Mar 5, 2008

The Immediate Past

Oh, a fancy title, but I have nothing much to write about. School's fine, choir is interesting, with more people returning, and our school didn't get through the third TMAC (Taiwan Medical education Assessment Committee) evaluation, which made us the last medical school in Taiwan yet to be credited.
Anatomy - Geography of the Human Body
Anatomy, I find, is very much like geography - explore, define, tag. It is a highly logical subject, which has its own grandeur and massive amounts of Latin and Greek names to be memorized (though many are replaced by English nowadays). Everything has its format, and studying it is something like learning to fill in different forms from different departments - for component of bones the names go according to the shape and surface area, for muscles the origins and insertions, or its fiber direction etc. Distilling all the last-minute brain squashing Anatomy should be a relatively rewarding subject to study, that is, of course, if you do not have to complete the whole thing in one semester.
Until this week we completed bones and muscles of the trunk. The imaginative Jun Yi finds studying bones like doing architecture and engineering, and muscles like flight routes and railways. He wonders if other medical students felt this in their course, which in a way is highly impossible, as medical students are nowadays are expected to be God's akin, which brings us to the following.
Health Communication - Future Doctors Should...
Health Communication - an innovation in the timetable since last year. Public health researchers had been criticizing the medical field professionals for being too 'passive' - they only provide medical care when patients present themselves in front of them. Hence, to 'lessen the burden of health care personnels' and 'to improve health levels in general', they suggest an active approach - campaigns, talks, camps and all the sort, which not only triggered more work for the doctors (now they even have to give talks on how to feed your baby the correct milk formula but breast milk is still the best if you can manage, or talk hard-headed old folks to get rid of the habit of consuming lard) but also forced them to be part-time clown (who would listen to a old bespectacled robe-wearing nerd nagging in front about stop smoking?). This, they say, is what doctors should do in the 21st century - educate the public and eradicate disease sources.
So, our honorable don, together with a wicked associate professor from the Mass Communication College torture us for 2 hours every week on Wednesday morning. Drawing mind maps, reading a lousy textbook, and sipping coffee to stay awake, the prof. always delays lessons - today she let us off only at 12.30 when the bell goes off at 12, and as a result I missed the limited-edition NT$55 lunch a restaurant opposite our school provides.
Worse, the nightmare begins after her lessons, which she usually does not give any homework. Come afternoon, and the teaching assistant (TA) will come in and unceremoniously announce a pile of compulsory reading materials and reports due next week. Occasionally you confuse medicine with journalism or even creative writing.
Airline Tickets 101
Once upon a time, airlines are truly airlines - you pay a fixed fare, they fly you there. Period. Then one day, a genius decide to invent something called 'fare basis' and 'fare class'. Instead of selling tickets at one fixed price at any given time, they decided to trade airline tickets like shares, and different 'fare class' have different prices and different 'carriage conditions'. Generally, they will sell the lowest fare class first (up to one year before actual flight date), and gradually proceed to the highest and most expensive fare class. The cheapest class gives you no room for mistakes - no name change, no date change, no destination change. So, in this way, airlines can charge you more because you spelled your name incorrectly or you plan to stay a few days more in your destination because of the election even if you buy a solid cheap ticket. And if you're undecided about when to travel, you end up buying the most expensive ticket, even though all of you sit in zoo class.
Of course the airlines made big money out of this brilliant system - with over 250 million fare combinations on a single flight who doesn't? Passenger 1A's ticket is so cheap, but the money actually comes from Passenger 1B, who bought his ticket 2 hours before the flight, and Passenger 1C amended his ticket to accommodate for a special function, so he paid a 'levy', which is used instead to cover the cheap ticket bought buy Passenger 1D.
Then, another genius decided it will be a profitable move if airlines study other airlines' fares first before publishing their own fares. For the same route, they hire spies to scan the fares of other airlines, collect data, and send to the statistics department, located in the deepest, safest part of the airline office. The statisticians determine a set of fares that will reap the most profits but will not scare passengers away, as well as being competitive with other airlines, and start selling their tickets.
Slowly, other airlines learned the trick, and they began the ultimate journey of procrastination. Wait and see, why be the first? Wait and see. So, poor Jun Yi is supposed to travel to France for an exchange program this June (if you don't know this, I will tell you more next time). His ticket is booked on June 30, and returns on September 3. The date today is March 6. With a little more than 3.5 months to go, the airline's statisticians aren't quite satisfied with their fares yet, and poor Jun Yi is forced to wait, while scanning other airlines for gradually increasing fares (or gradually diminishing seats).
It will be an interesting semester - muscles, nerves, arteries and veins, choir, airline tickets, money and speaking to unhealthy old folks and undernourished young children. After all, I should really enjoy my last pre-med semester.