Dec 30, 2007

More touring

That is, when I wasn't training a toy parrot to either use profanity or recite lines from the Monty Python "dead parrot" sketch. Yes, I'm 12. But that at least makes me precocious rather than being on the fast track to burnout.

It also means I shouldn't feel bad about having to regularly rip myself away from a Futurama marathon on Adult Swim, right?

So, America! I can prove I'm here AND that I didn't end up on the no-fly list due to weird Wikipedia searches:

Huzzah! My brush with Homeland Security. It's also I think one of my only stamps to date that doesn't disallow me from working while I'm here. That one's self inflicted.

I also realized I've been in New England now for well over a week, and I haven't posted a single picture of a church despite the fact that now they're all covered with snow. The horror!

This was part of a beautiful journey to the arbitrary destination of the day: the Vermont Country Store! This one's huge, but to be the "Vermont" country store, versus the per-town country store (quaintness required), they must have done some cage fighting. Behold the outside:

The route there largely involved more screwing with the GPS, like seeing a mountain with a ton of ski slopes, a sign that said "Okemo", and figuring... hey, let's see how well it recalculates the route.

To answer the question, yes, though it gets a little petulant with "recalculating" every time you take a 'wrong turn'. But it also means Okemo is DEFINITELY a place to go before I go back to Grenada! I figure as difficult as it was to navigate SGU with a sprained ankle, it'll be all the more fun with a broken femur. Pictures then as well.

Dec 29, 2007

Robot Parrot

Intrigued by the title? Try actually seeing the toy. Yes, Christmas was a merry one, and netted me the bewildering combination of a professional-grade stethescope and an animatronic toy parrot.

That last bit is made creepier by the fact that the last parrot I spent a lot of time around was this one. To vindicate myself, I didn't actually kill the thing, but I did piece its skeletal remains together into a festive pose for profit, which may be sufficiently damning for the robot parrot to kill me in my sleep.

And yes, articulating skeletons is as ridiculously fun as it sounds. If I thought it were a remotely long term employable market (since I never learned to do true taxidermy), it would be ahead of Alaskan crab fisherwoman in my backup plans for what to do with my life after I've replaced my first patient's heart with a baked potato and have my medical license revoked.

I suppose, we could just restate this as "Christmas was awesome". I'll go with that. My mom arranged a huge to-do; my dad flew up from Winston Salem and we picked out the tree so we had a nice family Christmas with snow on the ground. I got my mom a fancy car GPS unit, which is worth mentioning because I've never had a GPS before and am now orchestrating winter road trips in a two door Hyundai Accent just so I can play with the thing before I head back to the land of no-car. I am getting one the *second* I get back to the USA for good. I cannot even imagine the amount of free time I'll have when I can actually go from one destination to another without getting lost, not to mention the reduction in stress from not having to watch out for cops as I make my 19th illegal u-turn.

HUGE thank you to my cousins, aunt, and uncle, for the Czech travel book with the enclosed crowns, and the beautiful shirt!

It was also a wonderfully practical Christmas, with a huge amount of provisions to take back with me to base simple meals around, since my parents heard about how very poorly I've been taking care of myself when my stocks run low and I'm too lazy to go to the store. Mmmm... food.

For any incomings reading this, by the way, don't waste space on your first luggage trip on food or unless you have very specific requirements, since you are not going to go hungry on the island (unless, like me, you are too useless as a human being to climb onto a bus during finals week). Save your package space for living necessities, since your dorm comes equipped with nothing but a shower curtain and toilet paper, but once you're established, go nuts on the return trips. A good cooking pot is an early must though, since cookingware on the island tends to be low quality and REALLY expensive, and no, as you can likely tell, I am not picky when it comes to what I cook, how I cook, if I cook, and what I eat.

Hmmm.... I'm sleepy and disoriented so I'll probably come back to this tomorrow. Happy Holidays!

Dec 25, 2007

Ahhh, Christmas

And the best way to spend it? Hmmm... what's the opposite of Grenada?

Ahhhhhhhhh.... it's so cold. I love it. I don't have to come in drenched in sweat even when I'm out at 2 in the morning. I actually didn't take these pictures; my mom took them before I got here (hence the date stamp) and I'm so lazy I haven't gotten my camera out yet, but what's really cool is that all of these were taken within about 2 miles of each other, and everything is even *more* wintry now, despite a rain last night that took out some of the snow and layered a nice ice layer on top of everything for ankle breaking excitement. I'm also getting my upper body workout by shoveling snow off the back porch.

So much has happened in a year. Just one year ago, I was sitting in a Denny's having burned across the country in an insane amount of time during an insane time of year, preparing to spend my Christmas dinner in a great little Indian place in Winston Salem because they were the only people crazy enough to be open on Christmas. Mmm... Christmas Vindaloo.

This year, it's gonna be Christmas a day late (accommodating work schedules) but with a prime rib, and enough food to burst at the seams and a little chalet style condo tucked into the heart of ski and snow country. And maple. Lots and lots of maple. Vermont is made out of maple. And snow.

Got a tree today (and you thought I only procrastinated in medical school) from the Ottauquechee Country Store, which sells trees, rock salt, maple covered pecans, gasoline, and ice cream. You know, the essentials. So everything is trimmed and pretty, and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir is singing Carol of the Bells on the tv. Perfect. Oh, though leaping through the house yelling "THE BELLS!!! THE BELLS!!!!" every time someone rings a bell is only appreciated by a select few.

Dec 21, 2007


No, not in Grenada, though that would be something.

I'm home! To a place I hadn't been before. But it still feels like home. I flew from Grenada to Trinidad (Liat) to JFK (Caribbean Airlines) to Boston (American Eagle).

Unfortunately, I spoke too soon and marveled that I'd made it to Boston with no delays or mishaps on behalf of the airlines, just in time for American (why are you after me AGAIN, American?) to lose my bag, and better, claim they never had it since apparently claiming it and dragging it through customs in both Trinidad and New York was just a figment of my imagination. Though I got my passport stamped by both, and the homeland security guy in NYC said "welcome home" while doing it, which was nice. He also didn't strip search me, which was even nicer.

Miraculously, they found my bag in New York (no doubt with their ticket agent), after having a couple new pieces chewed out of a particularly apathetic baggage claim girl, and shipped it to me in Vermont, where I am now. Phew. Traveling sucks. Though the journey was surprisingly good. Liat managed to screw about half the people in the airport by claiming their original flight time was at 6 am, canceling that flight and merging it with mine (at 7:20), which was fine for me, but not fine for their original connections. D'oh. Sorry guys. Enjoy Trinidad. Nice people.

Caribbean Airlines is awesome. Not to be confused with CaribStar, Caribbean Airlines is the official airline of Trinidad, has excellent service, allegedly has a 90% on time rate (my flight was on-time/early), tell you everything that's going on right down to geography and temperature, got my luggage through and in a crowning moment, when I dozed for about ten minutes, I started awake to realize a blanket had been placed over me. Dayam. Caribbean Airlines... so attentive, we'll freaking tuck you in. Unfortunately, they fly like four places. From Trinidad. I'm thinking it's worth the swim. They're looking for investors though, so if you have a boatload of money, please invest in them to reward them for not sucking? I want these guys to take over the airlines for the *world*.

So no problems with them, and had a pretty good treat considering the horror stories I've heard about Liat and my own joyous experiences with Air Jamaica (they lose your luggage for five days, but at least they don't claim not to have it) and American Airlines, who is rapidly going from my favorite airline to my least favorite airline because they're not even screwing up in ways that are easy to predict. Liat will screw with your flight times (so you schedule long layovers) and AJ will lose your luggage (so you pack all your essentials in your carryon). That's what they do. AA is dabbling in everything.

Anyway, arrived in Boston to be met by my mom, who was carrying seventeen different layers of clothes, since the warmest things I could get together were jeans, vented running shoes, and a hoodie. I was a little concerned about trying to run that ensemble through the New York layover, but it turned out not to be bad at all. I forgot that the monorail between terminals had indoor stations so spent the majority of my time browsing shops in my shiny new "Trinidad and Tobago" t-shirt, since I'd sweated through the old one in, you guessed it, Trinidad and Tobago. Nothing like trying to dress appropriately for a 60 degree temperature change.

But when I got to Vermont, there was already two feet of snow on the ground and it started snowing almost instantly when I got here. WINTER!!! I have to put on hat, gloves, jacket, long pants, and scarf just to walk the dog (my baby!), and I love all of it. Everything looks Christmasy, everyone is nice and they're playing real holiday music. Ahhhhhh... Not to mention I can watch Comedy Central again.

Dec 17, 2007

Ambushed again!

More civilized than some of those construction workers on the road to Monte Tout that day though:

Though it's all fun and games until they start channeling the demons of the underworld:

Ahhhhhhhh!! Devil Cow!

Save me, Liat!!!

(Since this is Liat we're talking about, there's a good chance this is the 7:20 am flight taking off). What's the expression? Lost In-between Antigua and Trinidad? Heh heh, just kidding guys... you're going to get me to Trinidad on time to make my flight up to New England, right? Right? It's like a 40 minute flight. Please?

Anyway, turns out the devil cows were protecting this view:

Woo hoo!!! There's a detour to campus from out this way that has overgrown a LOT since I was last there. I think Dave (I suckered him into going with me on my evening walk, which consisted of asking him) and I needed a machete apiece to pass through more effectively, but it deposited us eventually onto the point above the Black Sand Beach (beautiful... deadly...), which rewarded us with the following:

And best:

It looks so much less sinister when finals aren't going on, eh?

So that was today. What'd ya do yesterday, Ishie?

Glad you asked; jumped off this (and four of its sisters; I actually bothered to count this time):

You did all this over the course of two days and those sunset pictures were standard fare; you just bothered to bring your camera along? Then why don't you do anything but bitch and whine?

Because medical school did this to me:

It made you look like a strung out junkie AND would motivate you to take a picture of yourself looking like a strung out junkie during finals week?

Yeah, pretty much.

Dec 16, 2007

Meesa goin' home

I know; I know, I hate Jar Jar too, but I couldn't think of another title.

I'm a second year med student. I can't even believe it, nor does it feel real, nor does it feel real that I'm going to see snow and America and all that, nor does it feel like Christmas even though the reggae buses have been ceaselessly playing something that involves a soca beat with "Christmas!" thrown in a lot. That and the "Top up my phone and leave me alone" song. And the "Beautiful girls, you're making me suicidal" song. Those are pretty much the only three I've heard for the last... oh, month when my ipod isn't on. Current students, back me up.

Exams... I already mentioned neuro. Physio killed me, but I passed it, which is good because I really really really didn't want to take it again.

Pretty much, in the endgame, I realized that I had no CLUE about pulmonary physiology despite spending a really good portion of my time desperately trying to understand it from the sped-through lectures. So I decided to ignore it, and considering I think I got precisely none of those questions right on the final exam, was probably the best decision, since that is a VERY low study for question ratio, compared to endocrine and reproductive which was the opposite. So I focused on that. My main regret was not going over renal, which I initially understood but hadn't looked at in 6 weeks, and the funny thing was despite not getting a chance to review it, I think I got more of those questions right than pulmonary, even though pulmonary was an entire week by itself with hours a day about two weeks before the final for it. Shrug.

Oh, and get West's 7th edition Respiratory Physiology book. It's short and paperbacky but it is inexplicably not on the required booklist; it's the only section we weren't given notes on (versus the others which had long, detailed notes); and they don't tell you need it until you're on the island, and it's not on the required booklist. Blech. Should be cheap though; it's pretty short.

The BSCE, though I don't know how I did on it yet, wasn't too bad, though it could be because physio questions on it requiring math I sort of skimmed because I knew I wasn't going to get them right anyway, but I remembered a lot more biochem and anatomy than I thought. Plus, it's nice to have an exam where there aren't significantly immediate consequences for tanking it.

But decisions decisions... should I report on Dave's birthday celebration on Thursday (his b-day was on Tuesday but mid-finals, so we rescheduled it), Fish Friday, and yet again, jumping off the Seven Sisters? Or should I be responsible, continue getting my stuff together to leave on Tuesday? Decisions decisions.

Dec 14, 2007

Stress? Who me?

So we technically have one more exam that most people (myself included) are more interesting in planning their activities AROUND it than how they actually do on it, so more later after the persistent celebration of *hopefully* not having to do neuro or physio again until the USMLE.

BSCE is at 1 PM, which is a cumulative exam for all of first term. If you fail it, and fail the BSCE 2, and get below a 2.5 GPA, they won't let you sit the USMLE without extra help. Which means people should take it as important, prolly, but a day and a half AFTER respiratory physiology in which you get to relearn anatomy, embryology, biochem, and histology? Right. I didn't even learn embryo the first time around.

So reports more after that because no reason to be tired for it.

Oh, word to the wise... if you're going shopping and use your credit card while forgetting you don't actually have a valid photo ID on your person, when you present the ONLY photo ID you have on your person in place of a driver's license, and it's a PADI rescue diver certification card, TRY to keep a straight face when the cashier copies down the cert number.

In my defense, the giant shark on the front of the card should have been a giveaway.

Dec 10, 2007

Goodbye Neuro!

One hopes, at any rate.

I feel cautiously optimistic about the exam, despite the fact that it was freaking hard and I didn't sleep well (surprise surprise). BUT I also didn't have complete panic attacks before and after. Of course, that could be a bad sign. Or it could be a sign that my stress levels this term have been residually high enough that I don't notice significant changes in them. Let's go with that. I'm also getting used to the fact that I'm absolutely useless at determining how I did on multiple choice exams (boy, did I pick the wrong profession, eh?), so I need to just not bother with it until the shiny day that academic warning comes in the SGUMail.

Though, age of sexual differentiation in rats? Why? I mean, yes, reading off a chart, but why? Maybe I watch too much TLC (okay, I lie, I mean House and Scrubs), but I have never seen a doctor run in and have someone scream "QUICK! Read this chart and tell me if castrating a rat on it's 7th day of postnatal life will cause it to differentiate into a phenotypic female! The patient is coding!!! Dammit, doctor, if rodent gonads aren't important, then what is? NOOOOO, he's dead!!! KHAN!!!!!!"

My celebration of having one (technically two, to count immuno) exam done with consists of studying endocrine physiology and determining whether I'm going to even attempt to go back over respiratory phys tomorrow or just accept that I'm never going to understand it and focus on renal to make up the points. Decisions decisions.

It's finals... you know what this means.

I figured you'd seen the watered down version of what midterms are, but it's time you knew!

Dec 9, 2007

Ugh, no mas

Man oh MAN am I burned out! I've been on the island less than a year and I find myself running after airplanes screaming "take me with you!!!!"

The latent stress seems to be finding this sort of stomach-pit apathy where part of me is working my gosh darned hardest to be the best overall medical student I can be, so I can be on all the "Become a doctor" commercial giving a toothy grin and a big thumbs up, but most of me is like "Just let me get the 57% I need to pass these classes so I can get out of this term and set my notes on fire."

And we won't even talk about physio. What physio? Hence my policy of only putting my best effort into my first exam, no matter what it is, and then merely hoping to ride through the second. Plus, I spent so long doing respiratory physiology and understood so little of it, that I finally abandoned panic and settled into a state of "if it's gonna be that hard, screw it; I'm never going to understand it". Tres healthy, no?

So instead, all I can think is that next Tuesday I'll be on a plane to see snow, family, and a blissful but brief period where I don't have to study or feel guilty about not studying.

This term's been a rough one for almost everyone, as the spike of incidences on the crime reports would suggest. A fight in the library? Geeze!

I'm also beginning to be able to differentiate people by term. The first termers still seem a bit wide-eyed at the island/school itself, and their stress seems to be a lot more acute, like a slightly less pathological version of what I was last term, but still a very hyper anxiety.

My fellow second termers seem to be in a wide, glassy, humorless fog of underlying depression and anxiety with a grim determination to just get this term over with. At least that's the emotion I'm projecting onto them. I've met a couple people that are like "I like this term so much more than last one", but not most of them. About half, like me, rarely leave their apartments, including to go to lecture, and instead sit watching Sonic Foundry, occasionally cursing. Island stuff has gotten far more normalized (like no longer looking up when you here a reggae bus burn off its tires on the roundabouts), but may still be distracted by larger things. They trade ideas on professions to pursue when they fail out of medical school. Mine is "Alaskan crab fisherman(woman)".

Fourth termers seem to have a more stressed second term vibe, but it seems to be overlaid with a sort of 'coping' humor of "wow, I thought things couldn't possibly get worse, but now it's fourth term." A lot of them seem to smoke. Or started smoking. Or are trying to kill themselves in an incredibly passive aggressive way. Generally unphased by everything on the island, possibly because they don't notice with their heads buried in the Robbins book.

Sixth termers seem in half disgust with the island, remain unphased by everything, but may "fsst!" cows out of their ways and into the streets because why go around the thing. They seem to primarily be focused on getting the stuff they've collected over the last two years out of their apartments and marking days off on their "DAYS UNTIL I LEAVE THE ROCK" countdown.

Back to muscle spindles. They're about as fascinating as they sound.

Dec 7, 2007

Incentive to study

One of our instructors came up with a good way to motivate students to do well on a section of the physiology exam:

Is it... the threat of decelling? Of having to explain things to an academic committee? Of compromising your career? Of disappointing yourself and your loved ones? Of having to stay here for an extra six months in a different class with strangers and get a summer break that knocks you out of your scheduled plans?


If you miss the acid/base questions, he will HUNT YOU DOWN IN YOUR HOME.

Dayam. That's some hardcore professoring, right there.

On a completely different note, ya know what's incredibly not sexy at all and makes girls cry about how much they hate a place that's normally quite beautiful while wanting to break the legs of all creatures with a "Y" chromosome? (Knee jerk reaction guys; advanced apologies)

Seeing a girl that's minding her own business, wearing an ipod and sunglasses (which is the global universal language for "please fuck off") while she's jogging in an oversized t-shirt, gathering with all your low life friends while you're supposed to be working your job, and hooting and hollering and making lewd suggestions at her. Better yet, do it right before her exams.

Yeah, thanks for that, assholes.

There's been a conversation on VMD lately about the appropriateness of a school sending out a memo because apparently a LOT of girls (I wouldn't know since I never go to class) were getting regularly sexually harassed by construction workers on campus, complained, and the school is implementing a policy where grabbing your crotch and yelling at women when they walk from their dorms to the anatomy lab is considered to be unacceptable. Go fig, right? And go school!

I got my own taste of this, when stressed out for studying finals, I went on a run yesterday off my normal route because one closer to my home just opened up, and it's a shortcut to Lance Aux Epines, which is a nice place to jog where there are lots of people around.

Somehow, my easily-misdirected butt ended up in Mont Tout, and en route, got yelled at by no fewer than 20 guys at separate construction sites, who really seemed to thrive on the fact that they were intimidating me (couldn't go back the way I came, since it would involve passing the FIRST group of jackasses) while I was maintaining an "eyes forward and down, music cranked high enough to cause sensoryneural hearing loss" policy.

So I *finally* found my way back to the Maurice Bishop highway (that Texaco station has never looked so sweet), went back past home, and went my NORMAL way which has given me few to no problems, so I could sit out on a point, with the school way off to my left and the sunset off to my right, (which is a scene out of a postcard) and had a good cry because I wished I could get the hell out of here and never come back.

Fun, right? And yes, my bad for going off in an area where I apparently shouldn't have been, but didn't know I shouldn't be, and being somewhat lost. Hopefully no tourists ever venture that way, because they'd never come back.

Well, back to studying. That little experience proved an even stronger incentive to get done and get out than the "professor might kick my ass if I get a question wrong" thing. At least he's probably man enough to do it by himself.

Fortunately, this is not all or most of the men here, nor all construction workers, since the ones in front of my apartments seemed more concerned with helping me through so I wouldn't stab myself on rebar while they were paving. But when guys are obnoxious to girls, they tend to be in packs, which REALLY sucks because there's little you can do about it, it's intimidating, and is something that even obnoxious kids are supposed to have grown out of by the age of 14, probably because they realize that no one will ever willingly have sex with them so long as they continue that activity. Honestly... anyone here ever met their wives, girlfriends, or one night stands by standing in protective flocks with five of your friends while all of you scream? Anyone? No?

Dec 5, 2007

Neuro fun fact for the day:

If you are an obese, alcoholic 56 year old male smoker with untreated diabetes and hypertension and you do recreational cocaine, your health may suffer for it. That's pretty much every after school special you've ever seen rolled into one terrifyingly unintelligent patient, eh?

My exam life would be so much easier if they would allow us to put down the diagnoses *I* keep making on the clinical cases like: "So close to death, who cares why?" or "Terminal stupidity and I'm surprised he made it this long" or "FUBAR".

Dec 2, 2007

Diffusion Defects

The title of this post is to illustrate that this term will be burned into my brain for eternity.

In Anatomy in first term, Dr. Curry mentioned that we didn't have to know the supreme thoracic artery ONCE. As a result, I will remember it forever. When I die, that will probably be the only part of me that doesn't decay because it has become that ingrained.

You know what's worse than doing that? Spending 25 minutes over the course of two respiratory physiology lectures going over something you keep saying isn't all that important and then wondering aloud why students constantly latch onto it, particularly when you've accompanied it with charts and diagrams.

Honestly, on the exam, "diffusion defect" will probably be my answer to everything, including the part of the scantron where I'm supposed to bubble in my name.