Sep 30, 2007

Continued brainmelt

Thursday night was not a good night for me, culminated in the same sort of weird ass symptoms I was getting last term in the try-sleep... twitching, shuddering, dizziness, numbness around my mouth, tachycardia. So much for trying the OTC stuff, same stuff I tried last time because no, that would be SO much less expensive.

Ambien CR is the platinum standard for me in insomnia relief, and apparently they know it, because the stuff is more expensive than fine grade Colombian blow, and they have my number. I don't want to get "high". The copious amounts of EtOH on this island are more than sufficient for that, not including the foliage that many locals and students seem fond of. I want sleep. Sleep and wake. That, to medical students, is good.

And that, to an insurance agent, is a filthy tale he tells himself while strung up on leather hooks about how he's a BAD BOY; no discounts for you!! Shit's more expensive than viagra, and it's supposed to RELAX my muscles.

Starting to kick in though, and I'm not sure if it's producing fatigue yet (oh, please bring on the fatigue) but it is making me feel a little magical mystery tourish. it was the day for it anyway. I was so wiped on Friday I knew I was getting nothing done so went to the clinic, went to a counselor (no go), and then went home, curled on the sofa, and watched television. Awww. First season X-Files; they're so cute. We get weird channels here. After House, I was flipping channels and saw "The Making of Deep Throat" on HBO, and within seconds, boom, first hardcore I've ever seen on the basic channels. So now I've seen the infamous scene. I feel so dirty.

Today, up until sleep time, which you're kind of in the middle of, I nailed three neuro lectures (which catches me up, with a small gap in the middle) and two physio lectures, and that's despite spending most of the morning/afternoon in a complete funk, taking a shower, and cleaning my clothes. Pretty impressive day for me two weeks before midterms, and no doubt fraught with grammatical and spelling errors.

Sep 25, 2007

This is your brain...

on about eight hours of studying (not straight; I'm not that much of a machine), and that sizzling noise would be the sound of my circuits (which I need to be able to name all of by the end of this term) frying.

Today, I did one physiology and one neuroscience lecture apiece, incidentally, today's, meaning that except for a small gap, I'm caught up (which doesn't necessarily mean I've retained anything; however), finished my physiology case study due tomorrow, AND caught up four of the six immunology lectures I've been avoiding. Who's your daddy... er... mommy?

Immunology is... well, it's a salute (almost spelled that "solute", because that's how much I've been drinking the scholastic Kool-Aid) to biochem that I'm getting any of it, but it's apparently straight memorization until the final, without necessarily knowing what anything means.

Sadly, this is NOT a wildly good way for me to study because random letters stuck together (IL4, APC, PcGammaR(that's not even made up!!!)) means my brain skims over them if I don't know what they really do or fit into the big picture. Actually, it even does that with long words that have no apparent place in the universe.

What does this mean? Wikipedia becomes useful again! And turns a two unit class into as much work as my other ones because my brain needs to place stuff where it belongs. It also involves synthesizing the lecture slides, the immunology terminology (separate packet) and the lecture objectives (another packet), which means my Natural Killer Cells (no affiliation with Oliver Stone) are going to rise up and kill off my entire body, because after enough hours of that, my WHOLE body's diseased. Blargh.

On the plus side, I'm working up to a stage where I can actually study (when I'm not worshipping at the altar of Sonic Foundry) with music on sometimes! And not just instrumental jazz or classical, which granted, I like, but not for half the day, every day! This may not seem like a big deal, but when you love music as much as I do, and have to be glued to the computer as much as I do, having your full rotation available is SUCH mental relief. It also keeps the cicadas outside with their high pitched whine out of my brain, because before I hit the "play" button, I was about 5 seconds from spraying down the entire communal grassy area in front of my apartment with Raid until the noise stopped, and that's reportedly bad for the environment.

Sep 23, 2007

Another Fish Friday?

Already? Yup. Though technically now it's Sunday... but I had fish for dinner and cooked fish at midnight (don't ask), so it would be a Fish Friday AND a Fish Sunday.

As an aside, you know you're climbing the medical school scholastic ladder as Wikipedia becomes less and less useful, and a good half the time, doesn't even begin to have an idea what I'm asking it. Of course, without the help of Wiki and Google, I probably already would have failed out of medical school, so who knows how I'll do as my safety net gradually fills with holes.

There is the fact that the main courses this term are physiology and neuroscience (no offense, immunology, but you're two units) and both have exquisitely written notes for the most part, so that helps.

But Fish Friday... again... I went two weekends ago, and though I had a great time again, discovered that I really should go on one of the "odd" weekends, since I think we keep hitting it on the slow night. We had the same crowd, though added Grrr, who wisely ate before going since vegetarians and Fish Fridays may not be well-met. I think she had an okay time though. At least she says she did.

We called the taxi who this time recommended we take the reggae buses, which I think was a way of saying he was full. This actually worked out quite well because I love reggae buses due to the atmosphere, and it's the only time listening to constant soca (so I guess "soca buses" would be more accurate) doesn't gut me.

I'm not sure if they've expanded their routes along with the extra 50 cents EC they added to their prices, but the #1 buses now go all the way down the Maurice Bishop highway, which may not mean a lot to many of you, but since I live in EASY walking distance of it (even at night), this means good things for me, since I no longer have to catch the Grand Anse school bus, go to its stop, cross a roundabout full of crazy drivers, and wait at the bus stop.

Come to think of it, I probably never did, but living on campus meant I generally had to catch a bus or walk a mile anyway, so we'll go with it.

Many people (myself included) ask for reggae bus routes. Hell, many people ask for the school bus routes, which are at least fixed, if for the fact that they don't tend to stop unless someone is standing at an unmarked stop or someone on the bus hits the buzzer, so have fun discovering those. Anyway, the reggae buses, while they seem to have some outer limits and boundaries, seem to more have territories than routes, with a few (marked) stops here and there and the rest sort of left to chance. Which is kind of a cool way to see the Grenadian countryside or grab a beer when they inevitably stop at bars to pass them through the windows to paying patrons (shrug). Your mileage may vary.

The nice thing to remember about the buses (other than the fact that they very rarely have serious accidents so no matter what your intuition is telling you about your impending fate, just find your happy place and you'll be fine) is that all roads lead to the bus station in downtown St. George's so once you get a bus, given enough time, you can get pretty much anywhere in Grenada.

Quick instructions: If a van has a number in the front window and someone is yelling at you, they are (probably) not sexually harassing you, but asking if you want a ride and will typically yell out the destination. If you're not interested just make kind of a sideways "go on" gesture. If you are, jump in and say goodbye to your personal space. There's usually a driver and a moneytaker/seat arranger. He will show you where to sit (regardless of whether you believe you will fit there), possibly rearrange you, and as noted, will take your money and usually give you change. If you need change and are getting off before the bus station, it's polite to pay him before the stop so he can get your change without holding anyone up, but I've never really seen anyone get yelled at for it either. It's 2.5 EC for anywhere along the #1 route, and it was 4.5 on top of that to get to Gouyave, making for 14 EC roundtrip per person. Ohhh, we beat last time!

To stop, bang on the ceiling. This is also how you get the reggae bus style campus buses to stop. Yelling "HEY!! HEY!!! THIS IS MY STOP!" does provide amusement to the people on the bus though. Fortunately, I knew better before I got here.

Anyway, at the station, we grabbed the #5 bus to Gouyave... now, the last time we went, we had 18 people in a taxi van... I don't have any idea how many people were in this reggae bus, nor could I raise a hand to count or take pictures because one arm was crammed into my side, and the other had to be around Grr sleazy date style so we could get some rib room. Good god. It was packed full when the guy said shoving 5 more people in was no problem.

My seatmate to the right was a man holding an infant... now, I'm typically somewhat gutter mouthed (I control it), but I go all gosh-darnits around infants and kids, because my parents would smack me from across the hemisphere if they intuited that I was saying bad words around rugrats. Grr is apparently the opposite and has some variety of minor-present tourette's syndrome so that while her normal language is somewhat pristine, the second a baby's in earshot, she's Richard Pryor. Probably had something to do with the speed at which a reggae bus can take a corner on a road that looks built for 1.5 car widths with oncoming traffic and is on a cliff edge. Apparently overloading them by a ton means they can corner on a dime without flipping over. Holy shucks!

So despite stops to deposit and restock people and some Friday-night traffic through St. George's, we still made it in pretty much the exact same time.

Fish Friday was prof night, which was interesting to watch, including the head of the CPH (the one who actually tried) leading to some "Uhhh..." moments, but fortunately he was distracted by the member of our party who apparently actively yelled at him (I swear it wasn't me), but still managed to be quite nice about it. The professor who went on an hour long smoking rant was blissfully absent.

Also present was a biochem professor, who's name will be hidden to protect the innocent, who was great fun, visibly inebriated late in the evening (awesome, I love medical school), and told us cheerfully that the bus ride home would be all sorts of fun now that the drivers had a chance to get good and drunk. Eep.

Look! More Fish Friday!

Oh, the warehouse you walk through to get to the restrooms:

Surprisingly enough, this *isn't* the place where serial killers bid for a chance to pick off backpackers.

And of course, the entrance to it had to be a photo op:

What's kind of weird is that the inside of the warehouse (restrooms outside in the back in a separate building with this weird abandoned building in between that seems to serve no function) doesn't smell like urine, which any similar structure in the U.S. would.

Enough of that topic...

The band was back:

Dave pointed out that a number of the songs are actually somewhat explicit when you listen to the words, while sounding all Harry Belafonte-esque. Well done, guys.

We caught a bus (a much less crowded bus) back at 10 to the bus stop and back to the route so Dave would have a chance at getting some sleep before he whisked off to Atlanta for the weekend (sniff).

But, the early hour getting back and the lack of inebriation (I was a good girl, relatively) means I got all sorts of stuff done today, so that's good. Hooray for Pain lectures in neuro!


Sep 21, 2007

Results are in!

And I did well! And that should mean that I stop complaining and feel all chided, because aw shucks, I did well, and that forgives the two weeks of my life lost to this class, right?

WRONG! If anything, doing well now gives me license to say what I like because it can't be construed as sour grapes because I failed CPH or something.

I will modify this by saying again that the guy forced to organize the course at the last minute and a couple of the revolving profs really did try to present the information, but the course was tossed together in 2 seconds with less finesse than an Oxygen reality television show, and it showed; oh man did it ever show.

With the exception of about half the instructors in CPH, I'm noticing more in second term that when I think about *problems* with SGU, or when I think "Gah! Caribbean medical school!", in the end, it is very rarely the actual caliber of the instruction or the quality of the facilities that has me feeling the No-Go-American-School-blues. It's the administrative runaround last minute never ending busy work, with the creation of this class being the perfect example. The real, planned courses, while they may have a dud professor here or there, or an unfair test question here or there, from what I've seen from feedback from American medical schools, the quality of education here is pretty damn good.

And really, that's what's important since last minute administration woes (aka, my first week back in Grenada) are incredibly annoying, scream-inducing, and sometimes tear-inducing, but so long as I get a good quality of education, that's the most important thing.

But back to bitching about this class, because holy shit, ya'all. And I'm from California. It takes a LOT to get me to say "ya'll/ya'all".

Administrative: Clinical Skills got disappeared like a mob stoolie despite it being on the master schedule and despite us doing a unit (or half unit, I can never remember) worth of work last term, that often encroached on things like study time, sleep time, or oh yeah, histology lab in another stunning moment of administrative planning, and though I got a nasty email last term about missing a couple patient interviews (which granted, are useful), Saint Paparo (Histo head) just gave us all 100% attendance points and tried to work it so that people could be in other labs so there wasn't a completely unnecessary conflict between labs.

Brilliant. So all for nothing though, because goodbye Clinical Skills! So we get the modified lecture schedule with the new class, CPH on it, with a professor introducing its inception (oh, and we had scheduled classes for clinical skills before any announcements, so we found out we didn't have to come back for class or workshops because a student went to the clinical skills office to find out what was going on with whether there was a lecture) with obvious irritation at having to do this with no warning.

Apparently those two week classes, like again, parasitology and genetics, actually take time and energy to prepare. Who knew? Oh wait... anyone. We swiped some of the MPH professors along with some rotating (grad students?) which causes me to now feel a degree of overwhelming sympathy for the MPH students that I never felt before.

Bye bye clinical skills point with your P/F-ness. Hello, suddenly graded class that's inexplicably worth as much as parasitology and genetics, thus if you do fail it, you get to explain to a residency board someday why you can pass hard classes but love smokers and hate minorities so much you can't pull off community health.

But you know all this.

About half the lectures were absolute racist, one-sided, unscientific garbage. The clinical case was a joke that featured a character so stereotypical that if she'd appeared in a movie, people would be howling that the director was a racist, and she was supposed to be indicative of the problems with addressing racial issues in the MEDICAL profession, yet they picked a case where the medical response had absolutely nothing to do with the prologue or the epilogue and was solely based on the patient's panoply of awful choices. Somehow this was relevant yet "Guy keeps eating ho hos despite warning until you have to cut his foot off" is not an issue about the horrors of the medical profession's discrimination against heavy people. Shrug.

And the smoking... I know now TWO people who had quit smoking who started smoking AGAIN during this class because it was hashed on so damn much that it revved up their cravings. So it's official... Studying community health gives you cancer. I can make up statistics and everything. (BTW, though I hate smoking, despite not wanting to be told what I SHOULD vote for concerning people's freedom to hurt themselves with impunity, a bunch of those smoking statistics did not add up and I suspect are not well supported, plus if half the people who smoke are going to die eventually from tobacco use, all that tells me is that you have a pretty good life expectancy if you smoke since something else didn't get you first)

The exam had to give back 4 questions, which seems like not that many (biochem gave back 5), until you realize the exam had 40 questions. Yup, 10 percent of the exam unfit... and these were not histology throwback points with "Well, you should have known it, but you all didn't do well on this question and I'm incredibly awesome" points... no, these were "excuse me, but this question doesn't actually have a correct answer" points because you screwed the math on two of the most important measuring criteria for population screening, which actually is an incredibly relevant concept. And why do I know that? Because I learned it in parasitology. Parasitology is actually the best community health education you'll ever get.

So I challenged 4 questions, which I suppose was nice that I knew the material well enough to know that they weren't right. The guy next to me challenged 6; a friend challenged 5, and there had been a couple I'd considered challenging but didn't want to raise my hand again for another slip of paper.

Speaking of skewed math, the syllabus had us required to bring a calculator to the final exam... which we subsequently were not allowed to take in, thus sparking a "and next time leave them" (also cell phones, which I think some people were trying to use for calculators)... which I would have if I hadn't been told to bring them in the first place?

So yeah, that's the last verbose bitch on CPH I'll post, but if anyone's wondering why the unnatural level of anger, it's sort of like... you know when you pay to see a movie so bad that you no longer want your money back, but you want that two hours of your life back (*cough* WICKER MAN *cough*)? This was a two week long Wicker Man... except Nicholas Cage has never screamed at me for an hour about smoking... and I'm pretty sure if he did, I'd be allowed to hit him in the face, which is discouraged here.

Sep 19, 2007

Results? What Results?

Lest anyone think I'm being coy...

The CPH exam... most of the time even despite the results not being in, I would give a feeling for how I *think* I did on an exam.

This one? No clue. Could have gotten an "A"; could have failed it. The questions were so, well, I'll fill in the details once we get the grades in, if we ever get the grades in. Why? Well, unlike EVERY other test I've ever taken, including my biochem makeup exam, we were not given a form so that we could fill in our answers and potentially check it against the web/other students with the same version.

Now, though I, like any other grade-grubbing lifeless freak, like results as soon as possible, even when we don't know if any questions are thrown out yet, this isn't really the point of being concerned by this.

For any other class, the lack of an answer sheet to take out of the exam would be an "aw shucks" but nothing more, because I have no general belief that any one of the professors in any other class, including a couple (not many) professors I haven't particularly liked, would take time out of his/her lives to personally discriminate against any student, adjust grades based on factors aside from direct score or any other of that "TEACHER HATES ME AND THAT'S WHY I FAILED!" crap many college students like to pull when they're one in a class of four hundred people. This class is the first time I've been worried about bias affecting grades, and no, I'm not referring to me personally... though if they read this blog, I may end up with an "F-" anyway... Everything was just so thrown together with still no word on what's happening with all the clinical skills stuff we did last term or if we get anything for it, with irregularities in this class from the syllabus on out, and with at least one professor, I don't know who's grading/recording the stuff (PLEASE be the department secretary), but I don't trust him/her as far as I can throw him, and I have weak arms.

Without being too detailed, let me give an idea of what the exam itself was like. In the exam, which was at the Trade Center after three morning classes for physio, neuro, and immuno, we had to sit for the whole time in assigned seating (which also has never happened; usually once the first student has left that simply means that anyone arriving late is SOL), and be dismissed by section lest we... well, I have no idea why sections would have to leave independently, but whatever. Fortunately, to about 1/3 to 1/2 the students, there was no trouble being bored while sitting waiting for the exam to end because everyone was far too busy writing challenges to the exam questions. How do I know this? Well, instead of attaching the challenge sheet to the exam, like all the other ones I've taken, we had to raise our hands if we wanted one, thus diverting a great deal of the proctors' attentions... GOODNESS, that was a lot of hands that went up! The proctors themselves were fine though, no real complaints there, and the guy that got handed this last minute assignment honestly seemed to try, so I can't fault him too much, but gods.

Part of the problem with CPH (and for other classes multiple professors haven't caused a problem since most to all of them tend to be pretty good in their own ways and frequently have a better knowledge of whatever section of the class we're studying) is that about half the profs *really* tried and weren't bad, and the other half... OMGWTF, to use AOLspeak.

On the plus side, now immunology has started and CPH has ended! Wahoo! And immunology is quite cool and seems to only have one professor! Who is also cool! And I feel like I'm understanding both physio and neuro. Buttercups and sunshine all around!

Oh, though pay attention first term and don't cram. That stuff comes back! In a sense, there's an "uh oh, I don't remember this topic all that well; what shall become of me?" feeling (though the classes do not just jump in like they're a continuation of the previous classes, so don't panic), but in a sense, it's nice to have the confirmation that a lot of this is going to be drummed in again and again and build on itself so that when USMLE time *does* roll around, it's not going to be biochem, anatomy, and histo starting from scratch. Plus, geek moment, it can be kind of cool. In a lot of places neuro is turning into applied clinical biochem/histo, thus adding relevance to stuff that seemed like detail for the sake of torturing us last term (G proteins, anyone?).

Sep 17, 2007

12 More Hours!

Until I can take the Community/Public Health final and never have to hear from that class again. Can't believe I'm GLAD I'm taking a final.

Of course, I could fail it and then get to spend Christmas break re-studying. That would be embarrassing... and annoying... and full of unnecessary ellipses, like the rest of the blog. Something about typing like William Shatner talks makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Unlike Public Health, which makes me feel all irritated inside.

I just finished a lecture on screening, which was surprisingly relevant. There are a few gems tucked in there, which almost serves to make the rest more obnoxious because of that hitherto bemoaned "it has potential" effect. What's funny for me is that useful lectures are the ones that require more work (and usually math), but because I can see where the application could be, studying them irritates me far less.

So this is short, as all entries are before a final, but after the last few rambling doozies, I figure you guys deserve a break.

Sep 12, 2007

Sonic, My Love...

That's Sonic Foundry, not Sonic the Hedgehog.

I'm not sure what other terms it applies to, or if it'll apply to immunology when it starts next week, but the school has started something for Neuro and Physio that I absolutely adore.

Now, I've mentioned that they're videotaping the lectures before, but it is only in the last couple of days that I've truly been making use of this feature, and OMG, how on earth did people become doctors before this? How did I pass last term???

With this feature, not only does it tape the lectures themselves, which could seem of limited usefulness because *watching* a professor talk doesn't tend to be all that more useful than simply listening to him/her on a tape recorder, a tactic students have been making use of since... oh, the late 1400s... give or take.

BUT, the lecture slides play next to the lecture video, which then rotate in time with what the lecturer is saying. All that's missing is the little red dot of the laser pointer. You can blow up the slides to be big while the prof is talking and they still change at the appropriate intervals, or you can click on the slide to start that particular slide over... over and over and over...

Ahhhh... maybe it's just that I'm addicted to television, but it rams things in my head so much better, and that's not just for lazy lecture-skipping, but I can pause it, get drinks, or, in the cases of difficult concepts, simply keep clicking one slide over and over again to make the virtual professor repeat himself so many times that I can recite that part of the lecture, much like I can recite old quotes from the X-Files (not proud).

Of course, I was just watching a neuron lecture with Dr. House where he threatened that if we misuse Sonic by like... giving away our Angel (the interactive website for all your classes) password and letting other people view it (because non-medical students like nothing better than to watch med school lectures, because having the 'interesting' bits summed up by family members isn't mindnumbing enough), they can take it away at any time...

Please... please never take away my Sonic Foundry. Though I've only known of how absolutely incredibly cool it is lately, having it withdrawn at this stage would probably cause me to go into the sort of downward spiral as Kermit in that "Hurt" video. I'd probably keep watching a blank screen in the hopes it would come back. I would camp for weeks outside the administration office begging for a fix. I love Sonic. I love it more than nutmeg ice cream and Carib.

It's also weird that it's so well put together because with the exception of Angel, which I think actually works pretty well except for its annoying tendency to log you out after 90 minutes of "inactivity", which often consists of going through power point lectures, a lot of the school's stuff tends to produce error messages and be difficult to use, but this thing is... well, it's just awesome. I'm wiping a tear away at the thought... have I oversold this enough?

So enough with gushing about that. I am a bit behind in my lectures, which I'm trying to catch up, not helped at all by the fact that I skipped lecture today to try and catch up the very gradual sleep deficit I was building, plus I was feeling increasingly kind of icky, temperature sensitive, off feed, and antisocial so I figured I was coming down with something and took the day to kind of watch Sonic and unwind/chill/heal, also figuring I might have gotten socially overloaded and needed to hole up for a day.

Apparently not. I don't know if I have a sinus infection or what that's been causing me to feel kind of wiggy, but around 5 I flipped out from the weird prickly isolation (and fell asleep during Dr. House's lecture, causing me to have really bizzare dreams about wandering around my apartment, and sort of subliminally buried the properties of neurons into my subconscious) and ran over to Nina's apartment to eat pumpkin daal, ice cream, and drink tea. She's gotta blog too.

So that's all good, and I'm about to head for bed... I have yet another final exam on Monday (damn these two week classes!) but it's for community health, which is really hard to be passionate about, because for the most part I've just been preached at to not smoke... which I don't, but after having it so completely shoved in my face for the past two weeks, I'm thinking about taking it up. Some of the profs have been okay, but in the meantime it seems more like... well, evangelizing political beliefs to a captive audience. Can't wait for that final. I suppose it's karma for bitching about ethics so much.

What's weird is that the best class I've had so far for community and preventative health was parasitology. While it could be a bit scattered, it was incredibly interesting (and disgusting), relevant, and without being preachy, showed a direct cause/effect relationship between community health improvement (even more than smoking, 9 out of 10 doctors recommend not defecating in your water supply) and the, in some cases, overwhelming positive effects certain control programs have had on certain communities. Parasitology actually got me excited about the huge numbers of people that could be helped through simple action. Community health gets me excited by the prospect that if I pass the exam on Monday, I don't have to deal with the class anymore.

It just has a tendency to piss me off (who me?). Oh, and in a crowning moment, while public health is apparently the only *real* medicine, most of us are going to specialize because of the money. Excuse me??? First of all, I believe the majority of SGU grads go into primary care. Correct me if I'm wrong. Second of all, what was that, QUARTER MILLION DOLLAR school? Money bad? Someone's doing something for money? Third, there are plenty of reasons to specialize besides money... like perhaps liking that field of medicine a lot and excelling at it. If you're good at cutting things and anatomy, and bad at statistics and financial planning, maybe public health *shouldn't* be in your future. But being in a graded class and being told essentially that we're all in it for the money? Not cool.

Oh, and don't smoke. Because smoking is bad. And I can't believe that there are students that smoke on campus that want to be doctors because smoking is bad, and doctors never do things that are bad for themselves, but especially not smoking... because smoking is bad, and should have extra taxes put on it, and people who smoke should be fixed so they don't pass on their deleterious broken smoking genes to other people. Okay, maybe I made that last part up.

But if you're knocked up and miss your obstetrics appointments, it's society's fault. Unless you're also a smoker. Then, you probably missed your obstetrics appointment to score cigarettes.

Did I mention I'm not a fan? Teach it like parasit, dammit! Or, I can't believe I'm saying this, bring back the patient interview part of clinical skills. That was actually useful.

Neuro and Physio are kind of running into each other which is cool, because it creates an inherent redundancy that gives me a "I've heard this before" feeling of deja vu for material that you've only recently covered, which really helps me enforce the material, a particularly good thing since the overlapping bits are the scary physics bits. It also means that I'm hoping it'll make me a little less "behind" in the material.

Neuro also has weekly small groups which to me are intrinsically more helpful than a lot of the other small groups were for me last term (which may have more to do with the fact they're in the afternoon rather than content), and we get to do case studies, which I like. Wernicke's aphasia (you can speak fluently but you talk gibberish so no one can understand you) sucks more than polar bear worms, though I don't have a cute graphic for it. We also play with the plastic brains, not only nice for visualizing three dimensional structures, but you get to play Hannibal Lecter with them. What?

Sep 9, 2007

Fish Friday!

Subtitled: Yes, we attend classes at this medical school, but damned if I'm going to talk much about them in this blog...

Problem being, blogging about classes except for tips, annoyances, study aids, and exam hints, isn't wildly interesting and tends to involve parroting things we've learned in class, which, while pretty gripping (to me, at least) in parasitology, is less so in the current courseload...

Instead? Sporadic events... this is the reality television show of blogs, and just after we chased out the Oxygen network (WTF?) from slinking around the school.

So, I'll just modify this post and all blog posts like this with a disclaimer:

WARNING: Medical school may be FAR less fun than depicted in the blogs, letters from home, and school promotional videos. The people depicted are (not) professionals. Attempts to emulate may wind up in crying jags, sleeplessness, death by reggae bus, anal leakage, and sexual dysfunction. Inappropriate for children under the age where they should keep trying to get into American medical schools. Not legal in Arkansas, Oregon, and the District of Columbia.

But I was talking about Fish Friday...

After an elucidating small group discussion mandatory for the community health class, which in no way showed the same kind of *overwhelming* bias we've come to expect from these sorts of things (though our group leader was really cool), Jay, Laila, David, and I decided to latch onto a group hiring a taxi to Gouyave, which is a fair distance, oh... all right, it's here:

SGU's somewhere down near the airport, and Gouyave is... not. So it's about an hour each way, particularly since the cliff hugging roads are quite windy, making that "22 mile" long island a lot longer.

We arranged with Dexter to pick us up at the upper bus stop at campus where he was picking up some of the other students, and then he was going to swing by to pick up some more. For some reason, I had thought there would be two groups of four for a grand total of 8 people going to Gouyave, an easy load for a taxi van pretty much designed along the same lines as a reggae bus.

18, as I learned, was more of a squeeze. You do get close to your taxi-buddies, including a fellow anthropology UCD Aggie!

18 people in a van looks something like this:

Though technically, this was on the way back from Gouyave, so this is what 18 people at varying degrees of inebriation and fish-stuffed look like.

The trip there was really cool since we got the taxi before sunset, so we were whizzing along the coast (albeit the wrong one) while the sun was setting, the ocean was serene, the lights from St. George's were coming on, and the sky was all sorts of colors. Vacation like... no pictures of that though because when you're in a van with 18 people whizzing along cliff roads, hanging a camera out the window is not recommendable. As we got closer, it got darker, but Gouyave seems to be one side ocean and one side jungle because the houses and businesses got scarcer and the foliage got thicker. Every so often though, there were little Carib roadside banners (don't think they actually had anything to do with Fish Friday though) so we might feel more at home.

When we got to Gouyave, we paid Dexter up front for the ride there and back, which came out to 15 EC a person, less than 6 bucks US for an hour ride there and an hour ride back. Even sharing this discount with 17 other people makes for a sweet deal.

I like Gouyave a lot. I'd been there very briefly before during the school's orientation, but remembered very little about it, but it strikes me as being more... argh... words fail me... Grenadian, maybe? Foreign? Not 75% geared toward students and tourists?

The layout is also something I like. Gouyave is an odd mixture of fairly new or well kept buildings and what look like colonial ruins, and then if you stray off the 'beaten road' of the town (like to find the restroom), it feels like jungle, though granted that might be a side effect of wandering around at night, but some ideas:

This church might be another Ivan casualty, but David astutely pointed out that the windows were bricked up, leaving the question of "why?" Boarding up a door keeps people out due to either unsafe conditions or fear of vandals, but bricking up windows 30 feet in the air seems somewhat pointless... fear of rappelling vandals? Cool looking though...

The actual Fish Friday event was a little smaller than I expected, and took up about two of the streets, but it was a lot of fun, and let us see it all and still get back to True Blue in time for David to catch a flight back to the States this weekend and the rest of us to have a snowball's chance of studying this weekend.

Accept no substitutions.

The angle of this shot should be construed as deliberately artsy, rather than "Ishie's lazy butt forgot to bring her tripod somewhere yet again, so had to use a garbage can to get a street shot".

So we did an initial run of the booths to scope out what was good to eat. We were introduced to fish cakes tucked into "fry bake", which was awesome, by this woman:

whom I thanked by taking a doofy picture of her. This was not a good camera day for me.

I also wanted to tackle some lobster because I love it in the depths of my heart, thought it was out of season, but wait.. what's this?

Score!! Carib was also scored... the bar tent was well staffed and well attended, though there doesn't seem to be ANY shortage of bars in Gouyave.

The highlight for me was the music act, consisting of guys with drums, maracas, and other sorts of things, and they went to town. To clarify, most of what I've been hearing on the island is soca (think Sean Paul) and while initially fine with it, after solid months of it, the consistency of its rotation can make a young medical student want to hang herself, so having a full on drum party was far preferable.

David, Laila, and I were content to dance, but Jay had to get closer to the action (particularly if it involves musical instruments, which apparently he can play all of), started playing the drums with them, which was cool, but in the most impressive moment:

Now where on earth do you take classes for that? Wait...

Okay, so maybe I'm just the only one who doesn't know how to do that. Do conch shells have spit valves?

So the band was playing and everyone was having fun.

Um, all right...

So then it was time to meet Dexter back under the Christmas lights that marked the entrance to Fish Friday and head back. The ride was primarily DARK. Jay climbed out the window at his stop (rather than unloading 18 people), Laila returned to her place on campus, leaving Dave and I to get a nice stroll in back to our respective apartments (he's a couple complexes down from my place).

It was still earlyish, so Little Grr/aka Nina fed me ice cream and tea as we scoured over her MP3s. A great evening overall, until reality bitchslapped me back with physio today. Actually, it wasn't so bad, with Neuroscience planned for Sunday study, but the "Do Not Disturb" sign in on the door and my nose is in the books.

Until next Fish Friday!

Sep 5, 2007

I'm Going to Prague!!!!

Wahoo!!!!! Yes, so that's where I've been. Not Prague... signing up for Prague, yes, nearly a year in advance, but so worth it.

SGU offers a summer selective in Prague which is coordinated through other schools with a doctor in the Czech Republic, where you get to experience medicine in another country. It's essentially glorified shadowing, but I thoroughly enjoyed shadowing this summer anyway, AND you get to, as I just said, witness medicine in another country, and hey, not so insubstantially, Prague... which is said to be an awesome city even for people who have been to Europe, which I haven't. Here's an awesome report (and blog) on the selective.

Because I'm incredibly OCD and once missed out on an EMT class at the time I wanted to take it, because I didn't show up early enough the NIGHT BEFORE (got it the next time around), I decided to do the Uberdork thing and camp out for it, since it's an extraordinarily popular selective, and I've wanted to do the selective since I first read about it, which was before I actually applied to the school. There's also an overflow Pilsen selective (city about an hour away from Prague), but it has even fewer slots and fills up with the people that almost made the Prague selective but just missed.

So I was making damn sure I got it, though to redeem myself on the dork scale, I have never camped out for toys, games, science fiction movies, tickets to see a Stephen Hawking lecture (as some of my colleagues at UC Davis did), or rock concerts. There are worse things to camp out for than a three week medical selective in Europe (like a spot in an EMT class)...

The initial night I pictured was being alone, miserably hot, and camped out on the step of Caribbean House, possibly covered in roaches (I actually haven't really seen many roaches this term, though I know they're out there, but I'm afraid of them, thus paranoid), and getting yelled at by security.

Not to be. First of all, David and Laila both wanted the selective as well, so "camped out" with me. We did rationalize staying on campus by the fact that only Laila lives on campus, walking from Cool Runnings to campus in the middle of the night (or dark of midmorning) isn't the best idea, and the buses don't start running until early morning, by which the line would surely be out the door (which it was, but people got in anyway).

Second of all, I had awesomely forgotten that while the library closes at 2 am (not bad), the relatively air conditioned study rooms are open 24/7. SWEET! And we managed to get into one that not only had ethernet and the rest of it but one that had a window overlooking Caribbean House so we could make sure that 80 students didn't magically make a run on it at 3 am and squeeze us out.

Had a nice study night surrounded by good company, then meandered over to the un-air conditioned stairwell of Caribbean House around 4:45 am, where about 4 first termers, diligently studying their Netter and Rohan anatomy atlases, had actually beaten us.

Which actually kind of illustrates some suckage. You see, the first termers who are starting now got the start of their third term moved up, so that now the start of their classes conflicts with the dates of the Prague selective... a fact they were not aware of until AFTER they'd stayed up all night, camped in the un-air conditioned stairwell, paid their 200 bucks (which HAS to be in US dollars; no checks/cheques, no EC), and the rest of it. And since the 2009 selective won't start until after their second year, that means they're closed out. So despite my own fortune in getting the selective, I will extend genuine and heartfelt sympathy to you first termers who went through all that.

Not sure if this will be a problem for August start first termers in the future, thus locking the Prague/Pilsen selective to only the January starters in their second summer, but the school seems to be scrabbling to find other summer selectives, and already have a Honduras selective (which has mixed reviews) and a Thailand selective, which is too new to have too many reviews, but I know at least one person that did it, and she loved it.

But anyway, we're going there, and, in a stroke of luck, Nina and Jay, who came later in the morning, got in as well. I think Jay was number 79, though that's not including the spots opened by the first term spots that were lost after initial registration.

Hmm... in other news... I've been napping during the last two days after lecture, to make up for the night of missed sleep, which doesn't seem like a big deal, but with my sleep problems, it's always been virtually impossible for me to nap, which is a crucial skill in medicine, so that's a really happy thing for me.

But I finished parasitology and genetics (and am very happy with both, and both exams were extraordinarily fair to even being on the easier side of fair), and I'm now into physiology, neuroscience, and community health.

We'll start with community health. Hey! A class as useless as first term Ethics/Clinical Skills! They seem to have replaced C/S for second term, at the last minute, with a one unit community health class, and no word on whether the C/S for last term will count for anything (since it was supposed to run for two terms with one grade). This seems to be a last minute thing, with the C/S lectures actually scheduled in our original syllabus.. it's kind of a shame because I've read that like last term, as C/S drastically improved with patient history and interviews, second term clinical skills is/was far preferable to the first half of first term Aristotle murdering.

I'm not sure if this is a result of being cobbled together at the last minute, but community health/preventative medicine seems like a topic that *could* be really important and relevant if it were handled a bit better and may be in the future. Unfortunately, so far, the first lecture was given by the guy that did the main part of the dreaded drug seminar and is done in the same sermon-style redundancy. Preventive medicine is good. No, really. In a lot of ways it's better than clinical because you don't have to treat patients who are demonstrating pathologies because you keep them healthy to begin with. Did I mention it's good? Did I mention you should go into it? You know it's really good? ARGH. WE GET IT. Get to how it's done. Oh, and heart disease kills a lot of people. In fact, it's the leading killer... something I've inexplicably known since the 8th grade...

Hopefully it'll get better though, because unlike having to learn the history of philosophical ethical theory to practice medicine, community health/preventive medicine deserves attention. Now, I'm being redundant. Wait, I've always been redundant, but this is not a required one-unit blog.

Onto the meat-classes: Physiology and Neuroscience. Immunology will start up as well, but hasn't yet.

Neuroscience is cool, and I swear I'm not just saying that because one of the professors is named "Dr. House" and put up his name as the House, M.D. logo but with PhD instead... I'm not that shallow... wait, yes I am.

Neuroscience is the class that seems to be freaking people out, which concerns me more that I'm not, because so far, it involves a ton of anatomy, most of which I don't know, but I like anatomy, it's not that difficult for me to pick up, and squishy brains are cool. I think it'll get a lot harder for me as we break into chemistry and physics, but in the meantime, it's fun and interesting. I was a little skeptical when our intro lecture was a poor-audio digital video from Norway (a fact that the Physio professor busted on, which was pretty funny, by noting on the first day that we must be brain fried after our "virtual professor), but as of the second lecture, we got a real prof who is pretty good at presenting the material, so no complaints.

Physio has the potential to be really awesome because it tells you the whys of everything in the body, but in a sense it frightens me because I'm not spectacular at physics, and there seems to be a lot of it, even if it's not currently *too* difficult (though I think right now it's harder for me than other people, with the reverse being true of neuro). Membrane potential, osmotic pressure, that sort of thing... The professor is good, and this is a class where in lecture we tend to go over the pictures extensively, so it's one where pre-reading the lecture notes is a real benefit, and I think the lecture notes are also good. Even better, they've now posted videos of the lectures, so you can specifically review the lecture material. You can also conceivably skip lecture (though the prof warned us that sometimes the videos had broken audio or whathaveyou, but except for the morning of registration for Prague, I'm not that bold. Good prof + hard class = Ishie Goes to Lecture.

The instructor for Physio is Australian, thus punctuates sentences with "okay?" and "yeah?" rather than "uh", which I like and involves me more than most lectures because there's a pseudo-participation, even though he's not really asking us anything. I don't know if that makes any sense. The instructor also confirmed his Australian-ness by using a shark biting off your leg as a demonstration of homeostasis, which seemed like a somewhat arbitrary, though certainly elucidating, example. This was particularly hilarious to me because I'd been swimming at the beach the day before with friends and discussing what in the water could kill you and that most of it was confined to Australia, so the fact that one of the first things out of his mouth involved getting half-eaten by by sea-hungries caused me to probably laugh more than I should have.

It's about bedtime, which I can tell from the fact that this is a particularly long and rambling sleep deprived entry. We're going to try for Fish Friday again, barring interference by what seems to be developing into quite the nasty hurricane season. It's surreal that Felix formed essentially on us, as what was primarily an inconvenience, and now I'm reading about it being an extremely devastating hurricane hitting central America. I was just worried about getting minor flooding. Yeesh. Enough, weather gods! Enough!

Sep 2, 2007

Felix Who?

Nothing like a tropical storm to screw up your Fish Friday. Had fun anyway, so take that weather and Tropical Storm/Depression/Whatever Felix.

I was planning on going to Fish Friday in Gouyave with David and some other people yesterday, but when we called a friend who was organizing the taxi, apparently all the Fish Friday people were canceling due to nasty weather on the other side of the island (to be honest, the weather on this side of the island wasn't too hot). The taxi driver, who was not, incidentally, Robert DeNiro, said he'd still take us, but didn't recommend it, as there was some sort of tropical depression. Apparently, Felix essentially formed ON Grenada. Thanks, weather gods.

(For the uninitiated, Fish Friday is a really cool weekly giant feast/giant party in Gouyave, aka, to Grenada, the town that doesn't sleep (or at least, doesn't roll up the sidewalks at 9 PM). It features tons of fresh fish, alcohol, music, alcohol, and more fish... and alcohol. It's way over on the other side of the island, hence the slightly different weather conditions, which makes it a really Grenadian affair rather than being completely dominated by and catering to students as a lot of stuff in True Blue and Grand Anse is Fun, right?)

So after much waffling, punctuated by the weather over here going nuts and providing sporadic bits of torrential downpour and thunder that sounded like the upstairs neighbors were dropping anvils, we decided on not going. Le sigh. But two weeks, baby! Two weeks! We will go!!

David and I were determining whether we'd be up for simply staying in, maybe renting some movies, or going out to do something. Since we were both kind of disappointed by the Fish Friday thing, we decided to not only go out to dinner but go someplace a bit farther away that we hadn't been to. Since Dave's only been to St. George's proper once before, we grabbed the school bus, then the reggae bus out to the Carenage in search of a place I'd seen before (but hadn't been to) that literally juts out onto the water, detained a bit by a soaked child that first asked for clothes, and then asked to get on the bus with us. Argh. What is it with Grenadian children that want me to kidnap them? I'm not taking an unknown young child into town on the bus and abandoning him on a Friday night when he's already in grand Anse, indicating that he in some way belongs there. Hard though, because I never know what exactly to do.

Anyway, Dave and I grabbed the reggae bus and made it into town, where they dropped us off almost on top of the restaurant. Sweet! And there was a pause in the rain where it was only sort of half drizzling, so we even got in without being drenched to the skin. I don't remember the name of the place exactly, but it's the place on the Carenage ON the water, so you can't miss it, but we had a wonderful meal that made us feel like we were on vacation rather than in med school (atmosphere's good) and watched the boats (probably full of really relieved sailors) come in and the lighting flash on the hills. That was some *serious* lightning going on last night.

After our meal, we grabbed another bus back to Grand Anse, with the bus driver stopping on the way for what was either weed or a sandwich, and there was a break in the music just long enough to hear the TROPICAL STORM warning for Grenada. Looks like we made the right call! Caught the campus bus almost immediately and headed back...

And what a scene that was... I was on Skype while opening my mom-presents (which are awesome, and I now have pots, pans, a water filter, and a thousand New Englandy memorabilia items, including (gasp!) maple sugar candy), when I heard HOWLING from outside and opened to the door to a scene straight off the weather channel. Sideways rain, sideways palm trees, grass and dirt flying, deafening winds, yeesh!

For reference, growing up in California, even with a stint in (inland) North Carolina did not expose me to weather like that, thus yes, to me a tropical storm is pretty damn impressive, though I'm sure I'll catch it from all the people that have been through a real hurricane, which I fortunately have not.

They've been expanding the harbor (I think) in back, so there was some flooding, but none in my apartment, fortunately, though as the water levels rose, it was starting to be a little nerveracking, so I pulled all my electronics off the ground before going to sleep.

So no Fish Friday for me, but a great little evening in St. George's... oh, followed by music comparison and the ceremonial watching of youtube videos, which brings me to some of the funniest stuff I've seen this year. Have I mentioned I have a sick sense of humor?

Warning: do not click this link if you are easily offended... or not so easily offended... or don't want your childhood innocence regarding Kermit the Frog ruined. Don't say I didn't warn you. Oh, and may not be appropriate... okay DEFINITELY not appropriate for children under... oh, probably 30.