Cake or pie?

Monday, October 4, 2010


I wanted to write an entire post in cliches but I just couldn't do it. Cliches really bother me, and maybe because I listen to sports talk radio on my drive to school but I feel like they are drowning in cliches that while they're appropriate I guess, they're overused and surely there must be a more elegant or clever way to describe an event, a play, a player, whatever.

The biggest one that comes to mind, and it's used in many areas, not just sports talk, is "game-changer." The entertainment industry and corresponding media that covers them uses this cliche a lot. "Blah blah occurs in the second episode and it's a real GAME-CHANGER!"

There has to be another way to say that with the stories they break, write, produce and film are innovative in comparison to what the audience has previously seen or expects. Cliches are shortcuts. Maybe I will try to invent a new cliche? I'll get to work on that. I think the main tie-in to pre-medicine for this point is to avoid cliches in your personal statement and secondary essays. Also, avoid quotes from Mark Twain, Emerson, or Thoreau. If you must use a quote, maybe go with Richard Pryor? Just kidding.

I'll have more posts up later, I'm in the middle of writing two papers, plus a different blog for a class assignment, so this blog has gotten no love from me recently. I will get in the habit of updating more soon, once things calm down a little bit, and once more notable things actually happen, i.e. I take the MCAT (which I've started to study for but have not settled on a date to take it), and when my application cycle starts (next year).

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Fall 2010 is Here!

The Fall 2010 semester has started. I am taking 14 hours and it seems like it will be a great semester, I like all of my professors because they all seem passionate for once about what they teach, unlike a few other classes I've taken when the professors are inaccessible or seem like they couldn't care less about whether students learn in their class or not, just that they can keep their job and keep doing research. I wish the fall season itself would hurry up and get here as well, I can't see it yet but I can feeeeel it. I'm running the Marine Corps Marathon this year for the 4th year in a row, on October 31, and for the first time I am not running it for charity. I had run it the previous three years on behalf of an organization that my mom was involved with for nearly ten years, but I decided not to run on their behalf this year for a variety of reasons, but one of the biggest reasons was money. Look at the bright side, at least I won't be propositioning everyone to make a donation! Yay!

As a student, and a non-working one at the moment, living on my savings account, I do what I can to save money and stretch my dollars. This organization over the past four years has allowed the minimum amount of money that participants must raise to climb precipitously. When I started running for them, I think it was $750, then it was $900, then it was $1000, this year is it over $1200.

I know the money is for a good cause, and in the past they gave the participants up until a month after race day to raise the money. This year participants have up until race day, and the drawback is when you register to run on their behalf, you fork over your credit card number, and if you do not meet the fundraising obligation, you are charged the difference between that and what you actually raised. I think everyone understands this concept, but in case you don't, if you are required to raise say $1500, and you only raise $750, then they will charge your card $750 on November 1, the day after the race, to meet your expected commitment. It kind of saddens me, because it seems like it has become all about the money and less about providing support for people who need it, and to participants who are trying to raise awareness and visibility first and money second on behalf of a great cause, we're sorry, you get the shaft. While this organization is requiring prospective participants to raise over $1200, and to their credit, they are very clear about that up front, some of the other charity partners of the marathon require participants to raise lesser amounts such as $300-600. I haven't done the math but I'd say the average charity requires probably $600-800 out of its participants, I'll do the math later.

Ironically, earlier this year I was a member of the planning/steering committee for this organization, but I had to step away from my involvement as I learned more about the plans and requirement of participants this year. Since I was active with this organization in memory of my mom, I thought maybe in the future I will become involved with an organization in honor of my dad, but I haven't decided anything for sure yet.

As far as running goes, I'm looking and feeling like a new man, and I think I am on track for a PR (personal record) at the Marine Corps Marathon this year. My long run this past weekend was 18 miles, in 2:33. That felt like a good pace, and I think on race day I'll actually run faster, but we'll see how it goes... I am feeling like I should finish somewhere in the neighborhood of 3:45-4:00. Ohh... and since the MCM this year is on Halloween, should I wear a costume? Last year it wasn't on Halloween, but there were a few costumes to see, I distinctly remember running elbow-to-elbow with the Flash. I thought he would have been faster but I passed him. Any ideas? My costume may just be North Face Voracious Short (they're 2-in-1, they have a built in compression liner which is pretty awesome and also makes it so you don't really need to BodyGlide your crotchal region), and a technical shirt TBD. Maybe I'll go sleeveless. It's not like there's a red carpet in the starting corrals and the reporter asks you who you're wearing. If they did..

"So, who are you wearing for this year's marathon?"

"Trash bag by Hefty to keep warm before the race, I'll probably shed it sometime before I cross the starting line once we get moving, shorts by North Face and singlet by Armani Privé, just kidding it's also North Face. Shoes and socks by Asics."

Thursday, July 22, 2010


I love my family. I have two older sisters who have always taken an interest in my life and ambition, and my father has done the same as well. You may notice my mother is missing. My mother was incredible as well, she was a paragon of encouragement, and not just of her own kids, I loved her very much and if you're new to reading my blog (people actually read this?), I'll fill you in. She passed in 2007, after originally being diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999, then going into remission a year later and metastases occurring a year after that to her liver, lungs, and bones.

I was watching my oldest sister's dog, a Yorkie named Theo, since she had to go out of town for work, for a conference where she was a featured speaker for a presentation, for which the organizer had allotted an hour and twenty minutes. She got back into town today and we went to Macaroni Grill for lunch. We both ate healthy, in case you were wondering. They are nice enough to put the lower calorie options on an insert in the menu, and we both picked things under 600 calories, which is pretty decent. When we were deciding where to eat, I decided not to go to Chili's, following Steve Carell's lead, mainly because I looked up their nutritional info on the web a week or so ago because someone had given me a $25 Chili's gift card for my birthday back in May, and my "research" revealed ridiculously high calories and sodium in pretty much all of the dishes there with a few exceptions.

Getting back to my family, I can always count on my sisters for good advice. If I was really smart, I'd go into the same career fields they are in, as the barrier for entry is much lower (i.e., I could drop this non-trad pre-med course I'm on and start ASAP), the opportunity cost not as high, and they're both doing well for themselves. They're supportive, and they understand why I'm doing what I'm doing, and I am so thankful for that. It was good to hang out with my oldest sister today, since she had just gotten back into town. Lunch was good, and she wanted to buy a new laptop since her work one crapped out on her trip. While she was waiting on a new one for work, she decided, like I decided not to eat at Chili's, that she wanted a personal laptop to use, since she has not had one until this point. And she's over 30. I told her maybe we could find a Fisher-Price "My First Laptop" somewhere.

We ended up getting her a laptop at Best Buy, and the associate was nice enough to do the whole Geek Squad thing, loading up the antivirus, MS Office, etc., while we browsed the store. We both like the same entertainment for the most part. We looked at TV shows on DVD, and were commenting on the shows we like, Psych, Dr. Who, etc., when I saw the cover for "Being Human" which is a BBC show. I've never seen the show, but apparently it features three roommates, a ghost, a vampire, and a werewolf. Vampires and werewolves are definitely a big part of pop culture at the moment, but I digress. While I was looking at the box art, I feigned ignorance and put on my best puzzled look and asked my sister, "Which one is the ghost?" (Picture below, and note it's easy to see the vampire, since he has a bag of blood attached, the ghost is ethereal and diaphanous or maybe you've just seen a photoshop or two in your day, and by process of elimination the werewolf is generic glasses-wearing white guy... which sounds strangely familiar). My sister looked at it, was about to identify the ghost and then realized my joke. I love playing dumb sometimes. I definitely have the freshman grades to prove it.

After we stopped laughing we had a conversation about, if we were shapeshifters, what animal would we shift into? We've both watched True Blood and read the Southern Vampire Mysteries they're based on, so we know pretty much everything is on the table, werewolf, werebat, werepanther, etc. She couldn't decide, I said maybe I'd be a were-aardvark, except I'm not really sure what aardvarks look like, and my sister said she always pictures armadillos. Then I said maybe were-anteater? I think subconsciously I seemed to have been working my way through the alphabet, with the "A's" first, just not in order. I'd probably be some kind of animal that wouldn't scare people or that people would want to shoot. I settled on were-dolphin, but then my sister said it would probably be a drag to phase into dolphin form on land. Because then people would go nuts, and probably wonder what the hell a dolphin is doing in the middle of a Best Buy.

I love these random conversations we can have, it always happens with my sisters and I never know where it will end up.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Specialty Assessment

This is definitely putting the cart WAY ahead of the horse, but I took one of those specialty assessments. There are a few online, and after reading the thread on SDN, I took the assessment after weighting different factors about what I prefer and do not prefer. The assessment takes into account the factors that you adjust via a sliding scale, I'll have to find the link for it, but essentially a "low number" in the results is good, and a "high number" in the results is bad as far as matching your chosen preferences. The factors include the following, and this list isn't all-inclusive:

  1. caring for patients
  2. continuity of care
  3. autonomy
  4. diversity
  5. personal time
  6. expertise
  7. income satisfaction
  8. creativity
  9. certainty of outcomes
  10. clinical decision-making
  11. patient decision-making
  12. (several others)
The most important things to me were diversity, autonomy, creativity, clinical decision-making, interacting with other physicians/members of health-care team and sense of accomplishment. I noticed that my results tended to skew towards a bunch of surgical fields. I'm not really sure how else to interpret the results, and some of my top results were specialties I had not really thought about, for instance my number one, pulmonary/critical care medicine I hadn't really considered. As I've mentioned before, this is mainly a thought exercise since I have not even applied yet, and I'll have a much more solid idea of what specialty to pursue if and when a) I get accepted somewhere and b) once I start clinical rotations and get more exposure to them.

Here are my top 10:
  1. Pulmonary/Critical Care Medicine (16.85)
  2. Radiation Oncology (19.04)
  3. Vascular and Interventional Radiology (21.31)
  4. Otolaryngology (21.39)
  5. Neurological Surgery (21.62)
  6. Emergency Medicine (22.16)
  7. Gastroenterology (22.93)
  8. Orthopaedic Surgery (23.4)
  9. Urology (24.76)
  10. Sports Medicine (24.88)
I wasn't really thinking much about #1, #2, #3, #5, #7. To be fair, I hadn't given much thought to specialty choice in general, other than knowing a particular specialty I'm not particularly interested in, due to dating a woman during her intern year in that field.

My bottom 10 (worst to least-worst for me according to my preferences, I suppose?):
  1. Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (134.53)
  2. Psychiatry (117.45)
  3. Radiology - Diagnostic (84.63)
  4. Pathology (79.89)
  5. Obstetrics & Gynecology (78.87)
  6. Medical Genetics (77.64)
  7. Preventive Medicine (76.74)
  8. Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism (74.11)
  9. Geriatric Medicine (68.18)
  10. Infectious Diseases (67.52)
I guess psychiatry is just not a good match for me. If I matched into psychiatry I must be wearing Bad Idea Jeans. I didn't think it would be that wide a discrepancy, but damn those are some big ass numbers™. I didn't have a high preference for schedule, or continuity of care, or certainty of outcomes. I'm okay with ambiguity (kind of like the ending of Inception, lol).

I have a wide band of specialties that seem like good matches outside of the top 10, from the low 20s to 40, including vascular surgery, plastic surgery, cardiology, neonatal-perinatal medicine, general surgery, nephrology, anesthesiology, thoracic surgery, ophthalmology, family practice and physical medicine & rehabilitation. After that it gets more spread out from 40 to to "bottom 10."

What does this all mean anyway? Hell if I know. While I was dating the intern, it was a game to guess what specialty I would end up in. I guess if I get in, we'll find out, a few years from now!


Inception is awesome. Go see it. That is all.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Turning Thirty

My birthday was May 2. I turned the big 3-0, and while I remember when I was a kid, 30 seemed ancient, now it does not seem so old. It probably seems old to some of my cohort in the classes I've been taking. Speaking of classes, I apologize for the lack of updates, around finals time my priority list is: studying > should probably be studying. :) As it is, I have all A's this semester BUT (and this is a big "but" like Brenda's got) I'm still waiting on my grade in my organic chemistry II lecture and my physics II lecture grade. Three grades are in, and I have three A's. While I'm optimistic for good grades in organic & physics, and I'd be disappointed in less than an A/A-, I won't be disappointed with Bs. They were difficult classes and I don't think they will make or break my application.

People get too hung up on age. However, it seems like the older you get, the less it matters. One of the best observations I've seen on age in pop culture was the "Murtaugh" episode of How I Met Your Mother, link here: How I Met Your Mother. What the show is about, is the Danny Glover character in the Lethal Weapon movies, named Roger Murtaugh, and his catchphrase, "I'm gettin' too old for this shit." Of course, since it's network TV, and the central premise is the narrator explaining the story of how he met their mother to his kids, "stuff" was substituted for "shit." During the course of the show, one character makes a "Murtaugh" list as it were, of things that at 30, you are "too old" to do, like attend a rave, pierce your ear, help someone move furniture four flights of stairs, etc., and a sort of "anti-Murtaugh" list is made by another character of things that you are too young to do at 30, such as wait six rings to answer the phone, wear reading glasses, eat dinner at 4, go to bed at 7, etc.

The take-home lesson they eventually realized was that while Roger Murtaugh was consistently spouting his catchphrase, "I'm gettin' too old for this shit," HE WENT AHEAD AND DID IT ANYWAY. I've never felt like I was too old to do something, and even if I did, I did it anyway, much like Murtaugh. When I started thinking about going back to school to do prerequisites, I was 28. Now I'm 30 and my prerequisites are finished, but I'm waiting a year to apply. I did at times think, "Okay, maybe I am too old for this shit," and someone reading this may think that too, but unless you have been featured by Willard Scott on the Today Show for your last birthday, there has probably been someone older that has gone down this non-trad path to medicine successfully before you. You're not too old. A lot of it comes down to your outlook on life and how well you take care of yourself.

What did I do for my birthday? I had originally planned to eat at the chef's table at this wonderful restaurant in the DC area, but unfortunately it didn't work out, and I ended up getting an early dinner with one of my sisters and doing a low-key thing. I figured maybe I'll have a blow-out when I'm 40. That may be better anyway, because looking forward from 30, at 40 I hope to either be done with residency (if it's three or four years), or nearly done with it (if it's five or if I end up doing some kind of fellowship after a three/four year residency), and that would definitely be cause for celebration and the proverbial "pulling out all the stops." Today I finally did the real "family" celebration with both of my sisters, my brother-in-law, my nephews, and my neighbors, who were really like a second pair of parents growing up. My sister made meat loaf, which is without a doubt my favorite dish, and what my mom always made for me on my birthday, so it was nice to keep that tradition going even as Mom is no longer with us. There was also cake, which my sister laughed about and my neighbors kept giving me shit about. I'll explain that in a second, I am going to grab a drink.

Okay, so yesterday I went up to National Harbor in Maryland. It was my friend's birthday that I had worked with in the intellectual property field, which I had worked in before going back to school. She is also turning 30, and her birthday is tomorrow. Happy Birthday Courtney, if you're reading this! Anyway, our birthdays are two weeks apart and we went out to Ketchup at National Harbor, and when we were initially seated it was Courtney, another girl, and me, and one of the appetizers was a "Threesome" - it is three types of fries - waffle fries, sweet potato fries & seasoned curly fries, and six types of Ketchup - normal ketchup, a smoky chipotle ketchup, a barbecue type ketchup, maple syrup ketchup, a mayo-based ketchup, and a spicy chili ketchup. So of course when the server asked if wanted anything to start, I said, "We were really looking forward to a Threesome." Hilarity ensued. After Ketchup, our group, which at that point had included the original threesome plus five other people, we paid the bill, making sure the birthday girl did not have to pay for her birthday dinner and drinks, and we headed to the dueling piano bar Bobby McKeys, which was a lot of fun, all though it was mainly boogie woogie, they did some cool older songs, covering Elton John, John Cougar Mellencamp (or did he drop the Cougar part recently?? I dunno!), to Ke$ha's "TiK ToK" which was pretty awesome. I'm getting off track. I was going to explain the cake thing.

I really dislike carrot cake. I like carrots, and I like cake. I just do not like the two together. I will eat it, but then again I will eat almost anything, but I'd prefer a different kind of cake if I had the choice. My sister sent me a text asking what kind of cake I wanted for my family birthday celebration. I said anything but carrot cake, carrot cake can go to hell. I had forgotten that my neighbor, who was really like a second mother to me, had given me a piece of carrot cake along with a Mexican-style chicken and rice dish a few weeks ago and I had eaten both. So she kept giving me shit about it tonight, and I said yes, I ate the carrot cake you gave me (because I did), but I kept backpedaling and having to qualify that I do not hate carrot cake (I'd just like to eat something else if I can choose, and it's really not so bad!). For some reason, my sister and I also brought up that we don't like coconut on cakes. For me, it's a texture thing, not a flavor thing. I like coconut milk and coconut flavor, I just don't like the coconut flakes/fleshy pulpy bits on stuff. Yeeeechhhh. Oddly enough, our parents both loved coconut.

I guess my message is I turned 30. Go me! I don't feel different, I don't look different, I've always been good about putting on sunblock so my skin looks a-ok, and lastly, you're never too old to be what you've always wanted to be, unless of course you've always wanted to be a child actor. At 30, it's too late.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Shadowing Basics

I saw a recent discussion about shadowing so I wanted to throw out my two cents. I think shadowing is fantastic. You get exposure to the real work a physician does, and often it isn't glamorous. It's great at giving you a perspective into different specialties, and I almost think it should be required that you should shadow a primary care physician in addition to a specialist.

What I've done as well, is try to shadow physicians at different points in their careers. I have shadowed a specialist who is close to retirement, a mid-career specialist in a different specialty, and a primary care physician a few years removed from completing her residency and becoming board-certified. One of the great benefits of approaching it like this is getting different perspectives. For example, while they all agreed that universal healthcare is a great idea, and healthcare access needs to be improved, they all had different ideas about the healthcare reform passing through Congress, and what kind of an impact any reform would have in the U.S.

My shadowing was all very enjoyable, particularly just to see the rapport that the physicians had developed over time with their patients, where it seemed like two friends meeting and oh-by-the-way let's talk about your blood pressure, or do this quick test and then we can get right back to talking about your kids and how great they're doing. I could almost pinpoint who was a newer patient without knowing any of their history by how open or guarded they were in their discussions with the various physicians I shadowed.

Here are the basics though, in my humble opinion, in seeking out physicians to shadow and how to behave well:
  • For starters, try to contact physicians that you either know by being their patient or have a friend who is a patient of theirs, or a parent who is their patient, and explain your intentions. A great resource here is if you have a good relationship with your PCP, if you have one, and ask them about specialists they frequently refer to, in addition to seeing if you can set up shadowing with them.
  • It's pretty important to set up expectations at the outset when you first make contact and set up the shadowing experience. Let them know your availability and ask if there's anything you should know before the first day.
  • Unless you're shadowing in the OR--which I haven't done, but maybe it's possible from an observation room, I doubt you're going to scrub in for a surgical shadowing experience--you should wear business attire, which for men means slacks and a tie. Maybe throw a shirt on underneath the tie too, unless you look like one of the guys in the Handsome Men's Club. For women, I guess you know what business attire means, probably no open-toed shoes, conservative, hair up/out of your face, etc. That goes for dudes with long hair, too.
  • Keep track of your shadowing hours, I did this when I got home at the end of each shadowing day. I'd write the date, the hours, anything interesting I learned or any interesting patients/cases I saw without many identifying features, i.e. "saw a patient with DM and HTN" not "saw a 67 y/o Caucasian female with Type II DM and HTN who was the divorce lawyer for (insert celebrity here)."
  • Whether you are shadowing in the office or hospital, follow the physician's lead, but don't follow them around like a lost puppy, especially if it seems like they are going to the bathroom. That's just awkward. You can be pretty sure they don't need help making a pee-pee. If they're heading to a patient's room or exam room or to get some coffee, by all means, follow them.
  • If you're uncertain about something, ask a question - just don't do it in front of the patient unless they say it's okay to do so. Example: if you shadow an ophthalmologist and they ask the patient if you can look at their eyes through the slit lamp, and the patient okays it, and they ask you if you see some feature about the patient's eyes, it's okay to ask a question about it if you don't understand what you're looking for. Use discretion though, some are a lot more laid-back about it, and I would say it's probably the physicians that aren't constantly having students come in to shadow them - they usually enjoy the opportunity to teach you something.
  • Make sure you thank the physician at the end - a simple thank you note or card will usually suffice, but also thank the office staff, and any other clinicians that were around, you interacted with, and maybe taught you something.
You can get a lot out of shadowing, and some last bits of advice: stay humble, be grateful you have the opportunity to shadow and stay out of the way. That's pretty important, actually. Ask questions, especially if it's encouraged and it seems like they enjoy teaching you something. In some cases you'll be more of a passive observer and in others you can be more proactive and not just a "fly on the wall." Lastly, here's two thoughts: first, don't be in a rush to leave the office/hospital, even if they say, "We're done, I just have dictations to do" etc., and if they offer you some kind of reading material pertinent to their specialty, take advantage of it - it will make the shadowing make a little more sense even if you have only a rudimentary understanding of what's going on. I had two different docs where one gave me some journals to browse and the other gave me a textbook related to the field and a specific thing to look at since I would see it later in the week. It was useful, and I got more out of the experience that way.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

April Fool's Day

I love April Fool's Day. It gets harder and harder to pull off a good April Fool's joke, and it's a thin line between hilarity, cruelty and just plain mean.

Hilarity: if you're in a sugar daddy/sugar mommy relationship, and you are the previously mentioned sugar daddy/mommy, tell the freeloader you have an itemized list of your gifts to them and need them to start paying you back with interest for each and every gift that took you over the Federal gift tax cap of $12,000/year. Drag it out and see how many awkward facial expressions they make.

Cruelty: Call all your exes and inform them that you have herpes, but you're on Valtrex, and you didn't think you were having an outbreak when you hooked up in the past but there's really no way to know. Also tell them it's really not so bad, you've found plenty of other herpes singles to date since finding out you had it.

Mean: Tell your friends you are dying, and Make-a-Wish foundation does not make wishes come true for adults. I have no idea if that's true or not. Regardless, see how many free drinks you can squeeze out while you commiserate over the "time you have left."

I haven't played a lot of April Fool's Day jokes recently. In my first pass through undergrad when I was living in a dorm and had a roommate (this was before everyone used their cell phone as an alarm), I set his alarm clock ahead two hours so he would panic when he "overslept" for classes, and oops he actually had a court date... he was pretty pissed but we laughed about it later. :)

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Self-Discovery is Overrated

My birthday is looming on the horizon. I'll be 30 in May. What I'd like to do for my birthday is go to Volt in Frederick and eat some of Bryan Voltaggio's delicious food. Table 21 would be even better but I'm pretty sure they are booked solid through like 2016. Thanks, Top Chef!

The entire process of being a non-traditional pre-med causes you to be more introspective than usual. I'm sure it helps you get into personal statement and essay writing mode when you can examine yourself, what your strengths and weaknesses are and what your motivation is for pursuing medicine. You have to figure out what motivates you, why are you doing what you're doing, and if it's worth it to you.

However, I think self-discovery is a little overrated by the time you're close to 30. By this time, you're pretty set in your ways. You can change small details here or there, but it's exceedingly difficult to make wholesale changes in your life, attitude, and lifestyle, if they are necessary. I don't think I'm being cynical - far from it. I just think I had a strong sense of self from early on. If you have to make changes, which will help you be more successful in your path, nontraditional premed, runner, or any other path, it's better to and easier to make small changes at first instead of trying to deliver a shock of changes that completely changes you or the way you live.

I'll give an example. I think I've previously mentioned I was never much of a runner. I guess you could argue I'm still not much of a runner depending on your perspective since I've run four marathons but none under four hours yet, or three and a half hours, or BQ'd (qualified for the Boston Marathon, which for my age group is a 3:10 marathon with :59 seconds of grace period added in). I played a lot of sports growing up: basketball, football, wrestling, baseball... never ran track. Running was either conditioning or punishment. I was a casual runner at times around the neighborhood, with the longest distance I had run prior to 2007 being probably three to three and a half miles. Prior to 2007, I guess I had lost the joy of running that you have when you're a child. When you're a child, running is exhilarating. You don't think about your own perceived flaws in your technique, your inefficient arm swing, your non-relaxed shoulders, the jarring oscillation of your bounding stride, whatever the case may be, you just let it rip, enjoy the wind through your hair and the grass beneath your feet and smile. Then, my mom passed from cancer.

I wanted to run a marathon before I was 30. I was 26 when my mom died. I figured four years is plenty of time, but I didn't try to shock my body and system into being a runner. When you try to make those wholesale changes, your body will protest vehemently, most likely by getting injured. I started out slowly, and gradually built up my stamina by increasing my mileage no more than 10% a week. But... I've also been the type of person who doesn't dip their toe in the pool to test the water; I get a good two or three step start and bust out the cannonball.

Pop Quiz: Knowing what you now know, before that first marathon in 2007 did I race:
A) a 3K
B) a 5K
C) a 10K
D) a half marathon
E) none of the above.

If you answered E), you are correct. I cannonballed the marathon. By the way, I wouldn't recommend that approach. The next logical progression as a runner was to start eating better. I'm still working on that one, but doing much better now than I was even a year ago, and a big reason is because I have the joy of running back, and I do a fair bit more cooking than I did in the past, when I tended to stick to things I could just toss together in a skillet or saucepan.

Bottom line: take small steps before you take bigger ones, get acclimated to the small changes that you need to make before you try to make the bigger ones. While I gave the example about my running, it's probably applicable to more than one area, even say study habits for the MCAT or your post-bacc classes. If things aren't going the way you had hoped, figure out why you're doing it, figure out how you're going to do it, and make it work.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Contractor Shmontractor

In the D.C. area we were fortunate enough to have a really bad snowstorm, which was around 30", and then a week later we got an unrelenting rain that lasted for three days. I live in a house that was built in 1976-1977. I guess it isn't unusual that your home is older than you are.

The house sustained some damage though, so in addition to my post-bac classes I've been dealing with contractors to fix the various issues associating with some of the damage that's been caused. It starts with the roof, where the brick fireplace is, and the brick fireplace is adjacent to my bedroom. Unfortunately, over time the brick has worn down and it's starting to flake around the chimney, and water has slowly seeped in towards where the brick chimney abuts the drywall of my bedroom. Initially I had thought it was just the flashing that needed to be shored up or replaced, but I was wrong.

There's a water spot, and possibly mold I guess if I had let it go much longer, and additionally the ceiling of my room has developed a few cracks in it. The general contractor came out, measured the floor to ceiling at the outer edge of the room, and the floor to ceiling at the center of the room, and the difference was over 3", meaning that there's some impressive sagging going on here, much like a retirement village for naturists. So that's another thing that needs to be fixed.

Homeowner's insurance will pick up the tab for my room, the adjuster came out, looked at it, and wrote a check for what they would pay. The contractor is going to put up new drywall and two coats of paint where there is the water damage, and right now my ceiling is braced by some 2" x 4"s that the contractor came out and placed since he was worried about the ceiling collapsing.

So let's see:
  • new drywall in my bedroom
  • painting in my bedroom
  • repairing the sagging ceiling in my bedroom
  • repainting my sagging ceiling once it's fixed
  • oh yeah, complete rebuild of the upper portion of the brick chimney

Sounds like fun. Thank God for homeowner's insurance. I think the brick chimney rebuild will be out of pocket but at least that seems like the only major thing.

Maybe I'll add some pictures later.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


I like to say I'm on an antibiotic tour over the past twelve months. Before my root canal, I was put on Penicillin VK, which worked to minimize the abscess on my gum underneath the affected tooth. For my strep throat infection, I was put on amoxicillin.

My latest foray into antibiotics for my sinus infection is Levaquin. My doctor gave me a $25 coupon to give to the pharmacy when she gave me the Rx for it. I have health insurance through a private PPO plan, and yes, of course the premiums are always going up, but perhaps I do not have the best prescription benefit, because even with the coupon the prescription was over $100. Ouch. One fun thing I like to do whenever I get a Rx is to look at the potential side effects. She explained some of the more major side effects in the office, like muscle & tendon soreness, possibility of tendon rupture, and she said, "some people say they feel like they have just run a marathon."

I had told her I just ran the Austin Marathon when I was coming off my strep infection, and she mentioned my lungs were clear, sinuses were a little tender/swollen, but not unbearably, therefore it was just a sinus infection with the post-nasal drip/drainage that was irritating my throat and causing the cough. We talked about the marathon a little bit, it turns out she has a personal connection to it, which was cool, and kind of laughed about the feeling-like-you-just-ran-a-marathon comment. I don't doubt the soreness side effect, I just doubt there was a control group who had run a marathon before and were asked about soreness, you know?

So far, so good though - I have no muscle or tendon soreness but then again I've only been on it for two days, and it's a q.d. Rx (once a day, from the Latin quaque die) unlike some of them that were b.i.d. (2x/day - the amoxicillin, from the Latin bis in die) or q.i.d. (4x/day - the Pen VK, from the Latin quater in die). I knew my Latin would come in useful some day, and now you know what those abbreviations on your prescriptions mean if you already didn't. Even though it's only been two days, I feel much better.

In regards to some of the side effects, here are some of the ones I read:
constipation, diarrhea (wow, would hate to have both of these at once!!), dizziness, gas, headache, lightheadedness, nausea, stomach pain; these next few are contact your doctor immediately side effects:
bloody or tarry stools (like meconium?), chest pain, decreased or painful urination, fainting, fast or irregular heartbeat, hallucinations, inability to move or bear weight on a joint or tendon area, mood or mental changes, seizures, shortness of breath, suicidal thoughts or actions (if you're successful, how are you supposed to contact your doctor?), symptoms of nerve problems e.g. change in perception of hot & cold or decreased sensation of touch or unusual numbness/tingling/burning/pain/weakness in hands legs or feet, etc.

Can I just say that I feel lucky I'm not the "lotto winner" on these potential side effects?

I looked up some Levaquin "testimonials" on the web, and some of them seem a bit far-fetched. Some people mentioned going into a deep depression while on Levaquin, insomnia, sporadic inability to concentrate. What's unusual though is people do not often list what else is going on, i.e. the person that experienced depression as a side effect, were they depressed to begin with? Was it under control with an SSRI or some other medication? The person that couldn't concentrate, do they have some other kind of chemical imbalance or disorder that isn't under control? I don't doubt they experienced those things, but it seems disingenuous to try and assign causality between a particular side effect and the new antibiotic you're taking. You never know what kind of pharmacological interactions are occurring between other medications they're possibly on or supplements they take. At least I didn't see one that said, "When I took Levaquin, I immediately rocketed up, up and away off the ground. - C. Kent, Metropolis, Kansas." That would be akin to what was above - the levaquin did not bring out the ability to fly, it was your Kryptonian heritage. Duh.

The only mild side effect I've had so far was with my ears. I had that feeling where you're in an airplane ascending to cruising altitude and your ears haven't adjusted yet, i.e. the pressure on both sides wasn't equalized. Even that was shortlived though, it only lasted for a few hours. Hopefully I only have a few more days of being sick and then my usually robust immune system will come back online.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Austin Marathon Recap

Note: Sorry about the delay in getting this posted. I wrote this over a week ago, but in the meantime I've been getting over that strep infection (yay amoxicillin!), getting ready for the three exams I had last week, and trying to get over the sinus infection I have now (yay levaquin!). - ASK


Austin Marathon 2/14/2010

I'm writing this aboard my express flight from Austin to Charlotte, and will do some copypasta to get it on the blog later. :)

The race was supposed to start at 7:00 a.m. The wheelchair and handbike participants were scheduled to start at 6:55 a.m., and I think they pretty much took off on their own after the National Anthem without being prompted. Speaking of the National Anthem, I wasn't paying attention to who was singing it, but they sounded an awful lot like Randy Travis. Maybe it was Randy Travis? I have no idea. I did take my hat off though, so kudos to me. They also made an announcement that Texas Gov. Rick Perry was going to be running, but I didn't hear if he was running the half or the marathon.

The hotel I chose to stay in is situated about half a mile from the starting line so I had a short walk when I woke up to head over there. It was about 0.7 mi from the finish line, so that wasn't a huge deal breaker either after having run 26.2 miles to get back to the hotel.

Sidebar: this was the fourth marathon I've run, and every time prior to this I set a new personal record (PR). I don't think of it as a badge of honor though, if anything I'm like that Russian pole vaulter who kept moving up the world record 1/8th of an inch at a time. What I am trying to say is that perhaps I have set the bar low for myself, and I know I'm capable of running much faster.

Okay, and we're back. I did not set a PR today. For the past several weeks I have been battling a strep infection and a general malaise, i.e. not sleeping well due to the strep, because of the coughing from the irritated throat. It seemed like leaning forward or laying flat exacerbated the symptoms, namely a chest-rattling cough. In the past, I rarely got sick, so I don't know what's up with me the last few weeks. I'm good about washing my hands, and not touching my eyes, nose, or mouth with my hands.

When I woke up, I was not feeling that well, and like I said I had resigned myself to the fact that I would just see how the race went, how I felt, and take it from there. I didn't want to get my first did-not-finish (DNF), which I think can be the SMART thing to do if it's needed, because you know your body better than anyone else. They actually made an announcement before the National Anthem in the morning that if you had diarrhea or were vomiting in the past 24 hours, do not run the race. Regardless of how I felt, I still headed to the starting line and ran the race, and decided it wasn't going to be a day to push myself, so I took it easy on the course even though I had been training smarter and faster than I had in the past. I wasn't disappointed in not setting a PR considering I didn't push myself and wasn't trying to, and in fact, I finished 7 minutes shy of my PR, despite "not pushing myself."

If anything, this tells me I am capable of so much more. There's another thing about this Austin course: boy, is it HILLY. I read race reviews on the marathon calendar site here: US Marathons Races Directory and Schedule, and several of them mention the hill factor. I love running hills but I did not work in a lot of hill training leading up to Austin. I didn't even look at the elevation chart until I was sitting in my hotel room. This is yet another example of my preference for wearing Bad Idea Jeans­™. I mentioned the hilliness in a FB status update, where I said, "if Samuel L. Jackson had run this race, by mile 11 or 12 he would have said, 'Enough! Enough! I've had it with these MF'ing hills on this MF'ing marathon course!'"

It was that bad. There were hills around every corner. It was so hilly that when we got to the flat sections of the course, you thought you were going downhill because it was easier and you had forgotten what flat looked like since it had been so long. The finish was nice, it was another short hill to the Texas State Capitol, where you looped around it and then headed downhill on Congress Ave. for the final 0.2 miles.

I ran in my old Asics, which not surprisingly have a ton of miles on them. The newer model I tried in the Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) gave me a sweet blister I had mentioned in an earlier blog entry, anterior and medial to the ball of my foot, so I went to the older ones even though they are worn down. Not surprisingly, my feet are a little sore, but I think the good thing about running in older shoes is that you can be confident in the fit and that they'll work well for you. After I started getting a little plantar fasciitis (PF) in my right foot, back when I switched to the newer shoe, I went back to the old one and it pretty much resolved itself. The soreness/tightness went away shortly after I started using the old shoes again. I think that when the midsole breaks down, you rely more on your foot to stabilize itself instead of relying on the cushioning, which possibly makes your foot weaker. I read something about it in Christopher McDougall's Born to Run, so I decided to try out the older shoes and it did help clear up the PF.

Here are a few notes about the Austin Marathon, and keep in mind the only other marathon I've run is the three times I've done the Marine Corps Marathon, and in my estimation the MCM is the marathon par excellence as far as organization and execution, which is to be expected considering it is run and staffed by the Marine Corps. Oh, one cool thing I saw: someone was recording video on their iPhone pretty early on, like within the first five miles, talking about so far so good with the race and stuff. I kind of wonder who that was, they most likely have a blog or Twitter. Here goes!

  • No food on the course. Really? At the MCM there are orange wedges, ClifShot gels, JellyBelly SportBeans, and of course the random spectators that offer up stuff like candy, goldfish, etc. There were no food stations along the Austin Marathon. I guess they decided to leave it up to the spectators, some of whom made beer available, champagne, orange wedges, Jolly Ranchers, even Valentine's Day candy. Much respect to the mom & young daughter that had gummy hearts, those hit the spot when I needed it. After I realized the lack of food stops, thinking about food and what I was going to eat after the race began to consume ME. I stopped listening to my body and started wondering how delicious a greasy cheeseburger and salty fries would be after I got my medal and finisher's shirt. And it's hilly.
  • The water stations were well-stocked and well-organized, volunteers offered encouragement along with the liquids, and were clear about who had water and who had Powerade. There was a water station at more or less every mile, usually not at the mile marker but between 0.2-0.6 miles into each mile, which was nice, and they alternated Powerade every other mile. There was also water at each Powerade station, which was nice for people like me who think Powerade is too "sweet" while running and opt to mix it with some water. The water stations were relatively flat, not hilly. One was even on a downhill!
  • I like how they will print your name (or probably anything, within reason) on your bib under your bib number. I can't tell you how many times I felt like crap or was dragging a little bit and a spectator would call out my name, tell me I was looking good or looking strong, or yelling "go go go," or "keep moving!" or "finish strong." I think that is a nice touch to put names on bibs. I'm sure this happens at other races too.
  • Speaking of crowds, several segments of the run reminded me of the Hains Point stretch in the MCM. The crowd support at MCM covers the route much better. I thought the route was fairly scenic but for a long stretch we were running around neighborhoods, I think this was between miles 18-24ish, before we ran by the University of Texas campus around mile 25, which was nice. I like architecture, but all the houses looked the same. I saw a lot of columns, craftsman bungalow-type houses with wide porches and chain link or wooden fences around several yards. People in Austin were great about bringing their dogs out--it seemed like everyone has a dog in Austin--and it worked out great, because if the people got tired of cheering, the dogs never got tired of barking. I guess that's what I would do if I were a dog and a bunch of lunatics decided to run by my house, or it could have just been their way of cheering.
  • The finish line was kind of a disorganized c.f. I think a little of that is to be expected since you may have a crush of finishers at once, so it's not the hugest deal. At the MCM, Marine Lieutenants and above place your medal around your neck and you get your "space blanket" to warm up. In Austin, I don't know if they went over what to do with the volunteers but the medal was just handed to me. Maybe I'm nitpicking, but I did just run 26.2 miles and it would be nice to not cheapen it by handing me the medal instead of placing it around my neck. I think it's nicer to recognize the accomplishment by doing the whole bowing the head and placing the medal around the neck, instead of just of handing over the medal like it was a receipt at the grocery store. Maybe it's just me that feels like this? I saw it happen to other finishers as well. It was pretty warm this afternoon in Austin but I quickly cooled down when I stopped running. I didn't even get a space blanket handed to me. The nice thing about the finish was H.E.B. furnished a light post-run spread under white tents, so you could grab some mini-bagels, a banana, some Powerade or water, some chips and I think there were Snickers marathon bars as well. There was also food court outside of the finishers' area that had local places supplying the food, like mmmpanadas!
  • Oh, and another thing--the marathoners and half-marathons run the same course until it diverges around the 10 or 11 mile mark, when they told the half-marathoners to get on the right side of the road and the marathoners to go to the left side of the road. The marathoners headed to the west hills of Austin (hey, I mentioned it was a hilly course!), and the half-marathoners headed to their finish. The volunteers handled the bifurcation very well in telling the marathoners and half-marathoners which way to go. I think the half-marathoners party a little bit more than the marathoners do, at least before the race. I guess that's understandable. I'm not completely basing this on my own observations, one of the cab drivers I had mentioned it on Saturday night. I don't think it's a bad idea to have everyone run it together, but I will admit I was a little jealous when I realized the half-marathoners were heading down the relatively flat home stretch to their finish, aside from a similar hill prior to the Texas State Capitol, but on the other side before heading down Congress Ave. to the finish, and the marathoners were heading for the hills. Literally.
  • This is pretty shallow but the female spectators in Austin were a pretty attractive lot, especially around the UT campus. :)
So overall, would I run this course again? Yes. I would definitely do more hill work before running the race, and think about packing my own gels/some kind of food for the race considering they do not supply any. I probably could have found that out beforehand, and it would have been nice to enjoy the run more than to obsess over what I was going to eat when it was over... hmm, hamburger? NO! Cheeseburger! Maybe pizza? Nah. Empanadas? Possibly. Ooooh, maybe a chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich. YEEEEEAHHH! You get the idea.

If I think of anything else, I will add it later. Next race: TBD. There will be pictures incoming later.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Austin Marathon - Day One

Let me preface this entire post by stating my amazement that the D.C. area got dumped on by consecutive snowstorms. For the first one, I was snowed in with my sister, brother-in-law and nephews Johnny and Christopher. Speaking of Christopher, can you guess his nickname?

If you guessed "Chris" then you'd be wrong. His nickname is Dino, as in "DINO-saur" not "DEEN-OH." His big brother Johnny has given him several nicknames, including Christo Dino, which got shortened to just Dino, and Baby Godzilla since he stomps all over and destroys everything in his path. Nicknames are great, the only bad part of course is you can't really nickname yourself, or at least most people cannot do that. I wonder at times though if Christopher will respond to his real name when he is a bit older, since everyone (Mom, Dad, Bro, uncle ASK) calls him Dino. It should work out okay though, he'll probably be a soccer player like his mommy and daddy and he can just put "Dino" on his jersey instead of his last name. That would be kind of cool, like the Brazilian players tend to do - Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Kaka, etc.

I'm getting way off track. So the D.C. area had these snowstorms, got around 30" of snow total, and I was snowed in with my sister's family for the first one for several days. I also happened to have a strep infection which I was taking amoxicillin for - I'm pretty sure I got it from my sister, my nephews had ear infections and my brother-in-law had bacterial pneumonia he was getting over, so it was essentially a house of people on antibiotics.

Here is one of the small bits of shoveling snow I did, and it was a damn important one: I cleared the path to the hot tub!

Mission accomplished, other than needing to clear off the cover to use the hot tub.

For the second snowstorm I got snowed in at home, but it was really a lightweight, fluffy snow, unlike the first storm earlier in the week. I think I remember reading somewhere that the Inuits have over 30 or 40 different words for snow. Virginia usually does not get this much snow, and we actually set a new record, with the most recorded snowfall since 1898 (or something, I didn't fact-check while I'm writing this, my bad).

Sorry if it seems like this post is a misnomer, it really is about the Austin Marathon. So I flew out of Reagan (DCA) into Chicago (ORD) this morning to connect to Austin (AUS). I ended up staying with my other sister in Shirlington to be closer to the airport, and got there without a hitch. Security is always fun, I got to leave my belt on at least. And my pants and shirt. The first leg of the trip to Chicago went well, I always worry I'm going to get seated next to some 350 pound sweating mouth-breather. Fortunately, I had the window seat to O'Hare and was seated next to a skinny 10 year old and her mom. Here's the approach to Chicago, which just struck me due to all the ridiculously tall buildings on the lake front and the sprawl of low-slung (comparatively, of course) buildings filling in the rest for as far as the eye could see.

Hello Chicago!!

I used to work with a woman from Chicago. She was absolutely in love with Chicago to the extent that I wondered why she left Chicago for D.C., but apparently it was because of love. I couldn't really fault that. I wish I had her number so I could have texted her when I landed like, "Guess where I am?" She was pretty much an awesome "bullpen-mate" at this job I worked due to the overshares she consistently let slip. One particular overshare that seared itself into my long-term memory after she got back from lunch: "Oooh I think I ate some bad fish, my stomach feel like a washing machine!"

I had a short layover in Chicago, went around looking for something to eat, found it at Wolfgang Puck Express, which ended up being a pretty simple chicken salad.

Got to the gate for the flight at O'Hare (K terminal?? WHERE THE HELL IS K ??) after quite a walk from the "A" terminal since my flight from DCA to ORD was on United, and the ORD to AUS was on American Airlines. After quite a hike I got there with 10 minutes to spare after lunch (plus reading the new Runner's World with Kara Goucher on the cover at Wolfgang Puck Express). Quite a few people were on standby trying to get to Austin from Chicago. I guess the snow screwed over a lot of people on a lot of fronts, but hugely on travel.

Ended up getting to Austin early, and the airport is a little farther from downtown than I had expected, the approach before landing is below.

Hello Austin!!

Since I didn't have any checked luggage, I was able to hustle out and catch a cab. I talked to the driver a little bit, told him I had come from D.C. where we had SOOO MUCH SNOOOOW, and he said it was unusually cold for Austin, and he had heard there was snow in Dallas. When we were pulling up to the hotel, he also mentioned I should go to 6th Street because that's where the girls from UT go, and I said, "MUCHAS GRACIAS AMIGOOOO" and he handed me some condoms and said "buena suerte" whatever that means.

(Just kidding about the very last part about the condoms and him telling me good luck).

Unfortunately, I am still getting over strep, and I do have exams the next two weeks for which I really need to study, so I am writing a blog to take a break from the studying and I figure maybe I will see some live music tomorrow. I talked to a friend that lives in Austin and she recommended I check out the Warehouse District around 4th Street, saying it was less of the college crowd than 6th Street is, and smells less like puke. So we'll see what happens. I wish I could stay in Austin a bit longer, it really is a great city.

Tomorrow I will head to the expo, get my packet, etc. Hopefully I am fully recovered from strep, and I won't lie, I have had to scale back both my training and my expectations for this race, but that's the smart thing to do. It's usually not a good idea to have unrealistic expectations for a race and set yourself up for disappointment. I do not want to have my first DNF, but my Dad reminded me on the phone that my health comes first, so I will run on Sunday but most likely I will not push myself too hard. I have heard this is a hilly course, and I am sure that will play a part as well.

The last few pictures I wanted to share were the ones I took from my hotel room on the 16th floor. The two pictures were both taken without flash at the same time of day, which can seem odd considering the Texas State Capitol is so well lit in one picture and the sunset-backlit buildings in the other seem so dark. I'll let you be the judge, I need to get back to studying, and of course I have the Vancouver Olympics Opening Ceremonies on in the background. I thought it would have been way cooler if Robin Sparkles had sang "Oh Canada." :(

Texas State Capitol

Hidden Sunset

More to come...

Friday, January 29, 2010

Running Tip #2

Before I ran my first marathon, the Marine Corps Marathon in 2007, I was a spectator at the MCM in 2002 or 2003 I think. I was a student athlete at my university at the time, and as a team we went to the course to cheer on the runners and offer whatever encouragement that we could. One teammate in particular was pretty hilarious with some of her encouragement, like "You're almost there!"

Bear in mind, we were at mile marker 20 of a 26.2 mile race. They were not "almost there." Marathoners joke that a marathon is just a 20 mile race followed by one of the hardest 10K's of your life. Ultramarathoners joke that a marathon's just a warm-up. I guess there's always someone higher on the pecking order, (and in medicine too, sweet!) huh? Spectators tell runners lies all the time, and rarely the truth.

Sample lies:
  • Lookin' good!
  • You're almost there! (this looks familiar huh?)
  • The beer's close!!
  • This is the last hill, c'mon you can do it!
Sample truth:
  • If it were easier, I'd be doing it!
You get the gist of it.

Anyway, my tip is: use BodyGlide or some other kind of lubricant. If you have never run longer than 2-3 miles, lubrication usually doesn't come up. It can be a lifesaver to use it though, especially on long(er) runs. If I am doing less than 10 miles, I just put it on my feet so I don't get blisters, even though I missed a spot at this past year's MCM in 2009 and got a sweet blister as a result. If I am doing more than 10 miles, my nipples get the BodyGlide treatment. You know why one of the lies quoted above is "Lookin' good!" ? I can tell you, if you are bleeding from chafed nipples, which BTW has never happened to me but I saw at that MCM back in 2002 or 2003, you are most definitely NOT looking good. The guy that dropped a deuce in his shorts was also not lookin' good back then, but at least we didn't know it until he ran past us. Talk about dedication. I know at the MCM over the years several different groups have been around offering up vasoline on tongue depressors (aka popsicle sticks?), for all your anti-chafe needs.

I wish I had known about BodyGlide when I taught camps for several summers in 80-100 degree weather throughout the Northeastern United States (Virginia to Pennsylvania with some NC & SC thrown in). Some of the dudes I worked with always swore by Gold Bond, or Gold Bond Medicated (saying Medicated was like a cooool breeze~! on your junk). BG washes off, it's awesome. They have my full endorsement.

So running tip #2: lubricate, especially on longer runs. Especially especially if you're overweight, or your thighs rub together. Anywhere there is going to be skin-on-skin or skin-on-sock-on-shoe upper, it's a great idea to use BodyGlide or your other favorite lubricant (wonder how KY Jelly works.. just kidding).

Austin Marathon blog post will be up sometime this weekend.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Budget Cuts, Spring '10 First Impression

Budget cuts are in full force at my post-baccalaureate institution. To make up the difference, lab fees have been increased, tuition will undoubtedly increase in the next year, class sizes are larger, and the list goes on. One thing I noticed quickly last week, in the first week of classes, is that all of the physics recitation sections are now on Friday, and I think the same instructor has the 4 sections. Last semester, recitation sections were covered by several different instructors on several different days, and there were no more than 25-30 people in each recitation, which makes the recitation quizzes easy to administer in a pen & paper format.

This morning in organic lab, one of the TVs did not work, so two lab sections of around 50-60 people, some of which I think were hoping to add into the sections, which seemed full, crammed into one lab to watch the safety video from 1993 (yay protective wear/knowing what you are doing/asking questions if necessary, boo drinking/eating in lab/pouring waste down the drain/siphoning liquids with your mouth/playing practical jokes/doing your own experiment in lab). Someone should really update the safety video. Also, we were watching an informational video about NMR, which IMO was a colossal waste of time for the people not directly in front of the 25" TV. I'm sure the volume was all the way up and still it was hard to hear anything, and not just because I am getting older--hey! I'm only 29!--but because of the overall din of everyone's side conversations, texting, laughter, etc.

This semester, like I said, all recitations are on Friday, each recitation has around 70-80 students in it, and the quizzes are no longer going to be pen & paper but online, or via iClicker in class (multiple choice). MC kind of defeats the purpose of physics in my opinion. I thought the whole point of studying physics was being able to set up the problem correctly, drawing a picture if necessary, drawing out the vectors and then doing what is asked, i.e. physics is one of those "journey" not "destination" type classes, where you are learning how to problem solve systematically, but where you must have an understanding of what is being asked and what assumptions to make in setting up and solving problems.

I'm taking the second part of physics, organic chemistry, and plant biology. There's a new professor for the physics lecture which will be nice, having some new blood and a different lecturer. I have nothing against last semester's physics professor, but like I said it's nice to see a new face and get a different perspective. Another component is online homework that will be rolled into a quasi-participation aspect of our lecture grade (lecture and lab are separate grades in physics, recitation is rolled into lecture). Organic is the same as last semester as far as the lecture goes, I'm assuming that the class average on the exams will be uniformly low like the end of last semester, i.e. 9-10/21 correct on most of the exams, considering there is no "easy" part like nomenclature, acid/base strength, and so on, like the beginning of organic chemistry I had. Plant biology doesn't seem that bad, the lab looks like it should be interesting and not time-consuming, which is nice since I'm taking organic & physics together, I feel like the bulk of my time will be spent preparing for those, but I will have to be mindful to not neglect plant biology. Speaking of plant bio, the lecture is straight from slides, but there is still a participation component via classroom response system/iClicker so it will be fun to see everyone straggle in to maximize possible points.

18 days until Austin! That's two long runs, one flight, stopping in Chicago and switching planes before flying into Austin/Bergstrom, and 26.2 miles. Can't wait. I'll update pretty soon with an Austin-specific blog, and I'm still deciding if I want to live tweet/take pics during the Austin Marathon. We'll see.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Running Tip #1

Don't eat chili the night before a long run, for obvious reasons. Ooh, wait, there's a proviso: if you regularly eat chili, you're probably safe to eat it before a long run.

Of course that isn't actually the real chili we ate - we used ground turkey for meat, but the beans are the same, there was minced garlic in it, chili powder, diced onions, tomatoes, etc. There were also oyster crackers and the cheese we had was more finely shredded than above, just so we're clear.

Backstory: I went over to my sister's house on Saturday night to catch up, play some Beatles Rock Band, and help her make and eat some chili. I showed her the easiest way to dice an onion, and considering she's in her 30s, I'm surprised she didn't know it already, and also how to cut fresh basil leaves. So, at least she learned something new, and I did as well (something about cost-plus). I use two knives when I cook, and I'm a firm believer that you can get by fine for most tasks with just two simple knives: 1) chef's knife (preferably 8") and a 2) paring knife. Anyhow, so we're making the chili and we sit down, start eating and catch up on her DVR, at least the shows she watches that I will watch too, like Supernatural, Burn Notice, Fringe, etc., (no Grey's, thanks!). Her Yorkie is begging next to me on the couch. The one time this dog is well-behaved is if you have some savory nom-noms on a plate or in a bowl in front of you.

Post-chili, we christened the Beatles Rock Band for Wii I had bought her for Christmas. I think I like being Ringo the most--shocker. We played quickplay for a bit then started story mode to see what things we could unlock, but it was getting late and I decided to head home.

Fast forward to Sunday morning, it was raining and cold, and I'll run when it's cold, or run when it's raining, but I don't run outside when it's rainy and cold. I have my principles (if principles = comfort level). So I went to my other sister's house to run on her treadmill, and of course my nephew comes down to the basement, he's 4, and asking what I'm going to watch on the TV while I run.


"Psych? I thought you were watching 'How I Met Your Mother?'"

He is such a well-spoken four year old. I explain that I rotate what I watch whenever I use the treadmill, all though he was right, I was watching HIMYM for a while.

Anyway, long story short, about 8 miles in I get the severe feeling right in my core, where I feel like I'm at SHITCON 2, I mean this thing is close to imminent, but I gut it out, no pun intended, and get to 9 miles before I take a break and handle my business. That was about the hardest mile I've run in my life, even though it was only at 8:20ish pace...

Anyway, lesson learned, and without going into gory detail, don't eat chili the night before a long run, and further, don't change your diet at all before a long run, don't throw your stomach a curveball, a slider, or especially a knuckleball, or you'll pay for it.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Shadowing Part Deux: Electric Boogaloo

So the past two weeks I had shadowed a specialist.

One thing I noticed - quite a few of his patients were older and on Medicare/Medicaid. Another thing I noticed was that the older the patient, typically the more positive and happy the patient's outlook. The younger patients (younger as in, 50s/60s), weren't too bad off, but it was really the 80s, 90s and the 103! year olds that had the best outlooks on life and attitudes.

It made sense to me. People that are constantly negative, bitter, and bitching about their lot in life are probably the ones that are not survivors, and do not make it to 70, 80, or 90. Some people may get cancer, or have a heart attack, and succumb to the illness... but I think it's typically the people with a negative outlook and pessimistic tendencies that do not make it over the long run. So lesson learned: stay positive. I feel like I am an optimist at heart and want to find the best in people and situations but it is not always easy.

Several patients had faced adversity over their lifetimes - sometimes disability, a heart attack or quadruple bypass here, cancer there, diabetes and high blood pressure everywhere. Still, they had a positive outlook on things and that seemed to make all the difference in that they were still there, smiling, catching up with the doctor in the exam room and wishing each other well. Even the patients with disabilities, like reduced vision, etc., seemed to get along okay, for one older gentleman, as long as he could do his crossword puzzle and play tennis, that's all he cared about. In my mind, that's great!

More to come later... along with what else I will be up to a month from now: running the Austin Marathon!!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Hi, 2010. Nice to meet you!

First, Happy New Year to the three people that read this! I hope you each have numerous blessings and great stuff happening to you this year. You deserve it.

What's been happening? Surprisingly, not much. For the past week and a half, I've been shadowing a specialist physician. My dad is actually a patient of his, and the last time my dad was in town, I asked him to see if it was cool with this doc if I could come in and shadow him, he offered up a two week window between New Year's and when he is going on vacation, so I said yes.

I haven't shadowed before, and my main experience with clinical medicine had either been as a patient (rarely, as I am lucky enough to enjoy good health overall and I'm thankful for it... I think if you have good health you are rich in life, because if your health sucks you aren't going to be happy, but I digress), or as a family member, mainly with my mom during her eight year battle with cancer.

This was a different beast. As we entered the exam room for each patient, the doctor would greet the patient by their name (i.e. "Hello, Mr. Smith" not "Hi, John!"), and introduce me, "We have a student/young doctor-to-be with us today, this is ASK." Most of the patients have been with this doctor for a long time - some for thirty years. Over the past week and a half, all of the patients were very cooperative and seemed okay with having me in the exam rooms. It was odd the first time, after asking if she had any more questions and finishing up with a patient, and when we were leaving the exam room and wishing her well, telling her to stay warm, when she thanked me and said, "Nice to meet you, Dr. K."

The first time I corrected the patient and said, "I'm not Dr. K yet, but hopefully will be one day." Of course I liked hearing it, it had a nice ring to it. After that first day, I stopped correcting the patients if they ever said, "thank you, doctor" or "nice to meet you, doctor" to me. I realize that while I look the part, and while I want to be one, I am not a doctor yet, but in the grand scheme of things, while I was introduced as a student, not "medical student," it doesn't matter to the patient, and I did not feel like I was being disingenuous or misled any patient. I did not offer any medical advice, since I am unqualified to give it, but I was lucky enough to take part in certain non-invasive parts of their exams. A few times, I was encouraged to start taking a history, informally, just to get more used to speaking in a "doctorly" capacity with patients.

I have definitely learned a lot this past week and a half. I feel like now more than ever, after seeing the rapport of this doctor with his patients, most of whom have been under his care long-term, I am convinced that this is what I want to do and will be satisfying to me in so many different respects as a career.

But, man! How much would it have sucked if the first day I went in to shadow, after doing all of these prerequisite classes as a post-bacc pre-med, that I realized I hated clinical medicine? I'm glad I really like it. I like this specialty in particular too, but I am still keeping an open mind and looking for other opportunities to get clinical exposure in any capacity... not to make myself a stronger applicant all though it would definitely not hurt, but just to be around the patients more and see what the different practices are like on a day-to-day basis.

I will update more on shadowing later. :)