Lecturer’s License

November 15, 2007
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The best answer in the world is I don’t know.

So many questions in the world are safely answered by I don’t know. Safely does not equal satisfactorily, especially to intelligent human beings.

Philosophically, we don’t have the greatest idea about things that may currently seem so commonplace. For example, the chemical bond. With current methods, we can’t actually visualize them. Thanks to Linus Pauling’s calculations we can predict them. And math usually does an excellent job of telling us what’s going to happen, to a first approximation.


In a lecture the other day about protein structure, the lecturer railed against Pauling’s later stages of quackery, but failed to mention the incalculable number of contributions to nearly every conceivable scientific field that he was able to make over his short (90+ years) life.

Now these medical students who take everything these professors say to heart will now associate quackery with Pauling. They’ll “know” that Pauling wasn’t helpful.

How much do we know because of him? A lot. Just because he went overboard with Vitamin C’s efficacy and potential use doesn’t disqualify everything that he did beforehand. In general, this is the reason why people should try to present the complete picture, especially with facts. Things that are known, whether about human beings or science can be misconstrued far too easily with just the correct wording. We should be left to form our own conclusions. Please allow your listeners this pleasure if you have the gift of informing people (Except with politics, do whatever you want, ad hominem, accusations of adultery — that’s a different game).


Open your mind, you see the circus in the sky

November 11, 2007
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On Friday during a cordial discussion with my contemporaries, I made an off-hand comment about seeing patients in the hospital, regarding me coming to the realization that the majority of the patients really are in the hospital for things that they have done to themselves. They can show you all the statistics in the world about preventable deaths, it doesn’t strike you until you ask a patient how long they had been addicted to a certain drug. One of my colleagues (I’ll name her Of-Baltimore, OB) proceeded to lecture me about being aware of people that are different than I am. I rarely procure this type of reaction, and it was refreshing. The method by which she tried to show me my so-called prejudices grated me in such a way I became something that I rarely am, defensive.

I found myself trying to defend my comments against OB, whom I severely doubted had a better grasp of the world’s differences and the differences between human beings, although I did concede that she did understand Baltimore’s issues better than I had. She grew up here, mere blocks away from the hospital, and I had grown up in my cushy D.C. suburb, speculating on which city was more terrible, Baltimore or Washington. In general I would always play devil’s advocate about Washington, D.C. and espouse its wonderful characteristics, but Baltimore I would unfairly mentally incarcerate and incinerate.

All things considered, OB probably lectures several people a week about the good characteristics and bad characteristics of Baltimore, which to its credit, has more of the former than the latter. She recommended that I read The Corner, which of course I feel obligated now to read since it was the second time in a week that it was lorded above me and to me as Baltimore’s bible.

OB’s Baltimore lecture to me really didn’t do anything to educate me about Baltimore, but I think it did do two great things. She broke through any prejudice I may have had about a person in medical school who claimed Baltimore as their hometown. From undergrad I had learned to assume that they were from Towson, or Lutherville, or anywhere else in Baltimore county. I qualify this as a person from medical school, because all of you may be thinking due to Baltimore’s demographics, she’s probably African-American, like me, but no. She’s Irish-American, which probably led to my initial grating against her light haranguing. Anyway, she showed me that she was much more sensitive to subjects like this, which is a relief. She at least temporarily stopped my encroaching jadishness against patients, the United States, and the world. So, thank you OB.

Focal Point

November 7, 2007
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One of the things about making it in a post-graduate education is realizing the amount of information that they will attempt to pour inside of your head. I think one of the ways that I remember things best is to write about it, and then write about my thoughts on the subject. Some lucky (or unlucky) people do not have to worry about trying to fit things inside of their head because they do not have to even try. Their brain does it for them, no questions asked.

This article from last year from a group at Washington University in St. Louis confirms this — that people’s brains and memories are indeed different, and some may more successfully pursue certain careers than others.

That last part I inferred but hey.

Their key finding was that people who utilize visual inspection strategies (for example think about every inch of Charlize Theron’s body, I know you can), or people who utilize verbal elaboration (i.e., this blog [for me], sentences that you construct on your own) have better memory performance.


I want to reiterate that this is just memory. This doesn’t necessarily mean you are worse at understanding a blueprint of a skyscraper than any engineer, you can understand it just fine, but you’ll have to carry it around with you a lot. Unfortunately, using references in live situations is sometimes frowned upon. This is why you are not allowed to use your TI-83 on your damn Calc 2 final.

Those who utilize verbal elaboration more often tend to be more left anterior brained (they determined this using fMRI), and the visual inspection people are more left posterior brained. The group eventually wants to slow Alzheimer’s progression, which everyone alive probably thinks sounds like a superb idea.


November 6, 2007
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Along with television as one of the many things that I’ve cut out of my diet since entering medical school, there lies Facebook. Three years ago, during my sophomore year of college, I was one of the early adopters of facebook. I loved it, like 90% of the people who join it do, and I spent far too much time on it. Hell, I still remember when you had to type in to get to it.

Every now and then Facebook and I would get into a fight. Usually it was over privacy concerns, as I was raised to be a very private person. Both my mother and father are ultra-private, even about things I feel I should know about them. One of my bank accounts I share with my father, and every now and then he’ll say, “I see you’ve purchased blah-blah,” which deeply irritates me. So you can understand my ire when Facebook started to creep into my life even further. So I, in perhaps a fit of depression, said fuck Facebook, and cut myself out of its ever-growing loop.

I’ve had some withdrawal symptoms, that’s for sure. In the past three weeks, I’ve tried to log in 10 times, I know, I’ve got the “this is how you reactivate it” emails to prove it. Friends have come up to me and asked, why did you quit Facebook? I usually tell them it wasn’t good enough for me, or that I needed to spend more time reading, studying, sleeping, being alive etc. I’ve received a few visceral responses, “Why are you so weak-willed?!”, “You’re missing out!”. Both ironic yet mostly true. If I weren’t so weak-willed, I’d be able to time manage properly I’d be able to do everything I want. It was Jefferson who said to his daughter, “It is wonderful how much may be done by always doing.” Until I can win the battle over avarices like Facebook and television, they’ll have to stay in the corner.

The road

November 5, 2007
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Today was productive. I avoided having a breakdown and I would say I was marginally friendly. I do not have breakdowns often, I’d say once every two or three years. The problem is, since coming to medical school, I’ve had a few breakdowns, mental and physical. For example, I’d be so exhausted that even going to bed at 10 PM, I’d easily sleep in until 2 or 3 PM the next day. Mental breakdowns are probably easier to handle, because it seems like everyone is going through them. Medical school started in August. It’s okay though, I think I am starting to see the light.

The problem is, I feel like I am in a slightly manic mood. I am only a first year medical student, so I do not really know the tell-tale signs of a true bipolar disorder. I’ll be okay though, I’ll just take this PCP… just kidding.

So, what is this blog about? I intend it to be the full diary of my life from now until the day I die, as much as I can stand it. I’ve been reading a lot of 18th century biographies lately, and I really admire how diligently they recorded their thoughts. I think I can be like them, if anything it will help me organize my thinking. I don’t want this blog to be too organized, so it’s going to be about whatever the hell I want, whatever I’m interested in day to day. I’ll categorize everything, and my hope is to have one of those blogs where I feel comfortable spewing just about any thought process that I have.