What motivates doctors?

In a previous year, I wrote about why there are motivations for going through medical education in North America despite the high costs…

While preparing a slideshow about deep brain stimulation (DBS) as a treatment for dystonia patients, for a bioengineering course, I was reminded that doctors are often rewarded when they see clinical improvement in their patients.

A 7-year-old child with genetic dystonia, who was unable to feed herself or stand up erect, received a DBS implant in 2009. At the 1 year mark, she had improved 91.2% in motor skills.

Visually illustrated:

7-year-old standing erect after deep brain stimulation

Wouldn’t you be touched if you saw this happen?

Last month, a video of Joanne Milne, a hearing-impaired woman who was able to hear clearly the days of the week for the first time, went viral online:

I’d like to think that compassion remains alive and that humans are still innately good creatures.

Jin, S. T., Lee, M. K., Ghang, J. Y. & Jeon, S. M. Deep Brain Stimulation of the Globus Pallidus in a 7-Year-Old Girl with DYT1 Generalized Dystonia. J Korean Neurosurg Soc 52, 261-263 (2012). doi: 10.3340/jkns.2012.52.3.261

Happy New Year!

It’s the end of another year and the end of a ground-breaking decade. Let’s look back at what’s been accomplished in the years of 2000–2009, focusing on technology.


Windows has entered a new era

The decade—indeed, the century—began with Windows 2000, which I consider the first great version of the operating system. XP was the version that brought widespread success, and people just seem to refuse to upgrade; even today, almost three quarters of the computers on the net are on XP.

Despite the dismal failure of Windows Vista, it too brought change, which was followed by the enhancements of Windows 7. Compare my desktop today to the ugly screens of a decade ago:

Microsoft Store
Windows 98 desktop screenshot

Apple deserves an honourable mention for the ground-breaking work they’ve done on the Mac, elevating it to a newly trendy status.

Portable media players have completely changed

A decade ago, CD players and tape-based Walkmans were still the norm for ‘portable’ audio players. The iPod, launched in 2001, entirely changed the game. (I suppose this and the iPhone were the “comeback of the decade”.) It was no longer a device that played removable media. That was followed by thousands of other portable media players, to which the public generally refers inaccurately as “MP3 players”, reflecting the popularity of the 15-year-old MP3 format that has also been notorious for illegal file sharing (see below).

Cell phones and mobile devices have become ubiquitous

These devices used to be ugly, huge and heavy objects. As we move into 2010, cell phones have become more compact (usually this means thinner and lighter) and more powerful.

In China, about 739 million people have cell phones; that’s more than there are Internet users in China (which is about 360 million).

Mobile devices have become truly powerful. The iPhone, purportedly the most popular cell phone of 2009, is one of the biggest platforms for software development. And it has a touch screen. RIM’s BlackBerry, initially launched in 1999, is the most popular smartphone among business users.

Ordinary people begin to embrace ultra-portable netbooks for lightweight computing. The move to mobile is probably the most noticeable trend in end-user gadgetry in this decade.
Continue reading “Happy New Year!”

How do you deal with stress?

It’s very difficult to live life entirely without stress. No matter how calm and peaceful one wishes to be, there will always be events in one’s life that test the limits of psychological endurance.

I experience stress on a daily basis, and perhaps much more so this month. As for my methods of dealing with stress, I enjoy music, knowledge, and technology.


Classical and soundtrack music are especially enjoyable for me. I find that they contribute to a calmer emotional state, especially with beautiful orchestral pieces. (See what kind of music I like at Music to Hear.) Listening to the Brandenburg Concertos by Bach, for instance, Ennio Morricone film score, Planet Earth incidental music, or Hans Zimmer’s remarkable compositions, or Karajan’s amazing interpretations, probably bring my mood from stressed out at 8/10 to 3/10. This is one of the reasons that I listen to music while I’m doing work.

Take a look at a video of one of my favourite pieces, conducted by the composer Ennio Morricone at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.


TED videos are really inspiring to watch. Whether it’s Al Gore or someone talking about the importance of bread, I find TED to be an absolutely amazing source of inspiration.

Developing knowledge helps to take my mind off pressing matters, at least temporarily. And that’s one of the reasons that I like reading news, reading design blogs and so on.


FAIL Blog, NotAlwaysRight and FMyLife are all amazing sources of humour. Laughing is probably the easiest way to enjoy oneself for a while.

Today, I got a cross-country job promotion. I decided to plan my Going-Away-Forever party, and bought a pack of 100 invitations. After mailing them out to all my friends, I have 92 left. FML (source)

This keeps me amused, but is by no means as effective as music — after all, I can listen to music while working, and this humour stuff takes away from time I could be putting towards resolving causes of stress.

Et vous?

What do you do to keep your stress at an acceptable level? (You can select multiple answers. Choose any item if it has a soothing / stress-relieving effect for you.)