Tag Archives: Pointless Tag

Winning The Lottery

A few weeks ago, my wife and I were at a trivia night, a fundraiser for a local church. Our group lost the overall competition pretty handily, but we managed to score a 4-way tie for first in one of the other mini games. It was decided that each group would send a representative to the front of the room and draw a card from a deck, highest card wins. I was chosen from my group, walked up to the front, and promptly drew the ace of spades, winning gift cards for everyone in my team.

The best part of this is that I never win anything. When it comes to raffles, drawings, or anything that has an element of luck to it, I generally don’t win. That’s also why I hate playing Yahtzee and poker. Full disclosure: I should point out some amazing luck I’ve had lately:

– I passed my first neurology exam by 1.3% I’m happy with that 🙂

– While running last week, my phone fell out of my pocket and landed on the only six inches of grass in a park that was otherwise mud puddles or soggy gravel (it’s been raining a lot).

None of this compares to the luckiest moment of my life: when I was born. The moment I was born I effectively won the lottery. By being born in a middle class family, I became statistically more likely to achieve higher levels of education and income. By being born in America, I became a citizen of a country that values freedom and expression. By being born in the 20th century, I am able to enjoy modern luxuries like air conditioning, automobiles, indoor plumbing, and the internet. My life at this instant is more comfortable than the lives of kings and rulers from history.

No AC, way too many clothes.

Several weeks ago we had a required lecture, which I diligently attended. It wasn’t so much of a lecture as it was a “in-class exercise” where we played a game called Oppression Monopoly, invented by someone at Harvard. It’s Monopoly with four players, each with the following rules

Player 1: Plays normal monopoly

Player 2: Starts with half the normal money. Moves half the distance rolled. Starts with a railroad, but can’t buy any property valued at more than $100. Must pay double any time he lands on another players property. If he rolls more than a seven, he must go to jail.

Player 3: Starts with the cheap properties (the brown ones) and half the normal amount of money. Most of the rules above applied to him as well.

Player 4: Starts with double the normal amount of money and all of the green properties. Moves double the roll, collects double when passing go. Must pay double taxes, and has 4 get out jail free cards at the start.

To further emphasize the direction this game was going, our instructor asked to make sure any people of ethnicity or women didn’t end up as players 2 or 3. Awkward.

I was Player 2. Because I had no money and the board was a dangerous place, I played along with the game and purposefully spent the first 30 minutes mostly in jail. After 30 minutes the rules above were lifted and normal rules applied for everyone. Since it was now significantly harder to stay in jail, I promptly landed on park place and went bankrupt.

We then had a “group discussion” to talk about what we learned. Because my class is full of medical students, when she asked for any impressions from the group, she got an immediate “I felt crushed and marginalized by the combined weight of society attempting to repress me” from the back row.

The obvious point here is to demonstrate a simple fact. There is disparity in this country and in our city. I live in one of the most racially polarized cities in the country, and it’s a problem. A serious gap in income, healthcare, and quality of life exists, and I appreciate the effort they have taken to make us aware of it (although we are getting tired of hearing it).

I don’t appreciate the victimization that occurs in this process. Many are often quick to point out that men make more than women, or that whites tend to make more than blacks, and that somehow that is something to be ashamed of. Years from now I will be a practicing physician, hopefully making a comfortable salary and taking care of my family and community. Maybe my birth or family’s status gave me opportunities others wouldn’t have had, but I put in the work to make those opportunities a reality, in an attempt to create a better life for my family and those in my community that weren’t born with that opportunity available. That’s the way it should be.

There will always be income gaps. That’s the way our country is built. People who work hard and have great ideas will go make a gazillion dollars. My favorite headline is “the rich get richer”, as if this is bad. I like to add to it. “The rich get richer….and good for them.” As long as rich people can get richer, that opportunity still exists for everyone else, including me.

The ironic part of this is we get this talk every other week at medical school. Despite my schools best attempts at creating a diverse student body, many of us come from “privileged” backgrounds, and not all of us are white males. Most of us are at this junction of opportunity, privilege, and attempting to do our part to make those opportunities reality. That’s exactly what you do with opportunity.

The differences in these lectures comes down to motivation. If the theme of the book/lecture is informative and neutral, then we are engaged in the kind of productive conversation I would like to have. If there is intent to victimize, slander, or make accusation against some specific group, you’re just wasting everyone’s time. This isn’t a zero sum world.

I need to wrap this up and study now.

Thanks for reading.

sortadrwordpress@gmail.com

 

 

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Careful What You Read

So I probably did not fail my exam today. That’s as certain as I can be. Only a few more weeks before we launch into Anatomy, where I anticipate that things will start to get a little crazier. Good news: the anatomy course is “streamlined” and “redesigned” this year. I should hope so, since the last time they “updated” it was back in the 1990’s.

This is the follow up to “The World is Hilarious and Sad”. I talked about a few current events, but left out a glaring one that had happened not a day before. This is (probably) old news by now (three days later), but I will use it to make a few points. In an effort to keep this post both trendy and technologically advanced(ha!), here’s a iPhone pic of USA Today’s cover the day after the shooting.

Image

Notice the quote there at the top? That’s some excellent journalism right there!

Mass shootings like this are just about guaranteed to get people actively all wound up about guns, violence, drugs, religion, “kids these days” or whatever else they see as the main factor involved in the shooting. In every single case, they are wrong. This is an instance of over-simplification, people seeing what they want in an issue and using it to further their cause. As tragic as all of these shootings are, they will be used shortly afterwards for political/economic/social gain. Anyone who claims to have a “magic bullet” solution for these mass shootings is seriously misinformed.

So let’s look at some of these silly ideas. The most obvious fight is the “guns are the problem” people versus the “everyone should have guns” people. One side believes guns to be the very tools of Satan, and the other side carries their gun EVERYWHERE because they can and they like to. So here’s the funny thing about guns and violence. Ready? It’s been decreasing a lot. Since 1995.

Yup. Weird. My observant readers will notice that this graph cuts off at 2005, and argue that it goes up after the graph ends. Not true. It’s down even more after 2005. That same data shows that gun violence accounts for 5-8% of all violent crime. I should point out that the more violent crimes are often shootings, but they are not alone in that category. Bombings and mass stabbings are also capable of producing large numbers of fatalities. What those numbers mean is that if we could somehow eliminate every gun from the world, we would see a 5-8% reduction in violent crime. Lame. Hence the problem with gun control support. What do you do with the millions of existing guns? Why impose new laws on people intent on breaking them anyway? Another strong point against that argument is the fact that these events are often stopped/averted by other people with guns, and these events are less prominently reported. Also, guns are pretty cool.

Even Obama thinks so. By the way, this photo has some hilarious photoshopped copies floating around the internet. Just saying.

So the guns aren’t the problem. The next thing people will talk about with our latest shooting is probably violent video games. This most recent shooter played Call of Duty, because he was a guy with an Xbox. It is very tempting to correlate violent video games with violent behavior, but it’s lazy and ill-founded to do so. Why? Here’s one reason. In a recent presentation, the CEO of Activision boasted that around 10 million people per day play Call of Duty. That number jumps up to 40 million people who play it once a month. That’s a ton of people playing a video game (or doing anything, really). If a hundredth of a percent of those daily gamers (a fantastically small portion, .01%) ended up being violent shooters, that’s like 1,000 people. There haven’t been that many mass shootings in the last few decades put together. Video games didn’t really exist until the early to mid-1990’s, when the industry really took off. Does that correlate with increased gun violence? Nope. In fact, the graph above shows that gun violence drops hard right at that same time. Weird. I think a better assumption is that Call of Duty (or video games in general) helps stop these events from happening by giving people a virtual outlet for real world problems. Also, non-gamers would probably be surprised at the extend to which video game skill does NOT cross over to firing an actual weapon(full disclosure: I’m quite good at Call of Duty, and lucky to hit the earth in real life).

What about religion? That’s another hot topic. Terrorist attacks have brought attention to Islamic fundamentalists. The Columbine shooters were not religious (as far as I know), and the Naval Yard shooter was Buddhist. Yup. While commonly seen as a peaceful religion (most people think of the fat Buddha statue meditating), some Buddhists just wrapped up a decade long civil war in 2009. No one would suspect Buddhism of turning out shooters, however.

Those are a few of the issues that stir the greatest controversy, but we are still missing some factors that make a huge difference. Here’s a common thread no one wants to talk about: mental illness. In nearly every shooting I can think of, the shooter exhibited a form of depression, substance abuse, or personality disorder. Our public health system is underfunded and poorly equipped to take care of the Adam Lanzas in this country. What about the link with drugs and medication? How about the fact that the perpetrator often gets a temporary spotlight? That may be a motivating factor for those who are trying to make a point. What if we shifted coverage from documenting every aspect of the shooters life and motivation to extensive reporting on the victims, their families, and those who survived? What about all of the “almost shootings”, like this and this and this? Let’s learn from these cases that could have happened and figure out how to stop the next one.

There will be a next one. It may happen in the next few weeks, and it will certainly happen again in the next year. When it does, all of these issues will raise their ugly heads. The news will get it wrong, but hopefully we continue to learn and improve our efforts to stop these events from happening.

If you’re reading this, maybe I earned a like? As always, I welcome your feedback in the comments or directly at sortadrwordpress@gmail.com

Thanks for reading!

Mind Games

Have you ever taken an IQ test? A real IQ test. By real I mean it is not online, administered by a professional, and takes a few hours to administer. If you’re like me, this probably doesn’t sound like much fun. I had to take one of these back in high school, and it was really interesting. 

One of the exercises was simple memory recall. The person doing the test read me numbers, which I parroted back to him. It started out with him saying something like “Four, six” and I would obediently reply “Four, Six”. Of course he kept going, and next thing I knew I was trying to remember upwards of a dozen random digits. Here’s a test for you to do at home. Read these numbers to yourself, out loud, then close your eyes and try to say them again from memory. Ready? Go.

14829731864

How many did you get? All of them? Most of them? Three of them? Doesn’t matter. Here’s the second part of the test. A different set of random numbers. Repeat the test above

1 583 548 9624

I bet you got most of them that time. Why? Well it’s a phone number! Turns out brains can remember things better when they are grouped into chunks like this. That’s why phone numbers have their distinct pattern of groups, and some states have license plates that consist of two groups of numbers and letters (the phone example isn’t as good as it once was, since most people my age don’t actually know any phone numbers, as they are stored in our iPhones and not our brains.)

That’s a memory trick. Sitting in that IQ test in high school, I began doing this naturally when the numbers I had to remember started to get bigger (more than six stressed my little brain).

So today we were handed our syllabus in class. In most classes the syllabus is a sheet of paper with basic course info and contact info for the professor. At my medical school, however, the syllabus is a set of phone books that, when stacked, are about as high as a coffee mug. They represent the sum total of everything we need to learn before October 4th, at which point we will be given a new set of books and start over. The administration itself has likened the process of learning all of this to “drinking from a fire hose”.

A Dean actually used this slide during orientation last week

So I’m pretty interested in memory tricks. I bet you are as well, whether you are in medical school or elementary school, much of your academic success relies on your ability to retain information and supply it when required on exams. Eventually, just knowing the information is no longer enough, and you are actually required to apply it solve new problems (gasp). 

My school is offering optional memory training sessions for us later in the year, but I need to be learning things today. Thankfully, Year One of medical school is also just like starting 17th grade, so I already have some tricks up my sleeve. Hopefully I’ll learn more and share them with you all (both of you that read my blog 🙂

My first trick is to start with what I know best, then work my way to the hard stuff, then recap on what I know well. This is like…uh..building a bridge over a river, begin and ending with familiar, solid ground. I do this because it helps integrate the harder stuff with the easy stuff, which is my second trick. Some things are just stupid and impossible to learn (I’m looking at you, Organic Chemistry). In these instances, I’ve always benefited by trying to understand how something I don’t understand (that’s pretty much everything) is like something else I do understand (a very small and useless set of knowledge, by the way). 

I also study actively. I don’t just read my notes while watching Netflix. I may have just lied. I sometimes do that, but I first go through and actively outline chapters, draw pathways, summarize systems, etc. This is not a very eco-friendly process. I use up lots of plain paper and sticky notes trying to put all of the pieces together, but then I’ve usually got it. Some people are freaking geniuses and can sort of glance over material, scan it into some freakish mental hard drive, and just recall it at will (I’m not bitter), but I am not one of those people, and you probably aren’t either. Grab your pen or start typing, and the info will stick better. 

Final memory/study tip before I call it quits: go for a run. Or exercise somehow. If I were a responsible writer (which I’m clearly not), I would link to some journal article with a clear positive correlation between exercise and academic success. All I can share is my own personal experience with running, and I KNOW it has made me a better student. Also, I find it hard to believe that having gallons and gallons of highly oxygenated blood pump around your skull a few times can be anything but beneficial.

Class is going well so far. My greatest struggle has been staying warm in our ridiculously frigid lecture hall all day. I’m going to wear a sweater to class tomorrow in the middle of August…crazy. 

Thanks for reading.