Cake or pie?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Treading Water

I feel like I am treading water. It reminds me of the quote from Van Wilder: "Worrying is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn't get you anywhere." I try not to worry, and I'm not overwhelmed by my classes, I'm only taking physics and organic chemistry and the accompanying labs, but I can't wait to move on to the next step - which at this point would be studying for the MCAT. It still feels at times like I'm making very little progress in my goal of being a physician, but I realize it's a marathon, and not a sprint, so I am in it for the long haul, and I've run three marathons... so I feel like I'm capable of staying on track towards my goal.

I will probably start studying for the MCAT this spring and try to take it in May. I still have not decided if I want to apply for the entering class in 2011 or entering in 2012. It may be a better idea for me to wait a year to apply, that way I can work and try to save a little money during the application cycle. I realize I may end up having to reapply, and if I don't get accepted anywhere, I definitely will try to strengthen my application and reapply, but I think waiting a year, having more experience and a better application is better than blowing a lot of money on an unsuccessful application cycle.

My classes are going well. However, I cannot believe the class averages and curves that will be used for them. The class average on the last lecture exam in organic was 9/21 questions correct. Nine. The first exam's average was 12/21. Luckily I have been well above average both times, but still... is the class really that hard? Do my fellow classmates not understand the material, which would indicate either poor attendance, poor teaching, or lack of effort, or some combination of the three? Physics isn't much better... the averages on the exams have been in the low to mid-60's: 62 for the first exam and 66 for the second exam. If that gets normalized to a 75, which is going to be a C, as the professor said, then I should be in A territory since I was in the mid-upper 80s on both exams. That's the thing too about being a post-bac, whether you are traditional or non-traditional: getting As is expected and it's what you have to do if you want to give yourself the best chances of getting in somewhere.

What else is new. I got the Motorola Droid. It's my first smartphone. Before that I had a Motorola MotoRIZR z6tv. So far, I love my Droid. Why didn't I get a smartphone sooner? I find myself less tethered to the computer checking my e-mail when it gets pushed to my phone, which means I'm wasting less time on the internet and generally being more productive™. Yay!

Friday, October 30, 2009


I just saw on Facebook that some of my middle school classmates were proposing a middle school reunion! It sounds good in theory. Maybe I can draft a letter to feel out my fellow classmates from the early 90s. It would go something like this:

"Dear Middle School Classes of '93-'95,

I hope you are all well! Now more than ever it is time to reconnect with our former fellow students, and reminisce about all the wonderful memories we shared together in the early 90s. Some of the wonderful things we got to experience include:

  • annual measurement and marvel of Mr. H's ear and nose hair growth, one of the few truly old school 70 year old gym teachers who could still hack it with prepubescent 12-15 year olds! Remember how it seemed like his moustache grew out of his nose?
  • we all developed body odor together! Some of us figured out how to use deodorant, some of us did not, but I hope most of us have now for this reunion, because hey, it could end up in a crowded, hot bar, and no one wants to remember the smell of gym clothes.
  • speaking of gym clothes, if you can still wear your gym clothes, you are entitled to free drinks all night. Don't try to squeeze into them if you are grossly overweight or just way bigger than you were in middle school, no one wants to see muffin-top action.
  • making ambrosia in home ec? That shit was delicious! Much respect to Mrs. D., she looked like she stepped out of "Leave it to Beaver" but homegirl was on point with her 50s curls. She probably got up at 5 a.m. every morning to maintain it - see the sacrifices teachers made for us??
  • the gangly girl with the braces and bad hair? Remember her? Yeah, she's a model now... and a successful businesswoman. She remembers you, and if you were nice to her before she "got all hot." Hope you were nice, if you're a guy or girl. Rumor is, she plays for both teams.
  • the field trips! How fun was it to go to Philadelphia! How fun was it to go the Air & Space Museum for the 10th time? Am I right or am I right?

These, and many more memories are available for strolls down memory lane. Let's make this reunion happen, it will be sweet sweet nice! We will have drink specials, but in keeping with our middle school roots and remembrance, we will have a somewhat unorthodox system of ordering drinks. You must tell a friend that you think the drink is cute, and the bartenders will try to determine from your friend's description what drink you want and who you are. If the drink feels the same way, congratulations! Enjoy your time together, and don't worry about what other people say about you two - you were made for each other.

Come on down, details will be forthcoming, we are shooting for a reunion at the Four Seasons, but we may have to settle for Del Taco. I hope that will not be a problem for anyone. Do you want to come:

____ YES ____ NO



P.S. To sweeten the pot, some of our former teachers, some of whom still work at the school, will be attending if at least 50 people sign up. Has it been your lifelong dream to grind on Mrs. Y, the hot Spanish teacher? She's still hot. We can make it happen."

I smell success.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

MCM Recap - 34th Annual Marine Corps Marathon

Today was the 34th Annual Marine Corps Marathon. You could not have asked for a more perfect day to run on, humidity was relatively low, at the starting howitzer. Yeah, by the way they use a howitzer at the Marine Corps Marathon, not some lame starter’s pistol. Sen. Patrick Leahy from Vermont was there to say a few words before the start, which was the wheelchairs/handbikes at 7:50, with the rest of the field starting at 8:00.

I do not have a lot of gripes about the MCM. The organizational skills of the Marine Corps are second to none. It is marketed as the “People’s Marathon” and as such there are a lot of novice first-timers in the marathon. That is fine, everyone has to start somewhere; I started here in 2007. In fact, I’ve only run Marine Corps Marathons, in 2007, 2008, and today in 2009, so I don’t have a lot of basis to compare it against, outside of reading race reports from other races.

My main gripe, which is about something that I have noticed this year and last year, is a lot of people place themselves and start in improper corrals. I think one way around this is a wave start, and maybe that is something they should consider in the future. I like the openness of the corrals, and that you pick the one you feel is best for your pace, but either a) a lot of people have no clue how fast, or more likely how slow, they run or b) people try to run with friends when they have significant divergences in their training and ability. I am by no means a gazelle, I’m pretty much a standard middle of the pack runner, but it kind of sucks having to bob and weave around people after the first few miles because they started too fast. Everyone knows the first few miles kind of suck, and it takes some distance to get some separation in this massive chain of humanity that seems to collectively ebb and flow, speed up and slow down, in discrete segments at a time.

I think one of the biggest clues that someone is a first time marathoner is they do not check behind them before they dart over to the water tables, which happened more than a few times today, even once when someone went from the far left in the road to the far right to get Powerade or water. I thought the commonly accepted practice/etiquette is look behind you, and if necessary speed up or slow down to find an opening if you need to cross over.

I am not going to recap every mile of the race. I ran as a charity runner for the American Cancer Society. I packed some Sport Jellybeans into my shorts, a gel, and some Endurolytes.

Speaking of the Endurolytes, I had them in a ziplock bag in my shorts’ pocket, and over the course of running, the flimsy capsules seems to slip apart somewhat and release some of the powder. That wasn’t a big deal. What was funny though is that I was taking them every 45 minutes or so, and cramping was not an issue for me as much this year as it had been in the past. I still had some relatively minor cramps, and I realized that trying to walk it off did not work. It only seemed to make it worse. Continuing to run seemed to be a better option in alleviating the minor cramps that I had encountered today. Getting back to the Endurolytes, I was taking them every 45ish minutes, conveniently whenever there was a water stop, and the ziplock bag became more and more coated in the powder that was leaking out of the capsules. I wondered what I looked like to someone who did not know what they were – I realize most people focus on their body and their race, but if you see a guy pull a white baggie out that looks to be full of white powder, what do you think? Does he use blow as a pick-me-up instead of gels and the like? Hmmm…

The Awesome:

  • The Marines were awesome. Lots of 2LT, 1LT along the course along with an occasional captain that I noticed. I think it was mainly lieutenants handing out finisher medals.
  • Some of the participants are truly inspiring. Especially amputees/double amputees, some of whom are service members who were wounded in action, and they have the ability to get out and run 26.2 just like the rest of us. It goes to show you that life is really what you make of it, and you shouldn't let setbacks or obstacles, even as serious as losing a limb, hinder you in planning to meet your goals.
  • The day was beautiful, the scenery was and continues to be inspiring, the spectator support was incredible. Caveat - SEE: Hains Point, below.
  • One of the bands along the route began playing Everlong as I was running by, which happens to only be my favorite song ever! It’s not a particularly hard song to play on drums, once you get the hang of the constant 16th notes on a closed hi-hat.
  • Early on, I was running with the FLASH! Yes, the Scarlet Speedster ran the Marine Corps Marathon. If the “real” Flash ran the Marine Corps Marathon (if there were a “real” Flash), and if his top speed was the speed of light in a vacuum, or 299,792,458 m/s, we can convert that easily to figure out how long he would take to finish the MCM. A marathon is 26.2 miles, and 1 mile is roughly 1.609 km. 26.2 miles/marathon * 1.609 meters/mile (cancel out miles in nominator/denominator for meters/marathon) is approximately equal to 42 km, 42.16 km if we want to be a little more accurate. 42.16 km x 1000 m / km (cancel out km’s) is 42160 m. 42160 m / 299,792,458 m/s is 0.00014 s. Alternatively, the average blink takes about 0.3 or 0.4 s. So literally the Flash would be done before you could blink. Yay, science! And sorry, I’m taking physics. So anyway, what was the Flash doing with me in the middle of the pack at the 4 mile mark-ish, instead of kicking his feet up in Rosslyn at the Finish Festival with a cold one?
  • I think some spectator was dressed up as a Pokemon in Crystal City. WTF?
  • I know some spectators were dressed up as a bee and something else. Ehh?
  • I don’t feel that sore. I was walking normally after the marathon after getting my finisher’s photo and I definitely saw some people that were genuinely hurting and probably sore in places they didn’t know they had. I’ve been there.

Not so Awesome:

  • People in wrong corrals. See above.
  • Got a hot spot posterior to my big toe, anterior to the ball of my foot. Hot spot means you’re getting a blister. So I basically ran with a blister from miles 14-15 onward, and I think it slowed me down considerably. I just could not get comfortable with it.
  • Hains Point, as per usual, sucks. If ever there were a place to conserve energy this is it. Very few spectators, and even though it is nice and flat, the lack of spectators and lack of scenery, other than grass, an occasional public restroom hut, and planes taking off and landing at Reagan is dismal and depressing. People running this year and last were blessed in that Hains Point has been earlier than in the past – it used to be around miles 17/18 and is now around 13/14. Yay?
  • Got a PR, but was disappointed with my time – 4:41. Like I said, I’m a middle of the pack runner, but I think once everything comes together, i.e. my nutrition improves and I can get more quality miles and workouts, especially some speed work, I will do much better. So maybe that’s awesome, since I know I haven’t nearly reached my potential. I remember I’m hard on myself and I’ve only run three marathons and was never a runner growing up outside of conditioning for teams or being punished, i.e. more conditioning. I played baseball, I wrestled, I played football, and I was a cheerleader, not a runner.
  • I think my lips are sunburned.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Too Awesome Not to Share

Behold. If there weren't enough reasons to think Africa and South America are cool (especially if you're going to go there--preferably Africa--and do volunteer work before you cure cancer so you're a shoe-in to get into medical school), what makes them ever cooler is they combine to form a T-REX! Awesome.

Monday, October 19, 2009


I am trying to finish my lab report for tomorrow, it's about infrared spectroscopy. The lab report itself isn't hard, I have the rubric in front of me, so I know what is expected, and that isn't what's irritating me. I have gotten two calls within the past week from strangers.

Normally, I like interacting with strangers and meeting new people. However, both of these strangers were calling about a part-time "business opportunity" and asking if I wanted to make a little extra money. They both got my contact info through people I'm friends with on Facebook that I know from high school. Maybe I'm stupid for putting my cell-phone number on my profile, but I felt like with my privacy settings, only my friends can see my info, so it was no big deal.

Buuut, I guess my "friends" are giving out my info for other purposes. I'm more than a little leery of friends who do this without asking first. It is probably the type of "business opportunity" that means they get more money for referring people into the business. I don't have the time or interest in anything that sounds remotely pyramid scheme-ish, so I politely told the callers I was not interested, they thanked me for my time, and I removed one of the friends and blocked them. Why do people do this?? I think it's similar to not asking someone to be a reference for you and having them be blindsided with a phone call later. It's one thing if they mention it to me, but both didn't beforehand, so I didn't know it was coming. WTF?

Maybe I am getting all bent out of shape over nothing? It probably doesn't help that I am a little sore from my last long run this week before the marathon, mainly in my calves, and that I am actually doing schoolwork when this last guy called about fifteen minutes ago. I'm definitely going to ask the friend I haven't blocked what the deal is, or maybe I should just take all contact info off my FB. Ehhh... exhale.

Oh yeah, donate if you can. The marathon is in SIX short days and I'm still short of my fundraising goal!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Injuries happen with marathon training. It's a fact of life for some people. Luckily, and let me knock on wood here for a second, I have been fortunate to dodge most of the common runner ailments. I think the biggest reason I haven't been affected is that I'm a biomechanically efficient runner. I do not supinate or overpronate, my pronation is normal so my gait is neutral. That definitely helps avoid injury, but that isn't exactly the best advice since everyone's anatomy and gait vary. The most frequent runner injuries I have heard of or seen are:

1) plantar fasciitis - inflammation of the plantar fascia that runs from the heel to the forefoot, and a common overuse injury. I think I've had a mild case of it, but it hasn't bothered me lately, when it did bother me at first, I did some exercises like scrunching up a towel with my toes, and running the arch/sole of my foot over a tennis ball. The pain I had wasn't excruciating, and more directly posterior to the ball of my foot on the medial side, not under/around my heel like it commonly presents (or so I've heard).

2) shin splints - no experience with these. I guess I have tibialis anteriors of steel. You can see how they could be prone to be injured though since they can bear a pretty big load during dorsiflexion, and some people are more predisposed to these as well, but I haven't read up on why.

3) patellar tendinitis - I see and know a bunch of people that run with the bands around the knees to help with this. Again, I feel lucky to have avoided it. It's an inflammation of the patellar tendon that connects the patella (kneecap) with the tibia (shinbone). It's more common in activities that involve jumping, and is sometimes called jumper's knee - basketball, volleyball, some track events, but happens a lot in runners as well.

4) iliotibial band syndrome - I have no experience with this either, but it caused my brother-in-law a lot of pain when he had it a few years ago prior to the first Marine Corps Marathon I ran in 2007. He was going to run it as well, but the pain was too much and made running too difficult. The iliotibial band stabilizes the knee during movement, for example as the knee is flexed and extended repeatedly during running. It runs from the outside of the hip to the inside and just below of the knee, and commonly causes lateral knee pain in runners, but can cause pain throughout the tract wherever it is inflamed.

Muscle strain/fatigue is about the worst "injury" I have had over the past three years that I've been running, but that happens with any weight-bearing activity, especially distance running. The worst is quad fatigue after long runs when you have to go down stairs sideways, unless you feel like crumbling/buckling your knees sounds like an awesome idea, because you're wearing Bad Idea Jeans™­­. This week someone told me, "Running marathons is the worst thing you can do to your body."

I said, "I'm pretty sure smoking is worse for you than running."

Bottom line: my advice regarding injuries is to listen to your body. If you tweak something, you know yourself best. If it's something you can deal with and continue your workouts without it worsening, then try to keep moving forward. If it's something you can't deal with, get it checked out and hopefully have a speedy recovery.

My last bit of advice: it's fine to take a day off from time to time. You won't sabotage your training by missing a day if you aren't feeling it--physically or psychologically.

I'm crossing my fingers, cutting back my mileage and enjoying my taper. There's only 12 days until the Marine Corps Marathon! I'm still accepting donations but additionally will take any moral support or encouragement as well!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

34th Marine Corps Marathon!

Believe in me.

I promised some big news, here it is: I'm running a marathon, and not just any marathon, the Marine Corps Marathon, for the third time. The first two times, I ran for charity - for the American Cancer Society both years. I've blogged about running occasionally, and here is some nutshelling: I was never a runner, I played baseball, I cheered, running was for conditioning or punishment. Is it odd I've never run a 5K but I have run two marathons now? I guess I would just rather be a marathon man. (rimshot goes here). The main thing you need to run is a good pair of shoes, and you just need to replace them every 300-500 miles. Your mileage may vary, literally, depending on the surface you run on, your biomechanics, and your build.

I took up running after my mom passed due to breast cancer. I wanted to do something to change my life for the better, and I didn't want to succumb to the effects of the typical office drone lifestyle of a ballooning waistline and the associated medical issues that go along with it. So I thought, "Well, I could ride a bike." Bikes are expensive. You need a helmet. More importantly, you need a bike. You may end up wearing spandex. You probably need to switch out the stock saddle that comes on the bike, because they're usually pretty stiff. Some of them are so stiff I think the model name is the "Violator."

Anyway, I decided I would run. I heard about the concept of Charity Running and decided to look into being a charity runner. My mom passed in March 2007, and sometime around early May after my birthday, after some introspection, I decided to run the Marine Corps Marathon, as a charity runner for the American Cancer Society. The MCM had a lot of things going for it: I'm a Northern Virginia native, so it was local, starting in Arlington and taking a scenic route through Washington, D.C., including the Palisades, Hains Point and the National Mall, it is relatively flat, and it is pretty newbie-friendly, having the nickname "the People's Marathon." Plus, it's run and supported by the Marine Corps. You think they're going to drop the ball on running a great race? I don't think so. On top of that, the finish is up a slight hill (okay, it isn't slight, but after running 26 miles and change you aren't going to stop because of it), but the vista is inspiring - the Iwo Jima Memorial is at the finish, formally known as the Marine Corps War Memorial, seen below.

When you finish, a Marine places a finisher's medal around your neck, congratulates you and hands you a space blanket (the silvery mylar blanket to keep warm), and directs you to where the water and massages are going down. You can also get a coin, which is a big military tradition (as seen here: Challenge Coin).

I've enjoyed my experiences as a charity runner. I am looking for donations. The following is a link to donate, and I will update more in the very near future. In the interest of full disclosure, I am obligated to raise $1000 by November 25, which gives me a month after race day, which is October 25, aka 18 days from now, or I am on the hook for the remainder of the amount. It is a worthwhile cause - you can read my participant page, I wrote the top part but once you start seeing bold text, it's straight template from the American Cancer Society. I think it is when you see "can make a difference" like twice - I wrote the first one, then somewhat to my chagrin, noticed they use the same phrase directly after that, in boldface no less. Maybe I subconsciously wrote it, who knows? So please, help me out if you can - every dollar makes a difference.

If you don't, I'm going to pull a Matt Damon. Just kidding. That's probably funny only if you saw the season finale of Entourage. I appreciate your support, as cancer is very personal to me and it is to a lot of people. Thanks!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Results Are In!

We got the results of the first organic chemistry exam on Thursday. The exam was 20-ish questions, as I said earlier. The professor waited until the end of the class to announce the exams had been graded, which, in hindsight, is a really smart move on his part, because if you hand them out at the beginning of class, then a lot of people will want to:

A) leave lecture since OMG it's Thursday and the weather's nice OR
B) go over the exam with a fine-tooth comb and not pay attention to the lecture.

I was fine with him withholding until the end, but I know some people can't wait to see how they did. I used to be a pretty impatient person, but I guess I have just mellowed out as I'm in the downward slope of the back end of my 20's. The class average was a 60%. That was far better than I had expected. Everyone has heard the stories about how it's a weed out class, the exams are so difficult, the class average on exams can be in the 40s/50s and everything gets scaled to make the class average a 75, and funny enough only about 2/3 of the section showed up for class.

The professor noticed it too, as usually in our lecture hall when everyone shows up we're seated shoulder to shoulder in the auditorium, and aside from the first 3-5 rows packed with the gunners, there were a lot of empty seats. He said, "It looks like 1/3 of us have already given up hope!" I don't sit with the gunners by the way, I don't think I will ever have that mentality. I obviously want to do well, but I sit in the middle 1/3 of the auditorium with the other people who are not high-strung.

So long story short, class average is 60, meaning 60=75. He explained there was a number on the second page of the exam that would have our raw score, meaning, how many we answered correctly out of the 20-ish questions. With the class average being 60, that worked out to 12 or 13 right. I got 18 right, for an 87 (without the curve). With the curve, I guess my grade for the exam is 102. Yippee! Exhale.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Most Likely To...

My high school was relatively large. My graduating class had over 600 seniors walking, and a bunch who were not walking. I didn't win any senior superlatives, you know, like "Best Dressed" or "Best Smile" or "Most Likely to Succeed." I could tell you one I would have won, hands-down, had it been offered and voted upon.

Most Likely To Be Walking Around With Fly Down.

I catch myself like this a lot. I don't know what it says about me. Am I absent-minded? Am I in such a hurry, go go go all the time, that after urinating I rush to wash my hands and gtfo of the bathroom? I don't think other people notice nearly as often as I do, or at least I don't consciously check OTHER people to see if they left their fly down. Maybe that is a good thing?

The sad part about it is that a lot of the time I have no idea how long it's been down. Did I pull my pants/shorts on that morning while getting dressed and completely forget, or was it just after the last trip to the bathroom?

In unrelated news, I had my first organic chemistry exam yesterday, and my first physics exam this morning. I felt pretty good about organic chemistry but there were a little over 20 questions, so there isn't a lot of a margin for error. You figure you miss 2-3 and you're already in B territory if there is no curve, BUUUUUUT....

Apparently there is a huge curve in the class. This professor's exams are multiple choice, but known to have class averages in the 40s. Is organic chemistry like this everywhere?? Like I said, I felt good about the exam, out of the 20ish questions, 7-8 I knew cold without having to draw out a structure or really take a close look at, but I did anyway. These were questions like, "What's the name of this?" (insert picture of some bicyclohexane), or "Put in the correct order of base strength" (easy enough, think about the conjugate acids, position on periodic table, electronegativity, inductive effect, etc). Then there were other questions that you had to draw out (which one is NOT a resonance structure of x, etc.). Overall, though, I think I did well. I should find out tomorrow or next week, and I'm going to call my Dad and tell him, because he asked, and because he wants me to do well.

The physics exam was problem-based, just a handful of multi-part problems on kinematics in 1-2 dimensions including velocity, acceleration and vectors of course. There was no formula sheet, so of course I'm scribbling the formulas I remember on the scratch paper, like v = v(sub)0 + at, v^2 = v(sub)0^2 +2a(x-x0), x = x(sub)0 + v(sub)0t + 1/2at^2. If you have done a lot of practice problems though, all of the problems tend to look alike after a while in that you identify the knowns, and the unknown, or "the-big-bad-they're-asking-for." I think the professor said the grades would be posted Friday sometime, so we'll see how I did.

Big news coming soon-ish.

Monday, September 21, 2009


I haven't given much thought to what specialty(ies?) I am most interested in at this point. I know some pre-meds, both traditional and non-traditional, are gung ho about a particular field. One of my lab partners in the second half of general chemistry last year was gung ho about obstetrics & gynecology. She talked a lot about shadowing in L&D and seeing some really bad lacs. I wonder if she told her boyfriend all about it. He probably loved hearing about it.

For me, I'd like to think I'm being open-minded about specialty choice. Besides, it's kind of a moot point until I am an actual medical student, and I start getting exposure to the specialties, especially in the clinical years. There are certain stereotypes for most of the specialties, but I am sure there are exceptions to them as well. I don't mean to say I don't care what kind of doctor I become, I do care. I am pretty interested in the different surgical specialties. However, the fact that I'm 29 now, but a "young" and unattached 29 (I have a lot of energy, stay fit and I'm not married & I have no kids) and most likely 31 or 32 when I matriculate if everything goes as planned, that the length of residency may be a factor as far as what specialty I pick to pursue in the match. If I graduate around 35 or 36, I don't know if I'm really going to want to do say five years of general surgery (and potentially fellowship on top of that), you know? That won't be the only deciding factor.. if not much changes at that point, the main things being my chronological age and my education of course, then I may still be looking at surgical specialties. If I'm married at that point, plans may change. It's good to have a plan but life often throws you curveballs. I think without a plan at all though, you're essentially like a ship without a sail and you drift to wherever the currents take you. So I have some semblance of a plan. :)

I know there is a 130-ish question test on the University of Virginia medical school's website somewhere that ranks the specialties based on your response to questions, like "I tend to ...." with the answers being "Agree" through to "Disagree" with "Neutral" in the middle on the scale (5 options to pick from total). I think I started taking it before but I didn't finish because something shiny distracted me. Maybe I'd be good in emergency medicine? Totally kidding. I read a lot of different blogs and there are definitely some ED attendings' blogs in there.

I dated an ob/gyn resident a year or so ago, and when I told her I was going to do the postbac thing, it became a game where she would guess what she saw as my specialty. I think the most common ones she guessed were emergency, ortho, and general surgery. She said I didn't "seem like" an internist. Whatever that means.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Root Canal'd

My first, and hopefully last, root canal was this morning. I was a little late getting up to the dentist's office, and I hate being late but the traffic in Northern Virginia is truly unpredictable. I love Northern Virginia & the Washington D.C. metropolitan area, but the traffic is both unpredictable AND horrible most of the time. My appointment was at 8 a.m. and I left my house at a quarter to 7, which theoretically should have given me plenty of time to get to the dental office, considering that's one hour and fifteen minutes to cover a little over 20 miles. Guess what... I was a half hour late thanks to a crash further up I-395 near the 14th Street Bridge, further up from where I had to go.

Moving right along, I get to the dentist's office and the dentist numbs me up with the good stuff, not sure what, other than it wasn't Novocaine since he said it's "faster acting than Novocaine" and then gave a Novocaine shot after that. Soon enough, that side of my face was numb, from just under the orbital bone of the eye down to my mandible and the midline of my chin. Wow, okay, that really is the "good stuff." He left to check on a different patient and the assistant put the rubber dental dam in place around the affected molar. I'm not going to play-by-play the entire procedure, if you are curious look up "root canal therapy" at Google, but suffice to say, it got done. Honestly, the worst part of the entire procedure was I drank waaay too much water this morning before leaving the house and I had to pee so bad the entire time I was in the chair, which was around two hours. I was hoping I didn't fall asleep in the chair because if I did, I totally would have woken up with wood, and you really wanted to know that. Right?

Root canals aren't so bad after all. However, with that being said, I hope this is my last one. :)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Second Impressions, Root Canal Yikes!

The second week of classes is over. Due to the Labor Day holiday, my organic lab didn't meet. Our first meeting is this week, which means I should probably do the reading and pre-lab sometime tonight or tomorrow. I do a fair amount of practice problems, if a fair amount equals I see myself running through reams of paper. I'm sorry, forests! I'm sure there is a direct correlation between your grade in organic chemistry and physics, as it is with most math and physical sciences/chemistry classes, and the amount of paper you expend doing practice problems. I do the textbook problems for organic, plus I use the Klein book, which is excellent. I'm going to e-mail him sometime this semester and tell him how much he rocks at explaining stuff.

Physics is going well. The recitation is interesting, and we get to see any problems we have difficulty with solved by the instructor. She is very good at explaining things, but so far it isn't that difficult - we are only doing kinematics in 1 or 2 dimensions, non-rotating. Basically it is a lot of velocity, acceleration, time, etc. Some problems give velocity and time and you have to find the acceleration, but there are about four equations we use and depending on the given quantities, you pick which one is appropriate, and they recommend drawing a picture. The instructor for recitation is also good about posting grades on Blackboard pretty quickly. Each meeting is worth 20 points (10 for attending the entire time, 10 for a quiz and up to +3 for participation, good explanations or good questions, but can't exceed 20 points in a given meeting). I got a 19 for the first meeting, so I assume I got 9 points on the quiz. I probably got points off for taking shortcuts, not including units or using the wrong amount of significant figures. I guess the important thing is I know how to do the problems but I need to include everything they will be looking for to show my process in getting to the answer. I will have to see what I did.

Tomorrow, I am having a root canal at 8 a.m. sharp. I swear my dental hygiene the past few years has been as good as a dentist's kid's, but I admit for a long time I did not floss regularly, but I did brush and use mouthwash. What that lead to was that I had an inlay done on one of my back molars a year or two ago, and recently developed an abscess on the gum underneath it. After calling my dentist, but speaking to the office manager/scheduler, she said the dentist had looked at the panoramic x-rays from my last cleaning a few weeks ago and thinks I will need a root canal. He called it a prescription for Pen VK for me, so I have to take 500 mg tabs every 6 hours, for 10 days. It kind of sucks not being able to sleep for more than 6 hours since I don't want to miss a dose, but the abscess has grown smaller. The office manager said the worst-case scenario was that they would need to do a root canal, which we went ahead and scheduled, and then crown it. I get a 15% discount since I'm a cash patient, since I have no major restorative dental insurance, just 2/year cleanings and oral exams, so the root canal, if it needs to be done, will be a little under $1k. The post-fill and crown would be an additional $1500ish. I hate the D.C. area sometimes, but I'm sure some other areas have higher dental costs.

I complained about the $2500 quote, considering he hadn't mentioned the possibility of needing a root canal at my last cleaning when the panoramic x-rays were taken. She talked to the dentist and they agreed to drill through the inlay and try to put a filling in its place post-root canal.

I've never had a root canal. Should I be scared? :(

The finale of True Blood is tonight. I admit it, I watch it. I watched the first season and I've read all the books too, my sister got me hooked on them. It's interesting to see how Alan Ball adapts the books into the series, I think he has made some great choices so far (sparing Lafayette, turning Tara from an olive-skinned white woman into a black woman, and a few others). Maybe I'll do the organic lab stuff after True Blood, if I don't watch Hung. Remember, it's not TV... it's HBO­™.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

First Impression: Organic Chemistry

Today I had my first lecture in organic chemistry and first meeting of the organic chemistry lab. The professor in the lecture seems like a pretty laid-back guy, he was wearing Asics running shoes with his khakis and blazer so he already gets a thumbs-up from me. I'm an Asics kind of guy. I like that their name is derived from the Latin expression "Anima sana in corpore sano" which means "A sound spirit in a sound body." The original quote from Juvenal was "Mens sana in corpore sano" which means "A sound mind in a sound body" but I guess ASICS sounds better than MSICS. High school Latin rears its ugly head again, sorry. Alea iacta est. Sorry, I think it's out of my system now! I'm sorry for the diversion, let's get back to organic.

Unlike the physics professor in our 50 minute class yesterday, the organic professor went over the syllabus in about 10 minutes, leaving most of the hour and fifteen minute lecture to actually lecture. He made a few introductory comments about organic.. it is the chemistry of carbon, and then went into depth in the language of organic and the myriad ways with which to depict the molecules we will study, some of which was review, like Lewis dot structures, but also dash line models (wedge represents the plane heading towards the viewer from the paper, dashed line represents plane heading away from the viewer). We started off with something simple, which was this:

Yes, it's good old methane, CH4. There are a bunch of ways to depict methane, including the 3D ball/stick model above, and we drew it a bunch of different ways, talked about nodal planes, lobes and phases, and how phases are depicted by + or - signs, which he admitted can be confusing, since they don't indicate a positive or negative charge.

Then we talked about line drawings like /\ could represent propane and it's assumed that each angle and each endpoint of the line represents a carbon atom and the hydrogens to fill its orbitals. We talked a LOT about atomic orbitals and molecular orbitals near the end of class. We also hit structural isomers very briefly near the end, talking about the line drawings, which seem to me like the easiest shorthand to use in organic chemistry. Then we talked about propane and specifically how this:

is not propane. You always have to assume the endpoints of lines are occupied by C's (carbons) he said, with the hydrogen necessary to fill out the rest of the orbitals present as well. So instead of the above being propane, this has a longest chain of 5 carbons, making it a pentane, with methyl groups at the 2,2 positions, 3,3 positions, and 4,4 positions (six methyl groups total) making it 2,2,3,3,4,4-hexamethylpentane. At least I'm not confused. Yet. Yay!

The lab was pretty straightfoward in that we did not do anything substantive. Our instructor introduced herself, she's originally from somewhere overseas (I know where she's from, I was paying attention, but forgive me for being intentionally vague), but has been in the US for over thirty years, and says when she gets excited she can be hard to understand so if that happens, we are to tell her to slow down. Next, we went around, everyone introducing themselves with their name, major, and something interesting about them. I just said I graduated years ago, I'm a post-bac. Not so interesting. In my lab section there are a few other pre-meds and a lot of sophomores and juniors. In addition the interestingness included a guy that has played the guitar for several years, a Redskins fan, an expert diaper changer and a girl that loves to dance. Gotta love those icebreakers!

We had check-in for our drawers, signed that everything was present even though no one really checked, student, lab instructor or even the director of the labs. I guess if something is missing at the end of the semester we're screwed. Oh well. The last thing we did after turning in our paperwork (sheet confirming we've already taken the organic chemistry I lecture somewhere or are currently enrolled in it, lab rules/safety sheet agreement, and combination personal info/emergency contact and medical Hx sheet), we watched a dated safety video that looked like it was produced in the mid-90s. I know at least a few people in the lab, one that I worked with in my genchem II lab, and he was a smart, dependable partner, which is always a plus. I don't get anxious about who I get paired up with, but it just sucks so hard when your lab partner does not know what they're doing or how to do the simplest of calculations (even in Excel!), which happened to me last year a few times. This one girl in question, one time she sent me a text wanting to compare my lab report to hers and WE HAD NOT WORKED TOGETHER! I hate being passive aggressive, but even so, I just ignored her text, thinking to myself, "Yes, why don't you 'compare' your nonexistent lab report to mine. That sounds great!"

Monday, August 31, 2009

First Impression: Physics

Physics seems interesting. I had my first class meeting for the lecture this morning, my recitation and lab meet on Wednesday, since I figured I would schedule them both on the same day and knock them out in one shot. The expectations don't seem unreasonable, there are 8 multi-part exams (multiple choice and problem-based where you have the problem and have to run through, show your work to the solutions). 2/8 of the exams will be dropped. That doesn't seem so bad but I swear my first time in undergrad it was rare for a professor to drop exam grades or even let you make it up. I still stand by my assertion that today's students are pretty coddled, or maybe professors are just more accommodating to students' needs now more than they were "back in the day."

The physics professors is a hoot. Yes, I said hoot. After we got through the administrivia of the class, and he broke out the powerpoint slides for chapter 1, the first slide said "What is physics?" at the top, and he said he didn't know. So he looked it up on Wikipedia (nice joke) before hitting enter and letting the next bit of the slide materialize. We didn't get that far since most of the first 50-minute session was spent going over the syllabus and expectations, along with a stern admonition not to be Twittering during class (tweeting?).

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sunday Long Run, August 30, 2009

Today I ran 16 miles in a little over 137 minutes, which... carry the 1... is a little over 8 min 30 second miles. The marathon itself is 26.2(ish) miles, and I've run two now. I am progressively getting faster, which is cool, and easily explainable. The first year I ran the Marine Corps Marathon, I was a little under-trained. I had done a fair amount of long runs, but never longer than 18 miles, but no speedwork and no tempo runs. I think my sheer stubbornness, despite the cramps, got me to the finish. In my experience, stubbornness can be a huge asset or a huge problem. On one hand, I think stubbornness can spring out of self-confidence and persistence, but on the other hand it can spring out of ignorance, i.e. you don't know what you're getting yourself into but keep on going anyway, despite conflicting evidence. I think the first year I ran it, it was more of the latter, and last year, it was the former. It's such a cliché, but experience really is the best teacher. Last year, I was a little better trained, and the stubbornness plus better (or smarter) training got me to the finish on a roughly similar course layout 25 minutes faster.

Realistically, I am looking at at least another 25 minute drop this year, but possibly DOUBLE that. Last year I ran a 4:56, but I am taking the training more seriously this year and also eating much much better. When I ate like crap the first two years, I felt pretty bad the days after my long runs, which was confusing at first. I wondered why I was sore when I wasn't shocking my system with much much longer runs than I had previously done. I had progressively and gradually increased my mileage, but my running economy had not improved much due to the lack of speedwork and tempo runs. During my long runs I had done a good job (I thought) of staying hydrated with water and getting some calories on-the-run, I tried pretzels for the salt at first. Have you ever tried to eat pretzels while you are running? Let me just say that I could easily understand that President Bush pretzel fiasco if he had been doing laps around the Oval Office. They were too dry. I switched to kid's fruit snacks - the theme ones like Scooby Doo, Spider-Man, Batman, etc., and eventually gels. Now I use jelly beans on long runs, and they're awesome.

The long runs I have done getting ready for this year's Marine Corps Marathon, which is on October 25th, have been faster than I have previously run and I feel fine the next day.

I'll let you know how I feel tomorrow!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Time Flies

If anyone is actually reading this, I apologize for the lack of updates! The fall semester is about to begin, I'm taking just two classes - Organic Chemistry and Physics, for a grand total of 9 hours. Everyone tells me Organic Chemistry is a weed out class, i.e. it's difficult, takes a lot of time... and so on. The physics I'm taking is an algebra-based physics, since I haven't had calculus in quite a while and that class seems more oriented towards the engineer-types.

You make the time in your life for whatever you think is important. I think it's important for me to do well in organic, so I will take the time and study and do practice problems for it so that I can keep up with it every day. I read ratings of my school's professors on RateMyProfessors, and from reading some of the ratings it's almost like you can tell what people don't want to take personal responsibility for their performance in a class and want to blame a professor that teaches a difficult subject, such as organic chemistry. Now I know that some professors make themselves more available to students, love to teach, and have an easier time connecting with students and making the subject matter interesting and relevant, while others would rather avoid students and be doing research. When the ratings vary so dramatically on certain professors though, it's almost comical to read the reviews and I also wonder just how big of a problem grade inflation poses, especially to me as a non-traditional student. It seems like today's college students want to earn all A's but they don't want to work for it.

Newsflash: "C" is average. If you are an average student, you'll get a C. B's and A's are reserved for good and excellent students.

The real world doesn't just hand you things because you think you deserve them. The sooner you learn that lesson, that you learn you have to work for what you want, work to accomplish your goals, the better off you will be in the future. Take it from me, I was not the world's greatest student my first trip through undergrad and I have the record to prove it. There aren't any shortcuts to success (aside from being well-connected or a trust-fund baby). Most of us that reach success or will reach it is through the sweat on our brow and our hard work towards what we find important. Keep your head down and let your work speak for you.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Two Years Later

Two years ago, on March 17, 2007, my mom died. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999, and after a harsh round of chemotherapy, she was in remission for a year until 2001, when the cancer metastasized to her liver, lungs, and bones. She lived with a serious enough cancer that has a five-year survival rate of 5% for eight years, so she beat the odds just living into 2007. Knowing what I know now, about "the science" and the immune and lymphatic systems, the human body, anatomy, and physiology, granted that I have only had two semesters of it, does not make the loss any less significant.

The first year was pretty easy. I was mostly numb but realized there was a gaping hole in my life. If you knew my mom, she was the person that was always putting others before herself, finding any excuse to send a greeting card to someone, whether they were celebrating a birthday, an anniversary, some other happy occasion, or a get-better-soon card to aid someone in their convalescence from serious illness or surgery, etc. She was the person to take up the cause of people who needed help, including others with cancer, or survivors, and offer support and encouragement, or just share her story and try to comfort others. I wonder if the fact that she was a chronic worrier and probably stressed a lot about things she couldn't control contributed to her cancer and the fact it came back. I wonder if the surgeon didn't get a clear margin in the original biopsy or lumpectomy, didn't biopsy the right lymph nodes, or if he just didn't do the best possible job he could have done. I'm not stressed or worried about the past, while I am my mother's son and I have many of her attributes, I am definitely not a chronic worrier or stress out about things with which I can have no meaningful impact.

This second year without my mom has been more difficult. I have kept busy, but the numbness wore off, and I can't pinpoint the day, but it was as if a sudden realization washed over me that I would never get to talk to her again, to laugh with her, to share my tears and triumphs, to share my life with her. I could always be myself with my mom, completely open, vulnerable, and not worry about being judged. That isn't to say I'm not myself with other people, but you know as well as I do, that we're all a little more guarded when we're around people who aren't either A) close family or B) tight-knit friends. The shields come up when we're in mixed company, and it seems like it has to be that way, not because we are afraid of offending someone but because it's expected. I'm rambling. I was, and continue to be, a good son.

My dad remarried this past summer, to a wonderful woman. I am the youngest of three kids, with two older sisters, and we realized that it would be good for Dad to have a new woman in his life, and that if left to his own devices, his health would probably suffer, considering he is diabetic. My Dad is home now, and two years ago, he lost the love of his life. Dad, my sisters and I went to Mom's grave this evening to visit, along with one sister's husband and two young sons (3 years old and almost 4 months old). Dad admitted that he's thought a lot about Mom over the past year especially, and while he didn't say it outright, the sentiment was clearly there that he really misses her, even though they didn't have the perfect Ozzie and Harriet marriage. But honestly, who does?

The funny thing is my youngest nephew, the nearly-four-month-old, was laying in his car seat by Mom's grave marker, and I told him, "I'm sorry you didn't get to meet your Grandma, she would have loved you so much."

He smiled at me, and somewhere, I think Mom was smiling back.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Eastbound & Down

I just watched the series premiere of Eastbound & Down, a new series on HBO starring Danny McBride, who was in Tropic Thunder, where he played Cody, the demolitions/pyro guy on the set, and Pineapple Express, where he played Red (and had that sweet sweet fight scene with Seth Rogen and James Franco), and the awesome Foot Fist Way.

McBride plays a down and out pitcher, who broke into the bigs with Atlanta, and the montage had him end up a journeyman in Seattle, and he lost a lot of pop, or velocity, off his fastball when he was off steroids (high 80s off steroids versus "101" on steroids in the stock radar gun shot). So the show opens with him back in his hometown (not sure where, but apparently they filmed in Wilmington, NC... I've been there, lovely town), and he has to have a job so he can have his wages garnished, so he takes a job as a substitute teacher at a middle school where an ex-girlfriend teaches (and is engaged to the yoga practitioner, nice guy principal), and is living at his older brother's house with his brother, brother's wife, and brother's kids (and his jetski). The premiere sets up a lot of nice tension and opportunities for conflict, and it seems like a pretty ripe setting for comedy, and I can't wait for more episodes. I love his catch-phrase, I guess he closed out a World Series-winning game as a rookie, and after striking out the final batter with a full count and the bases loaded, he yells "You're fucking out!" and throws up two middle finger salutes, and later in the montage in his career, at first the crowd yells with him when he accomplishes great things pitching, and finally they turn on him, yelling it against him at his final appearance pitching for Seattle.

I pitched in middle school and high school, along with playing pretty much every other position other than C & 1B. I can only imagine the reaction I would have gotten in 7th grade, after striking out a batter and yelling "You're fucking out!" at him. If I have a son, maybe I can get him to do it? Just kidding. One thing I loved about pitching is the game is literally in your hands. I'm not a control freak, but I liked being able to dictate the pace of the game, and I was a pretty accurate pitcher with decent velocity. I realized pretty quickly though that I didn't have what it takes to make it past maybe Div II ball in college so I focused my time and energy elsewhere.

Getting back to the show, I liked it a lot. I'm not one of the people that think the Apatow gang or Will Ferrell can do no wrong, and that includes Danny McBride, but I've yet to see him in something where he didn't give a great performance (other than he has bad mechanics for being a major league pitcher in Eastbound & Down). He looks like more of a slinger than a talented pitcher as far as his mechanics look. I know this isn't everyone's cup of tea, but I liked it a lot.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


On Tuesday morning early, it started to snow, like maybe around 5 or 6 a.m. Snow is pretty awesome usually. I have class on Tuesdays from 7:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m., two lectures followed by two labs. At the end of my second lab, someone mentions, "Oh yeah, by the way, evening classes are canceled." Awesome, I'm so glad the university came to that decision AFTER my full day of classes.

The roads iced over pretty bad though, and classes today were canceled until noon, other than the law school's classes. I thought that was pretty unfortunate, today was the first meeting for my microbiology lab, which I was really looking forward to. On Tuesday, I realized my chemistry lab professor is awesome. He has a good sense of humor, but is also no-nonsense about lab safety. He is a stickler for the rules and from what I've heard, he's definitely kicked people out of labs before in the past, and he told a story about a girl who was taking a quiz in the class, leaning over the lab bench in front of her, and her hair wasn't up, it fell down and rested on the bench. Smart quiz-girl then proceeded to take her hair, which previously had been laying on said lab bench, and thread it into her mouth and chewed/sucked on it. I'm sure everyone has seen this done before. Anyway, he was shocked by it.. he didn't kick her out of the lab, but he asked, "Do you know what's been on that lab bench??" She said, "No..." and he said "Yeah me neither! But whatever chemicals used in the experiments in the lab you've now ingested." Whoops. Remind me to tie my hair back if I ever grow it out. Thanks.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


Well, my first week of classes is finished. Due to the inauguration, most of my labs were canceled, or didn't meet since Tuesday classes were canceled. Previously, I think I had mentioned that the classes I'm taking this semester are the second half of Anatomy & Physiology, General Chemistry II, Microbiology and Animal Biology. All of the lectures have met other than General Chemistry, but I am taking the same professor for it that I took for Gen Chem I, so there are no surprises there. I know what to expect when it comes to him.

My honest appraisal is that I like all of my professors and the one TA I have had so far. My animal biology lecturer is very straight-forward with his expectations, and very internet-savvy and connected. Responsiveness is always something that I appreciate from a professor. I know they may have 200 students per section of some courses, but I honestly like it more when they say "Don't call me, either e-mail me or stop by my office hours." Maybe that's just me?

The one lab I have that met was for animal biology, and the main thing we covered was taxonomy and getting reacquainted with microscopy... in this case it was microscopy of red blood cells of different animals. We did a blood count for leukocytes, which BTW was not a complete blood count or "CBC" by any means, we were told to count and classify the leukocytes until we hit 100 to make it easy to calculate the percentage present of each of the types, i.e. neutrophils, eosinophils, basophils, lymphocytes and monocytes. My method was just scanning the slide from left to right, top to bottom until I hit 100, and my percentage observed seemed to be pretty close to what's expected.. which is always good, I suppose. I definitely noticed that the majority of the leukocytes present were neutrophils, over 60%. We were also given about twenty animals and one plant to write down the complete nomenclature from kingdom to species, and then organize them in a chart.

One of the questions in the lab manual asked which two species were more similar - human and a particular bat or a particular fish and the great white shark. It turns out the human and the bat are more similar due to both being in the Mammalia class. One funny thing was that the lab I signed up for meets right after the lecture on Thursdays, so when our lab TA was asking us questions, we were all primed with the right answers from the lecture, i.e. she would ask something like "Who came up with the current system of nomenclature used to classify organisms?" and the 1/2 the lab section said "Linnaeus. Next!" Just kidding about the next.

The other interesting thing about my animal bio lab section is that at my lab bench, 3/4 of us already have our degrees and came back to school for something else. Next to me, is the 1/4 who is an undergrad pre-med biology major. Across from me are two pre-dents, one a woman with a degree in business, a husband and children, and the other with a degree in English. I guess my table is the non-trad friendly one, all though there is another non-trad in the section at a different bench, I guess she didn't sit with us because we were all filled up by the time she strolled in. This is kind of an aside, but it doesn't seem odd to me that we tend to seek each other out, especially in the labs I've been in. My lab partner for general chemistry last semester was a non-trad pre-med like me, with a master's in statistics and she was 30.

My microbiology class looks very interesting to me. The professor is a virologist by training. We didn't cover much other than the rules of the road in the first meeting on Wednesday, but on Friday we got into the methods of how microbiota are named, by their shape (coccus/cocci, etc.) and arrangement. I learned a fun fact, "staphylo" originally comes from the Greek and means a cluster of grapes, so now we know why Staphylococcus aureus gets its name, the organism is spherical and arranged in an irregular clump like a cluster of grapes. The only thing that sucked on Friday is "The Hills" sat in front of me - three girls that talked the entire time, like they were giving a running commentary and I wasn't eavesdropping but I could tell it had nothing to do with the class. I actually care about the lectures, I actually care about not being able to hear, I actually care for once. I want to do well. I don't want to feel like a grumpy old man, especially when I'm only 28. Did I say something? Yes. I could care less what they think. For all I know, they're probably pre-med too, or pre-dent or pre-pharmacy. Hope it works out, but they should think about saving the socializing for outside of class.

My anatomy & physiology class looks like more of the same. We talked about what we're going to cover this semester and got into "the special senses" a little bit - vision, balance, hearing and all that jazz. The professor said she really likes the second half of the class more so than the first half even though it's about equal as far as learning new vocabulary, but the first half is really bogged down at the cellular level and the second half is more of a systems approach, and after the special senses, we'll get into the immune and lymphatic systems, the cardiovascular system, the urinary and the reproductive systems, and I'm probably leaving something out. Oh well, time to hit the hay, or watch Burn Notice and try to. :D

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


I used to coach an all-girl all star cheerleading squad. If you are completely unfamiliar with the cheer world, all star programs have proliferated in the past 10-15 years. It's basically the same thing as a travel team in soccer, it's a bunch of kids from different schools that cheer on a team outside of their schools' cheerleading programs, which they may or may not participate in as well. On the whole, the talent level and dedication on all star teams is somewhat higher than those for most, but not all, school cheerleading programs. I know that is a huge generalization, but there are definitely exceptions to that, i.e. incredibly talented and dedicated school programs.

The main difference is that the focus in all star cheerleading is competition, compared to the focus for school teams is promoting school spirit and cheering on teams at games. Competition is a possible pursuit for schools to consider outside of and after those primary goals. All star teams practice with one goal in mind, which is to compete. The program I coached for, which is now defunct/was absorbed by another program, generally focused on no more than 1 competition per month, with the major ones near the end of the season. The season in all star cheerleading is essentially year-round, with tryouts for most programs in April or May, practices through the summer, and finally the arrival of the fall season marks the start of the "competition season."

I'm sorry for all that exposition if you already knew all that! Anyway, as you may or may not realize, coaching, providing guidance for and at times trying to corral teenaged girls is no small feat. One year, I had to sit them down for a "heart-to-heart" kind of chat because I had perceived I wasn't getting their best effort. I made an agenda, which I found just now as I was cleaning out old files and storage, with a list of "business" to discuss with the team. They were all good kids, but at the time they were playing around too much, not applying themselves (God, I am starting to sound really old) and like I said, I wasn't pleased with it. I admit I was partially to blame as well for not providing more structure, guidance and direction. I wrote down the "business" as bullet points to flesh out in our little "heart-to-heart." In hindsight, maybe it was a little tough love-ish but I think they respected me more for it in the end.

This was my "philosophy" or the "business" I had listed:
1) The difference between arrogance and ignorance.
2) Commitment (huge).
3) Impatience/self-importance
4) Omitted.
5) Let Jen do it. [Note: Jen was a workhorse on the team, she did everything asked, she did it well, and she did it without complaining.]
6) Why are you here?
7) Excuses?
8) Corrections
9) Putting the team before yourself.
10) Do something with your whole heart or don't do it.
11) One drop of poison in a well kills the entire village. [Note: I was trying to stress having a positive attitude, pulling for each other, etc.]
12) Expectations
13) Value of hard work. "Do you think it's luck when teams hit their routines? It's hard work."
14) Limitations - we don't limit what you're capable of, you do it to yourself.
15) Faith - believe in your abilities.
16) Comparisons - don't worry about what other teams are doing.
17) Let things bother you. Take it seriously when something isn't working out. Don't get frustrated though, get some perspective, ask for help.
18) I'm never disappointed in how you do unless you're disappointed in yourself.
19) What are you doing today that makes you a better member of this team?
20) It should be fun, but it's only possible to have fun when you're taking care of business. Take care of business before business takes care of you.
21) Need to be detail-oriented. It's the little things that separate good teams from great teams.
22) When we laugh, it's usually at my expense, but occasionally it's really at yours. It's okay to laugh. :)

There is a lot of overlap between some of the points, but that was because those in particular were the ones that I wanted to hammer home the hardest, which was to dedicate yourself to it, do the best you can, not worry about everybody else, try to continually improve your skill set, and last but not least to have fun doing it.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Pre-Inauguration/Pre-Spring Semester

Tomorrow was supposed to be the first day of the spring semester. However, there is kind of a big deal historic event going on tomorrow in the D.C. area (where I live, actually Northern Virginia), the inauguration of our 44th President, Barack Obama. The actual oath of office is pretty short, "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States," and is mandated by the Constitution, Article 2, Clause 8, and historically the President-elect adds "so help me God," even though it's not in the Constitution. I'm excited for a few reasons, I voted for Obama, I'm looking forward to his inaugural address even though I think a lot of people may have overly high expectations of it, and I'm also looking forward to see how he pays off his campaign promises.

The weather is supposed to be in the lower 30s, and they're expecting about millions of people on the mall, in the ticketed area in front of the western side of the Capitol, and all along the parade route between the Capitol and White House in the general vicinity. Here's a picture of the layout, courtesy of the Washington Post, for anyone unfamiliar with D.C. I will be watching from my warm couch.

I had a dentist appointment today for my semi-annual (is that the correct word for twice a year?) cleaning. On the dental front, everything is a-ok, even though after I left my job with the intellectual property law firm, I lost my insurance. To continue the work insurance, via COBRA, it would have been around $400+ a month for my health insurance and dental insurance. That seemed like a rip-off to me, and I know that when you leave an employer, they are no longer required to subsidize the cost of your insurance, so you get to bear full freight for it. I have no pre-existing conditions, and I'm generally healthy so I figured I wouldn't be denied. I thought I could get a better deal elsewhere, so I got insurance on my own and it's about $151/month and includes a dental rider. I can't complain.

Due to the inauguration, and the gridlock & congestion they are predicting, tomorrow's first day of classes were canceled, so the first day of class will now be Wednesday the 21st. This semester I'm taking the second half of anatomy & physiology, animal biology, general chemistry II, and microbiology. I have the same professors for gen chem II, and the a & p lecture and lab. I'm excited, but I also am taking 4 labs, versus the 3 labs I took last semester. I think I'll be able to handle it, and do well, and after the spring semester the only prerequisites I will have left to finish are organic chemistry I & II and physics I & II, and I will be ready to apply to medical school. One of the gifts I got for Christmas was a whiteboard/dry-erase board from my sister, which will come in handy this semester, I will be able to do practice problems, draw diagrams, etc. on it which can only help in reinforcing and consolidating what I'm learning, and it's plenty big enough to keep track of a bunch of things. I guess that's pretty adorkable of me to get so excited over a whiteboard, but hey that's me!

In another note, there are a few internships I'm interested in applying in, one in particular is nearby, has a $3500 stipend, and the deadline for filing an application is February 1, so I better get on it if I'm going to do it.