solving it. That's what we do. Sympathy is what your girlfriends are for.

1. A headache that lasts for 17 months is a problem. See a doctor.

1. Anything we said 6 months ago is inadmissible in an argument. In fact, all comments become null and void after 7 Days.

1. If you won't dress like the Victoria's Secret girls, don't expect us to act like soap opera guys.

1. If you think you're fat, you probably are. Don't ask us.

1. If something we said can be interpreted two ways and one of the ways makes you sad or angry, we meant the other one.

1. You can either ask us to do something or tell us how you want it done. Not both. If you already know best how to do it, just do it yourself.

1. Whenever possible, please say whatever you have to say during commercials.

1. Christopher Columbus did NOT need directions and neither do we.

1. ALL men see in only 16 colors, like Windows default settings. Peach, for example, is a fruit, not a color. Pumpkin is also a fruit. We have no idea what mauve is.

1. If it itches, it will be scratched. We do that.

1. If we ask what is wrong and you say "nothing.", we will act like nothing's wrong. We know you are lying, but it is just not worth the hassle.

1. If you ask a question you don't want an answer to, expect an answer you don't want to hear.

1. When we have to go somewhere, absolutely anything you wear is fine. Really.

1. Don't ask us what we're thinking about unless you are prepared to discuss such topics as baseball, the shotgun formation, or golf.

1. You have enough clothes.

1. You have too many shoes.

1. I am in shape. Round IS a shape!


Found a lot of it true, although I am blessed in that most of it doesn't apply to me personally. I must admit, I'm quite a lucky boy. Here's to hoping that all you guys out there are (or will be) just as fortunate as I am.

Thursday, October 20, 2005


So the new Fifa football game on the Xbox comes out, right? Aside from all the usual graphics, sound, gameplay and roster updates.. we have a very interesting new feature. The Fifa Lounge.

I'll avoid making this a long rant about a videogame, and will instead focus on the human element of it all. To give you a bit of background, the Lounge is a part of the game where you and a bunch of friends can enter an on-going league that tracks all the games you play against each other. Every person has to sign themselves in for a "session" (as its so appropriately called on the game menu) and the stats just keep on piling. As it stands, I'm on top of the rankings having played 60 games, won 43, drawn 7 and lost 10. Impressive(ish), eh? The rankings are decided by a "rating" number that fluctuates depending on wins and losses. As number 1, if I beat a team below me 1-0, I get +6 rating points. If I lose by the same scoreline, however, I'm down by around 25 rating points. It therefore rewards the lower teams far more than the teams higher up, which makes being on top a very difficult position to maintain, since you've got much more to lose than to gain.

All of this added competitiveness makes it all very interesting. If you've read my previous post entitled "Videogame Session Dynamics", you'll understand how testosterone-fuelled this can all get. Bragging rights used to be temporary, a 5-0 win will earn you a few hours of taunting, but then eveyone will forget and the next time we all got together to start a new session the slate would be clean. A 5-0 win now over your closest rival will equal a +50 rating swing in your favour that will probably drop him down a few places in the table. Not only is his pride injured by such a heavy defeat, he's now officially worse than some of the other guys. You can imagine how shitty he must feel.

Of course, the Lounge system has also added an interesting "fear" element, the fear of losing rating points. As I've detailed before, good players have a shallower learning curve than their fellow gamers. This means that I've raced to an early ratings lead that has widened the gap tremendously. A few others are now snapping at my heels after the initial period of acclimatization has passed, but as the bottom feeders start getting to grips with the game, they assist my position by challenging (and occasionally defeating) my rivals. So after I win a few games against small fry, I can sit back while they give the other contenders a run for their money. Being in a position where they stand to lose so much, they get aggravated during the game and lose their focus, which naturally leads to unfavourable results.

This teaches you a lot about your friends. Aside from the fact of determining once and for all who the best gamer is, it also shows you who can withstand the pressure and who cracks under it. Some games you get unlucky and lose a bunch of rating points, but its those who can dust themselves off and come back with the confidence of being the best who eventually top the table. This confidence is boosted by a solid record, and the way the game lets you view your statistics helps a lot.

A new word has been added to our dictionary. On the way back from a rough day at the hospital, all one person has to do is to suggest that we all "Lounge". Instantaneously, all plans are cancelled and we congregate in front of a square black box and a tv screen to spend the next few hours on a rollercoaster ride of emotions.

Seeing that we're all going to become doctors soon enough, this can be dismissed as childish behaviour that we'll leave behind when the time comes. That last statement couldn't be further from the truth. The videogame industry has reached gargantuan proportions over the last few years. The amount of money spent in that sector is starting to rival the kind of cash being poured into Hollywood's movie business. Videogames are starting to dominate popular culture and are no longer a domain for those who are in their teens. They're targeting us, the kids who transformed into grown men (physically more than mentally) and who happen to make their own money. We the generation who grew up with Mario and Sonic.. the Atari, Commodore 64, NES, SNES, GameBoy, GameGear, MegaDrive, N64, the original Playstation and now the Xbox. We're the ones who will soon be running your corporations and conglomerates, investing your money, treating your illnesses, fighting your legal battles, flying your airplanes, ruling your world..

So we play games. Its not so bad.. we can't spend all our time being serious now, can we?

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Scalpel please, nurse.

Its funny how things work inside an operating theatre.. people running around, getting on with their workday while patients are wheeled in and out of that big green room with all the fancy gadgets and gizmos. Nurses chatting away and socializing while they get ready for the next patient, doctors going off to get a cup of coffee before coming back to scrub in and get to work. Theatre lists that resemble indices of books in busy hospitals usually mean a less friendly work environment (example: SMC), while shorter lists lead to a more laid back, relaxed atmosphere in which everyone knows that they might just be able to sneak in lunch at around 2 or 3 in the afternoon.

Where does the medical student fit into all of this? I'm usually that inanimate (as far as everyone else is concerned) object in the far corner next to the medical supply cabinet. I must admit, it does get quite boring in there, and I tend to avoid going into theatre unless the consultant spots me wandering the wards and drags me with him. See, the novelty wore off around two years ago, and if you're not learning anything then its a pain in the ass to stand around for two hours staring at the back of the doctor's head while he points out things you have no idea about.

The other day things changed. Being in final year means you are expected to know more and actually help out when needed. The bitch-work involved in assisting in minor surgeries (things such as retracting the skin and clearing the way for the doctor to do his thing) is something that not even junior doctors enjoy doing unless they're hoping to become surgeons one day. So I'm standing around in my scrubs, trying to stay awake when the surgeon points at me and goes "You. Scrub in."..

This is where I almost lost all tone in my anal sphincter muscles. I'm not the proactive type that tries to scrub in and assist whenever I can. I know a lot of people in my class who have scrubbed in and assisted as far back as 3rd year, but I'm just not the volunteering type.

So I try to recall our little scrubbing tutorial and get to cleaning my hands and arms.. everyone's helpful.. the murse (male nurse) helps by unpacking the sterile kit and guiding me through the whole robing process.. and then just as I'm ready to go I scratch my nose with my germ-free glove and have to redo the whole thing again. It was one of those moments where your inner Homer is so close to manifesting itself with a resounding D'Oh! that would shake the hospital walls to their core. I managed to contain my anxiety and annoyance and made it safely to the operating table.

The next 45 minutes are spent retracting and pulling while the doctor removed a large lipoma out of our patient's back. It was benign and encapsulated, so the process was relatively simple. I got to do the honors by separating the final attachments with the cautery device and then I helped stitch and staple the wound and ended up doing the last bit by myself. Job done.

When asked later on by members of my family how it felt to cut open a real human being and stick my fingers inside the wound.. it made me think. It felt more like work, something to be done.. it never crossed my mind that this was an actual person.

All in all a good experience. I enjoyed it very much and I'd be happy to assist on any surgery from now on. It helped that the doctor guided me through the whole thing and was super nice. I also realized that even though I might enjoy the work and seem to be adequately skilled when it comes to tasks requiring manual dexterity (thanks to a life spent videogaming), I still wouldn't want to be a surgeon.

Its definitely a boys club, and I think I'd have a blast if I joined. Its cut 'em up and stitch 'em up without the requirement of patient empathy or sympathy. I enjoy the human element of it all and wouldn't want to give it up. Besides, ward rounds at 7am every morning for the rest of my life? On-call at all hours of the day, and a proper battle to get to the positions you aspire to get to? No thanks.. I might love medicine, but I certainly don't love it more than my own life.