Tuesday, March 28, 2006
I have been a student for a long time. It has been a total of 22 years now. That is, obviously, the majority of my life. I am used to being a student, with all that entails. And there is one thing that being a student doesn't generally entail. Benefits. While I will still be in training, it suddenly dawned on me that I will be employed. And with employment comes benefits. And in our case, Dartmouth-Hitchcock has some pretty nice benefits. I was investigating how much it was going to cost us for our health insurance. See, last year they decided to increase the health insurance premiums for students with families by about 200%. Needless to say, we felt the hit. They sent out an email about how they are going to go ahead and raise premiums even more for students with families this year. In order to keep that increase minimum, they are also going to increase deductibles and decrease benefits. Sounds like a great deal, no? I suppose that is what happens when you are so dramatically the minority. Well, me curiosity was piqued. How much was I going to have to pay next year for health insurance? So I did a little research and found the answer. And then I called my wife to tell her the news. It is free. Yep. Dartmouth-Hitchcock pays the premium for all House Staff as well as their eligible dependents. We were thrilled. That is a huge help for the next year. So, while I was at it I thought I would look into the disability benefits. There has been a big buzz at school about disability, with the option to purchase disability through Duke if it is cheaper than where we will be going. Well, guess what. Disability is free as well. So is (limited) life insurance. This is a whole new world to me. One I look forward to entering. All at about $7.00/hr.
Monday, March 27, 2006
I have numerous favorite gaming moments. My Saturday afternoon marathon of DOOM II that resulted in me being locked in the University Library. My first time firing up Half Life (though that game makes my list of all time game disappointments as well). My first time playing the full 3D of Descent II (boy, I would get dizzy playing that one). The final cutscene of Starcraft. Reverting from hyperspace to see Kharak burning. But one moment tops them all. Finally dying. And knowing I wouldn't be coming back to life. Shaking off my immortality, discovering my true identity, and no longer being The Nameless One. Planescape: Torment. When I played it I had never really played a Dungeons and Dragons RPG. I didn't really know anything about the setting, the story, the mechanics of the game. I just found it for a good price, decided to give it a try, and slogged my way through it until I understood how to play. And I became engrossed. Planescape: Torment had more emotion, more passion, more intrigue, more wonder than many epic books I have read. The characters were brilliant, the choices felt important. The story was fascinating. I relished every line of text I could read (and anyone who has played it knows there is a LOT of text in Planescape: Torment), looked forward to the next revelation of who my character was and what brought him to his current state. And to finally reach the end, wrap up all the loose ends, discover the secrets of my traveling companions, and accept my fate in the Blood Wars, well, it was a cathartic experience. Games that great are hard to come by. It isn't often electronic media can connect with the player on such an intellectual and emotional level. Planescape: Torment did that for me. It is, withouth doubt, my greatest gaming moment of all time. Anyone want to share theirs?
Yes, I am a geek. No question about it, I don't try to hide it. My latest expression of geekdom is the following: Yes, I went into Best Buy with my little son and a digital camera. Yes, I took a picture of him playing the a box of Galactic Civlizations II. And yes, I did it to win a Galactic Civilizations II T-Shirt. And I won! There is my little man, Gal Civ II in hand, having a good old time playing with the box. So now, thanks to the friendly folks at Stardock I will be getting a Terran T-Shirt. I will wear it with my gamer nerd pride!
Sunday, March 26, 2006
While I have not been blogging about it here, I have been at my other blog site. At the beginning of the year I decided it was really time to get my butt in shape. I had made such decisions before, but hadn't ever really stuck to something consistently or long enough to see the results of my labors. This time was different. So here they are, the results of my pretty darn hard work since the 3rd of January (that was the first day I realy gave it a go). In the photos below I am wearing pants that, on January 1, 2006, fut me better than any others I had. Not too tight, but not loose at all, these pants fit me just right. You can see that no longer is that the case: It has been a lot of fun to see the difference. Now to keep it up!
Saturday, March 25, 2006
This shouldn't really come as a surprise, but I enjoy blogging. I enjoy writing blogs and I really enjoy reading the blogs of others. When I have the time, I enjoy surfing random blogs using such services as Blog Explosion or BlogMad. I also avail myself of the traffic generating features of those services as well, but to be quite honest, that matters less to me than it used to. For those unfamiliar with those services, you surf the blogs of people who have signed up and earn credits for each page you view. These credits, in turn, can be used to get your blogs to show up in the rotation of blogs being viewed. Each service has a "ticker" that forces you to view a blog for a certain amount of time (ranging from 20-30 seconds in the sites I have used) before you can move on to the next blog if you want to earn credit for viewing that blog. And so, often, I will open multiple tabs in Maxthon and be surfing multiple blogs at the same time. In doing so, I have been fortunate enough to come across some really great blogs. But I have also noticed something. There are a lot of dirty blogs out there in the blogosphere. And by dirty I don't mean vulgar, profane, pornographic (I am sure there are plenty of those, but I choose to have my surfing settings avoid those ones). By dirty I mean cluttered, busy, confusing. It is astounding the number of blogs I have surfed to that have a grimy layer of ads, links, banners, buttons, and just general garbage before I ever even get an entry. If I can't see a decent portion of the blogger's most recent entry without having to scroll my browser window, I refuse to even look at the blog. And it isn't as if I have a little browser window. I don't have it maximized, but since I run my resolution at 1600x1200, my browser window is usually around 1280x960. In other words, my browser window is plenty large. I know that there are ways to "make money" from your blog (I put that in parentheses because, really, how much money do you think individuals really make from their blogs?). I also know it is fun to have lots of little gizmos and gadgets in your sidebar (heck, I have a cool little Flickr badge with some fun photos here in this blog). But when they become this huge monstrosity, filled with maps, buttons of all sorts of different sites, photos, playlists, friends, archives, links, etc. I just stop looking. For me, the joy of blogging (and reading blogs) is getting to read the thoughts, ideas, and works of other people who I wouldn't get to read otherwise. But when those thoughts get buried under a barrage of AdSense ads, banners and links, the effort and frustration to find them often outweighs the payoff. Or maybe I am just lazy. ;)
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Remember, back in High School how they took attendance? You could only miss so many days and then you got in trouble. Had to have any and all absences "excused". Boy, that was great. Wasn't it? Well, after getting a Bachelor's, and now only weeks away from having my MD, apparently I am in High School again. My current four week rotation is the famed Capstone course. It is a new, one of a kind course in which they cram everything they fear the may have missed into these four weeks. To be fair, they do cover some good topics. We get our BLS recertification and our ACLS certification. There are some good financial planning topics as well as on call topics. But there is a lot of filler as well. Do we really need to spend 2 hours going over how to code, when we are going to get that at our own institutions? Do we really need to spend hours talking about our feelings? Yes, we do. Because if we are absent, we fail the course. Welcome to High School all over again. Perhaps, if they made sure all the topics were good, they wouldn't have to worry about mandatory attendance. Sure, there are some who wouldn't go at all. Their loss. But treating us all like we are irresponsible teenagers just breeds animosity.
Monday, March 20, 2006
I have discovered that I really enjoy going for walks. So, during my lunch time I head for a walk around Duke's campus. It is a delightful little 3 mile loop during which I thoroughly enjoy my iPod with one of the great albums I have on there or with perhaps the Poweruser.tv podcast. It helps burn a few extra calories each day, helps increase the circulation to my gray matter and just gets me out in the sun. It has also taught me something I found quite exciting. I must not look like I am (almost) 30. When I was starting undergraduate, I that 30 was significantly older than 20. Of course, now I don't feel like that. But I was sure that people who were 30 looked it. When I go for my walks on campus in my white coat, I think I look it. No one talks to me on the undergrad campus. But this past week I have been in normal clothes. You know, jeans, no ties, etc. It has been nice. But it has also been odd. Suddenly I am getting grabbed by undergrad organizations. They want me to participate in activities, sign petitions, banners, etc. It is weird. For almost two months I was walking around campus, sticking out like a sore thumb. Obviously older, obviously not interested in undergrad goings-on. But now, I am incognito, masquerading as an undergrad apparently. It is refreshing to know I can still pull it off.
Sunday, March 19, 2006
Just over a week ago, tragedy struck. One of the students at my medical school tragically took her own life. I didn't know her personally, though I did recognize her. She always had a smile on her face and seemed to be a wonderful, positive person. It is a sad demonstration that no one is immune when it comes to depression. My heart goes out to her family, her friends, and most of all to her. When I was younger, and much more naive, I didn't understand how someone could choose to end his/her life. That edge just seemed so impossibly far away to me, the journey to get there was infinite. Then something happened, and suddenly I found that edge in sight. Granted, it was still a ways off, but suddenly it was in sight. I was fortunate. I had a wife and two (at the time) children who needed me. They were my anchor, they kept me from getting too close to that edge. I was fortunate to have an anchor that solid. I desperately wish my classmate had. May she rest in peace, and her family find some comfort and peace.
Saturday, March 18, 2006
I am feeling quite lonely Three days now that my wife has been gone. In the past, this has happened when I was in the middle of a busy rotation. So I was at school all day, too tired when I came home to really even notice. Sleep a couple of hours and then run all day at the hospital. No time to feel lonely. Not this time. This time, since I have the girls with me still, I have had to take some time off of school. Just me and the girls. We have had fun, heading to the park, went out to eat last night at the ultra-cheap pizza buffett (they love it!), watched a movie last night with the oldest (almost 7-we watched Ella Enchanted). But I am sorely missing adult interaction and most of all my sweet wife. That is probably why I have been spamming JU with articles the past few days. I look forward to my wife being back home.
Friday, March 17, 2006
Yes, you heard me correctly. MySpace is a disease. And not just a benign disease either. This is a serious, aggressive, pernicious disease. One that seems hell-bent on taking over the internet. In fact, this vile, filthy, perverted disease has risen to be in the top ten sites globally. Yes, top ten English sites in the world. Like a particularly aggressive cancer, it is consuming all in its path. Why do I call MySpace a disease? Just go over there and start looking at random sites. Aesthetically they make me want to puke and gouge my eyes out with rusty nails in turns. Cluttered beyond belief with no actual content buried in the dross. Abundant grainy photos that look like they were taken by fatally intoxicated, blind donkeys (no opposable thumbs) adorn most sites. Guys who look like they have glued a pair of pubes on their chin to make them look more manly epitomize the word "poser". Girls apparently striving to be the next big Playboy model toss up "glamour" shots of themselves willy-nilly. But what concerns me the most are supposedly intelligent, bright people who are jumping on the bandwagon. I have seen a couple of prog metal bands that I really respect pimping their MySpace site. I suppose this just exemplifies the axiom that there is no such thing as bad publicity. Come on though! Did they actually even check out MySpace before they started their sites? Are these the people you want to attract? I suppose publicity is the key, and with the disturbing growth of MySpace they are sure to get that. But there is just something about MySpace that turns my stomach. Oh, right, that disease thing.
Well, not too long ago I wrote a piece about how I play, at times, Mr. Mom. Feeding my the family, bathing the kids and putting them to bed, washing, ironing, and even an occasional bathroom are all within the realm of reason. Well, this weekend the rubber meets the road. My wife's grandfather passed away peacefully this week. We really wanted her to be able to be there for her family, but didn't think it would be possible. However, we realized that I wouldn't have class Thursday and Friday, so I could stay with the kids. We really couldn't afford to send everyone, or everyone besides me. Tickets were just too expensive. Then we started to look for tickets. For her to leave Thursday and come back Sunday the cheapest we could find were $1,200. $1,200!!! WHAT? Extend that to Tuesday and she could fly for just under $400. Since Big Al could fly in her lap for free she decided to take him (also so her family can see him-it has been a while). So I get to really be Mr. Mom until Tuesday night. Doing the girl's hair is on the docket as well now. That one scares me the most. So far they look okay. No big failures so far. But it is only Friday. . .
Some people live for the Superbowl. I say "Meh." Others long for the World Series. Tell me who won. The NBA playoffs and championship are what yet other people love. Pompous ball-hogs. Me, I live for March. And the Madness. Oh yeah, nothing better than March Madness. Game after game, some of the best basketball talent you will ever see, and without a doubt the best team play of anything. There will be Cinderella stories, upsets, teams that play near flawless games. And the athletes will give it their all. Not because they have a contract, not because they have endorsements. Because they love the game and want to win. Sure, some will go on to the NBA and make careers out of the sport. But most know this is their last chance to give it their all and walk away knowing they played their very best. And I have to say, my Blue Devils looked pretty good last night. Pretty good indeed. Man, I love this time of year.
Thursday, March 16, 2006
Match day. It means little to most people, if it means anything at all. But to medical students it is just about one of the biggest days of our lives. It is the day where you find out if everything you have been doing for the past four years is going to pay off. It is the day you find out your future. Not only where you are going to be living, but it is the day you finally have nailed down what branch of medicine you are going to specialize in. Once you have matched, you can finally say "I am going to be a (blank)." Today was match day. There was a big get together at school. Lots of food. Lots of alcohol will be flowing tonight. Futures were changed. Some were thrilled, others looked a little crest-fallen. I was unsurprised. Since Urology is early match, I have known for almost 2 months where I would be going. I still had an envelope to open today, but I already knew what it would say. But it was great to be there for my classmates. Congratulations to all of them, even those who may not have gotten their first choice. Once all is said and done, I bet every one of us will be pleased with where we go. Congratulations again to all. But what is the "match"? When you apply to medical school you send off your general application (one application that gets sent electronically to all the schools). They then request more money, oh and a school specific secondary application. Then they may offer you an interview. Once those are done they extend acceptances. If you get multiple acceptances you get to weigh your options. Residency is different. I think the goal is to be more "fair". I'm not quite sure how it is more fair, other than the fact that everyone knows the answer at the same time on the same day, with no one being wait-listed. But I have to say, it makes for a lot more stress than applying to medical school. You apply through ERAS, a single, electronic application. Then you wait and pray for the interviews. Go on as many as you can, or, if you are lucky, as many as you want to and can afford. Then the wait comes. You think, you weigh your options, decide what you think are the best choices for you and then rank them. Create a list of all the programs you interviewed at that you are willing to go to, from number 1 to whatever. Hit submit, and you future soars on the electric ether. In the meantime all the programs are thinking and talking about everyone they interviewed. They come up with a rank list of how much they liked everyone. They send it off. Then the magic happens. Or voodoo. Some fancy computer algorithm takes every applicant and every program and starts lining things up. It does work in favor of the applicant. In simplistic terms, it looks at my list, takes my #1 ranked program, and then looks at their list and sees if I am high enough on their list to match there. If so, I matched. If not, it moves on to my #2 ranked program, and so on. And it does this for the thousands of people matching each year. The hardest part about it is the fact that when you send in that match list you are contracting to attend any program on there. If you are concerned about matching then you will put as many programs on there as you can. This means you are potentially contracting to go somewhere you really would rather not, just so you can match. And then you get that envelope. One program in there (or two if you are going to do your prelim work at a different place), your future for the next 3-7 years. You can't say no, you can't try for a different place. That little envelope is final. Not a very relaxing environment. But it works. Most of the time. For most people. Not everyone matches. Not everyone is happy with their match. But it is the match. Just another one of the many hoops we jump through to live our dreams.
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
I love it when someone can poke a little fun at themselves. One of the best aspects of some recent "Mormon" movies is that there are many aspects of Mormon culture that they don't take seriously. Films such as "The RM", "Singles Ward", and "The Home Teachers" have me rolling on the floor as they poke fun at very true aspects of life in Mormonia. Likewise, it appears that certain groups at Microsoft don't take themselves too seriously. One of the aspects that helps to build the mystique of Apple products is their packaging. Just look at the box for any piece of Apple hardware and you will see a minimal, classy package that glamorously presents what is inside, with nothing else. Particularly the ultra-sexy iPods. But what if Microsoft made the package for the iPod? The answer is hilarious. According to The iPod Observer, it has been confirmed that this video was made by Microsoft themselves. That just cracks me up.
Far too often I sit down to compose a blog entry and then. . . Nothing. Just nothing. My mind cramps, then freezes, then just goes to sleep. It always seems that my best ideas come at the worst time to try to actually write them down. But today I think I may have solved that. I went for a walk. Yep, a walk. With a pen and a notebook in my pocket. It was amazing. Suddenly I had extra blood feeding my brain cells. Suddenly they could function. They were happy cells, overjoyed at the fresh air, the sunlight, and just generally pleased to be free. And the blog ideas flowed. Seriously, I ended up with about 5 or 6 new articles, ready to go, composed in my head, with only the need to sit my butt down and actually write them. Yeah, yeah, that can be the hard part. Maybe I will just go for another walk. . .
Pimping. It is the cornerstone of medical education, at least in most US medical schools. You learn the basic science in the normal classroom or lab setting, but when it comes time for the clinical education, didactic sessions become rare and most of the learning is hands on. This can be very beneficial, as this type of learning is often much more permanent. I assure you, when I think of diseases that I have encountered, I think of that patient and what their story was. The lesson sticks. It is much more meaningful than simply studying the pathophysiology from a book or lecture. However, hands on learning has also led to a unique style of education that I call education by intimidation. Enter the beloved practice of pimping. I don't know where they name came from, but it is pretty universal. Every medical student knows what it means to be pimped, and this crosses generations as well. Pimping can be hell. You are working 70-100 hours a week, trying to read in your "free-time", learning what you can. But, of course, you just can't learn it all. So there you are, in your patient's room, on rounds, a few other medical students with you, along with residents, your attending, maybe even the patient's family. And someone asks you a question. Not just a simple question. No, that is not what pimping is about. This is a hard question, an esoteric question. A question designed to make you sweat. If you are lucky, someone will help you reason through it, drop a hint or two along the way. But don't expect it. Expect to stand there, blush, sweat, feel your blood pressure and heart rate rise dramatically while you sputter. Lots of sputtering. Your attending looks at you with some indifference or annoyance that you are wasting his/her time. A resident may look at you with a degree of pity (depending on how far removed from your situation they are). That one jackass, know-it-all classmate who happens to be on the rotation with you looks at you with a satisfied smirk that you want to wipe off with a baseball bat. But the hardest part is the look the patient and their family give you. For days now, you have been expertly answering their questions. You have laughed, counseled, consoled, and established a solid rapport with them. They trust you, they like you, and now they are watching you sink. It sucks. Hard. Most of them understand. They look at you with real pity and sometimes even admiration. But occasionally there are those who just lost their confidence in you. One moment and *BAM*, your hours of previous work are washed away. All in the name of education. Ain't it great?
As I work on slowly establishing myself here at Blogger, it doesn't hurt to check out my profile to find out a little more about me. I will slowly be working to customize my blog a little, reveal a little more about myself, and just generally setting up shop.
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
I stumbled onto Blogger years ago. I started a couple of blogs here, wrote a few articles, and wondered what the draw of blogging was. It was like a journal. Only on the internet. Hmm. . . If there had been comments, interaction of some sort with others, I think it would have been different. I wouldn't have felt that I was screaming into the wind of hurricane. But I did. In the blur and flurry of electronic data, it is very easy to get lost in the torrent. And get lost I did. My blogs died ignominious deaths. Then I stumbled across JoeUser. It is more of a blog community than a blog site. Syndication to other sites and to the forum system pretty much guarantee you decent readership and comments. In fact it is easy for me to get 3-4 thousand views a week. I love it there, and will continue to blog there. That is, as long as it continues to draw breath. JoeUser is a Stardock run site. Stardock also creates PC customization software, PC games and PC productivity software. To be honest, I think they are a great company and have sent them a lot of my money, I think their products are just that good. But they are a pretty small company who recently have had huge (and well earned) success with their newest PC game, Galactic Civilizations II. In fact, they have had so much success that they have had to shut down JoeUser on a number of occasions due to bandwidth and server capacity. Impressive traffic for an impressive game. However, it has left me without my blog for over a week and a half (in total) now. I need something else. So here I am Blogger. Good to meet you. Again.