• People Talk and My Ear Bleeds


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    Wednesday, August 30, 2006

    Vuelta a Espania

    Have you ever riden a 10 to 12% grade on a bicycle at a speed over 10 mph? If you haven't, let me give you a clue about how it feels. Imagine someone has a meat tenderizer hammer and pounds your thighs until they look like hamburger. The riders in the Vuelta a Espania (Tour of Spain, one of the three Grand Tours) experienced this today. Ouch. Imagine your thighs hurting like that and then someone passes you. What do you have to do? Attack, of course. So, that means putting the pain aside and putting all of your effort and sanity to catch up to and pass your opponent. I respect those guys for the effort and skill they have gained in their cycling careers.

    On to the doping stuff again. It looks like the doping news has settled down a little. For all of you Tyler Hamilton supporters, he will end his ban for blood doping in the month of September. The current president of the UCI (http://www.uci.ch) or International Cyclists Union is trying to get Hamilton banned for life due to the current doping mess. His name some how appeared in documents of the charged doping doctor. Who knows?

    Well, I'm upgrading my bike. I am using new components from the SRAM corporation. These parts move into a market dominated by two makers: Shimano and Campy. SRAM gives me light weight parts at a fraction of the price of either. However, the parts I am buying with SRAM pasted all over them are for my road bike, not my time trial bike. For instance, the gear/brake levers built by SRAM (model Rival) weigh in at 335 g. Shimano's Dura Ace, their top of the line shifters, weigh a staggering 420g. For a climber, those numbers are huge. Next, look at the brakes, SRAM Rival (SRAM's number 2 model, their Dura Ace model is called FORCE) brakes weigh 290 g while DA brakes weigh 305 g. When you add up the components, RIVAL only lacks in their crankset which is 30g heavier than DA's crank. Give SRAM a few more years, and they will break up the Shimano/Campy domination.

    Till next time! Keep on riding! and Studying!

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    Thursday, August 24, 2006

    Iraq and the Melia, addendum

    Consul-at-arms made a good comment in my first post, prompting my reply and study.

    "The Belgians went into the colony and separated the people according to physical features that looked European vs. Non-european."

    Huh? Where'd you hear that? And if it were true, how is that several neighboring countries, where the Belgians weren't the colonial power, have the same two tribes?
    I replied,
    Well, I took your question and ran with it. First, I made the statement based on admittedly little knowledge on the subject, and what I had seen on Sometimes in April.

    So, after reading your comment, I wanted to see if I was wrong. Yes and no. The Belgians did separate people into the groups Hutu and Tutsi based on physical features. But I was wrong in the insinuation that they were exactly one people before this.

    The Hutu and Tutsi were one people for years. They lived in tribes, intermarried, etc. For most of this time, Hutu designated farmers and Tutsi designated rulers or people not doing rural work. Therefore, the indentifier could change as you changed class, work, etc.

    However, by the time the Europeans arrived the Hutu and Tutsi designations were starting to congeal in a Tutsi=non-farm-worker and Hutu=farm-worker identity, making most societal leaders Tutsi. Their work indoors and a different genetic origin for many of them, gave them lighter skin, and more European features generally.

    Hence, when the Belgians came, it was easy to see the Tutsi's as more European, already versed in ruling a society, and easy candidates to run the colony.

    Since this is becoming longer than expected, I am going to put quotes in another post.
    I want to add some to that.

    Wikipedia--not always the most reliable source, but good--says
    The Belgian government continued to rely on the Tutsi power structure for administering the country. It also consistently favoured the Tutsis where education was concerned, leading to a situation where many Tutsis were literate, while the majority of Hutus were not. Belgians educated the Tutsis in Catholic schools, which widened the ethnic rift between Hutu and Tutsi.

    ...Current academic thought is that the European emphasis on racial division led to many of the difficulties between Hutu and Tutsi in the latter part of the 20th century.
    from Wikipedia:History of Rwanda

    Here it talks about Hutu and Tutsi denominations, saying,
    The word "Tutsi," which apparently first described the status of an individual—a person rich in cattle—became the term that referred to the elite group as a whole and the word "Hutu"—meaning originally a subordinate or follower of a more powerful person—came to refer to the mass of the ordinary people.

    ...Because Europeans thought that the Tutsi looked more like themselves than did other Rwandans, they found it reasonable to suppose them closer to Europeans in the evolutionary hierarchy and hence closer to them in ability. Believing the Tutsi to be more capable, they found it logical for the Tutsi to rule Hutu and Twa just as it was reasonable for Europeans to rule Africans. Unaware of the "Hutu" contribution to building Rwanda, the Europeans saw only that the ruler of this impressive state and many of his immediate entourage were Tutsi, which led them to assume that the complex institutions had been created exclusively by Tutsi.

    Not surprisingly, Tutsi welcomed these ideas about their superiority...
    (found in Rwandan History)

    Although my reference towards the origin of the Hutu and Tutsi was not entirely clear, and generalizations are never entirely accurate, I still think the Hutu vs. Tutsi conflict has some bonafide similarities with the Shi'a/Sunni situation I wrote about in the first post, including the repercussions still today of Europeans arbitrarily outlining colonies.

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    Monday, August 21, 2006

    Chinese Censorship and Tour Guides

    Yesterday, my family had a little get-together with some relatives to celebrate my brother's return from Italy. As talk moved to everyone's recent travels (Vietnam, Italy, Denmark, Germany, Thailand, Cambodia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Australia, Malaysia, China, Korea, and the Philippines), my aunt recounted her favorite times in China--the Great Wall and the Terracotta warriors.
    Did you know he had concubines?

    Then the topic turned to Mao.

    The tour guide happily explained about Chairman Mao and all the great and wonderful things he did for China. Then he said, "he had a wife and a couple kids and was a great family man."

    "Did you know he had concubines?" my cousin, fleunt in Mandarin and who graduated with a degree in Asian Studies, queried.

    "No, that is not true," retorted the tour guide. "I have never heard such things."

    "Oh but it is," she responded. "He had over one hundred concubines, and stopped brushing his teeth about 20 years before he died."

    The tour guide's eyes widened. "Really? What more about Mao have we not been told?"
    They don't have weapons now but watch out

    My cousin proceeded to explain a few points to him. My aunt, relating the story, then said,

    "Everywhere we went, we stood in long lines of tourists. With capitalism, China is embracing tourism, and where tourists go, people talk. Eventually, the aggregate sum of these encounters will lead to something big. Shanghai is an amazing city. In my opinion, it's more amazing than New York City. But you go 10 miles outside of Shanghai and people have mud floors in their huts. Right now, the government controls the media, but eventually this knowledge will spread, and you will have millions of angry citizens. They don't have weapons now, but watch out. It'll be big."

    Thursday, August 17, 2006

    Iraq and the Melia

    I was listening to NPR yesterday evening and couldnt help connecting the current conflict in Iraq with one in Africa that was the subject of two great movies: Hotel Rwanda and Sometimes in April.

    What in the world could Baghdad have with the Hotel Melia?? Small bastions of solace amid a storm of sectarian violence spiraling out of control.

    If you haven't seen Sometimes in April, I highly reccomend it. I think it is better than Hotel Rwanda, which is a great movie. Something running through both movies is the theme of international indifference while people slaughter each other over a name.

    "What's in a name?? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet."
    (Who wrote that line?)

    The Hutu and Tutsi sects that massacred each other in the movies above really were one people. The Belgians went into the colony and separated the people according to physical features that looked European vs. Non-european. The Tutsi, or European group became rulers over the more numerous Hutu group. When the Hutu regained power, tension spiraled towards genocide.

    Now, in Iraq, we have the start of a similar situation. Shi'a and Sunni are both Arab, however, due to differences in religious belief, stemming from hundreds of years ago (i.e. who should rule after Mohammad, his grandson or someone else), numerous wars and sectarian violence has bred mutual animosity and distrust in --not all but-- a number of people who now work towards cleansing towns and suburbs of Baghdad of the "other" group. I fear it may have hit critical mass. The government there and here cannot stop the course of events without seriously stepping up manpower, and that will only put the lid on things until the "police" leave. How can you stop and change hundreds of years of pride and animosity?

    I blame the Brits for arbitrarily creating Iraq from a mish-mash of ethnic and religious groups that weren't getting along then and don't now. The road to peace will be long and hard, changing the habits and prejudices of parents and children, and could start by having mandatory study of enlightenment philosophers in schools (for the young...when they can go to school). Obviously much more needs to be done, but I don't profess to have all the answers, if any.

    Monday, August 14, 2006

    My First Day of Medical School

    Today was my first day of medical school. On that note, I am taking the advice of a blogging master, Virtual Doug, and I am starting a one-post-a-day blog about medical school. It will consist only of my thoughts and experiences while in medical school or my life as it directly pertains to medical school (possibly alot, since that's all I'm doing for the next four years). I hope people find it interesting.

    Welcome to A Med Student's Life.


    Thursday, August 03, 2006

    Texas Drivers

    I'm eating crow. Lots of it. Every day my wife ribs me as we drive around Houston looking for houses or taking her to tennis lessons.

    "I thought you said Texas drivers were good?"

    "I did."

    "Well, I don't see that," she replies. "Nobody here is courteous. They're worse than Utah drivers."

    "Now, don't say that! They haven't stooped that low!" I retort.

    What's this world coming to when a smoking grandma tries to get you to rear-end her
    But the truth is, they're coming close. Why? When I grew up here, drivers were courteous. They stopped with room to spare at lights to let merge out of parking lots and into traffic. They drove at that general lackadaisical pace found on the farms that "farm roads" are supposed to lead to (FM 529--farm road 529--is NOT a farm road anymore!). Sure, driving wasn't perfect--drivers weren't perfect--but people generally were nice, and after being helped out once, you typically returned the favor, spawning this viral good deed driving atmosphere.

    Today things are different. Sometimes I feel like I'm the only driver on the road still doing the things listed above. Drivers drive fast, the ride bumpers to make a Southern Californian jealous. When I first got into town, my mother drove the family to the Museum of Natural Science. Someone tried to get over, put on his or her blinker, and my mother sped up.

    "I can't let them in. They'll put me farther behind."

    WHAT!? Then she proceeded to speed up, forcing the car to merge farther back, and then slammed on her brakes because she was riding the rear bumper of a SUV that was slowing. My heart leapt into my throat.

    Driving has been hard for my wife. She has almost no experience driving in traffic like this, and our old car was a 1990 Toyota Camry held together by duct tape and chewing gum. It leaked more oil than it burned, and burned more than it used. Hopefully, she can take backroads as she gets used to a new car and roads.

    For me, I still have the roads memorized. There are some new street lights where we used to have stopsigns, and stores where there was cow pastures, but generally the layout is the same. I've driven in Utah and SoCal, so I can manage the cutthroat practices here. The impetus for this rant came two days ago, when I almost got in an accident.

    I was traveling down West Road, after dropping my wife off at tennis class. This area of West Rd. is four lanes, divided by a marge median with trees and grass. So two lanes one way, two the other. The oncoming two lanes were packed, as people returned home from work during rush hour. My lanes were generally empty because I'm driving east, into town.

    I'm driving along at the speed limit, 40mph, left lane, with one silver car in front of me in the right lane. West Rd cuts through subdivisions in
    If the lane I just came from wasn't empty, I'd be in that car's back bumper right now
    this area, so there is a light at the intersection into one subdvision with my old elementary school, Fiest, and then another light maybe 200 ft past because of a blind turn into the intersection on the left. My entrance is on the right just past the second light.

    Well, I passed the first light and switched over to the right lane because i will turn just after the second light. It turns yellow.

    "Man, I just got into this lane behind the silver car," I thought. "I guess I'll move back because there's not a lot of room to stop and I'll be first at the light."

    There were no other cars.

    As I start to shift back to the left lane, the silver car in front of me slams on its breaks forcing me to cut over quickly so I don't hit it.

    "What the heck?" I think to myself. "If the lane I just came from wasn't empty, I'd be in that car's back bumper right now."

    I wasn't following inordinately close, the car just stopped really quickly. Whipping into the left lane, I look over and see an old gray-haired woman, about 70, lighting a cigarette. Her car comes to a complete stop a full 2 car lengths before the light. There's only about 200 ft or so between lights!

    Gathering my wits before me, I moved back into the right hand lane since I needed to turn right. Mind you, I'm not cutting this smoking grandma off. Even with me in the right hand lane, there's still a good 12 feet between us. The light turns green, I take off, and the grandma speeds up, cuts into the left lane behind a car that caught up to us, and proceeds to give me the evilest glare as she passes me.

    What's this world coming to when a smoking grandma tries to get you to rear-end her, stops multiple car lengths from the light, the gives you the evil-eye as she passes?? Beware Houston drivers.

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