Tag Archives: Blogs

So You Still Have a Blog?

Do you have a Facebook? Of course you do. How about a blog? Even if you don’t have a blog, you are reading one right now, so I guess you’re familiar with the concept. How often do you see people post links to other blogs on your Facebook? I’m guessing it happens quite often. Here’s an example of the type of post I see often:

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That’s from a blog written by James Michael Sama. I don’t know all that much about him, except that his posts appear on my Facebook about twice a week. Even a quick look at his blog shows that he has slightly less than ten million hits on his blog. I can also tell by his archives that he started blogging in June 2013. Take a look at my archives over to the right. When did I start blogging? June 2013. How many views do I have on my blog? Not ten million. Not even close!

I suppose I need to give him the credit for that. He has been in feature films and mainstream media far more than I have (which is never, by the way). He also posts far more frequently than I do, and often on topics that are easily readable. Let’s face it, more people want to read about dating, relationships, and current events than they want to read about science, medicine, religion, or whatever else I’m thinking about. His posts are also well written and creative. So I’m not trying to compare authors or blogs here, I’m just telling you about this guy to set up a point I want to make about blogging.

The strangest thing about blogging is how lopsided our interactions are. I get to write things, post them on the internet, and let them stand for all time and eternity. I covered that briefly here. To write a blog, one must believe at a certain level that “I can write something that others will want to read”. This is the opposite of Twitter, where people just assume that everyone wants to hear about what they had for lunch. To write a blog, you have to be able to string together a line of reasoning, assembling your thoughts and shaping it into a post that is interesting enough that people want to click on it and read it. The best (and worst) part of blogging is that anyone can do it.

I have this theory that 42% of all blogs have one post called “I have a blog”. Because starting a blog requires an internet connection and two thumbs, nearly anyone can jump online and make a blog. Historically, this is unprecedented. I can sit in my office and write a post in about an hour. Let’s say a few people put it on their Facebook pages, and it goes viral. Suddenly hundreds of thousands of people have read my post and I get tons of traffic. 100 years ago, there was no way to reach hundreds of thousands of people that easily. Radio, perhaps, but that was harder to access. Newspapers, maybe, but only certain groups of people could actually write in a paper. Anyone can write a blog, and who knows if that post is the next one to go viral?

The downside to the accessibility of blogging, of course, is that anyone can do it. I’ve read some blogs and wondered whether they had ever graduated high school, or even attended one. I followed a blogger for a while who posted once every three weeks, and his/her only content was “I’m sorry I haven’t been posting lately….I’ve been like super busy”.

Blogging is great, especially when authors like Sama go out and reach a huge audience, but I don’t see it lasting. I understand that my little post here is just one tab on your browser, and I have to compete with everything on the internet for your attention. Blog posts take time to read, and require much more effort from you than, say, a YouTube video. It can be difficult to find your way to a blog you really enjoy consistently, while YouTube gives you a recommended playlist based off your preferences, so after you watch a cat video there are 12 more cat videos to watch. My favorite blogs have been those that people referred to me. When I search for blogs, on Google I have much worse success.

I’m not upset that I don’t have ten million views on this blog, since that was never my goal. My goal is to write, and enjoy writing, and talk about what I learn and see during medical school and life. That’s not a good recipe for generating ten million views in six months (unless somehow I was already famous). At the same time, I like it when people enjoy what I write. That’s the whole point of blogging, right? If no one reads your blog, that’s just a diary. While I enjoy Sama, Matt Walsh, and Fat Cyclist, I know that I will never be that kind of blogger. Why? Probably due to my sporadic writing schedule and “no proofreading ever” policy, among other things (like medical school, for instance). If I wanted a million views in the next six months, I am confident I could get them. I just know I wouldn’t have as much fun as I am now, and I’m having lots of fun 🙂

Thanks for reading!

sortadrgmail@wordpress.com

The Anatomy of a Story

I  love stories. Ultimately, life is best expressed as a story. As long as people have gathered together, we have related to each other by telling stories. Our stories make us unique and form part of our personality and worldview.

But have you ever tried to create a story? I mean a real story, like a book or movie, even a short story written for a composition class in school. Have you ever created individual characters and let them live out their own little stories inside of your fictional world?

That’s one of the things I have been trying to do lately, specifically hoping to one day finish a novel of my own. I missed out completely on NaNoWriMo, thanks to medical school anatomy during November. I still wrote and brainstormed and thought about my book, even if only a little bit of it got written down.

So how is a story made? In my mind, I want to frame the whole story from beginning to end, then go in and fill in the details as a write. I want to “construct” the story, and then build it methodically. NaNoWriMo gave me a different idea, however. If I had completed NaNoWriMo, my story would be nurtured. I would start writing with a vague outline and ideas, then watch the story grow as I wrote it. To stick with the growth analogy, the story could then be trimmed and revised after it was fully grown in order to reach its final shape.

However it’s written, I have gained a lot of respect for great storytellers over the last few months as I labor on my silly little book. It took Tolkien something like two decades to finish The Lord of the Rings and have it completely published, but in that time he created a complete universe (including languages and cultures for multiple races) and set his story in his world. I have always enjoyed reading Tom Clancy’s thrillers, which were well known for being meticulously researched and technical, which made the stories more believable and enjoyable. I am slowly reading my way through the Game of Thrones books right now, and I can’t imagine how long it would take to create a sound plot that involves a huge cast of characters and multiple kingdoms (even though his main plot twist is to kill main characters every other chapter).

We each get to write our own story for our life, as well. I had a unique opportunity when I moved halfway across the country in the middle of high school. Because I had gone to school with the same people since kindergarten, I feel like I had acquired enough “labels” in my early high school years. You know how high school students can be. Halfway through high school I moved 1500 miles away and started at a completely different school. It was during that summer I realized that I could be whoever I wanted to be, as no one in this new city knew me at all. While I could have been anybody, I did some growing and maturing and just became myself (which is an entirely different story).

This brings me to my last point about stories, specifically our own stories about our pasts. I’m not convinced it’s the contents of our stories that matter, but the way we see and interpret them. I had a psychology professor tell me once that after every disaster, there are victims and there are survivors. After a hurricane (I’m pretty sure it was a hurricane), some people will have their lives shattered and never be the same. Others treat it like a setback and press on. I’m not sure what her point was after that, but I’m using that story to illustrate my point. There are people who are products of their environment, and there are people who overcome their circumstances and rise to greatness. I think the difference is in the way they told the story of their life.

Thanks for reading.

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Tales from Anatomy – The Long Post

I just finished anatomy. The last eight weeks have been a complete blur, but last Friday I took the final exam and most likely identified enough body parts to pass the class. I needed to get 38% on this final test in order to pass anatomy. Because of how hard the test was, I am not completely sure I got 38%, just reasonably sure. The test was hard. My score will likely be the lowest score I have every received in my life. Ever. On anything. To sum up my experience this final week of anatomy, I have to share this screencap someone posted on our Facebook page before the test. This should go on our class T-shirts.

I spent this last week studying hard, spending extra time in the lab, and cramming “high-yield” study tips. I studied with my dissection group, with random people, with lab TA’s, and anyone else who would help me. My wife quizzed me on insertions and innervations of muscles, and my little puppy was intent on helping however she could. Admittedly, she has a tiny brain and no thumbs, so she wasn’t much use. She’s mostly a ten inch tall Roomba (with a slightly lower chance of tumbling down the stairs to her death), trotting around the house and eating anything she finds on the floor. Even after all that studying, I still felt really dumb at the exam. Anatomy has a way of doing that to me. I would study all week on assigned materials, then drive in to take the practice exam on Sunday. Number 1 would say “What is this thing?” and I would have absolutely no idea. Was that even assigned to us?

I also realize I was fortunate during this class. First of all, I took a tough anatomy course in undergrad, so I was roughly familiar with most subjects. Second, I have a quick memory and uncanny ability to remember pointless details from lectures several weeks ago. We seem to get tested on pointless details all of the time, so I get those questions during the exam (most of the time). I also learned anatomy the hard way. I did the dissections, pored through atlases, and did the leg work required to learn relationships and functions. Compare that to a certain member of my lab group, who we will call Leo. Leo doesn’t dissect. Leo doesn’t even help his group during dissection. Instead, he drifts around the lab like a knowledge mosquito, stopping briefly at each groups table and learning a few factoids from each group. Then, during exam week, he becomes the king of mnemonics (more on those below). He has mnemonics for everything. He has primary, secondary, and tertiary mnemonics to remember his mnemonics. He confuses his mnemonics with others, and ultimately forget it all and have to relearn it. Also, he probably can’t problem solve as well when he mostly knows mnemonics.

There are two kinds of anatomy geniuses. The first kind was my dissection partner. He could study a picture and a cadaver, then somehow reconstruct everything into a mental, 3-dimensional structure that he could then picture anytime, from any angle. He was always oriented, and always knew where structures came from and where they were going. It must have been awesome to be him. The second kind of anatomy genius (and the kind I actually understand) are the ones who understand relationships. There is no intricate mental picture stored in their super-brains. Instead, they know where a structure is based on the structures that surround it. They can use the context to identify what a specific structure is, much like confirming the location of your house by locating your hoarder neighbors house. Yes I used to live next to a hoarder.

I also used mnemonics, which are tools to help you remember something. For example, there are 13 cranial nerves that every medical student must memorize. Here they are, in order: Olfactory, Optic, Oculomotor, Trochlear, Trigeminal, Abducens, Facial, Vestibulocochlear (auditory), Glossopharyngeal, Vagus, (Spinal) Accessory, and Hypoglossal.

Here they are demonstrated on a cartoon brain.

That’s quite a list to remember. Instead, we first memorized “On Old Olympus’ Towering Top, A Finn and German Viewed Some Hops”. We then knew the first letter for each nerve in order (OOOTTAFAGVSH). Any sentence works, really, as long as the letters fit that pattern. There are incredibly dirty mnemonics I won’t post here, and some creative ones involving Harry Potter, the Hunger Games, and certain faculty members at the school. Everyone uses these to some extent, but I think students like Leo (not his actual name) ended up getting buried in mnemonics, so they are only somewhat helpful.

So what were my “takeaway lessons” from anatomy? I definitely liked it, enough that my interest in surgery has been validated. I enjoyed working with my hands and learning how knowledge of anatomy is applied to procedures and therapies. I also gained an appreciation for all of the material I still don’t know. We learned a vast amount of information in just eight weeks, and no one learned everything that was assigned to us. That amount of material isn’t necessarily unknowable, but it is probably unlearnable over the course of two months. I know that I will need to go back and re-learn critical areas during rotations, and should I decide to become a shoulder surgeon I will learn that anatomy at an even more detailed level. Lastly, I am even more amazed at the intricate design and daily function of our bodies. Even studying a single organ, like the kidney, is absolutely fascinating, totally reinforcing my decision to attend medical school.

Of course the good news of anatomy being done is that I can spend more time on my favorite activities, one of which is blogging! I have this entire week of Thanksgiving off, which will be completely glorious. There is nothing for me to study. Nothing at all. I will likely pick up the pace at which I post here, because I have a lot I want to discuss. I read some blogs that are easily categorized. There are “mommy blogs”, “medical school blogs”, “tech blogs”, “political blogs”, etc. While the general theme here will always be medical school, I can and will branch out write about whatever is on my mind. I’ve gotten a lot of support lately, despite my complete lack of regular posting, and I really appreciate it.

Two weeks ago I made the unfortunate decision to start reading Game of Thrones when my friend (so he calls himself) lent me the first book, which I promptly read in one week. Now I’m hooked, on book 2, and have thousands of pages left to read (and probably hundreds on main characters yet to die, if the next books are like the first). I am also doing a lot of outside reading on religion, so expect posts as I finish reading other religious texts. I realized that despite my college education and multiple classes on world religion, I had done little firsthand reading of any religious text besides the Bible, which I have read cover to cover multiple times. I am now working my way through the Qur’an, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Pearl of Great Price, with more to come afterwards. That was a good decision, since even my early readings were very interesting.

Of course I will also spend time playing Call of Duty, training my puppy, and eating at the new Chick-fil-a that opened RIGHT BY MY HOUSE. I may or may not have camped out and received 52 combo meals, which I am eager to claim for delicious free chicken. Finally, as I get ready to publish this post, I can see that all of the recommended posts from WordPress are posts that I wrote myself. Weird. I’ll leave you with another picture of my cute puppy.

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Thanks for reading! sortadrwordpress@gmail.com

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Brains, Blogging, and My Favorite Month of the Year

It’s Friday, the sun is shining, the leaves are brilliant shades of red and yellow, and November is just getting started! So many great things happen in November each year that it always makes for a great month. Allow me to walk you through some of these things by first backing up to yesterday.

It was fitting that our dissection of the skull and into the brain would be scheduled for October 31st. I spent the majority of the morning and afternoon carefully sawing, chiseling, and hammering my way through our cadaver’s skull. Eventually we were separated the brain itself from its protective covering (called dura mater) and removed it from the head as well. I think an appropriate amount of Frankenstein/Halloween jokes were made throughout the day. Personally, I thought this dissection was great. Not only did we get to use power tools, we also got to hold and examine the brain, the most intricate and beautiful organ in the body. One partner in my group was a little disturbed by the whole process, and I’m not actually sure where she was most of the time. The skull is quite thick, and the sawing process created lots of dust and a terrible smell (I thought it smelled like burnt hair and cheddar Sun Chips) that grossed many people out. The sawing part was tricky, since we didn’t want to cut too deep and turn our nice brain into a brain smoothie, but we also had to cut far enough to lift off the skull. I didn’t love the smell, but I thought the work was pretty cool. Side note: Chipotle was selling burritos for $3 if you wore a Halloween costume yesterday. I had a pair of scrubs in the car, which I realized doubled as a costume, and since I dissected straight through lunch my burrito for dinner was extra delicious. Yes, I just transitioned from brain smoothie to burritos in two sentences.

Another reason I love November is that my birthday is each year in November. I get less excited about presents every year (yet I also look forward to that….let’s be honest) and more excited about spending time with my family. Since I live farther from home now that I’m in medical school, I’m really looking forward to having my family come stay with me for part of the weekend to celebrate my birthday.

November is a bit of a sad month, because baseball is over, but also a happy month, because a whole new season kicks off. Yup. Gaming season. This pre-Christmas period is launch time for big budget video games that I enjoy playing, like Assassin’s Creed, Battlefield, and Call of Duty. Ever wonder why work/school is a little less crowded on the first Tuesday of November? Call of Duty came out, that’s why. Add in some time off for Thanksgiving, a few premature Christmas carols, and you’ve got a great month ahead of you.

There’s some other things going on this month that I would like to mention as well. You may or may not have heard of NaNoWriMo, which stands for National Novel Writing Month. Each November, several hundred thousand authors attempt to write a full length novel (50,000 words) in one month. They register online and could potentially win prizes when they submit their finished story by midnight on November 30th. All genres are fair game. I don’t think I can honestly commit to writing 1,667 words a day while in medical school (I’m not sure I say that many words a day), but someday I’d like to try. The beauty of NaNoWriMo is that the rush and pace help spark creativity. You essentially forget about editing and revisions and just dive in and write. That sounds like fun to me.

A more realistic goal is NaBloPoMo, AKA National Blog Posting Month. The challenge is to post once a day on your blog. The posts don’t have to be long or complicated. I’m pretty sure anything goes. I’m a firm believer in setting low expectations and then surprising yourself (just kidding) and this challenge is much more manageable than writing a novel this month. It takes just a quick glance to realize that despite blogging for nearly six months, I have only accumulated 29ish posts. Attempting to double that in a month will be challenging, to say the least.

I’ll wrap this up for today. I’m worried about my dog, who has chased her tail consistently for the last five minutes and looks a little bit dizzy. Thanks for reading. As always, feel free to leave a comment below or send it straight to my face at sortadrwordpress@gmail.com

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Wrapping It Up

This week concludes Cell Biology, Metabolism, and Genetics. We will take the last exam on Friday. Despite my abysmal performance on the last quiz (and passing Epidemiology and Research by the skin of my teeth), I need to score just a 36% on this final test in order to pass the block and never see any of these subjects again (until Step 1). Tomorrow is given entirely for self study in preparation for the exam, which will be followed by a glorious weekend with NOTHING to study before anatomy begins next Monday.

I’m actually a little bit worried about that. I am comfortable with brute memorization and have fairly good visual skills, so the material isn’t too unsettling. What worries me is this new format. A 10 week course in the past has been re-packaged into 7 weeks. Apparently the amount of dissection has remained unchanged, which is potentially bad news. They reduced the amount of histology and cross section lab work, while adding more clinical applications and emphasizing radiology reading (something we will have to actually use). A few second years told me that it will be much better than their schedule. We start dissection on the back, then switch to the front and work from the head down. Some second years told me that they had passed the course by acing exams until they hit the waist, at which point they slacked off. One girl mentioned she knew almost nothing about the lower legs and feet, since she didn’t really go to class for that part. That’s hilarious, if true, and reminds me of this.

I may fall into that same trap, because Week 5 or 6 of anatomy coincides with the release of about 3 of my favorite video games, as well as my birthday. I plan to do well and study hard, but my scores may decrease slightly after November begins 🙂

Ready for a big reason why I may fail this next exam? Here it is.

This is little Zoe, the newest addition to our family. I had a post in draft describing all of the reasons I wanted a dog, and finally convinced my wife to go to an adoption event last weekend because we saw that cute little pup on Craigslist. Now she is ours. She is part Rottweiler/Doberman, but is pretty small. Her mom is only 35 pounds, and she shouldn’t get bigger than that. She is recovering from pneumonia right now, so her endurance for romping in the yard is about 10 minutes. Let me tell you, there is NOTHING in the world sadder than a 4.5lb puppy with pneumonia. NOTHING.

She’s doing pretty good on housetraining and basic stuff, and is pretty chill for a puppy. In high school and college our family dog was a big yellow lab, 90lbs of love and spastic crazy tail. Our house and yard aren’t great for a dog of that…..girth. I like big dogs, and Zoe is a good compromise.

Despite my prolonged periods of non-posting, I have noticed continued views on posts in my absence. How cool is that? And if you are reading my blog from Australia please email me and tell me how you found it. If you Google “basically useless”, am I on the front page? Should I be excited about that?

In all seriousness, I have a theory I call the Blogger’s Paradox: those with the least time to write blogs often have incredible material to work with, should they decide to write. I have read blogs in the past where posts were frequent and the authors time was obviously plentiful, but the quality just wasn’t there. People who have different experiences on a daily basis can pull from that and write strong blogs, if they have the time. One benefit of medical is taking a daily swim in the pool of weird stuff, whether it’s diseases, classmates, or the strange things professors do and say. I try to make writing a daily habit, and I largely succeed, but the result is not always ready to be published, so I often have drafts and scraps floating around for days on end. Any time a big test looms in the future, however, you can count on posts while I do my best to not study 🙂

Thanks for reading! As always, feel free to comment below or send an email directly to my face at sortadrwordpress@gmail.com

What is Happening?

As I sit in my comfiest chair with sweet tea on the table next to me and no class until tomorrow (yes, I am done at noon today), I can’t help but marvel at what a glorious week of medical school this has been. After miraculously beating the average on the last exam (despite spending hours doing house projects with my wife), this week has been cake. A main focus has been epidemiology and biostatistics, which sounds hard, but really it’s just common sense with a little bit of math thrown in. There have been a few Cell Biology/Metabolism lectures thrown in, but we have covered a fraction of the material I was expecting. The rest of the time has been taken up with optional small group exercises (nope), clinical skills groups (already done), and sessions on our non-optional electives.

Ah yes, electives. Electives are courses you want to take, right? I took some in undergrad, like swimming, wine tasting, etc. Not in medical school. My university has decreed that between now and April, we will occasionally be given an afternoon off to pursue our individual interests, so long as we are interested specifically in their University sponsored electives. A quick glance at the offerings is not encouraging. Research, while helpful, has so few spots that 4% of our class will fill it up. Some bogus options include an online Sexual Health and Gender Studies course, which isn’t actually accredited, but somehow counts as an elective, as well as the ridiculous and potentially hilarious seminar called “Acting Like A Doctor”. There are some other electives that involve health literacy advocacy, disparity in health outcomes, and even lobbying stuff for local legislation.

I should be fair and say that there are some legitimately good options here. For example, I would enjoy tutoring immigrant high school students in math and science. I have a strong background in tutoring and really enjoy it, so a position like that sounds great. Unfortunately, the good options are so few that they will be gone faster than the Jimmy John’s turkey sandwiches at a lunch meeting. I should also mention that the popular electives are filled by lottery. I have a pretty solid history of never winning anything that involves luck, so that rules me out of any good lottery electives.

My last hope, of course, is the vague and potentially awesome “Self-Designed Electives”. I have a few ideas that fit nicely with my interests, as well as the reasons I will be using to encourage their approval.

1) Gainful Employment – In the interests of not being broke, I would like to utilize this time to make money, so that I can put gas in my car and drive to school every day of the week. I have worked enough places in the past that I could likely find a job near my house. I could probably tutor local undergrad and high school students as well (I already hope to do this on the side, I could just do a lot more on my afternoons off- I mean “doing electives”)

2) Self Designed Study – Effects of consistent napping on memory retention. In this individual study I will compare my ability to study with or without a nap. My controls will be every day that isn’t elective day, when I study without a nap. On elective days I will nap (they recommend spending at least 4 hours per day on your elective) for at LEAST 4 hours, then see if I am able to recall more material after studying. I have to admit, this sounds like an ideal elective.

It also sounds vaguely scientific.

3) Dietary Education in the Community – In this activity (which would probably require funding), I would spend time in the community gathering information that would directly enhance the lives of my classmates. Specifically, I would eat at multiple local restaurants and determine which places serve great food. Because there are so many restaurants in this city, this elective could potentially last for two years, if the funding is there.

4) Writing and Self Development – In this elective, I take entire afternoons to not study. Instead, I could write for my readers on this blog, work on my book, and develop my self. This sounds pretty great, especially if my book were more than a 20 page Word Document and a notebook of scribbled ideas. Oh well.

On a more serious note, I will probably find a decent elective and do something productive. Hopefully.

What does everyone think of the design here? My very talented brother in-law helped me design it, and I think it’s awesome. If you also think it’s awesome, let me know in the comments.

Thanks for reading!

So You Have A Blog

Note: I am actually writing this from a “microscopy lab”. Don’t let the name fool you. I haven’t looked through a single microscope since undergrad (thank God). I believe the actual lab room is being used by “other people” (according to our rulers), so we all sit in the lecture hall and watch a recording of our professor looking through a teaching microscope while teaching last years class. This process is as hilariously ineffective as you imagine it to be. In addition, the video isn’t buffering today, so we get to watch it in 30 second intervals and then wait a few minutes for it to load. Awesome. And I almost studied from home today!

So some of you reading this have your own blog. Others don’t, at least yet, but every single person that reads this has a Facebook, I bet. We all maintain this “online presence” that is a bit like our public personality. When applying for jobs, scholarships, or residencies, you can bet that people will be looking you up on Facebook, Twitter, and simply Googling your name to see if anything nefarious comes up. When I was applying to medical school I was urged to “clean up” my Facebook page (which is private), getting rid of bad pictures, deleting posts, and making myself look better in case anyone came snooping. I didn’t have to clean anything up (because I am generally not a prolific Facebooker), but I know some friends that needed to do some “editing”.

Fact is, anything posted on the internet will be there forever, and may someday come back to haunt you. The most obvious way to avoid this is to carefully filter what you put on the internet, and to avoid doing something dumb and unintentionally starring in a YouTube video.

But what if you have a blog? Blog posts are inherently one dimensional. After I post this it will exist forever, exactly as I left it, and people will run across this post as time goes by (hello future readers!). Any opinions I express are recorded for all time, and are made readily available for anyone curious enough to do some reading.

If you have a blog it may be personal. You have friends and family that follow it, and you post pictures of your friends, family, pets, and life events. That’s probably fine, but that’s not what this blog is. I prefer to hide behind a small veil of anonymity. I enjoy the freedom to mock my school, classmates, and otherwise write whatever I want. In order to maintain that I try to be generally vague about myself. If someone REALLY wanted to find me, they probably could. One could pick pieces of information and put together a fairly accurate picture about myself. And that’s okay. I’m cool with the fact that no one is truly anonymous on the internet. That’s it for this mini-post (short and no pictures. oops)

Thanks for reading!